Thursday Reads: Snuggling Cats, Dogs, and Bunnies (and the News)

Good Morning!!

On Monday, someone put a bomb in Democratic donor George Soros’ mailbox. Yesterday authorities discovered more mail bombs, and it became clear that someone had attempted to assassinate two former presidents, a former secretary of state, a former vice president, and a former attorney general, and two sitting U.S. Congresswomen, all Democrats and all targets of Trump’s verbal attacks. In addition, a bomb was sent to CNN, addressed to former CIA director John Brennan. Today another bomb was discovered, this one sent to actor and Trump critic Robert De Niro.

FBI Press Release: Statement on the FBI’s Investigation of Suspicious Packages.

Between October 22 and 24, 2018, suspicious packages were received at multiple locations in the New York and Washington, D.C., areas and Florida. The packages are being sent for analysis at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia.

“This investigation is of the highest priority for the FBI. We have committed the full strength of the FBI’s resources and, together with our partners on our Joint Terrorism Task Forces, we will continue to work to identify and arrest whoever is responsible for sending these packages,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “We ask anyone who may have information to contact the FBI. Do not hesitate to call; no piece of information is too small to help us in this investigation.”

The packages are similar in appearance, as depicted in the below photograph, and contain potentially destructive devices.

[….]

The FBI will continue to work with our federal law enforcement partners at the United States Secret Service, United States Postal Inspection Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as our state and local law enforcement partners, to identify and arrest the person or people responsible for sending these packages.

It is possible that additional packages were mailed to other locations. The FBI advises the public to remain vigilant and not touch, move or handle any suspicious or unknown packages.

If you have information about these packages, please contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or tips.fbi.gov. If you observe any suspicious activity that requires an immediate response, please call 911 or contact your local law enforcement.

Trump declined to cancel his Hitler rally in Wisconsin last night, and during the rally, he again attacked the “mainstream media.” Before Trump came on stage, the audience chanted “lock her up” as a Republican politician grinned ear to ear. The Cut:

On the same day bombs were discovered in packages addressed to Hillary Clinton and several other top Democrats, supporters of President Donald Trump packed onto the tarmac at Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee, Wisconsin began shouting “lock her up” at the mention of Clinton’s name….

The rally was part of Trump’s national midterm campaign tour to bolster support for Republican candidates. It was during Senate Republican candidate Leah Vukmir’s address to the crowd, before Trump’s arrival, that the chants began. She paused as the crowd yelled Trump’s infamous line several times, before continuing her speech….

When Trump came onstage, he limited his usual attacks on Democrats, and there were no “lock her up” chants during his remarks. He did not mention senators Dianne Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi, nor did he mention Representative Maxine Waters, who was sent three of the seven bombs discovered this week. He instead shaped his speech around what he read from a teleprompter, and asked politicians to “stop treating political opponents as being morally defective.” He also asked the media to help unify people.

“The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories,” said Trump at one point. “They’ve got to stop. Bring people together.”

Trump did not reach out in any way to any of the people who were targeted by mail bombs, and this morning he suggested that the media are responsible for the attacks.

The Washington Post this morning: Trump doubles down on blaming media as suspicious packages continue to surface.

President Trump doubled down Thursday on blaming the media for the nation’s incivility, as suspicious packages sent by a suspected serial bomber continued to target Trump’s outspoken critics.

“A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News,” the president said in a morning tweet. “It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”

Trump’s tweet — which prompted sharp criticism from Democrats — was sent amid television coverage of police in New York swarming a block in Lower Manhattan after receiving reports of a suspicious package at a building where actor Robert De Niro has offices. The package was addressed to De Niro, who attacked Trump in June during a profane presentation at the Tony Awards.

The Post notes that while Trump was “relatively subdued” at last night’s rally, he still attacked the media and Democrats.

During the rally, Trump was relatively subdued as he spoke, interrupted himself several times to point out that he was “trying to be nice” and took no responsibility for his own role in contributing to the country’s degraded civic discourse.

“The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative — and oftentimes, false — attacks and stories,” Trump said at the rally.

In an apparent swipe at Democrats, Trump also denounced those who “carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains” and who “mob people in public places or destroy public property.”

Illustration by Irina Garmashova

Yesterday we learned that Trump is still using unsecured cell phones even though he has been warned that China, Russia, and likely other countries are monitoring his conversations.

The New York Times: When Trump Phones Friends, the Chinese and the Russians Listen and Learn.

When President Trump calls old friends on one of his iPhones to gossip, gripe or solicit their latest take on how he is doing, American intelligence reports indicate that Chinese spies are often listening — and putting to use invaluable insights into how to best work the president and affect administration policy, current and former American officials said.

Mr. Trump’s aides have repeatedly warned him that his cellphone calls are not secure, and they have told him that Russian spies are routinely eavesdropping on the calls, as well. But aides say the voluble president, who has been pressured into using his secure White House landline more often these days, has still refused to give up his iPhones. White House officials say they can only hope he refrains from discussing classified information when he is on them….

American spy agencies, the officials said, had learned that China and Russia were eavesdropping on the president’s cellphone calls from human sources inside foreign governments and intercepting communications between foreign officials….

The current and former officials said they have also determined that China is seeking to use what it is learning from the calls — how Mr. Trump thinks, what arguments tend to sway him and to whom he is inclined to listen — to keep a trade war with the United States from escalating further. In what amounts to a marriage of lobbying and espionage, the Chinese have pieced together a list of the people with whom Mr. Trump regularly speaks in hopes of using them to influence the president, the officials said.

The “good news,” according to these officials is that Trump is a moron who doesn’t really focus on his intelligence briefings–so they can only hope he isn’t giving away state secrets.

Administration officials said Mr. Trump’s longtime paranoia about surveillance — well before coming to the White House he believed that his phone conversations were often being recorded — gave them some comfort that he was not disclosing classified information on the calls. They said they had further confidence he was not spilling secrets because he rarely digs into the details of the intelligence he is shown and is not well versed in the operational specifics of military or covert activities.

How is this not a crime? Surely any other government official who did this would be investigated.

Sleeping bunnies

Fast Company: Trump’s tapped phone may be the largest White House breach ever: former official.

“This stunning revelation by the NYT is one that has sweeping ramifications for intelligence and the security of the American people,” says former White House chief information officer Theresa Payton in an email to Fast Company.

Trump reportedly has three iPhones, but only two of them are equipped with security features that have been added by the National Security Agency. One of the secure phones is strictly intended for tweeting, and only over Wi-Fi networks.

His third phone is said to be as unsecured as any regular iPhone. Former administration officials said that in spite of their repeated warnings that spies might listen into his calls, Trump refused to give up the phone, and kept using it as usual. The president likes to keep his personal iPhone around reportedly because “he can store his contacts in it.” [….]

“If true, this may be the largest, most significant breach of White House communications in history,” says Payton, who served in the George W. Bush administration and is now CEO of security firm Fortalice Solutions. “America’s most sophisticated peer competitor now has a direct line into the president’s confidential thinking and conversations.”

As the “president” endangers the lives of multiple prominent Americans with his public rhetoric and threats, while blithely ignoring warnings that he’s also endangering national security through his use of unsecured cell phones, Robert Muller is still plugging away on his investigation of Russia’s attack on the 2016 election and possible cooperation by the Trump campaign.

NBC News: Mueller has evidence suggesting Stone associate knew Clinton emails would be leaked.

More snuggling bunnies

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has obtained communications suggesting that a right-wing conspiracy theorist might have had advance knowledge that the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman had been stolen and handed to WikiLeaks, a source familiar with the investigation told NBC News.

Mueller’s team has spent months investigating whether the conspiracy theorist, Jerome Corsi, learned before the public did that WikiLeaks had obtained emails hacked by Russian intelligence officers — and whether he passed information about the stolen emails to Donald Trump associate Roger Stone, multiple sources said.

Mueller’s investigators have reviewed messages to members of the Trump team in which Stone and Corsi seem to take credit for the release of Democratic emails, said a person with direct knowledge of the emails.

The source and other people familiar with the matter say they have seen no evidence suggesting either man played any role in the hacking or release of the emails. Stone adamantly denies doing anything but passing on information already in the public domain.

One more story: NBC News finally begins to recognize that hiring former Fox News personalities ia a losing proposition. CNN Business: Megyn Kelly is off her 9 a.m. show, and may not be back.

“Megyn Kelly Today” is not over yet. But it’s a matter of when, not if.

Kelly’s exit from the 9 a.m. hour of the “Today” show appears to be imminent, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

Kelly will not be hosting her program on Thursday, and she is unlikely to return later, one of the sources said. Friday episodes of her show are usually pre-taped.

“Given the circumstances, Megyn Kelly Today will be on tape the rest of the week,” an NBC News spokeswoman said Thursday morning.

Another source said that Kelly’s show will be ending, but negotiations about the end date and other details are still underway.

Kelly is under fire for defending the use of blackface in Halloween costumes.

The talks about dropping Kelly’s 9 a.m. show pre-dated this week’s controversy about her offensive comments about blackface Halloween costumes.

NBC News staffers were calling her show a “disaster” well before this latest controversy.

Kelly has been dropped by her talent agency. Hollywood Reporter:

CAA is no longer working with Kelly, The Hollywood Reporter learned on Wednesday. CAA declined to give a reason for the split, but a source says the Megyn Kelly Today host sought new representation because the agency also reps NBC News president Noah Oppenheim.

To replace CAA, UTA co-president Jay Sures had been in talks to sign Kelly and had been courting her before Tuesday’s blackface backlash, in which Kelly said on her 9 a.m. show that she didn’t understand why people couldn’t wear blackface on Halloween. Sures is said to have backed out of representing Kelly on Wednesday amid the controversy. A source close to the situation says Sures’ decision came after he made at least one call to NBC News president Noah Oppenheim and had set a meeting with NBC for Friday on Kelly’s behalf.

Then later on Wednesday, Kelly hired attorney Bryan Freedman, one of Hollywood’s top talent-side litigators. The move is a sign that she is gearing up for a fight with NBC that could lead to her exit. She will not appear on the Thursday or Friday episodes of her show, according to sources.

The drama comes a day after the host of Today’s 9 o’clock hour defended blackface during a segment on Halloween costumes, claiming that the practice, which finds its roots in 19th century racist minstrel shows, was acceptable when she was a kid. Online reaction was swift, with Hollywood figures from many races, including Padma Lakshmi, Patton Oswalt and Roy Wood Jr., criticizing the stance.

A few hours later on Tuesday, Kelly sent an internal e-mail to the company, explaining that she had now learned that “the history of blackface in our culture is abhorrent.” Her NBC colleagues did not shy away from the subject, covering the incident both on NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt and in late night. “Say what you want about Megyn Kelly, but she looks great for being 200 years old,” cracked Late Night host Seth Meyers, while writer Amber Ruffin added, “For someone with a morning show, Megyn Kelly, you sure are late as hell.”

So . . . what stories are you following today?


Wednesday Reads: IED at Clinton’s ?

10/24 Mike Luckovich: Suppressing fire

Luckovich is one of the best cartoonist out there…his latest demonstrates the state of “Voter Suppression” in Georgia to perfection.

Sticking with Georgia…

If you would like to see the full debate between Abrams and Kemp:

Full Georgia Gov Debate: Democratic Nominee Stacey Abrams vs. Republican Nominee Brian Kemp | Video | RealClearPolitics

Georgia Gubernatorial Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams and Republican candidate Brian Kemp participate in the 2018 Gubernatorial debate for the Atlanta Press Club at the Georgia Public Broadcasting studio in Atlanta. The candidates faced off in their first televised debate on Tuesday, October 23.

Video at the link.

Meanwhile:

From this morning…

 

Fucker.

On another note, check it out…

 

Updated…CNN is reported IED was found at Clinton address.

Secret Service intercepts 2 ‘suspicious packages’ addressed to Obama, Clinton – CNNPolitics

The United States Secret Service intercepted two “suspicious packages” addressed to former President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton earlier this week, the agency said Wednesday.

Neither Obama nor Clinton received the packages or were at risk of receiving them, the Secret Service said. They were discovered during “routine mail screening procedures as potential explosive devices and were appropriately handled as such,” the agency said in a statement.
The package intended for Obama was intercepted in Washington, DC, on Wednesday morning, and the one intended for Clinton was addressed to her in Westchester County, New York, on Tuesday.

Let’s just get to the cartoons, geez.

 

I m a Nationalist: 10/24/2018 Cartoon by Ed Hall

Cartoon by Ed Hall - Im a Nationalist

10/24/2018 Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

RIP: 10/22/2018 Cartoon by Ed Hall

Cartoon by Ed Hall - RIP

10/21/2018 Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

10/18/2018 Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon: 10/24/2018 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

10/24/2018 Cartoon by Joe Heller

Cartoon by Joe Heller -

Am I the only one who is disgusted by the use of the word “caravan”…it brings to mind the Roma Gypsy characterization. Or am I being too sensitive.

10/20/2018 Cartoon by Joe Heller

Cartoon by Joe Heller -

Bruce Plante Cartoon: McConnellstein: 10/24/2018 Cartoon by Bruce Plante

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - Bruce Plante Cartoon: McConnellstein

Debate to Nowhere: 10/24/2018 Cartoon by Jen Sorensen

Cartoon by Jen Sorensen - Debate to Nowhere

Duterte and His Critics: 10/24/2018 Cartoon by Angelo Lopez

Cartoon by Angelo Lopez - Duterte and His Critics

PROTECTING THE COUNTRY: 10/23/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - PROTECTING THE COUNTRY

Khashoggi Killing: 10/22/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Khashoggi Killing

 

 

 

Money is his God: 10/19/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Money is his God

HACKING O’CARE: 10/18/2018 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - HACKING O'CARE

10/23/2018 Cartoon by Steve Artley

Cartoon by Steve Artley -

I would say, there are a couple of women in that cartoon that are not tRump’s type.

 

 

Suppression 2018: 10/23/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Suppression 2018

I’m ending it there.

So disgusted.

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads: Can Trump Succeed at Smothering Democracy?

Trump/HItler

Good Morning!!

There’s an essay at The New York Review of Books that everyone should read. Written by historian Christopher R. Browning, it’s called The Suffocation of Democracy. It’s very long, so I can’t give you the gist with excerpts.  It’s a comparison of the leadup to Hitler’s regime what is happening now in the U.S. The similarities are striking.

As a historian specializing in the Holocaust, Nazi Germany, and Europe in the era of the world wars, I have been repeatedly asked about the degree to which the current situation in the United States resembles the interwar period and the rise of fascism in Europe. I would note several troubling similarities and one important but equally troubling difference.

In the 1920s, the US pursued isolationism in foreign policy and rejected participation in international organizations like the League of Nations. America First was America alone, except for financial agreements like the Dawes and Young Plans aimed at ensuring that our “free-loading” former allies could pay back their war loans. At the same time, high tariffs crippled international trade, making the repayment of those loans especially difficult. The country witnessed an increase in income disparity and a concentration of wealth at the top, and both Congress and the courts eschewed regulations to protect against the self-inflicted calamities of free enterprise run amok. The government also adopted a highly restrictionist immigration policy aimed at preserving the hegemony of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants against an influx of Catholic and Jewish immigrants. (Various measures barring Asian immigration had already been implemented between 1882 and 1917.) These policies left the country unable to respond constructively to either the Great Depression or the rise of fascism, the growing threat to peace, and the refugee crisis of the 1930s.

Political cartoon for Los Angeles Sentinel

Today, President Trump seems intent on withdrawing the US from the entire post–World War II structure of interlocking diplomatic, military, and economic agreements and organizations that have preserved peace, stability, and prosperity since 1945. His preference for bilateral relations, conceived as zero-sum rivalries in which he is the dominant player and “wins,” overlaps with the ideological preference of Steve Bannon and the so-called alt-right for the unfettered self-assertion of autonomous, xenophobic nation-states—in short, the pre-1914 international system. That “international anarchy” produced World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Great Depression, the fascist dictatorships, World War II, and the Holocaust, precisely the sort of disasters that the post–World War II international system has for seven decades remarkably avoided.

Sound familiar? A bit more:

A second aspect of the interwar period with all too many similarities to our current situation is the waning of the Weimar Republic. Paul von Hindenburg, elected president of Germany in 1925, was endowed by the Weimar Constitution with various emergency powers to defend German democracy should it be in dire peril. Instead of defending it, Hindenburg became its gravedigger, using these powers first to destroy democratic norms and then to ally with the Nazis to replace parliamentary government with authoritarian rule. Hindenburg began using his emergency powers in 1930, appointing a sequence of chancellors who ruled by decree rather than through parliamentary majorities, which had become increasingly impossible to obtain as a result of the Great Depression and the hyperpolarization of German politics.

Because an ever-shrinking base of support for traditional conservatism made it impossible to carry out their authoritarian revision of the constitution, Hindenburg and the old right ultimately made their deal with Hitler and installed him as chancellor. Thinking that they could ultimately control Hitler while enjoying the benefits of his popular support, the conservatives were initially gratified by the fulfillment of their agenda: intensified rearmament, the outlawing of the Communist Party, the suspension first of freedom of speech, the press, and assembly and then of parliamentary government itself, a purge of the civil service, and the abolition of independent labor unions. Needless to say, the Nazis then proceeded far beyond the goals they shared with their conservative allies, who were powerless to hinder them in any significant way.

Browning indicts Mitch McConnell as “someone whom historians will look back on as the gravedigger of American democracy.”

Browning does point out significant differences between pre-war Germany and the U.S. today. And what if we survive Trump? Browning concludes:

No matter how and when the Trump presidency ends, the specter of illiberalism will continue to haunt American politics. A highly politicized judiciary will remain, in which close Supreme Court decisions will be viewed by many as of dubious legitimacy, and future judicial appointments will be fiercely contested. The racial division, cultural conflict, and political polarization Trump has encouraged and intensified will be difficult to heal. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, and uncontrolled campaign spending will continue to result in elections skewed in an unrepresentative and undemocratic direction. Growing income disparity will be extremely difficult to halt, much less reverse.

Finally, within several decades after Trump’s presidency has ended, the looming effects of ecological disaster due to human-caused climate change—which Trump not only denies but is doing so much to accelerate—will be inescapable. Desertification of continental interiors, flooding of populous coastal areas, and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, with concomitant shortages of fresh water and food, will set in motion both population flight and conflicts over scarce resources that dwarf the current fate of Central Africa and Syria. No wall will be high enough to shelter the US from these events. Trump is not Hitler and Trumpism is not Nazism, but regardless of how the Trump presidency concludes, this is a story unlikely to have a happy ending.

I hope you’ll take the time to read the whole thing.

Since the Kavanaugh hearings and then the Kashoggi murder, I’ve avoided watching TV as most of the time. Lately, I only watch Maddow and Lawrence; but I’m beginning to think I need to keep up with what’s happening in Trump’s Hitler rallies. I can’t stand to watch him for long, but fortunately there are a couple of journalists who live tweet the rallies in manageable bits. My reason is that it seems that Trump’s blatant lies are actually getting worse. In his most recent rallies, the lies have become so grotesque that it’s difficult to even process. And look what these ghastly lies have wrought:

The New York Times: At George Soros’s Home in N.Y. Suburb, Explosive Device Is Found in Mailbox.

Federal and state law enforcement officials responded to the scene in Katonah, N.Y., a hamlet in the upscale town of Bedford in northern Westchester County, after the Bedford Police Department received a call about a suspicious package at about 3:45 p.m.

“An employee of the residence opened the package, revealing what appeared to be an explosive device,” the police said in a statement. “The employee placed the package in a wooded area and called the Bedford police.”

Mr. Soros, who was born in Hungary, made his fortune running a hedge fund and is now a full-time philanthropist and political activist. He donates frequently to Democratic candidates and progressive causes and has given at least $18 billion to his Open Society Foundations to promote democracy and human rights around the world.

His activism has made him a villain to conservative groups and the target of anti-Semitic smears. Roseanne Barr called him a Nazi in an infamous tweetstorm, and just this month, Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, falsely speculated that Mr. Soros had funded a caravan of migrants moving north toward Mexico. There is no evidence that Mr. Soros paid thousands of migrants to storm the border. Nor is there evidence that Democrats support the effort, as President Trump has said.

Mr. Soros became a major political donor in the United States during George W. Bush’s presidency. He spent millions backing John Kerry’s unsuccessful bid to deny Mr. Bush a second term, was an early backer of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and contributed more than $25 million to Hillary Clinton and other Democratic candidates and causes during the 2016 election cycle.

That’s a lot less than Republican donor Sheldon Adelson has given, but no one seems to be putting bombs in his mailbox.

Trump tweeted this on October 5:

Lately Trump has been screaming about a “caravan” of refugees from Honduras, claiming they are harboring Middle Eastern terrorists.

The Washington Post: Trump and Republicans settle on fear — and falsehoods — as a midterm strategy.

Trump’s messaging — on display in his regular campaign rallies, tweets and press statements — largely avoids much talk of his achievements and instead offers an apocalyptic vision of the country, which he warns will only get worse if Democrats retake control of Congress.

The president has been especially focused in recent days on a caravan of about 5,000 migrants traveling north to cross the U.S. border, a group he has darkly characterized as gang members, violent criminals and “unknown Middle Easterners” — a claim for which his administration has so far provided no concrete evidence.

“You’re going to find MS-13, you’re going to find Middle Eastern, you’re going to find everything. And guess what? We’re not allowing them in our country,” Trump said, when asked by reporters Wednesday if he had any proof of terrorists infiltrating the caravan. “We want safety.” [….]

Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior policy adviser who has long espoused hard-line immigration policies, is one of the chief authors of Trump’s rally messages, though the president often goes further than his prepared remarks.

Read the rest at the WaPo. We are repeatedly told to ignore the rallies and tweets, but I don’t think we should–especially because the messages are getting so outlandish and there does seem to be a segment of Americans who either believe the things he says or just don’t care. Trump is leading a cult.

There is news on the Kashoggi murder. I’ll add those in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?

 


Monday Reads: The Midterms are coming

Not in here Magats per “The Bank Street Bar”

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I usually go down to the Quarter to see the Krewe of Boo this time of year.  I had grades to do and there were some unwelcome visitors there this weekend. I can’t take any more of the Magats so I stayed home.

We got a visit from the hate group “Proud Boys” who seemed to stage a deliberate breakdown of their vehicle in front of Jackson Square so they could set up a really offensive float called “The Trump Bridge.”  Of course, they did not have the appropriate paperwork, even selling those terrible red Magat hats illegally from the truck bed. All activities were without licenses so quite illegal. The NOPD watched them but did nothing.

With the exception of a few lone bars that I really didn’t know existed down there anyway, they were refused service and forced to drink in the streets.  All in all, the entire city did a great job of ignoring them.

Several “watchers” from progressive groups spent time documenting and following them in the hopes of catching any of their usual hateful antics.  We do have a local chapter of them and recently, a Plaquemines Parish Deputy Sheriff lost his job for his association with them

The Proud Boys say they’re not a hate group and that they’re not a part of the alt-right, the catch-all euphemism for various groups of Nazis, white nationalists and white supremacists. The founder of the Proud Boys criticized the eruption of violence in Charlottesville, but a prominent member of that organization had organized the “Unite the Right” rally and later tweeted that “Heather Heyer was a fat, disgusting Communist. Communists killed 94 million. Looks like it was payback time.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the founder of the Proud Boys says he expelled the writer of that tweet from his group “once his racist views became known.” To hear that founder tell it, the Proud Boys is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic group of Western chauvinists who part ways with the alt-right on “the JQ,” that is, “the Jewish question.”

In its website’s HateWatch feature, the SPLC notes that the founder of the Proud Boys “denies any connection between his group and the far right, dismissing the fact that they show up to the same events, take fashion cues from each other, read the same books, sympathize with each other’s viewpoints — including, at times, anti-Semitism — and joust in the shadows of the same windmills.”

Green, the Plaquemines deputy, scrubbed his Facebook feed of his Proud Boys posts, but not before they’d been screen shot and sent to his employer.  His Facebook profile described him as “Deputy Sheriff, Father, Proud Boy.” His profile photo showed him in his law enforcement uniform with the words “The West Is The Best” superimposed on the picture.

Also in his Facebook feed, there had been posted a video in which Green appears to recite the Proud Boys oath, “I’m Brian Green and I’m a proud western chauvinist who refuses to apologize for creating the modern world.”

There is nothing positive about chauvinism of any kind. Furthermore, it’s safe to say that nobody reciting the Proud Boys oath had anything to do with the creation of this modern world.  That oath makes as much sense as me refusing to apologize for having created blues music, jazz and rock-and-roll when all those things were here when I was born.

I do have a few reports from friends that I will put up here just so you have some first hand accounts as well as they pictures and videos taken.   I’m going to leave their names off because I don’t want to accidentally dox them to the wrong people.

So can we talk about the fact that the NOLA Proudboys (an SPLC-recognized violent white supremacist hate group) managed to have the “Trump Unity Bridge” (basically a giant mobile hate-campaign) ‘break down’ conveniently right in front of Jackson Square before the Krewe of Boo parade this evening– a halloween parade largely attended by families and kids. The police didn’t even tow that junk off of Decatur, and instead let them set up shop right along the parade route where they (illegally) sold MAGA hats to the crowd, yelled racial slurs at kids and passers by, threatened a few people who took their picture, tried to provoke violence, paraded around in blackface masks, oh and I’m told finally punched a woman and beat somebody with a flagpole shortly after I left. If you find that state of affairs as disappointing as I do, please call or write the Mayor’s office and tell her that you expect better in the so-called “city of yes” . . . that oughtn’t to mean ‘yes’ to every kind of white supremacist intimidation and depravity, especially anywhere that children are concerned. 504-658-4900, mayor@nola.gov

Here’s the link to the SPLC site that gives you more information about them.

As you know, a number of them were arrested in New York for a brawl which is basically what they always go looking for.

The founder of the far-right group the Proud Boys said on Friday that he was arranging the surrender of several members whom the police are seeking in connection with a violent brawl outside a Republican club in Manhattan last weekend.

At the same time, a senior official said the police had opened a broad criminal inquiry into the group’s activities.

Gavin McInnes, 48, a polemical far-right speaker who started the Proud Boys in 2016, said several suspects would turn themselves in. By late Friday afternoon, two of the nine men sought by the police had been arrested. A police official said a lawyer representing at least four of the suspects had called the 19th Precinct on Friday to work out the details of their surrender.

Though it was unclear how many might face charges, Mr. McInnes said the rest would soon be in custody. “They are going to be in the Tombs,” he said.

The Proud Boys are a fraternal organization of so-called Western chauvinists that Mr. McInnes has sometimes referred to as a gang. The group has clashed with anarchists and left-wing protesters at political events across the country several times in recent years.

They fought with anti-fascist demonstrators on Oct. 12 shortly after Mr. McInnes gave a speech at the Metropolitan Republican Club, a bastion of establishment conservatism on the Upper East Side.

There’s some national news about the midterms and other things we should discuss.  This headline is startling.  From Time: “Trump Plans to Tear Up a 31-Year-Old Nuclear Weapons Treaty. Now What?”.

President Donald Trump revealed Saturday the United States intends to withdraw from a 31-year-old nuclear weapons agreement with Russia, delivering a severe blow to the arms control regime that helped preserve peace since the Cold War.

“We’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out,” Trump told reporters after a rally in Elko, Nevada, without indicating what the next steps might be.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, first signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1987, was the first and only nuclear arms control agreement that ever eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons. The treaty forced the superpowers to scrap more than 2,600 missiles with ranges 310 to 3,420 miles — weapons considered destabilizing to the European continent because of their capability to launch a nuclear strike from anywhere without early warning.

Gorbachev has called the move ‘Not the Work of a Great Mind’.

President Trump’s announcement that the United States would withdraw from a nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia drew sharp criticism Sunday from one of the men who signed it, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who called the decision reckless and not the work of “a great mind.”

In making his announcement Saturday, Mr. Trump cited Russian violations of the pact, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was signed in Washington in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev.

Mr. Gorbachev, who is now 87 years old, cast Mr. Trump’s decision as a threat to peace.

In an interview with the Interfax news agency, Mr. Gorbachev called Mr. Trump’s rollback of the disarmament agreement “very strange.” He added: “Do they really not understand in Washington what this can lead to?”

The last Soviet leader, who is perceived more warmly in the West than inside Russia, has already watched his domestic reform agendas supporting democracy and greater freedom of the press unravel in recent years. Nuclear disarmament also defined his legacy.

Eric Levitz opines this for New York Magazine today: Tribalism Isn’t Our Democracy’s Main Problem. The Conservative Movement Is.

In the middle of the 20th century, America was home to liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. The most important fault-lines in Congress weren’t partisan but regional; on many issues, southern Democrats and western Republicans united in battle against northern (and typically, liberal and/or labor-aligned) members of their respective caucuses. On economics, the two parties’ agendas were distinct, but far less disparate than they are today. On civil rights and immigration, the divisions within each side of the aisle were more important than those between them.

This utter dearth of partisan polarization undermined democratic accountability. A liberal could vote for Democratic candidates in New York, and unwittingly empower arch-segregationists in the Senate; many voters had no clear heuristic telling them which party would best represent their interests and ideological goals, nor which one was to blame for Congress’s failure to advance such aims.

In response, the American Political Science Association (APSA) released a report in 1950 that called on Republicans and Democrats to heighten their contradictions, arguing that “popular government in a nation of 150 million people requires political parties which provide the electorate with a proper range of choices between alternatives of action.”

Sixty-eight years later, we’ve done just as the APSA advised.

Today’s party system offers voters a wide — and clearly labeled — range of alternatives. While myriad policy debates remain stifled by bipartisan consensus (the proper size and role of the U.S. military, for example), it is nevertheless the case that Democrats and Republicans now provide the electorate with stark choices on health care, taxation, social spending, immigration, racial justice, abortion, environmental regulation, labor rights, and myriad other issues. It has rarely, if ever, been more clear what — and whom — each party in the U.S. stands for.

And rarely, if ever, has “popular government” been a worse misnomer for what transpires in our nation’s state and federal capitals.

In 2018, polarization still looms large in the discourse on our democracy’s failings. But these days, it’s seen less as an elixir than a cancer. In fact, some pundits and political scientists regard it as the root of all the Trump era’s evils. In this new telling, our republic may be suffering from a variety of disfiguring illnesses, but all trace back to the damage that hyperpartisanship did to its immune system: Our president may be a kleptocratic conspiracy theorist who oozes contempt for America’s highest ideals (and ignorance of high-school civics) — but only because conservative voters came to despise the Democratic Party more than they loathe self-proclaimed pussy-grabbers. Congress might be barely able to fund its own paychecks, let alone find consensus solutions to policy challenges — but voters only tolerate such gridlock because they’ve come to see compromise as a synonym for their side’s defeat. And Americans might be losing confidence in public institutions, the integrity of their nation’s elections, and the value of democracy itself — but this is largely because so many of them have decided that one of their nation’s two political parties poses an existential threat to their bedrock ideals.

I was happy to see Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum pull ahead in the polls.  Evidently, the group of old white fogies at The Villages fear him.  Being an old fogie myself, I wonder why they hate their Medicare and Social Security so much, but then, I don’t think in terms of black people taking things away from me.  I think in terms of Republicans doing that.

President Donald Trump’s loyalists here at Florida’s premier retirement community fear Andrew Gillum.

It has nothing to do with his race, they insist, when asked about the 39-year-old Democrat who could become the state’s first African-American governor. Instead, The Villages’ deeply conservative residents are convinced a Gillum victory would trigger an era of high crime, higher taxes and moral failing.

“He’ll kill everything that’s good about Florida,” says Talmadge Strickland, a 66-year-old retired firefighter wearing a “Trump 2020″ baseball cap at a rally for Gillum’s opponent. “He will hurt us; he will physically hurt us with his socialist mentality.”

In an era defined by deep political partisanship, there’s perhaps no state where the divide runs deeper than Florida, which is in the grip of a fierce culture clash over guns, race, climate change and the president. Gillum sits at the center of the melee, his campaign a proxy for the larger fight between Democrats and President Donald Trump’s GOP.

Gillum’s fate is inexorably linked to fellow Democrats whose success could determine control of Congress. That’s especially true for three-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who could benefit from Gillum’s appeal among young voters and minorities.

As early voting begins in Florida this week, that link is tenuous.

“New voters and infrequent voters are everything to us winning,” Gillum told The Associated Press when asked about his impact on Nelson’s race. “I think they will vote for both of us, and that will be to his benefit.”

Young people and minorities are traditionally among the least reliable voters, particularly in midterm elections. Meanwhile, white voters in place like The Villages are lining up behind his opponent, former Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis.

The electorate in Florida this year is especially unpredictable due to an unusual collision of events: a massive hurricane, the nation’s deadliest high school shooting and Gillum’s historic candidacy.

Those of us that have had anything to hear from or do with a Trump voter know exactly how angry and ugly they are.  But, be prepared for ads from the RNC that basically say that Dems are the angry mob. We may be angry, but our protests are hardly mob like and Greg Sargent of WAPO’s Plum line explains why we’re angry right back at them.

President Trump and Republicans have adopted a closing electoral strategy that depicts the Democratic Party and “angry” leftist protests against Trumpian rule as the only real reigning threat to our country’s civic fabric and the rule of law. A new Republican National Committee video juxtaposes footage of leading mainstream Democratic figures with that of angry protesters, while decrying “the left” as an “unhinged mob.”

As absurd as this conflation is on its face, it has smuggled itself into the mainstream debate, where it is getting a quasi-respectful hearing, in the form of a public argument over whether Democrats are “going low,” or tacitly egging on their voters to violence, or, by adopting the smashmouth media tactics of Michael Avenatti, succumbing to “Avenatti-ism.”

But much of the resulting debate over all this is hollow, because it is not putting these basic realities front and center: Trump, more than any leading U.S. figure in recent memory, has actively tried to stoke civil conflict on as many fronts as possible. He has concertedly subverted the rule of law, not just to shield himself from accountability, but, more to the point for present purposes, with the deliberate purpose of exciting his minority base — and enraging millions on the other side of the cultural divide — in a manner that is thoroughly corrupt to its core.

Here in New Orleans we like our food, our parades, our holidays, and our music.  Most of us like our beer and bongs and whatever libations that goes along with watching the Saints or celebrating 300 years here.  Yet, every time we have one of those celebrations we get angry white people doing disrespectful things.  We get Westborough Baptist during our Southern Decadence celebration of the GLBT community here.  We get big ol’ sign carrying christians telling us that we’re all about as sinful as you can get during Carnivale.  Now, we get the Proud Boys and their ugly little float during Mardi Gras and our annual celebration of Halloween.  None of them are loving of people or fun.  They are here to buzz saw any one that isn’t like them.

We used to have to endure them during small little windows of time, but now, they assault us daily on all forms of media and in every walk of life. I get weary of all that resentment, hate, and privilege rattling.

Why do they come here to piss on other people’s celebrations?  Why do they have to have laws that cause other people to live their lives according to some other person’s idea of how life needs to be.

We have a few more weeks of these awful rallies and the even worse pictures and words of these poor excuses for human beings.  I’m not sure where the 20 million voters that never show up are, but please, please, please, get rid of these Ugly Americans. Get them back under their rocks and out of our lives and sight.

I want to go back to a January article by Rebbecca Solnit at the Literary Hub. ” 20 MILLION MISSING PEOPLE COULD SAVE AMERICA. ON LIFE IN THE DARK TIMELINE, AND THE MORAL CAUSE OF OUR MOMENT”.

But who is missing? It’s not only the women directors, the black screenwriters, the not-so-misogynist lead journalists in the mainstream.

It’s voters.

Voting is a form of speech, a way you say who you believe in, what kind of world you want to see. Having a voice doesn’t just mean literally being able to say things; it means having a role, having agency, being able to say things that have an impact whether it’s I witnessed this police brutality, or no I don’t want to have sex with you, or this is my vision of society.

As far as I can estimate, about 20 million voters were disenfranchised in the last election. Voter ID laws, the cross-check system, purging voter rolls, the undermining of the Voting Rights Act, making sure there were not enough polling stations or cutting back polling hours, harassing people when they showed up at those stations, taking the vote away from ex-felons—the means are many, and the consequences are that a lot of people have been denied their rights, so much so that it’s the other new Jim Crow. (There is no clear tally of how many voters are missing, and it’s also complicated by the fact that some populations—more than six million Americans with felony convictions, for example—are prevented outright from voting, some face obstacles and harassment—via voter ID laws, for example—that thin out their numbers.)

Politics is how we tell the stories we live by, how we decide if we value the health and well-being of children or not, the autonomy of women’s bodies and equality of our lives, or not, if we protect the Dreamers who came here as small children, or not, if we act on climate change, or not. Voting is far from the only way, but is a key way we decide on what story to base our actions on. We choose a story about who and what matters; we act on that story to rearrange the world around it—and then there are tax cuts to billionaires and children kicked off healthcare, or there are climate agreements and millions of acres of federal land protected and support for universities. We live inside what, during postmodernism’s heyday, we’d call master narratives—so there’s always a question of who’s telling the story, who is in charge of the narrative, and what happens if that changes.

Sometimes when journalists like Ari Berman at Mother Jones—the best voice on this issue—write about the suppression of the votes, people assume they’re saying Hillary Clinton should have won the last presidential election. If you changed who had access to the ballot in 2016, that might be the outcome, but the story is so much bigger than that, and the potential outcomes are so much more radical than that. The Republican Party has maintained a toehold on national power by systematically, strategically, increasingly suppressing the votes of people of color over decades. They are a minority party. They could never win a fair election nationally with their current platform of white grievance and misogyny and favors for the one percent, so they’ve set about to have unfair elections. (And they have also gerrymandered the daylights out of a lot of states to hang onto majorities at the state and national level; in 2012, they took the majority of seats in the lower house of Congress with a minority of overall votes.)

Imagine that those 20 million votes were not suppressed. The Republican Party would be defunct or be unrecognizably different from what it is today. But the Democratic Party would be different too. Imagine that the Democratic Party had to answer to more young people, more poor people, more nonwhite people, more people who believe in strengthening human rights and social service safety nets, economic justice, stronger action on climate change. Imagine a country where Democrats weren’t competing for moderate-to-conservative voters because the electorate was far more progressive—as it would be if all those people who lost their voting rights actually had them (and yeah, more younger people showed up). It wouldn’t change something as small as the outcome of the 2016 election. It would mean different political parties with different platforms and different candidates, different news coverage, different outcomes. It would change the story. It would change who gets to tell the story.

By voting, we can remove the tyranny of the shrinking minority before they completely set the game up so that we never can.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Voting in Georgia

 

I experienced early voting in Georgia this past week…so let me tell you about it…but first keep this in mind:

 

Same as all the other times before, they do not need my voters registration card as verification. The only thing they asked for was my drivers license. All went well. Afterwards, I had some questions to ask, about my son’s voting registration card.

The DMV put the wrong address on his voters registration. To be sure his address on the drivers license was correct. My question was, with the recent news…that everything must match exactly…what is on the registration and what is on the license…would his vote be purged? They got very defensive. Insisting that Jake would have to change his address prior to voting…that he could still vote, but he would need to fill out a form (which the woman who was the head of Union County Registration gave me.) She was the same woman who insisted, as she looked into the computer, that Jake’s address with the DMV was wrong because it matched his voter registration. I could plainly see she was not in the DMV database. It was all a lie. I took it in…and left. That woman even came out after me, to tell me that my son could still vote…she must have thought I was recording her.

 

Yesterday, it was a surprise to find in our mailbox a corrected voters registration.

They must have looked up his voting record and found out he is a Republican.

Now, for a few links. I hope you are enjoying the Mexican Pulp Fiction Covers…aren’t they fabulous.

 

Georgia’s ‘exact match’ law could disenfranchise 909,540 eligible voters, my research finds – The Washington Post

Recently, there’s been an uproar about Georgia’s approach to voter registration. The state’s “exact match” law, passed last year, requires that citizens’ names on their government-issued IDs must precisely match their names as listed on the voter rolls. If the two don’t match, additional verification by a local registrar will be necessary. The Georgia NAACP and other civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit arguing that the measure, effective since July 2017, is aimed at disenfranchising racial minorities in the upcoming midterm elections.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican who is running for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, has put on hold more than 53,000 voters so far, given mismatches in the names in their voting records and other sources of identification such as driver’s licenses and Social Security cards. If the measure takes effect, voters whose information does not exactly match across sources will need to bring a valid photo ID to the polls on Election Day to vote. That could suppress voter turnout, either because some voters lack IDs or because voters are confused about whether they are eligible. Proponents of the rule assert that it is only meant to prevent illegal voting.

[…]

Our analysis found that the “exact match’’ approach would link only 66 percent of voters who were actually the same, correctly identifying about 91 million voters. In other words, “exact matching” would exclude nearly 40 million records that actually did refer to the same voter — disenfranchising quite a few Americans.

What does this mean for Georgia’s voters?

Georgia’s records had a higher proportion of exact matches than we found nationwide — but 30 percent of actual voters still failed to exactly match in that state.

[…]

Using our algorithm, in other words, 91 percent of those on Georgia’s voter rolls would be cleared to vote, or 3,941,342 voting-eligible citizens — while “exact matching” clears only 70 percent, with the potential of disenfranchising 909,540 eligible citizens if no additional checks are conducted..

Read the article to see the exact description of the algorithm.

A few more things about Georgia:

Georgia Officials Spew Excuses For Pulling Black Seniors Off Voting Bus | Crooks and Liars

 

Here is a bit of interesting news:

Centuries-old Sir Walter Raleigh ‘self-portrait’ discovered in the Tower of London, after visitors knock wall

Tower of London

The portrait inside the Bloody Tower of the Tower of London CREDIT: HEATHCLIFF O’MALLEY

He was the English adventurer, author and apothecary who was imprisoned in the Tower of London for 13 years and beheaded in 1618 for allegedly conspiring against King James I.

In preparing to mark this month’s 400th anniversary of Sir Walter Raleigh’s execution, historians have been taken aback to discover a wall painting of a man’s head inside the infamous Bloody Tower, within one of the chambers in which he was confined.

In dating it to the early 17th-century, they believe that it could well have been done by Raleigh himself, perhaps a self-portrait, if not one of the subsequent prisoners held after he was taken to his death.

More at the link.

 

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Lazy Caturday Reads

Young Woman With Cat, by Amy Hill

Good Afternoon!!

Tonight is the 45th anniversary of Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre. I’ll never forget waking up on Sunday morning to the shocking news that Nixon had fired Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. It was mindblowing.

What was shocking in 1973 seems almost quaint now after two years of Trump as “president.” Back then, we had a Democratic Congress and there were some moderate Republicans who eventually stepped up. Today, we really can’t be sure that today’s Congress will be willing or able to check Trump’s power grabs.

A lot is riding on the midterm elections a little more than two weeks away. But as Dakinikat wrote yesterday voters face election interference from Russia and from Republicans determined to suppress our votes.

For now, we still have Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein. We know Trump will try to get rid of them after the elections. Will democracy survive? Is it even still alive?

Fortunately, Mueller is still keeping busy, even though Republicans thought the investigation should be halted during election season.

The Wall Street Journal: Mueller Probes WikiLeaks’ Contacts With Conservative Activists.

Mr. Mueller’s team has recently questioned witnesses about the activities of longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone, including his contacts with WikiLeaks, and has obtained telephone records, according to the people familiar with the matter.

Carel Willink (1900-1983) — Wilma with the Cat

Investigators also have evidence that the late GOP activist Peter W. Smith may have had advance knowledge of details about the release of emails from a top Hillary Clinton campaign official by WikiLeaks, one person familiar with the matter said. They have questioned Mr. Smith’s associates, the person said.

Right-wing pundit Jerome Corsi was also questioned by investigators about his interactions with Mr. Stone and WikiLeaks before a grand jury in September, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Corsi declined to comment. A lawyer for Mr. Stone said he hasn’t been contacted by the special counsel. Mr. Smith died last year….

Throughout 2016, Messrs. Stone, Smith and Corsi, who long worked on the margins of Republican politics, tried to dig up incriminating information about Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, according to emails and some public comments. A lawyer for President Trump didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign staffer who interacted with Mr. Stone, said he also was questioned by Mr. Mueller’s team about communications he had with Mr. Stone regarding WikiLeaks. New York radio host Randy Credico also said the special counsel asked about his communications with Mr. Stone and WikiLeaks. Mr. Credico interviewed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016 and has known Mr. Stone for years.

The role WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange played during the 2016 election as the chief publisher of stolen Democratic emails has been of enduring interest to investigators probing Russian election interference in 2016 and whether there was collusion with Trump associates.

Lots more detail at the link. I don’t think the story is behind the firewall; I got in from Memeorandum.

At Politico, Connor O’Brien and Wesley Morgan write about another problem we may face soon: Newest security worry: Trump without Mattis.

National security leaders fear that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is on his way out — and that Donald Trump’s next Pentagon chief will be far more subservient to the president’s unilateral and bombastic whims.

By Dee Nickerson

Mattis was instrumental in pulling back on Trump’s vow to “carpet bomb” ISIS or pull troops from Afghanistan. He moderated the U.S. military response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons and openly opposed Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal.

Now Trump’s reverence for the retired four-star general has worn thin, and Mattis is widely expected to depart his post sometime after the November elections, according to multiple Pentagon and administration officials with knowledge of personnel discussions. And that’s fueling anxiety among officials of both parties who have viewed him for almost two years as a force for stability.

“Secretary Mattis is one of the only reassuring figures in the Trump administration, and I don’t mean that as a Democratic partisan,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), a member of the Appropriations Committee’s defense panel. “I mean when our partners and our adversaries think about the United States and the Department of Defense, knowing that Secretary Mattis is there strengthens our hand.”

Current and former government officials say they worry about a repeat of what happened when Trump replaced former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster with leading hawk John Bolton, and then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with conservative stalwart Mike Pompeo.

Much more at the link.

Right now, Trump is dealing with an international crisis around the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by making every effort to cover for the Saudi Arabian murderers. To use one of Trump’s favorite words, he is a national disgrace.

Nicholas Kristof: More Insulting Lies From Saudi Arabia. What we face now is a test for President Trump and America itself.

The Saudi government on Friday issued a statement claiming that Jamal was killed when a fistfight went bad in its consulate in Istanbul. Really? This is a fistfight to which the Saudi goons reportedly brought a bone saw so that they could dismember him afterward; by some accounts, they began the dismemberment while he was still alive.

It’s also grotesque for the Saudi authorities to claim that a journalist whose fingers they reportedly amputated as part of their torture somehow managed to engage in a fistfight. Jamal had no fists left….

By Albert Anker, 1831-1910, Swiss painter

Saudi Arabia even announced that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who almost everybody believes must have approved this operation — his initials, M.B.S., are now said to stand for “Mr. Bone Saw” — will lead an investigation into what happened. That’s like appointing O.J. Simpson to investigate the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson.

These lies are so blatant and implausible that they underscore how out of touch M.B.S. is, and also suggest M.B.S. believes that he will have the backing of the United States in this cover-up. That’s a good bet, since Trump has lately celebrated the assault on a journalist by a Montana congressman and previously suggested that maybe a rogue killer was responsible for killing Jamal.

But M.B.S. has already gotten away with kidnapping Lebanon’s prime minister and starving eight million Yemenis; if he also gets away with murdering Jamal, who was an American resident and Washington Post columnist, as many believe happened, then that’s a green light to him and any other autocrat who wants to make a troublesome journalist disappear. Journalists and democracy activists all over the world will have targets on their backs.

Here’s what Trump had to say yesterday about this ridiculous explanation from the Saudis, according to The New York Times:

Asked during a visit to an Air Force base in Arizona whether he viewed the Saudi explanation as credible, Mr. Trump said, “I do.” [….]

On Friday evening, the president praised the statement issued by the Saudi government, which confirmed Mr. Khashoggi’s death, as a “good first step” and a “big step.” Earlier, the prince and other senior Saudi officials had denied any role in Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Girl with Cat by Jana Predikantová

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Prince Mohammed by phone on Friday evening and then briefed Mr. Trump and his national security adviser, John R. Bolton, according to a White House spokesman.

“I think we’re getting close to solving a big problem,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the Luke Air Force Base, where he was shown an Apache helicopter, an F-35 fighter jet and an array of bombs.

Seriously? I don’t think so. For one thing, the CIA has already heard the audiotape of the murder, according to Shane Harris at The Washington Post:

CIA officials have listened to an audio recording that Turkish officials say proves the journalist was killed and dismembered by a team of Saudi agents inside the consulate, according to people familiar with the matter. If verified, the recording would make it difficult for the White House to accept the Saudi version that Khashoggi’s death was effectively an accident. A CIA spokeswoman declined to comment.

At The Atlantic, Hassan Hassan, Senior research fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, wrrites: What’s Missing From the Saudis’ Khashoggi Story.

Seventeen days after the disappearance of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, authorities in Riyadh finally confirmed his death. According to the Saudi version of what happened, Khashoggi died after a fist fight between him and several men at the consulate in Istanbul. Authorities announced the arrest of 18 Saudi nationals, as well as the dismissal of top officials, including an adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The gaps in this story are as significant as the announcement itself.

Saudi authorities did not reveal the location of  Khashoggi’s body, which lends credence to the narrative attributed to Turkish officials over the past two weeks. Even before Turkish authorities were allowed to search the consulate and the residence of the consul general, they suggested that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the consulate. They reached this conclusion based on video footage that showed Khashoggi entered the building but never came out. In an interview with Bloomberg, the crown prince, widely known as MbS, insisted that Khashoggi left the consulate—but if that were true the Saudis could have produced a body.

By Nelly Tsenova (b.1961)

The spontaneous scuffle theory also does not explain the dismissal of the adviser, Saud al-Qahtani, who was perceived as MbS’s right-hand man and thought by some to encourage his worst instincts. Dubbed “the father of electronic flies” by his critics, he’s been accused of using social media bots and trolls to lead smear campaigns against government opponents, especially in the wake of the Qatar crisis. Al-Qahtani oversaw public relations efforts abroad, and was known for combative language online. At the time of this writing, his pinned tweet read: “Some brothers blame me for what they view as harshness. But everything has its time, and talk these days requires such language.”

It’s difficult to understand al-Qahtani’s removal as anything other than a soft rebuke to MbS and his heavy-handedness by King Salman, who stepped in some days ago to manage the fallout from Khashoggi’s murder. A Saudi official told me that the king’s orders could perhaps alter the aggressive way that authorities deal with dissidents.

Turkish investigators say they expect to learn what happened to Kashoggi’s body soon. Reuters:

“We’ll find out what happened to the body before long,” the senior official said. “The DNA is being procured from within Turkey. It seems there will be no need to ask Saudi Arabia at the moment.”

Khashoggi’s killers may have dumped his remains in Belgrad Forest adjacent to Istanbul, and at a rural location near the city of Yalova, a 90-kme (55 mile) drive south of Istanbul, officials told Reuters on Thursday.

Investigators were still focused on the Yalova and Belgrad Forest areas, and were looking at CCTV footage from near Belgrad Forest, the senior official said.

Investigators were also still examining traffic records of every car that went in and out of the Saudi Consulate on Oct.2, the day Khashoggi entered the consulate, the senior official said.

Members of the Saudi royal family are increasingly concerned about whether MBS is competent to lead the kingdom. It’s difficult not to draw parallels between MBS and his American BFF Jared Kushner. A couple articles in this vein:

The New York Times: Uproar Over Dissident Rattles Saudi Royal Family.

Saudi Arabia is facing perhaps its greatest international crisis since the revelation that its citizens planned and carried out the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Robert Braithwaite Martineau – A Girl with a Cat, 1860

Members of the ruling family are increasingly worried about the direction of the country under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 33-year-old favorite son of King Salman and the kingdom’s day-to-day ruler.

But unlike 2001, when the royal family came together to protect its collective interests, this time that may not be possible. Instead, there is deep concern, as royals search, so far in vain, for a way to contain the crown prince, who has consolidated power so completely that nearly everyone else is marginalized.

At The Washington Post, David Von Drehle suggests that MBS “could bring his kingdom crumbling down.”

Among advisers to family-owned businesses there’s a widely known adage : “Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” Difficult as it is to build a successful enterprise, it is more difficult to raise children with the ability and desire to keep it going. Producing one grandchild among a potentially rivalrous set of cousins with the right talent and interests and force and tact — is more challenging still.

Observers of Saudi Arabia have been mulling this problem for many years, as the strongest among founding king Abdul Aziz ibn Saud’s 45 sons passed the crown from one to another. Now, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Post contributing columnist lured to the Saudi Consulate in Turkey, chillingly tells us that generational succession is no longer a future problem. It is a present crisis.

Admittedly, thanks to the ocean of oil discovered beneath the sands of Saud’s realm, there’s no risk of his grandchildren reverting to the nomadic life from which the kingdom was built nearly a century ago. Instead, the risk is that the third generation — lacking its grandfather’s cunning and the caution of its fathers — will drag the kingdom into a spiral of treachery, backstabbing and recklessness. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has shown himself to be steeped in all three.

Read the rest at the link.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


Friday Readings: Vote because Our Lives depend on it

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

The mural to the left is of Georgia gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams located on a building in the Edgewood neighborhood of Atlanta. This building is just blocks from MLK Jr.’s childhood home. White Republicans in Georgia are actively trying to beat her any way they can.

You can tell there is a lot at stake in this election due to the SCOTUS gutting of the Voting Rights Act because there is increasing opportunity and effort to suppress the votes of indigenous peoples in North Dakota and Black people in every southern state and else where.  Republicans are trying to hold power in the Senate to continue the reign of terror and murder of US democracy.

The struggle continues . Dozens of black seniors on their way to early voting in Georgia were ordered off a bus in Jefferson County.

As early voting began Monday in Georgia,a group of black senior citizens gathered for a voter outreach event at Jefferson County’s Leisure Center. Members of Black Voters Matter, one of the groups behind the event, offered to drive the group of about 40 seniors to the polls.

But shortly after the seniors boarded the organization’s bus, county officials stopped the trip, prompting new accusations of voter suppression in a state already dealing with several such controversies.

The event, according to ThinkProgress’s Kira Lerner, was a part of Black Voters Matter’s “The South is Rising” bus tour across seven states to host voter outreach and engagement events. Black Voters Matter is nonpartisan, and the group’s leadership did not encourage the senior citizens to vote for a particular candidate or political party, according to LaTosha Brown, the organization’s co-founder.

Jefferson County Administrator Adam Brett countered that the Monday event constituted “political activity,” noting that a local Democratic Party chair helped sponsor it.

“This is voter suppression, Southern style,” Brown told Think Progress. According to recent Census figures, Jefferson County is 53 percent black, and voting rights advocates cite a lack of transportation as a particularly high barrier to voting for black Georgians. Civil rights groups most recently raised this point in August when a majority-black Georgia county proposed closing all but two of its polling places.

 

There seems to be nothing White Republican men will do these days to hold on to power. It’s astonishing but not surprising. It’s not even subtle any more.  One of the more strange things coming out of Georgia is forcing voter registration clerks to “match signatures” as if they’re experts on handing writing analysis.  From Slate: “Georgia Is Using Amateur Handwriting Analysis to Disenfranchise Minority Voters.  The scourge of “signature mismatch” laws strikes again.”

Say you live in Georgia. You’re eager to vote in this year’s election—a tight race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Trump acolyte Brian Kemp—so you fill out an absentee ballot and mail it in. Then, days or weeks after the election, you receive a notice in the mail. The signature on your absentee ballot, it explains, looked different from the signature on your voter-registration card. So an election official threw out your ballot. There is nothing you can do. Your vote has been voided.

If Georgia’s signature-mismatch law remains in effect through the November election, this fate will befall thousands of would-be voters. The statute directs elections officials to apply amateur handwriting analysis to voters’ signatures and reject any potential “mismatch.” Nearly 500 ballots in Gwinnett County alone have already been rejected for mismatch, a disproportionate number of them cast by minority voters. Now the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia is suing, demanding that the state give all citizens an opportunity to cure ballots rejected for mismatch. Its suit will help determine how successfully Georgia will suppress minority votes in the upcoming race.

Signature-mismatch laws are a scourge of American elections. The very premise makes no sense: In a similar lawsuit filed in New Hampshire, a forensic document examiner testifiedthat effective signature comparison requires 10 signature samples “at a minimum” to account for variability. Even then, experts may struggle to verify a signature, because our signatures often change over time. Voters who are disabled or elderly, or are nonnative English speakers, are especially likely to have variation between signatures. That’s one reason why New Hampshire’s mismatch law disproportionately impacted seniors, California’s disproportionately impacts first-generation Asian Americans, and Florida’s disproportionately impacts Hispanics.

But there’s likely something more insidious going on here too. The extreme racial disparitiesamong those affected by mismatch laws may also reflect the broad discretion that election officials have to toss ballots. In states with stringent mismatch rules, a handful of election officials are frequently responsible for the vast majority of ballots voided for mismatch. And those officials routinely work in counties with large minority communities.

One of the most important ways to circumvent being stopped at the polls or slowed down at the polls on election day is to vote early.  Early votes are pouring into Virginia. The number of absentee ballots arriving to be counted is nearly unbelievable. It’s another reason that Republican legislatures are trying to shorten early voting periods and create long drives to early voting sites.

The number of voters in Virginia who have cast early ballots ahead of the November elections is dramatically up compared with last year, suggesting an electorate that is energized by several hotly contested races for Congress that are spread across the state.

Virginia allows voters to cast “absentee” ballots in person if they have valid excuses for not being able to vote on Election Day.

Nearly 78,000 people have completed ballots since absentee voting began Sept. 15 — more than double the number who voted early by this point last year, according to an analysis of voting data by the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project.

That number is still shy of the 123,221 absentee ballots cast during the 2014 midterm elections, state data shows.

But with a little less than three weeks before the Nov. 6 elections, local election officials say this year’s absentee totals are on pace to eclipse 2014 and may even approach the turnout for the presidential election of 2016, when a near-record 496,452 Virginians cast their ballots early.

“It’s actually quite shocking,” said Richard Keech, deputy director of the elections office in Loudoun County, which has seen a 239 percent jump in absentee voting this year, with 11,106 ballots either already cast or mailed to voters so far.

“This would be the first time without a president on the ballot that we’ve seen this kind of increase,” Keech said

Fairfax County, the state’s largest jurisdiction, has seen a roughly 100 percent increase since last year, with 21,582 absentee votes cast so far, officials said. Nearby, Prince William County, the ­second-largest jurisdiction, has climbed by about 114 percent to 4,693 absentee ballots cast.

Here’s a suggestion from MIchelle Goldberg to prevent “political despair”.   She suggests we “join the women trying to save America from Trump.”

This week, a friend texted me, “I feel a panic that won’t stop.” I didn’t have to ask what she meant; we are, after all, less than three weeks from the midterms. “#MeToo,” I replied.

Many women I know — though, of course, not only women — are walking around with a churning knot of terror in their stomachs. The confirmation of the cruel former frat boy Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court brought back the anguish and degradation so many of us felt after the 2016 election. Donald Trump grows more thuggish and mendacious by the day; “gaslighting,” a term taken from a play about an abusive husband trying to drive his wife insane, has become a byword of our national life.

Republicans are increasingly explicit about campaigning to preserve male power. Criticizing the #MeToo movementearly this month, Trump said it’s “a very scary time for young men in America.” Republican congressman Andy Barr of Kentucky ran a commercial attacking his opponent, former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, for describing herself as a feminist. The Washington Post wrote about how an “outbreak of male resentment” is poised to play a “defining role” in the midterms.

I too have this underlying, nagging anxiety all the time.  No matter how many times I say the mani and take deep breaths. I cannot shake the feeling that the bad guys are pulling out all the stops to stop the rest of us from rising.

Meanwhile, Georgia still stands out as the worst example while the ghost of Lester Maddox grins somewhere from hell.

A handful of states, most of them led by Republicans, are using someone’s decision not to vote as the trigger for removing them from the rolls. No state has been more aggressive with this approach than Georgia, where Brian Kemp, the secretary of state, oversaw the purging of a growing number of voters ahead of his own run for governor, according to an APM Reports investigation. Voting rights advocates call it a new form of voter suppression, and they fear it will soon spread to other states.

Even by Georgia standards, the voter purge of late July 2017 was remarkable. In a single day, more than half a million people — 8 percent of Georgia’s registered voters — were cut from the voter rolls. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, an avid supporter of President Donald Trump who has described himself as a “politically incorrect conservative,” oversaw the removals eight months after he’d declared himself a candidate for governor.

The purge was noteworthy for another reason: For an estimated 107,000 of those people, their removal from the voter rolls was triggered not because they moved or died or went to prison, but rather because they had decided not to vote in prior elections, according to an APM Reports analysis. Many of those previously registered voters may not even realize they’ve been dropped from the rolls. If they show up at the polls on Nov. 6 to vote in the heated Georgia governor’s race, they won’t be allowed to cast a ballot.

Kemp’s opponent, Democrat Stacey Abrams, is vying to become the first African-American woman in U.S. history to serve as a governor. The state has undergone a dramatic influx of African Americans and Latinos whose votes could challenge Republican dominance, and her campaign is trying to turn out people of color, who are more likely to be infrequent voters. If the race is close, the July 2017 purge could affect the outcome.

The APM Reports analysis is the first estimate of the so-called “use it or lose it” policy’s possible impact in Georgia. While 107,000 people may seem like a small number in a state with a population of 10.4 million, elections have been decided by far smaller margins. For instance, the 2016 presidential election was decided in favor of Donald Trump by a total of 77,744 votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Using someone’s decision not to vote as the trigger to remove that person from the rolls is a highly controversial — yet legal — tactic that voting rights advocates say is a potential tool for voter suppression. And its use is on the rise.

APM Reports found that at least nine states — most of them with Republican leadership, including the key battlegrounds of Georgia and Ohio — have purged an estimated hundreds of thousands of people from the rolls for infrequent voting since the 2014 general election. States with these policies are removing voters at some of the highest rates in the nation, no matter the reason.

People are fighting for our right to vote. They have fought over the years and decades to expand the right to vote for all of us. We have the duty and obligation to honor their hard work. I live in a state that seems hopeless and a city that is well represented by Americans of all backgrounds. This election will send my Congressman Cedric Richmond back to the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus. But, I have to admit that I am paying a lot more attention to the judicial races than I used to.  Every race counts these days.

There is one ballot amendment here that will be a statewide vote that would bring significant justice to those incarcerated for major crimes with juries that are not unanimous. Overturning this law would be a significant step forward for Louisiana and I fully support this ballot effort to do so.

What would this ballot measure change about convictions?

Amendment 2 would require the unanimous agreement of jurors to convict people charged with felonies. As of 2018, Louisiana requires the agreement of 10 of 12, or 83 percent, jurors to convict people charged with felonies. Amendment 2 would not affect juries for offenses that were committed before January 1, 2019.[1]

Do other states allow for non-unanimous jury convictions?

As of 2018, Louisiana is one of two states—the other being Oregon—that does not require the unanimous agreement of jurors to convict people charged with felonies. Oregon does, however, require unanimous convictions in murder trials.[2][3]

Have the courts addressed the non-unanimous juries rule?

In Apodaca v. Oregon (1972), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution required unanimous juries to convict persons in federal criminal trials, but that the Fourteenth Amendment did not extend the requirement of unanimous juries to state criminal trials.[4][5]

Oddly enough, the Koch network is supporting this ballot initiative too. As we say, politics can sometimes make for odd bedfellows.

A conservative organization funded by the Koch network launched a digital ad Monday aimed at ending Louisiana’s law that allows split juries to convict people of serious felony crimes, an outreach effort that puts the group at odds with some of its usual allies.

Americans for Prosperity-Louisiana announced the online advertising campaign will be combined with direct-mail pieces and other outreach in support of the constitutional change on the Nov. 6 ballot that would do away with the Jim Crow-era law.

Currently, some serious felony trials in Louisiana, including some murder cases, can be resolved when 10 out of 12 jurors agree on a person’s guilt. Louisiana and Oregon are the only two states that allow non-unanimous verdicts in felony cases. But even Oregon requires a unanimous verdict in murder trials.

Amendment 2 would require jury verdicts in Louisiana to be unanimous to convict someone in all felony cases.

Americans for Prosperity’s 30-second online ad — set to music and without narration — targets libertarian-leaning and conservative voters with a focus on constitutional rights, saying Amendment 2 will “protect American freedom and liberty.” It says Louisiana’s current law makes it “easier to send innocent people to prison.”

“Louisianans deserve a justice system that values, above all else, the rights of the accused in a jury trial. A system that places a higher value on conviction rates than the pursuit of the truth is a system that has no place in our society,” John Kay, Louisiana state director of Americans for Prosperity, said in a statement.

The organization is the main political advocacy group for billionaire Charles Koch, who has supported criminal justice overhauls in several states, including Louisiana. With support of the unanimous jury amendment, along with the criminal-sentencing-law changes, the Koch network has diverged from some other high-profile conservatives in Louisiana, including Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry and several tough-on-crime district attorneys.

But Amendment 2 has drawn an unlikely, bipartisan coalition of support across the political spectrum, from conservative and religious groups to liberal activists.

The constitutional amendment required two-thirds support of lawmakers to reach the November ballot. When Sen. J.P. Morrell, a New Orleans Democrat, first proposed the idea, passage during the regular legislative session was seen as a longshot.

The legislation became the surprise measure of the session, reaching a public vote with widespread support from Democrats and Republicans, picking up steam each step of the process.

gettyimages-891268960black_wide-9bc5d0ff764446aa5c26b48114480562347aa416-s800-c85I would like to say the only stand out thing about the Louisiana Election this year is that we are working to remove this Jim Crow Era law . Our Republican Secretary of State has also purged voter rolls. I made sure I checked my registration earlier this week.  Our State AG is a doozy. We pretty much hate him here in New Orleans.  “AG Landry: Free election day bus rides illegal”.

Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Bruce Conque withdrew a resolution from Tuesday’s agenda that would have provided free bus rides in the city of Lafayette on election days.

Conque said he spoke with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry who concurred with city-parish attorneys’ advice that free bus service is not legal.

“Jeff (Landry) … said he considers it a violation of the Louisiana constitution and he would legally challenge it if we moved forward,” Conque said.

Landry told The Daily Advertiser the Louisiana Secretary of State asked for advice on the matter, so Landry sent him a 1996 Attorney General opinion. That opinion said a school board could not use school buses to bring voters to election polls.

Even though the Lafayette buses would not directly bring riders to the polls, Landry said it is not allowed. The facts of the opinion may differ from the Lafayette case, he said, but the principle behind the conclusion is the same.

This impacts the poor and the elderly. Additionally, here’s some evidence of the Secretary of State’s voter suppression tactics from the Daily  Beast.  Rachel Maddow has been focusing on this issue of voter suppression over the country. We have not yet been featured but Louisiana has done it too.  Here’s our experience with voter purges from Louisiana Weekly.

In July 2018, the Brennan Center for Justice released a report analyzing voter purging across the country showing that between 2014 and 2016 officials removed more than 16 million people from voting rolls nationwide. That’s four million more names than states removed between 2006 and 2008 (the last time frame analyzed).

The center attributes this increase in purging to an increase in the use of sometimes flawed data matching software across states to remove names, as well as conservative activist groups lobbying for, and sometimes suing to get, more purges and tougher legislation to protect against potential non-citizen voters.

Louisiana’s last voter purge was in 2017, a routine post-election clean up that resulted in 55,000 names removed from an inactive voter list of more than 100,000. (There are some three million registered voters in total in the state).

Voters become inactive after they don’t vote in a federal election and, “we don’t have a way to reach them by mail or phone,” says Louisiana secretary of state’s spokeswoman Meg Casper Sunstrom. “In other words, we can’t verify they are living where they are registered to vote. As soon as they participate and vote, they can be removed from the inactive list.”

Some voting rights advocates have criticized past purges in Louisiana, particularly a post-Katrina purge that resulted in a federal lawsuit against the state in 2007. Many displaced people registered for driver’s licenses and acquired temporary residences in other states, and data matching systems subsequently flagged their names as potential “double voters” – people registered to vote in multiple states. Millions of people are registered in two places, and research shows that since 2000, around 30 cases of voter fraud have been validated in the United States.

Despite little to no evidence of illegal voting across the country, the Trump Administration has aggressively pursued efforts to curtail even the possibility of fraud – creating a now defunct national voter fraud task force and asking states to turn over detailed information on individual voters. Then, Louisiana secretary of state Tom Schedler declined the task force’s request, offering only the same (less extensive) data available for purchase to political candidates online.

We must stop this dreadful disenfranchisement and removal of rights from citizens.  If we don’t attack it by voting and by bringing attention to voter suppression efforts it will only get worse.  It can only benefit Trump and the white patriarchy who oppresses the majority of people in the country and can only contain them with gerrymandering and voter suppression.  Increased voter participation by the rest of this lessens the chance they are successful.

Don’t forget to vote!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?