Cold Grey Pre-Dawn Open Thread: He’s Decompensating, and None of His GOP Fellows Cares

If you weren’t paying attention during Reagan’s second term, take my word: The old man was visibly falling to pieces, week by week. But unlike the current Oval Office Occupant, Ronnie at least had a wife who cared enough to fight for him, and a moderately competent bunch of advisors alert to the possibility that they themselves might be held accountable some day.

Today’s Repubs haven’t got even that rudimentary sense of self preservation — they’re just grabbing everything they can steal before the whole rotten Potemkin village falls apart.

Read more

Predictable Sad Coda: The Twin Peaks Shoot-Out in Waco

What else could the DA do? It was a bureaucratic nightmare!

…[McLennan County District Attorney Barry] Johnson inherited the Twin Peaks cases when he took office in January, and said he has spent 75 percent of his time since then with a team of prosecutors and investigators trying to determine how to resolve the remaining cases.

Johnson’s decision Tuesday means that no one will be held accountable for the multiple deaths or injuries or for the chaotic battle between heavily armed, rival motorcycle clubs waged in a crowded shopping center parking lot while families were on their way to lunch after Sunday church.

In announcing his decision, Johnson said it is time to “end this nightmare that we have been dealing with in this county since May 17, 2015.” …

About 200 bikers were arrested after the shootout on identical charges of engaging in organized criminal activity and held on $1 million bonds each. Former McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna sought indictments against 155 bikers on those identical charges and chose to try Jacob Carrizal, the Bandidos Dallas county chapter president, first.

Carrizal’s case ended in mistrial in November 2017, with most of the jurors in his case favoring acquittal, and no other defendant has been tried since.

The way Reyna handled the Twin Peaks cases was the centerpiece of Johnson’s campaign, and he defeated Reyna in the March 2018 Republican primary by 20 percentage points. After the primary, Reyna dismissed all but 24 of the remaining Twin Peaks cases. The special prosecutors appointed to handle four of the cases after Reyna recused his office also were critical of the manner in which the cases were handled and dismissed them, also…

Carrizal is among those whose cases are to be dismissed. Johnson noted that his trial cost $1 million in preparation and trial costs, plus an additional $500,000 in security and overtime pay after county officials ratcheted up security for his trial.

“To open that Pandora’s Box back up and start down that road again when we don’t feel that, after looking at the facts and the evidence, that we would be able to meet our burden of beyond a reasonable doubt would be irresponsible, in my opinion. Therefore, I am making the decision now to end this nightmare that we have been dealing with in this county since May 17, 2015,” Johnson said…

Further reinforcing the outlander perception that nothing good comes out of Waco. I remember posting about this back in 2015, but my weak search skills fail me…

Republican Venality: National (In)Security & The Cost of Corruption

Betty Cracker already posted about the risks of this potential security breach, but seriously — this is the kind of petty, venal abuse we used to mock when it happened in poverty-stricken, desperate authoritarian states:

… Ms. Newbold’s decision to accuse her own office of rampant mismanagement of the security clearances of at least 25 employees came after months of what she characterized as personal discrimination and professional retaliation from Carl Kline, the office’s former director, after she spent roughly a year trying to raise issues internally.

In a White House where aggressive leak investigations are conducted in service of President Trump, who has aides sign nondisclosure agreements, Ms. Newbold’s account represents the rarest of developments: a damning on-the-record account from a current employee inside his ranks…

Described as both “no nonsense” and “intense” by people who have interacted with her during the clearance process, Ms. Newbold has served under four presidential administrations, beginning with the Clinton White House in 2000. Eventually she worked her way up to adjudications manager, a job that required her to help make determinations about the security clearances of administration employees. Her office is filled with holdovers from other administrations, and it is meant to be nonpartisan.

Yet in the Trump administration the office was filled with people who had little experience in vetting employees in the interest of national security, Ms. Newbold said in a nine-hour deposition with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform last week.

Ms. Newbold told the committee that at least two senior administration officials had been granted security clearances — which gave them access to classified information — despite possible disqualifying issues. She also told the committee that she had compiled a list of at least 25 individuals, including contractors and senior advisers, who had a “wide range” of disqualifying information, including drug use, financial problems and criminal conduct…

Surely the ‘Party of National Security’ will speak up about this travesty!…

Professor of international relations Stephen M. Walt, at Foreign Policy, “America’s Corruption Is a National Security Threat”:

… [C]orruption is inherently inefficient. Instead of resources going where they are most needed, they get diverted into bribes, payoffs, kickbacks, and other shady arrangements. And when the wealthy and powerful use connections to get jobs or contracts (or to get their kids into college), that means that more deserving and talented people get excluded and less qualified people end up in positions of authority. The more common such practices become, the more honest and law-abiding people will be tempted to follow suit just to keep up. And once corruption becomes endemic in a society, rooting it out becomes difficult if not impossible.
Read more

The Similarities Are Not Unlikely, the Connections Have Existed for Years, the Idea Held In Common Is Anti-Semitism, and the Facilitating Link is the Internet

On Saturday The BBC published an article entitled The Unlikely Similarities Between the Far Right and IS. The article begins with:

Far-right extremists in Britain have been accessing terrorism material published online by the Islamic State group, counter-terrorism experts have told the BBC.

They say neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists have been studying methods of attack shared by jihadists with their followers on the internet.

But we should not be surprised that they do share some similarities.

The author then seeks to provide the answers:

Counter-terrorism officers have been using a range of methods, including phone taps, to gather intelligence on what the most violent individuals have been planning or aspiring to do.

In some cases, arrests have been made after suspects have been caught downloading child pornography. But officials say that neo-Nazis and other extremists have also been accessing material to plan attacks published by their ideological enemies, Islamic State.

This may seem strange, but it should not come as a surprise.

Their ideologies may be diametrically opposed to each other but there are some disturbing similarities between them, some of which are obvious, others less so.

He goes on to tick off a list of similarities from intolerance of anyone else’s views first among them. Nado Bakos, more popularly known by the title to her forthcoming book as The Targeter, tweeted out the article without comment:

Marcy Wheeler, more popularly known by the name of her blog EmptyWheel made an interesting reply:

What Wheeler has zeroed in on, and correctly so, is what is missing from the article: historical context about connections between these groups and what facilitated and enabled that connection. Specifically the historical context that can be provided by someone who has been doing comparative research into violent extremists and terrorists since the early 1990s. And that’s where I come in. One of the oldest, and now apparently no longer available, white supremacist websites was named Be Wise as Serpents. You can see a reference to it with a link that does nothing at this page cataloguing these sites at GWU. Be Wise as Serpents was one of the primary websites for the Aryan Nations, which was, at one time, the most active of the Christian Identity groups. It spun off two active terrorist groups: the original The Order and a subsequent group of the same name.  The sites name is derived from Matthew 10:16 and, in addition to having the standard Aryan Nations and Christian Identity information,  conspiracy theories, etc, it also linked to the website of an expatriate Algerian army officer who had fled to Sweden seeking asylum to avoid prosecution for his adherence to an extremist version of Islam. This individual’s website hosted The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, as well as just about every other anti-Semitic conspiracy theory known in the early to mid 90s. He also linked back to the Aryan Nations’ site.

Both of these sites are now defunct, but back when I was still an academic and teaching courses on terrorism and extremism, I would use them as examples in my classroom – first at UF, then at Temple, and then at UCA. The commonality that led these two disparate groups of extremists – white supremacists adhering to a racialized version of Pentacostalism in the US and an Islamic extremist asylee in Sweden – was anti-Semitism, specifically the conspiracy theory that Jews have always and were continuing to manipulate politics, economics, global events, and even non-Jewish religions to their own benefit. What allowed them to link up into a loose and informal network was the Internet.

As Wheeler’s commentary by tweet so accurately points out, this is not unlikely at all and the reporter downplays the likelihood/possibility of coordination even though that is not an accurate assessment. That’s because the coordination, even as innocuous as being able to easily and quickly access information to both confirm and further one’s own extremist views, has been going on for a very, very long time.  The coordination is really all about the sharing of ideas. The Be Wise as Serpents site eventually went defunct as the Aryan Nations came apart from both the lawsuits filed against it by The Southern Poverty Law Center, the death of its longtime leader Richard Gurnt Butler after a period of scandal*, and the fighting by those claiming to be his successors. I have no idea what happened to the guy in Sweden. But these connections, and the directions of influence, go back to the earliest days of the Internet, which facilitated linkages between individuals and groups that would otherwise be considered strange bedfellows. Because as different as white supremacy and racialized Christianity may be from the various extremist versions of Islam, they do have one commonality in their extremism and conspiracism: the anti-Semitic belief that the Jews are manipulating politics, the economy, global events, even other religions for the sinister benefits of the Jews. And, perhaps more importantly, these connections and the influence they facilitate among extremists of different backgrounds, are going strong in 2019.

Open thread!

* Butler, in his final years of life, got involved with and, according to some reports had married, Wendy Iwanow, who was describing herself at the time as an Aryan Princess and tattoo artist. Iwanow was better known by her professional name Bianca Trump, The Latin Princess of Porn, who had starred in such classics as Brassiere to Eternity.

Monday Morning Open Thread: Due Warning

I never could see the point to April Fool jokes — if it’s practical, it ain’t a joke — but really: In the time of the Squatter-in-Chief, how the fvck can you tell whether something ridiculous / outrageous is a joke, or just another Monday?

The following chyron, for instance, appeared on Sunday, March 31. *Not* an April Fool’s joke, although I wouldn’t put it past Faux News to try pretending it was: