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erronis

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Hometown: Green Mountains
Home country: US
Member since: Tue Feb 5, 2013, 04:27 PM
Number of posts: 11,446

Journal Archives

James Fallows: "It's the corruption, stupid" and Sarah Chayes: "The Ides of August"

Such a good set of observations on our perpetual follies.

https://digbysblog.net/2021/08/22/its-the-corruption-stupid-2/
Brief history thread.
During late stage in Vietnam, args for staying were:

-Ripple effects on US “credibility”

-Need to fight for democ, against Communism

-US had overwhelming military-power advantage

-Don’t panic now, little more time to give training-mission a chance


After fall of Saigon, many tragic/horrific conseq:

-For those who had worked or fought alongside US

-For the whole of Cambodia

-Catholics in VN, Montagnards i Laos, many ethnic groups

-Re-education camps

-Decades of displacement, refugee camps thru SE Asia.


But books/reports also came out about what this South Vietnamese “democracy” US had fought for was really like

How irrelevant US firepower /technology advantage was.

Why politics / culture / history are crucial elements of war.

How US had structurally deceived itself


Afghanistan is not Vietnam, in a thousand ways.

But in context of arguments then and now, please read searing essay by Sarah Chayes, about on-the ground realities she has seen.


https://www.sarahchayes.org/post/the-ides-of-august

August 15, 2021

I’ve been silent for a while. I’ve been silent about Afghanistan for longer. But too many things are going unsaid.

I won’t try to evoke the emotions, somehow both swirling and yet leaden: the grief, the anger, the sense of futility. Instead, as so often before, I will use my mind to shield my heart. And in the process, perhaps help you make some sense of what has happened.

For those of you who don’t know me, here is my background — the perspective from which I write tonight.

I covered the fall of the Taliban for NPR, making my way into their former capital, Kandahar, in December 2001, a few days after the collapse of their regime. Descending the last great hill into the desert city, I saw a dusty ghost town. Pickup trucks with rocket-launchers strapped to the struts patrolled the streets. People pulled on my militia friends' sleeves, telling them where to find a Taliban weapons cache, or a last hold-out. But most remained indoors.

It was Ramadan. A few days later, at the holiday ending the month-long fast, the pent-up joy erupted. Kites took to the air. Horsemen on gorgeous, caparisoned chargers tore across a dusty common in sprint after sprint, with a festive audience cheering them on. This was Kandahar, the Taliban heartland. There was no panicked rush for the airport.

I reported for a month or so, then passed off to Steve Inskeep, now Morning Edition host. Within another couple of months, I was back, not as a reporter this time, but to try actually to do something. I stayed for a decade. I ran two non-profits in Kandahar, living in an ordinary house and speaking Pashtu, and eventually went to work for two commanders of the international troops, and then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (You can read about that time, and its lessons, in my first two books, The Punishment of Virtue and Thieves of State.)

From that standpoint — speaking as an American, as an adoptive Kandahari, and as a former senior U.S. government official — here are the key factors I see in today’s climax of a two-decade long fiasco:



Afghan government corruption, and the U.S. role enabling and reinforcing it. The last speaker of the Afghan parliament, Rahman Rahmani, I recently learned, is a multimillionaire, thanks to monopoly contracts to provide fuel and security to U.S. forces at their main base, Bagram. Is this the type of government people are likely to risk their lives to defend?

Two decades ago, young people in Kandahar were telling me how the proxy militias American forces had armed and provided with U.S. fatigues were shaking them down at checkpoints. By 2007, delegations of elders would visit me — the only American whose door was open and who spoke Pashtu so there would be no intermediaries to distort or report their words. Over candied almonds and glasses of green tea, they would get to some version of this: “The Taliban hit us on this cheek, and the government hits us on that cheek.” The old man serving as the group’s spokesman would physically smack himself in the face.

I and too many other people to count spent years of our lives trying to convince U.S. decision-makers that Afghans could not be expected to take risks on behalf of a government that was as hostile to their interests as the Taliban were. Note: it took me a while, and plenty of my own mistakes, to come to that realization. But I did.

For two decades, American leadership on the ground and in Washington proved unable to take in this simple message. I finally stopped trying to get it across when, in 2011, an interagency process reached the decision that the U.S. would not address corruption in Afghanistan. It was now explicit policy to ignore one of the two factors that would determine the fate of all our efforts. That’s when I knew today was inevitable.

Americans like to think of ourselves as having valiantly tried to bring democracy to Afghanistan. Afghans, so the narrative goes, just weren’t ready for it, or didn’t care enough about democracy to bother defending it. Or we’ll repeat the cliche that Afghans have always rejected foreign intervention; we’re just the latest in a long line.

I was there. Afghans did not reject us. They looked to us as exemplars of democracy and the rule of law. They thought that’s what we stood for.


And what did we stand for? What flourished on our watch? Cronyism, rampant corruption, a Ponzi scheme disguised as a banking system, designed by U.S. finance specialists during the very years that other U.S. finance specialists were incubating the crash of 2008. A government system where billionaires get to write the rules.


Is that American democracy?

Well…?



Pakistan. The involvement of that country's government -- in particular its top military brass -- in its neighbor’s affairs is the second factor that would determine the fate of the U.S. mission.

You may have heard that the Taliban first emerged in the early 1990s, in Kandahar. That is incorrect. I conducted dozens of conversations and interviews over the course of years, both with actors in the drama and ordinary people who watched events unfold in Kandahar and in Quetta, Pakistan. All of them said the Taliban first emerged in Pakistan.

The Taliban were a strategic project of the Pakistani military intelligence agency, the ISI. It even conducted market surveys in the villages around Kandahar, to test the label and the messaging. “Taliban” worked well. The image evoked was of the young students who apprenticed themselves to village religious leaders. They were known as sober, studious, and gentle. These Taliban, according to the ISI messaging, had no interest in government. They just wanted to get the militiamen who infested the city to stop extorting people at every turn in the road.

Both label and message were lies.

Within a few years, Usama bin Laden found his home with the Taliban, in their de facto capital, Kandahar, hardly an hour’s drive from Quetta. Then he organized the 9/11 attacks. Then he fled to Pakistan, where we finally found him, living in a safe house in Abbottabad, practically on the grounds of the Pakistani military academy. Even knowing what I knew, I was shocked. I never expected the ISI to be that brazen.

Meanwhile, ever since 2002, the ISI had been re-configuring the Taliban: helping it regroup, training and equipping units, developing military strategy, saving key operatives when U.S. personnel identified and targeted them. That’s why the Pakistani government got no advance warning of the Bin Laden raid. U.S. officials feared the ISI would warn him.

By 2011, my boss, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Taliban were a “virtual arm of the ISI.”

And now this.


Do we really suppose the Taliban, a rag-tag, disjointed militia hiding out in the hills, as we’ve so long been told, was able to execute such a sophisticated campaign plan with no international backing? Where do we suppose that campaign plan came from? Who gave the orders? Where did all those men, all that materiel, the endless supply of money to buy off local Afghan army and police commanders, come from? How is it that new officials were appointed in Kandahar within a day of the city’s fall? The new governor, mayor, director of education, and chief of police all speak with a Kandahari accent. But no one I know has ever heard of them. I speak with a Kandahari accent, too. Quetta is full of Pashtuns — the main ethic group in Afghanistan — and people of Afghan descent and their children. Who are these new officials?

Over those same years, by the way, the Pakistani military also provided nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea. But for two decades, while all this was going on, the United States insisted on considering Pakistan an ally. We still do.



Hamid Karzai. During my conversations in the early 2000s about the Pakistani government’s role in the Taliban’s initial rise, I learned this breathtaking fact: Hamid Karzai, the U.S. choice to pilot Afghanistan after we ousted their regime, was in fact the go-between who negotiated those very Taliban’s initial entry into Afghanistan in 1994.

I spent months probing the stories. I spoke to servants in the Karzai household. I spoke to a former Mujahideen commander, Mullah Naqib, who admitted to being persuaded by the label and the message Karzai was peddling. The old commander also admitted he was at his wits’ end at the misbehavior of his own men. I spoke with his chief lieutenant, who disagreed with his tribal elder and commander, and took his own men off to neighboring Helmand Province to keep fighting. I heard that Karzai’s own father broke with him over his support for this ISI project. Members of Karzai’s household and Quetta neighbors told me about Karzai’s frequent meetings with armed Taliban at his house there, in the months leading up to their seizure of power.

And lo. Karzai abruptly emerges from this vortex, at the head of a “coordinating committee” that will negotiate the Taliban’s return to power? Again?

It was like a repeat of that morning of May, 2011, when I first glimpsed the pictures of the safe-house where Usama bin Laden had been sheltered. Once again — even knowing everything I knew — I was shocked. I was shocked for about four seconds. Then everything seemed clear.

It is my belief that Karzai may have been a key go-between negotiating this surrender, just as he did in 1994, this time enlisting other discredited figures from Afghanistan's past, as they were useful to him. Former co-head of the Afghan government, Abdullah Abdullah, could speak to his old battle-buddies, the Mujahideen commanders of the north and west. You may have heard some of their names as they surrendered their cities in recent days: Ismail Khan, Dostum, Atta Muhammad Noor. The other person mentioned together with Karzai is Gulbuddin Hikmatyar -- a bona fide Taliban commander, who could take the lead in some conversations with them and with the ISI.

As Americans have witnessed in our own context — the #MeToo movement, for example, the uprising after the murder of George Floyd, or the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — surprisingly abrupt events are often months or years in the quiet making. The abrupt collapse of 20 years’ effort in Afghanistan is, in my view, one of those cases.

Thinking this hypothesis through, I find myself wondering: what role did U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad play? And old friend of Karzai's, he was the one who ran the negotiations with the Taliban for the Trump Administration, in which the Afghan government was forced to make concession after concession. Could President Biden truly have found no one else for that job, to replace an Afghan-American with obvious conflicts of interest, who was close to former Vice President Dick Cheney and who lobbied in favor of an oil pipeline through Afghanistan when the Taliban were last in power?



Self-Delusion. How many times did you read stories about the Afghan security forces’ steady progress? How often, over the past two decades, did you hear some U.S. official proclaim that the Taliban’s eye-catching attacks in urban settings were signs of their “desperation” and their “inability to control territory?” How many heart-warming accounts did you hear about all the good we were doing, especially for women and girls?

Who were we deluding? Ourselves?


What else are we deluding ourselves about?


One final point. I hold U.S. civilian leadership, across four administrations, largely responsible for today’s outcome. Military commanders certainly participated in the self-delusion. I can and did find fault with generals I worked for or observed. But the U.S. military is subject to civilian control. And the two primary problems identified above — corruption and Pakistan — are civilian issues. They are not problems men and women in uniform can solve. But faced with calls to do so, no top civilian decision-maker was willing to take either of these problems on. The political risk, for them, was too high.

Today, as many of those officials enjoy their retirement, who is suffering the cost?




Cybersleuths find men who allegedly attacked officer during US Capitol riot

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/aug/14/jeffrey-smith-us-capitol-attack-lawsuit-david-walls-kaufman

Last paragraphs:
“I thought the I in FBI stood for ‘investigation’,” Weber told HuffPost. “It’s pretty lame that a private lawyer for a dead police officer’s widow has to be the one conducting the investigation.

“The fact that these volunteers have accomplished what the FBI has not is extraordinary.”


A group of cybersleuths have tracked down two men who allegedly attacked police officer Jeffrey Smith at the US Capitol during the 6 January insurrection, leaving him with injuries that have been linked to his death days later.

In a new complaint, attorney David P Weber – who represents Smith’s widow, Erin – wrote that David Walls-Kaufman and and Taylor F Taranto appeared to specifically target Smith because his eyes and face were vulnerable.

Artur Pawlowski’s extreme right-wing positions have attracted antifascist protests.
Man charged in Capitol riot also engaged in rightwing street brawl
Read more

The lawsuit said Walls-Kaufman used a cane, crowbar or similar object to level a brain injury to Smith, who took his own life on 15 January. Jonathan Arden, DC’s former chief medical examiner, has attributed Smith’s death to post-concussion syndrome, which can lead to symptoms like depression and suicidal thoughts.

About a dozen people with the open-source intelligence group Deep State Dogs pored over evidence from the capitol attack for more than a month until they found footage of Smith and his assailants.

“We felt we had to do something to honor the memory and family of Officer Smith. It’s terrible that the bereaved were left in that situation,” Forrest Rogers from Deep State Dogs told HuffPost. “So we turned to the thing we do best: finding bad guys.”

Walls-Kaufman, a chiropractor, has said in the past that about 40% of his clients work at or around the Capitol. In January, he was quoted in a story about the riot, which implied he was in attendance.

Taranto – a US navy veteran from Washington state – handed a weapon to Kaufman, who then struck Smith in the head. The battery led to a concussion, according to the lawsuit.

“But for the concussion of Officer Smith at the hands of these defendants, Officer Smith would be alive today,” Weber wrote.

Smith’s widow, Erin, has been trying to convince the Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board to consider her husband as having died in the line of duty. But the DC metropolitan police department has refused to release Smith’s body-camera video showing what actually happened, and Weber expressed frustration about how little federal law enforcement has done to avenge Smith months after the attack.

“I thought the I in FBI stood for ‘investigation’,” Weber told HuffPost. “It’s pretty lame that a private lawyer for a dead police officer’s widow has to be the one conducting the investigation.

“The fact that these volunteers have accomplished what the FBI has not is extraordinary.”

Jennifer Rubin @ WaPo: Jan. 6 select committee is already exceeding all expectations

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/28/jan-6-committee-manages-impress-educate/

Rarely does a congressional hearing manage to avoid grandstanding, uncover new and compelling evidence and exceed expectations. The Jan. 6 select committee managed to do all three.

Indeed, the surprises kept coming on Monday. The sincere and spontaneous emotional reactions from Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and law enforcement officers stood as a rebuke to the cynicism of Republicans who continue to lie about the insurrection. It also implicitly rebuked the media, which too often dabbles in bothsidesism, even to this day.

Kinzinger could barely get through his tribute to the officers’ bravery. “You guys won," he said tearfully. “You guys held. Democracies are not defined by our bad days. We are defined by how we come back from bad days.”

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who has pulled no punches concerning the insurrection, was even more emphatic in skewering her own party. “On Jan. 6 and in the days thereafter, almost all members of my party recognized the events of that day for what they actually were," she said. She added, “No member of Congress should now attempt to defend the indefensible, obstruct this investigation or attempt to whitewash what happened that day.” It’s no wonder she gives Republican toadies the shakes, especially when she warns that failure to hold all those involved responsible would allow the cancer on our democracy to go unchecked. As she put it: “We must know what happened here at the Capitol. We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House. Every phone call. Every conversation. Every meeting leading up to, during, and after the attack.”

...
The media coverage of the GOP’s ongoing attempt to undermine democracy has too often devolved into false “balance” and an inaccurate portrayal of a movement that now accepts violence and disdains elections. Journalists would do well to watch the full hearing and emulate the clear language offered by committee members and the witnesses. They must do better if they are to keep Americans informed about the ongoing threat to democracy. The days of putting Jan. 6 apologists and deniers on mainstream news programming must end. The media must stop acting as a conduit for Republican disinformation.

Finally, if the Justice Department harbored any doubt that it should investigate whether there was any involvement in the attack by lawmakers or whether the former president’s incitement of the mob rose to the level of criminality, that vanished on Monday. The officers pleaded with the committee to find anyone who “collaborated” or spurred the attack. They are not willing to let bygones be bygones. None of us should. The Justice Department should follow the facts and indict anyone found to be criminally liable for the violent insurrection.


From the comments:
The media must stop acting as a conduit for Republican disinformation

You’d think after 5 years of insanity and a violent insurrection the media would already get this…..

It made me want to vomit reading articles in MSM accusing PELOSI of making the committee partisan by refusing to allow a likely material witness and someone who publicly stated they don’t support the committee’s purpose… on the committee.

Politico and USA Today have been PARTICULARLY BAD!

Charles Pierce calls Politico "Tiger Beat on the Potomac". That might be too kind of a description for them.

I get so ANGRY when I see some of these AWFUL misleading headlines. The Times is bad too.
Charlie Pierce is brilliant!

Both Politico and USA today are rags.

Interesting discussion in EmptyWheel about possible disinformation on Putin/Trump

https://www.emptywheel.net/2021/07/15/paul-oetken-eliminates-lev-parnas-last-attempt-to-weaponize-the-former-presidents-former-lawyer-in-his-defense/#comment-897176

Part of another discussion but worth watching.
...

Fran of the North says:
July 15, 2021 at 10:06 am

Apologies for the WAY O/T post.

The Guardian is reporting this morning that leaked secret Kremlin documents reveal that Putin authorized an operation in Jan 2016 to help Trump get elected in November. That probably isn’t news to regular readers.

The interesting part is the very clear assessment of Trump: “impulsive, mentally unstable and unbalanced individual who suffers from an inferiority complex”.

Of course, this could also just be more efforts to stir the pot, but according to the article, western intelligence agencies have examined the docs and they have strong indications of being genuine.

More here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/15/kremlin-papers-appear-to-show-putins-plot-to-put-trump-in-white-house
Reply

earlofhuntingdon says:
July 15, 2021 at 10:29 am

For sure, the Former Guy had a historically unique and abjectly dependent relationship with the Russian president. How and why is another matter. But no one is better than Putin at stirring his opponent’s pot with his disinformation spoon.

The Guardian is far from perfect. This material should first be established as legitimate. If not, we lay ourselves open to what Marcy described a couple of days ago. That these clams are subsequently deemed to be fraudulent, which imperils other legitimate claims to the contrary. Think Dan Rather and the Bush National Guard gambit.
Reply
earlofhuntingdon says:
July 15, 2021 at 10:42 am

The story’s lead writer, Luke Harding, is regarded by his critics as a creature of the security services. The second author, Julian Borger, is right behind him. There are parallels among the WaPo’s national security columnists.
Reply
BobCon says:
July 15, 2021 at 10:31 am

From the article:

“The papers, seen by the Guardian, seem to represent a serious and highly unusual leak from within the Kremlin.”

I wish The Guardian had dug more deeply into the implications of that sentence. What is the purpose of the leak? Damaging Trump? Smokescreen? Discrediting anti-Trump allegations by later release of contradictory information?

If the Guardian doesn’t know, they should at least spend more time noting that Kremlin leaks tend to have agendas behind them.
Reply
drouse says:
July 15, 2021 at 10:39 am

What’s not really clear is exactly who is trying to stir the pot. My first take was that it was an attempt by Putin to toss a large rock into the mud puddle that is our politics. Then again, the article says that our intelligence agencies have been aware of it for months. So at this moment I’m more inclined to believe that it was somebody from our intelligence services who gave it to the Guardian. The motivations behind the leak aren’t really clear.

...

Just because Digby's Hullabaloo is an incredible site (IMHO)

https://digbysblog.net/

There must be some reason that it doesn't get cross-referenced more here at DU. If there is a reason, please let me know the background.

Other sites that are my personal goto's are:
Marcy Wheeler and friends: https://www.emptywheel.net/
Heather Cox Richardson: https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/
The Guardian
... second tier ...
NPR
Washington Post
NYTimes

If anyone has other good news or aggregation sites, even if they are not totally liberal or progressive, please suggest them to me.

Heather Cox Richardson: The Originalist Supreme Court and the 14th Amendment

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/july-9-2021-a52
(title paraphrasing a bit of HCR's excellent Letter from an American)

So much good history in this letter ending with:
Those same principles took on profound national significance in the post–World War II era, when the Supreme Court began to use the equal protection clause and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment aggressively to apply the protections in the Bill of Rights to the states. The civil rights decisions of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, including the Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawing segregation in public schools, and the Loving v Virginia decision permitting interracial marriage, come from this doctrine. Under it, the federal government took up the mantle of protecting the rights of individual Americans in the states from the whims of state legislatures.

Opponents of these new civil rights protections quickly began to object that such decisions were “legislating from the bench,” rather than permitting state legislatures to make their own laws. These opponents began to call for “originalism,” the idea that the Constitution should be interpreted only as the Framers had intended when they wrote it, an argument that focused on the creation of law at the state level. Famously, in 1987, President Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork, an originalist who had called for the rollback of the Supreme Court’s civil rights decisions, for a seat on that court.

Reacting to that nomination, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) recognized the importance of the Fourteenth Amendment to equality: “Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, Blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is—and is often the only—protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy….”

It’s a funny thing to write about the Fourteenth Amendment in the twenty-first century. I am a scholar of Reconstruction, and for me the Fourteenth Amendment conjures up images of late-1860s Washington, D.C., a place still plagued by malaria carried on mosquitoes from the Washington City Canal, where generals and congressmen worried about how to protect the Black men who had died in extraordinary numbers to defend the government while an accidental president pardoned Confederate generals and plotted to destroy the national system Abraham Lincoln had created.

It should feel very distant. And yet, while a bipartisan group of senators rejected Bork’s nomination in 1987, in 2021 the Supreme Court is dominated by originalists, and the principles of the Fourteenth Amendment seem terribly current.


The definition of chutzpah - digby

https://digbysblog.net/2021/07/the-definition-of-chutzpah/
(Personally, I don't know why digby is not cited more frequently here on DU. But I'm a recent reader....)


The definition of chutzpah
Published by digby on July 9, 2021


That insurrectionist thinks he should be left off the hook in order to heal the nation. The next time someone complains about liberal snowflakes, think of this:

As hundreds of his fellow MAGA rioters stormed all corners of the Capitol on Jan. 6, Paul Hodgkins headed straight for the Senate chamber.

After walking among the desks once inhabited by lawmakers certifying the presidential election—before being forced into hiding—the 38-year-old Florida man took off his protective eye goggles and snapped a selfie before joining his fellow insurrectionists.

That photograph led to Hodgkins’ February arrest after an acquaintance tipped off the FBI—and his eventual decision to strike a plea deal with prosecutors. Now, his defense lawyers are arguing their “kind” client does not deserve prison time for his one felony count.

And in an unreal turn of events, his attorneys are arguing that a lenient sentence on July 19 for the Tampa resident would actually “heal” the nation.

“This case is the story of a man who represents all that we would want in our fellow Americans,” defense attorney Patrick Leduc argued in a sentencing memo to Judge Randolph D. Moss. “It is the story of [a] man who for just one hour on one day, lost his bearings and his way.”

“A sentence that provides Paul Hodgkins ‘charity’ would go a very long way toward healing a nation in dire need of seeing what undeserved ‘grace’ looks like,” Leduc added.

The claim is among a series of head-scratching arguments made in the 32-page sentencing memo, including the declaration that “Hodgkins should not be cancelled.”

Hodgkins wanted to “cancel” an election. And he happily joined a crowd that wanted to “cancel” the Vice President and Speaker of the House.

Nobody’s calling for this insurrectionist to be “cancelled.” They are calling for him to be held accountable for what he did.

...

Florida Man sues Facebook, Twitter, YouTube for account ban

https://www.theregister.com/2021/07/07/florida_man_sues_social_media/

This is how we should all address the loser.

A Florida man held a press conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Wednesday to announce the filing of lawsuits against Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and corresponding executives Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Sundar Pichai – who runs YouTube's parent company.

The former political office holder, known among other things for a cancelled reality TV series, a discontinued steak business, a failed casino, and a shuttered business training school, accused the social networks of violating the First Amendment of the US Constitution by closing his accounts and deplatforming him.

Booted from the aforementioned internet services for statements deemed to have encouraged or incited the storming of the US Capitol by tooled-up tourists, the plaintiff is also seeking to have the courts declare Section 230 of America's Communications Decency Act unconstitutional.

First Amendment scholars were quick to ridicule the complaints.

The First Amendment does *not* apply to non-governmental actors. Full stop. https://t.co/FAmXafuOZZ
— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) July 7, 2021

In an effort to overcome that legal obstacle, the man's complaint against Facebook [PDF] asserts that the internet ad giant's status "rises beyond that of a private company to that of a state actor."

The complaints against Twitter [PDF] and YouTube [PDF] make largely identical claims, arguing in essence that the defendant social media companies are part of the US government. All three cases, joined by assorted other individuals, were filed in Florida, which recently passed a social media law that has been challenged as unconstitutional.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The respective companies can be expected to ask that the cases be removed to California, per their terms of service, and that the claims be dismissed for legal deficiencies.

A real go-GETTR: Former Trump aide tries to batter Twitter by ripping off its UI
US Supreme Court rules teens cussing out schools on social media is protected speech
Prez Biden narrowly escapes cicada assassination attempt, hunkers down in Cornwall
Biden cancels Trump's bans on TikTok, WeChat, other Chinese apps

In an email to The Register, Eric Goldman, Associate Dean for Research and Professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and Co-Director, High Tech Law Institute, said he can't imagine the plaintiff expects to win his cases, noting that hospitality industry magnate doesn't seem to care that his legal arguments are weak.

"In particular, most of the arguments he's making have been tried in court by others and have failed decisively," said Goldman. "His lawsuits have no realistic chance of success."

Goldman said the golfing enthusiast, often seen at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, "rarely files lawsuits because he expects to win, and he often doesn't invest much energy in lawsuits after they've been filed. He usually is seeking some other payoff from litigation. In this case, that payoff is almost certainly the media coverage he will get. He's never held accountable for bringing stupid cases and making stupid arguments in court."

The septuagenarian, whose mental state was repeatedly questioned during his four-year stint in public office, is also asking the court to award monetary compensation, something he's also seeking from political donors. Meanwhile, his organization and its chief financial officer face criminal tax charges in New York. ®

New Khashoggi revelations show we don't have the full story about his killing

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/06/jamal-khashoggi-egypt-saudi-arabia-biden-mbs-full-story/
(With a kick to: https://www.democraticunderground.com/100215594159)

Opinion: New Khashoggi revelations show we don’t have the full story about his killing. The Biden administration must disclose what it knows.

Two recent revelations about the murder of Saudi journalist and Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi — including that four members of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s hit team, known as the “Tiger Squad,” received paramilitary training in the United States, and that Egypt allegedly provided them the lethal poison they used to kill Khashoggi — are just tips of an iceberg of information that still remains hidden.

Who else outside of Saudi Arabia was involved in this crime? What did U.S. officials know, and when, about plans to kill him? What else does the Biden administration know that it might not be telling us? Will they question Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to the United States and currently its deputy defense minister, during their meetings with him when he comes to Washington this week, about his own role in the murder, including phone records of his communications with Khashoggi?

It’s very hard to believe that American officials were not closely monitoring the U.S.-trained Saudi hit men. They were certainly surveilling the top Saudi echelon: The CIA intercepted 11 WhatsApp messages from MBS to his senior henchman, Saud al-Qahtani, who orchestrated Khashoggi’s killing, in the hours before and after the murder, as well as the calls that the crown prince’s brother Khalid bin Salman made to Khashoggi soliciting him to go to Istanbul.


From this morning's Heather Cox Richardson: Mussollini and the fascist racial hierarchies

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/july-5-2021
(Reposted from https://www.democraticunderground.com/1017665699#post13)

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/july-5-2021

Biden’s speech recalled that of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on June 5, 1944, upon the fall of Rome during World War II. It was Italian leader Benito Mussolini who articulated the ideals of fascism after World War I, envisioning a hierarchical world in which economic and political leaders worked together to lead the masses forward by welding them into a nationalistic, militaristic force.

In his 1944 speech, FDR was careful to explain to Americans how they were different from the Italian fascists. He talked about “Nazi overlords” and “fascist puppets.” Then, in contrast to the fascists’ racial hierarchies, FDR made a point of calling Americans’ attention to the fact that the men who defeated the Italian fascists were Americans from every walk of life.

And then he turned to how fascism treated its people. “In Italy, the people have lived so long under the corrupt rule of Mussolini that in spite of the tinsel at the top—you have seen the pictures of it—their economic conditions have grown steadily worse. Our troops have found starvation, malnutrition, disease, a deteriorating education, a lower public health, all byproducts of the fascist misrule.”

To rebuild Italy, FDR said, the troops had to start from the bottom. “[W]e have had to give them bread to replace that which was stolen out of their mouths,” he said. “We have had to make it possible for the Italians to raise and use their local crops. We have had to help them cleanse their schools of fascist trappings….”

He outlined how Americans had anticipated the need to relieve the people starved by the fascists, and had made plans to ship food grown by the “magnificent ability and energy of the American people,” in ships they had constructed, over thousands of miles of water. Some of us may let our thoughts run to the financial cost of it,” he said, but “we hope that this relief will be an investment for the future, an investment that will pay dividends by eliminating fascism, by ending any Italian desires to start another war of aggression in the future….”

FDR was emphasizing the power of the people, of democracy, to combat fascism not only abroad but also at home, where it had attracted Americans frustrated by the seeming inability of democracy to counter the Depression. They longed for a single strong leader to fix everything. Other Americans, horrified by FDR’s use of the government to regulate business, provide a basic social safety net, and promote infrastructure, wanted to take the nation back to the 1920s and in so doing had begun to flirt with fascism as well.

As he celebrated the triumph over democracy in Italy, he was also urging Americans to value and protect it at home.
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