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Archive for July 26th, 2018

U.S. allies have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians from the air. After 22 died at a wedding, one village asks, ‘Why us?’

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The US seem to be becoming the baddies. Sudarsan Raghavan reports in the Washington Post:

The ground where the wedding tent once stood was covered with children’s slippers, broken musical instruments, pieces of festive clothing and other detritus of destroyed lives. Teeth, still attached to the jawbone, lay near some tattered decorations.

“There is even some flesh left,” said Elan Yahya, the bride’s father, pointing at blackened shards hanging from a tree branch.

An airstrike hit the wedding in this remote mountain village on April 23, killing 22 civilians, including eight children, and injuring dozens, according to interviews with 17 villagers in late May. More than three years into Yemen’s civil war, more than 16,000 civilians have been killed and injured, the vast majority by airstrikes, the U.N. human rights office estimates, adding that the figures are likely to be far higher.

The deaths are continuing unabated, with as many as hundreds of casualties per month, despite assurances by a U.S.-backed regional coalition of better protection of civilians amid mounting criticism within the United States and the international community.

That coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is backing Yemen’s exiled government in its conflict against rebels known as the Houthis, who dominate the capital and the north. The United States is playing an essential role in the war, supporting the coalition with intelligence, refueling, technical assistance and billions of dollars in bombs and other weaponry.

The coalition is the only actor in the conflict that uses warplanes, mostly U.S.- and British-made fighter jets. The airstrikes have struck hospitals, schools, markets, motels, migrant boats, gas stations, even funeral gatherings, raising questions about the coalition’s ability to abide by humanitarian laws that call for civilians to be safeguarded.

A month after the airstrike in Raqah, the destruction on the ground remained eerily preserved. The lives of the survivors, however, had been forever altered.

“We lost our minds that day,” said Amna Yahya, the groom’s mother. “I still can’t comprehend what happened. Why us?”

U.S.-made munitions

The growing civilian casualties across Yemen have led to widespread denouncement of the U.S. role and calls in Congress to halt or regulate U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, a close U.S. ally in the Middle East. Despite the concern, President Trump announced $110 billion in new arms sales last year to the kingdom, weapons that most analysts expect will be used in Yemen.
In the hours following the airstrike in Raqah, local media published photos, provided by the Houthis, showing the bomb was a GBU-12 Paveway II precision-guided bomb, manufactured by Raytheon, the Massachusetts-based defense contractor, according to Bellingcat, an investigative website. The Washington Post could not independently verify whether the bomb was used in the attack.
But visits to other bombed sites by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch confirm that U.S.-made munitions, including banned cluster bombs and Paveway bombs, have been used in attacks that have killed and injured civilians. The Post saw remnants of U.S.-made bombs in the capital, Sanaa, and in the southwestern city of Taiz.
After the Senate narrowly approved a $510 million first installment of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia in June 2017, the kingdom said it would launch a training program to reduce accidental targeting of civilians. But in the year after that announcement, civilian deaths were 7 percent higher than the year before, U.N. data shows. In April alone, there were 236 civilians killed and 238 injured — the deadliest month this year so far.
A U.N. report last month found that 1,316 Yemeni children were killed or injured last year and that more than half of the casualties resulted from airstrikes. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

26 July 2018 at 7:32 pm

Hitting my stride: Nordic walking

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This chart shows by day the number of steps Pedometer++ has counted for me, discarding the first week when I was fumbling about and occasionally forgetting to take my iPhone with me. As the pattern shows, I’ve started to hit my stride, and today after the walk I felt energized rather than tired, so I feel I’ve turned a corner (and pretty quickly, all things considered).

The Nordic walking poles have truly lived up to their promise: they have indeed made walking enjoyable and I don’t have to push myself to get out the door. I do try to get out early (7:00 a.m. this morning) when it is cooler.  The poles arrived on the 12th and I actually did my walk using them on the 13th and thereafter. The two 10,000+ step days were days when I walked in the morning and then went for an after technique lesson, with more walking.

I’ll get in a few more steps today—perhaps 200 or so—just moving around the apartment, but the bulk of the steps (typically around 6400 or so) come from the morning Nordic walk.

I recommend Nordic walking.

Written by Leisureguy

26 July 2018 at 3:44 pm

The ‘Democratic Extremism’ Narrative Is a Handy Way to Distract Attention From Republican Extremism

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Ed Kilgore writes in New York:

There is a convention going back into the mists of time whereby the Democratic Party is thought of as a disorganized and divided mess. The early 20th-century humorist Will Rogers, himself a Democrat, once said:

 The difference between a Republican and a Democrat is the Democrat is a cannibal. They have to live off each other, while the Republicans, why, they live off the Democrats.

He wasn’t trying to be funny on that occasion, and it made a fair amount sense to think of the Donkey Party as an unwieldy paradox back when it was the preferred political vehicle of rural populists, southern segregationists, urban machines, and ethnic minorities doing battle with a Grand Old Party that mostly revolved around defending economic privilege and deploring anything that wasn’t WASPy.

But the “Democrats in Disarray” meme has lived on, and for a brief moment in the late autumn of 2016, it was pretty accurate, as Democrats reeled from a shocking defeat against a presidential candidate who looked more like a cartoon villain than a serious aspirant to high office.

As New York’s Eric Levitz explained last November, however, any talk of Democrats being fatally divided or in despair during 2017 was visibly rebutted by the steady drumbeat of Democratic victories in special and off-year elections.

Democrats don’t have nearly as many special elections to show they’re feeling their oats this year, and they’ve lost some of the huge, double-digit lead in the generic congressional ballot that was regularly appearing when Levitz wrote his upbeat assessment of Democratic prospects. And for those (both conservatives and conflict-seeking mainstream-media folk) who deeply cherish the Democrats in Disarray meme, those special elections are helpfully being replaced by party primaries in which Democrats are running against Democrats! Imagine that! Worse yet, in some of these primaries the winners are self-proclaimed progressives! And as we all know, the American people have a deep craving for sensible centrists who want to cross the party aisles and get things done. If Republicans don’t have any of those anymore, then by God, it’s critical that the loyal opposition keep the faith and avoid extremism.

Veteran political writer Walter Shapiro has written a useful skeweringof this all-too-common narrative, which has been sent into overdrive by the June primary victory in New York of Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over House Democratic Caucus chairman Joe Crowley:

[A]n emblematic story led Sunday’s New York Times under the print headline, “Democrats Brace as Storm Brews Far to Their Left.”

The themes of the Times story and dozens like it are familiar. They all highlight young activists such as 28-year-old giant slayer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who upended potential Nancy Pelosi successor Joe Crowley in the New York primary. Risky issues are highlighted as main stream Democrats recoil from demands for single-payer health insurance and the abolition of ICE (the acronym for Immigration and Customs Enforcement)….

Yet by the historical standards of Democratic internecine warfare, today’s disputes are like 6-year-olds battling with foam swords.

Spoken like a man that remembers the fraught intraparty ideological battles over the Iraq War, Clinton’s “New Democrat” movement, Cold War defense spending and national security strategy, and civil rights. Democrats are more unified on a host of issues — including hot buttons like abortion policy, criminal justice, and the social safety net — than they have been for years. And Democratic Socialists represent but one influence bubbling up from the grassroots. As Shapiro notes, for a party allegedly in the grips of an existential crisis, they’re in pretty good shape:

It’s hard to identify a Senate or House seat that is being lost because of excessive Democratic activism. Even if a Democratic incumbent like North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is troubled by calls to ax ICE, there is scant evidence that this makes her more vulnerable than before in a state that Donald Trump carried by better than a two-to-one margin.

No incumbent — not even Heitkamp or Joe Manchin in West Virginia — is being denounced as a DINO. According to a new Monmouth University Poll, moderate Democrat Rep. Conor Lamb, who won a high-profile special election in western Pennsylvania earlier this year, holds a hefty lead in his bid for a full term. Lamb is a prime example of a Democrat who has prospered by defying litmus-test politics in his opposition to Nancy Pelosi as House speaker.

While Shapiro knows a lot of history that many of today’s political journalists either don’t know or have forgotten, there’s really not much excuse for the hyperventilation so evident about the Democratic Party falling apart or “going off the deep end.” So why is this narrative so ever-ready?

Some of it is simply the result of a lazy habit of “balancing” the chaos coming out of the White House every day with the “disarray” allegedly found within the opposition party. But a deeper motive, particularly in conservative media, is the need to distract attention from the ideological revolution going on in the GOP by suggesting that something equally if not more alarming is going on across the partisan barricades. The idea is very simple: If you can’t expand your support beyond the ranks of the party “base” by “moving to the center,” then a good fallback position is to deny your opponent “the center” by alleging it’s being taken over by extremists. Aside from blurring the natural public and media focus on the strange people running the country and almost daily destroying old GOP positions on issues ranging from trade and deficits to the environment and NATO, the “here come the socialists!” cry appeals viscerally to the false-equivalence needs of MSM reporters and pundits who are constantly seeking protection against claims of liberal bias.

And so Ocasio-Cortez becomes, somehow, a vastly more significant figure than her most obvious recent conservative counterpart Dave Brat of Virginia, who similarly upset a congressional leader of his party in 2014. That’s true even though Brat almost certainly was emblematic of a strong rightward trend in the GOP, while the jury is definitely still out on whether Ocasio-Cortez is a harbinger of a world to come or simply an adept local pol who upset a complacent incumbent in an incredibly low-turnout primary in an incredibly atypical district.

It’s possible we are about to witness an extremist polarization of bothparties to an extent unknown since the Spanish Civil War. But that’s not at all clear at this point, and as for Democratic divisions, none  . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

26 July 2018 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Democrats, GOP, Politics

Emoluments fallout continues: Twilight of the Trump presidency

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In the Washington Post Jennifer Rubin describes the very real trouble President Trump has created for himself:

The District’s attorney general’s office released a statement after a favorable ruling on Wednesday in its case against the president under the emoluments clause: “In allowing the suit to move forward, today’s ruling holds that the President is subject to both the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution and that the term ’emolument’ in both Clauses extends to any profit, gain, or advantage, of more than de minimis value, received by President Trump, directly or indirectly, from foreign, the federal, or domestic governments.”
D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine declared, “The Constitution is clear: the president can’t accept money or other benefits from foreign or domestic governments. Specifically, the Court agreed with our position that President Trump cannot accept profits from private transactions, including those involving services given at fair market value, like those we allege are occurring at the Trump International Hotel here in the District.” He continued, “We sued because this corruption is taking place in our backyard, and because 325 million Americans shouldn’t have to wonder if the president is putting his personal financial interests ahead of the national interest. Our team is working hard to stop President Trump from unlawfully profiting from the presidency.” He promised to “vigorously pursue our case.”
A separate action brought by about 200 Democrats in Congress is not directly impacted, but it surely gives encouragement to the plaintiffs in that case. In a written statement the two lawmakers who have been the driving force behind the suit, ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) put out a statement. “The courts have now firmly rejected President Trump’s ludicrous argument that the payments his business receives from foreign leaders are not, in fact, payments from foreign leaders covered by the Foreign Emoluments Clause. As we have argued in our own case, the plain text of the Constitution could not be clearer: the President may not accept any benefit from a foreign government without first obtaining the affirmative consent of Congress.” They argue that the decision on Wednesday while limited to properties in the District and Maryland, their suit is not. (“While the D.C. hotel is one of the most visible means by which President Trump is violating the Constitution’s bedrock anti-corruption provisions, his violations run much further afield. That is why we are working to hold this President accountable for every foreign emolument President Trump is accepting, not only the ones he’s accepting at his D.C. hotel.”)
There was an extra dollop of good news for Maryland and the District in the decision Wednesday, concerning the domestic emoluments clause, which bars the president during his term from taking — aside from his salary — “any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.” Near the end of the opinion, U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte found with regard to the Trump Hotel in Washington that the plain terms of the lease state, “No … elected official of the Government of the United States …  shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.”  The court recounted that when Trump first took office, the then-deputy commissioner/acting commissioner of the General Services Administration found that the president “would be in violation of the Lease unless he fully divested himself of all financial interests in it.” Trump then canned the acting administrator and installed his own GSA head. “Plaintiffs allege that several weeks later, on March 16, 2017, less than two months into his term, the President released a proposed budget for 2018 that increased the GSA’s funding, while cutting back on other the funding of other agencies. ” And lo and behold, “the GSA issued a letter determining that the President and the Hotel were not in violation of the Lease.” The court finds that a sufficient emoluments claim is presented based on the allegation that “the GSA’s abrupt about-face position was and is in direct contradiction of the plain terms of the Lease and that, by determining that the Hotel was and is in compliance with the Lease, the Federal Government bestowed upon the President an emolument in violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause.” Uh-oh.
Jed Shugerman from Fordham Law School explains, “Even if a trial might not factually establish a corrupt deal by Trump, this ruling strongly suggests that a trial would lead to shutting down the Trump International Hotel as an unconstitutional violation and would force Trump to divest entirely. If there is a motion for summary judgment, the court already might have sufficient evidence to shut down the hotel.” He adds that D.C. and Maryland “would still be able to investigate the impermissible emoluments that Trump has already accepted.”
In short, the District and Maryland have alleged in convincing fashion a foreign emoluments claim and a domestic emoluments claim, the latter asserting that the GSA got roped into a scheme to let the president illegitimately keep his hotel under a lease that plainly did not allow it. That’s a gift, in essence (a lucrative one) — a domestic emolument that can be challenged in court. It’s rank corruption, by any definition — the sort of self-dealing and chicanery that’s precisely what the emoluments clause is designed to prohibit and what we have found to be endemic whether we are talking about using the presidency to make money from Mar-a-Lago or his Panamanian operation. If the District prevails, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 July 2018 at 2:04 pm

Simpson Persian Jar, Meißner Tremonia Pink Grapefruit shaving paste, RazoRock Old Type, and Saint Charles Shave Savory Rose

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A very fine shave this morning, with the eucalyptus in the shaving paste being for some reason quite noticeable. Three passes, perfect result, and a good splash of Savory Rose to send me on my way.

How can men tolerate shaving daily in a way that is not pleasurable? I don’t get it.

Written by Leisureguy

26 July 2018 at 9:23 am

Posted in Shaving

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