Friday Reads: ру́сский Tяumpсский

Steve Sack / Minneapolis Star Tribune

If you can find any kind of innocent explanation for these headlines and meetings, then I frankly will dub you the champion of Double Speak. Let’s see White House Mommy wiggle her way out of these latest headlines on relationships between the Trump Family, the campaign, and Russian election hacking.

From NBC NewsFormer Soviet Counter Intelligence Officer at Meeting With Donald Trump Jr. and Russian Lawyer .

The Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. and others on the Trump team after a promise of compromising material on Hillary Clinton was accompanied by a Russian-American lobbyist — a former Soviet counterintelligence officer who is suspected by some U.S. officials of having ongoing ties to Russian intelligence, NBC News has learned.

The lobbyist, first identified by the Associated Press as Rinat Akhmetshin, denies any current ties to Russian spy agencies. He accompanied the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by Donald Trump Jr.; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law; and Paul Manafort, former chairman of the Trump campaign.

Born in Russia, Akhmetshin served in the Soviet military and emigrated to the U.S., where he holds dual citizenship. He did not respond to NBC News requests for comment Friday, but he told the AP the meeting was not substantive. “I never thought this would be such a big deal, to be honest,” he told the AP.

He had been working with Veselnitskaya on a campaign against the Magnitsky Act, a set of sanctions against alleged Russian human rights violators. That issue, which is also related to a ban on American adoptions of Russian children, is what Veselnitskaya told NBC News she discussed with the Trump team.

But, given the email traffic suggesting the meeting was part of a Russian effort help Trump’s candidacy, the presence at the meeting of a Russian-American with suspected intelligence ties is likely to be of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller and the House and Senate panels investigating the Russian election interference campaign.

This dude has some special skills.  This is from The Daily Beast: Trump Team Met Russian Accused of International Hacking Conspiracy. “Rinat Akhmetshin allegedly stole sensitive documents from a corporation years before he joined Natalia Veselnitskaya to meet Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner.”  Wow, he has mad hacking skills or knows folks that do. Imagine that!

The alleged former Soviet intelligence officer who attended the now-infamous meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and other top campaign officials last June was previously accused in federal and state courts of orchestrating an international hacking conspiracy.

Rinat Akhmetshin told the Associated Press on Friday he accompanied Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to the June 9, 2016, meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort. Trump’s attorney confirmed Akhmetshin’s attendance in a statement.

Akhmetshin’s presence at Trump Tower that day adds another layer of controversy to an episode that already provides the clearest indication of collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. In an email in the run-up to that rendezvous, Donald Trump Jr. was promised “very high level and sensitive information” on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Akhmetshin had been hired by Veselnitskaya to help with pro-Russian lobbying efforts in Washington. He also met and lobbied Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee for Europe, in Berlin in April.

In court papers filed with the New York Supreme Court in November 2015, Akhmetshin was described as “a former Soviet military counterintelligence officer” by lawyers for International Mineral Resources (IMR), a Russian mining company that alleged it had been hacked.

Meanwhile, back in Stoogeсский Tower, Trump lawyers admit to knowing about the emails for weeks now.  (There is never a dull Friday these days.) This is from Yahoo News.

President Trump’s legal team was informed more than three weeks ago about the email chain arranging a June 2016 meeting between his son Donald Jr. and a Kremlin-connected lawyer, two sources familiar with the handling of the matter told Yahoo News.

Trump told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that he learned just “a couple of days ago” that Donald Jr. had met with the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, hoping to receive information that “would incriminate Hillary” and was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” A day earlier, on Tuesday, Donald Jr. released the email exchanges himself, after learning they would be published by the New York Times

Trump repeated that assertion in a talk with reporters on Air Force One on his way to Paris Wednesday night. “I only heard about it two or three days ago,” he said, according to a transcript of his talk, when asked about the meeting with Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in June 2016 attended by Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, then Trump’s campaign chief, and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

But the sources told Yahoo News that Marc Kasowitz, the president’s chief lawyer in the Russia investigation, and Alan Garten, executive vice president and chief legal officer of the Trump Organization, were both informed about the emails in the third week of June, after they were discovered by lawyers for Kushner, who is now a senior White House official.

The exchange apparently was initiated on June 3, 2016, when a Trump family associate, publicist Rob Goldstone, emailed Donald Jr. with an offer of something “very interesting” … “official documents and information” that “would be very useful to your father.” On June 8, 2016, Trump Jr. forwarded an email to Kushner and Manafort about the upcoming meeting with the subject line: “FW: Russia-Clinton-private & confidential.” Trump Jr. wrote back later that day, telling Goldstone “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

The discovery of the emails prompted Kushner to amend his security clearance form to reflect the meeting, which he had failed to report when he originally sought clearance for his White House job. That revision — his second — to the so-called SF-86, was done on June 21. Kushner made the change even though there were questions among his lawyers whether the meeting had to be reported, given that there was no clear evidence that Veselnitskaya was a government official. The change to the security form prompted the FBI to question Kushner on June 23, the second time he was interviewed by agents about his security clearance, the sources said.

So, this makes THREE changes to Kushner’s form with an additional 100 or so names.  Gee, that doesn’t just sound like a bad memory does it?  Democrats are trying to have his security clearance revoked by passing a law. Republicans are blocking it and his father in law controls his access atm.

President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner updated a federal disclosure form needed to obtain a security clearance three times and added more than 100 names of foreign contacts through the updates after initially providing none at all, reports CBS News’ Major Garrett.

The first form had no foreign names on it even though people applying for a security clearance need to list any contact with foreign governments. Kushner’s team said it was prematurely sent.

Then the team submitted the second one after they updated it with all of the names except for one — the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya who met with Donald Trump Jr., Kushner and Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman in June 2016.

After omitting her name in the second form, that meeting was then conveyed to the FBI in the third revamping of the form before July.

This comes as some Democrats call for Kushner’s security clearance to be revoked. On Thursday, House Republicans reportedly in the Appropriations Committee blocked a Democratic amendment to a spending bill that targeted Kushner. It would have prevented the government from issuing or maintaining a security clearance for a White House employee under criminal investigation by a federal law enforcement agency for aiding a foreign government.

The Chicago Tribune has an in depth look at Peter W Smith. He’s the guy that was trying to put together a team of Russian hackers who committed suicide shortly after spilling the beans to the WSJ. This part of his suicide note alone makes me suspicious.  Can’t you just here Kremlin Caligula ordering up this?

In the note recovered by police, Smith apologized to authorities and said that “NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER” was involved in his death

And, oh wait we do know what icky Campaign mommy will say about all of this.

White House aide Kellyanne Conway accused critics of the Trump administration of moving the goalposts on the ongoing investigations into possible coordination between members of the Trump campaign and Russian nationals.

The goalposts have been moved,” Conway told “Fox & Friends” Friday morning. “We were promised systemic — hard evidence of systemic, sustained, furtive collusion that not only interfered with our election process but indeed dictated the electoral outcome. And one of the only people who says that seriously these days is still Hillary Clinton and nobody believes it.”

However, authorities investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election have long asserted that there is no evidence votes were physically changed as part of the effort. 

Conway’s analysis came in response to coverage of Donald Trump Jr., who admitted to meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 after being promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign. Campaign manager Paul Manafort and top aide Jared Kushner were also in attendance.

So far, all the right wing media can say is it’s either Hillary’s fault or Lorretta Lynch’s fault. SAD!  I’m still wrapping my mind around the number of right wing Republicans that actually find Putin and Russia to be respectable.  Try read this from the NYT to understand the allure. Jeremy Peters believe the ‘revere’ Putin.

Mr. Putin is no archvillain in this understanding of America-Russian relations. Rather, he personifies many of the qualities and attitudes that conservatives have desired in a president of their own: a respect for traditional Christian values, a swelling nationalist pride and an aggressive posture toward foreign adversaries.

In this view, the Russian president is a brilliant tactician, a slayer of murderous Islamic extremists — and not incidentally, a leader who outmaneuvered and emasculated President Barack Obama on the world stage. And because of that, almost any other transgression seems forgivable.

“There are conservatives here who maybe read into Russia things they wish were true in the United States,” said Angela Stent, director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University. “And they imagine Russia and Putin as the kind of strong, traditional conservative leader whom they wish they had in the United States.” To these conservatives, she added, “Russia is the true defender of Christian values. We are decadent.”

Mr. Trump’s opponents have tried repeatedly to make an issue of the mutual admiration between him and the Russian president, anticipating that Republicans would not tolerate any whiff of sympathy from one of their own toward the leader of what Ronald Reagan called the “evil empire.” But Mr. Trump has never had to wait long for conservatives to leap to his defense — and often Mr. Putin’s as well.

Mr. Putin is no archvillain in this understanding of America-Russian relations. Rather, he personifies many of the qualities and attitudes that conservatives have desired in a president of their own: a respect for traditional Christian values, a swelling nationalist pride and an aggressive posture toward foreign adversaries.

In this view, the Russian president is a brilliant tactician, a slayer of murderous Islamic extremists — and not incidentally, a leader who outmaneuvered and emasculated President Barack Obama on the world stage. And because of that, almost any other transgression seems forgivable.

“There are conservatives here who maybe read into Russia things they wish were true in the United States,” said Angela Stent, director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University. “And they imagine Russia and Putin as the kind of strong, traditional conservative leader whom they wish they had in the United States.” To these conservatives, she added, “Russia is the true defender of Christian values. We are decadent.”

Mr. Trump’s opponents have tried repeatedly to make an issue of the mutual admiration between him and the Russian president, anticipating that Republicans would not tolerate any whiff of sympathy from one of their own toward the leader of what Ronald Reagan called the “evil empire.” But Mr. Trump has never had to wait long for conservatives to leap to his defense — and often Mr. Putin’s as well.

There’s a strange connection between Russia and white xtianists. (Via BB) They were allowed to basically invade the country once the USSR failed and they haven’t forgotten it. However, this has changed. Curiously, the Xtianist right still worships Putin.

While there are parts of the world where the persecution of religious minorities, including Christians, is a real problem, the United States is not one of them. Russia, on the other hand, has enacted laws that bar Protestant groups from proselytizing on penalty of fines, and has even gone so far as to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses entirely.

At first blush, then, it might seem odd that one of the Russian Orthodox Church’s leading hierarchs, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk—who was staying at the Trump International Hotel—not only participated in BGEA’s summit yesterday, but also, as first reported by Time, met privately with the vice president. Curiously enough, a key talking point from their meeting was that America and Russia should work together to fight international terrorism, a hallmark of the Trump campaign’s election season foreign policy rhetoric.

Metropolitan Hilarion heads the ROC’s Department of External Relations, and in this capacity he has worked tirelessly in recent years to cultivate relationships with Catholic and Protestant supporters of “traditional values” abroad, in order to work with them to promote Christian supremacy at the expense of women’s and LGBTQ rights—an example of what I call “bad ecumenism.” Such efforts are coordinated with the Kremlin’s foreign policy, which seeks to foster relationships with anti-democratic forces outside Russia. While Moscow made similar efforts during Soviet times, Russian President Vladimir Putin has rebranded post-Soviet Russia into the global standard bearer for “traditional values conservatism,” and in this capacity attracts primarily right-wing fellow travelers.

On the one hand, this policy would seem to make President and CEO of BGEA Franklin Graham a natural partner for Putin and the ROC, and, indeed, Graham has warmed considerably to both in recent years. In October 2015, Graham met with both Putin and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia, after which Patriarch Kirill declared Christians of all confessions who oppose marriage equality to be “confessors of the faith.” Graham reminded his followers on social media of his connections to Russia last month

There’s a good article to read about this unholy alliance from Talk Progress.

To fully understand how some members of the Religious Right came to appreciate Putin, it’s important to asses how Putin came to appreciate the role of organized religion — particularly brands that oppose LGBTQ equality.

Russia, after all, is hardly a bastion of religious freedom. The 2016 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom report listed the country as one with an increasingly “negative trajectory in terms of religious freedom,” pointing to policies that limit the activities of Muslims and other minority religious groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Pentecostals.

Yet Graham’s remarks are the result of a years-long international power consolidation effort by Putin, who is is well known for using faith — particularly the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), a subset of Eastern Orthodox Christianity whose reach extends beyond Russian borders — as a mechanism to expand his country’s influence and antagonize Western opponents.

According to Christopher Stroop, a visiting instructor at the University of South Florida honors college and a published expert on modern Russian history, Putin became close with the ROC after beginning his third term in 2012.

“The Orthodox church domestically shores up the [Putin] regime, but it also works internationally to push the party line in pursuit of its own goals as well — and the church hierarchs are genuinely socially conservative,” Stroop told ThinkProgress, noting that Putin’s embrace of the ROC coincided with a broader shift toward right-wing populism.

“Putin has rebranded himself [and Russia] as a Champion of traditional values,” Stroop said.

Putin and the church are technically two entities with different agendas, but Stroop said they’ve developed a codependent strategy that benefits both parties. The Russian president often grants the ROC privileges not afforded to other faith groups to help him win domestic debates, for instance. Meanwhile, Russian priests in countries like Moldova and Montenegro have pushed back against efforts to align those nations with Western powers, and a Kremlin-funded spiritual center now sits near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

And as the New York Times reported last fall, Putin lifts up the church’s moral authority as a “traditional” answer to the west’s increasing liberalism, positioning Russia as an opponent to progressive causes such as LGBTQ rights and multiculturalism. This allows Putin to perpetuate the idea that Europe and America — not Russia — are faithless nations by comparison.

So, once again, the idea is that as long as “Traditional Values” are enshrined in law somehow, they don’t care who does it.  There’s been a piety show at the White House with a gross, disgusting laying of hands (more grabby grabby) and a cuckoo Pat Robertson.  Trump’s best base is the folks who fell for the longest running conspiracy theory every so they’re easy prey.

In an interview airing Thursday, Trump sat down with Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network. The aging icon of the religious right has been outspoken in his support for Trump, calling him “God’s man for this job.” It will be Trump’s second interview with CBN since he became president.

And earlier this week, photos surfaced from an impromptu Oval Office prayer session in which two dozen evangelicals laid their hands on the President and petitioned the Almighty on his behalf.

We were praying that God would give him guidance and direction and protect him,” said Richard Land, who served on Trump’s evangelical advisory board and is president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The images of hands praying over the President’s distinctive coiffure caught fire on social media. To some, the timing seemed suspicious. Though raised Presbyterian, Trump is not affiliated with a church, nor does he attend worship services most Sundays. Was he “getting religion” just as the waters were rising around his White House? Was it a repeat of President Bill Clinton conspicuously carrying a Bible and meeting with religious leaders during the Monica Lewinsky scandal?

The White House disputes that interpretation. “The idea that someone would pray only when they’re in crisis is ridiculous,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy White House press secretary.

Land agrees. “That’s a very cynical and negative connotation of what happened.”

Instead, Land, a Southern Baptist who has been active in presidential politics since the Reagan administration, said he and two dozen fellow evangelicals were summoned to Washington for a “work day.”

The group, many of whom advised Trump during the campaign, heard reports from administration officials and gave feedback on issues like Israel’s security, judicial nominations and the Senate’s health care bill. Jared Kushner dropped by, as did Vice President Mike Pence — a fellow evangelical — who said the President invited the group to visit the Oval Office that afternoon and say hello, Land recalled.

As evangelicals gathered around Trump’s desk, he asked how their work meeting was going, Land said, and several praised his recent speech in Warsaw, in which the President pledged to protect Western values.

Okay. I need another shower.  This all creeps me out to no end. It’s like a terrifically bad movie plot.

So, let me know what you’re reading today?


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

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So, I’m still a little bit out of the loop at the moment. I’m not really reading much in the way of news or even watching TV so I had to do some searching for something interesting to read this morning. This will be a bit of a link dump. I promise I will do better by midweek.

Will we ever be rid of Fat Tony and his blatant hypocrisy?

With his own claims to originalism fading fast, Scalia suggests liberal judicial activism, practiced by some of colleagues on the Court, is part of what brought about the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. The speech was an address to the Utah State Bar Association.

From the Aspen Times …

Scalia opened his talk with a reference to the Holocaust, which happened to occur in a society that was, at the time, “the most advanced country in the world.” One of the many mistakes that Germany made in the 1930s was that judges began to interpret the law in ways that reflected “the spirit of the age.” When judges accept this sort of moral authority, as Scalia claims they’re doing now in the U.S., they get themselves and society into trouble.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is something we teach a lot in economics.  You may remember the movie  “A Beautiful Mind” and the invention of game theory.  Well, there’s been an interesting test of the theory.

The “prisoner’s dilemma” is a familiar concept to just about anybody that took Econ 101.

The basic version goes like this. Two criminals are arrested, but police can’t convict either on the primary charge, so they plan to sentence them to a year in jail on a lesser charge. Each of the prisoners, who can’t communicate with each other, are given the option of testifying against their partner. If they testify, and their partner remains silent, the partner gets 3 years and they go free. If they both testify, both get two. If both remain silent, they each get one.

In game theory, betraying your partner, or “defecting” is always the dominant strategy as it always has a slightly higher payoff in a simultaneous game. It’s what’s known as a “Nash Equilibrium,” after Nobel Prize winning mathematician and A Beautiful Mind subject John Nash.

In sequential games, where players know each other’s previous behaviour and have the opportunity to punish each other, defection is the dominant strategy as well.

However, on a Pareto basis, the best outcome for both players is mutual cooperation.

Yet no one’s ever actually run the experiment on real prisoners before, until two University of Hamburg economists tried it out in a recent study comparing the behaviour of inmates and students.

Surprisingly, for the classic version of the game, prisoners were far more cooperative  than expected.

Menusch Khadjavi and Andreas Lange put the famous game to the test for the first time ever, putting a group of prisoners in Lower Saxony’s primary women’s prison, as well as students through both simultaneous and sequential versions of the game.The payoffs obviously weren’t years off sentences, but euros for students, and the equivalent value in coffee or cigarettes for prisoners.

They expected, building off of game theory and behavioural economic research that show humans are more cooperative than the purely rational model that economists traditionally use, that there would be a fair amount of first-mover cooperation, even in the simultaneous simulation where there’s no way to react to the other player’s decisions.

And even in the sequential game, where you get a higher payoff for betraying a cooperative first mover, a fair amount will still reciprocate.

As for the difference between student and prisoner behaviour, you’d expect that a prison population might be more jaded and distrustful, and therefore more likely to defect.

The results went exactly the other way for the simultaneous game, only 37% of students cooperate. Inmates cooperated 56% of the time.

On a pair basis, only 13% of student pairs managed to get the best mutual outcome and cooperate, whereas 30% of prisoners do.

Where do these modern day evangelicals get their whacked ideas about women and especially about abortion?

While America languishes in an economic depression, Republican officeholders are bending all their efforts… to ban abortion. In the last few weeks and months, we’ve seen a blizzard of anti-choice legislation in Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and many other places. These laws stall women seeking abortions with mandatory waiting periods, brutalize them with invasive and unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds, force doctors to read shaming scripts rife with falsehoods, and impose onerous regulatory requirements that are designed to be impossible to comply with so that family-planning clinics will be forced to close. At the federal level, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted for a bill banning all abortion after 20 weeks, without even putting up a pretense that this was constitutional.

One would think the drubbing taken by anti-choice zealots like Todd Akin in the last election would have given Republicans an incentive to step back and consider whether this is a winning strategy. Instead, it seems as if their losses have only inspired them to fight harder. For the right-wing Christian fundamentalists who dominate the Republican Party, banning abortion, or at least piling up pointless regulations to make it as burdensome and difficult to obtain as possible, has become an all-consuming obsession, akin to a religious crusade.

Given the amount of effort and political capital the religious right puts into trying to restrict abortion, you’d guess that opposition to women’s choice must take up a huge portion of the Bible. But the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.

The Bible says nothing whatsoever about abortion. It never mentions the subject, not once, neither in the Old Testament nor the New. This isn’t because abortion was unknown in the ancient world. Much to the contrary, the ancient Greeks and Romans were well-acquainted with the idea. Surviving writings from these cultures recommend the use of herbs like pennyroyal, silphium and hellebore to induce abortion; others advise vigorous physical activity to cause a miscarriage, and some even discuss surgical methods.

Here’s an intriguing investigation of secret US prisons being carried out by Poland. What exactly do we and other countries know about these black ops sites run by the CIA?

The only sign of life at Szymany’s “international airport” are mosquitoes eager to suck blood out of a rare visitor. The gate is locked with a rusted chain and a padlock.

Evidence suggest that some of the last passengers at this site were CIA officers and their prisoners. That was in 2003. Soon after, the airport about 180 km north of Warsaw inside the picturesque Mazury forests went out of service.

Bounded by the Freedom of Information Act, Polish Airspace authorities have revealed that at least 11 CIA aircrafts landed at Szymany, and some of their passengers stayed on in Poland. The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) was not informed about those flights.

From Szymany the prisoners were driven to a nearby intelligence academy in Stare Kiejkuty, where the CIA had a separated facility. In 2006, a few months after Poland was first identified as having hosted a secret CIA prison, Polish ombudsman Janusz Kochanowski visited the CIA villa – only to see that its chambers have been freshly renovated.

Two other European countries with known but unconfirmed black sites are Romania and Lithuania; the rest were in Asia and North Africa.

Human rights groups believe about eight terror suspects were held in Poland, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Two other men currently detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility have been granted “injured person” status in the ongoing investigation.

The first is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national alleged to have organised the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. He has claimed that he was often stripped naked, hooded, or shackled during seven months at Stare Kiejkuty, and subjected to mock execution with a gun and threats of sexual assault against his family members.

The second, a stateless Palestinian known as Abu Zubaydah, said he was subjected to extreme physical pain, psychological pressure and waterboarding – mock drowning.

Any Polish leaders who would have agreed to the U.S. programme would have been violating the constitution by giving a foreign power control over part of Polish territory, and allowing crimes to take place there.

Former prime minister Leszek Miller, now chairman of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance has been the prime target of criticism. There are demands he should face a special tribunal charged with trying state figures.

In March 2008, the Polish authorities opened a criminal investigation. “This indicates that Poland is a country with a rule of law,” Senator Jozef Pinior told IPS. “But the protraction is a reason for concern. The investigation has been moved to the third consecutive prosecutor’s office, in what looks like playing for time.”

Pinior, one of the leaders of the Solidarity opposition movement during the 1980s, and more recently a member of the European Parliament, has for long been lobbying for a full investigation into what the CIA was doing in Poland. Twice he was called in as witness in the investigation. He claims to have seen a document on a CIA prison with PM Miller’s signature.

“Poland is no banana republic, our security services do not do such things behind the back of the government.” — Polish Senator Jozef Pinior

“The Polish government, especially Leszek Miller, must have had knowledge that such sites existed on Polish territory without any legal basis,” Pinior said. “They must have known about the torture too. Poland is no banana republic, our security services do not do such things behind the back of the government.”

It is still not clear how much knowledge the Polish leaders had about the black site in Stare Kiejkuty. Some have vehemently denied the prison’s existence, but some admit it between the lines, though denying responsibility.

“Of course, everything took place with my knowledge,” said former president Aleksander Kwasniewski in an interview with leading daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

So, that’s a few odds and ends to get us started today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!! I’m struggling with some kind of viral thing. I don’t know if it’s the flu or what, but I’ve been really tired and my brain hasn’t been working properly. Anyway, I’ve got some odds and ends of news for you, and I hope what I write will make sense.

There’s a good summary of the global nature of the Occupy protests at the Guardian:

In Madrid, tens of thousands thronged the Puerta del Sol square shouting “Hands up! This is a robbery!” In Santiago, 25,000 Chileans processed through the city, pausing outside the presidential palace to hurl insults at the country’s billionaire president. In Frankfurt, more than 5,000 people massed outside the European Central Bank, in scenes echoed in 50 towns and cities across Germany, from Berlin to Stuttgart. Sixty thousand people gathered in Barcelona, 100 in Manila, 3,000 in Auckland, 200 in Kuala Lumpur, 1,000 in Tel Aviv, 4,000 in London.

A month to the day after 1,000 people first turned up in Wall Street to express their outrage at corporate greed and social inequality, campaigners are reflecting on a weekend that saw a relatively modest demonstration in New York swell into a truly global howl of protest.

The Occupy campaign may have hoped, at its launch, to inspire similar action elsewhere, but few can have foreseen that within four weeks, more than 900 cities around the world would host co-ordinated protests directly or loosely affiliated to the Occupy cause.

The exact targets of protesters’ anger may differ from city to city and country to country. But while their numbers remain small in many places, activists argue that Saturday’s demonstrations, many of which are still ongoing – and are pledged to remain so for the foreseeable future – are evidence of a growing wave of global anger at social and economic injustice.

It’s just amazing how this movement has grown.

You know how Dakinikat has been arguing that one of the first things Occupy protesters should be demanding is the restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act? Well, Matt Yglesias says it’s no big deal: Glass-Steagall is Mostly a Red Herring.

Something I’ve heard from participants in the 99 Percent Movement is a revival of interest in rescinding the repeal of the 1932 Glass-Steagall Act. I think this is largely a misunderstanding, and it’s a actually a different — slightly more obscure — banking regulation from the same era that people are interested in.

First off, what did Glass-Steagall do? Well it did a number of things (like establish the FDIC) that were never repealed. But the rule that was repealed in the 1999 Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act were restrictions on the same holding company owning a bank and owning other kinds of financial companies. The thing about this is just that there’s really nothing in particular about co-ownership that you can point to as having been a problem in the financial crisis. And if anything that fact seems to indicate that the repealers were right to think there’s no special problem here — even in a huge financial crisis combined financial firms worked no worse than other kinds.

I’d like to see Matt debate Dakinikat about this on national TV. Here’s what Mark Thoma had to say about it:

I am sympathetic to this point of view, i.e. that the elimination of Glass-Steagall wasn’t an important causative factor in the crash. However, as I said a few days ago:

There is a debate over the extent to which removing Glass-Steagall — the old version of the Volcker rule — contributed to the crisis. However, whether the elimination of the Glass-Steagall act caused the present crisis is the wrong question to ask. To determine the value of reinstating a similar rule, the question is whether the elimination of the Glass-Steagall act made the system more vulnerable to crashes. When the question is phrased in this way, it’s clear that it has for the reasons outlined above.

So there’s still a reason to reinstate some version of the rule even if it wasn’t the main problem in the banking sector this time around.

I have a couple of stories about crazy Republican candidates, well one candidate and one candidate’s wife. First, on Sunday Herman Cain discussed his views on abortion:

“I believe in life from conception, and I do not agree with abortion under any circumstances,” Cain responded. “Not for rape and incest because if you look at, you look at rape and incest, the, the percentage of those instances is so miniscule that there are other options. If it’s the life of the mother, that family’s going to have to make that decision.”

Pressed on the life of the mother exception, Cain stuck to his answer, saying, “That family is going to have to make that decision.”

And check this out (via NPR). Last year Cain wrote a piece for Red State in which he called Jesus “the perfect conservative” and claimed that a “liberal court” was responsible for Jesus being crucified.

He helped the poor without one government program. He healed the sick without a government health care system. He feed the hungry without food stamps. And everywhere He went, it turned into a rally, attracting large crowds, and giving them hope, encouragement and inspiration.

For three years He was unemployed, and never collected an unemployment check. Nevertheless, he completed all the work He needed to get done. He didn’t travel by private jet. He walked and sailed, and sometimes traveled on a donkey…. And when they tried Him in court, He never said a mumbling word….

The liberal court found Him guilty of false offences [sic] and sentenced Him to death, all because He changed the hearts and minds of men with an army of 12.

Funny, most liberals are opposed to capital punishment… Can you imagine this guy in the White House? That would be proof that there is no god.

Next up, Anita Perry, wife of presidential candidate Rick Perry. It seems she’s the real extremist evangelical behind Governor Goodhair. Last Thursday, she gave a very revealing speech in South Carolina in which she claimed that she and her husband have been “brutalized” by the other Republican candidates because of their “faith.”

The Texas first lady weaved [sic] together religion and politics in a speech at North Greenville University, characterizing her husband’s decision to seek the presidency in August as a calling from God. Perry suggested her husband was being targeted for his evangelical Christian faith.

“It’s been a rough month. We have been brutalized and beaten up and chewed up in the press to where I need this today,” she said. “We are being brutalized by our opponents, and our own party. So much of that is, I think they look at him, because of his faith. He is the only true conservative – well, there are some true conservatives. And they’re there for good reasons. And they may feel like God called them too. But I truly feel like we are here for that purpose.”

NPR noted that Mrs. Perry admitted in the speech that she had been the one who pushed Governor Goodhair to throw his hat into the presidential ring.

According to Mrs. Perry, it was she, not her husband, who first heard the divine call that her husband should run for president.

“There was a nagging, pulling at my heart for him to run for president. He didn’t want to hear a thing about running for president. He felt like he needed to see the burning bush. I said ‘Look, let me tell you something. You may not see that burning bush but there are people seeing that burning bush for you.’ “

The “burning bush” was a reference to the Old Testament story found in Exodus 3 where God gives Moses his marching orders to tell Pharoah to release the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.

Among the noteworthy aspects of that Old Testament tale, is that it’s Moses who gets the divine message directly. It doesn’t come via an intermediary like, say, Aaron his older brother.

That’s the thing about such callings. They’re intensely personal. That’s why they’re so often marked by such a profound sense of drive and personal mission and willingness to sacrifice.

If Gov. Perry had doubts, which his wife certainly makes it appear was the case, and had to be persuaded to run, that could certainly help explain what looks to many as a lack of preparation for a national campaign.

Yikes! The burning bush? These people are completely out of touch with reality.

Yesterday Reuters published an in-depth article about Anita Perry, in case you’d like to know more.

Speaking of fundamentalist religions, here’s a bizarre story from The New York Times about Amish “renegades” attacking other Amish people.

BERGHOLZ, Ohio — Myron Miller and his wife, Arlene, had been asleep for an hour when their 15-year-old daughter woke them and said that people were knocking at the door.

Mr. Miller, 45, a stocky construction worker and an Amish bishop in the peaceful farmlands of eastern Ohio, found five or six men waiting. Some grabbed him and wrestled him outside as others hacked at his long black beard with scissors, clipping off six inches. As Mr. Miller kept struggling, his wife screamed at the children to call 911, and the attackers fled.

For an Amish man, it was an unthinkable personal violation, and all the more bewildering because those accused in the attack are other Amish….

The attackers, the authorities said, had traveled from an isolated splinter settlement near Bergholz, south of the Miller residence. Sheriffs and Amish leaders in the region, home to one of the country’s largest concentrations of Amish, had come to expect trouble from the Bergholz group. It is said to be led with an iron hand by Sam Mullet, a prickly 66-year-old man who had become bitterly estranged from mainstream Amish communities and had had several confrontations with the Jefferson County sheriff.

Too weird. So…. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Late Night: Can We Survive Another “Change” Campaign?

Via Politico, here is a portion of the speech Rick Perry will give tomorrow in Charleston, South Carolina. As everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock knows by now, Perry will be announcing that he’s running for President of the U.S.

“The change we seek will never emanate out of Washington. It will come from the windswept prairies of middle America; the farms and factories across this great land; the hearts and minds of God-fearing Americans — who will not accept a future that is less than our past, who will not be consigned a fate of LESS freedom in exchange for MORE government. We do not have to accept our current circumstances. We will change them. We’re Americans. That’s what we do. WE roll up our sleeves, WE get to work, WE make things better.”

Perry’s announcement will also feature a film made by an atheist, conservative filmmaker Michael Wilson, who hails from the “windswept prairies” of Minnesota.

In the video, a man, woman and two tow-headed children, eyes closed, fold their hands and pray around a table as a narrator says, “No matter what they’re raised to believe, my children should know that faith is none of the government’s business.”

The video, with an Independence Day theme, also talks of financial prosperity, limited government, health care choice and the “simple beauty of free markets.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel a little bit queasy from all this sappy, down-home, cornball talk.

Terrific Texas writer James C. Moore, author of Bush’s Brain, is convinced that Perry will be our next President.

His Saturday speech in South Carolina will make clear that he is entering the race for the White House and will spawn the ugliest and most expensive presidential race in U.S. history, and he will win. A C and D student, who hates to govern, loves to campaign, and barely has a sixth grader’s understanding of economics, will lead our nation into oblivion….

The big brains gathered east of the Hudson and Potomac Rivers believe that Mitt Romney is the candidate to beat. But they are unable to hear what Rick Perry is saying. The Christian prayer rally in Houston was a very loud proclamation to fundamentalists and Teavangelicals, which said, “I am not a Mormon.” The far right and Christian fundamentalists have an inordinate amount of influence in the GOP primary process and, regardless of messages of inclusion, very few of them will vote for a Mormon.

“We think a them Mormons as bein’ in kind of a cult,” one of the Houston rally attendees told me. “I couldn’t vote for one a them when we got a real Christian like Governor Perry runnin’.”

In other words, we’re doomed. And if Perry win, that will be the final proof that there is no god. Would a merciful god allow this man to become President?