Lazy Caturday Reads: Lighter Stories for a Dark Time

By Didier Lourenco

Good Morning!!

I hope all you Sky Dancers are having a nice weekend! I’m going to stick with lightweight stories today, because I’ve been feeling so discouraged by the political news. So here goes.

You know that impenetrable wall that Trump is trying build on our Southern border? It’s not working out so well. The Washington Post: Smugglers are sawing through new sections of Trump’s border wall.

SAN DIEGO — Smuggling gangs in Mexico have repeatedly sawed through new sections of President Trump’s border wall in recent months by using commercially available power tools, opening gaps large enough for people and drug loads to pass through, according to U.S. agents and officials with knowledge of the damage.

The breaches have been made using a popular cordless household tool known as a reciprocating saw that retails at hardware stores for as little as $100. When fitted with specialized blades, the saws can slice through one of the barrier’s steel-and-concrete bollards in a matter of minutes, according to the agents, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the barrier-defeating techniques.

By Nastya Ozozo

After cutting through the base of a single bollard, smugglers can push the steel out of the way, allowing an adult to fit through the gap. Because the bollards are so tall — and are attached only to a panel at the very top — their length makes them easier to push aside once they have been cut and are left dangling, according to engineers consulted by The Washington Post….

Trump has increasingly boasted to crowds in recent weeks about the superlative properties of the barrier, calling it “virtually impenetrable” and likening the structure to a “Rolls-Royce” that border-crossers cannot get over, under or through.

Hahahahaha!! A bit more:

The smuggling crews have been using other techniques, such as building makeshift ladders to scale and overtop the barriers, especially in the popular smuggling areas in and around San Diego, according to nearly a dozen U.S. agents and current and former administration officials….

The U.S. government has not disclosed the cutting incidents and breaches, and it is unclear how many times they have occurred. U.S. Customs and Border Protection declined to provide information about the number of breaches, the location of the incidents and the process for repairing them. Matt Leas, a spokesman for the agency, declined to comment, and CBP has not yet fulfilled a Freedom of Information Act request seeking data about the breaches and repairs. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the private contractors building the barrier, referred inquires to CBP….

In the San Diego area, smugglers have figured out how to cut the bollards and return them to their original positions, disguising the breaches in the hope that they will go unnoticed and can be reused for repeated passage. Agents said they have learned to drive along the base of the structure looking for subtle defects, testing the metal by kicking the bollards with their boots.

Kazuaki Horitomo, tattooed cats

If damage is detected, welding crews are promptly sent to make fixes. The smugglers, however, have returned to the same bollards and cut through the welds, agents say, because the metal is softer and the concrete at the core of the bollard already has been compromised. The smugglers also have tried to trick agents by applying a type of putty with a color and texture that resembles a weld, making a severed bollard appear intact.

I guess it’s not so funny when you think about what a waste of taxpayer money this boondoggle is.

Also at The Washington Post, yesterday Alexandra Petri had a little fun with Trump’s announcement that he’s now a Florida resident: ‘Why I’m Leaving New York,’ by Donald Trump. A sample:

I did not leave for a long while because I was in love with New York. I do not mean love in the gross way you feel inside that makes you weak. I mean love like, the city begged and pleaded with me, the city wanted to give me everything, they would catch and kill the bad stories for me. Here I was in Manhattan.

I remember when my publicist and I first moved to Manhattan. We needed new faces. All the old faces of contractors were upset, they whined and sobbed, they said, pay me, pay me, please. But I didn’t pay them. New York was a wonderful place, a brass jungle where dreams were made of, where you did not have to pay the people who built the dreams.

But the city changed. They say I changed, but you know. I remember. One morning I woke up and something was different. There was a time when there were so many mobsters in my office that I worried about inviting cameras in to film the first season of “The Apprentice.” Where everything was brass, or at least brazen. When the smell of graft rose up from the whatever the river is called, and it was a good place to have a family, to not change your kids’ diapers in. Did the city change, or did I, or did the tax rate, or did the ongoing prosecution by the SDNY?

By Will Barnet, American, 1911-2012

So I said, should I leave? And the people cried.

A man came up to me on the street, he said, “Sir, you can’t leave, you can’t leave New York!” And he was crying. He said, “It’s going to be carnage if you leave, sir, it’s going to be bloody, painful carnage.” And I said, “I know, believe me, it’s going to be bad, but I have to do it! What can I say? They don’t tax you so good here in New York City. They don’t treat you very nice.” I said, “Maybe treat me nice, and I will stay.” But they didn’t treat me nice, and now I have to go.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

At The New York Times, Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt analyze Trump’s insane storytelling about the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi:

It was a vivid scene worthy of the ending of a Hollywood thriller, the image of a ruthless terrorist mastermind finally brought to justice “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way” to his death. But it may be no more true than a movie script.

In the days since President Trump gave the world a graphic account of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s last minutes, no evidence has emerged to confirm it. The secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the regional commander who oversaw the operation that killed the leader of the Islamic State all say they have no idea what the president was talking about.

Four other Defense Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share details of the raid, said they had seen no after-action reports, situation reports or other communications that support Mr. Trump’s claim. Nor did they have any indication that Mr. Trump spoke with any of the Delta Force commandos or ground commanders in the hours between the Saturday night raid and his Sunday morning televised announcement.

One American official who was deeply familiar with the operation dismissed the president’s version of events as mere grandstanding. Another senior official briefed extensively on the mission said, “I don’t know how he would know that. It sounds like something he made up.” The surveillance drone video Mr. Trump watched in the Situation Room had no live audio.

‘Hallowed Cat’ by Nicola Slattery

But we’re so used to Trump’s constant exaggerations and lies that no one seems to care.

That Mr. Trump seems to have made up the scene of a whimpering terrorist may be shocking on one level yet not all that surprising from a president who over the years has made a habit of inventing people who do not exist and events that did not happen. Mr. Trump’s flexibility with fact has become such an established feature of his presidency that polls show most Americans, including even many of his own supporters, do not, as a rule, take him at his word.

What may be most telling about the episode is how little attention the disparity of details received. In the past, presidential words were scrutinized with forensic exactitude and any variance from the established record could do lasting political damage. In the era of Trumpian truth, misstatements and lies are washed away by the next story, prompting Pinocchios from fact checkers and scolding from Democrats and Never Trumpers while Republicans dismiss them with that’s-just-Trump-being-Trump weariness.

“Donald Trump is not simply a serial liar; he is attempting to murder the very idea of truth, which is even worse,” said Peter Wehner, a former strategic adviser to President George W. Bush and an outspoken critic of Mr. Trump. “Because without truth, a free society cannot operate.”

Emphasis added.

The New York Times has three stories today analyzing Trump’s Twitter feed and the power of its influence. Here’s the main one: In Trump’s Twitter Feed: Conspiracy-Mongers, Racists and Spies.

Mr. Trump, whose own tweets have warned of deep-state plots against him, accused the House speaker of treason and labeled Republican critics “human scum,” has helped spread a culture of suspicion and distrust of facts into the political mainstream.

The president is also awash in an often toxic torrent that sluices into his Twitter account — roughly 1,000 tweets per minute, many intended for his eyes. Tweets that tag his handle, @realDonaldTrump, can be found with hashtags like #HitlerDidNothingWrong, #IslamIsSatanism and #WhiteGenocide. While filters can block offensive material, the president clearly sees some of it, because he dips into the frothing currents and serves up noxious bits to the rest of the world.

By Kelly Beeman

By retweeting suspect accounts, seemingly without regard for their identity or motives, he has lent credibility to white nationalists, anti-Muslim bigots and obscure QAnon adherents like VB Nationalist, an anonymous account that has promoted a hoax about top Democrats worshiping the Devil and engaging in child sex trafficking….

The New York Times examined Mr. Trump’s interactions with Twitter since he took office, reviewing each of his more than 11,000 tweets and the hundreds of accounts he has retweeted, tracking the ways he is exposed to information and replicating what he is likely to see on the platform. The result, including new data analysis and previously unreported details, offers the most comprehensive view yet of a virtual world in which the president spends significant time mingling with extremists, impostors and spies.

Fake accounts tied to intelligence services in China, Iran and Russia had directed thousands of tweets at Mr. Trump, according to a Times analysis of propaganda accounts suspended by Twitter. Iranian operatives tweeted anti-Semitic tropes, saying that Mr. Trump was “being controlled” by global Zionists, and that pulling out of the Iran nuclear treaty would benefit North Korea. Russian accounts tagged the president more than 30,000 times, including in supportive tweets about the Mexican border wall and his hectoring of black football players. Mr. Trump even retweeted a phony Russian account that said, “We love you, Mr. President!”

In fact, Mr. Trump has retweeted at least 145 unverified accounts that have pushed conspiracy or fringe content, including more than two dozen that have since been suspended by Twitter. Tinfoil-hat types and racists celebrate when Mr. Trump shares something they promote. After he tweeted his support for white farmers in South Africa, replies included “DONALD IS KING!” and “No black man can develop land.”

Read the analyses at the NYT.

Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread. I hope you’re enjoying a great Fall weekend!


37 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads: Lighter Stories for a Dark Time”

  1. dakinikat says:

    Looks like Pelosi agrees with you…

    • bostonboomer says:

      She’s right as usual. I also think it isn’t helpful for Warren to claim that other candidates who want to expand on the ACA are using Republican talking points.

      • quixote says:

        Reminds me of what you said yesterday about the Gene McCarthy vibe. It’s all there: the actually sensible left-wing positions — ending use of fossil fuels in 10 years? It’s not optional, fergawdsake! the hurricanes and fires and floods don’t care how you feel — the Repubs shouting about booga-booga! taxes! defense! be very scared! — and stealing the election blind any way they know how.

        That was one thing that rubbed me the wrong way in what she said: “Remember November,” she said. “You must win the Electoral College.” Should have been: “Remember November. You must get enough turnout to stop the vote being stolen again.”

        I know she’s not supposed to say stuff like that as Speaker, but we really really really need to start speaking the truth. This is not a garden party.

        • NW Luna says:

          Yes.

          Still mad that my climate-change plus good economy plus women’s rights, gun control and pro-union Governor didn’t get the media attention he deserved. Well, at least we’ll get him for a third term as Guv here. We’ll need good Democratic governors more than ever if Trump steals the election again.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    The Independent: ‘It’s like nothing we have come across before’: UK intelligence officials shaken by Trump administration’s requests for help with counter-impeachment inquiry

    ….overshadowed by the publicity around the impeachment, is the ever-broadening investigation by William Barr, the attorney general, which the White House sees as a game-changer. An investigation which is seeking nothing less than to overturn the conclusion of the US intelligence services and special counsel Robert Mueller that Russia interfered in the last US presidential election….

    The attorney general is focusing on the theory, aired on far-right conspiracy sites, and raised by Trump and Giuliani, that Ukraine framed Vladimir Putin over the US election in a complex triple-cross operation by impersonating Russian hackers.

    Trump and Barr have also been asking other foreign governments for help in investigating the FBI, CIA and Mueller investigators. The US president has called on the Australian prime minister Scott Morrison for assistance, while the attorney general has been on similar missions to the UK and Italy.

    And the information being requested has left allies astonished. One British official with knowledge of Barr’s wish list presented to London commented that “it is like nothing we have come across before, they are basically asking, in quite robust terms, for help in doing a hatchet job on their own intelligence services”.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    • quixote says:

      That was a CNN graphic? They’ve got Tulsi and Beto but no Harris??

      Not to go all Deep State or anything, but it’s getting really hard to see any plausible explanation except malice aforethought. Plain old racism and sexism, at CNN’s polite level, isn’t enough.

      • quixote says:

        Sorry, C-SPAN. Same point, though. Even more so, since they’re supposed to be even more neutrally professional.

      • quixote says:

        More odd Kamala erasure:

        Earlier today, @United4Kamala was suspended without warning and without notification as to the cause. This grassroots account only to support Kamala Harris and is neither fake not harassing anyone. Please help us draw @TwitterSupport’s attention to this. Thank you.

        • bostonboomer says:

          The account was probably mass reported by Warren/Bernie fans.

          • NW Luna says:

            Yep, though I suspect the Berniebros were in the majority.

          • dakinikat says:

            I have never met a warren person that would do that. I’ve seen the campaigns that harass people on line Of course, the bros are the worse but it just likely got caught up in the new twitter algorithm and can be re certified easily if it’s what every one thinks it is …

        • bostonboomer says:

          Here’s the speech.

        • dakinikat says:

          It probably got caught up in the new twitter policy on no political ads

          • bostonboomer says:

            “Political ads” now includes personal tweets? I don’t think so. I’ve seen multiple examples of this happening, mostly because of Bernie bros swarming someone’s TL. BTW, Twitter is still posting paid political ads. I just saw one for Warren.

          • dakinikat says:

            hmm,, they sent out a notification about this. I was wondering if it was ready for prime time. I figured some accounts would likely wrongly get blocked but I figured they’d catch the obvious ones. I think the candidates are allowed to tweet things because I see stuff like this from Kamala’s tweets all the time as Elizabeth Warren and Amy and all the ones I follow. I rather thought it was to go after accounts that looked like ad bots for candidates.

          • dakinikat says:

            https://business.twitter.com/en/help/ads-policies/restricted-content-policies/political-content/political-campaigning-advertising-policy-FAQs.html

            Who does the policy apply to?
            The policy varies across markets but generally applies to ads that advocate for or against a candidate or political party, or ads by candidates and/or entities registered with their respective electoral commission.

            Does the policy apply to individuals currently in office?

            The policy only applies to individuals in office if they are also candidates in a general election, or if they advocate for/against a candidate or political party. See country-specific policies for additional detail.

            Does the political campaigning policy apply to issue advocacy advertising?

            No, we distinguish between campaigning and issue advocacy ads. Issue advocacy is allowed globally except in France. In the US, advertisers must get certified and meet additional criteria.

            Does the policy apply to news publishers?

            No, the policy does not apply to news publishers unless they explicitly advocate for or against a candidate running for general election.

            Do ads that only ‘refer’ to current candidates fall under the political campaigning policy?

            No, only ads that ‘advocate’ for candidates. In the US only, ads that ‘refer’ to candidates fall under the issue ads policy and must get certified.

            Are there payment restrictions for political campaigning advertisers?

            Yes. Political campaigning advertisers in Australia, Canada, India and United States are prohibited from using foreign payment methods. For EU Political campaigning advertisers, payment methods are allowed only in currencies from EU member countries where political campaigning is permitted.

            What promoted products and ad units do political campaigning advertisers have access to?

            Political campaigning ads may only be promoted via the use of Promoted Tweets and In-Stream Video Ads; no other Twitter advertising products or units are permitted including, but not limited to, Promoted Trends, First View, Spotlight, or custom emojis. This restriction applies to all political campaigning advertisers per Twitter’s global Political Content Policy.

            What information is shown in the Ads Transparency Center for political campaigning advertisers?

            The Ads Transparency Center shows billing information, spend, and impression data per Tweet and campaign disclaimers and demographic targeting data –both intended by the advertiser and actually delivered by Twitter– per campaign. For more information see the ATC FAQs.

  4. bostonboomer says:

  5. dakinikat says:

  6. bostonboomer says:

  7. NW Luna says:

    BB, you’ve outdone yourself with the cat paintings this Saturday!