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Do Black Kids Matter in Memphis?

The Intercept -

“Female on board!” the lieutenant called out, his voice booming off the concrete walls. It was the middle of shift change at the Shelby County Juvenile Detention Center in downtown Memphis, and the two-tiered housing unit was mostly quiet. “Female on board!” he yelled again. “That’s a PREA requirement,” Sheriff’s Department Chief Kirk Fields explained as he ushered me through the door. “Anytime the opposite sex enters the floor.”

PREA is the Prison Rape Elimination Act, sweeping federal legislation targeting the nation’s prisons and jails. Passed in 2003, the law was aimed in part at places like this — facilities for youth who present a danger to others or themselves. But while PREA has proven hard to implement, that’s not why I was there that day. Less than a year after Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham took over the detention center that sits directly above juvenile court, officials were running dangerously afoul of a different federal intervention — one designed specifically for Shelby County.

In the spring of 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice released the scathing results of a civil rights investigation into the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County (JCMSC). Almost 50 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that kids have the same due process rights as adults, the system in Memphis seemed frozen in time. Children received little meaningful defense representation in delinquency hearings and were subjected to hurried, ill-informed, and arbitrary decisions, including transfers to adult court. Worse, “we found that African-American children were treated differently and more harshly,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tom Perez said. While white kids who broke the law were often sent to diversion programs, black kids were more than twice as likely to be treated like adults. Those kept in custody here were subjected “to unnecessary and excessive restraint,” the DOJ report said, including the use of controversial “restraint chairs.”

It was not the first time the Justice Department had found problems in Memphis.

It was not the first time the Justice Department had found problems in Memphis. In 2000, the Civil Rights Division investigated 201 Poplar, the notorious adult jail down the road, after a prisoner was gang raped and sued in federal court. Finding intolerable conditions, the DOJ assigned a federal judge to oversee changes, who concluded in 2009 that the jail had achieved “substantial compliance” with its reforms.

But this time was different. The investigation into juvenile court was the first time the DOJ invoked a little-known clause of the 1994 Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act — otherwise known as the Crime Bill — that gave it authority to intervene where it found constitutional violations in a local juvenile justice system. President Barack Obama’s administration offered what Perez called a “first of its kind” deal: a Memorandum of Agreement among the court, the county, and the DOJ. It was a blueprint for reform; independent monitors would regularly visit Memphis, submitting progress reports to the DOJ. The process would end when the court achieved — and maintained for one year — “substantial compliance with all substantive provisions” of the deal. The U.S. attorney for the Western District of Tennessee predicted Shelby County would become “a model for juvenile courts systems across the country.”

But more than four years later, that lofty goal seems out of reach. By the time I came to Memphis in early June, city residents were frustrated. While there was much documented progress in the hundreds of pages of monitors’ reports since 2012, the latest round — made public in March — contained significant red flags. One monitor had found “a serious lack of movement” to address racial disparities. More alarming, in a visit to the detention center last fall, another monitor, David Roush, found an “across-the-board deterioration … since the transfer of the facility to the sheriff.” There were more assaults, more kids exhibiting suicidal behavior, and more staff “reporting that they fear for their safety.” Although the restraint chair had been swiftly abolished, there was also “a 303 percent increase in the use of mechanical restraints.”

In early April, some 200 people attended a public meeting at the Civil Rights Museum, in the shadow of the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. DOJ Special Litigation Counsel Winsome Gayle had traveled from Washington to speak. Among the attendees was a rapper and activist named P. Moses, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Memphis. The longer she listened, the more she felt “it was all for show.” Moses knew the limits of a federal intervention. She had once written a tribute to a black transgender woman named Duanna Johnson, who was beaten by Memphis cops at 201 Poplar in 2008 — just one year before the DOJ quietly lifted its oversight over the jail. Johnson was later shot dead in Moses’s neighborhood. Just a few days before this meeting, Moses had learned that the white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black 19-year-old during a traffic stop would be allowed to retire with a government pension after being diagnosed with PTSD. News reports suggested the DOJ was looking into the shooting, but no one had heard much since.

She wanted to know why the supposedly cash-strapped juvenile court had received $250,000 from the county commission to install bulletproof safety glass in the judicial chambers.

Moses had a specific question in mind. She wanted to know why the supposedly cash-strapped juvenile court had received $250,000 from the county commission to install bulletproof safety glass in the judicial chambers. To Moses, the action held deep symbolism. If officials were fortressing themselves from the families they are supposed to serve, “What is that saying to the community about what you think of our children or what they’re gonna be in a few years?” Did they have any faith in their own agreement with the DOJ? And how are Memphians supposed to believe things will get better if the court is preparing for the worst? On the Black Lives Matter Memphis Facebook page in April, Moses posted a news report about the red flags at the detention center. “The problem is the system,” she wrote, “not the children.”

Today, far beyond Memphis, there is a growing recognition that the problems underlying crime are systemic — and that America’s criminal justice system has been a devastating failure for kids — especially kids of color. The Obama administration has sought ways to steer young people away from its grip, through initiatives like My Brother’s Keeper and the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, whose selected cities included Memphis. There is also a wider cultural backlash against decades of crime policy that said children stopped being children once they were accused of breaking a law, from the U.S. Supreme Court’s chipping away at the harshest punishments for juveniles to activists who have confronted Hillary Clinton with her past rhetoric about “superpredators.” The shift is especially consequential at the state level, where “adult time for adult crime” is increasingly seen as bad policy. The National Conference of State Legislatures has documented wide-reaching attempts to “restore jurisdiction to juvenile court.”

But as Shelby County shows, any meaningful changes will require a deeper reckoning. The DOJ’s experiment in Memphis could have been carried out in cities across the country. Last year, following the upheaval in Ferguson, Missouri, after the clearing of the cop who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, the DOJ released an investigation into the juvenile justice system in St. Louis County, which exposed parallel problems to those in Memphis, including the blunt observation that “black children are treated significantly worse than white children.” At a time when Americans have looked to the Obama administration to hold law enforcement officials accountable for violence against black communities, a daunting question looms: Whose job is it to fix systemic problems that have existed for generations? And how do they do it?

Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michaels in his office on July 11, 2016.

Photo: Brandon Dill

As I toured the Memphis detention center in June, I had another question in mind. Why would a juvenile court under federal monitoring hand over control to the local sheriff? The transfer flew in the face of experts like Roush, the monitor who called it “accepted best practice” for kids to be detained in facilities operated by a “youth-serving parent agency … not local law enforcement.” Police are trained to exert authority and force compliance — standard in adult jails, but counterproductive at best when used on kids. It seemed like a blatant step backward.

Nevertheless, Fields and his lieutenant were eager to show that they are running a kinder and gentler jail. The cafeteria had a fresh coat of paint and a ban on talking during meals was being lifted. A Positive Behavior Management System (PBMS) was being rolled out, in which kids could earn points for privileges; bright signs posted messages like “PBMS: SEEKING SOLUTIONS, NOT BLAME.” An empty cell was now a makeshift library, with a rug and plastic chair abutting a metal toilet, and a former storage area was being used to expand Hope Academy, the court’s K-12 program. A friendly counselor showed me a monthly “newsletter” she produces, four photocopied pages printed with blurry photos of animals, a poem, and word games. One page listed three boys’ upcoming birthdays, alongside a message: “May all your dreams and wishes come true!”

All the kids I saw were black. Fields, who is also black, offered an explanation for some of the alarming figures found in the monitors’ reports.

The relative quiet was at least somewhat due to a steady drop in admissions in recent years, thanks in part to the implementation of things like the Law Enforcement Assessment Phone-In — which lets police issue summons rather than arresting kids for minor offenses — and a new Detention Assessment Tool, which measures whether to hold or release kids brought into custody. The official population that afternoon was 48, an encouraging drop from Roush’s last visit, which found 81. All the kids I saw were black. Fields, who is also black, offered an explanation for some of the alarming figures found in Roush’s report. “Our policy states that anytime we put restraints on a child, it’s considered ‘use of force,’” he said. This includes such routine tasks as transporting a kid to a medical appointment, where handcuffing is “standard operating procedure.” In the interest of accuracy, Fields said, the department is now separately documenting such routine tasks from confrontational incidents.

Downstairs, I met Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael, who called the latest figures and media reports overblown. A seventh report was due for release any day now — it would set the record straight.

A bald, bearded man with an affable air, Michael wore a light suit and a yellow bow tie. His signature white cowboy hat hung by his desk. Previously chief magistrate of juvenile court, he had been elected in August 2014, defeating city court judge Tarik Sugarmon. The candidates represented distinct eras in Memphis politics. Although Michael’s campaign website described how he ran his family’s auto shop before becoming a lawyer at age 40, he had first been appointed to the court in 1997 by veteran Judge Kenneth Turner, who embodied the court’s entrenched white establishment. Sugarmon was the son of black civil rights activists; he marched with Martin Luther King Jr. during the sanitation strikes and participated in the “Black Monday” boycotts of 1969, in which students stayed home from school to protest segregation. Sugarmon’s father, a retired judge, previously worked under Turner at juvenile court. On the campaign trail, the younger Sugarmon invoked the DOJ investigation: “We have now a 50-year continuum of a system that, up until recently, we were the only ones that knew it was unfair.”

Despite his ties to the court’s establishment players, Michael considers himself something of a reformer. “I think of myself as a change agent,” he told me. He exudes compassion for the juveniles in his care, while talking seriously about crime. “My role is to save that child’s life while protecting you,” he assured an audience after his election. He also wanted to make something very clear to me: “We don’t jail children.” The facility upstairs, he reminded me, is “pre-trial only.” A court officer stressed the same thing during our tour — “remember, this is not a jail” — but it seemed like a distinction without a difference. Children may sleep in single occupancy “rooms,” not “cells,” but the steel toilets and thin green mattresses betrayed the euphemism.

When I asked why he had handed the detention center to the sheriff, these distinctions were harder to maintain.

Yet, when I asked why he had handed the detention center to the sheriff, these distinctions were harder to maintain. “The sheriff of Shelby County is the professional jailer, if you will,” Michael explained. “He runs all the pretrial centers.” Faced with hiring and budget challenges, he’d decided to leave detention to the experts, to “make sure those children got the protection they need.”

I asked about the stark racial disparities — or Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC), in DOJ parlance. The last report on equal protection suggested a lack of will to address it. “Again, the Court MUST take the lead on this,” it urged, in bold text. Although Michael credited the Law Enforcement Assessment Phone-In and other tools for reducing the total number of kids in the system, the monitor found that the race gap had actually increased among those in detention. “I’m gonna be real blunt with you,” Michael said. “The federal government cannot point to one DMC program anywhere in the country that they have funded that has successfully lowered the stat,” he said. “Not one.” Memphis is a majority black city. Its problems go back to the era of forced busing, white flight and all the myriad factors that set the stage for the high poverty, crime, and unemployment that plagues this and other urban centers. If it was up to any one person to fix this, he seemed to be saying, it was not up to him.

Michael reiterated his commitment to reform — but he doesn’t want the federal government in Memphis forever. “My goal is to complete the MoA and say, ‘Bye, we’re good. Let’s move on.’”

The exterior of Shelby County’s juvenile courthouse.

Photo: Brandon Dill

For a tidy history of its youth justice system, Shelby County offers a 30-minute film made in 2010 titled “100 Years of Juvenile Court.” Set to soft piano music, the story begins with an 1898 editorial in The Commercial Appeal, “To Save the Young.” It asked lawmakers to address the problem of kids jailed alongside adults — a growing concern of the progressive movement. “What police need now is a place for juvenile offenders that fall into their hands,” the editorial read, “but they will not get it until this county agrees to share the expenses of establishing one with the city.”

The tension between Shelby County and the city of Memphis has never been resolved. Today, Memphis is surrounded by affluent, nearly all-white suburbs like Germantown and Collierville, which became incorporated towns in the mid-1800s. The largely unspoken divide becomes most explicit where children are concerned; following a controversial plan to consolidate Memphis city and Shelby County schools in 2011, numerous suburbs broke off to form their own municipal districts.

The Commercial Appeal article did not have black children in mind. While today juvenile jails are a symbol of criminalization of black youth and the school-to-prison pipeline, the establishment of the new juvenile court in 1910 reflected the influence of white child welfare activists, particularly the women behind the Memphis Playground Association, which sought to keep children off the street. In Gateway to Justice, an early history of Shelby County’s juvenile court, historian Jennifer Trost describes how it fell to Memphis’s black community to keep pace with new models of juvenile justice. “As long as blacks did not challenge the rules of segregation and took on the responsibility for funding separate facilities,” she wrote, “white reformers were willing to accept their participation.”

Memphis’s juvenile justice system took shape against a particularly dangerous backdrop — at least 15 lynchings took place between 1890 and 1930.

The results were “separate and unequal.” In 1914, the Memphis Digest published an article about a 4-year-old orphan arrested for stealing a pair of shoes. The child was taken in by child welfare activist Julia Hooks, who created a black juvenile court through community donations. Why, the author asked, “are these Negro women of very moderate means and many heavy burdens left by the city to buy a court building, while the white children have recently been moved into admirable quarters provided by the cost of the city?” There was also the Shelby County Industrial and Training School, where a “negro department” was created only after local residents raised funds; the county dictated that white boys receive training, while black boys were “paroled” to do farm work for locals.

Memphis’s juvenile justice system took shape against a particularly dangerous backdrop — at least 15 lynchings took place between 1890 and 1930. Against such instruments of Jim Crow-era racial control, the court’s early, mostly female leadership was benevolent in its enforcement of white supremacy. One judge, appointed in 1920, saw the court as “a strong arm used to supplement home care and training, or to supply it where it does not exist,” according to Trost, who notes that inevitably, this meant using her authority “to enforce deferential behavior of black children toward whites.” There were “white days” and “colored days” for hearing cases, and “files were color-coded” according to race.

The court remained segregated until 1964, the year Judge Kenneth Turner — the judge who first appointed Michael — assumed the bench. A former police captain with no legal training, Turner is the unmitigated hero of “100 Years of Juvenile Court,” lauded for his colorblind approach to justice and for shaping JCMSC into a model admired nationwide. A memoir by an Episcopalian youth minister recalls how, early in his tenure, Turner’s juvenile summons program brought kids to his organization, helping them avoid a criminal record. But news reports reveal Turner’s more punitive innovations, a number of which especially hurt black families. He showed fondness for public shaming, inviting reporters to delinquency hearings and ordering bright orange vests reading, “I am a vandal.” He fined parents for truancy — “If you can’t control your child, call the police,” he told one mother — and charged room and board for kids in detention, a move hailed as “revolutionary” by one widely syndicated editorial. Turner was especially famous for prosecuting fathers who failed to pay child support. One 1967 article describes how he sent a man to Shelby County Penal Farm for nearly a year without advising him of his right to trial. Later, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a civil class action alleging that JCMSC routinely jailed destitute fathers without any due process.

Presiding over juvenile court more than 40 years, Turner would ultimately embody the flaws of its design. Juvenile justice was rooted in a legal philosophy known as parens patriae, in which the state decides what is in a child’s best interest. For its noble intentions, the U.S. Supreme Court warned in 1966, in Kent v. United States, there was evidence that “the child receives the worst of both worlds … neither the protections accorded to adults nor the solicitous care and regenerative treatment postulated for children.” This was true in the case of an Arizona teenager named Gerald Gault. After he was jailed for “placing lewd phone calls” to a female neighbor, the American Civil Liberties Union challenged his trial as “barren of any legal protection of a juvenile’s rights.” In 1967, the Court agreed, ruling for the first time that juveniles had such due process rights as the right to counsel and the right against self-incrimination.

But Turner’s attention was elsewhere. In March 1968, weeks before King was shot, he ordered arrests of students participating in the sanitation strikes, charging parents $10 a day for each day a child missed school. Asked about Gault that year, Turner said, “I’m more concerned with the fact that in Tennessee, 89 of our counties do not have proper facilities for the detention of juveniles.” While he was not alone in resisting the ruling, the 1973 PBS documentary Juvenile Court offered a glimpse into the result. “Guilt is presupposed by every adult from the outset,” one reviewer writes, “and all procedure seems deliberately geared toward searching for personality disorders, exacting confessions, or cutting plea deals with defense attorneys.” It was in this era, following a different ruling that required judges to be admitted to the bar, that Turner designed a “referee” system, appointing people to hear cases on his behalf, while preserving his authority. A Memphis police sergeant would later describe the atmosphere to journalist Nina Bernstein: Turner’s court had “its own rules, day by day.”

By the early 1990s, in keeping with the tough on crime era, Turner was increasingly transferring juveniles to adult court, calling them “vicious young criminals” — or “VYCs” — who should be separated from “juveniles who are more amenable to habilitation.” Today, Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich continues the tradition. While Weirich denies that race has any bearing on her decisions, the equal protection monitor has cited a “significant overrepresentation of Black youth” in her requests. One of the most positive results of the DOJ intervention has been a drastic drop in transfers granted by the court — from 194 in 2009 to 47 last year.

But vulnerable teenagers still end up in the adult system. In 2013, the Memphis Flyer described a transfer hearing for a black 14-year-old named Jonathan Ray, who had a history of abuse and mental problems. Ray had set fire to the steps of his house, killing his mother. With little time for his attorney to prepare — and against the pleadings of relatives — Michael concluded that Shelby County “can’t wait six years to see if [Ray] is fit for rehabilitation.” He sent him to adult court, where Ray pleaded guilty. He is scheduled for release when he’s 40 years old.

JIFF program participants (from left) Adarius Boltze, 16, Devion Thomas, 14, case mentor Grady Turner, Cordarius Lane, 15, and case mentor Troy Dotson prepare for a treetop rope course and zipline activity in Memphis on July 12, 2016.

Photo: Brandon Dill

Around the corner from juvenile court, in a former YMCA, I met half a dozen teenagers at JIFF — Juvenile Intervention & Faith-based Follow-up — which partners with the court’s Youth Services Bureau. “We love JIFF,” a JCMSC official told me, and it is easy to see why. It takes some of their most challenging kids and gives them job training and education, along with serious Bible study. JIFF also pairs kids with ex-juvenile offenders who act as mentors. The resulting bond is clear. When I asked the kids what they liked most about JIFF compared to juvenile court, the word I heard most was “love.”

The kids were not eager to talk about the detention center. They complained that it was cold, that staff played favorites, that the rule against talking made no sense. They especially hated being locked in their room for days at a time as punishment. But one teenager, a veteran of the system, said it was better than other jails he’d been in. At least he had his own room.

At JIFF, like at the detention center, all the kids were black. It reminded me of an old quote in the Tri-State Defender, the black alternative weekly in Memphis, from a county commissioner named Henri Brooks: “You would think that white children never get in trouble.”

Although few were eager to talk about it, the DOJ would never have come to Memphis were it not for Brooks. Elected in August 2006, months after Turner’s official retirement from the court, she immediately caused an uproar. Turner “ran that system down there on what I call ‘Plantation Politics,’” Brooks told the Defender, “and unless we update the court now, there will be no changes.” Brooks worked in juvenile court from 1976 to 1987. Speaking to me over the phone, she described the court’s operating assumption about black people: “There was something criminal in our genes. So we had to be controlled.”

A former state representative and chairwoman of the Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus, Brooks stirred controversy long before setting her sights on juvenile court. Her confrontational manner, while polarizing, was also likely one consequence of working in an environment where the existence of racism was aggressively denied. A 2005 bill she proposed to collect data on racial profiling was dismissed by an opponent as “a waste of money and a waste of time.” When Brooks warned that a 2004 seatbelt law could be used as a pretext to target black drivers, The Tennessean called her claim “amazing.”

But Brooks’s persona also eclipsed her most significant contributions. It was because of her that Tennessee became the first state to pass legislation enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Yet she became more famous for a months-long controversy that broke out in 2001, after the speaker of the house confronted her for refusing to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. “He talked to me like a master to a slave,” Brooks declared, later explaining that honoring the flag would be an affront to her ancestors. That year, a man burned her in effigy on the capitol steps.

Upon returning to Memphis, Brooks teamed up with another black commissioner, Deidre Malone, in a push to add a second judge to the juvenile court. The goal, Malone told The Commercial Appeal, was to address a generation of discrimination against black kids, in part perpetuated by Turner’s handpicked successor, Judge Curtis Person. “For years now, suburban courts all over the county have been allowed to establish diversion programs for white children committing the same offenses,” Malone said. Person responded angrily, writing that Brooks had a “personal mission to disrupt this court.” Others admitted that the court needed reform, but agreed that the problem was Brooks herself. One columnist noted that, while 75 percent of the court’s employees were black, “if you look at who holds the upper-level and highest-paying jobs, Brooks’s ‘plantation’ claim starts to make sense.”

“They acted like I was crazy,” Brooks recalled. Yet many Memphis residents agreed with her. In 2006, “my staff set up town hall meetings all over the city.” They met in churches and other venues, inviting parents of children who had been through juvenile court to speak. Attendees shared a litany of complaints, from endless delays to arbitrary decisions by referees. One mother described waiting two years for a hearing date in her child support case, only to have her case worker scold her “for not getting involved ‘with a better man,’” The gatherings were recorded and transcribed. Before long, “I think I had about seven or eight 10-inch binders” filled with grievances, Brooks said. The files became the basis for a Complaint and Request for Investigation, which she formally filed to the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ on Jan. 15, 2007.

While the DOJ considered the complaint, critics denounced Brooks for traveling to Washington on taxpayers’ dime — one letter to The Commercial Appeal called it “outrageous,” saying Brooks “should have paid for the trip out of her own funds.” To “defuse” the controversy, The Commercial Appeal reported, a local pastor collected donations from families “concerned about justice,” offering to cover the $1,000 in expenses. But Brooks would soon be vindicated. In August 2009, the DOJ announced it would investigate Shelby County Juvenile Court. A year and a half later, following repeated visits and a review of some 65,000 defendant files, the DOJ issued its announcement on the Memorandum of Agreement. By then, however, Brooks had been cut out of the process. The deal with the DOJ was signed by County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Person, a vocal skeptic of the department’s report.

Today, Brooks takes little pleasure in having been proven right by the DOJ’s investigation, which she says was too little too late. “It almost brought tears to my eyes to think of the others who had been before juvenile court before this even happened,” she says.

In June, the DOJ quietly released its seventh round of monitors’ reports on JCMSC. Racial disparities persisted and “physical restraints remain a problem,” Roush wrote, having last visited the detention facility in April. The Sheriff’s Department’s efforts to be more nuanced in documenting use of handcuffs have produced new problems. “Mechanical restraints are substantially undercounted,” Roush reported, urging “immediate action” to gather more accurate data.

But the most damning conclusion was perhaps the most predictable. Sheriff’s officers, it turns out, are not trained to work with kids. “An underlying assumption exists that there are no difference between juvenile and adult detention skills,” Roush wrote, calling the mindset “a fundamental problem.” Over email, a Sheriff’s Department spokesperson cited “specialized training” underway for new hires. He also addressed the $250,000 bulletproof glass: It was the result of a safety assessment requested by JCMSC, he said, implemented as part of the sheriff’s takeover of overall security.

The release of the monitors’ reports made no headlines this time. A few weeks later, on July 10, following the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in Minneapolis, and five police officers in Dallas, a small gathering took place outside the Civil Rights Museum. “The rally evolved into a protest march,” the Memphis Flyer reported, with 1,000 people marching through downtown to the I-40 bridge, which runs over the Mississippi River. Traffic was blocked for hours. Although the Memphis protests ended “peacefully … with no arrests,” they sparked rage among other city residents. Racist comments proliferated on the Black Lives Matter Memphis Facebook page. But others called it a moment of awakening. “Black lives matter,” a Commercial Appeal columnist wrote, comparing it to the declaration “I am a man.”

A few days later, after days of similar protests across the country, President Obama held a town hall, broadcast by ABC News. Attempting a conciliatory tone, he shared his own experiences with racism. “It’s not as bad as it used to be, but it’s still there,” he said.

But for some in the audience, the event fueled further anger. Erica Garner, whose father’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry, was denied a chance to ask a question. Two years after the DOJ said it was looking into her father’s killing by police, she had no answers. Meanwhile, the man who had filmed his death faced jail time. Garner’s shouts were heard by audience members, journalists, and the president alike: “A black person has to yell to be heard?”

This article was reported in partnership with NextCity.


Top photo: JIFF program participants (from left) Markel Davis, 16, Devion Thomas, 14, Cordarius Lane, 15, Kerron Young, 17, Fredrick Jordan, 13, and Adarius Boltze, 16, are seen before taking part in a treetop rope course and zipline activity in Memphis on July 12, 2016.

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Will We See Justice for Alton Sterling or Philando Castile?

Public Seminar -

Less than two years ago, a Ferguson grand jury decided not to return an indictment in the shooting death of Michael Brown. The grand jury announced their decision on the evening of November 24, 2014. There had been about 70 hours of testimony and over 60 witnesses. (NPR has a helpful blog covering all the action.) Remembering what happened in Ferguson may help us to understand what may not happen in Baton Rouge and St. Anthony: an indictment or conviction of the officers who killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

In line with the adage that a determined prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich, the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office was criticized for its presentation of the evidence in Darren Wilson’s case, especially given its willingness to indict Ferguson protesters. The vote of the grand jury is secret, ...

Donald Trump’s War on Islam, Beheld Live from the Cleveland Floor, Part Two

The Intercept -

To read Part One, click here

The floor might have been a prop for TV, but it was beautiful. Spotlights danced off the red, white and blue bunting, off the tall, triangular signs spelling out the names of the states and the territories, off the delegates themselves, equal and unruly, a republic made flesh. To stand on it gave one a feeling of chaos and joy.

The states were defined by red carpets running between them, and by their costumes. The Guam wore tropical-print shirts. Texas had Lone Star flag shirts and cowboy hats and supersized enamel pins. North Carolina seemed patrician and a slightly aloof in their seersucker suits. West Virginia wore hardhats and pinstripes waving “Trump Digs Coal” signs. Chunks of Colorado displayed a mutinous, die-hard love for Ted Cruz by walking out of the convention on Monday afternoon. The many-footed whip was walking up and down the aisles, handing out Trump/Pence signs, whipping up cheers of “Trump! Trump! Trump!” often settling for “USA! USA! USA!”

Moving around the Floor, delegates could brush past such legendary statesmen as Jeff Sessions, Newt Gingrich, and Orrin Hatch. They could attempt to peer into the epicenter of forty-foot, thirty-legged, many-cabled monster, at the center of which Chris Christie was milking the last few hours of his celebrity. They could catch a glimpse of Trump’s three-trunked family tree, a genetic menagerie seated like princelings in tiered opera boxes, before being admonished by an officer to “keep moving.” They could ride elevators with the party elect and watch longingly as they disappeared into the closed-off upper levels of the Quicken Loans Arena, known as the Q, on their way to the Founders Room, the 45 Club, the Senate Cloakroom, the House Cloakroom, and the Grand Old Party Suite.

Two rifts in the Republican Party still needed patching up. The first rift was between Trump and Cruz. The serious Tea Partiers considered Cruz to be more reliable than Trump, a “Democrat in disguise.” The Day 2 Melania/Michelle plagiarism flap didn’t help on this front, nor did the high drama of Day 3, when Cruz himself took the stage, espoused a fusion doctrine of Tea and Trumpism, slammed Obama for exporting jobs and importing terrorists, but, in the end, failed to endorse Trump. This might not have come as a complete surprise to the inner circle of Trump’s camp, but whatever information they had was closely held. The rest of the convention was stunned by Cruz’s impertinence and nearly drowned the end of his speech out with boos.

The Floor was choppy as the sea in changing weather. “All he [Cruz] had to say was Make America Great Again,” said Adrienne King, delegate of Hawaii, who was furious about Cruz’s betrayal. “He would have brought the house down.”

“Get off the stage!” hollered Clifford Young, an alternate delegate from California. A few minutes later, I asked him why he was so angry at Cruz. “It’s sour grapes,” he said. “He needs to go back to Texas. And stay in Texas.”

Cruz was finally out of the way. Trump had the nomination, but it would take some time before the hearts and minds of his people would belong to Make America Great Again, shortened to MAGA. Late on Day 3, after Cruz’s speech, one Cruz die-hard fired a text message off to her friend as she fled the Floor by elevator: “I’m done with these A-holes who are angry with Cruz.” Even at her moment of greatest anger, she did not type out the full expletive. It would be hard for her to come around to a man like Trump.

The second rift, a deeper one, though less conspicuous, was between Trump and the old-guard establishment of the Grand Old Party, many of whom had decided not to show up. John Kasich, Ohio’s governor, had skipped the convention after reportedly spurning Trump’s offer of the vice presidency. So had the Bushes, a blue-blooded, white-shoe mafia of bankers and oilmen. Trump had bullied Jeb Bush with merciless brilliance during the primary debates. Now he risked being shut out from the family’s fundraising apparatus, relationships that had been accumulating interest for three generations. There was no Mitt Romney, no Henry Kissinger, no John McCain. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, the varsity captains, did show up and give serviceable speeches, and Marco Rubio appeared by video. The grandest old party man who Trump’s people could drum up was Bob Dole, who gave no speech, just a private luncheon at Morton’s steakhouse. It was said to be for his ninety-third birthday.

Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx

Vox Populi

Few have explained the essence of Make America Great Again with the clarity of Grandpa Simpson. “I used to be with it,” he said, to his son Homer and his son’s friend Barney, having caught them rocking out in front of a mirror. “But then they changed what it was. Now what I’m with isn’t it, and what’s it seems weird and scary to me.” Then came the curse: “It’ll happen to you.” Grandpa Simpson’s words echoed the two questions that Rudy Giuliani asked on Day 1: America! What happened to it? Where did it go? I looked to the delegates for answers.

John Rosado, an Arizona delegate who had kitted himself as George Washington, complete with breeches, buttoned topcoat, and a tricorne hat, blamed it on Teddy Roosevelt’s progressivism. I asked for something in his lifetime. He offered Lyndon Baines Johnson. If only Johnson been willing to stick it out in Vietnam, Rosado said, we would have won the war. “Walter Cronkite gave it away,” he said. “It was when he said ‘we can’t win this war.’ We were winning. The politics gave it away.”

Thomas Stark, a middle-aged lawyer and delegate from North Carolina, wore white suede bucks and a seersucker suit. A few minutes into our conversation, Stark told me that he was the general counsel for the state party, an unpaid position. He said this with such humility that it almost sounded like an apology. He said the Democrats were the party of Hobbes—fear and top-down government. The Republicans were the party of Locke—government leaves man alone, man rises to his best. Stark’s enthusiasm for Trump was solid, but the mortar was still hardening. Trump was “transitioning,” Stark said, from businessman to policymaker. “I hope the country doesn’t lose its spiritual base,” Stark said, in a quiet voice, one that held its own field but made no claim on others. “It really rounds things out.” I asked Stark what he meant by spiritual base. He seemed slightly taken aback, as though I ought to know the answer. “I don’t know if I can put it into words,” he said.

Drew Danford, a younger delegate from Texas and party precinct leader, makes his living selling insurance. He said that America’s decline began when people started identifying with a “subculture” or “microcosm” before they identified as Americans. A subculture could be a sport, a hobby, a race, or a religion, he said. Some were explicitly contrary to American values. “Disenfranchisement” was his name for this phenomenon. As a young man, he said, he had suffered at the hands of some police. “If I was black,” he said. “I would have thought it was racism.” As we spoke, Danford went out of his way to be courteous to passersby, but he was also watchful. He had heard stories of protestors throwing urine-filled balloons at police, something that was widely reported but difficult to confirm.

Sitting beside us on the concrete lip of Cleveland Public Square was Danford’s fellow Texas delegate Joshua Sanders, a forklift operator. Sanders told me that “the politicians have decided it’s suitable to give them—” by which I took him to mean Danford’s subcultures “—preferential treatment, in order to appease their cultural values.” I asked him for an example. He brought up sanctuary cities, where undocumented immigrants can live without fear of arrest. “In a sanctuary city, you can drive with no license and no insurance,” Sanders said. “Whereas if I were to drive with no license or insurance, I’d be arrested.”

Al Baldassaro, delegate and state representative from New Hampshire, Marine Corps veteran, advisor to Trump on veterans’ affairs, constant wearer of a camo Make America Great Again hat, is best known for advocating during a radio interview the killing of Hillary Clinton by firing squad “for treason.” He is now under investigation by the Secret Service. One night outside the bar of the Westin hotel he told me that some of his nieces and nephews were African-American and Puerto Rican. When he heard them speaking against the police, he knew America was on the wrong track. He blamed Obama. “He should be their mentor,” Baldassaro said. “Instead of this Black Lives Matter business, he should be standing up for the police.” He moved on to trade, and immigration.

I told Baldassaro about a study by the World Bank that found that immigration does not cause a significant decrease in host-country wages, and that it takes a generation or two for new immigrants to start competing with the rest of the labor force. By that time, most have gotten the right papers. Many have changed their names, Drumpf to Trump, or given their children first names from the dominant culture, like Rudolph William Lewis Giuliani. Some of their descendants may choose to dye the roots of their hair, shave the bumps off their daughters’ noses, and slick their sons’ hair back into a helmet, a haircut I saw on the heads delegates of all races. The essence of the Trump brand is conformity, a genetic conversion from loser to winner.

Baldassaro parried away my beloved World Bank study with an anecdote about the undocumented immigrants he had seen gathering around open-air labor markets he had seen in New England towns. As for the Drumpf stuff, I didn’t have the wherewithal to say it at the time.

There were not many Muslims to be found in the Q. To the RNC’s credit, the Day 2 benediction was delivered by Sajid Tarar, founder of American Muslims for Trump. One person reportedly chanted “No Islam!” but these three syllables failed to catch fire. On Day 4, I spoke on the Floor with Amjad Bashir, a British Muslim born in Pakistan, and a member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire. As a member of the Conservative Party, he had come to observe the proceedings of his Republican cousins. He had a neat gray beard, glasses, and a dark suit. He said he had been displeased when Obama weighed in on Brexit, which he supported. Brexit was the business of the U.K., not the U.S.

Of Trump, he said, “whoever you choose, we will respect.” He said that Islam was a religion of peace, and that “any sort of terrorism has to be condemned.” I brought up Giuliani’s speech, and his repeated use of radical Islamic terrorism. “Speaking generally,” Bashir said, “I am critical of anyone who singles out any community, or any faith … I think people should be very careful.”

The Ultimate Ringmaster

Some have compared Trump to Hitler. I think that’s a stretch. When Hitler spoke, he was feeling it. He was buying his own bullshit, as the saying goes. Nazi rallies, I imagine, had the vibe of a really good rock-and-roll show, something like the Beatles or the Monks during their Hamburg club years. “The applause was so loud and insistent that I had to respond with several encores,” wrote Leni Riefenstahl, who directed “Triumph of the Will.” “I was numb with happiness.”

The applause for Trump at the Q was loud. Sometimes it was insistent. But at other times it had an obligatory, whipped-up feeling. There were no encores. Like late Chavez, late Castro, and late Dylan, Trump seemed to be going through the motions, expending just enough energy to convey a virtuoso image to his fans, those who are unwilling to look and see the tired man on the stage in front of them. On TV, it might have looked like charismatic ecstasy between the altar and the pews. On TV, whipped-up might have passed for fired up.

Did I see what I saw, or what I wanted to see?

Trump took the stage around half past ten on Day 4, Thursday, to deliver a speech that the next morning’s papers would call “dark.” (Giuliani’s was “fierce.”) By now, I had heard Trump boosted up as a “blue-collar billionaire,” “a true patriot and champion of the common man,” and “the ultimate ringmaster.” Giuliani, in video form, got a massive cheer. “He [Trump] can make us feel like what we should feel like,” Giuliani said.

In addition to clumsily grafting a bit of Michelle Obama onto Melania Trump, whoever was writing the teleprompter copy was trying to soften up Trump the man while hardening his platform. It wasn’t easy. The many members of Trump family who appeared on stage all emphasized the father’s kindness, but other than Giuliani’s testimony about Trump’s de-anonymized donations to police and firemen, specific examples were hard to come by. Ivanka, the lady-scion, who could pass for the Princess Diana Kardashian, who had Manafortian influence over her father and his business, talked about Trump’s habit of clipping out stories from the newspaper. The stories, she said, were about people in some kind of distress. Trump would then summon them to his office to give them charity. Not one of these recipients could be found to testify firsthand about the goodness of their alleged benefactor.

Trump’s life, Ivanka said, was one of deals, of building. “Judge his competency by the towers he’s built,” said Ivanka. “Only my father will say, ‘I’ll fight for you.”

TRUMP. The five letters of #MAGA’s chosen one manspreaded on the high screen. The low screen offering a digital backdrop crowded with flags hanging slack on their poles. I had never seen Trump’s face projected at such size. I was most taken by his mouth, expressive and elastic. The mouth had only two expressions, satisfaction and contempt. One for profit, one for loss. Then there was the automatic smile when he felt obliged to display some warmth. I thought of the way that Donald had hugged Melania, grabby and abrupt, then the stagy ‘look at her!’ point of the finger, accompanied by the a half-smile. The half-smile had a diamond shape, like a kite. The chin formed the bottom point and the mouth formed the cross-spar. The creases running up and down, on either side, were the sides.

… I am your voice … I know the time for action has come …

Trump’s eyes were small and blank. They looked to be blue-green. The face, red, elastic, and now rather sweaty, was trying to compensate for the deadness of the eyes with its reluctant caricatures of unfelt emotions. At times, Trump’s patronizing manner threatens to simmer over into outright mockery of his audience, as though he can’t quite believe they are actually stupid enough to buy into such a weak charade.

Then came the rhetorical scalpel, the heart of the speech, the keystone that was held back from the pre-released remarks. In sixty-six words, Donald turned Drumpf to Trump, loser to winner, immigrant self-hatred into nativist superiority.

America is the nation of believers, dreamers, and strivers that is being led by a group of censors, critics, and cynics! Remember, all of the people telling you, ‘you can’t have the country you want,’ are the same people that wouldn’t stand—I mean they said, ‘Trump doesn’t have a chance of being here tonight. Doesn’t have a chance!’ Oh, we love defeating those people, don’t we?

Those people. Naysayers. Terrorists. Anarchists. Barbarians. Hippies. Bill. Hillary. The Islamic State. The media. The ones who say ‘Trump can’t win.’ Against this universal enemy, Trump offered himself up as the embodiment of a universal grudge.

Day 1, Giuliani: You know who you are and we’re coming to get you!

Day 3: Cruz: What if this right now is our last time? Did we live up to the values we say we believe? Did we do all we really could?

Day 4, Trump: History is watching us now. We don’t have much time.

Of course Trump can’t win. Everyone from both parties knows this is true. It must be true. It can’t be otherwise. Is it a fact? Or is it a wish?

One hundred and twenty thousand balloons fell from the ceiling, particles in the void. We don’t have much time. They spread across the Floor in tricolor drifts, knee-high, waist-high. Two security men hustled Giuliani by me. The three men moved like a conga line. Giuliani was in the middle, his hands draped on the shoulders of the man in front, the man in back holding him up by the waist. I thought of a question that it would have been good to ask Giuliani, although now it was too late. Two days before, my colleague Alex Emmons, who is sure-footed enough to capitalize on such moments, caught Giuliani in the hallway leading to the Floor and interviewed him for three minutes. Emmons asked Giuliani to name one useful lead, one terrorism plot that had been thwarted by the years of Muslim profiling in New York City. “Of course I cannot,” Giuliani said, almost immediately. “That’s top secret information.”

Giuliani told Emmons that Hillary Clinton might reveal that sort of thing. Rudy Giuliani, the former number three in the Department of Justice, would not. He would release a dead man’s sealed juvenile arrest records to help win a seat in the U.S. Senate. But he would not explain what was gained by surveilling thousands of New York City Muslims in their restaurants, businesses, and places of worship. On Sunday, Trump suggested that he might issue a ban on Muslims from certain countries including France and Germany from entering the U.S.

The working-class delegates were loading onto their busses. The fancier people, the ones with downtown hotel rooms, were bottlenecking up around the exits. For a few minutes we were packed in between high walls of black steel mesh. Somewhere, people with better credentials were being whisked away the Founders Room, the Grand Old Party Suite, the Senate Cloakroom, and the House Cloakroom, to their awaiting jets, borne in the back of their Chevy Suburbans, their pathway cleared by the motor officers’ sirens, gliding through the hidden over-world, a world with no lines or walls. The walls that trapped us upper-mid-level delegates and press had been intended to keep the un-credentialed protestor/barbarians from violating the party’s sanctuary. Now we were the ones who wanted to get out. The walls were making it harder.

Martian Hoplite & the War on Islam

On the train out from Cleveland I traded seats, aisle for aisle, with a young man in a Trump t-shirt. We knew which side of the line the other was on and treated each other with the grim courtesy that had kept the peace throughout the week. As the train approached Pittsburgh five hours after midnight on Friday, I saw the young man looking at a feed on his phone. I asked if I could follow him.

Sure, he said. I’m Martian Hoplite.

Hoplite, I asked. Is that a Vonnegut thing?

A hoplite is a citizen warrior, he explained.

On his Twitter profile, Martian Hoplite describes himself as a “working class aristocrat. Partisan for truth. Pro-western. Aspiring Martian. Shitlord.”

Martian Hoplite’s avatar is Marv, the gun-toting noir hero from Frank Miller’s “Sin City.” One of Miller’s other graphic novels, “300,” is about three hundred Spartans—hoplites, citizen-warriors—who kill many hordes of Persian barbarians at Thermopylae, not one of them a civilian. The 2007 film adaptation of “Sin City” grossed nearly half a billion dollars worldwide. My guess is that the runaway success of “300” may have given Miller the freedom to devote his energies to connecting with a slightly narrower audience, what is known in Hollywood as a “passion project.” Miller’s 2011 graphic novel, “Holy Terror,” is about a war undertaken by a Batman-like superhero who graphically slaughters terror-minded Muslims. “For some reason,” Miller once said in an interview with National Public Radio, “nobody seems to be talking about who we’re up against, and the sixth-century barbarism that they actually represent. These people saw peoples’ heads off.”

These people. 

Only my father will say, ‘I’ll fight for you.’

The train was pulling into Pittsburgh.

I asked Martian Hoplite if I could ask him a question for the record. He agreed.

“Are we at war with Islam?” I asked, the question that I had wanted to ask Rudy Giuliani. Martian Hoplite took a moment to think it over.

“We’re not,” he said. “But we should be.”

To read Part One, click here

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Jussi Parikka -

Here’s Faxbook, a media archaeologically pertinent alternative to Facebook brought to you by Garnet Hertz and The Studio for Critical Making! The “social” and its  current techniques like “sharing” was not invented only by the latecomer digital social media platforms and through the design intervention that Faxbook rescales the techniques to a different media technological system.

Quoting Hertz below:

“Faxbook is now live, with the first transmissions sent out this afternoon. I’m limiting the system (a bit like Brucker-Cohen‘s Bumplist) to only 16 users, and there are a couple of spots left – if you want to join, send a fax that includes your fax number (with country code) to +1-604-630-7427. The algorithm will do the rest.”

DNC Votes to Keep Superdelegates, But Sets Some Conditions

The Intercept -

The rule-making body of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday defeated an amendment brought by Bernie Sanders delegates to abolish superdelegates — the unelected party elites who make up 15 percent of all delegates and are allowed to cast a vote for the presidential candidate of their choice, unbound by the popular vote. But the rules committee did approve a compromise measure that binds some superdelegates to the results of their state primaries.

The debate over the first amendment, which failed 108 to 58, pit insurgent Sanders backers against the party establishment.

Advocates of the amendment argued that it would make the presidential selection process more democratic, ensuring that all presidential delegates are elected by popular vote. Opponents of the amendment argued that the superdelegate system ensured a greater diversity of voices and that there should be more deliberation before it is changed.

“It’s been stated that if this resolution were adopted that it would pit elected officials or politicians against community activists who would be vying to become delegates to the convention,” said former Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia, an amendment backer. “As a politician and as a community activist in my community, all I can say is this is a silly argument to make!”

Garcia was referring to an argument first raised in a Congressional Black Caucus letter sent in June where the lawmakers argued that they preferred the superdelegate system because it allowed them to evade “the burdensome necessity of competing against constituents for the honor of representing the state during the nominating process.”

“I am fully aware of those who have concerns with the superdelegate process. But I’m also aware of the issues of diversity and the balance that superdelegates have given,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, defending the current system as allowing greater diversity. “I want no one left along the highway of despair because their voice was not heard.”

“On the issue of inclusion, on the issue of racial justice, this is not justice,” Lilian Sharpley, an African-American Ohio Democrat who backed the amendment, argued. “We need to trust the people to vote.”

Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, a superdelegate speaking on behalf of the Clinton campaign, offered procedural arguments saying that the issue itself was not germane to the committee.

“Everyone agrees that this is a complicated issue; it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. But it’s not an issue that this committee can definitely address today,” he said. He also went on to cite a Vietnam veteran he personally knew who was a superdelegate, saying that the system “has provided opportunities for participation.”

After the defeat of the first amendment, the Sanders and Clinton camps met and came up with draft language for a “unity commission” to meet shortly after the general election to draw up changes to the party’s nominating process.

As part of the language of that proposal, which passed the committee 158 to 6, the commission will be charged to “make specific recommendations providing that members of Congress, governors and distinguished party leaders … remain unpledged and free to support their nominee of choice, but that remaining unpledged delegates be required to cast their vote at the convention for candidates in proportion to the vote received for each candidate in their state.”

The Washington Post‘s Dave Weigel reports that this would effectively bind two-thirds of superdelegates to voting as their states vote in the presidential nominating process.

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Donald Trump’s United States of #MAGA, Beheld Live at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, Part One

The Intercept -

Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.

—Milton’s Satan

I am not a servile puppy dog.

—Ted Cruz (paraphrased)

I will be your champion.

—Donald Trump


“AMERICA! WHAT HAPPENED to it? Where did it go? How has it flown away?” Three questions thrown down from the altar of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, by Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, patron saint of 9/11, to the 2,472 Republican delegates assembled on the Floor of the Quicken Loans Arena, also known as the Q. The day’s theme was MASA, Make America Safe Again, part of #MAGA, a popular hashtag among Trump’s online supporters, who call themselves the #TrumpTrain. MAGA is an acronym for the candidate’s slogan: Make America Great Again. The sound of MAGA, said aloud, brings to mind a pagan deity. Like: In the name of all that is good and decent, MAGA commands you, go forth and slay the barbarian hordes!

Before last week, I would have thought it naïve to ask what happened to America. But the holy terror of Giuliani’s speech (and please do watch it in full) has made the question worth asking.

Video Rudy Giuliani’s address to the RNC remixed by internet satirist Vic Berger.

Near the edge of the Floor of the Q, I found myself talking to Laurence Schiff, an Arizona delegate from the Kingman area. Schiff is a psychiatrist who heads up mental health programs in seven prisons, a Tea Party man, an early convert from Cruz to Trump, and a self-styled historian with his own talk radio show. He looked like a country doctor in late middle age, his neat, formal clothes neither new nor worn, his mouth turned slightly downward. His moist, earnest eyes fixed me through his glasses.

Schiff quickly turned our conversation to the breadth of MAGA’s appeal. “Donald Trump appeals more than you’d suspect to Latins and to minorities,” he said. “My wife is Latin. She is the biggest Trumpster around. Latins are extremely family-oriented. They tend to be pro-life. With African Americans, they tend to be very law and order.” At this point, I hushed Schiff. Giuliani had taken the stage. He began by thanking the police officers in Dallas, Baton Rogue, and Cleveland. Giuliani’s love for the police was absolute and ecumenical: “Black, white, Latino, of every race, every color, every creed, every sexual orientation…” His questions came as an improvised solo, capping a steady build with a flourish of aggravation:

“It’s time to make America safe again. It’s time to make America one again. One America!”

Giuliani verified the count with a wag of his index finger. One.

“There’s a war on the police,” Schiff said, turning to me.

“What happened to …,” Giuliani began, his pistons turning over once, not starting, and firing back up. “There’s no black America,” he said, waving to his left. “There’s no white America,” he waved to his right. “There is just … Ah-mehr-ick-ahh!” Two hands stretched out, and throttled the air, as though Giuliani was a sorcerer and America a chimera or genie that he was summoning up from the depths. Then came his three questions, shouted over the cheers. “America!” The voice high and thrillingly urgent: “What happened to it? Where did it go? How has it flown away?”

“This is the most electrifying speech of the night,” said Sandra Dowling, an Arizona delegate. She had cropped red hair, an assortment of pro-Trump pins, and a steady, self-assured voice. She was around Schiff’s age, with a doctorate in education, and she had once served as Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools.

“I like the passion, the intensity,” she said, of Giuliani. “The whole way that he sucks everybody in. He’s not lecturing to people here. He’s pulling them in and making them part of it.”

By this time, Giuliani had moved on, from domestic to foreign, police to military. “To defeat Islamic extremist terrorists, we must put them on defense,” he said. “If they are at war with us, which they have declared. We must commit ourselves to unconditional victory against them!” And from there, to the Iran deal, to Hillary Clinton, to Benghazi. He paused, taking in the thunderous chants of “USA! USA! USA!”

The followers of MAGA tend toward three-syllable chants, with equal and forceful emphasis given to each syllable. The “USA!” chant is a sunny reprise from more issue-specific chants like “Lock Her Up!” and the edgy “All Lives Matter!” (Matter, as delivered, sounds more like “Mahrr!”) Of the three letters in U.S.A., it is the A., America!, that matters most to them, not the States, certainly not the United. The “U.S.” part of the chant may be a case of linguistic atavism, an immigrant’s nostalgia for the country she has long since left. That country is, to put it plainly, the past—some of it experienced, some of it romanticized, most of it imagined.

“Now listen to this!” said Dowling. “This is the only time, all day long, that all of the delegates have come together. This is what a convention is supposed to be about.”

“Overcoming your differences, you mean?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “Look at this like a pie. You may not like the taste of the rest of the pie. But if you can find just one little sliver that you can latch onto, then you can latch onto the campaign. And that’s what I think he’s doing. He’s going through here and he’s just pulling in slivers. For everybody here. You can feel it.”

“To a certain degree, we’re props,” Schiff said, cutting in. “Something that’s made for television.” He seemed to be suggesting that the convention wasn’t really about the Floor. He might or might not have been suggesting that it was a televised simulacrum of a bottom-up democracy, with the delegates shipped in on coach flights and diesel busses to be fed at the Marriott and spurred into partisan ecstasies by the ship. “Whip” was the word on the door of a kind of control room in the hallway behind the Floor, where a few tall and formidable-looking men in suits marshaled an army of cheerleaders in orange baseball hats (convention ops), white hats (regional whips), yellow hats (state whips), and green hats (alternate whips). Many looked to be college age. They all had earpieces and “Making America Great, Est. 1776” stitched on the back of their color-ranked hats. Like the Borg on Star Trek, the word “whip” can refer to any single member of the operation, or the machine as a whole.

Schiff seemed to have an internal whip, a governor who guided him back to the party line. After referring to himself as a prop, he paused and shifted gears. “You need fifty, sixty million votes to win the presidency,” he said. “I’ve made a study of this. That’s why I think Donald Trump is the only one who can win.”

Giuliani, amplified, skull-headed, enormous on the screen: … She is in favor of even taking Syrian refugees, even though the Islamic State has told us they are going to put their operatives in with the Syrian refugees, operatives who are terrorists…

I asked Dowling which sliver of the Trump pie was hers. She said: “I want somebody, when they walk into the room, he or she, I want everyone in the world to know that they’re in charge…”

they come into Western Europe, they come here, and kill us!

Dowling: “I want everyone to know that when they speak, the rest of the world listens.”

there’s no next election. This is it! There’s no more time for us left!

“And with Donald Trump, the rest of the world will listen, and they will pay attention. National security is a big issue for me. I’m looking for strength, courage, and chutzpah.”

… No more time to repeat our mistakes of the Clinton-Obama years. Donald Trump is the agent of change.

“I want somebody to go in and go toe to toe with the president of North Korea and tell him the way it is and not be told ‘get on your hands and knees and beg me.’”

… He will be the leader of the change we need.

“I don’t want to be begging anymore.”

Getty Images

Altar Boys

Rudolph William Lewis Giuliani did not serve as one of the principal investigators of the 9/11 attacks. He did not kill the man who carried them out. As New York City’s mayor on 9/11, Giuliani led the response, the cleanup, and the first phase of rebuilding. He came on the scene as the leader of a wounded city-state and emerged from the ashes a minor Republican statesman. His main role was to speak about the tragedy on TV. His first Sept. 11, 2001 press conference was given while walking down the street, heading downtown less than an hour after Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower. “People should remain calm,” he said. He gave two more press conferences that afternoon and evening. On Sept. 23, he appeared at a prayer service at Yankee Stadium alongside Oprah Winfrey, who called him “America’s Mayor.” On Sept. 24, he went on David Letterman. On Oct. 1, he gave a moving and humane address to the United Nations. On that day, he did not talk about radical Islamic terrorism. Just terrorism—that one word was enough.

Having established a solid link with 9/11 in the public mind, Giuliani’s relationship with the event underwent a shift, from mourner to owner. By 2004, his finances and connections and political prospects much improved, Giuliani was talking about 9/11 as though it were his property, an exotic pet, an exhibit that could be packed up into a suitcase and displayed at his pleasure. He showed it off with a victim’s righteousness and a prosecutor’s zeal, and started doing some heavy spiritual lifting for the Republican Party. Last week in Cleveland, he extended his proprietary 9/11 halo to Trump, “a man with a big heart.” Trump, Giuliani said, had donated money to injured police and firefighters. Trump had done so anonymously, and he wasn’t going to be happy with Giuliani for revealing his kindness in public. “Every time New York suffered a tragedy,” Giuliani said, “Donald Trump was there to help.”

Giuliani had assumed the mayoralty by mastering big-city racial politics. He was the electoral embodiment of Travis Bickle’s “Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets” and Howard Beale, the-mad-as-hell news anchor. Giuliani had no problem with people of other races. His problem was with the panhandlers, the thugs, and the squeegee men. Patrick Moses Dorismond, who was shot by a plainclothes N.Y.P.D. officer, was an actual altar boy. But to Giuliani (then running against Hillary Clinton for the Senate) he was no altar boy, he was a man with a propensity to violence and a sealed juvenile court record, which Giuliani proceeded to release. An arrest that happened more than ten years before, when Dorismond was 13 years old, was, to Giuliani, highly relevant. The case of Amadou Diallo, the unarmed immigrant from Guinea who was shot forty-one times by plain-clothed NYPD, was, meanwhile, unfortunate. All four shooters were acquitted. Some years later, when Giuliani was no longer mayor, one of the officers was promoted.

(And yes, it is worth remembering the thousands of crime victims, disproportionately African-American, who died in New York and other big cities during the crime wave that ran from the mid-1980’s through the early 1990’s. Crime rates fell in those cities, most dramatically in New York, during Giuliani’s 1994-2001 mayoralty. How much credit Giuliani deserves for that life-saving reduction is the subject of much debate. Less debatable is the effect of his “get tough” approach on the incarceration rate of black men, the killings of black men by police, and his attempts, in the Dorismond case and others, to turn those dead black men into votes.)

As for the Muslims, Giuliani said, he would limit his rage to the barbaric terrorists who attacked us … people and forces who hijacked not just airplanes, but a great religion and turned it into a creed of terrorism dedicated to killing all of us. Those last words are from his previous red-meat speech, delivered on the first day of the 2004 RNC, in New York City. Giuliani didn’t want to kill all the Muslims, only the bad ones, the ones who are with the terrorists. He compared the pre-9/11 view of Islamic terrorism to Europe’s appeasement of Hitler during the run-up to World War II.

Long before Cruz dreamed aloud about carpet-bombing the Islamic State, Giuliani had taken the semi-sublimated racial animus of the Republican Party’s George Wallace wing (“Stand Up For America” was Wallace’s 1968 slogan) and attached it to a new and more fearsome target, al Qaeda. He used it to frame the country’s Bush-era adventures as a kind of war of righteous vengeance. The new war sounded at times like a holy war. Once, George W. Bush used the word “crusade.”

On Monday night, standing on the high altar of MAGA, Giuliani defined America’s enemy this way:

“For the purposes of the media, I did not say all of Islam. I did not say most of Islam. I said Islamic extremist terrorism. You know who you are and we’re coming to get you.”

For the purposes of the media. Either Giuliani wanted to make it clear that he was only talking about a subset of Islam. Or he wanted to make clear his wish to declare war on all of Islam, and his frustration at not being able to raise this flag in public. I believe that he was doing both, at once. Unlike Trump, Giuliani has a prosecutor’s mastery of rhetoric. He knows how to communicate a message and deny it at the same time.

Here is Giuliani on Larry King talking about Iraq during his brief run at the presidency in 2006:

The whole strategy has to be a strategy of not just pacifying places but holding them, and holding them for some period of time. It reminds me a little, on a much bigger scale, of what I had to do to reduce crime in New York City. We had to not just go into neighborhoods and make them safe, which the city had been doing for years, but the city had been going in there, making them safe, and then leaving … I’d take out Saddam Hussein in a second again … here’s what I would change. Do it with more troops. Maybe 150,000.

Making them safe. We need someone to bring law and order to the neighborhoods.

Trump, who has taken advice from Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, two of Richard Nixon’s henchmen, has borrowed from Giuliani’s classic obsessions and added illegal immigration to his witch’s brew. Trump may not know or care to know that Barack Obama has spent eight years pounding on al Qaeda, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but also through the use of drones and other covert campaigns in Syria, Somalia, and Yemen. In his two terms, George W. Bush ordered 49 drone strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban-associated targets in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Obama, during his first two years of office, ordered 174. These are facts, but to Trump and Giuliani, they may not matter. After all, what good does killing radical Islamic terrorists do if Obama refuses to call the enemy by its name?

The crowd in Cleveland was primed for Giuliani. They howled with pleasure upon hearing from Milwaukee’s sheriff, David Clark, that “blue lives matter.” The slogan sounded more credible when enunciated by an African-American. Clark has told the people of Milwaukee that obtaining their own firearms is preferable to calling 911, part of “a duty to protect yourself and your family.” On Monday, he lumped together Ferguson and Baltimore (mass street protests) with Baton Rouge (the lone-wolf murder of three police officers) as “a collapse of the social order … I call it anarchy.”

This was Giuliani’s task on Monday: Raise the emotional temperature. Melt down the differences that separate the factions. Fuse them into a mass. Political conventions customarily open with red-meat speeches, but providence saw fit to disrupt the opening nights of 2012 (Tampa, Florida) and 2008 (Saint Paul, Minnesota) with hurricanes (Isaac, Gustav). The opening night of the RNC’s 2004 convention had also featured Rudy Giuliani, at Madison Square Garden, with a presidential run still in his future. “They heard from us,” he said, claiming victory in Iraq in Afghanistan.

The Giuliani of 2016 was more familiar, with less to lose. The climax of his speech came about a minute in, just before the three questions about the whereabouts of America. He was talking about the police and the firemen:

“…when they come in to save you. They don’t care what color you are! When they come to save your life, they don’t ask if you’re black or white. They just come! To save you!

Save you from who? Was Giuliani talking about Ferguson, or Baton Rouge, or Dallas, or the World Trade Center, or al Qaeda, or the Islamic State, or Benghazi, or the mother whose son was killed by an undocumented immigrant, or the Islamic State operative who had come in over the porous border with Mexico? (This last scenario has never actually happened.) Giuliani was talking about all of these things, and injecting into each of them the image of two burning towers, and the wall that Trump would build around his republic of Make America Great Again to keep all of them out.

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Four for 4

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Creeknet, is one of four project pilots being operated as part of the MAZI initiative which will bring together components for a neighborhood network toolkit. This will feature a guide for those establishing or improving on open wireless and offline … Continue reading →

DNC Official Mulls “Fuck You Emoji” in Response to Fox News

The Intercept -

A new leak of emails from the Democratic National Committee includes one in which communications personnel share their considerable fury over a reporter’s question about Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct.

In May, Fred Lucas, a freelance reporter who said he was working for, emailed the DNC press office with a question. Donald Trump had called Hillary Clinton an enabler of Bill Clinton’s alleged misconduct with women, and Lucas wanted to know what the Committee thought of the attack strategy.

“Is there a Fuck You emoji?” Luis Miranda, communications director for the DNC, wrote in an email to his colleagues.

Rachel Palermo, DNC press assistant, replied: “hahahahahahahaha.”

Mark Paustenbach, national press secretary and deputy communications director, wrote: “We’re not responding at all.”

Lucas’s question came in response to comments Trump made about Bill and Hillary Clinton on Fox News. “She’s not a victim. She was an enabler,” Trump said. “She worked with him. She was – some of the women have been totally destroyed. Some of these women have been destroyed. And Hillary worked with him.”

Three days after his first email, Lucas emailed the DNC again. He wrote: “I hoped the DNC could weigh in on the appropriateness of Trump attacking along these lines? I would really appreciate any response you have. Thanks very much.”

Palermo emailed Miranda and Paustenbach: “The asshole from fox emailed us again. I did some research and there’s still no ‘fuck you’ emoji, unfortunately.”

The DNC declined to comment.

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DNC Staffers Mocked the Bernie Sanders Campaign, Leaked Emails Show

The Intercept -

A new trove of internal Democratic National Committee emails, stretching back to April 2016, released by Wikileaks show that the organization’s senior staff chafed at Bernie Sanders’s continued presence in the presidential primary. Staffers were also irritated by criticism that they were biased towards Hillary Clinton.

In May, chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (DWS) reacted to an MSNBC anchor criticizing her treatment of Bernie Sanders during the Democratic presidential primary by trying to force her to apologize.

On May 18th, DNC staffer Kate Houghton forwarded to Wasserman-Schultz a Breitbart News story highlighting remarks by MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezinski in which she called for the chairwoman to step down over perceived bias against Sanders during the presidential primary.

Wasserman-Schultz reacted angrily, writing that this was the “LAST straw” and instructing communications director Luis Miranda to call MSNBC president Phil Griffin to demand an apology from Brzezinski.


Miranda noted that Wasserman-Schultz had reached out to NBC’s Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd on the subject earlier. You can see that email below:


Later in the day, Miranda sent a follow up email to Todd laying out a memo trying to convince him that Wasserman-Schultz was not in fact unfair to Bernie Sanders. Todd asked him if a call with Brzezinski was really a “good idea.”


Miranda tried to de-escalate the situation, telling him that “if Mika just doesn’t like [Wasserman-Schultz], I’m not sure it’s worth either of their time”:

Annoyance at Bernie Sanders and his fans is a reoccurring theme in the emails.

Three weeks prior to the Democratic primary in California, the largest primary of the contest, DNC staffer Mark Paustenbach, the organization’s national press secretary, sent an email to Miranda pitching an anti-Bernie story that the candidate “never got his act together, that his campaign was a mess”:


A day earlier, Miranda complained that Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, had “no backbone” for complaining that DNC head Wasserman-Schultz shared some responsibility for divisiveness in the party.

Paustenbach was trying to respond to a press inquiry about a raucous Nevada state convention where the news media and opponents of the Sanders campaign complained that there was violence, including thrown chairs, that didn’t actually happen:


When Sanders campaign chair Jeff Weaver appeared on cable news to defend the conduct of Sanders backers at the Nevada convention, Wasserman-Schultz reacted harshly, writing:  “Damn liar. Particularly scummy that he barely acknowledges the violent and threatening behavior that occurred.” There was no apparent effort made to actually investigate the claims against Sanders.

As early as the end of April, the DNC was mocking up emails to message to their base about the end of Sanders’s campaign. Eric Reif, a digital staffer at the organization, sent around an email template that would be used by chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz:


DNC Deputy Communications Director Eric Walker, however, mocked as “#bernieclickbait” the idea that the DNC was tipping towards Hillary Clinton:


The emails also show internal pushback on major Sanders causes such as holding more debates and ending superdelegates.

On May 2nd, a public relations staffer named Erik Smith sent an email to DNC officials updating them on the positions of both Democratic campaigns on a May debate in California. According to Smith, the Clinton team stated that they would not participate in a debate unless it was DNC-sanctioned:


On May 18, Wasserman-Schultz sent an email to communications staff listing out talking points defending her decision to schedule only a handful of debates during the primary season:


But Miranda reacted in a mocking tone to Sanders welcoming a debate in California, which the Clinton campaign had already agreed upon earlier in the primary season:


A day earlier, Fox News editor Bill Sammon forwarded a note to the DNC in which he offered both remaining Democratic candidates a chance for a televised debate in California.


That email was a follow up to one he wrote on May 13, formally requesting that the DNC sanction a debate in California. “Given that the race is still contested, and given that you sanctioned a final trio of debates, the last of which has not yet been held, we believe a final debate would be an excellent opportunity for the candidates to, as you said when you announced these debates, ‘share Democrats’ vision for the country,'” he wrote.

“I don’t really think this makes sense. The RNC would never do an MSNBC debate for the same reason that we shouldn’t do this one,” Wasserman-Schultz responded the same day.

On May 19, Miranda appeared on Fox News and told the network they were “negotiating” for another debate, and that they “know the interest is there.” The day before, Amy Dacey, the CEO of the DNC, signed off on that messaging. Although Sanders and Fox News both agreed to debate, the DNC and Clinton campaigned never sanctioned the debate and it never happened.

After Maine Democrats passed a resolution seeking to eliminate superdelegates, DNC Vice Chair for Civic Engagement and Voter Participation Donna Brazille called it “another lunacy.” Dacey wrote that “they have no jurisdiction” to try to eliminate superdelegates:



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Virno on Human Nature

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One of the central arguments of Paolo Virno’s book When Word Becomes Flesh (Semiotext(e), 2015) is that the conditions of possibility ...

New Leak: Top DNC Official Wanted to Use Bernie Sanders’s Religious Beliefs Against Him

The Intercept -

Among the nearly 20,000 internal emails from the Democratic National Committee, released Friday by Wikileaks and presumably provided by the hacker “Guccifer 2.0,” is a May 2016 message from DNC CFO Brad Marshall. In it, he suggested that the party should “get someone to ask” Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders about his religious beliefs.
Date: 2016-05-05 03:31
Subject: No shit It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.

The email was sent to DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda and Deputy Communications Director Mark Paustenbach. It’s unclear who the “someone” in this message could be — though a member of the press seems like a safe bet. A request for comment sent to Marshall was not immediately returned.

[UPDATE at 1:03 p.m. ET: Marshall emails to say “I do not recall this. I can say it would not have been Sanders. It would probably be about a surrogate.” We have asked him who that surrogate could possibly be.]

And although Sanders is not mentioned by name, he was the only Jewish candidate from either party — an apparent weakness that Marshall believed the party could exploit in favor of Hillary Clinton.

It is also unclear why the Democratic National Committee, which isn’t supposed to favor one Democratic candidate over another until they receive a nomination, would have attempted to subvert the Sanders campaign on the grounds that “he is an atheist.”

A reply to Marshall’s email from DNC CEO Amy Dacey read only “AMEN.”

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Oil Lobby Paid Washington Post and Atlantic to Host Climate-Change Deniers at RNC

The Intercept -

At the award-winning seafood restaurant in downtown Cleveland that The Atlantic rented out for the entire four-day Republican National Convention, GOP Rep. Bill Johnson turned to me and explained that solar panels are not a viable energy source because “the sun goes down.”

Johnson had just stepped off the stage where he was one the two featured guests speaking at The Atlantic’scocktail caucus,” where restaurant staff served complimentary wine, cocktails, and “seafood towers” of shrimp, crab cakes, oysters, and mussels to delegates, guests, reporters and, of course, the people paying the bills.

The event was sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, the lobbying arm of fossil fuel giants like ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhilips.

Johnson, a climate denier and influential member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, spoke of a future when American scientists “solve these big problems” and “figure out how to harness the sun’s energy, and store it up, so that we can put it out over time.” His hypothetical invention, of course, is called a battery, and was invented over 200 years ago.

Instead of balancing Johnson with an environmentalist or a climate scientist, The Atlantic paired Johnson with another notorious climate denier: Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., who is an energy adviser to Donald Trump. Cramer has called global warming “fraudulent science by the EPA,” and once told a radio audience in 2012 that “we know the globe is cooling.”

Both congressmen went nearly unchallenged by the moderator, The Atlantic’s Washington Editor Steve Clemons, who said he wasn’t able to find an opposing speaker, but went ahead with the event anyway.

Lewis Finkel, a top lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute gave the opening remarks. “We are pushing forward for a robust energy discussion during this election cycle,” he said.

A “seafood tower” of Jumbo Shrimp

Photo: Alex Emmons

Evidence of human-made climate change is so conclusive that it’s wrong for journalists to treat its denial like a reasonable point of view. But it is a new low for major media groups to sell their brand to lobbyists and let climate truthers go unchallenged.

And The Atlantic was hardly alone. At the Republican National Convention, the American Petroleum Institute also paid the Washington Post and Politico to host panel conversations where API literature was distributed, API representatives gave opening remarks, and not one speaker was an environmentalist, climate expert, scientists, or Democrat.

At The Atlantic‘s event, Cramer and Johnson both downplayed concerns about climate science. “The 97 percent of the scientists who believe its real, don’t all believe the exact same level,” said Cramer. “Whose fault it is, what’s going to stop it, … there’s a wide range in that spectrum.”

Johnson told the audience “climate change is probably not in most American’s top 10, top 20 issues.”

Clemons offered only limited pushback. When Johnson argued that alternative energy should not receive federal subsidies, Clemons pointed out that “the natural gas and the oil industry and the fossil fuel sector also have massive subsidies built into them,” and asked Johnson, “Would you remove all of those? How do you have that discussion?”

Johnson replied with a non-answer: “You let the energy market drive the innovation. I am not against incentives … for companies trying to pursue energy-efficient projects.” Clemons did not press him on the point.

Judge for yourself:

After the event, I followed up, asking Johnson why fossil fuel companies get tens of billions of dollars a year in federal government subsidies but alternative energy must be “market-driven.” Johnson denied any knowledge of the highly controversial subsidies, the protection of which is a top priority for the oil lobby. “The American government subsidizes fossil fuels … I don’t know what you’re talking about. I haven’t voted for that,” he said.

At the Washington Post’s discussion, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said that in the past 15 years the earth was, on average, “cooling down,” but stressed “the point is that it’s not a settled science.”

Stephen Stromberg, an opinion writer moderating the panel for the Washington Post, registered his protest but quickly moved on. “I think there would be a vast bulk of climate scientists who would disagree,” he said, “but we don’t have to litigate the science of it this morning.”

The Washington Post’s discussion was hosted at a swanky brewpub the newspaper rented out for the week, a stone’s throw from the main entrance to the Quicken Loans Arena where the convention was held. The American Petroleum Institute was also an underwriter for the rental, and the brewpub offered guests free hors d’oeuvres, an open bar, and complimentary massages in a side room. API literature was stacked on tables, including the check-in desk.

Not to be outdone, Politico rented out the entire 21st floor of a high-rise hotel and offered guests hits from a prominently featured “flavored oxygen bar.” At Politico‘s API-sponsored event, the oil lobbying group’s CEO, Jack Gerard, opened the event by telling the audience that “the United States has become the superpower of energy in the world.”

Politico’s “Flavored Oxygen Bar”

Photo: Alex Emmons

Rep. Cramer, who was also a guest at the Politico event, joked with the audience that in his home state of North Dakota, “we’re for a warmer climate.” When discussing the EPA’s new standards to reduce methane emissions, a greenhouse gas far worse than carbon dioxide, he remarked “we’re not going to put diaper on cattle, let’s get real.” Both lines were met by roaring laughter.

Steven Shepard, a campaign editor at Politico, barely pushed back in his role as moderator. Instead of asking about the legitimacy of climate science, he asked the panel whether Donald Trump’s position on climate change – that it does not exist and is simply a Chinese conspiracy – would hurt the party in regional elections. None of the panelists said it would.

American journalists have long held that editorial independence is essential to hard-hitting, trusted reporting. News organizations build strong institutional barriers to prevent advertisers from influencing their journalism. But as revenue from traditional advertising has declined, newsrooms have been finding new ways to drive revenue from sponsors.

The Atlantic was a pioneer when it came to holding sponsored events. It’s always been controversial – but there have been some spectacular embarrassments as others tried new variations on the theme.

Washington Post, for instance, announced in 2009 that it would sell sponsorships for “off-the-record salons” – gatherings of D.C. elite that cost as much as $25,000 a seat. The plan violated many newsroom rules — it was aimed at single sponsors with vested interests, it involved selling access to editorial personnel, it was off the record and “confrontation” was banned. The Post eventually dropped the plan, and its ombudsman at the time, Andrew Alexander, described it as “an ethical lapse of monumental proportions.”

So how could this week’s single-sponsored events featuring editorial talent without dissenting speakers not have violated the editorial standards of The Atlantic, the Washington Post, and Politico?

Anna Bross, the senior director of communications for The Atlantic wrote in an email “The Atlantic has full control over speakers and panels produced. We do not defer any of that control to event underwriters.”

Steve Clemons, who moderated The Atlantic event, said there was no environmentalist on his panel because he couldn’t find one within the time deadline.

“I find it very important, no matter what the event is, to build in a diversity of perspective,” Clemons said. “So why didn’t we have that here? Because nobody would accept. I asked so many players, both different parties, different perspectives, private sectors players, to balance it out, and within the time we have, it didn’t happen.”

Then why not just cancel the panel? “Because I had trust in my own ability to be the alternative, and I had trust that the audience would ask questions to provide balance,” Clemons said.

“It is incumbent on us [journalists], to do what we can, to either create the debate or create the balance of views,” Clemons said. “You could argue we should have done more, and I, actually, would agree with that. I could have been more robust, and said ‘are you an idiot, do you not understand science?’ I did that in my own way, without being completely offensive.”

Washington Post Vice President for Communications Kris Corrati insisted that the sponsors had no influence on the makeup of the panel – and said the Post, too, had tried and fail to find speakers with different views.

Representatives from all three news organizations told The Intercept that the presence of journalists provided an adequate check on the views of climate-denying congressmen.

They also all noted that the American Petroleum Institute is paying for three more events – at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Politico‘s Shepard said his company’s event will have “the same exact sponsor, with a number of lawmakers that probably don’t line up with the sponsor on the issues.”

But consider the makeup of those panels. The Atlantic‘s DNC event will feature Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., a strong advocate of renewable energy. But it will also include Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, a vehement defender of fracking.

Politico‘s DNC event will feature Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a defender of fracking, and Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, who crossed party lines to vote in favor of the Keystone XL Pipeline, as well as energy advisers from the White House and Clinton campaign.

What were once blurred lines in the journalism business are becoming increasingly clear – because they have been crossed.

Earlier this month, for instance, The Intercept obtained a brochure from the Beltway newspaper The Hill in which it offered to sell interviews. For $200,000 sponsors would be granted an interview for “up to three named executives or organization representatives of your choice.”

Top Photo: A coal-fired plant.

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Republican Leaders Choose Their Own Future Over Donald Trump’s

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Republicans have nominated the least popular presidential nominee in recent history — and it showed. Throughout the week, the biggest names on the convention schedule consciously avoided lavishing too much praise on the nominee himself, for fear of their own political futures.

House Speaker Paul Ryan mentioned Trump just twice in his address. Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, locked in a tough re-election race, mentioned the nominee just once. Ted Cruz, the second-place finisher in the primary, refused to endorse Trump at all, telling attendees instead to “vote your conscience.”

And these were the Republicans who showed up to speak. Many major party figures didn’t attend at all. Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake told the press he wasn’t attending because he had to mow his lawn. None of the Bushes showed up.

Rather than effusively praising Trump – a job left to group of scam artists who have attached themselves to Trump, indifferent to any long-term damage he does to the party or conservatism – the GOP pols focused on imploring members of their own party to support their own nominee. Traditionally, the convention is a time for the GOP to make its pitch to independents and disgruntled Democrats.

“If you are a conservative, a decision not to vote or to vote for a third-party candidate is a de facto vote for Hillary Clinton,” evangelical movement leader Jerry Falwell Jr. warned. His concern is not abstract: Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson has been picking up steam and is pulling over 10 percent in some polls.

The go-to method to rile up delegates and rally the Republican television audience was citing the threat of a Hillary Clinton victory. “In the end, this election comes down to just two names on the ballot, so let’s resolve here and now that Hillary Clinton will never become president of the United States of America,” vice presidential nominee Mike Pence told the audience.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich lamely countered Cruz’s advice to “vote your conscience,” by insisting that Trump was the obvious candidate by process of elimination. “Ted Cruz said you can vote your conscience for anyone who will uphold the Constitution. In this election, there is only one candidate who will uphold the Constitution,” Gingrich said. “So to paraphrase Ted Cruz, if you want to protect the Constitution of United States, the only possible candidate this fall is the Trump-Pence Republican ticket.”

This notable lack of enthusiasm from the party’s elder statesmen is a major break with how Republicans united behind their nominees in the past.

Take, for example, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s address before the 2004 convention that nominated George W. Bush, and compare it to Ryan’s.

In Ryan’s two scant mentions of Trump, he proclaimed that he would be standing next to “Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump” at next year’s State of the Union address. He also told attendees that “only with Donald Trump and Mike Pence do we have a chance for a better way” — not describing what that way was, nor praising any of Trump’s policies, values, or character.

Hastert, by contrast, offered effuse praise for Bush, saying that “George W. Bush shares the hopeful vision of Lincoln and Reagan. He believes in peace through strength. He believes that the economy grows when the private sector grows, not when the government grows.” Hastert concluded his remarks by saying that “George W. Bush is a strong leader with the right vision for America.”

Ryan’s own address in 2012, when he was Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick, is also instructive. In that speech, he specifically praised Romney’s character. “You see, some people can’t be dragged down by the usual cheap tactics, because their ability, character, and plain decency are so obvious – and ladies and gentlemen, that is Mitt Romney.”

Cruz’s non-endorsement this year also stands in contrast with his speech in 2012, where he implored voters to “Stand together with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Restore the American love story.”

The reluctance to associate too closely with Trump is likely a result of the latter’s unpopularity even among traditional Republican voters and backers.

In an NBC poll taken in late June, a majority of conservative Republicans said they’d prefer someone else as the nominee. On Wednesday morning, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the big-business lobby traditionally allied to the Republicans, refused to throw his support behind either Trump or Clinton yet.

This is a change from 2012, when Republicans had little problem uniting their voters behind nominee Mitt Romney. By April 2012, around the time Romney secured the nomination, 9 in 10 conservative Republicans said they would support Romney.

To the extent that anybody outside Trump’s immediate family was effusive about the candidate, it was speakers who were more like The Donald himself — individuals skilled in running get-rich-quick schemes to nab some fame and fortune but who have essentially no policy ideas. They were happy to endorse Trump for short-term benefit, regardless of any long-term damage it does to the party or conservatism.

Take speaker Michelle Van Etten. The Republican National Committee marketed her as a small businesswoman who “employs over 100,000 people,” but in an interview on Monday, she admitted that she actually doesn’t have any employees. Van Etten peddles pseudoscientific health products that she claims will do everything from improve your basic health to fight cancer. “This company appears to be a pyramid scheme…a world class scam,” Britt Hermes, an expert on the scam nutritional supplements industry, told The Daily Beast.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Governor Rick Scott are elected officials who praised Trump, but they both arguably belong in the scam-artist category as well.

Bondi, for instance, dropped an investigation into one of Trump’s for-profit colleges just days after the mogul wrote her campaign a $25,000 check.

Scott, who nabbed a primetime speech on Thursday, helmed hospital chain Columbia/HCA that committed some of the worst Medicare fraud in U.S. history — eventually being ordered to pay $840 million in penalties by the Department of Justice in 2000.

It wasn’t always this way. The GOP was once a party that worked much harder to address the concerns of ordinary people, was based on broad voter foundations and sustainable plans for the future, and unflinchingly supported its own presidential nominees. But for at least the next four months, it’s the party of Donald J. Trump.

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In Cleveland, Lonely Protesters Marched Through Empty Streets

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Organizers for the Stand Together Against Trump rally in Cleveland had planned for 5,000 participants. The march, a peaceful demonstration that “America’s fundamental ideals of liberty and equality are greater than Trump’s incessant scapegoating and bullying,” was supposed to close out a week that some had predicted would overshadow the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, which came amid nationwide civil unrest and race riots and exploded in violence.

But there was no mayhem in Cleveland.

On Thursday, hours before Donald Trump took the stage to accept the nomination, a couple hundred people showed up for what had been expected to be one of the week’s largest events. The event did in fact turn out to be one of the largest in a series of relatively unimpressive ones — a fitting end to the massive protests that never were.

I feel like I'm crossing the Sahara… And there's a protest on the other side of it #RNCinCLE

— Alice Speri (@alicesperi) July 21, 2016

It's like Trump's wall went up in Cleveland overnight #RNCinCLE

— Alice Speri (@alicesperi) July 21, 2016

Abandon all hope ye who enter #RNCinCLE

— Alice Speri (@alicesperi) July 21, 2016

Those who made it to the rally — trekking out in scorching heat to a designated parade route a half-hour walk from the convention center — were unrelenting. On a long bridge overpassing a desolate industrial zone, nowhere close to the buzz of the convention center but also far from cars, passersby, or really any sign of life, they carried hopeful signs claiming, “We’re better than this” and “Love trumps hate,” and chanted “Vote your conscience” in a nod to Ted Cruz’s words the night prior.

People chanting "Vote your conscience" #RNCinCLE

— Alice Speri (@alicesperi) July 21, 2016

But their physical isolation in a deserted section of the city sent a stronger message.

A line of bored police officers on bikes — a trademark of the convention — stopped the protesters, without too much enthusiasm, as soon as they came in sight of the city’s downtown skyline.

Guess we're not allowed through here? #RNCinCLE

— Alice Speri (@alicesperi) July 21, 2016

Surrounded by metal gates on one side and a dirt hill on the other, demonstrators shouted, unironically, “this is what democracy looks like.” Then they turned around and went back to where they came from — an empty lot the ACLU, which sued the city over the remoteness of the official parade route, called an “industrial wasteland.”

Last glimmer of resistance crossing the Cleveland desert #RNCinCLE

— Alice Speri (@alicesperi) July 21, 2016

Thanks to the ACLU lawsuit, which led to a settlement with the city easing up some of the restrictions on protest, not all rallies this week were confined to a highway in the middle of nowhere. But even those that took place downtown struggled to make a mark, and the drama on the convention floor far outdid that on the streets.

“Last night was a quiet night,” Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson told reporters at a Thursday morning press conference, repeating what he had said every other morning this week. “We don’t have much to report on.”


In total, 24 people were arrested in convention-related incidents as of Friday morning, most at a flag burning protest on Wednesday. But while legal observers denounced those arrests, and delays in the processing of arrestees, as “troubling,” the final count was significantly lower than what most expected, with the city having announced ahead of the convention that it was prepared to “handle upwards of 1,000 arrests per day.”

With hours to go to the official nomination, the Mayor and Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams seemed both relieved the week had passed without major incidents and mindful not to jinx their good luck before it was really over. “We still have an entire day to go through,” Williams said. But in a sign that the fear of chaos had largely passed, he spent the rest of the time talking about the heat expected in the city for the last day of the convention — well into the ‘90s.

“If you’re a protester, bring some water with you,” he said. “It’s going to be hot.”

The heat didn’t stop a last couple attempts at resistance. On Thursday afternoon, a small group of protesters, including a handful with masks and bandanas over their faces, briefly spilled into the streets, chanting “our streets,” while a couple rival protesters shouted back at them “socialism sucks.”

"Don't touch me!" #RNCinCLE

— Alice Speri (@alicesperi) July 21, 2016

The arguing group circled around one of the downtown areas designated for protest a couple times, swarmed by dozens of reporters and followed closely by even more officers on bikes. A couple of verbal confrontations ensued, as journalists, protesters, legal observers, and even a handful of police officers recorded every move on dozens of cameras and cell phones.

Then, as quickly had it had erupted, the last short-lived burst of protest ended at a nearby park, where volunteers with the Food Not Bombs group handed out apples and water to exhausted anarchists, Trump-supporters, and reporters alike. The RNC was almost over.

Rod Webber, an artist who came from Boston for the week and said he had been to 173 protests and political rallies this year alone, handed out yellow daisies to fellow protesters of all views — “offering a flower for de-escalation,” he said.

He and other activists staying at a house outside the city were raided by the FBI earlier this week, the latest in a series of similar incidents that civil rights advocates say have seriously stifled dissent and had a direct impact on the low turnout at the convention. And while the response to protesters didn’t escalate to the levels seen elsewhere, Webber denied it had been peaceful.

“Sure, no one has been shot, so it was peaceful in that sense,” he said, adding that protesters were sometimes pushed around and officers put guns “in people’s faces.”  “I don’t want to have higher expectations for violence,” he added. “Any level of violence is unacceptable to me.”

Especially when you shoot them at people #RNCinCLE

— Alice Speri (@alicesperi) July 21, 2016

For Anna Fisher, a high-schooler from Youngstown, Ohio, holding a “Guns save lives” sign, this was the very first protest.

“I thought it would be a little more violent,” she said, echoing what seemed to be a widely held sentiment.

By Thursday evening, Cleveland’s Public Square, which throughout the week had been home to preachers of all ideologies, anti-war grandmothers, gay bashers, supporters of black and blue lives, open carriers and wall opponents, was filled with children playing in a water fountain and reporters napping on benches next to helmets and flak vests they never had to use.

A couple of locals walked around in shirts reading “Make America Cleveland again,” and out-of-towners started talking about next week’s Democratic convention in Philadelphia, sure it would be “bigger.”

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The post In Cleveland, Lonely Protesters Marched Through Empty Streets appeared first on The Intercept.

Donald Trump’s Long Rant Thrilled David Duke, But Alienated Many Others

The Intercept -

Updated | 12:28 p.m.

As Donald Trump shouted for 76 minutes on Thursday night about how horrible everything is in the dystopian fiction he’s confused for America, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan found himself nodding along in agreement.

So the white supremacist David Duke, who was nearly elected governor of Louisiana in 1991 by channeling white resentment, posted a rave review of the address on Twitter.

Great Trump Speech, America First! Stop Wars! Defeat the Corrupt elites! Protect our Borders!, Fair Trade! Couldn't have said it better!

— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) July 22, 2016

A few hours later, as Duke announced that he was joining the race for an open Senate seat in Louisiana, he added: “I’m overjoyed to see Donald Trump, and most Americans, embrace most of the issues I’ve championed for years. My slogan remains, ‘America First.'”

Trump’s fear-mongering speech — which featured a chilling distillation of his calls for a ban on Muslims entering the United States in the line, “We don’t want them in our country!” — was also praised by Geert Wilders, a Dutch nationalist politician who was in the hall.

Great speech @realDonaldTrump !#RNCinCLE

— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) July 22, 2016

In an interview on Wednesday, Wilders pledged to “close the Dutch borders for immigrants from Islamic countries immediately,” if he becomes prime minister of the Netherlands next year.

And former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who foreshadowed Trump’s tone in his own address Monday night, also had high praise.

Rudy Reacts to Trump: 'Best Acceptance Speech I've Ever Seen!'

— FoxNewsInsider (@FoxNewsInsider) July 22, 2016

Trump’s long, error-riddled address — which began with the boast that he’d won 14 million votes (or 2.8 million less than Hillary Clinton) — went down less well with critics of the candidate, including members of his own party like Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, and Stuart Stevens, who ran Mitt Romney’s campaign in 2012.

He is summoning primal forces of anger/fear, displaying leadership without moral guardrails, religious principles or civic responsibility.

— Michael Gerson (@MJGerson) July 22, 2016

Give him credit for this: @realDonaldTrump is a dark, disturbed man & he sees in the country what he sees in the mirror.

— stuart stevens (@stuartpstevens) July 22, 2016

The speech, which in tone and content was reminiscent of the opening salvo of his campaign last year — when he hyped fears about Mexican immigrants being rapists and criminals — was also panned from the other side of the political spectrum, by Sen. Bernie Sanders, watching at home, and Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin, a protester who interrupted Trump’s speech by unfurling a banner that said “build bridges not walls” — and was dragged from the hall.


— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 22, 2016

Trump: “I alone can fix this.”
Is this guy running for president or dictator? #RNCwithBernie

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 22, 2016

Watch @codepink's @medeabenjamin interrupt @realdonaldtrump's remarks at #RNCinCLE (via @paulblu)

— HuffPost Politics (@HuffPostPol) July 22, 2016

Here is footage of the anti Trump protester being dragged out of the arena:

— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) July 22, 2016

I just disrupted #Trump to say BUILD BRIDGES NOT WALLS!!

— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) July 22, 2016

Those negative reviews were amplified by an array of Trump critics, including the rapper Chuck D, the Russian dissident Garry Kasparov and satirist, Jon Stewart, who borrowed Stephen Colbert’s Late Show desk to deliver some analysis.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha Trump speech alienated 70% of USA the rest have stock in the confederacy & klan #ToldYall

— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) July 22, 2016

I’ve heard this sort of speech a lot in the last 15 years and trust me, it doesn’t sound any better in Russian.

— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) July 22, 2016

This from Andrew Sullivan captures Trump's prepared remarks quite well

— Shadi Hamid (@shadihamid) July 22, 2016

This speech sounds like Mexican state elections where throwing the incumbent governor in prison is a popular campaign promise. #RNCinCLE

— David Agren (@el_reportero) July 22, 2016

The reassuring thing about Trump's speech is no-one will fall for such a deceitful mix of xenophobia, made-up "facts" and lies. Oh. #Brexit

— David Schneider (@davidschneider) July 22, 2016

@realDonaldTrump is crazier and more nassacistic than Gaddafi was #RNCinCLE

— josh stacher (@jstacher) July 22, 2016

The question isn't how the speech sounded in the hall, but to Americans locked in their panic rooms and bomb shelters.

— Conor Friedersdorf (@conor64) July 22, 2016

A system in which a charismatic figure says only he can fix things, restore order and expel unwanted groups. There should be a name for that

— Doug Saunders (@DougSaunders) July 22, 2016

Keep thinking of this…

— Lisa Tozzi (@lisatozzi) July 22, 2016

Folks, we should really stop with the Hitler comparisons. Trump is a lot more like Mussolini.

— Bearded Stoner (@beardedstoner) July 22, 2016

Mussolini, in a rare English speech, saluted "my fellow citizens, who are working to make America great."

— Alexis C. Madrigal (@alexismadrigal) July 22, 2016

Here is Jon Stewart’s @colbertlateshow monologue from tonight. Well worth your time.

— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) July 22, 2016

All was not lost for the candidate, however, since the night did win him at least one well-known supporter:  the former chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Martin Shkreli, who was charged with securities fraud last year.

Trump has my unmitigated endorsement. It was hard won and I was skeptical. The entire Trump family convinced me.

— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) July 22, 2016

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Donald Trump’s Convention Speech Rings Terrifying Historical Alarm Bells

The Intercept -

Donald Trump’s speech accepting the Republican nomination for president will probably go down as one of the most frightening pieces of political rhetoric in U.S. history.

Even for people who believe the danger of genuine authoritarianism on the U.S. right is often exaggerated, it’s impossible not to hear in Trump’s speech echoes of the words and strategies of the world’s worst leaders.

Trump had just one message for Americans: Be afraid. You are under terrible threats from forces inside and outside your country, and he’s the only person who can save us.

The scariest part is how Trump subtly but clearly has begun melding together violence against U.S. police and terrorism: “The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities,” he said, “threaten our very way of life.”

This is the favorite and most dangerous message of demagogues across all space and time. After all, if we know our external enemies are deeply evil, and our internal enemies are somehow their allies, we can feel justified in doing anything at all to our internal enemies. That’s just logic.

And if anything, Trump’s speech is actually more terrific, fabulous and huge than those of previous fanatics, since he promises he’s going to fix everything overnight. “The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon — and I mean very soon — come to an end,” Trump says. “Beginning on January 20th of 2017, safety will be restored.”

This use of fear to destroy democracy is so old that it’s described exactly in Plato’s Republic, written in Ancient Greece around 380 B.C.

Tyranny, says Socrates in The Republic, is actually “an outgrowth of democracy.” And would-be tyrants always in every instance claim to be shielding regular people from terrible danger: “This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears above ground he is a protector.”

Trump said that he is going to “protect” Americans or some aspect of American life 13 times tonight.

That makes sense, since as he portrayed the world, we desperately need protecting:

Nearly 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records, ordered deported from our country, are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens. …

Egypt was turned over to the radical Muslim brotherhood. … Iran is on the path to nuclear weapons. …

This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism and weakness. …

My plan will begin with safety at home – which means safe neighborhoods, secure borders, and protection from terrorism. …

I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people who cannot defend themselves. …

America was shocked to its core when our police officers in Dallas were brutally executed. … I have a message to every last person threatening the peace on our streets and the safety of our police: When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country. …

We must also address the growing threats we face from outside America. …

Men, women and children viciously mowed down. Lives ruined. Families ripped apart. … Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. …

We Will Make America Safe Again.

As The Republic explains, leaders like this inevitably end up “standing up in the chariot of State with the reins in his hand, no longer protector, but tyrant absolute.” This is how liberty “passes into the harshest and bitterest form of slavery.”

The good news is that if you turn off cable news — apparently the only source of Donald Trump’s knowledge about the world — and go outside, you’ll find that the U.S. is probably safer today than it’s ever been.

Despite the misleading statistics Trump used again tonight, the rate of murder and crime overall remains far, far lower than in the past. You also don’t need to worry about ISIS: even after the massacre of 49 people in Orlando, it’s likely more Americans will be killed by bee stings in 2016 than by terrorism.

Nonetheless, anyone who knows anything about the past must be genuinely worried that a major party could nominate someone like Trump. As the German philosopher Hegel famously said 200 years ago, “What experience and history teach is this — that people and governments never have learned anything from history.”

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The post Donald Trump’s Convention Speech Rings Terrifying Historical Alarm Bells appeared first on The Intercept.

Peter Thiel: I Miss the Days of Strong, Daring Federal Spending

The Intercept -

In a stilted, wide-eyed address to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, PayPal co-founder and Trump delegate Peter Thiel made one thing clear: America owes a great deal of its role as a global technology leader to the government.

“In 1968, the world’s high tech capital wasn’t just one city… all of America was high tech. It’s hard to remember this but our government was once high tech too. When I moved to Cleveland, defense research was laying the foundations for the internet. The Apollo Program was just about to put a man on the moon… The future felt limitless.”

Indeed, ARPA spending on national network infrastructure undoubtedly gave America a head start that resulted in Silicon Valley’s ascendant place in the global hardware and software economies—you know, the same thing that allowed Peter Thiel to walk onstage and boast about his success from PayPal and Facebook. This message about how federal spending fuels large-scale innovation, delivered before an audience of GOP faithful for whom privatization and government shrinkage is a near-religious priority, was a lovely (and perhaps inadvertent) moment of honesty.

But Thiel did touch on the private sector, touting his native Silicon Valley as an example of a properly functioning community:

Where I work in Silicon Valley, it’s hard to see where America has gone wrong…

We don’t accept… incompetence in Silicon Valley, and we must not accept it from our government.

Of course, even the briefest survey of Silicon Valley reveals a culture that is rife with incompetence, where the basic rules you’d follow running a lemonade stand — taking in more than you spend, for example, or adhering to basic quality standards — are discarded in favor of explosive growth and runaway valuations. (Thiel used the dreaded B-word, but not to describe his own back yard: “Meanwhile Wall Street bankers inflate bubbles in everything from government bonds to Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees.”)

Thiel neglected to mention that Silicon Valley is also in the midst of a serious slowdown, where the bubble inflated by venture capital firms like his own Founders Fund—not Wall Street—shows sign of popping, or at least deflating.

But we knew Thiel’s speech wouldn’t have to necessarily make sense, or cohere with the GOP. Thiel is at this point the only relevant and interesting person to speak at the convention, short of Trump himself. His gift to the Trump/Pence campaign was to get people whooping and tweeting and envisioning billions, and in that he succeeded.

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Donald Trump Crams Two Errors Into One Statement on Turkey

The Intercept -

In an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, after suggesting that he might not defend another member of the NATO alliance in the event of a Russian attack, Donald Trump was asked if he was paying close attention to what was happening in Turkey, following the failed coup attempt last week.

Trump replied that he had been impressed by the efforts of the Turkish people, who took to the streets to prevent the military from seizing power — but did so in a way that demonstrated his ignorance about a central facet of what took place last Friday night.

“They came out on the streets,” Trump said, according to the transcript, “and the army types didn’t want to drive over them like they did in Tiananmen Square when they sort of drived them over, and that was the end of that. Right? People said, ‘I’m not going to drive over people.'”

In this brief comment, Trump managed to be completely wrong about both what took place in Turkey last week, and the backstory to an iconic image from the 1989 protests in China.

In fact, while many reports from Turkey featured images of protesters standing in front of tanks — evoking the heroism of the anonymous “tank man” who tried to stop the military assault on Tiananmen Square three decades ago — there was also graphic visual evidence that tanks in some places ran down protesters and killed them.

Turkey's Tank Man.

— Keyan Zhang (@keyanzhang) July 16, 2016

Erdogan's office sent out video of moment tank rolls over cars on Istanbul bridge during #TurkeyCoup (via @tufeyli_)

— Jon Williams (@WilliamsJon) July 17, 2016

Some of the deeply distressing video of protesters being crushed by tanks is nearly unwatchable, but such graphic images of civilians being run over or torn apart were widely shared on social networks in Turkey, and helped fuel anger at the soldiers who carried out these atrocities.

Tank insanlar? ezdi TEM'de #DarbeyeHay?r

— Halil ?brahim Acar (@AcarHalilacar) July 15, 2016

Halk?n?n üzerinden geçen tank!Lanet olsun lanet olsun Allah kahretsin! #darbe #ankara #istanbul #DarbeyeHay?r

— Umut (@uumuutarslan) July 16, 2016

Surveillance camera footage also showed tanks opening fire on civilian protesters on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul in the early hours of Friday morning.

[Video] – Failed Coup attempt in #Turkey

— ANADOLU AGENCY (ENG) (@anadoluagency) July 21, 2016

It was revulsion at these massacres that prompted calls for Turkey to reintroduce the death penalty to deal with the guilty soldiers, and gave Erdogan popular support for the sweeping arrest of thousands accused of sympathizing with the coup plotters.

Trump’s lack of awareness about what took place in Turkey was matched by his confusion about what happened to the Chinese man who famously blocked the path of a column of tanks during the attack on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing ‘s Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989.

As the New York Times reported the next day, after a few tense minutes, the photographers who captured the scene watched as the man was eventually dragged away, not run over.

The lead tank came to a stop squarely on the yellow line in the street, and for a long moment the man just stood there. But then he leaped onto the tank. He bounded over the hood and leaned into the hatch, talking to the soldiers inside, perhaps pleading for them to abandon their vehicles.

After pacing back and forth on the hood of the tank, the man climbed down. A passing bicyclist stopped to chat with him. Then two other men ran into the street. One, in a dark shirt, had his hands up, as if to say, ”Don’t shoot.”

The two grabbed the man in the white shirt by the arms and hustled him off. And then the confrontation was over. The tanks were on their way again.

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The post Donald Trump Crams Two Errors Into One Statement on Turkey appeared first on The Intercept.


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