Sunday, May 31, 2020

American Tinderbox - Blame White Nationalists & The QAnon- "Boogaloo" Extremists Fomenting Riots To Launch a Civil War

Far-right activists marched through the University of Virginia campus with torches on Friday night.
THESE are the renegades the Feds ought to be looking at as chaos is unleashed in American cities. These Right wing racist savages - lower image from Charlottesville in Aug. 2017,  chanting "Jews will not replace us!"-  have been itching to start a race war since Charlottesville and before.

One can understand why Janice would be suspicious after watching AG Bill Barr's performance two nights ago, blabbering about the violence accompanying many of the George Floyd protests: "In many cases it appears the violence is driven by anarchic and left wing extremist groups".  Unwilling to pin the tail on the actual messengers of mayhem:  right wing extremists using the upheaval, chaos and violence to hijack the peaceful protests for their own ends.    With the reporting by Vice News overnight, that:

"Far Right extremists are hoping to turn the George Floyd protests into a new Civil War."

Janice had her first evidence that her suspicions were correct, and it is the Right and its dregs (e.g. from 4chan, 8chan, Boogaloo Bois, militias  etc.- such as stormed the Minnesota state house two months ago) behind all the havoc and using the civil protests as a "human shield". I agree with her totally and also that the Swine -in -chief and his toady Barr are trying to callously exploit these events to propound a "law and order" meme to help Trump get re-elected.  

And what do we find Trump doing in the midst of this national agony, with millions of citizens suffering -   over 104,000 deaths from the pandemic, 40 million unemployed, no more stimulus money and facing home evictions in a month?  Is he trying to assuage the pain and bring the country together? Hell no, he's acting the part of the vicious, vile, verminous rat he is, e.g

Image result for Trump as a rat images
Firing off a series of tweets at Minnesota's response, vowing "shootings" will soon be done, ridiculing protesters outside his gated mansion at the White House,  and warning them that "vicious dogs will be released."  Thereby putting himself in the same role as the infamous AL sheriff Bull Connor-   who used fire hoses and vicious dogs on peaceful marching men, women and children in Birmingham over 50 years ago.   Only this time going one better than Connor and bragging "there will be some of the most ominous weapons ever seen" - i.e. if protesters attempt to breach the WH fence to get at him.  See also:

America is at a low ebb, shaken by multiple blows, and Trump adds to the distress

 Janice is also aware, of course, of German history and how -when Hitler and the Nazis came to power - they had blamed "Jews, leftists, socialists and unions" for  ongoing civil unrest and violent mayhem and riots that struck German cities in the waning days of the Weimar Republic.  But most of those were incited by Hitler's S.A. (Sturm Abteilung) terror squads.

Ian Kershaw in his magnificent account of Hitler’s rise to power (‘Hitler Nemesis’) noted that Germany's 1930-31 Weimar Republic constituted a weak democracy which had little or no control over the most radical Rightists, especially Hitler’s NSDAP party. They would regularly beat Marxists, socialists, and any leftists on the streets while holding up signs that read: “Tot dem Marxem!” (Death to Marxists!)  (Recall on Thursday, Trump himself Tweeted out a video of a supporter saying, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”)

My good fortune has been that on two occasions - one in August of 1978, the other in May of 1985-   I was able to meet and talk with actual flesh and blood Germans from the WWII era: one who had been a member of Hitler Youth (forced to at the point of a gun to his mother's head), and two others who had fought for the most fearsome army on the continent - the German Wehrmacht. At different times, they used their own photographs, films and archives to show me just what Hitler and Nazis were about. Looking back on the content of those archival films I see the same echoes now in our present condition, including mass unemployment, riots, and mayhem.

Let's move to the present. In her latest NY Times column Michelle Goldberg wrote:

"But if America feels like a tinderbox at the moment, it’s not just because of pressure coming from the dispossessed. On Wednesday, the journalists Robert Evans and Jason Wilson published a fascinating and disturbing look at the “boogaloo” movement — “an extremely online update of the militia movement” — on the investigative website Bellingcat. “The ‘boogaloo Bois’ expect, even hope, that the warmer weather will bring armed confrontations with law enforcement, and will build momentum towards a new civil war in the United States,” Evans and Wilson write. They add, “In a divided, destabilized post-coronavirus landscape, they could well contribute to widespread violence in the streets of American cities.”

This is exactly what we are seeing now.  Echoing these insights, Mia Bloom on her blog Justsecurity notes:

 "Former FBI agent and CNN commentator, Josh Campbell wrote, that Minnesota “authorities have been monitoring alleged criminals online, including postings by suspected white supremacists trying to incite violence.”

Most disturbing:

"The accelerationists, if you have never heard the term, are an extreme subset of white nationalism whose goal is to bring about chaos and destruction. The basic tenet of accelerationism argues that since Western governments are inherently corrupt, the best (and only) thing supremacists can do is to accelerate the end of society by sowing chaos and aggravating political tensions. “Accelerationist ideas have been cited in mass shooters’ manifestos — explicitly, in the case of the New Zealand killer — and are frequently referenced in white supremacist web forums and chat rooms,” Zack Beauchamp explained.

White Supremacists pretending to host a protest to honor George Floyd on Facebook to whip up violence in San Diego were posted on the BLMSD social media warning people not to go and that it was a white supremacist organized rally. People attending demonstrations remarked on the fact that the demographics were wrong, in places like Oakland where the majority of the destruction was perpetrated by young Caucasian men has inspired not just people on social media but reporting in the mainstream"
Of course we also cannot ignore the possibility that agent provocateurs could be at work as well, such as from within the ranks of the police assigned to the protests.  (As pointed out by Joy Reid this morning in relation to an incident in NYC).  We also read from Mia Bloom's account:

"Experts on political violence (and not just Qanon conspiracy theorists) shared stories on social media that the May 27 looting and arson at AutoZone by an unidentified man in a gas mask carrying an open umbrella (dubbed #umbrellaman) was not necessarily a protester but could be an agent provocateur or member of the police. In video posted to YouTube, while this man smashed windows with a hammer, protesters at the scene accused him of being an outsider and began to film him.

According to reporting in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “The man’s actions were so odd that other rioters in the area paused their own protests to call him out and began filming. “Are you a f—ing cop?” someone else can be heard yelling to the man as he disappeared from view.”
As in the 1960s it appears we are faced with fakes, double fakes, insidious skullduggery and the hijacking of protests  by those who firmly believe "the Great Replacement"  Rightist codswallop.  All this to aid their agenda by compounding violence and deflecting attention. The FBI's Cointelpro  comes to mind, which infiltrated left groups from 1956- 1971 and in many cases saw agents inciting incidents in the midst of normally lawful protests, like against the Vietnam War.  In one secret 1968 memo - since exposed via FOIA release-  Hoover made no bones about the motivation:
"To expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize the activities of various New Left organizations. We must frustrate every effort of these groups and individuals to consolidate their forces or to recruit new or faithful adherents.”
It very much appears that Trump and Barr are resorting to the same tactics now, and Trump himself keeps pouring more gasoline on the simmering fires that could explode if we are not careful - as well as perceptive.  A lesson the Weimar Germans learned too late.  

Update: Further exhibiting his full blown psychosis, ignorance and incompetence in this crisis, Dotard fulminated that "we will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization".   To jog memories, this was the activist group -  NOT an organization with a clear structure that can be penalized under law- that came to the aid  of numerous Charlottesville citizens in August, 2017.  As I wrote in my Aug. 16 post:

Rev. Traci Blackmon  related on MSNBC  how African-Americans singing a hymn  near an entrance in Emancipation Park were set upon by the White racist loons and goons who proceeded to beat and mace them. As Rev. Blackmon put it, "the only thing that saved them was the intervention of Antifa and other protesters" - one of whom drove the racist louts back using a spray can and a match - effectively engineering a mini flame thrower. 

One can surmise from this that if Dotard Donnie Bonespurs had his way, those elderly black Americans singing their hymns would have been bashed senseless.  Much like this racist loon did to one Antifa member trying to save a fellow  protester that day:


Friday, May 29, 2020

Blog Hiatus Next Week (June 1-3) To Attend American Astronomical Society 236th Meeting

This is to let blog followers and other readers know there will be a hiatus of 3 days next week, from Monday June 1st, through Wednesday, June 3rd, so that I can attend the 236th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, of which I am an Emeritus member.  As you may know my specialty area is solar physics, and below I give a sample of the sessions I will be attending (the meeting will be conducted in virtual format):

Monday:  11:00 AM - 12:30 PM (EDT)
  • 106.01 Electron Acceleration from Expanding Vortices During Reconnection with a Guide FieldHaihong Che, University of Alabama-Huntsville
  • 106.02 Hemispherical Asymmetry of Large Scale Plasma FlowsLekshmi Biji, CESSI, IISER Kolkata
  • 106.03 Nanoflare Theory and Stochastic ReconnectionAmir Jafari, Johns Hopkins University
  • 106.05 The Role of Plasma Oscillation in Solar Nuclear FusionTianxi Zhang, Alabama A&M University
  • 106.06 Magnetic Origins of Cool Plasma in the Sun's CoronaEmily Mason, Catholic University of America
  • 106.07 Modeling of the Brightness of the Chromospheric Network Based on ALMA High Resolution Observations of the Quiet SunCostas Alissandrakis, University of Ioannina
  • 106.08 The Solar Cruiser Mission Concept - Enabling New Vistas for HeliophysicsLes Johnson, NASA
  • 106.09 The High Inclination Solar Mission (HISM) mission conceptKen Kobayashi, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

204. Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD) Meeting : Nuclear, Plasma and Particle Astrophysics

Tue, June 02, 11:00 AM
11:00 AM - 12:30 PM (EDT)

Processes in binary neutron star mergers.

  • 204.01 LAD Laboratory Astrophysics Prize: Jim Truran's Contributions to Nuclear and Laboratory AstrophysicsJohn Cowan, Univ. of Oklahoma
  • 204.02 Evaluating astrophysical nuclear rates and their errors with halo effective field theoryKenneth Nollett, San Diego State University
  • 204.03 Performance of the prototype Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope for TeV gamma-ray astronomyJustin Vandenbroucke, University of Wisconsin
  • 204.04 Linear polarization measurement of satellite transitions produced in an EBIT Ar plasmaAmy Gall, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
  • 300. Solar Physics Division (SPD) Hale Prize Lecture: From Jets to Superflares: Extraordinary Activity of Magnetized Plasmas in the Universe, Kazunari Shibata (Kyoto University)

    Wed, June 03, 10:00 AM

    10:00 AM - 10:50 AM (EDT)
    • 300.01 From Jets to Superflares: Extraordinary Activity of Magnetized Plasmas in the UniverseKazunari Shibata, Astronomical Observatory, Kyoto University
  • 318. Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD) Meeting: Planetary Atmospheres, Protoplanetary Disks, and Small Bodies

    Wed, June 03, 2:50 PM

    2:50 PM - 4:20 PM (EDT)

    Laboratory studies, observations, and modeling of protoplanetary disks and the evolution of small bodies.

    • 318.01 LAD Early Career Award: Planets in a Bottle: Exploring Planetary Atmospheres in the Lab
      Sarah Horst, Johns Hopkins University
    • 318.02 Using Small Solar System Bodies to Trace Processes in the Early Solar System
      Karen Meech, University of Hawaii
    • 318.03 New Near-UV H2O Cross-Sections Dramatically Affect Photochemistry of Anoxic Abiotic Rocky Planet Atmospheres
      Sukrit Ranjan, MIT
    • 318.04 Laboratory study of ammonium cyanide NH4CN at low temperatures: IR optical properties and sublimation behavior
      Perry Gerakines, NASA GSFC
    There should be a lot of scintillating presentations and in the days after the meeting I  will share my own insights and also in conjunction with summaries of some of the talks.

Other Voices Weigh In On Trump's Authoritarian Idiocy

The despicable degenerate demagogue  has evidently tried to issue an "executive order" not worth the cost of the paper it's written on to rein in social media like Twitter. This because the social media platform flagged the Maggot-in-Chief's lies about mail voting.  Here are some other voices weighing in on the latest chapter of this animated pestilence and his efforts at strong man rule. And more basis for terminating his sorry ass in November.

by Cody Fenwick | May 29, 2020 - 7:11am | permalink

While President Donald Trump’s signing of an executive order on Thursday supposedly trying to rein in overly partisan social media companies is being covered by many outlets as a policy story, this framing is deeply misleading. Though the policy details are relevant, this isn’t about policy. This is about the president throwing a fit.

Twitter took the unprecedented move on Wednesday of appending a mild fact-check to Trump’s lies about California’s initiative to let people access vote-by-mail options. 

Nevertheless, with this mild and equivocal admonishment from Twitter, Trump exploded. Many attributed his outburst to anger, though it may be at least as plausible that he was embarrassed to be called out so directly for his lies — and on Twitter, where he has spent so much time establishing his brand, of all places.

Essentially, the idea behind the order was to reverse the section of federal law that allows social media platforms to avoid liability for the claims made by their users. Trump and other conservatives like to say that if a social media platform makes any content moderation decisions, it is, therefore, acting as a publisher rather than a platform, and so it should be held responsible for whatever it prints the way a news outlet is.

But this isn’t what the law actually says, so any effort to enforce the order will likely be challenged in court.

Mike Masnick of Techdirt explained:

To be clear: the executive order is nonsense. You can’t overrule the law by executive order, nor can you ignore the Constitution. This executive order attempts to do both. It’s also blatantly anti-free speech, anti-private property, pro-big government — which is only mildly amusing, given that Trump and his sycophantic followers like to insist they’re the opposite of all of those things. But also, because the executive order only has limited power, there’s a lot of huffing and puffing in there for very little actual things that the administration can do. It’s very much written in a way to make Trump’s fans think he’s done something to attack social media companies, but the deeper you dig, the more nothingness you find.

The actual executive order is, in all likelihood, largely toothless. If the Trump administration actually did try to take the steps the president seems to be envisioning, its actions would almost certainly be struck down even by the judges appointed by the president himself. Though they may have an allegiance to the conservative movement and the GOP broadly, they’re unlikely to abandon their dislike of regulation to support the president’s anti-Twitter whims.

by Heather Digby Parton | May 28, 2020 - 7:48am | permalink

Most Americans were taught in school that our government is a carefully devised system of checks and balances. No president could ever get away with open corruption or abuse of power because he would be held accountable by Congress and the courts. We can now see that this is really just a myth held together by a set of rickety norms and practices that are only as good as the people who respect them. Republicans no longer respect them.

Democrats have seen this president get away with massive corruption, incompetence, nepotism and criminal behavior. A highly respected special counsel found ample evidence that Trump went to great lengths to obstruct justice and his attorney general exonerated him with novel theories about presidential power. And after all that was revealed, the president saw his supposed exoneration as a green light to further abuse his power, leaving the Congress no choice but to impeach him. He was spared conviction by the shell of an institution once known as the Republican Party.

At every step of the way, the Republicans in Congress have backed Trump, giving him permission to purge the government of anyone he believes is disloyal and reward his most sycophantic admirers. That has led to the greatest government failure in modern memory. 

Faced with a global health crisis of unprecedented scope, America's hollowed-out federal government, led by this vain and shallow man, was unable to respond. The most technologically advanced nation on earth has the highest number of deaths in the world, and counting.

Yet Trump maintains the loyalty of his base and continues to have the full force of the Republican Party behind him. His cruel pettiness and narcissism only makes them cling to him all the more.Now Democrats are supposed to feel confident that Biden's six-point lead in the polls means that everything is going to be just fine? Nothing is going to be fine. The series of events I've just described — along with the hundreds of atrocities I don't have room   to mention — aren't just about Trump. They are illustrations of a failing country that has been in a weakened state for a long time.

Let's hope that the system is still strong enough to produce a free fair election and that Trump is uncharacteristically willing to accept defeat in a somewhat dignified manner. Keep your fingers crossed that his supporters will follow that lead. But don't feel ashamed of losing sleep for fear that somehow he's going to win — or that we wind up with some disputed result in which he tries to cling to power.

If the last three years have taught us anything, it's that there is no "normal" anymore. Your worries are entirely rational. We're in uncharted territory.

by Thom Hartmann | May 28, 2020 - 7:12am | permalink

With mail-in voting there is no long drive, bus ride, or wait in line, so Republicans can’t rig things to make it harder for people to vote. That particular voting suppression trick—which conservatives have been running for over a century, particularly in the South—just doesn’t work with mail-in voting.

Another trick the GOP likes is to merge the effects of voter registration purges with “provisional” ballots. First, Republican Secretaries of State throw hundreds of thousands of people off the voter rolls, disproportionately Hispanics and African Americans, by using “merge/purge” lists of felons or voters from other states with large black populations.

In 2018, investigative reporter Greg Palast sued a number of Republican secretaries of state and got his hands on purge lists that included more than 90,000 people in largely Democratic parts of Nevada, 769,436 voters purged in Colorado, 340,134 in Georgia, 550,000 in Illinois, a large but as-yet-uncounted list from Nebraska, and 469,000 purged in Indiana.

The Brennan Center for Justice found that just between 2014 and 2016, in the two years leading up to the presidential election, over 14 million people were purged from voter rolls, largely in Republican-controlled states. Kemp purged over a million in Georgia alone.

Calling the findings “disturbing,” the Brennan Center noted, “Almost 4 million more names were purged from the rolls between 2014 and 2016 than between 2006 and 2008. This growth in the number of removed voters represented an increase of 33 percent—far outstripping growth in both total registered voters (18 percent) and total population (6 percent).”

But people don’t know they’ve been removed, so they show up to vote anyway. And vote they can—the 2002 Help America Vote Act created an entirely new type ballot.

With mail-in voting, people know before they vote if they’ve been purged from the voter list, because they don’t get a ballot in the mail. Ballots are mailed out early enough that people who’ve been purged will have time to figure out there’s a problem and contact the Secretary of State’s office to get it fixed.

Like with closing polling places or putting in broken machines, this particular type of voter suppression, which was responsible for Trump winning the electoral college, doesn’t work.

Mail-in voting doesn’t cause working people to lose income by taking time off to vote; they can vote from their kitchen table over the weekend or on an unhurried evening.

Mail-in voting doesn’t force elderly people concerned about Social Security to have to undergo the pain and trauma of a road trip followed by standing for hours in line. Particularly with Covid-19 and the flu on the loose in November.

Mail-in voting doesn’t give Republican “ballot challengers” the ability to know a person’s race before they try to convince election officials to move a ballot into the provisional box because of “problems.”

The strongest tool Americans have to prevent Republican attempts at voter suppression is mail-in voting.

Living in Oregon, where the state has been exclusively mail-in for over 20 years, we have one of the highest rates of voter participation in the country and no evidence of so-called “voter fraud.” Louise and I sit down at the dining room table and look over the ballot, run a web search on various candidates and ballot initiatives we may not know, mark our ballots, and then drop the postage-paid envelopes in the mailbox out front. 

President Trump is preparing to sign an executive order Thursday that could roll back the immunity that tech giants have for the content on their sites, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Trump’s directive chiefly seeks to embolden federal regulators to rethink a portion of law known as Section 230, .. That law spares tech companies from being held liable for the comments, videos and other content posted by users on their platforms.

The law is controversial. It allows tech companies the freedom to police their platforms for abuse without fear of lawsuits. The wide-ranging order comes two days after Twitter took the rare step of labeling one of the president’s tweets and linking viewers to news articles that fact-checked his claims. The move infuriated Trump and his supporters, who quickly blasted Twitter and its peers in Silicon Valley for engaging in censorship and exhibiting political bias. The companies have long denied those charges.
The order will mark the White House’s most significant salvo against Silicon Valley after years of verbal broadsides and regulatory threats from Trump and his top deputies. It also may raise fresh, thorny questions about the First Amendment, the future of expression online and the extent to which the White House can properly — and legally — influence the decisions that private companies make about their apps, sites and services.

by Bill Blum | May 29, 2020 - 6:46am | permalink
There are no universally accepted definitions of either a “failed state” or a “constitutional crisis.” Good arguments can be advanced, however, that we are suffering from both disorders at the state and national levels in the midst of the lethal COVID-19 pandemic.

In a May 19 article, Guardian columnist Nathan Robinson argues that Wisconsin is beginning to resemble a failed state, which he defines as “one that can no longer claim legitimacy or perform a government’s core function of protecting the people’s basic security.” The Wisconsin GOP, Robinson writes, is a minority party, but after years of extreme gerrymandering, it wields de facto dictatorial powers, enabling it to gut public-sector unions and advance the privileges of business interests and the wealthy.

Meanwhile, guided by his goal of winning another term at all costs, the president has pressed states to fully reopen despite the continued uptick in coronavirus cases in Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, California, and elsewhere. Given the highly contagious nature of the virus and its propensity for exponential growth, it may only be a matter of time until a dreaded “second wave” of infection emerges and sweeps across the entire country.

Packer correctly blames Trump’s epic incompetence, dishonesty and corruption for the catastrophe that has already unfolded and the miseries yet to come. He accuses the president of immolating what was left of our national civic life prior to his election, and sharply dividing Americans along the lines of race, nationality, and religion.

Even if it may be premature to join Packer in labeling the U.S. a failed state, it’s not too early to cite Trump for igniting a constitutional crisis that could eventually lead to failed-state status. Legal scholars such as Princeton University professor of politics Keith Whittington tell us that constitutional crises fall into two general categories: “operational crises,” which occur when vital political disputes can’t be resolved within the existing constitutional framework; and “crises of fidelity,” which happen when a major political actor no longer feels bound by constitutional norms.

We’re beset by both kinds of crises today. As Harvard University Law School Professor Noah Feldman explained in an October 2019 New York Times op-ed, penned on the eve of Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives, Trump’s abiding lawlessness means that “we no longer have just a crisis of the presidency. We also have a breakdown in the fundamental structure of government under the Constitution. That counts as a constitutional crisis.”
Since his acquittal by the Senate, Trump has upped the constitutional ante, defying congressional subpoenas, firing inspectors general from several executive-branch departments, arguing before the Supreme Court that he enjoys “absolute immunity” from state criminal investigations, and stacking the federal judiciary with right-wing ideologues. Assisted by Attorney General William Barr, who has transformed the Justice Department into a partisan enterprise, Trump has taken his place in an exclusive rogues’ gallery of past commanders in chief who have wreaked havoc on the constitutional order.