Category Archives: Venta

That’s It For Today

Mother Jones

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This is my last post for the day. Starting in a few minutes we’ll be replacing the guts of our website with something newer and better than what we have now, and no one at MoJo is allowed to edit the site until we’re done. That will be Tuesday morning according to our tech boffins.

I fully expect everything to go flawlessly during this conversion, because that’s how things usually go with computers. Right? Still, there’s an outside chance of something going wrong, which might mean I don’t show up for blogging duty on Tuesday. If that happens, don’t panic. Leave that to us professionals. We’ll get it all sorted.

In the meantime, I have important robot research to do and even more important vacation planning to do. See you Tuesday.

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That’s It For Today

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The Intercept Discloses Top-Secret NSA Document on Russia Hacking Aimed at US Voting System

Mother Jones

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On Monday, the Intercept published a classified internal NSA document noting that Russian military intelligence mounted an operation to hack at least one US voting software supplier—which provided software related to voter registration files—in the months prior to last year’s presidential contest. It has previously been reported that Russia attempted to hack into voter registration systems, but this NSA document provides details of how one such operation occurred.

According to the Intercept:

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the US election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed US government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.

While the document provides a rare window into the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking, it does not show the underlying “raw” intelligence on which the analysis is based. A US intelligence officer who declined to be identified cautioned against drawing too big a conclusion from the document because a single analysis is not necessarily definitive.

The report indicates that Russian hacking may have penetrated further into US voting systems than was previously understood. It states unequivocally in its summary statement that it was Russian military intelligence, specifically the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, that conducted the cyber attacks described in the document:

Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate actors … executed cyber espionage operations against a named U.S. company in August 2016, evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions. … The actors likely used data obtained from that operation to … launch a voter registration-themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations.

Go read the whole thing.

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The Intercept Discloses Top-Secret NSA Document on Russia Hacking Aimed at US Voting System

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Chart of the Day: Health Care Spending as a Percentage of GDP

Mother Jones

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This is apropos of nothing in particular. I was over at the World Bank site fiddling around with some stuff and happened to look at their chart for health care spending. There’s a good case to be made that as GDP rises, the share devoted to health care also rises. This is because richer countries have more “spare” income and health care is what they spend it on.

But Sweden and Switzerland have per-capita GDPs as high as ours, and they still spend a whole lot less. The sooner we start reining in the growth of health care spending the better.

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Chart of the Day: Health Care Spending as a Percentage of GDP

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Trump’s Tweets Threaten His Travel Ban’s Chances in Court

Mother Jones

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President Donald Trump began the week with a barrage of early-morning tweets blasting the courts for blocking his travel ban executive order. But in doing so, he may have just made it more likely that the courts will keep blocking the ban.

These tweets followed upon several from over the weekend about the ban and the terrorist attack in London, including this one from Saturday evening:

In January, Trump signed an executive order banning nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days, as well as halting the refugee resettlement program for 120 days (and indefinitely for Syrian refugees). When the courts blocked it, rather than appeal to the Supreme Court, Trump signed a modified version of the order. The new ban repealed the old one, reduced the number of banned countries from seven to six, and added exceptions and waivers. Still, federal courts in Maryland and Hawaii blocked it, and now the Justice Department has appealed to the Supreme Court to have this second version of the ban reinstated.

The biggest question in the litigation over the ban is whether the courts should focus solely on the text of the order or also consider Trump’s comments from the campaign trail, and even during his presidency, to determine whether the order uses national security as a pretext for banning Muslims from the country. The president’s lawyers argue that the courts should focus on the text of the order and defer to the president’s authority over national security. Trump’s tweets Monday morning and over the weekend make it harder for the courts to justify doing that.

The travel ban is supposed to be a temporary remedy until the government can review its vetting procedures. But Trump’s tweets make it appear that the ban itself is his goal. Trump repeatedly and defiantly uses the word “ban” when his administration has instead sought to call it a pause.

The tweets “undermine the government’s best argument—that courts ought not look beyond the four corners of the Executive Order itself,” Stephen Vladeck, an expert on national security and constitutional law at the University of Texas School of Law, says via email. “Whether or not then-Candidate Trump’s statements should matter (a point on which reasonable folks will likely continue to disagree), the more President Trump says while the litigation is ongoing tending to suggest that the Order is pretextual, the harder it is to convince even sympathetic judges and justices that only the text of the Order matters.” And once the courts start looking at the president’s statements, it’s not hard to find ones that raise questions about anti-Muslim motivations.

Even the president’s allies acknowledge his tweets are a problem. George Conway, the husband of top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, responded to Trump on Twitter by pointing out that the work of the Office of the Solicitor General—which is defending the travel ban in court—just got harder.

Conway, who recently withdrew his name from consideration for a post at the Justice Department, then followed up to clarify his position.

Trump may soon see his tweets used against him in court. Omar Jadwat, the ACLU attorney who argued the case before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, told the Washington Post this morning that the ACLU’s legal team is considering adding Trump’s tweets to its arguments before the Supreme Court. “The tweets really undermine the factual narrative that the president’s lawyers have been trying to put forth, which is that regardless of what the president has actually said in the past, the second ban is kosher if you look at it entirely on its own terms,” Jadwat told the Post.

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Trump’s Tweets Threaten His Travel Ban’s Chances in Court

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Trump Is Now Lying to His Own National Security Staff

Mother Jones

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In his NATO speech a week ago, Donald Trump declined to explicitly endorse Article 5, the provision that says an attack on one is an attack on all. I’m on record as suggesting that reaction to this was sort of overblown, but Susan Glasser provides some behind-the-scenes context to suggest it was quite a bit worse than I thought. It turns out that Trump’s entire national security team wanted him to offer a public endorsement:

National security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all supported Trump doing so and had worked in the weeks leading up to the trip to make sure it was included in the speech, according to five sources familiar with the episode. They thought it was, and a White House aide even told The New York Times the day before the line was definitely included.

….The frantic, last-minute maneuvering over the speech, I’m told, included “MM&T,” as some now refer to the trio of Mattis, McMaster and Tillerson, lobbying in the days leading up to it to get a copy of the president’s planned remarks and then pushing hard once they obtained the draft to get the Article 5 language in it, only to see it removed again. All of which further confirms a level of White House dysfunction that veterans of both parties I’ve talked with in recent months say is beyond anything they can recall.

This is…astonishing. MM&T had to lobby just to get a copy of Trump’s remarks? And then, after getting the wording in, it was removed behind their backs? WTF?

“They had the right speech and it was cleared through McMaster,” said a source briefed by National Security Council officials in the immediate aftermath of the NATO meeting….“They didn’t know it had been removed,” said a third source of the Trump national security officials on hand for the ceremony. “It was only upon delivery.”

….The episode suggests that what has been portrayed—correctly—as a major rift within the 70-year-old Atlantic alliance is also a significant moment of rupture inside the Trump administration, with the president withholding crucial information from his top national security officials—and then embarrassing them by forcing them to go out in public with awkward, unconvincing, after-the-fact claims that the speech really did amount to a commitment they knew it did not make.

Holy shit. It’s one thing to lose a battle about what goes into a presidential speech—that happens all the time—but it’s quite another to agree to include something and then remove it without telling your top national security advisors. And then send them out to face the press.

This isn’t a case of Trump listening to the last guy in the room. It sounds more like Trump being unwilling to tell his national security team to their faces that he disagrees with them—and then screwing them behind their backs. How long can you keep working for a guy like that?

The bizarre thing is that what Trump did wasn’t entirely indefensible. It’s obviously not what I (or McMaster or Mattis or Tillerson) would have done, but Trump could have made the case that asking NATO partners nicely for increased defense spending hadn’t worked in the past, and he wanted to tighten the screws. The way to do it is to make everyone just a little nervous by saying nothing about Article 5 one way or the other.

MM&T would have disagreed, but Trump is president and he could have overruled them. Trump took office promising to disrupt the status quo, so they could hardly have been surprised if he had told them he wanted to play a little hardball and that they should be prepared for some blowback. At least then they would have known what to say afterward.

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Trump Is Now Lying to His Own National Security Staff

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Der Spiegel Just Published the Minutes From Trump’s Contentious Meeting With G7 Leaders

Mother Jones

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German magazine Der Spiegel has been given access to minutes from a contentious meeting of G7 leaders in Taormina, Sicily, at the end of May, in which they applied last-ditch pressure on President Donald Trump to stay in the Paris climate agreement.

The meeting came toward the end of Trump’s first trip abroad as president—and became an opportunity for world leaders to intensely lobby the American president before Trump’s final decision on whether the United States would leave the historic climate accord.

The leaders told Trump in no uncertain terms that if the United States abandoned the agreement, China would be the direct beneficiary.

“Climate change is real and it affects the poorest countries,” said Emmanuel Macron, the newly elected French president, at the outset of the private conversation.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau then told Trump that the success of repairing the ozone layer proved that industry could be persuaded to act on harmful emissions, according to the account.

Then, German Chancellor Angela Merkel brought up China: “If the world’s largest economic power were to pull out, the field would be left to the Chinese,” she said. According to Der Spiegel, Merkel added that Chinese President Xi Jinping was preparing to take advantage of the vacuum left by America’s exit. Even Saudi Arabia, she added, was preparing for a world without oil.

Trump was unmoved. “For me,” the president reportedly said, “it’s easier to stay in than step out,” adding that green regulations were killing American jobs.

As it became clear Trump would not budge, Macron admitted defeat, according to this account.

“Now China leads,” he said.

The account adds fresh details to the president’s fraught European trip. Following the meeting, the G7 broke with tradition to release a statement where six nations reaffirmed the Paris climate agreement, without the United States. The president also caused a diplomatic scuffle in Italy after accusing Germany of being “very bad” on trade and appeared to literally shove aside a leader of a NATO ally.

In a Rose Garden ceremony last Thursday, Trump announced that the United States would leave the historic Paris climate agreement—promising to “begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States.”

In response to the president’s announcement, President Macron of France released a video statement, saying, “If we do nothing, our children will know a world of migrations, of wars, of shortage. A dangerous world.”

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Der Spiegel Just Published the Minutes From Trump’s Contentious Meeting With G7 Leaders

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Donald Trump Doubles Down on Boorish Temper Tantrums

Mother Jones

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President Trump was busy during his early morning “Fox & Friends” time. Around 6 am there was this:

First he deliberately undermines his own Justice Department by needlessly calling his immigration EO a “travel ban.” Why? Because he got criticized for accidentally doing this over the weekend, and by God, that means he needs to double down. Having done that, he then proceeds to slam the Justice Department as if they worked for someone else. If he wanted them to stay with the original travel ban, he should have told them to. If he wussed out, it’s his fault, not theirs.

It’s worth noting, by the way, that we’re now in the fifth month of Trump’s childish refusal to go ahead with new travel regulations while we wait for the courts to rule on his temporary travel ban that was meant to give him time to write new travel regulations.

Then, after a bit of random whining, Trump decides to go back to the well on the mayor of London:

Even for Trump, this is close to unbelievable. His original tweet about this yesterday was a lie, and would have been wildly inappropriate even if it weren’t. The city of London had just been hit by a deadly terrorist attack! Trump got blasted for this breathtaking display of churlishness, of course, and that meant he had to hit back today even more boorishly in front of the whole world. Because Donald Trump never, ever, backs down from anything, no matter how stupid.

Holy hell. 43 months to go.

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Donald Trump Doubles Down on Boorish Temper Tantrums

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What’s the Deal With Rex Tillerson?

Mother Jones

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I’m not quite sure how to phrase this, but, um, what’s the deal with Rex Tillerson?

The guy was CEO of ExxonMobil. Out of the blue, Donald Trump decides to make him Secretary of State, a job about as unexpected as if someone made me head of NASA. He gets confirmed, and since then he’s….

What? He refuses to talk to the press. He’s barely hired anyone. He seems happy to go along with plans to decimate the department. He doesn’t appear to have any particular ideology or goals. In fact, it’s not really clear what he even does all day.

So what’s the deal with Rex Tillerson?

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What’s the Deal With Rex Tillerson?

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Republican Congressman on Suspected Islamic Radicals: "Kill Them All"

Mother Jones

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In response to the London terror attack, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) had an extreme proposal: kill anyone suspected of being an Islamic radical.

On his campaign Faceboook page, Higgins, a former police officer, posted this message:

The free world…all of Christendom…is at war with Islamic horror. Not one penny of American treasure should be granted to any nation who harbors these heathen animals. Not a single radicalized Islamic suspect should be granted any measure of quarter. Their intended entry to the American homeland should be summarily denied. Every conceivable measure should be engaged to hunt them down. Hunt them, identity them, and kill them. Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.

The post went up early on Sunday morning. On Saturday evening, suspected terrorists killed seven people during an attack on London Bridge. ISIS has claimed credit for these murders.

With his declaration that Christendom is “at war with Islamic horror,” Higgins was embracing a theme of the far right: the fight against extremist jihadists is part of a fundamental clash between Christian society and Islam. And in this Facebook post, he was calling for killing not just terrorists found guilty of heinous actions, but anyone suspected of such an act. He did not explain how the United States could determine how to identify radicalized Islamists in order to deny them entry to the United States. It was unclear whether his proposal to deny any assistance to any nation that harbors “these heathen animals” would apply to England, France, Indonesia, Spain, and other nations where jihadist cells have committed horrific acts of violence.

Higgins office refused to allow a Mother Jones reporter to speak to a spokesman for the congressman. But in an email, his spokesman confirmed the Facebook post was authentic.

In late January, Higgins delivered a fiery floor speech attacking Democrats and the “liberal media” for opposing President Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban. He declared that “radical Islamic horror has gripped the world and…unbelievably…been allowed into our own nation with wanton disregard.”

Shortly before running for Congress, Higgins resigned from his post as the public information officer of the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office, where he had earned a reputation as the “Cajun John Wayne” for his tough-talking CrimeStopper videos. Higgins abruptly quit after his boss, the sheriff, ordered him to tone down his unprofessional comments. “I repeatedly told him to stop saying things like, ‘You have no brain cells,’ or making comments that were totally disrespectful and demeaning,” the sheriff said.

“I don’t do well reined in,” Higgins noted at the time. “Although I love and respect my sheriff, I must resign.”

Update: Higgins’ campaign spokesman, Chris Comeaux, told Mother Jones in an email: “Rep. Higgins is referring to terrorists. He’s advocating for hunting down and killing all of the terrorists. This is an idea all of America & Britain should be united behind.”

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Republican Congressman on Suspected Islamic Radicals: "Kill Them All"

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Chart of the Day: Islamist Terror Attacks in London

Mother Jones

Plus the March attack in Manchester. This is raw data. Draw what conclusions you wish from it.

Originally posted here:

Chart of the Day: Islamist Terror Attacks in London

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