Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Dishonorable Conduct

Addressing the nation on Monday evening, President Trump stated "I am your president of law and order."  That was promptly after US military police demonstrated in Lafayette Park what Trump means by law and order:

And it looks like those tactics, and worse, are coming to a city near you:
This is one of the most egregious ones of these I’ve seen, and that’s saying a lot https://t.co/pQgRsc0bzF

That protester in Kansas City, who maintained that the police should quell unrest but tolerate peaceful dissent, evidently has a point. Two days earlier in Minneapolis, we saw an example of law enforcement, unable or unwilling to take on looters, may decide that law-abiding people are just the low-hanging fruit they need.

On a positive note, Donald Trump is warning us of what will happen if he is re-elected. Possibly worse, it may be a preview of Election Day.

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Monday, June 01, 2020

They're Back

For six days, we were spared hearing from Glenn Greenwald. Alas, all good things must come to an end:

This was not lunacy, of the sexual intercourse variety or any other. On March 10, The New York Times had reported

The Russian government has stepped up efforts to inflame racial tensions in the United States as part of its bid to influence November’s presidential election, including trying to incite violence by white supremacist groups and to stoke anger among African-Americans, according to seven American officials briefed on recent intelligence.

Russia’s lead intelligence agency, the S.V.R., has apparently gone beyond 2016 methods of interference, when operatives tried to stoke racial animosity by creating fake Black Lives Matter groups and spreading disinformation to depress black voter turnout. Now, Russia is also trying to influence white supremacist groups, the officials said; they gave few details, but one official said federal investigators are examining how at least one neo-Nazi organization with ties to Russia is funded.

Other Russian efforts, which American intelligence agencies have tracked, involve simply prodding white nationalists to more aggressively spread hate messages and amplifying their invective. Russian operatives are also trying to push black extremist groups toward violence, according to multiple officials, though they did not detail how.

Russia’s more public influence operations, like state-backed news organizations, have continued to push divisive racial narratives, including stories emphasizing allegations of police abuse in the United States and highlighting racism against African-Americans within the military.

We don't know to what extent, and in exactly what manner, the Kremlin has interjected Russia into USA politics. However, on February 13, intelligence officials informed members of the House Intelligence Committee that Russia was involved in trying to influence the 2020 general election and the Democratic Party's primary process.

We know that Putin's government was involved in 2016, which even Donald Trump acknowledged when a year ago he tweeted in part “I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.” Things went swimmingly for Vladimir's henchmen in 2016, and they had every reason to return.

There are many possible avenues for disruption and inflaming racial tensions is a ripe target. If we do as Glenn Greenwald suggests and dismiss out-of-hand the influence of Russia and other outside forces on exacerbating racial discord, President Trump will be quite relieved in his second term.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Journalists Beware

Following the arrest on Friday morning of CNN reporter Oscar Jiminez in Minnesota, Ben Smith of the New York Times was interviewed on Hill TV. At 2:30 of the video below, he can be seen noting "you know, there's a long tradition of cops mistreating journalists, particularly black journalists, during protests."

Forbes' Patricia Brownlee has remarked "CNN reporter Omar Jimenez was arrested arguably for 
doing nothing other than having the audacity to do his job while also being a person of color." She asked three questions, one of which was "How would this have played out differently if the person were white (male or female)?"

We're getting a pretty good idea of the answer now that

Linda Tirado, a freelance photographer, activist and author, was shot in the left eye Friday while covering the street protests in Minneapolis.

Ms. Tirado is one of a number of journalists around the country who were attacked, arrested or otherwise harassed — sometimes by police and sometimes by protesters — during their coverage of the uprisings that have erupted nationwide after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

With trust in the news media lagging, journalists have found themselves targeted.

A television reporter in Louisville, Ky., was hit by a pepper ball on live television by an officer who appeared to be aiming at her, causing her to exclaim on the air: “I’m getting shot! I’m getting shot!”

Outside the White House, protesters attacked a Fox News correspondent and his crew, taking the journalist’s microphone and striking him with it.

The latter journalist, Leland Vittert, appears to be white. So do Kaitlin Rust, the unlucky journalist in Louisville, and Linda Tirado.

None of these journalists- unlike Jiminez- was identified by his or her ethnicity. That journalistic failure is as common as it is critical.

It's a huge problem because we're thereby missing a major story- or, depending upon interpretation- a major part of the entire story. Jiminez, an Afro-Latino, himself may have been targeted in part because he appears a "person of color," a/ka/a "colored person."  Some people have pointed out that Josh Campbell, a white CNN reporter a block away, was not detained at all.. However, we do not have hard evidence as to the reason for the arrest, other than the apparent comment by the arresting officer that he was "following orders."

Nonetheless, we do know that in one instance (Rust) the culprit was a police officer and that in one instance (Vittert) the culprit was a citizen mob.  The attacker of Leland- who is now blind in her left eye- probably was a law enforcement officer, but that has not been definitively determined. All three appear to be non-Hispanic whites. (Vittert's crew may or may not have been.)

The report of only one incident was honest and complete. In Jiminez' case, we were told, properly, that he was not a non-Hispanic white. The reports on the other cases unsurprisingly omitted mentioning the individuals' ethnicity. In America. In 2020. After the killing of George Floyd.

We're learning many things, among them that (as the left periodically complains) we don't talk enough about race and that the media is all too ready to accommodate that.  Further, we know the answer to Patricia Brownlee's question. It's not mandatory that journalists be black or Latino. It's mandatory that they be journalists.

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Standard Operating Procedure

It's not as brutal or revolting as the apparent murder of a black man by a white policeman in Minneapolis, as stunning as the protests which it provoked nor as dramatic and destructive as the riots which followed. But it probably will be even more deadly that

The Trump administration shelved a document created by the nation’s top disease investigators with step-by-step advice to local authorities on how and when to reopen restaurants and other public places during the still-raging coronavirus outbreak.

The 17-page report by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,” was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they begin to reopen.

It was supposed to be published last Friday, but agency scientists were told the guidance “would never see the light of day,” according to a CDC official. The official was not authorized to talk to reporters and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

The AP obtained a copy from a second federal official who was not authorized to release it. The guidance was described in AP stories last week, prior to the White House decision to shelve it.

This was guidance. The CDC was not ordering churches or municipal officials, nor was it discouraging churches from swinging their doors open. There was nothing partisan or political. It was scientists and doctors presumably staying in their own lane, offering advice which would help save lives.

No surprise, then, that it was shelved by the Trump Administration. When the big boss wants people to die, no one must get in his way.

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Friday, May 29, 2020

May 29, 2020

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States... (Section 2, Clause 1, Constitution of the United States of America)

December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy.  August 29 (or September 5), 1967, the day the running stopped.. One was catastrophic, the other fictional yet poignant.

And now we have May 29, 2020. That's 5/29/20, when as most normal people were sleeping

Don't be distracted, as was Twitter, which

later placed warnings on Trump’s tweets, saying that the messages violated the social media giant’s rules against glorifying violence.

“This Tweet violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today,” the site shared.

Trump's tweets were not primarily about violence. The key word in the first tweet was "I," as in "I will send in the National Guard...."  Similarly, in the second tweet the key words are "Military" and "we will assume control." National Guard troops can be "folded into the regularly Army" (here inapplicable) or federalized by the President so "they can be used in domestic emergencies much like they are used in state emergencies." Minnesota Governor Walz has activated National Guard soldiers, a wise decision in part because it virtually eliminates any excuse for the President to nationalize them.

There is, however, no doubt about "the Military." The President is commander in chief of the military and any failure on its part to disobey or disregard his orders can bring swift disciplinary action.

When Donald Trump invokes the threat of using the "military," it can mean only one thing. Were he to do so, those forces, under control of the President, would be unlikely to be removed once the crisis were resolved.  They would remain there, and they would remain under control of President Donald J. Trump.

The misunderstanding of Trump's motives extended to the extraordinary news of this Friday morning when

A CNN crew was arrested while giving a live television report Friday morning in Minneapolis -- and then released about an hour later -- as the crew covered ongoing protests over the death in police custody of George Floyd.

State police detained CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, his producer and his photojournalist shortly after 5 a.m. CT (6 a.m. ET) as Jimenez was reporting live from a street south of downtown, near where a police precinct was earlier set ablaze.

Jimenez could be seen holding his CNN badge while reporting, identifying himself as a reporter, and telling the officers the crew would move wherever officers needed them to. An officer gripped his arm as Jimenez talked, then put him in handcuffs.

"We can move back to where you like. We are live on the air here. ... Put us back where you want us. We are getting out of your way -- wherever you want us (we'll) get out of your way," Jimenez said to police before he was led away.

"We were just getting out of your way when you were advancing through the intersection," Jimenez continued.

Police told the crew they were being detained because they were told to move and didn't, one member of the CNN crew relayed to the network.

That claim is almost certainly false. Much more credible, however, is the remark Jiminez, back in the streets, made to the CNN audience after he was released. The officer stated (at 2:45 of the video below) that he had made the arrest because he was "just following orders."

Assuming that Jiminez is being truthful- a near-certainty- and that the officer was telling the truth- not as certain but very likely- this is a critically important element.

CNN's Josh Campbell was not arrested and network pundit Bakari Sellers stated "We have a white reporter on the ground, and we have a brown reporter on the ground. They are a block
apart. The brown reporter is arrested and the white reporter is telling us what's happening."

While as an observation that is accurate, as an opinion it is misguided. Although ethnicity may have been a factor, it was not the prime motive of whomever in the state police ordered or encouraged the arrest.

The most relevant aspect was that the individual arrested was a reporter- and for extra points, one representing CNN.  In an interview in the Oval Office last June, a reporter from TIME magazine

reminds Mr Trump that some of his aides had "testified under oath, under threat of prison time" that the president had tried to influence the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Mr Trump snaps back: "Excuse me... Well, you can go to prison instead, because if you use, if you use the photograph you took of the letter that I gave you confidentially.

"I didn't give it to you to take photographs of it - So don't play that game with me."

Only five weeks ago, the President admonished CNN as he often has in the past:

It's hard to believe that anyone can do more damage to the country than President Trump has done in his first term.  But the rule of law, freedom of speech, and other cornerstones of American representative democracy are on the line on November 4, 2020.  And this time Donald Trump is making sure everyone hears his threat loud and clear.

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

"Recognize It"

Do you remember Dr. Anthony Fauci?

Of course you do because he is still in the Trump Administration, even after two weeks ago he cautioned against premature reopening of schools and businesses and the President countered "I was surprised by his answer, actually. It's just -- to me it's not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools."

He remains because he has shilled for the return of professional sports and has suggested there may be a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine by the end of the year, a possibility the President wants voters to consider on November 3, 2020. But most of all, he remains because he is great on television, and there may be nothing  more admired by Donald Trump. That helps the President maintain credibility with the American people and the media.

And so I know Charlie Pierce is underestimating the danger:

He may be raving or even a maniac, depending upon interpretation of the word. However, he's neither out-of-control nor stupid. From a rising political scientist, a more important take:

Perhaps he'll come first for Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, which will be more easily controlled pursuant to an executive order the President is preparing as of this moment. Then it may be "the boring but very nasty magazine, The Atlantic"  or the Washington Post's Jeff Bezos, whom Trump wants to bring down, not because of Amazon but rather The Washington Post.

In a second Trump Administration, the President wouldn't have to shut any of them down.  As of Thursday morning, Trump was prepared to sign an executive order "that could open the door for federal regulators to punish" the three social media platforms. There is a variety of options a re-elected, re-energized Trump claiming the Mandate of All Mandates could employ to strike fear into media organizations throughout the nation, to persuade them to acquiesce in the dismantling of the First Amendment.

It is not a joke from a broken-down or maniacal stand-up comedian. It is a threat. Donald Trump recognizes an excellent communicator- such as Dr. Fauci- when he sees one and uses him accordingly. He knows what he is doing and his Administration is warning us.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Safety In Numbers

After the videotaped killing by a police officer of Charles Floyd, Minneapolis authorities wasted no time:
How did that work out for you, Minneapolis?

Police used tear gas to disperse a crowd after some protesters turned unruly, Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder told CNN.

Some demonstrators wheeled a shopping cart full of rocks just outside the precinct and dumped the rocks on the ground for people to throw, a CNN team there reported. A police cruiser's back window was shattered when someone threw something at it.

Police outside Minneapolis Police Department's 3rd Precinct fired what appeared to CNN's team on the scene to be non-lethal projectiles at demonstrators.

Officers fired "foam marking rounds," but no rubber bullets, after some protesters became unruly, Elder said.

Those rounds are meant to mark individuals that officers believe may be instigating violence for later investigation, Elder said.

Walter Shaub notes an obvious disconnect:
Of course, there is a difference. Elected officials and the police, who are normal people, want most of all to simplify their jobs, prevent discord, and go home to their families. In Michigan (and a few other places), protesters brazenly violated orders from the governor, who knew instinctively that her political future lay in not doing anything. Unless she chose- as a Democrat would not- to exploit the riots which otherwise would have resulted, scenes of street violence would have been hard to explain away.  

By contrast, in Minneapolis the rioting already had begun and directly threatened police officers, which they rarely find comforting.

As Shaub noted, there is a contradiction. However, law enforcement officers, backed by superiors within and without their departments, must perform their job as they are sworn to do.  They should respond when, encouraged by decisive action in dismissing officers complicit in a killing, citizens violently attack police vehicles. And they should respond when armed protesters defy legal orders to practice social distancing.

In the latter case, the Police Department failed in its mission. In the former, it reacted promptly with non-lethal force.  The problem lay not with the response of law enforcement in Minneapolis, but in Michigan.

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Dishonorable Conduct

Addressing the nation on Monday evening, President Trump stated "I am your president of law and order."  That was promptly a...