Fox’s MacCallum Gives Rand Paul Safe Space For Impeachment Trial Sabotage – NewsHounds

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After rejection by Chief Justice John Roberts and some of his own colleagues for trying to out the whistleblower in an impeachment trial question, Sen. Rand Paul ran to his safe space on Fox News. There, he freely sabotaged Trump’s impeachment with disinformation that was validated by “straight news” anchor Martha MacCallum.

Yesterday, Paul deliberately flouted Justice John Roberts’ impeachment trial rules by re-submitting a previously-denied question outing the Ukraine whistleblower. When it was refused again, Paul stalked out of the trial and publicly aired his question (and the alleged name of the whistleblower) to reporters and on Twitter.

MacCallum helped reveal the whistleblower’s name without actually doing so by suggesting viewers read Paul’s tweet: “Anybody who wants to hear the whole text of that question and the names that you included, it’s on your Twitter feed and you talked about it today and I would direct them there but I’d ask you not to say them here,” she said.

She continued by asking “why you feel it’s so important to focus on the origins of this investigation and to bring that point home.” Nice way to ignore the actual findings of the investigation, Martha!

MacCallum did not mention that Roberts had signaled he would not allow whistleblower outing before the question period began, nor did she mention that top Republicans were in accord.

Instead, MacCallum cocked her head with a look of intent listening, messaging that Paul’s comments were to be taken seriously – unlike the serious impeachment accusations against Donald Trump which she conveniently ignored.

Paul claimed his question did not name the whistleblower, thus contradicting Chief Justice Roberts. Politico explains that while Paul may not have technically outed the whistleblower, he “named a person referred to in conservative media as the purported whistleblower.” But MacCallum didn’t challenge Paul’s disingenuousness.

So, we got a stream of Democratic demonization, unquestioned. Paul claimed his question discussed “two Obama partisans who worked in the National Security Council” one of whom now supposedly works for Rep. Adam Schiff and “one of them is someone who is involved in the origins of the impeachment inquiry.”

MacCallum nodded in agreement.

Paul persisted with his claim that “there are stories and reports now that they, a few years ago, were heard saying, you know what? We’ve got to do everything we can to bring down the president, to take down the president.”

You may recall that Fox described MacCallum as the embodiment of “ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism” when it pleaded with the DNC to hold a debate on the network. But “ultimate professional” MacCallum never bothered to ask Paul his source for that smear. Nor did she note that even if true, that does not disprove any of the evidence uncovered during the House impeachment investigation. No, Fox’s “ultimate professional” continued nodding as Paul promoted his unsubstantiated, pro-Trump propaganda deflection and whataboutism.

Paul went on with his conspiracy theory (and MacCallum continued nodding in agreement) about “six people who were Obama partisans who worked for the National Security Council who all are transmitting stuff back and forth and my question is, did they have discussions predating the official impeachment inquiry?” We also heard about House Manager Adam Schiff’s supposed dishonesty in the process but none about Trump’s dishonesty – and it’s Trump’s behavior that is on trial.

But MacCallum responded to Paul by saying that questions about the origin of the Ukraine investigation, just like those about the origin of the Russia investigation, “are certainly valid questions.” She called it “frustrating” that there’s no cross examination. But she wasn’t promoting the calling of any witnesses, oh no. She meant Paul had no opportunity to see Schiff “try to answer” Paul’s questions. She later “asked,” on behalf of “anybody at home who says, yeah, I’d like to know the answer to these questions, why doesn’t the Senate Judiciary Committee or the DOJ, someone, start to look into this, just as we saw happen with the origins of the Russia investigation? Is that gonna happen?”

“Maybe eventually,” Paul replied. He quickly segued to promoting himself as “a big defender of whistleblowers.” He claimed that the whistleblower is only protected from being fired so he or she should come forward (and death threats are A-OK).

And Rand Paul wouldn’t be a Republican if he didn’t play the victim. “I never identified anybody as a whistleblower,” he disingenuously reiterated. “That’s why it’s unfair to exclude my question.”

Finally, in the last minute of the 7:15 interview, MacCallum asked if Paul saw “anything wrong” with Trump’s Ukraine phone call and whether he saw it as “a request for a political favor?”

Paul falsely claimed that there was a lot of corruption and that Trump “would actually be going against the law if he didn’t investigate the Bidens” (i.e. hold up aid to Ukraine) and that Trump’s actions were “completely within compliance with the law.”

FACT CHECK: The Pentagon sent a letter to four congressional committees last May certifying that Ukraine had taken sufficient anti-corruption measures to warrant the release of aid. The Department of Defense announced in mid-June that it would release $250 million but the White House blocked that assistance in July.

FACT CHECK: Furthermore, the Government Accountability Office found that Trump violated the law by withholding the aid.

But “ultimate professional” MacCallum never mentioned any of that to her viewers.

You can watch MacCallum enable Paul’s gaslighting propaganda below, from the January 30, 2020 The Story.

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‘You Should Ask Mr. Soleimani’: Pompeo Drops Mic When Asked if Impeachment Makes Trump Vulnerable (Video) ⋆ Conservative Firing Line

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RUSH TRANSCRIPT:

It was a quick hit except they stayed for almost ten years. Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand.

>> Chris: But just this week, the U.S. Deployed 100 Marines to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, plus 752 the region and now another 3500. If the president pulling us out of endless wars in the Middle East or with his action this week did he take a big step back in?

>> Secretary Pompeo: Endless wars are the direct result of weakness and President Trump will never let that happen. We are going to get it right, we’re going to get the force posture right, we are going to get our facilities as hardened as we can possibly get them to defend against what Iran may potentially do, but make no mistake, America’s mission is to have our footprint in the Middle East reduced while still keeping America safe. Safe from rogue regimes like the Islamic Republic of Iran and from terrorist activity broadly throughout the region. Someone’s was it fair to say that while the big strategy is to pull the U.S. Out of endless wars, at least in the short term there could be more of a commitment?

>> Secretary Pompeo: The Obama Administration created an enormous risk to the American people in Iran. This administration is working to reduce that risk.

>> Chris: Some analysts suggest that the impeachment of President Trump has emboldened enemies like Iran and North Korea to think that they can confront him. Do you think that is misguided as it may be, that some of our enemies think that this president is more vulnerable because of the impeachment effort?

>> Secretary Pompeo: You should ask Mr. Soleimani.

>> Chris: I understand that, but he was going ahead before you killed him and the question is do you think that impeachment is emboldening our enemies?

>> Secretary Pompeo: I don’t. I think that our adversaries understand President Trump and our administration will do the right thing to protect the American people everyplace that we find risk.

>> Chris: Secretary Pompeo, thank you. Thanks for coming in on a very busy weekend.

>> Secretary Pompeo: Thank you.

>> Chris: When we come back, Democrats raised questions about the wisdom and legality of the president’s decision to take out Soleimani. We will talk with a top You have a brother in the second battalion? Yes sir. They’re walking into a trap. Your orders are to deliver a message calling off tomorrow’s attack. If you fail, we will lose sixteen hundred men. Your brother among them.

Cross-posted with Mental Recession

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“I would have been celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary and no one would know I’m a lesbian behind closed doors”- Pamela Adie – YabaLeftOnline

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Nigerian lesbian and LGBT rights campaigner, Awhobiwom Pamela Adie is celebrating 10th anniversary of her ”freedom day”. a day on which she came out of the closet.

Taking to Facebook yesterday, she shared a throwback photo from her bridal shower and listed her achievements since she came out as gay in 2011 to the shock of her ex-husband, family and friends.

I always mark this day, December 12, as my “Freedom Day” because it was the day my life began to change Frfr. By now, I would have had 3 children and would have been celebrating the 10th anniversary of the wedding to my ex-husband. Many would have clapped and congratulated me for having been married for so long. But I wouldn’t have been honest with my self and those celebrating me…no one would know that I am lesbian behind closed doors. But today, I celebrate my truth and my freedom.

So much has changed in the last decade. First of all, I was 25years old at the beginning of the decade and now, at the end, I’m 35. I have gotten married, gotten divorced, came out of the closet, and earned 2 masters degrees. In the same time, I have gone from a full head of locs to a three-quarter head of locs, lost a dog and got a new dog companion, Midge.

Within this timeframe, I have led a global campaign that mobilized people to stop a deeply homophobic pastor from entering South Africa to spread hate, been listed as one of 100 most inspiring women in Africa, listed among the 10 most powerful names in Advocacy in Nigeria, spoke at the World Economic Forum, received the Young Alumni Achievement Award, wrote, produced and directed my first documentary film, and became an Obama Foundation Leader.

But it hasn’t been all rosy. I was broke many times because I was committed to seeing the end of my film project. My heart was broken multiple times, I cried a lot. I was sad many times. I loved again and again. I showed up. I fell short many times. I didn’t give up. I believed most times, and other times, I wasn’t as sure. I knew myself a lot more than I ever thought. And I also met some very awesome people…including the love of my life!

I traveled to 6 new countries, I faced some of my fears – I facilitated 3 training sessions of LGBTQ+ activists from across Africa, screened my film in 5 countries, went skydiving and parasailing – went on the desert safari, gotten 3 tattoos, did a safari tour, stayed at the Burg Al Arab, went ziplining, visited Nelson Mandela’s prison cell, and challenged the Nigerian government for infringing on my right to freely associate.

I say all this not to brag (well, there’s a lil bit of that) but to say that nothing ever stays the same forever. When we open up to living our truth, we can explore and take opportunities as they present themselves. Sure, there were times I had doubts or felt unworthy. But I abandoned religion and found Meditation, which helped me overcome my self-doubt and guilt.

As a side note, I have to reject the notion that I am somehow “lucky”. I’m not lucky. I paid my dues. I paid the heavy price and I’m getting the reward. So, please don’t say “she’s lucky”.

Anyway, I hope this inspires you to be all you can be and open yourself to life by focusing and working on the things you want to achieve. If all these can happen in the last 10 years, imagine what can happen in the next 10? Imagine what YOU can achieve in the next 10 years!

Begin with the end in mind.

Thank you to my many helpers who have contributed to my journey in the last decade. Some of what was achieved was possible because of your support.

I’m grateful and hopeful and on that note, I say Cheers to the next decade!

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Why the fight against disinformation, sham accounts and trolls won’t be any easier in 2020

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The big tech companies have announced aggressive steps to keep trolls, bots and online fakery from marring another presidential election — from Facebook’s removal of billions of fake accounts to Twitter’s spurning of all political ads.

But it’s a never-ending game of whack-a-mole that’s only getting harder as we barrel toward the 2020 election. Disinformation peddlers are deploying new, more subversive techniques and American operatives have adopted some of the deceptive tactics Russians tapped in 2016. Now, tech companies face thorny and sometimes subjective choices about how to combat them — at times drawing flak from both Democrats and Republicans as a result.

This is our roundup of some of the evolving challenges Silicon Valley faces as it tries to counter online lies and bad actors heading into the 2020 election cycle:

1) American trolls may be a greater threat than Russians

Russia-backed trolls notoriously flooded social media with disinformation around the presidential election in 2016, in what Robert Mueller’s investigators described as a multimillion-dollar plot involving years of planning, hundreds of people and a wave of fake accounts posting news and ads on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube.

This time around — as experts have warned — a growing share of the threat is likely to originate in America.

“It’s likely that there will be a high volume of misinformation and disinformation pegged to the 2020 election, with the majority of it being generated right here in the United States, as opposed to coming from overseas,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.

Barrett, the author of a recent report on 2020 disinformation, noted that lies and misleading claims about 2020 candidates originating in the U.S. have already spread across social media. Those include manufactured sex scandals involving South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and a smear campaign calling Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) “not an American black” because of her multiracial heritage. (The latter claim got a boost on Twitter from Donald Trump Jr.)

Before last year’s midterm elections, Americans similarly amplified fake messages such as a “#nomenmidterms” hashtag that urged liberal men to stay home from the polls to make “a Woman’s Vote Worth more.” Twitter suspended at least one person — actor James Woods — for retweeting that message.

“A lot of the disinformation that we can identify tends to be domestic,” said Nahema Marchal, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute’s Computational Propaganda Project. “Just regular private citizens leveraging the Russian playbook, if you will, to create … a divisive narrative, or just mixing factual reality with made-up facts.”

Tech companies say they’ve broadened their fight against disinformation as a result. Facebook, for instance, announced in October that it had expanded its policies against “coordinated inauthentic behavior” to reflect a rise in disinformation campaigns run by non-state actors, domestic groups and companies. But people tracking the spread of fakery say it remains a problem, especially inside closed groups like those popular on Facebook.

2) And policing domestic content is tricky

U.S. law forbids foreigners from taking part in American political campaigns — a fact that made it easy for members of Congress to criticize Facebook for accepting rubles as payment for political ads in 2016.

But Americans are allowed, even encouraged, to partake in their own democracy — which makes things a lot more complicated when they use social media tools to try to skew the electoral process. For one thing, the companies face a technical challenge: Domestic meddling doesn’t leave obvious markers such as ads written in broken English and traced back to Russian internet addresses.

More fundamentally, there’s often no clear line between bad-faith meddling and dirty politics. It’s not illegal to run a mud-slinging campaign or engage in unscrupulous electioneering. And the tech companies are wary of being seen as infringing on American’s right to engage in political speech — all the more so as conservatives such as President Donald Trump accuse them of silencing their voices.

Plus, the line between foreign and domestic can be blurry. Even in 2016, the Kremlin-backed troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency relied on Americans to boost their disinformation. Now, claims with hazy origins are being picked up without need for a coordinated 2016-style foreign campaign. Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic strategist who has spent recent years focused on online disinformation, points to Trump’s promotion of the theory that Ukraine significantly meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, a charge that some experts trace back to Russian security forces.

“It’s hard to know if something is foreign or domestic,” said Rosenberg, once it “gets swept up in this vast ‘Wizard of Oz’-like noise machine.”

3) Bad actors are learning

Experts agree on one thing: The election interference tactics that social media platforms encounter in 2020 will look different from those they’ve trying to fend off since 2016.

“What we’re going to see is the continued evolution and development of new approaches, new experimentation trying to see what will work and what won’t,” said Lee Foster, who leads the information operations intelligence analysis team at the cybersecurity firm FireEye.

Foster said the “underlying motivations” of undermining democratic institutions and casting doubt on election results will remain constant, but the trolls have already evolved their tactics.

For instance, they’ve gotten better at obscuring their online activity to avoid automatic detection, even as social media platforms ramp up their use of artificial intelligence software to dismantle bot networks and eradicate inauthentic accounts.

“One of the challenges for the platforms is that, on the one hand, the public understandably demands more transparency from them about how they take down or identify state-sponsored attacks or how they take down these big networks of authentic accounts, but at the same time they can’t reveal too much at the risk of playing into bad actors’ hands,” said Oxford’s Marchal.

Researchers have already observed extensive efforts to distribute disinformation through user-generated posts — known as “organic” content — rather than the ads or paid messages that were prominent in the 2016 disinformation campaigns.

Foster, for example, cited trolls impersonating journalists or other more reliable figures to give disinformation greater legitimacy. And Marchal noted a rise in the use of memes and doctored videos, whose origins can be difficult to track down. Jesse Littlewood, vice president at advocacy group Common Cause, said social media posts aimed at voter suppression frequently appear no different from ordinary people sharing election updates in good faith — messages such as “you can text your vote” or “the election’s a different day” that can be “quite harmful.”

Tech companies insist they are learning, too. Since the 2016 election, Google, Facebook and Twitter have devoted security experts and engineers to tackling disinformation in national elections across the globe, including the 2018 midterms in the United States. The companies say they have gotten better at detecting and removing fake accounts, particularly those engaged in coordinated campaigns.

But other tactics may have escaped detection so far. NYU’s Barrett noted that disinformation-for-hire operations sometimes employed by corporations may be ripe for use in U.S. politics, if they’re not already.

He pointed to a recent experiment conducted by the cyber threat intelligence firm Recorded Future, which said it paid two shadowy Russian “threat actors” a total of just $6,050 to generate media campaigns promoting and trashing a fictitious company. Barrett said the project was intended “to lure out of the shadows firms that are willing to do this kind of work,” and demonstrated how easy it is to generate and sow disinformation.

Real-life examples include a hyper-partisan skewed news operation started by a former Fox News executive and Facebook’s accusations that an Israeli social media company profited from creating hundreds of fake accounts. That “shows that there are firms out there that are willing and eager to engage in this kind of underhanded activity,” Barrett said.

4) Not all lies are created equal

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are largely united in trying to take down certain kinds of false information, such as targeted attempts to drive down voter turnout. But their enforcement has been more varied when it comes to material that is arguably misleading.

In some cases, the companies label the material factually dubious or use their algorithms to limit its spread. But in the lead-up to 2020, the companies’ rules are being tested by political candidates and government leaders who sometimes play fast and loose with the truth.

“A lot of the mainstream campaigns and politicians themselves tend to rely on a mix of fact and fiction,” Marchal said. “It’s often a lot of … things that contain a kernel of truth but have been distorted.”

One example is the flap over a Trump campaign ad — which appeared on Facebook, YouTube and some television networks — suggesting that former Vice President Joe Biden had pressured Ukraine into firing a prosecutor to squelch an investigation into an energy company whose board included Biden’s son Hunter. In fact, the Obama administration and multiple U.S. allies had pushed for removing the prosecutor for slow-walking corruption investigations. The ad “relies on speculation and unsupported accusations to mislead viewers,” the nonpartisan site FactCheck.org concluded.

The debate has put tech companies at the center of a tug of war in Washington. Republicans have argued for more permissive rules to safeguard constitutionally protected political speech, while Democrats have called for greater limits on politicians’ lies.

Democrats have especially lambasted Facebook for refusing to fact-check political ads, and have criticized Twitter for letting politicians lie in their tweets and Google for limiting candidates’ ability to finely tune the reach of their advertising — all examples, the Democrats say, of Silicon Valley ducking the fight against deception.

Jesse Blumenthal, who leads the tech policy arm of the Koch-backed Stand Together coalition, said expecting Silicon Valley to play truth cop places an undue burden on tech companies to litigate messy disputes over what’s factual.

“Most of the time the calls are going to be subjective, so what they end up doing is putting the platforms at the center of this rather than politicians being at the center of this,” he said.

Further complicating matters, social media sites have generally granted politicians considerably more leeway to spread lies and half-truths through their individual accounts and in certain instances through political ads. “We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an October speech at Georgetown University in which he defended his company’s policy.

But Democrats say tech companies shouldn’t profit off false political messaging.

“I am supportive of these social media companies taking a much harder line on what content they allow in terms of political ads and calling out lies that are in political ads, recognizing that that’s not always the easiest thing to draw those distinctions,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state told POLITICO.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

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Trump leaving NATO: dangerous for U.S., nightmare for Israel – Haaretz.com

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This article was first published on January 17, 2019

When Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the new Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, settled into his office at the Kirya after being sworn in Tuesday, he had a long list of military challenges to plan for: Rockets and tunnels by Hamas and Hezbollah, Iran’s persistent threatening stance against Israel in Syria, Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

One thing he probably never thought he would have to add to that list was planning for the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal from NATO. 

The day is almost over, and no one from the Administration has denied the NYT story about Trump wanting to pull out of NATO. Worse, no one from the Administration would dare say he would never do it. Because they know he might.

— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro)

But as he learned from the New York Times, the possibility is very much on President Donald Trump’s mind.

It is no small matter for Israel.

In the first instance, Israel benefits from NATO because of the way it broadens U.S. influence. NATO is an alliance, but it also entails its European members willingly accepting the United States’ leadership position on the continent.

U.S. allies outside the alliance benefit from the association. It has helped earn Israel a seat at the table as a NATO partner, has opened doors to cooperation with non-U.S. militaries, and helps prevent escalatory scenarios in moments of tension between Israel and NATO members, notably Turkey. In a post-NATO world, Israel’s alignment would be with an isolated United States that lacks the multiplying effect of broader Western support.

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But the operational effects could be far more challenging. Israel maintains impressive self-defense capabilities, which will be sustained in any scenario, but its security partnership with the United States, another critical pillar of its defense policy, will be forced to adapt in complicated ways.

The day-to-day relationships between the IDF and the U.S. military are conducted via U.S. European Command. U.S. forces based in Germany are the ones who travel to Israel by the thousands to conduct joint exercises, including those that drill bringing Patriot missile batteries to augment Israel’s domestic capabilities and help defend Israel in the case of a major conflict.  

U.S. Navy destroyers, home-ported in Spain and equipped with Aegis missile defense capabilities, are among the Sixth Fleet’s ships that sail regularly in the Eastern Mediterranean (and make port calls in Haifa) to ensure adequate support for Israel’s defense. U.S. Air Force squadrons based in Italy come to Israel to conduct joint air exercises with the Israeli Air Force. Other U.S. troops sit even closer, at Incirlik Air Force Base in Eastern Turkey.

Remove the United States from NATO – and forward-deployed U.S. forces from Europe, which would certainly follow – and the United States’ ability to respond to a Middle East crisis would be diminished.

Could U.S. support for Israel be shifted and coordinated instead through U.S. Central Command, based in the Persian Gulf? It has been proposed before as an efficiency measure. But Israeli generals have always resisted the proposal. Their worry is that they would find it challenging to enjoy the same level of intimacy they currently have with Europe-based U.S. commanders, with commanders who maintain a similar closeness with Arab militaries. 

True, Israel is closer strategically today with the Arab Gulf states than at any time in its history, because of a focus on the common threat of Iran and the lower priority of the Palestinian issue. But those relationships are a long way from being normalized – and could still backslide.

Israeli security planners are, therefore, still most likely to want to maintain separation between their relationships with the U.S. military and with their Arab neighbors. Having observed the intense friendships formed between Israeli military commanders and their U.S. counterparts based in Europe, I can say that these ties will not be easily replaced.

The broader Middle East would also experience the effects of NATO’s demise in the form of further empowerment of Russia. That is happening already, but losing NATO would turbocharge those trends.

Already, Russia’s brutally decisive intervention in Syria, combined with successive U.S. administrations’ preference to reduce active U.S. military engagements in the region, have led many regional states to explore expanded security ties with Russia.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets more frequently with Putin than he does with Trump, and the IDF and Russian Air Force deconflict their operations in Syria. The leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, all close partners of the United States, have visited Moscow and explored acquiring advanced Russian weapons systems in addition to their American-supplied arsenals.

Should Russia decide to exert leverage, such as by constraining Israeli freedom of action against Iranian military targets in Syria, the United States would be ill-equipped to push back.

A U.S. withdrawal from NATO would unmistakably be understood as a major pullback from the United States’s leadership in global affairs. The effect of expanding Russian influence would be felt far beyond Europe and the Middle East.

Military planners are renowned for imagining, and developing options for, every possible scenario. So General Kochavi and his colleagues will find a way to prepare, and put themselves in a position to adapt. But there are certain anchors that any country hopes to maintain, particularly one facing as many threats, and so tied to its American ally, as Israel.

To avoid having to grapple with the nightmarish set of problems that would result from the U.S. leaving NATO, General Kochavi might consider recommending to his Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that he use his influence with President Trump to dissuade him from such a dangerous course.

Daniel B. Shapiro is Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa in the Obama Administration. Twitter: @DanielBShapiro

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President Obama Signs Final Executive Orders for Black America – R. Eric Thomas

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Last month I did a guest editorial spot during the run of 1812 Productions‘ political comedy show, This Is The Week That Is. I was very excited to break news about President Obama’s final Executive Orders. And I’m equally as delighted to share them with you today!

In case you don’t know, I’m the local chapter president of National Black Friends of America. We are the organization that represents your black friend.

And maybe you have more than one—that’s great; we love overachievers—but statistically…

One of our most popular services is our hotline. You can call any time day or night for references. So, if someone accuses you of being a racist, just give us a call and we can get on the line and say “No. He has a black friend.” That usually settles it.

But I’m not here to talk about us; I’m here to talk about America’s black friend—President Barack Obama.

As you’re aware, America’s black friend is leaving his job in one month. We’re very sad about that. And I think we all know that even though President Obama is great and we love being around him, America’s main interaction with him has been through work. And now that he’s leaving the company, it’s going to be harder to hang out. We want to make plans and we’ll probably grab a beer at Applebee’s once or twice, but you know, everyone is so busy these days.

Anyway, before he leaves, President Obama has been making tons of last-minute pardons, endorsements and executive orders. Just yesterday he pardoned more people in a single day than any president ever.

But it’s his executive orders that are of particular interest to us, the National Black Friends of America. The president, as a parting gift to post-racial America, has made a list of decrees for things that Black people can now do (or now no longer have to do). Here are our ten favorites:

1. If you’re black, you don’t have to wait in line at the deli anymore. Just walk right up to the front. You can take a number if you want to but then just crumple it up and throw it on the floor.

2.The president is really concerned about all this Russian hacking business. The DNC can’t order lunch from GrubHub without it getting leaked. To prevent any further internet impropriety, all American correspondence will now have to go over the only server we trust–the one from the dating site BlackPlanet. If you’re trying to reach me, you can e-mail MochaChocolata@BlackPlanet.com

3. Speaking of Social Media, after these new executive orders, Black Twitter is now the only Twitter. Now you may say to yourself “Isn’t Black Twitter a part of Twitter? Is it a separate entity now? How do I find Black Twitter?” I’m not going to tell you.

4. Free hoagies at Jimmy John’s on Wednesdays! Very exciting.

5. Obama also made some changes to the criminal justice system. For instance, all trials will now exclusively have all-black juries. We’re just going to see how it goes. Don’t be nervous.

6. It’s also illegal, now, to perform routine traffic stops on black people. You can’t stop us anymore. It’s going to be like Mario Kart out there. Don’t worry; we’re very good drivers. It’s fine. The historically black driver’s ed schools are some of the best in the country. But, yeah, you can’t stop a black person in a car. We know our taillight is out. We know.

7. Michelle Obama is going on Mount Rushmore. But we’re moving Mount Rushmore to Miami because it’s just easier to get to.

8. Everything is church now. Tambourines. Ushers in orthopedic shoes. People doing cartwheels of praise down the aisle. Offering baskets. Everything. Church can happen anywhere at any time. Church is about to happen here. Venmo me your offering please. Hallelujah.

9. Oh! This is a new order that just went into effect last month at the Country Music Awards. Starting now, Beyonce can perform any kind of music she wants, at any time, anywhere. Coming in 2017: Beyonce does Klezmer. You’ll love it!

And lastly:

10. Beginning next year, we can’t use the n-word anymore either.

We’re very excited to be living in these post-post-racial times. Until then, as we now say in America, as allah malakim. And may Black Jesus bless us all!

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CIA stole Baghdadi’s underpants –Fresh details of how ISIS leader was tracked down to death

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Fresh details have surfaced about the US special forces operation that led to the weekend death in Syria of Islamic State elusive leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, on which there was a $25million bounty.
One of the details was that a CIA mole around al-Baghdadi at a time, stole his underpants that he handed over for DNA test.
US officials said Baghdadi’s body has been buried at sea, just like Osama bin Laden’s body was buried in 2011 during Barack Obama’s tenure as US leader.
Syrian Kurds claimed to be a key source of the intelligence that led Americans to Baghdadi after years of tracking the man behind a five-year reign of terror across much of Iraq and Syria.
And an unnamed US military dog became an unlikely hero of the raid, incurring injuries as it chased Baghdadi down a dead-end tunnel underneath his northwestern Syria hideout, where the jihadist blew himself and three children up with a suicide vest.
The US military basked in success Monday after eliminating the founder and spiritual guide of the Islamic State (IS) group, capping a years-long campaign to crush the Sunni Muslim extremist organization that had at one point created a “caliphate” the size of England.
“His death marks a devastating blow to the remnants of (IS),” said Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
He praised the nearly hundred-strong force that helicoptered to the rural compound in the Idlib region of Syria in a complex mission that required coordination with Russians, Kurds, Turks and President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to prevent US aircraft from being fired upon.
“They executed the raid in all of its facets brilliantly,” Esper said.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley said no one was injured in the operation, despite the US team taking fire when they arrived.
They took two men prisoner, and Baghdadi’s body was taken to a secure facility for a DNA test that would confirm his identity, Milley said.
“The disposal of his remains has been done, is complete and was handled appropriately,” he added, saying it was handled “in accordance with the law of armed conflict.”
Another Pentagon official confirmed that Baghdadi’s body was put into the sea at an unnamed location, similar to the 2011 sea burial of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after his death in a US special forces raid in Pakistan.
A Kurdish official said an inside source the group oversaw was responsible for leading US forces to Baghdadi’s hideout, helping to map out the interior of the compound, its staffing, as well as making it possible for them to identify Baghdadi.
“Since 15 May, we have been working together with the CIA to track al-Baghdadi and monitor him closely,” said Polat Can, a senior adviser to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
The group had an informant who was able to infiltrate Baghdadi’s house.
“Al-Baghdadi changed his places of residence very often,” he said on Twitter.
“Our intelligence source was involved in sending co-ordinates, directing the airdrop, participating in and making the operation a success until the last minute,” Polat Can said.
The source also “brought al-Baghdadi’s underwear to conduct a DNA test and make sure (100%) that the person in question was al-Baghdadi himself,” he said.

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7 takeaways from the CNN/New York Times Democratic presidential debate

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7 highlights from the Democratic debate - CNNPolitics

Westerville, Ohio (CNN)Polls show that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is now a front-runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination. And on Tuesday night in Ohio, her 11 rivals acted like it.

And moderate candidates — some, like South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, fighting to climb into the top tier; others, like Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, just desperate to make the next debate stage — dropped the euphemisms and pressed their progressive foes in direct and sometimes personal terms.
Here are seven takeaways from Tuesday night’s debate:

    Warren under attack for the first time

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      Warren attacked from all sides on the debate stage

    Warren’s months-long march to the front of the polls finally put her in the position of being the most heavily targeted and scrutinized candidate on stage.
    Buttigieg and Klobuchar led the charge, assailing Warren over her answers on health care.
    Warren supports Sanders’ proposal for “Medicare for All” — replacing private insurance with everyone receiving coverage through a government-run plan. And while Sanders has acknowledged that Americans’ taxes would need to increase to pay for the plan, Warren refused to say whether the middle class’s taxes would go up — instead only saying that, because deductibles, premiums and co-pays would be eliminated, overall costs would decrease.
    Buttigieg accused her of dodging a yes-or-no question. “Your signature is to have a plan for everything, except this. No plan has been laid out to explain how a multi-trillion dollar hole in this plan that Sen. Warren is putting forward is supposed to get filled in,” he said.
    Klobuchar accused Warren of being dishonest. “We owe it to the American people to tell them where we will send the invoice,” she said.
    Warren later addressed the question of taxes, when former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke asked her — during a discussion about Warren’s proposed wealth tax and child care coverage — whether she would raise middle-class taxes. “No,” she said — but the moment was mostly lost amid cross-talk.

    Bernie Sanders won the night

    And it had nothing to do with what happened on stage.
    In the debate’s final moments, the Washington Post broke the news that New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez plans to endorse Sanders. CNN then reported that two other members of the “Squad,” Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, will do the same.
    The pick-ups are huge. Some Democratic strategists think that outside of the Obamas, Ocasio-Cortez represents the most influential potential endorsement of the 2020 primary race.
    It also comes at a key moment for Sanders. Warren’s months-long ascent, fueled in part by progressives as she advocated some similar policies to Sanders, was on display Tuesday night, when the rest of the field treated her as the front-runner. If Ocasio-Cortez had supported her, it could have been the beginning of the end of Sanders’ chances.
    Instead, he gets a major injection of energy — and sends the signal that he’s far from done yet.

    Echoes of 2016 as the front-runners fight

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      Warren takes a jab at Biden while complimenting Obama

    For most of the night, as Warren wore the biggest target, Biden slipped into the background. That changed near the end of the debate, when the field’s top tier — Biden, Warren and Sanders — finally unloaded on each other.
    The question that loomed over their: Biden has a lengthy record — but is it one that’s in line with where the Democratic electorate is now?
    It began when Biden touted his record in former President Barack Obama’s administration, pressuring Republicans to vote for measures such as the federal stimulus package.
    “We all have good ideas. The question is who is going to be able to get it done? How can you get it done?” Biden said. “And I’m not suggesting they can’t, but I’m suggesting that’s what we should look at.”
    That’s when Sanders pounced, attacking Biden — in a moment that felt similar to the Vermont senator’s 2016 debates with Hillary Clinton — over legislation Biden had supported and Sanders opposed over the last three decades.
    “Joe, you talked about working with Republicans and getting things done. But you know what, you also got done, and I say this as a good friend,” Sanders said. “You got the disastrous war in Iraq done. You got a bankruptcy bill, which is hurting middle class families all over this country. You got trade agreements like NAFTA and (trade relations) with China done, which have cost us 4 million jobs.”
    Then Warren jumped in.
    Responding to Biden’s assertion that he is best able to get things done, she pointed to her role in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during the Obama administration.
    Seemingly miffed to be denied a share of the credit, Biden interjected, nearly shouting, “I went on the floor and got you votes. I got votes for that bill. I convinced people to vote for it, so let’s get those things straight, too.”
    Warren responded by thanking Obama — but notably omitting Biden.
    “I am deeply grateful to President Obama, who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law,” she said.

    Trouble for Biden?

    For the former vice president, fading into the background of a debate is a troubling sign because of what it suggests: that his foes view him as less of a threat than they once did.
    But just as the good news had come late for Sanders, the real bad news for Biden’s campaign came even later Wednesday night.
    In a scheduling oddity, reports covering the third quarter of 2019 were due in to the Federal Election Commission by midnight — an hour after the debate ended.
    Biden’s report revealed that his campaign ended September with just $9 million on hand. That’s far short of Sanders’ $33.7 million, Warren’s $25.7 million and Buttigieg’s $23.4 million — and is even below California Sen. Kamala Harris’ $10.5 million.

    A more aggressive Buttigieg

    7 highlights from the Democratic debate - CNNPolitics

      Buttigieg to O’Rourke: I don’t need lessons from you

    The South Bend, Indiana, mayor had made it obvious he planned to come out swinging. In the days before the debate, he’d launched an ad that was critical of Warren and Sanders over Medicare for All, criticized Warren’s grassroots fundraising strategy for the general election as being reliant on “pocket change,” and attacked O’Rourke over his support for mandatory buy-backs of assault-style rifles in an interview on Snapchat’s “Good Luck America.”
    The exchanges with Warren over health care might be the night’s most memorable.
    But he also got a chance to tout an element of his own biography — his military service — in clashing with Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the only other military veteran in the field, over her call to end “endless wars.”
    “The slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence, it a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this President of American allies and American values,” he said.
    Buttigieg also sharply criticized O’Rourke — at one point, in personal terms — over the former Texas congressman’s proposed mandatory buy-backs of assault-style rifles.
    7 highlights from the Democratic debate - CNNPolitics
    “You just made it clear that you don’t know how this is going to take weapons off the street,” he said. “If you can develop the plan further, we can have a debate. But we can’t wait.”
    O’Rourke responded that mass shootings are a “crisis” and that Democrats should make the case for farther-reaching gun control measures. “Let’s decide what we are going to believe in, what we are going to achieve, and let’s bring this country together in order to do that,” he said.
    Buttigieg shot back: “The problem isn’t the polls, the problem is the policy. And I don’t need lessons from you on courage, political or personal.”
    “I don’t care what that meant to me or my candidacy,” O’Rourke replied. But to survivors of gun violence, and March For Our Lives, the gun control advocacy group founded by students after the Parkland, Florida, shooting last year, “that was a slap in the face to every single one of those groups,” he said. Moments later, the organization tweeted praise for O’Rourke’s position.

    Klobuchar, unleashed

    With the Democratic National Committee raising its fundraising and polling thresholds for the November debate, Klobuchar walked on stage facing the real possibility that this debate could be her last.
    Her response: Go hard at the Democratic primary’s most ascendant candidate, Warren.
    “The difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something that you can actually get done,” she said of Warren at one point, as she criticized her support for Medicare for All.
    Klobuchar’s performance on Tuesday stands in stark contrast to her first three debate performances, which were more muted.
    And there is a reason for that: After qualifying for the first four debates, Klobuchar is on the verge of not qualifying for the fifth Democratic debate in November. While Klobuchar has the required number of donors, she has yet to reach the polling threshold, something that her team believes she can boost with a well-reviewed debate.
    Then there’s the portion of her approach that’s in the eye of the beholder: One of her trademarks as a candidate — goofy humor — continued on Tuesday night.
    “Vladimir Putin is someone who has shot down planes over Ukraine, who has poisoned his opponent and we have not talked about what we need to do to protect ourselves from Russia invading our election,” Klobuchar said. “This wasn’t meddling. That’s what I do when I call my daughter on a Saturday night and ask her what she’s doing.”

    Yang’s ‘Freedom Dividend’ gets an airing

    Andrew Yang launched his presidential campaign in 2017 with a plan to give every American $1,000 a month to combat job losses and automation — and very little attention from media and voters.
    Almost two years later, Yang’s plan for a universal basic income, which he’s calling a “freedom dividend,” remains his signature policy proposal. But his impact on the race has increased dramatically — a reality that was on display on Tuesday night when the candidates on stage debated a universal basic income and job losses to automation in depth on national television.
    “We have a freedom dividend of $1,000 a month, it recognizes the work in our families and communities. It helps all Americans transition,” Yang said. “When we put the money into our hands, we can build a trickle up economy from our people, our families and our communities up. It will enable us to do the work that we want to do. This is the sort of vision in response to the fourth industrial revolution that we have to embrace.”
    Yang has talked about his universal basic income at previous debates. What made Tuesday different was that other candidates — some of whom largely ignored Yang in previous debates — began to seriously debate automation and a basic income.
    “I believe that we need to address a community being impacted by automation,” said former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro.
    “I agree with my friend Andrew Yang. Universal basic income is a good idea to help provide that security so people can make choices that they want to see,” Gabbard said.
      But what clearly cemented Yang’s rise is that the debate over universal basic income got him into a direct argument with Warren, who said the issue is broader.
      After the debate, Yang told CNN that Warren — who, with Biden, is at the top of the Democratic field — had asked him to send her details on his proposal. “She said she wanted to see the data,” he said.

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      Hunter Biden sits down for TV interview amid Trump’s attacks on his business dealings

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      Hunter Biden sits down for ABC interview amid Trump's attacks on his business dealings - CNNPolitics

      Washington (CNN)Former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, will speak about President Donald Trump’s recent attacks on his foreign business dealings in a television interview set to air on Tuesday, the same day of the CNN/New York Times Democratic presidential debate.

      “Hunter always understood that his father would be guided, entirely and unequivocally, by established U.S. policy, regardless of its effects on Hunter’s professional interests,” according to a statement released by his attorney. “He never anticipated the barrage of false charges against both him and his father by the President of the United States.”
      Biden spoke with ABC News over the weekend. The Biden campaign was informed of Hunter Biden’s Sunday statement and new TV interview, but the decisions about when and how to speak have been Hunter Biden’s, not the campaign’s, CNN’s Jake Tapper reported.
        Hunter Biden has been under fire from Trump for an unproven accusation that his father as vice president improperly tried to help him by pressuring the Ukrainian government to fire the country’s prosecutor general. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company at the time.
          The Obama administration, American allies, the International Monetary Fund and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists, among others, had all made clear that they were displeased with the performance of Viktor Shokin, who became prosecutor general in 2015. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
          Trump faces an impeachment probe in the Democratic-led House over his urging the Ukrainian President in a July phone call to investigate the Bidens. That phone call led to a whistleblower complaint that in part alleges Trump withheld US aid to Ukraine over the matter. The President has denied doing anything improper.

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          South Park creators give ‘official apology’ after reports the show was scrubbed from the Chinese internet

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          (CNN)South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker hit back at China after the government scrubbed the show from the Chinese internet.

          “South Park” has never been afraid to be offensive, which is why the show now virtually no longer exists in China. Every clip, any online discussion from Chinese streaming services, social media and even fan pages have been deleted by the government, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
          Stone and Parker issued an apology on Monday after China’s crackdown — well, kind of.
            “Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts,” they said in a statement on Twitter. “We too love money more than freedom and democracy.”
            Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressed support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in a tweet on Sunday. The backlash came quickly: The Chinese Basketball Association said it would suspend all cooperation with the team, and China’s top state broadcaster announced that it would suspend airing Houston Rockets events on television.
            The NBA said Monday that it recognizes that Morey’s views “have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.”
            South Park creators give 'official apology' after reports the show was scrubbed from the Chinese internet - CNN
            This isn’t the first time seemingly harmless content has become forbidden in China. After people online compared Winnie the Pooh and Tigger to Chinese President Xi Jinping and former President Barack Obama in 2017, the honey-loving teddy bear was banned from China’s cyberspace.
            The “South Park” creators ended their faux apology with a jab at Xi and China’s authoritarian government.
              “Xi doesn’t just look like Winnie the Pooh at all. Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10!” Stone and Parker’s statement continued. “Long live the Great Communist Party of China! May this autumn’s sorghum harvest be bountiful! We good now China?”
              Correction: This story was updated to reflect the South Park creators’ correct names.

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