November 30, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


The Broken China Model (Matthew Continetti, NOVEMBER 29, 2019, Free Beacon)

For Hong Kongers to express discontent with their rulers through one of the last vehicles for accountability is no trifle. Beijing was surprised. It had counted on a supposed "silent majority" of voters tired of the upheaval and violence to legitimize the mainland's authority. That was a mistake. The prefabricated copy that Communist propagandists had been ready to spread was abandoned. "The problem is that under the increasingly paranoid regime of Xi Jinping, even these internal reports have become much more geared toward what the leadership wants to hear," writes James Palmer, who a decade ago worked for the pro-China Global Times.

Hong Kong is the most visible reminder of the tenuous nature of Communist rule. The city has become a postmodern battleground where masked protesters wield social media and lasers to avoid armor-clad police and facial recognition technology powered by artificial intelligence. When one looks at Hong Kong one sees a possible future where champions of freedom the world over employ desperate measures against the overwhelming resources of a mechanized Leviathan. One also sees the brittleness, confusion, and embarrassment of despotism when challenged by subjects assumed to be grateful for growth and security and immune to the will to freedom.

What is happening in Hong Kong is not isolated. The China model of authoritarian development is damaged and scarred. What seemed as sturdy and invulnerable as a Borg Cube looks more like a fragile and wobbly mobile by Alexander Calder. The regime of Xi Jinping is under economic and political and diplomatic pressure that it is not handling well. This beleaguered combatant in an era of great power competition is more dangerous to the United States than before.

What legitimacy the Communist Party possessed was based on the decades of economic growth inaugurated by Deng Xiaoping in 1978. But growth has slowed to its lowest level in decades as the Chinese workforce ages, low-hanging investment opportunities disappear, and the trade war with the United States reduces manufacturing output and sends supply lines to Vietnam and Mexico. Capital is fleeing China at a record pace as the bourgeoisie hedge against stagnation and turmoil.

For all of the Chinese government's much publicized investments in research and development and defense, and despite the size of its economy, per capita gross domestic product is $10,000, slightly less than that of the Russia Federation ($11,000) and a fraction of that of the United States ($65,000). Recent weeks have brought an uptick in bank runs. The government's response to slowdown has been to tighten state control. "Between 2012 and 2018, assets of state companies grew at more than 15 percent annually, well over twice the pace of expansion of China's GDP and double the pace of growth of gross domestic capital formation," writes Nicholas R. Lardy of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. This is not state capitalism. It's statism.

Time to recognize Tibet, Uighurstan and Hong Kong as independent nations.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


Why a measured transition to electric vehicles would benefit the U.S. (DAVID M. HART, NOVEMBER 30, 2019, Salon)

Electric cars don't need engines, transmissions or fuel systems, which together provide tens of thousands of well-paying U.S. manufacturing jobs today. And EVs are projected to reduce assembly plant labor hours by 30%.

While the transition will create some new jobs, the gains are expected to be far fewer than the losses; a German study of the issue concluded that in the most likely scenario, in which EVs and plug-in hybrids make up 40% of production in 2030, 100,000 jobs in the drive train sector (or about 12% of all German auto jobs) would be eliminated, while just 25,000 would be created. In addition, the skills needed in the auto industry are shifting along with the power train. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 PM


Odeh: Netanyahu is a 'dangerous psychopath' targeting Arabs, left-wing Jews (Times of Israel, 11/30/19)

"Netanyahu's hatred and violence spread like wildfire. Arabs, left-wing Jews, journalists, the judicial system and even members of his own party" were being ideologically attacked, Joint List head Ayman Odeh wrote on Twitter.

"The outgoing prime minister is a dangerous psychopath who knows no boundaries. A criminal with his back to the wall. Does anyone doubt that he will deny a political motive for the next murder?" Odeh wrote.

Assassination has already proven effective policy for the Right.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



A tell-all book about the Trump administration penned by an anonymous senior White House official appears to have taken the top spot on The New York Times' bestseller list for non-fiction, toppling Donald Trump Jr.'s own tome, Triggered.

Described on the Times' bestseller list as an "assessment of the president," as well as a "moral appeal" to the American public, A Warning, offers an eviscerating analysis of Trump and his ability to lead.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Iraq's Sadr calls his supporters to continue protests (MEMO, November 30, 2019)

Al-Sadr, who leads Sairoon bloc in the parliament, went on to call the protestors to agree on a candidate to lead the upcoming government, suggesting that Abdul Mahdi's decision is the first outcome of the two-months long protests.

"The new prime minister should not appoint his cabinet on ethnic and sectarian bases," he added.

Sadr also called on the demonstrators to continue protesting and not to leave the street, calling on what he dubbed "Iraq's friendly countries" to give the Iraqi people an opportunity to determine their own future.

Mookie has always been the answer, not the problem.

November 29, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Ilhan Omar challenger permanently suspended from Twitter (Andrew Blake, 11/27/19, The Washington Times)

Danielle Stella, a Republican seeking to unseat Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, was suspended from Twitter after her account posted Tuesday about killing the congresswoman.

Ms. Stella's campaign account on Twitter, @2020MNCongress, was punted from the platform after posting at least twice about hanging Ms. Omar, a progressive freshman frequently the target of right-wing attacks.

Very on-brand.

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM


White House can't find any record of Trump's "no quid pro quo" phone call to Gordon Sondland: report (IGOR DERYSH, NOVEMBER 29, 2019, sALON)

The White House appears to be unable to locate any record of the phone call that President Donald Trump has claimed vindicates him in the Ukraine scandal.

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified to Congress that acting Ukraine Ambassador Bill Taylor confronted him in a text message exchange about the alleged campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden while blocking military aid appropriated by Congress to the country. Taylor told Sondland that it would be "crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

Supporting Donald means always embarrassing yourself.

Posted by orrinj at 5:09 AM



Mortality rates seldom rise unless a society is subjected to something disastrous, like a major economic crisis, an infectious disease epidemic or war. But there has been an increase in working-age mortality rates for just one group in the United States since 1999, and that's non-Hispanic whites.

"This is a startling finding," said Arjumand Siddiqi, lead author of the study.

Siddiqi, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, went on to say this could be the first time that a widespread population health phenomenon cannot be explained by social or economic status disadvantage, and instead has been driven by "a perceived threat to status."

"The anxiety of whites is coming from a misperception that their dominant status in society is being threatened, which is manifesting in multiple forms of psychological and physiological stress," said Siddiqi.

This stress has resulted in what researchers call "deaths of despair." While mortality rates trend higher for whites, the increased causes of death have been due to alcohol consumption, opioid use, opioid overdose and suicides. According to the study, rising chronic diseases--which includes hypertension and obesity--also contributed to this trend.

...when you believe race is status.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Myth of the 'Opium War' : a review of Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China's Last Golden Age, by Stephen R. Platt (FRANK DIKÖTTER,  DECEMBER 2019, reason)

Forty years ago, John King Fairbank, doyen of modern Chinese studies, called the opium trade "the most long-continued and systematic international crime of modern times."

If this were so, one wonders why the production, trade, and use of opium were entirely legal in such places as Turkey, Egypt, Persia, and India for decades both before and after the Opium War. One wonders why the drug's cultivation spread in the second half of the nineteenth century to the Netherlands, France, Italy, and the Balkans. One also wonders why, as Virginia Berridge revealed in her pioneering 1981 book Opium for the People, up to 100 tons of the substance was imported every year into England, where it was readily available until the end of the 19th century, commonly administered even to children in the form of laudanum.

The author claims that opium was recreational in China but medicinal elsewhere.  But this is a dubious distinction, one not even made in Britain--a country where, before 1900, alcohol, tobacco, and opium were all viewed as both palliatives and stimulants. In the absence of modern medicine, all too often pleasure meant absence of pain, especially in a poor and largely agrarian country such as China. Opium allowed ordinary people to relieve the symptoms of such endemic diseases as dysentery, cholera, and malaria and to cope with pain, fatigue, hunger, and cold.

And the vast majority of opium users in China were not the desperate addicts portrayed by proponents of prohibition. They were occasional, intermittent, light, and moderate users--a far cry from Thomas De Quincey, an English writer who famously ingested truly gargantuan quantities of the substance.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Nine conservative groups caught bulk buying Donald Trump Jr.'s book onto the Best Seller's list (David Edwards, 11/28/19, Raw Story)

Nearly ten conservative groups or officials have been accused of inflating sales of Donald Trump Jr.'s new book by purchasing it in bulk.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that conservative student group Turning Point U.S.A. is "stocking piling" roughly 2,000 copies of Trump's book "Triggered."

According to the Times, at least nine organizations or conservative personalities have participated in the bulk purchases.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


AP Interview: Ex-Polish president defends Biden and Burisma (VANESSA GERA, 11/29/19, AP)

Aleksander Kwasniewski, a former Polish president who is on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, said Thursday that Hunter Biden was indeed chosen to join its advisory board because of his name. He said that is simply how the world of business works. [...]

"I understand that if someone asks me to be part of some project it's not only because I'm so good, it's also because I am Kwasniewski and I am a former president of Poland," he said. "And this is all inter-connected. No-names are a nobody. Being Biden is not bad. It's a good name."

Kwasniewski also said Burisma members never tried to use Hunter Biden to curry favor with the administration of Barack Obama when Joe Biden was vice president.

"He was a normal member of this group," he said. "We didn't ask him -- and he never said anything -- about his father."

November 28, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


Netanyahu's US pollster suggests Democratic conspiracy seeks to oust PM, Trump (Times of Israel, 11/28/19)

A veteran American conservative pollster with close ties to both US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to push a conspiracy theory that the Democratic Party was running efforts to target the two leaders, as both face separate accusations of abusing the powers of office and corruption.

...but the reality is that all Nationalists are morally corrupt, so they're inevitably financially corrupt.
Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Tucker Carlson spreads disinformation about a deadly chemical attack in Syria (NIKKI MCCANN RAMIREZ, 11/26/19, Media Matters)

Fox News host Tucker Carlson claimed that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad "may have been falsely blamed" for the attack which led to American, British, and French bombings of suspected Syrian chemical weapons factories, and arguing that the deadly massacre "may never have happened in the first place."

These claims contradict and misrepresent the available evidence regarding the attack, the conclusions of multiple governments, and they are based on a Syrian and Russian misinformation campaign seeking to discredit investigators and absolve Assad of responsibility for the atrocity.

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM


Multiple Women Recall Sexual Misconduct and Retaliation by Gordon Sondland (JULIA SILVERMAN, KELLY CLARKE, AND FIONA MCCANN, PORTLAND MONTHLY, WITH MARYAM JAMEEL AND DORIS BURKE, 11/28/19, ProPublica,)

Three women say they faced sexual misconduct by Gordon Sondland before he was the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and at the center of the presidential impeachment inquiry. They say he retaliated against them professionally after they rejected his advances.

In one case, a potential business partner recalls that Sondland took her to tour a room in a hotel he owns, only to then grab her face and try to kiss her. After she rejected him, Sondland backtracked on investing in her business.

Another woman, a work associate at the time, says Sondland exposed himself to her during a business interaction. She also recalls falling over the back of a couch trying to get away from him. After she made her lack of interest clear, she says Sondland called her, screaming about her job performance.

A third woman, 27 years Sondland's junior, met him to discuss a potential job. She says he pushed himself against her and kissed her. She shoved him away. She says his job help stopped.

All three women have agreed to be named in this story. In all the cases, friends, family members or colleagues of the women recall being told about the encounters at the time. The cases span a seven-year period, ending less than a decade ago. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:24 AM


Digging up Franco, burying history (Stanley G. Payne, 10/29/19, The Critic)

The democratic transition that transformed Spain's government between 1976 and 1978 was unique. Never before had a firmly established modern authoritarian regime been peacefully democratised from the inside out, using the dictatorship's own law and institutions without the impact of international war or violent revolt. Though much of the political history of modern Spain is a record of failure, this was a singular achievement. It pioneered the model of democratisation later employed in Latin America, post-communist Eastern Europe, and a number of Asian and African countries.

After a motion introduced by the communists in 1977, and at the unanimous behest of other leftist deputies, the new regime voted a blanket amnesty for all those involved in killings and other politically-based infractions during the revolutionary civil war of 1936-1939 and the resulting dictatorship (1939- 1975). The new leaders agreed that history should be left to historians and that the cycle of vengeance against former foes inaugurated by the Republic of 1931-1936 should be rejected. This policy was also followed, mutatis mutandis, by the great majority of the numerous post-dictatorial parliamentary regimes in other parts of the world during the generation that followed.

The parliamentary regime inaugurated by King Juan Carlos quickly achieved stability and has governed with greater or lesser success for more than 40 years.

It was Franco who created that stability, making the easy hand-off to the monarchy possible.

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


DOJ inspector general concludes there is no evidence that the FBI spied on Trump's campaign: report (IGOR DERYSH, NOVEMBER 27, 2019, Salon)

The investigation found no evidence that the FBI attempted to place undercover agents or informants into his campaign, according to The Times.

Trump previously claimed, without evidence, that the FBI had sent a spy to infiltrate his 2016 campaign for "political purposes." He also baselessly accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping him during the campaign. Attorney General Bill Barr also suggested that the FBI had spied on the president's campaign.

The report also concluded that FBI officials were not politically motivated in their pursuit of a wiretap of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page after his departure.

Though the report is expected to criticize certain aspects of the FBI's handling of the Russia investigation, including errors which were discovered in the FBI's pursuit of a wiretap on Page, the report undercuts much of Trump and the Republican Party's defense of the president in the Russia scandal, according to The Times.

The report found that the FBI acted properly when it opened the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. The investigation began after former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos bragged to an Australian diplomat that he had been offered damaging information about former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

All you really need to know about Trumpism is that it proceeds from a hatred of all our institutions, which is why they thought the IG would expose wrongdoing but the rest of us were sure it would indict Donald..

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


The prophet who didn't do people (Michael Bentley, December 2019, The Critic)

Michael Oakeshott possessed a personality that generated an astounding attraction among all who met him. Hayek preferred to get along without one. The latter's acolytes persist among desiccated, soi-disant "conservative intellectuals" and cruising think-tankers who never quite work out what British conservatives are like by never asking what they like to do.

They like to drink, laugh, gossip, flirt, relish, rant, malign, sneer (such a wonderful disinfectant), pose, pretend, posture and provoke. Oakeshott knew all that by instinct and through the conversation that he craved.

Sitting on the floor of a student dorm with a group of undergraduates at two in the morning, he did what Hayek would have found impossible: he listened and enjoyed the lack of theme or direction. So a conversation in lower case transmuted into Conversation in higher: the Conversation of Mankind with its endorsement of poetry (any alternative to "science" and the "practical") and its engagements with the values inseparable from social existence.

Deaf to Hayek's insistence that other people's values can never be identified (meaning he couldn't through his lack of interest in other people), Oakeshott saw that conservative society cannot function as a value-neutral laboratory, but must respect inner commitments close to the heart. Conservatives value sharednesses because they share values.

This distancing promoted, too, a difference of language and address. Hayek wrote a pellucid brutalism concerned with the structures that promoted his one value of liberty. Oakeshott wrote on silk out of a lexicon that allowed no reduction to essence. You can turn Hayek into "Hayek"; you cannot turn Oakeshott into "Oakeshott".

Republican liberty is, indeed, a mechanism to help realize shared values.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


Fiona Hill, Alexander Vindman, and the American Creed (GEORGE THOMAS  NOVEMBER 27, 2019, The Bulwark)

[Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman] closed his statement by telling his father that he'd made the right choice in bringing his family to America. His statement not only pointed to American exceptionalism in regards to religious liberty, but to the rule of law.

Foreign born Hill and Vindman, an immigrant and a refugee, might have been sent from central casting to remind us of the American creed: The idea that America is about principles and values, not ancestry and ethnicity. Vindman captured this perfectly in his statement: "The members of our all-volunteer force are made up of a patchwork of people from all ethnicities, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds who come together under a common oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America."

To be an American, is to accept a certain set of political values: the idea that we are all created equal and have the same liberties. G.K. Chesterton famously called America "a nation with the soul of a church" because it was founded on a "creed." It is telling that American celebrates itself on July 4th--the day it declared its independence to the world, justified by the political principles it set forth, which formed the basis of this creed. In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln posited a nation founded with the Declaration of Independence, rooted in the proposition that "all men are created equal."

This creed explained why America was engaged in an ugly war to end an even uglier institution.

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM

IT'S A rico CASE::

Trump Tax Records Reveal New Inconsistencies -- This Time for Trump Tower (Heather Vogell Nov. 27, 2019, ProPublica)

Donald Trump's business reported conflicting information about a key metric to New York City property tax officials and a lender who arranged financing for his signature building, Trump Tower in Manhattan, according to tax and loan documents obtained by ProPublica. The findings add a third major Trump property to two for which ProPublica revealed similar discrepancies last month.

In the latest case, the occupancy rate of the Trump Tower's commercial space was listed, over three consecutive years, as 11, 16 and 16 percentage points higher in filings to a lender than in reports to city tax officials, records show.

For example, as of December 2011 and June 2012, respectively, Trump's business told the lender that 99% and 98.7% of the tower's commercial space was occupied, according to a prospectus for the loan. The figures were taken from "borrower financials," the prospectus stated.

In tax filings, however, Trump's business said the building's occupancy was 83% in January 2012 and the same a year later. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


Far-Right Evangelicals Still See Trump As 'Chosen' (Alex Henderson, November 27, 2019, National Memo)

In the 1980s, the late Sen. Barry Goldwater -- who was considered an arch-conservative in his day -- famously asserted that the Republican Party was making a huge mistake by embracing the Christian Right, which he described as a "terrible damn problem" for the conservative movement. But President Donald Trump, on the other hand, enthusiastically welcomes the support of far-right white evangelicals -- some of whom are declaring that the impeachment inquiry he is facing is against God's will and that demonic forces are trying to remove the president from office.

On November 21, evangelist Franklin Graham (son of the late Rev. Billy Graham and a strident Trump supporter) discussed impeachment when he appeared on fellow wingnut Eric Metaxas' radio show. Graham told Metaxas that it's "almost a demonic power that is trying" to remove Trump from office -- to which Metaxas responded, "I would disagree. It's not almost demonic. You know and I know, at the heart, it's a spiritual battle."

When far-right evangelicals speak of a "spiritual battle," they typically mean one between God and Satan -- and clearly, Graham and Metaxas believe that Trump is working for God, while his political opponents are working for Satan.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


The Real Barack Obama Has Finally Revealed Himself (LUKE SAVAGE, 11/27/19, Jacobin)

It therefore tells us a great deal that, given the latitude, resources, and moral authority with which to influence events, Obama has spent his post-presidency cozying up to the global elite and delivering vapid speeches to corporate interests in exchange for unthinkable sums of money.

Though often remaining out of the spotlight, he has periodically appeared next to various CEOs at events whose descriptions might be read as cutting satire targeting the hollowness of business culture if they weren't all-too real. As the world teeters on the brink of ecological disaster, he recently cited an increase in America's output of oil under his administration as a laudable achievement.

When Obama has spoken about or intervened in politics, it's most often been to bolster the neoliberal center-right or attack and undermine the Left. Having emerged from seclusion to endorse the likes of Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau, Obama also rang up Britain's austerity-loving Conservative prime minister Theresa May on election night in 2017 to offer reassurance and trash the Labour Party's electoral prospects. Only last week, while denouncing the Democratic Party's "activist wing," the former president who had once introduced himself to the nation as a progressive, community-minded outsider inveighed against those pushing for a more ambitious direction -- contemptuously instructing a group of wealthy donors not to concern themselves too-much with the irrational zealotry of "certain left-leaning Twitter feeds."

Adding to this trail of words and actions since 2016, a lengthy report just published by Politico offers us further insight into both Obama's calculations since leaving office and his broader view of politics. Portraying the former president as someone drawn somewhat unwillingly back into the political fray by events, the piece is strewn with suggestive nuggets on subjects ranging from Donald Trump to his opinions about various hopefuls running for the Democratic nomination.

We learn, for example, that Obama at one time hoped to enjoy something akin to a normal relationship with his successor, and that the former president apparently thinks little of Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg but is a fan of Montana Governor Steve Bullock. We also learn that in 2015 he was troubled by the prospect of a presidential run by Elizabeth Warren on the grounds that her anti-Wall Street message would represent a repudiation of his legacy.

Which is why he so easily won two terms.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM


Business and tech figures call on Netanyahu to resign (SHOSHANNA SOLOMON, 11/28/19, Times of Israel)

On Tuesday, more than 70 Israeli businesspeople signed a letter addressed to Israeli lawmakers requesting that they take immediate action to prevent a third election, the Calcalist business daily reported.

They said they were sending the letter out of concern for the nation's financial state.

"Growth and economic well-being require a strong and stable democracy. This requires a regime untainted by corruption that respects democratic values, including the independence of the legal system and a free press," the letter stated, according to a report on the Globes website. [...]

On Wednesday, another group of local tech figures called on Netanyahu to resign. [...]

The letter condemned the "unprecedented attacks on the rule of law, on Israel's attorney general, state attorney, the media, and the judicial system," according to Calcalist.

"We will not allow Israel and its democratic institutions to become collateral damage in the prime minister's personal fight for political survival," the letter read.

The signatories seem confused about the purpose of a Bibi or a Donald. It is to destroy the institutions of liberal democracy because they prevent the creation of a racial regime.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


Hanover teaching veteran declares presidential candidacy (DAVID CORRIVEAU, 11/28/19, Valley News )

While acknowledging that his chances of winning the Feb. 11 primary, let alone the Oval Office, are akin to "a lightning strike" -- Murphy is campaigning by word of mouth and not soliciting contributions of money -- he sees a need to offer a contrast to a Trump presidency that he describes as "a terrible model for American youth."

"Part of it is for my students here at school," Murphy said. "My watchword is, 'If you feel strongly enough about something, why not go for it?' It's not enough to sit. It's not enough to think about something or other. You need to have some core values that you will stand up for and be identified with."

Bill Hammond, a former Hanover High colleague of Murphy's who described himself as an independent, said he's considering picking up a Republican ballot in support.

Murphy is "a reasoned thinker," said Hammond, whose time teaching a variety of subjects at Hanover High overlapped with half of Murphy's 58 years.

"As long as I've known Bill, he's always been coming up with ideas about how to make things better, whether it was in sports when he was a coach, or if it was in class, or if it was making the school work better," Hammond said.

To make the country work better, Murphy said, "I'm not interested in making significant changes to the system. I just think it's incumbent on Congress to pass the laws. I just want to provide a direction, to push Congress to do their work."

November 27, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:41 PM


Trump Tells Allies He Wants Absolved War Criminals to Campaign for Him (Spencer Ackerman & Asawin Suebsaeng, Nov. 26, 2019, Daily Beast)

Despite military and international backlash to Trump's Nov. 15 clemency--fallout from which cost Navy Secretary Richard Spencer his job on Sunday--Trump believes he has rectified major injustices. Two people tell The Daily Beast they've heard Trump talk about how he'd like to have the now-cleared Clint Lorance, Matthew Golsteyn, or Edward Gallagher show up at his 2020 rallies, or even have a moment on stage at his renomination convention in Charlotte next year. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:38 PM


No, the new CNN poll is not good news for Donald Trump on impeachment (Chris Cillizza, November 26, 2019, CNN)

The peak of support for the impeachment and removal of then-President Bill Clinton in 1998 was 29% in CNN polling. That's the highest that number ever went, despite the fact that the House Republican majority did vote to impeach late that year!

Ditto impeachment sentiment for the two presidents between Clinton and Trump. In a 2006 CNN poll, 30% of the public wanted George W. Bush impeached and removed from office; in 2014, 33% said the same of Barack Obama. (Unlike Trump and Clinton, neither Bush nor Obama ever faced any sort of formal impeachment investigation or vote.)

What those historical numbers tell us is that for at least the last two decades, there is roughly 30% of the country that is ready to impeach a president (usually of the party to which they do not belong) at all times.
What makes the Trump number so remarkable, then, is that 20% more of the public is now convinced not only that he should be impeached but that he should be removed from office -- despite the fact that, unlike Clinton, Bush and Obama when those CNN polls were taken, Trump will face voters in a bid for a second term in less than a year's time.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Losing Their Religion, Really? (Donald Devine, NOVEMBER 27, 2019, American Conservative)

Let's look a bit closer at the data, starting with all those atheists and agnostics. They accounted for 2 percent of the population each in 2007, and today report 4 percent and 5 percent respectively--basically within the margins of error. The proper academic conclusion is that these groups have stayed pretty much the same over time, and remain very small.

The "nothing in particular" category (or Nones) is a larger and more diverse group, and the statistics do show that they have increased from 12 to 17 percent, likewise stretching the margin of error. But more important is that Pew itself had earlier reported that 26 percent of Nones pray daily and an additional 22 percent pray weekly or monthly, that only 22 percent do not believe in God, and that from year to year many shift back and forth between identifying with the Christian and Nones categories. All of this makes them more religious than atheist, if not exactly orthodox.

The reported declines in Protestants and Catholic identifications are likewise more interesting when broken down. Catholic identification is reported as declining from 24 to 20 percent, again minor and barely within the reported error margin. Protestant identification, meanwhile, is described as declining from 51 to 43 percent, and down a more substantial 17 percent among Democrats, Millennials, and Northeasterners, with fewer losses among Republicans, Gen. Xers and Midwesterners. Mainline Protestant denominations accounted for most of the decline, while born-again sects actually have increased. Denominational decline is a very mixed bag.

What about more active religious affiliation? Church attendance certainly has declined since the conservative 1950s, especially among Catholics, but it's rather flattened out since then, culminating in the slight dip over the last decade reported in the current study. As Pew notes, "Self-described Christians report that they attend religious services at about the same rate today as in 2009." The study shows little decline or even a small increase among African Americans, Hispanics, Protestant evangelicals, and Republicans. Actually, only 12 percent of the oldest generation, 15 percent of the middle-aged, and 22 percent of Millennials never go to church. A more recent Pew study reported that a majority of pre-Millennials said they regularly observe religious dress or jewelry worn by fellow students in their public schools.

Gallup likewise found that those who attend church once a month or more had dropped from 58 percent in 1992 to 43 percent today, and that those never attending had gone up from 14 to 28 percent. But it also found that attendance over the last week was 36 percent today, as opposed to 40 percent in 1992, basically no change.

Most importantly, all the numbers are high by historical American standards.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Obama privately vowed to intervene in primary to stop Bernie Sanders from winning nomination: report (IGOR DERYSH, NOVEMBER 27, 2019, Salon)

Former President Barack Obama privately told advisers that he would intervene and speak out to stop Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., from winning the nomination if he surged ahead, Politico's Ryan Lizza reports.

The new report details meetings and discussions that nearly all Democratic presidential candidates have had with Obama as they seek the party's nomination. Lizza describes Obama's preferred role in the primary as "providing guardrails to keep the process from getting too ugly and to unite the party when the nominee is clear."

But based on interviews with multiple Obama advisers, Sanders is a "potential exception."

It's not a Progressive party.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"The Good Place" taps into our hunger for second chances and redemption (Matthew Robert Anderson & Christine Jamieson, 11/27/19, Quartz)

While producer Michael Schur (who was also behind the American version of The Office) cast racially diverse actors -- Eleanor is portrayed as a white American, Chidi as Nigerian-born and Senegalese-raised, Tahani as a British South-Asian and Jason as a Filipino-American (the actor is actually Canadian)--the setting of The Good Place is flatly middle-American. An International House of Pancakes serves in season three as one of the dimensional gateways.

Far more nuanced are the philosophical questions that plague the four humans in The Good Place: Do I always have to tell the truth? Is it OK to ignore present action for future gain? What if I participate in evil unknowingly--if so, am I to blame for the outcome? Is it possible for an action to be both good and evil at the same time? If so, how does one decide? Should I sacrifice myself for others?

Even those only casually predisposed to reflecting on our actions might be surprised to see themselves in some of these scenes. But The Good Place presents no easy answers.

Our classes on theology in film focus on what it means to be human in relationship to the transcendent--what's called "theological anthropology." Here, the statement by Janet's character rings true: "The more human I become, the less things make sense."

Eleanor's teary words in one of a recent show rephrase the ancient philosophical question of suffering: "What's the point of love if it's just going to disappear? There has to be meaning ... Otherwise the universe is just made of pain."

As the series emphasizes, goodness is not straightforward. What is striking is that in the characters' attempts to "be good" and "do good," they are transformed. The Good Place is really about how to live "the good life." Together, the four do change and grow. They get their second--and 800th--chance. Not only that, they transform the lives of others.

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Trump Knew of Whistle-blower Report in August, Negating 'No Quid Pro Quo' Defense (Matt Stieb, 11/27/19, New TYork)

The lawyers brought the issue to Trump because they were determining if they legally had to inform Congress of the complaint.

This new timeline suggests that Trump was aware that he had been accused of abusing his executive power when the White House eventually released the aid to Ukraine in September. It also paints his I'm-not-a-crook correspondence with U.N. Ambassador Gordon Sondland in a less honorable light. Sondland testified that 0n September 9, Trump told him "I want no quid pro quo." That Trump was aware that an intelligence officer had accused him of such behavior -- after spending a summer "enthusiastically" pressuring Ukraine to conduct investigations that would aid his reelection -- suggests that the conversation with Sondland, who testified that there was a quid pro quo, was meant more as a bailout plan than as an honest confession to a U.N. ambassador in over his head. And as Daily Kos points out, there's a smaller concern related to the choice of language from the president with a limited vocabulary: "Trump using such precise language without being prompted was always a question mark because he clearly doesn't bat around Latin phrases very often."

November 26, 2019

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Melania Trump Booed by Children at Youth Opioid Summit in Baltimore (Justin Baragona, Nov. 26, 2019, Daily Beast)

The harsh reception that the first lady received in Baltimore, including from children, comes after her husband's repeated racist attacks on the city as a rat-infested hellhole--comments which drew widespread condemnation.

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Stand aside, hyperloop: This cross-continental train aims to replace flying (MARK WILSON, 11/26/19, Fast Company)

Airlines aren't the worst polluters in the world, but planes do account for an incredible 2.5% of the world's carbon emissions. So by any measure, flying is a privilege--the exact sort of 20th-century excess that we need to reassess. Which is why the strategic design consultancy Manyone is thinking about radical alternatives to flight. The studio's solution? A giant train that loops around half the world like a mega subway system.

Dubbed the AeroSlider, it's an elevated train line that passes through a series of unobtrusive magnetic loops instead of running on a track. Much like the principles behind a rail gun, the loops speed up the train sequentially, propelling it up to speeds of 500 mph--or the average speed of a plane.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Crown's Case for the Monarchy: The Netflix show portrays the awkward dance between ceremony and democracy. (PARKER RICHARDS, November 26, 2019, New Republic)

Now entering its third season, complete with a new cast, The Crown is making even more explicit the idea that the monarchy is not merely a showpiece but an essential component of modern British democracy. Elizabeth is confronted by a new prime minister, Harold Wilson, the first Labour leader of her reign after more than a decade of Conservatives. She also faces figures within her own family who think the new, left-wing government poses a grave threat to the country's future. And she does what a constitutional monarch ought to do: nothing, more or less.

In the show, created and mostly written by Peter Morgan, the inherent absurdity of monarchy is part of its usefulness, part of its function as a tool that democratic societies may use to stay democratic. The military medals, the dresses, the sashes and scepters and crowns--they are all part of a sleight of hand to make the monarchy seem glorious, and in that glory, to create a sense of national stability. It's a part of what the English essayist Walter Bagehot called the "dignified" part of government, something that exists to humble the "efficient" elected part, to force ministers to remember that they serve the country, not simply their own parties and interests. In The Crown, the inherently undemocratic monarchy is a tool used to protect democracy.

The Revolution was a tragedy.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Americans, not Chinese, pay Trump tariffs: NY Fed study (Howard Schneider, 11/25/19, Reuters)

As a result of the U.S.-China trade war, U.S. Customs and Border Protection adds as much as 25% to the import price as Chinese goods enter the country. If Chinese companies were absorbing that cost, they would have to cut their prices as much as 20% - a level that would allow U.S. retailers, manufacturers, or wholesalers to keep their own prices and profits stable.

That is not what is happening.

Import data from June 2018 to September 2019 shows Chinese import prices fell only 2%, the Fed study found, in line with price declines seen in many other nations as global trade slowed.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Texas Republican Party's 2020 election strategy document lands in Democrats' hands (James Barragán, Nov 25, 2019, Dallas Morning News)

The plan also addresses a nagging concern for the Texas GOP: Trump's unpopularity with some Republicans in the state.

"Given the polarizing nature of the President, I suspect some Republicans will refuse to turnout during the General Election because they don't want to vote for him - though I don't know that we will know what this universe would look like without us or a stakeholder creating a model," the document reads. "Regardless, I suggest we set up a contingency budget to target these folks with mailers, digital ads, and texts to encourage them to turnout for U.S. Senate, State Senate, State House, and so on."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Report: Khamenei approved Saudi strike on condition no civilians, Americans hit (Times of Israel, 11/26/19)

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei personally approved the devastating September 14 combined drone and cruise missile barrage on two Saudi facilities that knocked out half of the kingdom's oil production, on condition the strike did not target civilians or Americans, the Reuters news agency reported Monday.

The Wahhabi are the mutual enemy.

November 25, 2019

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The Strange Liberal Backlash to Woke Culture: Why Meghan Daum, Bret Easton Ellis, and Wesley Yang reject social justice movements on the left (RYU SPAETH, 11/25/19, New Republic)

I should note at the outset that I am not unsympathetic to the concerns of these liberal (or liberal-ish) writers, although none of them shows a particularly firm grasp of the thing they are rejecting or its history. The writer Kashana Cauley has traced the use of the term "woke" to unionized black workers in the midcentury and to the civil rights movement. In her childhood in the 1990s, wokeness was "a command to keep ourselves informed about anti-blackness, and to fight it." The last five years have seen more and more people take up this mantle, as Black Lives Matter called for sustained protest against systemic racism, and the election of Trump laid bare the depth of the white patriarchy's enduring power. To be woke in 2019 is, in part, to be a critic; whether recognizing the subtle sexism in a TV show or celebrating the political messaging in a music video, it is a form of close reading that has always been aligned with activism.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Mitch McConnell's Opposition to Federal Election Security Is Hitting Home: Kentucky officials say local voting systems are "one emergency away from disaster." (AJ Vincens, 11/25/19, Mother Jones)

Don Blevins, Jr., has a lot to think about. In his job as the clerk of Fayette County, home to Lexington, the University of Kentucky, and more than 240,000 registered voters, he's in charge of making sure elections happen securely and accurately. "There's a lot of hand wringing over the Russians, there's hand wringing from the far right about illegal immigrants voting and all that," but Blevins says he's more worried "about Americans cheating than anybody."

Blevins cites a range of possible disruptions--from bomb threats to jamming the internet connections used to verify voter registration--that could cause long lines or deflate public confidence in the accuracy of the tally. While Blevins, a Democratic elected official, insists Fayette, the state's second-largest county, is well resourced and equipped to securely conduct balloting, he worries about less populated regions.

"Mitch's inaction is directly harming his home state...there's no question."
"The smaller counties are in dire straits, and Kentucky for a combination of reasons," Blevins said. "They are chronically underfunded for just basic government services, much less elections related expenses."

Meanwhile in Washington, DC, Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky senator for the last 34 years and, as senate majority leader, Congress' most powerful Republican, has steadfastly refused to allow meaningful election security legislation to reach the Senate floor while stymieing most related funding, arguing new laws or mandates would be an overstep of federal power.

"Mitch's inaction is directly harming his home state," Blevins said. "There's no question in my mind."

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Hong Kong's shock election result shows how Beijing falls victim to its own propaganda (Isabella Steger, 11/25/19, Quartz)

In the weeks running up to yesterday's (Nov. 24) district council elections in Hong Kong--largely seen as a referendum on the public's views toward the protests that have wracked the city--the local government and Beijing seemed convinced that a "silent majority," tired of blocked roads and school suspensions, would cast their votes decisively against "violent rioters."

A tweet from English-language newspaper China Daily a day before the election, for example, urged people to "vote pro-establishment" (a term referring to candidates loyal to Beijing) in order to help Hong Kong "return to normal life." Nationalistic tabloid Global Times similarly urged Hong Kongers to cast their vote to "end violence." Chief executive Carrie Lam and her administration ramped up their rhetoric that violent radicals had hijacked the protest movement and that it was time for the electorate to cut ties with them.

The landslide win by the pro-democracy camp, however--which took control of all but one of the city's 18 local councils--has thrown China's propaganda machine into confusion, to say the least. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Giuliani associate wants to testify that Nunes aides hid Ukraine meetings on Biden dirt from Schiff (Christina Wilkie, 11/24/19, CNBC)

The lawyer for an indicted business associate of Rudy Giuliani said his client is prepared to testify under oath that aides to Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, scrapped a trip to Ukraine this year when they realized it would mean notifying Democratic Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff.

November 24, 2019

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House Intelligence Committee in possession of video, audio recordings from Giuliani associate Lev Parnas (KATHERINE FAULDERS, JOHN SANTUCCI and ALLISON PECORIN, Nov 24, 2019, ABC News)

The House Intelligence Committee is in possession of audio and video recordings and photographs provided to the committee by Lev Parnas, an associate of President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who reportedly played a key role in assisting him in his efforts to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

The material submitted to the committee includes audio, video and photos that include Giuliani and Trump. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 PM


Confidential White House review turns up emails showing extensive effort to justify Trump's decision to block Ukraine military aid (The Washington Post,  25 Nov, 2019)

A confidential White House review of President Donald Trump's decision to place a hold on military aid to Ukraine has turned up hundreds of documents that reveal extensive efforts to generate an after-the-fact justification for the decision and a debate over whether the delay was legal, according to three people familiar with the records.

The research by the White House Counsel's Office, which was triggered by a congressional impeachment inquiry announced in September, includes early August email exchanges between acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House budget officials seeking to provide an explanation for withholding the funds after Trump had already ordered a hold in mid-July on the nearly US$400 million in security assistance, according to the three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

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Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican member on the House Intelligence Committee, spent nearly $57,000 on a trip to Europe for him and his staff to allegedly investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, records show.

The figures seem to confirm allegations made by Lev Parnas--a Ukrainian-born American who worked as a "fixer" for Rudy Giuliani before being indicted on criminal charges--who said that he helped Nunes arrange meetings with various Ukrainian officials to dig up dirt on Biden.

Parnas said he met Nunes in a secretive trip to Vienna, Austria, between November and December 2018, and put him in touch with former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin--the lawyer who was ousted from his position in 2016 after pressure from Western leaders, including Biden, who said he was not doing enough to combat corruption.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 PM


Progressives, trust your gut: Elizabeth Warren is not one of us (Nathan Robinson, 24 Nov 2019, The Guardian)

From the beginning, there were good reasons for progressive leftists not to trust that Elizabeth Warren was on their side. For one thing, she had spent much of her career as a Republican, and only recently become a champion of progressive causes. Warren worked at Harvard Law School training generations of elite corporate lawyers; did legal work for big corporations accused of wrongdoing; collected donations from billionaires; held secret meetings with investment bankers and major Democratic party donors; and stood up and applauded when Donald Trump vowed that America would "never become a socialist country". Even at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, her most prominent initiative on behalf of ordinary borrowers, Warren brought in former Wall Street bankers, tasking financial foxes with guarding the henhouse. [...]

It's been difficult for progressives to know what to make of Warren. She's been antagonizing the super-rich, but some of them also seem fond of her, perhaps because they recognize that her regulatory proposals are actually a modest and pragmatic way of staving off a populist revolution. She has long been attacked for supporting Medicare for All, but she has also been troublingly vague about the details in ways that left single-payer proponents unsure whether she was with them or against them. (Harry Reid, having been Warren's colleague in the Senate, said she would probably ditch single-payer when she was actually in office, in favor of something more "pragmatic".)

But lately, Warren has finally begun to make her true feelings clear, and progressives no longer need to wonder whether she's with us or not. She's not. Warren released a Medicare for All plan that called it a "long-term" plan, which leftwing political analyst Ben Studebaker pointed out is "code to rich people for 'this is all pretend'".

A few weeks later, Warren confirmed that while in theory she supported single-payer healthcare, it would not be one of her primary initiatives, and she would initially push for a more moderate proposal similar to those advocated by Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg. Political analysts quickly saw Warren's statement for what it was: an admission that she did not really intend to pass single-payer at all. Doug Henwood noted that Barclays bank put out an analysis assuring Wall Street that Warren's plan to put off Medicare for All until late in the first term "decreases the likelihood that this plan comes to fruition". So much for big structural change.

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Official says White House gave Navy go-ahead on Gallagher (ROBERT BURNS and ROB GILLIES, 11/24/19, AP)

The Navy has been notified that the White House will not intervene to stop a disciplinary proceeding that could cost a SEAL his position in the elite unit, a senior Navy official said Sunday.

Posted by orrinj at 12:46 PM


Sen. John Kennedy repeats Ukraine conspiracy theory about DNC server (Jacob Knutson, 11/24/19, Axios)

The exchange:

CHRIS WALLACE: "Senator Kennedy, who do you believe was responsible for hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign computers -- their emails. Was it Russia or Ukraine?"

KENNEDY: "I don't know. Nor do you. Nor do any of us."

WALLACE "Let me just interrupt to say that the entire intelligence community says it was Russia."

KENNEDY: "Right, but it could also be Ukraine. I'm not saying that I know one way or the other."

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Giuliani Once Again Says He Has "Insurance" if Trump Throws Him "Under the Bus" (DANIEL POLITI, NOV 23, 2019, Slate)

"I've seen things written like he's going to throw me under the bus. When they say that, I say he isn't, but I have insurance," Giuliani went on to say. 

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Top Dem says ethics investigation into Devin Nunes likely (EVAN SEMONES, 11/23/2019, Politico)

The top Democrat on the House armed services committee said Saturday that Republican Rep. Devin Nunes is likely to face an ethics investigation over allegations he met with an ex-Ukrainian prosecutor at the center of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

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Secretary of Navy says Trump's tweet is not a formal order (ROB GILLIES, 11/23/19,  AP) 

The secretary of the U.S. Navy said Saturday he doesn't consider a tweet by President Donald Trump an order and would need a formal order to stop a review of a sailor who could lose his status as a Navy SEAL.

November 23, 2019

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Trump Privately Frets 'What's Going on With Drudge?'  (Asawin Suebsaeng, Nov. 23, 2019, Daily Beast)

"What's going on with Drudge?" Trump has been asking allies since Democratic lawmakers launched the impeachment probe in late September, according to a person with knowledge of his private remarks. Two other sources who've heard the president complain told The Daily Beast that Trump has asked those close to him why they think Drudge and his website have seemed "so anti-Trump" lately. 

In recent weeks, Trump has even asked Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and a top White House official--who has had a friendly relationship with the site's creator--to "look into it" and reach out to Drudge, the sources said.  [...]

The president's concern over Drudge's coverage of the impeachment proceedings underscores how sensitive he has been to ensuring that his fellow travelers, in Republican politics and in influential media, do not break from him as Democrats take steps to remove him from office over the Ukraine scandal. 

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Both left and right still misunderstand the politics of Barack Obama, conservative (David Swerdlick, 11/22/19, The Washington Post)

This month, at a gathering of influential Democrats, he cautioned the 2020 contenders against pushing too far, too fast on policy: "This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement."

That distinction helps explain why so many of the candidates' proposals seem so far to the left of Obama. The former president was skeptical of sweeping change, bullish on markets, sanguine about the use of military force, high on individual responsibility and faithful to a set of old-school personal values. Compare that with the agenda of his would-be successors: Medicare for all, free college, a wealth tax, universal basic income.

Given the political climate, it's no surprise to see the party's base clamoring for something more dramatic. But the contrast between Obama's steady appraoch and the seeming radicalism of his Democratic heirs can't simply be chalked up to changing times. It's because the former president, going back at least to his 2004 Senate race, hasn't really occupied the left side of the ideological political spectrum. He wasn't a Republican, obviously: He never professed a desire to starve the federal government, and he opposed the Iraq War that Republicans overwhelmingly supported. But to the dismay of many on the left, and the continuing disbelief of many on the right, Obama never dramatically departed from the approach of presidents who came before him.

There's a simple reason for that: Barack Obama is a conservative. [...]

[H]e was, and remains, skeptical of sweeping change, bullish on markets, sanguine about the use of military force, high on individual responsibility and faithful to a set of old-school personal values. To the dismay of many on the left, and to the continuing disbelief of many on the right, Obama never dramatically departed from the approach of presidents who came before him.

...analysts will consider presidential politics undifferentiated from the resignation of Richard Nixon through the UR.

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Jim Jordan was imposed on us for egregiously partisan reasons. Now he's afflicting the nation. (Brent Larkin, 11/21/19,

[I]t's fitting that Republicans have given this seven-term sycophant a starring role in the televised House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump. The assignment comes as Jordan is being credibly accused by some of knowingly turning a blind eye to sexual abuse by a team doctor when Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University from 1987 to 1994.

At least five people - four of them former wrestlers and one of them a longtime friend - have said Jordan had to have known former OSU team doctor Richard Strauss was on a sexual rampage that would include -- according to OSU -- 1,429 sexual assaults and 47 rapes of student patients during Strauss' time at the school (1978 to 1998) prior to his suicide in 2005.

That makes Jordan an ideal candidate to lead the defense of a malignant president who has bragged about physically abusing women and who has been accused by two dozen women of sexual assault or misconduct. [...]

When Jordan slithers out from under his rock each morning, dons a shirt and tie - sans the jacket, lest he be mistaken for Joe McCarthy - his life's work is to besmirch everything America stands for in service of Donald Trump.

If it takes undermining yet another principle of democracy by condoning attacks on men and women who have devoted their lives in honorable service to this country, Jordan is always ready and willing.

If it takes changing the Trump defense strategy on an almost daily basis because facts keep getting in the way, Jordan is the ideal bootlicker. Trump's support is all that seems to matter to the man former House Speaker John Boehner regularly referred to as "a legislative terrorist" - along with a whole bunch of other descriptions unfit for print.

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Navy Secretary says review of SEAL should proceed despite Trump's opposition (Ryan Browne, November 22, 2019, CNN)

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said Friday that a military review of the status of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher should proceed despite President Donald Trump tweeting Thursday that Gallagher should not lose it, a possible outcome of the review.

In a normal administration, the way government officials and military leaders simply ignore the President would border on the treasonous and create a Constitutional crisis.  Under this one, it's obligatory.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


Documents released to ethics group show Giuliani, Pompeo contacts before Ukraine ambassador ousted (Phil Helsel and Abigail Williams, 11/23/19, NBC News)

An ethics group late Friday published nearly 100 pages of previously unreleased State Department documents that the group says shows "a clear paper trail" between President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before a Ukraine ambassador was abruptly recalled. [...]

The documents released Friday appear to confirm that Pompeo and Giuliani spoke on the phone on March 26, and that another call was scheduled between the two men for March 29 and that it took place.

One email appears to show Trump's former personal assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, helping to connect Giuliani to Pompeo after there was trouble establishing a connection.

The documents do not say what Giuliani and Pompeo discussed. The March 29 call was scheduled for 20 minutes but lasted just four minutes, according to the documents, and the March 26 call was also just minutes long, the emails show.

A request for comment from the State Department was not immediately returned after the documents were released late Friday.

The emails also show that before the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, took the job he was among six former Ukraine ambassadors who objected to "recent uncorroborated allegations" about Yovanovitch.

The April letter from Taylor and the five others says, "these charges are simply wrong."

Taylor told Congress he was asked to return to lead the embassy in Kyiv in May by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In his testimony, Taylor said his initial reservation about taking the job was because of the poor treatment of Yovanovitch.

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Exclusive: Giuliani associate willing to tell Congress Nunes met with ex-Ukrainian official to get dirt on Biden (Vicky Ward, 11/22/19, CNN)

A lawyer for an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani tells CNN that his client is willing to tell Congress about meetings the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee had in Vienna last year with a former Ukrainian prosecutor to discuss digging up dirt on Joe Biden.

The attorney, Joseph A. Bondy, represents Lev Parnas, the recently indicted Soviet-born American who worked with Giuliani to push claims of Democratic corruption in Ukraine. Bondy said that Parnas was told directly by the former Ukrainian official that he met last year in Vienna with Rep. Devin Nunes.

"Mr. Parnas learned from former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin that Nunes had met with Shokin in Vienna last December," said Bondy.

Shokin was ousted from his position in 2016 after pressure from Western leaders, including then-vice president Biden, over concerns that Shokin was not pursuing corruption cases. [...]

Solomon also said that Di Genova and Toensing, his lawyers, introduced him to Parnas as a facilitator and interpreter in early March. "Parnas was very helpful to me in getting Ukraine officials on the record," Solomon told CNN. "I only gradually realized Lev was working for other people, including Rudy Giuliani."

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


The Sondland Revelations: A close look at the ambassador's admissions--confirming the quid pro quo and suggesting other Trump officials were in the know. (KYLE BAXTER  NOVEMBER 23, 2019, The Bulwark)

In Sondland's supplemental testimony, where he had admitted that he told Andriy Yermak on September 1 that Ukraine would not receive the security assistance frozen by President Trump without announcing the investigations, Sondland said he had only "presumed" that the suspension of the aid "had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement," but that he did not have any explicit direction from the president.

Sondland stuck to this claim in his public testimony this week, but added some important details. Under questioning from minority council Steve Castor, Sondland said that he had made this presumption because the aid had been withheld by the president, it hadn't been released by this point, and they were not "getting anywhere with the Ukrainians."

This explanation by Sondland is convincing. By late August, the White House had withheld a vital White House meeting for Zelensky to demand the investigations, and then the president had also withheld security assistance. The conclusion that the security assistance had been withheld for the same purpose was by then inescapable; Trump sought his investigations, had conditioned a White House meeting on them, and now was withholding the assistance, too.

At this week's public hearing, House Intelligence Committee Republicans strained to question Sondland's judgment on this point. They said he based his "presumption" on no evidence. However, Sondland bolstered his position: He said he sent an email to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on August 22 asking if they should schedule a meeting in Warsaw for Trump and Zelensky, in which Zelensky would discuss moving "forward publicly and with confidence on those issues of importance to POTUS and the U.S. Hopefully, that will break the logjam." Sondland testified that the "issues of importance to POTUS" were the investigations (the only things Trump asked of Zelensky on his infamous July 25 call), and the "logjam" included the withheld security assistance. Pompeo's reply? "Yes."

Furthermore, Sondland testified that on September 1 he had told Vice President Mike Pence that he "had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations." Pence nodded, Sondland said, "like, you know, he heard what I said."

Sondland is establishing, then, that two of the most senior officials in the Trump administration knew of his belief that the security assistance had become linked to the investigations, just as the White House meeting had been, and neither Pompeo nor Pence pushed back. Neither of them asked him what Sondland was talking about. Neither of them said, That's crazy, and it's false. They responded as if they were well aware.

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Trump supporters are actually more afraid of gluten than "gluten-intolerant West Coast liberals" (TREY MALONE, 11/23/19, Fast Company)

Approximately 0.5% of North Americans have been clinically diagnosed with celiac disease. When people with this autoimmune genetic disease eat gluten, it damages their small intestine, leading to other long-term health effects. The number of documented cases has dramatically risen over the past 30 to 40 years, though researchers aren't sure why.

While consumers with celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity should definitely avoid gluten, there is no strong scientific evidence that anyone else needs to reduce their gluten consumption. In fact, there is no evidence that would support the notion that gluten-free foods are any healthier than foods filled with gluten for most of the population.

Nevertheless, disagreement rages on regarding whether gluten sensitivity is real and deserves the same universal acceptance that diagnosable diseases like celiac and other established health conditions enjoy.

The contention that gluten sensitivity goes along with liberalism takes the debate even further. If this were true, it would have serious implications for policy decisions and food marketing strategies. It would imply that gluten sensitivity is not strictly a medical condition but a social construct, which would not require the same regulatory concern as other health conditions.

To conduct our analysis, Norwood and I asked 1,086 U.S. consumers four questions about their perceptions of gluten.

We created a "gluten aversion index" by adding up each person's responses. A score of 4 would indicate that the respondent was not at all gluten avoidant, while a score of 28 would indicate that the respondent was extremely gluten avoidant. After removing the surprisingly high 3.7% of individuals who told us they'd been clinically diagnosed with celiac disease, we looked at the linkage between political ideology and gluten sensitivity.

Contrary to the common stereotype, we found no evidence that the political left is more likely to report being gluten sensitive. In fact, when we divided our sample by preferred president of the past few decades, those who selected Donald Trump were also the most likely to identify as gluten avoidant.

...they're just easily manipulable.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Charges of Ukrainian meddling? A Russian operation, US intelligence says (Julian E. Barnes and Matthew Rosenberg, 11/22/19,  New York Times)

 Republicans have sought for weeks to shift attention to President Trump's demands that Ukraine investigate any 2016 election meddling, defending it as a legitimate concern while Democrats accuse Trump of pursuing fringe theories for his benefit.

But in a briefing, US intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a yearslong campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow's own hacking of the 2016 election, according to three US officials. The briefing came as Republicans stepped up their defenses of Trump in the Ukraine affair.

The revelations demonstrate Russia's persistence in trying to sow discord among its adversaries -- and show that the Kremlin apparently succeeded, as unfounded claims about Ukrainian interference seeped into Republican talking points.

November 22, 2019

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Justice Dept. watchdog finds political bias did not taint top officials running the FBI's Russia probe but documents other errors (Ellen Nakashima, Matt Zapotosky and  Devlin Barrett, November 22, 2019, Washington Post)

The Justice Department's internal watchdog is expected to find in a forthcoming report that political bias did not taint top officials running the FBI investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016, while at the same time criticizing the bureau for systemic failures in its handling of surveillance applications, according to two U.S. officials. [...]

According to the two officials, Horowitz is expected to conclude that opening of Crossfire Hurricane was legally and factually justified. His report will not provide fodder for several conservative conspiracy theories surrounding the case -- particularly the notion that Papadopoulos was set up as part of a nefarious western intelligence operation.

Inspector general investigators scrutinized that allegation aggressively, looking particularly at the record on Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor who was critical to the opening of the case. Mifsud boasted to Papadopoulos about having "dirt" on Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails" -- before Russia's hacking of Democrats was publicly known. When the FBI learned of that conversation some months later, it felt it had to open an investigation.

The investigation regarding the 2016 campaign "fundamentally was not about Donald Trump but was about Russia -- full stop," former FBI General Counsel James A. Baker said at a Brookings Institution event in May. "It was always about Russia. It was about what Russia was, and is, doing and planning. "

Pity the poor Trumpbots: there are no straws left to clutch.  It turns out that if you investigate Vlad you can't help but catch Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 PM


On Human Scum...and when enough is enough (Dave Pell, Nov 21, 2019, Medium)

These are the three most infamous politicians to describe opponents as human scum: Hitler. Stalin. Trump.

As the simple truths spoken by impeachment witnesses backed him into a corner, the president repeated his use of one of history's most notorious phrases: "Corrupt politician Adam Schiff's lies are growing by the day. Keep fighting tough, Republicans, you are dealing with human scum."

While Trump's command of history is limited, he is aware of the nature of this particular phrase because he has used it, and been admonished for it, before. The sick attacks on Schiff, particularly using a trope associated with two of history's most vile antisemites, calls into question when (if ever) Trump's defenders will finally say enough is enough.

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 PM


Colombia ambassador criticizes State Department in recording (JOSHUA GOODMAN,  November 20, 2019. AP) 

Colombia's ambassador in Washington was embarrassed Wednesday by publication of a recording in which he trashes the State Department as a feckless institution subjugated to the whims of the White House.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 PM


An inspector general reportedly finds that FBI employee altered a document in Russia investigation (Jen Kirby, Nov 22, 2019, Vox)

CNN reported Thursday night (and the Washington Post later confirmed) that Inspector General Michael Horowitz has found that a former FBI lawyer might have altered a document tied to the 2016 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Critically, according to US officials who spoke to the Post, the Inspector General did not find that this possible alteration affected "the overall validity" or legal basis for the surveillance application.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:53 PM


Poll finds most Israelis think Netanyahu must step down now charges announced (Times of Israel, 11/22/19)

Fifty-six percent of Israelis think that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should resign, according to a survey published Friday after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced that he would be indicting the premier in three corruption cases.

Just 35% of respondents said that the Likud leader should not budge from the Prime Minister's Residence, while the remaining 9% were unsure, according to the Channel 13 poll.

Posted by orrinj at 1:37 PM


Trump doubles down on debunked Ukraine conspiracy theory (AAMER MADHANI, 11/22/19, AP) 

US President Donald Trump on Friday promoted a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, a day after a former White House adviser called it a "fictional narrative" and said it played into Russia's hands.

Trump called in to "Fox & Friends" and said he was trying to root out corruption in the Eastern European nation when he withheld aid over the summer. Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine's president is at the center of the House impeachment probe, which is looking into Trump's pressure on Ukraine to investigate political rivals as he held back nearly $400 million.

But he repeated his assertion that Ukrainians might have hacked the Democratic National Committee's network in 2016 and framed Russia for the crime, a theory his own advisers have dismissed.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Mountain of impeachment evidence is beyond dispute (JULIE PACE, 11/22/19, AP) 

After two weeks of riveting public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, there is a mountain of evidence that is now beyond dispute.

Trump explicitly ordered U.S. government officials to work with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on matters related to Ukraine, a country deeply dependent on Washington's help to fend off Russian aggression. The Republican president pushed Ukraine to launch investigations into political rivals, leaning on a discredited conspiracy theory his own advisers disputed. And both American and Ukrainian officials feared that Trump froze a much-needed package of military aid until Kyiv announced it was launching those probes.

Those facts were confirmed by a dozen witnesses, mostly staid career government officials who served both Democratic and Republican administrations. They relied on emails, text messages and contemporaneous notes to back up their recollections from the past year.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"The Good Place" Creator Michael Schur Explained The Real Message Of The Show (Krystie Lee Yandoli, 11/21/19, BuzzFeed News)

Show creator Michael Schur told BuzzFeed News that he's obsessed over these philosophical ideas for years while making The Good Place.

"You can be a good person in a vacuum," Schur said. "But being alive at some fundamental level in most of the places on Earth means interacting with other people and having other people interact with you."

Pamela Hieronymi, a philosophy professor at UCLA who agreed to advise Schur on his ideas about philosophy for the show, pointed him to the book What We Owe to Each Other by T.M. Scanlon. The author was her dissertation adviser at Harvard, and when Schur explained the kinds of philosophical ideas he wanted to include in The Good Place, she said it lined up with Scanlon's work.

"It really sort of lit up a room in my brain that had been searching for a way to explain the kind of thing that I wanted to get at," Schur told BuzzFeed News. "And that was the idea that we owe certain things to other people, and the job of being alive on earth is to figure out what you owe to them and how you can provide it for them. That's the only way that any that there will ever be any progress."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Palestinian cars torched in suspected settler hate crimeThe Times of Israelhome page (Times of Israel, 11/22/19)

Cars were found torched Friday morning in a number of Palestinian villages in the West Bank in a suspected hate crime by Jewish settlers.

In addition to the burnt vehicles, Stars of David and other graffiti were discovered on buildings in the villages.

The acts of vandalism occurred in the northern West Bank villages of Qabalan, Beit Dajan, Majdal Bani Fadil and ad-Dik, the anti-racism group Tag Meir said.

November 21, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Why UBI Ought to Appeal to Conservatives (Cody Kommers, 11/21/19, Quillette)

The first point of agreement between Republicans and proponents of UBI is about what the government is good at: relatively little. This is one of Yang's favorite points. A government program with a bunch of bureaucrats operating file-the-proper-paperwork mechanisms is bound to have some inefficiencies. But, as Yang points out, what the government does well is promptly and reliably sending out a load of checks in the mail. Republicans balk at the idea of UBI because it seems like an extreme version of your standard government handout. But it isn't. It actually eliminates most of the government subsidies against which Republicans have traditionally marshaled principled arguments.

The second point worth considering is what it means to put that money in the hands of individual Americans instead of the federal government. It is the ultimate vote for the free market. It's no longer the government dictating what the best use of that money would be. That money is going straight to the people who have the most intimate, on-the-ground knowledge of the particulars of their life circumstances: themselves. I can't personally imagine anyone more capable of doing the job--especially not a government bureaucrat. It is, in fact, the opposite of the government telling people what to do and how to do it.

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:42 PM


No Mystery: Republicans aren't being moved by Sondland's testimony because they already know what happened. (CHARLES SYKES, NOVEMBER 21, 2019, The Bulwark)

For some perspective, let's go back to that New York Times story from May of this year: "Rudy Giuliani Plans Ukraine Trip to Push for Inquiries That Could Help Trump." That was the headline. It was pretty much all there:

WASHINGTON -- Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, is encouraging Ukraine to wade further into sensitive political issues in the United States, seeking to push the incoming government in Kiev to press ahead with investigations that he hopes will benefit Mr. Trump.

Mr. Giuliani said he plans to travel to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, in the coming days and wants to meet with the nation's president-elect to urge him to pursue inquiries that allies of the White House contend could yield new information about two matters of intense interest to Mr. Trump.

One is the origin of the special counsel's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election. The other is the involvement of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s son in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.

Mr. Giuliani's plans create the remarkable scene of a lawyer for the president of the United States pressing a foreign government to pursue investigations that Mr. Trump's allies hope could help him in his re-election campaign. And it comes after Mr. Trump spent more than half of his term facing questions about whether his 2016 campaign conspired with a foreign power. [emphasis added]

And then, of course, Giuliani went on CNN to admit that he asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

We've seen the "transcript."

Mick Mulvaney held a press conference defiantly admitting the quid pro quo.

The military aid was, in fact held up.

Key players have testified what they saw and heard.

And know we know that everyone involved in the cleanup of this mess knew what was going on. Republicans tried to make an issue of the fact that Sondland made some presumptions about the linkage between the aid and the investigations, but, frankly, you don't have to be a Rubik's Cube champion to figure all this out.

As George Orwell--who would be enjoying all of this enormously--once observed: "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."

Some of us are old enough to remember when we hailed the novels of Orwell as a warning.  Today's Right considers their regimes a worthy model to emulate.

Posted by orrinj at 11:58 AM


Prosecutors Investigating the Trump Organization Zero In on Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg (Peter Elkind Nov. 21, 2019, ProPublica)

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s criminal investigation of the Trump Organization is scrutinizing the actions of one of the president's oldest and most trusted deputies, ProPublica has learned.

The focus on Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, a 72-year-old accountant now running the business with Trump's two adult sons, stems from his involvement in arranging a payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump (which Trump has denied).

Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, or SDNY, contended that the Trump Organization had improperly booked reimbursements for the hush-money scheme as "legal expenses," with the aid of sham invoices. They granted legal immunity to Weisselberg and later closed their 18-month investigation with the guilty plea of one Trump associate, Michael Cohen. But Weisselberg's immunity deal applied only to federal proceedings.

Now Vance's state grand jury is examining whether Weisselberg, among others -- and even the Trump Organization -- should face state criminal charges for falsification of business records, according to a source familiar with the investigation. Neither Weisselberg nor the Trump Organization responded to requests for comment. Vance, through a spokesman, declined to comment.

A handful of lawyers and investigators from Vance's office, led by Chris Conroy, chief of the DA's major economic crimes bureau, traveled to the federal minimum-security prison camp in Otisville, New York, on Oct. 30 to meet for the third time with Cohen, who is serving a three-year prison sentence, according to two sources knowledgeable about the matter. Much of the discussion involved Weisselberg.

Posted by orrinj at 11:50 AM


AG announces Netanyahu to stand trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust (RAOUL WOOTLIFF, 11/21/19, Times of Israel)

In a decision that drastically shakes up Israeli politics amid already ongoing chaos, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be charged with criminal wrongdoing in three separate cases against him, including bribery in the far-reaching Bezeq corruption probe.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Egypt's 'Accidental Revolutionary' Wants to Overthrow Sisi Within Two Months (David Gilbert, Nov 21 2019, Vice News)

In September, Mohamed Ali almost toppled the Egyptian government by accident, posting viral videos about endemic corruption at the heart of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's regime that sparked rare public protests on the streets of Cairo.

That mini-uprising was quickly crushed by the military, resulting in more than 4,000 arrests, and Ali fled the country soon after.

But on Wednesday in the British capital, the 45-year-old emerged from months of hiding to unveil his new plan to oust Sisi by unifying exiled opposition leaders and presenting Egyptians with a referendum on how the country should be governed post-Sisi -- and he believes he can do all this in the space of two months.

"My plan is in the next month to start a political initiative in London to try to reunite the political opposition inside and outside the country," Ali told reporters in London. "I am in contact with all political waves, the Muslim Brotherhood, liberals and the April 6 movement. I will launch a reform plan with some experts from politics, the health sector, finance, education, and media. I will call all experts in Egypt to join this campaign."

But the next elected Islamist government needs to move quicker than Morsi did to crush the courts and military.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


PODCAST: Jim Swift on Michelle Malkin's Firing (Matt Lewis, 11/20/19, Matt Lewis & the News)

The Bulwark's Jim Swift talks with Matt about Young America's Foundation's decision to cut ties with Michelle Malkin.

A Good Start (JIM SWIFT,  NOVEMBER 19, 2019, The Bulwark)

This is the fringe of Conservatism Inc., not the main body. So it's good to know that, for now, the people eager to #StandWithMalkin for her defense of Fuentes, the Proud Boys, and the Groypers aren't running the show in the movement. At least not yet.

But the entire episode underscores the reality that while Conservatism Inc. quickly made its peace with Trumpian nationalism, the peace is one-sided. The existing structures of the conservative movement thought they could co-opt this movement over time. They can't. All of the ideological pathways of Trumpism eventually lead to white nationalism. And if the old-guard conservative institutions don't cut ties, then they will be the ones who eventually get co-opted.

This is what YAF said as it broke ties with Malkin: "There is no room in mainstream conservatism or at YAF for holocaust deniers, white nationalists, street brawlers, or racists."

That's a good ethos and YAF deserves a lot of credit for taking a stand.

The only problem is that it isn't true. Mainstream conservatism continues to harbor quite a few people who accommodate holocaust deniers, white nationalists, street brawlers, and racists. 

There's nothing more disingenuous than folks on the right who embrace opposition to immigration but then feign surprise that it includes anti-Semitism.  No one hates just Mexicans.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



President Donald Trump regularly struggles to "remember what he's said or been told," an anonymous senior government official behind a new exposé on the inner workings of the White House has claimed. [...]

"He stumbles, slurs, gets confused, is easily irritated, and has trouble synthesizing information, not occasionally but with regularity," the official warns.

Often, they say, "the president also can't remember what he's said or been told."

"Americans are used to him denying words that have come out of his mouth," the senior official writes. "Sometimes this is to avoid responsibility."

However, they say it often "appears Trump genuinely doesn't remember important facts."

One clear example of that, the official recalls, is when the president claimed he was not sure if he had "ever even heard of a Category 5" hurricane, despite having been briefed on at least four other Category 5 hurricanes during his time in office.

"Was he forgetting these briefings?" the author questions. "Or more problematic, was he not paying attention at all? These are events that affect millions of Americans, yet they don't seem to stick in his brain."

The official writes that while Trump has often claimed to be highly intelligent, they say they have "seen the president fall flat on his face when trying to speak intelligently" on a number of topics on which he claims to be an expert.

"You can see why behind closed doors his own top officials deride him as an 'idiot' and a 'moron' with the understanding of a 'fifth or sixth grader,'" the unnamed senior official says.

Nothing becomes Americans more than our desire that he be ill, not just evil.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ambassador Sondland's Revenge (Susan B. Glasser, November 20, 2019, The New Yorker)

Gordon Sondland, a genial hotelier whose million-dollar contribution to Trump's Inauguration committee bought him the ambassadorship to the European Union, did not hold back when he appeared before the House Intelligence Committee's impeachment inquiry. The Ukraine scandal was Donald Trump's, from start to finish, Sondland told the panel, and his top advisers were all aware of it, enablers and facilitators of his scheme to pressure the new Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, to launch investigations that would help Trump politically. Sondland said he worked with Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to try to force Zelensky into probing former Vice-President Joe Biden and the Ukrainian role in the 2016 U.S. election, because the President told him to. "Everybody knew what we were doing and why," Sondland said. "Everyone was in the loop." Vice-President Mike Pence knew. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo knew. The chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, knew. The national-security adviser, John Bolton, knew. But, in the end, this was Trump's show, and the price of their service in his Administration was complicity, willing or otherwise, in his scheme.

"We followed the President's orders," Sondland said.

"Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the President," Sondland said.

"Was there a 'quid pro quo'? . . . The answer is yes," Sondland said.

"As a Presidential appointee, I followed the directions of the President," Sondland said.

The Ambassador seemed to relish his unlikely role at the center of the impeachment affair. He had real stage presence as he slowly and expressively read his statement. He had timing. He seemed unburdened, unruffled, adamant. He made clear his distaste for Giuliani, and for the very concept of pressuring Ukraine by withholding nearly four hundred million dollars in military aid and a White House meeting. If he was an agent of Trump's plot, he portrayed himself as a reluctant one. "We chose the latter course not because we liked it but because it was the only constructive path open to us," Sondland said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Mike Pompeo planning to resign because Trump 'hurting his reputation', report claims (Conrad Duncan, 11/20/19, The Independent•)

Donald Trump's secretary of state has reportedly told three prominent Republicans that he is planning to resign from the White House to run for a Senate seat.

Mike Pompeo had planned to stay at the State Department until early spring 2020 but he is now concerned that his connection to Mr Trump, particularly through the impeachment inquiry, is hurting his reputation, according to a Time report.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fresh heirs: how Kamasi Washington gave jazz back to the kids : He rewrote the jazz rulebook and brought a genre once thought dead to a new generation of music fans (Ammar Kalia, 21 Nov 2019, The Guardian)

Leimert Park in the early 90s was a unique place to be. South Central LA: the birthplace of west-coast hip-hop, jam centre for the now middle-aged instrumentalists of spiritual jazz, historical home to Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald, the outskirts of so-called Black Beverly Hills. An area also recently infamous for its street crime and gang affiliations, it was here that young saxophonist Kamasi Washington first became versed in jazz.

At the age of 11, he was taken by his jazz musician father Rickey to see acts in the many clubs dotted around the area's backstreets: artists such as saxophonist Pharoah Sanders at the 100-capacity World Stage club and pianist Horace Tapscott, who would perform with his Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. Tapscott's work was particularly influential for Washington. He viewed the music he played not as spiritual jazz, nor even jazz, but simply "black music", and pioneered the use of spoken-word artists who would chant sociopolitically charged lyrics over his compositions. On Why Don't You Listen?, vocalist Dwight Trible lists jazz musicians from Billie Holiday to Duke Ellington to Dizzy Gillespie, interspersed with the titular refrain. Tapscott felt his work had a responsibility to its history and an ultimate emphasis on imparting this culture to younger generations. In his hands, this lineage would never die.

Over the street from Tapscott and the World Stage, another type of spoken-word culture was forming: hip-hop. Acts such as the Pharcyde and Freestyle Fellowship would hold jams at Project Blowed, extending Tapscott's lineage of black music and putting words to their heavily racialised social environment. A fluid scene was forming; in Leimert Park, the jazz kids would meet the hip-hop kids. Washington was both.

Almost three decades later, in 2015, Washington released his debut album, The Epic. It would spark the beginning of a mainstream jazz resurgence across the US and in the UK, and the radical, politicised reclamation of a genre that had become deeply unfashionable. It was unshackled from the confines of the hotel lobby and thrust back into the clubs.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Lev Parnas Helped Rep. Devin Nunes' Investigations (Betsy Swan, Nov. 21, 2019, Daily Beast)

Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, helped arrange meetings and calls in Europe for Rep. Devin Nunes in 2018, Parnas'  lawyer Ed MacMahon told The Daily Beast.

Nunes aide Derek Harvey participated in the meetings, the lawyer said, which were arranged to help Nunes' investigative work. 

Considering how heavily invested the Trumpbots are in Devin's theory of the case it's no wonder they are so risible.

November 20, 2019

Posted by Stephen Judd at 6:43 PM


Compilation of President Reagan's Humor from Selected Speeches, 1981-89 - Reagan Library

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


Gordon Sondland Accuses the President of Bribery (Benjamin Wittes, November 20, 2019, Lawfare)

[C]onsider the following exchange that took place today between Sondland and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, which I reproduce here at some length. You can see, in its text, Schiff probing Sondland as to the elements of the bribery offense--which is quite evidently on Schiff's mind as he asks these questions:

Schiff: Let me get to the top line here, Ambassador Sondland.

Sondland: Okay.

Schiff: You've testified that the White House meeting that President Zelensky desperately wanted [was] very important to President Zelensky, was it not?

Sondland: Absolutely.

Schiff: You testified that that meeting was conditioned, was a quid pro quo, for what the president wanted, these two investigations. Is that right?

Sondland: Correct.

Schiff: And that everybody knew it.

Sondland: Correct.

Schiff: Now that White House meeting was going to be an official meeting between the two presidents, correct?

Sondland: Presumably.

Schiff: It would be an Oval Office meeting, hopefully?

Sondland: A working meeting, yes.

Schiff: A working meeting. So an official act.

Sondland: Yes.

Schiff: And in order to perform that official act, Donald Trump wanted these two investigations that would help his re-election campaign, correct?

Sondland: I can't characterize why he wanted them. All I can tell you is this is what we heard from Mr. Giuliani.

Schiff: But he had to get those two investigations if that official act was going to take place, correct?

Sondland: He had to announce the investigations. He didn't actually have to do them, as I understood it.

Schiff: Okay, President Zelensky had to announce the two investigations the president wanted, make a public announcement, correct?

Sondland: Correct.

Schiff: And those were of great value to the president; he was quite insistent upon them and his attorney was insistent upon them?

Sondland: I don't want to characterize whether they were valued, not valued. Again, through Mr. Giuliani, we were led to believe that that's what he wanted.

Schiff: Well, and you said Mr. Giuliani was acting at the president's demand, correct?

Sondland: Right, when the president says talk to my personal lawyer, Mr. Giuliani, we followed his direction.

Schiff: And so that official act of that meeting was being conditioned on the performance of these things the president wanted as expressed both directly and through his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Correct?

Sondland: As expressed through Rudy Giuliani. Correct.

Schiff: And you've also testified is that your understanding, it became your clear understanding that the military assistance was also being withheld pending Zelensky announcing these investigations. Correct?

Sondland: That was my presumption, my personal presumption based on the facts at the time. Nothing was moving.

Schiff: And in fact, you had a discussion, communication with the secretary of state in which you said that [the] logjam over aid could be lifted if Zelensky announced these investigations, right?

Sondland: I did not, I don't recall saying the logjam over aid. I recall saying the logjam.

Schiff: That's what you meant, right, ambassador?

Sondland: I meant that whatever was holding up the meeting whatever was holding up our deal with Ukraine, I was trying to break. Again, I was presuming.

Schiff: Well, here's what you said in your testimony a moment ago, page 18: "But my goal at the time was to do what was necessary to get the aid released, to break the logjam." Okay, that's still your testimony, right?

Sondland: Yes.

Schiff: So the military aid is also an official act, am I right?

Sondland: Yes

Schiff: This was not President Trump's personal bank account he's writing a check from. This is $400 million of U.S. taxpayer money, is it not?

Sondland: Absolutely.

Schiff: There was a logjam in which the president would not write that U.S. check, you believed, until Ukraine announced these two investigations the president wanted.

Sondland: That was my belief.

Remember the words of the statute: Whoever, being a public official, directly or indirectly, corruptly demands anything of value personally in return for being influenced in the performance of any official act has engaged in the crime of bribery.

This exchange seems to me unambiguously to describe a corrupt demand for something personally valuable (investigations of political opponents) in return for being influenced in the performance of two official acts (granting a White House meeting and releasing hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance).

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


Accelerationism: the obscure idea inspiring white supremacist killers around the world: How a techno-capitalist philosophy morphed into a justification for murder. (Zack Beauchamp, Nov 18, 2019, Vox)

The extreme right-wing internet is a small place. The rise of neoreaction inevitably led it to cross paths with another online fringe movement of the mid-2010s: the alt-right.

Members of the two movements didn't agree on everything: While Land and Moldbug valorize capitalism and see democracy as the major barrier to a better future, alt-right ideologues like Richard Spencer and Jared Taylor valorize whiteness and see Jews and non-whites as the problem. Nonetheless, the two shared core ideas, like an emphasis on the role of genetics in creating human hierarchies, that make them comfortable coexisting in the same online spaces. "Although I am not a white nationalist, I am not exactly allergic to the stuff," as Moldbug once put it. (Land is somewhat more critical, writing in The Dark Enlightenment that "the opportunity for viable ethno-supremacist politics disappears into a logical abyss.")

The result is considerable cross-pollination between neoreactionaries and the alt-right. Ideas and terminology crossed the different group lines; some fringe influencers, such as the YouTuber Colin "Millennial Woes" Robertson, have described themselves as being both neoreactionaries and members of the alt-right. A 2018 Southern Poverty Law Center investigation found that several posters on The Right Stuff , an alt-right website, were heavily influenced by neoreaction.

"Many of the ideological seeds that would make me open to Hitlerism started with Dark Enlightenment," one of the posters quoted in the study wrote.

This is the most likely means through which the racist movement became introduced to the term "accelerationism." There's no meaningful use of the term or attention paid to Land among American racists prior to the alt-right's encounter with The Dark Enlightenment -- and why would there have been? An abstruse techno-capitalist philosophy seems to have little in common with the herrenvolk hatred of the KKK. It wasn't until the rise of neoreaction and the alt-right -- two very online movements that shared members in common -- that the encounter would have happened.

It's somewhat ironic, then, that "accelerationism" has displaced the alt-right in the eyes of many internet racists.

In popular usage, the "alt-right" is generally taken to refer to racists on the internet. That's actually a bit imprecise: The alt-right is a specific subset of online racists, one that believes white nationalism can triumph by trolling journalists and staging real-life demonstrations like Charlottesville. The basic model is Hitler and the Nazi party: Win power through democratic elections, then enact your goals.

This has long been a controversial strategy in the neo-Nazi community. It had been tried before in the 1950s and 1960s by the American Nazi Party, whose charismatic leader, George Lincoln Rockwell, attempted to turn it into a legitimate force. Rockwell staged a rally on the National Mall, demonstrated against civil rights, and planned marches through Jewish neighborhoods on Jewish holidays. This amounted to very little politically and, in 1967, Rockwell was assassinated by a former member of his own party.

The alt-right's leaders believed the time was right for another try, in large part thanks to Donald Trump and the internet.

Trump is seen by the alt-right not as a crypto-Nazi, but as an outsider sympathetic to white nationalist goals. He served as a figurehead, a rallying point that could help them convert larger numbers of Americans to their cause. The internet allowed them to try out their message with a mass audience: memes and trolling and message boards allowed them to bypass media gatekeepers and reach Trump fans who might be receptive to white nationalist ideas directly. Indeed, the combination of Trump's rise and alt-right online activity did swell the movement's ranks considerably.

The 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was supposed to be proof of concept, a demonstration that the pro-Trump shitposters could be turned into a real-world political movement. What actually happened was a wave of national revulsion and backlash, particularly after the murder of counterprotester Heather Heyer by a white nationalist. The alt-right lost access to social media platforms, was hounded out of public demonstrations by Antifa, and unequivocally denounced by virtually everyone in American politics (except Trump). The second Unite the Right rally, held in DC in 2018, was a pathetically low-turnout affair.

Neo-Nazis, alt-right, and white supremacists take part in the night before the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 11, 2017. Christina Animashaun/Vox; Zach D. Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images
The silver lining for the alt-right -- the president's "very fine people" comment -- wasn't enough to salvage things. Trump, despite all his vicious rhetoric and anti-immigrant policies, had failed to stop what white supremacists see as the existential threat to America: the country's long-term movement toward becoming a majority-minority country. The alt-right's theory of change through elections lost favor with others on the white supremacist fringe.

"From 2015, when Trump announced and attacked Mexicans that first day, through around Charlottesville, these people really thought they were going to be victorious in the electoral [process] and be able to take a peaceful route back to power," says Heidi Beirich, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project. "That has been completely given up on."

This was the moment that neo-Nazi accelerationism really began its rise to prominence -- and promote its new and more violent theory of change to supplant the ideas of the "alt-cucks," as accelerationists derisively termed their white nationalist opponents.

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM


Contributors break down Tom Waits tribute Come On Up to the House: Women Sing Waits Track by Track: Stream (BEN KAYEON NOVEMBER 18, 2019, Consequences of Sound)

Just ahead of Tom Waits' 70th birthday, an all-star lineup of female musicians will honor the songwriting legend with a new tribute album, Come On Up to the House: Women Sing Waits. Prior to the record's November 22nd release via Dualtone Music Group, the whole thing is streaming below along with a Track by Track breakdown.

Noted Waits acolyte and musician Warren Zanes produced the effort, which sees 12 artists turning in beautiful renditions of Waits classics and deep cuts. Each one puts their own touch on the songs, peeling back Waits' often experimental compositions and his distinct gravely voice to reveal the magnificent songwriting at their core.

Women Sing Waits was previewed with renditions by Patty Griffin ("Ruby's Arms") and Courtney Marie Andrews ("Downtown Train"). Other contributors include Aimee Mann, Phoebe Bridgers, Angie McMahon, Rosanne Cash, Joseph, The Wild Reeds, Corinne Bailey Rae, and Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer.

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"Nunes read the wrong opening statement": GOP strategy flops as Sondland throws Trump under the bus (IGOR DERYSH, NOVEMBER 20, 2019, salon)

Nunes' opening statement, delivered just moments earlier, appeared unprepared for Sondland's revelations.

Nunes began by comparing the Democrats' impeachment push to former special counsel Bob Mueller's probe, listing off numerous charges that although he dismissed at false were actually proven true.

"Trump had a diabolical plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow," he said. (True.) "Trump changed the Republican National Committee platform to hurt Ukraine and benefit Russia," he added. (True.) "Trump's son-in-law lied about his Russian contacts while obtaining his security clearance," he continued. (True.)

"It's a long list of false charges, and that's merely a partial list," Nunes declared after reading the largely corroborated list.

Nunes then went on to claim that Democrats were again pushing false charges in the Ukraine case.

"When the Democrats can't get any traction for their allegations of a quid pro quo, they move the goalposts and accuse the president of extortion, then bribery, and as a last resort, obstructing justice," Nunes said, moments before Sondland explicitly described a "quid pro quo."

"In closing, the Democrats fake outrage that President Trump used his own channel to communicate with Ukraine," Nunes continued. "I'll remind them that our first president, George Washington, directed his own diplomatic channels to secure a treaty with Great Britain. If my Democratic colleagues were around in 1794, they'd want to impeach him, too."

Moments later, Sondland blew up the entire narrative of the top Republican  on the panel.

"Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States," Sondland said. "We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani . . . We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the president's orders."

"As I previously testified, if I had known of all of Mr. Giuliani's dealings or of his associations with individuals now under criminal indictment, I would not have acquiesced to his participation," Sondland added. "I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a 'quid pro quo?' As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is 'yes.'"

At one point in his statement, Nunes warned Sondland that he was about to be "smeared," apparently referring to Democrats. After Sondland's opening statement, many suggested that Nunes' prediction was misdirected.

"It's like Nunes hasn't read Sondland testimony," wrote former Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. "He should have said 'Amb Sondland you will be smeared . . . by the Republicans on this committee and the [White House].'"

...if Bill Kristol was running him as a Deep State operative to serially humiliate Donald and the Trumpbots?
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Read: Gordon Sondland's opening statement for the impeachment hearing (Andrew Prokop, Nov 20, 2019, Vox)

Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, is testifying to the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday morning in the highest-stakes impeachment hearing yet -- and his opening statement has now been released.

In it, Sondland confirms that there was a "quid pro quo" imposed on Ukraine, and says that he was carrying out the "orders" of President Donald Trump.

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Left and right unite in denouncing Liberman's 'anti-Semitic' speech (MICHAEL BACHNER, 11/20/19, Times of Israel)

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman may have failed in his efforts to push for a unity government, but on Wednesday he managed to unite lawmakers from right to left -- in condemning him.

Liberman was attacked from all across the political spectrum following a fiery speech in which he blamed both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz for the failure to reach a unity government and ruled out joining a government with either the "anti-Zionist" ultra-Orthodox parties or the "fifth column" Arab lawmakers, signaling that Israel was headed for a third election in a year.

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C.H.U.D. II:

How Republicans' star impeachment witness turned on them (Chris Cillizza, November 19, 2019, CNN)

Among the key changes Volker made to his original testimony:

*He acknowledged that he lacked a full understanding of the fact that many people involved in the Trump administration's push for an investigation into an Ukrainian natural gas company on whose board Joe Biden's son, Hunter sat, viewed that pressure campaign as synonymous with a call to investigate the Bidens.

"I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving the Ukrainian company, 'Burisma' as equivalent to investigating former Vice President Biden," said Volker. "I saw them as very different. The former being appropriate and unremarkable, the latter being unacceptable."

*Volker initially said that investigations into Trump's conspiracy theories and the release of almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine were not mentioned in a July 10 meeting at the White House. But on Tuesday, Volker said he now knows that the investigations were mentioned.

*Volker said in his October testimony that any conversations with the Ukrainians about making an announcement on the opening of an investigation into the Bidens had ended in August. But on Tuesday, Volker acknowledged that US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland had told a top Ukrainian official on September 1 that he believed the military aid was tied to the announcement of an investigation.

A White House Now 'Cannibalizing Itself' (Peter Baker, 11/19/19, NY Times)

As Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman sat in a stately chamber testifying on Tuesday, the White House posted on its official Twitter account a message denouncing his judgment. His fellow witness, Jennifer Williams, had barely left the room when the White House issued a statement challenging her credibility.

In President Trump's Washington, where attacks on his enemies real or perceived have become so routine that they now often pass unnoticed, that might not seem all that remarkable -- but for the fact that Colonel Vindman and Ms. Williams both still work for the very same White House that was publicly assailing them.

With the president's allies joining in, the two aides found themselves condemned as nobodies, as plotting bureaucrats, as traitors within and, in Colonel Vindman's case, as an immigrant with dual loyalties. Even for a president who rarely spares the rhetorical howitzer, that represents a new level of bombardment.

Mr. Trump has publicly disparaged cabinet secretaries, former aides and career officials working elsewhere in the government, but now he is taking aim at people still working for him inside the White House complex by name.

"This White House appears to be cannibalizing itself," said William C. Inboden, a former national security aide to President George W. Bush. "While many previous White House staffs have feuded with each other and leaked against each other, this is the first time in history I am aware of a White House openly attacking its own staff -- especially for merely upholding their constitutional duties."

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Better-educated, higher-paid workers will be "most affected" by AI, per new study (RICK WARTZMAN, 11/20/19, Fast Company)

This modified view is based on a novel research technique developed by a Stanford PhD student in economics named Michael Webb, who built his own algorithm to compare language from 16,400 AI patents with the specific words used to describe 769 different jobs in the government's official occupational database, known as O*NET.

For example, Webb unearthed verb-object combinations in patents related to marketing that included "measure, effectiveness"; "analyze, data"; "identify, markets"; and "monitor statistics." To a considerable extent, these terms mirror those found on O*NET to explain what a marketing specialist does. Among them: "measure the effectiveness of marketing, advertising, and communications programs and strategies," "collect and analyze data on customer demographics, preferences, needs, and buying habits to identify potential markets," and "monitor industry statistics and follow trends in trade literature."

Such a high degree of overlap between the two sets of texts indicates that AI is poised to have a significant impact on a particular occupation.

In all, according to Brookings, some 25 million workers in the U.S. stand to be touched the most by AI. That's about 15% of the nation's labor force.

In addition to marketing specialists, the jobs where AI is expected to make the furthest inroads in the foreseeable future are sales managers, computer programmers, and personal financial advisers. Across these four fields, workers earn an average of $104,000 a year.

Employees with bachelor's degrees are seven times more exposed to AI than those with just a high school diploma, Brookings says. And Asian-American and white workers look to be far more subject to the changes brought by AI than are Hispanics or African Americans.

Which is what will drive the adoption of UBI.  It's not freeloading when we do it.

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US and Iran both need a new deal (Mehrdad Khonsari, 20 November 2019, OpenDemocracy)

[B]reaking the current impasse is contingent upon some kind of an interim gesture by the US, with 'back channel' assistance, that provides Iran with the incentive it needs to come to the negotiating table - especially given that the contours of a potentially acceptable arrangement that covers issues such as the sunset clause in the existing JCPOA agreement, continued monitoring of Iranian nuclear facilities as well as some kind of a comprehensive agreement covering Iran's missile program are within grasp.

On matters pertaining to the region, once again recent developments suggest that hitherto hostile and uncompromising stances between Iran, the UAE and Saudi Arabia may have finally reached a turning point, in view of the realisation by the likes of the UAE that finding ways of de-escalating tensions through dialogue and diplomacy is by far the preferred option for ending tensions and violence in places like Yemen and Syria.

For the longer term, it is also worth noting that within Iran, all decisions aimed at reaching any kind of a ground breaking compromise, not just with the US but even key regional states such as Saudi Arabia, is considered in the backdrop of fierce feuding waged by various competing factions jockeying for the promotion or protection of their interests in the all important battle for succession in the post-Khamenei era. Ironically, US 'maximum pressure' has actually made an impact on this all important debate, in that it has worked to discredit forces of moderation - such as the current incumbent government, which wanted JCPOA to serve as a stepping stone for reducing Iran's forced economic reliance on China in exchange for much closer economic ties with the US (and its EU partners), especially in key areas having to do with the petroleum industry and aviation.

The inevitable result of Donald breaking the deal was only ever going to be giving Iran a more generous one.

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CNN's Jeffrey Toobin calls Tuesday's impeachment hearings 'a graveyard for Republican talking points' (The Week, 11/19/19)

 "Today was a graveyard for Republican talking points," he said Tuesday night, tackling three GOP arguments: That all the testimony is second-hand, the idea that there could be no U.S. military aid-for-investigations quid pro quo because Ukraine didn't know the aid was being withheld, and that this is no big deal because Ukraine got the money without announcing an investigation of the Bidens.

"The reason that the president had to give the aid is because he got caught," Toobin said. "The whistleblower complaint comes in Sept. 9, they get notice that they've been busted, and it's only then that the aid is released" on Sept. 11.

Jen Psaki, former White House communications director for President Barack Obama, said she was struck by the afternoon testimony where Tim Morrison and Kurt Volker, the Republican witnesses, "basically acknowledged that everything that was done was wrong and they just didn't know about it." Psaki was skeptical of their ignorance, she added, but "they said Biden didn't do anything wrong, they said that the Ukraine Crowdstrike is a conspiracy theory, and they both acknowledge that the president of the United States should not be seeking political dirt on an opponent" from foreign governments.

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$35 million in Pentagon aid hasn't reached Ukraine, despite White House assurances (MOLLY O'TOOLE, SARAH D. WIRE, NOV. 19, 2019, LA Times)

More than $35 million of the roughly $400 million in aid to Ukraine that President Trump delayed, sparking the impeachment inquiry, has not been released to the country, according to a Pentagon spending document obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Instead, the defense funding for Ukraine remains in U.S. accounts, according to the document. It's not clear why the money hasn't been released, and members of Congress are demanding answers.

The controversy began when Trump withheld the assistance package while urging new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to conduct investigations of Trump's political opponents. The White House lifted its hold on the money on Sept. 11 after a whistleblower report emerged alleging a quid pro quo.

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Fewer terror victims globally, far-right attacks on the rise (Deutsche-Welle, 11/20/19)

The report attributed the fall in terrorism-related deaths to the fall of Islamic State in Iraq and victories in Somalia over al-Shabab insurgents.

"The collapse of ISIL in Syria and Iraq was one of the factors allowing Western Europe to record its lowest number of incidents since 2012, with no deaths attributed to the group in 2018," IEP executive chairman Steve Killelea wrote in a statement, referring to Islamic State by an alternate acronym.

Western Europe also saw numbers of deaths from all terrorist incidents fall for the second year in a row, down from 200 in 2017 to 62 deaths in 2018. The region also recorded its lowest number of incidents since 2012.

However, the report said an increasing number of countries are experiencing terrorist attacks, as a result of the rise of far-right terrorism.

In 2018, 71 countries suffered at least one terrorism-related death, the second-highest number since the beginning of the century.

The report highlights the March 2019 attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, where 51 people were killed as an example of terrorism spreading to countries with "almost no prior history" or terrorist activity" as a result of far-right ideology.

Over the past five years western Europe, North America and Oceania have seen an increase of 320% in attacks committed by far-right terrorists.

Having won the WoT, it's time to crush the Right just as harshly as Janet Reno did when last they popped up.

November 19, 2019

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Man Who Threatened to 'Put a Bullet' in Rep. Omar Pleads Guilty (Ed Shanahan, 11/19/19, NY Times)

On Monday, Mr. Carlineo, of Addison, N.Y., outside of Buffalo, pleaded guilty to threatening to kill Ms. Omar, a Minnesota Democrat and one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, and to possessing guns illegally.

Ms. Omar responded to Mr. Carlineo's guilty plea in Federal District Court in Buffalo by urging leniency when he is sentenced.

In a letter she posted on Twitter on Tuesday, Ms. Omar addressed the judge who will sentence him, asking "for a system of compassion to be applied."

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Kurt Volker Revises Testimony and Says Corruption Allegations Against Biden Are 'Not Credible' (BILLY BINION, 11.19.2019, reason)

Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, testified in the impeachment inquiry on Tuesday afternoon, repeatedly remarking that allegations of corruption leveled at former Vice President Joe Biden are "not credible."

One of the Republicans' witnesses confirmed a quid pro quo on TV (Alex Ward,  Nov 19, 2019, Vox)

Under questioning from Democrats, Tim Morrison, the former top National Security Council official for Russia and European affairs, was asked to recall a September 1 conversation between US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and Ukraine official Andriy Yermak. That discussion has become central to the question of whether US military assistance to Kyiv was conditioned upon Ukraine opening investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden's family and other Democrats.

According to Morrison, it clearly was.

"What did Ambassador Sondland tell you that he told Mr. Yermak?" Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman asked Morrison. Morrison replied, "That the Ukrainians would have to have the prosecutor general make a statement with respect to the investigations as a condition of having the aid lifted."

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Laundering White Nationalism: The Center for Immigration Studies is still giving cover for racist policy (Brendan O'Connor,  November 19, 2019, The Baffler)

At the time the leaked emails were sent, Miller was working for Jeff Sessions. They reveal that Miller pushed Breitbart to cover various CIS "studies" and promoted the work of specific CIS authors. Among them was Jason Richwine, an immigration restrictionist who was forced out of the Heritage Foundation in 2013 after the discovery that his dissertation argued Latinx people have lower IQs than white people. CIS has since seen fit to publish dozens of reports and blog posts by Richwine, who also remains a contributing writer at the National Review. Richwine's dissertation adviser, George Borjas, is himself a former CIS board member. Miller, the emails show, is a big fan of both; he cited their research as he worked to shape the way the Mercer-funded publication wrote about immigrants and immigration. His entreaties to the Breitbart editor are sprinkled with tactical flattery. "Elites can't allow the people to see that their condition is not the product of events beyond their control, but the product of policy they foisted onto them," Miller wrote. "They want people to feel helpless, retreat into their enclaves, and detach. Our job is to show people they can still control their destiny. Knowledge is the first step." Later that day, he added: "Btw - Bannon was praising your work on this to me again."

This trove of emails presents a problem for CIS, which has sued the SPLC over its designation of the think tank as a "hate group," claiming it was an attempt to financially destroy them. (The suit was thrown out by a federal judge.) This is because their function within the wider network of nativist organizations in the United States is to present itself as non-ideological, rigorous, and studied. CIS "avoids making harsh, dispositional attributions about the immigrants themselves, placing the focus instead on protecting popular American institutions, public services, and national goals," sociologists Joshua Woods, Jason Manning, and Jacob Matz wrote in a 2015 paper on the organization's "impression management" tactics. Rather than engaging in populist demagoguery, CIS "depersonalizes its claims against immigrants by attributing them not to people or even analysts, but rather to scientific facts," they argue, suggesting "that 'data' lead inevitably to conclusions about the negative effects of immigration."

When someone takes those conclusions to their logical, violent endpoint, CIS executive director Mark Krikorian only shrugs. "If you have a guy who is going to be angry about immigration, have a killer offering reasons for shooting up immigrants, how could he not use reasons that have already been articulated by legitimate sources?" Krikorian told the Washington Post after the massacre in El Paso. "There's only so many concerns about immigration," he said. "Of course he's going to articulate reasons that already have been spelled out in great detail by immigration skeptics. I don't know how you avoid that." (Krikorian did not respond to my interview request.)

What's more, Woods, Manning, and Matz found, CIS made no mention of the influential nativist John Tanton, without whom it would not exist, in any public-facing documents until a 2009 SPLC report revealed the extent of Tanton's ties to white nationalists, eugenicists, and anti-Semites. At first, Krikorian and his associates attempted to deflect the issues raised by SPLC, accusing them of waging a smear campaign and infringing upon the think tank's right to free speech--somewhat ironic, given its recent legal efforts against the Montgomery-based nonprofit. Before long, however, Jerry Kammer, a fellow at CIS, went on to publish a lengthy and contemplative piece about the controversy, admitting that Tanton was "one of several individuals who were instrumental in starting the Center for Immigration Studies."

Tanton was not merely instrumental; he was integral. In 1985, CIS was spun off from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which Tanton had founded six years prior, "for reasons of independence from the lobbying organization," as he put it in a 1988 memo. But it was also because his biggest donor, Cordelia Scaife May, and her longtime advisor Gregory Curtis wanted him to. According to another memo, written by one of Tanton's assistants, May "would prefer to fund the same projects under different organizations rather than giving huge chunks of money to one group." Between 2005 and 2017, the late May's Colcom Foundation, to which she left the bulk of her estate, gave CIS $17.6 million.

One of May's (and later Tanton's) non-CIS projects was funding the republication and distribution of The Camp of the Saints, a racist French novel that is essentially a dramatization of the "Great Replacement" (or "white genocide") conspiracy theory.

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The GOP counsel's xenophobic attack on Vindman's patriotism:Perhaps the grossest moment of the impeachment hearings to date. (Zack Beauchamp,   Nov 19, 2019, Vox)

Steve Castor, the Republican attorney, tried to [discredit him) by asking Vindman about a visit to Ukraine for Zelensky's inauguration earlier this year. He specifically focused on a job offer Vindman received from Oleksandr Danylyuk, the former head of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council. Apparently, Danylyuk offered Vindman an opportunity to become Ukraine's defense minister three times during the trip -- and, each time, Vindman declined.

"Upon returning, I notified chain of command and the appropriate counterintelligence folks about this, the offer," Vindman said.

But Castor wasn't satisfied. He continued to press Vindman on whether he ever considered the offer, resulting in an exchange in which he appeared to call Vindman's patriotism into question:

CASTOR: Ukraine's a country that's experienced a war with Russia. Certainly their minister of defense is a pretty key position for the Ukrainians. President Zelensky, Mr. Danylyuk, to bestow that honor -- at least asking you -- that was a big honor, correct?

VINDMAN: I think it would be a great honor, and frankly I'm aware of service members that have left service to help nurture developing democracies in that part of the world. It was an Air Force officer that became minister of defense, but I'm an American. I came here when I was a toddler. And I immediately dismissed these offers. Did not entertain them.

CASTOR: When he made this offer to you initially, did you leave the door open? Was there a reason he had to come back and ask a second or third time?

VINDMAN: Counselor, you know what, the whole notion is rather comical that I was being asked to consider whether I'd want to be the minister of defense. I did not leave the door open at all.

CASTOR: Okay. But it is pretty funny for a lieutenant colonel of the United States Army, which really isn't that senior, to be offered that illustrious a position. When he made this offer to you, was he speaking in English or Ukrainian?

VINDMAN: He is an absolutely flawless English speaker.

Castor is arguing that Vindman's loyalties were strained by repeated job offers from the Ukrainians, but also that Vindman was offered a prestigious position that he doesn't deserve (he "isn't really that senior") seemingly because of his background. Castor then highlights Vindman's Ukrainian language skills, reminding everyone that he's foreign-born. The insinuation, that Vindman's background makes him an unreliable witness to Trump's malfeasance, is reasonably clear. his uniform, which stands for everything their leader despises.

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What do Republican voters want? (Matt Continetti, November 15, 2019, free Beacon)

Rubio and Hawley speak for--and hope to appeal to--the segment of the electorate that the 2017 Pew Research Center political typology identified as "Market Skeptic Republicans." The senators' political logic: Market Skeptic Republicans are the fulcrum on which Trump's fate, and that of the GOP, depends.


On the other hand, Market Skeptic Republicans, who support increased taxes on corporations and say the system is rigged in favor of the rich, are just 12 percent of registered voters and 10 percent of the politically engaged (defined as registered voters who follow politics closely and participate in elections regularly).

Three other groups make up the GOP. "Core Conservatives" are traditional Republicans. "Country First Conservatives" are older than other GOP-leaning groups, have fewer bachelor's degrees, and oppose immigration and involvement overseas. "New Era Enterprisers" are younger, more diverse, pro-immigration, and pro-business.

Together, Core Conservatives and New Era Enterprisers comprise 26 percent of registered voters and 29 percent of the politically engaged. They provide the dominant Republican discourse. The Country First Conservatives and Market Skeptic Republicans supply the critique. As interesting and novel as this critique may be--and perhaps because it is so interesting and novel--it is easy to commit the fallacy of composition and mistake the market-skeptical part for the whole.

It might be argued that, because Core Conservatives and New Era Enterprisers are more reliable GOP constituencies, Market Skeptics are the ones Republicans have to court. But recent elections amply demonstrate that the party does not have a solid lock on college-degree-holding, suburban-dwelling Core Conservatives after all. On the contrary: It is the flight of these voters from the GOP that is responsible for Democratic victories in 2018 and 2019. A thriving party includes all four types.

Public opinion data reveal a Republican Party that, while highly supportive of President Trump, is wary of his behavior, ambivalent over his legacy, and consistent in its beliefs.

A March 2019 poll conducted by Heritage Action found that 52 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement: "I am bothered by some of President Trump's policies and character, but I support him because I agree with many of the things he stands for, and because I don't want the media and the Democrats to defeat him." Sixty-two percent of Republicans identified as either a member of the traditional GOP or a member of the conservative movement. Thirty-two percent identified as part of the Trump movement.

This vocal minority coexists uneasily with more numerous party regulars. An October Morning Consult survey asked 1,218 registered Republicans to name their favorite Republican. Forty-one percent said Ronald Reagan. Thirty-three percent said Donald Trump. "Reagan Republicans are wealthier than Trump Republicans, more highly educated and are more likely to identify as Christian," write Eli Yokley and Joanna Piacenza.

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Secretive energy startup backed by Bill Gates achieves solar breakthrough (Matt Egan, November 19, 2019, CNN Business)

Heliogen, a clean energy company that emerged from stealth mode on Tuesday, said it has discovered a way to use artificial intelligence and a field of mirrors to reflect so much sunlight that it generates extreme heat above 1,000 degrees Celsius.

Essentially, Heliogen created a solar oven -- one capable of reaching temperatures that are roughly a quarter of what you'd find on the surface of the sun.

The breakthrough means that, for the first time, concentrated solar energy can be used to create the extreme heat required to make cement, steel, glass and other industrial processes. In other words, carbon-free sunlight can replace fossil fuels in a heavy carbon-emitting corner of the economy that has been untouched by the clean energy revolution.

"We are rolling out technology that can beat the price of fossil fuels and also not make the CO2 emissions," Bill Gross, Heliogen's founder and CEO, told CNN Business. "And that's really the holy grail."

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Southern Workers Unite Around Medicare for All: "A Tremendous Liberation From Your Boss" (JONATHAN MICHELS, 11/19/19, In These Times)

Although unionized workers typically have access to some type of employer-based insurance (and often pay less in deductibles than nonunion workers), skyrocketing premiums and poor coverage continue to ignite unrest in all types of workplaces. An estimated 23.6 million U.S. workers with employer-based coverage spend at least 10% or more of their income on premiums and out-of-pocket costs, while wages remain stagnant. According to a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average worker contribution for family coverage increased 25% since 2014 to a whopping $6,015 annually.

In Charlotte, Dominic Harris, 31, works as a utility technician and also serves as president of the Charlotte City Workers Union. Without Harris and his fellow workers, the gilded financial hub nicknamed Wall Street of the South could not function.

"We only have something to gain," Harris says. Harris and other members of the SWA make it clear this is a worker-led fight to sever the chain between healthcare and employers.

Harris and other members of the SWA made it clear they do not see this as a fight for a handout; it's a worker-led fight for a universal health program to sever the chain between healthcare and employers.

"Having Medicare for All is a tremendous liberation from your boss," says Ed Bruno, former Southern regional director of NNU. that people currently have their own insurance.

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'The Hill' Is Reviewing Solomon's Ukraine Conspiracy Stories (Media Matters November 19, 2019)

Fox News contributor John Solomon, formerly a columnist and executive vice president for The Hill, has emerged in the impeachment hearings as a key figure who pushed conspiracy theories that President Donald Trump used to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political opponent. The Hill's Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack announced on Monday morning that the outlet will be reviewing and correcting Solomon's columns as necessary.

In his columns, Solomon repeatedly laundered disinformation from Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to push the false narrative that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election on Democrats' behalf, smeared former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, and falsely claim that former Vice President Joe Biden withheld aid to Ukraine to shut down an investigation into a company his son Hunter was associated with . Multiple witnesses have testified in the impeachment inquiry that Solomon's columns contained information that was made up and were based on "non-truths."

Dude's gotta make a buck and the Trumpbots are willing dupes.

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Possible pay-to-play scheme for ambassador role in Trump administration uncovered by CBS News (CBS News, Nov 18, 2019)

Mr. Trump tweeted, "I would also like to thank 'Papa' Doug Manchester, hopefully the next Ambassador to the Bahamas, for the incredible amount of time, money and passion he has spent on helping to bring safety to the Bahamas."

Three days after the tweet, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel hit up Manchester for a donation. It was no small sum. In an email, obtained exclusively by CBS News, she asked Manchester, "Would you consider putting together $500,000 worth of contributions from your family to ensure we hit our ambitious fundraising goal?"

"Did you feel like they were putting the arm on you?" Axelrod asked.

"No, I didn't. That's part of politics. It's unbelievable. You give and you give and you give and you give some more and more and more," Manchester said.

"Does any part of you feel if you had just cut the check for $500,000 that you would be the ambassador to the Bahamas?" Axelrod asked.

"No, because first of all, you have to get out of committee and you have to be voted on the floor," Manchester said. "It's a big process."

The Senate confirmation process is exactly what Manchester quickly addressed. He wrote back to McDaniel's request for $500,000, "As you know I am not supposed to do any, but my wife is sending a contribution for $100,000. Assuming I get voted out of the [Foreign Relations Committee] on Wednesday to the floor we need you to have the majority leader bring it to a majority vote ... Once confirmed, I our [sic] family will respond!"

"You know what this looks like," Axelrod said.

Looks can be confirming.

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Trump's still pushing the CrowdStrike conspiracy theory: But why, and where did it come from?: Republicans are probably just pretending to believe's Trump's crazy 2016 conspiracy theory. But that's no excuse (BOB CESCA, NOVEMBER 19, 2019, Salon)

The new-ish Trump Republican theory about Ukraine and the Democratic National Committee goes like this: The Democrats teamed up with the cyber-security firm CrowdStrike to hack the DNC server in 2016 in order to frame Russia, while also somehow sabotaging Trump's campaign. A key component to this theory is the false claim that CrowdStrike's founder, Dmitri Alperovitch, is Ukrainian.

According to witnesses in the impeachment inquiry, Trump and his lackeys attempted to extort from Ukraine an investigation into both the Bidens and the CrowdStrike allegations in exchange for U.S. military aid necessary to help fight off the Russian invaders in the eastern Donbass region.

Not surprisingly, the CrowdStrike theory is 100 percent, unpasteurized nincompoopery. (Reportedly, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky didn't know what Trump was talking about; his aides had to look up this nonsense on the internet.)

Let's start here: CrowdStrike's Alperovitch isn't Ukrainian. He's a U.S. citizen, born in Russia. The theory gets flimsier from here.

It's also worth noting that CrowdStrike was the firm that initially discovered the hacking of the DNC, as well as the other fronts of the attack, which was conducted by the Russian military intelligence agency, the GRU, as well as the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, each acting on orders from the Kremlin. (Both those entities were later indicted by Robert Mueller's prosecutors.) Here's another fact that undermines CrowdStrike's alleged relationship with the Democrats: The firm was also hired by the National Republican Congressional Committee after a hacking attempt during the 2018 midterms.

To be clear, the Russian attack against the 2016 election has been unequivocally confirmed by all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, the Mueller report, and the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Sen, Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican.

Not one reputable organization has debunked or even disputed the fact that Russia attacked the 2016 election in order to help Donald Trump win the election -- other than Trump and his Republican Party, of course, neither of which can be considered "reputable." 

Making matters worse, according to the intelligence community and Burr's Senate committee, as well as both FBI Director Chris Wray and Robert Mueller, each during sworn testimony, the Russian attack against our national sovereignty and the integrity of our electoral system is ongoing and aimed squarely at the 2020 election as well. 

The origins of the theory

How did this conspiracy theory begin? The answer to that question serves to further highlight the absurdity of it all. 

It comes as no surprise that it all began with a former student of the Russian GRU and infamous Paul Manafort fixer, Konstantin Kilimnik, back in the summer of 2016. According to testimony by indicted Manafort co-conspirator Rick Gates, the Ukraine-CrowdStrike counter-narrative was being developed and pitched around by Manafort while he was still serving as Trump's campaign chair. He was told about the theory by Kilimnik. Gates also testified that Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, who has since pled guilty for lying to the FBI, also marketed the theory. 

The Trumpbots believe so many idiocies it's hard to give them "credit" for expedient lying.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



The U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, has emerged as one of the most prominent players in the impeachment inquiry threatening to take down his boss and benefactor, President Donald Trump.

Sondland is one of the so-called "Three Amigos"--along with Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker--accused of running the White House's parallel Ukraine strategy designed to bolster Trump's personal political fortunes, rather than build bilateral relations with Kiev.

The ambassador is central to the question of whether Trump sought a quid pro quo with Ukraine, exchanging frozen military aid for an investigation into likely 2020 rival Joe Biden.

But according to former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, Sondland's appointment to the Trump administration is a perfect example of exchanging "private resources for a public office."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Source says Republican lawmakers 'shaken' by US official in Kiev's testimony (Jamie Gangel and Kristen Holmes, 11/18/19, CNN)

David Holmes -- who will testify publicly as part of the House impeachment inquiry -- said in closed-door testimony last week that US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland had told Trump that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "loves your ass" and that Ukraine was going to move forward with the investigation Trump had asked Zelensky for a day earlier. Holmes said he was able to overhear the conversation due to the volume of Trump's voice while he sat with Sondland at a restaurant in Kiev.

According to the GOP congressional source, that testimony led several GOP lawmakers to express frustration that Sondland would place a call to the President in a public restaurant, and are concerned that Holmes' testimony was the most convincing argument for Trump's direct involvement in the campaign to pressure Ukraine.

We're three years in, were they shocked by the corruption or the ineptitude of the criminals?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's Tupelo Visit Boosted Dems More Than GOP in Northeast Mississippi (Ashton Pittman, November 18, 2019, Jackson Free Press)

President Donald Trump's visit to Tupelo earlier this month may have boosted Mississippi Democrats more than Republicans in the northeast part of the state, Chism Strategies, one of the state's top polling and political strategy firms, says. The president's Nov. 1 visit boosted Republican voter turnout in Northeast Mississippi by 5%, but gave Democrats in the region a 12% boost, the firm's Brad Chism wrote in an "Open Letter to Mississippi Democrats" late last week.

It's Official: Dem Shanda Yates Ousts 32-Year Republican in Mississippi House (Ashton Pittman, November 18, 2019, Jackson Free Press)

Shanda Yates, a 38-year-old Jackson-area attorney, has ousted Billy Denny, a top Republican in the Mississippi House of Representatives who first won his seat in 1987--when Yates was just 6 years old. The Democratic political newcomer beat the longtime House District 64 incumbent by about 51% to 49%, the Hinds County Election Commission confirmed to the Jackson Free Press after finishing counting provisional ballots on Monday.

In 2015's legislative elections, Democrats did not even field a challenger in House District 64, which includes a precinct in Madison County. 

November 18, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 1:17 PM


Flanked by bloc allies, Netanyahu again assails idea of Arab-backed coalition (RAOUL WOOTLIFF, 11/18/19, Times of Israel)

Repeating many of the statements he has made over recent days slamming the prospect of a minority government supported by the predominantly Arab Joint List party, Netanyahu told his fellow lawmakers that such a government would be "a real danger to Israel to the people of Israel."

...a government with Arab support can not be legitimate.

Posted by orrinj at 1:06 PM


Trump Ditches Flavored Vape Ban After Learning His Supporters Like to Vape (ELLIOT HANNON, NOV 18, 2019, Slate)

Just two months ago, President Donald Trump responded to the growing health crisis fueled by e-cigarette use, particularly among teens, by calling for a ban on flavored vaping products. Six weeks later, however, Trump indicated--without giving his reasoning--a softening in his stance on e-cigarettes. Now, just over two months after his initial statement, the initiative to ban flavored products favored by teens appears to have been completely snuffed out. Why? "As he had done so many times before," the Washington Post reports, "Trump reversed course--this time on a plan to address a major public health problem because of worries that apoplectic vape shop owners and their customers might hurt his reelection prospects."

Posted by orrinj at 1:04 PM


Superslippery Toilets Squash Water Wastage (Viviane Callier on November 18, 2019, Scientific American)

Now a team of materials scientists at Pennsylvania State University has developed a promising potential solution: an ultraslippery coating that prevents liquid and solid waste from sticking to the toilet bowl, halving the amount of water needed to flush. The researchers say it is more effective than existing hydrophobic, or water-repellent, coatings for toilets, which shed liquid waste well but are less effective for solids. The novel veneer is also antibacterial, which, the researchers say, would reduce a main cause of bathroom odors and lower, by 90 percent, the amount of cleaning material needed to keep toilets sanitary.

"We think this can have a big impact, because everyone needs to use the toilet. And everyone wants the toilet to be clean," says Penn State materials scientist Tak-Sing Wong, senior author of the study, published on Monday in Nature Sustainability. 

The new coating, called liquid-entrenched smooth surface (LESS), consists of two layers. First, researchers spray the inside of the toilet bowl with a silicone material called polydimethylsiloxane, which forms chains of long, stringy molecules known as polymers. The ends of these chains fix themselves to the toilet surface, forming a permanent base layer of "nanohairs." This layer is then sprayed with a silicone oil lubricant about one thousandth of a millimeter thick (roughly half of the length of an Escherichia coli bacterium). The hydrophobic polymers that make up the base layer shed water but attract the silicone oil, keeping the lubricant in place for about 500 flushes (after which more silicone must be applied). The concept was inspired by the carnivorous pitcher plant, which has tubelike modified leaves with slippery interior surfaces that cause unlucky insects to slide into its trap. "One of the key innovations was to use a smooth, lubricated surface, which nature has been using for many years," Wong says.

Posted by orrinj at 1:00 PM


Trump 'Will Strongly Consider' Testifying in Impeachment Probe, as New Poll Shows 70% Disapprove of His Ukraine Actions (PETER WADE, 11/18/19, Rolling Stone)

As the president defends himself, however, the American people seem unconvinced. A new ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted over the weekend found that 70 percent of Americans disapprove of his actions with Ukraine, saying that his request that President Volodymyr Zelensky manufacture dirt on Trump's political rival, Joe Biden, and his son was wrong. Furthermore, 51 percent of poll respondents said that Trump's actions were not only wrong but that he should be impeached and removed from office because of them.

Posted by orrinj at 12:57 PM


House investigating whether Trump lied to Mueller (Katelyn Polantz, November 18, 2019, CNN)

The House of Representatives is now investigating whether President Donald Trump lied to special counsel Robert Mueller in written answers he provided in the Russia investigation, the House's general counsel said in federal court Monday.

"Did the President lie? Was the President not truthful in his responses to the Mueller investigation?" House general counsel Douglas Letter told the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit about why the House now needs access to grand jury material Mueller collected in his investigation.

He answered the questions so he lied.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump Turns on Pompeo Over State Department Officials' Impeachment Testimonies, Says Report (Tom Sykes, Nov. 18, 2019, Daily Beast)

Donald Trump has reportedly turned against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after becoming infuriated by the State Department officials who have testified in the impeachment inquiry. NBC News reports the president has confronted Pompeo about the officials, and what he perceives as a half-hearted effort by the secretary of state to block them from testifying against him. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


This single shipping container can start powering a small renewable grid in less than a day (ADELE PETERS, 11/18/19, Fast Company)

Inside a shipping container currently en route to a school in Puerto Rico, a solar microgrid is ready for deployment: As soon as the container arrives, the system, from a startup called BoxPower, can be assembled and begin providing power in less than a day.

The system, designed for use both immediately after disasters and to make communities more resilient to future disasters, easy to rapidly install. "We jokingly call ourselves the IKEA of microgrids because there is some assembly required, but it is color-coded, pre-cut, and pre-drilled," says Angelo Campus, CEO and founder of California-based BoxPower. "And anyone who can assemble an IKEA dresser can assemble our solar array on top of the container. It doesn't require any heavy equipment or machinery." [...]

The system can provide around 50 kilowatt-hours of electricity, or enough to power three or four homes or an energy-intensive business, the company says. If a disaster is imminent--such as a hurricane that might cause debris to fly into the solar panels--the whole system can be quickly disassembled and packed back inside the shipping container.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A SPY COMPLEX REVEALED (James Risen, Tim Arango, Farnaz Fassihi, Murtaza Hussain, Ronen Bergman, November 18 2019, The Intercept)

According to one of the leaked Iranian intelligence cables, Abdul-Mahdi, who in exile worked closely with Iran while Saddam Hussein was in power in Iraq, had a "special relationship with the IRI" -- the Islamic Republic of Iran -- when he was Iraq's oil minister in 2014. The exact nature of that relationship is not detailed in the cable, and, as one former senior U.S. official cautioned, a "special relationship could mean a lot of things -- it doesn't mean he is an agent of the Iranian government." But no Iraqi politician can become prime minister without Iran's blessing, and Abdul-Mahdi, when he secured the premiership in 2018, was seen as a compromise candidate acceptable to both Iran and the United States.

The leaked cables offer an extraordinary glimpse inside the secretive Iranian regime. They also detail the extent to which Iraq has fallen under Iranian influence since the American invasion in 2003, which transformed Iraq into a gateway for Iranian power, connecting the Islamic Republic's geography of dominance from the shores of the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea.

The trove of leaked Iranian intelligence reports largely confirms what was already known about Iran's firm grip on Iraqi politics. But the reports reveal far more than was previously understood about the extent to which Iran and the United States have used Iraq as a staging area for their spy games. They also shed new light on the complex internal politics of the Iranian government, where competing factions are grappling with many of the same challenges faced by American occupying forces as they struggled to stabilize Iraq after the United States invasion.

Instead of competing to achieve the same objective, we ought to just accept our implicit alliance.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Conservative Group Fires Michelle Malkin Over Support for Holocaust Denier (Will Sommer, Nov. 18, 2019, Daily Beast)

A conservative group cut ties with right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin on Sunday over her support for an anti-Semitic internet personality, ramping up a growing conservative civil war centered on college campuses.

Malkin's firing from Young America's Foundation, whose speakers bureau had booked Malkin for speeches across the country for the past 17 years, marks the latest battle between supporters of Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes and more establishment conservative figures.  [...]

Malkin has praised Fuentes and his fans, calling on establishment conservatives to engage with them. In a speech last week, Malkin called Fuentes "one of the New Right leaders." In another, she praised Fuentes fans and called their conservative critics "cringe." She has also frequently echoed their talking points calling for further restricting legal immigration, claiming that continued immigration will doom the Republican Party.

"We're the majority in this room, and we're the majority in this country," Malkin said at a Thursday speech at UCLA organized by YAF. 

The red hat is the red flag.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


While you weren't looking the trade war with China went completely off the rails (Linette Lopez, 11/17/19, Business Insider)

The Trump administration reportedly started tossing around removing the tariffs in exchange for some agricultural purchases, and suddenly we were all supposed to get excited about a deal that only promised to get soybean purchases back to where they were before this mess even started -- as if they were the point of starting a trade war in the first place.

And the more desperate the Trump administration becomes to eke out some kind of win in the midst of a darkening political situation, the more it will try to make small victories seem like big ones. Or what is shaping up to be a total non-victory seem like the thing we came here to do in the first place. China, for its part, is digging its heels in too.

Bloomberg Businessweek -- in a well-reported piece describing what it was like inside the White House as this trade war descended into the farcical -- obtained a quote so good it made this reporter jealous.

Douglas Irwin, an economic historian at Dartmouth compared what the Trump administration is doing with trade war now to what the US did after it lost the War of 1812 to the British. When the war started, Americans claimed they would take territory from Canada, by the time the war ended in defeat Americans were reduced to touting the fact that they hadn't lost any territory.

Trump is taking from the same playbook, says Irwin, he "launched the trade war against China and said, 'We are going to remake the economy and get the state out of industrial policy and mercantilism'...We are ending it by saying, 'They are buying just as much stuff as they did before.' "

November 17, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


Trump labels top Pence aide a 'Never Trumper' (RISHIKA DUGYALA, 11/17/2019, Politico)

President Donald Trump on Sunday labeled one of his vice president's top national security aides a "Never Trumper," a day after it was disclosed that she had said the president's July call with Ukraine was "unusual and inappropriate" in a deposition to Congress.

Posted by orrinj at 12:20 PM


Here's just how big a risk Elizabeth Warren and The New York Times want America to take (James Pethokoukis, November 8, 2019, AEIdeas)

The World Economic Forum's new global competitiveness report ranks the US economy as the most competitive big economy in the world, calling it an "innovation powerhouse." Likewise, no other big economy generates as many super-entrepreneurs or high-impact startups. Jeff Bezos, the Google Guys, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk aren't superrich because their parents were billionaires or they were cronies of top politicians. They built companies that consumers and customers greatly value, with their wealth -- as massive as it is -- reflecting only a tiny portion of that value creation.

Now here comes the Warren plan. First, tax the wealthy in a way and at levels that most other advanced economies have abandoned. (Only four of the 15 European countries that tried even a tiny wealth tax in recent years have stuck with it. And, by the way, the much-praised egalitarian nations of Scandinavia have as many billionaires, relatively, as the US does) 

Second, tax corporations at levels all other advanced economies reject. (Rich countries have top corporate rates only slightly higher than the US rate, with Scandinavia about the same.) 

An economy literally exists to generate wealth.  The idea that we should tax wealth to the maximum extent possible is best thought of as anti-economics.  Instead we ought to tax behavior that dissipates wealth: consumption.

Posted by orrinj at 11:54 AM


Parnas and Fruman met with Trump during White House Hanukkah party, CNN reports (JTA, 11/17/19) 

Soviet-born businessmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman met with President Donald Trump during The White House's annual Hanukkah party last year, CNN is reporting.

Posted by orrinj at 10:08 AM


Rep. Steve Scalise calls White House officials "Schiff's witnesses" (Zachary Basu, 11/17/19, Axios)

The exchange:

CHRIS WALLACE: First of all, a dozen people listened on the phone call and a number of them were immediately upset because what the president said about Burisma --

SCALISE: Those were Schiff's witnesses. 

WALLACE: No, sir, they are career foreign service officers and these are people who worked in the Trump administration. 

SCALISE: They are Schiff's witnesses. 

WALLACE: : Wait a minute, sir, you had a woman yesterday who was on Vice president Pence's staff. She said it was inappropriate. Tim Morrison, who was on the NSC staff, who said that he -- alarm bells immediately went off for him. Alexander Vindman immediately went to see -- these are all people -- you say they are Schiff's witnesses, they all were working in the trump administration.

SCALISE: They were not all Trump administration folks. 

WALLACE: Are you saying that the person working -- Alexander Vindman wasn't part of the National Security Council?

It is precisely true that those defending the Republic are with Mr. Schiff and against Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 AM


Fuel for Rockets and Zeppelins Points Toward Green Heat Solution: Hydrogen emerges as the most practical way to generate the 1,000-degree temperatures heavy industry needs. (William Wilkes, Vanessa Dezem, and Anna Shiryaevskaya, November 17, 2019, Bloomberg)

Under mounting pressure from protesters and climate-conscious investors, major industrial companies and governments are scrambling for a solution. They're finding the most likely alternative may be hydrogen.

"Hydrogen has a big advantage," said Markus Krebber, the finance director of RWE AG, Germany's largest electricity generator. "You can use it in everything that's difficult to electrify, from long distance trucks, barges, trains, maybe planes one day. It will be needed to decarbonize the power sector 100%."

The gas is the world's most abundant element and powered rockets and airships in the last century. It flames at 2,000 degrees Celsius (3,632 Fahrenheit) while giving off no more than water vapor as exhaust.

The biggest problem with hydrogen is that it's currently expensive to make -- and most often is derived by splitting up molecules of natural gas, producing carbon dioxide in the process.

But that's changing. Some of Europe's most important names in energy and industry are racing to develop emissions-free ways of producing hydrogen. They're focused on using electrolysis, where an electric current passes through water, splitting off hydrogen atoms from oxygen. That technology is well known and growing cheaper by the year. When it's driven by renewable energy, it makes what the industry calls green hydrogen.

"It's not witchcraft," said Thomas Kolf, a professor at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


Israeli Startup Seeks to Cool Your Home Using Sunlight (Sagi Cohen, Nov 17, 2019 1Ha'aretz)

SolCold is working on developing a special paint based on nanotechnology that uses sunlight to create a cooling effect. The material absorbs sunlight and then reflects it at higher wavelengths, which contain more energy. By being converted into higher wavelengths, the temperature is lowered. As a result, the hotter the environment, the more the cooling effect.

Yaron Shenhav, a founding partner and CEO of SolCold, says that when it's 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) outside, the material can reflect temperatures of 22 degrees Celsius. "This is an optimal point for us," he notes.

The full cooling effect of the coating does not necessarily penetrate to whatever is inside it, be it a car or building. However, Shenhav notes that the coating could cool the interior by some 5-10 degrees Celsius.

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


Why Democrats are winning on health care (BRAD WOODHOUSE, 11/16/19, The Hill)

The elections last week confirmed what we know to be true -- health care is the number one issue for voters. Just as health care propelled House Democrats to win the majority in 2018, it once again delivered for Democrats in 2019 and is poised to be the issue that helps Democrats win elections in 2020.

Democratic candidates won in Kentucky and Virginia because they made health care a centerpiece of their campaigns. Voters trusted the Democrats who vowed to expand and fully fund Medicaid, strengthen protections for pre-existing conditions and hold drug companies accountable for skyrocketing prices.

They rejected the Republicans who want to slash Medicaid, strip protections for pre-existing conditions and let drug and insurance companies continue to profit while raising costs on Americans.

Polling reinforces these results. A recent national survey conducted by Hart Research for Protect Our Care found the differences in voter attitudes towards Republicans and Democrats on health care to be extremely definitive and confirm what last week's (and last year's) elections made clear: when it comes to health care, voters overwhelmingly trust Democrats more than Republicans.

Additionally, the specific measures Democrats are focusing on when it comes to health care, especially health care costs, are extremely popular with Americans across the political spectrum.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


The Cost of Cultural Free-Riders: Why Culture Matters Most by David C. Rose. (Reviewed by J. Daniel Hammond, 10/20/19, University Bookman)

In short, the thesis is that "free market democracy" requires a culture of trust. Rose argues that free markets and democracy are complementary. Trust is a necessary condition for both. Free markets require trust because the webs of people with whom we trade are mostly strangers. Democracy requires trust because we know few of our fellow citizens, and few of the people responsible for political institutions. The question from which Rose's thesis arises is why some societies are more successful than others, where success means enjoying abundance on two fronts--materials goods and freedom.

The key requirement for abundance of material goods is, as we learn from Adam Smith, extensive cooperation through markets to exploit the gains from division of labor, specialization, and trade. In and across prosperous societies people engage in trade with one another, but for the most part remain strangers. No society could attain prosperity with trade restricted to family and friends. The scope of markets would be too small. Rose considers democracy the key requirement for abundance of freedom, with democracy serving as a check on the power of government. He combines these two economic and political dimensions of societal success in the term "free market democracy." He argues that it is free market democracy, not the intelligence of a people, the level of technology, or access to natural resources, that allows societies to flourish.

Rose identifies the necessary condition for both free markets and democracy as the virtue of trust. Without widespread trust a society can neither sustain the extensive cooperation required for specialization in production and exchange, nor can they sustain institutions that support democratic politics. "Since many of the institutions that support free market economies and democratic government are trust dependent, the key to having a thriving free market democracy is having a high-trust society" (p. 2). Of course, high trust throughout a society requires that members of the society are trustworthy. They must be dependable to abstain from taking advantage of others, even when chances of detection are slim. The virtue of trustworthiness must be embedded in the culture, which Rose refers to as a society's "collective brain." Trustworthiness then can be transmitted from one generation to another through imitation and teaching, i.e., through culture. Societies that flourish are those that have trust-producing and trust-conserving cultures.

The key, of course, is that a shared commitment to moral standards allows one to have a reasonable expectation that the others behavior will be predictable and decent.  That is why protestantism (with a small "p") is the third leg, along with capitalism and democracy, of the Anglospheric model: the End of History.  As Ike put it: "Our government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don't care what it is." And it is why there is both a near one to one relationship between trust and the Protestant world and why the decline of churchgoing has had so little effect within that world, where shared morality has been so deeply absorbed into the society that a country can appear secular on the surface but be deeply faithful in fact.

It is also exactly this aspect of our societies that Left and Right recognize must be destroyed if they are to succeed.  Thus, the Left attacks the very notion of morality by suggesting that each individuals choices must be respected--even celebrated--while the Right tries to replace the Christian idea of universal morality with a particularist construct of racial group solidarity. The former is on display in things like the insistence that every sexual proclivity is natural and must be accepted no matter how destructive, while the latter features in risible claims like it not being possible to assimilate immigrants or for Christians/Jews/Muslims to be equal citizens of a state.

Once we realize the value of living in societies that are trust-producing we can see how important it is to keep them trust-conserving and to oppose the Left/Right.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Chile's Success Story Is Difficult to Deny (Ian Vásquez, 11/17/19, reason)

 Since its free-market reforms began in 1975, Chile has quadrupled its income per capita, making it the most prosperous country in Latin America. Chile's improvement on the whole range of indicators of well-being--e.g., maternal mortality, access to proper sanitation, etc.--is impressive, and the country consistently outperforms the region. It has the highest rating among Latin American countries on the UN's Human Development Index (and ranks 44th in the world); it has the best educational system in the region as measured by student performance; and it does not just have one of the freest economies in the world, it has the highest levels of overall freedom, including civil and personal liberties, in Latin America.

Chile's growth has allowed it to reduce its poverty rate from more than 45% in the 1980s to 8.6%, and to create a large middle class. The country's income inequality, which has been high for hundreds of years, has been falling considerably since the 1990s, according to the World Bank, and is lower than the Latin American average according to the UN's Economic Commission on Latin America. Costa Rica has greater inequality than Chile. (See graph). A Harvard study by Rodrigo Valdés, a finance minister of former socialist President Michelle Bachelete, found that from 1990 to 2015, the income of the poorest 10% of Chileans increased by 439%, while that of the top 10% went up by only 208%.

The hope for Brazil is that it can achieve the same Third Way reforms without the usual salutary fascist interlude.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


Louisiana delivers Trump a black eye (ALEX ISENSTADT, 11/17/2019, Politico)

President Donald Trump campaigned hard in three conservative Southern states this fall, aiming for a string of gubernatorial wins that would demonstrate his political strength heading into impeachment and his own reelection effort.

The plan backfired in dramatic fashion.

If Trumpism can't even carry Jim Crow states then what have you won by embracing evil? 

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


Trump said 'frustrated' with Netanyahu as deadlock delays peace plan (Times of Israel, 11/17/19)

The Americans "are frustrated and in despair due to Israeli politics and the political crisis, which has been preventing them for many months from presenting the diplomatic part of the 'deal of the century,'" an Israeli official who has been in contact with senior members of the Trump administration told the Ynet news website.

He can't both build a governing coalition and recognize Arabs as equals.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


November 16, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 11:57 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


Can We Finally Stop Calling the Ukraine Call Summary a Transcript Now? (PETER WADE , 11/16/19, Rolling Stone)

"Read the transcript!" has been a mantra of President Donald Trump ever since he released a summary of his call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky over allegations he withheld aid to the nation unless its president agreed to manufacture dirt on the son of his political rival, Joe Biden.

But, in fact, the summary of the call with Zelensky is not a transcript at all; it's a summary with important facts withheld. This was verified by Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, who listened in on the president's call with Zelensky and testified before the impeachment inquiry on November 7. Her deposition testimony along with former National Security Council staffer Tim Morrison's was released by the House Intelligence Committee on Saturday.

"I recall that one of the issues he had noted was that the transcript released did not include the word Burisma. But on looking back at my notes, I do see that Burisma was mentioned by name in the call," Williams told the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during her deposition.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


1934: Syracuse football loses to Colgate, then watches its goalposts get chopped and sold (Johnathan Croyle, 11/16/19, Syracuse Post Standard)

With apologies to Georgetown basketball and Penn State football, arguably the fiercest rival Syracuse University ever had was with Colgate University's football team.

The two schools, separated by just 38 miles, first met on the football field in 1891, and for most of the next 70 years their annual game was the most anticipated on either team's calendar.

Fans participated in campus invasions, bonfires, kidnappings, head shavings and other pranks. Often Syracuse businesses had to board up their windows on the day of the games to avoid damage.

The game played on Nov. 17, 1934, is an example of just how wild a Colgate versus Syracuse tussle could be at the peak of the rivalry.

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM


Pence aide testified that Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine were 'inappropriate' (ANDREW DESIDERIO and MELANIE ZANONA, 11/16/2019, Politico)

A top national security aide to Vice President Mike Pence told House impeachment investigators that President Donald Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political opponents were "unusual and inappropriate," and "shed some light on possible other motivations" for the president's order to freeze military aid to the U.S. ally.

Jennifer Williams, who serves as Pence's special adviser for Europe and Russia, told investigators in early November that she took notes while she listened in on Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from the White House Situation Room, adding that she viewed Trump's requests for investigations as politically motivated.

This season's least unexpected plot twist is Mike shivving Donald to get the big job.

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM


JAZZ NIGHT IN AMERICA: 'The Black Messiah' And The Legacy Of Cannonball Adderley (Nat Chinen. & Alex Ariff, 7/26/19, NPR) 

Cannonball Adderley was a mere 46 when he died, of a brain hemorrhage, in 1975. An alto saxophonist of robust intellect and irrefutable soul, he left a monumental legacy during his two decades in the spotlight -- as a member of the Miles Davis Sextet, an exemplar of 1960s soul jazz and the leading avatar of a brand of post-bop modernism with popular appeal.

This episode of Jazz Night in America takes a fond look at that legacy, illuminating it from multiple angles. Guided by our host, self-avowed Cannonball fanatic Christian McBride, we'll hear from some of Adderley's former bandmates, like drummer Roy McCurdy and tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts. We'll spend quality time with Patrick Bartley Jr., a young alto saxophonist who has taken Cannonball Adderley's music and message to heart. And we'll pull the curtain back on The Black Messiah, a 1971 album that has come to be seen as a classic.

Posted by orrinj at 8:25 AM


Trump's Contemptible Attack On Marie Yovanovitch (DANIEL LARISON, 11/15/19, American Conservative)

The president's public and personal attack on a member of the Foreign Service is contemptible and unprecedented. Going after a career diplomat like this reflects not only the president's usual disdain for our diplomats, but it shows his willingness to target and threaten public servants in the pursuit of his own personal interest. He abused his power by removing Yovanovitch, and he removed her because she was an obstacle to the shadow foreign policy that was being used to advance the president's personal interests.

The content of the attack is predictably nonsensical. U.S. diplomats are not responsible for the conditions in the country where they serve, and in any case the most difficult assignments are typically given to the best Foreign Service Officers. The fact that Yovanovitch was given hard assignments is a testament to her qualifications. Zelensky was going along with whatever Trump said because he wanted to stay on Trump's good side. When Trump declared that Yovanovitch was "bad news," Zelensky hastened to agree with him because he didn't want to make him angry. Trump does have the right to recall an ambassador, but the reason why he recalled this one underscores that his motives were bad, self-serving ones.

Now he is publicly attacking a witness in the impeachment inquiry, which almost certainly exposes him to new charges of illegal conduct. When someone as powerful as the president publicly goes after a witness, it is bound to have an intimidating effect on her and other witnesses. Trump has responded to an investigation into his abuse of power by committing more abuses that make impeachment that much more likely and necessary.

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France: Tear gas fired as yellow vests attempt comeback (dEUTSCHE wELLE, 11/16/19)

Police arrested two dozen people in the French capital on Saturday morning as demonstrators commemorated the one-year anniversary of the sometimes-violent yellow vest protests against President Emmanuel Macron.

In northwest Paris, police dislodged demonstrators trying to block the bypass around the city and fired tear gas to push back protesters who were preparing to march across town towards the Gare d'Austerlitz in the south.

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Kosovars delighted to face English 'allies' (Ismet HAJDARI, 11/16/19, AFP)

With England already qualified after thrashing Montenegro 7-0 on Thursday, Sunday's match has little significance but nevertheless authorities and fans in the former Serbian province are gearing up to welcome their visitors.

Banners throughout the capital Pristina proclaim "Welcome and Respect" for England in a territory where a number of young people are named after Tony Blair in a tribute to the former British prime minister.

"Thanks to you we now play against you! Forever grateful to you our beloved England!" read another banner in Pristina.

Blair and US president Bill Clinton were the leading advocates of the 1999 NATO bombing campaign against Serbia in response to its late president Slobodan Milosevic's conflict with pro-independence ethnic Albanians.

A decade after the 1998-1999 conflict Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia, a move recognised by more than 100 countries, including the United States, Britain and most European Union member states.

"The most important is to receive them and to respect them as they are our friend. We are lucky for having such a friend," 29-year old economist Labinot Ajvazi said. "Let the best team win."

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Suspected neo-Nazi charged with gun crime in Texas (AP, 11/16/19)

The US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas said in a statement that Bruce-Umbaugh was a passenger in a car stopped by local law enforcement Nov. 4.

Authorities recorded discovering an AR-15 rifle, two AK-47 rifles, a 9mm pistol, at least 1,500 rounds of ammunition, a small canister of marijuana and roughly two grams of THC oil inside the car.

Authorities believe Bruce-Umbaugh is a member of AtomWaffen Division, a neo-Nazi hate group.

November 15, 2019

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Economic growth is close to zero for the fourth quarter, according to Fed gauges (Jeff Cox, 11/15/19, CNBC)

The U.S. economy will barely grow at all in the fourth quarter, if two Federal Reserve gauges that track gross domestic product are correct.

With some recent data coming in below expectations, both the Atlanta and New York Fed's trackers have lowered their expectations for the last three months of 2019.

According to the Atlanta Fed's GDPNow, growth is likely to come in at just 0.3%. The New York Fed's GDP Nowcast is showing a gain of 0.4%.

Restricting the free flow of goods and people works exactly as badly as expected? Shocking...

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The White House Releases a Trump-Zelensky Call Transcript That Shows the White House Hasn't Been Honest About the Call (AARON MAK, NOV 15, 2019, Slate)

A readout that the administration provided to reporters mere hours after the call states:

President Donald J. Trump spoke today with President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskyy to congratulate him on his victory in Ukraine's April 21 election. The President wished him success and called the election an important moment in Ukraine's history, noting the peaceful and democratic manner of the electoral process. President Trump underscored the unwavering support of the United States for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity - within its internationally recognized borders - and expressed his commitment to work together with President-elect Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people to implement reforms that strengthen democracy, increase prosperity, and root out corruption.

Nowhere in the summary that the White House released on Friday does Trump bring up corruption, sovereignty, territorial integrity, democratic reforms, or prosperity. So either the White House's initial readout fabricated details about the call, or the rough transcript is incomplete. 

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Report: Likud expects announcement of indictment against PM as early as Tuesday (Times of Israel, 11/15/19)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party has received information that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit may formally announce corruption charges against the premier as early as next Tuesday, according to an unconfirmed Friday report.

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'Not anti-Semitic': Khamenei defines Iran's goal of 'wiping out Israel' (Times of Israel, 11/15/19)

When Iran speaks of wiping Israel off the map, it doesn't mean the mass slaughter of the country's Jews but rather eliminating the Jewish state's "imposed regime," Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.

"The disappearance of Israel does not mean the disappearance of the Jewish people, because we have nothing against [Jews]," Khamenei said, speaking alongside senior Iranian officials at the so-called 33rd International Islamic Unity Conference.

"Wiping out Israel means that the Palestinian people, including Muslims, Christians and Jews, should be able to determine their fate and get rid of thugs such as [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu," Khamenei continued, according to Iranian media.

Israel, on the other hand, has nuclear missiles aimed at the Shi'a.

Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


House Ethics Board: 'Substantial Reason to Believe' Tlaib Used Campaign as Personal Piggybank (Graham Piro, NOVEMBER 15, 2019, Free Beacon)

Tlaib received two potentially illegal payments from the campaign after the last general election, according to the report. A salary payment of $2,000 occurred on Nov. 16, 2018, and another payment of $15,500 occurred on Dec. 1.

Payment for work during the campaign is legally permitted, but payment for work afterwards would violate the law. Emails indicate that Tlaib was paid for work done after the campaign as the Dec. 1 check was labeled as payment for work between "Nov. 16, 2018 to December 31, 2018." The election occurred on Nov. 6.

The report includes several emails from Tlaib to campaign staff, including an April 4, 2018, email in which she asked for "a one time payment of 5K" due to personal financial struggles. 

A later email showed Tlaib reaching out to a larger number of campaign staff and informing them she would not make it through the campaign without a stipend. She requested payments of "$2,000 per two weeks but not exceeding $12,000″ from the campaign. 

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'Witness intimidation in real-time': Democrats see more evidence of Trump obstruction (SARAH FERRIS, MELANIE ZANONA and JOHN BRESNAHAN, 11/15/2019, Politico)

Lawmakers of both parties were stunned to see Trump's disparaging tweet about the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in the middle of a hearing where she had already described in great detail how she felt personally threatened by the president.

"What you saw today -- witness intimidation in real-time by the president of the United States," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters during a brief pause in the hearing.

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Roger Stone Found Guilty on All Counts: Longtime Trump adviser convicted of lying about WikiLeaks. (Dan Friedman, 11/15/19, MoJo)

A federal jury has convicted Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to President Donald Trump, of making false statements to Congress, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering.

The false statement and obstruction of justice charges have maximum sentence of five years each. Witness tampering carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.  [...]

Testimony Tuesday by former campaign staffer Rick Gates suggested that Trump probably lied to special counsel Robert Mueller about conversations he had in 2016 with Stone regarding WikiLeaks. Trump told Mueller in written answers that he did not recall "discussing WikiLeaks with [Stone], nor do I recall being aware of Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with individuals associated with my campaign."

But Gates described a July 31, 2016, phone call between Trump and Stone, immediately after which Trump told Gates that "more information would be coming." Gates also revealed that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort told Gates that he intended to brief Trump on information from Stone on WikiLeaks' plans.

Thanks, Bob.

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Most Pennsylvania voters have dim view of Trump, new poll shows. His Democratic foes have work to do (LAURA OLSON and EMILY OPILO, 11/14/19, THE MORNING CALL)

One year before Pennsylvania voters will head to the polls in a critical swing state, a new Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll shows nearly six in 10 don't believe President Donald Trump should be reelected. [...]

Six in 10 state voters say Trump is dividing the country and not trustworthy, and more than half say he only cares about himself. And Pennsylvania voters are divided on whether he should be removed from office before next year's election.

Among the field of Democrats seeking to succeed Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden performs the best in a head-to-head match-up, leading Trump 52% to 43%. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren also topped Trump, 50% to 45%, though that result was within the poll's 6 percentage point margin of error.

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Budget official expected to defy White House, testify in impeachment inquiry (Leigh Ann Caldwell and Josh Lederman, 11/14/19, NBC News)

Sandy, an associate director for National Security Programs, has been asked to appear Saturday for a deposition by the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform Committees. A spokesman for the House Intelligence Committee declined to comment Thursday night.

Sandy is considered a critical witness who can provide insight into the withheld security aid to Ukraine, which is at the basis of the impeachment inquiry opened by House Democrats.

He is "a true public servant who has served with great distinction in both Republican and and Democratic administrations," said Nicholas Rasmussen, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center under the Barack Obama and Trump administrations.

Democrats are interested in hearing from Sandy and other OMB career officials about the agency's role in withholding nearly $400 million in security aid to Ukraine and the eventual release of that aid Sept. 11 after the hold on the aid became public, causing a Congressional uproar and prompting the committees to open an investigation.

Multiple people have testified that they learned of the hold on the aid from the OMB.

Defense Department official Laura Cooper testified that President Donald Trump's acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney "conveyed" the message that the aid was withhold at Trump's direction in a mid-July meeting.

Bill Taylor,acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said he learned the aid was being withheld in a conference call with OMB, in which an official said it was directed by the president.

Professionalism is fatal to Trumpism.

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N. Korea calls Biden a 'rabid dog' for insulting its dignity (KIM TONG-HYUNG, 11/15/19, AP) 

North Korea called former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden a "rabid dog" that "must be beaten to death with a stick" in its latest swipe against foreign and political leaders it sees as hostile to the North's leadership.

The commentary by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency said the U.S. presidential hopeful "reeled off a string of rubbish against the dignity" of the North's supreme leadership, an act it said deserves "merciless punishment."

Trump hikes price tag for US forces in Korea almost 500% as Seoul questions alliance (Nicole Gaouette, November 15, 2019, CNN)

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper landed in South Korea on Thursday to navigate renewed threats from an "enraged" North Korea and newly heightened strain in the alliance with Seoul that congressional aides, lawmakers and Korea experts say has been caused by President Donald Trump.

Trump is demanding that South Korea pay roughly 500% more in 2020 to cover the cost of keeping US troops on the peninsula, a congressional aide and an administration official confirmed to CNN.

It can be hard sometimes to decide what the most amusing aspect of the Trumpbots is, from their newfound hatred of law and order to their conversion on eminent domain.  But their embrace of Putin, Kim, the Sa'uds, etc. is way up there.

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Trump talks Russia probe audit with attorney general and White House counsel in Oval Office meeting  (Jim Acosta and Kaitlan Collins, 11/15/19, CNN)

President Donald Trump met with Attorney General William Barr and White House counsel Pat Cipollone in an Oval Office meeting Thursday afternoon in which the so-called Horowitz report came up in conversation, two sources told CNN.

The animated discussions were captured by TV crews outside the Oval Office on the South Lawn of the White House awaiting the President's departure for Louisiana. Trump held a campaign rally in Louisiana ahead of Saturday's gubernatorial election in that state.

Another IG is going to be fired for doing his constitutional duty.

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Continetti: Medicaid Issues Are 'Kryptonite to Republicans' (Washington Free Beacon, NOVEMBER 14, 2019)

Continetti said during an appearance on MSNBC's Meet the Press Daily that incumbent governor John Bel Edwards (D.) has been blasting his opponent, Republican Eddie Rispone, over the issue of Medicaid expansion. Continetti called the issue "kryptonite" to Republicans.

"Bel Edwards is an incumbent, he is pro-life. He is not where Beto O'Rourke is on guns--far, far from it," Continetti said. "And the sleeper issue here is Medicaid. He expanded Medicaid. He is saying Rispone is going to freeze Medicaid or eliminate it altogether. Medicaid is kryptonite to Republicans once it's been introduced."

Rispone has promised to freeze enrollment in Medicaid expansion in order to root out waste in the program. Edwards criticized this proposal as a de facto repeal of the program.

Continetti said Republicans must come to terms with the fact that safety-net programs, such as Medicaid expansion, are "not going anywhere."

"I think conservatives thought for a long time once you introduce an entitlement, it is almost impossible to get rid of it," he said. "That's one reason conservatives spent so much energy trying to stop Obamacare."

"In places like Kentucky, Louisiana where it has been introduced, Republicans have to come to grips with the fact that the safety net is not going anywhere," he added.

November 14, 2019

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Two New Staffers Destroy Trump's 'Hearsay' Defense (Jonathan Chait, 11/14/19, New York)

It was less than a week ago when Republicans were telegraphing an audacious new defense of President Trump's Ukraine extortion scheme. The whole caper, they were prepared to argue, had actually been masterminded by Gordon Sondland. The hotelier and foreign-policy novice, handed a plush ambassadorship to the European Union as a reward for a donation, had somehow gone out of his lane and taken over Ukraine policy from a cadre of experienced professionals -- all without Trump's knowledge or permission.

Sondland "made a presumption," Ohio representative Jim Jordan told the media. "There is no direct linkage to the president of the United States," added North Carolina representative Mark Meadows.

The sole advantage behind this fantastical explanation was Trump's well-established, mob-like aversion to note-taking. The president would literally scream at anybody who took notes in his presence, leaving him plausible deniability when his subordinates carried out his frequently unethical or illegal orders.

Yesterday, however, William Taylor testified that a member of his staff heard Sondland, in Kiev on a cell phone, speaking with President Trump, and that Trump asked about Ukraine opening "investigations." After the call, Sondland told the staffer, David Holmes, that Trump's highest priority in Ukraine was securing an investigation of the Bidens. Today, the Associated Press reports a second staffer, Suriya Jayanti, also heard the call.

...Mr. Taylor just made the rubble bounce.

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Trade War Cost Republicans In 2018 Midterms, Especially in Rural Swing Counties (ERIC BOEHM, 11.14.2019, reason)

Rick Telesz is a farmer from northwestern Pennsylvania who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 after supporting Barack Obama four years earlier. But Telesz says Trump won't get his vote again in 2020--unless the trade war comes to an end.

"My breaking point with the current president came when I realized his trade war had caused 20 percent losses for the 750-acre family farm I help run in western Pennsylvania," Telesz wrote in an op-ed that USA Today published last week. Telesz' farm produces soybeans, corn, and dairy products, all of which have been negatively affected by the retaliatory tariffs imposed by China in response to President Donald Trump's widespread tariffs targeting Chinese-made goods.

And while a real backlash against Trump's trade policies might not happen until 2020, new research shows that the Republican Party has already paid a smaller electoral price for Trump's trade war. During the 2018 midterm elections--and particularly in rural "swing" counties that could be key to Trump's re-election hopes--researchers from Dartmouth College and the Peterson Institute for International Economics found "a modest but robust negative relationship between local employment exposure to the 2018 trade war and support for Republican House candidates."

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GOP Rep. Steve King suggests George Soros' son is the whistleblower, which makes no sense (Kathryn Krawczyk, 11/14/19, The Week)

Not only does Soros have no job in the federal government nor any intelligence experience, but King fails to realize it would be very odd if Trump let one of his staunchest political enemies work for him in the White House. 

When has Trumpbot Jew-bashing ever needed a connection to fact?

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Why Bernie Sanders and AOC are targeting public housing in the first Green New Deal bill (Ella Nilsen and Umair Irfan,  Nov 14, 2019, Vox)

Dubbed the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, the proposal aims to transform the entire stock of public housing in the US, 1.2 million units, into energy-efficient homes powered by onsite renewable energy. Authors say the bill would create about 240,000 jobs per year and reduce greenhouse emissions equivalent to taking 1.2 million cars off the road. [...]

By starting with housing, the legislators appear to be trying to make inroads with a broad political base and avoid some of the more contentious aspects of the Green New Deal, like the transition away from fossil fuels. That issue in particular has divided labor unions because it would lead to the end of mining and drilling jobs.

The Green New Deal has risen in popularity since the resolution was introduced in February; an NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll this summer showed 60 percent of registered voters supported it, including 86 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of independents (Republicans were decidedly less in favor).

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After Prop 187 Came The Fall Of California's Once-Mighty GOP, And The Rise Of Latino Political Power (LIBBY DENKMANN, NOVEMBER 11, 2019, LAist)

Many of the newly naturalized immigrants had benefited from the Immigration Reform and Control Act, passed by Congress in 1986 and signed by President Reagan. It provided a path to legal status to close to 2.7 million people. But scholars have shown the naturalization bump was tied to the community's reaction to Prop 187.

Latinos now hold close to a quarter of partisan elected offices in California, up from just 11 percent when Prop 187 passed.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla said another trend started in the mid-90s: Republican power in California, once the stomping grounds of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, began to wane.

"Proposition 187 changed everything," Padilla said. "The electorate is very different today than what it was back in 1994."

In 1996, Democrats picked up a handful of seats in the California Assembly -- and control of both state houses hasn't slipped from the party's grip since. Dems now hold a super majority in the state Assembly and Senate, allowing them to pass tax increases or override vetoes without GOP support.

In campaigns across the state, "Democrats weren't running against their Republican opponents, they were running against Pete Wilson," Padilla said. "Prop 187 became a strong, symbolic representation of the difference between the two political parties."

Today, not a single statewide office is held by a member of the GOP, and more voters are registered "No Party Preference" than Republican in California.

In the wake of Prop 187, California voters still enacted policies seen by many as anti-immigrant -- like the approval of Proposition 209 in 1996, which banned affirmative action in government employment or public education. Two years later, Proposition 227 eliminated most bilingual education programs in the state.

These further drove a wedge between many California Latinos and the GOP that, as Padilla sees it, formed during Prop 187 -- despite the old political wisdom that socially conservative Latinos are persuadable for Republican candidates.

"I've heard it so many times over the years," Padilla said. "For all the emphasis on family values or entrepreneurship or anything else, it's really hard for a Latino to accept that, if what you hear much more loudly is, 'we don't want you here.' That's what you hear from the Republican party."

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Flareup bequeaths new 'alliance,' as Hamas, Israel keep from fighting each other (Avi Issacharoff , 11/14/19, Times of Israel)

The events from Tuesday to Thursday were primarily marked by two unique, even potentially historic, characteristics:

1. For the first time, the State of Israel and its security forces distinguished clearly between Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. [...]

This week, however, for the first time since Hamas seized control of Gaza from Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction in 2007, Israel took the opposite line. It distinguished clearly between Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

As the rockets rained down on Israel, the IDF attacked only Islamic Jihad targets and Islamic Jihad personnel. [...]

2.) Hamas refused to enter the fighting. [...]

This time, it would appear that the rulers of the Strip were only too happy about Israel's elimination of serial troublemaker Abu al-Ata. They refrained from any armed response, and even their anti-Israel declarations sounded unusually mild.

It almost seemed at some points as though they regarded the Abu al-Ata incident as part of a fight between clans in which it had no part: Abu al-Ata had been eliminated; now his "family," Islamic Jihad, was avenging his death. Not Hamas.

There are several reasons for Hamas's uncharacteristic behavior. The group recognizes that it has a real opportunity at the moment, not only to stabilize the situation in Gaza without the permanent threat posed by Abu al-Ata but also to head into Palestinian general elections, facing off against the Palestinian Authority, and win.

It may well be that some of Hamas's rivals, including Islamic Jihad and Fatah, will mock the organization and accuse it of having turned into a kind of Palestinian Authority, afraid of confrontation with Israel. But from Hamas's point of view, the benefits of its decision not to join in this round of fighting far outweigh the drawbacks.

Hamas's sole interest has always been governing a nation of Palestine.  W made a great mistake in not embracing the last election result and helping prop up the secular PLO.

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Let's Hear It for the Deep State (ROBERT KUTTNER, NOVEMBER 13, 2019, American Prospect)

Just look at the witness list for the impeachment hearings: one foreign service officer after another--not a profession noted for attracting left-wingers, but for the most part honorable and principled people.

And when Trump tried to take over agencies of government with police powers, to use as his own private spying and operations forces, he ran into the same obstacles at the IRS, the CIA, and FBI, not to mention civilian agencies of government such as NOAA or the Centers for Disease Control.

This is an old story. Nixon set up the extralegal plumbers operation because he could not gain political control of the FBI and the CIA. And when Lyndon Johnson was furious because The New York Times kept reporting the truth about the fiasco in Vietnam, years later reporters Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam disclosed that their sources had been foreign service officers and CIA operatives who kept trying to warn the chain of command, to no avail, of the disaster in the making.

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Trump Exposed: A Brutal Day for the President (JOHN F. HARRIS, 11/13/2019, Politico)

Perhaps it was George Kent's bow tie, which looked like it was paying homage to Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox, but a dramatic day of testimony on Capitol Hill sent the mind back to one of the more compelling vignettes to emerge from that earlier scandal.

Richard Nixon was relaxing, in his own fashion, with West Wing hatchet man Charles Colson and imagining the joyful day when he would have payback against the diverse enemies arrayed against him. "One day we'll get them--we'll get them on the ground where we want them," Nixon rhapsodized. "And we'll stick our heels in, step on them hard and twist, right Chuck?"

An impeachment inquiry is a constitutional exercise, a vindication of checks and balances, a living expression of rule of law. Yes, yes, sure--all of that. But the start of public hearings Wednesday was a reminder of what impeachment really is in the modern presidency: A brutal exercise in psychological exposure.

There was breaking news from the hearings, but it was mostly a matter of detail. There was a new anecdote from diplomat William Taylor about Trump allegedly haranguing a subordinate to keep up the pressure on Ukraine to investigate the Biden family. This was a validation of the existing narrative rather than a fundamental twist of plot.

In a more profound way, the day was a portrait--a vivid one, in an especially grave setting--of Trump being Trump: obsessive, hectoring, contemptuous of process and propriety, as bluntly transactional about military aid to a besieged ally as he would be about a midtown real estate deal.

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Deval Patrick's ties to Bain Capital could complicate his 2020 run (Dan Primack, 11/14/19, Axios)

He joined the firm in 2015 to launch and lead a platform focused on "social impact investing." That group, called Bain Double Impact, is in the midst of raising its second fund. Prospective investors tell Axios' Dan Primack that Patrick had assured them he wouldn't run for president in 2020, although left the door open for the 2024 race.

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How Hollywood Subtly Reinforces Wage Slavery (PAUL BRIAN, 11/12/19, The American Conservative)

Wage slavery, or the concept of being completely dependent on the person or company paying your subsistence wage is a reality for many individuals in modern developed nations. The cost of living and inflation rises as wages stay stagnant and families shop for food at the dollar store. Corners must be continually cut to stay afloat as the middle class becomes the lower-middle-class. 

Charlie Chaplin's 1936 film Modern Times tells the story of a frazzled and exploited wage slave. As a worker on an assembly line, Chaplin's character of the Tramp undergoes all sorts of misadventures satirizing capitalistic excess, including endless demands to speed up, having a nervous breakdown, getting stuck inside a machine, rescuing a fugitive orphan who stole a loaf of bread, and eventually pulling another boss out of a machine. It ends with the Tramp leaving with his love interest Ellen for a potentially brighter future. There is a hope of escape, of human connection. 

The 1979 film Norma Rae also tells the story of unionizing workers with a message of hope despite hardship. While not skimping on the indignities suffered by wage slaves, these films present solidarity, human connection and the mission for betterment as a realistic goal and a necessary conviction. 

Although finding hope and meaning through clinging to family ties and solidarity is echoed in some contemporary films like Debra Granik's dark and compelling Winter's Bone, the modern media landscape about the working class and downtrodden tends to depict an uphill battle that's already been lost. Joel Schumacher's 1993 film Falling Down is about a white collar working stiff who loses it and the cops who try their best to stop his trail of destruction. 

The protagonist Bill Foster boils over in frustration at his broken family and the lack of integrity and solidarity he perceives in general society, going on a rampage across Los Angeles. The police officer trying to take Foster down--Sergeant Prendergast--serves as a character foil: he is a working class man whose life has also been a let-down in many ways but who has accepted his lot with equanimity. 

Foster, who is disgusted by the consumerism and emptiness of the society around him, ironically claims that he is "just standing up for my rights as a consumer" after beating an Asian corner store clerk for having high prices early in the film. Foster is filled with racial resentment at the indifferent, multicultural landscape around him that seems to have no place or need for him other than wanting him to spend his money. He balks at now being the bad guy. "How'd that happen? I did everything they told me to," Foster complains, adding that "they lied to me." Prendergast scolds Foster like a child for not accepting the harsh reality that we are all replaceable cogs in the machine: "hey, they lie to everyone. They lie to the fish. But that doesn't give you any special right to do what you did today."

Similarly, David Fincher's Fight Club also presents an oppressed wage slave storyline with a doomed ending. The schizoid protagonist Tyler Durden exhorts a crowd of his angry followers to rise up against their tepid lives "pumping gas, waiting tables" and being "slaves with white collars." Durden, the alter ego of the unnamed protagonist, starts their relationship by targeting the narrator for his consumerism and empty life. He urges them to burn down their apartments full of IKEA furniture, but the counter-solution of violent upheaval and rejection of social norms is inherently rejected by the film's conclusion. Indeed, the formation of Project Mayhem and its anti-corporate violence is backed away from by the narrator as he comes to grips with Durden's instability and cruelty. As director David Fincher explained, the film is intentionally ambiguous in presenting no solution to the problems afflicting consumerist society, and Durden represents an inability to accept "the compromises of real life as modern man knows it. Which is: you're not really necessary to a lot of what's going on. It's built, it just needs to run now." 

The tale of John Locke, one of the survivors of Oceanic flight 815 in J.J. Abram's hit television show Lost, is also one deeply rooted in the experience of wage slavery. Before falling victim to the crash, which mysteriously reverses his paralysis, Locke is confined to a wheelchair and a dead-end desk job at a box factory. At his job, Locke is bullied by his younger boss and mocked for his acts of escapism, which include playing war strategy games with another colleague and secretly LARPing as a colonel during office hours. When Locke decides to go on an Australian Outback walkabout he is promptly denied the ability to go on his booked tour due to his paralysis. His yearning for an escape from the reality of wage slavery and a reconnection with nature is strongly transmitted to the viewer. Indeed, the only time Locke is truly happy in the show is when he's stranded on the island, and able to carry out the natural, self-sufficient survival lifestyle of early man. Locke's signature catchphrase "don't tell me what I can't do," also conveys the stress and angst of a man who is not where he wants to be in life and is determined to reassert his own willpower and vitality. Lost provides an "out" from wage slavery only in the form of fantasy and escape. 

While the funny side of wage slavery has also been explored on programs like the Office that satirize the vacuity of white collar wage slavery, this is also generally presented with a tinge of sadness. Despite giving a subtle nod of appreciation to the kind of community and both bizarre friendships or even romance that can develop in a work environment, the Office more or less finds laughs in a group of people who have given up on finding meaning or betterment in their jobs. The Dilbert cartoon also takes a humorous tilt at white collar wage slavery, with a character whose resigned apathy at the tedium and stupidities of daily corporate life gets laughs instead of tears.

The powerlessness of the wage slave is disguised in a comfortable blanket of screensavers and padded office chairs, or presented behind soft denunciations of retail big box chains and corporate silliness. It would feel silly to shake your fist at a row of computer screens or half-stocked store shelves, after all. Whereas the first half of the 20th Century was eager to straightforwardly show individuals trapped in an industrial machine longing to escape, and cinema up until the 1980s presented the plight of a physically downtrodden middle and lower class seeking workers' rights, contemporary film struggles with a different beast: that of mental over-exertion, deep anomie and existential office and retail nightmares. 

The robots are our liberators, not our oppressors.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Plurality in battleground states support Trump's impeachment: poll (JONATHAN EASLEY, 11/13/19, The Hill)

Priorities USA surveyed 2,500 voters in Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania -- four states that went for Trump in 2016 -- and found that 49 percent support impeachment and removal, compared to 45 percent who oppose it. 

The worst margins for Trump are in Florida, where 51 percent of respondents support impeachment and 45 oppose it. In Michigan, 50 percent support impeachment and removal compared to 45 percent who are opposed.

The margins are closer in Wisconsin, at 48 percent-45 percent in support of impeachment and removal, and in Pennsylvania, where voters are split 47 percent-47 percent.

The data finds that voters increasingly view "corruption" as a reason to replace Trump: fifty-three percent of respondents cited "corruption" as a reason Trump should not get a second term, matching health care as the top problem spot for the president.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What Happened to California Republicans? (Victor Davis Hanson, 11/13/19, Daily Signal)

From 1967 to 2019, Republicans controlled the California governorship for 31 of 52 years. So why is there currently not a single statewide Republican officeholder? California also has a Democratic governor and Democratic supermajorities in both houses of the state legislature. Only seven of California's 53 congressional seats are held by Republicans.

In 1994, then-Gov. Pete Wilson backed Proposition 187, which denied state social services to undocumented immigrants. 

Mr. Hanson and his clan want to do for the GOP Nationally what they did to it in CA.

November 13, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


Erdogan says he returned Trump's threatening letter on Syria invasion (ABBEY MARSHALL, 11/13/2019, pOLITICO)

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey dismissed questions on Wednesday about why he ignored President Donald Trump's written demands to call off his invasion of northern Syria, saying he returned the letter to Trump.

"This letter was re-presented to Mr. President this afternoon," Erdogan said in a joint news conference alongside Trump at the White House.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Trump aides retaliated against State staffer of Iranian descent, probe finds (NAHAL TOOSI, 11/13/2019, Politico)

President Donald Trump's political appointees inappropriately retaliated against a career civil servant at the State Department in part because of her ethnic background, her perceived political views, and the fact that she was in government during prior administrations, a federal watchdog says.

In a report to be released publicly later this week, State Department Inspector General Steve Linick recommends that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo consider disciplining officials found to have violated policies that require they use merit-based factors in determining where to place career staffers.

That is his Iran policy: hate.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


AJC POLL: Trump faces tough re-election fight in Georgia (Greg Bluestein & Tia Mitchell, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

A majority of Georgians disapprove of President Donald Trump's performance in the White House and he appears to be facing a hard fight against each of the five top Democratic candidates seeking to replace him, according to an exclusive Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll.

In head-to-head matchups, former Vice President Joe Biden ran strongest against Trump, leading the president 51% to 43%, fueled by solid support from women and independents. Other matchups against South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are much tighter.[...]

The poll also suggests that Perdue, a former Fortune 500 chief executive, could face a tight race. In a contest against an unnamed Democratic opponent, about 35% of voters back Perdue, including about three-quarters of Republicans. One-fifth of voters will back the Democrat.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


How to Cut U.S. Carbon Pollution by Nearly 40 Percent in 10 Years (ROBINSON MEYER, 11/13/19, The Atlantic)

Last week, a study from economists at Columbia University found that the tax plan with the most support in Congress would slash American carbon pollution by almost 40 percent within a decade. It would outperform any Obama-era climate policy and go well beyond the United States' 2015 commitment under the Paris Agreement. [...]

The new study--which Columbia conducted along with the Rhodium Group, an energy-research firm--finds no stingrays. If the EICDA passes next year, it would cut American carbon emissions by at least 36 percent by 2030 as compared with their all-time high. It would also slash toxic air pollution and save most Americans money.

The bill is "a very aggressive, climate-hawk version of a carbon tax," Noah Kaufman, an economist at Columbia University and an author of the study, told me. In the bill's first year, it imposes a price of $15 on every ton of carbon pollution. That fee then rises by at least $10 a year--except in years when pollution does not decrease fast enough, in which case the fee would increase by $15. By 2030, the United States could see a carbon price in excess of $100 a ton, adding at least 90 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas.

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 PM


Rep. Paul Gosar's Cryptic Tweets Spell Out 'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' (JAKE MERCIER, November 13, 2019, Daily Caller)

Arizona Republican Congressman Paul Gosar tweeted out a cryptic series of impeachment-related tweets on Wednesday afternoon, but some noticed that they each starting with letters spelling out the phrase "Epstein Didn't Kill Himself."

Posted by orrinj at 12:45 PM


Justice Department withdraws secrecy argument on McCabe files (JOSH GERSTEIN, 11/13/2019, Politico)

In a brief court filing Wednesday, Justice Department attorneys said they were no longer arguing that public release of records about McCabe would interfere with an ongoing enforcement action. That claim is typically used to withhold records about ongoing investigations or prosecutions.

All that's left is to reinstate his pension.

Posted by orrinj at 12:25 PM


Like Dr. Frankenstein, Republicans Now Face the Monster They Created: A family quarrel breaks out on the right as Neo-Nazis have started heckling Republicans for not being Trumpian enough. (Jeet Heer, 11/13/19, The Nation)

The protestors call themselves the "groyper army," an allusion to the alt-right's appropriation of the cartoon character Pepe the Frog. They often wear MAGA-hats and profess to love Donald Trump while also worrying that his administration has been watered down by moderates. Like many far-right formations, the groyper army is a decentralized social network. Under the instruction of the far-right anti-Semitic radio host Nick Fuentes, the groyper army has taken to protesting events led by Republican groups like Turning Point USA (TPUSA) and leading right-wing luminaries like Ben Shapiro, Charlie Kirk, Jonah Goldberg, and Texas congressman Dan Crenshaw. [...]

At some conservative events, the groyper army can make up as much as a third of the audience. They love badgering Republicans for being insufficiently homophobic, anti-Semitic, or racist. After one Turning Point USA event, a conservative attendee told Vox reporter Jane Coaston, "I did not know there were this many racists out there."

Coaston sees the groyper army as offering an existential choice for the American right. "Basically, there are two paths," Coaston argues. She contrasts Dan Crenshaw with Nick Fuentes. Crenshaw stands for a Republican Party that is inclusive, while Fuentes wants a party that is restricted white Christian heterosexuals.

But to see this as a divide over "two paths" is to vastly overstate the differences between the groyper army and Trumpian Republicans. It's more accurate to see them as two branches of the same tree, both rooted in racism and authoritarianism.

Or to use a more dramatic metaphor, the Trumpian GOP is enacting the story of Mary Shelley's classic novel Frankenstein (1818). Like Victor Frankenstein, the Trumpists have brought to life a monster, the alt-right. Now that monster is turning on its creator.

The overlap between the Trumpian right and the groyper army can be seen in the simple fact that this March a chapter of Turning Points USA invited Nick Fuentes to speak at the University of Iowa. Beyond this incident, Turning Points USA itself has been rife with bigotry. The New Yorker reported in December of 2017 that Crystal Clanton, while working as TPUSA's national field director, texted a fellow employee saying, "i hate black people. Like f[***] them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story."

Clayton was replaced by Shialee Grooman and Troy Meeker. As Huffington Post reported in April 2018, both had a history of making racist comments as well, including use of the n-word. Huffington Post also quoted a source as saying that TPUSA Midwest regional manager Timon Prax "used the n-word with the hard R nonstop, made fun of black people and referred to them as slaves and made fun of the mentally disabled."

Sounds like a cabinet meeting.

Posted by orrinj at 12:22 PM


Trump and Sondland were overheard discussing 'the investigations,' U.S. diplomat William Taylor testifies (Brendan Morrow, 11/13/18, The Week)

Taylor, acting ambassador to Ukraine, testified before the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday as part of the first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry into Trump, which is examining whether the president improperly pressured Ukraine to open investigations that might help him in the 2020 election. The inquiry was opened following a whistleblower complaint sparked by Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine's president, during which he pushed for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.

Taylor in his Wednesday testimony revealed that on July 26, the day after this call, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland called Trump over the phone at a restaurant in the presence of Taylor's staff, and Trump could be overheard asking about "the investigations." Sondland told the president Ukraine was ready to move forward with them and then told a Taylor staffer that Trump "cares more about the investigations of Biden," according to the testimony.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Peace Is Possible in Yemen: Out of a Moment of Crisis, a Chance for a Solution (April Longley Alley and Peter Salisbury November 11, 2019, Foreign Affairs)

Less than two months ago, Yemen's civil war threatened to engulf the broader Middle East. The stalemate between Iranian-supported Houthi rebels and forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition had already killed an estimated 100,000 people and spawned what the United Nations considered the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. If that wasn't bad enough, a split in August within the fragile anti-Houthi alliance risked igniting a civil war within a civil war. And an attack claimed by the Houthis on Saudi Aramco oil facilities in September provoked threats of retaliation against Iran by Riyadh and Washington. Both within Yemen's borders and in the wider region, further bloodshed seemed inevitable.

Yet, in an unexpected turn of events, these flare-ups appear to have opened a pathway to peace. On November 5, the chief rivals within the anti-Houthi bloc--the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC)--signed a power-sharing deal known as the Riyadh agreement. The deal was brokered by Saudi Arabia, which took parallel steps to ease its own cross-border conflict with the Houthis, expanding dialogue with the rebels and limiting air strikes in Yemen. The Houthis have halted all attacks on Saudi Arabia, and a broader Saudi-Houthi de-escalation initiative is now reportedly being discussed. If both the Riyadh agreement and the Saudi-Houthi initiative survive, and UN mediators are able to weave them into a single negotiation track, a national political settlement could be possible.

Every step of the WoT has aided our Shi'a allies.  Iranian missiles have enabled the Houthi to realize American ideals.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Problem With Diamonds Is They Keep Getting Cheaper: Americans are buying more diamond jewelry than ever before, but prices for most polished gems are falling. (Thomas Biesheuvel, November 13, 2019, Bloomberg)

Five years ago, the diamond industry's biggest worry was being forgotten by millennials, who -- the theory went -- didn't covet sparkly gems the way their parents had.

The concern turned out to be mostly unfounded, but the reality is almost worse. While Americans are buying more diamond jewelry than ever before, most polished diamonds are getting steadily cheaper. The lower prices and a glut of the type of stones that go into a discount-store engagement ring or pair of earrings have pushed the global diamond trade into crisis.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Inside the White Supremacist Group Hiding in Plain Sight: They are racist; some have guns. Patriot Front is one of the most active white supremacist group in the nation. (FRITZ ZIMMERMANN & CAROL SCHAEFFER, 11/13/19, Pro Publica)

In the hours after the slaughter in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3, a final toll emerged: 22 dead, most of them Latinos, some Mexican nationals. A portrait of the gunman accused of killing them soon took shape: a 21-year-old from a suburb of Dallas who had been radicalized as a white supremacist online and who saw immigrants as a threat to the future of white America.

While much of the country reacted with a weary sense of sorrow and outrage, word of the mass killing was processed differently by members of Patriot Front, one of the more prominent white supremacist groups in the U.S.

In secret chat forums, some Patriot Front members embraced the spirit of the anti-immigrant manifesto left behind by the accused gunman. Others floated false conspiracy theories: the CIA was behind the murders; the accused killer was actually Jewish. Still other members cautioned that the group had its own "loose cannons" to worry about. It would be a bad look if the next mass murderer was one of their own.

But there was little, if any, regret over the loss of life.

"It shouldn't be hard to believe that the group facing the harshest oppression from our ruling elite are producing shooters," one Patriot Front member wrote. "White men are being slowly destroyed in a way calculated to produce resentment and a sense of helplessness. Of course, some of them decide to lash out."

Several Patriot Front members alerted others to the need to be careful, for the killings in El Paso would likely make the group a target of the FBI.

"Watch your backs out there," one wrote.

Patriot Front was formed in the aftermath of the deadly "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. While many on America's far-right cheered the rally, its violence struck others as a public-relations debacle for the white nationalist brand that was sure to attract greater oversight by law enforcement.

Patriot Front aspired to help chart a new way forward: spread propaganda espousing its version of a nascent American fascism; quietly recruit new members worried about a nation overrun by immigrants and a world controlled by Jews; avoid talking about guns or violence online, but engage in a mix of vandalism and intimidation to foster anxiety; wear masks in public and communicate secretly.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Stephen Miller's Affinity for White Nationalism Revealed in Leaked Emails (Michael Edison Hayden, 11/12/19, Hatewatch)

In the run-up to the 2016 election, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage, according to leaked emails reviewed by Hatewatch.

The emails, which Miller sent to the conservative website Breitbart News in 2015 and 2016, showcase the extremist, anti-immigrant ideology that undergirds the policies he has helped create as an architect of Donald Trump's presidency. These policies include reportedly setting arrest quotas for undocumented immigrants, an executive order effectively banning immigration from five Muslim-majority countries and a policy of family separation at refugee resettlement facilities that the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General said is causing "intense trauma" in children.

In this, the first of what will be a series about those emails, Hatewatch exposes the racist source material that has influenced Miller's visions of policy. That source material, as laid out in his emails to Breitbart, includes white nationalist websites, a "white genocide"-themed novel in which Indian men rape white women, xenophobic conspiracy theories and eugenics-era immigration laws that Adolf Hitler lauded in "Mein Kampf."

Hatewatch reviewed more than 900 previously private emails Miller sent to Breitbart editors from March 4, 2015, to June 27, 2016. Miller does not converse along a wide range of topics in the emails. His focus is strikingly narrow - more than 80 percent of the emails Hatewatch reviewed relate to or appear on threads relating to the subjects of race or immigration. Hatewatch made multiple attempts to reach the White House for a comment from Miller about the content of his emails but did not receive any reply.

Miller's perspective on race and immigration across the emails is repetitious. When discussing crime, which he does scores of times, Miller focuses on offenses committed by nonwhites. On immigration, he touches solely on the perspective of severely limiting or ending nonwhite immigration to the United States. Hatewatch was unable to find any examples of Miller writing sympathetically or even in neutral tones about any person who is nonwhite or foreign-born.

This is the core of Trumpism that keeps his bots on board, no matter his crimes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In private speech, Bolton suggests some of Trump's foreign policy decisions are guided by personal interest (Stephanie Ruhle and Carol E. Lee, 11/12/19, NBC News)

Bolton told the gathering of Morgan Stanley's largest hedge fund clients that he was most frustrated with Trump over his handling of Turkey, people who were present said. Noting the broad bipartisan support in Congress to sanction Turkey after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan purchased a Russian missile defense system, Bolton said Trump's resistance to the move was unreasonable, four people present for his speech said.

Bolton said he believes there is a personal or business relationship dictating Trump's position on Turkey because none of his advisers are aligned with him on the issue, the people present said.

The Trump Organization has a property in Istanbul, and the president's daughter Ivanka Trump attended the opening with Erdogan in 2012. Though it's a leasing agreement for use of the Trump name, Trump himself said in a 2015 interview that the arrangement presented "a little conflict of interest" should he be elected.

During an Oct. 6 phone call with Erdogan, Trump agreed to pull back U.S. troops from northeast Syria so Turkish forces could launch an attack against America's Kurdish allies in the area. The presence of U.S. forces had deterred Erdogan from invading Syria, which he had threatened to do for years. Trump's decision, followed by an order for all U.S. troops to exit Syria, was widely criticized even among the president's Republican allies and was seen by many as a gift to the Turkish leader.

Erdogan is set to visit the White House on Wednesday.

Like other former Trump advisers, Bolton said regardless of how much evidence is provided to Trump that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, the president refuses to take any action because he views any move against Moscow as giving credence to the notion that his election is invalid, the people present for Bolton's remarks said.

At one point in his closed-door remarks, Bolton was asked what he thinks will happen in January 2021 if Trump is re-elected, people present for his remarks said. Bolton responded by taking a swipe at Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump -- both of whom are senior White House advisers -- and at Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., three people familiar with his remarks said.

Bolton said Trump could go full isolationist -- with the faction of the Republican Party that aligns with Paul's foreign policy views taking over the GOP -- and could withdraw the U.S. from NATO and other international alliances, three people present for his remarks said.

He also suggested that Kushner and Ivanka Trump could convince the president to rewrite his legacy and nominate a liberal like Lawrence Tribe -- a Harvard Law professor who has questioned Trump's fitness for office and was a legal adviser to Barack Obama's 2008 campaign -- to the Supreme Court, the people present for Bolton's speech said.

How did Team Trump think hiring a neocon was going to work out?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Joe Arpaio's Surprising Legacy in Arizona: Not long ago, the state was known for its harsh immigration laws. But a new crop of Latino activists emerged in response--and now they're catapulting themselves into elected office. (FERNANDA SANTOS November 10, 2019, Politico)

In the City Council chambers here, a squat, round room that evokes the traditional Navajo home known as a "hogan," Carlos Garcia is easy to spot. His chestnut hair, long and limp, is perennially fastened in a ponytail that hangs like a string halfway down his back. His feet are shielded by a pair of weathered sneakers. One afternoon last month, he showed up for work clad in a black golf-style shirt--"That's the most dressed up you're going to see me," he quipped--with the words "City of Phoenix Councilman Carlos Garcia" embroidered over his heart.

Garcia joined the council in March, but his style remains as casual as it was during his time protesting a mother's impending deportation in front of the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in 2017, or chanting into a bullhorn outside the federal courthouse where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio stood trial that same year, accused of racially profiling Latinos.

"One of my elders a long time ago told me, 'If you're going to be a public servant, you have to be ready when you wake up in the morning to meet with the governor and to go talk to a jornalero," Garcia says, using the Spanish word for day laborer. The elder challenged him to use the way he dresses to telegraph who he really cares for--"Is it your priority," the elder asked, "that you dress up to impress the governor?"

"My priority is to make sure people feel comfortable with me," Garcia says.

By "people," he means the people of color who for years have stood as targets of the politics of Arpaio and Jan Brewer, the former Republican governor of Arizona. Arpaio, perhaps Arizona's most nationally famous politician, rode to fame in the 1990s with his draconian jail policies and then into President Donald Trump's favor with his tough anti-immigrant posture. Brewer, as governor, in 2010 signed into law the nation's toughest immigration bill, SB 1070, powering up the "attrition through enforcement" strategy championed by some on the right to drive illegal immigrants out of the United States.

Nearly 10 years later, Garcia is part of a new wave of Latino politicians in Arizona who have entered politics in response to those policies--a legacy that Arpaio and Brewer likely did not expect. In a state that once compelled police officers to ask about the citizenship status of the people they pulled over and barred undocumented immigrants from getting driver's licenses and paying in-state tuition at public universities, a growing number of Latino activists are using the lessons they learned in organizing against the immigration crackdown to catapult themselves into elected state and local office.

The Great Replacement can't happen fast enough.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What Roger Stone's trial revealed about Donald Trump and WikiLeaks (DARREN SAMUELSOHN and JOSH GERSTEIN, 11/12/2019, Politico)

Buried amid days of blasphemy and bombast were quieter new details that collectively showed Trump and his aides discussed WikiLeaks with Stone months earlier than anyone has acknowledged. The revelations have immediately raised questions about Trump's claims -- made months later under oath to the special counsel -- that he did not recall any such conversations with Stone.

According to direct testimony and dozens of email and text messages introduced over the last week, the Trump campaign got its first heads up about Julian Assange's ability to upend U.S. politics as far back as April 2016. The timing is months earlier than any Trump aide has previously described, and months before WikiLeaks published its first cache of damaging materials that would go on to cripple Hillary Clinton's White House bid.

Additionally, a wider cast of Trump aides participated in WikiLeaks strategy sessions than previously known as they mapped out an attack plan to take advantage of the hacked Democratic emails. Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, campaign CEO Steve Bannon and senior adviser Stephen Miller were all part of those broader discussions about how to best turn the WikiLeaks surprises into political gold.

Perhaps most politically damning, Trump himself discussed the matter with Stone during a phone call in the heat of the summertime general election campaign, according to testimony from former-Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates, who witnessed the call while riding with the GOP nominee from his namesake tower in Manhattan to LaGuardia Airport. While the testimony might not put Trump in any fresh legal peril, it has highlighted a potential contradiction in Trump's written responses to Mueller's team.

"I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with [Stone], nor do I recall being aware of Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with individuals associated with my campaign," Trump wrote.

Of course, Mueller and his Justice Department supervisors had their reasons for holding back on the public release of so much WikiLeaks-related information before the Stone trial, which didn't start until more than six months after the conclusion of the special counsel's Russia probe. Namely, they didn't want to damage the government's case against the longtime GOP operative, meaning any references to their evidence were blacked out in the final Russia report.

As the report says, impeach him and then indict him.

November 12, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


At private Orthodox event, Trump says he could become Israel's prime minister (JTA, 11/12/19) 

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Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM

60-40 NATION:

Trump's EPA Agenda Is Wildly Unpopular. Dems Should Make It a 2020 Issue. (Eric Levitz, 11/12/19, New York)

[T]rump's EPA has prepared a draft proposal that would bar it from considering the conclusions of any academic study that relies on confidential medical records. The official rationale for this policy is that such studies cannot be independently verified. Without access to the private medical records undergirding a given finding, EPA agents can't double check the validity of the researchers' raw data. But this is a standard that virtually no peer review committee or scientific journal insists upon, for the simple reason that private medical records are indispensable tools for documenting public-health outcomes -- and assurances of confidentiality are often indispensable for securing private medical records.

Regardless, the administration's true motivation has nothing to do with abstract questions of scientific ethics. The new rule's most important component is that it can be applied retroactively. Which is to say, it can be invoked to block the renewal of existing environmental regulations that were enacted on the basis of studies involving private medical records. And that would encompass a lot of regulations. As the Times' Lisa Friedman explains:

[A] groundbreaking 1993 Harvard University project that definitively linked polluted air to premature deaths, currently the foundation of the nation's air-quality laws, could become inadmissible. When gathering data for their research, known as the Six Cities study, scientists signed confidentiality agreements to track the private medical and occupational histories of more than 22,000 people in six cities. They combined that personal data with home air-quality data to study the link between chronic exposure to air pollution and mortality ... The Six Cities study and a 1995 American Cancer Society analysis of 1.2 million people that confirmed the Harvard findings appear to be the inspiration of the regulation.

"The original goal was to stop E.P.A. from relying on these two studies unless the data is made public," said Steven J. Milloy, a member of Mr. Trump's E.P.A. transition team who runs, a website that questions established climate change science and contends particulate matter in smog does not harm human health.

The right's assault on this line of public-health research is driven by an inconvenient truth: Air pollution turns out to be much worse for human health than just about anyone expected when the Clean Air Act was first established. The longer scientists have studied the issue, the more harms they've identified; human bodies simply did not evolve to process the kinds of particulate matter that coal and chemical companies spew. Earlier this year, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that more than 100,000 Americans die from illnesses caused by exposure to air pollution each year. This reality has given evidence-based environmental policy a strong environmentalist bias. So the GOP's corporate patrons are eager to destroy the evidence.

But this is one of the many instances in which the GOP donor class's financial interests and the GOP's political interests are in severe tension. There is a reason why President Trump has always claimed to care about clean air and water even as he ridicules climate change as a "Chinese hoax" -- a large majority of American voters want the government to make sure they can breathe clean air and drink safe water.

Last year, Gallup found 62 percent of Americans saying that the government was "doing too little" to protect the environment -- the highest that figure has been in more than a decade. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Why Are Pundits Fawning Over Elizabeth Warren's Medicare-for-All Financing Proposal? (MATT BRUENIG, 11/12/19, Jacobin)

The M4A Financing Problem, in simple terms, is that even if you bring in existing federal spending on health care, existing state spending on health care, and a bunch of new rich-people taxes, you still fall short of financing the program. Thus, to actually complete the financing, you have to use some middle-class taxes.

The proper response to this "problem" has always been to point out that it is no problem at all. Yes, you will have to impose some middle-class taxes to round out the total amount of money you need, but those taxes will charge the middle class far less than they are currently paying for health care. What people don't like about taxes is that it means they have less money. But swapping these taxes for the elimination of premiums and out-of-pocket expenses would actually mean that the middle class has a lot more money.

However, for some pundits, this explanation has never been satisfactory. They say that any tax imposed on the middle class is a problem and has to be avoided. And, insofar as you cannot do M4A without some middle-class taxes, it is a nonstarter.

When Warren released her Medicare-for-All financing proposal this week, nearly every left-liberal journalist declared she had made a huge breakthrough: an M4A financing plan with no middle-class taxes.

David Dayen of the American Prospect announced that "Warren's Medicare for All Plan Includes No New Taxes on the Middle Class." Sahil Kapur says that, contrary to Bernie Sanders, Warren's plan has "no middle class taxes." Danielle Kurtzleben of NPR says Warren's plan has "no new taxes on the middle class." Ady Barkan of the Intercept writes that "her plan doesn't raise taxes on working families." Even Eric Levitz of New York magazine, who seems to know better in parts of his piece, says that the plan "does not raise the American middle class's taxes by a dime."

Every single one of these people is incorrect, under the typical definition of "middle-class taxes" that has always been used in this discussion. Just like every person that came before her, Warren realized that after bringing in existing government spending and some targeted rich-people taxes, there was still more money that needed to be collected. And, just like those people, she came up with a middle-class tax to do it. Her middle-class tax is an employer-side head tax. It is an $8.8 trillion tax hike on the middle class.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


'Government Cannot Solve Our Problems' (JIBRAN KHAN, May 10, 2018, National Review)

Until the Carter years, much of the economy, including air travel, brewing, oil, telecommunications, rail shipping, and commercial trucking, had been subject to severe government control.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the political landscape Eizenstat depicts is its robust respect for separation of powers. "For all its majesty, the presidency has few constitutional powers beyond that of commander in chief of the armed forces," he writes. "The power of the office comes from his ability to influence others to follow his lead - Congress, friends, and foes foreign and domestic, and above all the American public." Where a modern president would use "a pen and phone" to effect policy, however unconstitutionally, the Carter administration worked with Congress to achieve its legislative goals. Some of its failed initiatives, such as welfare reform, would come to fruition in Congress during later administrations. Persuasion can take time.

There is a tendency in our political culture to assume that Carter must have been "far-left" because he was followed by Ronald Reagan, who inspiringly spoke of the liberating power of the market and against the evils of Communism. But this isn't quite right. Indeed, Reagan didn't disagree with his predecessor on everything. Not only was Carter a fiscal conservative and deficit hawk (much to the ire of Democratic party leaders), but he was perhaps the greatest deregulator of his political era.

Until the Carter years, much of the economy, including air travel, brewing, oil, telecommunications, rail shipping, and commercial trucking, had been subject to severe government control -- to the point that government officials made virtually all of the major decisions. This setup made services prohibitively expensive but guaranteed profits for big businesses by keeping out new competitors. The Carter administration, by focusing on free-market reforms and appointing deregulators to head up regulatory agencies, made a big dent in the problem.

The deregulation of the 1970s brought together an interesting and shifting coalition of supporters. Democrats Ted Kennedy and Ralph Nader joined Carter in his effort to open up the airline industry, though both would turn against him when he embarked on deregulation of the oil industry. His opponents, too, were not quite the people one might expect. The Teamsters union was so angered by Carter's deregulation of the trucking industry that its members endorsed Ronald Reagan to signal their opposition.

In his first State of the Union address, President Carter said:

Government cannot solve our problems, it can't set our goals, it cannot define our vision. Government cannot eliminate poverty or provide a bountiful economy or reduce inflation or save our cities or cure illiteracy or provide energy. And government cannot mandate goodness.

There is a deep contrast between this perspective and that conveyed by Donald Trump's "I alone can fix it" or Barack Obama's "Life of Julia" ad campaign, which attempted to show the government as the primary force in people's lives. Carter's words were dispositionally conservative, in that they recognized a fundamentally limited role for government, let alone for the president himself. Today, presidents are expected to opine on every issue -- despite the relatively limited mandate of the presidency -- and to relish doing so. Carter rightfully thought that was not the president's place.

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM


Iran's Rouhani shows spark of old self against hard-liners (Rohollah Faghihi, November 12, 2019, Al Monitor)

Fereydoun seemed to be Rouhani's Achilles' heel. But now the president sees himself freed of the limitations and anxiety he'd been carrying on his shoulders. On the same day his brother was sent to prison, Rouhani gave a controversial speech that made both hard-liners and conservatives furious.

"Some say that negotiating with foreigners is a waste of time and we have to confront them, and then one day they will soften their stance, while some believe that war and confrontation won't get us anywhere," said Rouhani.

"We have been debating this for 40 years. We should choose our path," he said, calling for a voter referendum.

In response, Hossein Shariatmadari, chief editor of the state-run hard-liner mouthpiece Kayhan daily, lashed out at Rouhani, saying Oct. 16, "Are we crazy [enough] to negotiate with the US? We are not." Moreover, Kazem Sedighi, a hard-line Friday prayer leader in Tehran, took a swipe at Rouhani, saying Oct. 27 that the president has "forgotten" God.

"Those who insisted on negotiating kept promising that [nuclear] sanctions would be lifted ... and the economy would grow. Which one of your promises has been fulfilled that you rely on negotiation again?" he said, referring to Rouhani's remarks about the need to hold a referendum.

A few days later, Rouhani struck back at hard-liners, speaking about the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global monitor of money-laundering and terrorism financing.

"Why do some people obstruct the four [FATF-related] bills passed by the government and the parliament? This is not in the interests of the country," the president said.

Rouhani's opponents on the conservative-dominated Guardian Council have held up the bills, even though the FATF removed Tehran from the FATF blacklist and suspended countermeasures, while at the same time urging Iran to meet FATF demands by February or face consequences. The opponents have called the FATF bills "a colonial prescription" for Iran.

In the same speech, targeting conservatives who are hopeful about taking over parliament in 2020, Rouhani described the recent trials of giant companies' executives and CEOs for alleged corruption as campaign maneuvers. But, he said, "I will tell people who has shut down the country."

In reaction, hard-liners dubbed his speech a "new wave of psychological war."  

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:41 PM


Ex-Trump campaign aide testifies in Roger Stone trial, describes 'brainstorming' sessions about WikiLeaks (ALI DUKAKIS and LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN, Nov 12, 2019, ABC News)

Former deputy Trump campaign manager Rick Gates testified during Roget Stone's trial on Tuesday that the campaign had a keen interest in the anticipated release of stolen emails from Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party prior to the 2016 election, and held a series of what he called "brainstorming" sessions among top campaign aides about WikiLeaks. [...]

In his testimony as a government witness in the criminal case against Stone, Gates described discussions he said he had with several senior campaign officials leading up to WikiLeaks' release of hacked materials as part of an effort to hurt the campaign of then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 political opponent, He also said Stone shepherded those discussions.

In June, when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claimed to have information about Clinton, Gates said campaign's response "was one of happiness ... it was, in a way, a gift."

Posted by orrinj at 1:37 PM


Stone previewed WikiLeaks bounty to Trump campaign in April 2016 (DARREN SAMUELSOHN and MATTHEW CHOI, 11/12/2019, Politico)

Roger Stone first told one of Donald Trump's top aides in April 2016 that WikiLeaks had plans to dump information in the heat of the presidential race, kickstarting a scramble inside the campaign to take advantage of the expected releases.

And that plotting included at least one summertime call involving Trump himself, according to Rick Gates, the former Trump deputy campaign chairman, who was testifying Tuesday morning at Stone's trial over lying to Congress about his efforts to contact WikiLeaks.

The revelation means the Trump campaign was aware of WikiLeaks' election-year plans much earlier than previously understood. And it also shows that the president was involved in conversations about the issue, something he has previously denied.

Thanks, Mr. Mueller.

Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM


Supreme Court lets Sandy Hook shooting lawsuit go forward (MARK SHERMAN, 11/12/19, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Supreme Court said Tuesday a survivor and relatives of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting can pursue their lawsuit against the maker of the rifle used to kill 26 people.

The justices rejected an appeal from Remington Arms that argued it should be shielded by a 2005 federal law preventing most lawsuits against firearms manufacturers when their products are used in crimes.

Posted by orrinj at 1:22 PM


Did Trump's Trade War Impact the 2018 Election? (Emily J. Blanchard, Chad P. Bown, Davin Chor, November 2019, NBER Working Paper No. 26434)

We find that Republican candidates lost support in the 2018 congressional election in counties more exposed to trade retaliation, but saw no commensurate electoral gains from US tariff protection. The electoral losses were driven by retaliatory tariffs on agricultural products, and were only partially mitigated by the US agricultural subsidies announced in summer 2018. Republicans also fared worse in counties that had seen recent gains in health insurance coverage, affirming the importance of health care as an election issue. A counterfactual calculation suggests that the trade war (respectively, health care) can account for five (eight) of Republicans' lost House seats.

Posted by orrinj at 1:13 PM


Leaked Emails Show Stephen Miller's Unfiltered Anti-Immigrant Views . (Noah Lanard, 11/12/19, MoJo)

In private emails in 2015 and 2016, President Donald Trump's top immigration adviser touted a vilely racist novel that warns of a migrant invasion, promoted the ideas of white nationalist publications, and raged at retailers who stopped selling Confederate flags in the wake of the massacre of black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina.

On Tuesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center published excerpts of emails Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump's assaults on immigrants, sent to the right-wing outlet Breitbart. Miller's embrace of ideas and language used by the "white replacement" conspiracy theorists who populate alt-right forums has long been known. But the unusual thing about the emails, which were provided to the SPLC by a disaffected former Breitbart editor, Katie McHugh, is that they come from a time when Miller was willing to put his ideas in writing. These days, well aware that he's a target for Trump's critics, he's careful to avoid a paper trail by sticking to phone calls.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Schiff Says Whistleblower Testimony Would Be "Redundant and Unnecessary" (DANIEL POLITI, NOV 10, 2019, Slate)

House Republicans submitted a list of witness requests on Saturday and it didn't take long for Schiff to make clear that the Ukraine whistleblower wouldn't even be considered.

"The impeachment inquiry, moreover, has gathered an ever-growing body of evidence--from witnesses and documents, including the President's own words in his July 25 call record--that not only confirms, but far exceeds, the initial information in the whistleblower's complaint," Schiff said in the letter. "The whistleblower's testimony is therefore redundant and unnecessary." Schiff also said that having the whistleblower appear publicly "would only place their personal safety at grave risk" because of the president's threats against him.

The attorney for the whistleblower also rejected the idea of an in-person testimony by his client but said the offer to answer written questions still stands. "My client's complaint has been largely corroborated. Nonetheless, I have offered to have my client respond in writing, under oath, and under penalty of perjury to Republican questions," Andrew Bakaj said in a statement. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Not the economy, stupid': A majority of Americans say 2020 election will be about other issues (Eric Rosenbaum, 11/11/19, CNBC)

No, "it's not the economy, stupid." At least, not as far as the way a majority of Americans are currently planning to cast their votes in the 2020 presidential election.

Near two-thirds of Americans (61%) say the 2020 election will be about issues other than the economy, according to a CNBC and Acorns Invest in You survey conducted by SurveyMonkey and released Monday.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Alarm bells': What Cooper, Croft and Anderson told impeachment investigators: The investigators released transcripts of Laura Cooper, Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson. ( ANDREW DESIDERIO and KYLE CHENEY, 11/11/2019, Politico)

Trump abruptly withheld nearly $400 million in military aid sometime in early July, and word spread through the administration in subsequent weeks. Though several witnesses told lawmakers that Ukrainians likely didn't discover the hold until late August -- after a POLITICO report revealed it -- Cooper said she began to register concerns days or weeks earlier.

Some, she said, arose from the defense industry that was awaiting the distribution of funds -- including at least one call Cooper received from the Chamber of Commerce.

"So before the kind of press broke on it, we were hearing that there were signs of concern," Cooper said.

But it was a conversation Cooper had with Volker that led her to believe Ukrainians also knew about the hold on aid before it was reported.

"I knew from my Kurt Volker conversation and also from sort of the alarm bells that were coming from Ambassador [William] Taylor and his team that there were Ukrainians who knew about this," Cooper said.

Cooper said Volker relayed to her a discussion with a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about the Ukrainian leader making a statement alluding to "election interference" that Ukraine had committed in the past -- a nod to Trump's demand for such an investigation.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sherman's March to the Sea (Original entry by Anne J. Bailey, 09/05/2002, Georgis Encyclopedia)

The March to the Sea, the most destructive campaign against a civilian population during the Civil War (1861-65), began in Atlanta on November 15, 1864, and concluded in Savannah on December 21, 1864. Union general William T. Sherman abandoned his supply line and marched across Georgia to the Atlantic Ocean to prove to the Confederate population that its government could not protect the people from invaders. He practiced psychological warfare; he believed that by marching an army across the state he would demonstrate to the world that the Union had a power the Confederacy could not resist. "This may not be war," he said, "but rather statesmanship." [...]

Sherman's march frightened and appalled Southerners. It hurt morale, for civilians had believed the Confederacy could protect the home front. 

Sherman had terrorized the countryside; his men had destroyed all sources of food and forage and had left behind a hungry and demoralized people. Although he did not level any towns, he did destroy buildings in places where there was resistance. His men had shown little sympathy for Millen, the site of Camp Lawton, where Union prisoners of war were held. Physical attacks on white civilians were few, although it is not known how slave women fared at the hands of the invaders. Often male slaves posted guards outside the cabins of their female friends and relatives.

Confederate president Jefferson Davis had urged Georgians to undertake a scorched-earth policy of poisoning wells and burning fields, but civilians in the army's path had not done so. Sherman, however, burned or captured all the food stores that Georgians had saved for the winter months. As a result of the hardships on women and children, desertions increased in Robert E. Lee's army in Virginia. Sherman believed his campaign against civilians would shorten the war by breaking the Confederate will to fight, and he eventually received permission to carry this psychological warfare into South Carolina in early 1865. By marching through Georgia and South Carolina he became an archvillain in the South and a hero in the North.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Medicaid will Shape the 2020 Election. Are Republicans Ready? (DANIEL MCGRAW,  NOVEMBER 12, 2019, The Bulwark)

Last week, former Obama healthcare administrator Andy Slavitt called healthcare the "kryptonite to beat President Donald Trump" in a Washington Post op-ed column. Newly elected Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat in a blood-red state, used the Republican attacks on some Medicaid provisions of healthcare as the bellwether topic in his upset win. Beshear called Medicaid a "basic human right and our administration will treat it as such" and beat the Republican incumbent.

The issue moves beyond Kentucky. In an extensive poll released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Cook Political Report on voter opinion in four key Midwest swing states (Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin), the report found that voters in those states rated healthcare as one of the only issues in which President Trump's approval rating (-21) is lower than his overall job approval (-18).

"These are tough numbers [for Trump] if the Democrats can capitalize on them," political analyst Charlie Cook said of the poll in a TV interview. What was perhaps most telling in Cook's poll was that the number of voters in those four states who had healthcare as their top priority (20-22%), lined up almost identically with the percentage of those who identified themselves as undecided independents (21-25%).

And, despite the partisan polarization surrounding the topic, 60% of the public says providing health care is a government responsibility.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


WHY EDEN SANK TO GRIEF (Cole S. Aronson, 11 . 7 . 19, First Things)

Eve's sin is to ignore God in favor of a lesser source of meaning. Subtler than an outright rebel, Eve considers herself neutral with respect to God's injunction. She wants to replace God not with herself, but with wisdom. I suggest that Eve was the first philosopher, but not just any sort of philosopher. She does not wonder after the stars. She wants to know what truly matters. 

I do not think the Bible is suggesting an opposition between wisdom and obedience, or, if you like, between Athens and Jerusalem. There is almost nothing the Bible praises more highly and frequently than knowledge of the sort Eve is after. And indeed, God justifies expelling Adam and Eve on the view that they are now "like us, knowing good and bad," earthly only because mortal. But the true servant of God consecrates to his creator not only the things human beings find most instinctively pleasurable--food, sex--but also the elevated things. Knowledge of the good ranks among the highest of these things, because God is defined by perfect wisdom and perfect goodness. If God wanted to know the extent of his finest creature's devotion, he devised the perfect test: to see whether man would forego the highest activity of the Divine image in favor of concord with the Divine will.

Christ's Fall is identical.

November 11, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


Why Your Brain Lies To You About Change (Chris Murman, September 11, 2017, Solutions IQ)

[I] had always thought I made decisions in a rational fashion. When I am presented with an idea, I weigh all of the data needed to evaluate my options and then make a decision based on that data. Just like we all do, I hope.

Why is it then that we make different decisions based on the same data?

If we're not emotionally comfortable with an activity, the brain invents an excuse not to do it.

According to "The Control Heuristic" by Luca DellAnna, it's because the decision-making process is wired in reverse in our brains. When we are presented with a decision, the subconscious determines that with which we are most emotionally comfortable. Before any information is collected or any rationality is applied, the choice is made. When our brain recognizes this, it fills in the gaps as to why we feel this way without telling us the truth.

In other words: our brain lies to us.

If we are not emotionally comfortable with an activity, the brain literally invents an excuse not to do it. Our brain attempts to establish or regain control over a situation through a variety of behaviors. This is why those considered "bad" become easily explained, such as not going to bed until midnight to have more time to relax, or not buying vegetables because they spoil easily. We don't like bad behaviors, but exhibiting them makes us feel in control and therefore improves our comfort level.

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM


Is GOP Witness List For Impeachment Inquiry 'A Cry For Help'? (Cody Fenwick, November 11, 2019, National Memo)

House Republicans' request for witnesses in the impeachment inquiry reads more like a "cry for help" than an actual contribution to the investigation into President Donald Trump's conduct, argued MSNBC's Steve Benen.

He's not wrong. The list includes:

The whistleblower

"All individuals relied upon by the anonymous whistleblower in drafting his or her secondhand complaint"

Hunter Biden

Devon Archer, a business associate of Hunter Biden

Nellie Ohr of Fusion GPS, which directed the work behind the Steele Dossier

Alexandra Chalupa, a Democratic National Committee employee who reportedly conducted research on Paul Manafort's work in Ukraine

Not one of these people will have information that could exonerate Trump from the mountain of evidence indicating he oversaw a vast bribery scheme aimed at pressuring the Ukrainian government into smearing and opening up investigations into his political rivals.

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Steve Bannon Says Trump Team Saw Roger Stone as "Access Point" to Assange (Dan Friedman, 11/08/19, MoJo)

[A]ccording to bombshell testimony in federal court Friday, the Trump team did believe that it was collaborating with WikiLeaks, the organization that publicly disseminated Democratic emails that had been stolen by Russian government hackers.

The revelations came during the trial of longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, who is accused of lying to Congress about his contacts with the Trump campaign. Stone was originally a member of that campaign; he departed in 2015 but remained an informal adviser to Trump. Steve Bannon, who became CEO of the campaign in mid-August 2016, testified Friday that campaign officials saw Stone as their "access point" to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.

Bannon testified that in the spring and summer of 2016, before he took over the Trump campaign, Stone had "implied" in conversations with Bannon that he was in contact with Assange. "The campaign had no official access to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, but Roger would be considered if we needed an access point, because he had implied or told me he had a relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange," Bannon said. 

"It was generally believed that the access point to WikiLeaks or Julian Assange would be Roger Stone," Bannon said in prior grand jury testimony read in court on Friday. Bannon appeared under subpoena and said he would not have agreed to testify otherwise.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


Robert Randolph And The Family Band: Raucous Rock Meets The Gospel Tradition (CARINA GIAMERESE, 11/11/19, NPR: World Cafe)

Today we present Robert Randolph and the Family Band; led by Robert Randolph, the group brings raucous rock and roll energy to the gospel tradition of Sacred Steel. Brighter Days, the literal family band's 8th studio album, was released in August; the record sizzles with the group's signature fusion of blues, rock and gospel. Randolph's anointed pedal steel playing leads the charge in this joyous, uplifting set that brings the party to the dance floor.

Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:42 PM


A Special Relationship: The British and the Americans--Lessons from the Colonial Period (Mark Kalthoff, Imprimis)

The American political tradition began with the Mayflower Compact. Upon landing at Cape Cod and realizing that they needed to establish a temporary self-government, the 41 signers of the Mayflower Compact (originally called the Plymouth Combination) pledged themselves together into "a civil body politic." Referencing the book The Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition by Willmoore Kendall and George W. Carey, Kalthoff argued that the Pilgrims, who identified themselves as British subjects, meant to continue the task already begun in Britain of advancing the Christian faith. To do so, and to act in an orderly way, they took an oath and outlined the ways in which they would carry out the oath; namely, through "equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony." "The Mayflower Compact was another British influence in that it gave Americans the understanding that society precedes government, and that freedom has limits within the rule of law," Kalthoff said. "Within the freedom to self-govern are concomitant duties that involve civic participation and ongoing deliberation." [...]

The British and Americans had a shared understanding of the nature of political liberty. In Barry Alan Shain's book The Myth of American Individualism, he asserts that Colonial Americans understood self-government in terms of English political liberty: "English political liberty describes a political situation in which a majority of the people consent to the laws that would govern them, they are represented in the crafting of these laws, and when they break them they are tried by juries of their peers." English political liberty informed how the colonists lived and ruled. However, the colonists believed that their right to political representation was in the colonial assemblies, not the British parliament. "This stance, this different understanding of the nature and meaning of the British constitution, was ultimately what would sever that relationship that was so special because American liberties were British liberties at this time," Kalthoff said.

The Northwest Ordinance conserved the English inheritance of common law. The final achievement of the Confederation Congress was the creation of the Northwest Ordinance, which set up a constitution for settling U.S. territories north and west of the Ohio River. Comparable in significance to the English Magna Carta, it was a "conserving" law in that it preserved the English legal inheritance. It had American innovations, however; it outlawed slavery, and it guaranteed that every state would have a republican form of government. The Northwest Ordinance also spoke to the truths that the colonists had learned through their relationship with the British, such as providing for religious tolerance and outlining the primacy of education as necessary for "good government and the happiness of mankind." "In this organic piece of law of the United States, there is a fundamental connection between human happiness and civic flourishing and education," Kalthoff said. "The role of education is not merely to impart knowledge, but also to encourage religion and morality."

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


The Moderately Indefensible Career of Rep. Peter King (JIM NEWELL, NOV 11, 2019, Slate)

When King took back the gavel to the Homeland Security Committee in 2011, one of his first priorities was to hold hearings on "radicalization" within American Muslim communities. Trust in King's ability to hold such a hearing with anything resembling neutrality was limited, given that this was the same congressman who had claimed in 2007 that there were "too many mosques in this country, too many people that are sympathetic to radical Islam" and had also said that 85 percent of American mosques were controlled by "extremist leadership." After Trump's election, King recommended to the president-elect that he establish a federal Muslim surveillance program similar to the shameful, disbanded one run by the New York Police Department following 9/11. (King was unyieldingly defensive of any and every thing that any police officer had ever done, and he once compared NFL players kneeling in protest of police abuse to giving Nazi salutes.)

King's maximalist approach to terrorism done by Muslims showed none of the nuance he applied in the 1980s to the Troubles. Before he was Longtime GOP Rep. Peter King, he was Long Island Irish Guy Peter King. In that capacity he was a vocal defender of the Irish Republican Army, serving up such spicy moral-relativist takes as: "If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it." This history resurfaced in 2011 as King was prepping his Muslim radicalization hearings, and King defended himself by noting that the IRA's acts of terrorism were over there.

Posted by orrinj at 12:52 PM


Smotrich: Having Arabs in government defies Israel's Jewish, democratic nature (TAMAR PILEGGI , 11/11/19, Times of Israel)

Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Monday reacted angrily to unconfirmed reports that Blue and White was working to form a minority coalition backed by the Joint List alliance of majority-Arab parties, whom he accused of being disloyal to the state.

In an interview with Army Radio, the hardline lawmaker said that most Israeli voters opposed creating a minority government that would be led by the centrist Blue and White and supported from the outside by the Joint List and the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu.

"Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, and having a minority government is neither of those things," Smotrich said.

By which he means having minorities in government.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump aides are reportedly worried about John Bolton's meeting notes (The Week, November 10, 2019)

Bolton was a "voracious note-taker," one person who attended several meetings with him told Axios, filling up page after page on a legal pad. On Friday, Bolton's lawyer, Chuck Cooper, sent a letter to the House of Representative's general counsel, stating that Bolton "was personally involved" in "many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed" during the impeachment inquiry.

Bolton, Axios' Jonathan Swan writes, "probably has more details than any impeachment inquiry witness, so far, about President Trump's machinations on Ukraine." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sessions Announces Run For Senate: Republicans Haven't Pushed Hard Enough To Advance Trump Agenda (Ian Schwartz,  November 7, 2019, RCP)

Sessions said Republicans in Senate have not pushed "hard enough" to advance the Trump agenda. 

They haven't pushed it at all: it's not Republican.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Donald Trump Jr. walks offstage after being heckled at book event -- by conservatives (The Week, 11/10/19)

The author of Triggered appears to have been triggered.

On Sunday, Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, former Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle, went to the University of California Los Angeles for an event promoting his new book, Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us. Trump Jr. actually silenced himself, as he refused to take questions from the audience, which led to conservatives heckling him until he finally just walked offstage after 20 minutes.

November 10, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


New Poll Has Michael Bloomberg Beating Donald Trump By Six Points (JUSTIN CARUSO, November 10, 2019,daily Caller)

A new poll released Sunday shows that all top Democratic candidates are beating President Donald Trump in a hypothetical match up, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The poll, conducted by Morning Consult, showed that in a hypothetical general election match up with Trump, Bloomberg polls at 43%, while Trump polls at 37%. 21% are undecided or don't know.

Other Democratic candidates poll well against Trump too. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren beats Trump 45% to 39%, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden have similar leads.

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM


The Myth of the Nazi War Machine (Kevin Kallmes, 11/03/19, Notes on Liberty)

 I think it is past time that we recognize Nazism as not only immoral but also incompetent. Below, I hope to share some astonishing statistics that show beyond a shadow of a doubt that the modern concept of Nazi military might is a myth.

The Allies rode in cars, the Germans rode horses. In 1939, the only transportation available to 85% of German infantry other than walking was horses. By was still 85%. In total, the US and UK produced almost 4 million general-use vehicles, compared to 160,000 German vehicles. That is a 25-fold advantage. The Allies also had 1 million infantry-supporting artillery compared to less than 100,000 for all of the Axis.

Where were the supplies? The Allies had 46 million tonnes of merchant shipping vessels to the Axis' 5 million, five times as much aluminum (key for engines and planes), and by 1943 had cut off all German access to rare metals such as tungsten, one of the key metals used in munitions, manufacturing, and electronics. The US supplied Britain and the USSR through the Lend-Lease Act with almost $700 billion (inflation-adjusted 2019 dollars) in supplies throughout the war, which is roughly double the entire German annual GDP in 1939.

The Allies swam to victory on a sea of oil. Though Rommel came within a battle of accessing the British Middle-Eastern oil fields, the Axis still had astonishingly little fuel (which they needed to power their King Tiger, which drank a gallon of gas every 700 yards, the vast Luftwaffe that put over 130,000 planes into action, and their gigantic battleship Bismark). The Axis as a whole used 66 million metric tonnes of oil, while the Allies used a billion. A 15X advantage.

The panzers were neither numerous nor superior technologically. The Mark 1 and 2 panzers that conquered France were actually less numerous and less technologically advanced than France's. While blitzkrieg and elan overwhelmed the French, even the Mark 4-the most commonly used panzer in the late war-underperformed Shermans in infantry support and reliability and were even considered inferior to the Soviet T34 by Hitler himself. Even including the outmoded Czech tanks repurposed by the Germans, they fielded only 67,000 tanks on all fronts to face 270,000 Allied tanks (with no help from Italy, with a pitiful 3,300 tanks, and Japan largely ignored mobile land armor and created only 4,500 tanks). The environment of idealogical zeal in Germany prevented a military researcher from telling Hitler about the true tank numbers of the Soviets, as Hitler himself recognized later in the war by repeating that if he had known the true number of T34's he faced, he would never have invaded. The US and USSR deployed massive numbers of upgraded Shermans and the workhorse T34s, while Germany sank huge investments into specialized and scary duds the Royal Tiger-300,000 man-hours and ten times as much as a Sherman. Only 1,300 Royal Tigers were ever produced, and their 70 tonnes of weight, constant mechanical issues, and cost undercut their supremacy in tank-on-tank duels. The US and Britain used precision bombing to inflict major tank losses on Germany, and while German tanks outfought Soviet tanks roughly 4:1, by 1945 the Soviets still had 25,000 tanks against the Germans' 6,000.

Collaboration helps both tech and strategy. The Allies worked together-the Sherman's underpowered 75mm (corrected) could be upgraded with a British gun because of interoperability of parts, and the US and Brits delivered over 12,000 tanks and 18,000 planes to the Soviets under Lend-Lease; the Germans did not even have replaceable parts for their own tanks, and the Germans never helped their Italian allies (who had lost a land invasion even to the collapsing French) develop industrial capabilities. Bletchley Park gave advance warning to US merchant convoys, but the Italians and Japanese found out that Hitler had invaded the USSR only after troops had crossed into Ukraine.

Fascism is not industrially sound. Even though the Nazis put an astonishing 75% of their GDP toward the military by 1944 and despite taking on unsustainable debt to sustain their production, their GDP in 1939 was $384 billion, roughly equal to the Soviets and $100 billion less than the UK and France combined. By the end of the war, this fell to $310 billion, compared to a whopping $1.4 trillion US GDP. However, even these numbers do not fully represent how non-mechanized, non-scalable, and non-industrial Germany was even under military dictatorship. While German science and engineering had been pre-eminent pre-WW I, the central control and obsession with infeasible, custom projects before and during the war meant that the Germans had a lower percentage of their population that could be mobilized for wartime production than their opponents, not to mention that their GDP per capita was half of that of the US, and yet the Axis still took on opponents that had productive populations five times their size.

In treating them as an existential threat we gave Communism a pass.

Posted by orrinj at 1:49 PM


GOP Rep. Will Hurd: A Ukraine quid pro quo would be "violation of the law" (Jacob Knutson, 11/10/19, Axios)

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) said on "Fox News Sunday" that it would be a "violation of the law" for "a president or any official" to withhold aid from a foreign country in exchange for investigations into political rivals, though he stopped short of saying President Trump had done so with Ukraine.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 AM


What Kind of God Is the God of the Jews?: a review of  Jewish Theology Unbound by James Diamond (Neil Rogachevsky, 11/06/19, Mosaic)

Above all, Diamond rejects the philosophers' conception of God as utterly unchanging--"the unmoved mover," to cite Aristotle again. Instead he maintains that the biblical God is "unbound" by any fixed attributes, positive or negative; a dynamic being, God changes and advances along with humanity. In his own words, Diamond is set on exchanging "austere rational notions of [God's] perfection and immutability . . . for a vital, fluctuating God who is aided by human beings in the attainment of new cognitions and ever-developing states of self-awareness."
Jewish Theology Unboundis divided into discreet considerations of specific biblical themes that could plausibly fall under the rubric of "philosophical theology." Among the subjects it considers are the act of "questioning" God, freedom and slavery, love, death, martyrdom, political sovereignty, and the meaning and purpose of angels. Throughout, Diamond reflects on and endeavors to explain what we can coherently think and say about the dynamic God and His attributes. In particular, he focuses on the relationship between God and human beings--and Jews in particular--as the aspect most marked by creative flux.

In one example, Diamond shows how understanding God as dynamic is the only way to understand His covenant with the children of Israel. Thus, God's command to Jacob to return from exile in his father-in-law's house to his parents in Canaan expresses a double wish: to reunite Jacob with his father and to end God's own exile. Having accompanied Jacob in his wanderings, He is now eager to return to His chosen land and His beloved Isaac. Human freedom, in this case Jacob's taking action to return to the Land of Israel, is transformative at the most fundamental level since it can effect change in God Himself.

In still another biblical passage, this one from Exodus, Diamond analyzes Moses' two youthful encounters with injustice. In the first, Moses sees "an Egyptian man beating a Hebrew man," and in response looks around for an "ish," any man, who might intercede to stop the abuse. But he finds no "man," only a mass of individuals defined by their discrepant tribal groups and unwilling to be guided by their shared humanity and the obligations it imposes. In the next scene, Moses witnesses two Hebrew men fighting and asks the instigator, "Why do you strike your fellow?" This question, according to Diamond, is Moses' acknowledgement of the incompleteness of his earlier view that injustice could be solved by erasing or transcending ethnicity and tribe. Moses, in short, is evolving to become worthy of the assignment soon to be placed upon him by an evolving God.

Diamond's argument is spelled out most explicitly in a dense chapter on the meaning of God's name. Here he points to Moses' first encounter with God at the burning bush, where the prophet asks to be told His name and God answers with a Hebrew phrase that in its usual translation--"I am that I am"--seems to imply His transcendence and immutability.

But the Hebrew verbs, as Diamond points out, are cast in the future tense, "I shall be what I shall be," suggesting a deity who "evolves" along with "His creation and His creatures." This adumbrates a conception of God much closer to the mystical view later promoted by medieval kabbalists and their successors than to Maimonides' perfect, immutable being; in fact, the two are almost complete opposites.

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 AM


The Radical Equality of Christianity (Bradley J. Birzer, October 19th, 2019, Imaginative Conservative)

One can find an equally profound statement of equality in the final chapter of Matthew's gospel and Jesus' issuing of the Great Commission:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew, chapter 28, verses 16-20).

Jesus did not say "convert all nations except those with skin tone x" or "convert all nations except for those few islands in the South Pacific." He said, "make disciples of all nations." No asterisk or caveat is included in His command. Thus, Christianity, is, by its very nature, an evangelical religion, always encountering that which it is not.

Until we Christians admit just how radical we are--how truly humane and universal our faith is--we will allow the secular forces of the world to confuse us and bewilder us. Yet, to be Christian has always been counter-cultural, antagonistic to the world, and, by its very nature and existence, it always must be.

The Bible is a bildungsroman about God.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Placebo Effect Appears Even in Pets (EMILY ANTHES, 11/07/19, The Atlantic)

In 2003, a team of researchers from several American universities launched a small clinical trial, the results of which should not have been a surprise. Of the patients taking the active drug, an anticonvulsant intended to reduce epileptic seizures, 86 percent saw their seizure frequency fall. So did 79 percent of the patients that received a sham treatment, or a placebo.

It seemed like a classic example of the placebo effect, with one notable difference: The patients were dogs.

"As I did these placebo-controlled studies and I was evaluating data, I was like, 'Oh, look, these dogs are getting better on the placebo,'" says Karen Munana, a veterinary neurologist at North Carolina State University who co-authored the study. That response had never been reported for epilepsy treatments in dogs before, she says.

At the time, double-blind placebo-controlled trials--the gold standard for evaluating new medical treatments--were relatively uncommon in veterinary medicine. But if Munana and her colleagues hadn't done one, they would have misjudged how well the drug, levetiracetam, worked. "If I had not had the placebo arm [of the study], I would've said that this drug was effective," she says.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rawls & Theodicy: 'The Theology of Liberalism' (Samuel Moyn, October 30, 2019, Commonweal)

[T]wo young Harvard political theorists have come out simultaneously with two of the best treatments imaginable of the context and meaning of Rawls's epoch-making book. But the two could not be more different. In the Shadow of Justice, the exciting new leftish history by Katrina Forrester, suggests that, for all his abstraction, Rawls was offering a metaphysical gloss on the program of the right wing of the British Labour party of the 1950s, when it was seeking an increasingly market-friendly vision of socialism, one that would eventually devolve into neoliberalism. For her right-leaning colleague Eric Nelson, by contrast, Rawls is a failed early-modern theologian, whose legacy is to leave liberals without a good reason to believe that justice requires even modest redistribution. [...]

Nelson opens his book by placing Rawls's recently discovered Princeton University senior thesis, written in 1942, in the long Augustinian tradition of Christianity that denied that sinful humans could save themselves. For Augustine and his followers, Pelagianism--named after a late-antique theologian who was condemned as a heretic by the Catholic Church--overstated the extent to which human beings can earn their salvation. Such a belief verged on an ideology of self-redemption of individual sinners or of humanity itself that (as Rawls put it at age twenty) "rendered the Cross of Christ to no effect." For Rawls, at the time a committed Christian who planned a career in the Episcopal priesthood before World War II service in the Pacific caused him to lose his faith, it followed that "no man can claim good deeds as his own." To contend otherwise inflated human capacity and courted sacrilegious idolatry of humanity itself.

Nelson contends that this Augustinian response to Pelagianism lurked in Rawls's defense of fair distributional justice long after he had moved on to secular philosophy. In A Theory of Justice, Rawls remarked that "no one deserves" their social ascendancy and the natural gifts--intelligence or industriousness--with which they achieved it. The fact that one person was endowed with them and another not was "morally arbitrary." A theory of justice aiming at fairness rather than fortune would reject any sense that people deserved their class position. Some redistribution from the rich to the rest was therefore just.

What Nelson does with this parallel between Rawls's Christian senior thesis and his mature theory of redistribution is more contentious. Demonstrating that most founders of the liberal tradition were Pelagians, he insists that it is difficult to reconcile Rawls's rejection of moral arbitrariness with the politics he hoped to advance.

"Liberalism," writes Nelson, "began as a theodicy." By this he means that for the major liberal thinkers in the early-modern period, the attempt to justify the ways of God to men almost always included the belief that God is unfailingly good. It is their own autonomy that leads humans, if they choose not to conform to God's plan, to introduce evil into the world on their own. What made for the correlation of Pelagianism with liberalism is that the theological defense of human freedom--including freedom to err--implied that individuals should be allowed politically to seek perfection on their own, without the interference of states or sects. Liberalism was born out of the insistence that, since agents were free enough to save themselves, they had to be left alone enough to have a chance to do it.

Mr. Nelson's imagined difficulty arises only because--as happened with Rawls--commentators insist on stripping the founders of liberalism of their Christianity.  Thus, Marxists and Libertarians alike can only consider Locke's Second Treatise on Government, which is fairly silent on providing for the common good in its attempt to secure property, and must ignore the First:

But we know God hath not left one man so to the mercy of another, that he may starve him if he please: God the Lord and Father of all, has given no one of his children such a property in his peculiar portion of the things of this world, but that he has given his needy brother a right to the surplusage of his goods; so that it cannot justly be denied him, when his pressing wants call for it: and therefore no man could ever have a just power over the life of another by right of property in land or possessions; since it would always be a sin, in any man of estate, to let his brother perish for want of affording him relief out of his plenty. As justice gives every man a title to the product of his honest industry, and the fair acquisitions of his ancestors descended to him; so charity gives every man a title to so much out of another's plenty, as will keep him from extreme want, where he has no means to subsist otherwise...

And an even more fundamental error occurs when they insist that Locke chose Reason over Revelation in the first place:

So much virtue as was necessary to hold societies together, and to contribute to the quiet of governments, the civil laws of commonwealths taught, and forced upon men that lived under magistrates. But these laws, being for the most part made by such who had no other aims but their own power, reached no farther than those things, that would serve to tie men together in subjection; or at most, were directly to conduce to the prosperity and temporal happiness of any people. But natural religion, in its full extent, was nowhere, that I know, taken care of by the force of natural reason. It should seem, by the little that has hitherto been done in it, that 'tis too hard a task for unassisted reason, to establish morality, in all its parts, upon its true foundations, with a clear and convincing light. And 'tis at least a surer and shorter way, to the apprehensions of the vulgar, and mass of mankind, that one manifestly sent from God, and coming with visible authority from him, should, as a King and law-maker, tell them their duties, and require their obedience, than leave it to the long, and sometimes intricate deductions of reason, to be made out to them: such strains of reasonings the greatest part of mankind have neither leisure to weigh, nor, for want of education and use, skill to judge of. We see how unsuccessful in this, the attempts of philosophers were, before Our Saviour's time. How short their several systems came of the perfection of a true and complete morality, is very visible. And if, since that, the Christian philosophers have much outdone them, yet we may observe, that the first knowledge of the truths they have added are, owing to revelation; though as soon as they are heard and considered, they are found to be agreeable to reason, and such as can by no means be contradicted. Every one may observe a great many truths which he receives at first from others, and readily assents to, as consonant to reason, which he would have found it hard, and perhaps, beyond his strength to have discovered himself. Native and original truth, is not so easily wrought out of the mine, as we who have it delivered, ready dug and fashioned into our hands, are apt to imagine. And how often at fifty or threescore years old, are thinking men told, what they wonder how they could miss thinking of? Which yet their own contemplations did not, and possibly never would have helped them to. Experience shows that the knowledge of morality, by mere natural light (how agreeable soever it be to it), makes but a slow progress, and little advance in the world. And the reason of it is not hard to be found in men's necessities, passions, vices, and mistaken interests, which turn their thoughts another way. And the designing leaders, as well as the following herd, find it not to their purpose to employ much of their meditations this way. Or whatever else was the cause, 'tis plain in fact, that human reason unassisted, failed men in its great and proper business of morality. It never, from unquestionable principles, by clear deductions, made out an entire body of the law of Nature. And he that shall collect all the moral rules of the philosophers, and compare them with those contained in the new testament, will find them to come short of the morality delivered by Our Saviour, and taught by his apostles; a college made up, for the most part, of ignorant, but inspired fishermen.

Though yet, if any one should think, that out of the saying of the wise heathens, before Our Saviour's time, there might be a collection made of all these rules of morality, which are to be found in the Christian religion; yet this would not at all hinder, but that the world, nevertheless, stood as much in need of Our Savior, and the morality delivered by him.

Locke could not render a system of Rational morality himself and nor could anyone else, putting paid to the notion that we can save ourselves if "left alone".

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Western style 'democracy' in Africa is just a way of pushing the neoliberal agenda (Damola Adejumo-Ayibiowu, 6 November 2019, openDemocracy)

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent rise of 'good governance' as a development strategy is more than a coincidence. In his famous article The End of History, the American political analyst, Francis Fukuyama, proclaims that the end of the cold war is "the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government." Such statements clearly indicate the readiness of liberalism protagonists to resist any ideology contrary to theirs. It is not a surprise, therefore, that since the 1990s, good governance has become a prescription of the World Bank for all development challenges facing African countries. Notably, the current good governance agenda is mainly a democracy cum neoliberal framework.

The argument for democracy may be very strong for African countries, many of which have had long histories of military rule, unfair elections, unaccountable leaderships, inadequate service delivery, and popularized corruption. Many scholars particularly argue that the lack of democracy is the main cause of poverty in Africa. But despite the implementation of donor's good governance reforms, corruption, poverty, and other challenges continue in Africa. Moreover, the wave of democratization which swept across Africa in the 1990s mainly paved the way for multiparty elections without improving the welfare of African poor masses who queue for hours to cast their votes. 

Now add capitalism and protestantism and you've got the agenda.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Before Martin Luther, there was Erasmus - a Dutch theologian who paved the way for the Protestant Reformation (Katherine Little, 10/29/19, The Conversation)

Although Erasmus was sympathetic to Luther's critique of church corruption, he wasn't ready for the kind of radical changes that Luther demanded.

Erasmus wanted a broad audience for his books, but he wrote in Latin, the official language of the church. Latin was a language that only a small number of educated people, typically priests and the nobility, could read.

Erasmus had criticized the church for many of the same problems that Luther later attacked. In one of his most famous books, The "Praise of Folly," he mocked priests who didn't read the Bible. He also attacked the church's use of indulgences - when the church took money from people, granting them relief from punishment for their sins in purgatory - as a sign of the church's greed.

When Luther started getting into trouble with church authorities, Erasmus defended him and wrote him letters of support. He thought Luther's voice should be heard.

But he did not defend all of Luther's teachings. Some, he felt, were too divisive. For example, Luther preached that people are saved only by faith in God and not by good deeds. Erasmus did not agree, and he did not want the church to split over these debates.

Throughout his life, Erasmus forged his own approach to Christianity: knowing Christ by reading the Bible. He called his approach the "Philosophia Christi," or the philosophy of Christ. He thought that learning about Jesus' life and teachings would strengthen people's Christian faith and teach them how to be good.

...then we are the gods.

November 9, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


Trumpkins Accused Him of Being the Whistleblower. They Were Wrong. (Will Sommer,  11.08.19, Daily Beast)

Former Obama White House staffer R. David Edelman woke up Thursday to a bizarre new reality: Many people on the pro-Trump internet were convinced that he was the anonymous whistleblower at the heart of the impeachment proceedings. 

And then the death threats started. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


Don't Ban Fracking -- Pass A Carbon Tax Instead (Steve Chapman, November 8, 2019, National Memo)

Some of the candidates, unfortunately, are enamored of the old command-and-control approach to environmental protection: forbidding this and requiring that. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris support a ban on fracking, a method that has greatly increased U.S. oil and gas production. Almost all the candidates would end new oil and gas leases on federal lands. Raising vehicle fuel economy standards and setting a deadline for all vehicles to achieve zero emissions are common ideas.

These proposals all suffer from the same flaw: dictating purported solutions from on high, with little regard for side effects, instead of devising incentives for creative, inexpensive remedies. This approach guarantees that the cost will be higher than necessary and results worse.

It appeals to politicians, though, because it allows the illusion that major progress can be made without any sacrifice by voters, except maybe those who frack for a living. The assumption is that if people realize environmental improvement is not cost-free, they will run screaming from the room.

That theory has prevailed for decades. So I am startled but pleased to discover that this year, many Democratic candidates have decided to treat voters as intelligent people who can be persuaded to embrace optimal remedies.

The best of all is a carbon tax, which would raise the price of different fossil fuels to reflect the harm they do. Among the candidates who favor it are Sanders, Warren and Harris, as well as Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Julian Castro.

It would advance these purposes without draconian regulations, inflexible bans or cumbersome bureaucracy. The money collected could be rebated to every American -- yielding a net tax increase of zero.

Posted by orrinj at 3:11 AM


THE LIFE AND TIMES OF CHARLES WILLEFORD--MIAMI'S WEIRD, WONDERFUL MASTER OF NOIR: For years he searched for a subject worthy of his talents. Then he found Miami and the '80s. Crime fiction would never be the same. (CRAIG PITTMAN, 10/18/19, CrimeReads)

Orphan, hobo, painter, poet, boxer, book critic, decorated tank commander, actor, truck driver, teacher, author and inveterate prankster--Charles Willeford led a life that could provide him with a zillion stories, each one touched with his distinctive view of the world. He spent three decades cranking out pulp fiction classics like Pick-Up and Cockfighter that earned him very little money and hardly any notice from the critics.

Then, in 1984, he wrote a poker-faced comic thriller called Miami Blues that suddenly made him a hot commodity. He followed it up with three more off-kilter books about his unlikely hero, the leisure-suit-wearing Sergeant Hoke Moseley of the Miami Police. On the strength of those four books, the Atlantic magazine dubbed him "the unlikely father of Miami crime fiction."

One of the Hoke Moseley sequels was called Sideswipe. His widow Betsy says that not long after that book came out, Willeford got a package in the mail. When he opened it, he found a hardbound copy of Sideswipe that someone had shot. Accompanying the book was a note, written in all-caps, saying "It's a crime to charge $15.95 for s[***]t like this." It was signed, "A Dissatisfied Customer."

When Willeford mentioned this to some friends they became concerned for his safety. One asked, "Have you alerted the FBI?" He replied, "No, it's always good to get feedback."

There are plethora of Willeford anecdotes, but I think that one might be my favorite. (Incidentally, Mrs. Willeford recalled that the book had been shot once, but a 1988 news story said five times. Fortunately the Broward County Public Library has Willeford's papers, so I checked with them. Librarian Erin Purdy sent me photos showing that that copy of Sideswipe had SIX bullet holes.)

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Founding Deists and Other Unicorns (JAMES BRUCE, 10/28/19, Law & Liberty)

The Enlightenment is, of course, a heavyweight contender for the title of Most Influential to the Constitution. Matthew Stewart, for example, claims that Benedict de Spinoza was the architect of the political philosophy that flowered in the United States, and that John Locke was the acceptable face of the movement. Hall calls such an adventure in revisionist history "pure fantasy."

Few scholars claim Spinoza for the American founding. Many more claim Locke, and so, Hall turns his attention to him. In a sentence, the reports of Locke's influence have been greatly exaggerated. Donald S. Lutz's survey of 15,000 works from 1760 to 1805 says only 2.9% of citations reference Locke, in contrast to 34% of all citations referencing the Bible. (And Hall notes that, if anything, "Lutz undercounts references to the Bible because he excludes from his sample political sermons that do not contain references to secular authors. If he had included these sermons, references to the Bible would have absolutely dwarfed any other grouping of texts.") This difference in frequency should not surprise us: Locke's Second Treatise was first published in the United States in 1773 and was only republished in 1937--hardly what one would expect for the seminal political work by a leading figure of the British Enlightenment who was supposed to have substantial influence on the American founding. "If Locke's works were late to arrive on America's shores," Hall writes, "the Bible was virtually omnipresent from the first days of the Puritan settlement."

Let's consider one concrete case in order to illustrate Hall's method. In 1784, Patrick Henry proposed a bill to tax individuals for the support of their local churches. James Madison wrote his celebrated Memorial in the summer of 1785 in the hopes of preventing the bill's passage that autumn. On a standard telling of the American story, an Enlightenment Madison saved the country from religious fanatics. Is that, in fact, what happened?

Not at all. Hall notes that "an earlier evangelical petition" received far more signatures, by a margin of 4,899 to 1,552 (out of 10,929 Virginians who signed any petition on the matter). That petition said Henry's bill was "contrary to the spirit of the Gospel" and that the church was not helped "when Constantine first established Christianity by human laws." Lest we think Madison's Memorial spawned the other petitions, including this evangelical one, Hall notes that the evangelical petition was written at least seventh months before Madison wrote his Memorial. Furthermore, Madison's Memorial itself includes "a number of overtly religious arguments," suggesting a broader purview than the unaccompanied Enlightenment. And let's be clear: almost half the Virginians who signed a petition signed the evangelical one, thereby endorsing its Christian appeals for religious freedom. The Memorial by itself, based on its share of signatories, could not have carried the day. The evangelical petition, all by itself, could have.

Why? Concerns for religious liberty did not commence in the 1780s. William Penn, writing in 1675, said "force makes hypocrites, 'tis persuasion only that makes converts." Though Quakers could not testify in criminal trials in England until 1828, Quakers could do so in Rhode Island as early as 1647, due to an enacted law that allowed them to offer "solemn profession or testimony" instead of an oath. To be clear, Spinoza and Locke were teenagers in 1647; though undeniably precocious, they were hardly the inspiration for Rhode Island's religious accommodation.

In addition to concrete cases, Hall considers the question of broad support for Christianity itself. That makes sense. After all, a basket of disparate ideas does not a Christian founding make. So Hall considers the founders' self-conscious support of religion. Following James Hutson, he delivers a founders' syllogism. Here are the premises: republican government requires a moral citizenry; morality needs religion. The conclusion is thus that republican government requires religion. And Hall goes further. "When America's founders spoke about 'religion,'" he writes, "virtually all of them--even those most influenced by the Enlightenment--meant Christianity." He quotes Chief Justice John Marshall to great effect: "Christianity and religion are identified. It would be strange, indeed, if with such a people, our institutions did not presuppose Christianity."

Not everyone believed the syllogism, of course. But few championing a godless founding would find them all comfortable bedfellows. "For instance, in one remarkable case, slavery led John Rutledge of South Carolina to reject the almost universal consensus that religion and morality should inform public policy." And, besides, most founders did endorse the syllogism: "Examples of founders insisting that religion is necessary for morality, and that both religion and morality are necessary for republican government, could be multiplied almost indefinitely." the Christianity of Locke's political philosophy.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Nuclear fusion is 'a question of when, not if' (Matt McGrath, 11/06/19, BBC)

[P]erhaps the major excitement comes from private companies. They are usually smaller, nimbler, and they develop by making mistakes and learning from them quickly.

There are now dozens of them around the world, raising funds and pushing forward often with different approaches to fusion than that seen in Iter and in the UK.

Here's a brief sample of some different approaches to fusion.

First Light: This company originated in the University of Oxford and was founded specifically to address the urgent need to decarbonise the global energy system. Their idea involves firing a projectile at a target that contains hydrogen atoms. The shockwave from the impact of the projectile creates a shockwave that crushes the fuel and briefly this reaction will produce plasma that is hotter than the sun and denser than lead.

Commonwealth Fusion Systems: A private company created by former Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) staff, CFS has raised significant funding of over $100m. It is focusing on developing a Tokamak system but its key innovation is in superconducting magnets. They hope to build powerful enough magnets so they can build smaller and cheaper Tokomaks to contain the plasmas required to generate fusion.

TAE Technologies: With backing from Google and other high tech investors, this California-based company is using a different mix of fuel to develop smaller, cheaper reactors. They want to use hydrogen and boron as both elements are readily available and non-radioactive. Their prototype is a cylindrical colliding beam fusion reactor (CBFR) that heats hydrogen gas to form two rings of plasma. These are merged and held together with beams of neutral particles to make it hotter and last longer.

US Navy: Worried about how to power their ships in the future, the US Navy has filed a patent for a "plasma compression fusion device". The patent says that it would use magnetic fields to create "accelerated vibration and/or accelerated spin". The idea would be to make fusion power reactors small enough to be portable. There's a lot of scepticism that this approach will work.

One of the main challengers with ambitions to make fusion work is a company based in British Columbia, Canada called General Fusion. Their approach, which has gathered a lot of attention and backing from the likes of Amazon's Jeff Bezos, combines cutting edge physics with off the shelf technology.

They call their system "magnetised target fusion".

This approach sees a hot gas plasma injected into a ball of liquid metal inside a steel sphere. It is then compressed by pistons, much like in a diesel engine.

"The pistons all fire simultaneously and collapse the cavity with the fuel inside," said Michael Delage, the company's chief technology officer.

"So at the peak of that compression when the fuel bursts into fusion reaction, it is surrounded on all sides by liquid metal so the energy goes into the metal and you take this hot liquid metal and boil water, make steam and make electricity."

General Fusion say they hope to have a working model within five years.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Massacre That Spawned the Alt-Right: Forty years ago, a gang of Klansmen and Nazis murdered five communists in broad daylight. America has never been the same. (SHAUN ASSAEL and PETER KEATING, November 03, 2019, Politico)

The communists planned to begin their march at noon, moving from the housing project to a local shopping center. But just after 11:20, a caravan filled with real Klansmen and Nazis surprised them, snaking through the neighborhood's narrow byways. As the protesters stood their ground, a man in a white T-shirt leaned out the passenger window of a canary-yellow pickup truck, and yelled, "You asked for the Klan. Now you got 'em!" The station wagon behind him carried four Nazis. Seven more vehicles followed, carrying nearly 30 more men, including an Imperial Wizard of the Klan.

What happened next took just 88 seconds, but still reverberates 40 years later. In a confrontation where white supremacists began firing pistols, rifles and shotguns, and with television cameras rolling but police nowhere to be found, five communists were shot dead in broad daylight. Ten others were injured, some left to lie bleeding in the streets.

But that November morning became momentous for more than the grotesque video footage that still lives on the Internet: The Greensboro Massacre, as it became known, was the coming-out bloodbath for the white nationalist movement that is upending our politics today.

Before Greensboro, America's most lurid extremists largely operated in separate, mutually distrustful spheres. Greensboro was the place where the farthest-right groups of white supremacy learned to kill together. After November 3, 1979, it was suddenly possible to imagine Confederate flags flying alongside swastikas in Charlottesville. Or a teenager like Dylann Roof hoarding Nazi drawings as well as a Klan hood in his bedroom while he plotted mass murder.

Today, white nationalism is closer to the mainstream of American politics than ever before. The far right's fears about "replacement" of the white race and outsider "invasions" have become standard tropes at conservative media outlets, and its anger is routinely stoked by the president of the United States. At the same time, right-wing violence is on the rise: Far-right terrorists accounted for the overwhelming majority of extremist murders in the U.S. last year, according to a January report by the Anti-Defamation League.

The seeds for this iteration of white supremacy were planted 40 years ago in Greensboro, when the white wedding of Klansmen and Nazis launched a new, pan-right extremism--a toxic brew of virulent racism, anti-government rhetoric, apocalyptic fearmongering and paramilitary tactics. And this extremism has proven more durable than anyone then could imagine.

...which folks get hysterical about Antifa fighting back.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Unplugging PG&E Is Easier Said Than Done: Who can--or even wants--to take over this burning hellscape? (Marisa Endicott, 11/06/19, MoJo)

As California finally takes control of the fires that have been burning for weeks, PG&E is--and will continue to be--in the hot seat. It seems likely that transmission equipment from the utility, which supplies power for roughly 40 percent of Californians, sparked the recent Kincade fire, a blaze that pushed over 180,000 people from their homes in and near Sonoma County, destroyed 374 structures, and burned almost 78,000 acres. As many as 16 fires burned across the state over the past several weeks, and at the same time PG&E was intermittently cutting power to millions of people--a practice the company's CEO predicts will continue for another decade. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency and hasn't been shy about calling out the company for it's mismanagement and incompetence. 

This has put PG&E, which filed for bankruptcy in January over its role in other recent wildfires, in the crosshairs of just about everyone--customers and legislators, as well as the governor--and state officials are looking desperately for a savior to rescue the crumbling grid and the flailing utility.

But right now, it's really difficult to foresee what the future holds for PG&E--and more broadly for energy across California. Newsom has hinted the government, if it's not satisfied with the pace of bankruptcy proceedings, could step in and try to take control of PG&E, but he also recently called on Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway to make a bid for the company. (Berkshire Hathaway's energy subsidiary is deeply invested in utility companies and renewables in California and several other states.) The governor has also been open to the idea of municipalities taking over their own power management, which some of the cities themselves have echoed. At the same time, in ongoing bankruptcy proceedings, PG&E's shareholders are fighting its bondholders, who've formed an alliance with fire victims, for control.   [...]

Whoever ends up in charge of PG&E, it's important to remember that the utility giant didn't hit rock bottom on its own--and, accordingly, a better future system will almost certainly need more than new ownership. People have long criticized PG&E's uncomfortably close ties with former Gov. Jerry Brown's administration and the revolving door between the California Public Utilities Commission and the utilities it regulates. PG&E has spent over $31 million on lobbying in California since 2001, over $8 million of which was spent in 2018. "The regulatory model holds a fair amount of blame" for the current situation, Geesman says. But, "I don't think this is a problem where you can rationalize, 'Well, I'll just appoint better people.' You really need to focus more on changing that system rather than the individuals responsible for administering it."

"It's pretty easy to hypothesize from your office on Wall Street that you could just hire better managers and potentially slice and dice that $20 billion revenue stream. Wolves have an innate ability to sense protein."
Regulators have failed to hold PG&E accountable in many instances. For example, utilities can use funds from the PUC for certain needs like maintaining equipment, but once they have the money, "very rarely does the commission actually attach strings to that money," Wall Street Journal energy reporter Rebecca Smith explained on KALW's "Your Call." "I think this has allowed the company to do whatever it wanted." Neglecting to adequately spend on maintenance and equipment over time is one of the biggest criticisms leveled against PG&E. It's unclear if that kind of (or lack of) oversight would push another company to behave better. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Phenomenology's Influence in the West (GRAHAM MCALEER, 10/31/19, Law & Liberty)  

Continental philosophy is housed in Europe, with a few exceptions. It is the exceptions that kick off the argument of Edward Baring's Converts to the Real: Catholicism and the Making of Continental Philosophy. Baring, who teaches history at Drew University, observes that philosophy in the British Isles, in Scandinavia, and in America's vast university system, is mostly analytic. The exceptions in the United States are Catholic universities and seminaries, where Continental philosophy is typically taught. [...]

If Cartesian subjectivism was about the projection of human reason, it had hit significant bumps along the road. The French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon left a bad taste and the Industrial Revolution spread squalor. Widespread was the belief that human willfulness brought ruination, and Romanticism potently encouraged the idea of a return to the ideals of nature, community, and craft culture last seen in the West in the Middle Ages. Thomistic metaphysics strongly affirmed a sacral universe, and the hunt was on in Catholic circles for an intellectual partner to help update Aquinas and bring his basic insights into conversation with the modern sensibility.  Husserl's method of inquiry and desire to reaffirm objectivity seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Seemed to, is an important part of the story. Catholics started to teach Husserl's phenomenology in their colleges, but there would arise a problem. One of the truly great philosophers, Husserl was productive until the end of his life. And in his later work, he backtracked, thinking Descartes was right, after all. Husserl was also inspirational, and radically influenced two Catholics, Heidegger and another German philosopher, Max Scheler (1874-1928). Together, this triad make the core of phenomenology. To this day, their thinking is the benchmark of Continental philosophy. The problem for Catholicism, as wonderfully explained by Baring, is that Heidegger and Scheler did not remain Catholic. The Church had made common cause with a method that seemed to attract Catholics and then promptly alienate them.

We avoided untold damage by sticking to faith instead of adopting Reason.

November 8, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


Batteries vs. Blackouts: 1,100 Homes Powered Through Vermont Outage With Storage (JULIAN SPECTOR, NOVEMBER 07, 2019, GTM)

Home batteries proved their resilience value during Vermont's Halloween blackout.

A major rain and wind storm struck the state at the close of October, knocking out power to some 115,000 customers. Among those affected, 1,100 homes managed to keep the lights on thanks to pilot programs specifically designed to promote resilient backup power with energy storage. The battery backup service lasted nine hours on average, but the longest instance stretched to 82 hours.

The event offers a timely data point for other jurisdictions mulling the use of home batteries for resilience. Northern California community power purchasers yesterday requested proposals for home batteries to keep customers powered during the region's fire-season safety shutoffs. Such a model remains cutting-edge, but Vermont utility Green Mountain Power has shown it can be done effectively.

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 AM


Russia Laughs: Is He "Their" President Or Ours? (Joe Conason, November 7, 2019, National Memo)

"Have you lost your minds that you want to remove our Donald Ivanovych?" asked popular talk show host Vladimir Soloviev. Figures like Soloviev frequently apply that possessive (and protective) adjective to Trump, whom they discuss as if he were literally owned by a foreign state.

Of course, the Russians understand our system well and feel reasonably confident that even if the House votes to impeach Trump, he will survive a Senate trial. In the Daily Beast, Olga Skabeeva, host of that Russian 60 Minutes show, is quoted making a confident prediction: "A Republican majority in the Senate won't allow the president whom we elected, wonderful Donald Trump, to be sent off. It's impossible. He has 90 percent support in the Republican Party."

In that same article, another prominent Russian media figure is even more candid. According to film producer Karen Shakhnazarov, who frequently appears on Russian TV: "They say Trump is making Russia great. That's basically accurate. The chaos brought by Trump into the American system of government is weakening the United States. America is getting weaker and now Russia is taking its place in the Middle East. Suddenly, Russia is starting to seriously penetrate Africa ... So when they say that Trump is weakening the United States -- yes, he is. And that's why we love him ... The more problems they have, the better it is for us."

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 AM


Trump's immigration policy is in disarray: The president campaigned on bold immigration actions, but infighting, confusion and dysfunction have hampered his ability to follow through on those promises (ANITA KUMAR, 11/08/2019, Politico)

Key pieces of his agenda are stalled. Top aides are feuding. And there's worry that the very issue that swept President Donald Trump into office in 2016 could help cost him his reelection in 2020.

Nearly three years into office, Trump's attempts to match the lofty campaign promises he made on immigration are in disarray -- the wall remains largely unbuilt, so-called sanctuary cities are still receiving federal money and birthright citizenship remains intact. And over at the sprawling Department of Homeland Security, a bitter dispute recently erupted over who should head the agency tasked with enacting Trump's immigration policies, leading some frustrated aides to plot ways to circumvent federal law and push for the leader of their choice.

The danger for Donald is that the 20% core that supports him only cares about the racism. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 AM


House Republicans appear to be throwing Giuliani, Sondland, and Mulvaney under the bus to save Trump (Peter Weber, 11/08/19, The Week)

House Republicans have now started "sowing doubts about whether Sondland, Giuliani, and Mulvaney were actually representing the president or freelancing to pursue their own agendas," the Post reports. This is just one theory Republicans are testing out -- others include that Trump didn't have "corrupt intent," that quid pro quo's are commonplace, and that Trump is too incompetent to carry one off. "In a sign of how the GOP is scrambling, however, many of those theories run counter to each other," the Post notes.

Yes, it was a crime but I didn't mean it, am too stupid to effect it or had my staff do it.  Besides, Ukranians are scum....

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 AM

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Hayek, Republican Freedom, and the Universal Basic Income (MATT ZWOLINSKI, NOVEMBER 6, 2019, Niskanen)

Hayek's devotion to the ideals of free markets and limited government is well-known. His most famous book, The Road to Serfdom, argued that economic and political liberties are tightly connected, and that liberal democracies cannot safely curtail the former without also endangering the latter. His later works, especially The Constitution of Liberty, set forth a positive vision of a free society centered on the idea that individuals should be left largely free to act on the basis of their own values and beliefs, rather than those of government regulators or planners, in both the personal and economic dimensions of their lives.

While everybody knows that Hayek saw himself as a champion of individual freedom, few understand the precise nature of the freedom that Hayek sought to defend. Unlike many libertarians, who understand freedom primarily in terms of non-interference or respect for property rights, Hayek subscribed to a republican theory in which freedom consists of being able to live one's life "according to [one's] own decisions and plans, in contrast to ... one who was irrevocably subject to the will of another." [...]

Hayek's republican political theory provides one of the main theoretical foundations for his strong support of free markets. Although many contemporary republican theorists have been either overtly hostile or at best lukewarm toward the market economy, Hayek saw correctly that market competition can serve as one of the most effective guarantors of republican freedom.

The essence of market competition is the existence of alternatives, and the right to say "no" to offers that fail to serve one's interests at least as well as one of those alternatives. In a competitive labor market, an employer who tries to force an employee to do something she doesn't want to do is constrained by that employee's ability to quit and find a job elsewhere. A used car dealer who would like to take advantage of a buyer by charging an unfairly high price is similarly constrained by the presence of a competing dealer next door. In general, the more competitive a market is, the more prices and other terms of agreements will be regulated by the impersonal forces of supply and demand, and the less any particular market agent will be able to impose her particular will on her partner in exchange. All market actors are constrained by the general, impersonal rules of the market. But those same rules generally work to prevent any market actors from achieving a position of dominance over others.

Similarly, it is largely because Hayek views competition as such an effective check on coercion that he views government power with suspicion. After all, government is the only institution within society to claim and generally possess an effective monopoly on the use of force. And this monopoly on force is often used to establish and maintain other monopolies: on roads, on the delivery of regular mail, on the creation and enforcement of criminal law, and so on. Because individuals who value these services have nowhere else to go, they are often left with no practical alternative to compliance with the government's demands. 

Moreover, as legal rules become more numerous and complex, as ordinary individuals become unable to know in advance what actions are permitted and which are prohibited, as law enforcement becomes practically unable to enforce all the rules that they could, in theory, enforce, the extent of individual discretion within government increases, and so too does the possibility of arbitrary coercion. In that case, individuals are no longer required to comply with "the law," but with the edicts of a bureaucrat behind a desk, or an officer behind a badge. When the agents of the state are granted a practically unchecked power to apply the law (or not) in whatever way he sees fit, individuals are no longer fully free.

When Free Markets Aren't Enough

But while Hayek's republicanism provides strong support for the ideals of free markets and limited government, it also provides a criterion for determining when those institutions are not enough. Market competition generally protects the consumer against predation by unscrupulous sellers, but this protection can be undermined by collusion and natural monopolies. Similarly, competition in the labor market might protect workers from exploitation when those workers have an adequate range of alternatives available to them, but fall short when those alternatives are limited either by features of the local economy (a lack of jobs) or by characteristics of the employee (e.g. limited skills or lack of mobility).

In order to protect individual freedom in these circumstances, Hayek believed that some governmental action was both necessary and appropriate. Indeed, Hayek took great pains even in his most partisan work, The Road to Serfdom, to distance himself from a dogmatic opposition to government action, writing that "nothing has done so much harm to the liberal cause as the wooden insistence of some liberals on certain rough rules of thumb, above all the principle of laissez faire." Hayek believed that government had a legitimate (though delicate) role to fill in preventing and/or regulating monopolies. He believed that government had important work to do in the areas of sanitation, health services, and public works. And, most strikingly of all, he believed that it was not only permissible but necessary for government to redistribute income in order to provide a social safety net that would ensure "a certain minimum income for everyone, or a certain floor below which nobody need fall even when he is unable to provide for himself."

The great lie we on the right tell ourselves is that a man with no wealth can enjoy freedom.  Of course, the corresponding lie on the left is that a man with no freedom can enjoy wealth. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 AM


Secret chats involving Republican lawmaker reveal fresh evidence of plots and paranoia (Jason Wilson, 8 Nov 2019, The Guardian)

The messages from the chat group, exchanged between October 2017 and October 2018, show Shea's network includes other serving, former and aspiring rightwing politicians from Idaho and Washington, alongside activists associated with militia groups, anti-environmental causes, and pro-gun activism.

They also show participants, including Shea, preparing for economic and societal collapse even as they campaign for the secession of eastern Washington from the remainder of the state.

The messages provide a rare insight into the inner workings - and paranoia - of the so-called patriot movement, whose members have participated in standoffs with the federal government in Nevada and Oregon, and whose far-right beliefs have been controversially promoted by Shea.

Lindsay Schubiner, a program director at the progressive Western States Center, said of the chats: "The chat messages reveal Shea acting more like a militia leader than an elected official. His conspiratorial and violent mindset are on full display. If it was not already clear, Shea has demonstrated that he is unfit for public office. Now it's time for his colleagues in the Washington house of representatives to hold him accountable."

The red hat is the red flag.

Posted by orrinj at 4:57 AM


Book by 'senior official': Trump is volatile, incompetent, makes racist comments (AP and TOI STAFF, 11/08/19, Times of Israel)

The book describes racist and misogynist behind-the-scenes statements by Trump and says he "stumbles, slurs, gets confused, is easily irritated, and has trouble synthesizing information." [...]

The author says Trump routinely ignores intelligence and national security briefings, leading foreign governments to see him as a "simplistic pushover" who can be easily manipulated.

The book describes senior officials waking up in the morning in a "full-blown panic" over comments the president made on Twitter the night before.

"It's like showing up at the nursing home at daybreak to find your elderly uncle running pantsless across the courtyard and cursing loudly about the cafeteria food, as worried attendants tried to catch him," the anonymous author writes. "You're stunned, amused, and embarrassed all at the same time."

November 7, 2019

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THE OPPOSITE OF ANTIFA (profanity and trumpology alert):

Members of violent white supremacist website exposed in massive data dump (DAN GOODIN - 11/7/2019, Ars Technica)

Editor's note: this article discusses a hate group's uses of racist language that may be hard to read.

Private data for Iron March, a notorious website for violent white supremacists, has been published online in a stunning leak that exposes a trove of detailed information on as many as 1,000 or more members. The 1GB SQL database appears to contain the entirety of the site's information, including user names, private messages, public posts, registered email addresses, and IP addresses.

The leak was posted on the Internet Archive on Wednesday by an anonymous individual using the handle antifa-data.

The red hat is the red flag.

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American optimism, longevity, and the role of lost hope in deaths of despair (Carol Graham, November 7, 2019, Brookings)

We are the only rich country in the world where mortality rates are going up rather than down. And that is driven by preventable deaths due to suicide, drug overdose, and alcohol related disease-so-called deaths of despair.

The first step toward solving this is to understand who is unhappy and why, since we know pessimism shortens lives. As Kelsey O'Connor and I show in a new paper based on historical data for the U.S published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, optimists have longer and better lives. My research with Sergio Pinto, meanwhile, finds that middle aged, less than college-educated white men in the U.S. are the least hopeful cohort, and, not coincidentally, are also the group that is most likely to die of deaths of despair. In contrast, poor Blacks and Hispanics, who are objectively worse off, are much more optimistic and resilient.

UBI is inevitable because white men don't have a work ethic.

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State Department official says Trump wanted Zelensky to mention 'Clinton' in investigation announcement (The Week, 11/07/19)

A transcript of the testimony of Europe adviser George Kent was released Thursday. In it, Kent discusses how U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland "was pushing" to have Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky give a television interview in which he would announce a "willingness to pursue investigations" involving Burisma, the gas company where former Vice President Joe Biden's son served on the board, and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

Kent also testifies that he heard that, based on Sondland's discussions with Trump, it appeared Trump "wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to [a] microphone and say investigations, Biden, and Clinton."

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 PM


Top diplomat says U.S. abandoned Kurds to "catastrophic" Turkish assault (Dave Lawler, 11/07/19, Axios)

The U.S. "didn't try" to stop the "catastrophic" Turkish invasion of northern Syria last month, according to a sharply critical internal memo sent by a top U.S. diplomat and obtained by the New York Times.

Why it matters: The diplomat, deputy U.S. envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition William Roebuck, said the U.S. had abandoned its Kurdish allies to a Turkish onslaught that involved "war crimes and ethnic cleansing." Those concerns have been widespread in the Pentagon and State Department but not stated publicly by senior officials. Roebuck sent the memo on Oct. 31 to the U.S. envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey.

Posted by orrinj at 3:08 PM


Evidence in Stone case: Trump may have had "direct role" in team's leverage of Russian interference (SHIRA TARLO, NOVEMBER 7, 2019, Salon)

The calls were reportedly disclosed by prosecutors on the first day of arguments in the criminal trial of Roger Stone, a longtime associate and informal adviser to the president, who faces charges of lying to federal investigators about his efforts to connect with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Prosecutors said Stone spoke to Trump six times during the summer of 2016, including on the day the Democratic National Committee announced it was hacked. The U.S. intelligence community concluded that Russian intelligence officers released tens of thousands of emails stolen from Democrats to WikiLeaks, which were disseminated at critical points during the campaign cycle in an attempt to boost Trump's campaign and hurt his rival: Hillary Clinton.

"The phone records are the first concrete suggestion that Trump may have had a direct role in his campaign's effort to benefit from Russia's hidden hand in the election," wrote Sharon LaFraniere, an investigative reporter at The New York Times. "At the very least, the calls and other evidence underscored the eagerness of senior campaign officials and other Trump associates to reap the rewards of what the former special counsel Robert Mueller later called a sophisticated and alarming covert Russian influence operation."

Posted by orrinj at 2:58 PM


Trump: We should keep Syria's oil. The Pentagon: Nope. (Alex Ward, Nov 7, 2019, Vox)

[T]rump was clear about who that oil would belong to: "We're keeping the oil -- remember that," he told a gathering of Chicago police officers in late October. "I've always said that: 'Keep the oil.' We want to keep the oil. Forty-five million dollars a month? Keep the oil."

Unfortunately for Trump, it seems the US military isn't so keen on that idea -- perhaps because stealing Syria's oil could constitute a war crime. On Thursday, the Pentagon's top spokesperson told reporters in no uncertain terms that the US would not be keeping any of the revenue from those oil fields.

"The revenue from this is not going to the US. This is going to the SDF," Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said, using an acronym for the Kurdish-led, US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces.

I checked with others in the government to ensure that was actually the policy. Turns out that it is. "The SDF is the sole beneficiary of the sale of the oil from the facilities they control," a senior administration official told me.

If we had a legitimate president, such behavior would be treasonous.

Posted by orrinj at 2:53 PM


President Donald Trump ordered to pay $2M to collection of nonprofits as part of civil lawsuit (AARON KATERSKYNov 7, 2019, ABC News)

President Donald Trump has been ordered by a New York State judge to pay $2 million to a group of nonprofit organizations as part of a settlement in a civil lawsuit stemming from persistent violations of state charities laws.

The payment is the final resolution to a case brought by the New York attorney general's office after the Trump Foundation held a fundraiser for military veterans during the 2016 campaign. was that Donald was guilty of what the GOP claimed Hillary had done.

Posted by orrinj at 2:35 PM


Bolton prepared to testify in impeachment probe pending court ruling - report (TOI STAFF and AP, 11/07/19, Times of Israel)

Former US national security adviser John Bolton is reportedly willing to testify in the Trump impeachment inquiry about the administration's involvement in Ukraine, if a federal court resolves a constitutional dispute between the White House and Congress.

Bolton could be a star witness for the Democrat-led House inquiry, and his testimony would go against strong opposition from the White House.
He would likely confirm previous witness accounts of the Trump administration's efforts to push Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe Biden and his son in exchange for military aid, according to a Thursday report from The Washington Post, citing "people familiar with his views."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The case for amnesty: why it's time to offer citizenship to illegal immigrants (The Spectator, 9 November 2019)

There is an unspoken truth about British life: we have two classes of citizen. The first are those born or formally settled here, who have all the rights and protections of the law. Then there are perhaps a million others who may have lived here with their families for years but without the proper documents. They can be our neighbours, work in our shops, contribute to our economy -- yet they do not have the same basic protections and are far more vulnerable to exploitation. These are the so-called illegal immigrants, and it is past time to offer them amnesty.

Britain has become the most successful melting pot in Europe, absorbing 2.5 million people over this decade without the far-right backlash seen in much of the continent. A recent Pew study showed that Brits are more likely than any other Europeans to say that migrants make the country -stronger. This is why the Windrush scandal was so damaging to the Tories. To deport people who have been living here peacefully for years because they did not have documentation was not just inhumane but fundamentally un-British. The same principle applies to a great many people who could be considered illegal migrants.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



Then there's the issue of of his properties becoming synonymous with corruption, racism, misogyny, insanity and some possible light tax fraud. In May, we learned that tenants in New York's Trump Tower were selling their condos at a loss just to escape the taint by association, and a new report from the Washington Post shows the president's Chicago hotel is suffering a similar fate, thanks to the stench du Trump:

Profits fell 89% from 2015 to 2018, from $16.7 million to $1.8 million, according to documents filed with Cook County, Ill. Trump's hotel struggled even as other Chicago hotels held steady or thrived. "Performance of [the Trump hotel] is clearly disassociated from that of its competitive set," the company's lawyers said in a letter to the county seeking to lower the hotel's taxes. The lawyers said the problem was a reaction to Trump's politics. They even quoted a line from a 2018 Washington Post article, in which one small-time investor described the effect of Trump's candidacy on his buildings thusly: "Then the Embarrassment came."

At the Chicago hotel, former employees said they saw the decline up close. It began in 2015, when Trump's rise as a hard-right politician began to alienate the rich, urban customers to whom the hotel catered. Then came election night. "A [supervisor] walked by me real fast and said: 'Oh, my God, he just won Michigan. It's over,' " said Connor Buhagiar, a waiter who worked in the hotel's Michelin-starred restaurant, Sixteen. Inside the bar, Trump supporters were cheering. Outside, however, "I looked out the window and looked back down Michigan Avenue, and I saw a line of protesters coming, already," to picket the hotel, Buhagiar said.

In addition to the Chicago property, business at Trump Doral in Miami is also reportedly in "steep decline," which a tax consultant hired by the Trump Organization attributed to the "negative connotation...associated with the brand." The company has also lost contracts with hotels in Manhattan and Toronto. And in a sign that even people inside the family business know the name is dragging down profits, virtually every mention of "Trump" has been stripped from two Central Park ice rinks.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump-backed allegations against Biden 'not credible,' testified US official now touted by Trump (MIKE LEVINE, Nov 7, 2019, ABC News)

"The definitive account on all of this is the one from Ambassador Volker," one of Trump's staunchest allies, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told reporters on Wednesday morning.

Around the same time, Trump tweeted a "thank you" to Volker for his testimony, a transcript of which was released by the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

But whatever Volker's testimony means for Trump's possible impeachment, the career diplomat's account explicitly undercuts the specific allegations against Biden that Trump and his allies have been pushing online and on TV for months.

"No evidence was brought forward to support (the allegations)," Volker, Trump's special envoy to Ukraine until two months ago, testified under oath. "I thought they were very self-serving and not credible."

Every bit of the Ukraine approach was obstruction of justice.

November 6, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 PM


EPA watchdog slams agency head as his chief of staff refuses to comply with investigations (REBECCA BEITSCH - 11/06/19, The Hill)

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) independent watchdog criticized agency head Andrew Wheeler for his resistance to addressing his chief of staff's refusal to cooperate with investigations.

A letter released Wednesday from EPA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) outlines multiple instances in which Ryan Jackson, Wheeler's chief of staff, refused to turn over documents or answer questions as the watchdog investigated how EPA officials obtained advance copies of outside testimony designated for lawmakers.

"The particularly serious or flagrant problem I am reporting concerns two instances of refusal to fully cooperate and provide information to the [inspector general], one during an audit and one during an administrative investigation. They center on a single employee -- Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson," wrote acting Inspector General Charles Sheehan in an Oct. 29 letter that was released Wednesday. 
The "Seven Day Letter," a term used to describe the process used to notify Congress of serious roadblocks to investigations, outlines both the ways Jackson tried to sideline investigators, as well as Sheehan's repeated attempts to discuss the matter with Wheeler.

"Mr. Jackson's cooperation has been patiently sought multiple times over protracted periods by OIG auditors and investigators. Auditors asked of him merely a brief email reply. Investigators requested to interview him. Both matters, after Mr. Jackson's repeated delays and refusals, were elevated, in writing, to you and/or other senior agency leaders in a final hope for cooperation," Sheehan writes.

These IGs seem to serve a different function than the Trumpbots were promised, exposing corruption instead of covering it up.

Posted by orrinj at 5:24 PM


Green jobs now employ 10x more people than fossil fuel: The green market is growing exponentially. But will the U.S. seize the economic opportunity? (MOLLY HANSON, 06 November, 2019, Big Think)

According to a pair of economic researchers in the United Kingdom, the United States green economy now employs 10 times more people than the fossil fuel industry.

And that isn't to say that the fossil fuel industry hasn't been growing. In fact, from 2015 to 2016, the fossil fuels industry, which includes coal, oil, and natural gas, employed approximately 900,000 people in the U.S. according to government figures. But the two British researchers -- they are based at University College London -- found that over the same period this was eclipse

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Suburban revolt boosts Democrats on Election Day in the age of Trump: Analysis (RICK KLEIN and KENDALL KARSON, Nov 6, 2019, ABC News)

On Tuesday, Democratic statewide and local candidates from Virginia through Kentucky, Iowa and Pennsylvania saw their vote margins boosted by suburban voters -- and women in particular -- overcoming the allure of Trumpism in a range of races.

The results cost Republicans full control of the state government in Richmond for the first time in a quarter century. They also left the GOP governor of Kentucky trailing a Democrat by some 5,000 votes -- in a state Trump carried by 30 points in 2016.

The results serve as a counterweight to the unquestioned popularity of Trump inside a large swatch of his Republican base. It raises questions about Trump's reelection, as well as the more immediate politics of impeachment, as Republicans confront a changed electoral landscape.

"The Trump presidency has generated a much deeper level of hostility that has been very helpful to Democratic candidates," Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington, told ABC News. "There are demographic changes in the suburbs ... there's more racial and ethnic and age diversity in the suburbs, they're not as Republican as they used to be."

"The results on Tuesday might well be seen as a warning sign for Republicans thinking about suburban voters and 2020 around the country," he added.

High Opioid-Use Counties Voted Trump in 2016 (Elizabeth Hlavinka, June 22, 2018, Med Page)

Counties with the highest rates of chronic prescription opioid use were far more likely to back Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, a new study of Medicare claims data found.

Trump took 59.96% of the vote in the 693 counties with opioid prescription rates significantly higher than the national average among counties, compared with 38.67% of the vote in the 638 counties with rates significantly lower than the mean, reported James Goodwin, MD, of the University of Texas Medical Branch Sealy Center on Aging, and colleagues in JAMA Network Open. [...]

Monnat, who was not involved in the current study, reported shortly after the 2016 election that Trump also over-performed in counties with the highest rates of drug-, alcohol- and suicide-related mortality, all of which are tied together by pessimism, frustration and despair, she said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 PM


Stone Trial Opens With Information Indicating Donald Trump May Have Lied to Robert Mueller (DAN FRIEDMAN & DAVID CORN, 11/06/19, MoJo)

"The evidence in this case will show that Roger Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee because the truth looked bad," lead prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky said in his opening statement on Wednesday. "The truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump."

One of the key points Mueller investigated was whether the Trump campaign had interacted with WikiLeaks or Russian intermediaries in 2016 when Moscow was using WikiLeaks for its operation to subvert the US presidential campaign (which was mounted in part to help Trump win). Trump refused to be questioned in person by Mueller and his investigators. Instead, he agreed to answer written questions on a limited number of subjects. Several of the queries Mueller submitted to Trump focused on whether he was ever told Stone had been in touch with WikiLeaks and whether he or anyone associated with his campaign had spoken to Stone about WikiLeaks. In his written response, Trump replied, "I do not recall being told during the campaign that Roger Stone or anyone associated with my campaign had discussions with any of the entities named in the question regarding the content or timing of release of hacked emails." He also noted, "I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with [Stone], nor do I recall being aware of Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with individuals associated with my campaign." And Trump, who has boasted of possessing a prodigious memory, claimed to have "no recollection of the specifics of any conversations I had with Mr. Stone between June 1, 2016" and Election Day. The impression Trump provided: as far as he knew, he and his campaign had had nothing to do with Stone and WikiLeaks.

Mueller's report characterized Trump's responses as "inadequate." Zelinsky's opening statement suggests Stone's trial could show Trump's statements were false. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 PM


Palestinian elections are looking likely, and may be spectacularly bad for Abbas (Avi Issacharoff , 11/06/19, Times of Israel)

Hamas had originally demanded that both elections be held on the same day but it later relented, agreeing to Fatah's suggestion that the presidential elections be set for three months after the parliamentary one, providing that an actual date be set.

Hamas, it seems, is willing to take quite a few risks and make more than a few concessions to make sure elections take place.

Hamas's relatively conciliatory position on the elections has taken Fatah and Abbas by surprise. According to Palestinian sources, the plan to promote elections came from Abbas's office but was designed to embarrass Hamas.

Abbas and his advisers believed that once he issued a call for parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza Hamas would refuse, thus allowing Abbas to state that elections will be held only in the West Bank -- where Fatah believes it has an actual chance of winning.

After Haniyeh's announced that he welcomed the initiative, Fatah upped the stakes and Abbas demanded that the parliamentary elections be based on party slates and not geographical representation.

Hamas again surprised Fatah and agreed, for one main reason: The Islamic terrorist group believes that it can win in the West Bank, potentially by a landslide, given the dwindling support Fatah has among Palestinians there.

W's greatest mistake in the Middle East was not embracing the democrats.

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The More We Learn, the Worse Things Look for Trump: Republicans insisted that the full account would vindicate the president, but that's not how it's worked out. (David A. Graham, 11/05/19, The Atlantic)

[T]he transcripts show Republican members using their time in depositions erratically, trying to throw up various process-related roadblocks and working the refs. Representative Scott Perry asked Yovanovitch about the intelligence practice of "unmasking" and whether her staff was involved, puzzling the ambassador. In one peculiar exchange, Mark Meadows asked Yovanovitch where her nickname, Masha--a common Russian nickname for Maria--comes from.

Finally, the release of the testimony vindicates the Democratic claim that witnesses ought to be heard in private to avoid coordinating testimony. (This was, in point of fact, Intelligence Committee Republicans' claim, under former Chairman Trey Gowdy, before it was Democrats'.) Sondland told investigators he'd conferred with Energy Secretary Rick Perry to "refresh [his] memory," yet Sondland submitted his addendum, including the explosive quid pro quo claim, only after other witnesses contradicted his claims.

The Trumposphere often operates on an esoteric argument that if only all the facts were revealed, the totality of the evidence would clearly show that the president was innocent and that his detractors are the guilty ones. A version of this faith animated the Republican demand for full transcripts. Now that the transcripts are being released and aren't yielding exoneration, it should--but won't--prompt a reevaluation of this esotericism.

Instead, GOP leaders have simply swapped out their talking points.

"I don't know that you need all the transcripts," Representative Jim Jordan said Monday. "Like I've said, the facts have always been there, the facts have been clear from the get-go."

The problem for Trump is that Jordan is probably right.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Brazil's Massive Tax Code May Face Moment of Reckoning (Simone Iglesias and Murilo Fagundes,  November 5, 2019, Bloomberg)

At 7.5 tons, it's heavier than an African elephant.

At more than 7 feet, it's taller than LeBron James.

At 41,266 pages, it's about 85 times longer than the collected stories of Franz Kafka.

Vinicios Leoncio spent more than 1 million reais ($250,100) to assemble a volume of Brazil's tax code to demonstrate the absurdities of the system. For fun, he perches on top of his creation. "It's an attempt to make the stupidity of the Brazilian tax legislation visible," says the tax lawyer.

Fresh off its success in winning congressional support for a landmark pension overhaul, the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro has set its sights on revamping the tax code, a goal that has eluded prior governments. The lower house and the Senate have put forward their own plans. Vice President Hamilton Mourao promised on Oct. 23 that a new system will be in place by the middle of next year.

The stakes are high. Brazil's tax burden is close to 33% of gross domestic product, almost 10 points higher than the Latin American average. A sweeping simplification could boost GDP by 10% over 15 years, according to an analysis by the Center for Fiscal Citizenship, a São Paulo-based think tank.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump betrayed America. Soon the public will hear from patriots who defended it.: 
The Ukraine call was one piece of a larger operation to redirect US foreign policy to benefit Trump's personal interests, not the national interest. (Adam Schiff, 11/05/19, USA Today)

The interviews we have conducted have been thorough, professional and fair, with over one hundred members from both parties eligible to attend -- including nearly 50 Republicans -- and equal time allotted for questioning to both Democratic and Republican members of Congress and staff. In line with best investigative practices first passed in Congress by the Republicans who now decry them, we have held these interviews in private to ensure that witnesses are not able to tailor their testimony to align with others at the expense of the truth.

Over the past several weeks, dedicated, nonpartisan public servants have come forward to share what they know about the president's misconduct based on what they witnessed over the course of months, describing and corroborating key details and events regarding U.S. foreign policy towards Ukraine. Nearly all have testified despite efforts by the White House to prevent them from telling their story. These career civil servants, diplomats and veterans of our armed services are American patriots and shining examples of what it means to defend and protect our Constitution.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Democrats won across the Philadelphia region as Republicans are fading even on friendly turf (Michaelle Bond and Vinny Vella, November 6, 2019, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Democrats won political control of the once-legendary GOP stronghold of Delaware County, part of what appeared late Tuesday to be a Republican wipeout across the Philadelphia region and in other elections around the country.

It was the first time since at least the Civil War that Democrats won control of the Delaware County Council. They not only won a majority, but also swept Republicans off the governing body entirely. Democrats won a majority on the Chester County Board of Commissioners for the first time in history, in the only suburban Philadelphia county where Republicans still outnumber Democrats. In Bucks County, Democrats were on track to capture the Board of Commissioners for the first time since 1983.

November 5, 2019

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Democrats just pulled off a huge upset, winning Virginia's state legislature (Ella Nilsen, Nov 5, 2019, Vox)

After 20 years of Democrats being out of power in the Virginia House of Delegates, a blue wave has swept the state capitol in Richmond.

Democrats pulled off a major upset on Tuesday night, winning both the state House and state Senate. This ensures a party trifecta: The party is in the majority in both legislative chambers, and is led in the state by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam. Decision Desk called both races as of 9:30 pm Tuesday.

Mitch is not going to sacrifice his majority on the altar of Donald.

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Sondland reverses himself on Ukraine quid pro quo (ANDREW DESIDERIO and KYLE CHENEY, 11/05/2019, Politico)

Gordon Sondland, a key figure in the impeachment inquiry, told a top Ukrainian official that hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to the beleaguered U.S. ally would "likely" be held up unless the country's government announced investigations of President Donald Trump's political rivals -- a major reversal from his previous closed-door testimony.

The acknowledgment of a potential quid pro quo is an explosive shift that threatens to upend claims by the president's allies that military aid was not used as a bludgeon to advance his domestic political interests .

which is why you don't take initial testimony publicly. For criminals, speaking is a perjury trap.

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


How Is a Wealth Tax Like a Cigarette Tax? (Neil Irwin, Nov. 5, 2019, NY Times)

The United States government taxes people's income not because it wants them to earn less income, but because it is a way to raise a lot of money. States tax retail sales not to discourage people from buying stuff, but because it is a relatively efficient way to fill state coffers to pay for things like public schools and state highways.

But for some taxes, discouraging the thing being taxed is at least partly the point. Tobacco taxes are intended not just to raise money, but also to increase the prices of cigarettes so that fewer people smoke. A tax on carbon emissions would be intended to reduce carbon emissions.

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM


Lindsey Graham says he won't read House deposition transcripts (Zachary Basu, 11/05/19, Axios)

It's the Trumpbots only remaining defense.

Posted by orrinj at 2:55 PM


Rand Paul demands outing of CIA officer at Trump rally: "We now know the name of the whistleblower" (IGOR DERYSH, NOVEMBER 5, 2019, Salon)

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., claimed that Republicans have learned the name of the Ukraine whistleblower at a Trump rally in Kentucky on Monday -- and demanded that the media print the name.

If the Libertarians stand for anything it's...trying to stifle reports of government misconduct? Rand will pay any price and bear any burden for the only couple years of isolationism he'll ever experience.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


US growth of Islam creates need for religious scholars (JEFF KAROUB and NOREEN NASIR, 11/05/19,  Associated Press)

DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) -- "Brothers and sisters," the seminary instructor tells his class, don't believe in God because of your parents' beliefs but because "you know why God exists."

The challenge spurs a discussion about beliefs. But more than Imam Mohammad Qazwini's interesting delivery, deep understanding of Islam and his formal training at a seminary in the holy city of Qom, Iran, have drawn them to this suburban Detroit classroom just off the large prayer room of a mosque.

He speaks their language -- literally.

An increasing number of U.S. Muslims want guidance from religious instructors who they can understand linguistically and culturally. The Quran, Islam's holy book, is written in classical Arabic, but many of the students aren't well-versed in the language. Qazwini navigates the intricacies of Arabic effortlessly -- in the everyday English they use, opening a door for many of the students and meeting an increasing need.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A year from Election Day, Democratic presidential contenders extend leads over Donald Trump: POLL (GARY LANGER, Nov 5, 2019, ABC News)

While former Vice President Joe Biden now leads Trump by 17 percentage points, other Democratic contenders show the most improvement: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' advantage vs. Trump has gone from a non-significant 6 points in July to 12 in September to 17 now. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's has gone from 7 to 11 to 15 points.

Imagine selling your dignity and then losing your seat anyway.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How to Deal with a Declining Russia (JOSEPH S. NYE, JR., 11/05/19, Project Syndicate)

In 1959, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev famously boasted that the Soviet Union would overtake the US by 1970 or 1980. Instead, in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, leaving a significantly shrunken Russia, with three-quarters of the USSR's territory, half its population, half its economy, and one-third of its military personnel. Its GDP is only $1.7 trillion, compared to $21 trillion for the US. In 1989, the Soviet economy was twice the size of China's; today, Russia's GDP is one-seventh that of China. Moreover, Russia is heavily dependent on energy exports, with high-tech products accounting for only 11% of its manufactured exports (compared to 19% for the US).

While language, history, and labor migration provide Russia with some soft power in its near-abroad, few foreigners elsewhere watch Russian films, and Russian universities are not ranked among the top global 100. The political institutions for an effective market economy are largely missing, and robber-baron state capitalism lacks the kind of effective regulation that creates trust. The public health system is weak, and average Russian life expectancy, at 72 (male and female), is five years shorter than in Europe. United Nations demographers project that Russia's population may decline from 145 million today to 121 million by mid-century.

Many futures are possible, but at this point, Russia is a "one-crop economy" with corrupt institutions and serious demographic and health problems. Former President Dmitri Medvedev laid out plans to surmount them, but little was implemented and pervasive corruption has made modernization difficult. While Putin has been a successful tactician in restoring Russia's presence on the world stage, he has not been a skillful strategist in addressing the country's long-term problems.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trial of Trump crony Roger Stone promises political drama (ASHRAF KHALIL, 11/05/19, AP)

Stone, a longtime friend of the president's, briefly served on Trump's campaign but was pushed out amid infighting with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Though sidelined, he continued to communicate with Trump and stayed plugged into his circle of advisers.

The indictment says Stone, who was arrested by the FBI in a raid at his Florida home, repeatedly discussed WikiLeaks in 2016 with campaign associates and lays out in detail Stone's conversations about emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and posted in the weeks before Trump beat Clinton.

After WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, released hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, the indictment says, a senior Trump campaign official "was directed" to contact Stone about additional releases and "what other damaging information" WikiLeaks had "regarding the Clinton campaign." The indictment does not name the official or say who directed the outreach to Stone.

Stone also is accused of threatening New York radio host Randy Credico in an effort to prevent Credico from contradicting Stone's testimony before the House intelligence committee.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Inside Adam Schiff's Impeachment Game Plan (Jason Zengerle, Nov. 5, 2019, NY Times)

[S]chiff, who is 59, has rapidly come to occupy a unique and privileged place in the Democratic firmament. His Ukraine investigation has now been invested with all the hopes and dreams that Democrats once placed in the special prosecutor Robert Mueller's Russia probe. In Schiff, a 10-term congressman from the Los Angeles area, Democrats believe they have found a more reliable vessel than the cipherlike Mueller and an opportunity for a do-over of sorts. While Mueller allowed himself to become a punching bag -- remaining silent for two years as Trump relentlessly delegitimized his investigation as a "witch hunt" -- Schiff has no qualms about hitting back. Where Mueller painstakingly avoided drawing any conclusions from his investigative findings -- punting the question about whether Trump broke the law by obstructing justice to Attorney General William Barr -- Schiff is prepared to embrace the actionable consequences of his work. "Mr. Mueller saw his limitations as a chain-of-command guy at the Justice Department, and he went as far as he thought he could go," Pelosi told me, noting that Mueller was hemmed in by an Office of Legal Counsel opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted. "Mr. Schiff is dealing with two things: the Constitution of the United States and the truth."

Both of which are deadly for Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Warren's Perpetual Medicare Head Tax Is Unworkable and Bad (Matt Bruenig,  November 1, 2019, 3P)

[B]owing to the stupid media discourse on this, Warren put forward a financing proposal that is clearly unworkable and bad. The proposal is as follows:

Employers will be required to pay an "Employer Medicare Contribution" equal to 98 percent of their per-employee health care costs in the year prior to Medicare for All's implementation. This will mean that initially some employers pay more than others since that is already the case in the status quo. But over time, each employer's contribution will be gradually converged to the average Employer Medicare Contribution until every qualifying employer is paying the same amount per employee.

Employers with less than 50 employees would be exempt from the Employer Medicare contribution both initially and forever.

Independent contractors (and the companies who hire them) will also be exempt from the Employer Medicare contribution both initially and forever.

Bad Distribution

What Warren is proposing here, in ordinary fiscal language, is a Medicare Head Tax. This is a departure from the normal Medicare Payroll Tax proposals. The distributive difference between them is that the Medicare Payroll Tax charges a specific percentage of each worker's earnings, while the Medicare Head Tax charges a specific dollar amount per worker.

If we value jobs, no one should be taxed on the basis of providing them. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Study: New immigrants less likely to use prescription opioids (NORA DOYLE-BURR, 11/04/19, Valley News)

A recently published study by a Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center anesthesiologist has found that new immigrants to the U.S. are less likely to use prescription opioids than native-born Americans.

Dr. Brian Sites, who is also a professor of anesthesiology at the Geisel School of Medicine, said the results published in the journal JAMA Network Open last month point to a cultural factor in the use of opioids. Because of that, Sites said he thinks the response necessary to address the problem of opioid use will need to take culture into account.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Enemies within': Left-wing leaders slam government inaction on settler violence (Times of Israel, 11/05/19)

Left-wing leaders on Tuesday lambasted what they said was government inaction in the face of ongoing settler violence directed at security forces in the West Bank, and called for enforcement and punitive action against law-breakers.

Security forces were stoned near West Bank settlements in two separate incidents on Monday in attacks attributed to hardline settler youth.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Omar emphasizes Sanders' Jewish background in endorsement at Minnesota rally (MARCY OSTER, 11/05/19, Times of Israel)

Sanders also has been critical of Israel during his campaign and said he would "absolutely" consider cutting US aid to Israel to pressure its government to change its policy, specifically on settlements.

Omar in her endorsement at the rally emphasized Sanders' Jewish faith.

"I am proud to stand with the son of a Jewish refugee who survived genocide," the Muslim congresswoman said. "The acknowledgment of pain and suffering is personal for both of us. The fight for human rights is undeniable. And when we recognize injustices of the past and present, whether it is genocide against Jewish people, Armenians or Rwandans or Bosnians or Native Americans or more."

November 4, 2019

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Exclusive: Ukraine to fire prosecutor who discussed Bidens with Giuliani - source (Polina Ivanova, Ilya Zhegulev, 11/04/19, Reuters) 

Ukraine plans to fire the prosecutor who led investigations into the firm where Joe Biden's son served on the board, a central figure in the activity at the heart of impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Donald Trump, a source told Reuters.

Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has acknowledged meeting the prosecutor, Kostiantyn Kulyk, to discuss accusations against the Bidens.

The decision to sideline someone who played an important role in Giuliani's efforts to find out damaging information about the Bidens comes as Ukraine has tried to avoid getting drawn into a partisan fight in Washington.

now get him to the safe house with Mifsud.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 PM


Taxes Are Surprisingly Similar in Texas and California (Kevin Drum, 11/04/19, Mother Jones0

The LA Times tells us today that conservatives are leaving California for "redder pastures."  [...]

The state that conservative Californians are allegedly flocking to is Texas, and for your average middle-class worker or retiree its taxes are surprisingly similar to the People's Republic of California. Here's the comparison from the good folks at ITEP:

If you're poor, California has lower taxes. If you're rich, Texas has lower taxes. But if you're middle class, there's barely any difference. You'll pay about 8-10 percent of your income in state and local taxes.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Historian: New evidence shows FDR's bigotry derailed many Holocaust rescue plans (MATT LEBOVIC, 11/04/19, Times of Israel)

Not only was US president Franklin Roosevelt perfunctory about rescuing Jews from the Nazis, but he obstructed rescue opportunities that would have cost him little or nothing, according to Holocaust historian Rafael Medoff.

FDR's role in preventing the rescue of European Jewry is detailed in a new book called, "The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust."
Published in September, Medoff's book includes new archival materials about the relationship between Roosevelt and Rabbi Stephen Wise, who the author sees as a sycophantic Jewish leader used by Roosevelt to "keep the Jews quiet."

Wrote Medoff, "Franklin Roosevelt took advantage of Wise's adoration of his policies and leadership to manipulate Wise through flattery and intermittent access to the White House." In return for visits to the White House and Roosevelt calling him by his first name, Wise undermined Jewish activists who demanded the administration let more Jewish refugees into the US.

According to Medoff, Roosevelt's policies toward European Jews were motivated by sentiments similar to those that spurred him to intern 120,000 Japanese Americans in detention camps as potential spies.

"Roosevelt used almost identical language in recommending that the Jews and the Japanese be forcibly 'spread thin' around the country," Medoff told The Times of Israel. "I was struck by the similarity between the language FDR used regarding the Japanese, and that which he used in private concerning Jews -- that they can't be trusted, they won't ever become fully loyal Americans, they'll try to dominate wherever they go."


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Exclusive: Giuliani associate now willing to comply with Trump impeachment inquiry - lawyer (Aram Roston, 11/04/19, Reuters) 

Lev Parnas, an indicted Ukrainian-American businessman who has ties to President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is now prepared to comply with requests for records and testimony from congressional impeachment investigators, his lawyer told Reuters on Monday.

Parnas, who helped Giuliani look for dirt on Trump's political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, is a key figure in the impeachment inquiry that is examining whether Trump abused his office for personal political gain.

His apparent decision to now work with the congressional committees represents a change of heart. Parnas rebuffed a request from three House of Representatives committees last month to provide documents and testimony.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


Sanders and Warren Have to Tame Nancy Pelosi: The House speaker is building road blocks against Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. (Jeet Heer, 11/04/19, The Nation)

Nancy Pelosi, America's most powerful elected Democrat, made clear in an interview with Bloomberg on Friday that she has little use for the party's swing to the left, saying, "What works in San Francisco does not necessarily work in Michigan."

"Remember November," Pelosi insisted. "You must win the Electoral College." On health care, Pelosi was more set on defending past gains than on pushing forward. "Protect the Affordable Care Act," she argued. "I think that's the path to health care for all Americans." She claimed that "the Affordable Care Act is a better benefit than Medicare." Pelosi was equally dismissive of the Green New Deal: "There's very strong opposition on the labor side to the Green New Deal because it's like 10 years, no more fossil fuel."

In policy terms, Pelosi insisted that she would maintain pay-as-you-play rules, which would hamstring any effort to borrow money to pay for new spending. Pelosi is adamant that "we cannot just keep increasing the debt."

In setting environmentalism against jobs as well as using the deficit to set limits on future spending, Pelosi sounds more like a Republican than a Democrat. 

she's the most conservative member of either party leadership.

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Inside Ukraine's Push to Cultivate Trump From the StartInside Ukraine's Push to Cultivate Trump From the Start (Mark Mazzetti, Eric Lipton and Andrew E. Kramer, Nov. 4th, 2019, NY Times)

Mr. Poroshenko's campaign included trade deals that were politically expedient for Mr. Trump, meetings with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the freezing of potentially damaging criminal cases and attempts to use the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort as a back channel.

From the start, Mr. Poroshenko's aides also scrambled to find ways to flatter the new American president -- advising their boss to gush during his first telephone call with Mr. Trump about Tom Brady, the star New England Patriots quarterback whom Mr. Trump has long admired.

An examination of the first year of Mr. Trump's dealings with Ukraine shows how the White House also saw the relationship as a transactional one that could help Mr. Trump politically.

Mr. Poroshenko, so eager to gain favor as Russian-backed separatists were escalating a fight against the Ukrainian military, did his part to encourage this belief. He helped plant the seeds for Mr. Trump's July quid pro quo request to his successor, Volodymyr Zelensky -- a request that prompted the impeachment inquiry into whether he manipulated American policy toward Ukraine for personal gain.

Mr. Poroshenko's strategy yielded results. The Trump administration reversed an Obama-era moratorium on sales of lethal weapons that Ukraine sought for its fight against the separatists in the country's east.

Near the end of 2017, just as the government in Kiev was trying to get final approval from the Trump administration on the sale of the Javelin anti-tank weapons, Mr. Poroshenko's prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, had begun freezing cases in Ukraine relevant to the Mueller investigation, including an inquiry tracing millions of dollars that Ukrainian political figures paid to Mr. Manafort.

Now, impeachment investigators are examining the two years of interactions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Poroshenko, according to a congressional Democrat. And Mr. Zelensky's team is researching back-channel communications between Ukrainian officials and Americans from both political parties going back to 2017, according to a Ukrainian with knowledge of the effort.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Hillary Clinton leads Trump in a new Fox News poll. Yes, in November 2019. (The Week, 11/03/19)

A Fox News poll released Sunday did not have great news for President Trump. His approval rating was 42 percent, with 57 percent of registered voters disapproving of his job performance and 46 percent strongly disapproving. A year before the 2020 election, he is behind all of the top-tier Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden (51 percent to 39 percent), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (46 percent to 41 percent), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (49 percent to 41 percent). Even worse, Trump is losing to Hillary Clinton, who isn't even running, 43 percent to 41 percent.

November 3, 2019

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Confusion reigns over US plan to 'secure the oil' in Syria as commanders await orders (Barbara Starr and Nicole Gaouette, 11/02/19, CNN)

Nearly three weeks after President Donald Trump ordered troops out of northern Syria, publicly declaring he was taking "control" of the oil and sending troops and armored carriers to protect it from ISIS, US commanders lack clarity on the most basic aspects of their mission, including how and when troops can fire their weapons and what, exactly, that mission is.

The lack of precise orders means troops are on the ground while critical details are still being worked out -- exactly where they will go, when and how they will stay on small bases in the area, and when they go on patrol.

Perhaps most crucially, there is no clarity about exactly who they are operating against in the oilfields.

That's essential information for troops on the ground and in the air to understand circumstances in which they are permitted to fire their weapons. It's also crucial for military planners to understand how many US combat ground forces and aircraft are needed, the official said.

The precision that's lacking is vital for military commanders, who need specific, legal orders that are not subject to interpretation in moments of crisis.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 PM


Making Moral Mistakes Mandatory (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON, November 3, 2019, National Review)

The leading anti-immigration voice in our country belongs to my friend Mark Krikorian of the Mayflower Krikorians. Two of the most prominent voices associated with our dotty new blood-and-soil nationalism are linked to the surnames Buchanan and Ahmari. My colleague Michael Brendan Dougherty calls himself a nationalist, too -- a nationalist in the cause of at least two nations, by my count. That's two Irishmen, an Iranian, and an Armenian, three of them Catholics and all four of them gentlemen who, if earlier generations of so-called nationalists had had their way, would be admiring these United States from afar.

Funny old world.

On Friday, I appeared opposite Sohrab Ahmari on a panel hosted by the William F. Buckley Program at Yale. He argued that the main duty of the state is not to protect liberty but to achieve the good, biblically defined. That's what he said when he showed up, anyway -- he was a little bit late owing to the fact that the state he would entrust to do God's work here on Earth cannot quite manage to make the trains run on time, a fact that you might think would be of some interest to a bantamweight Mussolini.

Mr. Ahmari, who is the op-ed editor of the New York Post (where I write about twice a month), is a Catholic convert, as am I. (I suppose I identify as "Puritan curious" these days; it must be that book on the Presidents Adams.) I have never met a Catholic convert who is not a fan of A Man for All Seasons, and Mr. Ahmari reminds me a little bit of the young idealist of whom Thomas More says: "We must just pray that when your head is finished turning, your face is to the front again." National Review is a magazine that in its early days boasted a collection of freshly reformed Trotskyites, doctrinaire libertarians, and militant Catholic anti-liberals, but to my knowledge none of them was all three at the same time, whereas Mr. Ahmari can run through that cycle in a three-day weekend. I will be happy for him when his jackboot phase has ended, but who knows where he will land?

You can bet it will not be in a place close to my sometime colleague David French. If you have followed recent intramural conservative factional politics, then you will know that Mr. Ahmari has a bizarre and unseemly obsession with David French, who is a leading conservative critic of the Trump administration and its sycophants. Trump's admirers like to say, "He fights!" Trump of course is a medical marvel, having had the only case in recorded medical history of bone spurs that healed without any medical intervention whatsoever, a miracle that was witnessed right around the time the Vietnam draft was coming to a close. French served in Iraq without any compulsion and has dedicated much of his career to literally making a federal case of it when Americans' religious liberties are violated by various peckerwood city councilmen and mealy-mouthed deans. But he is almost unfailingly polite, and thus Mr. Ahmari et al. heap scorn upon what they call "David Frenchism." But when Mr. Ahmari recently was fool enough to get on the other side of David French in an actual debate, the stuttering and incoherent mess to which he was promptly reduced was evidence enough (superfluous, in fact) that David Frenchism is made of sterner stuff than our newly minted young nationalists had thought.

Jonah Goldberg has noted a haunting emptiness when he hosts Nationalists like Yoram Hazony on his podcast and confessed mystification at why that is.  And when Andy Smarick was on Matt Lewis and the News he repeatedly stated that Trumpism would fade after Donald leaves because it isn't a coherent philosophy.  The absence in both cases, like the incoherence of Mr. Ahmari and the First Things claque is a function of advocating what is essentially the politics of bigotry in an America where it has long gone out of whatever fashion it once had.  

Donald has, of course, not managed to do anything legislatively, but he has been able to attempt a few things using Executive power and we can easily see what they have in common.  He opposes trade with places like China and Mexico.  He opposes Muslim, African and Latino--in particular--immigration. And he opposes honoring American military and treaty commitments irrespective of the harm to South Korea, the Kurds, the Palestinians, Iran, etc.  On the other hand, he endorses things like the totalitarian regime in North Korea, the oppressive Wahhabi Sa'uds, Xi trampling Hong Kong, and so forth.  Wherever possible he has tried to negatively affect non-White and non-Christian peoples.  His entirely coherent philosophy is nothing more, nor less, than White Nationalism.  Those defenders of his share the ideology.  But they are reduced to stuttering and incoherent messes because they can't actually go on stage or on air or into print and express their hatreds forthrightly.  Mr. Ahmari's obsession is with the entire tradition of Conservatism, which is so annoyingly writ large for him in the decency of a David French.   

It tells us all we really need to know that even with Nationalism at its high tide, the advocates are too ashamed to discuss it openly.  

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Trump Slams California Governor, Threatens to Cut Off Wildfire Aid to the State (DANIEL POLITI, NOV 03, 2019, Slate)

President Donald Trump once again threatened to cut off federal aid to California as the state tries to battle numerous wildfires, directly criticizing Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom for his "terrible job of forest management." In a series of tweets Sunday morning, Trump went on to suggest the federal government won't be giving California any more aid to help fight the wildfires. "Every year, as the fire's rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more," the president wrote.

Why not implement a public works/infrastructure program to clear the lines immediately and bury them gradually?

Posted by orrinj at 9:08 AM


Trump Is Beijing's Best Asset (PAUL HAENLE, SAM BRESNICK ,  Oct. 15th, 2019, Foreign Policy)

[F]or China, Trump's weaknesses are more important than his bluster. During numerous off the record discussions with Chinese government officials and scholars, we are finding that an increasing number are hoping for Trump's reelection next year. At a time when China's political influence and military capabilities are growing, they argue that in spite of his anti-China bluster, Trump has afforded Beijing the space to expand its influence across Asia and, more importantly, comprehensively weakened Washington's global leadership. From a zero-sum standpoint, many Chinese have concluded that Trump's policies are strategically very good for China in the long run.

These thinkers believe that Trump, by polarizing U.S. domestic politics, damaging Washington's international credibility and traditional global stewardship, and undermining long-standing alliance arrangements, has presented Beijing with its "greatest strategic opportunity since the end of the Cold War," as Yan Xuetong, one of China's foremost strategic thinkers, put it.

These Chinese thinkers see Trump as a dog with a big bark but little bite. He tested Beijing's patience by accepting a phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, in what the Chinese viewed as a violation of the "One China" policy, shortly after his election in 2016. Trump publicly questioned whether he would stick with the policy before saying he would, but he also said he would have to check with Chinese President Xi Jinping before taking another call with Tsai. Though the administration has greenlighted some arms sales to Taiwan, whether Trump would back Taipei were Beijing to attack remains doubtful, especially given his mercenary attitude toward U.S. military power.

Beijing has already gained significantly from Trump's term in office. Despite prosecuting trade spats with India and the European Union, as well as China, the administration has largely given up on using World Trade Organization courts to litigate trade complaints and has blocked appointments to the organization's Appellate Body. These actions not only get in the way of the world's most important trade dispute settlement system but also embolden other countries to ignore international law.

When not damaging global governance institutions and mechanisms that helped establish the United States as the world's preeminent superpower, Trump's antipathy toward trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership has afforded China an opening.

While Trump is shredding the cooperative trade agreements that have been central to U.S. international economic policy, Beijing is in the late stages of negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a deal that would tie China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations members into the world's largest trade bloc. If that agreement is ratified, the United States will be left out of the two largest global free trade deals, the other being the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, negotiated among 11 countries involved in the original Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. This would add insult to injury, as China already trades more with every major Asian economy than the United States does.

...let's call the whole presidency off...

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Kashmir: Independence activists draw inspiration from German reunification (Deutsche-welle, 11/03/19)

"We believe that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent reunification of Germany are an inspiration not only to us but to all freedom movements in the world. Like the pre-reunification Germany, Jammu and Kashmir has also been split into two territories, and a wall (LoC) was erected to divide the same people," Toqeer Gilani, the president of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, told DW. He added that "if Germany can be reunited, so can Kashmir."

"The post-World War II Germany was also forcefully divided by global powers. It was propagated that the division was necessary due to the 'ideological differences' between East and West Germany. We also experienced this in Kashmir," Gilani said.

Some experts say that although the German and Kashmiri dynamics are not totally similar, the "independent Kashmir" movement can still take inspiration from the German reunification success.

"As we approach the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we should rejoice that people can overcome adversity and divisions. The people of Kashmir will take inspiration from what happened in Germany 30 years ago. A group of people has been kept apart by force," Shaffaq Mohammed, a British-Kashmiri MEP (Member of European Parliament), told DW.

Ali Raza Syed, the chairman of the Kashmir Council, a Brussels-based non-governmental organization, says that just as in pre-reunification Germany, families are divided in India- and Pakistan-controlled Kashmirs. "They have the same culture, the same language. I think the German reunification inspirations can be applied to Kashmir," Syed told DW.

"You can threaten people, you can torture them, but you cannot govern a country out of fear," Mohammed said, referring both to the India-imposed lockdown in Kashmir and the oppression in the former German Democratic Republic, or GDR.

"If Kashmiris want to be independent of both India and Pakistan, it is their right," the Liberal Democrat MEP added.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


Central and eastern Europeans are mostly happy with progress since 1989 (The Economist, Oct 31st 2019)

No empire in history has disintegrated as quickly or as bloodlessly as the Soviet one, in the remarkable year that saw the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. A period of carnage in Romania the following month was the only grisly counter-example. Yugoslavia, never a part of that empire, followed a tragically different path; but for the rest of central and eastern Europe, though clearly imperfect, the past 30 years have been a time of marvels.

Standards of living for most of the region's peoples have vastly improved, and most of them know it. New polling by the Pew Research Centre shows that 81% of Poles, 78% of Czechs and 55% of Hungarians agree that this is the case. Only Bulgarians on balance take a gloomy view, with just 32% of them thinking that their standard of living has improved since 1989. Development has been patchy, but for every depopulating and ageing rustbelt in eastern Europe there is a booming industrial region, a tech cluster or a services centre desperate for more workers.

...what good is the End of History?

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


Mueller Documents: Manafort Pushed Ukraine Hack Theory, RNC Tied to Wikileaks (The Associated Press and Haaretz, Nov 03, 2019)

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pushed the idea that Ukraine, not Russia, was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee servers, Manafort's deputy told investigators during the special counsel's Russia probe. The unsubstantiated theory, advanced by President Donald Trump even after he took office, would later help trigger the impeachment inquiry now consuming the White House.

Notes from an FBI interview were released Saturday after lawsuits by BuzzFeed News and CNN led to public access to hundreds of pages of documents from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The documents, which tie the Republican National Committee to Wikileaks, included summaries of interviews with other figures from the Mueller probe, including Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


A people without a state (The Week, November 3, 2019)

Who are the Kurds?

A tough mountain people, the Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East -- after Arabs, Persians, and Turks -- and have their own distinct culture and language. Nearly all are Sunni Muslims, but they have many tribes and are far from a monolithic group. Over the centuries, they have handed down their traditions through music, with bards singing folktales and stories of Kurdish feats in battle. Spread out mostly over four countries and now numbering some 30 million, the Kurds have pressed time and again for a homeland since the 19th century, only to have their hopes dashed when great powers broke their promises. Several times since the 1970s, the U.S. gave them military aid to fight a common foe, and then abandoned them, leaving thousands of Kurds to be killed and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee. As a Kurdish proverb says, the Kurds have "no friends but the mountains."

Why don't they have a country?

After the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I, victorious Western powers agreed in the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres to create a Kurdish state. But three years later, in the wheeling and dealing over the boundaries of modern Turkey, Britain and France dropped their demand for a Kurdish homeland, and Kurds were left as large minorities in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, with small minorities in the Caucasus. All the nations where Kurds now live are opposed to granting them a homeland or true autonomy -- ­particularly Turkey.

While entering WWI at all was a mistake, choosing to lose it was catastrophic.  Nearly all modern wars are a function of Wilson preferring his utopian League to the salutary decolonization of the Third World.  A people who think themselves a nation are one.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Fox News Guest Invited to Talk About Military Dogs Blurts Out Jeffrey 'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' (Connor Mannion, Nov 2nd, 2019, Mediate)

Watters was finishing up his segment on Watters' World with Mike Ritland, who is the founder of the Warrior Dog Foundation. The nonprofit is dedicated to finding homes for military dogs that are no longer in service and in need of a home.

Ritland asked if he could offer a PSA about military dogs as news coverage swirls about the dog who helped take down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"The remarkable nature of these dogs and them being highlighted in news creates a huge demand by people that frankly shouldn't have them. If you see the coverage and you decide I want one of these dogs either buy a fully trained and finished dog from a professional or don't get one at all," Ritland said.

"Epstein didn't kill himself," he added.

"Alright," Watters said, at first not apparently realizing what Ritland just said. Watters then started laughing and said "OK."

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


Children were told to 'build the wall' at White House Halloween party (Jana Winter, Hunter Walker and Caitlin Dickson-,Yahoo News•November 2, 2019, Yahoo! News)

 A Halloween party on Oct. 25 at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building featured candy, paper airplanes and -- concerning for some attendees -- a station where children were encouraged to help "Build the Wall" with their own personalized bricks.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 AM


A stunning confession from a Deep State member subverting the constitutional republic (Thomas Lifson, 11/02/19, American Thinker)

Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller describes what I call his confession, responding to a question from the moderator:

"There is something unique you have to agree that now the impeachment inquiry is underway, sparked by a complaint from someone within the intelligence community, it feeds the president's concern, an often used term about a 'deep state' being there to take him out," Margaret Brennan, the moderator for the event, asked McLaughlin.

"Thank God for the 'deep state,'" replied the former spook, who served as acting director at the CIA in 2004.

Laughter and applause greeted this endorsement of "tak[ing] out" an elected president.

McLaghin kept on digging when the applause died down:

"Everyone here has seen this progression of diplomats and intelligence officers and White House people trooping up to Capitol Hill right now and saying these are doing their duty and responding to a higher call," said McLaughlin, who has also served as CIA deputy director.

"With all of the people who knew what was going on here, it took an intelligence officer to step forward and say something about it, which was the trigger that then unleashed everything else," he said.

Consider for a moment the implications of his term "higher call."

Mr. Lifson can consider it for a moment; they pledge to consider it every moment of every day:

"I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


Trump defends border wall design after report smugglers are sawing through it (CHRISTIAN VASQUEZ, 11/02/2019, Politico)

"We have a very powerful wall. But no matter how powerful, you can cut through anything, in all fairness. But we have a lot of people watching. You know cutting, cutting is one thing, but it's easily fixed. One of the reasons we did it the way we did it, it's very easily fixed. You put the chunk back in," Trump told reporters at the White House.

A Washington Post report published Saturday said smugglers have repeatedly sawed through newly built sections of the wall using a widely available cordless reciprocating saw that costs as little as $100. Gangs are also using makeshift ladders to scale the barriers, the Post reported.

Poor guy thought they'd behave more like his followers and not seek to make better lives for themselves and their families.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 AM


Democracy Is on the March, Not in Retreat (Pankaj Mishra, November 2, 2019, Blooomberg View)

But one political shock after another revealed that, as Tocqueville wrote, people in the democratic age "have an ardent, insatiable, eternal, invincible passion" for equality, and that "they will tolerate poverty, enslavement, barbarism, but they will not tolerate aristocracy." This intolerance is again evident in the furious anti-elite revolts in the West today.

It is even more strikingly manifest in the postcolonial world, which since the Arab Spring has hosted the world's biggest mass upsurges.

Those above the age of 40 can recall a time in Asia and Africa when extreme deference, if not fear, marked the relationship between rulers and the ruled, rich and poor, and upper and lower classes and castes. Assured of immunity, the wealthy and powerful got away with murder -- sometimes literally. A small, incestuous elite stole from the state's coffers and splurged in London, New York and Paris, boosting the profits of real estate agents, Harrods and Bloomingdale's, not to mention party planners and glamorous escort services.

A reminder of those good times for the Suhartos, Bhuttos and Mubaraks of the Third World is provided today by Lebanon's recently departed Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who allegedly showered a $16 million gift on a bikini model he met at a luxury resort in the Seychelles. 

Even in India, supposedly the world's largest democracy, a single family dominated politics for decades, including a loyal few in its network of patronage but excluding countless others. Visitors marveled at the infinite forbearance of the degraded and suffering millions, wondering why they did not mutiny against their cruel masters.

Social hierarchies finally began to crack faster from the 1990s, with broader politicization and the growth of literacy, satellite television channels and digital media. Massive street protests against a corrupt ruling elite in India in 2011 were the first sign that Indian society and politics were about to be radically transformed.

Indeed, the protests set the stage for Narendra Modi, who rose to power denouncing venal and inept dynasts and claiming to represent their victims. Likewise, massive social unrest over bus fare hikes in Brazil paved the way for Jair Bolsonaro.  

There is no guarantee that the current upsurge against ruling elites won't empower demagogues. In late 19th century Europe, far-right and anti-Semitic movements also hijacked the demand for democracy, marginalizing left-leaning and liberal parties.

The practical challenge, now as much as then, is how to make mass democracy compatible with individual liberty -- how to find political and economic institutions capable of deploying the tremendous energy of social mobilization for the larger good.

One of the things that perplexed the Times in the referenced story is the increasing failure of social protests movements, but that too is simply a function of democratization.  Occupy, the Green Movement, the Tea Party, the Yellow Vests, etc., are rebelling against democracy, so they are naturally seen as illegitimate.  

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 AM


Mueller interview notes obtained by CNN show Trump's push for stolen emails (Katelyn Polantz, November 2, 2019, CNN)

President Donald Trump and other top 2016 Trump campaign officials repeatedly privately discussed how the campaign could get access to stolen Democratic emails WikiLeaks had in 2016, according to newly released interview notes from Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation.

CNN sued the Justice Department for access to Mueller's witness interview notes, and this weekend's release marks the first publicly available behind-the-scenes look at Mueller's investigative work outside of court proceedings and the report itself. Per a judge's order, the Justice Department will continue to release new tranches of the Mueller investigative notes monthly to CNN and Buzzfeed News, which also sued for them.

A retelling of events from former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, who served alongside campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is the fullest detail revealed by the Justice Department yet on discussions within the Trump campaign as it pursued damaging information about its Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 AM


New report shows once-coveted UFC demographic has gotten old ... fast (Ryan Harkness  Jun 7, 2017, MMA Mania)

A new report from Sports Business Journal has the median age of UFC television viewers pegged at 49 years old. That's far outside the desirable -- and incredibly marketable -- "Men Aged 18-34" demographic that the world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion used to score 10 years ago.

Here's the report:

The study, conducted exclusively for SportsBusiness Journal by Magna Global, looked at live, regular-season game coverage of major sports across both broadcast and cable television in 2000, 2006 and 2016. It showed that while the median age of viewers of most sports, except the WTA, NBA and MLS, is aging faster than the overall U.S. population, it is doing so at a slower pace than prime-time TV.

And they still booed him.

Posted by orrinj at 6:16 AM


US white supremacist arrested in Norway (Deutsche Welle, 11/02/19)

Norwegian public broadcaster NRK and the newspaper Dagbladet identified the man in custody as Greg Johnson, a far-right publicist based, according to Associated Press, in Seattle. [...]

The US Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremist and hate groups, lists Johnson as the "editor-in-chief of the white nationalist publishing house Counter-Currents, an epicenter of 'academic' white nationalism."

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 AM


Bennett warns a third election will 'collapse' the right (MICHAEL BACHNER, 11/03/19, Times of Israel)

Bennett said Saturday that he would be prepared to sit in the opposition if a Likud-Blue and White unity government is formed, telling Channel 12: "If I am an obstacle to forming a government, I release Netanyahu from any commitment to me and to the New Right and am ready to sit in the opposition. The main thing is to get a government established."

Leaders of rival Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White party have claimed the premier's bloc is preventing them from forming a government. Netanyahu has insisted on negotiating on behalf of all 55 MKs; Blue and White has said the stance is a transparent ruse to ensure Gantz cannot form a government, dooming Israel to yet another election.

On Sunday morning, Bennett further warned in an Army Radio interview: "If we reach elections for the third time we will see a historic collapse of the right-wing bloc. We will find ourselves with a full-blown left-wing government."

Bennett's fellow New Right member Ayelet Shaked echoed that sentiment, also in an Army Radio interview, saying that "if we reach third elections, the right-wing rule is in danger. We could end up with a left-wing government."

November 2, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 3:12 PM


Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


EXCLUSIVE UNH/LCV POLL: OVER 70% OF NH RESIDENTS SUPPORT MOVE TO 100% CLEAN ENERGY (Rob Werner, October 31, 2019 , league of Conservation Voters)

Released today, two exclusive questions fielded for the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) in the University of New Hampshire's Fall 2019 Granite State Poll found that the vast majority of New Hampshire residents support a move to 100% clean energy by 2050 and that many self-identified New Hampshire Democrats and Independents don't think the presidential candidates are talking about climate change enough in the 2020 campaign.

The poll was fielded between October 4 and October 17, 2019 and surveyed 507 randomly selected New Hampshire adults. LCV worked with the University of New Hampshire Survey Center to ask:

1. Do you favor or oppose moving to 100% clean energy, such as solar and wind energy, by 2050? and

2. Do you think the Democratic candidates for President are talking about climate change in the presidential campaign too much, about the right amount, or not enough?

Granite State voters care deeply about the climate crisis. An October CNN/UNH poll found that climate change/the environment is the #1 issue, tied with health care, that is "most important to [Democratic primary voters'] vote in the presidential primary." And New Hampshire voters don't just think climate change is important -- they want action on climate and they want to hear more from the presidential candidates. The LCV/UNH poll found that 71% of New Hampshire residents favor moving to 100% clean energy by 2050

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


George Soros: 'Brexit hurts both sides - my money was used to educate the British public': The philanthropist who has spent billions promoting democracy talks populism, Trump and powerful enemies (Shaun Walker, 2 Nov 2019, The Guardian)

These days, the distance between Trump and Soros is about much more than personality and aesthetics. The president has become the most powerful among a global chorus of rightwing critics focused on Soros's philanthropic efforts, which fund a broad range of causes they dislike, from minority rights and protecting refugees to liberalising drug policy and combating hate speech. Soros has long had enemies - largely, authoritarian leaders who were wary of his efforts to promote and protect democracy; more recently, this has been amplified by the antisemitic conspiracy theories that ooze from the darker corners of the internet.

It is now rare for a week to go by without a populist politician painting Soros as a ruthless Bond villain with nefarious plans to reshape the planet. Last year, Trump suggested that Soros might be paying illegal migrants to come to the US; in Turkey, President Erdoğan has called him "a man who assigns people to divide nations and shatter them"; in Italy, Matteo Salvini has claimed Soros wants the country "to become a giant refugee camp because he likes slaves". Last month, Soros's financial support for the anti-Brexit Best for Britain group led Jacob Rees-Mogg to call him the "Remoaner-in-chief" in parliament. Nigel Farage has called him "the biggest danger to the entire western world".

As a reporter based in eastern Europe, I have had a ringside seat to the political hostility Soros has faced over the years. I spent a decade in Russia, where Vladimir Putin blamed him for organising revolutions in neighbouring countries; in 2015, his philanthropic foundations were banned from the country as a "threat to state security". Last year I moved to Budapest, the city of Soros's birth, where the far-right Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, had taken Soros-baiting to a new level, erecting thousands of billboards featuring a cackling Soros, warning Hungarians not to let him "have the last laugh".

Now I sit opposite a somewhat frail, elderly man wearing a maroon cardigan, and it feels like a Wizard Of Oz moment. Is this really the power-broker feared by the world's nationalists? Soros turns 90 next year, and his face is creased with age, a distinctive banana-shaped fold of skin under each eye. He has lost much of his hearing, and visitors are given a microphone that connects directly to his hearing aid. He speaks hesitantly, often needing a few seconds to find the right word, and there is a hint of annoyance in his eyes during the pauses - as if the brain is irritated at the mouth for not articulating its thoughts fast enough. But appearances can be deceptive: Soros still maintains a busy work and travel schedule, splitting his weeks between Manhattan and upstate New York with his third wife Tamiko, and spending several months a year on the road.

What sustains him, I ask, particularly given the recent intensity of the attacks he has faced? "It challenges me and therefore it energises me," he says with a smile, in his still-strong Hungarian accent. "When I look at the list of people, or movements, or countries who are attacking me, it makes me feel I must be doing something right. I'm proud of the enemies I have."

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:17 AM


'It's like nothing we have come across before': UK intelligence officials shaken by Trump administration's requests for help with counter-impeachment inquiry  (Kim Sengupta, 11/02/19, The Independent)

[T]he information being requested has left allies astonished. One British official with knowledge of Barr's wish list presented to London commented that "it is like nothing we have come across before, they are basically asking, in quite robust terms, for help in doing a hatchet job on their own intelligence services".

The UK, in particular, has been viewed by Trump followers, especially far-right conspiracy theorists, as a deep source of woes for the president.

The claims that Trump was the Muscovian candidate for the White House effectively began to take shape after a meeting in May 2016 between Alexander Downer, the then Australian high commissioner in London, and George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign, at a bar, the Kensington Wine Rooms in west London.

Downer passed on what he had heard to Australian officials, who shared it with the ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation), who in turn got in touch with the FBI. They then officially launched their investigation the following month. [...]

But it is Christopher Steele who is the particular bête noire of Trump followers and they blame his report for starting the FBI investigation into Russian interference.

The House Intelligence Committee, then under Republican control, decided however that it was the Papadopoulous information which was the trigger. The same conclusion was separately drawn by the staff of the then Republican chair of the committee, Devin Nunes.

Trump loyalist Nunes, who his hometown newspaper in California has called "Trump's stooge", had to step down at one stage over allegations that he was colluding with the White House during the House investigation. He had, in the past, tried to carry out his own "Barr-Lite" version of investigating the investigators.

In August 2016, two staffers from the Nunes-run House Intelligence Committee suddenly turned up from the US at the London office of Steele's company, Orbis. Not finding him there, they went to the office of his lawyer and demanded to see him.

The timing of the visit was of importance. Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee, carrying out separate Russia investigations, were making progress in their attempts to speak to the former MI6 officer. The two men had come with the aim, it was suspected, of intimidating Steele. Nothing discernible appears to have resulted from their trip.

Julian Assange is another UK connection in the narrative. A year before Trump won the election Assange, holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, had told his colleagues in WikiLeaks, the organisation he founded, in a Twitter group chat that Hillary Clinton was a "bright, well connected, sadistic sociopath" and it would be better if the Republicans could seize power. WikiLeaks subsequently disseminated emails stolen, as multiple investigations have established, from Democratic Party computers by Russian hackers. Assange is in prison in the UK facing extradition to the US for alleged espionage offences.

A number of Trump associates have been under investigation by Mueller for their links to Assange. These include Roger Stone, a long-term and close advisor to the US president who was arrested last January. He goes on trial next week on charges of lying to congress, obstruction and witness tampering.

There have also been claims that Trump supporters not known to have been investigated by the special counsel had held clandestine meetings with Assange.

Glenn Simpson, whose Washington-based investigations firm hired Steele to compile the Trump report, told a US congressional inquiry in January that Nigel Farage was a more frequent visitor to Assange than was known and that he had passed data on to Assange on "a thumb drive".

Farage had long boasted of his closeness to Trump. On Thursday, speaking to Farage on his LBC show, the US president advised Boris Johnson to form an alliance with the Brexit Party leader to fight the coming UK general election.

The former Ukip leader visited Assange at the embassy in 2017 after returning from a trip to the US. The news of the visit broke after a member of the public saw him go into the building.

...what choice do the loyalists have but to obstruct justice?
Posted by orrinj at 6:49 AM

60-40 NATION:

Memo: Polling Medicare for All (Sean McElwee & John Ray, 11/01/19, Data for Progress)

Senator Warren's Medicare for All financing plan, that doesn't raise taxes on the middle class, is supported by a 57-30 percent margin among voters, and it is supported by a 53-32 percent margin among independents as well. Fully 1 in 3 Republicans support this financing plan as well 

Voters clearly support the goal of universal health coverage, with 59 percent of voters saying they would be more supportive of legislation if they thought it would achieve universal coverage. Seventy-four percent would be more supportive of Medicare for All if they knew it eliminated uncertainty as to whether or not a patient could see any doctor without worrying about their coverage

Opponents of Medicare for All tend to have more comprehensive coverage already and therefore likely do not perceive any benefits to them of moving to a different system. In contrast, those with less coverage or with more uncertainty about their current coverage favor Medicare for All

A Democrat running on Medicare for All would defeat Trump in a hypothetical election matchup, a finding consistent across repeated experiments using multiple vendors

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 AM


Fox News Poll: Record support for Trump impeachment (Dana Blanton, 11/01/19, Fox News)

A new high of 51 percent wants Trump impeached and removed from office, another 4 percent want him impeached but not removed, and 40 percent oppose impeachment altogether. In July, 42 percent favored impeachment and removal, while 5 percent said impeach but don't remove him, and 45 percent opposed impeachment. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 AM


Posted by orrinj at 5:59 AM


Trump Administration Loses a Sanctuary City Case--Yet Again (ILYA SOMIN |THE VOLOKH CONSPIRACY | 11.1.2019, reason)

For over two years, the Trump administration has been trying to force "sanctuary cities" to assist federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants by imposing various new conditions on federal grants to state and local governments that refuse to comply. And throughout that time, courts have repeatedly ruled against the administration's plans, on the ground that only Congress can authorize conditions on federal grants to state and local governments. The executive is not permitted to make up his own conditions in an attempt to pressure states into doing his bidding.

The latest such defeat for the administration came yesterday, in a decision issued by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, addressing a lawsuit brought by the City of Los Angeles seeking to overturn the administration's attempt to impose three immigration-related conditions on recipients of Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance grants for law enforcement agencies.

November 1, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 PM


The Best Trump Defense (RICH LOWRY, November 1, 2019, National Review)

The best defense Republicans can muster is that nothing came of it. An ally was discomfited and yanked around for a couple of months before, ultimately, getting its defense funding.

All of this bears some resemblance to Trump's alleged obstruction of justice during the Mueller investigation. He hated the investigation and wanted it to go away, and even plotted against it, but at the end of the day, Robert Mueller did his work. More specifically, the Ukraine mess is lot like Trump's order, or purported order, to then-White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller. After drama, internal contention, and tragicomedy, nothing happened.

Brought to you by the People's Committee to free Ramzi Yousef!

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 PM


Trump clearly deserves impeachment - His defense grows increasingly weak and silly (Jason Nichols, 10/31/19,  Fox News)

Evidence of Trump's impeachable conduct when he pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate potential Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden is so overwhelming that there is little Republicans can do to refute it. So they've taken to complaining about unfairness in the impeachment process - an absurd argument, but all they've got to work with.

The truth is that the impeachment process approved by Democrats Thursday is fair to Republicans, in that it allows them to issue subpoenas and question witnesses. And the process is fair to Trump as well.

The most important point is that Democrats have outmaneuvered Republicans at every turn on the road to impeachment in the House - and impeachment now appears very likely.

Before Thursday's full House vote in support of an impeachment inquiry of Trump, Republicans mostly complained that no such vote had been held, and also objected to the fact that the House Intelligence Committee was interviewing witnesses behind closed doors.

Thursday's vote and the Democratic commitment to public hearings destroyed those Republican talking points. But Republicans keep complaining anyway, saying the full House vote should have been taken earlier and raising every technical objection they can think of in a desperate move to derail the impeachment train that is clearly picking up steam.

Unless you're an extreme partisan and blind follower of Trump who will defend him no matter what, the GOP complaints don't hold up.

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


Syria's Assad calls Trump the 'most transparent president' (QUINT FORGEY, 11/01/2019, Politico)

"All American presidents commit crimes and end up taking the Nobel Prize and appear as a defender of human rights and the 'unique' and 'brilliant' American or Western principles," he continued, "but all they are is a group of criminals who only represent the interests of the American lobbies of large corporations in weapons, oil and others."

Assad asserted that Trump, however, "speaks with transparency to say, 'We want the oil,'" adding: "What do we want more than a transparent foe?"

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


A new study shows that even the poorest immigrants lift themselves up within a generation (Nicole Narea, Nov 1, 2019, Vox)
The adult children of immigrants, almost universally, show more upward economic mobility than their peers whose parents were born in the United States. Indeed, a new working paper by Stanford University's Ran Abramitzky; Princeton University's Leah Platt Boustan and Elisa Jácome; and the University of California Davis' Santiago Pérez finds that this is especially true for the lowest-income immigrants and remains true for the most recent cohorts for which data is available.

Drawing from census data, publicly available administrative data, and federal income tax data, they traced the income levels of millions of fathers and sons over time dating back to 1880. The children of immigrants climbed higher in the income rankings than those born to US natives across history and in 44 of the 47 sending countries they studied.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The GOP has mainstreamed white nationalist anti-Semitism: One year on from the Pittsburgh shooting, it's clear that the Trump administration and the GOP, along with their media boosters, have helped create the climate for lethal white nationalist anti-Semitism to thrive. (Ben Lorber, 10/31/19, +972)

We're all used to this pattern by now. White nationalists continue to commit deadly attacks against Jews, immigrants and other minorities, while right-wing leaders continue to deflect from this reality, and instead falsely portray progressive leaders and social movements, from Ilhan Omar to the Women's March, as the chief threats to American Jews. Now, more than ever, we need to understand and confront the threats posed to Jews and other minorities, and multiracial democracy as a whole, by white nationalism and the forces of Trumpism.

It is with this in mind that my organization, Political Research Associates, has just released a new report, "Taking Aim at Multiracial Democracy: Antisemitism, White Nationalism and Anti-Immigrant Racism in the Era of Trump," in collaboration with Bend the Arc, a progressive Jewish advocacy group. The report highlights growing white nationalist anti-Semitism in the United States and its amplification by right-wing elected officials, Fox News, and segments of the general public, from the time of the Pittsburgh shooting up to the present.

Since 2016, the United States has seen a frightening escalation of anti-Semitism across the right. This has taken many forms, ranging from Trump's anti-Semitic campaign ads and claims of Jewish "disloyalty" to Republican rhetoric scapegoating George Soros and "globalists," the rise of the internet alt-right movement, white nationalist street mobilizations like the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, and deadly and attempted violence, vandalism, and arson targeting synagogues and Jewish cemeteries. This anti-Semitism is intimately connected to racist and exclusionary rhetoric, policy and violence against non-white immigrants and other minorities.

White nationalists hold the racist belief that non-white "others" are intrinsically inferior. They also imagine Jews as the shadowy architects behind a strategy to undermine white civilization and carry out the "meticulously planned genocide of the European [white] race," in the words of the Poway synagogue shooter. White nationalists believe Jews are orchestrating this so-called "white genocide" by encouraging non-white immigration and engineering a slew of progressive forces, from the civil rights, feminist, and LGBTQ rights movements to multiculturalism, "political correctness," and more.

These ideas don't just exist on the fringes of the right. White nationalist anti-Semitism is increasingly echoed and reinforced, in dog-whistle form, by prominent right-wing elected officials and media pundits, including Trump himself. These right-wing leaders echo the demonization of liberal Jewish philanthropist George Soros and the "globalist" or "cosmopolitan" elite as hidden masterminds of non-white immigration and various "liberal" causes, from present-day impeachment proceedings against Trump to the "migrant caravan" during the 2018 midterms, Black Lives Matter protests, and more. When right-wing leaders voice this rhetoric, it legitimizes anti-Semitic conspiracies while granting it a massive public forum, contributing to a climate that encourages white nationalist attacks on Jews and other minorities.

None of these tactics are new. From early 20th-century Tsarist Russia to Nazi Germany, conservative and ultra-nationalist leaders and social movements have long propagated the fantasy of a scheming, immensely-powerful Jewish cabal that covertly manipulates world affairs. While many forms of oppression "punch down" by declaring groups of people inferior based on race, class and gender, modern European-derived anti-Semitism claims to "punch up" at an imagined secretive, elite class of Jews. In so doing, right-wing leaders and social movements use anti-Semitic scapegoating during times of intense inequality and instability in order to deflect popular discontent and discourage it from challenging the inequitable policies they uphold and benefit from.

As we explain in "Taking Aim at Multiracial Democracy," this anti-Semitism doesn't only threaten the safety and vibrancy of Jewish communities. It also bolsters and amplifies racist rhetoric and exclusionary policy against immigrants, communities of color and other marginalized groups. It serves as an effective scaffolding for full-frontal attacks against progressive movements, and multiracial democracy as a whole.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fox News departure: Catherine Herridge joins CBS News, saying 'facts matter' (Brian Stelter, 11/01/19, CNN Business)

In another major defection from the newsroom of Fox News, Catherine Herridge is joining CBS News as a senior investigative correspondent.

Herridge, Fox's chief intelligence correspondent, was a founding employee of Fox News in 1996 and a leader in the network's Washington bureau.

She was in talks to join CBS before Shep Smith, also a founding Fox employee, resigned on October 11 in the middle of a multi-year contract, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. [...]

In a statement released through CBS, Herridge also invoked the importance of facts, but in a way that could be interpreted as a criticism of Fox: "CBS News has always placed a premium on enterprise journalism and powerful investigations," she said. "I feel privileged to join a team where facts and storytelling will always matter."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


40 years on, embassy hostage crisis still haunts US-Iran ties (AFP, 11/01/19) 

Gary Sick, an American official who dealt with the hostage crisis at the time, said the incident was "probably the single best explanation for why we're in the sort of impasse we are right now."

"If you look at everything Iran has done or we have done in the meantime, the kind of punishment that is being meted out to Iran is totally disproportionate," he told AFP in Washington. [...]

The 2015 accord had promised to open up Iran's economy to the world after years of isolation, in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme.

Its unravelling made some in Tehran see Washington as untrustworthy in negotiations -- but many young Iranians still see talks as the only way forward.

"I, like the rest of my generation, believe we have never had a problem with the American people," said Khadijeh, a 19-year-old student in Tehran.

The issue is with the US administration's consistently negative policies against Iran, she said, dressed in the long chador gown worn by conservative Iranian women.

"We have tried everything, whether it was fighting or peace... but (America) does not accept anything," she said.

Students who took part in the embassy takeover have voiced similar sentiments.

Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iran's vice president for women and family affairs, was a 20-year-old medical student at the time of the hostage crisis.

She became a key spokesperson for the students, thanks to her fluent English.

Despite her past, Ebtekar was a firm supporter of her government's efforts to rebuild ties with the West through the 2015 nuclear deal, she told AFP in a 2016 interview.

She said she regretted the isolation that followed, but remained unrepentant -- the students had been convinced the US was preparing a coup to reverse the revolution.

"The incident certainly had a cost, but the cost was less than its benefit," Ebtekar told KhabarOnline news agency last year.

Another then-student, Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, who later became a reformist politician, in 2014 apologized for the hostage-taking.

"We just wanted to occupy the embassy for 48 hours, and I don't agree with sanctifying the move and thinking we should chant 'Death to America' forever," he said.

Over the decades, some politicians on both sides have wanted to move on, most notably Iran's former reformist president Mohammad Khatami and Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.

But the crisis scarred the US psyche. According to Sick, now a professor at Columbia University, that helps explain Washington's persistent hard line.

You'd think our helping Saddam slaughter them and shooting down a passenger jet would have balanced the books, nevermind 40 years of sanctions.  We're long past the point where we're just being petulant.