Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Last Call For On And On To Pyongyang, Con't

So remember the reports of the USS Carl Vinson carrier task force heading for North Korea?  The NY Times followed up and realized that said carrier task force didn't actually head towards North Korea at all, and Trump was just lying again.

As worries deepened last week about whether North Korea would conduct a missile test, the White House declared that ordering an American aircraft carrier into the Sea of Japan would send a powerful deterrent signal and give President Trump more options in responding to the North’s provocative behavior. 
The problem was, the carrier, the Carl Vinson, and the four other warships in its strike force were at that very moment sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.


White House officials said on Tuesday they were relying on guidance from the Defense Department. Officials there described a glitch-ridden sequence of events, from a premature announcement of the deployment by the military’s Pacific Command to an erroneous explanation by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — all of which perpetuated the false narrative that an American armada was racing toward the waters off North Korea. 
By the time the White House was asked about the Carl Vinson on April 11, its imminent arrival had been emblazoned on front pages across East Asia, fanning fears that Mr. Trump was considering a pre-emptive military strike on North Korea. It was portrayed as further evidence of the president’s muscular style two days after he ordered a missile strike on Syria while he and President Xi Jinping of China were finishing dessert during a meeting in Florida.

The saga of the wayward carrier might never have come to light, had the Navy not posted a photograph on Monday of the Carl Vinson sailing through the Sunda Strait, which separates the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra. The picture was taken on Saturday, four days after the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, described its mission in the Sea of Japan.

Only now is the Vinson on its way to the Korean Peninsula, something neither the White House nor the Pentagon chose to correct in the last 9 days.  The White House flat out lied about this, plain and simple.  At this point, assume everything coming out of the White House is in fact a complete fabrication unless confirmed otherwise.

A Few Bad Blue Apples

Meanwhile, the Attorney General of the United States of America is publicly arguing that police killing innocent people is an acceptable practice, so just shut up about it already before the real criminals kill everyone you love.

Violent crime is surging in American cities. To combat this wave of violence and protect our communities, we need proactive policing. Yet in some cities, such policing is diminishing — with predictably dire results. 
In Chicago, arrests have fallen 36% since 2014 to the lowest level in at least 16 years. Last year, they fell in every major crime category, and they fell in every single district in the city. To put that in perspective, out of more than 500 non-fatal shootings in early 2016, only seven resulted in any sort of arrest. That’s 1%. Not surprisingly, as arrest rates plummeted in those years, the murder rate nearly doubled. Meanwhile in Baltimore, while arrests have fallen 45% in the past two years, homicides have risen 78%, and shootings have more than doubled. 
Yet amid this plague of violence, too much focus has been placed on a small number of police who are bad actors rather than on criminals. And too many people believe the solution is to impose consent decrees that discourage the proactive policing that keeps our cities safe. 
The Department of Justice agrees with the need to rebuild public confidence in law enforcement through common-sense reforms, such as de-escalation training, and we will punish any police conduct that violates civil rights. But such reforms must promote public safety and avoid harmful federal intrusion in the daily work of local police.
When proactive policing declines and violent crime rises, minority communities get hit the hardest. We will not sign consent decrees for political expediency that will cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of the criminals. Every neighborhood needs to be safe and peaceful. 
Our first priority must be to save lives, restore public safety, and bring back the community policing that we know works. To help achieve those goals, the department, with the help of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, will focus our efforts on thwarting violent crime, drug trafficking, and gun crime and gang violence. If combating violent crime and restoring public safety are seen as dramatic reversals, then I fully support such a sea change.

Again, this is the AG of the United States is telling us that the priority of the Trump regime is not just "we're not concerned about stopping police from killing innocents" but "we're actively reversing measures that stop police from killing innocents in order to give police more power, and if this results in them killing more innocents, it will be made up for by hopefully reducing the number of innocents that are killed by criminals."

If that sounds awful to you, it's because you would have to accept the basis of Sessions's argument, which is "police who are supposed to follow the law and kill innocent people is not something we can actively control, but criminals killing innocents is something we can do something about." Furthermore, you'd have to again accept that the measures used to stop police from gunning people down are actively allowing criminals to kill additional people if they are kept in place.  The problem in Sessions's world isn't bad cops, it's rules and laws and safeguards that are supposed to prevent bad cops.

I think cops should be held to a higher ethical standard than crooks, but apparently Sessions doesn't agree.  How many police shootings per year are acceptable to justify the removal of safeguard measures like federal oversight of departments with long and detailed histories of corruption and wrongdoing?

Look, I know people in the law enforcement community.  They are good people and are dedicated to their jobs, and every one of them would agree that police must be held to a different ethical standard than the people they protect, or the people they pursue.  But I also know that they work with people who don't agree with that, cops who believe that police are righteous swords of justice that cannot and should not be judged by the people who they need to protect them on a daily basis from chaos.

But the moment you buy that line of thinking, you lose the right to be called a "protector" of society. And that line of thinking is possessed by the nation's top cop now. We're all in danger when that happens, period.

And that brings us to the larger point: Sessions and Trump want America scared so that they can justify the use of brutal force, it's a standard authoritarian tactic.  This is why they are both repeatedly lying about "violent crime in America's cities on the rise" and as Sessions does above, the framing is that urban (black) neighborhoods are so crime-ridden that efforts to hold police departments accountable are actually responsible for black deaths at the hands of black criminals.

This serves as both shaming black people and scaring white people. It removes sympathy and agency from black people in black neighborhoods ("If they really thought Black Lives Matter, they would stop killing each other and let the cops come in hard") while absolving the structural racism in both policing and in America itself.  It's long been used as an effective wedge to split resistance to bad cops.

Again, this is now being used by America's chief law enforcement official.  It's disgusting and depressing and was totally predictable, and yet it helped Trump win the votes he needed to win and appoint Sessions as AG.  This is who we are in America in 2017.

We had the method to stop this.  We chose not to, or rather, 65 million of us or so chose not to, and even more chose to sit at home and do nothing about it.

Nobody's Business But The Turks, Con't

So yesterday we talked about Turkey's President Erdogan and how he basically obliterated the country's parliament with a mere majority referendum, which is bad enough.  I mean, amid nearly universal condemnation for a clear authoritarian if not outright fascist move, who's going to approve of such a comically anti-democratic act?

Well then, why don't you take a guess and the first three don't count.

President Trump called President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Monday to congratulate him on winning a much-disputed referendum that will cement his autocratic rule over the country and, in the view of many experts, erode Turkey’s democratic institutions. 
Those concerns were not mentioned in a brief readout of the phone call that the White House released Monday night. After noting Mr. Trump’s congratulations, the one-paragraph statement pivoted to a recent American missile strike on a Syrian airfield, which it said he and Mr. Erdogan had also discussed. 
The statement did not say whether Mr. Trump had raised independent reports of voting irregularities during the Turkish referendum or the government’s heavy-handed tactics in the weeks leading up to it, when the country was under a state of emergency. The State Department noted both issues in a more cautious, less laudatory statement issued a few hours earlier. 
The White House was also silent about the long-term implications of the referendum, which some experts have likened to a deathblow to democracy in Turkey. Mr. Erdogan’s narrow victory, in effect, ratifies his authoritarian rule. The change to Turkey’s Constitution will allow the winner of the 2019 presidential election to assume full control of the government, ending the current parliamentary political system. 

OK, I can see why Trump would tweet congrats because he's orange and proto-fascist, but why the full-court press with the congratulatory call and the State Department involvement?  Well, you see, about that whole "Trump being nice to Turkey" thing...

The mall was named for him. His name adorns signposts at the nearby metro station. It also looms from the sides of the twin skyscrapers that the mall sits beneath. 
Yet many of the diners, shoppers and store owners here at Trump Towers Istanbul on a recent evening could not quite believe that the complex — among the tallest buildings in one of the world’s largest predominantly Muslim cities — had anything to do with President Trump. 
Evin Sumeli, a 19-year-old training to be an anesthetist, was sitting down for a meal with her sister, Mizgin, 18, when she learned that Mr. Trump does indeed profit from the buildings. “O.K. — we’re leaving!” she declared. 
One floor below, Cigdem Turan, a cashier at a cosmetics store, was similarly surprised. “I actually asked people if he had anything to do with the building, but they said no,” said Ms. Turan, 25, who began working at Trump Towers early last fall. “My husband said it’s probably just a coincidence.”

A coincidence, however, it is not. Technically, neither Mr. Trump nor the Trump Organization owns the property (or most of the other buildings featuring the Trump name outside the United States). But in 2010, Mr. Trump allowed the building’s Turkish owners, Dogan Holding, to brand it with his name, in exchange for a sizable fee. The total has not been disclosed, but campaign records show that by July 2015, Dogan Holding had paid Mr. Trump between $1 million and $5 million for the use of his name.

The Trump regime is awfully nice to dictators who rule over countries where there's Trump-branded properties, it turns out, and there's your answer as to why Erdogan gets a personal phone call, especially since Erdogan isn't too cool with having Trump-branded buildings in Istanbul.

Gee, maybe he's cool with it now that he knows he has some leverage.

But that's nobody's business but the Turks.


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