August 3, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:22 PM


Investigators 'reasonably confident' Texas suspect left anti-immigrant screed (Ben Collins, 8/03/19, NBC News)

The screed railed against immigrants in Texas and pushed talking points about preserving European identity in America. The attack left at least 20 dead and 40 injured.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM


Defying U.S. Sanctions, China and Others Take Oil From 12 Iranian Tankers (Anjali Singhvi, Edward Wong and Denise Lu, Aug 3, 2019, NY Times)

The Times examined the movements of more than 70 Iranian tankers since May 2, when the American sanctions took full effect.

Twelve of the tankers loaded oil after May 2 and delivered it to China or the Eastern Mediterranean, where the buyers may have included Syria or Turkey. Only some of those 12 tankers were previously known to have recently delivered Iranian oil, and an analyst said the scale of the shipments documented by The Times investigation is greater than what had been publicly known.

The continued flow of oil underscores the difficulty the Trump administration has had in using sanctions to bring Iranian oil exports to zero after breaking with allies and partners on Iran policy. The Obama administration had worked with China, Russia and three European allies on the 2015 agreement intended to restrict Iran's ability to pursue a nuclear program. President Trump's decision to withdraw from the deal and to impose sanctions was opposed by those countries.

"You can't make these kinds of threats if you can't operationalize it," said Richard Nephew, a scholar at Columbia University and a former White House and State Department official who helped enforce Iran sanctions during the Obama administration. President Barack Obama did not have a goal of bringing Iran's oil exports to zero while pressuring Tehran to negotiate.

"It adds up to a decision that makes them look weak and feckless," he added. 


Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Deadly violence heightens concerns about domestic terrorism and white supremacists (SUHAUNA HUSSAINWRITER  , AUG. 3, 2019, LA Times)

In July, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee that a majority of domestic terrorism cases the bureau has investigated are motivated by white supremacy. Wray assured the panel that the FBI was "aggressively" pursuing domestic terrorism and hate crimes.

"Our focus is on the violence," he said. "We, the FBI, don't investigate the ideology, no matter how repugnant. We investigate violence."

Deadly mass shootings have prompted Congress to scrutinize how resources are allocated for investigating groups that post domestic terrorist threats.

Michael McGarrity, head of the FBI's counter-terrorism unit, in May testified during a congressional hearing that the bureau was investigating about 850 cases of domestic terrorism.

Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino's Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, said it can be difficult to classify attacks. For example, the gunman in the Parkland, Fla., shooting in February 2018 that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School fixated on racist imagery, but authorities did not designate the attack as a hate crime, and Levin's center did not include it in a recent report, Levin said.

Levin said political polarization and a rise of far-right nationalism is contributing to hate crime around the globe.

"We're seeing a coalescence of traditional hate crime with political violence," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 PM


Yes, Trump Tweeted Something Racist This Morning (Dan Friedman, 8/03/19, MoJo)

President Donald Trump on Saturday resumed his promotion of a far right commentator who called for a "final solution" after a terrorist attack in the United Kingdom and blamed Jewish support for immigration for provoking the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue last year.

On Saturday morning, Trump twice retweeted British pundit Katie Hopkins, who first gained prominence as a contestant on the BBC TV series The Apprentice and has since drawn attention through what are widely seen as bigoted attacks on Muslims.

Posted by orrinj at 12:30 PM


Protests sweep through Hong Kong and Moscow yet again (The Week, 8/03/19)

In Hong Kong, demonstrators took to the streets for the ninth consecutive week for a pro-democracy march as they decry Beijing for encroaching on the city's autonomy. The marchers gathered in the city's Mong Kok district -- where violent clashes took place during pro-democracy protests in 2014 -- one day after thousands of supposedly politically neutral civil servants urged authorities to give into protesters' demands. Police initially denied permission for the march amid warnings from Beijing and the Chinese army, but they eventually relented.

During the demonstration, protesters reportedly removed a Chinese national flag from its pole and hurled it into Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor. They also blocked a tunnel and surrounded police stations where non-emergency services were suspended. Police reportedly fired tear gas to quell the crowd. Opposition groups are reportedly planning for more demonstrations on Sunday and a city-wide strike on Monday.

Meanwhile in Moscow, police have reportedly detained nearly 600 people following an unsanctioned rally, including prominent opposition activist Lyubov Sobol.

Posted by orrinj at 9:01 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM



"I think those tweets are racist and xenophobic," Hurd told CNN of Trump's attacks on the Squad, in which the president called on the lawmakers to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." Hurd noted at the time that the tweets about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar were "inaccurate" and drive minorities away from the G.O.P. "This makes it harder in order to take our ideas, and our platform, to communities that don't necessarily identify with the Republican party," he said. Those July remarks echoed the conclusions of an election post-mortem the G.O.P commissioned after losing again to Barack Obama in 2012, which found Republicans would have to broaden their appeal to women and minorities if they hoped to be viable in the future. "Public perception of our party is at record lows," Sally Bradshaw, the former Republican strategist who co-chaired the study, wrote in 2013. "When someone rolls their eyes at us they aren't likely to open their ears to us."

But rather than widening the scope of their appeal, Republicans since then have dramatically narrowed it -- lining up behind Trump and his destructive policies and racist, sexist rhetoric. The fact that the party will soon have just one black lawmaker in congress -- Sen. Tim Scott -- both reflects that reality and could likely exacerbate it. 

Donald, Amy Wax and the rest of the Nationalists have made it pretty clear that they can't even be American.

American Immigrant: Two forms of nationalism were contrasted at the first annual National Conservatism conference. Let's trace their historical roots. (Joshua Tait, Aug 1, 2019,

[I]n her article, published in the Georgetown Law Review, Wax questioned whether immigrants can assimilate at all. She pursues her inquiry with respect to two models of nationalism.

The first, Creedal Nationalism, maintains that the essence of Americanness is "mainly comprised of abstract political ideals and beliefs." These include "equality before the law, fundamental human and Constitutional rights" and "commitment to democratic governance and institutions." Although this model demands assimilation, it is basically universalist: anyone, regardless of their background or race, can become an American by embracing these fundamentals.

Wax's second model, however, questions this universality. In what she calls Cultural Difference Nationalism, Wax cites right-wing thinkers who hold that America's "Anglo-Protestant heritage" was key to its political development. Building on this argument, some argue immigrants from cultures far from this "Anglo-Protestant" background will struggle to assimilate. They might even corrode the communities they enter.

Because this cultural argument often correlates with race, Wax notes, elites have been squeamish about engaging it.

In the Georgetown Law Review, Wax calls for a frank conversation and highlights taboo but, she argues, necessary viewpoints. However, at the National Conservatism Conference last week she committed herself to Cultural Difference Nationalism.

"According to this view," Wax told her audience, "we are better off if our country is dominated numerically, demographically, politically -- at least in fact, if not formally -- by people from the First World, from the West, than by people from countries that have failed to advance."

She didn't balk at the implications of this argument. Embracing Cultural Distance Nationalism means "taking the position that our country will be better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites."

Wax and the conference organizers insist this isn't a racist argument but rather a cultural one with racial correlations. Conservatives would be wise, Wax insisted, to resist politically correct attacks that would paint Cultural Difference Nationalism as racist.

To their credit, Trumpbots are increasingly open about their racism, thus the argument that, "no matter how we express our ideas, other people will say they are racist.".

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


QAnon Says FBI Labeling Them a Terror Threat Just Proves There's a Deep-State Conspiracy Against Them: Other followers of the far-right conspiracy theory say the FBI memo is actually part of a wink-and-nod plot to bring more attention to QAnon. (Kelly Weill, 08.02.19, Daily Beast)

But QAnon followers have stuck with their conspiracy theory through other rough patches. The theory's followers have gone on to commit violence, including a follower who led an armed standoff at the Hoover Dam last summer, inspired by his frustration that one of Q's clues never materialized. Months later, a vlogger who made QAnon videos was arrested for allegedly threatening a massacre at YouTube, which he believed was censoring him. In January, a Q believer allegedly murdered his brother with a sword over a conspiratorial idea. Leaders of multiple heavily armed groups on the southern border were led by QAnon believers, who were later arrested for various counts of trespassing and weapons violations. A man accused of murdering a New York mob boss scribbled a Q on his hand in court and claimed to have been motivated by his belief in the conspiracy theory.

Despite those incidents, major figures in Trump World have still flirted with the conspiracy theory. "Now do #ANTIFA," Donald Trump Jr. tweeted after the FBI memo was revealed, in reference to the anti-fascist movement. (In fact, federal agencies have already released memos about anti-fascists, some of them based on right-wing hoaxes, The Daily Beast previously reported. Figures on the right are currently trying to have the FBI classify the anti-fascist movement as a domestic terror group, something it cannot do because anti-fascism is not a group, and the FBI makes no such domestic classifications. The same holds true for QAnon believers.)

At Trump's rally in Cincinnati hours after the memo was revealed, warm-up speaker Brandon Straka invoked one of the movement's slogans. The crowd around him was full of Q shirts and signs.

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


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Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


The DOJ Will Not Prosecute James Comey over Trump Memos (ANDREW C. MCCARTHY, August 3, 2019, National Review)

The existence of the memos became known shortly after Comey was fired on May 9, 2017. It is only natural that they raised alarm. One would expect that if a president and an FBI director met several times, memos documenting those conversations would contain at least some classified information. Comey, moreover, brazenly acknowledged that he had orchestrated the leak of at least a portion of one memo to the New York Times. That is not normal.

Nevertheless, Comey is very smart. And you don't have to agree with his politics or like his style to realize that he has spent much of his career protecting national security. By definition, when information is classified, that means its unauthorized disclosure could damage American national security. Might Comey mishandle classified information? Sure, it's possible -- plenty of smart, patriotic public officials have done that. But to me, it is implausible that Comey would knowingly do that, much less intentionally transmit classified intelligence to the media.

That said, the classified-information facet of this episode has been exaggerated. There were seven memos in all, totaling 15 pages. Our understanding is that Comey tried to avoid putting classified information in them, and believed he had succeeded. Yet after obtaining and accounting for all of them, the FBI designated two of them as "confidential," the lowest level of classification. We do not know at this point (or, at least, I don't know) whether the memo leaked to the Times -- regarding the February 2017 Trump-Comey discussion of the investigation of former national-security adviser Michael Flynn -- was one of the classified ones. But we can easily deduce that Comey neither intended it to be classified nor thought it was. At one point in the memo, Comey wrote, "NOTE: Because this is an unclassified document, I will be limited in how I describe what I said next."

We know that Comey shared this memo with a friend (who is also a friend of mine, and who was his intermediary with the Times), and that he shared at least some of the memos with his lawyers (who are also friends of mine). From a classified-information standpoint, however, we are talking about a small number of documents, and it is unclear that Comey knew anything in them was classified. Even if he turned out to be wrong about that, it is highly unlikely that prosecutors could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was grossly negligent in mishandling them, much less that he willfully mishandled them.

Substitute Hillary for Comey and Mr. McCarthy has indeed depoliticized the investigative process.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


Trump administration suspends press pass for journalist who sparred with far-right activist (Michael Brice-Saddler, 8/03/19, The Independent US)

Mr Karem, who is also a CNN contributor, has frequently criticised the administration and served as a foil during White House press scrums.

He achieved notoriety on 11 July when he engaged in a boisterous verbal altercation with Salem Radio Network host Sebastian Gorka at the "Social Media Summit" ...

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


The Who-Can-Beat Trump Test Leads to Kamala Harris: Bringing the energy and hope to stare down Trump and his movement. (Roger Cohen, Aug. 2, 2019, NY Times)

President Trump, in the name of making American great again, has trampled on America's essence. He is angry, a stranger to happiness, angrier still for not knowing the source of his rage. He is less interested in liberty than the cash of his autocratic cronies. As for life, he views it as a selective right, to which the white Christian male has priority access, with women, people of color and the rest of humanity trailing along behind for scraps.

Adherents to an agenda of "national conservatism" held a conference last month in Washington dedicated, as my colleague Jennifer Schuessler put it, "to wresting a coherent ideology out of the chaos of the Trumpist moment."

Good luck with that. One of the meeting's leading lights was Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. Lowry's forthcoming book is called "The Case for Nationalism." Enough said. The endpoint of that "case" is on display at military cemeteries across Europe.

Nationalism, self-pitying and aggressive, seeks to change the present in the name of an illusory past in order to create a future vague in all respects except its glory. Trump is a self-styled nationalist. The "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" chants at his rallies have chilling echoes.

Lowry holds that "America is not an idea" and to call it so is a "lazy cliché." This argument denies the essence of the country -- an essence palpable at every naturalization ceremony across the United States. Becoming American is a process that involves the inner absorption of the nation's founding idea.

The gravest thing Trump has done is to empty this idea of meaning. His has been an assault on honesty, decency, dignity, tolerance and civility. On this president's wish list, every right is alienable. He leads a movement more than he does a nation, and so depends on fear to mobilize people. Any victorious Democratic Party candidate in 2020 has to counter that negative energy with a positive energy that lifts Americans from Trump's web.

Kamala is best positioned to take over after a Biden collapse and--in terms of turnout--is the better candidate.  The problem for the Bernie/Warren wing of the party is that the Left hates America as much as the Right. The problem for the Republican wing is that they are leaving moral arguments to Marianne Williamson, thus her boomlet.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Marijuana during pregnancy might be as dangerous as alcohol (Donavyn Coffey, August 2, 2019, Popular Science)

Two recent studies by the Teratology Society suggest there may be a reason to worry. Exposure to marijuana during pregnancy looks a lot like alcohol exposure, the studies argue, and can even present with symptoms similar to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Jennifer Thomas, a psychologist at San Diego State University, administered alcohol, cannabinoids (the active chemicals in marijuana like THC and CBD), or both to rats during their equivalent of a human's third trimester of pregnancy. This is a key period of development, so once the resulting offspring reached adolescence Thomas evaluated some of their behaviors to see if the substances had any effect. She measured how the rats moved when kept in an open space to test for hyperactivity, one of the potential symptoms of prenatal alcohol exposure. Thomas and her colleagues found that both cannabis and alcohol increased activity of the adolescent rats, and symptoms were even more severe when the two substances were combined.

Greg Cole, a neurobiologist at North Carolina Central University, dug a little deeper in his own study, where he gave very low does of alcohol, cannabinoids, or a combination thereof to zebrafish. He found that cannabinoids changed gene expression and altered cell communication in the zebrafish embryo in a way that looked very similar to alcohol. And like Thomas, he found that the one-two punch of alcohol and cannabinoids made things worse. When the two substances are combined, he says, "it's like doing either in larger amounts."

Drugs are just the next tobacco.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 AM


After Missile Tests, Trump Praises Kim Jong Un's 'Beautiful Vision' (Oliver Willis August 2, 2019, National Memo)

"There may be a United Nations violation, but Chairman Kim does not want to disappoint me with a violation of trust, there is far too much for North Korea to gain," Trump wrote.

"Chariman [sic] Kim has a great and beautiful vision for his country, and only the United States, with me as President, can make that vision come true," Trump added. "He will do the right thing because he is far too smart not to, and he does not want to disappoint his friend, President Trump!"

North Korea is a closed dictatorship that brutally suppresses and controls its citizens. It has repeatedly been shunned on the international stage, and harshly criticized and ostracized for its human rights abuses.

Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American college student, was detained and abused by the regime run by Trump's "friend."

"The 22-year-old was blind and deaf, his arms were curled and mangled and he was jerking violently and howling, completely unresponsive to his family's attempts to comfort him. His once straight teeth were misaligned, and he had an unexplained scarred wound on his foot. An expert said in court papers that the injuries suggested he had been tortured with electrocution," the Associated Press reported last year.

"A neurologist later concluded that the college student suffered brain damage, likely from a loss of blood flow to the brain for five to 20 minutes."

Warmbier died in 2017.

The Right takes plenty of well-deserved criticism for its domestic racism, but nearly enough for the fact it supports foreign dictators--the more brutal the better--precisely because they oppress their people.