Tuesday Reads: Bad News and Bad Hair

Bad News, by Ethan Jack Harrington

Good Morning!!

Sorry for the possibly disturbing image–there was just something I liked about it. Anyway, it’s Tuesday, and two formerly great nations–the USA and Great Britain–are now led by doltish leaders with embarrassingly bad hair. Welcome to the 21st Century.

The Guardian: Boris Johnson elected new Tory leader.

Boris Johnson will become Britain’s next prime minister after winning a convincing victory over Jeremy Hunt in the Conservative party leadership race.

The former mayor of London, who has long cherished an ambition to lead his country, won 66% of the votes – 92,153, to Hunt’s 46,656. Turnout was 87.4% among 159,320 party members.

In a characteristically lighthearted acceptance speech, Johnson conceded that even some of his own supporters may “wonder quite what they have done”….

He reminded his audience of ministers and party staff of his campaign mantra: “Deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat Jeremy Corbyn.”

Saying “some wag” had pointed out that this spelled “dud”, he joked that the final e – “E for energise” – had been left out. “I say to all the doubters: dude, we are going to energise the country!”

And Johnson said he would “get Brexit done by 31 October” with a “new spirit of can-do”.

“We are once again going to believe in ourselves and what we can achieve, and like some slumbering giant we are going to rise and ping off the guy-ropes of self-doubt and negativity.”

Remember Cesar Sayoc? He’s the rabid Trump fan who sent mail bombs to people Trump attacked publicly on Twitter or elsewhere. Sayoc is on trial right now.

Ryan J. Reilly at HuffPost: Lawyers For Trump ‘Super Fan’ Cesar Sayoc Say Trump’s Rhetoric Inspired Terrorist Plot On Democrats.

Cesar Sayoc, the fanatical Donald Trump fan who mailed package bombs to the president’s political opponents, is a cognitively limited sexual abuse survivor who thought of the now-president as a “surrogate father” and came to believe in an “alternative reality” fueled in part by Trump’s attacks on his political opponents, his attorneys told a federal court on Monday.

Sayoc has admitted to mailing pipe bombs to Democratic politicians, media figures and celebrities he perceived as Trump’s enemies last fall, and pleaded guilty to several federal crimes in March. He could face life in prison when he’s sentenced on August 5, but his federal public defenders said Monday he should serve 10 years in prison followed by community supervision (as well as mental health counseling and drug treatment).

Cesar Sayoc’s van plastered with anti-Hillary and pro-Trump images

Sayoc, his attorneys wrote in a sentencing memo filed in federal court in New York on Monday, was a Trump “super fan” and “began to consider Democrats as not just dangerous in theory, but imminently and seriously dangerous to his personal safety.”

“President Trump did nothing to dissuade this message,” they write. Their filing cites Trump’s Twitter attacks on the figures Sayoc targeted.

Sayoc was a Trump fan before the reality television host ran for president, and viewed him as “everything he wanted to be: self-made, successful, and a ‘playboy,’” his attorneys wrote.

But Sayoc “began watching Fox News religiously,” started following political news on Facebook and and “threw himself into” Trump’s campaign once he announced his candidacy because he “came to view Trump as a personal champion—someone who had helped him through the most difficult periods of his life and who could do the same for other people across the country.”

Click on the link to read the rest.

The Trump administration is proposing a frightening new immigration policy.

The Washington Post: Trump administration to expand its power to deport undocumented immigrants.

The Trump administration on Tuesday will significantly expand its power to quickly deport undocumented immigrants who have illegally entered the United States within the past two years, using a fast-track deportation process that bypasses immigration judges.

Officials are calling the new strategy, which will take effect immediately, a “necessary response” to the influx of Central Americans and others at the southern border. It will allow immigration authorities to quickly remove immigrants from anywhere they encounter them across the United States, and they expect the approach will help alleviate the nation’s immigration-court backlog and free up space in Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails.

Trump HItler by Pegasus

The stated targets of the change are people who sneaked into the United States and do not have an asylum case or immigration-court date pending. Previously, the administration’s policy for “expedited removal” had been limited to migrants caught within 100 miles of the U.S. border who had been in the country for less than two weeks. The new rule would apply to immigrants anywhere in the United States who have been in the country for less than two years — adhering to a time limit included in the 1996 federal law that authorized the expedited process.

Immigrants apprehended in Iowa, Nebraska or other inland states would have to prove to immigration officials that they have been in the United States continuously for the past two years, or they could end up in an immigration jail facing quick deportation. And it could be relatively low-level immigration officers — not officers of a court — making the decisions.

What this means in reality is that anyone in the U.S. could be ordered by ICE/CBP to “show your papers.” From the article:

Immigrants’ advocates warned that the policy could ensnare longtime legal residents or even U.S. citizens who have been deported in error before. Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said she fears the rule will lead to increased racial profiling and turn ICE into a “show-me-your-papers militia.”

“This new directive flows directly from the racist rhetoric that the president has been using for the last week and indeed months, but this new rule is going to terrorize communities of color,” said Gupta, who was head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama.

U.S. citizens could be rapidly deported on the word of an ICE agent, without a court hearing. Read this story in The Dallas Morning News: A Dallas-born citizen picked up by the Border Patrol has been detained for three weeks.

An 18-year-old Dallas-born U.S. citizen has been in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for more than three weeks, his attorney says.

Now his family fears he may be deported.

Bully Culprit, by Robbie Conal

Francisco Erwin Galicia was detained at a CBP checkpoint in Falfurrias on June 27, said Claudia Galan, his attorney.

Galicia was traveling with his 17-year-old brother Marlon Galicia and a group of friends from Edinburg where they live to Ranger College in North Texas for a soccer scouting event when they came upon a CBP checkpoint, said Sanjuana Galicia, his mother.

It was about 8 p.m. Marlon, who was born in Mexico and lacked legal status, had only been through a border checkpoint on school trips and had never been pressed to provide travel documents.

But this time was different, Marlon said. He had only a school ID. His brother was carrying only his Texas ID, which can only be obtained with a Social Security number.

“We were confident that we’d be able to pass. We were going to do something good for our futures,” he said. “I didn’t imagine this could happen and now I’m so sad that I’m not with my family,” Marlon said by phone from Reynosa, Mexico, where he is staying with his grandmother.

After two days in detention, Marlon signed a voluntary deportation form.

“I signed because I wanted to talk with my mom. Now, we just have to wait and see and hope that they release my brother,” Marlon said.

Francisco Galicia told his mother, who lives in Edinburg, that he was detained because he didn’t have his U.S. passport. But she said he did present CBP with his Texas ID.

Read more at the link.

And of course Trump’s brown shirts are already torturing children in his concentration camps. NBC News reports: Abner, 17, describes 11 days of hunger and thirst at Yuma’s border station.

Abner, a 17-year-old Guatemalan boy, vividly recalls the first 48 hours he spent inside the U.S. Border Patrol station in Yuma, Arizona. He was awake for all of them because there was no space to lie down.

James Ostrer, Emotion Download

Packed into a cell with other migrant boys, Abner said the older children would give the 8, 9, and 10-year-olds space to lie down on the floor while they would try to sleep sitting or standing up. With nothing to cover him, Abner would tremble.

“I had to stay almost two days like this, standing. I didn’t sleep. And they didn’t treat me well because I would ask for at least food or water or something to cover myself with and they would deny it,” Abner told NBC News in Spanish.

Eventually, he learned to sleep on a pile of trash in the corner of the cell, said Abner, who does not want his full name or his face used out of fear he will be targeted for deportation….

In total Abner spent 11 days from late May to early June in the Yuma border station. He describes them as filled with hunger and thirst, extreme temperatures and fear of the guards manning the facility. They refused to give him food when he asked, mocked him if he asked what time it was, and, on one occasion, punched another boy in the stomach, Abner said.

Abner says the children were fed only twice a day.

The older boys in Abner’s cell learned to protect the younger children, whose cries would anger the guards.

“Sometimes, we would give one [hamburger] to the little ones. Because the little ones were the ones that wanted to eat more than others. At least, [the older kids could] stand the hunger a little more,” Abner said.

This is being done in our name, and the whole world is watching.

I haven’t yet said anything about Robert Mueller’s Congressional testimony tomorrow. I’m sure you’ve heard that what used to be called the Department of Justice but is now Donald Trump’s personal law firm is trying to put limits on what Mueller can say. Politico reports:

Justice Department officials have communicated to Robert Mueller that the department expects him to limit his congressional testimony this week to the public findings of his 448-page report, according to one current and one former U.S. official familiar with the preparations.

In extensive discussions since the former special counsel was subpoenaed on June 25 to testify, department officials have emphasized that they consider any evidence he gathered throughout the course of his investigation to be “presumptively privileged” and shielded from public disclosure.

Of course this is complete bullshit. Mueller is a private citizen now and doesn’t have to take orders from Bill Barr or Trump. Also from Politico: Nadler calls DOJ ‘incredibly arrogant’ for trying to limit Mueller’s testimony.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler on Tuesday blasted President Donald Trump’s Justice Department as “incredibly arrogant” for instructing Robert Mueller to limit the scope of his upcoming congressional testimony.

But the New York Democrat predicted that the Justice Department’s Monday directive would not affect Wednesday’s highly anticipated pair of hearings with the former special counsel.

“I don’t think it’s much of an impediment, simply because Bob Mueller had indicated repeatedly that he was going to do exactly that,” Nadler said on CNN. “I think it’s incredibly arrogant of the department to try to instruct him as to what to say. It’s a part of the ongoing cover-up by the administration to keep information away from the American people, but I think that it’s not going to have a real impact.”

Here are some articles on Muller’s long-anticipated testimony:

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Here’s how Mueller’s testimony could damage Trump.

Carol Lee at NBC News: Among the questions for Mueller: Why wasn’t Donald Trump Jr. interviewed?

Neil Kaytal at The New York Times: With Three Simple Answers, Mueller Can Speak Volumes.

In June, Mimi Rocha wrote at NBC News Think: What Barr’s ongoing smear campaign against Robert Mueller is really about.

The Daily Beast: Can Mueller Cut Through Barr’s ‘Fog of Propaganda’?

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Heat Wave

Good Afternoon!!

Here in Boston, today could be the hottest day of the year so far and tomorrow will likely be about the same. We may hit 100 degrees and it will feel even hotter. The Boston Globe published some “heat hacks” to help people cool down. Here are a couple of examples:

If you’re tossing and turning in bed and having trouble falling asleep in the blistering heat,Consumer Reports offers this interesting trick: Put your sheets and pillowcases in a sealable plastic bag and stash them in the freezer so they’ll be nice and cold when you hit the hay….

New York State Office for the Aging suggests…“Fill three plastic soda bottles full of water, freeze them but in a manner to not damage them (liquid expands on freezing), then place them in a large bowl,” the agency’s website states. “Position a fan to blow on them.. … The water in the bottles can be refrozen and used repeatedly.” [….]

Seattle City Light suggests putting lotion and moisturizers in your fridge to cool down your skin.

I might try that last one. This reminds me of the scene in The Seven-Year Itch when Marilyn Monroe explains how she keeps her panties and potato chips in the fridge next to the champagne.

USA Today: Searing heat across nation, reaching 100 degrees in some spots, takes its toll on events and roads.

A relentless heat wave gripped the country from the central states to the East Coast Saturday, prompting cancellation of the New York City Triathlon and producing cracked and buckled roads in some Plains states. Some East Coast cities braced for temperatures in the triple digits.

As the stifling heat — expected to affect 200 million people — settled in for at least a fifth day, the National Weather Service issued an Excessive Heat Warnings and Heat Advisory from parts of the Texas Panhandle to the Ohio Valley, around the Great Lakes, parts of the Mid-Atlantic and in the Northeast.

An Excessive Heat Warning is issued when the combination of heat and humidity is expected to make it feel like it is 105 degrees or greater.

Daytime temperatures in the mid to upper 90s or higher plus high humidity will result in heat indices as high as 115 for some, forecasters said.

Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston were bracing for weekend temperatures in the triple digits. New York City and Baltimore were under a Code Red Extreme Heat Alert that is expected to continue through Sunday.

“It’s been since July of 2012 that Chicago and Philadelphia both hit 100 degrees, and Washington, D.C., hasn’t hit 100 since August of 2016,” says AccuWeather Meteorologist Danielle Knittle.

In addition, forecasters warned that overnight temperatures were not likely to fall far enough to bring relief, pariticularly in larger cities, like Chicago, St. Louis and New York City.

CBS News is posting live updates: Massive heat wave blamed for at least 6 deaths.

Dr. Christopher Rodriguez, the district’s director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said officials will be monitoring the dangerous temperatures from an operations center.

“This is going to be one of the most severe heat events that we’ve had in the last several years,” Rodriguez said.

While midwestern cities like Milwaukee and Chicago will be affected, the East Coast is expected to take the brunt of it. Temperatures are expected to range from the mid 90’s to the triple digits, with the heat index making it feel as hot as 100 to 115 degrees.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned the heat can be a silent killer. Doctors are warning to watch out for signs of heat illness. Symptoms can include headache, muscle cramps, nausea. another sign is a lack of sweating.

Vox: The worst part of a heat wave is when it doesn’t cool off at night.

Extreme heat is one of the deadliest weather phenomena in the world. There are direct health effects like heat stroke, which occurs when body temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to organ failure, and heat exhaustion.

But high temperatures can also worsen conditions like high blood pressure and can limit the effectiveness of certain medications. Heat can also exacerbate air pollution, which in turn can send people to the emergency room due to breathing problems….

While it may cool off after the sun sets during a heat wave, it may not cool off enough for people who have been exposed to high temperatures all day. That leads to a higher cumulative exposure to heat.

One study examining the 2003 heat wave in Europe that killed upward of 70,000 people found that nighttime temperatures were a key indicator of the health risk from high temperatures. There’s also research that shows high nighttime temperatures disrupt sleep. Without relief from the heat, the stresses on the body mount.

Over the weekend, forecasters expect evening temperatures will stay above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with the heat index remaining above 90 degrees, in some areas along the East Coast. That will make it hard for some to cool off. Health officials advise staying hydrated, wearing light clothing, and avoiding the outdoors.

It’s worse if you live in a city.

Part of the reason temperatures stay high after sunset in many parts of the country is because of the urban heat island effect. Dense cities with their concrete, steel, glass, and asphalt soak up more heat than their rural surroundings, causing temperatures to rise further than they would have otherwise during the day. In the evening, those artificial surfaces continue to dissipate their accumulated heat, keeping denizens from keeping cool.

Our efforts to keep cool can also paradoxically make cities heat up. Air conditioners venting hot air outside can contribute to urban warming, and if the electricity that powers them comes from fossil fuels, they can increase the amount of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.

At The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer writes that “July 2019 is likely to be the hottest month ever measured.”

For the next several days, a vast blanket of oppressive heat will smother the eastern two-thirds of the United States, subjecting tens of millions of people to searingly hot days and forbidding, unrelenting nights. From the southern Plains to New England, inescapable humidity will meet broiling air to produce heat indexes in excess of 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

We are not simply talking about a series of sweltering afternoons. Even hours after the sun sets, air temperatures could hang well above 90, dipping below the 80-degree mark only in the moments before dawn. The heat index in some big cities—including New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.—may sit above the mid-80s for 72 hours straight.

“July is shaping up to be the warmest July on record—and probably the warmest month ever measured, since July is the hottest month of the year,” Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth, told me. “Obviously, we still have half the month to go. But so far, it’s on track.” (Since most of the planet’s land surface is north of the equator, and since land heats up faster than the ocean, the Northern Hemisphere’s summers are the hottest months of the year for the whole planet.)

If that mark is realized, then two months in a row will be the hottest of their type ever measured, since last month was the hottest June ever recorded. And the odds are good that 2019 will be the second-warmest year on record, Hausfather told me. Either way, it’s a near-certainty that the past six years, including this one, will be the hottest six years ever measured.

And yet the Republican Party refuses to acknowledge the causes and effects of climate change.

Today might be a good time to refer back to David Wallace Wells’ 2017 article at New York Magazine. The Uninhabitable Earth: Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.

It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough.

Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.

Even when we train our eyes on climate change, we are unable to comprehend its scope. This past winter, a string of days 60 and 70 degrees warmer than normal baked the North Pole, melting the permafrost that encased Norway’s Svalbard seed vault — a global food bank nicknamed “Doomsday,” designed to ensure that our agriculture survives any catastrophe, and which appeared to have been flooded by climate change less than ten years after being built….

But no matter how well-informed you are, you are surely not alarmed enough. Over the past decades, our culture has gone apocalyptic with zombie movies and Mad Max dystopias, perhaps the collective result of displaced climate anxiety, and yet when it comes to contemplating real-world warming dangers, we suffer from an incredible failure of imagination. The reasons for that are many: the timid language of scientific probabilities, which the climatologist James Hansen once called “scientific reticence” in a paper chastising scientists for editing their own observations so conscientiously that they failed to communicate how dire the threat really was; the fact that the country is dominated by a group of technocrats who believe any problem can be solved and an opposing culture that doesn’t even see warming as a problem worth addressing; the way that climate denialism has made scientists even more cautious in offering speculative warnings; the simple speed of change and, also, its slowness, such that we are only seeing effects now of warming from decades past; our uncertainty about uncertainty, which the climate writer Naomi Oreskes in particular has suggested stops us from preparing as though anything worse than a median outcome were even possible; the way we assume climate change will hit hardest elsewhere, not everywhere; the smallness (two degrees) and largeness (1.8 trillion tons) and abstractness (400 parts per million) of the numbers; the discomfort of considering a problem that is very difficult, if not impossible, to solve; the altogether incomprehensible scale of that problem, which amounts to the prospect of our own annihilation; simple fear. But aversion arising from fear is a form of denial, too.

Wells has expanded this article into a book The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. You might also want to check out his article archive at New York Magazine.

So I wrote a whole post without talking about the monster in the White House. If you really want to read some politics stories, check these out:

Alex Shepard at The New Republic: It’s Not Strategy, It’s Racism.

Jamelle Bouie at The New York Times: The Joy of Hatred. Trump and “his people” reach deep into the violent history of public spectacle in America.

CNN: Judge halts Democrats’ subpoenas of Trump Org docs in emoluments case.

The New York Times: Mueller Hearings on Wednesday Present Make-or-Break Moment for Democrats.

NBC News: Mueller hearings to highlight ‘shocking evidence of criminal misconduct’ by Trump, Democrats say.

NBC News: U.S. spy chief creates a new head of election security for intelligence agencies.

HuffPost: Trump Puts More GOP Money In His Own Pocket During Another Million-Dollar Golf Trip.

The Washington Post: Trump tells aides to look for big spending cuts in second term, sowing confusion about budget priorities.

The Washington Post: Iran seizes British tanker in Strait of Hormuz; denies Trump’s claim that drone was brought down.

The New York Times: U.K. Warns Iran of ‘Serious Consequences’ for Seizing Oil Tanker.

What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

It appears that Cover-Up General Bill Barr has struck again. He apparently ordered the Southern District of New York to end their investigation of campaign finance violations by Michael Cohen and Individual 1 (AKA Donald Trump).

The Washington Post: Prosecutors have ‘concluded’ Michael Cohen campaign finance probe, judge says.

Federal prosecutors have concluded the campaign finance investigation centered on President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, or at least key aspects of it, a federal judge overseeing the case wrote Wednesday, suggesting prosecutors will not charge executives in the Trump Organization or any others who have been linked to the matter.

The good news is that Judge William H. Pauley ordered the public release of search warrants and other documents related to the case. Prosecutors asked Pauley to allow some redactions of the materials, but the judge said no dice. The materials should be available sometime this morning.

He [Pauley] wrote that the government disclosed in a secret filing Monday that it had “concluded the aspects of its investigation that justified the continued sealing of the portions of the Materials relating to Cohen’s campaign finance violations.” He rejected their request to file the materials with redactions to protect “third-party privacy interests,” because, by his telling, the case is over and the public deserves to see everything.

“The campaign finance violations discussed in the Materials are a matter of national importance,” Pauley wrote. “Now that the Government’s investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the Materials.”

So Barr has made sure that the Trump Organization will no longer be in danger of prosecution. Will the investigations into Trump’s inauguration be axed next?

Rachel Maddow talked about this last night.

Folks, this is getting scarier with every passing day. Trump now controls the Department of Justice and apparently can order investigations stopped or opened. Republicans control the Senate, so nothing the Democrats pass will even be considered there, including impeachment. The only protection we have left is the courts, and Trump and the GOP are working overtime to stock them with Trump judges.

Last night Trump held another Nazi/KKK rally in North Carolina, during which he attacked has latest target Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and encouraged the crowd as they screamed “send her back!”

And in case you thought Trump was ad libbing, here’s the proof that the attack was orchestrated.

From The Charlotte Observer editorial board: ’Send her back’: A dark reminder of who we are.

It happened in the first half of Wednesday’s speech. Donald Trump, our president, began to talk about Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democratic from Minnesota who was among the four women of color he had attacked Sunday in a racist tweet. Everyone knew Trump would speak about the women at some point to the Greenville, North Carolina crowd. Did we know what would come next?

“Send her back.”

The chant rose quickly from a handful of voices to a chorus of bigotry. It was a chilling moment. It was “lock her up” in a white hood. It was despicable.

It could have happened at any Donald Trump rally. It might have happened in any state, north or south. But it happened in Greenville, in our state, and it was one of North Carolina’s darkest moments.

“Send her back.”

Or perhaps not. Maybe the chant will be absorbed in the vortex that is Donald Trump. In a presidency of so many shameful moments, of so many new lows, the singularly awful ones tend to lose their significance. It’s possible that North Carolina might be forgotten when the chant inevitably spreads to the next rally. But North Carolina shouldn’t forget.

The Associated Press: Trump leans on issue of race in bid for a 2nd term in 2020.

President Donald Trump has placed racial animus at the center of his reelection campaign, and even some of his critics believe it could deliver him a second term.

Every successful modern presidential campaign has been built on the notion of addition, winning over voters beyond core supporters. But Trump has chosen division on the belief that the polarized country he leads will simply choose sides over issues like race.

He intensified his attacks on Wednesday, blasting four young congresswomen of color during a rally in Greenville, North Carolina . The crowd responded by chanting, “Send her back!” echoing Trump’s weekend tweet in which he said the lawmakers, all American citizens, should “go back” to the countries from which they came.

“I do think I am winning the political fight,” Trump declared at the White House. “I think I am winning it by a lot.”

Not since George Wallace’s campaign in 1968 has a presidential candidate — and certainly not an incumbent president — put racial polarization at the center of his call to voters. Though Trump’s comments generated outrage and even a resolution of condemnation in the House, the president and his campaign believe the strategy carries far more benefits than risks.

The Irish Times: Fintan O’Toole: Trial runs for fascism are in full flow.

To grasp what is going on in the world right now, we need to reflect on two things. One is that we are in a phase of trial runs. The other is that what is being trialled is fascism – a word that should be used carefully but not shirked when it is so clearly on the horizon. Forget “post-fascist” – what we are living with is pre-fascism.

It is easy to dismiss Donald Trump as an ignoramus, not least because he is. But he has an acute understanding of one thing: test marketing. He created himself in the gossip pages of the New York tabloids, where celebrity is manufactured by planting outrageous stories that you can later confirm or deny depending on how they go down. And he recreated himself in reality TV where the storylines can be adjusted according to the ratings. Put something out there, pull it back, adjust, go again.

Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.

One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections. Another is the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities. Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about 40 per cent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. So it doesn’t matter if most people hate you, as long as your 40 per cent is fanatically committed. That’s been tested out too. And fascism of course needs a propaganda machine so effective that it creates for its followers a universe of “alternative facts” impervious to unwanted realities. Again, the testing for this is very far advanced.

Read the rest at the link above.

Last night Trump also celebrated a meaningless vote in the house about impeachment. Politico suggests that he might actually think the vote has ended the threat.

IT BARELY TOOK THE PRESIDENT ANY TIME before he said this Wednesday evening at his campaign rally in Greenville, N.C.: “I just heard that the United States House of Representatives has overwhelmingly voted to kill the most ridiculous project I’ve ever been involved in: the resolution — how stupid is that — on impeachment. I want to thank those Democrats because many of them voted for us, the vote was a totally lopsided 332-95-1.” … Upon arriving in North Carolina, President Donald Trump said the same thing: “We have just received an overwhelming vote against impeachment. And that’s the end of it. Let the Democrats now go back to work….

a few smart, seasoned people in the White House wondered to us Wednesday night if TRUMP actually believes this vote ended impeachment. Of course, it didn’t. This was a procedural vote that means nothing in the grand scheme of things. There are still nearly 90 Democrats who are now on record supporting an impeachment inquiry, and ROBERT MUELLER is coming to the Hill next week. There are Democrats who believe the impeachment caucus will swell as soon as he opens his mouth.

At Bloomberg, Jonathan Bernstein writes: That Strange Impeachment Vote? It May Be a Big Deal.

Inflaming the base: July 16, 2019

Representative Al Green, a Democrat from Texas, has regularly introduced articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Usually, when a regular bill or resolution has been introduced, it’s then referred to committee. If the majority party doesn’t want to consider the bill, it will die with no further action. Under House rules, however, any member can force an impeachment resolution onto the floor as pending business. That’s what Green did Wednesday.

This maneuver doesn’t mean that impeachment gets a final vote, or even debate. What it does get is a “motion to table,” which means that lawmakers can vote to either keep the resolution as pending business or kill it off. When Green did this in 2017, 58 Democrats voted to keep the impeachment measure alive. In 2018, 66 did so. This time, it was up to 95.

Of course, there are more Democrats in the current Congress than in the previous one. And we can’t assume that all the votes to table were necessarily votes against impeachment (pro-impeachment independent Justin Amash voted to table, for instance). Some legislators may have objected to bringing the resolution straight to the floor on procedural grounds, or thought that Green’s articles were poorly drafted. Still, the vote offers a decent proxy for where impeachment sentiment stands in the House: It divides Democrats and unites Republicans in opposition. For now.

What I found interesting was that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has said she opposes impeachment, apparently didn’t whip the vote. If that’s the case, what does it say about her real position? One interpretation is that she simply wanted to mollify pro-impeachment Democrats by giving them an easy opportunity to express their views. Another is that Pelosi isn’t as opposed to impeachment as she has let on, and was using this vote to gauge sentiment within the caucus – or even to demonstrate that support for ousting the president is growing.

(Emphasis added.)

I’ll end with this breaking news from The Miami Herald: Judge keeps Jeffrey Epstein in N.Y. jail as prosecutors build on sex trafficking case.

Wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein will have to wait out a sex trafficking trial from a jail cell after a federal judge in New York ruled Thursday against his request for release on bail.

Epstein, 66, had offered to put up any collateral the judge wished from his self-estimated $559 million fortune. He said he would live in isolation in his Manhattan mansion, and pay for private security to ensure he remains inside and that no one enters unless authorized by the courts.

But with prosecutors warning that Epstein could easily flee or attempt to interfere with their witnesses, Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Berman has ordered that Epstein remain at the Manhattan Correctional Institute as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York seeks his conviction on child sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. Berman, according to reporters covering the hearing in New York, cited concerns that Epstein is a “danger” to others.

Berman’s ruling is a major victory for Epstein’s accusers, who have grown by the dozens since he was first investigated on trafficking allegations in South Florida more than a dozen years ago. The wealthy financier was first arrested in Palm Beach County in the mid-2000s after police began to suspect that he was abusing underage girls.

I’ll post anything I find about the release of Cohen materials from SDNY. What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Angry Women Unite!

Jean Léon Gérôme, Truth Coming Out of Her Well to Shame Mankind, 1896

Good Morning!!

For months now, I’ve been feeling depressed and discouraged by the damage Trump is doing to our politics and our country. This morning I woke up and realized what I really am is angry, enraged, and pissed off! This has to end. Angry women must rise up and take back our country from the racist white supremacist in the White House, his GOP enablers, and his Russian troll army, and the white male-controlled media that is too fearful to call out his lies and racism.

Two angry women fighting back with intellect and direct action:

An angry woman in Montana stood up to on-line racist trolls and won. Buzzfeed News: A Judge Ruled A Neo-Nazi Blogger Should Pay $14 Million To A Woman Targeted In A Racist “Troll Storm.”

A federal judge ruled more than $14 million should be awarded to a woman who was barraged with anti-Semitic and threatening messages online after a neo-Nazi blogger instructed his followers to target her and her family with a “troll storm.”

The ruling was handed down Monday against Andrew Anglin, a white supremacist and publisher of the website The Daily Stormer.

In his decision, judge Jeremiah Lynch found that Anglin “acted with actual malice” when he told followers: “Let’s Hit Em Up. Are y’all ready for an old fashioned Troll Storm? Because AYO – it’s time, fam.”

Elisabetta Sirani, Timoclea Killing Her Rapist, 1659

What followed were a series of racist and sometimes threatening messages to Montana real estate agent Tanya Gersh, her co-workers, and her family, including her 12-year-old son.

The recommended ruling against Anglin included more than $200,000 for lost earnings and medical expenses incurred by Gersh, $821,000 for future lost earnings, and $3 million for past and future pain and suffering.

The bulk of the judgment, however, was the state maximum of $10 million in punitive damages against the white supremacist for what the judge called “particularly egregious and reprehensible” behavior and to “punish Anglin and deter him from engaging in such conduct in the future.”

I’m so angry today, because we have been battered by days of racist tweets and racist language spewed by the monster who is occupying the people’s White House. He is not my president and I will never call him that. I so agree with what Rep. Ayanna Pressley said about him:

“I never use the word you used — president — to describe him,” she said. “I refer to him as ‘the occupant.’ He simply occupies the space. He embodies zero of the qualities and the principles, the responsibility, the grace, the integrity, the compassion, of someone who would truly embody that office. It’s just another day in the world under this administration.”

At The Atlantic, Adam Serwer addresses Trump’s racism: Trump Tells America What Kind of Nationalist He Is.

On Sunday morning, the president told four members of Congress to “go back” to the countries “from which they came.” The remark, a racist taunt with a historic pedigree, inspired a flurry of fact-checking from mainstream journalists who were quick to note that Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar are American citizens, and that only Omar was born abroad, in Somalia. It was a rather remarkable exercise in missing the point.

Angry Bee Girl, Karin Bolstad

When Trump told these women to “go back,” he was not making a factual claim about where they were born. He was stating his ideological belief that American citizenship is fundamentally racial, that only white people can truly be citizens, and that people of color, immigrants in particular, are only conditionally American. This is a cornerstone of white nationalism, and one of the president’s few closely held ideological beliefs. It is a moral conviction, not a statement of fact. If these women could all trace their family line back to 1776, it would not make them more American than Trump, a descendant of German immigrants whose ancestors arrived relatively recently, because he is white and they are not.

After telling minority members of Congress to go back to where they “came from,” Trump today accused the women of “foul language & racist hatred.” White nationalists in the United States have always asserted that they are, in fact, the true victims of racial hatred, even as they’ve demanded the exclusion of nonwhites from the polity. When the Confederacy was shattered, its partisans launched a propaganda campaign rewriting the origin of their rebellion as the defense of individual freedom rather than property in man. The Redeemers who overthrew Reconstruction with terrorism and violence portrayed themselves as the victims of Negro tyranny, and as the historian Jonathan Sokol has written, when de jure segregation unraveled in the South in the 1960s, white southerners “began to picture the American government as the fascist, and the white southerner as the victim.”

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Beheading Holofernes (ca. 1620)

As a reminder, here is The New York Times’ recently updated compilation of Trump’s long racist history: Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List, Updated, by David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick.

More reads on Trump’s racism:

George Conway at The Washington Post: Trump is a racist president.

David Remnick at The New Yorker: A Racist in the White House.

Michael Luo at The New Yorker: Trump’s Racist Tweets, and the Question of Who Belongs in America.

Paul Krugman at The New York Times: Racism Comes Out of the Closet. The dog whistle days are apparently over.

 

Trump’s racism enrages me, but you know what makes me just as angry? Rape culture. And Trump in the White House is a visible symbol of America’s misogynist history.

Barbara Bradley Haggerty at The Atlantic: An Epidemic of Disbelief. What new research reveals about sexual predators, and why police fail to catch them.

Robert Spada walked into the decrepit warehouse in Detroit and surveyed the chaos: Thousands of cardboard boxes and large plastic bags were piled haphazardly throughout the cavernous space. The air inside was hot and musty. Spada, an assistant prosecutor, saw that some of the windows were open, others broken, exposing the room to the summer heat. Above the boxes, birds glided in slow, swooping circles.

It was August 17, 2009, and this brick fortress of a building housed evidence that had been collected by the Detroit Police Department. Spada’s visit had been prompted by a question: Why were police sometimes unable to locate crucial evidence? The answer lay in the disarray before him.

As Spada wandered through the warehouse, he made another discovery, one that would help uncover a decades-long scandal, not just in Detroit but across the country. He noticed rows of steel shelving lined with white cardboard boxes, 10 inches tall and a foot wide, stacked six feet high. What are those? he asked a Detroit police officer who was accompanying him. Rape kits, the officer said.

Collage by Yasmin Diaz

“I’m assuming they’ve been tested?” Spada said.

“Oh, they’ve all been tested.”

Spada pulled out a box and peered inside. The containers were still sealed, indicating that the evidence had never been sent to a lab. He opened four more boxes: the same.

“I tried to do a quick calculation,” he later told me. “I came up with approximately 10,000.”

Spada’s estimate was conservative. Eventually 11,341 untested rape kits were found, some dating back more than 30 years—each one a hermetically sealed testament to the most terrifying minutes of a woman’s life, each one holding evidence that had been swabbed or plucked from the most private parts of her body. And in all likelihood, some microscopic part of her assailant—his DNA, his identity—sat in that kit as well.

Or kits.

That’s thousands of rapists whose DNA was on file, yet police never even tried to catch them. Many, went on to rape more women. Why? Because police still don’t believe women. Please go read this important article.

An angry woman academic and author speaks up at The Lily (h/t Delphyne): A female historian wrote a book. Two male historians went on NPR to talk about it. They never mentioned her name. It’s Sarah Milov.

Sarah Milov was sitting at her kitchen table, nursing her baby, when she saw the tweet.

“It took substantial government support to create Americans’ dependency on tobacco,” wroteNathan Daniel Beau Connolly, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University. “@edward_l_ayres and I talk with @jeremyhobson about the regulation of tobacco on this week’s @hereandnow.” Connolly ended the tweet with a “shout out” to Milov, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia whose forthcoming book, “The Cigarette: A Political History,” provided virtually all the material for the segment, which aired on Thursday.

Unfortunately, “Here & Now” — a radio show co-produced by NPR and WBUR in Boston, which is syndicated to approximately 5 million listeners — did not grant Milov the same courtesy. The three men on the segment, two historians and an NPR host, never mentioned Milov’s name or the name of her book.

“Every single word they said was from my book,” said Milov in an interview with The Lily. While the historians did not quote directly from “The Cigarette,” she said, every cited fact was taken from its pages. “Then I got to the end of a nearly 10-minute segment and did not hear myself credited at all.”

Read the rest at the link.

 

I’m so angry today. I know this post doesn’t make much sense, but it reflects my current state of mind. What’s going on with you today, Sky Dancers?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

I’m so glad the weekend is here and perhaps Trump will go golfing and leave us alone for a couple of days. It’s been one hell of an awful week. At The New York Times Mark Landler marked his departure from the White House beat with a dramatic summary of how bad one day–Thursday–was. At least Trump dumped Alex Acosta yesterday, but his replacement may be just as bad.

At The Daily Beast, Margaret Carlson has a perceptive piece on why Trump got rid of Acosta so quickly: Why the Sexual Predator in the White House Needed to Get Rid of Acosta.

In a press conference ordered up by Trump to save his job, Acosta failed miserably. And on Friday morning, Trump perp-walked Acosta, wearing his now familiar smirk, out to face the press corps on the south lawn of the White House, to announce that Acosta had decided to tender his resignation….

We know it didn’t happen because Trump’s eyes were opened by the Miami Herald’s November 2018 investigation of Epstein’s victims, exposing anew that Acosta looked evil in the eye and saw a deal to be cut.

It definitely couldn’t be because evangelicals or Senate Republicans suddenly remembered they had a modicum of integrity before being sucked into Trump’s vortex. No, it only happened once New York prosecutors re-indicted Epstein on similar charges of recruiting young girls and paying them to come to his lair to service him.

That put the whole mess front and center again, and Trump, binge TV watcher, was forced to watch (anytime he wasn’t tuned to Fox News) replays of the Access Hollywood tape, or pictures of him with Epstein, or discussions of the lawsuit filed by a 13-year old girl against him (since dropped), or mentions of the party for two—Trump and Epstein—at Mar-a-Lago with a bevy of 28 beauties imported for the occasion. That’s not to mention the two dozen women who’ve accused Trump of sexually abusing them.

It’s rare to have a beleaguered Trump official go so quickly, rather than be Zinked, Tillersoned, or Pruitted, drip by drip. Acosta hurt himself by not doing a full Kavanaugh, complete with righteous fire and fury, instead coldly admitting nothing and excusing all, even his secret meeting with opposing counsel at a restaurant because the office wasn’t open at that hour, no less.

Trump may hope that dumping Acosta will get his sexual assault history off cable TV, but I don’t think it will happen. The Jeffrey Epstein story is still going strong and Trump’s connections to the notorious pedophile will keep on being reported.

This morning The New York Times dug up some Epstein history that will also impact Trump’s personal defense attorney Bill Barr: Jeffrey Epstein Taught at Dalton. His Behavior Was Noticed.

In the mid-1970s, students at one of New York’s most esteemed prep schools were surprised to encounter a new teacher who pushed the limits on the school’s strict dress code, wandering the halls in a fur coat, gold chains and an open shirt that exposed his chest.

The teacher, Jeffrey Epstein, would decades later face allegations that he coerced and trafficked teenagers for sex. At the Dalton School on the Upper East Side, some students saw Mr. Epstein as an unusual and unsettling figure, willing to violate the norms in his encounters with girls.

Recall that it was none other than Bill Barr’s father Donald Barr who hired Jeffrey Epstein for this teaching job, even though he didn’t even have a college degree.

Eight former students who attended the prestigious school during Mr. Epstein’s short tenure there said that his conduct with teenage girls had left an impression that had lingered for decades. One former student recalled him showing up at a party where students were drinking, while most remembered his persistent attention on the girls in hallways and classrooms.

“I can remember thinking at the time, ‘This is wrong,’” said Scott Spizer, who graduated from Dalton in 1976.

None of the female students who spoke to The New York Times in recent days remembered Mr. Epstein making unwanted physical contact with them, and he has not been accused of any crimes related to his time at the school.

But a few students said they had been discomfited by a close relationship he had with one of their female peers, a concern that had escalated so much that one of them had raised the issue then to a school administrator.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Trump is reportedly planning mass raids on immigrant communities beginning tomorrow. The NYT reports:

President Trump said nationwide raids to arrest and deport undocumented migrants would begin on Sunday in a sweep that immigration officials said could roll out over days, echoing a similar threat last month that was never carried out.

“Nothing to be secret about,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday morning, where he was asked about the plans. He called it “a major operation.”

“It starts on Sunday, and they’re going to take people out and they’re going to bring them back to their countries,” the president said. “Or they’re going to take criminals out, put them in prison, or put them in prison in the countries they came from.”

Meanwhile family separations are continuing, even though courts have ordered the administration to stop taking children from their parents. The Texas Tribune: Family separations aren’t over. As many as five kids per day are separated from their parents at the border.

More than a year after the Trump administration ended a controversial policy that led to hundreds of family separations, as many as five migrant children per day continue to be separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to federal data gathered by an immigrant advocacy group.

The data, which the American Immigration Council and other immigrant advocacy groups requested from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, shows that almost 400 children were separated from their parents between June 2018 — when the Trump administration ended its controversial zero tolerance policy — and March 2019.

That number jumped to more than 700 children by May, according to data the government provided to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is litigating the family separation crisis in federal court.

Despite the executive order that President Donald Trump signed in June 2018 to end zero tolerance — which directed immigration officials to file charges against all adults who crossed the border illegally — advocates say adult migrants continue to be separated from children for reasons that are increasingly vague and difficult to corroborate.

Read more at the link.

The New Yorker reports on a new Trump initiative: Trump Is Poised to Sign a Radical Agreement to Send Future Asylum Seekers to Guatemala.

Early next week, according to a D.H.S. official, the Trump Administration is expected to announce a major immigration deal, known as a safe-third-country agreement, with Guatemala. For weeks, there have been reports that negotiations were under way between the two countries, but, until now, none of the details were official. According to a draft of the agreement obtained by The New Yorker, asylum seekers from any country who either show up at U.S. ports of entry or are apprehended while crossing between ports of entry could be sent to seek asylum in Guatemala instead. During the past year, tens of thousands of migrants, the vast majority of them from Central America, have arrived at the U.S. border seeking asylum each month. By law, the U.S. must give them a chance to bring their claims before authorities, even though there’s currently a backlog in the immigration courts of roughly a million cases. The Trump Administration has tried a number of measures to prevent asylum seekers from entering the country—from “metering” at ports of entry to forcing people to wait in Mexico—but, in every case, international obligations held that the U.S. would eventually have to hear their asylum claims. Under this new arrangement, most of these migrants will no longer have a chance to make an asylum claim in the U.S. at all. “We’re talking about something much bigger than what the term ‘safe third country’ implies,” someone with knowledge of the deal told me. “We’re talking about a kind of transfer agreement where the U.S. can send any asylum seekers, not just Central Americans, to Guatemala.”

This is similar to the agreement that Trump made with Mexico to keep asylum seekers out of the U.S. It’s crazy.

Until very recently, the prospect of such an agreement—not just with Mexico but with any other country in Central America—seemed far-fetched. Yet last month, under the threat of steep tariffs on Mexican goods, Trump strong-armed the Mexican government into considering it. Even so, according to a former Mexican official, the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador is stalling. “They are trying to fight this,” the former official said. What’s so striking about the agreement with Guatemala, however, is that it goes even further than the terms the U.S. sought in its dealings with Mexico. “This is a whole new level,” the person with knowledge of the agreement told me. “In my read, it looks like even those who have never set foot in Guatemala can potentially be sent there.”

This is getting really scary. First concentration camps, now this.

Louisiana is still waiting for slow-moving Hurricane Barry.

Liz Williams Russell at CNN: Why Barry is such a scary storm. (Russell is “the director of the grant-making and programmatic activities of the Climate Justice portfolio at the Foundation for Louisiana.”)

The past, present and future of New Orleans lies with the Mississippi River. As New Orleanians brace for Tropical Storm Barry, we find ourselves on the brink of the unknown, as we are about to learn the extent to which our existing systems of controlling and managing nature will withstand the storm.

We’re now facing a new normal. When “one in 100 year” rain events happen on an increasingly annual basis, there is a fundamental issue with the ways we measure storm intensity in the context of historic weather events. As Barry picks up strength along the Gulf of Mexico, it’s a reminder that we are headed toward uncharted territory with the effects of climate change threatening every aspect of our communities.

The river has been at varying levels of flood stage since November due to the record-breaking rainfall and flooding seen across the Midwest and the winter thaw from the Rockies to the Appalachians. We’ve seen the Bonnet Carre Spillway, a flood control mechanism to manage a high Mississippi River, opened twice in one year and in two consecutive years for the first time in its almost 90-year history. Only one of a set of floodways along the river system is designed to effectively move water out into the Gulf of Mexico — the drainage and residues from 41% of the country all ends up here, speeding around and through this fertile crescent city as it moves towards open water.

This year, we face another first as we find ourselves early in the hurricane season with the Mississippi double its normal depths due to flooding and Barry set to make landfall at a midpoint of Louisiana’s coast. Water will likely be pushed up a severely swollen river system with leveed boundaries already tired from so many months in the flood fight. We are required to trust our system of flood management — necessarily believing it will endure this new test — and prepare for the storm as we reflect on how to best serve our communities.

Read the rest at CNN.

Finally, I want to share some great long reads that I’ve come across this morning. I hope you’ll check them out.

Nilanjana Roy at The New York Review: A Ferocious Heat in Delhi.

Chi Luu at JSTOR Daily: How Language and Climate Connect.

Jessica Contrera at The Washington Post: A black principal, four white teens and the ‘senior prank’ that became a hate crime.

Charles Bethea at The New Yorker: A Father, a Daughter, and the Attempt to Change the Census.

What stories are you following today?

 


Thursday Reads: Trump’s “Social Media Summit” and Jeffrey Epstein Updates

“Hello gryphon, you are half-bird and so big,” by Erin Kelso

Good Afternoon!!

The illustrations in this post are by fantasy artist Erin Kelso, AKA bluefooted.

Jeffrey Epstein is still all over the news, although Trump is trying to distract the media by inviting a bunch of Nazis and right wing conspiracy theorists to visit the White House today  for a “social media summit” and sending out deranged tweets, in one of which he claimed to be “so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius!” followed by the suggestion that he might be in office for 14 more years.

Trump’s “social media” summit

The Washington Post: ‘We will not let them get away with it’: Trump threatens social media ahead of White House summit.

President Trump plans to gather Republican lawmakers, campaign strategists and online provocateurs for a “social media summit” at the White House on Thursday, rallying his political allies and escalating his attacks on Facebook, Google and Twitter ahead of the 2020 election.

Harpy, by Erin Kelso

For Trump, the conference represents his highest profile broadside against Silicon Valley after months of accusing tech companies of censoring conservative users and websites. Facebook, Google and Twitter each has denied the president’s allegations of political bias, though none of them has been invited to the White House for Trump’s summit.

Hours before the event, Trump tweeted that the focus of the conversation “will be the tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practiced by certain companies,” though he didn’t mention any by name. “We will not let them get away with it much longer,” he added.

Trump has assailed Facebook, Google and Twitter for months, even accusing them of trying to rig the election. In March, for example, he said the companies had engaged in “collusion” and work in opposition to a “certain group of people that happen to be in power, that happen to have won the election.”

At times, though, Trump’s attacks have come in response to efforts by Facebook, Google and Twitter to remove hate speech, threats of violence and other troubling content from their platforms.

Because Trump just loves hate speech.

Vox’s Recode reveals some of the nuts who will be at Trump’s “summit.”

…the gathering in Washington this week will bring together conservative media outlets and Donald Trump supporters who accuse Big Tech of anti-conservative bias despite a lack of evidence supporting their claims.

Canyon Maker, by Erin Kelso

Who will actually be there: The leaders of several conservative groups, like Turning Point USA, YourVoice Inc, right-wing YouTube channel Prager University, conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, and a right-wing meme maker known as Carpe Donktum have all confirmed they are attending Thursday’s meeting.

What’s it’s really about: Trump has suggested the government might sue social media companies over accusations of political bias, but he hasn’t taken concrete action so far. In May, Recode reported on a tool the White House launched for people to flag claims of social media censorship — but the tool is essentially a ploy to gather voter data. According to the Journal, today’s summit “is a way to rally Trump’s base” and will offer a “preview of a likely theme in Mr. Trump’s reelection campaign.” [Ryan Tracy / The Wall Street Journal]

More information on the attendees from CNN:

The White House has repeatedly declined to release a list people it expects to attend, but some of the recipients have turned to social media to boast about being invited.

By ErinKelso

Among them are Bill Mitchell, a radio host who has promoted the extremist QAnon conspiracy theory on Twitter; Carpe Donktum, an anonymous troll who won a contest put on by the fringe media organization InfoWars for an anti-media meme; and Ali Alexander, an activist who attempted to smear Sen. Kamala Harris by saying she is not an “American black” following the first Democratic presidential debates.

Other eyebrow raising attendees include James O’Keefe, the guerrilla journalist whose group Project Veritas tried to trick reporters at the Washington Post by planting a source who told the paper that she had been impregnated as a teenager by failed Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore; Charlie Kirk, the founder of the right-wing student group Turning Point USA who sometimes posts misleading information on social media; and Benny Johnson, the journalist-turned-activist who was fired for plagiarism by BuzzFeed and demoted at the Independent Journal Review for violating company standards.

From Vice: Trump Invites Fringe Social Media Company Popular With Nazis to the White House.

[Today] President Donald Trump is meeting with a series of right wing figures at the White House to discuss social media issues. But Facebook and Twitter won’t be there. In fact, the only social media network that has publicly said it’s attending is Minds—billed as the crypto “anti-Facebook” and once home to several neo-Nazi extremist groups.

Pulp, a public relations firm that counts Minds among its client list, sent Motherboard a photo of the invitation the fringe social media site received to the White House for the summit.

By Erin Kelso

“Minds.com is the only social media network invited to the White House’s social media summit!” wrote the Pulp representative in an email to Motherboard. Facebook and Twitter, social media companies with an astronomically larger number of users than Minds, were excluded from the summit.

A previous Motherboard investigation found that miliant neo-Nazi groups connected to Atomwaffen Division—a violent American hate group connected to several murders—was using Minds as a platform for recruiting and spreading propaganda. Minds eventually banned the accounts when Motherboard showed them to the platform, but the company’s lax content moderation allowed them to proliferate unchecked for months.

One more from The Daily Beast: Trump’s Social Media Summit Mortifies White House, Enrages Far-Right Allies.

Donald Trump has invited personalities from across the right-wing internet to the White House on Thursday for a “Social Media Summit,” but the event is causing his administration headaches even before it begins.

So far, the summit has stirred up resentments among pro-Trump personalities who were never invited to the party, and one invitee has been disinvited over an anti-Semitic cartoon—raising questions for the White House about why he was invited in the first place….

The Devil, by Erin Kelso

Notably, the group so far doesn’t appear to include anyone who has actually been banned from major social platforms, even though those bans have played a significant role in driving accusations on the right that the social giants are biased. Pro-Trump figures like anti-Muslim activist Laura Loomer, InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and Proud Boys men’s group founder Gavin McInnes, for example, don’t appear to have been invited.

That fact hasn’t been lost on fringe Trump supporters. In a livestream from Washington, D.C., InfoWars reporter and Jones lieutenant Owen Shroyer raged that no one from InfoWars was invited to the event, while people who hadn’t been banned were.

Shroyer declared that the event was an “abortion of truth” and compared the invitees to dogs getting a bone and a pat on the head.

Read much more at the link.

Jeffrey Epstein News

Last night The New York Times published a very interesting story on Epstein’s financial history: Jeffrey Epstein’s Fortune May Be More Illusion Than Fact.

Mr. Epstein is routinely described as a billionaire and brilliant financier, and he rubbed elbows with the powerful, including former and future presidents. Even after his 2008 guilty plea in a prostitution case in Florida, he promoted himself as a financial wizard who used arcane mathematical models, and he often dropped the names of Nobel Prize-winning friends. He told potential clients that they had to invest a minimum of $1 billion. At his peak in the early 2000s, a magazine profile said he employed 150 people, some working out of the historic Villard Houses on Madison Avenue.

Much of that appears to be an illusion, and there is little evidence that Mr. Epstein is a billionaire.

Wicked and the Unicorn, by Erin Kelso

Mr. Epstein’s wealth may have depended less on his math acumen than his connections to two men — Steven J. Hoffenberg, a onetime owner of The New York Post and a notorious fraudster later convicted of running a $460 million Ponzi scheme, and Leslie H. Wexner, the billionaire founder of retail chains including The Limited and the chief executive of the company that owns Victoria’s Secret.

Mr. Hoffenberg was Mr. Epstein’s partner in two ill-fated takeover bids in the 1980s, including one of Pan American World Airways, and would later claim that Mr. Epstein had been part of the scheme that landed him in jail — although Mr. Epstein was never charged. With Mr. Wexner, Mr. Epstein formed a financial and personal bond that baffled longtime associates of the wealthy retail magnate, who was his only publicly disclosed investor.

You’ll need to read the whole thing, but one fascinating revelation is that Epstein was aided by the same private section of Deutsche Bank that lent millions to Donald Trump.

In recent years, Mr. Epstein was a client of Deutsche Bank’s private-banking division, which caters to ultrawealthy individuals and families. The bank provided Mr. Epstein with loans and wealth-management accounts, as well as trading services through its investment banking arm, according to two people familiar with the relationship. At one point, compliance officers at Deutsche Bank raised concerns about transactions by Mr. Epstein’s company, because he posed reputational risk to the bank, the people said.

Deutsche Bank managers overruled their concerns, the people said. They noted that there was nothing illegal about the transactions and that Mr. Epstein was a lucrative client.

Earlier this year, the bank ended its relationship with Mr. Epstein.

Queen Titania, by Erin Kelso

AP: Whispers, suspicion about Epstein on Caribbean island.

Ask about Jeffrey Epstein on St. Thomas and rooms go quiet. Some people leave. Those who share stories speak in barely audible tones.

The 66-year-old billionaire bought Little St. James Island off this U.S. Caribbean territory more than two decades ago and began to transform it — clearing the native vegetation, ringing the property with towering palm trees and planting two massive U.S. flags on either end. When guides took scuba divers to spots near the island, security guards would walk to the water’s edge.

It was off-putting to residents of St. Thomas — a lush tropical island east of Puerto Rico with winding roads through mountains dotted with dainty Danish colonial-era homes. Then, when Epstein pleaded guilty in a 2008 to soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution, his need for privacy began to appear more sinister.

“Everybody called it ‘Pedophile Island,’” said Kevin Goodrich, who is from St. Thomas and operates boat charters. “It’s our dark corner.”

Many people who worked for Epstein told The Associated Press this week that they had signed long non-disclosure agreements, and refused to talk. One former employee who declined to be identified said Epstein once had five boats, including a large ferry in which he transported up to 200 workers from St. Thomas to his island every day for construction work.

Click on the link to read more details.

The Bitter End, by Erin Kelso

Joe Pompeo at Vanity Fair: “He Was Living In Peace, Like Dr. Mengele In Paraguay”: Manhattan Media Remember Jeffrey Epstein, The Monster Hiding In Plain Sight.

In late 2009, as civil complaints alleging Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of underage girls were mounting, George Rush, the long-running Daily News gossip columnist, was preparing a story on one of the latest Jane Doe lawsuits filed against the billionaire financier. The legal documents contained allegations that hadn’t yet been reported, and Rush was keen on nudging them into the public domain. He drew up a list of questions and sent them to Howard Rubenstein, who was Epstein’s publicist at the time. Rush’s reporting resulted in a call from Epstein himself to Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman, who had been a business partner of Epstein’s a few years earlier. The enigmatic and press-shy tycoon was offering Zuckerman something rare: an interview for the Daily News. But when Epstein got on the phone with Rush, Epstein said he could only speak off the record, on the advice of his lawyers. The whole 22-minute conversation sounded to Rush like a bunch of spin.

“It was just kind of this self-serving rationale for how he had been tormented by the lawyers for these girls, whom he characterized as these preexisting prostitutes and strippers who’d already been indoctrinated into the sex world,” Rush told me, describing the interview only in general terms because, even 10 years later, it’s still off the record. “You got the sense that he could adopt many masks. He played up his working-class roots on Coney Island, and how he understood that this was a good story that sold newspapers, and how everybody hates a rich guy. He basically said, I get why this is a good story for you, but I think a better story would be how these con artist lawyers are abusing the legal system.”

Rush said his Epstein chat was “almost useless,” though it “did give me a window into him. He briefly acknowledged getting himself into this mess. But he showed little remorse and no pity for his victims. He was mostly concerned with keeping Ghislaine Maxwell, his alleged henchwoman, out of the story.”

This is a long but interesting story, but check it out. Along the way, Epstein’s behavior has been enabled by so many rich and powerful allies.

Two more:

The New York Times: Cyrus Vance’s Office Sought Reduced Sex-Offender Status for Epstein.

The New York Post: NYPD let convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein skip judge-ordered check-ins.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Jeffrey Epstein, Trump, and the Politicized DOJ

Summertime, by Mary Cassatt, 1894

Good Morning!!

The news is full of Jeffrey Epstein stories; I can only hope that this time his victims will finally get justice. Bill Barr has recused himself from the case, but will that keep Trump and the Justice Department he now controls from helping his old pal Epstein?

Trump Has Politicized the DOJ

Chris Smith at Vanity Fair: “It Would Be Ridiculously Naive Not To Be Concerned”:   Trump has Politicized the DOJ. How Long Can the SDNY Hold Out?

Sally Yates tried to warn us. Way back in January 2017, at the end of the very first week of the Trump administration, the new president signed an executive order banning refugees and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. It was a blatantly political act, following months of Trump campaign promises, and it immediately provoked lawsuits challenging the order as religious discrimination. Yates, the acting attorney general, refused to defend the legally indefensible and was summarily fired. “The president is attempting to dismantle the rule of law, destroy the time-honored independence of the Justice Department, and undermine the career men and women who are devoted to seeking justice day in and day out,” Yates wrote in a New York Times op-ed published in July 2017.

Summer’s Day, by Berthe Morisot

Two Julys later, Trump’s politicization of the DOJ is gaining new momentum and depth. The president’s choice of William Barr as attorney general, and Barr’s entirely predictable attempts to undercut the Mueller report, has been the highest-profile, highest-stakes move to weaponize the department for partisan purposes. But two fresh episodes demonstrate Trump’s relentless push to subvert the DOJ, and how far-reaching the damage will be to the rule of law. First came Sarah Fabian, the senior attorney in the DOJ’s Office of Immigration Litigation, telling a California appeals court that it is “safe and sanitary” for jailed immigrant children to go without soap or toothbrushes and to sleep on concrete floors under bright lights. “I actually felt somewhat sorry for her,” a former federal prosecutor says. “You could hear how half-hearted she was in making the point. But there is no way she would have been making that argument at all without it being approved at the highest levels of DOJ….”

The second, ongoing case echoes the events that got Yates fired. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled against adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, after documents from a now deceased Republican consultant’s hard drives were exposed. The census citizenship question, Thomas Hofeller wrote in an analysis, “would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.” The DOJ announced it would not be fighting the Supreme Court ruling; the Commerce Department announced it would begin printing the census forms without the question in question.

Trump didn’t care. “We are absolutely moving forward,” he declared on Twitter. Which was news to DOJ lawyers, who found themselves fumbling during an emergency conference call with a Maryland district court judge….

Summer Afternoon in Rockport, by Carl Peters

After a few more days of confusion, the DOJ said on Friday it would demur from pursuing the case, at least until the Commerce Department “adopts a new rationale for including the citizenship question.” That new spin should arrive very soon. Over the weekend Trump and Barr replaced the DOJ legal team handling the case. Whether the prior group of career lawyers balked at returning to the Supreme Court with a new, possibly untenable argument or whether Barr simply wants fresh minds on the case, the shift was all but unprecedented, and is yet another indication that Trump sees the DOJ as a political tool.

Will Trump find a way to force the DOJ to help Epstein? I think he’s likely to try. Smith concludes:

…it’s hard to imagine Trump won’t try to intercede if the famously independent SDNY—currently back in the headlines for charging billionaire Jeffrey Epstein with sex trafficking—moves to indict one or more of the president’s high-ranking associates. (Epstein has pleaded not guilty.) “The fear is that Trump doesn’t even need to say it out loud anymore, because Barr is so protective of him,” Rocah says. “It would be ridiculously naïve not to be concerned.”

Also recommended from Zoe Tillman at Buzzfeed News: Trump Is Bringing In New Lawyers On The Citizenship Question Case And No One Knows What’s Happening.

Epstein stories to check out

Ken White provides a good backgrounder on the case at The Atlantic: Jeffrey Epstein Is Out of Luck.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, famously aggressive in pursuing high-profile prosecutions, charged Epstein last week with child sex trafficking in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1591. These new charges represent the Department of Justice’s attempt to redeem a reputation soiled by the extremely questionable plea deal it gave Epstein in 2008.

Summer Landscape, by Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1875

In 2006 and 2007, Epstein— once a reliable companion of the well-connected — faced extensive, detailed allegations that he paid multiple minors for sexual contact and for their services in procuring other minors. Most people, hammered with that kind of evidence, would spend the rest of their lives in prison. But Epstein could afford the lavish attention of a defense team staffed by legal luminaries like Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr. Most of us hope an attorney will defend us competently at trial, but the super-rich can afford to go on the offense. Epstein’s lawyers hounded the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, which was considering federal charges based on reports that Epstein procured underaged girls across state lines. Former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta – now President Trump’s Secretary of Labor – characterized it as a “year-long assault on the prosecution and prosecutors,” and complained that Epstein’s team investigated prosecutors and their families “looking for personal peccadilloes that may provide a basis for disqualification.”

The strategy worked. Epstein’s team secured the deal of the millennium, one utterly unlike anything I’ve seen in 25 years of practicing federal criminal law. Epstein agreed to plead guilty to state charges, register as a sex offender, and spend 13 months in county jail, during which time he was allowed to spend 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, out of the jail on “work release.” In exchange, the Southern District of Florida abandoned its criminal investigation of Epstein’s conduct, agreed not to prosecute him federally, and – incredibly— agreed not to prosecute anyone else who helped him procure underaged girls for sex. This is not normal; it is astounding.

Read the rest at the link.

Barbara McQuade at New York Magazine: The Jeffrey Epstein Case Shows What Sex Trafficking Really Looks Like.

Interior at Etretat, the 14th of July, by Henri Matisse, 1920

When jurors hear “sex trafficking,” they conjure up images of victims bound by chains, subjected to physical force and imprisonment. While some cases include those aggravating facts, more often, the victim instead chooses to stay with her assailant, who preys upon a vulnerability. Defendants recruit victims in a variety of ways and then force them to engage in sex acts with them or with paying customers. Jurors are sometimes persuaded that if the defendant was truly engaging in sex trafficking, the victim would have simply run away or called the police.

As a former federal prosecutor, I have seen cases of sex trafficking, and none of those cases involved victims in ropes or chains. More often, the cases involved runaways, undocumented immigrants, or victims of sexual abuse.

A high-profile case like Epstein’s provides a teachable moment for American jurors. The indictment notes that some of his victims returned to his home to perform sex acts for money, even after they knew full well what was in store for them. The indictment also notes that the victims were “for various reasons, particularly vulnerable to exploitation.” That is the secret sauce of sex trafficking….

Sex trafficking is particularly egregious when it involves children, as in Epstein’s case. Children by definition are unable to consent to sex. In Epstein’s case, girls were lured to his home for sex with promises of hundreds of dollars and the prospect of modeling careers — offers that can be head-spinning and irresistible for a young teen.

by

Summer day, Gloucester Harbor, by Alice Judson

One of the reasons that we prosecute crimes is to deter others from committing similar acts. By seeing criminals punished for wrongdoing, others learn from their example. Another potential benefit of the Epstein case is to educate the public that not all victims of sex trafficking are found in chains. Here is hoping that jurors will learn from this example.

Read the whole thing at The Intelligencer.

Vicky Ward (who researched and wrote an in-depth piece about Epstein for Vanity Fair in 2003) at The Daily Beast: Jeffrey Epstein’s Sick Story Played Out for Years in Plain Sight.

For almost two decades, for some nebulous reason, whether to do with ties to foreign intelligence, his billions of dollars, or his social connections, Epstein, whose alleged sexual sickness and horrific assaults on women without means or ability to protect themselves is well-known in his circle, remained untouchable.

As many people know, I spent many months on his trail in 2002 for Vanity Fair and discovered not only that he was not who he claimed to be professionally, but also that he had allegedly assaulted two young sisters, one of whom had been underage at the time. Very bravely, they were prepared to go on the record. They were afraid he’d use all his influence to discredit them—and their fear turned out to be legitimate.

As the article was being readied for publication, Epstein made a visit to the office of Vanity Fair’s then-editor, Graydon Carter, and suddenly the women and their allegations were removed from the article. “He’s sensitive about the young women,” Carter told me at the time. He also mentioned he’d finagled a photograph of Epstein in a swimsuit out of the encounter. And there was also some feeble excuse about the article “being stronger as a business story.” (Epstein had also leaned heavily on my ex-husband’s uncle, Conrad Black, to try to exert his influence on me, which was particularly unwelcome, given that Black happened to be my ex-husband’s boss at the time.)

Summer Evening Wheat Field at Sunset, by Vincent Van Gogh

But much worse was to come from Epstein’s army of willfully blind lobbyists. In 2007 and 2008, as the FBI prepared a 53-page indictment that would charge Epstein with sex crimes, Epstein’s powerful legal team played the influence card.

After one meeting with then-U.S. Attorney Acosta, where presumably “intelligence” was mentioned, the indictment was shelved and, instead, Epstein signed a non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors, pleading guilty to one count of solicitation of prostitution and one count of procurement of minors for prostitution, which earned him a cushy 13 months in county jail, from where he was allowed to leave to work at his office and go for walks.

It’s worth reading the whole thing.

More helpful Epstein stories, links only

The New York Times: Seized Photos of Nude Girls Deepens Questions About Jeffrey Epstein’s 2008 Deal.

The New York Times: Inside Epstein’s $56 Million Mansion: Photos of Bill Clinton, Woody Allen and Saudi Crown Prince.

The Washington Post: Epstein indictment renews questions about earlier case handled by Trump Cabinet official.

Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post: Alex Acosta gave a pass to Epstein years ago. He’s still at it as labor secretary.

Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Jeffrey Epstein Is the Ultimate Symbol of Plutocratic Rot.

Bloomberg: Mystery Around Jeffrey Epstein’s Fortune and How He Made It.

What else is happening? What stories have you been following?