January 25, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 PM


Democrats are having a field day after Trump's lawyers accidentally made the strongest case to call witnesses in his impeachment trial (Sonam Sheth, 1/25/20, Business Insider)

[O]n Saturday, Trump's lawyers seemed to bolster Democrats' case by repeatedly claiming that they hadn't heard from a single witness who had "direct contact" with the president.

Although their statements were misleading (Gordon Sondland, the US's ambassador to the European Union, was in frequent touch with Trump and testified to Congress that the president engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine), Democratic lawmakers noted that their statements underscored the need to hear from more firsthand witnesses.

It's worth noting, too, that though the president's lawyers complain of not hearing testimony from witnesses who spoke to Trump directly, the defense team led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone could easily solve that problem by retracting the Cipollone's sweeping directive last year which barred all executive branch officials across six agencies from cooperating with the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry.

Multiple senior administration officials in the president's inner circle -- like acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former national security adviser John Bolton -- cited Cipollone's command, which he made at the president's direction, as the reason they would not testify or provide relevant documents.

Bolton, who was at the center of a number of episodes investigated in the inquiry, has since said that he will testify if the Senate decides to subpoena him.

"Now, the first point that I would like to make is that the president's counsel did something that they did not intend: They made a really compelling case for why the Senate should call witnesses and documents," said Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer.

"They kept saying there are no eyewitness accounts, but there are people who have eyewitness accounts, the very four witnesses and the very four sets of documents that we have asked for," he said. "But there are people who do know. Mick Mulvaney knows. In all likelihood, Mr. [Robert] Blair, [an aide to Mulvaney], knows. Mr. Bolton may know. 'Why shouldn't we have witnesses and documents here?' I thought."

Sen. Joe Manchin of Virginia, who is widely considered a Democratic swing vote because he represents a deep-red state, told CNN he thought Trump's team did a "good job" of "making me think about things." He added, "One thing that stuck in my mind is they said there isn't a witness they have had so far that had direct contact with the president. I'd love to hear from Mulvaney and Bolton."

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM


Want to solve the retirement crisis? Invest $7,500 for every baby born in America (ALESSANDRA MALITO, 1/24/20, Market Watch)

The program, called the T.R.U.S.T. Fund for America (short for Tomorrow's Retirement for the U.S. Today), looks like this: when born, every baby receives $7,500 in an account managed by an independent agency of the federal government. The money is placed in a new type of EE Savings Bond, called the "T.R.U.S.T. EE" Bond, which would be issued by the Treasury Department. The total amount of bonds issued would be about $29 billion a year, assuming about 4 million babies are born, and would be self-funding, he said.

At age 70, the account would begin generating monthly income to be, on average, equivalent to Social Security benefits. The benefit is meant to supplement Social Security. [...]

Most Americans can only begin saving for retirement in their 20s and 30s, if they're starting early, but by beginning their contributions at birth their eventual nest egg would increase exponentially. Someone saving $100 a month for 20 years would have contributed $24,000 in total, and have an account grow to $52,000 with a 7% rate of return. If that same person were to save $100 a month for 60 years with the same rate of return, she'd eventually have an account balance of $1.1 million. The T.R.U.S.T. EE proposal would generate about $650,000 by age 66 with a one-time contribution at birth.

Obviously, if you invest more in each newborn over the course of the first several years, allow individuals to leave the residue of their accounts to the accounts of others and means-test the program at the time of withdrawal, you can eliminate Social Security within a generation or two.

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 PM


Saudi Arabia to stop funding mosques in foreign countries (Middle East Monitor, 1/25/20)

Former Saudi minister of justice, Mohammed Bin Abdul-Karim Issa, has announced that his country will stop funding mosques in foreign countries, Arabi21.com reported on Friday.

According to the Swiss newspaper, Le Matin Dimanche, Saudi Arabia is to establish local administrative councils for each mosque, in cooperation with the local authorities, in order to hand over these mosques to "secure hands". [...]

It is worth noting that the minister led a delegation on Thursday to visit the Auschwitz camp on the 75th anniversary of its liberation.

Wahhabism meets the End of History.

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The head of ICE says he will deport DREAMers if the Supreme Court ends DACA (Ian Millhiser,  Jan 25, 2020, Vox)

Matthew Albence, the acting director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said on Thursday that ICE will deport immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program if the Supreme Court strikes that program down later this year. That statement seems to contradict Chief Justice John Roberts's understanding that such deportations will not happen.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 PM


Pompeo Crumbles Under Pressure (DANIEL LARISON, 1/24/20, American Conservative)

Mike Pompeo has proven to be a blowhard and a bully in his role as Secretary of State, and nothing seems to bother him more than challenging questions from professional journalists. All of those flaws and more were on display during and after his interview with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly today. After abruptly ending the interview when pressed on his failure to defend members of the Foreign Service, Pompeo then threw a fit and berated the reporter who asked him the questions:

Immediately after the questions on Ukraine, the interview concluded. Pompeo stood, leaned in and silently glared at Kelly for several seconds before leaving the room.

A few moments later, an aide asked Kelly to follow her into Pompeo's private living room at the State Department without a recorder. The aide did not say the ensuing exchange would be off the record.

Inside the room, Pompeo shouted his displeasure at being questioned about Ukraine. He used repeated expletives, according to Kelly, and asked, "Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?" He then said, "People will hear about this."

People are certainly hearing about it, and their unanimous judgment is that it confirms Pompeo's reputation as an obnoxious, thin-skinned excuse for a Secretary of State.

Posted by orrinj at 8:52 AM


Prepping for a race war: documents reveal inner workings of neo-Nazi group (Jason Wilson,  25 Jan 2020, tHE gUARDIAN)

The Guardian studied leaked materials relayed by the whistleblower and pursued other lines of inquiry to exclusively reveal the real identity of the Base's secretive leader as Rinaldo Nazzaro, 46, from New Jersey.

Nazzaro is currently living in Russia with his Russian wife. Until the Guardian's exposé little was known about his background and he was only known by the alias "Norman Spear".

The exclusive materials show how the group has planned terror campaigns; vandalized synagogues; organised armed training camps; and recruited new members who extolled an ideology of all-out race war. The cache of documents and recordings gives a rare insight into how such neo-Nazi terror groups operate.

The Base - an approximate English translation of "al-Qaida" - began recruiting in late 2018 and pushing for both the collapse of society and a race war. Members of the group stand accused of federal hate crimes, murder plots and firearms offenses, and have harbored international fugitives in recent months.

It was the very real threat of violence that convinced the whistleblower to infiltrate the Base and stay undercover for months, gaining the trust of other members, only to later contact the Guardian to expose them.

The Guardian's source said that in recent months "the pieces were coming together to build the infrastructure for a strong, neo-Nazi militant underground, with places to train, to make connections and expand the network." He felt he had to act to stop it.

The source said: "The 'Norman Spear' I spoke with told me in no uncertain terms that the purpose of the Base is to cause the collapse of our society, not survive it."

The Guardian's source, an anti-Nazi activist, rose to a position of trust within the group, which allowed him to take thousands of screenshots in chatrooms used by the Base since 2018.

In November 2018, those chats were infiltrated by antifa activists, and members were outed, or "doxxed", amid early media reporting. At this point, the Base tightened up vetting processes and moved their chats to an encrypted platform called Wire.

Under the motto "there is no political solution" the group embraces an "accelerationist" ideology, which holds that acts of violence and terror are required to push liberal democracy towards collapse, preparing the way for white supremacists to seize power and establish an ethno-state. [...]

Although inside the group Tobin was vicious, militant and angry, a custody hearing attended by the Guardian in Camden, New Jersey, revealed the defendant as a pale, nervous, overweight teenager.

None of his former comrades had made the journey to the gloomy courtroom in downtown Camden, but he was attended by an older female relative dragging an oxygen canister behind her, several prosecutors, and one man identified as an FBI agent.

After the court heard about his fantasies of violence - including "suicide by cop" and machete attacks - and how a mental health crisis and infighting in Atomwaffen Division and the Base had driven him to talk to special agents, he was refused bail.

His profile seems to be typical: new recruits are disproportionately younger men. The official age limit is 18 but this is frequently relaxed, and several members are 17. Many are in their late teens and early 20s.

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM



Consider James Otis's The Rights of British Colonies Asserted and Proved, one of the most widely read pamphlets in the opening stage of the debates. Responding to the Stamp Act, Otis countered the idea that Parliament was an unlimited, absolute sovereign, rooting his argument in a natural law theory of morality and first principles.

Otis argued for the existence of an objective moral order accessible to all human beings. He stitched his argument with the golden thread of the natural law tradition, which was well summarized by Paul Sigmund: "There exists in nature and/or human nature a rational order which can provide intelligible value-statements independently of human will, that are universal in application, unchangeable in their ultimate content, and morally obligatory on mankind."

This moral order provided the ground for the range of precepts of traditional morality as well as the ground for political equality. Therefore, Otis argued, "by the law of nature we are free born, as indeed all men are, white or black." He then asked, rhetorically, "Are not women born as free as men? Would it not be infamous to assert that the ladies are all slaves by nature?"

For Otis, political equality was as important to a healthy civil society as marriage and family. Consequently, the authority of Parliament was bounded by a higher moral law by which it was required to serve a common good constituted by flourishing families. For this reason, the Stamp Act was an unjust violation of the colonists' inalienable equal right to property--the essential material of flourishing households--which could not justly be taken without their consent.

Another important pamphlet, Alexander Hamilton's "The Farmer Refuted," was written as a critique of the Royalist bishop Samuel Seabury. Hamilton responds to Seabury's caricature of liberalism as one in which individuals are bound by nothing but their own will, leaving power dynamics as the only natural reality. Hamilton insists, by contrast, that "the deity, from the relations we stand in, to himself and to each other, has constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is indispensibly, obligatory upon all mankind, prior to any human institutions whatever."

In other words, natural rights are derived from, and find their limits in, the law of nature. No man has "any moral power to deprive another of his life, limbs, property or liberty; nor the least authority to command, or exact obedience from him; except that which arose from the ties of consanguinity."

This framework simultaneously stands as a rebuke of arbitrary power--whether exercised by kings or masters--without affirming an unmoored individualism that would undermine the natural authority of parents over children or the integrity of the family.


So the pre-Founding Pamphlet Debates contain two lessons for us.

First, the political principles of the American Founding were not wool over the eyes of marginalized groups in order to give power to white males. In fact, their principles marked the beginning of the end of oligarchy and slavery, what Allen C. Guelzo recently called the 1863 Project and Forrest A. Nabors detailed at length in his award-winning book, From Oligarchy to Republicanism.

Second, the principles of liberty and equality did not inaugurate an order of autonomous individualism destructive of families and the environment. Rather, political equality was tethered to a moral order that simultaneously bound governments and people with a range of duties and virtues. The natural law principles of social morality were seen not in tension with, but corroborative of, liberal political principles. This appeal to a binding moral order as the very ground of equal political liberty can be seen across the Pamphlet Debates in the writings of John Dickinson, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Wilson, among many others.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


The pardon power and original intent (D. W. Buffa, July 25, 2018, Brookings)

Donald Trump has been using his pardon power lately, leading to speculation that he will also use it if and when impeachment action takes place. But it turns out that the Framers of the American Constitution thought of everything. When it came to the pardon power they even thought of Donald Trump.

Under Article II, sec.2, the president was given the "power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment." After the Constitution was drafted in the summer of 1787, it had to be ratified by at least nine of the states before it would take effect. Nearly everyone agreed that the president should have the power to pardon; some thought, however, that no one should be pardoned in the case of treason without the concurrence of at least one of the two houses of the legislature, because, in the marvelous phrase of Alexander Hamilton, "the supposition of the connivance of the Chief Magistrate ought not to be entirely excluded."

The possibility that the president might use the power to pardon as a means by which to protect those with whom he had conspired to do harm to the United States by "adhering to," or giving "aid and comfort" to, its enemies, led to one of the most important, but least remembered, exchanges in debate over whether the Constitution drafted in Philadelphia should become the Constitution of the United States. The exchange demonstrated that not only are there serious limitations on the president's power to pardon, but that a president's threat to use that power may itself be grounds for impeachment.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, June 18, 1788, George Mason rose from his chair on the floor of the Virginia Ratifying Convention deeply troubled by what he thought of the convention's failure to understand--the president of the United States might not always be someone of sound character and high intelligence. There would rarely, if ever, he reminded the delegates, be a commander in chief with the courage and rectitude displayed by George Washington during the War of Independence. There might even be a president who would try to change our form of government. The president, argued Mason,

"ought not to have the power of pardoning, because he may frequently pardon crimes which were advised by himself. It may happen, at some future day, that he will establish a monarchy, and destroy the republic. If he has the power of granting pardons before indictment, or conviction, may he not stop inquiry and prevent detection? The case of treason ought, at least, to be excepted. This is a weighty objection with me."

Some of the most famous men in American history were there that day as delegates to the Virginia convention. Patrick Henry, afraid that a national government would destroy the states, was leading the fight to reject the Constitution. John Marshall, who, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, would do more than anyone to make the Constitution the foundation for the kind of strong national government Henry feared, was one of the leaders in the fight to ratify it. But there was no one--no one in Virginia, nor in the country--with a deeper understanding of the Constitution and what it meant than James Madison.

Madison understood immediately the force of Mason's objection, but he had a response--a response in which he described limitations on presidential power that, to our great misfortune, have for too long been forgotten. Was there a danger in giving the president the power to pardon? "Yes," replied Madison, but there was a remedy for the danger in the Constitution as drafted.

"There is one security in this case to which gentlemen may not have adverted: if the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds to believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty."

But it's fun listening to the Trumpbots whinge about how, "He did nothing illegal!"  [Nevermind his own serial admissions that he did.]

That Abuse of Power Is Not Impeachable (Masood Farivar, January 24, 2020, VOA)

As U.S. President Donald Trump's lawyers begin three days of opening statements in his impeachment trial on Saturday, they'll push a widely disputed theory: that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense. 

The first of two articles of impeachment against Trump alleges that Trump abused the powers of his office by asking Ukraine to undertake investigations of his political rivals that would benefit his 2020 re-election. While Democrats say the president's conduct meets the constitutional threshold for impeachment, Trump's lawyers insist Trump didn't commit a crime and can't be impeached. 

However, some of the president's own allies, including former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Attorney General William Barr, have espoused the opposite view in the past, arguing that presidents can be removed from office for abuse of power even if they haven't committed a crime. 

The issue was underscored by House impeachment manager Jerrold Nadler on Thursday as he argued for Trump's removal from office for abuse of power. "Everyone except the president and his lawyers believe that presidents can be impeached for abuse of power," Nadler said. 

In August 1998, as a federal grand jury was investigating then-Democratic President Bill Clinton, Dershowitz went on CNN to argue that impeachment did not require criminal conduct.   

"It certainly doesn't have to be a crime," Dershowitz said then. "If you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of the president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime." 

It's not as if they have an actual defense.

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


Rudy Giuliani blows past his own deadline to prove Joe Biden was corrupt on his new podcast (EMILY CRANE, 1/25/20, DAILYMAIL.COM)

The podcast was hosted on YouTube and on Giuliani's new website, which offers 'Insight on leadership, courage and the most pressing issues of our time,' but also appears to have elements copied from another website touting him as a public speaker, saying: 'Offering a dynamic and lively presentation accompanied by Q&A, Giuliani reminds audiences that eternal vigilance and leadership are required to protect freedom.'

On the podcast, during which car horns could be heard, Giuliani offered a lengthy, and at times hesitant, discussion of why he did not believe Trump should be impeached and eventually turned to his claims.

'This of course is an unfolding story,' he said, sitting in front of books which included his  memiors, turned face-front to be more visible. 

'We will follow it in more detail. I particularly look forward to bringing to you many of the facts that I have discovered that no-one knows yet, that are quite dramatic and that clearly support every single thing that we've talked about.

'I found those facts in my role as counsel for President Trump in order to defend him and I can think of no more appropriate thing to do than share them with you. They're somewhat startling so don't,' he said then trailed off. 

'Get ready for it. I hope to see you very shortly.'

The podcast was published a few hours before a tape of his client, the president, demanding Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch be fired and saying 'take her out, do it!' to aides surfaced.

The tape was made at a dinner with Trump by Igor Fruman - who along with Lev Parnas were Giuliani's long-term Soviet-born sidekicks until they were indicted on campaign finance charges. 

On Fox & Friends Giuliani had been very specific about what he would offer his listeners and viewers. 'I was given information about Ukrainian corruption,' he said without revealing who the two informants were. 

'They told me that there was a great deal of collusion going on in Ukraine to fix the 2016 election in favor of Hillary Clinton. That what happened in Russia was a big hoax. That, actually, it was the Democrats projecting what they had actually done in Ukraine.

'I don't know if it's true or not. They gave me witnesses. I have since interviewed 10 of them. I've got eight of them on tape. I'm going to start a podcast at noon today.

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM


Soros announces $1 billion global education initiative to promote free societies (Times of Israel, 1/25/20)

American Jewish philanthropist George Soros has announced an investment of $1 billion in a new international educational initiative to promote liberal values and free societies.

Soros announced the Open Society University Network at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, calling it "the most important and enduring project of my life."

Details on the project were scant, but a statement said it would aim "to reach the students who need it the most and to promote the values of open society -- including free expression and diversity of beliefs."

It will also seek to assist "institutions in need of international partners, as well as neglected populations" and help "politically endangered scholars."

The initiative describes itself as seeking to "strengthen foundations of open society amid authoritarian resurgence" around the world, and to "counteract polarization by promoting global research collaboration and educating students to examine issues from different perspectives and advance reasoned arguments."

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


A final blow for the Virginia GOP? (Norman Leahy, Jan. 23, 2020, Washington Post)

Yes, thousands of people came to protest -- peacefully (and cleanly). But General Assembly Democrats went back to work, spiking GOP bills to loosen gun regulations, while advancing their own proposals to further tighten them.

This is going to be the state of affairs at least until after the 2021 elections -- assuming, of course, Virginia Republicans are able to stop the bleeding in their former suburban strongholds. That would be an exceedingly tall order for any political party, and that's doubly so for Virginia Republicans, who continue to suffer under the burden of an unpopular president and a bizarre insistence on defending the indefensible.

Consider the Senate's vote Tuesday to eliminate the Lee-Jackson state holiday and make Election Day a state holiday, instead.

A bill co-patroned by Sens. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria) eliminates Lee-Jackson Day, created, according to the existing law's text, "to honor Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870) and Thomas Jonathan (Stonewall) Jackson (1824-1863), defenders of causes."

The "defenders of causes," in this case, were heroes of a mythological Lost Cause that sought to destroy the union to perpetuate chattel slavery. Their holiday was slowly dying before the bill won Senate approval and may have disappeared on its own over time.

But Democrats are hastening its demise, passing the bill through the Senate on a 22-18 vote.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


The Union is already sacrificed on the altar of Brexit: The emotional rupture is complete and the legal rupture will follow (Jonathan Lis / January 24, 2020, Prospect)

 In recent days, the Scottish Parliament, Senedd and newly gathered Northern Ireland Assembly have all voted against giving assent to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. This is not mere symbolism. It matters. The directly elected legislatures of the three parts of the UK that are not England have all rejected the most significant constitutional change since Irish independence. The legislation they have opposed will have a profound impact on Britain's politics, culture and above all, its economy. It has been granted assent by just one of the UK's four elected parliaments. That is the House of Commons, a chamber constituted 82 per cent from England: an English parliament in all but name, and in all ways that count.

Britain has always fudged its national settlement. A political and emotional story which began with England's conquest of Wales in 1284 has never been completed or resolved. The UK had no modern revolution, nationwide civil war or external coloniser to force it to define itself afresh. Every change, from England and Scotland's 1707 Act of Union to 1990s devolution, has represented a slow, incremental addition to a centuries-old palimpsest. The UK is neither centrally governed nor federal, and sticks with the compromise. But a compromise can be a euphemism for a lie. 

The Anglosphere was Shi'a before it was cool.

January 24, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 PM


Two libertarian groups slam Florida Republicans' Amendment 4 bill (Lawrence Mower, Jan. 20, 2020, Tampa Bay Times)

Two libertarian think tanks came out against Florida Republicans' bill curbing Amendment 4, arguing that felons should not be stopped from voting just because they can't afford to pay back court-ordered fees, fines and restitution.

In a sharply worded opinion to a federal appellate court, lawyers for the Cato Institute and R Street Institute wrote on Friday that the bill GOP lawmakers signed last year, Senate Bill 7066, "violates the bedrock guarantee of equal rights that every citizen enjoys."

And without a judge's injunction, the groups wrote, the bill is fundamentally unfair.

"Absent the district court's injunction, SB7066 will have the effect of excluding a great number of people from voting because of their poverty, while allowing similarly situated wealthy persons to vote," the groups said.

...just on race.

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What unites the Nazis and Communists? (Douglas Murray, January 24, 2020, Unherd)

One of the central, simple insights of the work is the way in which it innocently demonstrates how Nazism and Communism were mirrors of each other.

On one side, the Nazis would put people in camps because of their racial origin. On the other, Soviet, side people could be consigned to the camps because of a relative who had chosen to live abroad or who had the "wrong" job before the revolution. In both cases, the individual could be disappeared due to factors over which they had absolutely no control. As one of the more decent Russian characters of the novel reflects:

"To me, a distinction based on social origin seems legitimate and moral. But the Germans obviously consider a distinction based on nationality to be equally moral. One thing I am certain of: it's terrible to kill someone simply because he's a Jew.  They're people like any others -- good, bad, gifted, stupid, stolid, cheerful, kind, sensitive, greedy... Hitler says none of that matters -- all that matters is that they're Jewish. And I protest with my whole being. But then we have the same principle: what matters is whether or not you're the son of an aristocrat, the son of a merchant, the son of a kulak; and whether you're good-natured, wicked, gifted, kind, stupid, happy is neither here nor there. And we're not talking about the merchants, priests and aristocrats themselves -- but about their children and grandchildren. Does noble blood run in one's veins like Jewishness? Is one a priest or a merchant by heredity?"

Never over-laboured, the mirror keeps offering up reflections. The Germans had their crazed purges just as the Russians -- before, and after, as well as during 1937 -- had theirs. The Nazis had Rohm, the Russians had Bukharin. Stalin and Hitler are not just evil geniuses of their own creation, but clever students of each other.

A genius of Grossman's narrative is not just that he explains the uniqueness and similarity of these evils, but that he causes the reader to get meshed up in this for themselves. As the chapters switch from one camp to another or one command control to another, it takes time -- often not until the give-away of a surname -- to work out which totalitarianism we are in. It is not always at first clear whether we are in the Gulag or Auschwitz, the Reich Chancellery or the Kremlin.

They are so close, that at one breath-holding point Grossman has the two dictators communing. Immediately after the German defeat in the city that has taken his name, Stalin has a moment of "superstitious anxiety" which makes him put down his pencil at his desk. "At that moment he could feel very clearly that Hitler -- conscious of Stalin's thoughts -- was thinking about him."

Posted by orrinj at 4:48 PM



One of the many despicable attributes of the Trump administration is its habit of using press credentials to punish critics and reward allies--even when the allies are racist conspiracy theorists.

TruNews, a paranoid Christian-right website run by pastor, "citizen reporter," and former salesman Rick Wiles, never seems to have trouble getting White House credentials, or the president's ear, despite Wiles's solid record of antisemitism, racism, and homophobia.

According to Right Wing Watch's Kyle Mantyla:

This is the same Wiles who, last November, dedicated an entire program to declaring that the effort to impeach Trump was a "Jew coup" that will eventually lead to a "purge" in which millions of Christians are killed.

In that very same program, while speaking of the Biblical destruction of Sodom, Wiles asserted that "if God sent angels to this country, homosexuals would attempt to rape them."

And lest we're tempted to believe that that program was an anomaly, Wiles also claimed that Jeffrey Epstein's death was part of what he called, a "kosher cover-up"; that fellow pseudo-journalist Ben Shapiro has "the spirit of anti-Christ"; that Mark Zuckerberg is of "the synagogue of Satan"; and that abortion in America is the fault of "powerful, rich Jews."

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 PM


Even Trump's strongest Republican allies are praising House Democrats' impeachment presentation (Sonam Sheth, 1/24/20, Business Insider)

But as the impeachment managers make their case against the president, even Trump's staunchest defenders have acknowledged the effectiveness of Democrats' strategy.

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida told Politico this week the impeachment managers presented their case to the public as if it were "cable news," and he praised their use of multimedia.

Meanwhile, the defense team's case looked like "an eighth-grade book report," Gaetz said. "Actually, no, I take that back," he said, adding that an eighth-grader would know how to use PowerPoint and iPads.

Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana told reporters during the first day of the prosecution's opening arguments that the evidence itself was news to many senators.

"Nine out of 10 senators will tell you they haven't read a full transcript of the proceedings in the House," Kennedy said. "And the 10th senator who says he has is lying."

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump's biggest defenders, praised lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff after the first day of opening arguments.

"Good job," Graham told Schiff. "You're very well-spoken."

Makes listening to the wingnuts abuse Mr. Schiff even more hilarious.  Imagine degrading yourself more than Gaetz & Graham?

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Under Trump deal, Israel said to retain security control over Palestinian state (Times of Israel, 1/24/20)

Under the terms of the soon-to-be released Trump administration peace plan, Israel would retain overall security control of the entire West Bank even if a Palestinian state is established in parts of it, Israeli TV reports said Friday night.

Posted by orrinj at 1:50 PM


Iraqi demonstrators demand withdrawal of U.S. troops (Louisa Loveluck, Jan. 24, 2020, Washington Post)

Tens of thousands of Iraqis marched Friday at the urging of popular Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, decrying U.S. influence in the country and demanding that Washington withdraw its troops.

Around Baghdad's Hurriyah Square, the streets were a sea of black, white and red, as protesters clutched Iraqi flags and wore shrouds around their shoulders to evoke the country's dead. Iraq's government is under growing pressure to expel foreign troops after a U.S. drone strike killed a renowned Iranian general on Iraqi soil, inflaming regional tensions and leaving Baghdad's politicians fuming.

At the march Friday, loudspeakers denounced U.S. troops as occupiers. Posters depicted President Trump hanging from a noose.

Posted by orrinj at 1:38 PM


The Trump book you didn't hear about but is the most devastating yet (Tabatha SoutheyJan 24, 2020, Maclean's)

What the pair [Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes] have done with Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump's War on the World's Most Powerful Office is striking. Rarely is anything this sobering this hard to put down. The book is part detailed and comprehensive history of the office of the presidency ("President Grover Cleveland answered the White House telephone each time it rang"), part heartfelt elegy for a functioning political system. Mainly, the question being put to the reader is not, "Is Donald Trump wholly unsuited to be president?" (the authors make no secret they take this as understood), but rather, "In what ways is Trump's behaviour in office different from his predecessors and how might his behaviour alter the office after he's gone?"

While acknowledging that Trump possesses nothing approaching a coherent theory of governance, the authors examine Trump's words and actions not just as personal foibles, a term or two on the nation's timeline, but as proposed changes to how the presidency should function in the future. What, the reader is forced to consider, would it mean for America if Trump's view of the office as inesperable from his person--and personal interests--became a generally acceptable position for future candidates to embrace?

Other presidents have lied, but what will an America in which Trump's proposal that presidents should feel free to lie constantly, blatantly, and often pointlessly, without the slightest hint of embarrassment, let alone fear of political consequences, look like?

Not all of the Trumpian "proposals" explored in the book are shifts that necessarily empower the office of the president but the mixedness of this blessing cannot be overstated. For the moment, America, in fact the entire world, likely benefits from the resourcefulness of those unelected bureaucrats and cabinet officials who take papers that should never be signed off the president's desk and who slow walk or flat out ignore orders from the president to "Let's f-king kill him" ("him" being Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria). But what needs to be considered now is how well will this new norm age?

Unelected bureaucrats and cabinet officials are, it is now well-documented, currently serving not as assistants to the president, but as handlers of him. They are--or at least the best of them are--running the country as well as they are able while doing what they can to prevent the "toddler-in-chief" president from getting up to too much mischief.

Ultimately, this transference of responsibility, this subtle and currently accepted as benign negation of the president's autonomy, may prove to be as dangerous to the office as an institution as anything unimpeachable presidents freely abusing their power might manage.

Key to this view of the Trump presidency is the argument that individual presidents can and have dramatically altered the office, often without acknowledging what they were up to, or even necessarily realizing it. Hennessey and Wittes make their argument in meticulous, lawyerly detail, providing a history of how U.S. presidents have changed, or failed to change, the nature of the presidency. It is an institution that is far more reliant on good faith and convention; on the simple belief, for example, that the oath of office has not only meaning, but power. Hennessey and Wittes show us that soft underbelly.

Posted by orrinj at 1:35 PM


'Take her out': Recording appears to capture Trump at private dinner saying he wants Ukraine ambassador fired (Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, Allison Pecorin and Olivia Rubin, January 24, 2020, ABC News)

A recording reviewed by ABC News appears to capture President Donald Trump telling associates he wanted the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired while speaking at a small gathering that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman -- two former business associates of Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani who have since been indicted in New York.

The recording appears to contradict statements by President Trump and support the narrative that has been offered by Parnas during broadcast interviews in recent days. Sources familiar with the recording said the recording was made during an intimate April 30, 2018, dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Trump has said repeatedly he does not know Parnas, a Soviet-born American who has emerged as a wild card in Trump's impeachment trial, especially in the days since Trump was impeached.

Posted by orrinj at 1:30 PM


The Racist ICE Detention Center Captain Was Just Fired. We Found 132 More Posts by Him on a Neo-Nazi Site. (Tess Owen, Jan 24 2020, Vice News)

The captain of a privately-run ICE detention center in Nevada has been fired after VICE News exposed his ties to white nationalism earlier this month. [...]

After serving in the Marines, Frey spent the last decade moving around the country working for facilities run by CoreCivic, formerly CCA, in Georgia, California, Indiana, and most recently, Nevada. And as he rose through the ranks in corrections and detention centers, he would routinely turn to the neo-Nazi forum Iron March to spew racist vitriol and white supremacy.

Who else are you hiring to run concentration camps?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Scotland to reach 100% renewables in time to host 2020 climate summit (Sophie Vorrath, 23 January 2020, Renew Economy)

Scotland is shaping up as an exemplary host for this year's UN climate conference, with data showing it is likely to meet its national target of 100 per cent renewable electricity in good time for the crucial November meeting.

Scotland, whose southern city of Glasgow was named last September as the host for the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26), has a goal to source the equivalent of 100% of its electricity demand from renewable energy sources by the end of this year.

And it is shaping up to do just that. Having closed its last coal-fired power plant in 2016, the UK country's only remaining fossil fuel source is a gas-fired power station at Peterhead in Aberdeenshire.

The Green New Deal folks are entirely too cautious in their goal setting. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Alexander Vindman should be celebrated, not smeared (Michael McFaul, Oct. 30, 2019, Washington Post)

His position meant that Vindman interacted with most of the government officials who made and implemented U.S. policy toward Ukraine. He also listened in on the infamous July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for help in digging up (or making up) dirt on the family of his political opponent, former vice president Joe Biden.

In his written, published testimony, Vindman confirmed the basic facts of an attempt by Trump and his close associates to use public office for private gain. In his statement, Vindman never went beyond the facts; he added no opinion or political commentary. He explained why the president's actions seemed wrong to him and why he expressed his misgivings about this scheme through the proper chain of command, as every soldier is trained to do.

Yet, even before Vindman appeared before the committees, Trump-friendly commentators were assailing his character and loyalty. Former congressman Sean Duffy asserted, "It seems very clear that he is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense. I don't know that he's concerned about American policy. . . . We all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from. . . . He has an affinity for the Ukraine." University of California at Berkeley law professor John Yoo implied that the lieutenant colonel might be guilty of espionage for talking to Ukrainian officials, a normal part of his job.

Others suggested that Vindman might have dual loyalties because -- what a scandal! -- he spoke Ukrainian. Trump himself described the decorated Army officer as a "Never Trumper" -- without any evidence to support his accusation.

Such smear tactics are revolting and un-American. Vindman has served our country with honor and distinction, both on and off the battlefield. He was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq and has earned many more medals during his more than 20 years of service in the Army. I served with him in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, where he was everything you would want in a military attaché: smart, knowledgeable about the country, fluent in Russian and absolutely dedicated to the mission of advancing U.S. national interests.

And he is a patriot -- as you would expect from someone with his outstanding résumé. I witnessed his love of country during embassy ceremonies to honor our fallen soldiers on Veterans Day. The idea that Vindman might have dual loyalties with another nation is preposterous. Vindman was born in the totalitarian Soviet Union, not "the Ukraine." His family, which is Jewish, fled religious persecution. He is not Soviet or Ukrainian or Ukrainian American: He is simply an American.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why electricity prices are so low in Sweden right now (The Local, 24 January 2020)

The low prices are due to the mild winter Sweden has had, combined with a long period of a lot of precipitation and relatively windy weather, according to Tomas Jonson, CEO of comparison site Elskling.

"This means that reservoirs are filled to a high level, which provides good conditions for hydro power which represents 40 percent of the country's electricity production," he explained.

Meanwhile, the higher than usual temperatures for the season have helped reduce electricity use, which in turn lowers prices.

"Besides that, we have had record wind power. Swedish wind power has been built up at quite a fast pace and represents almost 15 percent of electricity production," said Jonson.

Make your money go further in Sweden: Top tips for saving in 2020
Simply put, the supply of electricity is greater than the demand, which pushes down prices.

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