Qassem Suleimani killed

As you all probably know, the US has made an airstrike in Iraq, killing Qassem Suleimani and several others.

I am not going to be sorry that Qassem Suleimani is gone, but as Mano Singham says, this is really really bad. Iran is not going to take this lightly.

Also, there is the whole problem of assassinating people – if this becomes widespread, it would mean that the US leadership would become a legitimate target for e.g. Iran. This is not a good thing, and is why most countries have signed up to use the international criminal court, ICC, to prosecute people instead – of course, the US is not a state party to the ICC.

If you want to know more about Qassem Suleimani, the New Yorker had a good portrait of him in 2013 The Shadow Commander.

Lazy linking – the Trump circus

Impeachment

The open hearings in the impeachment inquiry have started, and despite the orders from Trump of people not participating, some key people have already been in and have given some pretty damning evidence.

So far we have heard career diplomats like William Taylor, George Kent, and Marie Yovanovitch speak about what they experienced, and it has been pretty damning.

For a full transcript of the testimony by Taylor and Kent see: Read George Kent and William Taylor’s Full Opening Statements at the First Public Hearing in Trump’s Impeachment Inquiry

As for Marie Yovanovitch, this is an article worth reading.

“This Is the Way Gangsters Operate”: A Hero Is Born as Yovanovitch Gives Voice to Widespread Rage at State

The diplomatic rank and file believe Mike Pompeo has allowed Trump to pollute the State Department with politics. Marie Yovanovitch made their case. “I think people are feeling huge pride in Masha,” says a former ambassador.

While the testimony of the three career diplomats have been very damning, things are going to be much worse for Trump. Coming up are witnesses like State Department official David Holmes , US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, Defense Department official Laura Cooper, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, and National Security Council staffer Fiona Hill. And many more are probably to come, including John Bolton and Mick Mulvany, especially if the courts find that the House’s subpoena overrules the orders from Trump (something which would be obvious in any other timeline).

Roger Stone found guilty

It hasn’t gotten much notice, but Roger Stone has been found guilty on all counts, making him the 6th Trump Associate Convicted Under Mueller Probe.

Giuliani is in trouble

Or so it would seem

Giuliani ‘is potentially in a heap of trouble’ and could be indicted today: ex-prosecutor

On MSNBC’s “AM Joy,” former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade suggested that President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani could be indicted today, based just on the facts that are already known about his involvement in the Ukraine plot.

The idea of Giuliani going to jail is bringing me great joy.

Trump pardons war criminals

Trump uses his presidential power to grant pardons – and unsurprisingly he pardons the worst sort of people.

Trump Clears Three Service Members in War Crimes Cases

Top military leaders have pushed back hard against clearing the three men. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy have argued that such a move would undermine the military code of justice, and would serve as a bad example to other troops in the field, administration officials said.

It is not like US soldiers often get prosecuted for their actions in war zones, and even rarer they get found guilty. In these cases, there is clear evidence that they killed unarmed civilians – often the witnesses were their fellow soldiers – yet Trump decides that he knows better, and pardons them.

Trump, Greenland, and Denmark

So, Denmark has been a bit in the new lately. First there was some minor coverage of the fact that Trump was going to visit the country in early September. Later the coverage became much more massive, because Trump stated that he was going to ask Denmark to sell Greenland to the US. This idea was rebuffed by the Danish PM, who in a Danish newspaper called the idea “absurd”, and pointed out that we are past the time where countries sell other countries and populations. Trump didn’t take this rejection kindly, and he cancelled the visit, calling the Danish PM (or perhaps her choice of words) nasty.

It is rare for world leaders to actually say what they think about Trump’s ideas, so this has gotten a lot more coverage than Trump’s usual inept foreign blunders – see e.g. Washington Post’s <a href=”https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/08/21/foreign-leader-finally-said-what-she-really-thought-about-trumps-ideas-trump-clearly-didnt-like-it/?fbclid=IwAR1l5cOU1jlN7_XYR_QTX7svegFXJmjlKHh_fc0zHMQI8wxFaVPpVxF-4aA” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>A foreign leader finally said what she really thought about Trump’s ideas. Trump called that ‘nasty.’</a>

Unsurprisingly to most people outside Trump’s election base, the Danish PM’s answer to Trump is deeply popular among people from Denmark and Greenland.

It is popular for several reasons, one of them the simple fact that she was entirely correct in calling the idea absurd. It is correct because asking Denmark to sell Greenland is similar to asking England to sell Scotland – they are two distinct territories within the Kingdom of Denmark, and Mette Frederiksen is only the PM of Denmark, not Greenland.

Denmark does, however, hold a lot of power over Greenland, and in theory, it could happen that Denmark decided to ignore the autonomy of Greenland, and sell it, but as Mette Frederiksen said, the time for that kind of behavior is long past. Also, Greenland matter a lot for Denmark and the Danish’s view of their importance in the world.

To make clear how unpopular the suggestion, and later reaction by Trump was, I present you with this tweet, by the conservative politician Mai Mercado

The Conservatives are in opposition to the current government, and generally don’t go out of their way to back up the Danish PM. They are also generally very pro-USA, and more or less consider Ronald Reagan a patron saint. And Mai Mercado is not just any member of the Conservatives – she is one of the leaders.

Not surprisingly, Trump reacted to the rejection by trying to bully Denmark and the Danish PM

This prompted an reaction by Lars Løkke, the former PM of Denmark, and the biggest rival to Mette Frederiksen.

Now, because some of the people involved are sane adults, there is an attempt to normalize the relationship, but I think that Trump won’t be able to invite himself to Denmark anytime soon.

One note about the attempt to normalize the relationship – some have tried to downplay the usage of the word “absurd”, claiming that it has a less strong meaning in Danish than in English. That is to some degree true, but not in the situation where Mette Frederiksen used it. And it was an absurd idea.

Reporting on the Mueller Report

The redacted Mueller Report came out yesterday, and there is already some great reporting on it, Let’s just say, that unlike what the Trump administration tried to spin it as, the report is pretty bad for Trump.

You can find a searchable version of the report here.

Lawfare has been busy with writing their first thoughts in What Mueller Found on Russia and on Obstruction: A First Analysis

“Really the best day since he got elected,” said Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor, about a day on which 400 pages dropped into the public’s lap describing relentless presidential misconduct and serial engagements between his campaign and a foreign actor. The weeks-long lag between Attorney General William Barr’s announcement of Robert Mueller’s top-line findings and the release of the Mueller report itself created space for an alternate reality in which the document released today might give rise to such a statement. But the cries of vindication do not survive even the most cursory examination of the document itself.

No, Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, and no, he did not conclude that President Trump had obstructed justice. But Mueller emphatically did not find that there had been “no collusion” either. Indeed, he described in page after damning page a dramatic pattern of Russian outreach to figures close to the president, including to Trump’s campaign and his business; Mueller described receptivity to this outreach on the part of those figures; he described a positive eagerness on the part of the Trump campaign to benefit from illegal Russian activity and that of its cutouts; he described serial lies about it all. And he describes as well a pattern of behavior on the part of the president in his interactions with law enforcement that is simply incompatible with the president’s duty to “take care” that the laws are “faithfully executed”—a pattern Mueller explicitly declined to conclude did not obstruct justice.

The Mueller report is a document this country will be absorbing for months to come. Below is a first crack at analyzing the features that are most salient to us.

Politico has made a an annotated guide to the redacted Mueller report

The Justice Department on Thursday released a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials and whether the president obstructed justice.

While the investigation did not find hard evidence of collusion, the report detailed numerous instances in which Trump tried to interfere with the probe.

We’re annotating the document in real time, pulling out the excerpts we find most interesting, and giving you the analysis you need to understand Mueller’s findings.

Andrew Torrez does a great job at looking at the Barr report summary, and how it holds up to the actual report over at Opening Arguments in the episode OA271: Dis-Barred (?) – The Mueller Report

Podcast recommendations

I have come across a few interesting podcasts, that I thought I’d share with the rest of you.

The first of them, came to me via Tony, who recommended it. It is Uncivil, which is described thus:

A history podcast from Gimlet Media, where we go back to the time our divisions turned into a war, and bring you stories left out of the official history.

The second podcast, is really a series of episodes of a podcast. It is the Seeing White series of the Scene on Radio podcast.

Just what is going on with white people? Police shootings of unarmed African Americans. Acts of domestic terrorism by white supremacists. The renewed embrace of raw, undisguised white-identity politics. Unending racial inequity in schools, housing, criminal justice, and hiring. Some of this feels new, but in truth it’s an old story.

Why? Where did the notion of “whiteness” come from? What does it mean? What is whiteness for?

Scene on Radio host and producer John Biewen took a deep dive into these questions, along with an array of leading scholars and regular guest Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, in this fourteen-part documentary series, released between February and August 2017. The series editor is Loretta Williams.

This was again a podcast that came to me via Tony.

Opening Arguments a podcast by Andrew Torres and Thomas Smith. A progressive podcast, focusing on legal matters. It describes itself thus:

Opening Arguments is the show that pairs a real-life, Harvard-educated lawyer (Andrew) with an inquisitive host (Thomas). Every episode, Thomas and Andrew take on a popular legal topic and give you all the tools you need to understand the issue and win every argument you have on Facebook, with your Uncle Frank, or wherever someone is wrong on the Internet.

Thomas and Andrew have tackled Hillary Clinton’s emails, Jill Stein’s recounts, the Emoluments clause, overtime regulations, Roe v. Wade, the wacky “sovereign citizen” movement, and much, much more!

It’s law. It’s politics. It’s fun. We don’t tell you what to think, we just set up the Opening Arguments.

A few weeks ago, I was at QED in Manchester, where I heard Hannah Fry give a brilliant talk. This made me look up her work, and I was reminded that she is one of the two hosts of The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry, a show that addresses listener questions from a scientific angle.

The Archaeological Fantasies Podcast describes itself thus:

Welcome to the Archaeological Fantasies Podcast. Join Sara Head and Doctors Ken Feder and Jeb Card as they explore the wild world of pseudoarchaeology. They look critically at topics ranging from Transoceanic travliers, Ancient Aliens, and Vikings in America, all the way to archaeological evidence of Big Foot.

Elections have consequences, so please vote

Back in 2016, US voters had the chance of voting against Trump, and unfortunately failed. The failure came in many forms, but can pretty much be summed up as not voting for the viable candidate running against him – by which I mean, that not enough people voted for Hillary Clinton.

A lot of us warned about the dangers of electing Trump, but many people didn’t take it seriously, so they either didn’t vote, voted 3rd party and in effect throwing their vote away in the presidential election, or even worse, voted for Trump as some kind of protest vote. Of course, many also voted for Trump because they supported him and his monstrous ideas.

Well, two years of Trump has clearly shown that all of worst fears have come to pass – he is a bumbling bigot, navigating the world of politics like a drunken sailor, offending allies, aiding enemies, and pretty much focusing on enriching himself, his family, and his allies.

Now, it is the mid-way elections in the US. This won’t give Americans the chance of removing Trump – for that we’ll have to wait for the 2020 elections – but it will give Americans a chance to reign in Trump, by giving him a political opposition.

So, this election, please vote, and please vote for the Democrats – at least on the federal level. On the state level, I’d also suggest voting for the Democrats, as the GOP generally has done a horrible job at governing states, but there might be the rare exception here and there.

This is the true Republican party

I guess most of my readers have followed the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. I am not going to comment on it here, as there are plenty of other people out there explaining why the hearings clearly shows that Kavanaugh is unsuitable for any judicial job.

Instead I am going to point out that it is worth observing the behavior of the Republican party. Even the so-called moderates among the Republicans are supporting Kavanaugh, even though he is clearly extremely partisan and unsuited for the role. In other words, they are putting politics over the greater good of society.

Democrats are willing to compromise when they are in power, Republicans are not.

Remember this. Remember this, and vote against the Republicans. Not just at the presidential elections, but at all elections.

We need the Democrats to gain enough seats to stop the Republicans from keep harming the country and to undo the harm they have already done. An impeachment of Brett Kavanaugh would be a good place to start (no matter the result of the hearings).

Lazy linking

A few links to articles and blogposts that I think worth sharing

Laurie Penny has written a long-read article about not debating people: No, I Will Not Debate You

Civility will never defeat fascism, no matter what The Economist thinks.

Professor Julie Libarkin of Michigan State University has compiled a list of know harassers in academia

Rates of sexual abuse and harassment in academic science are second only to the military. It’s estimated that at least half of women faculty and staff face harassment and abuse and that 20 to 50 percent of women students in science, engineering, and medicine are abused by faculty. Those numbers are generally based on surveys, which are an important way of getting a handle on the problem and how it changes women’s career trajectories.

But when it comes to holding institutions accountable and making meaningful changes, naming perpetrators may be even more powerful.

Julie Libarkin has taken on the challenge of creating a database of harassers. She’s a professor at Michigan State University and she heads the Geocognition Research Laboratory. She’s compiled a list of some 700 cases of sexual misconduct in academia.

The human league: what separates us from other animals? by Adam Rutherford

You are an animal, but a very special one. Mostly bald, you’re an ape, descended from apes; your features and actions are carved or winnowed by natural selection. But what a special simian you are. Shakespeare crystallised this thought a good 250 years before Charles Darwin positioned us as a creature at the end of the slightest of twigs on a single, bewildering family tree that encompasses 4bn years, a lot of twists and turns, and 1 billion species.

Republicans hoped voters would forget they tried to kill Obamacare. They bet wrong. by Andy Slavitt

Andy Slavitt described his article thus on twitter:

Do you notice this phenomenon where your MOC behaves differently in odd numbered years and even numbered years? My @USATODAY column this week explains.

There’s overwhelming evidence that the criminal-justice system is racist. Here’s the proof. by Radley Balko

This is very relevant to my earlier post about the need for a reform in the US judicial system.

Attempting murder by cop

In the last few weeks, we have heard numerous stories about white people calling the cops on POC for no good reason at all. Sometimes it has been dressed up as an accusation of e.g. shoplifting (with no evidence), but in most cases, it seems like it was simply because the POC were not white enough. Some examples:

There are of course many more, and they represent the tip of the iceberg of the use of 911 against POC, as The New Republic describes in their article Starbucks, Yale, and the Abuse of 911 Against Black Americans

A few years ago, a white person calling 911 might be able to argue that they were doing their civil duty, while ignoring the fact that the incident they called 911 about, didn’t warrant such a call in the slightest. They could say that if they had overreacted, the police would sort it all out – no harm, no foul, and all that.

After Ferguson, the campaigns of Black Lives Matter, and the well documented list of cases where the police has shot black people.

And don’t think that those people were all armed and being a threat to the police. Many were unarmed – in the case of black women, 60%.

All of this adds up to a dark conclusion – when white people call the police on POC, they might as well be attempting murder by cop.

They are trying to put the POC into their place, by any means necessary, and if that results in the cop shooting the POC, then so be it.

Lazy linking – Teen Vogue edition

Teen Vogue has a new executive editor, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, who some of you might know from her time at feministing.

I expect that Teen Vogue will continue with their great articles under Samhita Mukhopadhyay, and judging from their newest issue, this is certainly the case.

They have a great portrait of teens fighting for gun control. The portrait doesn’t just cover the Parkland teens, but also some of the many other teens fighting for it across the US.

Gun Violence Will Be Stopped By These 9 Young Activists

Teen Vogue invited gun violence survivors and gun control activists to talk about the power of the next generation: young people who are working to end mass shootings and ensure student safety once and for all. Clifton Kinnie of Ferguson, Missouri; Nick Joseph, Emma González, Jaclyn Corin, and Sarah Chadwick of Parkland, Florida; Jazmine Wildcat of Riverton, Wyoming; Kenidra Woods of St. Louis; Nza-Ari Khepra of Chicago, Illinois; and Natalie Barden of Newtown, Connecticut — youth from different backgrounds with different connections to the issue — to speak candidly about their experiences and what’s to come.

Teen Vogue also has an op-ed written by Parkland activist Emma González on Why This Generation Needs Gun Control, and an article on the NRA

There are also several other great articles, including Chris Evans Opened Up About Being an Ally for Women During the #MeToo Movement, so I expect that Teen Vogue will continue to be an important news source for a while yet.