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The NYT shows how "Trump opens his arms to Russia:"

Just a few hours after President Trump doused expectations of extracting any confession from President Vladimir V. Putin on Russia's election meddling when they meet on Monday, his own Justice Department issued a sweeping indictment of 12 Russian intelligence agents for hacking the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton presidential campaign.

The bold move, precisely the kind that Mr. Trump has long resisted, demonstrated how he is almost wholly untethered from his administration when it comes to dealing with Moscow. Whether it is Russia's interference in the election, its annexation of Crimea or its intervention in Syria, Mr. Trump's statements either undercut, or flatly contradict, those of his lieutenants.

The disconnect is so profound that it often seems Mr. Trump is pursuing one Russia policy, set on ushering in a gauzy new era of cooperation with Mr. Putin, while the rest of his administration is pursuing another, set on countering a revanchist power that the White House has labeled one of the greatest threats to American security and prosperity.

Trump calls the investigation "the rigged witch hunt," and offers what the NYT calls "unfavorable comparisons to his predecessor, Mr. Obama:"

"President Obama failed very badly with Crimea," Mr. Trump said on Friday when asked about Russia's annexation. "This was an Obama disaster. And I think if I were president then, he would not have taken over Crimea."

On Saturday, while at his golf club in Scotland, Mr. Trump blamed Mr. Obama for not acting against Russia's election interference. "These Russian individuals did their work during the Obama years. Why didn't Obama do something about it? Because he thought Crooked Hillary Clinton would win, that's why," he said in a tweet.

Really, it was Mitch McConnell and the GOP that were "opposed to the idea of going public with such explosive allegations in the final stages of an election." It's worth noting that McConnell stopped Obama, which PolitiFact describes as "The Republican Party prevented President Obama and the Democrats from doing anything to stop the Russian attack." Nevertheless, Trump continues to tweet:

The stories you heard about the 12 Russians yesterday took place during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration. Why didn't they do something about it, especially when it was reported that President Obama was informed by the FBI in September, before the Election?

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2018

Here is the real history that Trump is trying to hide.

It was Barack Obama who wanted to issue a joint statement condemning Russian election meddling with Republicans, but Mitch McConnell refused to cooperate. It was the Obama administration that secured documents relating to the Russia investigation so that they couldn't be destroyed by Trump and the Republicans. It was Obama who warned for years that America's election system and infrastructure needed to be upgraded and repaired. (A warning that was ignored by Republican state and local election officials.)

The Daily Beast calls Trumpublican efforts "textbook treason" (h/t: Taegan Goddard):

The indictments of the 12 Russian military officers accused of engaging in a coordinated attack on the United States to try to make their preferred candidate our president are a vital reminder that the Mueller investigation cannot and must not be seen as a political issue.

"This is an extraordinary moment," the piece continues:

It is without equal, not only in American history but in modern history. A hostile foreign power intervened in our election to help elect a man president who has since actively served their interests and has defended them at every turn.

Trump may deny collusion. But given that this the attack continues, denying it is collusion, distracting from it is collusion, obstructing the investigation of it is collusion -- because all these things enable it to go on.

That the president is abetted in his aid for the Russians -- again, in the midst of this ongoing attack -- by the leadership of the Republican Party makes the situation all the more extraordinary and dangerous. As Republicans seek to undermine the investigation, they serve Russia as directly as if they were officers of the GRU. Some now reportedly seek to impeach Rosenstein on trumped up charges. To attack one of our national defense leaders as we are being attacked, and to do so to benefit our foreign adversary, is textbook treason.

As Digby writes:

No matter what is proven about what he knew at the time it's clear that once he found out he didn't give a damn and was happy to receive the help.

And he and the Republican Party are obviously happy to receive it again. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and all the rest of the Fox News traitors are the most cynical, power-mad politicians in American history. They will allow nothing to stand in their way.

If any of these people ever try to wrap themselves in the flag and sell themselves as patriots again I'm going to vomit.

Trump says, "EU is a foe," while sucking up to Putin:

Donald Trump is on third leg of his disastrous overseas trip and he is clearly trying to score high marks on his annual review with his boss, Russian president Vladimir Putin. His latest stunt: calling the European Union our "foe". [...]

Just a reminder that a few days ago at the NATO summit, Trump attacked Germany, saying they are "totally controlled" and a "captive to Russia" --- someone call Freud because the projection is strong with this one. [...]

Breaking down our relationships with our allies, strengthening our relationship with our enemies. Putin is getting a great return on his investment - he appears to [be] the REAL dealmaker. Trump is just the pawn. And he is too stupid to realize it.

Also, the DNC should be ashamed of getting hacked, for reasons:

"The DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked. They had bad defenses, and they were able to be hacked," Trump said in a CBS News interview with Jeff Glor, aired Sunday on "Face the Nation." "I heard they were trying to hack the Republicans, too. But, and this may be wrong, but they had much stronger defenses." [...]

"I heard that they were trying, or people were trying, to hack into the RNC, too. The Republican National Committee," Trump said. "But we had much better defenses. I've been told that by a number of people. We had much better defenses, so they couldn't."

Or, perhaps, both parties were hacked--but the Russians realized that (for whatever reason) the GOP candidate would be more useful to them. TPM's Josh Marshall observes:

For all the ways in which President Trump's rantings about a 'deep state' are nonsensical, the timing of this indictment simply cannot be a coincidence.

"I think we're moving into a dangerous and critical period," he concludes.

TruthDig skewers Peter Strzok:

If FBI agent Peter Strzok were not so glib, it would have been easier to feel some sympathy for him during his tough grilling at the House oversight hearing on Thursday, even though his wounds are self-inflicted. The wounds, of course, ooze from the content of his own text message exchange with his lover and alleged co-conspirator, Lisa Page.

Strzok was a top FBI counterintelligence official and Page an attorney working for then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. The Attorney General fired McCabe in March and DOJ has criminally referred McCabe to federal prosecutors for [allegedly] lying to Justice Department investigators.

On Thursday members of the House Judiciary and Oversight/Government Reform committees questioned Strzok for eight hours on how he led the investigations of Hillary Clinton's unauthorized emails and Donald Trump's campaign's ties with Russia, if any.

Strzok did his best to be sincerely slick. Even so, he seemed to feel beleaguered -- even ambushed -- by the questions of Republicans using his own words against him. "Disingenuous" is the word a Republican Congresswoman used to describe his performance. Nonetheless, he won consistent plaudits from the Democrats. [...]

In a text sent to Page on April 2, 2016, Strzok assured her that it was safe to use official cellphones. Page: "So look, you say we text on that phone when we talk about Hillary because it can't be traced."

Crooks and Liars quotes House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC):

"What I would tell the president is no American has been indicted for conspiring to hack the DNC. But Russia did attack us, so focus on the first prong of that Mueller jurisdiction. Let the second prong play out, but so far the with whom if anyone did they do it, we've got a big zero with respect to Americans."

engaging trolls

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Jeremy Sherman offers 12 strategies for dealing with Right-wing trolls. "We're way better educated, smarter and more articulate than these absolute hypocrites," he notes, "so why do they have us on the run?"

Because we're way more conscientious than they are. We fight with our fighting hands tied behind our backs for out-of-touch moral reasons, reasons that did make sense out of civic loyalty but not anymore. [...]

We try to stay receptive and therefore responsive to their challenges. We empathize with them and then automatically feel charitable toward them. We operate by self-contradictory moral principles - you shouldn't be judgmental (which is a judgment), don't be negative (which is negative) and be intolerant of intolerance (which is intolerant).

"When we cut that out," he continues, "we'll be able to dance circles around them," because "Trolls are one-trick phonies, same as every other cult in world history:"

Though the "doctrines" change from cult to cult, it's just costume anyway. They're know-it-all gloataholics in whatever ideological clothing happens to fit their lifestyle. [...]

Their one trick which excites them as though they invented it rather than rediscovering it, is fake infallibility through unconstrained hypocrisy. It gives them a hard-on to fantasize that without any effort other than learning their simple formula, they can take on and beat all comers. [...] They can't. They just think they can because we keep coming at them in predictable, hands-tied ways.

Sherman's tips include:

Non-stick surface: Parents of brats eventually learn that giving reasons for their decisions invites debate. It's like offering handles for the brats to grab and manipulate. By the same token, don't give trolls reasons why you've decided things. It implies that you are trying to convince them of something and worse, that you think they're interested in reasoning things out. Be unreasonable because that's what they are.

Have low expectations: Never expect to change a troll's mind about anything. Your goal is to flummox them, prove that their formula isn't as foolproof as they think. Their silence or slinking off muttering curses at you on the way out is evidence of your success.

Do not lead by example: When they go low, you have license to go wherever. Do not think you can win them over by moral example. They are enjoying a psychopathic holiday. Do not be generous, respectful or kind with psychopaths. They will not reciprocate.

Never take their bait: Never engage with them on their terms. Ignore their arguments on morality, current events, facts, good authority, hypocrisy, logic, values, history, fairness, principle - anything that they lead with. Their formula is designed to lead you around by the nose.

Don't enable their feigned authority: Right-wing trolls are just a Hannity wannabes. They regard themselves as pundit authorities deserving of everyone's attention rather than the dime-a-dozen dickheads they really are - plenty more where they came from. Don't get hung up any one of them. Walk away anytime. Don't feel obligated to respond to them.

Towleroad's roundup of LGBTQ opposition to Kavanaugh's nomination has some disturbing comments:

LAMBDA LEGAL:

We have good reason to fear that Judge Kavanaugh will abuse his power on the Court to protect the wealthy and the powerful while depriving LGBT Americans of our dignity, demeaning our community, and diminishing our status as equal citizens. There is too much at stake to allow Judge Kavanaugh to sit on the Court that, over its history, has decided who can marry, who can vote, and who is equal.

A judge with this kind of record should not occupy a seat on the Supreme Court that has been the critical swing vote on LGBT issues, as well as abortion, healthcare, voting rights, and many other important civil rights questions, for decades to come.

TRANSGENDER LAW CENTER:

Trump's pick for the Supreme Court is a divisive, radical conservative whose appointment would pose a devastating threat to the rights and well-being of transgender people nationwide.

ACLU:

Senators should ask Kavanaugh whether he agrees that constitutional law evolves with the times, as it did in recognizing that segregation is unconstitutional, that sex discrimination violates the Equal Protection Clause, and that marriage equality is constitutionally guaranteed."

HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN:

This nominee was hand-picked by anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice groups in an explicit effort to undermine equality -- and the prospect of a Justice Kavanaugh threatens to erode our nation's civil rights laws, block transgender troops from bravely serving this nation and allow a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people in every aspect of American life.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD:

The balance of the Supreme Court is at stake -- we cannot allow it to be tilted against the constitutional right to access abortion. Generations of women, especially women of color, will be affected. And generations of people have grown up only knowing a country where they have the right to access safe, legal abortion. We cannot allow our children and grandchildren to have fewer rights than we do today.

LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE ON CIVIL HUMAN RIGHTS:

Brett Kavanaugh is a direct threat to our civil and human rights and is unfit to serve on our nation's highest court.

GLAAD:

Should Kavanaugh be confirmed, marriage equality would not be the only Supreme Court precedent in jeopardy. As a candidate, President Trump stated that he will only put "pro life" judges on the court, and that he wants to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that recognized that the constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman's right to make personal medical decisions, including access to abortion.

ONE COLORADO:

With this nomination, basic rights and protections LGBTQ Coloradans rely on are now at serious risk -- including the ability to adopt and foster children, protection from discrimination in employment, housing, and public spaces; and the ability to get health insurance even if you have a pre-existing condition.

Towleroad also reports the following tidbit about the selection of Kavanaugh:

Donald Trump and SCOTUS Justice Anthony Kennedy had been involved in negotiations for weeks about his retirement as Kennedy sought assurance that Brett Kavanaugh would be nominated, according to an NBC News report.

WaPo's David Litt wrote last week on the long relationship between Trump, Deutsche Bank, and Kennedy:

"The existence of a personal connection between a conservative Supreme Court justice and a real estate billionaire turned president seems to shock some political observers. It shouldn't. Of course the Trumps and Kennedys know each other: Both families belong to the most exclusive circle of America's elite. This upper-upper crust has members from across the country, but it functions as a kind of a gated community, one in which personal and professional relationships inevitably intertwine. America's super-elite sends its kids to the same schools. They bump into each other at Davos or Aspen or the Alfalfa Club in Washington. They socialize. They do business. They donate. They raise money. They take one another's calls."

As the irreplaceable George Carlin pointed out, "It's a big club, and you ain't in it!"

Jon Chait's long New York piece on Trump/Russia points out that "What is missing from our imagination is the unlikely but possible outcome on the other end [of the Russia scandal]: that this is all much worse than we suspect:"

After all, treating a small probability as if it were nonexistent is the very error much of the news media made in covering the presidential horse race. And while the body of publicly available information about the Russia scandal is already extensive, the way it has been delivered -- scoop after scoop of discrete nuggets of information -- has been disorienting and difficult to follow. What would it look like if it were reassembled into a single narrative, one that distinguished between fact and speculation but didn't myopically focus on the most certain conclusions?

Here's a bit of his background:

In 2015, Western European intelligence agencies began picking up evidence of communications between the Russian government and people in Donald Trump's orbit. In April 2016, one of the Baltic states shared with then-CIA director John Brennan an audio recording of Russians discussing funneling money to the Trump campaign. In the summer of 2016, Robert Hannigan, head of the U.K. intelligence agency GCHQ, flew to Washington to brief Brennan on intercepted communications between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Chait asks us to "suppose the dark crevices of the Russia scandal run not just a little deeper but a lot deeper:"

If that's true, we are in the midst of a scandal unprecedented in American history, a subversion of the integrity of the presidency. It would mean the Cold War that Americans had long considered won has dissolved into the bizarre spectacle of Reagan's party's abetting the hijacking of American government by a former KGB agent. It would mean that when Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in on the president and his inner circle, possibly beginning this summer, Trump may not merely rail on Twitter but provoke a constitutional crisis.

And it would mean the Russia scandal began far earlier than conventionally understood and ended later -- indeed, is still happening. As Trump arranges to meet face-to-face and privately with Vladimir Putin later this month, the collusion between the two men metastasizing from a dark accusation into an open alliance, it would be dangerous not to consider the possibility that the summit is less a negotiation between two heads of state than a meeting between a Russian-intelligence asset and his handler.

Chait puts together some of the pieces of Trump's political involvement:

Tom Wright, another scholar who has delved into Trump's history, reached the same conclusion. "1987 is Trump's breakout year. There are only a couple of examples of him commenting on world politics before then."

What changed that year? One possible explanation is that Trump published The Art of the Deal, which sped up his transformation from an aggressive, publicity-seeking New York developer to a national symbol of capitalism. But the timing for this account does not line up perfectly -- the book came out on November 1, and Trump had begun opining loudly on trade and international politics two months earlier. The other important event from that year is that Trump visited Moscow.

During the Soviet era, Russian intelligence cast a wide net to gain leverage over influential figures abroad. (The practice continues to this day.) The Russians would lure or entrap not only prominent politicians and cultural leaders, but also people whom they saw as having the potential for gaining prominence in the future. In 1986, Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin met Trump in New York, flattered him with praise for his building exploits, and invited him to discuss a building in Moscow. Trump visited Moscow in July 1987. He stayed at the National Hotel, in the Lenin Suite, which certainly would have been bugged. There is not much else in the public record to describe his visit, except Trump's own recollection in The Art of the Deal that Soviet officials were eager for him to build a hotel there. (It never happened.)

"How do you even think about the small but real chance," Chait asks, "that the president of the United States has been influenced or compromised by a hostile foreign power for decades?"

Trump returned from Moscow fired up with political ambition. He began the first of a long series of presidential flirtations, which included a flashy trip to New Hampshire. Two months after his Moscow visit, Trump spent almost $100,000 on a series of full-page newspaper ads that published a political manifesto. "An open letter from Donald J. Trump on why America should stop paying to defend countries that can afford to defend themselves," as Trump labeled it, launched angry populist charges against the allies that benefited from the umbrella of American military protection. "Why are these nations not paying the United States for the human lives and billions of dollars we are losing to protect their interests?"

Trump's letter avoided the question of whom the U.S. was protecting those countries from. The primary answer, of course, was the Soviet Union. After World War II, the U.S. had created a liberal international order and underwritten its safety by maintaining the world's strongest military. A central goal of Soviet, and later Russian, foreign policy was to split the U.S. from its allies.

The safest assumption is that it's entirely coincidental that Trump launched a national campaign, with himself as spokesman, built around themes that dovetailed closely with Soviet foreign-policy goals shortly after his Moscow stay.

"It is not difficult to imagine that Russia quickly had something on Trump," he continues, "from either exploits during his 1987 visit or any subsequent embarrassing behavior KGB assets might have uncovered:"

But the other leverage Russia enjoyed over Trump for at least 15 years is indisputable -- in fact, his family has admitted to it multiple times. After a series of financial reversals and his brazen abuse of bankruptcy laws, Trump found it impossible to borrow from American banks and grew heavily reliant on unconventional sources of capital. Russian cash proved his salvation. From 2003 to 2017, people from the former USSR made 86 all-cash purchases -- a red flag of potential money laundering -- of Trump properties, totaling $109 million. In 2010, the private-wealth division of Deutsche Bank also loaned him hundreds of millions of dollars during the same period it was laundering billions in Russian money. "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets," said Donald Jr. in 2008. "We don't rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia," boasted Eric Trump in 2014. [...]

Shady business transactions offer the perfect cover for covert payments, since just about the entire Russian economy is shady. Trump's adamant refusal to disclose his tax returns has many possible explanations, but none is more obvious than the prospect that he is hiding what are effectively bribes.

"In July 2013, Trump visited Moscow again," Chait writes, speculating that "If the Russians did not have a back-channel relationship or compromising file on Trump 30 years ago, they very likely obtained one then:"

Former FBI director James Comey recounts in his book that Trump was obsessed with reports that he had been recorded in a hotel room watching prostitutes urinate on a bed that Barack Obama had once slept in. Trump, Comey wrote, "argued that it could not be true because he had not stayed overnight in Moscow but had only used the hotel room to change his clothes."

Trump's claim is bullshit! (Or, in other words, "journalists Michael Isikoff and David Corn have reconstructed Trump's trip to Moscow and established that he did in fact stay overnight.") "For all the ambiguous, suspicious facts surrounding Trump's ties to Russia," Chait observes, "Manafort's role is the most straightforward:"

He is an utterly amoral consultant and spent at least a decade directly advancing Russian foreign-policy interests while engaging in systemic corruption.

"Manafort was asking about," confirms Chait, "the possibility of trading his position as Trump's campaign manager for debt forgiveness from Deripaska:"

This much was clear in March 2016: The person who managed the campaign of a pro-Russian candidate in Ukraine was now also managing the campaign of a pro-Russian candidate in the United States. And Trump's campaign certainly looked like the same play Putin had run many times before: Trump inflamed internal ethnic division, assailed the corruption of the elite, attacked Western allies while calling for cooperation with Russia, and sowed distrust in the fairness of the vote count. And in addition to deploying social-media bots and trolls, Russia apparently spent directly to help elect Trump. The FBI is investigating Alexander Torshin, a Russian banker who built ties to Republicans and allegedly funneled campaign funds to the National Rifle Association, which spent three times as much to help Trump as it had on behalf of Romney four years earlier.

Trump surrounded himself with several staffers, in addition to Manafort, with unusually close ties to Russia. His national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, had traveled to Moscow in 2015 to fête Putin at a banquet; George Papadopoulos met with Russian officials during the campaign; Russia had marked Carter Page as a possible asset. Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, the two business associates of Trump's with decades-long ties to Russian organized crime, engaged in a mix of diplomatic and commercial negotiations with Russia during the campaign.

Several Trump advisers knew Russia was working to help Trump. Papadopoulos let it slip that Russia had dirt on Clinton; Roger Stone, a former longtime business partner of Manafort's who communicated regularly with Trump throughout the campaign, knew what material WikiLeaks had obtained, according to two associates. Stone also repeatedly boasted of his back-channel contacts to Julian Assange and flaunted advance knowledge of what dirt Assange had. Between a pair of phone conversations Donald Jr. had to set up his Trump Tower meeting, he spoke with someone with a blocked phone number. (His father has a blocked phone number.) John K. Mashburn, a former campaign and current White House staffer, testified in March that he recalled receiving an email in early 2016 that Russia had negative information on Clinton.

"Russia's hacking appears, in short, to have been common knowledge within the campaign," Chait writes. He then wonders, "How much more evidence of collusion is yet to come out? Maybe a lot more:"

In July 2016, a loose-knit community of computer scientists and cybersecurity experts discovered a strange pattern of online traffic between two computer servers. One of those servers belonged to Alfa Bank in Moscow and the other to the Trump Organization. Alfa Bank's owners had "assumed an unforeseen level of prominence and influence in the economic and political affairs of their nation," as a federal court once put it.

The analysts noted that the traffic between the two servers occurred during office hours in New York and Moscow and spiked in correspondence with major campaign events, suggesting it entailed human communication rather than bots. More suspiciously, after New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau asked Alfa Bank about it but before he brought it up with the Trump campaign, the server in Trump Tower shut down. The timing strongly implied Alfa Bank was communicating with Trump. [see here]

"If that server was transmitting data to and from Moscow," Chait wonders, "who in Trump Tower was feeding it?" To date, there is no definitive answer.

Now that he's in office, Trump's ties to Russia have attracted close scrutiny, and he has found his room to maneuver with Putin sharply constrained by his party. In early 2017, Congress passed sanctions to retaliate against Russia's election attack. Trump lobbied to weaken them, and when they passed by vetoproof supermajorities, he was reportedly "apoplectic" and took four days to agree to sign the bill even knowing he couldn't block it. After their passage, Trump has failed to enforce the sanctions as directed.

Trump also moved to return to Russia a diplomatic compound that had been taken by the Obama administration; announced that he and Putin had "discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit" to jointly guard against "election hacking"; and congratulated the Russian strongman for winning reelection, despite being handed a card before the call warning: "Do not congratulate."

"There is one other way in which Trump's behavior has changed in recent months," Chait notes ominously:

As Mueller has plunged deeper into his murky dealings with Russia, the president has increasingly abandoned the patina of innocence. Trump used to claim he would be vindicated, and his advisers insisted his periodic fits sprang from an irrational resentment that Mueller was tarnishing his election and obscuring his achievements.

Trump barely puts much effort into predicting a clean bill of health anymore. He acts like a man with a great deal to hide: declining to testify, dangling pardons to keep witnesses from incriminating him, publicly chastising his attorney general for not quashing the whole investigation, and endorsing Russia's preposterous claims that it had nothing to do with the election at all. ("Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!" he tweeted last month, contradicting the conclusion of every U.S. intelligence agency.) Trump's behavior toward Russia looks nothing like that of a leader of a country it attacked and exactly like that of an accessory after the fact. [...]

Meanwhile, the White House has eliminated its top cybersecurity position. That might simply reflect a Republican bias against bureaucratic expertise. But it might also be just what it looks like: The cop on the beat is being fired because his boss is in cahoots with the crooks.

I had heard about the ridiculous Trump rally last Thursday, but hadn't seen the video until now:

There are so many things wrong with this Cretin-in-Chief that I scarcely know where to begin, but John Fea notes that none of them affects the support he still receives from 'intellectually lazy' Christians. "For the last year," he writes, "I have been thinking deeply about why so many of my fellow evangelical Christians support Donald Trump:"

I have wondered why they backed his zero-tolerance immigration plan that separated families at the border. I have tried to make sense of why some of them give him a "mulligan" (to use Family Research Council President Tony Perkins' now famous phrase) for his alleged adulterous affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels. Why did so many evangelicals remain silent, or offer tepid and qualified responses, when Trump equated white supremacists and their opponents in Charlottesville, Virginia last summer?

What kind of power does Trump hold over men and women who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ? Evangelical support for Trump goes much deeper than simply a few Supreme Court justices.

"Trump's win," he continues, "was just the latest manifestation of a long-standing evangelical approach to politics:"

Ever since World War II, white evangelicals in the United States have waged a desperate and largely failing war against thickening walls of separation between church and state, the removal of Christianity from public schools, the growing ethnic and religious diversity of the country, the intrusion of the federal government into their everyday lives (especially as it pertains to desegregation and civil rights), and legalized abortion. [...]

Evangelical support for Donald Trump is also rooted in nostalgia for a bygone Christian golden age. Instead of doing the hard work necessary for engaging a more diverse society with the claims of Christian orthodoxy, evangelicals are intellectually lazy, preferring to respond to cultural change by trying to reclaim a world that is rapidly disappearing and has little chance of ever coming back.

Trump's constant exhortations to "Believe me" may factor into their gullibility, but Fea's succinct analysis is this:

Why do so many evangelicals believe in Donald Trump? Because they privilege fear over hope, power over humility, and nostalgia over history.

liberal win

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Brandon Weber lists the top 10 liberal victories of the last 100 years. "If you look at the record," he writes, "it's clear that eventually, inevitably, Liberals always win." Here is his list:

--The end of slavery in the United States

--The right to vote

--The New Deal (Parts 1, 2, and 3)

  • The New Deal: Social Security
  • The New Deal: The National Labor Relations Act of 1935, a.k.a. The Wagner Act
  • The New Deal: Jobs and Banking Reform

--The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965

--The right of interracial couples to marry

--The Affordable Care Act

--Marriage equality for all

"On almost every one of these," he writes, it's unlikely to change back, unless we really do head to the 1950s, like some would want us to do. Flat out resistance and throwing down in the streets will probably be necessary." Salon's Paul Rosenberg reminds us that, among others, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is "absolutely not" too far left. "DSA's [Democratic Socialists of America] membership has exploded since Bernie Sanders' campaign," he points out, "and the group is not just doing politics but building community." There's also the issues of economics and intellectual heritage:

Adam Smith is regularly referred to as the "father of capitalism," but if you actually read his classic "Wealth of Nations," you could easily mistake him for a democratic socialist who might support an agenda like the one Ocasio-Cortez has laid out, including Medicare and higher education for all, a jobs guarantee, housing as a human right, and clean campaign finance.

In Book 1, Chapter 8 of his landmark work, Smith writes:

Servants, labourers and workmen of different kinds, make up the far greater part of every great political society. But what improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconvenience to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, clothe and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed and lodged.

"As for what socialism means," Ocasio-Cortez explained it well:

When we talk about the word socialism, I think what it really means is just democratic participation in our economic dignity, and our economic, social, and racial dignity. It is about direct representation and people actually having power and stake over their economic and social wellness, at the end of the day. To me, what socialism means is to guarantee a basic level of dignity. It's asserting the value of saying that the America we want and the America that we are proud of is one in which all children can access a dignified education. It's one in which no person is too poor to have the medicines they need to live. It's to say that no individual's civil rights are to be violated. [...] There is no other force, there is no other party, there is no other real ideology out there right now that is asserting the minimum elements necessary to lead a dignified American life.

As the piece concludes, "It may now be time for socialism to emerge in this country, in distinctively American form. If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is leading the way, she's definitely not alone." NYT's Michelle Goldberg writes that "Millennial socialists are coming," also identifying DSA as a major force:

But all over the nation, people, particularly women, are working with near supernatural energy to rebuild democracy from the ground up, finding ways to exercise political power however they can. For the middle-aged suburbanites who are the backbone of the anti-Trump resistance, that often means shoring up the Democratic Party. For younger people who see Donald Trump's election as the apotheosis of a rotten political and economic system, it often means trying to remake that party as a vehicle for democratic socialism. [...]

The D.S.A., to which Ocasio-Cortez belongs, is the largest socialist organization in America. Its growth has exploded since the 2016 election -- when, of course, avowed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders ran in the Democratic primary -- from 7,000 members to more than 37,000. It's an activist group rather than a political party, working with Democrats in the electoral realm while also agitating against injustice from the outside.

Many of the D.S.A.'s goals, reflected in Ocasio-Cortez's platform, are indistinguishable from those of progressive democrats. But if the D.S.A. is happy to work alongside liberals, its members are generally serious about the "socialist" part of democratic socialist. Its constitution envisions "a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality and non-oppressive relationships."

Paul Krugman concurs, observing that radical Democrats are pretty reasonable:

So, about Ocasio-Cortez's positions: Medicare for all is a deliberately ambiguous phrase, but in practice probably wouldn't mean pushing everyone into a single-payer system. Instead, it would mean allowing individuals and employers to buy into Medicare - basically a big public option. That's really not radical at all.

And if we're talking economics rather than politics, every advanced country except America has some form of guaranteed health insurance; decades of experience show that these systems are workable; and they all have lower costs than we do. Calling for us to do what everyone else has managed to do is perfectly reasonable.

What about a jobs guarantee? Ocasio-Cortez's proposal can be thought of as a rise in the national minimum wage to $15, combined with a sort of public option for employment in case that wage rise leads either to private-sector job losses or an increase in labor force participation.

Now, there's a huge amount of evidence to the effect that minimum wage hikes don't significantly reduce employment. To be fair, however, $15 is outside the range of historical experience, and you can make a plausible case that in low-productivity regions like much of the south there would be some job losses. On the other hand, those are precisely the regions that could really use some aid.

On the subject of Ocasio-Cortez, Krugman writes that "she's advocating a more responsible policy than that actually enacted by Republican in Congress:"

The point, in any case, is that while a jobs guarantee is probably further than most Democrats, even in the progressive wing, are willing to go, it's a response to real problems, and it's not at all a crazy idea.

So next time you hear someone on the right talk about the "loony left," or some centrist pundit pretend that people like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez are the left equivalent of the Tea Party, ignore them. Radical Democrats are actually pretty reasonable.

a solid idea

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Tim Berners-Lee's interview in Vanity Fair (h/t: TruthDig) with Katrina Brooker is tantalizing:

From the beginning, in fact, Berners-Lee understood how the epic power of the Web would radically transform governments, businesses, societies. He also envisioned that his invention could, in the wrong hands, become a destroyer of worlds, as Robert Oppenheimer once infamously observed of his own creation. His prophecy came to life, most recently, when revelations emerged that Russian hackers interfered with the 2016 presidential election, or when Facebook admitted it exposed data on more than 80 million users to a political research firm, Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Donald Trump's campaign.

Brooker notes that Berners-Lee "has, for some time, been working on a new software, Solid, to reclaim the Web from corporations and return it to its democratic roots:"

For Berners-Lee, this mission is critical to a fast-approaching future. Sometime this November, he estimates, half the world's population--close to 4 billion people--will be connected online, sharing everything from résumés to political views to DNA information. As billions more come online, they will feed trillions of additional bits of information into the Web, making it more powerful, more valuable, and potentially more dangerous than ever.

"We demonstrated that the Web had failed instead of served humanity, as it was supposed to have done, and failed in many places," he told me. The increasing centralization of the Web, he says, has "ended up producing--with no deliberate action of the people who designed the platform--a large-scale emergent phenomenon which is anti-human."

"The power of the Web wasn't taken or stolen," observes Brooker, and "We, collectively, by the billions, gave it away with every signed user agreement and intimate moment shared with technology:"

Facebook, Google, and Amazon now monopolize almost everything that happens online, from what we buy to the news we read to who we like. Along with a handful of powerful government agencies, they are able to monitor, manipulate, and spy in once unimaginable ways. Shortly after the 2016 election, Berners-Lee felt something had to change, and began methodically attempting to hack his creation. Last fall, the World Wide Web Foundation funded research to examine how Facebook's algorithms control the news and information users receive.

Berners-Lee proposes a solution to "re-decentralize the Web" with Solid:

Working with a small team of developers, he spends most of his time now on Solid, a platform designed to give individuals, rather than corporations, control of their own data. "There are people working in the lab trying to imagine how the Web could be different. How society on the Web could look different. What could happen if we give people privacy and we give people control of their data," Berners-Lee told me. "We are building a whole eco-system."

For now, the Solid technology is still new and not ready for the masses. But the vision, if it works, could radically change the existing power dynamics of the Web. The system aims to give users a platform by which they can control access to the data and content they generate on the Web. This way, users can choose how that data gets used rather than, say, Facebook and Google doing with it as they please. Solid's code and technology is open to all--anyone with access to the Internet can come into its chat room and start coding.

"The forces that Berners-Lee unleashed nearly three decades ago are accelerating, moving in ways no one can fully predict," concludes Brooker, "And now, as half the world joins the Web, we are at a societal inflection point:"

Are we headed toward an Orwellian future where a handful of corporations monitor and control our lives? Or are we on the verge of creating a better version of society online, one where the free flow of ideas and information helps cure disease, expose corruption, reverse injustices?

Judah Taylor writes that "President Donald Trump attacked the news media and defended his tweeting habit Tuesday in the most Trump way possible: with a typo-tainted tweet:"

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Trump's relentless trolling has more than a few people wondering, as does Jeremy Sherman, how can we fight Right-wing trolls and actually win?

The right has become an epidemic of exhibitionists. Right-wing trolls sidle up to people on TV, the internet and in person pretending that they want a reasoned discussion. When they've got your attention, they open their trench coats to show off their firm pointy little "truths," anticipating your reaction. It gets them excited to see you respond in predictable ways. They have themselves a little trollgasm, proving to themselves once again that they've found the formula for flummoxing everyone always.

We react predictably, either with tolerance in the name of civility, gut fury, or by walking away in disgust. The troll exhibitionists are prepared for everything we serve up. That's what their formula is all about. They pretend it's about high-minded principles and policy but, of course it isn't.

"However decent they are in everyday life," Sherman suggests, in this sport of theirs they're just gloataholics addicted to trollgasms." His suggestion to us is that "You've got to flummox the exhibitionist troll:"

It's not easy since the whole point of their formula is besting you no matter what you serve up. Still, it's not impossible once you recognize that their MO is engineered only to beat predictable leftist responses. So try something new, in other words surprising. Disorient them with some response they aren't prepared for, something that shakes them out of their gloataholic ecstasy.

"Here are a few of many tips I can offer," he writes, "based on my ongoing trial-and-error practice sparring with and disappointing right-wing trolls:"

Talk past them: Fight them with an audience looking on, and then demean them by talking past them to the audience. "See what he did there?" They love an audience since they're Trump and Hannity wannabes. They want you to interview them as though they're authorities. You can play the audience to your advantage, not theirs. [...]

George Bernard Shaw said, "Never fight with a pig. You'll just get dirty and the pig likes it," but it turns out you can never say never. There will be pigs you'll have to fight. You will get dirty, but there's no alternative. If you have to get dirty, at least fight to win and make sure the pig doesn't like it.

Leo Vidal's speculation that Trump is terrified at the possibility of Cohen singing to the feds. Vidal provides "five reasons, with brief explanations of why each one is really bad news for the president:"

1. Cohen apparently made illegal payments on Trump's behalf.

Not only did Cohen pay off Stormy Daniels (and possibly other women that Donald Trump had sex with) but he also is being investigated for bank fraud and wire fraud. As Trump's "fixer" Cohen was at the center of and a participant in many of Trump's crimes and indiscretions.

2. Cohen kept a lot of evidence.

This is really, really, really bad news. Cohen apparently recorded all of his conversations, and the FBI has all of them. He also kept every piece of paper, and the FBI has over a million documents they obtained by raiding Cohen.

3. Cohen can't be pardoned.

The State of New York does not need any federal charges to put Cohen (and perhaps Trump) in jail for the rest of his life. And as we all know, a president has no authority to pardon a criminal convicted of state crimes. Bye, Bye Michael.

4. Cohen dealt with Russia during the campaign.

The evidence that the FBI obtained from raiding Cohen may be enough by itself to prove collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

5. Cohen may have collected bribes after Trump's election.

Michael Cohen is at fault for the crimes he committed, and he knows he can't blame anyone else, including Donald Trump, for what he did. But he also is smart enough to know that there is only one way out for him: to fully cooperate with federal and state prosecutors to receive leniency in charges and in sentencing.

In light of the Stephanopoulos interview, Jon Chait wonders in the pages of New York magazine, "What would it mean for Trump if Cohen turns on him? The short answer is, it would be extremely bad."

Erwin Chemerinsky (author of The Conservative Assault on the Constitution) sees a new era for the Supreme Court:

The just completed Supreme Court term will come to be regarded as the beginning of a new era in constitutional history: a time of a very activist Court that aggressively follows the conservative political agenda. This term was the most conservative since October 1935, when the Supreme Court repeatedly declared unconstitutional key New Deal laws. The 2017-2018 term was a year filled with cases of unusual importance, and the conservative position prevailed in almost every case.

"One measure of this term's conservatism," Chemerinsky writes, "is found by looking at the 5-4 decisions:"

There were 19 5-4 rulings out of 63 decisions. Justice Anthony Kennedy voted with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch in 14 of them. He voted with the liberal justices--Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonya Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan--zero times. A year ago, in the ideologically divided cases, Kennedy was with the liberals 57 percent of the time. Two years ago, Kennedy was the key vote to uphold the University of Texas's affirmative action program and to strike down key provisions of Texas's restrictive abortion law.

Chemerinsky observes that "this term, where Kennedy always voted with the conservatives, is the harbinger of what is to come," and his departure from the bench "means that this type of conservative judicial activism will be here for a long time:"

Richard Nixon got to pick four justices in the first two years of his presidency, between 1969 and 1971. This ended the liberal era and the Court moved sharply to the right. I think we will come to see that era lasting from 1969 to 2017. [...]

But this era is now over. No longer is there a Stevens or Souter, let alone a Powell or O'Connor or Kennedy to join the liberals. Instead of Powell or O'Connor or Kennedy being the "median justice" ideologically, it is John Roberts who is the ideological middle of the Court. Roberts is much more conservative than Kennedy on the most high-profile and controversial issues. The chief justice wrote a vehement dissent from the Supreme Court decision in 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges, which declared unconstitutional state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. It is the only dissent that he has read from the bench since joining the Court in 2005. Roberts has voted to uphold every regulation of abortion that has come before him. He is emphatic that all forms of affirmative action are unconstitutional.

"What will it mean," Chemerinsky asks, "to have five very conservative justices whose jurisprudence is based on the Republican platform?"

I have no doubt that there will be five votes to overrule Roe v. Wade, five votes to declare all forms of affirmative action unconstitutional, five votes to eliminate the exclusionary rule as a remedy when police violate the Constitution.

We have seen the beginning of a new era of right-wing judicial activism on the Court, and it is going to be with us for years to come.

Jeremy Sherman explains how the Right uses trinketing as a psychological trick to galvanize its base:

True righteousness, like true bravery or true love, will cost you. You have to put risky, expensive effort into it or else it's just lip service. We each have limited effort to expend. How we expend it is the true expression of our priorities. [...]

But between true righteousness and mere lip-service there's a bargain alternative: Token righteousness. Pick some easy, trivial issue and crusade on it pretending that it's the highest priority, the most epic concern. With token righteousness, you can pose as if your bravely, lovingly saving the world without having to prioritize the truly daunting threats to it.

"You can collect a whole charm bracelet of trinket issues," he writes, "to make yourself feel like you're covering all the marks of righteousness:"

Here's one for justice, one for care, one for compassion, one for bravery. Collect enough and you can pretend you're world-encompassing.

"It's telling that the right chose to call being anti-abortion being pro-life," he points out, "as though protecting fertilized eggs is all it takes to protect life:"

That's the point. Armed with their mighty trinket charm bracelet, they never have to think beyond their trivial causes. They use their trinkets to pivot debate. You bring up a priority and they shake their wrists at you at you saying "yeah, but what about this?!" pointing to one of their misplaced token priorities. [...]

They don't have the moral equivalent of legal standing on most of these issues. They're not directly or indirectly oppressed by any of the threats they jingle. They have to exaggerate the threat to them personally to gain any credibility. That's why you get this perverse argument that their right to not be offended is a higher priority than a gay person's right to marry.

"Trinketing is a powerful way to galvanize the right's token righteousness," he concludes, "even if it has nothing to do with addressing the world's true woes."

George Stephanopoulos' interview with Michal Cohen is filled with portent:

Michael Cohen -- President Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney and a former executive vice president at the Trump Organization -- has always insisted he would remain loyal to the president.

He was the fix-it guy, the pit bull so fiercely protective of his boss that he'd once described himself as "the guy who would take a bullet" for the president.

But in his first in-depth interview since the FBI raided his office and homes in April, Cohen strongly signaled his willingness to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York -- even if that puts President Trump in jeopardy.

"My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will," Cohen told me. "I put family and country first."

"When I asked Cohen how he might respond if the president or his legal team come after him -- to try and discredit him and the work he did for Mr. Trump over the last decade -- he sat up straight," writes Stephanopoulos. "His voice gained strength:"

"I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone's defense strategy," he said emphatically. "I am not a villain of this story, and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way."

To speculate on the question will he flip on Trump?, Crooks & Liars shares some optimistic tweets; cross your fingers, everyone!

David Stuttard calls Alcibiades the Donald Trump of ancient Greece:

Privileged and narcissistic, a man who considered truth to be subjective, who casually manipulated facts to suit his own ambitious ends, who believed that the world was divided into winners and losers, and was determined to win at any cost, no matter whom he trampled on: Alcibiades was a politician for our times. And since, as George Santayana famously remarked, 'those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,' we would do well not to forget him today.

Alcibiades was born to wealthy Athenian aristocrats in the middle of the fifth century bc, his city's Golden Age. Orphaned as a child, he became ward of the powerful Pericles, and as a young man forged a close friendship with Socrates, who (it is said) saw his potential for both good and bad, and tried to steer him towards the former.

Stuttard offers more context:

Tapping into inter-generational tension, the comic dramatist, Aristophanes, raised a laugh at their expense in Clouds, imagining a debate where Honest-Argument, personified as an old-school conservative, is trumped by his smart, young, charismatic, but decidedly amoral rival, Dishonest-Argument (in today's vocabulary, "alternative truth"). While (perhaps unfairly) Aristophanes named Socrates as the quintessential sophist, he gave his pupil a dramatic pseudonym, but dropped none-too-subtle hints regarding his identity. A flamboyant young hedonist, who spent family money on racing chariots, he clearly represented Alcibiades.

"For all his statesmanship," writes Stuttard, "Alcibiades was morally a loose cannon:"

Flagrantly consorting with prostitutes nearly cost him his marriage, but it was scandal of another sort that brought him down. On the eve of the Sicilian expedition, public statues of Hermes (believed to keep the city safe) were found to have been systematically smashed. A second outrage followed: blasphemous young men were accused of profaning one of Greece's most sacred rituals. And implicated in both was Alcibiades.

It didn't end well for Alcibiades:

He found refuge in the unlikeliest of places: first with Athens's mortal enemies, the Spartans, then with Greece's mortal enemies, the Persians. Somehow through persuasiveness, charisma, and shamelessly offering to help defeat his city, Alcibiades managed to stay one step ahead in the grim game of survival. But still he wanted to bask in Athens's limelight.

Desperation at home paved the way for his return:

Riven by internal faction, defeated in war, and plunged into economic crisis, the Athenians voted to drop all charges and recall him. At last he was where he wanted to be: Commander-in-Chief, the most powerful man in Athens.

Hubris was again his downfall, as one might expect:

Once more he escaped, but time had run out for both him and his city. Athens fell, defeated by the Spartan-Persian coalition, which Alcibiades had once done so much to encourage, and in Anatolia Alcibiades was shot dead by assassins.

Clever and hypnotic, but loyal only to himself, Alcibiades epitomized Athens. Heedless of his weaknesses, he exploited his city's failings, exacerbating fault lines for his private ends, and undermining hard-won democratic principles. To some he was a ruthless traitor, dangerously self-obsessed, a would-be tyrant (in Greek, an "unelected autocrat"). Others, swayed by his common touch, found stories of his excesses endearing. Once, when asked why he had cut off his handsome hunting dog's fine tail, he replied, "So people will be so obsessed with that, that they ignore anything worse that I might do."

The parallels to today are obvious, sad to say--though one hopes that Trump's reign will be less disastrous. Stuttard's book Nemesis: Alcibiades and the Fall of Athens has earned a spot on my TBR list.

wage theft

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Corporate wage theft is on the rise, writes Sam Pizzigati, and the practice is "thriving:"

Offenders include the predictable fly-by-night operators we would expect. But the culprits also include, as an alarming new report details, billion-dollar corporations that can clearly afford to honor their side of our core employer-employee bargain.

These companies are committing their thievery on many fronts. They're not paying employees for work performed "off the clock." They're stiffing workers on overtime and violating minimum wage laws. They're requiring employees to buy particular work clothes and not compensating them for their outlays.

"How widespread has this corporate wage theft become?" Pizzigati asks:

Grand Theft Paycheck, a landmark new study from Good Jobs First and the Jobs with Justice Education Fund, examines over 1,200 lawsuits against wage theft that groups of workers have won since 2000. Employers in these cases paid out a combined $8.8 billion in penalties.

And that total just hints at how widespread wage theft has become. Only eight states currently enforce wage theft regulations and provide data on that enforcement. Many wage theft settlements also remain confidential.

The giant U.S. corporations involved in this theft -- retailers like Walmart, telecoms like AT&T, banks like JPMorgan Chase, insurers like State Farm -- can all easily afford, as Grand Theft Paycheck puts it, "to pay their workers properly." So why don't they?

"The reasons vary," writes Pizzigati:

With a declining union presence in America's workplaces, workers have become more vulnerable. Politically motivated attacks on "regulation," meanwhile, have left many government watchdog agencies woefully underfunded.

But the biggest reason major corporations are cheating their workers remains more basic: The outrageously generous rewards that have become so commonplace in corporate America give the executives who run our top corporations an ongoing -- and almost irresistible -- incentive to behave outrageously.

To hit the corporate jackpot -- to pocket double-digit millions and more -- these execs will do most anything. They'll cook their corporate books. They'll shortchange R&D. They'll outsource and downsize. They'll cut worker pensions. They'll take reckless risks.

And, yes, they'll commit wage theft, often brazenly.

What about laws against this sort of theft?

Against these colossal millions, the threat of penalty fines for wage theft hasn't had much of a deterrent effect. Would larger fines make a difference? Would more systematic regulatory oversight reduce levels of wage theft? Would a stronger union presence discourage corporate thievery? Undoubtedly yes.

But those who run our corporations aren't going to abandon their thieving ways so long as that thievery can pay so well for them personally. Wage theft didn't start soaring in the United States until the late 1970s, the same years that eye-popping CEO pay packages became a standard fixture on the corporate scene.

Corporate execs have had, for nearly five decades now, a powerful incentive to cheat their workers: their own exorbitant pay. Let's end it.

The study "Grand Theft Paycheck: The Large Corporations Shortchanging Their Workers' Wages" (PDF) notes how widespread the problem is--they found "at least one wage theft case for 303 of the Fortune 500 companies," with corresponding penalties:

Among the dozen most penalized corporations, Walmart, with $1.4 billion in total settlements and fines, is the only retailer. Second is FedEx with $502 million.

The addendum by Adam Shah, entitled "Policy Recommendations to Combat Rampant Wage Theft," suggests that we "must build collective power for working people to ensure companies do not come up with new ways to exploit their employees:"

First, federal and state regulators should increase appropriations for wage and hour enforcement. Regulators should also use strategic enforcement and other methods to maximize impact on labor law violators in a way that builds working people's collective power, shifting workplace dynamics so fewer bosses have the ability to underpay. Second, states and localities should use California's anti-wage-theft laws as a guide to reform their own laws and to deal with the Supreme Court's recent decision to give corporations the power to ban private collective wage theft actions. Third, federal and state law must be updated for the modern workplace to ensure corporations that benefit most from wage theft are subject to penalties when caught. Fourth, working people must have the right to challenge the ultimate beneficiaries of the wage theft such as franchisors or outsourcers, not just their immediate employers. Working people organizing formally as labor unions or through more informal methods may be the best means of stopping wage theft
.

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:

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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.

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