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“A Dysfunctional Circus”: Trump Picks An Odd Time To Sue A Former Staffer

It’s tempting to assume Donald Trump would have plenty to occupy his time right now: choosing a running mate, preparing for his national nomination convention that begins in five days, trying to close the gap against Hillary Clinton, etc.

But as it turns out, the Republican candidate has also found the time to focus on filing a new lawsuit.

Donald Trump is seeking $10 million from a former aide he accused of leaking confidential information about a public spat between two senior campaign staffers, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Trump claimed that fired campaign consultant Sam Nunberg went to the press with confidential information in violation of a nondisclosure agreement, which the real estate mogul requires nearly all staffers for his campaign and businesses to sign.

Even by this campaign’s standards, it’s an odd story. Nunberg was fired last summer for publishing racist messages via social media. He then allegedly leaked word of an affair between two Trump campaign staffers. This leak, Team Trump believes, was a breach of the non-disclosure agreement Nunberg signed.

Which brings us to today’s court filing.

The Washington Post’s Robert Costa added that Trump reportedly “decided to file a lawsuit in the middle of a general-election campaign because he’s furious” with Nunberg.

But that’s not much of an explanation. Donald Trump is scheduled to receive a major-party presidential nomination literally next week. He’s announcing his running mate in two days. Whether he’s furious with Nunberg over campaign gossip or not, it’s not unreasonable to think Trump should have some impulse control.

As for the larger context, Trump’s entire political operation too often resembles a dysfunctional circus. Let’s not forget that the GOP candidate fired his campaign manager less than a month ago, and he’s parted ways with several other top aides since.

One senior aide was let go after less than three weeks on the job, while another was given the boot after less than three days.

For months, Trump’s campaign staff has earned a reputation for amateurish infighting, high turnover, and a complete lack of direction. I suspect the typical American voter will not know or care about any of this, but it matters: a national candidate who can’t run a credible campaign operation will struggle to oversee a competent White House operation.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 13, 2016

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Republican National Convention, Trump Campaign | , , , , | 2 Comments

“Counter To The Facts”: Pushing For Mosque Surveillance, Fox News Is Fighting The Last War

Reaching for one of its favorite War on Terror talking points, Fox News is leading a charge in the wake of the Orlando gun massacre to push for surveillance of mosques in America. Convinced that a pressing response to the attack on a gay nightclub is for law enforcement to keep close tabs on Muslims at prayer, Fox News continues to hype the initiative as a solution to pending terror threats in the United States — and specifically, to stem the tide of ISIS recruitment in America.

But there’s no indication domestic mosque surveillance uncovers useful terror information. Just ask the New York Police Department, whose extensive, post-9/11 Muslim surveillance program turned out to be a “failure by any reasonable standard,” according to the Cato Institute.

And now with ISIS focusing its recruitment online and hoping for self-radicalization among converts, the notion that law enforcement can round up ISIS sympathizers meeting and plotting inside American mosques runs counter to the facts.

Nonetheless, Fox News is pushing for the divisive, Bush-era tactic to be revived and embraced. “How stupid is it to pull police officers out of the mosques? Absolutely stupid,” Rudy Giuliani complained on Fox News this week, while Greg Gutfeld compared Islam to biker gangs and suggested both needed to be watched closely to head off crime sprees.

Not surprisingly, Fox News is echoing allegations often made by members of the Republican Party about how mosques are a breeding ground for homegrown terrorism and need to be spied on.

“I want surveillance of certain mosques if that’s OK,” Republican Party presumptive nominee Donald Trump told a crowd in Birmingham, Ala. last November. That same week Trump announced he’d “strongly consider” shutting down mosques in the U.S. Trump raised the idea again earlier this week at a rally in Atlanta, saying, “We have to maybe check, respectfully, the mosques and we have to check other places because this is a problem that, if we don’t solve it, it’s going to eat our country alive.”

For years, New York Republican Congressman Peter King, with the help of Fox News, led an anti-mosque crusade, complete with congressional hearings that were denounced as being McCarthy-like.

Today’s endorsement of mosque surveillance represents Fox News’ long-running attempt to collectively criminalize Islam in America and to often portray Muslims as would-be terrorists. (Recall the open hysteria Fox News helped foment in its opposition to the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in 2011.)

But Fox News’ advocacy for mosque surveillance, and its suggestion that it would help ferret out dangerous ISIS sympathizers, runs counter to recent events and counter to research that indicates those handful of American Muslims who embrace deadly violence are mostly self-radicalized and they become that way online, not by listening to sermons from radical Imams in U.S. mosques.

In the wake of recent terror attacks in Boston, San Bernardino and Orlando, there were no findings that the bombers and gunmen were radicalized in their local mosques or planned their attacks there; that the mosques were in any way directly connected to the acts of violence. There were no sweeping indictments made by law enforcement.

In fact in Boston, bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been threatened with expulsion from his mosque after he angrily interrupted a speaker who compared Prophet Muhammad with Dr. Martin Luther King. “The congregation shouted him out of the mosque,”said a spokesman for the mosque.

And that fits what researchers have been reporting in recent years.

Last December, George Washington University’s Program on Extremism issued a report, “ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa.” It showed “how social media plays a crucial role in the radicalization and, at times, mobilization of U.S.-based ISIS sympathizers,” according to the university.

Key points from the report included:

  • “Several thousand Americans consume ISIS propaganda online creating what has been described as a ‘radicalization echo chamber.’ “
  • “Twitter is ‘by far the platform of choice’ for American activists to connect. Other routes include Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr, along with messaging services like ‘Kik, Telegram, surespot, and the dark web.’”

Additionally, the report noted that jihadist radicalization in the United States is “significantly smaller” than in most European countries, in part because of fewer “radicalizing agents” in America, such as “radical mosques, extremist preachers, and recruiting networks.”

Also last year, Scott Atran, co-founder of the Center for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Oxford University, reported his research indicated, “More than 80 per cent who join the Islamic State do so through peer-to-peer relationships, mostly with friends and sometimes family. Very few join in mosques or through recruitment by anonymous strangers.”

The Associated Press reported that Atran told a meeting of the United Nations’ Security Council’s counter-terrorism committee that “radicalization rarely occurs in mosques.”

Meanwhile, a 2010 study by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that the number of radicalized Muslims in the U.S. was relatively low and that Muslim-American communities effectively prevent radicalization.

Rather than being a spawning ground for extremism, there are indications mosques are actively working to thwart it. That same 2010 study found “48 of the 120 Muslims suspected of plotting domestic terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, were turned in by fellow Muslims, including parents, mosque members and even a Facebook friend,” The New York Times reported.

Last year, the Times examined ISIS’ recruiting efforts in the United States and detailed one example of a local Imam dissuading a possible convert named Amir:

Amir then had some long talks with Imam Magid, who pointed him to passages in the Quran that forbid killing other Muslims, innocent women and children. Amir concluded that the Islamic State was only sowing chaos and hatred, which the Prophet Muhammad abhorred.

That kind of pushback against extremism from mosque leaders might be one reason why the NYPD’s massive surveillance program produced so little useful information. The operation, which remained secret for years, not only infiltrated mosques, but assigned detectives to map out entire Muslim communities, as well as track Muslims’ daily activities, and investigate college students.

The goal was to “sniff out would-be terrorists before they could launch attacks,” according to the Cato Institute.

Fox News likes to pretend it was an intelligence success, which is why it must be resuscitated. “We broke so many, so many plots by eavesdropping on these radical mosques,” Fox News’ Bo Dietl claimed last year.

In fact, the exact opposite was true.

“In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department’s secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday,” the Associated Press reported.

Correct. Six years of mosque surveillance in New York City in the wake of 9/11 did not produce a single lead or trigger one terrorism investigation for the NYPD.

But now Fox News thinks in an age of online recruiting, snooping on U.S. mosques is the answer to unearthing terror threats?

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, June 16, 2016

June 20, 2016 Posted by | American Muslims, Fox News, Orlando Shootings, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Has Happened To Our Election?”: No Candidate Has Ever Lied As Frequently, Blatantly, And Blithely As Trump

When a man’s fancy gets astride on his reason,

        imagination is at cuffs with the senses,

        and common understanding as well as common

        sense is kicked out of doors, the first proselyte he

                makes is himself.”

                                –Jonathan Swift, “A Tale of a Tub,” 1704

For a man with a satirical turn of mind, presidential election years can be trying. Apparently your humble, obedient servant here isn’t angry enough to participate fully in the festivities. This is interesting, because I’ve rarely been mistaken for Mr. Sunshine. I’d be a total failure as a game show host.

Everywhere you turn, people are shaking their fists in each other’s faces. On television and online, that is. Most days, it’d be a good idea to don a crash helmet before opening Facebook. And the summer bickering season has hardly begun. These are mostly Republicans and Democrats fighting among themselves. The main event has yet to come.

Elsewhere, people go about their normal daily activities with seeming equanimity — although there’s been a marked increase in convenience store parking space shootings, actually. Maybe an armed society’s not such a polite society after all. How surprising would it be to see gunfire erupt at a presidential campaign event?

But I digress, and ominously.

Chez Pazienza recently described a mob of Bernie Sanders backers who disrupted a recent Clinton campaign event in Los Angeles. According to one witness, “[t]hey were cussing at people, calling women whores, and telling people to kill themselves. They were shouting in children’s faces, blowing sirens in their ears, and making them cry.”

Such antics would be hard to believe, had Pazienza not posted video clips. Asked by Rachel Maddow to disavow such behavior, Sanders basically ducked the question. And this is the Hippie Party. On college campuses, Clinton supporters complain they’re called “evil,” poor things.

Do you suppose they require “trigger warnings”?

At such times I’m reminded of Jonathan Swift’s timeless satire of the root causes of political fanaticism. Writing roughly 300 years ago in the wake of the English Civil War, Swift concocted an imaginary religious sect called “Aeolists.” (Aeolus was the Roman god of wind.) His target was anybody who claimed to be “inspired,” or as he saw it, filled with hot air.

“Words are but wind,” Aeolists believed, “and learning is nothing but words; ergo, learning is nothing but wind.” Swift depicted true believers “linked together in a circular chain, with every man a pair of bellows applied to his neighbour, by which they blew up each other to the shape and size of a [barrel]…. When, by these and the like performances, they were grown sufficiently replete, they would immediately depart, and disembogue for the public good a plentiful share of their acquirements into their disciples’ chaps.”

Has a more apt description of candidate Trump’s cult of personality ever appeared? Is there nothing the man could say that would give his enraptured supporters pause? As Paul Waldman notes in the American Prospect, he’s a one man tidal wave of disinformation.

“First, there’s the sheer breadth and character of his falsehoods. Absurd exaggerations, mischaracterizations of his own past, distortions about his opponents, descriptions of events that never occurred, inventions personal and political, foreign and domestic, Trump does it all…There has simply never been a candidate who has lied as frequently, as blatantly, and as blithely as Trump.”

Trump outdid even himself on Meet the Press last Sunday, disemboguing a couple of thunderous falsehoods in our collective faces. First he allowed as how he means to stop undocumented immigrants from voting in U.S. elections.

Informed by Chuck Todd that they’re already prevented by law from doing so, Trump allowed as how “You have places where people just walk in and vote.”

If he could document even one such polling place, that would be newsworthy. But of course Trump cannot, so instead he doubled down.

“We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world,” he claimed. That one the interviewer unaccountably let go.

Actually, U.S. tax revenue ranks near the bottom of the developed world as a percentage of GDP — just above Korea, Chile and Mexico. Corporate tax rates are theoretically high, but as most people know, loopholes are so plentiful that few companies pay them.

U.S. tax revenue per capita ranks nearer the middle of industrialized nations. As conservatives never tire of pointing out in other contexts, most countries in the European Union pay twice as much as Americans.

But then why bother? One could devote whole columns as Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler recently did, to debunking Trump’s epic falsehoods. Some of them are downright funny.

No, Vladimir Putin never called Trump a “genius.” He called him “flamboyant.” Only Trump, of course, would seek the Russian strongman’s approval.

But do such considerations matter to the man’s encircled supporters, each with a bellows discreetly inserted?

I don’t believe that they do.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, May 11, 2016

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Media Is Ready To Grant Trump A Mulligan”: As Though We Hadn’t Just Witnessed His Reality Show Of The Last Six Months

If The Apprentice was basically a boardroom version of Survivor, then it shouldn’t surprise people that Donald Trump sees the Republican nominating contest as a game, and that he approaches the game the way a smart contestant approaches an elimination reality game show.

I’m no expert on this kind of strategy, but some things seem universal and obvious, like going after your strongest competitor first, and making a lot of temporary alliances. In retrospect, it’s easy to see why Trump spent all his early energy on the well-funded Jeb, why Cruz chose to be nice to Trump, and why Trump initially returned the favor.

Winning the general election is a completely different kind of game, though, so naturally Trump needs a completely different strategy. And, yes, that means that he has to play a different role. He has to actually be someone else.

And that’s precisely what he’s now promising the Republican bigwigs that he will do. I think Steve M. does a fine job of explaining this, so I’ll refer you to him rather than duplicating his efforts.

The key is that the Associated Press obtained a secret recording of a meeting that took place yesterday between Paul Manafort and top players at the Republican National Committee.

Trump’s chief strategist Paul Manafort told members of the Republican National Committee in a closed-door briefing here Thursday afternoon that his candidate has been playing a “part” on the campaign trail, but is starting to pivot toward presenting a more businesslike and presidential “persona.”

“He gets it,” Manafort told RNC members.

And this introduces a question about our modern environment. Now that every single thing you do and say seems to be captured digitally, it’s harder than ever to get away with flip-flopping, or saying one thing to one audience and something completely different to another one. Something you said on the Senate floor a quarter century ago can be brought up and plastered all over social media to make you look like a hypocrite.

Yet, the diffusion of the way people get their news, and the way that digitization kills people’s attention span (listen to a whole album lately?), makes it easier than ever to spin the news or change the subject and move on from controversy.

These two factors will be in tension as Trump tries to remake himself in front of our eyes, as though we hadn’t just witnessed the reality show of the last six months.

The media’s readiness to give him credit for this is not a good sign.

Let’s try not to forget how this campaign began. It began with widespread boycotts of Trump and Trump’s businesses because his campaign announcement had been so racist against Mexicans.

We’ve gone from that to the media applauding him for “presenting a more businesslike and presidential “persona.””

That’s amnesia, right there, and widespread media-assisted amnesia is Trump’s best hope for November.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 22, 2016

April 25, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Media, Republican National Committee | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Right To Feel Safe”: MSNBC Anchor Lives Every Female Journalist’s Nightmare

He threatened to kill my children.

He posted photographs of my house and my Atlanta-based advertising agency. He promised to send a “double-tap” my way, a marksman’s jargon for pumping two shots in close succession to my head.

He even posted “November 5, 1973”—the date of my father’s murder.

I reported the ominous messages to Twitter and sent screenshots to MSNBC executives, where I worked as a political contributor at the time. Using his Twitter handle, several followers were able to track him across various white supremacist message boards. They found his real name and the IP address he was using from a church in suburban Dallas.

“That bitch will get what’s coming to her,” he continued tweeting.

The messages were as brazen as they were brutal in nature. I remember pleading for help, demanding that someone in law enforcement take the threats seriously.

Ultimately, it would take three days and the intervention of NBC corporate security before Twitter suspended the anonymous account. The real danger, I was told by an in-house detective, might come from someone inspired by those hideous messages to carry out the threat. I was walking a friend’s daughter to summer camp at a nearby park that morning and suddenly felt vulnerable.

The damage had been done. If someone wanted me to be afraid, they had accomplished that mission many times over.

Like many of us in the public square, MSNBC anchor Melissa Harris-Perry has endured her share of malicious threats online. Monday night in an Iowa hotel, the Wake Forest professor came face-to-face with the sum of our collective fears. As caucus-goers crammed into various polling locations around the Hawkeye State, Harris-Perry was watching the cable news coverage on a television in the lobby when she noticed a man standing oddly close to her.

There was an initial query about the subjects she taught, and then a more pointed question about how she got her job at MSNBC.

“What I want to know is how you got credentialed to be on MSNBC…”

“Well. It is not exactly a credential…” she said.

“But why you? Why would they pick you?”

His voice was angry then, she said, and he’s standing closer to her, so close that she can feel his breath.

“I just want you to know why I am doing this,” he told her. He then said something about “Nazi Germany” and “rise to power.”

Harris Perry was paralyzed in fear, as he continued telling her what he was going to do to her and why. Then she sprang from her seat, put a table between them and a friend came to her defense. The stranger was scared away by their yelling and sped away in his car.

“I don’t know if he was there to kill me,” she wrote on a university blog. “I know they [her students] were there to save me.” Her immediate fear was not just of dying, but being killed in front of her students.

Hotel security seemed hardly bothered by the incident, according to Harris-Perry, even after she explained the torrent of death threats she receives regularly.

I know what that feels like. I know what it feels like to be told that I am “making a big deal” out things. So much so, that I now only report the most egregious offenses and I no longer host public meet-ups among my social media followers. I assess and triage each and every message. In every instance, I have to bet on being right.

I can certainly deal with the mocking attitudes of those who do not agree with my politics or policy positions. That comes with the territory. However, every few days or so, someone creates a fake Twitter account in my name in an attempt to assail my public reputation with malicious and sometimes lurid posts. At last count, one anonymous user has created more than 50 accounts specifically dedicated to trolling me. The most virulent threats came during the George Zimmerman trial. The night of the verdict, I spent hours blocking thousands of intemperate and sometimes threatening strangers.

The social tools afforded by Twitter and other social networks aren’t enough. But even the most effective security features would not have prevented what happened to Harris-Perry.

The goal is to terrorize, to make it too uncomfortable for us to continue taking public stands on any number of issues. All too often, they target women. For me, it doesn’t matter if it happens to Harris-Perry, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, or a housewife in Minnesota. We have the right to feel safe—online, in a public space, or in our homes.

 

By: Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast, February 3, 2016

February 4, 2016 Posted by | Journalists, Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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