May 4, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Judge orders DOJ release Trump obstruction memo (CREW, 5/04/21)

A federal judge has ordered the Department of Justice to turn over a memo cited by then-Attorney General Bill Barr as his reasoning not to charge President Trump with obstruction of justice as part of a lawsuit brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

When Barr delivered the Mueller Report to Congress, he said that there was not sufficient evidence to charge Trump, a decision made "in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers." Barr and the Department of Justice have refused to turn over the OLC memo, which led to the lawsuit from CREW.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that the contents of the memo "call[] into question the accuracy of Attorney General Barr's March 24 representation to Congress," specifically that Mueller had left it to the attorney general to determine whether the conduct his report describes is a crime, and that OLC's description of the document "served to obscure the true purpose of the memorandum," which CREW argued was to help Barr spin his version of the Mueller Report.

After reviewing the OLC memo, Judge Jackson found that it "raises serious questions about how the Department of Justice could make this series of representations to a court," concluding that "It is time for the public to see that [the memo], too."

Her Honor is not amused. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM


Corporations aren't 'woke,' they just know their customers. Watch and learn, Republicans. (Tom Krattenmaker, 5/04/21, USA Today)

Whether you're conservative or liberal, whether you condemn or cheer things like Nike's Colin Kaepernick ads or the corporate pushback against Georgia's new voting law, don't be tricked into thinking that America's corporate giants are becoming something fundamentally different from what they've always been.

But what you can see them as, in addition to profit pursuers, are bellwethers -- highly useful signalers of where the culture is headed and how reality-based organizations are positioning themselves for success. While you can't count on corporations to be your political best friend (or enemy), you can certainly pick up a thing or two observing their behavior. [...]

The profit motive that compels companies to commit dastardly deeds also compels them, at other times, to do things that might strike you as righteous. When the latter, it's not because they are essentially virtuous (they're not) but because pursuit of profit has, for a moment at least, driven them to the side of the angels.

Their calculations are not always right. But public-facing companies have powerful incentive to figure out where their current or desired markets are going and how they can go there, too. When their bottom lines are at stake, businesses cannot afford to be ruled by the fact-free ideologies and conspiracy theories that hold such sway today.'s the marketplace of ideas. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:01 PM


China's New Silk Road is full of potholes (Deutsche-Welle, 5/04/21)

There are cracks appearing in the New Silk Road, otherwise known as the Belt and Road Initiative. Launched in 2015 as Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature foreign policy project, it received a warm welcome from countries keen to benefit from Chinese globalization.

Since then, the attitude to China has hardened, especially in many democratic countries. Revelations about 1 million Uyghurs held in reeducation camps and reports of forced labor in Xinjiang, serious questions about China's handling of the coronavirus and its origins, and Beijing's dismantling of democracy in Hong Kong have cooled international enthusiasm for Xi's pet project.

Western countries have been emboldened by a reset of relations under US President Joe Biden, following the chaos and division of the Donald Trump era.

Uncle Joe should make it clear that we consider any monies that developing nations owe China are odious debt and will not be recognized as legitimate. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:44 PM


How Orwell Became 'Bitter Enemy' of Communism (John Rossi 5/04/21, RealClearHistory)

Orwell was eager to tell his story of what he had seen and was shocked to discover that the war and especially its political dimension was being misrepresented throughout the British press. He offered an essay to Kingsley Martin, the editor of the leading leftwing journal, The New Statesman recounting what he saw during the suppression of the POUM in Barcelona, especially the role played by the communists, only to have it rejected on the grounds that it contradicted the Popular Front party line of 'no enemies on the left.'  Orwell was outraged and began a campaign to get what he knew was truth out to the public. He never forgave Martin. Years later Orwell was having lunch with Malcolm Muggeridge and asked him to change seats. When Muggeridge inquired why, Orwell said that Martin was sitting across from him and he couldn't abide looking at his corrupt face. Orwell did not forgive easily.

Orwell's struggle to tell his story was the transforming event of his life, one that turned him into a bitter enemy of communism and especially its worshippers of Stalin. Unlike many of his fellow leftists, he never went through a Stalinoid phase as many British leftists did -- a point noted by Christopher Hitchens.

Orwell began writing his version of what he knew was happening in Spain, entitled Homage to Catalonia in a fit of anger. He argued that what he saw in Barcelona, the comradeship of the people -- genuine equality -- was destroyed by the Communists in order to gain control of the Revolution. He had to tell the truth of what happened even if it damaged the Republican cause, for otherwise no good would come of the Revolution. The way the war was presented in Britain disturbed him. "I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed ... I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that never happened. I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various party lines." 

His experiences in Spain foreshadowed the grim world of 1984 for Spain taught him the that the very concept of objective truth was disappearing.

Orwell noted that in Spain, contrary to the view in liberal circles in the West, Communism had become a counter-revolutionary force, more interested in gaining control of the Revolution than seeing a victory over Franco. Unlike most of his fellow leftists Orwell rejected the view that totalitarianism and political brutality was a monopoly of the Right. Failure to tell the truth and cover up for the Communists, he wrote in bitter terms was to "adopt the mentality of a whore."    

These comments enraged some on the Left. Herbert Matthews reported on the war in Spain and who gave a dishonest reading of the conflict for the New York Times. Twenty years later, he would match that with a fawning report on Castro's Cuba. And he attacked Orwell for political naivete.  In writing Homage to Catalonia, Orwell was doing more "to blacken the loyalist cause than any work written by enemies of the Republic." In certain left-wing circles, especially in the work of writers like Raymond Williams and E.P. Thompson, Orwell was never to be trusted again and a campaign of vilification began in the late 1930's that continues today.

The Spanish Civil War changed Orwell forever: "thereafter I knew where I stood." The war began the process where Orwell developed his idiosyncratic brand of what he called "democratic socialism"-- he always placed the emphasis on the first word, "democratic."  Despite the dreadful events he witnessed in Spain, Orwell was not depressed. He wrote that the war taught him several things: not to trust Communism; that he was a Socialist after all; and that truth had to be protected against modern ideological lies and distortions.  "Curiously enough," he told one of his closest friends, "the whole experience has left me with not less, but more belief in the decency of human beings."

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Ron Klain, the man executing Biden's mission (James Politi and Lauren Fedor, 4/30/21, Financial Times)

Klain, the White House chief of staff, is among the key architects of that success, cementing his status as one of the most skilled US political managers of his generation. "No one was as well prepared to be White House chief of staff, and up to now I think he's living up to that," says Chris Whipple, author of The Gatekeepers, a book about the role. "If the Trump White House was a smoking, backfiring jalopy, then the Biden White House is a finely tuned Rolls-Royce". [...]

One of Klain's most high-profile assignments during the Obama years was managing the Ebola outbreak, which prepared him for coronavirus. "He knows how government works and how to make it work," says Tom Frieden, former head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Klain has also had a spell as a lobbyist, working for clients including Fannie Mae, the government-backed mortgage giant. He was also general counsel at Revolution LLC, the venture capital firm founded by Steve Case, former CEO of AOL.

Over the years, he has gained a reputation for his approachability. "He is one of the most even tempered [people in Washington], which is a rare quality sometimes in politics these days," says Tom Daschle, the former South Dakota senator who hired him in the 1990s.

Not everything has gone flawlessly. Klain has had to deal with the botched nomination of Neera Tanden for budget director; the White House's struggles to address a surge in migration across the southern border and heavy criticism for hesitating to raise the cap on refugees, a key campaign pledge. Republicans have accused the White House of overly aggressive tax-and-spending policies and said the president has not lived up to his vows of bipartisanship.

But Klain is not easily rattled, people close to him say. "A genuine strength is the ability to not let any immediate twist or turn derail an overall strategy or derail the building -- not to let people get down on themselves or decide that all is lost," says Anita Dunn, the senior White House adviser.

Some allies of the president believe Klain has the potential to be one of the most effective White House chiefs of staff ever. But Whipple says it's too early to tell. "The hard part of being chief of staff is walking into the Oval Office, closing the door and telling the president what he doesn't want to hear. He may be up to that, and he may not. Some White House chiefs who become too close to the boss have a hard time".

For now at least, Democrats are generally thrilled with Klain's performance. "He is putting out fires big and small, he is solving problems and helping deliver on promises," says Scott Mulhauser, a former Obama administration official. "That's what you want from your chief of staff".

The problem, of course, is that many presidents have been to insecure to surround themselves with qualified peers (see under, Clinton, Obama, Trump).  The best cabinet we've ever had contained not just a former deputy as chief but a VP who'd been chief and a Defense Secretary who had been, plus numerous former governors. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


How Malcolm X Inspired John Coltrane to Embrace Islamic Spirituality: Richard Brent Turner on A Love Supreme, Artistic Transformation, and the Black Arts Movement (Richard Brent Turner, May 4, 2021, Lit Hub)

Just as Trane's "interest in spiritual ideas from around the world was accompanied by listening to the music of India, the Middle East, and Africa," as Ingrid Monson has noted, his embrace of Islamic spirituality was influenced by listening to Malcolm X. Coltrane met jazz pianist Alice McLeod in 1963 and they married and raised four children to­gether in their Huntington, Long Island, home.

Alice Coltrane remem­bered, "As for Malcolm, I know he would go downtown and attend some of the talks that were in [New York]. Once he came back and I asked him how was the lecture, and he said he thought it was superb."

In a 1966 interview in Japan, he was asked, "What do you think about Malcolm X?," and the saxophonist answered, "I admired him. I admired him."

Why was John Coltrane impressed with Malcolm X in 1964? First, they were kindred spirits in terms of their conversion experiences, which turned them away from drug addiction in the jazz world and led them to embrace Islamic and Eastern spirituality on Coltrane's part and the Nation of Islam and then Sunni Islam on Malcolm's part. They were both jazz brothers in spirit who became known for their "openness to self-transformation" on an international level. Malcolm X left the Na­tion of Islam in March 1964, made the hajj to Mecca in April 1964, and changed his name to El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.

"He went to Mecca as a black Muslim and there he became only a Muslim," adopting a univer­sal understanding of his religion, which paralleled Coltrane's universal ideas about the power of non-Western religious and musical forms to uplift humanity. Malcolm received certification as a Muslim mis­sionary from Al-Azhar University and the Muslim World League after completing Islamic training in Egypt and Saudi Arabia in 1964. His human rights group, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which he established in June 1964, supported the Pan-African values that Col­trane exemplified in his later collaborations with Olatunji and Lateef: freedom, self-defense, black economic and political power, education in community-based alternative schools and cultural centers, the sig­nificance of Afro-American history, social uplift of youth, freedom from drug addiction and alcoholism, reconciliation with Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders, connections with the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity to support black liberation in the United States, and "workshops in all the arts... [as] an indispensable weapon in the freedom struggle."

These forces culminated in the revo­lutionary politics of Malcolm X's transnational communal masculinity as he cultivated pan-Islamic, Pan-African allies like the Egyptian presi­dent Gamal Abdel Nasser to support his opposition to anti-black racism in the United States.

On July 27, 1964, he spoke to Cairo's Young Men's Muslim Association and argued that the Egyptian leader's "concept of Islam forces him to fight for the liberation of all oppressed people, whether they are Muslim or otherwise, because Islam teaches us that all humanity comes from Allah, and... has the same God-given right to freedom, justice, equality--life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Malcolm's opposition to the Vietnam War and his trips to Africa and Europe to promote his new religious and human rights agenda were also of great interest to the saxophonist, who was headed on a similar international path to perform his music, which eventually was called "a revolution in sound... that would release the true universal God he sensed lurking beneath the layers of confusion and hangup that Ameri­can society stuffs all black folk with."

A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1965) was recorded in 1964. John Col­trane's autobiographical conversion story, which he told in the liner notes, mirrored the austere themes of Malcolm's narrative of submission, deliverance, conversion, and pilgrimage to Islam that he narrated with Alex Haley in his autobiography. Coltrane wrote,

Dear Listener:

All Praise Be To God To Whom All Praise Is Due. Let us pursue Him in the righteous path... During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music. I feel this has been granted through His grace... As time and events moved on... I entered into a phase which was contradictory to the pledge and away from the esteemed path; but thankfully... through the unerring and merciful hand of God, I do perceive and have been duly re-informed of His Omnipotence, and of our need for and depen­dence on Him. At this time I would like to tell you that NO MATTER WHAT... IT IS WITH GOD. HE IS GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL. HIS WAY IS IN LOVE, THROUGH WHICH WE ALL ARE. IT IS TRULY--A LOVE SUPREME--.


A Love Supreme shaped discussions about the interplay between African American Is­lamic identities and Coltrane's jazz among his fans and musical col­leagues during the 1960s and beyond. Sold in American stores for the first time in February 1965, the album quickly became a hit among jazz fans and musicians. Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965, in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, and The Autobiography of Mal­colm X was published that year. Malcolm's hajj to Mecca, conversion to Sunni Islam, Black Power speeches, travel to Africa, and provocative representations of black manhood made him the most famous Muslim in the United States and the world.

Because of the tenor of the times in which the golden age of jazz and the golden age of African American Islam collided in a burst of creativity, thousands of black Americans crit­ically considered Islam and converted to the religion, and among black youth in Philadelphia and other American cities, "there was a spiritual response" to the album, "a response to A Love Supreme like you would have to Malcolm... like you have with the emergence of black con­sciousness," according to a jazz radio deejay in Philadelphia.

Amiri Baraka, the black poet, playwright, music critic, and author of Blues People: Negro Music in White America, sensed similar themes of black consciousness, Islamic spirituality, and Third World creativity in Malcolm X's and Coltrane's work and explained that "so much is made of Trane's link with Malcolm in the 60s, because those periods are when art of that kind does emerge. You have social upsurges, and for every social upsurge, there's an artistic upsurge that corresponds with that."

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM


Speculation swirls of Iran deal resurrection as diplomatic activity intensifies (MATTHEW LEE, 5/04/21, AP) 

A flurry of diplomatic contacts and reports of major progress suggest that indirect talks between the US and Iran may be nearing an agreement. That's despite efforts by US officials to play down chances of an imminent deal that would bring Washington and Tehran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. [...]

A US return to the deal would be the biggest and most controversial foreign policy initiative in the early months of Joe Biden's presidency. It would revive a deal that top Biden aides put together during their years in the Obama administration, only to see former US President Donald Trump pull out and try to prevent the US from ever returning. Rejoining it -- and making the concessions required to do so -- would enrage Republicans and likely unsettle Israel and Gulf Arab allies. [...]

Later Friday, and on Saturday, reports emerged from Iran and Iran-linked media outlets that an agreement had been struck on what the US would provide in return for Iran returning to compliance with the 2015 deal, which had given billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. On Sunday reports of the prisoner swap deal emerged.'ve done God's work.