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The phrase "you're out of your cotton-picking mind" made an interesting appearance on Fox. Here's the background from Slate:

A heated discussion on Fox News took a turn into the surreal Sunday morning when Donald Trump's former deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, used a racial insult to deny that there was racism in the White House. The already heated exchange with Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who is black, reached an apex when he accused the administration and its allies of using coded racism to appeal to a certain segment of the population.

As Slate notes, "Bossie then went on to note how former CIA director Michael Hayden compared the child detention centers for migrant children to Auschwitz:"

"Yeah, that liberal Michael Hayden," Payne responded sarcastically. "You are out of your cotton-picking mind!" Bossie went on to say for some reason. Payne immediately reacted. "Cotton-picking mind?" Payne said, seemingly shocked at what he just heard. "Brother, let me tell you something. Let me tell you something, I got some relatives who picked cotton, okay?"

This incident dovetails nicely with Huckleberry's questionable tweet about Pelosi supporters and the Salvadoran MS-13 gang:

20180624-ms13.png

Is Trump a liar? Maybe not--and that's even scarier, writes Andrew O'Hehir. He wonders, "how are we to categorize Trump as an unquenchable fount of untruth, who by the Washington Post's count passed 3,000 "false or misleading statements" as president more than a month ago?"

Is he a liar, a bullshitter, a gaslighter, a prevaricator, an ignoramus or a delusional sociopath whose relationship to the world of observable reality and established fact is at best "transactional"? I see two viable answers to this question:

1. It's the wrong question.

2. Yes.

"The second answer is correct," writes O'Hehir, "because Trump uses all those tactics and more, sometimes in ways that seem calculated and sometimes on what looks like pure instinct." He also observes that "Trump has displayed little or no concern for the truth," for example in the 1989 Central Park Five case. "Trump didn't care whether those five young black and Latino men were guilty or innocent," he continues:

The facts of the case were beside the point; their lives were beside the point. (Black lives quite literally did not matter.) Those men were no more than sinister extras in a psychodrama fueled by pure emotion -- fear, rage, bitterness, confusion -- in which questions of law or fact were irrelevant.

For many white New Yorkers and white Americans of Trump's generation, the Central Park rape case seemed to symbolize a moment of societal collapse, and to epitomize a racial, generational and existential threat. Their city, and their country, were being taken from them by roving bands of dark-skinned criminals: It's precisely the anarchic, hellish social vision Trump repeatedly laid out during his presidential campaign and during his "American carnage" inaugural address.

Crime has dropped steadily in the three decades since then, but Trump still suffers from an "obsession with gruesome, violent crimes -- with rape in particular -- and his nightmarish fantasies about hordes of animalistic invaders bent on destroying America:"

I suspect that was also the moment when Trump clearly understood that he possessed a certain dark gift: He could tap into a deep current of popular rage and discord -- at least in a certain proportion of the population -- and channel it for his own purposes. The vicious attack on Trisha Meili, and the victimization of five young men who didn't do it, began the process that made Donald Trump president. Along the way, of course, he also orchestrated the cynical hunt for Barack Obama's birth certificate, endearing himself to the paranoid right. Correctly understood, I think that's a later chapter in the same narrative.

That history also provides an invaluable key that helps unlock the nature, meaning and purpose of Trump's ceaseless torrent of lies, which brings us back around to my original question about whether or not to call them lies. And to my first answer: It isn't an interesting or useful question.

Thus comes the situation we face in the post-truth era:

His followers either believe that everything Trump says is true and everything the media says is fake news, or understand that he's a blowhard and bullshitter who gets the libtards' undies in a bundle and love him for it. In either case, standing there with a ledger counting up all the things he says that are false or misleading or simply not nice is playing an assigned role of schoolmarm in a drama Trump is directing.

Lori Robertson at FactCheck examines the accusation that the Obama administration separated families just as Trump's is doing. The truth is a bit different:

In defending its "zero tolerance" border policy that has caused the separation of families, the Trump administration has argued that the Obama and Bush administrations did this too. That's misleading. Experts say there were some separations under previous administrations, but no blanket policy to prosecute parents and, therefore, separate them from their children.

Under a "zero tolerance policy" on illegal immigration announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in early April, the administration is now referring all illegal border crossings for criminal prosecution. By doing that, parents have been separated from their children, because children can't be held in detention facilities for adults.

DHS told us that 2,342 children were separated from their parents between May 5 and June 9.

But DHS couldn't provide any statistics on how many children may have been separated from their parents under the Obama administration. [...] [Sarah Pierce, policy analyst for the Migration Policy Institute] said that the likely reason data aren't available on child separations under previous administrations is because it was done in "really limited circumstances" such as suspicion of trafficking or other fraud.

Salon's Jamelle Bouie disputes the reason for Trump's EO:

Trump wants credit for ending the crisis he created, calling an executive order he signed on Wednesday "very compassionate." But the order neither ends the crisis nor produces a more humane status quo. It's a public relations stunt, meant to dampen criticism without changing the fundamentals of the policy. "Zero tolerance" is still in effect, and Trump's manufactured crisis may well get worse.

The executive order, titled "Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation," does three things. It continues the zero tolerance policy of prosecution for illegal entry, but directs the Department of Homeland Security to keep families together in custody, instead of separating parents and placing them with the Department of Justice. Families will remain in DHS custody for the duration of their criminal and immigration cases, which may mean months of waiting in detention facilities.

As it stands, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is running out of space for the adults it already has in custody. To accommodate new detainees, the president has allowed other departments, including the military, to provide additional space. Thousands of children will move into facilities without the staff or equipment to handle them or their needs.

"Either way," Bouie continues, "the situation for migrant parents and children looks bleak:"

Yes, they'll be kept together, but in conditions that weren't designed for mass detention of families. And the haphazard nature of the policy only raises the real possibility of abuse and neglect, seen already in the facilities used for child detention.

The NYT's Charlie Savage explains Trump's Executive Order, and also answers a few questions:

What does the Flores case have to do with this?

The long-running class-action litigation over the treatment of children in immigration custody ended with a 1997 consent decree known as the Flores settlement. Under it, the government has been obligated to release children from immigration detention to relatives or, if none can be found, to a licensed program within about three to five days. If that is impossible, they must be held in the "least restrictive" setting appropriate to their age and needs.

Was an executive order necessary?

No. Mr. Trump likes the flourish of signing executive orders in front of cameras, but most of his have amounted to asking his administration to conduct reviews and come up with proposed solutions to problems, or they have consisted of directives that he could have instead made with a phone call. This is one of those orders.

AlterNet's Cody Fenwick lists "five major problems that still remain after the order was signed:"

1. Children will still be detained, and it's not clear where.

While Trump and his supporters argue that the people in question are illegal immigrants, it's important to remember that they have not actually been convicted of any crime -- and the crime in question is a misdemeanor with no discernible victim. When Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort was jailed ahead of his trial for allegedly tampering with witnesses, Trump said he was being treated like he was a member of the "mob."

If indeed pre-trial detention is a cruel punishment, we shouldn't require it for vulnerable children and families.

2. Already separated children will not be returned to their parents.

3. Some children may already be lost in the system.

4. Many children may still be separated from their parents

5. The whole thing may be struck down.

The real solution would be for the administration to back off its "zero-tolerance policy" -- which is literally a policy of intolerance. The extreme measures taken at the border are unnecessary, and the administration itself spent over a year working under a very different policy. There's no good reason for it to continue these devastating practices.

Once again, Trump created this mess--and his Executive Order doesn't solve it.

standards

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Trump's damning doublespeak on collusion is noted by Slate's William Saletan:

President Trump and his attorneys used to demand a high standard for proving collusion. Words alone, they argued, weren't enough. Trump and his aides might have met secretly with Russians, solicited campaign help, received campaign help, and done favors for Russia. But without proof that all these words and deeds were connected, they insisted, there was no basis for investigation.

We can now junk that argument, because Trump and his lawyers have shown they don't believe it. They believe that corrupt words are sufficient to investigate, terminate, and jail a public official. That's the standard they're applying to FBI employees involved in the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the Russia investigation.

"And if it's the right standard for other executive branch employees," Saletan reminds us, "it's the right standard for the president." Trump's supporters agree on the words-alone standard:

In an exchange on Fox and Friends, Brian Kilmeade pointed out that "we just have words" from Strzok and Page. Kilmeade asked Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani: "Are words enough?" Giuliani replied: "Absolutely. I mean, words are the making of a conspiracy." In an interview with Sean Hannity, Giuliani concluded that based on the IG's findings, special counsel Robert Mueller "should be suspended," and "Strzok should be in jail by the end of next week."

You can argue that this standard for dismissing public employees, and certainly for jailing them, is too harsh. But let's indulge the president and others who advocate this standard, by applying it to them. [...] If conspiratorial words warrant imprisonment, or at least removal from office, what are we to make of the messages exchanged during the 2016 election between Trump, his son, his aides, and his Russian benefactors?

"In June 2016," Saletan reminds us, "Trump Jr. received an email from Rob Goldstone, an intermediary for a Russian oligarch:"

Six days later, Trump Jr., Manafort, and Jared Kushner met in Trump Tower with a Russian agent who was supposed to deliver the dirt. "So I believe you have some information for us," Trump Jr. told her.

She didn't provide the dirt. But five days after the meeting, the Washington Post reported that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee. The Trump campaign dismissed the report and said the DNC had faked the hack. Several weeks later, Trump aides intervened to block Republican platform language that challenged Russia's invasion of Ukraine. On July 22, WikiLeaks began to publish emails from the DNC hack. Five days after that, at a press conference, Trump said of Clinton's emails: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing."

Saletan then addresses Rudy Giuliani:

Your client, his family, and his henchmen are up to their eyeballs in suspicious conversations that seem highly related to what he's done for Russia and what Russia has done for him. By your standards, they should be in jail.

As if Giuliani actually has any standards...

At Mother Jones, David Corn reminds us how "Trump pushes out a simple (and dishonest) narrative via tweets and public remarks:"

The Russia investigation is a...well, you know, a witch hunt. Or a hoax. Or fake news. He blasts out the same exclamations daily: Witch hunt, hoax! Hoax, witch hunt! That's his mantra.

"The other side--the accurate perspective--isn't that complicated," he continues:

In 2016, Vladimir Putin's regime mounted information warfare against the United States, in part to help Trump become president. While this attack was underway, the Trump crew tried to collude covertly with Moscow, sought to set up a secret communications channel with Putin's office, and repeatedly denied in public that this assault was happening, providing cover to the Russian operation. Trump and his lieutenants aligned themselves with and assisted a foreign adversary, as it was attacking the United States. The evidence is rock-solid: They committed a profound act of betrayal. That is the scandal.

"Along with his shouts of 'witch hunt,'" however, "Trump also incessantly declares, 'No collusion:'"

This simplistic piece of shorthand aims at a straw man. Trump seems to be setting a bar that favors him: Unless evidence emerges that he personally met with Russian hackers, told them which Democratic Party emails to steal, and then provided guidance on how to release the material, then nothing wrong occurred. But the public record is already replete with serious wrongdoing committed by Trump and his aides. For example, after being secretly briefed in mid-August 2016 by the US intelligence community that Moscow was behind the hack-and-leak attack on the Democrats, Trump publicly claimed there was no reason to suspect the Russians.

"With his 'no collusion' chant," Corn continues, "Trump is like an embezzler who yells, 'There was no murder'--and asserts that is the only relevant benchmark:"

Think of what Trump did during the campaign in this fashion: A fellow is standing on a sidewalk in front of a bank. He is told the bank is being robbed. He can see armed men wearing masks in the bank. Yet when people pass by and ask what is happening in the bank, he says, "There is no robbery. Nothing to see. Move along." Even if this person did not collude with the robbers, he is helping the gang perpetrate a crime. And in Trump's case, the criminal act was committed for his gain.

Much of the media framing of the Russia scandal has followed Trump's lead and adopted his collusion-centric perspective.

"In this ongoing fight," sadly, "it is Trump and his bumper stickers versus a media presenting a wide variety of disparate disclosures that come and go quickly in a hyperchaotic information ecosystem, often absent full context:"

No wonder then that a recent poll found that 59 percent of Americans said Mueller has uncovered no crimes. In fact, he has secured 17 criminal indictments and obtained five guilty pleas. Accurate news reporting alone does not always carry the day.

"The Russia scandal is the most important scandal in the history of the United States," Corn concludes, because "at the heart of the Russia scandal is the most fundamental issue for a democracy: the sanctity of elections:"

An overseas enemy struck at the core of the republic--and it succeeded. Trump and his minions helped and encouraged this attack by engaging in secret contacts with Moscow and publicly insisting no such assault was happening. This is far bigger than a bribe, a break-in, or a blow job [but] Yet the full impact of this scandal does not resonate in the daily coverage and discourse.

https://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2018/06/the-biggest-scandal-of-all-time.html Digby concurs:

The bottom line is that an incompetent, unfit, corrupt president was elected with the help of an adversarial foreign power. Of course that's the worst scandal in American history. And he may get away with it.

Steve Contorno discusses FL background check failures in the pages of the Tampa Bay Times:

For more than a year, the state of Florida failed to review national background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits, potentially allowing drug addicts or people with a mental illness to carry firearms in public.

A previously unreported Office of Inspector General investigation found that in February 2016 the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stopped using the results from an FBI crime database called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that ensures applicants who want to carry a gun do not have a disqualifying history in other states.

The employee in charge of the background checks could not log into the system, the investigator learned. The problem went unresolved until discovered by another worker in March 2017 -- meaning that for more than a year applications got approved without the required background check.

As if that weren't bad enough, "Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has made it a priority to speed up the issuing of concealed weapons permits since he was elected in 2010:"

In 2012, he held a news conference to celebrate the state's one millionth concealed weapons permit, noting the time it took to process an application fell from 12 weeks to 35 days on his watch. There are now 1.8 million concealed weapon permit holders in Florida. [...] Now running for Florida governor as a Republican, Putnam's campaign touts his expansion of concealed carry permits as one of his top accomplishments.

"Hours after the Times story published," the article continues, "Putnam's office said upon learning of the lapse in 2017, it 'immediately' reviewed 365 applications and revoked 291 concealed weapons permits." That's an 80% revocation rate! TPM quotes Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine as saying:

"Career politicians like Mr. Putnam think this is just another bad day at the office -- but when you conceal a level of negligence that endangers every resident, and every child, in Florida, you forfeit any moral right to lead."

Politico remarked that "This is the second high-profile background check issue Florida officials have encountered recently:"

At one point, nearly 20 percent of mental health records were entered late into a background check database, a long-running problem that state law enforcement officials acknowledged could have led to someone with a known mental illness buying a gun.

"The risk of late reporting of mental health records is that an individual who is prohibited from purchasing or possession [of] a firearm may be approved at the time of the background check if the disqualifying mental health record is not available," according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

A lot more should get revoked than just a few hundred concealed-carry permits.

It's not just Robin Williams, Kate Spade, and Anthony Bourdain--the CDC has seen large increase in suicides since 1999, when it identified suicide as a public health crisis. Nevada is the only state whose suicide rate hasn't increased since then:

Even though suicide is almost always an individual act, the researchers seem to have difficulty seeing the increase not simply as (at least in part) due to financial stress, but in large measure to the way society has been restructured under neoliberalism, with most people having smaller and shallower personal networks, job tenures being shorter, community organizations being hollowed out, and social safety needs shredding. And as we've written virtually from the inception of this website, highly unequal societies are unhappy and unhealthy. If you lose your position on the social/economic ladder, the fall is sharp. Even people at the top recognize how a big loss could upend how they live.

"The CDC stresses more access to mental health treatment," the piece continues, "and while that would help in many cases, it strikes me as addressing only the most extreme symptoms of increased alienation and desperation." The Intercept's John Thomason calls out the firearms connection:

While the CDC report notes that guns are the most common method for these suicides -- accounting for about half of all cases -- it fails to underscore the extent to which these alarming rates may be attributable to the country's utter saturation with civilian firearms.

"Cut it however you want," the Harvard School of Public Health's Deborah Azrael put it in 2013, but "In places where exposure to guns is higher, more people die of suicide:"

The reason for this is relatively simple: Unlike other common methods of suicide, firing a gun is an immediate, irreversible, and reliably lethal act. And because suicide is, more often than not, impulsive -- and the time between ideation and action is short -- firearm access is uniquely deadly if someone thinks to kill themselves at all. Gun suicide attempts end in death about 85 percent of the time, compared to less than 5 percent for intentional drug overdoses.

Because of this, the presence of guns in over a third of U.S. households greatly enhances the aggregate risk of suicide deaths. Variation in suicide rates within the U.S. supports this conclusion. A 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine compared states with the lowest household gun ownership rates (15 percent) to those with the highest (47 percent). While non-firearm suicides were basically equivalent in both groups, firearm suicides were about four times more prevalent in the latter. The more firearm-saturated population experienced about twice as many suicide deaths overall.

"The new CDC study itself," mentions Azrael, "found that 54 percent of suicide victims in 2015 had no known mental health conditions:"

And suicidal ideation can arise from a plethora of quotidian experiences that aren't commonly documented or recognized as actionable mental health issues: financial distress, relationship crises, substance abuse, and so on. In these situations, individualized interventions and safer storage methods simply cannot substitute for not having a gun nearby in the first place.

Because it relies on Congress for funding, the CDC may have good reason not to emphasize the unique role of firearms in U.S. suicide rates. In 1993, the agency supported a study that found that people with guns at home faced a risk of suicide five times greater than those without. Three years later, Congress passed what's known as the Dickey Amendment, which effectively prevented the CDC from funding targeted research into gun violence.

The CDC study bluntly reminds us that "Suicide rates in the United States have risen nearly 30% since 1999:"

From 1999 to 2015, suicide rates increased among both sexes, all racial/ethnic groups, and all urbanization levels. Suicide rates have also increased among persons in all age groups <75 years, with adults aged 45-64 having the largest absolute rate increase (from 13.2 per 100,000 persons [1999] to 19.2 per 100,000 [2016]) and the greatest number of suicides (232,108) during the same period. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death and is one of just three leading causes that are increasing. In addition, rates of emergency department visits for nonfatal self-harm, a main risk factor for suicide, increased 42% from 2001 to 2016. Together, suicides and self-harm injuries cost the nation approximately $70 billion per year in direct medical and work loss costs. [...]

Whereas firearms were the most common method of suicide overall (48.5%), decedents without known mental health conditions were more likely to die by firearm (55.3%) and less likely to die by hanging/strangulation/suffocation (26.9%) or poisoning (10.4%) than were those with known mental health conditions (40.6%, 31.3%, and 19.8%, respectively).

We ignore the threat of firearm proliferation at our peril.

Boston Review's injunction "don't let them eat cake" by Lawrence Glickman calls the SCOTUS Masterpiece Cakeshop decision "a terrible trend of valuing businesses more than employees and customers:"

The New York Times called the decision--which favored Phillips's right to refuse service for religious reasons--"narrow" because it did not rule on the broader issue of discrimination against gay men and lesbians based on rights protected by the First Amendment. However, in terms of the relationship between capital and labor, the decision was anything but narrow. The Court's majority opinion, written by Kennedy, is remarkable for its uncanny and unproblematic conflation of Phillips, the baker, and his business, the bakery. By insisting that the key issues in the case are Phillips's artistic expression and his religious liberty, the Court was silent on the question of how a company can possess these rights. It did so by assuming not only that corporations are people, but that the cakes made by Masterpiece Cakeshop are produced by Phillips alone, when in fact we know that the bakery has other workers.

Pay attention to the pronouns in Clarence Thomas' statement that "He is not open on Sunday, he pays his employees a higher-than-average wage, and he loans them money in times of need."

Presumably, Thomas meant to suggest that Phillips did not open his business on Sunday. But Thomas literally wrote instead that Phillips himself "is not open on Sunday." Since it is impossible for a person to close or be open on Sunday or any other day of the week, Thomas here marked the extent to which the Court identified Phillips with the bakery.

Glickman notes that "the language of Phillips himself, who in a 2014 video for the New York Times alternated between using 'we' and 'I' to describe the work of the bakery.) By extension, this means that the religious views and artistic contribution of the company's workers are irrelevant:"

Phillips's employees are merely props in Thomas's morality tale--figures who receive the boss's Christian charity but are otherwise unmentioned and invisible. The decision renders their status as workers for Phillips's limited-liability company morally and legally immaterial. [...]

In the same stroke that the Court effaced Phillips's workers, it also stinted consumers. Writing for the Court, Kennedy viewed "the customer's right to goods and services," not as the essence of U.S. free enterprise, but as a potential threat to Phillip's right to "personal expression." From the perspective of the Court, the rights of producers not only trump those of consumers, but should be understood, not as corporate prerogatives, but as reflections of the artistic and religious temperament of one person--what the Court called "the deeply held beliefs" of the business owner. Of course, this is not new to the Roberts court: this way of treating businesses as though they were individuals capable of possessing deeply-held beliefs has already been enshrined by previous Court rulings, notably 2014's Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores and, after a different fashion, 2010's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

"The Masterpiece Bakeshop is a small business," Glickman points out, "but it is also a limited-liability company, a distinct entity, legally separate from its owners:"

Yet the Court's decision, with its focus on Phillips, treats the cakes made by the bakery as though each one personifies Phillips's Christian values. Leaving aside fundamental issues of gay rights and freedom of expression in order to build a strong majority, the justices collaterally ratified a radical view of corporate personhood. They did so by leaning on language consistent with the broader conservative view of the business firm, small or large, as a victimized person, deserving of individual rights and protections that no longer are granted to actual workers. Viewing the desires of consumers not as the engine of the economy, but as a potential constraint upon the autonomy and selfhood of the business owner, the Court drew upon a conservative history of defining free enterprise as freedom for sellers and manufacturers rather than liberty for customers.

The Economist's look at data detectives discusses changes in "the relationship between information and crime"--all because "people generate more searchable information than they used to:"

Smartphones passively track and record where people go, who they talk to and for how long; their apps reveal subtler personal information, such as their political views, what they like to read and watch and how they spend their money. As more appliances and accoutrements become networked, so the amount of information people inadvertently create will continue to grow.

To track a suspect's movements and conversations, police chiefs no longer need to allocate dozens of officers for round-the-clock stakeouts. They just need to seize the suspect's phone and bypass its encryption. If he drives, police cars, streetlights and car parks equipped with automatic number-plate readers (ANPRs, known in America as automatic licence-plate readers or ALPRs) can track all his movements.

Despite these changes, "the gap between information technology and policy gapes ever wider:"

Most privacy laws were written for the age of postal services and fixed-line telephones. Courts give citizens protection from governments entering their homes or rifling through their personal papers. The law on people's digital presence is less clear. In most liberal countries, police still must convince a judge to let them eavesdrop on phone calls.

The piece points out that "data can be abused personally as well as constitutionally:"

A policeman in Washington, DC, was convicted of extortion for blackmailing the owners of cars parked near a gay bar. ANPR firms insist what they do is constitutional--in America the First Amendment protects public photography. But not everything constitutional is desirable. Even the International Association of Chiefs of Police has admitted that ANPRs could have an impact on freedom by recording vehicles going to political gatherings, abortion clinics or other sensitive venues.

"The use of algorithms to tackle complex problems such as urban crime, or to try to forecast whether someone is likely to commit another crime," The Economist continues, "is not inherently alarming:"

An algorithm, after all, is just a set of rules designed to produce a result. Criminal justice algorithms organise and sort through reams of data faster and more efficiently than people can. But fears abound: that they remove decisions from humans and hand them to machines; that they function without transparency because their creators will not reveal their precise composition; that they punish people for potential, not actual, crimes; and that they entrench racial bias.

The article lists a few of the technological advances in question:

Acoustic sensors trained to recognise the sound of gunfire and send alerts to officers' mobile phones telling them when and where the shots were fired. Glasses that recognise faces and record everything. Drones equipped with high-definition video cameras. GPS readers and ANPRs, allowing for constant surveillance of entire swathes of a city. CCTV systems with embedded facial recognition that lets authorities track people in real time.

All of these new technological possibilities are upending a wide range of activities and the customs associated with them. Law enforcement is no different. But if citizens do not like how their doctor or hairdresser, or a social-media site, uses their data or tracks their purchases, they can go somewhere else. The state wields a monopoly on punishment through law enforcement. Police can arrest, and even kill, their fellow citizens. Judges have the power to imprison people. That makes transparency and public consent in the justice system essential.

Andrew Ferguson, author of a book on the subject, "suggests five questions that departments should answer before buying new technology:"

Can you identify the risks that the technology addresses? Can you ensure accurate data inputs? How will the technology affect community relations and policing practice? Can it be tested to ensure transparency and accountability? And will police use the technology in a manner that respects the autonomy of the people it will affect?

The old line about "more questions than answers" is as true as ever.

gun laws

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NPR's Martin Kaste writes that "In the wake of the Parkland high school massacre, there's been renewed interest in 'red flag' laws, which allow courts and police to temporarily remove guns from people perceived to pose a threat." Kaste talked to clinical psychologist Aaron Kivisto, who researches gun violence prevention:

He's completed a new study study ["Effects of Risk-Based Firearm Seizure Laws in Connecticut and Indiana on Suicide Rates, 1981-2015"] of the effect of red flag laws in Connecticut and Indiana, two states that have had such laws on the books the longest.

"In Indiana, for example, there have been some years where 80 percent of all gun seizures have been due to a concern for suicide rather than homicide or domestic violence reasons," he said.

The results seem positive so far:

"In Indiana, after the enactment of the law [in 2005], we saw a 7.5 percent decrease in firearms suicides in the 10 years that followed," Kivisto said. "We didn't see any notable increase or decrease in non-firearms suicide." [...] "And so when we looked at it from 2007 and beyond, [gun suicides in Connecticut] decreased by 13.7 percent," Kivisto said.

Gun permit laws, do affect murder rates, according to this new study:

"Requiring handgun purchasers to obtain a license prior to purchase was associated with a 14 percent reduction in firearm homicide," says Cassandra Crifasi, at the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. [...]

"There are lots of conversations right now about gun policies that are effective at reducing violence," she said, "and this study adds to a fairly robust and growing body of literature showing that requiring prospective handgun purchasers to obtain a license is one of the best policies to reduce violence."


update (8:15pm):
The ATF is beholden to the NRA, writes Jezebel:

In an apparent attempt to placate gun sellers and the gun lobby, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives routinely allows dealers that violate gun laws to hold on to their licenses. [...]

These violations go far beyond the routine clerical error made by a gun seller, which are often seen as innocuous as long as they are corrected. Instead, the Times report found repeat offenders who have sold guns to prohibited gun owners--like those with a felony conviction--as well as gun sellers who don't run background checks, and yet they still have a license to legally sell firearms.

The NYT's report is damning:

As they inspect the nation's gun stores, federal investigators regularly find violations of the law, ranging from minor record-keeping errors to illegal sales of firearms. In the most serious cases, like a sale of a gun to a prohibited buyer, inspectors often recommend that gun dealers lose their licenses.

But that rarely happens. Senior officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regularly overrule their own inspectors, allowing gun dealers who fail inspections to keep their licenses even after they were previously warned to follow the rules, according to interviews with more than half a dozen current and former law enforcement officials and a review of more than 100 inspection reports.

One store was cited for failing to conduct background checks before selling a gun. Another store owner told investigators he actively tried to circumvent gun laws. One threatened an A.T.F. officer, and another sold a gun to a customer who identified as a felon. All were previously cited by the A.T.F. In each instance, supervisors downgraded recommendations that the stores' licenses be revoked and instead let them stay open.

"Of about 11,000 inspections of licensed firearm dealers in the year starting in October 2016," the piece continues, "more than half were cited for violations. Less than 1 percent of all inspections resulted in the loss of a license." Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady campaign, summarizes: "There's a small number of gun dealers engaged in really irresponsible practices, putting everybody at risk, and the A.T.F. knows exactly who they are and allows them to continue operating." "The inspection process is further complicated by laws that govern record-keeping in the gun industry," notes the NYT, "which forbid the A.T.F. to keep records electronically:"

The A.T.F. has historically struggled to meet its goal of inspecting each licensed firearms dealer once every three to five years. The United States had more than 130,000 active federal firearms licensees in 2017, including dealers, manufacturers and pawnbrokers, according to the A.T.F.'s most recent statistics. Resource limitations have forced the bureau to prioritize some gun dealers over others.

self-pardon?

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Trump claims that he can pardon himself, while simultaneously proclaiming that he has done nothing wrong:

As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong? In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2018

Truly, you have a dizzying intellect!

Matthew Rosza comments on Trump's pardon of right-wing serial bullshitter Dinesh D'Souza, and how undeserved it is:

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that "this office and the FBI take a zero tolerance approach to corruption of the electoral process. If, as alleged, the defendant directed others to make contributions to a Senate campaign and reimbursed them, that is a serious violation of federal campaign finance laws." [...]

Four months after being charged, D'Souza pled guilty, telling the court that "I knew that causing a campaign contribution to be made in the name of another was wrong and something the law forbids. I deeply regret my conduct."

Danny Katch bluntly describes NRA president Ollie North as a deep-state thug:

It may seem strange for an organization that claims to stand for the right to arm "good guys" against criminals to choose someone best known for illegally running guns and drugs on three continents. But in reality, North and the NRA are made for each other.

For one thing, he's perfect for an organization that needs to step up its trolling game. The NRA relies on generating outrage in order to make its members feel under siege so they...buy more guns.

Katch goes on to remark that "Oliver North is basically Donald Trump without the draft dodging:"

He even has his own dodgy charity run jointly with presidential pal Sean Hannity. [...] North drew widespread media scorn for his hypocrisy in calling out violent media without mentioning his own history as a paid shill for the "first-person shooter" video game Call of Duty.

"All told," Katch continues, "bringing in Oliver North is the latest evidence that the NRA just might be completely full of shit:"

LaPierre made his name back in the 1990s when he declared that a ban on semi-automatic weapons "gives jack-booted government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us."

There are, in fact, government thugs who do just this on a daily basis in poor and nonwhite neighborhoods. They're called police.

But as the Washington Post's Radley Balko points out, the NRA is almost always silent about police shootings -- and is actually totally cool with local police forces becoming militarized, both in weaponry and in mindset.

Making a former covert operations spook its president is another order of cognitive dissonance for an organization that traffics in conspiracy theories about secret government plans to round up all the true patriots.

Katch points out that "it's also important to see the connecting lines between the NRA's seemingly contradictory positions [and] its thoroughly warped understanding of tyranny and freedom:"

By "big government," the NRA doesn't mean the military, police, prisons, immigration Gestapo, spy agencies and other forces of repression that claim the majority of government budgets in the U.S. No, they mean elected lawmakers who (occasionally) try to represent their constituents by passing widely supported bills to regulate guns and gun corporations.

By tyranny, they mean democracy. And by freedom, they mean the inalienable right for their constituency of mostly well-off white men -- who, indeed, were the only people who the Founding Fathers intended to have democracy -- to do whatever the hell it takes to protect their property.

For years, the NRA has taken this longstanding reactionary outlook and added the gasoline of manufactured outrage necessary to increase sales of expensive guns to people who already own a bunch.

Graham Slater's TruthOut piece in defense of refusal looks at our "wave of school walkouts and teacher strikes spreading across the nation," writing that it "marks the coalescence of anti-corporate visions of education as teachers across the nation unite in opposition to austerity and educational insecurity." Slater foresees a "conservative backlash" consisting of "propaganda, scapegoating and demagoguery:"

What conservative reactionaries miss in their criticism of teacher strikes is that efforts to ensure robust and equitable investment in public education, the livability of teachers' wages and quality of physical conditions of schools are not threats to student learning. Rather, they are preconditions to meaningful education. To deny this is to be complicit in the reproduction of educational inequality. Conservative pundits and policy makers who cast striking teachers as petulant malcontents who threaten the educational well-being of students seek to obscure this fact.

"This is no accident," he observes:

It is deliberate, and indeed, it is an indispensable component of the conservative program to moralize, deprofessionalize and depoliticize teaching. Against this movement, progressives must insist on a critical language with which to describe the social, ethical and political purpose of education.

"In the 1960s," Slater reminds us, "the critical theorist Herbert Marcuse described the need for a 'Great Refusal,' which he claimed was necessary to rupture the smooth functioning of advanced capitalist societies:"

We must refuse corporate school reform and precarious neoliberal governance. We must defend the right of teachers to become cultural workers and political agents of transformation. We must insist on an education otherwise.

Judy Cox looks at Marx and the Paris Commune, which lasted barely two months (from 28 March to 28 May 1871) but has had lasting effects. After France's surrender to Germany, Parisians "took the defence of the city into their own hands," writes Cox, "and in the process created innovative new ways of organising the city and implementing democratic control from below. [...] The Council disbanded the standing army and separated the Church from the state, ending religious domination over the schools and confiscating Church property:"

The officials of the Commune received only an average workers' wage and were instantly recallable. The Commune reformed working conditions, ending night working for bakers and limiting the working day to 10 hours. They also explored ways to transform the nature of work itself by giving workers the right to take over workshops left empty when owners fled the city.

"For two months," Cox continues, "the workers, the artisans and the urban poor of Paris were in the saddle and a huge outburst of creativity was unleashed:"

Walls were plastered with news posters. Painter Gustav Courbet organised a Federation of Artists which confiscated the art collection stored in Adolph Thiers' Parisian mansion. At Courbet's instigation, militaristic statues were pulled down. Artists drew up manifestos calling for 'Communal Luxury' and 'Public Beauty'. Political clubs sprang up across the city, including the Union of Women. Contemporary commentators sneered at the large number of women who attended meetings of the clubs. Hostile contemporaries described how screeching women with crying babies and red sashes dominated some of these clubs. Marx saw it differently: 'The real women of Paris showed again the surface heroic, noble and devoted. Working, thinking, fighting, bleeding Paris, almost unaware in its incubation of a new society, of the Cannibal at its gates-radiant in the enthusiasm of its historic initiative!'

Cox reminds us that "The Commune transformed Marx from an obscure socialist activist into an international hate figure:"

Those terrified by the Commune refused to believe that ordinary men and women were capable of running their own city and sought the real 'leaders'. They found Marx who was portrayed as the 'Red Doctor' and 'Dr Terror'. He wrote to a friend, 'I have the honour to be at this moment the best calumniated and most menaced man of London. That really does one good after a tedious 20-year idyll in the back woods'. Marx's account of the Commune, The Civil War In France, sold thousands of copies and was translated into every major European language. It was in this book that Marx revealed what the Communards had achieved by created their own state: 'One thing especially was proved by the Commune - that the working cannot simply lay hold of ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes'. The Commune exposed the nature of the capitalist state and this proved crucial to Lenin's State and Revolution which translated the liberatory potential of the Commune into the conditions of Russia in 1917.

What happened to the Commune? Herein lies the sad chapter of this tale:

On 22nd May the French government launched its murderous suppression of the Commune. For a week soldiers burned, shot, and bombarded their own capital city. The last battle was fought at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Some 25,000 children, women and men were shot against the walls of the cemetery and across Paris, thousands more were imprisoned and transported. Dmitrieff, Lemel and many other women stayed on the barricades for days on end. The extreme brutality demonstrated by the French Government reveals the depth of the ruling class's fear and hatred of the Commune. Eugene Pottier wrote the socialist anthem, The Internationale, to commemorate the Parisian dead and the enduring nature of their vision for a society turned upside down.

One of Gina Haspel's torture victims is described by an American doctor and Naval reserve officer as "one of the most severely traumatized individuals I have ever seen," reports The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill:

"I have evaluated Mr. Abdal Rahim al-Nashiri, as well as close to 20 other men who were tortured as part of the CIA's RDI [Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation] program. I am one of the only health professionals he has ever talked to about his torture, its effects, and his ongoing suffering," Dr. Sondra Crosby, a professor of public health at Boston University, wrote to Warner's legislative director on Monday. "He is irreversibly damaged by torture that was unusually cruel and designed to break him. In my over 20 years of experience treating torture victims from around the world, including Syria, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. al-Nashiri presents as one of the most severely traumatized individuals I have ever seen."

Nashiri was snatched in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in 2002 and "rendered" to Afghanistan by the CIA and eventually taken to the Cat's Eye prison in Thailand that was run by Haspel from October to December 2002. He was suspected of involvement in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen. He is currently being held at Guantanamo Bay prison.

Scahill notes that "the known acts of torture committed against Nashiri at the site that Haspel ran and other US facilities included:"

• suffocated with water (waterboarding) • subjected to mock execution with a drill and gun while standing naked and hooded • anal rape through rectal feeding • threatened that his mother would be sexually assaulted • lifted off ground by arms while they were bound behind his back (after which a medical officer opined that shoulders might be dislocated)

She cited a public statement from one of the CIA contractors who developed the enhanced interrogation program, psychologist James Mitchell, who said he witnessed an interrogator "dousing Nashiri with cold water while using a stiff bristled brush to scrub his ass and balls and then his mouth and then blowing cigar smoke in his face until he became nauseous."

Crosby added: "It is important to note that the barbarity of the torture methods used were shrouded and concealed in sterile euphemisms."

Ian Welsh is dismayed that Haspel has been confirmed to lead the CIA:

The bottom line is that Americans and their leaders are really, truly, ok with illegal wars and torture whenever the decision has to actually be made, and today America's leaders showed that they do not even feel any actual remorse, or even that torturing was a mistake that matters.

At MPS, tengrain drops some snark:

Gina Haspell is confirmed as the first woman director of the CIA, and I will add she is also the first unindicted war criminal to lead the CIA, so it's a two-fer.

In an educational episode reminiscent of the conservative economic failure in Kansas, Scott Walker has demonstrated that trickle-down is also a failure in Wisconsin:

In Minnesota, progressive taxes and social spending have created more and better-paying jobs than next-door neighbor Wisconsin has created through tax and spending cuts.

In January 2011, two new governors took office in the neighboring states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Minnesota's new governor, Democrat Mark Dayton, had campaigned largely on a platform of taxing the rich to provide the services the state needed. By contrast, Wisconsin's new governor, Republican Scott Walker had pledged to cut taxes in order to create jobs. Over the course of the past seven years, these two governors have taken their states on vastly different trajectories: Minnesota to the left, and Wisconsin to the right.

"Now, nearing the completion of those second terms, the merits and problems of these two philosophies of governance can be tallied more definitively," the piece continues, citing a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. "As Wisconsin's and Minnesota's lawmakers took divergent paths, so did their economies," the report states, and "Minnesota's economy has come out ahead:"

Over the past seven years, hourly wages in Minnesota have increased by 2.4 percent over inflation, while wages in Wisconsin rose by just 0.3 percent after inflation. Minnesota, where job growth has been stronger than Wisconsin, also outpaced Wisconsin in reducing unemployment. And Minnesota also has enjoyed strong growth in median household income as compared with Wisconsin--which helps explain the reduction in Minnesota's poverty rates. In Wisconsin, however, poverty has worsened.

How did Minnesota do it? In large part, thanks to Democratic control of both the statehouse and the governor's office in 2013 and 2014, the state enacted an impressive array of progressive policies. Minnesota raised its minimum wage and expanded labor protections. Dayton also expanded Medicaid, and the federal dollars that came with that expansion helped create more health-care jobs. The administration also strengthened the social safety net, expanding paid sick and family leave and strengthening unemployment insurance. [...]

Minnesota has seen its population increase through people moving into the state, while Wisconsin has had more residents leave than new residents arrive.

Robert Kraig (executive director of the advocacy group Citizen Action of Wisconsin) has some choice comments:

With the results from the two states, "You really have a complete debunking of the whole conservative economic program," says Kraig, "and I think a proof that what it's really about is enriching the one percent and large corporations. The idea that it's going to help average people by encouraging business is clearly being debunked by the results of these policies once you actually implement them."

Will they ever learn?

The NYT notes Trump's admission that Russiagate is "bigger than Watergate:"

Wow, word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI "SPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT." Andrew McCarthy says, "There's probably no doubt that they had at least one confidential informant in the campaign." If so, this is bigger than Watergate!

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 17, 2018

The piece observes that "In some sense, many analysts have said, he is right:"

Efforts by a hostile foreign power to influence an American presidential election -- with or without the assistance or knowledge of the winning candidate -- may well be a scandal "bigger than Watergate!"

The F.B.I. and a team of special prosecutors are investigating whether any of Mr. Trump's associates were coordinating with Russia to help Mr. Trump defeat his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. And, since the appointment of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, the investigation has expanded to include inquiries into whether Mr. Trump has attempted to obstruct justice to bring an end to what he regularly calls a witch hunt.

I would suggest, though, that a better term than informant would be witness. There's quite a difference between a candidate spying on an opponent and law enforcement investigating a crime. Nonetheless, as this 538 analysis by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux mentions, "It's a big day for Robert Mueller and his team:"

One year ago today, Mueller was appointed to lead the special counsel investigation into possible ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian officials. It's a miracle, in some ways, that Mueller has lasted this long. President Trump's relationship with the investigation has grown increasingly adversarial, and at many moments over the course of the past 12 months, it seemed like Mueller's job was in jeopardy.

So this hasn't been an easy year for Mueller, but it's certainly been productive. Since the first indictments came down in the investigation last fall, the special counsel has racked up five guilty pleas and 14 indictments of individuals.1 He also reportedly gave a referral to the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York that led to a raid on the office, home and hotel room of presidential lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, which has turned into its own separate investigation.

"But the total number of charges doesn't tell the whole story," the piece continues:

To get a sense of where Mueller's investigation might go in its second year, it's worth looking at where the three other highest-profile investigations in modern history -- Watergate, Iran-Contra and Whitewater -- stood a year after a special or independent counsel came on board and how they evolved in the year or two afterward.

These investigations give us three separate models of what Mueller's first year could mean for the rest of his investigation, and they show how foolish it can be to predict the end of a special counsel investigation based on its beginning. Watergate lived up to the dramatic promise of its first year: It ended Nixon's presidency and sent dozens of people to jail. The revelations in the Iran-Contra scandal initially seemed like they might engulf Ronald Reagan, but the scandal began to fizzle when it became clear that Reagan wouldn't be implicated. And Whitewater, which was sleepy at first, eventually resulted in the impeachment of Bill Clinton -- but for reasons that could never have been foreseen after the first year of the investigation.

"As the Russia investigation enters its second year," the NYT concludes, "the most important variable may be how long Mueller can keep his job:"

Watergate, Iran-Contra and Whitewater all had one thing in common: They lasted at least four years. Given the reports that Trump has already twice considered ordering Mueller's removal, it's not clear that the investigation can survive that long -- at least, with Mueller at the helm.

Trump is destroying the federal government, writes Digby--who reminds us that Trump's first use of the "drain the swamp" slogan was at a rally in Green Bay on 17 October 2016:

The fact is, that despite his tiresome repetition of the slogan "Drain the swamp" since the election, it wasn't one of Trump's signature chants, like "Lock her up" or "Build the wall." It was something of an afterthought, a sort of extension of his claims that the system was "rigged" against him to steal the election. As the various investigations into his nefarious doings unfold, it seems obvious that was another projection of his own foibles onto his opponents.

Nonetheless, it is an article of faith among many of the chattering classes that he ran as a reformer who promised to clean up Washington. But the Trump administration's approach to dealing with the institutions of government is much more old-fashioned. It is simply governing by way of personal loyalty and fealty to the president rather than expertise, experience or seniority. It's a spoils system, and not a very efficient one.

Evan Osnos' New Yorker piece "is an eye opener," writes Digby:

"Across the government, more than half of the six hundred and fifty-six most critical positions are still unfilled. [...] If they cannot find a Trump loyalist to fill a position they simply leave it empty."

Osnos writes about the Trumpian effects:

A real-estate baron, with the wealthiest Cabinet in US history, Trump is at peace with the plutocracy but at war with the clerks -- the apparatchiks who, he claims, are seeking to nullify the election by denying the prerogatives of his Administration.

Digby comments:

This attack on "bureaucracy" is really an attack on law enforcement, the State Department, the intelligence community and ordinary bureaucrats who enforce regulations and monitor compliance with the law, along with anyone else Trump and his henchmen see as enemies of the state. [...]

The story Osnos tells about the elimination of experts and the deliberate erasure of institutional memory in department after department is chilling. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to replace these people even after Trump is gone. His lasting legacy may be the destruction of the federal government as we know it.

Jason Easley delves into Trump's $500 million emoluments problem:

The White House had no answer when asked about $500 million in funding that the Trump Organization is getting from the Chinese government for a project in Indonesia and couldn't explain how this is not an Emoluments Clause violation.

Here's the question:

Q: The Trump Organization is involved in a project in Indonesia building hotels, golf course, residences. It is getting up to $500 million in backing from the Chinese government. Can you tell -- or explain the administration's perspective on, a, how this wouldn't violate the emoluments clause, and, B, how it wouldn't violate the president's own promise that his private organization would not be getting involved in new foreign deals while he was president?

Here's the rest of the exchange:

Raj Shah: I'll have to refer you to the Trump Organization.

Q: No. But I mean the trump organization can't speak on behalf of the president as the president, the head of the federal government, the one who is responsible, who needs to assure the American people.

Shah: You're asking about a private organization's dealings that may have to do with a foreign government. That's not something that I can speak to.

"Donald Trump never divested himself from the Trump Organization," Easley reminds us:

It is not a coincidence that Trump wants to help Chinese telecom ZTE that was sanctioned for dealing with Iran after the Chinese government gave the Trump Organization $500 million. The Chinese bought their way out of crippling sanctions. Trump isn't just corrupt. He's criminal, and reporters to call out this corruption each day during the White House briefing. Reporters may not get answers, but they need to open the eyes of the American people to what is the real motivation behind this administration's decisions.

Speaking of Trump's offenses, we should add felony bribery to the list, writes Samuel Warde:

The issue at hand involve an inexplicable tweet posted by Trump on Sunday announcing that he was going to roll back his administration's own sanctions on Chinese telecom company ZTE.
President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2018

Warde writes that "there is reason to belief that China bribed Trump," and Richard Painter, ethics attorney for W, agreed:

This is bribery. The Constitution expressly provides that bribery is an impeachable offense. If the House and Senate don't act now they must be voted out in November. Americans are fed up!https://t.co/DAnJhq7DoQ via @HuffPostPol

-- Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) May 15, 2018

toxic bubble

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Rebecca Solnit asks, whose story (and country) is this? and analyzes a PBS News Hour quiz by Charles Murray that asked "Do You Live in a Bubble?"

The quiz is essentially about whether you are in touch with working-class small-town white Christian America, as though everyone who's not Joe the Plumber is Maurice the Elitist. We should know them, the logic goes; they do not need to know us. [...] The quiz delivers, yet again, the message that the 80 percent of us who live in urban areas are not America, treats non-Protestant (including the quarter of this country that is Catholic) and non-white people as not America, treats many kinds of underpaid working people (salespeople, service workers, farmworkers) who are not male industrial workers as not America. More Americans work in museums than work in coal, but coalminers are treated as sacred beings owed huge subsidies and the sacrifice of the climate, and museum workers--well, no one is talking about their jobs as a totem of our national identity.

Solnit flips the script on them:

Perhaps the actual problem is that white Christian suburban, small-town, and rural America includes too many people who want to live in a bubble and think they're entitled to, and that all of us who are not like them are menaces and intrusions who needs to be cleared out of the way.

"In the aftermath of the 2016 election," she continues, "we were told that we needed to be nicer to the white working class, which reaffirmed the message that whiteness and the working class were the same thing and made the vast non-white working class invisible or inconsequential:"

We were told that Trump voters were the salt of the earth and the authentic sufferers, even though poorer people tended to vote for the other candidate. We were told that we had to be understanding of their choice to vote for a man who threatened to harm almost everyone who was not a white Christian man, because their feelings preempt everyone else's survival.

She also writes about the New York Times op-ed by Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Isabelle Robinson. Ms Robinson described the "disturbing number of comments I've read that go something like this: Maybe if Mr. Cruz's classmates and peers had been a little nicer to him, the shooting at Stoneman Douglas would never have occurred." [By the way, the title of her editorial is "I Tried to Befriend Nikolas Cruz. He Still Killed My Friends."]

"This framework suggests we owe them something," Solnit points out, "which feeds a sense of entitlement, which sets up the logic of payback for not delivering what they think we owe them:"

Elliot Rodgers set out to massacre the members of a sorority at UC Santa Barbara in 2014 because he believed that sex with attractive women was a right of his that women were violating and that another right of his was to punish any or all of them unto death. He killed six people and injured fourteen. Nikolas Cruz said, "Elliot Rodgers will not be forgotten."

The toxic incel masculinity asks insipid questions like "how do the consequences of men hideously mistreating women affect men's comfort? Are men okay with what's happening?"

There have been too many stories about men feeling less comfortable, too few about how women might be feeling more secure in offices where harassing coworkers may have been removed or are at least a bit less sure about their right to grope and harass.

"We are as a culture," Solnit concludes, "moving on to a future with more people and more voices and more possibilities:"

Some people are being left behind, not because the future is intolerant of them but because they are intolerant of this future. White men, Protestants from the dominant culture are welcome, but as Chris Evans noted, the story isn't going to be about them all the time, and they won't always be the ones telling it. It's about all of us. White Protestants are already a minority and non-white people will become a voting majority in a few decades. This country has room for everybody who believes that there's room for everybody. For those who don't--well, that's partly a battle about who controls the narrative and who it's about.

Along similar lines, Daily Kos suggests that it's their job to understand us:

Soon--very soon--people of color will outnumber white males as a portion of the electorate. Women already outnumber men in terms of sheer population. It is their interests, and the necessary tolerance for multiple cultures that permits the coexistence of these diverse populations--the same tolerance that Trump voters spit on as "politically correct"--that is the narrative that matters. And it is that narrative, that "story" that should not and will not be denied.

Conor Lynch analyzes angry young white men and the Incel rebellion, observing that "If there is one thing that seems to unite the most extreme political reactionaries throughout the world, it is their gender:"

Whether it's alt-right white supremacists marching in Charlottesville with their tiki torches, misogynist "incels" and men's rights activists who believe feminism is the root of all their problems, or Islamic extremists who aim to restore the caliphate, one thing is constant: they are overwhelmingly male.

It is hardly surprising that men are more susceptible to the allure of reactionary politics, considering that it's much easier for men to romanticize the past than it is for women (or any previously oppressed or mistreated group, such as LGBTQ people). Patriarchy has long been the norm in Western and non-Western societies and cultures, and thus women are less inclined to feel nostalgic for some "golden age" in history when they were treated as second-class citizens.

He also notes that "in America there is another important factor that increases the likelihood of one adopting a reactionary political ideology: being white:"

This victim mentality that many white men have developed today stems in part from what sociologist Michael Kimmel has called "aggrieved entitlement," which he describes as "that sense of entitlement that can no longer be assumed and that is unlikely to be fulfilled."

"There are still many in this generation of men who feel cheated by the end of entitlement," Kimmel writes in his book Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era. "They still feel entitled, and thus they identify socially and politically with those above them, even as they have economically joined the ranks of those who have historically been below them."

"When one is accustomed to privilege equality feels like oppression," Lynch continues, and this means that "members of dominant groups are more prone to reactionary politics because they are likely to feel their status and privilege being threatened:"

The reactionary feels disaffected with the modern world and nostalgic for some past era, before the rot of modernity set in -- and before he became a victim (in his mind) of egalitarian movements.

One of the more disturbing and pitiful reactionary group to emerge in the digital age has been the "incels," or involuntary celibates, who were thrust into the national spotlight last month after the terrorist attack in Toronto, committed by a self-described member of the "Incel rebellion." The incel community, which congregates on websites like Reddit and 4Chan, is deeply sexist and misogynistic, and its members blame women for their inability to find sexual partners. Incels feel an "aggrieved entitlement," and believe that women owe them sex. As one might expect, feminism is the bête noire within the incel community, and these basement-dwelling reactionaries long for the days before the sexual revolution and women's liberation.

"One way to challenge the reactionary mentality," Lynch offers helpfully, "is to debunk the romantic depiction of the past and offer a more accurate and cogent critique of the modern world (which, among other things, means offering a critique of capitalism):"

When challenging the reactionary's way of thinking it is also important to make clear that, realistically, he wouldn't have been much better off in the "good old days." [...]

To counteract the reactionary mindset, it will be necessary not only to expose and discredit reactionary myths about the past, but also to acknowledge that reactionaries have legitimate reason to feel disenchanted with the modern world -- and, finally, to offer a genuine progressive alternative to the status quo.

Similarly, Cody Fenwick delves into https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/conservative-writers-have-found-weird-new-argument-claim-theyre-oppressed conservatives' weird new claim of oppression:

Despite the fact that Republican politicians are in charge of Congress and the White House while a conservative-leaning majority reigns in the Supreme Court, conservatives are nevertheless convinced that "the Left" is using political correctness to quash their ideas.

This viewpoint is especially prevalent on the so-called "Intellectual Dark Web," which Fenwick describes as "a 'network' of iconoclastic thinkers who include people like Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro, and Ayan Hirsi Ali:"

Despite these individuals' relative success, the idea of the Intellectual Dark Web is that they are somehow kept down by oppressive political correctness and excluded from legacy media outlets. French argues, however, that "the path to prominence for many of these now-popular people has sometimes been painful."

"For [National Review writer David] French," comments Fenwick, "it seems the biggest threat to free speech is that he can't question transgender people's gender identity in corporate boardrooms:"

(Meanwhile, you can still legally be fired just for being gay or transgender in most states.) This supposedly horrific form of censorship pushes people to these "marginalized" writers, and potentially to even darker places like Milo Yiannopoulos and the trenches of the alt-right.

The narrative of the oppressed conservative thinker -- which often just means people who are made they get called out for being racist or bigoted -- is certainly not going away. The "Intellectual Dark Web" is just another manifestation of it.

They may be spreading odious beliefs, but at least the "intellectual" dark-web denizens aren't inciting violence toward their ideological opponents.

(Yet.)

Salon's Matthew Rozsa notes Ollie North's counterpunch against gun-control activists, and says that North "has a dim view of those protesters:"

"They call them activists. That's what they're calling themselves. They're not activists -- this is civil terrorism. This is the kind of thing that's never been seen against a civil rights organization in America," North told the [Washington] Times.

North also told the Times that anti-gun advocates "can do all the cyberwar against us -- they're doing it. They can use the media against us -- they are. They've gone after our bank accounts, our finances, our donors, and obviously individual members. It's got to stop. And that's why the leadership invited me to become the next president of the NRA."

"It is worth noting," writes Rosza, "that this kind of detached-from-reality rhetoric is very much baked into the NRA's political brand:"

Prior to the 1970s, the NRA was mostly known as a sportsmen's club, one that had even supported certain types of gun control during the 1930s. After right-wing radicals seized the NRA during a convention in 1977, however, the organization became a hotbed for extreme beliefs -- all of them united in the conviction that the government, and liberals in general, are determined to seize NRA members' guns and in general victimize them.

That air of victimization was apparent when North actually compared the experiences of NRA supporters to those of America's most persecuted minority groups.

"You go back to the terrible days of Jim Crow and those kinds of things -- even there you didn't have this kind of thing," North told the Times. Perhaps realizing how he just sounded, he clarified that "we didn't have the cyberwar kind of thing that we've got today."

"He also depicted the Parkland school survivors," notes Rosza, "as being pawns in a larger propaganda effort:"

"What they did very successfully with a frontal assault, and now intimidation and harassment and lawbreaking, is they confused the American people. Our job is to get the straight story out about what happened there, and to make sure that kind of thing doesn't happen again because the proper things are being done with the advocacy of the NRA," North told the Times.

"There are two reasons," he continues, "why the 'straight story' may be somewhat difficult for North to communicate:"

The first is that, throughout most of American history, the notion that gun regulation would automatically violate the Constitution was a fringe belief. When the Second Amendment was written, it was to make it possible for white men (the only people allowed to own guns at that time) to serve in militias. Although courts were often conflicted as to how much government regulation would be constitutionally acceptable, the absolutist approach that is supported by the NRA had not yet drowned out all other perspectives.

Ollie seems well-suited for his new role:

While North's services on behalf of "freedom" are questionable at best, he is indeed skilled in the arts of rhetoric and leadership. Between that and his long history of shady right-wing activities -- including his recent statements vilifying protesters who merely wish to save lives -- he is indeed someone ideally suited to serve as the NRA's president.

Media Matters' Cydney Hargis comments on another political incident:

After multiple reports of physical abuse came out against former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the National Rifle Association's media arm, NRATV, used the reports to falsely claim the solution to violence against women is more gun ownership. In reality, the presence of firearms in households where there is domestic violence drastically increases the likelihood that women who live there will be killed or injured.

Here are some more statistics:

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, "The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed." One study found that among women living in the United States, "about 4.5 million have had an intimate partner threaten them with a gun and nearly 1 million have been shot or shot at by an intimate partner." Another study that interviewed women at women's shelters found that 71 percent of women who reported living in a household with a firearm had been attacked or threatened with a gun, but only 7 percent had successfully used a gun in self-defense. In fact, a September 2013 Violence Policy Center study titled "When Men Murder Women" found that women were more than three times more likely to be murdered when there was a gun in their household.

Ollie's outfit is on the wrong side of, well, pretty much everything:

While the NRA continues to dangerously advocate for greater firearm ownership as a solution to violence against women, it has also historically fought efforts to strengthen laws to keep domestic abusers from accessing guns. The group also spent more than $30 million in support of President Donald Trump's campaign and stood by him when a tape emerged of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women.

With a headline like "Trump is no longer the worst person in government," one can immediately ascertain that George Will's acerbic way with words has found a target worthy of his snark; this time, he does not disappoint. This sentence in particular made me laugh:

The oleaginous Mike Pence, with his talent for toadyism and appetite for obsequiousness, could, Trump knew, become America's most repulsive public figure.

Will goes on to describe Pence as "oozing unctuousness from every pore," and calls Joe Arpaio "a grandstanding, camera-chasing bully and darling of the thuggish right"--and then drops this gem:

Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.

AlterNet's Cody Fenwick remarks that "Will, who left the Republican Party after the rise of Trump, now seems to hold unique disdain for his formerly fellow partisans who emboldened the president's ascent."

It's about time. Would any other conservative wordsmiths care to follow his example by switching sides and using their talents to similarly good effect?

This open letter to Gina Haspel by Theo Padnos, who was tortured in Syria during the winter of 2013, is worth reading. "Dear Ms. Haspel," he begins, "I understand you are now against torture, after supporting it before. Great. As a torture victim, I'm very happy to hear this news:"

I hope you won't take it the wrong way, however, if I say that I doubt the sincerity of your change of heart. Let's be honest. There isn't much proof that you regret what you did. The evidence suggests that you helped to cover up for American torturers. Meanwhile, at least in the torture facilities I've known, the officials who get with the program - by which I mean carry out every order in silent obedience - tend to move up in the hierarchy. I assume you're discovering the same thing right now on the day of your Senate confirmation hearing.

Because it's not exactly clear that the torture era at the CIA really is over, and because I think I learned something about the torture business during my years in a series of torture prisons, I'd like to tell you about my experience.

His personal recounting of his treatment--including making up multiple stories to evade further abuse--will shock no one except those who believe that torture works:

Later on, lying again on the floor in my cell, I devised a third tale. It accounted for the inconsistencies in the one I had told under torture, flattered the torturers' prejudices, involved money as a motivation - an idea the torturers seemed to like - and made detours through a half-dozen, totally fictitious but true-sounding details.

He observes that the question Why is this happening to me? "is a profound, agonizing, entrancing question for torture victims:"

They devote their days and nights to its contemplation. When torture happens as a matter of course, over long periods of time, the prisoner is likely to conclude that no single commander or command structure is responsible for these crimes, but, rather, that there is something unwell within the society outside the walls of the prison. What has gone wrong in that society that every few days it throws up new men who wish to stand around in dark rooms as other men are hanged from their wrists, flayed, then electrocuted until it is obvious to everyone that the body's life force has all but drained away? [...]

There really is no single answer to such a question. It is a sinister riddle with a thousand half-right answers, none of which comfort the victim since all he wants is out.

"For the sake of its honor, if for nothing else," he concludes, "U.S. officials must never obey torture orders from this president. And that includes you, Ms. Haspel."

Salon is dismayed at Haspel's unwillingness to answer direct questions:

President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency was defiant during questioning by Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., at a Wednesday Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on the nomination.

Deputy Director of the CIA Gina Haspel, who has been the acting director since Mike Pompeo's confirmation as Secretary of State, repeatedly dodged "yes or no" questions from the former prosecutor.

Here's the weaseling:

"So one question I have not heard you answer is, 'do you believe that the previous interrogation techniques were immoral?'" Harris asked. "It's a 'yes or no' answer."

"Senator, I believe that CIA did extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country giving the legal tools we were authorized to use," Haspel replied.

"Please answer yes or no," Harris repeated. "Do you believe in hindsight that those techniques were immoral?"

"Senator, what I believe sitting here today is that I support the higher moral standard we have decided to hold ourselves to," Haspel continued.

"Can you please answer the question?" Harris requested.

"Senator, I think I've answered the question," Haspel argued.

"No, you have not," Harris fact-checked. "Do you believe the previous techniques -- now armed with hindsight -- do you believe they were immoral?"

"Yes or no?"

Crooks and Liars cites the same exchange, and then sums it up his way:

Trump has said over and over again that he would not only reinstitute torture, but make it even harsher and more immoral. It sounds like he's got the perfect partner in Haspel.

Installing her as head of the CIA could lead to depredations worse than we saw during the W era, yet another way in which Trump can be the worst president ever.

According to The Federalist, the Supreme Court has already repealed the Second Amendment "in District of Columbia v. Heller by restricting the amendment to common arms:"

Heller asked the court to decide whether Washington DC's bans on handguns, having a loaded firearm at home, and carrying a firearm at home without a permit violated the Second Amendment.

"Miller [U.S. v. Miller (1939)] asked," the article continues, "whether the National Firearms Act of 1934 violated the Second Amendment by requiring that a short-barreled shotgun be registered with the federal government:"

Heller said, "We think that Miller's 'ordinary military equipment' language must be read in tandem with what comes after: '[O]rdinarily when called for [militia] service [able-bodied] men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time.'" [...]

Although some laud Heller for recognizing an individual right to some arms, its false standard allows Congress and the states to ban arms they and the courts claim are not "common" or that are useful "in military service."

Then we can reinstitute the assault-weapons ban--right?

Slate's Isaac Chotiner discusses the key signs of money laundering, beginning with the WaPo story observing that "Donald Trump used cash for many of his real estate transactions in the decade before he became president" [see here]. Chotiner comments that "it's worth trying to understand what exactly money laundering is, and what role it plays in the real estate world:"

To find out, I recently spoke by phone with Peter D. Hardy. He is a partner in the white-collar defense group at the law firm Ballard Spahr, a former federal prosecutor, and the curator of Ballard Spahr's blog Money Laundering Watch.

After some details (explaining 18 U.S.C 1956, and 18 U.S.C. 1957, for example), this exchange is particularly interesting:

Why is real estate seen as a fertile business for money launderers?

Because it is a traditional transaction. Buying real estate is something that a lot of people do and is regarded, generally speaking, as a good investment. The United States real estate market has been very, very hot. So from a pure economic standpoint it makes sense. And it's a vehicle where if you have a lot of money, or a lot of proceeds that you want to unload, it is a pretty good receptacle to do so. It is just kind of handy. And if you are asked, it is easy to provide a seemingly innocuous explanation, which is, "I am investing in real estate along with many other people."

Or influencing heads of state, perhaps...if your transactions are of sufficient scale.

I'm not sure which is the most ludicrous of these two announcements.

The first, as noted by Steve Vladeck at Just Security, is Gina ("Waterboarding") Haspel's nomination to become CIA Director. "Insofar as the Haspel nomination is a referendum on accountability for torture," writes Vladeck, "a big part of why is because other, perhaps better, accountability mechanisms have been all-but useless:"

All of this, of course, is no never mind to President Trump, who tweeted this morning that Haspel has come under fire for being "too tough on Terrorists." As Laura Rosenberger (among others) has pointed out, unlike just about everyone else defending the Haspel nomination, Trump seems inclined to support her because of her involvement in torture, not in spite of it.

To me, a President who feels that way is all the more reason to want a CIA Director with less of a sordid history. But regardless of the case for supporting or opposing Haspel, it's worth emphasizing that the reason that it's come to this is, at least in my view, largely a result of the unavailability or inefficacy of other accountability mechanisms for government torture.

And for that failure, shame on us.

The second candidate is Ollie ("American Traitor") North's nomination to lead the NRA:

Imagine the thought process that went into the decision to elevate one of the most notorious criminal actors in modern Republicanism to a top spot in the National Rifle Association.

As the author reminds us, Oliver North "was a central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal, a Reagan administration scheme to smuggle arms to Iran in violation of American law, funneling the secret proceeds to Nicaraguan rebels--also in violation of American law:"

He was convicted for destroying evidence and obstructing the resulting congressional inquiry, convictions which were overturned after courts ruled that Congress had given him immunity from those prosecutions. For these acts of treason, he was and is widely feted by conservative Reagan loyalists who believe that presidents and their White House staff members should be able to violate whichever of the nation's laws they feel inclined to.

So yes, that's precisely the figurehead the National Rifle Association needs: a man who betrayed his country [and] who represents the new conservative celebration of lawlessness in service to Republican political power. What better spokesman for the National Rifle Association, a group devoted to the notion that their members may someday be obliged to not merely disobey the American government, but murder those that represent it?

Salon's Matthew Rozsa calls North a perfectly toxic choice, and riffs on NRA head Wayne LaPierre's remark that "Oliver North is, hands down, the absolute best choice to lead our NRA Board:"

North is likely to fit in well with the group, given that he has spent more than twenty years as a right-wing media figure. Most recently North has appeared regularly as a commentator on Fox News, where he has continued his reputation for offering consistently conservative interpretations of major news events.

The Atlantic's David Graham makes similar observations:

North's appointment spawned an immediate round of very similar jokes--he's a perfect fit for the NRA, since he's got lots of experience facilitating gun sales, har har har--as well as some consternation at why the NRA would choose an obviously tarnished figure like North, especially at a moment when the organization is under even more political pressure than usual following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the aftermath of which has launched the largest protest movement for gun restrictions in years.

"North, as a veteran culture warrior, is perfectly fitted to this strategy" of outrage and backlash," Graham continues:

Because of his Iran-Contra connections, he also makes for a perfect Trump-era martyr. His champions viewed him as a victim of the deep state, long before anyone in the U.S. used the phrase, and of a special prosecutor overstepping his bounds.

Slate also notes North's status as a notorious arms trafficker. "Oliver North's background makes him in some ways the perfect choice for the modern NRA--whose primary activity," snarks Ben Mathis-Lilley, "is conducting a Trump-style cultural-resentment offensive against Americans who support gun control regulations:"

In summary, an individual who lied to Congress about illegal weapons sales to a state sponsor of terrorism is now the president of an organization whose central belief is that legal gun ownership is the key to maintaining a safe country.

Haspel may be in a position to do more damage, but North's odiousness must not be forgotten..

Adam Lee has more thoughts on those rage-filled, resentful incels [see here], stemming from this comment he received:

it's simple: Female sexuality has been unleashed by the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s, but not male sexuality, since one easy and certain route for getting sex (for men) remains illegal -- just paying for it. Just legalize prostitution. Let there be a Hookr app (no e.) Imagine that -- the incel opens up the Hookr up and chooses from all the local girls willing to service him. He gets to rate them afterward, and the working girls rate him. But no, both feminists and socially conservative women don't want this because it would simply give too much social power to males who, as a consequence, may not be as patient with their significant others' antics.

"Can we start," Lee asks, "by talking about this ludicrous belief that female sexuality has been "unleashed" but male sexuality hasn't?"

Our society is designed around male sexuality: celebrating it, promoting it, pandering to it. Advertising, television, movies and video games are all multibillion-dollar industries that practically treat beautiful women as wallpaper. Men who have sex with many women as they can are praised as studs, playboys, Casanovas, lady-killers.

Meanwhile, women who have lots of sex are often cruelly demeaned and stigmatized - one double standard among many that incels are eager to perpetuate (warning, gross sexist language at the link). You'd think that if someone cared about having sex above all else, if it was the all-consuming focus of their lives, they'd want women to be sexually free and promiscuous, the better to increase their own chances. Instead, they shame them for it.

This is further evidence that the real problem in the incel community isn't sexual frustration, but entitlement. They don't just want some sex, any sex. What they want is the stereotypical male fantasy object: a beautiful, physically flawless virgin who has no wishes or goals of her own and who lavishes worshipful attention on them and them alone.

"The reality is that," Lee continues, "even if sex work were legalized in the sweeping way he wanted, it wouldn't solve the problem of rage-filled, violent incels:"

Just as there are lonely single people who aren't killers, there are people in relationships who are hateful, abusive, jealous and violent. Having sex isn't a magic key that transforms someone's core self. Incels are, by definition, the men who miss this point. They're trying to treat a symptom while ignoring the real reason for their unhappiness. It would be a sad spectacle, deserving of help and sympathy - if they didn't choose to direct their rage outwards in such explosive and horrific ways.

Rudy Giuliani is at it again, as Samuel Warde points out:

Asked about the possibility of Trump getting subpoenaed by Mueller to testify, Giuliani answered: "We don't have to" comply with a subpoena.

"They don't have a case on collusion, they don't have obstruction... I'm going to walk him into a prosecution for perjury like Martha Stewart did?" Giuliani continued. "He's the president of the United States. We can assert privilege other presidents [have]."

There's also this tidbit:

Giuliani also told Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that he expects Trump's former, longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to cooperate with the Mueller investigation.

"Michael Cohen doesn't have any incriminating evidence on the president or himself," Giuliani said. "He's an honest, honorable lawyer."

I'm not so sure that Giuliani is a good judge of those qualities.

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