Solarbird (solarbird) wrote,

good morning, it's 10 april 2017

Norwescon is this week, and I'm pinched for time. I won't be doing these over Norwescon (barring something dramatic, like at Conflikt), so expect a few missing days later this week and over the weekend. I will not be attempting to catch up, but will skip over those days.

Media fawning is a theme today, and one of the items we really, really have to be fighting against. "STUDY: Gorsuch Supporters Vastly Outnumbered Opponents On Fox News And CNN" - their guests were weighted almost as if they were selling Gorsuch. The thing we didn't get to talk about was this story, "Gorsuch's writings borrow from other authors" - the Republicans refused to extend debate to consider it. And a non-Gorsuch story shows yet another telling side of the picture: "Here's How Frequently Women Supreme Court Justices Are Interrupted by Men." (Spoiler: overwhelmingly more than by men, and also, attorneys feel free to do it too, which is explicitly in violation of court rules, but don't get called on it. And they don't really do it to male justices.)

The Trump-Russia connection is being shuffled off to the side, and that's a direct result of the media's love for bombings and war. Here are a few stories, but two are from before the Syria attack: "Briefing: Trump, Russia, Rice – and now Nunes," "To Charm Trump, Paul Manafort Sold Himself as an Affordable Outsider" (which soft-sells Manafort, for that matter), and "The Happy-Go-Lucky Jewish Group That Connects Trump and Putin," which is frankly kind of bizarre in tone. But there it is.

Civil rights and immigration: "U.S. Man Is Suing After ICE Holds Him in Jail for 3 Weeks While Trying to Deport Him." The lawsuit is what got him released, not any actual due process. "Trump's Border Wall Designs Are Public," and some of them are quite Stalinesque. I've got a picture of the start of the Berlin Wall queued up waiting for construction to begin. "How Jeff Sessions wants to bring back the war on drugs" is exactly what it says on the headline - Trump's administration will, if they can, go back to a mass, African-American targeted bootstomping approach to "justice," including all the oppressions of the drug war. And the ACLU ays, "Local Police Should Just Say No to Federal Agreements That Make Their Officers Part of Trump’s Deportation Force." True.

Trumpology: "Trump to Bannon and Kushner: Work this out." This is mostly just Kremlin-watching for a new era.

A couple of relevant market stories: "No ‘Death Spiral’: Insurers May Soon Profit From Obamacare Plans, Analysis Finds" and "America’s Retailers Are Closing Stores Faster Than Ever." The ACA won't collapse on its own, looks like; it'll take some shoves.

Also, everybody quotes that big and legitimately important 2010 study about facts introduced in arguments backfiring - but there's another large 2016 study that says, "Fact-checking doesn’t ‘backfire,’ new study suggests." Or more accurately, it can, but doesn't have to, and may only in certain circumstances. That doesn't mean RATIONALITY WILL OUT, but it does make the picture less grim.

North Korea: "North Korea missiles: US warships deployed to Korean peninsula," and "Trump must consult Seoul over any actions on N. Korea" says the Korea Times. I wonder if what Trump really wants Bannon and Kushner to 'work out' is whether they're going to war against North Korea or Syria. That's because, like fucking clockwork, "The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise For Bombing Syria." Of course it did. David Frum writes about the "Seven Lessons From Trump's Syria Strike," one of which is that all those empty seats in the Executive branch make it frankly impossible for the Trump administration to have done any part of this legally - groups that were required to at least look at the situation don't even exist at the moment, because they're all empty chairs.

The media reaction truly was disgusting, though. "Jeremy Scahill Slams Fareed Zakaria on CNN: If He Could Have Sex With That Missile Strike, He Would" sums it up. But there are a few glimmers of self-awareness, like here, in WaPo: "The media loved Trump’s show of military might. Are we really doing this again?"

Sadly, they'll probably keep doing it until they can't.

----- 1 -----
STUDY: Gorsuch Supporters Vastly Outnumbered Opponents On Fox News And CNN
Research ››› April 5, 2017 3:17 PM EDT ››› JULIE ALDERMAN
Media Matters for America

During the week of the Senate’s confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, prime-time shows on CNN and Fox News hosted seven times as many Gorsuch supporters as opponents, contributing to media’s pattern of normalizing the very conservative nominee.

----- 2 -----
Briefing: Trump, Russia, Rice – and now Nunes
Putting it in perspective
While it’s too soon for definitive conclusions, here's what we know so far.
The Christian Science Monitor | April 6, 2017 | Linda Feldmann

From the day he took office, President Trump has labored under a cloud called “Russia.”

According to a US intelligence report, individuals connected to Russian intelligence hacked into Democratic Party computers during the 2016 election campaign and leaked information in an effort to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Russian President Vladimir Putin himself ordered the operation, the report concluded.

At the same time, a growing number of Trump associates have been found to have connections to Russia (see this Washington Post graphic). So far, there's no proof of collaboration with the Russian government to help Trump win the election, but the question of whether such collaboration took place remains open. The FBI and two congressional committees are investigating.

----- 3 -----
To Charm Trump, Paul Manafort Sold Himself as an Affordable Outsider
By GLENN THRUSH | the new york times | APRIL 8, 2017

[Note as per that the article paints Manafort as some kind of unknown-to-Trump outsider but eventually notes that they've known each other since the 1980s and that Manafort even lived in Trump Tower.]

WASHINGTON — Paul Manafort is the rarest of professional pitchmen: one who knows how to sell to a salesman.

That was evident by the effort he made last year to gain a foothold in President Trump’s campaign, a successful pitch documented by letters and memos that were made available by a former Trump associate.

On Feb. 29, 2016, Mr. Manafort, the former lobbyist and Republican operative who now sits at the nexus of investigations into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, reached out to Mr. Trump with a slick, carefully calibrated offer that appealed to the candidate’s need for professional guidance, thirst for political payback — and parsimony.

The letters and memos provide a telling glimpse into how Mr. Trump invited an enigmatic international fixer, who is currently under investigation by United States intelligence services, a Senate committee and investigators in Ukraine, to the apex of his campaign with a minimum of vetting. The answer? Through family and friends, handshakes and hyperbole.

----- 4 -----
Gorsuch's writings borrow from other authors
The White House rejects any suggestion of impropriety.
By John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett
04/04/17 11:19 PM EDT

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch copied the structure and language used by several authors and failed to cite source material in his book and an academic article, according to documents provided to POLITICO.

The documents show that several passages from the tenth chapter of his 2006 book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” read nearly verbatim to a 1984 article in the Indiana Law Journal. In several other instances in that book and an academic article published in 2000, Gorsuch borrowed from the ideas, quotes and structures of scholarly and legal works without citing them.

The findings come as Republicans are on the brink of changing Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch over the vehement objections of Democrats. The documents could raise questions about the rigor of Gorsuch’s scholarship, which Republicans have portrayed during the confirmation process as unimpeachable.

The White House on Tuesday pushed back against any suggestion of impropriety.

“This false attack has been strongly refuted by highly-regarded academic experts, including those who reviewed, professionally examined, and edited Judge Gorsuch’s scholarly writings, and even the author of the main piece cited in the false attack,” said White House spokesman Steven Cheung. “There is only one explanation for this baseless, last-second smear of Judge Gorsuch: those desperate to justify the unprecedented filibuster of a well-qualified and mainstream nominee to the Supreme Court.”

However, six experts on academic integrity contacted independently by POLITICO differed in their assessment of what Gorsuch did, ranging from calling it a clear impropriety to mere sloppiness.

----- 5 -----
Here's How Frequently Women Supreme Court Justices Are Interrupted by Men
By Maggie Mallon | Glamour | April 6, 2017 12:04 pm

With just four of the 112 total justices who have served on the Supreme Court being women, it's clear that the judicial branch has long been a male-dominated realm. Yes, three of those four women are currently sitting on the bench—yay, progress!—but if the way their male colleagues treat them is any indication, it's going to be a long time before equal representation is truly achieved.

A recent study conducted by Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Professor Tonja Jacobi and Pritzker student Dylan Schweers revealed just how frequently the female justices are interrupted by men—and how this behavior reveals their general unwillingness to let the women on their Court make their case. The duo analyzed oral arguments from 1990, 2002, and 2015, when there were one, two, and three women on the court, respectively. In 1990, when Sandra Day O'Connor was the only female justice, 35.7 percent of interruptions occurred when she was speaking. In 2002, with O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the court, 45.3 of interruptions were directed at the two women on the court. And in 2015, when Ginsburg was joined by Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, 65.9 of interruptions happened as the three women made their oral arguments.

Interestingly enough, the women on the court actually speak less often and use fewer words when they make their argument (it's unconfirmed if this a defense mechanism to cope with the inevitability of a male justice interrupting them). However, that doesn't stop their male colleagues from interjecting at a much higher rate than they would for the other men sitting on the bench. Case in point: In 2015, Ginsburg was interrupted 11 times by Anthony Kennedy; Sotomayor was interrupted 15 times by Kennedy, 14 times by Samuel Alito, and 12 times by Chief Justice John Roberts; Kagan was interrupted over 10 times each by Kennedy, Alito, and Roberts. In contrast, only two of the men court were interrupted upwards of 10 times and the highest number of interruptions coming from one of the women was seven.

----- 6 ------
U.S. Man Is Suing After ICE Holds Him in Jail for 3 Weeks While Trying to Deport Him
David Boddiger | Fusion (Gawker Media Group) | 4/01/17 5:54pm

Guatemalan-born Rony Chávez Aguilar tried to tell agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Chicago Field Office (ICE) that he has been a U.S. citizen for 16 years, but they didn’t believe him.

Now Chávez is suing on behalf of immigrants who are locked up without expeditious access to judges—many of them for weeks or even months—at federal detention facilities contracted by ICE in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

According to Chávez’s putative class action lawsuit, filed last Monday, he was arrested in Kentucky on drug charges and spent two weeks in a local county jail. He should have then been released, but instead was transferred to an ICE-contracted detention facility to await deportation proceedings. It was then that Chávez told the agents he is a U.S. citizen who came to this country legally in 2001, The Daily Beast reported. That was on March 7.

“Tell it to a judge,” the agents allegedly told Chávez, according to his lawyer Charles Roth. The problem was that in the nearly three weeks that Chávez was held after that, he was never brought before a judge. And it would take a lawsuit being filed on March 27 to get him released.

----- 7 -----
Trump's Border Wall Designs Are Public
attn: | 7 April 2017 |
By: Mike Rothschild

In March, the United States government solicited public bids for two different border walls with Mexico: a "Solid Concrete Border Wall" and "a Other Border Wall [sic]", the latter of which would seek to incorporate "a see-through component/capability ... that facilitates situational awareness."

Each required the submissions to be "physically imposing in height," invulnerable to both climbing and digging, "aesthetically pleasing" (on the U.S. facing side), and "cost effective" to build and maintain. Much of these parameters echo Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric, which included calls for a "big, beautiful wall" that ranged anywhere from 30 to 80 feet high.

The first deadline to submit renderings was this week, and over 730 designs for both the solid and see-through wall were submitted to Customs and Border Patrol. Many were subsequently made public by the San Diego Union Tribune and Wall Street Journal. The results are wide-ranging, from modern takes on classic protective structures to outlandish defensive measures, as well as a few bids that were clearly made in protest.

----- 8 -----
How Jeff Sessions wants to bring back the war on drugs
8 April 2017 | The Washington Post
Sari Horwitz

When the Obama administration launched a sweeping policy to reduce
harsh prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, rave reviews came
from across the political spectrum. Civil rights groups and the Koch
brothers praised Obama for his efforts, saying he was making the
criminal justice system more humane.

But there was one person who watched these developments with some
horror. Steven H. Cook, a former street cop who became a federal
prosecutor based in Knoxville, Tenn., saw nothing wrong with how the
system worked — not the life sentences for drug charges, not the huge
growth of the prison population. And he went everywhere — Bill
O’Reilly’s show on Fox News, congressional hearings, public panels — to
spread a different gospel.

“The federal criminal justice system simply is not broken. In fact,
it’s working exactly as designed,” Cook said at a criminal justice
panel at The Washington Post last year.

The Obama administration largely ignored Cook, who was then president
of the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys. But he won’t
be overlooked anymore.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has brought Cook into his inner circle
at the Justice Department, appointing him to be one of his top
lieutenants to help undo the criminal justice policies of Obama and
former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. As Sessions has traveled to
different cities to preach his tough-on-crime philosophy, Cook has been
at his side.

Sessions has yet to announce specific policy changes, but Cook’s new
perch speaks volumes about where the Justice Department is headed.

Law enforcement officials say that Sessions and Cook are preparing a
plan to prosecute more drug and gun cases and pursue mandatory minimum
sentences. The two men are eager to bring back the national crime
strategy of the 1980s and ’90s from the peak of the drug war, an
approach that had fallen out of favor in recent years as minority
communities grappled with the effects of mass incarceration.

Crime is near historic lows in the United States, but Sessions says
that the spike in homicides in several cities, including Chicago, is a
harbinger of a “dangerous new trend” in America that requires a tough

“Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs is bad,”
Sessions said to law enforcement officials in a speech in Richmond last
month. “It will destroy your life.”

----- 9 -----
Local Police Should Just Say No to Federal Agreements That Make Their Officers Part of Trump’s Deportation Force
By Chris Rickerd, ACLU Washington Legislative Office
April 7, 2017 | 4:30 PM

One of the worst federal immigration enforcement programs is being resurrected by the Trump administration.

The Department of Homeland Security’s 287(g) agreements that deputize state and local police with immigration enforcement powers are back from the dead. Because of egregious violations under this program by tyrants like Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona, Immigration and Customs Enforcement had reduced the number of agreements to about three dozen by the end of 2016. Importantly, the remaining participating jurisdictions are limited to jails, rather than applying to police officers who work in the field, so the notorious 287(g) “task forces” that facilitated Arpaio’s racial profiling and discriminatory raids on immigrant communities were eliminated.

Although jail agreements are less visible than the task force model Arpaio and others exploited, they create similar confusion in communities. Residents ask: Is my local law enforcement agency there to serve and protect me, or could they deport me and my family? If I call them for help, will they act like ICE agents, even if I’m a victim of or witness to crime?

Trump’s executive orders promise to bring back Arpaio-like task forces and greatly expand the number of 287(g) jails to interview arrested people about their immigration status, decide whether to start deportation proceedings, and detain them for immigration purposes. In fact, just this week ICE is considering 18 new jail applications in Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia to become part of the 287(g) program. This includes Knox County, Tennessee, a location rejected by the Obama administration. Its sheriff has spoken in dehumanizing fashion about wanting to “stack [immigration] violators like cordwood” in his jail.

----- 10 -----
Trump to Bannon and Kushner: Work this out
By Kevin Liptak and Jim Acosta, CNN
Sat April 8, 2017

Amid the croquet players and lunch guests mingling at Mar-a-Lago Friday, a more sober gathering was unfolding under the palms.

Steve Bannon, the bomb-throwing former Breitbart executive who serves as President Donald Trump's chief strategist, was huddling at an out-of-the-way table with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner in an attempt to broker peace in a deepening -- and, increasingly, distracting -- rift between rival West Wing factions.

As Trump grew frustrated with the clear tensions between Bannon and Kushner, his ascendant senior adviser, he insisted they work out their differences.

"We gotta work this out," Trump told the pair on Thursday, according to a White House official. "Cut it out."

The message came after the ideological divide between Bannon and Kushner, which had split White House staffers and stood poised to determine the administration's agenda moving forward, had spilled into the open through media reports.

That led to the Friday meeting, which was coordinated by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

Priebus' goal was "to get them on the same page," a senior administration official said.

Priebus, after that meeting, told the president that they had a good talk, according to the official.

It's still not clear, however, whether the detente will hold.

----- 11 -----
The Happy-Go-Lucky Jewish Group That Connects Trump and Putin
Where Trump's real estate world meets a top religious ally of the Kremlin.
By Ben Schreckinger | Politico | April 09, 2017

Chabad of Port Washington, a Jewish community center on Long Island’s Manhasset Bay, sits in a squat brick edifice across from a Shell gas station and a strip mall. The center is an unexceptional building on an unexceptional street, save for one thing: Some of the shortest routes between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin run straight through it.

Two decades ago, as the Russian president set about consolidating power on one side of the world, he embarked on a project to supplant his country’s existing Jewish civil society and replace it with a parallel structure loyal to him. On the other side of the world, the brash Manhattan developer was working to get a piece of the massive flows of capital that were fleeing the former Soviet Union in search of stable assets in the West, especially real estate, and seeking partners in New York with ties to the region.

Their respective ambitions led the two men—along with Trump’s future son-in-law, Jared Kushner—to build a set of close, overlapping relationships in a small world that intersects on Chabad, an international Hasidic movement most people have never heard of.

Starting in 1999, Putin enlisted two of his closest confidants, the oligarchs Lev Leviev and Roman Abramovich, who would go on to become Chabad’s biggest patrons worldwide, to create the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia under the leadership of Chabad rabbi Berel Lazar, who would come to be known as “Putin’s rabbi.”

----- 12 -----
No ‘Death Spiral’: Insurers May Soon Profit From Obamacare Plans, Analysis Finds
By REED ABELSON | The New York Times | APRIL 7, 2017

In contrast to the dire pronouncements from President Trump and other Republicans, the demise of the individual insurance market seems greatly exaggerated, according to a new financial analysis released Friday.

The analysis, by Standard & Poor’s, looked at the performance of many Blue Cross plans in nearly three dozen states since President Barack Obama’s health care law took effect three years ago. It shows the insurers significantly reduced their losses last year, are likely to break even this year and that most could profit — albeit some in the single-digits — in 2018. The insurers cover more than five million people in the individual market.

After years in which many insurers lost money, then lost even more in 2015, “we are seeing the first signs in 2016 that this market could be manageable for most health insurers,” the Standard & Poor’s analysts said. The “market is not in a ‘death spiral,’ ” they said.

It is the latest evidence that the existing law has not crippled the market where individuals can buy health coverage, although several insurers have pulled out of some markets, including two in Iowa just this week. They and other industry specialists have cited the uncertainty surrounding the Congressional debate over the law, and the failed effort two weeks ago by House Republicans to bring a bill to the floor for a vote.

The House G.O.P. leadership went home for a two-week recess on Thursday, unable to reach a compromise between conservative and moderate members over the extent of coverage that should be required for the very sick.

If the markets were to falter without a resolution in Congress, the risk of eroding public opinion before the midterm elections next year is bound to increase. The latest monthly Kaiser Health Tracking Poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that more than half of Americans now believe that the president and Republicans own the health care issue and may shoulder the blame for any failings. The survey reported that more than half now support the Obama health care law.

The S.&P. report also buttresses the analysis of the Republican bill by the Congressional Budget Office, which said the markets were relatively stable under the current law, contradicting some Republican assessments of volatility.

“Things are getting better,” Gary Claxton, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said of the insurance markets. The foundation has been closely tracking the insurers’ progress.

----- 13 -----
America’s Retailers Are Closing Stores Faster Than Ever
by Lindsey Rupp, Lauren Coleman-Lochner, and Nick Turner
April 7, 2017

The battered American retail industry took a few more lumps this week, with stores at both ends of the price spectrum preparing to close their doors.

At the bottom, the seemingly ubiquitous Payless Inc. shoe chain filed for bankruptcy and announced plans to shutter hundreds of locations. Ralph Lauren Corp., meanwhile, said it will close its flagship Fifth Avenue Polo store -- a symbol of old-fashioned luxury that no longer resonates with today’s shoppers.

And the teen-apparel retailer Rue21 Inc. could be the next casualty. The chain, which has about 1,000 stores, is preparing to file for bankruptcy as soon as this month, according to people familiar with the situation. Just a few years ago, it was sold to private equity firm Apax Partners for about a billion dollars.

“It’s an industry that’s still in search for answers,” said Noel Hebert, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “I don’t know how many malls can reinvent themselves.”


“Retail square feet per capita in the United States is more than six times that of Europe or Japan,” Urban Outfitters’ Hayne said last month. “And this doesn’t count digital commerce.”

Still, the Class A malls continue to thrive, Chen said. And most Americans continue to do shopping in person: Customers prefer physical stores 75 percent of the time, according to Cowen research.

The key is creating the right experience, whether it’s online or off.

----- 14 -----
Fact-checking doesn’t ‘backfire,’ new study suggests
By Alexios Mantzarlis • November 2, 2016

[It can, but only in certain conditions.]

In just over four months, at least 50 different journalists or politicians have declared this a "post-truth" era.

The central premise of this argument: Voters have become so blinded by partisanship that they reject facts that contradict their own beliefs. To prove this, most analysts have pointed at polling or research that raise legitimate questions about the impact of fact-checking (most, but not all: one relied on anecdotes of his Uncle Lenny).

One of the most important pieces of research on the relationship between facts and partisan beliefs was published in 2010 by Brendan Nyhan, now at Dartmouth College, and Jason Reifler, now at the University of Exeter.

Among other things, Nyhan and Reifler found that "conservatives who received a correction telling them that Iraq did not have [Weapons of Mass Destruction] were more likely to believe that Iraq had WMD." Rather than improving understanding, fact-checking reinforced the mistaken belief. Nyhan and Reifler billed this the "backfire effect."

A new paper, however, suggests the "backfire effect" may be a very rare phenomenon. The study, presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association this summer, was conducted by Ethan Porter at George Washington University and Thomas Wood at Ohio State University.

Porter and Wood showed 8,100 subjects corrections to claims made by political figures on 36 different topics. Only on one of the 36 issues (the misperception that WMD were found in Iraq) did they detect a backfire effect. Even then, a simpler phrasing of the same correction led to no backfire.

----- 15 -----
North Korea missiles: US warships deployed to Korean peninsula
BBC News | 9 April 2017

The US military has ordered a navy strike group to move towards the Korean peninsula, amid growing concerns about North Korea's missile programme.

The Carl Vinson Strike Group comprises an aircraft carrier and other warships.

US Pacific Command described the deployment - now heading towards the western Pacific - as a prudent measure to maintain readiness in the region.

President Trump has said the US is prepared to act alone to deal with the nuclear threat from North Korea.

"The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilising programme of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability," US Pacific Command spokesman Dave Benham said.

----- 16 -----
Trump must consult Seoul over any actions on N. Korea
By Jun Ji-hye | 9 April 2017 | Korea Times

The U.S. Donald Trump administration must have prior consultation with Seoul before taking any confrontational actions concerning North Korea, including launching a preemptive strike, South Korean politicians said.

The politicians, including presidential candidate Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), said Seoul is directly involved in the North Korean issue, noting that any actions taken by Washington will have a direct impact on the Korean Peninsula.

The demand for prior consultation comes amid tensions following the surprise U.S. missile attack on Syria on Thursday night, which was seen as a powerful message to rogue states, such as North Korea and Iran, that the U.S. can take military action against them at any time.

The U.S. also signaled during its summit with China on Thursday and Friday that it would continue a hard-line policy on Pyongyang unless the Kim Jong-un regime changes its attitude.

"South Korea should be the owner of North Korean issues and take the lead in dealing with them rather than letting neighboring countries such as the U.S. and China manage them," Moon told reporters, Saturday, referring to the outcome of the summit talks between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

----- 17 -----
The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise For Bombing Syria
Glenn Greenwald | The Intercept | 2017-04-07

In every type of government, nothing unites people behind the leader more quickly, reflexively or reliably than war. Donald Trump now sees how true that is, as the same establishment leaders in U.S. politics and media who have spent months denouncing him as a mentally unstable and inept authoritarian and unprecedented threat to democracy are standing and applauding him as he launches bombs at Syrian government targets.

Trump, on Thursday night, ordered an attack that the Pentagon said included the launching of 59 Tomahawk missiles which “targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.” The governor of Homs, the Syrian province where the attack occurred, said early this morning that the bombs killed seven civilians and wounded nine.

The Pentagon’s statement said the attack was “in retaliation for the regime of Bashar Assad using nerve agents to attack his own people.” Both Syria and Russia vehemently deny that the Syrian military used chemical weapons.


But U.S. war fever waits for nothing. Once the tidal wave of American war frenzy is unleashed, questioning the casus belli is impermissible. Wanting conclusive evidence before bombing commences is vilified as sympathy with and support for the foreign villain (the same way that asking for evidence of claims against Russia instantly converts one into a “Kremlin agent” or “stooge”).

----- 18 -----
Seven Lessons From Trump's Syria Strike
The attack raises a series of questions about the president’s approach to America’s political processes and institutions.
David Frum | Apr 7, 2017 | The Atlantic

When the Electoral College elevated Donald Trump to the presidency, it conferred on him the awesome life-and-death powers that attend the office. It was inevitable that President Trump would use those powers sooner or later. Now he has. For the effects on the region, I refer you to the powerful piece by The Atlantic’s Andrew Exum. I’m concerned here with the effects on the U.S. political system. Seven seem most immediately relevant.

Trump’s Words Mean Nothing

If there was any one foreign policy position that Donald Trump stressed above all others, it was opposition to the use of force in Syria. Time has helpfully compiled Trump’s tweets on the subject dating back to 2013. For example:


That message—a vote for Clinton is a vote for World War III beginning in Syria—was pounded home by surrogates and by Trump’s social-media troll army.

Not even 100 days into his presidency, Trump has done exactly what he attacked Hillary Clinton for contemplating.

Some have described this reverse as “hypocritical.” This description is not accurate. A hypocrite says one thing while inwardly believing another. The situation with Donald Trump is much more alarming. On October 26, 2016, he surely meant what he said. It’s just that what he meant and said that day was no guide to what he would mean or say on October 27, 2016—much less April 6, 2017.

Voters and citizens can expect literally zero advance warning of what Donald Trump will do or won’t do. Campaign promises, solemn pledges—none are even slightly binding. If he can reverse himself on Syria, he can reverse himself on anything. If you feel betrayed by any of these reversals, you have no right to complain.


But here’s one thing we already know: There can have been no proper interagency process before the strike, because none of the relevant agencies of government other than the Department of Defense is properly staffed to join such a process. You can’t have a deputies’ meeting without deputies.

Every decision presents risks and costs, and any responsible decision maker insists on a detailed itemization of those risks and those costs. That cannot have happened here. Trump has walked into a military confrontation that implicates regional and global security with only the haziest notion of what might go wrong. One friend of mine has warned: “If it were good foreign policy, Trump wouldn’t be doing it.” Foreign policy is hard, and even the best process does not guarantee good outcomes. Sometimes you get lucky, and can escape the consequences of a bad process. But the odds are the odds. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, bad processes lead to ugly results.

----- 19 -----
Jeremy Scahill Slams Fareed Zakaria on CNN: If He Could Have Sex With That Missile Strike, He Would
by Josh Feldman | 11:31 am, April 9th, 2017 | Mediaite

On CNN’s Reliable Sources this morning, The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill went off on the “atrocious” media coverage of the Syria missile strikes, even calling out CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in particular.

Last week Zakaria said that after that strike, Trump “became President of the United States.” This morning, an hour before Scahill was on CNN, Zakaria said that he congratulates President Trump for striking a “blow against evil.”

Scahill told Brian Stelter that CNN “needs to immediately withdraw all retired generals and colonels from its airwaves.” And then he said this:

“You know, Fareed Zakaria––if that guy could have sex with this cruise missile attack, I think he would do it.”

He also slammed Brian Williams for his strange quotation of Leonard Cohen in speaking about the “beauty of our weapons.”

----- 20 -----
The media loved Trump’s show of military might. Are we really doing this again?
By Margaret Sullivan Media Columnist April 8, 2017 | The Washington Post

The cruise missiles struck, and many in the mainstream media fawned.

“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last
night,” Fareed Zakaria declared on CNN, after the firing of 59 missiles
at a Syrian military airfield late Thursday night. (His words sounded
familiar, since CNN’s Van Jones made a nearly identical pronouncement
after Trump’s first address to Congress.)

“On Syria attack, Trump’s heart came first,” read a New York Times
“President Trump has done the right thing and I salute him for it,”
wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens — a frequent Trump critic
and Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist. He added: “Now
destroy the Assad regime for good.”

Brian Williams, on MSNBC, seemed mesmerized by the images of the
strikes provided by the Pentagon. He used the word “beautiful” three
times and alluded to a Leonard Cohen lyric — “I am guided by the beauty
of our weapons” — without apparent irony.

Quite the pivot, for some. Assessing Trump’s presidency a few weeks
ago, Zakaria wrote in The Washington Post that while the Romans
recommended keeping people happy with bread and circuses, “so far, all
we have gotten is the circus.” And the Times has been so tough on Trump
that the president rarely refers to the paper without “failing” or
“fake” as a descriptor.

But after the strikes, praise flowed like wedding champagne —
especially on cable news.

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