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Trump Actually Just Compared the Authoritarian Saudi Regime to Justice Brett Kavanaugh

October 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Aren't there people who are supposed to stop him from saying these things?

Speaking with the Associated Press on Tuesday, President Donald Trump compared the treatment of the authoritarian Saudi regime — known for committing atrocities in its war on Yemen and for being implicated recently in the likely murder of a critical journalist — with new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“Here we go again with you know you’re guilty until proven innocent,” Trump told the AP. The AP added: “He is comparing it to allegations of sexual assault leveled against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.”

After sexual assault allegations emerged against Kavanaugh during the nomination process, Trump repeatedly complained that the way the nominee was treated violated “due process” and the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” — even though those standards apply only to criminal trials, not Senate confirmations.

The fact that he would now compare his Supreme Court nominee to the Saudi regime — which is unquestionably linked to no end of suffering and human rights abuses — is stunning.

And, as many writers including Conor Friedersdorf pointed out, Trump and the GOP's claims to be defenders of due process and fair treatment of the accused is patently self-interested and cynical. Republicans don't care about “due process” when it comes to marginalized groups, like communities of color they want to throw in jail or immigrants they want to deport en masse.

Moreover, as NBC reporter Tom Winter pointed out, both U.S. intelligence agencies and Trump's close Republican allies — such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)  — seem to believe the regime is guilty of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Which raises the question: Why is Trump so committed to defending the Saudis? Why is it in his interest to vigorously defend them as he did Kavanaugh?

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'Debased, Degraded and Treated Subhuman': Trump Family Biographer Explains What Happens When Women Challenge the President

October 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Emily Jane Fox has published a book on the Trump family children.

Trump family biographer Emily Jane Fox reacted to President Donald Trump's insults toward Stormy Daniels on Tuesday by pointing out the deeply misogynistic patterns of behavior he has displayed — including in the White House.

President Trump went on the attack against Daniels, who alleges she had an extra-marital affiar with Trump in 2006, Tuesday morning after he defeated her defamation allegations in court. He called her “horseface” and a “con job” — to which she fired back by saying he's interested in bestiality and implying that he has a small penis.

Fox noted that Trump's extreme reaction to Daniels shows the warped double standard he holds the women to in his life.

“Women, often, in the White House who do not challenge him are treated better than the men in the White House,” she said. “You see that with Ivanka Trump, you saw that with Hope Hicks, you saw that last week when Nikki Haley stepped down from her job. No one got the treatment when they stepped down from the job. You saw that with Dina Powell who likely would have been welcomed back with open arms.”

She continued: “But women who challenge him are debased, degraded and treated subhuman. They're compared to animals all the time. It's just — this is the language that comes out of our White House? I know that we shouldn't be surprised. This happens time and time again. Not just with women, with men, too. This is how he talks about everybody. But it's just striking — at this very critical moment where a journalist has likely been murdered by someone, a royal family, who he has embraced and his son-in-law has very personally embraced — that this is what he's spending his time doing?”

What the clip below:

…read more


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How a Dictator Got Away With a Brazen Murder in D.C. in 1976

October 16, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Flowers surround a memorial for Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt in Washington, D.C. who were murdered in an attack ordered by Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

One September morning in 1976, a bomb blew up a car as it was driving up Embassy Row in Washington, D.C. When police arrived at the scene, they found a human foot in the road, and a man lying on the pavement who was missing half his legs. Minutes later, he was dead.

That man was 44-year-old Orlando Letelier, the most prominent Chilean exile living in the U.S. The former ambassador had fled his country two years before to escape persecution under General Augusto Pinochet. Chile was an American ally during the Cold War, and it seemed unthinkable that Pinochet would be so bold as to carry assassinate him in the U.S. capital. But as we now know from declassified documents, that’s exactly what he did. In fact, he even considered killing his head of intelligence to cover his tracks.

Letelier had been an ambassador to the U.S. under Chile’s democratically elected president Salvador Allende, whose administration the CIA covertly undermined. On September 11, 1973, Pinochet succeeded Allende in a coup d’état. That same day, Pinochet’s people arrested Letelier and other officials from Allende’s government and sent them to concentration camps.

After nearly a year in prison, Chile released Letelier under international pressure from Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, among others. Letelier sought refuge the U.S., and while traveling through Venezuela to get there, he told The New York Times: “they’re going to kill me.” The “they,” he seemed to imply, were the National Intelligence Directorate, or DINA—Pinochet’s secret police.

For two years, Letelier worked at the Institute for Policy Studies in D.C. His assistant Juan Gabriel Valdés—who now holds Letelier’s position of Chilean ambassador to the U.S.—said that during that time Letelier received threats slipped under his door.

“Orlando always dismissed our concerns, saying: ‘They would never dare to attack me in Washington,’” Valdés tells The Washington Post. “‘If they want to attack me, they will wait for me to be in Europe, particularly in [the Netherlands],’ where he traveled a lot.”

Orlando Letelier, Chilean ambassador to the U.S., in April 1975.

The day before Letelier’s assassination on September 21, 1976, he told a man who worked for him, Michael Moffitt, that he suspected DINA was behind recent attacks on Chilean …read more


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Forensic Specialist Describes How Investigators Will Uncover 'Toxic And Painted-Over' Materials at Crime Scene for Journalist's Murder

October 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

The chemical Luminol could prove incredibly important for investigators probing the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Turkish police have concluded an intensive nine-hour inspection of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, searching for possible clues in the disappearance of Saudi journalist and Washington Postcolumnist Jamal Khashoggi—who was last seen entering the Consulate two weeks ago on Tuesday, October 2. The Turkish authorities were searching for evidence of foul play, and after the inspection concluded, forensic specialist Karen Smith offered her insights during an October 16 interview with CNN’s Brooke Baldwin.


Turkish authorities have alleged that they have video and audio recordings proving that Saudi agents murdered Khashoggi inside the Consulate before dismembering his body. And the police in Istanbul were reported to have used the chemical Luminol during their inspection.

According to Smith—a retired sheriff’s detective from Jacksonville, Florida who has handled 500 death investigations—Luminol can show evidence of foul play no matter how thoroughly one tries to cover up evidence.

“There have been scientific studies with painted surfaces where blood has been removed—seven layers of paint, and they have still detected it with a chemical called Luminol,” Smith told CNN’s Baldwin.

Luminol, Smith noted, is typically used to inspect cleaned up crime scenes. And in the type of “atrocious, horrendous crime scene” being alleged in Istanbul, Smith said, Luminol could easily turn up evidence that foul play occurred.

“Even if they painted the surfaces, even if they used bleach, there’s still going to be something left,” Smith told Baldwin.   

Asked if Luminol could offer specifics on the type of crime committed, Smith responded, “zol has some drawbacks. It’s mixed in water. That dilutes what you’re spraying it on.”

“Minute details,” according to Smith, “may not be readily available. However, shoe prints might still be there….So what we’re looking for here is basically just evidence that a violent crime occurred, see if they can extract some DNA, and then do comparisons in the lab later.”

…read more


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This Pro-Slavery American Monument Stands Out as Particularly Disgusting — and Disproves the Hollow Claims of Confederate Statue Defenders

October 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, Independent Media Institute

Even amidst a glutted field of racist markers, the Harpers Ferry monument stands out.

The Heyward Shepherd memorial is an overtly pro-slavery monument erected in 1931 in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. In recognition of John Brown Day, please check out an article of mine published in the Spirit of Jefferson, adapted below, about the many reasons the marker should come down.

Also below are photos from the protest of the Confederate plaque on the Charles Town, West Virginia, courthouse on Friday, October 12. Among the protesters was the group of women whose joint letter launched the campaign for removal last year. Members of the West Virginia Women’s March were also involved in the demonstration, titled “Let’s Make It Right: Remove the Plaque.”

The following is adapted from “Heyward Shepherd ‘Tribute’ Is a Racist Relic That Must Come Down”:

The inscription on what’s now known as the Heyward Shepherd memorial in Harpers Ferry makes clear that while it is a monument to many things—racism, slavery and oppression above all—Heyward Shepherd the human being is not among them.

Shepherd (whose actual first name was Haywood) had been a free black man, a baggage handler on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and a husband and father of five. As the first person killed in abolitionist John Brown’s failed 1859 attempt to incite an armed revolt among enslaved people, Shepherd’s accidental death was an historic casualty. The latter fact made Shepherd into a person of interest to the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). After learning that students at Storer College, an historically black institution in Harpers Ferry, had put up a plaque honoring Brown and his rebellion, the UDC endeavored to create an oppositional monument. Under the guise of honoring Shepherd, the Daughters savvily envisaged a way to exploit black death for their own propagandistic ends.

It ultimately took 10 years for the UDC to find a location that would permit installation of what they tellingly referred to as the “Faithful Slave Memorial.” …read more


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Don't Believe Donald Trump; We'll Be Just Fine Without Saudi Arabia

October 16, 2018 in Economics

By Emma Ashford

Emma Ashford

With the rumored killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, opinion
in Washington appears to be turning decisively against longtime
ally Saudi Arabia. Think tanks are returning Saudi money, lobbying firms are
rejecting Saudi business, and Congress is actively
considering sanctions on Saudi leaders.

The only holdout is President Donald Trump himself, who accepted
King Salman’s denials, dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to
Riyadh, and parroted back the idea that Khashoggi could have been
murdered by rogue killers. That “rogue killers”
are rarely found hanging out in official consulates appears not to
have crossed the president’s mind.

Trump’s defense of Saudi Arabia focused on arms sales and U.S.
jobs. But his administration has been strongly supportive of Saudi
Arabia in general, arguing that it is vital to U.S. energy security
and regional interests.

A less friendly
relationship with Saudi Arabia won’t harm U.S. interests in the
Middle East. It’s time to stop turning a blind eye to the worst
excesses of the Saudi leadership.

Four decades ago, oil and security were indeed good reasons to
maintain a strong partnership with Saudi Arabia. That is no longer
the case

For starters, U.S. and Saudi interests in the Middle East are
diverging. Saudi Arabia wants to roll back Iran and undermine
democratic gains in nearby states. The Saudi-led war in Yemen has
created a humanitarian crisis and produced the worst famine in

Whether it is arming rebels in Syria, initiating a
blockade of Qatar or kidnapping the prime minister of Lebanon, Saudi
foreign policy is increasingly a destabilizing force in the region.
Minimizing our ties to Saudi Arabia certainly won’t worsen our
regional interests. It could even improve things.

Global oil markets, meanwhile, have changed a lot since
President Jimmy Carter argued in 1980 that the United
States needed to defend the Middle East to protect the flow of oil.
It’s true that Saudi Arabia remains a major global oil producer,
but changes in the world market mean that America today is far
less reliant on Middle Eastern energy.

To keep the oil flowing, Saudi Arabia needs to be stable. It
does not need to be a U.S. ally.

Even Trump’s new justification — that Saudi arms sales are
vital to the U.S. economy — is wrong. Arms sales figures are
often inflated and are rarely as lucrative as they sound. In fact,
experts believe that the purported $110 billion of Saudi Arms sales
are in reality worth only about $28 billion. More important, they are
responsible for …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Ex-Republican Max Boot Blasts the 'Trump-Worshipers' Who Try to Claim He Was Never Conservative

October 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

What even is a conservative these days?

Ex-Republican Max Boot has come out strongly against his former party as it has capitulated to every character flaw and authoritarian impulse of President Donald Trump. But now he's facing pushback from some of his former allies who insist that he isn't — and never was — a conservative.

And with Trump having taken over the party that was once supposedly defined by the ideology of conservativism, Boot admits that there's a reasonable question about whether he should still be seen as a conservative.

“It’s hard to know for sure, because it’s hard to know what 'conservative' means anymore other than 'Trump toady,'” wrote Boot in a new Washington Post column. “Ergo, if you’re a #NeverTrumper, you must not be a real conservative — even though President Trump is antithetical to the kind of conservativism I spent most of my life espousing.”

Boot argue that those who challenge his past as a conservative are standing on shaky ground:

I became a conservative in the 1980s because of Ronald Reagan’s clear-eyed opposition to communism. I would call that moral leadership, not democratic imperialism. Moreover, I espoused not just democracy promotion but many other conservative views. I criticized political correctness, judicial activism, tort-law abuses, gun control, wasteful government spending, high tax rates and heavy-handed regulation.

What this shows is that the meaning of conservatism and conservative ideology is not a fixed point, but a growing and twisting concept. Trump is, in many ways, an outgrowth of some of the most pernicious aspects of conservative thought — which Boot is now trying to distance himself from. He recognizes that Trump represents the “kind of blood-and-soil, chauvinistic conservatism” that has always been a part of the movement.

At the same time, Trump's faux populism and embrace of trade restriction and protectionism do seem at odds with some principles though to be central to American conservatism, which even many GOP lawmakers still espouse — even as they succumb to the president's will.

“It is tempting to say that I’m the 'real' conservative and the Trump-worshipers are the imposters,” wrote Boot. “But it’s not …read more


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When the Sears Catalog Sold Everything from Houses to Hubcaps

October 16, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

The catalog was the of its time—packaged in hundreds of pages.

The story of Sears begins in 1886, when a railroad station agent in Minneapolis, Minnesota named Richard Sears started selling gold watches at $14 apiece. The mail-order watch business soon grew into a general mail-order firm. The cover of Sears, Roebuck and Co. Consumer’s Guide, No.110 circa 1900.

View the 11 images of this gallery on the original article

Before there was, there was the Sears catalog. Founded as a mail-order watch company in the late 19th century, Sears, Roebuck and Company made its name with its swollen, jam-packed catalogs that advertised everything from underwear to entire house kits. Around the holidays, families across the country would circle items in its legendary “Wish Book.”

Sears’ retail stores spread across the country and its sales stayed strong even during the Great Depression, as the company spawned now-famous brands like Kenmore, Craftsman and even Allstate Insurance.

But by the 1990s, Sears began to struggle as the company confronted competition from rival discount department stores like Kmart, Target, and Walmart, economic woes brought on by the Great Recession and the increasing dominance of e-commerce. After 132 years in business, former retail giant Sears filed for bankruptcy in October 2018, announcing it would close 142 unprofitable stores in the face of mounting competition from big-box stores and, of course,

The cover of Sears, Roebuck and Co. Consumer’s Guide, No.110 circa 1900.

Sears started with watches.

The story of Sears begins in 1886, when a railroad station agent in Minneapolis, Minnesota named Richard Sears started selling gold watches at $14 apiece. The next year, he set up shop with watchmaker Alvah Roebuck on Dearborn and Randolph Streets in Chicago. With the help of investor Julius Rosenwald, who joined the firm in 1895, their mail-order watch business soon grew into a general mail-order firm that delighted customers with its thick catalogs packed full of everything from clothing to toys to household appliances.

Advertisement for medical and veterinary supplies, circa 1897.

‘Cheapest Supply House on Earth

Early Sears catalogs billed themselves as the “Cheapest Supply House on Earth” or “the Book of Bargains,” and featured a mind-boggling array of products, including medical and veterinary supplies (pictured here), musical instruments, firearms, bicycles, sewing machines and baby buggies. By 1894, the page count of the catalog was …read more


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How Marie Antoinette's Legacy Was Sullied By Vicious Songs About Her Death

October 16, 2018 in History

By Una McIlvenna

The execution ballads about the last queen of France spread myths about her that most people still believe.

Marie Antoinette being taken to her execution on October 16, 1793.

Few women in history have inspired as many myths as Marie-Antoinette, the last queen of France, typically portrayed as the embodiment of excess and debauchery. Many of those myths are based on the vicious and often pornographic Revolutionary propaganda that poured from French printing presses in the last days of the 18th century. The effect of this propaganda has meant that for centuries she was falsely blamed for the downfall of the monarchy.

Antoinette’s supposed crimes against both France and nature itself often took the form of songs, and her beheading on October 16, 1793 inspired a slew of execution ballads, known in French as complaintes. Execution ballads were a popular genre of news song throughout early modern Europe, cheaply printed songs set to a familiar tune. They all recounted the crimes of the condemned, with some in the first-person voice of the criminal, singing of their remorse at their evil actions, and their fear of execution.

Coroner’s Report: Guillotine (TV-MA; 3:16)

Often execution ballads showed compassion for the criminal who was presented as repentant, but for the despised queen these ballads reveled in delight at her beheading for high treason. Ballads were sold on busy streets, marketplaces and bridges by ballad sellers, and then re-performed in taverns, cafés, theaters and at home by all classes of society. Thus, all could participate in the communal tarnishing of her reputation.

The songs are often brutal in their attacks on her: she is ‘Antoinette the tigress’, ‘the monster escaped from Germany’, ‘cursed creature’, ‘the scourge of the French’, ‘cruel’, ‘detestable’ and ‘hussy’. They attack her gross pride and her unnatural ambition: ‘I, who believed myself divine’, she sings in The Pride of Marie-Antoinette. In another, The Complainte of Marie Antoinette widow of L[ouis] Capet, she admits ‘From my most tender childhood/My hard and perverse heart/ Burned with impatience / To destroy the universe’.

But this naked ambition is what proves her downfall: ‘my pride / Drives me to my coffin’ she bemoans in The Death of Marie-Antoinette. And her Complainte ends with the claim that ‘her arrogant soul / Burns in Hell’. This ambition led directly, in the minds of her opponents, to thoughts …read more


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Criminally Confidential

October 16, 2018 in Economics

By Jonathan Blanks

Jonathan Blanks

Washington Post investigative journalist Radley Balko
just published a story about a Little Rock, Arkansas police unit
conducting no-knock raids with “explosive
—literally blowing the doors off of
homes—with little or no justification. It turns out many of
these drug raids were based on the word of a confidential informant
with a lengthy criminal record. As Balko lays out in his story, the
informant and the officers who relied on him are unreliable, at
best, and very possibly criminal. While the Little Rock story is
extreme in some ways, the use of confidential informants to make
drug busts invites injustice and police abuse.

The rules for using confidential (also called
“criminal”) informants in criminal investigations vary
from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but generally speaking,
employing CIs introduces three systemic flaws into the criminal
justice system. First, the use of confidential informants
definitionally requires secrecy and opacity, which shields CIs and
officers alike from sufficient oversight and accountability.
Second, the informant system relies on bad inputs—namely,
drug-addicted individuals and other people immersed in criminal
activity to act as agents of the government—and thus
effectively becomes a subsidy for criminal behavior. Third, the use
of confidential informants creates some bad incentives for law
enforcement actors and the CIs themselves, which skew toward case
production and away from public safety and security. Taken
together, and in the context of our everyday justice system, these
flaws produce an array of bad individual and public policy outcomes
while providing only superficial benefits for law enforcement.

Secrecy and Unaccountability

In reforming our criminal
justice system, we must pay greater attention to one oft-neglected
issue: the distorted use of criminal informants.

From the outset, confidential informants stand in contrast to
the original purpose and structure of our criminal justice system.
The U.S. Constitution, and particularly the Sixth Amendment,
contemplate a criminal system based on fairness and openness. All
criminal trials are public record, not to shame the accused, but
for the government to present its case to the people at large as
fair and just. Moreover, the accused has the rights to counsel, a
speedy trial before an impartial jury, and to confront (i.e.,
challenge) any witnesses who testify against him.

The term “confidential informant,” on the other
hand, is just another way to say “secret source,” also
colloquially known as a “snitch,” inside and outside of
law enforcement circles. They provide criminally implicating
information about others to police, most often maintaining their
anonymity and escaping cross-examination. As law professor
Alexandra Natapoff explained in her book Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of
American Justice
, “[S]nitching flows from two
dominant characteristics of our criminal justice system: plea
bargaining, and …read more

Source: OP-EDS