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 Caturday Reads

Balinese god Barong-Ket, a combination of lion, tiger, cow, and dragon.

Good Morning!!

I said this a few days ago, and I’m still feeling it: I don’t want to live in this world. America’s toxic culture of white supremacy and mass shootings is spreading around the globe, enabled by Trump. I stayed offline for much of the day yesterday so I wouldn’t have to read about the horror in New Zealand.

I did hear last night that somehow the massacre on the other side of the world was the fault of Chelsea Clinton. At least according to some Bernie Sanders supporters. Here’s the video of a young women in a Bernie T-shirt poking her finger at Chelsea and screaming in her face.

From Business Insider:

Clinton, who attended and worked at the university in various capacities, including co-founding the Of Many Institute for Multifaith Leadership, was said to be invited to the vigil, according to students at the vigil.

But Clinton’s presence at the vigil was not a welcome sight for at least two activists who were at the vigil.

A video went viral on Twitter Friday night showing a confrontation between Clinton and a student activist, filmed and tweeted out by a friend, who can be seen in the video telling Clinton, “This right here is the result of a massacre stoked by people like you and the words that you put into the world. And I want you to know that and I want you to feel that deeply — 49 people died because of the rhetoric you put out there.” [….]

On Twitter, an account that appears to belong to the student activist wrote, “the CAUCASITY that chelsea clinton has showing up to a vigil for the 49 muslims massacred in an islamophobic hate crime after STOKING ISLAMOPHOBIA AND RACISM surrounding ilhan omar… f—ing ridiculous.” The account retweeted the video, posted by her “best friend,” writing, “apparently my brand is yelling at white politicians.”

Ancient Egypian goddes Sekhmet

Fact check: Chelsea Clinton is not a politician. Chelsea’s offense was that she sent a tweet about anti-semitism, after which she politely interacted with Rep Ilhan Omar, who had been criticized for tweets about politicians supporting Israel because they received donations from AIPAC. Here is what Clinton tweeted: “We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism.”

On the other hand, let’s take a look at Trump’s history. Brian Klaas at The Washington Post: A short history of President Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry.

Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry has a long history. In 2011 and 2012, Trump insinuated that President Barack Obama was secretly Muslim. In September 2015, at a campaign rally, Trump nodded along as a supporter claimed “we have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims.” Trump continued nodding, saying “right,” and “we need this question!” as the supporter then proceeded to ask Trump “when can we get rid of them [Muslims]?” In response, Trump said: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things.”

In November 2015, on “Morning Joe,” Trump said that America needs to “watch and study the mosques.” Four days later, he indicated that he would “certainly implement” a database to track Muslims in the United States. Two days after that, he falsely claimedthat “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheered in New Jersey when the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Then came the most egregious statement — one that should haunt Trump’s legacy forever and taint everyone who supported him subsequently: On Dec. 7, 2015, he called to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Three days later, Trump tweeted that the United Kingdom is “trying hard to disguise their massive Muslim problem.” On March 9, 2016, Trump falsely claimed that “Islam hates us.”

Upon taking office, Trump surrounded himself with anti-Muslim bigots. Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump adviser, was fired by the FBI for his Islamophobia. Michael Flynn, Trump’s disgraced national-security-adviser-turned-felon, said that Islam “is like a cancer.” And top officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton have also stoked hatred of Islam.

Egyptian goddess Bastet

In late November 2017, Trump retweeted three videos by Jayda Fransen. She was one of the leaders of Britain First, a neo-fascist hate group. She has been convicted of multiple hate-crime offensesand was involved in organizing “Christian patrols,” which included what Britain First called “mosque invasions” aimed at intimidating British Muslims. While Fransen was out on bail, she appeared on Radio Aryan, a neo-Nazi radio station. Her interview began right after the station concluded its reading from “Mein Kampf.” That is who the president of the United States chose to amplify to his millions and millions of Twitter followers.

There’s much more at the link if you can stand to read it.

More from Vox: The New Zealand shooter called immigrants “invaders.” Hours later, so did Trump.

President Donald Trump just used similar language to describe immigrants coming into the United States that the alleged mass shooter did to justify killing nearly 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand.

On Friday, Trump issued the first veto of his presidency to override a congressional blockade of the national emergency he declared at America’s southern border. During the veto signing ceremony, Trump explained why he felt a national emergency was warranted to stop migrants from entering the US.

“People hate the word ‘invasion,’ but that’s what it is,” he said, according to the White House pool report.

That is chillingly similar to the language the main suspect in Friday’s Christchurch terrorist attack used to explain why he chose to gun down at least 49 Muslims. In the rambling 74-page manifesto the 28-year-old suspected shooter posted online shortly before the attack, he writes that he was committing the killings “to show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands.”

It’s also the same language the man who killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last October used: In that case, the perpetrator blamed Jews for helping what he called “invaders”in the Central American migrant caravans who were trying to enter the US.

Informative articles on the New Zealand terrorist attack, links only:

Cat in mosaic at Pompeii

David C. Atkinson at The New Republic: The Longer History of the Christchurch Attacks. For over a century, the United States has played a role in inspiring and enabling white supremacy in Australia and New Zealand.

Wajahat Ali at The New York Times: The Roots of the Christchurch Massacre. All those who have helped to spread the worldwide myth that Muslims are a threat have blood on their hands.

NBC News: New Zealand shooting leaves online extremism researchers ‘hopeless and furious.’

The Daily Beast: New Zealand Mosque Shooting Suspect Used Swedish Girl’s Death as License to Kill.

 

More interesting reads to check out

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has a fascinating story on that former Putin pal who supposedly died accidentally in a DC hotel room: Exclusive: Washington Autopsy Files Reveal Lesin Sustained Broken Bone In Neck.

WASHINGTON — Mikhail Lesin, the former Russian press minister who turned up dead in a Washington hotel room in 2015, sustained a fracture to a neck bone just below the jaw line “at or near the time” of his death, according to documents released by the city’s medical examiner that provide new details about his final days….

That detail, however, and others contained in the 149-page file released exclusively to RFE/RL offer the most precise scientific description to date about Lesin’s death, which officials ruled accidental and said was caused by blunt-force injuries amid excessive alcohol consumption.

Once a powerful media adviser to President Vladimir Putin, Lesin fell out of favor with the Kremlin elite sometime around 2012 and had lowered his public profile before he was discovered dead in the Dupont Circle Hotel, located a few blocks from the White House, on November 5, 2015….

Hindu sacret tigress Dawon

Among the new details revealed by the documents:

• Lesin’s hyoid — a bone located about midway between the larynx and the jaw bone — was completely fractured;

• The FBI considered possibly taking over the case in early 2016. It wasn’t clear whether the agency formally did so, though earlier files released by the agency show its agents were involved in questioning witnesses and examining video recordings from hotel cameras;

• Lesin’s son, Anton, who lives in Beverly Hills, California, told investigators he did not know why his father was in the U.S. capital, and also reported that Lesin regularly had serious bouts of drinking while on business trips;

• The day after the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner released an initial report, one of its officials was summoned to appear before a criminal grand jury looking into Lesin’s death;

• In a report filed the day of Lesin’s death, a forensic investigator with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner wrote that a detective had called and said a “friend” of the former Russian official had contacted him and “inquired about the decedent’s location.”

Read many more details at the link.

The media has begun vetting Beto O’Rourke. Two interesting reads:

Reuters: Beto O’Rourke’s secret membership in America’s oldest hacking group.

While a teenager, O’Rourke acknowledged in an exclusive interview, he belonged to the oldest group of computer hackers in U.S. history.

The hugely influential Cult of the Dead Cow, jokingly named after an abandoned Texas slaughterhouse, is notorious for releasing tools that allowed ordinary people to hack computers running Microsoft’s Windows. It’s also known for inventing the word “hacktivism” to describe human-rights-driven security work.

Members of the group have protected O’Rourke’s secret for decades, reluctant to compromise his political viability. Now, in a series of interviews, CDC members have acknowledged O’Rourke as one of their own. In all, more than a dozen members of the group agreed to be named for the first time in a book about the hacking group by this reporter that is scheduled to be published in June by Public Affairs. O’Rourke was interviewed early in his run for the Senate.

Mayan Jaguar god

There is no indication that O’Rourke ever engaged in the edgiest sorts of hacking activity, such as breaking into computers or writing code that enabled others to do so. But his membership in the group could explain his approach to politics better than anything on his resume. His background in hacking circles has repeatedly informed his strategy as he explored and subverted established procedures in technology, the media and government.

“There’s just this profound value in being able to be apart from the system and look at it critically and have fun while you’re doing it,” O’Rourke said. “I think of the Cult of the Dead Cow as a great example of that.”

That doesn’t seem to problematic to me. As younger candidates come forward, they are likely to have on-line histories. This story from Politico is a bit more embarrassing: O’Rourke ‘not … proud’ of teenage murder fantasy writing.

Beto O’Rourke said Friday he is “not … proud” of fiction he wrote as teenager about murdering children, while acknowledging its surfacing could hurt his campaign.

“Stuff I was part of as a teenager … not anything that I’m proud of today,” O’Rourke told reporters outside a meet-and-greet here. “And I mean, that’s the long and short of it.”

O’Rourke’s remarks followed a report in Reuters that O’Rourke, as a young member of the computer hacking group Cult of the Dead Cow, wrote an online article about how society could work without money and, in a more disturbing missive, about killing children.

“One day, as I was driving home from work, I noticed two children crossing the street. They were happy, happy to be free from their troubles. … This happiness was mine by right. I had earned it in my dreams,” he wrote, according to Reuters. “As I neared the young ones, I put all my weight on my right foot, keeping the accelerator pedal on the floor until I heard the crashing of the two children on the hood, and then the sharp cry of pain from one of the two. I was so fascinated for a moment, that when after I had stopped my vehicle, I just sat in a daze, sweet visions filling my head.”

There’s more of this stuff, definitely creepy; but it was a long time ago. Bernie Sanders survived his early fantasy writings about rape and his theories about breast cancer being caused by sexual frustration.

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