August 6, 2019

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Peter Strzok sues over firing for anti-Trump texts (NATASHA BERTRAND, 08/06/2019 , Politico)

In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, Strzok excoriates the Justice Department and FBI for their handling of his dismissal over a trove of text messages he wrote to a colleague that were critical of Trump. Strzok accuses the president of inappropriately bullying law enforcement officials deciding his fate, raises questions about why his texts were leaked to the media and lambastes the administration for only defending its employees' free speech rights when they are praising Trump.

Specifically, Strzok's lawsuit accuses the agencies of violating his First and Fifth Amendment rights by firing him over the texts and then depriving him of due process to challenge his expulsion. [...]

Many of the texts were overtly critical of Trump, and Strzok and Page, who were having an affair, mocked him at various points throughout the campaign, calling him an "idiot." [...]

In the texts, Strzok and Page disparaged other political leaders, like Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and former Attorney General Eric Holder. But Mueller's most vehement critics quickly weaponized the texts about Trump, seeking to portray Strzok as a symbol of an agency hopelessly tainted by bias against Trump. [...]

Trump has tweeted about Strzok nearly two-dozen times since January 2018, calling him a "sick loser," "a fraud," "incompetent," "corrupt," and praising his firing from the FBI. Trump even accused Strzok of "treason" and told reporters in June 2018 that he was "amazed" Strzok was still employed at the FBI. "Peter Strzok should have been fired a long time ago," Trump said.

Posted by orrinj at 11:40 AM


Loving Us, Hating Them: How Trump Uses Jews to Divide a Nation (Moshe Kornfeld | August 6, 2019, Religion & Ethics)

Trump is leveraging Jewish tropes in order to bolster his claim that powerful women of color should "go back" to those places "from which they came." As Trump and his surrogates defend their attack on Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, they have repeatedly characterized the group as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism, in this context, is defined primarily as critique of Israel and is used strategically to obscure key differences between those who single out Israel as illegitimate and those who oppose particular Israeli government policies such as the expansion of Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Trump's rhetoric yokes political legitimacy to unquestioning support for Israel, concern with anti-Semitism, and the rejection of women of color. This leaves little room for the majority of Jews who support the Democratic Party, for Jews who are critical of the Occupation and West Bank settlement expansion, and for Jews who are further left on the political spectrum when it comes to Israel. While "the squad," and by extension the Democratic Party, is the primary target of these attacks, this troubling strain of political rhetoric "others" the majority of American Jews. Trump's attempts to frame support for Israel in partisan terms also confound a longstanding American Jewish institutional agenda that promotes bipartisan support for the state of Israel even when the U.S. opposes specific Israeli government policies. The Obama administration's ongoing military support for Israel even in the face of an openly antagonistic relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a case in point. In other words, this rhetoric is ultimately damaging for pro-Israel interests, as well. Asserting that full citizenship relies on uncritical support for the state of Israel and attempting to portray the Democratic Party as anti-Semitic are rhetorical flourishes that are dangerous for American Jews.

This political strategy, in which anti-Semitism is used to create division in the Democratic Party, has taken concrete form in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting of Oct. 27, 2018. 

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THE NEW WAR ON TERROR -- ARAB STYLE: Repressive Arab regimes are increasingly borrowing America's war on terror slogan to crush local opponents while retaining the West's support.   (Mat Nashed, AUG 06 2019, Ozy)

Now, a new clique of Arab dictators are launching their own war on terror, using America's terminology to target their domestic and regional rivals while portraying themselves as indispensable to Western efforts at countering terrorism. This approach marks a sharp break from the past and is finding traction at a time when many Western nations -- and in particular the U.S. -- increasingly lack the appetite for overseas wars and instead seek local allies to fight their battles. Remember the images of President Donald Trump and Saudi's King Salman clutching a glowing orb in 2017, after a summit where Riyadh and its regional partners promised to lead the battle against extremist Islam, never mind their track record? Yet behind the cover of the war on terror, these regimes -- from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates to Egypt -- are focusing on domestic and regional rivals, not global threats, argue many experts.

Hating Muslims, Donald loves their oppressors.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ex-FBI Official Says Bureau Feared Pursuing Extremists Who Support Trump (Alex Henderson,  August 5, 2019, Alternet)

[A]ccording to former FBI counterterrorism expert Dave Gomez, the FBI is worried about being seen as targeting President Donald Trump's base.

Gomez told the Washington Post, "There's some reluctance among agents to bring forth an investigation that targets what the president perceives as his base. It's a no-win situation for the FBI agent or supervisor."

The former FBI agent told the Post that although he believes FBI Director Christopher Wray "is an honorable man," the FBI is in many ways "hamstrung in trying to investigate the white supremacist movement like the old FBI would."

Part of the problem, Gomez told the Post, is Trump's criticisms of the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump has repeatedly described former FBI Director James Comey and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller as tools of Democratic partisans -- although Comey was a Republican until 2016, and Mueller is still a Republican.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


I Spent 25 Years Fighting Jihadis. White Supremacists Aren't So Different. (Ali H. Soufan, Aug. 5, 2019, NY Times)

White supremacists, like their Islamist counterparts, explicitly seek to use violence to create a climate of fear and chaos that can then be exploited to reshape society in their own image. Their recruitment videos share an emphasis on the lifestyle they purport to offer recruits -- one of "purity," militancy and physical fitness. While jihadis share beheading videos, right-wing extremists glory in the live streaming of the deadly attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. While Islamic State supporters communicate through an online platform called Telegram, white supremacists tend to do so through another platform, 8chan.

One group for neo-Nazis, founded by a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, has taken the analogy to its logical conclusion, calling itself "The Base" -- a direct translation of the meaning of the word Al Qaeda. The organization also uses similar black flag imagery. The Base maintains an online library of terrorist manuals; the Al Qaeda publication Inspire taught the Boston bombers how to build pressure-cooker explosives.

Perhaps most disturbing of all, both groups have real-world war zones in which to learn combat. Jihadis had Afghanistan in the 1980s, the Balkans in the 1990s and Syria today. White supremacists have the war in eastern Ukraine, in which they are fighting on both sides. Dr. Kacper Rekawek, a scholar who has studied the matter, estimates that 17,000 people from 50 countries, including the United States and many of its allies, have traveled to fight in Ukraine. Those with ties to far-right militias in Ukraine include at least one of four Americans indicted on a charge of promoting the deadly violence at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. The New Zealand mosque attacker claimed in his manifesto that he had traveled to Ukraine. What we know for sure is that during his attack he wore a flak jacket bearing a symbol of one of the country's main ultranationalist groups.

Against this backdrop, it is hardly surprising to see the white-supremacist threat growing inside the United States. A study by the Anti-Defamation League found that, in 2018, right-wing extremists were responsible for three times as many deaths in the United States as were Islamists. The same study showed that 2018 was the deadliest year of right-wing extremist violence since 1995 -- when the Oklahoma City bombing took place. Because of massacres like the one on Saturday in El Paso, the year 2019 may yet prove worse.

Our intelligence and law-enforcement agencies are not blind to the threat. In May, a senior F.B.I. official testified to Congress that the bureau is pursuing about 850 domestic terrorism investigations. But our current counterterrorism framework was set up, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, to deal exclusively with foreign terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. For example, the law allows for the monitoring of communications between people connected with foreign terrorist groups -- even if they are United States citizens operating on American soil -- and the sharing of the resulting intelligence among American agencies and with our allies. But those monitoring and intelligence-sharing tools cannot be used against those connected with terrorist groups based in the United States -- no matter how dangerous -- because domestic terror supporters are protected by free speech laws in ways that jihadis (including those who are United States citizens) are not.

As Robert Bork explained, textual construction requires that the Constitution not be read so as to protect speech advocating its own overthrow.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Swedish town launches controversial £21 begging permit (Jon Henley, 5 Aug 2019, The Guardian)

A Swedish town has become the first in the country to introduce an official begging permit, requiring anyone who asks for money in the street to pay SEK 250 (£21) upfront for a licence.

Valid for three months, the permit can be obtained by filling in a form online or at a police station and requires a valid ID. Anyone found begging for money in Eskilstuna, west of Stockholm, without one faces a fine of up to SEK 4,000 (£342).

Jimmy Jansson, a Social Democrat local councillor, said the scheme, which came into force on 1 August after nearly a year of legal delays, was aimed at "bureaucratising" begging to "make it more difficult" for people to ask for money.

"We'll see where this goes," Jansson told local media, adding that the permit system should help bring homeless and other vulnerable people in contact with the local authority, in particular social services.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How the Trump Campaign Used Facebook Ads to Amplify His 'Invasion' Claim (Thomas Kaplan, Aug. 5, 2019, NY Times)

President Trump's re-election campaign has harnessed Facebook advertising to push the idea of an "invasion" at the southern border, amplifying the fear-inducing language about immigrants that he has also voiced at campaign rallies and on Twitter.

Since January, Mr. Trump's re-election campaign has posted more than 2,000 ads on Facebook that include the word "invasion" -- part of a barrage of advertising focused on immigration, a dominant theme of his re-election messaging. A review of Mr. Trump's tweets also found repeated references to an "invasion," while his 2016 campaign advertising heavily featured dark warnings about immigrants breaching America's borders.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ex-Google Engineer Made Troubling Posts On Listservs About Richard Spencer, Golden State Skinheads (J. ARTHUR BLOOM, August 05, 2019, Google)

The most recent ex-Google engineer who claims to have been fired for his conservative views also suggested raising money under the auspices of the company's free speech listserv for a bounty to identify Richard Spencer's assailant, the Daily Caller has learned.

Kevin Cernekee, who was profiled in the Wall Street Journal last week, has made several complaints to the National Labor Relations Board alleging bias against right-wing employees, one of which is moving forward. [...]

In another set of postings from June 2016, Cernekee responded to a CNN article about a brawl in Sacramento between the Traditionalist Workers Party and the Golden State Skinheads, and antifa.

"Wait, were these actual neo­-Nazis or something else? From what I can tell TWP is more of a separatist organization and they openly reject racial supremacy," Cernekee wrote on June 27, 2016.

This is the mast Donald and the Senator have lashed themselves to.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


U.S. farmers are exasperated by latest trade war moves: 'Another nail in the coffin' (Adriana Belmonte, 8/05/19, Yahoo Finance)

"This is just another nail in the coffin," Tyler Stafslien, a North Dakota-based soybean farmer, told Yahoo Finance. "To see this thing only seems to be getting worse rather than better is very concerning, and the American taxpayers may have to foot another round of funding if this keeps up -- or we could see a ton of farmers' loss throughout this nation."

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said that the pain extended across the country.

"China's announcement that it will not buy any agricultural products from the United States is a body blow to thousands of farmers and ranchers who are already struggling to get by," Duvall stated.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Against the Republican Daddy State (DAVID FRENCH, August 1, 2019, National Review)

I fully agree that social-media platforms should reform their speech policies. I also agree that too many Americans spend too much time on their phones. But there is a dramatic difference between declaring that something is a problem and believing that government should act to solve that problem. In fact, the very determination that government should act -- rather than relying on a free citizenry to exercise its liberty responsibly -- can be harmful to a nation and to a culture.

The SMART Act is a remarkable attempt at micromanaging the design of popular online products. It would ban, for example, "infinite scroll" (the feature that allows you to thumb rapidly through a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feed), the "autoplay" of a new video after the user finishes the one he initially selected (on sites like YouTube, but not on the ultimate autoplay device in American homes, your television), and certain gaming features on social-media apps, such as Snapchat's "streaks" (which record how many consecutive days you've communicated with friends).

Welcome to the Republican Daddy state. It responds to a social challenge with a blunt instrument that hurts responsible users of popular applications -- which is to say, the overwhelming majority of all users -- while not providing any concrete evidence that it will cure the extraordinarily complicated underlying problem it's attempting to address: the rise of anxiety, depression, and polarization that correlates with the rise of social media and the smartphone but is caused by a multiplicity of factors.

Senator Hawley ios anxious and depressed because he realizes America rejects his politics.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Neo Nazis boast 'We got Tulsi in the debates' (Jewish Insider, Aug. 5th, 2019)

A neo-Nazi website took credit for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's (D-HI) qualification for the first two Democratic primary debates. The Daily Stormer, a notorious white supremacist and antisemitic website, proclaimed in April "we did it" -- after the Hawaii congresswoman reached the 65,000 donor threshold needed to participate in the first two debates.

Andrew Anglin, the website's founder, wrote in April, "We got Tulsi in the debates." He added: "I kind of didn't really want to do the whole big push on this site and have her linked to us if she was going to make it without us (both because I don't want the media attention and I doubt she wants to be considered a nazi candidate)....

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IT WAS JUST before midnight on April 11 and everyone at the Israel Aerospace Industries mission control center in Yehud, Israel, had their eyes fixed on two large projector screens. On the left screen was a stream of data being sent back to Earth by Beresheet, its lunar lander, which was about to become the first private spacecraft to land on the moon. The right screen featured a crude animation of Beresheet firing its engines as it prepared for a soft landing in the Sea of Serenity. But only seconds before the scheduled landing, the numbers on the left screen stopped. Mission control had lost contact with the spacecraft, and it crashed into the moon shortly thereafter.

Half a world away, Nova Spivack watched a livestream of Beresheet's mission control from a conference room in Los Angeles. As the founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to create "a backup of planet Earth," Spivack had a lot at stake in the Beresheet mission. The spacecraft was carrying the foundation's first lunar library, a DVD-sized archive containing 30 million pages of information, human DNA samples, and thousands of tardigrades, those microscopic "water bears" that can survive pretty much any environment--including space.

But when the Israelis confirmed Beresheet had been destroyed, Spivack was faced with a distressing question: Did he just smear the toughest animal in the known universe across the surface of the moon?