May 21, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 AM


Amid ethics scrutiny, EPA's Pruitt also finds his regulatory rollbacks hitting bumps (Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, May 20, 2018, Washington Post)

In March, as part of Scott Pruitt's aggressive campaign to roll back federal regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed relaxing standards for storing potentially toxic waste produced by coal-burning power plants.

EPA officials cited a study indicating that forcing utilities to get rid of unlined coal ash ponds too quickly could strain the electrical grid in several regions of the country.

But when environmental advocates scrutinized the specifics, they discovered a problem: The evidence cited was not established scientific research. Instead, the agency was relying on a four-page document by the utility industry's trade association, the Edison Electric Institute, which has acknowledged that its conclusions were not "part of or a summary of a larger study."

Lisa Evans, a lawyer for the group Earthjustice, was among the advocates who seized on that omission, as well as on gaps in technical data and other evidence, to argue that the agency's action was ill-advised and legally flimsy.

"The record does not support the proposal," Evans said, noting that the Obama administration's 2015 requirement on coal ash drew on years of public input and peer-reviewed scientific studies. "I've never seen a rule like this, in terms of the thinness of the evidence."

The coal ash proposal is among the more than half-dozen major EPA moves that have been snagged by procedural and legal problems. The delays threaten to tarnish Pruitt's image as an effective warrior in President Trump's battle against federal regulations, a reputation that has so far saved the EPA administrator his job amid an array of investigations into ethical and management lapses.

All of the corruption, none of the change!  The Right made a deal with the devil and they still can't play the guitar worth a lick.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 AM


Michael Flynn pleaded guilty. Now his supporters are trying to exonerate him. (Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey May 20, 2018, Washington Post)

[T]he largely social-media-based effort has, at times, put Flynn's advocates, and occasionally Flynn, at odds with his own legal team, which believes that any public attention to Flynn's case is not helpful as he awaits sentencing and has counseled that he and his family to remain quiet. [...]

Flynn was one of the first Trump associates to plead guilty in Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and he began cooperating with the ongoing investigation. He was initially fired from his top White House post in February 2017, after misleading Vice President Pence about his contacts with Kislyak. [...]

While Flynn's supporters have focused on his guilty plea regarding lying to the FBI, the special counsel's office made clear in a court filing at the time that he was also being investigated for other possible crimes before the deal was struck, including improperly lobbying for Turkey. [...]

But at one point late last year, when it looked as though Flynn might accuse Trump or people close to the president of possible wrongdoing, the president's own legal team readied an attack on his credibility. And many White House aides have privately expressed little sympathy for him, saying choosing Flynn for the top national security post was a mistake from the very beginning. The president, at times, has also called the general "very controversial," according to a senior administration official.

...for firing him for lying about colluding?

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 AM


Quantum Physics May Be Even Spookier Than You Think (Philip Ball, May 21, 2018, Scientific American)

The classic example of a superposition involves firing photons at two parallel slits in a barrier. One fundamental aspect of quantum mechanics is that tiny particles can behave like waves, so that those passing through one slit "interfere" with those going through the other, their wavy ripples either boosting or canceling one another to create a characteristic pattern on a detector screen. The odd thing, though, is this interference occurs even if only one particle is fired at a time. The particle seems somehow to pass through both slits at once, interfering with itself. That's a superposition.

And it gets weirder: Measuring which slit such a particle goes through will invariably indicate it only goes through one--but then the wavelike interference (the "quantumness," if you will) vanishes. The very act of measurement seems to "collapse" the superposition. "We know something fishy is going on in a superposition," says physicist Avshalom Elitzur of the Israeli Institute for Advanced Research. "But you're not allowed to measure it. This is what makes quantum mechanics so diabolical."

Correction: "divine"
Posted by orrinj at 4:27 AM


Trump Grappling With Risks of Proceeding With North Korea Meeting (David E. Sanger, May 20, 2018, NY Times)

President Trump, increasingly concerned that his summit meeting in Singapore next month with North Korea's leader could turn into a political embarrassment, has begun pressing his aides and allies about whether he should take the risk of proceeding with a historic meeting that he had leapt into accepting, according to administration and foreign officials.

Mr. Trump was both surprised and angered by a statement issued on Wednesday by the North's chief nuclear negotiator, who declared that the country would never trade away its nuclear weapons capability in exchange for economic aid, administration officials said. The statement, while a highly familiar tactic by the North, represented a jarring shift in tone after weeks of conciliatory gestures.

On Thursday and Friday, Mr. Trump peppered aides with questions about the wisdom of proceeding, and on Saturday night he called President Moon Jae-in of South Korea to ask why the North's public statement seemed to contradict the private assurances that Mr. Moon had conveyed after he met Kim Jong-un, the 35-year-old dictator of the North, at the Demilitarized Zone in late April.

You've got an anti-American leader of South Korea and a North Korean dictator who wants only to be treated like a peer and has no intention of giving up nukes, and Donald is surprised?  

To be fair, much of the analysis of these events was just as moronic as his.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


The China bargain emerges (Jonathan Swan, 5/20/18, Axios)

What Mnuchin said:

He told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace: "We're putting the trade war on hold... we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework."

No wonder Donald hates Asians; they keep bullying him.

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 AM


A Border Patrol agent detained two U.S. citizens at a gas station after hearing them speak Spanish (Amy B Wang May 20, 2018, Washington Post)

The incident occurred early Wednesday morning at a convenience store in Havre, Mont., a town in the northern part of the state, near the border with Canada.

Ana Suda said she and her friend, Mimi Hernandez, were making a midnight run to the store to pick up eggs and milk. Both are Mexican American and speak fluent Spanish, and they had exchanged some words in Spanish while waiting in line to pay when a uniformed Border Patrol agent interrupted them, Suda said.

"We were just talking, and then I was going to pay," Suda told The Washington Post. "I looked up [and saw the agent], and then after that, he just requested my ID. I looked at him like, 'Are you serious?' He's like, 'Yeah, very serious.' "

Suda said she felt uncomfortable and began recording the encounter with her cellphone after they had moved into the parking lot. In the video Suda recorded, she asks the agent why he is detaining them, and he says it is specifically because he heard them speaking Spanish.

May 20, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:24 PM


President Trump is his own wiretap (VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN, MAY 20, 2018, LA Times)
Watergate happened in audio. Bless his patriotic soul, President Nixon generously bugged his own offices and tapped his own phones. It was Nixon's own unmistakable voice, conspiring on dirty tricks and putative obstruction of justice, that checkmated him.

President Trump is also his own wiretap, and he may yet checkmate himself. But he uses another medium, another form of speech and another genre to wreck himself. Trump's chronic self-incrimination -- most of it, anyway -- is not audio; it exists in tweets and on TV.

From his televised request for more Kremlin hacks -- "Russia, if you're listening" -- to his NBC confession that he fired the FBI director to snuff out the Russia investigation, Trump makes sure to get just about every micron of his venality on the record.

And nowhere does he do it more flagrantly than on Twitter. One example: The syntax and content of "No Collusion or Obstruction (other than I fight back)," from last month, was read by the journalist Jonathan Chait and others as a tacit confession that Trump was saying that he did, under the rubric of fighting back, obstruct justice.

But there are also tweets that constitute a kind of trespass in themselves.

Trump says he will call for Justice Department to probe whether FBI surveilled his campaign for 'political purposes' (Matt Zapotosky, Robert Costa and David Nakamura May 20, 2018, LA Times)

Trump had spent much of Sunday railing against the year-old special counsel probe into his campaign, when just after 1:30 p.m., he wrote, "I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes -- and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!"

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


Roger Stone Says He's 'Prepared' to Be Indicted by Mueller (Chas Danner, 5/20/18, New York)

In March, the Washington Post reported that Stone had advance knowledge that WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange had hacked emails from DNC members including Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta. Stone had publicly predicted that Podesta would face scrutiny before anyone else knew about the emails. He has repeatedly denied that he coordinated with Assange or the Russian hackers.

Mueller's investigators recently subpoenaed two of Stone's associates. Jason Sullivan, a consultant who worked for Stone's pro-Trump PAC and was his social media adviser for four months before the 2016 election, received subpoenas last week for his documents and testimony before a grand jury. John Kakanis, who worked as an accountant, driver, and operative for Stone, has also been served with a subpoena, and has already been questioned by the FBI as part of the Russia investigation.

Posted by orrinj at 1:04 PM


Trump, South Korean leader commiserate over upcoming summit (David Nakamura and Carol D. Leonnig May 20, 2018, Washington Post)

President Trump spoke late Saturday to South Korean President Moon Jae-in amid increasing concerns in the White House that North Korea is not serious about striking a deal on denuclearization, which has complicated planning for the upcoming Singapore summit.

Donald already gave Kim everything he was looking for in exchange for a humiliation.

Posted by orrinj at 9:00 AM

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 AM


The Return of Islam (BERNARD LEWIS, JAN. 1, 1976, Commentary)

Modern Western man, being unable for the most part to assign a dominant and central place to religion in his own affairs, found himself unable to conceive that any other peoples in any other place could have done so, and was therefore impelled to devise other explanations of what seemed to him only superficially religious phenomena. We find, for example, a great deal of attention given by Western scholarship to the investigation of such meaningless questions as "Was Muhammad Sincere?" or "Was Muhammad an Enthusiast or a Deceiver?" We find lengthy explanations by historians of the "real" underlying significance of the great religious conflicts within Islam between different sects and schools in the past, and a similar determination to penetrate to the "real" meaning of sectarian and communal struggles at the present time. To the modern Western mind, it is not conceivable that men would fight and die in such numbers over mere differences of religion; there have to be some other "genuine" reasons underneath the religious veil. We are prepared to allow religiously defined conflicts to accredited eccentrics like the Northern Irish, but to admit that an entire civilization can have religion as its primary loyalty is too much. Even to suggest such a thing is regarded as offensive by liberal opinion, always ready to take protective umbrage on behalf of those whom it regards as its wards. This is reflected in the present inability, political, journalistic, and scholarly alike, to recognize the importance of the factor of religion in the current affairs of the Muslim world and in the consequent recourse to the language of left-wing and right-wing, progressive and conservative, and the rest of the Western terminology, the use of which in explaining Muslim political phenomena is about as accurate and as enlightening as an account of a cricket match by a baseball correspondent.

If, then, we are to understand anything at all about what is happening in the Muslim world at the present time and what has happened in the past, there are two essential points which need to be grasped. One is the universality of religion as a factor in the lives of the Muslim peoples, and the other is its centrality.

"Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things which are God's." That is, of course, Christian doctrine and practice. It is totally alien to Islam. The three major Middle Eastern religions are significantly different in their relations with the state and their attitudes to political power. Judaism was associated with the state and was then disentangled from it; its new encounter with the state at the present time raises problems which are still unresolved. Christianity, during the first formative centuries of its existence, was separate from and indeed antagonistic to the state with which it only later became involved. Islam from the lifetime of its founder was the state, and the identity of religion and government is indelibly stamped on the memories and awareness of the faithful from their own sacred writings, history, and experience. The founder of Christianity died on the cross, and his followers endured as a persecuted minority for centuries, forming their own society, their own hierarchy, their own laws in an institution known as the Church--until, with the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine, there began the parallel processes of the Christianization of Rome and the Romanization of Christ.

In Islam, the process were quite different. Muhammad did not die on the cross. As well as a Prophet, he was a soldier and a statesman, the head of a state and the founder of an empire, and his followers were sustained by a belief in the manifestation of divine approval through success and victory. Islam was associated with power from the very beginning, from the first formative years of the Prophet and his immediate successors. This association between religion and power, community and polity, can already be seen in the Qur'an itself and in the other early religious texts on which Muslims base their beliefs. One consequence is that in Islam religion is not, as it is in Christendom, one sector or segment of life, regulating some matters while others are excluded; it is concerned with the whole of life--not a limited but a total jurisdiction. In such a society the very idea of the separation of church and state is meaningless, since there are no two entities to be separated. Church and state, religious and political authority, are one and the same. In classical Arabic and in the other classical languages of Islam there are no pairs of terms corresponding to lay and ecclesiastical, spiritual and temporal, secular and religious, because these pairs of words express a Christian dichotomy which has no equivalent in the world of Islam.2 It is only in modern times, under Christian influence, that these concepts have begun to appear and that words have been coined to express them. Their meaning is still very imperfectly understood and their relevance to Muslim institutions dubious.

For the Muslim, religion traditionally was not only universal but also central in the sense that it constituted the essential basis and focus of identity and loyalty. It was religion which distinguished those who belonged to the group and marked them off from those outside the group. A Muslim Iraqi would feel far closer bonds with a non-Iraqi Muslim than with a non-Muslim Iraqi. Muslims of different countries, speaking different languages, share the same memories of a common and sacred past, the same awareness of corporate identity, the same sense of a common predicament and destiny. It is not nation or country which, as in the West, forms the historic basis of identity, but the religio-political community, and the imported Western idea of ethnic and territorial nationhood remains, like secularism, alien and incompletely assimilated. The point was made with remarkable force and clarity by a Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire who, in reply to the exponents of the new-style patriotism, replied: "The Fatherland of a Muslim is the place where the Holy Law of Islam prevails." And that was in 1917.

In the 18th century, when, under the impact of Austrian and Russian victories against Turkey and British successes in India, Muslims began to be aware that they were no longer the dominant group in the world but were, on the contrary, threatened in their heartlands by a Europe that was expanding at both ends, the only really vital responses were religious reform movements, such as the Wahhabis in Arabia and the reformed Naqshbandi order which spread from India to other Muslim countries. In the early 19th century, when the three major European empires ruling over Muslims, those of Britain, France, and Russia, were advancing in India, North Africa, and Central Asia, the most significant movements of resistance were again religious--the Indian Wahhabis led by Sayyid Ahmad Brelwi from 1826 to 1831, the struggle of Abd al-Qadir in North Africa from 1832 to 1847, the dogged resistance of Shamil to the Russians in Dagistan and the Northern Caucasus from 1830 to 1859. All of them were crushed, but made a considerable impact at the time.

Then, for a while, Muslims were sufficiently overawed by the power, wealth, and success of Europe to desire to emulate European ways. But from the middle of the 19th century onward came a further wave of European imperial expansion--the suppression of the Indian mutiny followed by the disappearance of the last remnants of the Mogul monarchy in India and the consolidation of the British Empire in that formerly Muslim realm, the rapid advance of the Russians in Central Asia, the expansion of the French into Tunisia and of the British into Egypt, and the growing threat to the Ottoman Empire itself, all of which brought a response in the form of a series of pan-Islamic movements.

The unification of Germany and Italy was a source of inspiration in Muslim lands, particularly in Turkey where many Turkish leaders thought that their country could play a role similar to that of Prussia or Savoy in the unification of Germany and of Italy by serving as the nucleus for the unification of a much larger entity. But what would that larger entity be? Not a pan--Turkish entity. Such ideas were still far away in the future and were not even discussed at that time. The basic political identity and aspiration were Islamic, and pan-Islamism was the first and natural response to pan-Germanism and pan-Slavism. It was not until much later that pan-Turkism and pan-Arabism appeared on the political horizon and, even then, there is some doubt as to what they really signified.

The end of World War I, the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, the strains and stresses that followed and the opportunities which seemed to be offered by the collapse of Czarism in revolution and civil war also gave rise to a series of religiously inspired movements--Enver Pasha in a last throw formed the ambitiously titled Army of Islam, the objective of which was to liberate the Muslim subject peoples of the fallen Russian Empire. Some of these movements were linked with the Communists or taken over by the Communists at a time when the fundamentally anti-Islamic nature of Communism was not yet understood. Almost all were expressed in religious rather than in national or even social terms. Most significant among these movements was that which has since come to be known as the Turkish Nationalist Movement. Yet the revolt of the Kemalists in Anatolia was in its first inspiration as much Islamic as Turkish. Islamic men of religion formed an impressive proportion of its early leaders and followers. The language used at the time, the rhetoric of the Kemalists in this early stage, speaks of Ottoman Muslims rather than of Turks, and the movement commanded a great deal of support in the Islamic world. It was not until after their victory and after the establishment of the republic that, as a result of many factors, they began to lay the main stress on nationalist and secular aims.

During the 20th century, at least in the earlier decades, such movements of resistance were more commonly expressed in the fashionable form of political parties and in the fashionable language of political, more or less secular, nationalism. But neither the party organization nor the nationalist ideology really corresponded to the deeper instincts of the Muslim masses, which found an outlet in programs and organizations of a different kind--led by religious leaders and formulated in religious language and aspiration.

....because the core error of neoconservatism is that Muslim society--unlike our own--must be shorn of its religion. Thus the Christianity of American political parties and their leaders and the Judaism of Israel's are perfectly acceptable, but the notion of Muslim voting for religious parties and leaders disorders the minds of the neocons and the Right.

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


A Response to Corey Robin: Conservatism Isn't about Preserving Privilege (CHRISTIAN ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ, May 19, 2018, National Review)

Well researched and brilliantly argued though it was, Robin's thesis on conservatism presupposes a far-left conception of history that few people would feel comfortable endorsing. This is The Reactionary Mind's great shortcoming. To accept Robin's interpretation of conservatism requires one to accept his interpretation of history, which, as we will see, is morally questionable and inattentive to counter-evidence.

So what, exactly, does the Robin conception of history entail? Robin explains that ever since the Enlightenment, the Left has inaugurated great movements of "emancipatory politics." Leftist movements have struggled on behalf of the oppressed and the downtrodden against entrenched power structures and their rightist apologists. Modern history for Robin, then, is the tale of an unceasing leftist struggle to defeat the Right; presumably, once that defeat is accomplished, human societies can finally set themselves to the task of turning capitalist depravity into socialist utopia.

In theory, Robin's view of history might not sound so bad. In practice it is appalling: In his book we learn that his examples of leftist "movements for emancipation" include the French Revolution, "the nineteenth century's movements against slavery and on behalf of workers," the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the leftist activism of the 1930s.

Except for the case of abolition, which wasn't a cause of the Left but of the religious Right (more on this in a moment), those are some rather peculiar examples of liberationist movements. Indeed, who today but the most recalcitrant Marxist can take seriously the description of the French and Bolshevik revolutions as emancipatory movements? It is true that Russia and France saw ghoulish monarchs overthrown by popular uprisings; it is also true that both countries descended into dictatorships far more barbaric than the ones they replaced. To call the French and Russian revolutions emancipatory is to ignore Jacobin terror and Leninist tyranny.

And what is one to make of the suggestion that the Left was fighting for "emancipation" in the 1930s? One wonders which Left Robin is referencing. The 1930s were the peak of both Stalinist crimes and of all the leftist apologetics for them. As the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm chronicles in The Age of Extremes, leftist conduct in the 1930s and early '40s could hardly have been more unprincipled. Against the fascist threat, European and American Communists switched from supporting capitalist countries (the U.S. and the U.K.) to supporting Nazi Germany when it allied itself with Stalin's Russia in their joint mission to obliterate Poland. Then the Western Communists switched again, this time to oppose Germany . . . but only when and because it had invaded the Soviet Union!

Some politics of emancipation.

It is important to bear in mind not just that Robin's implicit approval of far-Left movements and governments is morally questionable but that it is indispensable to the arguments of The Reactionary Mind. His theory of conservatism is grounded in an interpretation of violent, revolutionary irruptions as "emancipatory" and of counterrevolutionary thought and practice as "oppressive." Remove that interpretation of history and his thesis collapses. 

The most important thing to keep in mind is that conservatives did not turn on such revolutions once they achieved power and demonstrated their mass murderous intent, it opposed the very idea of them because it understood what would happen. Robin's argument is even more peculiar as the end of two centuries of The Long War saw the revolutions favored by his side abandoned and the societies they damaged rather peacefully evolve towards the End of History model that the Anglosphere had achieved by 1776.

Posted by orrinj at 8:42 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


China Rejects U.S. Target for Narrowing Trade Gap (Bob Davis in Washington and  Lingling Wei in Beijing,  May 19, 2018, WSJ)

A last-ditch effort by the Trump administration failed to get China to accept its demand for a $200 billion cut in the U.S. bilateral trade deficit, as Chinese officials resisted committing to any specific targets after two days of contentious negotiations.

The two days of deliberations in Washington ended with both sides arguing all night on Friday over what to say in a joint statement, people briefed on the matter said. The Chinese had come willing to step up purchases of U.S. merchandise as a measure to narrow China's $375 billion trade advantage. But U.S. negotiators pushed the Chinese delegates to approve a specific target of $200 billion in additional Chinese purchases. The Chinese refused any such target in specific dollar amounts...

Now Even Japan Is Pushing Back Against Trump's Tariffs (Motoko Rich, May 18, 2018, NY Times)

After months of taking hits from the United States over North Korea policy and trade, Japan has decided that it will only be pushed so far, and is threatening to punch back.

On Friday, Japan notified the World Trade Organization that it was reserving the right to impose retaliatory tariffs against the United States in response to tariffs on steel and aluminum imports proposed by President Trump.

Darn, hating Asians turns out not to be a viable economic plan...and we thought the Right was on to something....

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


Death of a Biohacker: Aaron Traywick envisioned a future in which self-taught scientists would cure diseases and bend the human body to their will. (Jonah Engel Bromwich, May 19, 2018, NY Times)

People who knew Aaron Traywick, the biohacker who died last month at a spa in Washington, D.C., were initially suspicious about the circumstances of his death.

David Ishee, a researcher for Mr. Traywick's company, Ascendance Biomedical, said his first thought upon hearing that Mr. Traywick's body had been discovered in a sensory deprivation tank was that he had faked it and run off with his clients' money.

Tristan Roberts, another biohacker who worked with Ascendance, thought the same thing. Maybe the body was just "a very convincing clone," he joked.

Kelly Martin, who helped found Ascendance Biomedical, had a different theory, one that hinted at a conspiracy. "There's speculation, if you watch Aaron's last video, that he was going to provide disruptive technology that would upend Big Pharma," she said. "He said that we were close to coming up with something that was pretty revolutionary."

The police do not suspect foul play and the cause of the death is unknown. Edwina Rogers, Mr. Traywick's adoptive cousin, said a police detective told her that he found the drug ketamine in his pants pocket. She thought it likely that he had taken the drug, lost consciousness in the tank and drowned. [...]

Biohackers in general aim to augment their bodies in the hopes of gaining enhanced abilities. Those who work with the kinds of compounds that Mr. Traywick did often experiment on themselves so as not to break any of the laws that regulate health care.

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 AM


John Kelly's Ancestors Wouldn't Have Fit In Either (Viet Thanh Nguyen, 5/19/18, NY Times)

His inability to see or feel the world as they do is shared by many Americans.

That includes some of my fellow Vietnamese-Americans, who, though they came to this country as refugees fleeing war, are saying that the United States should not take in any more refugees, especially those from places like Syria. Some, like the Vietnamese-American mayor of Westminster, Calif., home to the largest population of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam, even say the United States should not accept any undocumented immigrants, since they include "criminals."

We were the good refugees, the reasoning goes. These new ones are the bad refugees.

Having grown up in the Vietnamese refugee community in San Jose, Calif., in the 1970s and 1980s, I can testify that there were plenty of bad refugees among us. Welfare cheating. Insurance scams. Cash under the table. Gang violence, with home invasions being a Vietnamese specialty.

All that has been forgotten. Vietnamese-Americans are now part of the "model minority" who believe they earned their success, relying on little or no government assistance. They are not so different from Mr. Kelly, the descendant of Irish and Italian immigrants who included unskilled laborers speaking little English. Convenient amnesia about one's origins is an all-American trait, since we believe ourselves to be the country in which everyone gets a new beginning.

What some of us also forget is that at nearly every stage of our country's history, the people who were already established as American citizens found convenient targets to designate as unable to assimilate: the indigenous peoples; conquered Mexicans; slaves; or the newest immigrants, who were usually classified as nonwhite.

In 1751, even before the country was founded, Benjamin Franklin wrote that "perhaps I am partial to the complexion of my country, for such kind of partiality is natural to mankind." He favored "the English" and "white people," and did not want Pennsylvania to become a "colony of aliens," who "will never adopt our language or customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion." He was speaking of the Germans.

German-Americans are now "white," which is partly a color, partly a state of mind and partly a matter of perception. The eventual whiteness of German-Americans saved them from being thrown en masse into internment camps during World War II, unlike Japanese-Americans. With historical lessons like that, it's no surprise that some Vietnamese-Americans desire to put their refugee past behind them, including the memory of how only 36 percent of Americans wanted to accept Vietnamese refugees in 1975.

The Right, like the Left, hates the America that actually exists.
Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


Houston Police Chief Says He Has 'Hit Rock Bottom' on Gun Rights Arguments (Jacey Fortin and Matt Stevens, May 19, 2018, NY Times)

"I know some have strong feelings about gun rights but I want you to know I've hit rock bottom and I am not interested in your views as it pertains to this issue," he wrote. "Please do not post anything about guns aren't the problem and there's little we can do. My feelings won't be hurt if you de-friend me and I hope yours won't be if you decide to post about your views and I de-friend you." [...]

In his Facebook post, which had elicited more than 16,000 reactions as of late Saturday, Chief Acevedo said the days after the shooting were a time for "the asking of God's forgiveness for our inaction." He specifically called out "the elected officials that ran to the cameras today, acted in a solemn manner, called for prayers, and will once again do absolutely nothing."

"I will continue to speak up and will stand up for what my heart and my God commands me to do, and I assure you he hasn't instructed me to believe that gun rights are bestowed by him," he wrote. "The hatred being spewed in our country and the new norms we, so-called people of faith, are accepting, is as much to blame for so much of the violence in our once pragmatic Nation."

Chief Acevedo, who took office in 2016, leads a department of more than 5,000 officers in the fourth-largest city in the United States. Under his direction, officers have rarely asked  detainees about their immigration status, despite a Texas immigration law that bans so-called sanctuary cities.

"Policing is all about relationships, and my job is, if these people are going to live in our city, is build those relationships," he said last year at The New York Times's Cities for Tomorrow conference. "We're taking the lead in the cities to try to make the best of really bad politics, really bad policy."

We're probably still a generation away from reasonable gun restrictions.

Young People Keep Marching After Parkland, This Time to Register to Vote (Michael Tackett and Rachel Shorey, May 20, 2018, NY Times)

The pace of new voter registrations among young people in crucial states is accelerating, a signal that school shootings this year -- and the anger and political organizing in their wake -- may prove to be more than ephemeral displays of activism.

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM


U.S. sanctions on Iran threaten vital Afghanistan trade project (Jonathan Landay, Rupam Jain, 5/20/18, Reuters) 

U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear accord and re-impose sanctions on Tehran threatens to derail a project to help build Afghanistan's economy, endangering a key goal of the U.S. strategy to end America's longest war.

The Indian-backed Chabahar port complex in Iran is being developed as part of a new transportation corridor for land-locked Afghanistan that could potentially open the way for millions of dollars in trade and cut its dependence on Pakistan, its sometimes-hostile neighbor.

Building Afghanistan's economy would also slash Kabul's dependence on foreign aid and put a major dent in the illicit opium trade, the Taliban's main revenue source.

Yeah, but the Afghans are Muslim, so Donald opposes helping them.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Rays to start reliever Sergio Romo vs. Angels for 2nd straight game (ESPN News, 5/20/18)

Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash's unconventional decision to use a back-of-the-bullpen reliever to start the team's game worked so well on Saturday that he plans to do it again Sunday.

According to Cash, righty Sergio Romo, who started Saturday's win over the Los Angeles Angels, will start again Sunday.

May 19, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 PM


As Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Wed, a New Era Dawns (ELLEN BARRY, MAY 19, 2018, NY Times)

A thousand-year-old English castle echoed with the exhortations of an African-American bishop and a gospel choir on Saturday, as Prince Harry wed Meghan Markle, an American actress, nudging the British royal family into a new era.

Ms. Markle, who has long identified herself as a feminist, entered St. George's Chapel alone rather than being given away by her father or any other man, a departure from tradition that in itself sent a message to the world. She was met halfway by Prince Charles, her future father-in-law and presumably the future king of Britain.

Prince Harry, who is sixth in line for the throne, has long called on Britain's monarchy to draw closer to the daily life of its people. But the most extraordinary thing he has done is to marry Ms. Markle, an American actress who is three years his senior, biracial, divorced and vocal about her views. Their choices at the wedding, many of them heavily influenced by black culture, made clear they plan to project a more inclusive monarchy.

In a time of tribalism and separation, it was a clear move toward an integrated modern future from the oldest of houses. Seated directly opposite Queen Elizabeth II was Ms. Markle's mother, Doria Ragland, the descendant of slaves on plantations in the American South. [...]

A gospel choir sang the Ben E. King song "Stand By Me," and the couple exited to the rousing civil rights anthem "This Little Light of Mine."

In short, it was not your average royal wedding. Among the throngs who filled the streets of Windsor on Saturday were black women who had flown in from Houston and Atlanta, moved, sometimes to tears, to see a woman of color so publicly adored.

"One of the children of slaves is marrying a royal whose forerunners sanctioned slavery; the lion is lying down with the lamb," said Denise Crawford, a court stenographer from Brooklyn.

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:32 PM


The irredeemable irresponsibility of The Federalist (Damon Linker, May 18, 2018, The Week)

Some day, when the Trump administration is over and the true extent of its corruption has become part of the public record, the right-wing website The Federalist and its leading promoters and writers (especially Sean Davis and Mollie Hemingway) will receive proper recognition for the significant and distinctive contribution they made to polluting the waters of American public life.

Along with Sean Hannity's prime time show on Fox News, the House Intelligence Committee under Devin Nunes, and the president's own lie-filled Twitter feed, The Federalist is a leading disseminator of pro-Trump conspiracies and up-is-down, funhouse-mirror distortions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling and potential Trump involvement. [...]

The latest example of this inverted political reality occurred this week, in The Federalist's coverage of the long article published Wednesday in The New York Times about how the FBI concealed its early investigation of four affiliates of the Trump campaign (Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and George Papadopoulos) while being far more publicly transparent about its investigation of Hillary Clinton's email server practices during her time as secretary of state.

To most people reading this story, its point was plain: The FBI behaved in a way that was deeply unfair to the Clinton camp, which had to contend with a constant stream of stories about the email investigation, including it being briefly reopened (and then closed again) less than two weeks before Election Day. The Trump campaign, by contrast, not only faced no such bad press but even enjoyed a (now notorious, because false) front-page Times story in late October 2016 that actively denied it was under investigation at all.

It's hard to conclude anything other than that the FBI made things much harder for the Clinton campaign while simultaneously protecting the Trump campaign (out of a fear that the implications of the Trump-campaign investigation were so grave that publicizing them before the election could fatally damage it).

But for The Federalist, this isn't the takeaway from the Times story at all. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:21 PM



Lewis was a leading scholar on Oriental and Middle Eastern studies. His study of antisemitism, Semites and Anti-Semites was a cry against Soviet and Arab attempts to delegitimize Israel. In other works, he argued Arab rage against Israel was disproportionate to other tragedies or injustices in the Muslim world.

Though a champion for Israel, Lewis was an often controversial figure, on this subject and others. He was accused of being a "genocide denier" for his views on the Armenian genocide. His support of the Iraq War has also brought criticism.

...what went wrong.

Bernard Lewis, eminent historian of the Middle East, dies at 101 (Brian Murphy May 19, 2018, Washington Post)

Dr. Lewis had no qualms about hard-edge policies toward the Middle East, once famously advising "get tough or get out," in what some have dubbed the Lewis Doctrine. He repeatedly denied that he backed the invasion of Iraq, saying he advocated for greater aid to Western-allied Kurds in northern Iraq as a counterweight to the Baghdad regime.

"For some, I'm the towering genius," Dr. Lewis told the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2012. "For others, I'm the devil incarnate."

But what stood out for many, especially in an age of borderless violence, was Dr. Lewis's premise of inevitable friction and competition between the Islamic and Western worlds -- particularly as Islamist militants and other groups exert more influence. He revived his earlier phrase "clash of civilizations" in an article, "The Roots of Muslim Rage," in 1990, two years before it was popularized by the late Harvard professor Samuel Huntington.

Dr. Lewis further argued that the Middle East's troubles were mostly self-inflicted and were not simply inherited ills from colonialism or outside meddling. He praised Islam as a great faith but fretted that it was being hijacked by intolerance and anger.

"He provided intellectual scaffolding for the belief that something was very wrong with Arab societies" and that U.S. support should remain squarely behind Israel, Jacob Heilbrunn, author of "They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons," told the Jewish American magazine Moment in 2011.

Beyond the polarizing arguments in which he was swept up, Dr. Lewis was a man of expansive intellectual appetites.

He immersed himself in topics as varied as Sufi mystic poetry and intricacies of Islamic law. Step by step, he crafted a style that combined a professor's gravitas, a pundit's wit and a patrician's confidence, despite his upbringing outside England's upper crust as the son of a modestly successful Jewish real estate agent and a housewife.

And, like his subjects and prose, Dr. Lewis defied easy definition.

He was, at times, an academic sleuth, poring over ancient Arabic volumes or poking through lonely archives in Turkey. He could quickly shift to become a commentator on present-day issues such as Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood ("dangerous"), aspects of Saudi Arabia's Salafist brand of Islam ("extreme and fanatical") and Iran's theocracy ("encourage resistance").

In his works -- including back-to-back bestsellers after the 9/11 attacks, "What Went Wrong?" (2002) and "The Crisis of Islam" (2003) -- Dr. Lewis increasingly courted a mass audience. He sought to explain Muslim views, but also scolded Western leaders for failing to grasp the reach of groups such as al-Qaeda.

"Osama bin Laden made me famous," he once quipped.

His tone grew more serious in subsequent years as he warned that the Middle East may increasingly breed radicalism and anti-Western fervor. "Either we bring them freedom or they destroy us," he wrote in a 2010 book, "Faith and Power."

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 PM


Richard Pipes, Historian of Russia and Reagan Aide, Dies at 94 (William Grimes, May 17, 2018, NY Times)

Professor Pipes, who spent his entire academic career at Harvard, took his place in the front rank of Russian historians with the publication of "Russia Under the Old Regime" in 1974. But he achieved much wider renown as a public intellectual deeply skeptical about the American policy of détente with the Soviet Union.

In 1976, he led a group of military and foreign-policy experts, known as Team B, in an ultimately pessimistic analysis of the Soviet Union's military strategy and foreign policy and the threats they posed to the United States.

The group's report, commissioned by the Central Intelligence Agency as a counterweight to an analysis that had been generated by the C.I.A.'s own experts -- Team A -- helped galvanize conservative opposition to arms-control talks and accommodation with the Soviet Union. And it set the stage for Ronald Reagan's policy of challenging Soviet foreign policy and seeking to undermine its hold over Eastern Europe.

While writing ambitious histories of the Russian Revolution and the Bolshevik regime, Professor Pipes continued his campaign for a tougher foreign policy toward the Soviet Union in the late 1970s as a member of the neoconservative Committee on the Present Danger and as director of Eastern European and Soviet affairs for President Reagan's National Security Council.

Despite this public role, he regarded himself, first and foremost, as a historian of Russian history, politics and culture -- a field in which he performed with great distinction. A forceful, stylish writer with a sweeping view of history, Professor Pipes covered nearly 600 years of the Russian past in "Russia Under the Old Regime," abandoning chronology and treating his subject by themes, such as the peasantry, the church, the machinery of state and the intelligentsia.

Stinkin' immigrants....

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Yes, Americans Should Care About the Royal Wedding (PHILIP TERZIAN, 5/18/18, weekly Standard)

[Y]es, we did fight a revolution to gain our independence from Britain; but our quarrel was with Parliament, not with the reigning monarch of the day. (Indeed, many Founders had hoped that King George III might be sympathetic to their grievances, and petitioned him to intervene with Parliament on their behalf.)
For that matter, if anyone doubts that Americans are susceptible to the lure of constitutional monarchy, they need only contemplate the status and trappings of the modern presidency. When Senator Mitch McConnell strides into a room, the Marine Band does not strike up "Hail to the Majority Leader." And so far as I am aware, no one outside the John Roberts household refers to the wife of the chief justice of the United States as "First Lady."

Something in and around Buckingham Palace fulfills a need still lurking in the American consciousness.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


'The Day that We Can't Protect Human Sources': The President and the House Intelligence Committee Burn an Informant (Quinta Jurecic, Benjamin Wittes  Saturday, May 19, 2018, Lawfare)

It wasn't that long ago that both the executive branch and the legislature in this country considered the protection of intelligence sources a matter of surpassing national importance.

During the 1970s, a renegade former CIA officer named Philip Agee went on a campaign of outing agency sources and covert operatives. Agee spent decades in exile, and an appalled Congress responded in 1982 by passing the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which criminalized the knowing and intentional outing of U.S. covert operatives and intelligence sources whom the government is taking active steps to protect.

More recently, a lot of people, including one of the current authors, objected strenuously to the activities of Edward Snowden. Snowden didn't disclose the names of human sources--just programmatic intelligence information. Yet he has been camped out in Moscow since the leak, unable to return to the United States for fear of the prosecution that would surely await him. Similarly, Julian Assange does not leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London for fear of arrest over his own activities. While both men have their supporters, we have never considered their jeopardy an injustice.

But what happens when the intentional outing of U.S. intelligence assets is the province not of rogue insiders, not of foreign hackers or foreign agents, not of people who end up spending the rest of their lives as fugitives, but of senior officials in two branches of this country's government who are most responsible for protecting those assets? To wit, what happens when the Chairman of the House intelligence committee and the President of the United States team up to out an FBI informant over the strenuous objection of the bureau and the Department of Justice--and manage to get the job done? And what happens when they do so for frankly political reasons: to protect the president from a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation involving the activity of an adversary foreign power?

These questions should be the stuff of conspiratorial Hollywood movies. They are, in fact, the stuff of this week's news.

...and Devin wants to get it to Vlad.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


Protesters spite racist lawyer with live Mariachi band outside home (Alex Taylor and Natalie O'Neill May 18, 2018, NY Post)

A Mariachi band triumphantly played at a protest Friday outside the home of the Midtown lawyer caught on camera hurling racist insults at Spanish-speaking restaurant workers.

More than 100 people gathered in front of Aaron Schlossberg's abode on West 60th Street near 10th Avenue to wave signs, chant "Ole, Ole! Throw him out!" and feast on free tacos.

"We're basically clapping back at this fool," said Chris Thompson, 40, an electrical engineer from Manhattan, who believes the lawyer should be disbarred.

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