August 4, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


In Ukraine, a Rival to Putin Rises (Andrew E. Kramer, Aug. 4th, 2019, NY Times)

[A] rivalry is already apparent. Ukraine's relationship with Russia, which seized part of its territory in 2014 and has continued to back a wider separatist uprising, is the pivot around which many of Europe's most pressing security problems revolve. Mr. Zelensky has approached it with a combination of calculated assertiveness and strategic generosity, reaching out to Russian speakers whom his nationalist predecessor could not hope to win over.

"One of the reasons for this conflict is the two countries have chosen different ways of development," said Bogdan Yaremenko, a newly elected member of Parliament in Mr. Zelensky's political party who is focused on foreign policy and relations with Russia.

"And now this actor who is perceived very positively by most of his viewers is representing his country," Mr. Yaremenko said. "So the positive attitude toward Zelensky might be transferred to Ukraine, and the Ukrainian way of government."

Western sanctions are creating a long-term drag on the Russian economy, denting Mr. Putin's still-high popularity at home and creating pressure for the Kremlin to find a resolution to the conflict in Ukraine.

Mr. Zelensky campaigned on promises to seek an end to the conflict, giving rise to cautious optimism among Western diplomats over Europe's only active war, simmering now for five years. Mr. Zelensky telephoned Mr. Putin on July 11, suggesting that both sides were ready to engage.

Like two boxers in a ring, however, Mr. Putin and Mr. Zelensky have spent two months now circling, dancing around and jabbing each other.

Mr. Putin appears to have engineered a series of small crises to test the new president. But where the previous Ukrainian leader, Petro O. Poroshenko, was constrained by Ukrainian nationalist sentiment in Parliament, Mr. Zelensky has seized chances to appeal to eastern Ukraine's Russian-speaking miners and steel workers -- and even to those tiring of Mr. Putin in Russia.

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM


The Death Rattle of White Supremacy: Americans need to stand together against the forces of hate. (Wajahat Ali, 8/04/19, The Atlantic)

The manifesto expresses extreme versions of a fear that has also been expressed by prominent political figures. President Donald Trump used invasion to describe a caravan of immigrants trying to cross the border. The Fox News host Tucker Carlson has called immigrants "invaders" who "pollute" the country and make it dirtier. In the past few weeks, President Trump told four congresswomen of color, all U.S. citizens, to go back to where they came from. He stood onstage at a campaign rally while the crowd chanted "Send her back!" for 13 seconds. He retweeted Katie Hopkins, a British extremist who has called migrants "cockroaches" and called for a "final solution" for Muslims. Some Trump supporters now openly flash white-power signs in front of cameras.

Hate that was once hidden has now been given permission to come out of the closet and drop its white robes and masks. This has real-life consequences for communities of color, Jews, and immigrants. Robert Bowers, the terrorist who shot and killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, wanted to punish Jews for allegedly helping to bring "invaders"--immigrants and Muslims--into the country.

My father, a Muslim immigrant born in Pakistan who has lived in this country for more than 50 years, called me last week, worried about his grandchildren's future. He fears that more white rage will be unleashed if Trump is reelected. My children are innocent, lovely, caramel-mocha-skinned babies born and raised in America, but my father feels that the country he's called home for half a century will no longer welcome them. My local mosque now has an armed guard with a bulletproof vest standing outside our weekly Friday prayers. My Jewish friends say their synagogues have amped up security in the past year. We no longer feel safe in our houses of worship.

And so, I feel compelled to ask Trump supporters: Is it worth it? How many have to suffer for you to feel great again?

Even Republicans are starting to call out Trumpism as deplorable.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


US struggles to build willing coalition amid Strait of Hormuz tensions (SYLVIE LANTEAUME, 8/04/19, FP) 

The United States is struggling to piece together an international coalition to protect cargo ships traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, with allies concerned about being dragged into conflict with Iran.

Tensions have risen in the Gulf since the United States decided in May 2018 to withdraw from a landmark accord to limit Iran's nuclear program and began to reintroduce sanctions.

But even as a series of ships have been seized in the narrow maritime thoroughfare -- vital for the world's supply of crude -- European countries have been reticent about a US plan to send in military escorts.

On Sunday, Australia became the latest ally seeming to give the plan a wide berth.

The allies were co-operating until Donald betrayed them.

Posted by orrinj at 2:54 PM


Trump's America unravels in one bloody nightmare weekend. Now it's time to clean house (Will Bunch, 8/04/19,

It was at that moment, in the predawn blackness of a hot August night, that you could see that the center of Donald Trump's America is not holding. You had already watched the fear and loathing spiraling out of control -- the immigrants afraid to leave their homes to take their kids out to a playground or an ice cream shop, the gulag of squalid concentration camps, the increasingly racist rants from a president desperate to cling to his job. And now these twin eruptions -- body bags and hastily abandoned shoes stacked up on blood-stained American asphalt.

When things fall apart, they shatter into a million pieces. I can't tell you yet exactly how the bloodshed in El Paso is related to a mass murder in Dayton, or to the social dysfunction right here in Philadelphia that caused someone to spray bullets into a crowd of people shooting a hip-hop video, or into a crowded block party in Brooklyn the night before that. I can't explain why people tweeting about El Paso couldn't use the hashtag #WalmartShooting because it was already in use for a man who'd just murdered two employees at an outlet in Mississippi.

All I know is that it's all starting to feel like the same event -- a Great Unraveling of America. The feeling only grew worse when I read that the authorities in El Paso believe some of the wounded may not go to local hospitals ... because they're so afraid of our immigration cops. It seemed like one more sign that conditions in this country -- the violence, the fear, the embrace of racism and xenophobia from the highest levels, and the long slide into neo-fascism -- have become intolerable. And yet -- with the blood of El Paso and Dayton not yet dry -- far too many are still tolerating this.

None more so than America's so-called Republican leaders -- the Mitch McConnells, Mitt Romneys, the Greg Abbotts -- who seemed to share the same pathetic and cowardly playbook of quickly taking to Twitter, praying for the victims and their families, praising the first responders, and quickly logging off without one word about the scourge of white supremacy, their president who helps promote it, or the gun culture that makes it all so lethal.

The few GOP bigwigs who were pressed for more fell back on familiar tropes. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy reached all the way to back to the 1990s to blame violent video games, while Abbott, the governor of Texas who once famously lamented the fact that Texans weren't buying as many guns as Californians, said "the bottom line is that mental health is a large contributor."

No doubt, mental health -- and the lack of care -- is a crisis in this country. But linking it to the El Paso murders seems like an evasion. From what we know so far, the killer embraced a sick ideology but knew exactly what he was doing -- driving 600 miles to a carefully selected kill zone and writing a hate-filled but consistent manifesto. His mass murder seemed less a statement about his own mental health and more a statement about the moral health of a nation where so many are opening embracing racist and xenophobic rhetoric. Including the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

...and their fellow citizens were appalled instead of enraptured by it?

Posted by orrinj at 2:07 PM


Cruz Goes on the Air in New Hampshire With "Invasion" Ad (PATRICK SVITEK JAN. 5, 2016, Texas Tribune)

Ted Cruz's presidential campaign is launching its first major TV ad in New Hampshire, a dramatic commercial that seeks to shore up his border security credentials in a Republican primary race that has been dominated by the issue for months. 

Titled "Invasion," the 60-second ad draws on remarks the U.S. senator from Texas made during the fourth GOP debate, when he discussed what he described as the overlooked impact of illegal immigration on American jobs.

Posted by orrinj at 11:52 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:46 AM


The El Paso Shooting and the Gamification of Terror (Robert Evans, 8/04/19, bellingcat)

The three 8chan massacres do represent an evolution in far-right violence, but they are very much tied to a decades-long tradition of murder. We can see this even in the obsession with "high scores".

On April 19, 1995, right-wing extremist Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck bomb outside the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. Four years later, in 1999, Erik Harris and Dylan Klebold killed thirteen of their classmates in Columbine High School in Colorado. Prior to masterminding the attack Erik Harris wrote constantly of his dedication to Hitler and Nazi ideology. Dave Cullen, a journalist who studied the attacks and combed through Harris's journals, noted that the young killer was also obsessed with Timothy McVeigh. Cullen writes: 

"In his journal, Eric would brag about topping McVeigh. Oklahoma City was a one-note performance. McVeigh set his timer and walked away. He didn't even see his spectacle unfold."

Harris and Klebold did not beat McVeigh's "high score" in their lifetimes. But to date the Columbine attacks have inspired at least 74 copy-cat attacks, which have killed 89 people and injured 126 more. This is the way far right terrorism works: it is foolish, bordering on suicidal, to attribute attacks like the El Paso shooting or the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting to "lone wolves". Both shooters were radicalized in an ecosystem of right-wing terror that deliberately seeks to inspire such massacres.

The Gilroy shooter specifically referenced "Might is Right", a white supremacist text by "Ragnar Redbeard". PDFs of this book have been deliberately spread on 8chan and 4chan for years, and it has become even more popular in the wake of the Gilroy shooting. 

8chan's /pol board is regularly host to threads filled with right wing extremist literature. This thread, posted fewer than two weeks after the Christchurch massacre, includes a copy of an audiobook of The Turner Diaries, a work of fascist speculative fiction that lays out how a right-wing insurgency based around seemingly random acts of terror could bring down the United States government. 

The Turner Diaries was the favorite book of Timothy McVeigh. He cited passages from it directly in the manifesto he carried with him after bombing the Murrah building.

In the wake of the Christchurch shooting I published my first Bellingcat article about 8chan. I was interviewed by numerous media agencies about the website, and I warned all of them that additional attacks would follow - every month or two - until something was done. This prediction has proven accurate. Until law enforcement, and the media, treat these shooters as part of a terrorist movement no less organized, or deadly, than ISIS or Al Qaeda, the violence will continue. There will be more killers, more gleeful celebration of body counts on 8chan, and more bloody attempts to beat the last killer's "high score".

Posted by orrinj at 6:16 AM


Presidential hopeful O'Rourke ties Trump 'racism' to Texas shooting (AFP, 8/04/19)

"He is a racist and he stokes racism in this country. And it does not just offend our sensibilities, it fundamentally changes the character of this country and it leads to violence," said O'Rourke, who represented El Paso in the US Congress until recently.

"We've had a rise in hate crimes every single one of the last three years during an administration where you have a president who's called Mexicans rapists and criminals."

O'Rourke was responding to questions about a manifesto purportedly written by the gunman which railed against the Hispanic "invasion" of Texas which borders Mexico.

More than 80 percent of El Paso's population is Hispanic, according to US census figures.

Manifesto linked to El Paso gunman rails against 'Hispanic invasion' of Texas (Times of Israel, 8/04/19)

Crusius wrote that the attack "is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas," and made references to the Christchurch shootings in New Zealand, where a white gunman killed 51 mosque worshipers in March.

Crusius claimed that he was "defending" his country "from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion."

He added: "If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can be more sustainable."

Here's What Amy Wax Really Said About Immigration: Here's the transcript of what University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax said at the National Conservatism Conference on July 15, 2019. (Amy Wax, JULY 26, 2019, The Federalist)

Some creedal nationalists maintain that because it is open to anyone, at least in principle, to believe and support these ideas, there is no reason to favor immigrants from one background or another. I don't think that conclusion necessarily follows. Many, indeed most, inhabitants of the Third World, don't necessarily share our ideas and beliefs; others pay lip service, but don't really comprehend them. There are exceptions of course, but most people are not exceptional. Thus, creedal nationalism could support a low and slow approach to immigration.

But the second type of nationalism is what I want to concentrate on. I term it cultural distance nationalism, and it goes further. It is based on the insight and understanding that people's background culture can affect their ability to fit into a modern advanced society and to perform the roles needed to support and maintain it - civic, occupational, economic, technical, and the like.

According to this view, 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 had failed to advance.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 AM