Presidential pronunciamation

Aug 7th, 2020 12:14 pm | By

Also…



Yo yourself, bro

Aug 7th, 2020 12:01 pm | By

We know Trump doesn’t read much. He’s apparently never seen the name “Yosemite” in writing before.

It’s also worth noticing that little spasm of exuberance or whatever it is when he gets to say “Old Faithful” – he perks up and bounces his head back and forth when he says it. He loves stupid nicknames for some reason. “Honest Abe” “Old Faithful” – these are his happy places.

But Yo Semite – yeah. That’s one for the ages.



Cruel and all too usual

Aug 7th, 2020 11:41 am | By

Speaking of the US’s love affair with long prison sentences – what should the penalty be for stealing hedge clippers?

A black man in Louisiana will continue to serve a life sentence in prison for trying to steal hedge clippers after the state supreme court denied a request to review his sentence.

Fair Wayne Bryant was convicted in 1997 of attempted simple burglary.

So he’s already been locked up for 23 years for trying to steal hedge clippers.

This really is a terrible country in a lot of ways.

The five justices who rejected his appeal – all white men – did not explain the reasoning for their decision, which was first reported by the Lens, a non-profit news site in New Orleans.

Maybe there was no reasoning? Maybe it was just “Nah, let the nigger rot”?

The supreme court’s lone dissent came from the only black or female member of the court, Chief Justice Bernette Johnson. She wrote the sentencing was a “modern manifestation” of the extreme punishments meted out to newly emancipated black men in the post-civil war era.

Exactly. Those extreme punishments weren’t random or just a matter of local bad moods. They were a replacement for slavery. Former slave states sold the labor of those newly emancipated black men locked up for things like “vagrancy” and asking for higher wages. None of this shit is random.

Before Bryant’s 1997 arrest, he was convicted for attempted armed robbery in 1979, his only violent conviction. He was sentenced to 10 years hard labor for the crime. His other previous charges were for possession of stolen things in 1987, attempted check forgery in 1989 and simple burglary in 1992.

In Johnson’s dissent, the justice wrote that all of Bryant’s crimes were for stealing something. “It is cruel and unusual to impose a sentence of life in prison at hard labor for the criminal behavior which is most often caused by poverty or addiction,” she wrote.

Her dissent then explained that after the era of Reconstruction, which followed the civil war, southern states implemented laws which gave newly emancipated African American citizens extreme punishment for petty crimes. In some places, these were known as “pig laws”, and they were “largely designed to re-enslave African Americans”, Johnson wrote.

And here we still are.



Do Mormons worship windows?

Aug 7th, 2020 10:53 am | By

Life in prison for vandalism?

Some Black Lives Matter protesters in Salt Lake City could face up to life in prison if they are convicted of splashing red paint and smashing windows during a protest.

The felony criminal mischief charges are more serious because they carry a gang enhancement. Prosecutors said on Wednesday that was justified because the protesters worked together to cause thousands of dollars in damage, but watchdogs called the use of the 1990s-era law troubling, especially in the context of criminal justice reform and minority communities.

A gang enhancement for violent crimes might make sense; for vandalism it makes no kind of sense.

I looked for photos of the damage – it’s a big mess of red paint at the entrance to the building. It’s a big mess, for sure; it will cost money to clean it up, for sure; that in no way makes it worth life in prison.

The charges have Democratic leaders at odds in Salt Lake City, the liberal-leaning capital of conservative Utah, with the top county prosecutor arguing vandalism crossed a line and the mayor calling the charges too extreme.

I’d say life in prison is too extreme, yes.

The Utah demonstrators are unlikely to serve prison time, said the Salt Lake county district attorney, Sim Gill. Though they would get at least five years if convicted as charged, criminal cases often end with a plea to lesser counts.

“I don’t think anyone is going to be going to prison on this,” he said. Gill is a generally reform-minded Democrat who said he had participated in Black Lives Matter protests himself and declined to charge dozens of protesters accused of curfew violations.

Still, he argued “there’s some people who want to engage in protest, but they want to be absolved of any behavior,” he said. “This is not about protest, this is about people who are engaging in criminal conduct.”

But the criminal conduct is simply vandalism. It’s an expense and inconvenience for Salt Lake City government, but that’s all it is.

“We have to have some agreement of what constitutes protected first amendment speech,” Gill said. “When you cross that threshold, should you be held accountable or not?”

But it’s possible to hold the accused to account without threatening them with a life sentence. There’s a lot of ground between “nothing” and “life in prison.”



And the bank complied

Aug 6th, 2020 5:40 pm | By

Deutsche Bank has handed over the records.

New York prosecutors investigating Donald Trump’s finances previously issued a subpoena to Deutsche Bank, one of the foremost lenders to the president’s business, as part of their inquiry – and the bank complied, according to the New York Times.

The office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, is seeking eight years of the president’s personal and corporate tax records, but has disclosed little about what prompted the prosecutor and his team to request the records beyond payoffs to women to silence them about alleged affairs with Trump in the past.

Patience. He’ll tell us when Donnie is dragged away screaming.

Lawyers for Vance told a judge in New York on Monday that he was justified in demanding the records from Trump, citing public reports of “extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization”.

There you go – that’s what prompted him. Let’s hope he does better than he seems to have done with Harvey Weinstein.

On Wednesday, the New York Times further reported that the subpoena to Deutsche Bank sought any materials that might point to possible fraud and that Deutsche’s cooperation contrasted with numerous other attempts to access Trump’s financial records over the years that have been blocked by successful legal challenges.

Remember that whole thing about the Princes and Princess lying about the value of their condos in the west Village? It seems to be Trump’s standard way of doing things.

Tick tock.



Reputation, Iago

Aug 6th, 2020 4:46 pm | By

Dictionary.com’s “definition” of “TERF” is not a definition at all but a misogynist jeremiad crossed with a political rant.

TERF is used to describe cisgender women who self-identify as feminist but who are opposed to including transgender women in spaces they reserve for people who were assigned female at birth.

As if real dictionaries refer to “cisgender” women as opposed to women, and as if they go on to talk about “people who were assigned female at birth” when they mean women.

This is because they believe trans women are men and since men cannot coexist with their feminist ideologies, they exclude them from their beliefs and support.

That’s just gibberish. “since men cannot coexist with their feminist ideologies”?? What does that even mean? And a real dictionary wouldn’t say “they exclude them from their beliefs and support” because that’s two different kinds of excluding, it’s too sloppy for a real dictionary – as well as being tendentious, inaccurate, and abusive.

In fact, they often believe they should be denied rights and sometimes advocate for harm against trans people.

Who believe who? You can’t use two “they”s close together like that to refer to different “they”s.

But, well-known feminists who have been labeled TERF on the internet have come out to call the term a slur, because it is associated with violence and hatred.

What’s that comma doing there after the first word? And, “come out to call” – what does that mean? This definition was written by some spoiled child. Don’t consult Dictionary.com for real definitions.



Dictionary.com says cancel women

Aug 6th, 2020 4:14 pm | By

You have got to be kidding.

Updating to add: they changed the image; when I posted it was this.

Image


And announced they are non-binary

Aug 6th, 2020 12:30 pm | By

Oh no, I’m not anything as tedious and old hat as a woman – I’m special.

The musician and poet formerly named Kate Tempest has changed their name to Kae Tempest, and announced they are non-binary.

Which means…what? Nothing, apart from a new nickname.

In the announcement on Instagram, Tempest said they were changing the pronouns they use, from she and her to they and them. Their new name is pronounced like the letter K.

Wow!

Overjoyed Cliparts, Stock Vector And Royalty Free Overjoyed ...

They wrote: I’ve been struggling to accept myself as I am for a long time. I have tried to be what I thought others wanted me to be so as not to risk rejection. This hiding from myself has led to all kinds of difficulties in my life. And this is a first step towards knowing and respecting myself better. I’ve loved Kate. But I am beginning a process and I hope you’ll come with me … This is a time of great reckoning. Privately, locally, globally. For me, the question is no longer ‘when will this change’ but ‘how far am I willing to go to meet the changes and bring them about in myself.’ I want to live with integrity. And this is a step towards that. Sending LOVE always.

A bit heavy-breathing for a new nickname, but whatever.

In an interview with Notion in August 2019, they discussed their queer identity: “It took me a long time to be able to stand with my own queerness and where I sit on the gender spectrum. That journey, for me, has been a challenging journey … to be able to just stand on stage and just be in my presence, and in my body, and the fact that I’m even there at all — that’s powerful for somebody in the audience going through their own journey with their sexuality or gender.”

Etc etc etc – but seriously, though, I think it’s chickenshit. I think it’s turning your back on women, and it’s also buying into the idea that a woman who isn’t “feminine” is doing it wrong. I also think it’s self-important and self-involved. “I don’t feel like everyone else” – yeah great, and neither does anyone else, so let’s talk about something that matters now.



Also a pathological liar

Aug 6th, 2020 11:52 am | By

Jeffrey Toobin on why Mueller’s approach was such a disaster, starting with the failure to make Trump testify:

Trump was the protagonist of this entire affair. He’s also a pathological liar, and he is someone whose perspective, if you want to call it that, was indispensable to resolving what really went on here, what Trump was thinking, what his intent was in a legal sense. So the failure to have his voice in the Mueller report and in Mueller’s determinations about what to do with the information he gathered left, I thought, a massive hole in the investigation…

The written questions were basically a joke. They were essentially written by the lawyers, and lawyers, doing what lawyers do, answered the questions in such ways that they could not be proven false. So there were an abundance of “I don’t knows” and “I don’t remembers” and “I can’t recalls.”…

So the written questions were practically useless. What would have been different in oral questions is that Trump would have done what he always does, which is lie extravagantly. Trump can’t help himself. That’s how he behaves. His narcissism and his incredible dishonesty when it comes to anything related to things of importance to him would have come through. And that’s an indispensable part of this story, and we know that because so much of what he said publicly about the Russia matter and later the Ukraine matter was so obviously false.

Mueller doesn’t like politics.

Mueller … found it deeply distasteful that he became a political figure. He did not want to be the case against Trump from the Democratic perspective. He didn’t like that there were Robert Mueller action figures. He didn’t like that there were “Mueller Time” T-shirts and that he became, you know, the hope and dream of MSNBC. This was not how Mueller saw himself. I think there was this institutional resistance, which Mueller fostered, of becoming a political figure. And I think that contributed to his just-the-facts report, and his reluctance to draw conclusions. I think that was a flawed approach. But it comes out of Mueller’s background as someone who was deeply suspicious of the political process.

But Giuliani is political as hell and he won.

It is what it is.



Soaring rhetoric

Aug 6th, 2020 11:17 am | By

Trump says Biden is gonna hurt god. What, bash it over the head? Bite its hand? Stamp on its foot?

[wedge hand] Take away ya gunz, destroy ya seccun amennment, [flap hand] no reelijunn, no anything, [hatchet hand] hurt the bible, hurt god – [hesitation; flap hand] he’s agenst goddd, he’s agenst gunnz, he’s against energy, arr kind of energy, ahhh – I don’t think he’s gunna do too well in Ohio.

Brilliant stuff.



The standard protocol

Aug 6th, 2020 10:14 am | By

It is what it is.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – On Thursday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19. DeWine took a coronavirus test as part of the standard protocol to greet President Donald Trump on the tarmac at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland.

So, no greetings for him. It is what it is.

No, such luxuries are not for the mere peasants. It is what it is.



Caste is the bones, race is the skin

Aug 6th, 2020 9:57 am | By

Isabel Wilkerson has a new book out about the caste system in the US. She talked about it on Fresh Air:

TERRY GROSS: When my guest Isabel Wilkerson was writing her book “The Warmth Of Other Suns” about the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North looking to escape the lynchings, the cross burnings, the terrorism and the lack of opportunity in the South, she says she realized she wasn’t writing about geography and relocation; she was writing about the American caste system.

Now she’s written a new book called “Caste” that explains why she thinks America can be described as having a caste system and how if we use that expression, it deepens our understanding of what Black people have been up against in America. She compares America with the caste system in India and writes about how the Nazi leadership borrowed from American racist laws and the American eugenics movement.

It makes sense. The issue here isn’t just racism; it’s slavery. It’s the way that slavery has gone on keeping a caste as a caste even after slavery formally ended. As a nation we’ve conceptualized the criminals as the superior caste and their victims as the slave caste…which is a very fucked-up way to conceptualize anything.

GROSS: Ten years ago, when you wrote “The Warmth Of Other Suns,” you used the word caste system to refer to the segregated South. And you wrote, (reading) in the decades between Reconstruction and the enforcement of civil rights laws, nearly every Black family in the American South had a decision to make. The decision was to stay in the South’s segregated caste system or make the pilgrimage North or West in the hope of escaping racism and having more access to jobs, housing and other opportunities.

What made you think of using the word caste system to describe America as a whole? In that paragraph, you used it to describe the American South.

ISABEL WILKERSON: Well, I found that the word racism, which is often applied to discussions of interactions among and between African Americans and other groups in this country – I found that term to be insufficient to capture the rigid social hierarchy and the repression that they were born into and that, in fact, everyone in that regime had to live under. And so I turned to the word caste, which is a word that had been used by anthropologists and social scientists who went in to study the Jim Crow era in the 1930s in particular. And they emerged from their ethnography, they emerged from their time there with the term caste as the language to use to describe what they found when they went there.

And so I came to that word as had they. That is the term that is more precise. It is more comprehensive, and it gets at the underlying infrastructure that often we cannot see but that is there undergirding much of the inequality and injustices and disparities that we live with in this country.

I think that’s right. I hope the usage catches on. Gross asked her to explain the difference.

WILKERSON: Well, it’s a difference in some ways between what one would consider caste versus race to begin with. I think of caste as the bones and race as the skin. And that allows us to see that race is a tool of the underlying structure that we live with, that race is merely the signal and cue to where one fits in the caste system. And caste system is actually an artificial hierarchy. It’s a graded ranking of human value in a society that determines the standing and respect, the benefit of the doubt and access to resources, assumptions of competence and even of beauty through no fault or action of one’s own. You’re just born to it. And so caste focuses in on the infrastructure of our divisions and the rankings, whereas race is the metric that’s used to determine one’s place in that or one’s assignment in that caste system.

It’s the older term, that long predates “race,” which is only a few hundred years old.

It was waiting for them when they moved north.

WILKERSON: Oh, exactly. In fact, they left one hierarchy – rigid formal hierarchy known as Jim Crow, in which it was against the law for a Black person and a white person to merely play checkers together, with all of the restrictions that attended that and also the enforcement that was often brutal, but then they migrated away from that and found and discovered that, actually, caste shadowed them wherever they went and that the response to their arrival was, in fact, the methods that became known, as Northern people at the time called it, James Crow, in which there were restrictive covenants that meant that white homeowners, even if they wanted to sell to Black people, Black potential buyers, were prevented by the restrictions that were embedded in their deeds and, also, of course, redlining, which meant that the government would not back mortgages in neighborhoods where there were – where African Americans lived, which meant that it was exceedingly difficult for African Americans, until the 1960s, to merely get a mortgage to buy a home, which is, of course, one of the most prominent and relied-upon methods of building wealth in America, which means that there have been continuing generations-long disparity in access to the most basic American dream.

All that was racist but it was even more fundamentally a caste system. I think that’s one big reason the “But I’m not racist” interjection is generally so beside the point. It’s not about personal attitudes or whether one is nice or not, it’s about systems with roots that go down to the center of the earth. We can’t fix them just by being Not Racist.



The crowning spasm of narcissism

Aug 5th, 2020 5:29 pm | By

Jack Holmes on Trump’s galactic narcissism:

It’s not just that the president knows nothing about anything and cares less. This was an astounding showcase for his malignant narcissism, his inability to process anything except as it directly relates to him. The whole world of observable reality is filtered through how it affects him, and him only. You and everyone you know and love are not relevant. The task of thinking about himself is all-consuming. When Swan pressed him on his decision to hold an indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June—the culmination of a prolonged spasm of happy talk on the pandemic—he went immediately to how big the crowd was, and how Fox News got its best ratings ever for his speech.

“I’m asking about the public health,” Swan said.

And Trump is answering about Trump.

That’s always the case.

But by all indications, the president may not be capable of caring about these people’s lives. It is not within him. It takes a particular kind of damaged psyche to turn a question about the public-health risks of holding a stadium rally in a pandemic into a diatribe about how great the ratings were. This person is not well. It goes far beyond the fact that he doesn’t know anything, a bare fact that rose again in an exchange on testing. (Trump suggested many people are saying you can test too much. Swan wisely asked who says that. “Read the manuals, read the books,” the American president said.) It goes beyond his preposterous claims he’s done more for African-Americans than anybody, “with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.” It was a generous caveat in an exchange where Swan ultimately led the president to demonstrate he has no idea what the Civil Rights Act is.

Which is interesting because he ignored it (and the Fair Housing Act) when he refused to rent to black people.

But the crowning spasm of narcissism came at the end, when Swan asked about the passing of John Lewis, civil-rights icon and genuine hero of the American experiment, who at the time of the interview was lying in state at the United States Capitol. “How do you think history will remember John Lewis?” Swan asked, offering up a softball for any reasonably well-adjusted politician to knock out of the park. Here was the American president’s answer:

TRUMP: I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration. He chose—I never met John Lewis, actually, I don’t believe.

SWAN: Do you find him impressive?

TRUMP: Uh, I can’t say one way or another. I find a lot of people impressive, I find a lot of people not impressive…He didn’t come to my inauguration, he didn’t come to my State of the Union speeches, and that’s OK, that’s his right. And again, nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have. He should have come. I think he made a big mistake—

In fairness, the president did offer he has “no objection” to renaming the Edmund Pettus Bridge after Lewis. But this is an astounding demonstration of his inability to consider anything except as it relates to him. John Lewis, towering figure of American history who fought for his entire life to make this a full democracy that lived up to its founding values, is reduced to his Trump Event Attendance Record. After prodding, Trump grants that Lewis may have done things in the world that did not directly involve Trump, though he of course cannot name a single one. Why would he know about that? It’s got nothing to do with him.

Pinned like a butterfly.



Documents later proved

Aug 5th, 2020 4:33 pm | By

On the Sally Yates hearing:

Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates defended a sensitive Justice Department investigation into onetime Trump aide Michael Flynn on Wednesday, telling lawmakers Flynn was essentially “neutering” American sanctions and undercutting the Obama administration by “making nice” with a foreign adversary after Russia’s unprecedented attack on the 2016 election.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Yates said Flynn’s lies to the FBI were “absolutely material to a legitimate investigation” — contradicting the rationale the Justice Department has now offered in seeking to dismiss the case.

Yates, who was a prosecutor for nearly 30 years, said the effort to drop a prosecution against a defendant who twice pleaded guilty was “highly irregular.”

It’s so bizarre having a Justice Department that is trying to shield Flynn and Trump and Putin as opposed to…you know…not doing that.

Flynn told Vice President Pence and then FBI investigators he hadn’t asked Kislyak to press his government not to escalate its retaliation against punitive steps the outgoing administration of President Barack Obama was taking. Actually, documents later proved, Flynn had.

But hey let’s beat up on Obama and Yates.

Oh and by the way…

Democrats on the panel worried about ongoing efforts by Russia and other countries to tamper with the 2020 election, calling Republicans’ backward-looking Senate probe a distraction.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said lawmakers had received “absolutely chilling” classified briefings about current threats, ones he says they’re forbidden to discuss, with just three months to go until election day.

No biggy. It is what it is.



Low blow

Aug 5th, 2020 12:07 pm | By

There was this tweet.

I wondered if I could find the source, and behold, I could. The first-named author is, of course, Chase Strangio, their star purveyor of fairy tales.

The title is Four Myths About Trans Athletes, Debunked.

Upholding trans athletes’ rights requires rooting out the inaccurate beliefs underlying harmful policies sweeping through state legislatures.

They’re not inaccurate though. The nonsense Strangio talks is inaccurate.

The item in the tweet is “FACT” number 3.

FACT: Trans girls are girls.

MYTH: Sex is binary, apparent at birth, and identifiable through singular biological characteristics. 

Girls who are trans are told repeatedly that they are not “real” girls and boys who are trans are told they are not “real” boys. Non-binary people are told that their gender is not real and that they must be either boys or girls. None of these statements are true. Trans people are exactly who we say we are. 

There is no one way for women’s bodies to be. Women, including women who are transgender, intersex, or disabled, have a range of different physical characteristics.

Note the sly “or disabled” there – as if anyone anywhere claimed disabled women are not women. What we say is that men are not women. That’s a different thing. Saying a cat with only a stump for a tail is not a cat is quite different from saying a turtle is not a cat.

Trying to force other people to echo lies is not a civil liberty. The ACLU is drunk.



A terrible, terrible representation

Aug 5th, 2020 11:14 am | By

Oh whew, Trump says Obama is completely wrong about racism, the US doesn’t have any and Obama is a dirty rotten scoundrel for saying it does. Obviously Trump would know way more about that than Obama does.

The Republican president, in an interview on Fox News, criticized President Barack Obama’s speech last week, in which the Democrat urged Americans to protect democracy and outlined a list of needed reforms such as making election day a national holiday, expanding early voting and increasing polling sites.

“There is an attack on our democratic freedoms and we should treat it as such,” Obama said in a eulogy for the late U.S. Representative John Lewis, a Black civil rights icon.

Trump, who did not attend Lewis’ memorials, called Obama’s speech “a terrible, terrible representation of what our country is all about.”

As he knows very well, being a pasty white son of a rich slumlord who inherited his father’s money and slums and refusal to rent to black people.



A Fake president!

Aug 5th, 2020 10:01 am | By

Uh oh, Don is pissed off again.

Nah, he’s not. So let’s see what his source told him.

President Donald Trump was still struggling to fully grasp the severity of the coronavirus pandemic during a task force meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday, a source familiar with the meeting told CNN.

“He still doesn’t get it,” the source said. “He does not get it.”

No, we know. We saw that interview with Jonathan Swan yesterday. We know anyway – he doesn’t get much of anything.

Trump’s meeting with the task force in the Oval Office was his first in-depth meeting with the panel of his top health experts since April.

Since April. Well I guess he has a lot of Fox to watch, tweets to tweet, golf to play.

During the meeting, officials on the task force continued to have trouble convincing Trump to take the pandemic more seriously, the source said.

As some members of the task force tried to stress the dire nature of the situation to the President, the source said Trump repeatedly attempted to change the subject.

It’s what he does. He did it in the interview with Swan. He does it with everything.

He was in a bad mood though. In previous meeting he’s been jocular (why?) but yesterday he was glum. Not about us though, we can be confident of that. He’s not worried about all these people dying and all these people getting horribly ill and all these people losing their jobs and being evicted. Whatever it is he’s glum about it’s to do with himself, not anyone else.

On “Fox and Friends” Wednesday morning, Trump highlighted the US’ economic return and once again claimed that the virus was going to “go away.”

He added: “My view is the schools should open. This thing’s going away. It will go away like things go away.”

Except when they don’t, so not like that.

Now we know why Trump is mad at Jim Acosta.



Toxic stuff

Aug 5th, 2020 9:35 am | By

Benjamin Wittes says this collecting intel on journalists caper is stupid.

… contemplating the Washington Post’s revelation that the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis (DHS I&A) issued two intelligence reports about tweets I had written, I can’t help but think that this is what J. Edgar Hoover’s abuses of power might have looked like had Twitter existed in Hoover’s time—and had Hoover been a total idiot.

On the one hand, DHS I&A was preparing intelligence reports on American journalists—on me and on Mike Baker of the New York Times—based on activity indisputably protected by the First Amendment: reporting unclassified information about the conduct of government. That’s toxic stuff. And DHS knows it. No sooner had the redoubtable Shane Harris published the story in the Post than DHS declared that Acting Secretary Chad Wolf was stopping the activity in question and initiating an investigation…

Because shocked shocked.

On the other hand, the collection and reporting on me is so trivial—and so dumb—that it can be hard to stop giggling and see the menace. Consider, DHS issued two intelligence reports, noting the shocking fact that I had tweeted things, a fact evident to all of my Twitter followers. The reports added no analysis of any kind. They didn’t mention what this had to do with anything a law enforcement or intelligence officer might find important. If this is Big Brother, he’s not all that impressive.

Ok but it’s hard to see everything relevant on Twitter so the intelligence reports were just to help the busy people at DHS who might have missed those particular tweets. Those tweets which must have been very sinister or why bother to collect and share them? Right?

Wittes says if they’d just passed them around then sure.

… had the author of these reports merely sent around an email to colleagues saying, “Hey look, @benjaminwittes just posted an internal document”—which is really all these reports say—I would not be remotely concerned about it. Indeed, the first of the two tweets reports on a document that more or less does exactly that in noting that I had published leaked information. Similarly, had someone written to the DHS inspector general asking for a leak investigation based on the tweets, that would have seemed entirely sensible too. Had people shared the tweets socially or professionally within the government, that also would have been fine.

But the idea that this is useful open source intelligence is just goofy, and the gussying up of a tweet available to hundreds of thousands of people into an intelligence “source” is like an intelligence agency playing dress-up.

Well everybody needs a hobby.

In the wake of Harris’s story, I received any number of communications from intelligence professionals—many of them indignant on my behalf, but all of them befuddled by what kind of clown show DHS I&A was running for someone to think such an intelligence report would be useful.

Well it’s…you know…background. Isn’t that useful? Kind of?

But if the details of the incidents all render them trivial, even laughable, there is a serious side here too. The government isn’t supposed to be gathering, reporting, and disseminating intelligence on U.S. persons without some clear factual predicate for doing so. It particularly isn’t supposed to be doing this solely based on a subject’s First Amendment protected activities. And DHS is only supposed to be collecting intelligence at all on the basis of a limited set of homeland security missions.

It’s not clear to me that DHS I&A was following any of these rules when it reported on Mike Baker and me. And that fact makes me worried about what other First Amendment protected activity might be the subject of intelligence reporting by DHS. I’m worried here less about journalism than about the equally constitutionally protected activity of protesting, to which the DHS has shifted considerable attention and energy. To put my basic question a little differently, if DHS could issue these reports about my Twitter activity, what else must it be reporting on vis a vis protestors?

But Trump says protesters are attacking our beautiful federal courthouses that cost eleventy trillion dollars apiece.

But for serious: Wittes goes on to explain why this clownish behavior is also very damn dangerous.



Suspicious individual collecting information

Aug 5th, 2020 9:10 am | By

Oh hey, look at that, the Trump security people have been investigating journalists.

The Department of Homeland Security has compiled “intelligence reports” about the work of American journalists covering protests in Portland, Ore., in what current and former officials called an alarming use of a government system meant to share information about suspected terrorists and violent actors.

“Alarming” is putting it very mildly.

Over the past week, the department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis has disseminated three Open Source Intelligence Reports to federal law enforcement agencies and others, summarizing tweets written by two journalists — a reporter for theNew York Times and the editor in chief of the blog Lawfare — and noting they had published leaked, unclassified documents about DHS operations in Portland. The intelligence reports, obtained by The Washington Post, include written descriptions and images of the tweets and the number of times they had been liked or retweeted by others.

Guess what happened next!

After The Post published a story online Thursday evening detailing the department’s practices, the acting homeland security secretary, Chad Wolf, ordered the intelligence office to stop collecting information on journalists and announced an investigation into the matter.

I suppose the intelligence office had Gone Rogue? They did this all on their own? Chad Wolf is shocked shocked to hear it?

Some of the leaked DHS documents the journalists posted and wrote about revealed shortcomings in the department’s understanding of the nature of the protests in Portland, as well as techniques that intelligence analysts have used. A memo by the department’s top intelligence official, which was tweeted by the editor of Lawfare, says personnel relied on “FINTEL,” an acronym for financial intelligence, as well as finished intelligence “Baseball cards” of arrested protesters to try to understand their motivations and plans. Historically, military and intelligence officials have used such cards for biographical dossiers of suspected terrorists, including those targeted in lethal drone strikes.

So in other words DHS was thinking of protesters as comparable to suspected terrorists. That’s healthy and normal.

The DHS intelligence reports, which are unclassified, are traditionally used for sharing the department’s analysis with federal law enforcement agencies, state and local officials, and some foreign governments. They are not intended to disseminate information about American citizens who have no connection to terrorists or other violent actors and who are engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment, current and former officials said.

It fits with Trump’s way of thinking though. He sees protesters on the left as terrorists and violent actors.

Officials who are familiar with the reports, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss them, said they are consistent with the department’s aggressive tactics in Portland, and in particular the work of the Intelligence and Analysis Office, which they worried is exceeding the boundaries of its authority in an effort to crack down on “antifa” protesters to please President Trump. He and other senior administration officials have used that “anti-fascist” label to describe people in Portland and other cities who are protesting police violence, as well as others who have vandalized statues and memorials to Confederate officers that they consider racist.

What I’m saying. This is Trump-school thinking.

The Intelligence and Analysis Office has for years been the butt of jokes among larger, more established agencies like the CIA and the FBI, who liken it to a team of junior-varsity athletes. The DHS office produces reports that are largely based on unclassified, often public sources of information that current and former officials have said are of limited use.

So they’re looking at people’s tweets and then reporting on them. Very investigate, much sleuthy.



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Aug 4th, 2020 5:20 pm | By

Little bit, seeing as how reporting is that it was a warehouse full of explosives rather than an attack, so let’s not go to war.

The thing is…if you take New York out then the US hasn’t done quite so badly.