Tuesday Reads: Is It Fascism Yet?

Good Morning

Things are getting real now. Trump sent unidentified federal troops into Portland, Oregon to illegally abduct peaceful protesters, force them into unmarked cars, and transport them to secret locations. Now he is threatening to send his goons into more cities and states led by Democratic mayors and governors. This is a giant step toward fascism.

Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Trump’s Occupation of American Cities Has Begun.

The month after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Yale historian Timothy Snyder published the best-selling book “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century.” It was part of a small flood of titles meant to help Americans find their bearings as the new president laid siege to liberal democracy.

One of Snyder’s lessons was, “Be wary of paramilitaries.” He wrote, “When the pro-leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the end has come.” In 2017, the idea of unidentified agents in camouflage snatching leftists off the streets without warrants might have seemed like a febrile Resistance fantasy. Now it’s happening.

According to a lawsuit filed by Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, on Friday, federal agents “have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland, detain protesters, and place them into the officers’ unmarked vehicles” since at least last Tuesday. The protesters are neither arrested nor told why they’re being held.

There’s no way to know the affiliation of all the agents — they’ve been wearing military fatigues with patches that just say “Police” — but The Times reported that some of them are part of a specialized Border Patrol group “that normally is tasked with investigating drug smuggling organizations.”

Why Trump chose the Border Control to act as his personal secret police:

“It doesn’t surprise me that Donald Trump picked C.B.P. to be the ones to go over to Portland and do this,” Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, told me. “It has been a very problematic agency in terms of respecting human rights and in terms of respecting the law.”

It is true that C.B.P. is not an extragovernmental militia, and so might not fit precisely into Snyder’s “On Tyranny” schema. But when I spoke to Snyder on Monday, he suggested the distinction isn’t that significant. “The state is allowed to use force, but the state is allowed to use force according to rules,” he said. These agents, operating outside their normal roles, are by all appearances behaving lawlessly.

Snyder pointed out that the history of autocracy offers several examples of border agents being used against regime enemies.

“This is a classic way that violence happens in authoritarian regimes, whether it’s Franco’s Spain or whether it’s the Russian Empire,” said Snyder. “The people who are getting used to committing violence on the border are then brought in to commit violence against people in the interior.”

CBC Radio: ‘It feels like an invasion,’ says Portland protester detained by federal agents.

When Mark Pettibone was detained by armed camouflage-clad officers and forced into an unmarked van last week, he says he had no idea what was happening to him.

Pettibone, 29, is one of several protesters in Portland, Ore., who say they’ve have been arrested by militarized federal agents in recent weeks.

The officers were deployed by the Department of Homeland Security to help the Federal Protection Service protect federal buildings and statues from protesters who have been demonstrating against police brutality.

Mark Pettibone

The so-called “rapid deployment teams” have been seen sporting military-style fatigues with the word “Police” on them, but no badge numbers or identifying information. They include members of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard, according to the New York Times.

Portland’s mayor has called their presence unconstitutional and demanded the federal government remove them from his city.

But DHS and U.S. President Donald Trump have both defended the move, and refused to back down. Trump suggested Monday he may soon deploy more officers to confront protesters in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland, noting the cities’ mayors are “liberal Democrats.”

Read and/or listen to the interview with Pettibone at the link.

Yesterday the Chicago Tribune reported that Trump’s storm troopers will be sent to Chicago next: Trump expected to send new federal force to Chicago this week to battle violence, but plan’s full scope is a question mark.

Chicago may see an influx of federal agents as soon as this week as President Donald Trump readies to make good on repeated pledges he would try to tamp down violence here, a move that would come amid growing controversy nationally about federal force being used in American cities.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, for example, is crafting plans to deploy about 150 federal agents to the city this week, the Chicago Tribune has learned.

The Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, agents are set to assist other federal law enforcement and Chicago police in crime-fighting efforts, according to sources familiar with the matter, though a specific plan on what the agents will be doing — and what their limits would be — had not been made public.

DHS in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment, while the Department of Justice indicated an announcement would be forthcoming on an expansion of what has been dubbed Operation Legend, which saw several federal law enforcement agencies assist local police in Kansas City, Missouri, including the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service.

One Immigration and Customs Enforcement official in Chicago, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak on the matter, confirmed the deployment was expected to take place. The official noted that the HSI agents, who are part of ICE, would not be involved in immigration or deportation matters.

Federal agents being used to confront street protesters in Portland, Oregon, has raised alarm in many circles. Chicago, too, has dealt with protests that have led to injuries in recent days.

The New York Times: Trump Threatens to Send Federal Law Enforcement Forces to More Cities.

President Trump plans to deploy federal law enforcement to Chicago and threatened on Monday to send agents to other major cities — all controlled by Democrats.

Governors and other officials reacted angrily to the president’s move, calling it an election-year ploy as they squared off over crime, civil liberties and local control that has spread from Portland, Ore., across the country.

With camouflage-clad agents already sweeping through the streets of Portland, more units were poised to head to Chicago, and Mr. Trump suggested that he would follow suit in New York, Philadelphia, Detroit and other urban centers. Governors and other officials compared his actions to authoritarianism and vowed to pursue legislation or lawsuits to stop him….

The president portrayed the nation’s cities as out of control. “Look at what’s going on — all run by Democrats, all run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by radical left,” Mr. Trump said. He added: “If Biden got in, that would be true for the country. The whole country would go to hell. And we’re not going to let it go to hell.”

Democrats said the president was the one out of control. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon said he would introduce legislation to limit the role of federal agents in cities like Portland. “This isn’t just an Oregon crisis,” he said. “It’s an American crisis. We need to stop Trump before this spreads.”

He added, “We won’t let these authoritarian tactics stand.”

Read the rest at the NYT.

Slate Magazine: Trump’s Legal Justification for the Abduction of Portland Protesters Is Absurd.

Last week, people wearing combat fatigues were seen pulling apparently peaceful protesters off the streets of Portland, Oregon, and hustling them into unmarked vehicles. Their uniforms carried no identifying insignia, but they were clearly military uniforms. Based on the video evidence so far, the people being arrested were not engaged in crime. So we are faced with two questions. First, are these people military personnel, or are they police officers dressed up like soldiers? Second, do these people have the authority to sweep people off the street like this?

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the answer to the first question is that the force patrolling the streets of Portland consists of the Federal Protective Service, whose job it is to protect federal property. Personnel from other federal agencies—principally the Border Patrol—have also reportedly been deputized to assist in that mission. So these uniformed personnel are a militarized police force, which is always a dangerous thing. The answer to the second question is that, under the Fourth Amendment, this force does not have the authority to detain people like this. But government lawyers will rely on expansive theories of police power that cripple Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful seizures. This would not be the first time the federal government has tried this, though it appears to be one of the first targeting people exercising their First Amendment right to protest.

The Federal Protective Service has the authority to make arrests “if the officer or agent has reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing a felony.” If that doesn’t sound right to you, it shouldn’t. People can’t be arrested unless the arresting officer has probable cause—not merely reasonable grounds—to believe a crime has been committed or is underway. That’s required by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which presumptively prohibits seizures without probable cause.

Read the rest of the legal argument at Slate.

More galloping authoritarianism stories to check out:

Lawfare: DHS Authorizes Domestic Surveillance to Protect Statues and Monuments.

CNN: Trump’s team is increasingly adopting the narratives of autocracy.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Kenney and Krasner Slam Trump After President Threatens to Send Feds to Philly.

Will Bunch at The Philadelphia Inquirer: Trump’s made-for-TV fascism in Portland won’t get him reelected. It may get someone killed.

Slate: Trump Is Now Deploying Unidentified ICE Agents to Arrest Protesters in Democratic-Run Cities.

CNN: ‘Things could get very ugly’: Experts fear post-election crisis as Trump sets the stage to dispute the results in November.

The Guardian: Trump consults Bush torture lawyer on how to skirt law and rule by decree.

Take care and have courage, Sky Dancers!


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?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump and Fascism

By Edward B. Gordon

Good Afternoon!!

Over the past couple of weeks, Trump has downplayed an attempt to assassinate at least 13 present and former Democratic officials and prominent Democrats as well as the hate crime murder of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue. His deepest expressed concern about these horrific events has been that they interfered with media coverage of his Hitler rallies. In addition, Trump has blatantly lied about a group of Honduran asylum-seekers, claiming their “caravan” represents a national emergency that requires the deployment of thousands of active-duty troops on the Southern border. I think at this point it’s appropriate to label Trump’s behavior and rhetoric as fascism. I’m far from the only one saying this.

The Washington Post: Trump deploys the fascist playbook for the midterms, by Ishaan Tharoor

President Trump’s message is as clear as it is ugly: Fearmongering about illegal immigration will deliver his party the votes it needs to retain control of Congress. And so, in the final stretch before next week’s midterm election, the president and his allies have launched a blitzkrieg of misinformation.

By Henri Lebasque (1865 – 1937)

In a move unprecedented in modern American history, Trump ordered thousands of active-duty troops to the border to intercept a caravan of Central American migrants, casting them as a menacing “invasion” of “unknown Middle Easterners” and other shadowy elements. His allies at right-wing media outlets spread lurid conspiracy theories about liberals enabling disease-bearing foreigners to infiltrate the country.

Even as attention shifted to a spate of right-wing violence, including the slaughter of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue that critics linked to the president’s rhetoric, Trump barreled on, undaunted. On Thursday, he gave a speech at the White House where he warned that U.S. troops would shoot violent migrants at the border. He also shared an ad that sought to connect the Democratic Party to murders carried out by a man twice deported to Mexico, and then to link the man’s murderous behavior to the supposed threat posed by all migrants.

Taroor links to several other writers on the subject, including:

Timothy Snyder at The Guardian: Donald Trump borrows from the old tricks of fascism.

The governing principle of the Trump administration is total irresponsibility, a claim of innocence from a position of power, something which happens to be an old fascist trick. As we see in the president’s reactions to American rightwing terrorism, he will always claim victimhood for himself and shift blame to the actual victims. As we see in the motivations of the terrorists themselves, and in the long history of fascism, this maneuver can lead to murder.

Comfy Chair, by Rae Andrews

The Nazis claimed a monopoly on victimhood. Mein Kampf includes a lengthy pout about how Jews and other non-Germans made Hitler’s life as a young man in the Habsburg monarchy difficult. After stormtroopers attacked others in Germany in the early 1930s, they made a great fuss if one of their own was injured. The Horst Wessel Song, recalling a single Nazi who was killed, was on the lips of Germans who killed millions of people. The second world war was for the Nazis’ self-defense against “global Jewry”.

The idea that the powerful must be coddled arose in a setting that recalls the United States of today. The Habsburg monarchy of Hitler’s youth was a multinational country with democratic institutions and a free press. Some Germans, members of the dominant nationality, felt threatened because others could vote and publish. Hitler was an extreme example of this kind of sentiment. Today, some white Americans are similarly threatened by the presence of others in institutions they think of as their own. Among the targets of the accused pipe bomber were four women, five black people and two Jews. Just as (some) Germans were the only serious national problem within the Habsburg monarchy, so today are (some) white Americans the only serious threat to their own republic.

How does this apply to Trump?

Trump and some of his supporters mount a strategy of deterrence by narcissism: if you note our debts to fascism, we will up the pitch of the whining. Thus Trump can base his rhetoric on the fascist idea of us and them, lead fascist chants at rallies, encourage his supporters to use violence, praise a politician who attacked a journalist, muse that Hillary Clinton should be assassinated, denigrate the intelligence of African Americans, associate migrants with criminality, run an antisemitic advertisement, spread the Nazi trope of Jews as “globalists”, and endorse the antisemitic idea that the Jewish financier George Soros is responsible for political opposition – but he and his followers will puff chests and swell sinuses if anyone points this out.

By Ivan Stepanovich Ivanov-Sakachev

If Trump is not a fascist, this is only in the precise sense that he is not even a fascist. He strikes a fascist pose, and then issues generic palliative remarks and denies responsibility for his words and actions. But since total irresponsibility is a central part of the fascist tradition, it is perhaps best to give Trump his due credit as an innovator.

The next piece is very long, but I hope you’ll go read it. I can’t do it justice with excerpts. From the Literary Hub, Aleksandar Hemon on Civility: Fascism is Not an Idea to Be Debated, It’s a Set of Actions to Fight. Hemon is from Bosnia. His essay responds to The New Yorker’s quickly aborted invitation to Steve Bannon to discuss his “ideas” with editor-in-chief David Remnick.

The public discussion prompted by the (dis)invitation confirmed to me that only those safe from fascism and its practices are far more likely to think that there might be a benefit in exchanging ideas with fascists. What for such a privileged group is a matter of a potentially productive difference in opinion is, for many of us, a matter of basic survival. The essential quality of fascism (and its attendant racism) is that it kills people and destroys their lives—and it does so because it openly aims so.

Witness Stephen Miller and Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance for illegal immigration” policy. Fascism’s central idea, appearing in a small repertoire of familiar guises, is that there are classes of human beings who deserve diminishment and destruction because they’re for some reason (genetic, cultural, whatever) inherently inferior to “us.” Every fucking fascist, Bannon included, strives to enact that idea, even if he (and it is usually a he—fascism is a masculine ideology, and therefore inherently misogynist) bittercoats it in a discourse of victimization and national self-defense. You know: they are contaminating our nation/race; they are destroying our culture; we must do something about them or perish. At the end of such an ideological trajectory is always genocide, as it was the case in Bosnia.

By Kenton Nelson

The effects and consequences of fascism, however, are not equally distributed along that trajectory. Its ideas are enacted first and foremost upon the bodies and lives of the people whose presence within “our” national domain is prohibitive. In Bannon/Trump’s case, that domain is nativist and white. Presently, their ideas are inflicted upon people of color and immigrants, who do not experience them as ideas but as violence. The practice of fascism supersedes its ideas, which is why people affected and diminished by it are not all that interested in a marketplace of ideas in which fascists have prime purchasing power.

The error in Bannon’s headlining The New Yorker Festival would not have been in giving him a platform to spew his hateful rhetoric, for he was as likely to convert anyone as he himself was to be shown the light in conversation with Remnick. The catastrophic error would’ve been in allowing him to divorce his ideas from the fascist practices in which they’re actualized with brutality. If he is at all relevant, it is not as a thinker, but as a (former) executive who has worked to build the Trumpist edifice of power that cages children and is dismantling mechanisms of democracy.

Relevant reading from Today’s news:

The Washington Post: Trump’s election-eve border mission puts the military in partisan crosshairs.

The Washington Post: Army assessment of migrant caravans undermines Trump’s rhetoric.

Think Progress: These prominent white supremacists interacted with the Pittsburgh shooting suspect on social media.

The Independent: Fascism has arrived in Brazil – Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency will be worse than you think.

The New York Times: Nigerian Army Uses Trump’s Words to Justify Fatal Shooting of Rock-Throwing Protesters.

Buzzfeed News: Trump Said US Soldiers Should Shoot Rock-Throwing Migrants, And Vets Were Having None Of That.

What stories are you following today?


Friday Reads: “Something wicked this way comes …”

rosaparksWelcome to the start of an Orwellian Dystopia.   Will the Vichy Democrats enable the demise of Civil Rights?  How many of us will stand up to defend our Bill of Rights?

A man deemed “too racist” to be a Federal judge by a judiciary committee led by Senate Republicans during the Reagan years has just been nominated to the be the nation’s head enforcer of Civil Rights law.  Jeff Sessions “once joked that he only took issue with the KKK’s drug use and referred to civil rights groups as “un-American.”

The man who President-elect Donald Trump will nominate as the 84th attorney general of the United States was once rejected as a federal judge over allegations he called a black attorney “boy,” suggested a white lawyer working for black clients was a race traitor, joked that the only issue he had with the Ku Klux Klan was their drug use, and referred to civil rights groups as “un-American” organizations trying to “force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), an early Trump supporter who has been playing a major role on the Trump transition team, met with the president-elect in New York on Thursday. In a statement, the Trump team said the president-elect was “unbelievably impressed” with Sessions.

On Friday morning, Trump and Sessions confirmed that Sessions had been offered the attorney general position.

J. Gerald Hebert remembers Sessions’ time as the top federal prosecutor in Mobile, Alabama, well. Speaking to The Huffington Post earlier this month, Hebert said he was stunned that an Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a possibility.

More than three decades ago, Hebert was in his 30s and working on voting rights cases for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. He was based in D.C. but spent time in Alabama working with Sessions, who was a U.S. attorney in Ronald Reagan’s administration.

“He was very affable, always wanting to have a conversation, a cup of coffee,” Hebert said. “Over the course of those months, I had a number of conversations with him, and in a number of those conversations he made remarks that were deeply concerning.”

After Sessions was nominated to be a federal judge in 1986, Hebert appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify about these remarks. It was unusual for a career DOJ lawyer to testify about a judicial nominee’s character, and Hebert said at the time that he did so with “very mixed feelings,” telling senators he considered Sessions “a friend.” Hebert told them Sessions had “a tendency to pop off” and that he was “not a very sensitive person when it comes to race relations.”

HuffPost reviewed a transcript of the Sessions’ 1986 confirmation hearings. In this selection, Hebert testified that he had once relayed comments about a white lawyer being described as a race traitor, and that Sessions had responded by saying “he probably is” …

The ADL CEO has announced he will register as Muslim if such a registry–as promised by the future Trump Administration–is enacted. Many Jewish Americans are concerned with the threat of laws that remind them of Europe’s awful past.

The head of an organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism says he will register as a Muslim should President-elect Donald Trump create a national database for the religion’s followers.

“The new administration plans to force Muslims to register on some master list,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), told listeners at the group’s Never is Now Conference in New York Thursday, according to Haaretz. “As Jews we know what it means to be forced to register.

“I pledge to you that because I am committed to the fight against anti-Semitism that if one day Muslim-Americans are forced to register their identities, that is the day this proud Jew will register as Muslim. Making powerful enemies is the price one must pay, at times, for speaking truth to power.”

Trump supporters have floated a registry of Muslim immigrants as part of efforts to combat radical Islamic terrorism, but officials with his transition team have denied any such plans.

Greenblatt added Americans must reject all forms of discrimination regardless of which minority group it targets.

“No one has an excuse for excusing intolerance. We must stand with our fellow Americans who may be singled out for how they look, where they’re from, who they love or how they pray,” he said

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), an immigration hard-liner who has been advising Trump, said Wednesday that transition policy advisers were debating the merits of such a database.

54b9cf2c2d491021bcd18545c350d236Many Holocaust survivors are as traumatized by this election as sexual assault survivors and victims of abuse.

The dramatic increase in anti-Semitism and hate crimes since Election Day is a horrifying flashback for veteran Jewish Americans.

“It’s a very traumatic time for survivors and their families,” said Eva Fogelman, PhD, a New York-based, licensed psychologist and a pioneer in the field of Holocaust survivor post-traumatic stress disorder.
“There’s been a definite spike in anxiety among survivors in the past week,” Fogelman added. “They witness hate speech and anti-Semitic symbols from their childhood follow them here, and it triggers a relapse in their trauma. One of my patients said, ‘I lived through one Hitler, I don’t want to live through another.’”

Though sleeplessness and nightmares about their wartime experiences are the most common symptoms, intense fear of leaving and losing one’s home is another.

Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo, an Army veteran, will become Trump’s CIA director if confirmed by the Senate. He is a Tea Partier. f684ad067c151f22742c0315c1fbaa09

He’s a supporter of the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk data collection program and sought to restore the agency’s access to the data it had already collected under the Patriot Act from its inception through late last year.

Pompeo is also one of the most vocal critics of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.

Pompeo, who grew up in the traditionally Republican enclave of Orange County, California, founded Thayer Aerospace, a company that made parts for commercial and military aircraft. After selling Thayer, he became president of Sentry International, a company that manufactures and sells equipment used in oil fields.

He was elected to Congress in 2010 on a wave of tea party support and with backing from the Koch Industries political action committee. The Wichita-based conglomerate’s PAC is well known for its support of conservative candidates.

Though Pompeo is generally known for his opposition to Obama administration policies, he’s occasionally given heat to some fellow Republicans. Last year, his name was floated as a potential rival to Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to become House speaker.

Trump’s choice for NSA is a horrifying pick also. He’s got contacts with US enemy states.

But Flynn has also shown an erratic streak since leaving government that is likely to make his elevation disconcerting even to the flag officers and senior intelligence officials who once considered him a peer.

Flynn stunned former colleagues when he traveled to Moscow last year to appear alongside Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at a lavish gala for the Kremlin-run propaganda channel RT, a trip Flynn admitted he was paid to make and defended by saying he saw no distinction between RT and U.S. news channels such as CNN.

Flynn said he used the trip to press Putin’s government to behave more responsibly in international affairs. Former U.S. officials said Flynn, seen dining next to Putin in photos published by Russian propaganda outlets, was used as a prop by the autocratic leader.

Flynn was forced out of his job as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 over concerns about his leadership style. After the ouster, he frequently lashed out in public against President Obama and blamed his removal on the administration’s discomfort with his hard-line views on radical Islam.

Spurning the decorum traditionally expected of retired U.S. flag officers, Flynn became a fervent campaigner for Trump and was given a high-profile role speaking before the GOP convention, an appearance in which he led the crowd in “lock her up” chants against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Flynn’s behavior drew the ire of former colleagues and superiors, including retired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who made Flynn his top intelligence officer during critical stretches of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I’m trying to regain my nerve to fight all this but I feel like I’m getting way too old to do 7f65ea6e2fa9400b39db2d99dccf2557-1much good.  However, if Paul Ryan has his way, I will likely be on the ice floes.

Here’s some advice from Sarah Kendzior who has:

…. studied authoritarian states for over a decade, I would never exaggerate the severity of the threat we now face. But an American kleptocracy is exactly where president-elect Trump and his backers are taking us. That’s why I have a favor to ask you, my fellow Americans.

We’re heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump.

She has many suggestions but this was the most poignant. I think we must hold on to our values and be prepared to defend them.

That voice is your conscience, your morals, your individuality. No one can take that from you unless you let them. They can take everything from you in material terms – your house, your job, your ability to speak and move freely. They cannot take away who you truly are. They can never truly know you, and that is your power.

But to protect and wield this power, you need to know yourself – right now, before their methods permeate, before you accept the obscene and unthinkable as normal.

My heart breaks for the United States of America. It breaks for those who think they are my enemies as much as it does for my friends. You still have your freedom, so use it. There are many groups organizing for both resistance and subsistence, but we are heading into dark times, and you need to be your own light. Do not accept brutality and cruelty as normal even if it is sanctioned. Protect the vulnerable and encourage the afraid. If you are brave, stand up for others. If you cannot be brave – and it is often hard to be brave – be kind.

But most of all, never lose sight of who you are and what you value.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Saturday Reads

Trump cartoon by Matt Bors, www.gocomics.com

Trump cartoon by Matt Bors, http://www.gocomics.com

Good Morning!!

I should probably stop focusing on Donald Trump, but I just can’t avert my eyes to the damage he’s doing to my country. I truly believe this man is dangerous–perhaps even more so because he’s doesn’t have any real political ideology. He simply opens his mouth and spews out the ugliness inside him.

I read a riveting and horrifying article in Vanity Fair yesterday by Mark Bowden, a writer who spent a significant amount of time with Trump years ago while doing an interview for Playboy Magazine. I consider the whole thing must-read, but I’ll give you some excerpts.

Donald Trump Really Doesn’t Want Me to Tell You This, But …

He was like one of those characters in an 18th-century comedy meant to embody a particular flavor of human folly. Trump struck me as adolescent, hilariously ostentatious, arbitrary, unkind, profane, dishonest, loudly opinionated, and consistently wrong. He remains the most vain man I have ever met. And he was trying to make a good impression. Who could have predicted that those very traits, now on prominent daily display, would turn him into the leading G.O.P. candidate for president of the United States? [….]

With Trump, what you see is what you get. His behavior was cringe-worthy. He showed off the gilded interior of his plane—calling me over to inspect a Renoir on its walls, beckoning me to lean in closely to see . . . what? The luminosity of the brush strokes? The masterly use of color? No. The signature. “Worth $10 million,” he told me….

It was hard to watch the way he treated those around him, issuing peremptory orders—“Polish this, Tony. Today.” He met with the lady who selected his drapery for the Florida estate—“The best! The best! She’s a genius!”—who had selected a sampling of fabrics for him to choose from, all different shades of gold. He left the choice to her, saying only, “I want it really rich. Rich, rich, elegant, incredible.” Then, “Don’t disappoint me.” It was a pattern. Trump did not make decisions. He surrounded himself with “geniuses” and delegated. So long as you did not “disappoint” him—and it was never clear how to avoid doing so—you were gold.

Campaign Rhetoric

Trump was often “disappointed,” and then he viciously attacked people who worked for him. And example:

I watched as Trump strutted around the beautifully groomed clay tennis courts on his estate, managed by noted tennis proAnthony Boulle.The courts had been prepped meticulously for a full day of scheduled matches. Trump took exception to the design of the spaces between courts. In particular, he didn’t like a small metal box—a pump and cooler for the water fountain alongside—which he thought looked ugly. He first questioned its placement, then crudely disparaged it, then kicked the box, which didn’t budge, and then stooped—red-faced and fuming—to tear it loose from its moorings, rupturing a water line and sending a geyser to soak the courts. Boulle looked horrified, a weekend of tennis abruptly drowned.

Bowden characterizes Trump as an “adolescent” and a “teenager.” I’m not sure if he’s not even more childish than that. But he has access to unlimited coverage from the media and he has brought the crazies out of the woodwork to cheer him on. No matter how hard “mainstream” Republicans work to stop him, he could still end up being their nominee; and so far they are still saying they would support him.

Timothy Egan at The New York Times: Goose-steppers in the GOP.

Well, he’s got the Hitler vote. The neo-Nazi website, Daily Stormer, was out and proud earlier this week: “Heil Donald Trump — the Ultimate Savior.” After endorsing the Republican presidential front-runner earlier this year for his call to deport 11 million Mexican immigrants, the fomenters of American fascism have now added an apt twist to his slogan, one not far from the truth of the campaign: “Make America White Again.”

Nazis — I hate these guys. Oh, but they’re a tiny minority of pink-faced malcontents living in basements with the windows taped up. Everybody hates them. Add to that supporters of the Ku Klux Klan, who’ve thrown in with Trump as well. David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Klan, liked everything he heard from Trump this week, embracing him for standing up for white nationalism.

And sure, all the little Hitlers probably don’t amount to a hill of beans. But what about the 35 percent of Republican voters, in the New York Times/CBS News poll, who say they’re all in with the man sieg heiled by aspiring brownshirts and men in white sheets?

It’s a very ugly political moment, but there it is: The Republican Party is now home to millions of people who would throw out the Constitution, welcome a police state against Latinos and Muslims, and enforce a religious test for entry into a country built by people fleeing religious persecution. This stuff polls well in their party, even if the Bill of Rights does not.

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Paul Farhi at The Washington Post: Thanks to Trump, fringe news enters the mainstream.

Alex Jones may be America’s most successful conspiracy theorist. On his website, Infowars.com, and his daily radio program heard on more than 100 stations nationwide, Jones regularly promotes a variety of ­beyond-the- fringe ideas: alleged government conspiracies in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; fluoride-in-the-water health scares; suspicions that the moon landings were faked; doubts about President Obama’s place of birth and birth certificate….

The ranting radio host and the leading Republican candidate shared a microphone, and some common ground, last week in what may have been a dubious first — the first time a leading presidential candidate has been interviewed by a media figure from the far extremes. “Your reputation is amazing,” Trump assured Jones, after Jones assured Trump that most of his listeners supported his candidacy. “I will not let you down.”

Trump finding common ground with Jones is in keeping with Trump’s own rocky relationship with facts and credible information during the campaign. Many of Trump’s more controversial assertions since he declared for president have come from the murky swamp of right-wing, libertarian and flat-out paranoid sources that have proliferated and thrived as the Internet and social media have grown.

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Maybe not a leading candidate, but Ron Paul has appeared on Alex Jones’ show many times. So has Paul’s son Rand, who is currently running for president as a Republican. Back to the WaPo article:

Once a small fringe, this “alternative” information ecosystem now includes websites, talk-radio programs, newsletters, conferences and “citizen journalists” who promote, debate and inflate such questionable causes asvaccine denial, climate-change skepticism , and the supposedly imminent imposition of sharia law in America. The fringe nowadays often injects its ideas into the mainstream by gaining the attention of sources broadly popular among conservatives, such as Fox News and the Drudge Report, which devoted attention to rumors that the Operation Jade Helm military exercises this summer in the Southwest were a prelude to a crackdown on civil liberties.

“There’s an information-age tsunami out there that just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” said Steve Smith, a veteran newspaper editor who teaches journalism at the University of Idaho. “When you combine this digital tsunami with the loss of quality and quantity in American journalism [due to cutbacks and economic woes] over the years . . . journalists just don’t have the ability to keep up once a false narrative gains speed.”

david_willson_donald_trump_cartoon

Some reporters may be trying to stem the tide, but the big media honchos apparently love Trump. From Common Dreams via Truthdig: Hear a Network CEO Revel in the Amazing Profits of Candidates ‘Throwing Crap at Each Other’ (Audio).

Even as large swaths of the populationcall for media outletsto do their part in stemming the “dangerous tide of hatred, violence, and suspicion” taking hold in the United States, corporate media—which stands to benefit nicely from the $5 billion 2016 presidential election—is egging on that same divisive rhetoric.

“Go Donald! Keep getting out there!” CBS Corporation chief executive Les Moonvesreportedlysaid during an investor presentation Monday.

Trumpeting the advertising dollars already flowing CBS’s way as a result of the crowded 2016 GOP presidential primary, Moonves said: “We love having all 16 Republicans candidates throwing crap at each other — it’s great. The more they spend, the better it is for us.”

“And, you know, this is fun, watching this, let them spend money on us, and we love having them in there,” he declared. “We’re looking forward to a very exciting political year in ’16.”

So much for the “media watchdogs” who are expected to inform the American people.

In other news:

The LA Times: Person detained in fire at Coachella mosque; concern over shooting backlash mounts.

Channel 10 News Tampa Sarasota: Two Muslim Women Attacked in Tampa.

Buzzfeed: Lindsey Graham: Trump Leading Because 40% Of GOP Voters Think Obama Is Kenyan Muslim.

Truthout: Henry A. Giroux | Fascism in Donald Trump’s United States.

The New York Times: Discrimination by Airbnb Hosts is Widespread, Report Says.

The Christian Science Monitor: Guilty verdict for Oklahoma cop in serial rape trial: A national problem.

Wall Street Journal: Citigroup Funded Loan to Syed Farook Made Through Prosper Marketplace.

BBC News: Saudi Arabia’s women vote in election for first time.

What stories are you following today?