June 1, 2020

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Trump's praise for China over Tiananmen Square years ago was a preview of his support for military crackdowns on the George Floyd protests (John Haltiwanger, 6/01/20, Business Insider)

Thirty years ago, Donald Trump said that China had shown the "power of strength" when its troops massacred pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square the year before. Trump's words foreshadowed his general disposition toward protesters as president, and offered a preview of his support for military crackdowns on anti-police brutality demonstrations in the present day. 

It was March 1990, and Trump was being interviewed by Playboy magazine about his life as a real estate mogul. At one point, Trump was asked about a trip he'd taken to Moscow a few years prior. 

Trump said he'd been "very unimpressed" with the Soviet Union. 

"Their system is a disaster," Trump said. "What you will see there soon is a revolution; the signs are all there with the demonstrations and picketing. Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That's my problem with [former Soviet President Mikhail] Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand."

Trump was then asked if he meant "firm hand as in China."

"When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength," Trump replied. "That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak...as being spit on by the rest of the world."

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 PM


A White Bar Owner Shot and Killed a Young Black Protester. The DA Just Declined to Charge Him. (Tess Owen, Jun 1 2020, Vice News)

A white Nebraska bar owner is walking free after the local DA declined to charge him for fatally shooting James Scurlock, a 22-year-old unarmed black man, during protests against police brutality in Omaha Saturday night.

Douglas County District Attorney Don Kleine called the shooting "senseless" but said that Jake Gardner, 38, was justified in his decision to shoot Scurlock because he "feared for his own life or serious bodily injury." A lawyer representing Scurlock's family said Gardner had a concealed weapons permit that was expired at the time of the shooting. [...]

Gardner owns several businesses in Omaha, and according to the Daily Beast, is a self-described Libertarian who has been arrested on criminal charges at least four times, including assault and battery, and failing to tell an officer he had a concealed handgun.

In 2017, he posed for a photo with Donald Trump Jr. with the caption "Here's a guy who returns my emails 100 percent of the time, every time. #FAKENEWS. "

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


'Domestic terrorist actors' could exploit Floyd protests, DHS memo warns (BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN and NATASHA BERTRAND, 06/01/2020, Politico)

Anarchist and militia extremists could try to exploit the recent nationwide protests spurred by the death of George Floyd, the Department of Homeland Security warned in an intelligence note sent to law enforcement officials around the country.

Floyd, a black man who pleaded that he couldn't breathe while a police officer held him down and pressed his knee into his neck for nearly 9 minutes, was killed in Minnesota on May 25. The officer responsible has been charged with murder and manslaughter.

The memo, dated May 29 and marked unclassified/law enforcement sensitive, cites "previous incidents of domestic terrorists exploiting First Amendment-protected events" as one reason for DHS' concern of additional targeted violence by "domestic terrorist actors."

It also reveals, citing the FBI, that on May 27, two days after Floyd's death, "a white supremacist extremist Telegram channel incited followers to engage in violence and start the 'boogaloo'--a term used by some violent extremists to refer to the start of a second Civil War--by shooting in a crowd." One Telegram message encouraged potential shooters to "frame the crowd around you" for the violence, the document said.

And on May 29, "suspected anarchist extremists and militia extremists allegedly planned to storm and burn the Minnesota State Capitol," the memo reads, citing FBI information.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 PM

ONLY 100?:

Yardbird: 100 Years of Charlie Parker  (Dominic Green, 6/01/20, tHE cRITIC)

Much of Parker's life remains obscure, but everything suggests the legend is more or less true. He really was a heroin addict from the age of 15. He really did come late to the saxophone, and he really wasn't much shakes at first. The young Parker really did struggle when he sat in with Lester Young and other members of the Basie group in Kansas City, and Jo Jones really did throw a cymbal at his feet to stop him playing. He really did take up the alto as second-best to tenor: apart from Lester, Parker's other idol was Leon "Chu" Berry, after whom he named his son. After not just the statutory woodshedding but also an inner communing with the harmonies that no soloist had yet managed, he really did appear as if from nowhere in New York City and make jazz a modern art form. And he really did turn up at Stravinsky's house in Los Angeles in the middle of night and have the door slammed in his face.

To mark Parker's centenary, Craft Records have reissued the recordings Parker made with his first label, Savoy. [...]

Parker's solo on 'Red Cross' sounds like a message from the future. His opening phrase strikes flattened fifth, the quintessence of discord, on the downbeat; not an unusual move at all, in fact quite traditional. So is the impeccable Kansas City blues of its resolution. But where a blues or Swing player would simply repeat this move from discord to concord, Parker slides sideways across the chords, substituting chromatically as he goes. "It is an essentially Romantic paradox," Charles Rosen wrote, "that the primacy of sound in Romantic music should be accompanied, and even announced, by a sonority that is not only unrealisable but unimaginable."

You can hear the quartet's relief when Parker stops. 

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Estonia Already Lives Online--Why Can't the United States?  (NINA JANKOWICZ, MAY 27, 2020, The Atlantic)

For one corner of the world, life during the coronavirus pandemic has stayed shockingly the same. Like much of the globe, people there are dealing with cabin fever, a lack of physical contact, and collective grief, for both the loved ones they've lost and a way of life they may never see again. But they're exempt from the crashing halt of state services, the bumbling distribution of relief funds, the pillars of government groaning under the weight of performing their basic business amid the pandemic.

This is not a faraway digital superstate or an isolated cooperative. Geographically, it is not even located in the proverbial West. This is reality in Estonia, a nation of 1.3 million on the coast of the Baltic Sea that traded its post-Soviet identity for one of technological innovation and digital democracy.

The continuity of life there despite the pandemic isn't a result of a macabre decision to sacrifice the elderly, or a convoluted idea to build "herd immunity." No, citizens are staying home, and doing so fairly happily. In part, that's because they don't really need to leave; thanks to an infrastructure that has been in place for 20 years, many of life's basic tasks can be done online.

Estonia recorded its first case of COVID-19 on February 27, and by March 12, the government approved emergency measures to combat its spread. The next day, the government began conducting most of its business digitally, and instructed schools to transition from in-person to distance learning. If they weren't already using digital tools (and many were), municipal councils quickly shifted to online operations.

None of this is much of a departure from normal life. Using a digital identification card and a secure electronic signature, people in Estonia can bank, apply for government assistance, file for sick leave, order prescriptions, and get medical care online--no mask or hand sanitizer required. If an election were scheduled to take place while the country was under lockdown, citizens would simply use their ID cards to vote securely from the comfort and safety of their homes, as they have done since 2005. In the most recent parliamentary elections in 2019, 43 percent of voters cast ballots online.

The United States, meanwhile, is experiencing a carnival fun-house version of attempted technological innovation, running into trick walls and watching as tasks that could be much simpler contort into nightmarish versions of themselves.

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Judge questions 'unusual' Justice Department filing in Flynn case (KYLE CHENEY, 06/01/2020, Politico)

DOJ, Sullivan noted, repeatedly affirmed for years that the evidence Flynn lied to the FBI was ironclad and crucial to the FBI's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Its reversal, he said, regardless of the details provided in it, raises troubling questions.

"It was signed by the Acting U.S. Attorney alone, with no line prosecutors joining; it featured no affidavits or declarations supporting its many new factual allegations; it was not accompanied by a motion to vacate the government's prior, contrary filings and representations; it cited minimal legal authority in support of its view on materiality," Sullivan's brief noted, adding that it also omitted any mention of other potentially criminal conduct Flynn had admitted to in his plea: working on behalf of the Turkish government without registering as a foreign agent.

"It is unprecedented for an Acting U.S. Attorney to contradict the solemn representations that career prosecutors made time and again, and undermine the district court's legal and factual findings, in moving on his own to dismiss the charge years after two different federal judges accepted the defendant's plea," Sullivan's legal team wrote, adding, "As this Court's precedents envision, Judge Sullivan can--and arguably must--consider those issues before granting a motion to dismiss."

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


Louisville mayor fires police chief (John P. Wise, Jun 01, 2020, WAVE) 

An emotional Fischer announced Monday that there was no officer body camera video of the shooting.

"That lack of institutional failure will not be tolerated," Fischer said as he announced Conrad's termination, effective immediately. Robert Schroeder will serve as interim police chief.

"I am saddened that it took this much calamity in our city to remove the chief of police," Metro Council President David James said Monday.

Protesters organized to honor Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old former EMT who was shot dead when LMPD officers served a narcotics warrant at her home in March. The three officers, still employed at LMPD, didn't have their body cameras on in that case, either.

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De-escalation Keeps Protesters And Police Safer. Departments Respond With Force Anyway. (Maggie Koerth and Jamiles Lartey,  Jun. 1, 2020, 538)

Researchers have spent 50 years studying the way crowds of protesters and crowds of police behave -- and what happens when the two interact. One thing they will tell you is that when the police respond by escalating force -- wearing riot gear from the start, or using tear gas on protesters -- it doesn't work. In fact, disproportionate police force is one of the things that can make a peaceful protest not so peaceful. But if we know that (and have known that for decades), why are police still doing it?

"There's this failed mindset of 'if we show force, immediately we will deter criminal activity or unruly activity' and show me where that has worked," said Scott Thomson, the former chief of police in Camden, New Jersey.

"That's the primal response," he said. "The adrenaline starts to pump, the temperature in the room is rising, and you want to go one step higher. But what we need to know as professionals is that there are times, if we go one step higher, we are forcing them to go one step higher."

Interactions between police and protesters are, by their very nature, tough to study. Even when researchers get a good vantage point to observe protests in the real world -- for example, by embedding within a crowd -- the data that comes out is more descriptive and narrative as opposed to quantitative. Some kinds of protests are highly organized with top-down plans that are months in the making. Others, like many of the events across America this past week, are spontaneous outpourings of grief and anger. The social and political context of the time and place also affect what happens. Even a single protest isn't really a single protest. "You have lots of mini protests happening in many places," said Edward Maguire, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Arizona State University. "There's different dynamics. Some peaceful. Some not. And different police tactics." In Baltimore on Saturday, for example, a police lieutenant mollified a crowd by reading out loud the names of victims of police brutality, while protesters outside City Hall threw bottles at police in riot gear and police used tear gas on the crowd, WBFF-TV reported.

But just because there's no data about protests that can be easily compared in a chart doesn't mean we're bereft of information, said Pat Gillham, a professor of sociology at Western Washington University. There's 50 years of research on violence at protests, dating back to the three federal commissions formed between 1967 and 1970. All three concluded that when police escalate force -- using weapons, tear gas, mass arrests and other tools to make protesters do what the police want -- those efforts can often go wrong, creating the very violence that force was meant to prevent. For example, the Kerner Commission, which was formed in 1967 to specifically investigate urban riots, found that police action was pivotal in starting half of the 24 riots the commission studied in detail. It recommended that police eliminate "abrasive policing tactics" and that cities establish fair ways to address complaints against police.

Experts say the following decades of research have turned up similar findings. Escalating force by police leads to more violence, not less. It tends to create feedback loops, where protesters escalate against police, police escalate even further, and both sides become increasingly angry and afraid.

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People are running over George Floyd protesters. Are far-right memes to blame?: An expert explains his theory on why vehicle-ramming attacks are happening across the country. (Alex Ward, Jun 1, 2020, Vox)

Alex Ward
Before we get into the vehicle attacks themselves, why does it seem like these kinds of incidents are happening more often?

Ari Weil
There's an online environment that for years has been celebrating and encouraging these types of horrendous attacks.

It really goes back to the Black Lives Matter and North Dakota Access Pipeline protests in 2015 and 2016. They innovated the use of street-blocking protests to make their claims. But then the far right responded by running their vehicles through these protesters and that led to a whole series of "run them over" memes online that were shared to glorify and encourage more of these attacks.

What's particularly worrisome is where those memes spread. Yes, among the extreme right, but also I know of at least four cases where law enforcement officers were sharing these in Facebook groups. The Charlottesville attacker, James Alex Fields, shared these memes twice in two months before his attack, and other planners of the Unite the Right rally shared these, too.

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What Did They Think Would Happen?: Actually, character does count. (SARAH LONGWELL, JUNE 1, 2020, The Bulwark)
The argument made in 2016 by conservatives who thought that Trump was manifestly unfit for the job went something like this:

Sure, we might get judges and tax cuts. But the potential downside of having a senescent, wannabe gangster as president of the United States is that (1) he might push us into a constitutional crisis and that (2) if he's confronted with a real-world crisis, there's a non-zero chance he could cause radical, real-world harm.

Well, here we are.

These possibilities seemed so obvious then that I could never tell if the people denying them were really blind, or if they were working overtime to pretend not to see them.

Did they really think that putting a man bereft of character, decency, and empathy in charge of the country wouldn't make a difference?

Did they really think that dismissing each instance of his racism, bullying, fecklessness, megalomania, corruption, lies, and stupidity it wouldn't have a cumulative effect?

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US Sends 2 Million Doses of Hydroxychloroquine to Brazil to Fight Coronavirus (VOA News, June 01, 2020)

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Iran calls on US to 'stop violence' against its own people at protests (AFP, 6/01/20)

Iran's foreign ministry Monday called on Washington to "stop violence" against its own people after protests across the US over the death of a black American man.

"To the American people: the world has heard your outcry over the state of oppression. The world is standing with you," foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said at a news conference in Tehran.

"And to the American officials and police: stop violence against your people and let them breathe," he told reporters in English.