August 7, 2019

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Exclusive: White House rebuffed attempts by DHS to make combating domestic terrorism a higher priority (Jake Tapper,  August 7, 2019, CNN)

White House officials rebuffed efforts by their colleagues at the Department of Homeland Security for more than a year to make combating domestic terror threats, such as those from white supremacists, a greater priority as specifically spelled out in the National Counterterrorism Strategy, current and former senior administration officials as well as other sources close to the Trump administration tell CNN.

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Trump Faces Pressure on Gun Control in Secretive Dayton Visit (Josh Wingrove, August 6, 2019, Bloomberg)

Donald Trump sought to console the grief-stricken residents of El Paso and Dayton on Wednesday, a trip that has so far been conducted largely out of public view following Democratic criticism of the president's rhetoric on race and immigration and his positions on gun safety.

Journalists were not allowed to accompany Trump... [...]

[T]rump was greeted by protests in the city, and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley confronted the president as soon as he arrived to demand he press Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a vote on House legislation that would expand background checks for gun buyers.

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Farm Discontent Spills Over as Ag Secretary Is Confronted in Minnesota (Mike Dorning  and Erik Wasson, August 7, 2019, Bloomberg)

Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, drew applause as he leveled criticism of the administration's trade policy at a forum with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in front of thousands of farmers gathered in a metal barn for a panel discussion.

American farmers took a fresh financial hit from Trump's trade war over the weekend as China announced a halt to all U.S. agricultural imports after the president threatened Beijing with another tariff increase.

Wertish criticized Trump's "go-it-alone approach" and the trade dispute's "devastating damage not only to rural communities." He expressed fears Trump's $28 billion in trade aid will undermine public support for federal farm subsidies, saying the assistance is already being pilloried "as a welfare program, as bailouts."

Others joined in. Brian Thalmann, president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, complained about Trump statements that farmers are doing "great" again. "We are not starting to do great again," he said. "We are starting to go down very quickly."

Joel Schreurs of the American Soybean Association warned American producers are in danger of long-term losses in market share in China, the world's largest importer of soybeans.

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To Learn About the Far Right, Start With the 'Manosphere': The sexist world has become a recruiting ground for potential mass shooters. (HELEN LEWIS, 8/07/19, The Atlantic)

 It is therefore not surprising that anti-feminism is an entry point to the online far right. "Misogyny is used predominantly as the first outreach mechanism," Ashley Mattheis, a researcher at the University of North Carolina who studies the far right online, told me. "You were owed something, or your life should have been X, but because of the ridiculous things feminists are doing, you can't access them."

One recruiting ground is the collection of sites known as the "manosphere," which the British anti-extremism charity Hope not Hate considered a serious enough force to include in its most recent "State of Hate" report. "It's a very difficult movement to get to grips with," says the Hope not Hate researcher Simon Murdoch. "It's a very loose movement. And because it's online, people are usually anonymous."

The manosphere stretches from the kind of lukewarm anti-feminism that would pass virtually unremarked in a newspaper column through to glorifications of extreme misogyny. Although the manosphere's leading figures have appeared at far-right events, and vice versa, the links between the two are more about an exchange of ideas than shared personnel.

As young men are drawn deeper into these online communities, the anti-feminist message transforms into one with racial overtones, Mattheis said. "Once you engage with the idea that a social-justice-warrior club and the feminist movement have increased the precarity of men," she said, "that moves over time into the increased precarity and endangerment of 'the West.'"

These ideas circulate through YouTube videos, anonymous message boards such as 8Chan, Facebook groups, and Twitter accounts. The online ecosystem allows dense, rambling conspiracist tracts to be chopped up and recirculated in more palatable forms. Camus' book-length version of The Great Replacement, for example, was condensed by the Canadian far right activist Lauren Southern in a YouTube video that now has more than 600,000 views. Southern is no fringe figure: She is verified on YouTube, and she was retweeted by Donald Trump in May.

Anti-feminism and the far right overlap because both weave narratives around real, observable phenomena surrounding race and reproduction. 

Ohio gunman's ex-classmates decry missed chances to stop him (MICHAEL BIESECKER and JULIE CARR SMYTH, 8/06/19, AP) 

High school classmates of the gunman who killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio, say he was suspended years ago for compiling a "hit list" and a "rape list," and questioned how he could have been allowed to buy the military-style weapon used in this weekend's attack. [...]

The former classmates told The Associated Press that Betts was suspended during their junior year at suburban Bellbrook High School after a hit list was found scrawled in a school bathroom. That followed an earlier suspension after Betts came to school with a list of female students he wanted to sexually assault, according to two of the classmates, a man and a woman who are both now 24 and spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern they might face harassment.

"There was a kill list and a rape list, and my name was on the rape list," said the female classmate.

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 PM


How the El Paso Shooting Exposes the Rifts in Texas Politics (Jonathan Martin and Matt Flegenheimer, Aug. 6, 2019, ny tIMES)

SUGAR LAND, Tex. -- Nearly 700 miles from the El Paso Walmart where the suspect in the killing of 22 people on Saturday denounced a "Hispanic invasion," Rish Oberoi, a candidate for state representative, gestured toward a bustling dining room in a popular Vietnamese restaurant and marveled at the diversity of this Houston suburb.

"You've got every ethnicity," Mr. Oberoi, the son of Indian immigrants, said of the lunchtime rush on Monday. "And that's standard for Sugar Land." He was not overstating the case.

The residents in this county speak at least 118 languages, elected an Indian immigrant as their leader in 2018 and elevated the first Muslim to the Sugar Land City Council this year. Once represented by Tom DeLay, the hard-line House majority leader known as the Hammer for his ability to keep fellow Republicans in line, the county supported a Democrat for president in 2016 for the first time since Lyndon B. Johnson led the ticket.

The much-anticipated future of Texas politics may not have arrived statewide yet, but it is hard to miss in the booming, polyglot metropolitan areas that are changing the face of the state.

The El Paso massacre has brought into devastating relief the clashing ideologies and demographics that have placed a solidly conservative rural Texas in tension with the two forces powering Democratic gains: soaring immigrant populations and affluent white suburbanites who recoil from President Trump's race-baiting.

In recent days, both before and after the gunman opened fire on summer shoppers and the manifesto spouting hate was published, a handful of Republican lawmakers decided to retire rather than seek re-election to House seats in districts like this one, where the electorate includes both multiethnic voters and the kinds of disaffected moderates -- even longtime Republicans -- who have drifted from Mr. Trump's party.

Last year, Democrats swept out two incumbent Republicans from similar districts and nearly unseated Senator Ted Cruz. Now, the party is poised to make additional gains in the House, threaten Republican hegemony in the State Capitol and perhaps even put Texas into play as a presidential state for the first time in over 40 years.

"The 2018 election should have been a wake-up call for a Republican Party in Texas that has become too complacent," said Karl Rove, the former adviser to George W. Bush, who built a multiracial coalition in his time as Texas governor. Mr. Rove urged Republicans to recognize that the state and country "are becoming more diverse and we need to reflect that."

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We Are All Originalists Now, Sort of (David McDonaldAugust 07, 2019, Real Clear Politics)

Take, for instance, the Supreme Court's June decision in American Legion v. American Humanist Association. The case asks whether a 40-foot-tall cross-shaped war memorial in Prince George's County, Md., violates the First Amendment's command that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Ultimately, the court ruled 7-2 that the cross does not violate the First Amendment.

At first glance, the opinions handed down look much like the high court's other Establishment Clause cases from the past half-century. With no justice capable of assembling a majority coalition, this case has nearly as many separate opinions as the court has members. It appeared that, once again, the court succeeded only in further muddying the waters with competing tests and conflicting theories, with none gaining a majority. 

Or maybe not. Hidden underneath a pile of concurring and dissenting opinions, a careful observer might detect the outlines of a consensus. For all its seeming divisiveness, a clear majority of the court now endorses something akin to what Justice Brett Kavanaugh referred to as a "history and tradition" test, wherein the historical context of the challenged government action, and how it fits into the tradition of religious liberty in America, takes center stage. 

Kagan and Stephen Breyer, generally considered members of the court's left wing, at least tepidly acknowledge the importance of tradition and historical context in analyzing challenges made to government action under the Establishment Clause. Both justices joined the majority in the Prince George's cross case, remarking in the process that they agree that courts should "look to history for guidance" in these types of cases, while writing separately to express concern about Samuel Alito's meticulous originalist approach.

While significant disagreements remain among the justices, history and tradition are now central to the discussion in a way that would have been unthinkable only 20 years ago.

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No Relief in Sight for the Casualties of Trump's Trade War: Pssssst: It's not the Chinese. (ANDREW EGGER  AUGUST 6, 2019, The Bulwark)

The story of how this all came about, which the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, is as fascinating as it is infuriating. After yet another series of talks between U.S. and Chinese trade representatives last Wednesday proved unproductive in extracting concessions from the Chinese, Trump, angered that his negotiators had been unable to extract a win he could trumpet at a campaign rally that day, made a snap decision that went against the advice of nearly all his advisers:

"Tariffs," Mr. Trump said to his team, one of the people said. Those present included his national-security adviser John Bolton, top economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow, China adviser Peter Navarro and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

All of them, save Mr. Navarro, a China hawk, adamantly objected to the tariffs, the people said. That spurred a debate lasting nearly two hours, one of the people said. Beijing insists that tariffs must be dropped in return for concessions demanded by the U.S.

The president said his patience had worn thin and stood by his argument that tariffs were the best form of leverage, the person said.

His advisers eventually conceded, one of these people said, and then helped the president draft the tweet announcing an extension of tariffs to essentially all Chinese imports.

As the trade war has dragged on, American farmers have clung to the increasingly desperate hope that Trump is operating according to some great strategy--that President Deals has an ace up his sleeve that will soon bring China to its knees. Last summer, they were still optimistic--although many were rattled even then that there was no end in sight. When the dispute dragged on into the winter, they were partially placated by a round of emergency farm aid. As long as the thing wrapped up by spring planting, some hoped, they could weather the damage.

But now it's summer again, and things are still getting worse. All farmers can look to for comfort is the fact that things could be about $25 billion worse--the amount the White House has dispensed or pledged to dispense to hurting farmers. Meanwhile, all the Trump administration can do to reassure them is to say they'll keep pouring federal money on them to make up for the Chinese business they themselves bungled away, as President Trump did in yet another tweet Tuesday...

...and he's giving it to them....with the bark on.

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This Brazilian State Seems to Have Turned a Corner on Violence. But Can It Last?(RICHARD LAPPER | AUGUST 7, 2019, Americas Quarterly)

Outside the prison system, violent crime has been falling across Brazil in recent months, partly as a result of more aggressive policing methods. But nowhere has the improvement been more apparent than in Ceará. When I visited in May 2018, the state was the third most violent in the country, as rival gangs fought a vicious battle for control of a booming drugs market.

Renato Roseno, a 47-year-old state congressman and left-wing activist, had shown me how gangs were using social media to broadcast the results of the violence. I remember in particular a WhatsApp image of a young man's tortured and dismembered body reassembled on a wheelbarrow. "It's madness," Roseno told me.

Fifteen months on, Ceará's poorer districts are still dangerous but the death rate has been cut in half, an improvement twice as great as the national average. From third place, Ceará is now only the 14th most dangerous of Brazil's 27 states.

Most surprising is that this progress is the work of an administration controlled by the left-wing Workers' Party (PT), that has often been at odds with the iron hand instincts of Bolsonaro and the far right. The PT has tended to advocate a softer approach, putting much more emphasis on prevention and development.

But late in 2017, ahead of last year's elections and amid popular clamor for a crackdown, party leaders in Ceará opted to take a different path. The shift has proved popular. Camilo Santana was elected for a second term as governor with a thumping majority in October.

"People were demanding a hard line against crime and the governor listened," André Costa, the state's security secretary, told AQ. "The demand (transcended any ideological consideration). It's not a question of being right wing or left wing. People were saying that the police had to act with greater firmness."

The state stepped up with increased spending in security. Thousands of new police officers have been recruited - there are now 6,000 more military police officers than there were in 2015. An additional 2,000 officers have been recruited to the civil police, effectively the state's investigative force. And there are more than 1,000 new prison guards. Police officers are also better armed than they were: The state bought 15,000 Sig Sauer 320s pistols, the model deployed by the U.S. military.

Money has also been spent on security cameras. More than 3,300 have been installed across the state. The same goes for investment in computing and information technology, with law enforcement agents now able to summon up crucial data about suspects at the touch of a button on their mobile phones. Costa said that increased spending in the most dangerous neighborhoods, on things like street lighting and cleaning up buildings defaced by gang graffiti, has also helped the security drive.

But the biggest improvements have come since Luis Mauro Albuquerque, a no-nonsense disciplinarian, was put in charge of the prison system in December. 

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A grimly compelling study of the psychology of fanaticism: a review of Promise Me You'll Shoot Yourself. By Florian Huber (The Economist, Jul 11th 2019)

In the second half of his book, Mr Huber switches tack to give a broad sweep of the Nazi era, tracing the dark exhilaration that overtook previously sane individuals as they came to feel that Hitler could solve all their problems. He describes the denial or glib justifications with which people reacted to the persecution of Jews; some readers may feel he should have dwelled more on that subject. Closer to his main theme, he pinpoints reactions to the assault on the Soviet Union in June 1941. Some had a bleak sense the invasion might fail, others still believed devoutly in the military and moral superiority of the Reich. As news emerged of the atrocities the invaders were committing, and the titanic reverses they began to suffer, some Germans experienced cognitive dissonance. Their faith in Nazism's ultimate triumph grew all the more fervent.

Thus the book hints at a deep truth about war at its dirtiest. When people sense crimes are being committed in their name, they can become even more fanatical in their devotion to the cause, so that an all-out drive for victory, or else martyrdom, seem the only ways these sins can be redeemed.

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Trump Campaign Ad Features QAnon Signs (Will Sommer, 08.07.19, Daily Beast)

Two signs promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory are visible in a video from Donald Trump's presidential campaign, marking the latest link between the president and followers of the fringe movement that the FBI recently described as a potential source of domestic terror. 

IG Horowitz will expose this as a Strzok/McCabe/Comey/Brennan plot!

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Students for Trump founder pleads guilty to posing as lawyer in $46K scam (STEPHEN REX BROWN, AUG 06, 2019, New York Daily News)

The founder of Students for Trump pleaded guilty Tuesday to running a $46,000 scam in which he posed as a lawyer and gave legal advice.

John Lambert, 23, created a website for a fake law firm called Pope & Dunn and claimed to be Eric Pope, a graduate of NYU Law School with a finance degree from the University of Pennsylvania and 15 years of experience in corporate and patent law, prosecutors said.

Choose better role models, kid.

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Dayton's GOP congressman now supports 'restricting military-style weapon sales, magazine limits' (The Week, August 6, 2019)

On Tuesday, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) announced his support for "restricting military-style weapon sales, magazine limits, and red flag legislation." Turner is a former mayor of Dayton, where a 24-year-old gunman murdered nine people early Sunday, and represents the city in Congress. "I understand not every shooting can be prevented or stopped from these measures, but I do believe these steps are essential," he wrote in a statement. The Dayton shooter, who was killed by police, carried an AR-15 style rifle and a 100-round magazine, and may have had 250 rounds on him. When he started firing, Turner's daughter was at a bar across the street.

It's a democracy and voters want restrictions.

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No going back to Taliban repression, Afghan businesswomen say (Orooj Hakimi, 8/07/19, Reuters)

[T]he women who have blazed a trial in business since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 say they have come too far to be robbed of their achievements.

"I don't think Afghan women will ever go back," Kamila Seddiqi, 41, said an entrepreneur involved in businesses that include Afghanistan's first taxi app, Kaweyan Cabs.

Seddiqi, who was 18 when the Taliban seized Kabul in 1996, knows all too well how ambition can be smothered.

"It was a time when we all thought of studying and learning, and education was the most important thing for us, but our lives changed," she said.

The Taliban banned women from education and work and only let them leave their homes in the company of a male relative. Overnight, women disappeared behind the all-enveloping burqa, their activities restricted to their homes.

Seddiqi and her sisters started a small tailoring business that thrived. After the Taliban were ousted, she worked with international organizations before launching her own businesses.

The international aid effort that arrived with foreign forces put girls' education and the empowering of women at its core but there are fears a final withdrawal of U.S. troops, the winding down of international engagement and the re-emergence of the Taliban in politics will see the progress snuffed out.

But women's strides in business will not be reversed, Seddiqi said. "These are not women who will go back."