October 8, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 9:53 PM


'A betrayal beyond words': The far right melts down over Taylor Swift's endorsement of Democrats (Avi Selk October 8, 2018, Washington Post)

That a 28-year-old celebrity -- even one who had previously kept her politics private -- would weigh in on a potentially crucial midterm election seems much less strange than the story of how the far-right Internet came to believe Swift was their secret ally -- "our girl," as many put it.

The delusion traces back to the middle of the Obama administration, 2011, when a certain fraction of 4chan users convinced themselves that Swift had let them name her cat.

In some ways, it's not much different from how every other conspiracy theory arises out of nonsense on that anonymous message board:

Among the hundreds of thousands of posts written on 4chan that November, one was a kitten-naming contest. The winning name was Meredith, which -- lo and behold -- was also the name of Swift's new kitten, according to a People Magazine article that 4chan users subsequently passed around in astonishment.

The fact that Swift had named her kitten Meredith at least three days before the contest was held made little difference to those who convinced themselves she was a secret 4chan user. Amateur sleuths began sifting through the website in search of more supposed secret messages from the pop star, coming up with a photo of someone's window blinds that looked like Swift's and an anonymous message from a "conservative" "entertainer" who claimed to be "one of the 50 most famous people on the planet."

A myth that began with a kitten took a dark turn a few years later, when a neo-Nazi blogger came across a joke meme that mashed up photos of Swift with quotes from Adolf Hitler. He apparently mistook these as authentic and published them on the Daily Stormer under the headline: "Aryan Goddess Taylor Swift: Nazi Avatar of the White European People."

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


Trump Campaign Aide Requested Online Manipulation Plans From Israeli Intelligence Firm (Mark Mazzetti, Ronen Bergman, David D. Kirkpatrick and Maggie Haberman, Oct. 8, 2018, NY Times)

A top Trump campaign official requested proposals in 2016 from an Israeli company to create fake online identities, to use social media manipulation and to gather intelligence to help defeat Republican primary race opponents and Hillary Clinton, according to interviews and copies of the proposals.

The Trump campaign's interest in the work began as Russians were escalating their effort to aid Donald J. Trump. Though the Israeli company's pitches were narrower than Moscow's interference campaign and appear unconnected, the documents show that a senior Trump aide saw the promise of a disruption effort to swing voters in Mr. Trump's favor.

The campaign official, Rick Gates, sought one proposal to use bogus personas to target and sway 5,000 delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention by attacking Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Mr. Trump's main opponent at the time. Another proposal describes opposition research and "complementary intelligence activities" about Mrs. Clinton and people close to her, according to copies of the proposals obtained by The New York Times and interviews with four people involved in creating the documents.

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Renaming Nafta Just Might Work: Will the USMCA be any more popular than Nafta? It's worth finding out. ( Tyler Cowen, October 4, 2018, Bloomberg)

When I see USMCA, I also think of "United States Marine Corps," a connection Donald Trump himself has noted. Of course the Marines have nothing to do with international trade policy, but given the public's longstanding confidence in the military, the association is unlikely to hurt politically. Other people may confuse USMCA with USCMA, or the United States Catholic Mission Association, another positive connotation.

This next point may sound slightly cynical, but here goes: Perhaps being so easy to say and remember has been part of Nafta's problem. The sad reality is that voters do not love the idea of free trade once it is made concrete to them, and both Barack Obama and Trump campaigned against Nafta in its current form. So maybe every time people heard the name Nafta, they were reminded of how much they disliked it.

I recall, more than a decade ago, hearing talk of a supposed "Nafta superhighway," a series of roads that would supposedly bring the three Nafta countries under some kind of joint, conspiratorial rule, enforced by the movement of vehicles on these connector roads and sometimes in league with Satan himself. The alternative phrase -- "USMCA Superhighway" -- doesn't roll off the tongue as easily, so maybe it will be harder to drum up fake news about the new deal.

There is yet another advantage to the new name: Many politicians, especially Democrats, are on record as opposing Nafta. The change of name gives them a chance to rebrand their opinions, even if they do not wish to do so right now when Trump is touting his victory.

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Can Brazil's Democracy Be Saved?: A dangerous right-wing populist who preys on division and disunity looks to be headed for the presidency. (Robert Muggah, Oct. 8, 2018, NY Times)

Brazil's democracy is teetering on the edge, but its collapse is not inevitable. Its rejuvenation will demand foresight, humility, tolerance and the courage to confront what appear to be insurmountable differences. No matter who wins the second round, the coming weeks and months will see polarization deepening and the tide of hatred rising. This does not make the pursuit of a progressive middle ground and real solutions to Brazil's problems any less important.

The election underlines the scale of Brazil's divisive politics. The country's political polarization is deeply personal, cutting across age, gender and class. Many friends and family members are openly wondering whether their parents, siblings or colleagues who supported Mr. Bolsonaro were always closet authoritarians. And those who did not support him are visibly nervous, fearful of the violent resentment that his campaign unleashed.

Mr. Bolsonaro's success owes much to his power to divide. Many of his core followers -- especially the young men who make up his base -- are committed to his corruption-busting and communist-combating crusade. Others, including middle-class women, are attracted more narrowly to his "tough on crime" message. And some of the country's business elite see in Mr. Bolsonaro -- along with his running mate, the retired army general Antonio Hamilton Mourão, and his pro-market financial adviser, Paulo Guedes -- a bulwark against the return of the left-wing Workers' Party and its jailed leader, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Brazil's three major political parties share the blame for the country's fragmentation. Both Mr. Lula and his successor, Dilma Rousseff, regularly invoked "us versus them" rhetoric during their 13 years in power, especially when faced with mounting corruption scandals unearthed by the "Carwash" investigations. The other two main parties -- P.M.D.B. and P.S.D.B. -- also set Brazil on a collision course when they voted to unseat Ms. Rousseff in August 2016. Described by Ms. Rousseff's supporters as an illegal coup, the impeachment further divided Brazilians.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Rudy Giuliani shares tweet calling George Soros 'anti-Christ' (GABE FRIEDMAN, October 2018, JTA)

On Saturday, Rudy Giuliani -- former New York City mayor and current lawyer for President Donald Trump -- retweeted a tweet calling George Soros the "anti-Christ." The original tweet also suggested that Soros' assets should be frozen.

Anti-Semitism is a core component of Trumpism.

Posted by orrinj at 2:59 PM


L.A. County deputies stopped thousands of innocent Latinos on the 5 Freeway in hopes of their next drug bust (JOEL RUBIN  and BEN POSTON, OCT 04, 2018, LA Times)

More than two-thirds of the drivers pulled over by the Domestic Highway Enforcement Team were Latino, according to a Times analysis of Sheriff's Department data. And sheriff's deputies searched the vehicles of more than 3,500 drivers who turned out to have no drugs or other illegal items, the analysis found. The overwhelming majority of those were Latino.

Several of the team's big drug busts have been dismissed in federal court as the credibility of some deputies came under fire and judges ruled that deputies violated the rights of motorists by conducting unconstitutional searches.

The Times analyzed data from every traffic stop recorded by the team from 2012 through the end of last year -- more than 9,000 stops in all -- and reviewed records from hundreds of court cases. Among its findings:

Latino drivers accounted for 69% of the deputies' stops. Officers from the California Highway Patrol, mainly policing traffic violations on the same section of freeway, pulled over nearly 378,000 motorists during the same period; 40% of them were Latino.

Two-thirds of Latinos who were pulled over by the Sheriff's Department team had their vehicles searched, while cars belonging to all other drivers were searched less than half the time.

Three-quarters of the team's searches came after deputies asked motorists for consent rather than having evidence of criminal behavior. Several legal scholars said such a high rate of requests for consent is concerning because people typically feel pressured to allow a search or are unaware they can refuse.

Though Latinos were much more likely to be searched, deputies found drugs or other illegal items in their vehicles at a rate that was not significantly higher than that of black or white drivers.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM


On the Left, Eyeing More Radical Ways to Fight Kavanaugh (Charlie Savage, Oct. 7, 2018, NY Times)

Facing a Supreme Court controlled by five solidly conservative justices, liberals have already started to attack the legitimacy of the majority bloc and discussed ways to eventually undo its power without waiting for one of its members to retire or die.

Some have gone as far as proposing -- if Democrats were to retake control of Congress and the White House in 2020 or after -- expanding the number of justices on the court to pack it with liberals or trying to impeach, remove and replace Justice Kavanaugh.

Either step would be an extraordinary violation of constitutional and political norms. No justice has been removed through impeachment. And a previous attempt at court packing, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt after a conservative-dominated Supreme Court rejected important parts of his New Deal initiatives during the Great Depression, is broadly seen as having been misguided.

Either step would also face steep odds. Some Republicans would have to go along for them to work: a court-expansion bill would need the support of 60 senators to overcome a filibuster, and while a simple majority of the House could vote to impeach, removal would require two-thirds of the Senate.

It's not a personnel problem; it's a jurisprudence problem.  The Executive and Legislative should join in declaring Marbury v. Madison to represent Judicial overreach and restore the limits on what issues are legitimately before the Court.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


Survey of battleground House districts shows Democrats with narrow edge (Scott Clement and Dan Balz October 8, 2018, Washington Post)

Likely voters who live in 69 battleground House districts across the country narrowly prefer Democratic candidates, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School survey, a potentially worrying sign for Republicans given that the overwhelming percentage of these districts are currently in GOP hands.

With just a month to the midterm elections and with early voting set to begin in many states, the new poll highlights the challenge for Republicans as they seek to maintain their House majority at a time when President Trump's approval rating remains below 50 percent despite sustained economic growth, low unemployment and a rising stock market.

The survey of 2,672 likely voters by The Post and the Schar School at George Mason University shows that likely voters in these districts favor Democrats by a slight margin: 50 percent prefer the Democratic nominee and 46 percent prefer the Republican. By way of comparison, in 2016 these same districts favored Republican candidates over Democratic ones by 15 percentage points, 56 percent to 41 percent.

The fact that Hillary beat Donald by so many votes has tended to obscure how much the rest of the GOP beat him by and that they carried him to victory.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


Jair Bolsonaro Heads to Runoff After Missing Outright Win (Ernesto Londoño and Manuela Andreoni, Oct. 7, 2018, NY Times)

Mr. Bolsonaro's first-round victory was all the more remarkable because he lacked the backing of a major party and campaigned on a shoestring budget, relying mainly on social media to build a base. As of mid-September, the Bolsonaro campaign reported having spent about $235,000, a small fraction of the $6.3 million the Haddad campaign disclosed having spent.

Mr. Bolsonaro's rise was enabled by the political divisions that have torn the country apart in recent years.

Brazilians were outraged as leaders of the traditional parties become ensnared in an ever-widening corruption investigation that began in 2014 and became ever more despondent as the economy sputtered, joblessness grew and crime soared.

While some voters remained loyal to the Workers' Party -- which governed from 2003 to 2016 -- for its efforts to improve the lives of poor and working-class Brazilians, many came to hold it responsible for the graft and economic hardship of recent years.

Millions of Brazilians today enthusiastically embrace Mr. Bolsonaro's radical approach to law and order -- even it means killing criminals or political enemies, which were frequent themes for the candidate.

Georgewlany Smith, a 61-year-old public servant in Rio de Janeiro, said that an erosion of democratic norms and civil liberties is a price he is willing to pay for a more secure and prosperous Brazil.

"You have to consider what were the best times for Brazil," Mr. Smith said shortly after he voted for Mr. Bolsonaro in the upscale Barra de Tijuca district. "Unfortunately it was the dictatorship."

Mr. Bolsonaro has tapped into the simmering anger and desire for disruption of the status quo that has gripped many Brazilians. And he became the face of a growing conservative movement in a nation where evangelicals account for one in four voters and more than 90 federal lawmakers.

When one candidate gets popularly cast as anti-corruption and anti-crime the fight is already over.

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Police Removed A Texas Yard Sign Showing A GOP Elephant With Its Trunk Up A Woman's Skirt (Blake Montgomery, 10/07/18, BuzzFeed News)

The poster, made by Marion Stanford of Hamilton, Texas, and placed in her yard, shows an elephant painted in red, white, and blue with stars, a well-known symbol of the Republican Party. The elephant is sticking its trunk up the skirt of a young blonde girl with pigtails crying for help. Beside the image is the slogan "Your vote matters."

You are what you stand for.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


Feds freeze Russian oligarch's assets, Upper East Side mansion (Jennifer Gould Keil, October 8, 2018, NY Post)

A sprawling mansion on the Upper East Side has been frozen as part of a hard-core battle between the US government and Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, The Post has learned.

US officials say Deripaska, an aluminium billionaire, is close both with Russian mob leaders and Russian president Vladimir Putin -- and that he is on the sanctions list because he is allegedly involved in murder, money-laundering, bribery and racketeering.

Deripaska also had President Trump's ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort -- who has been convicted of crimes including money-laundering and who is cooperating with US special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe -- on his payroll for years.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 AM


UK would be welcomed to TPP 'with open arms', says Shinzo Abe: Japanese prime minister talks Brexit, Trump, trade and North Korea in FT interview (Lionel Barber and Robin Harding, 10/08/18, Financial Times)

Japan would welcome Britain to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal "with open arms", said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as he urged a compromise to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Speaking in an interview with the Financial Times at his official residence in Tokyo, Mr Abe said the UK would lose its role as a gateway to Europe after Brexit, but would still be a country "equipped with global strength".

His remarks will encourage Brexit supporters in the UK who see new opportunities for free trade outside the EU while turning up the pressure on Brussels and London to strike a timely exit deal.

The TPP is a wide-ranging trade agreement between 11 Pacific countries, including Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Canada, Mexico and Australia. It originally included the US but one of Donald Trump's first acts as president was to withdraw from the pact.

Joining would be a way for Britain to strike new free-trade deals with a large and fast-growing chunk of the world economy. However, it would only be possible if the UK was to leave the EU customs union and gain the power to set its own tariffs.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


The white southerners who changed their views on racism : In a follow-up to our piece on US southerners' views on race, we talk to people about their racial miseducation (Donna Ladd, 8 Oct 2018, The Guardian)

Born in 1974, she admits to regularly dropping the N-word and delighting in racist jokes with friends. "I was all in. I believed every single bit of it ... all the 'heritage' stuff."

She often regurgitated revisionist civil war tropes long embedded in southern textbooks: that secession wasn't over slavery; that the war was a glorious uprising against federal tyranny; that slaves were happy and adored their masters until the Yankees up north riled them up. She also defended the Confederate flag and monuments.

Hinman's parents did not want racist jokes and the N-word inside their home. Still, while watching the TV show In the Heat of the Night when she was a kid, she quipped that she might bring home a black boyfriend, angering her father.

"I would beat your ass to New York and back," he said.

Many white southerners had adopted an uneven racial code since violent responses to civil rights gains in the 1960s. "He didn't believe in total racism," Hinman says of her father, "but you weren't bringing [black people] home."

But in her 20s, while studying at the University of Mississippi, Hinman's views changed. She made liberal friends. Her friend Kiki described growing up on the black side of their wealthy college town, where whites seldom ventured and children enjoyed fewer opportunities. Hinman came to believe that racism is not just interpersonal name-calling, but systemic denial of equity and equality - in education, the workplace, political representation, housing, healthcare and everyday life.

Hinman realized that many whites are conditioned to believe lies that people of color were biologically inferior, more prone to crime, lazier. "It's about a sense of superiority," she says. "I might live in a trailer in Tchula, Mississippi, but at least somehow I can say I'm 'better' than these other people ... We've done really horrible stuff to black people in the name of superiority."

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Jamal Khashoggi chose to tell the truth. It's part of the reason he's beloved.  (David Ignatius, October 7, 2018, Washington Post)

George Orwell titled a regular column he wrote for a British newspaper in the mid-1940s "As I Please." Meaning that he would write exactly what he believed. My Saudi colleague Jamal Khashoggi has always had that same insistent passion for telling the truth about his country, no matter what.

Khashoggi's fate is unknown as I write, but his colleagues at The Post and friends around the world fear that he was murdered after he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last Tuesday.

I have known Khashoggi for about 15 years and want to share here some of the reasons he is beloved in our profession and the news of his disappearance has been such a shock.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


A white woman was harassing two Hispanic women in a supermarket. Then something incredible happened (Independent, 10/08/18)

A woman was arrested and another hailed a 'shero' after a racist incident against two Hispanic women in a Colorado shop.

An American woman, who has been identified as Linda Dwire, was caught on film arguing with a woman called Kamira Trent, who had intervened after she saw Dwire harass two people for speaking Spanish.

The footage, which has been viewed more than half a million times, shows Trent and Dwire shouting at one another before Trent escorts her out of a City Market store in Rifle.

Trent shouts:

I'm calling the cops. You leave these women alone! Get out!

"You come from a generation that's destroying this country," Dwire fires back.

"No I do not. I have respect. You do not harass people," Trent responds.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Mueller's Focus on Adviser to Emirates Suggests Broader Investigation (Mark Mazzetti, David D. Kirkpatrick and Maggie Haberman, March 3, 2018, NY Times)

George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, has hovered on the fringes of international diplomacy for three decades. He was a back-channel negotiator with Syria during the Clinton administration, reinvented himself as an adviser to the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, and last year was a frequent visitor to President Trump's White House.

Mr. Nader is now a focus of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller's investigators have questioned Mr. Nader and have pressed witnesses for information about any possible attempts by the Emiratis to buy political influence by directing money to support Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

The investigators have also asked about Mr. Nader's role in White House policymaking, those people said, suggesting that the special counsel investigation has broadened beyond Russian election meddling to include Emirati influence on the Trump administration. The focus on Mr. Nader could also prompt an examination of how money from multiple countries has flowed through and influenced Washington during the Trump era.

...of course, so did the cow, Pervert farrier, 50, jailed after filming himself having sex with a cow and forcing miniature horse to penetrate him (Elaine McCahill, 8 OCT 2018, Daily Mirror)