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    Lobbying Is a Good Investment
    Photo: Wally Gobetz/ Flickr

    In our American oligarchy, political influence is, broadly speaking, for sale. A new study confirms a straightforward relationship between corporate lobbying and higher profits.

    The study, by researchers at Indiana University, attempts to clarify mixed findings on whether or not spending money on lobbying actually results in positive returns for corporate shareholders. It does:

    We first re-examine results in prior research and test whether total lobbying expenditures are associated with abnormal stock returns. We find a positive and marginally significant association, consistent with corporate lobbying activities typically generating higher firm values

    The paper then examines corporate lobbying in each of nine separate policy areas, and finds that only one of them seems to be a bad investment. Bolding ours:

    Across the nine separate regressions we find that tax-, defense-, trade-, and federal budget-related lobbying are associated with significant and positive abnormal stock returns, while lobbying on environmental issues is associated with significant and negative abnormal returns. The returns to lobbying for the four remaining lobbying issues (i.e., energy, healthcare, Medicare / Medicaid, and transportation) are not significant. Taken together, our evidence is generally consistent with the strategic investment view of corporate lobbying, since we find negative returns to lobbying for just one lobbying issue (i.e., environment-related lobbying)

    All in all, the study confirms what “cynical” types consider to be common sense: in a political system in which influence can be bought, it is only rational for corporations—machines for making money—to invest money in shaping the political system to maximize their own profits.

    The fact that this warps the entire political system for the majority of people is of little importance. The majority of people don’t have enough money to matter.

    [The full study]

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    Now We Have Seen The Epitome of Anti-Gay Hatred
    Photo: AP

    Before Sunday morning, the event that had the grave distinction of being the largest massacre of gay people in American history occurred June 24, 1973, at the Up Stairs Lounge in New Orleans. A fire, which a police and fire investigation eventually deemed arson, killed 32 people during a Sunday beer blast after a church service had been held in the space. The details contain gruesome stuff like bodies being melted together, as well as disgustingly sad anecdotes of love and failed heroism. Bartender Buddy Rasmussen successfully led a group of about 20 men out of a hidden fire exit onto the bar’s roof that provided safe access to the ground. Among the group was a man named George Mitchell. According to Jim Downs’s Stand By Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation:

    In the midst of the chaos, George Mitchell realized that his partner, Louis Horace Broussard, was not among this small group of survivors. He scanned the faces, screamed Horace’s name, and ran back into the fire. His body was later found next to Broussard’s.

    The tragedy had a galvanizing effect on some—Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the LGBT-inclusive Metropolitan Community Church (those congregated at Up Stairs were members of that church) and organizer of an Up Stairs Lounge memorial, said years later that the “events in the following days helped to pull the community together and strengthened the resolve of the national gay equality movement…Out of the terrible, terrible tragedy grew a sense of empowerment for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered [sic] persons.”

    It is likely that you are unfamiliar with this story; so was I until I read Downs’s above-quoted book earlier this year. The reason this tragedy goes unremembered is that gay history isn’t really taught in schools, nor does it hold much priority in American culture (the movie Stonewall about sums up our sorry state of affairs). The larger straight world hasn’t shown much interest in these narratives.

    This weekend in Orlando, we got our indelible cultural narrative. Granted, things are much different now than they were 43 years ago. In no particular order: LGBT people have more visibility, the extent to which people of color are under attack as a matter of course is more apparent than ever, the argument over gun control keeps getting louder, “terrorism” is among our go-to cultural boogeymen, and a media that benefits greatly from mass shooters follows them closely. All of these factors have intersected in a tragedy that reads like the plot of an ingenious novel devised to expose the weakness and hatred of the right. This situation presents a dilemma for the bigot—who to root for? The terrorist is American (albeit of Afghani descent and ISIS sympathy), and the targets are a bunch of queer people, many of them Latino (judging by their names and that Pulse was hosting its weekly Latin Night), enjoying a night of actively being queer. It turns out the right has more in common with ISIS than it previously wanted to admit. To cope, Republicans have simplified the matter by simply erasing the fact that LGBT people were targeted from their responses.

    All sides of the debate over whether or not LGBT people deserve equal treatment with straights are mired in projections. The right says accepting queer people is a slippery slope to the end of civilization, while queers worry about what will happen if they are denied rights. (Will we find ourselves shut out of services we need? Will laws that allow for unequal treatment have a ripple effect and effectively cosign violence against LGBT people?) While the right’s worst-case scenario remains unrealized—as I, a believer in human equality, am certain it will remain—we have now seen ours. Over the weekend, we saw a renewed picture of our fear: Getting murdered en masse in a space we call our own, and are accordingly comfortable in to the point of vulnerability. What’s more, there is no shortage of such spaces and their sizes range from island towns to the bedrooms of strangers.

    We have seen the tangible epitome of gay hatred, if we are to believe the father of the shooter Omar Mateen, Mir Seddique. Seddique, whose reliability as a narrator has already been revealed as dubious, claimed that Mateen’s decision to assassinate gay people was in direct response to witnessing affection among two men recently in Miami. He said:

    We were in Downtown Miami, Bayside, people were playing music…And he saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid and he got very angry. They were kissing each other and touching each other and he said, “Look at that. In front of my son they are doing that.” And they we were in the men’s bathroom and men were kissing each other.

    Mateen’s coworker at the gated community for which Mateen worked as a security guard, corroborated Mateen’s homophobia (as well as racism) and said that Mateen stalked him with multiple text and voice messages a day. Mateen pledged his allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call he placed during the shooting. ISIS is a group that murders gay men for being gay by throwing them off buildings, among its atrocities.

    Seddique said, “This had nothing to do with religion,” but that is clearly untrue—it just may have not had to do with Seddique’s religion. Mateen’s act of hatred and destruction, in fact, illustrates the absurd extent to which “sincerely held” religious beliefs—the same rhetoric underpinning of “religious liberty” laws and bathroom bills—can be taken. I don’t say that as an indictment of Islam (white Christians have the power in this country, thus the most effective homophobia, anyway), but of radical religion. Certainly, Mateen held his beliefs more sincerely than most, as he was willing to die for them. The issue here isn’t his religious foundation, but the extent to which he was willing to deviate from it in the name of righteousness.

    If his father’s and former co-worker’s stories are true, this mass killing was not personal. It was rooted in theory, the same caustic theory that considers LGBT people as a whole, not a group of individuals, to justify that they are lesser. Elsewhere, this theory prompts people to deny service to, gloat at, mock, ignore, beat up, target, not “believe” in, actively fight against the marriages of, and otherwise simply despise queer people. And that’s to say nothing of the societal neglect that had a large number of Pulse patrons on Saturday at higher risk for HIV simply because they were Latin or black.

    With extreme homophobia comes the inevitable suspicion that its purveyor is or was closeted, or uncomfortable with gay people because he was uncomfortable with his own sexuality. (Interestingly, the only real suspect in the Up Stairs Lounge arson was a gay man named Rodger Dale Nunez, who reportedly felt shunned by the bar’s community. He committed suicide the year after the attack.) No matter whether Mateen was secretly gay or as straight as his fag-killing guns would lead you to believe he was, his guiding philosophy either way was that gay people are lesser. No one is automatically exempt from any kind of bigotry.

    Mateen’s mass murder reified the political nature of the assembly of the patrons of Pulse. Even in 2016, it takes courage to show yourself amongst your openly queer brothers and sisters. These people gave their lives up to be themselves, and even if it was inadvertently, even if it’s clear only in retrospect, they are all heroes for doing so and not bowing to the perverted mindset of innate inequality.

    Sometimes as a queer person, you find yourself faced with a certain cultural imperative to be less gay so as to be more appealing to straights. Now, this imperative comes with reinforcement via gun power—just hours after the Pulse shooting, a man named James Wesley Howell was arrested with a trunk full of guns. He reportedly intended to attend Los Angeles’s Pride festivities.

    The Pulse tragedy will keep saddening us as the days full of new information about the victims turn into weeks and years. But I hope that this, too, is ultimately galvanizing. I hope straight people can understand with more clarity the degree to which LGBT people in this country are threatened. I hope that queer people will resist with more determination than ever those cultural imperatives that request they reduce their queerness for the sake of being user-friendly to straights. If you ever feel tempted to do that—to resist PDA, to dress more heteronormatively, to conform in any way that places the comfort of straight people over your own—think about the type of person you are attempting to appeal to. He or she already shares way too much with Omar Mateen. Resistance will be our salvation, like it always has been.

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    The FCC Won't Release Internal Memos About the Time Warner-Charter Merger
    FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a file photo from 2015 (Associated Press)

    In April, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that the agency would approve the merger of Time Warner Cable and Charter, paving the way for the creation of the second largest cable and internet provider in the country. The company’s products are now marketed under the brand Spectrum. Today the FCC denied Gizmodo’s request for documents about the merger and gave us the FOIA equivalent of a middle finger.

    On April 25, 2016, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FCC for internal talking points about the merger of Time Warner and Charter. The goal was to gain some insight into the thinking that has allowed the consolidation of internet service providers in the United States. Charter Spectrum is now second to only Comcast in size, serving roughly 20 million people—myself included.

    Specifically, I requested all internal “talking points” and “Q&A” documents related to the merger which were sent to or received by the FCC’s Office of Media Relations Press Secretary Kim Hart. As FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s Press Secretary, her deliberations and instructions would be vital to understanding how a merger like this could come to take place.

    Perhaps most interesting of all, Ms. Hart’s internally distributed talking points would be vital to understanding how this merger would ultimately be sold to the American public with minimal blowback. That public, after all, isn’t too happy with their rather limited options when it comes to high-speed internet providers. Government approval of mega-mergers, even for companies that have very little overlap geographically, don’t look good to an American populace that already thinks the system’s rigged.

    The FCC found nine documents that were responsive to my request. In a letter I received early this morning they spelled out what each document contained in the broadest strokes:

    Five of the documents are emails between Commission staff discussing a draft planning memo (identified as confidential and attached to two of the documents) and a draft questions and answers memo (attached to the same two documents) regarding the merger. The sixth document contains emails between Commission staff discussing an attached question and answer “press prep” memo. The seventh document is an email between Commission staff discussing the merger. The eighth document is an email from Commission staff to Chairman Tom Wheeler discussing two attached letters from members of Congress to the Chairman. One of those letters is publicly available and we include it here for your convenience. The ninth document contains emails between Commission staff discussing an attached “core points” memo and seven associated supplemental memos.

    The FCC explained that they were withholding all of the documents in their entirety:

    We are withholding the nine documents because we have determined that they are exempt under FOIA Exemption 5, which applies to “inter-agency and intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency[.]” Exemption 5 encompasses the deliberative process privilege, which is intended to “prevent injury to the quality of agency decisions.” To fall within the scope of the deliberative process privilege encompassed by Exemption 5, records must be both pre-decisional and deliberative, “[reflecting] the give-and-take of the consultative process.” Disclosure of this material would chill the deliberative process and inhibit the frank and open discussions between government employees that are necessary for agency decision-making.

    The letter also explained that they wouldn’t be releasing anything even with redactions, which is more typical when it comes to things that the government would rather not release:

    The FOIA requires that “any reasonably segregable portion of a record” must be released after appropriate application of the Act’s exemptions. The statutory standard requires the release of any portion of a record that is nonexempt and that is “reasonably segregable” from the exempt portion. However, when nonexempt information is “inextricably intertwined” with exempt information, reasonable segregation is not possible. However, when nonexempt information is “inextricably intertwined” with exempt information, reasonable segregation is not possible. We have reviewed the records withheld to determine if any segregable parts may be released, and determined there is none.

    I’m no lawyer, but I believe that the release of these documents would have been in the public interest. We’re not talking about Tom Wheeler’s personal Amazon purchase history here. These are the documents that allowed some of the largest private companies in the United States—companies that have a de facto government-sanctioned monopoly on providing internet access to huge segments of the population—to merge and become even more powerful than they once were.

    I reached out to Kim Hart over email this morning to see if she had any comment on the FOIA denial or the Time Warner-Charter merger more generally. She did not. Gizmodo will be appealing the FCC’s denial of our request for these records. You can see the FCC’s denial letter to me below.

    Decision 6 13 16 FOIA 2016-584 Matt Novak Gawker

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    Documents: How a Major Company Bombards Employees With Right-Wing Propaganda
    Illustration by Jim Cooke

    Tens of thousands of workers at America’s third-largest hardware chain are trained in more than customer service. They are trained in the conservative trickle-down economic zealotry that animates their billionaire boss.

    Menards is the largest privately owned home improvement chain in America. Its owner is John Menard, Jr., famous for keeping “a tight rein” on the smallest details of his company’s operations. His net worth of more than $10 billion makes him the richest man in Wisconsin, and one of the 50 richest people in America.

    Menard, Jr. holds strong right-wing political beliefs. He donated $1.5 million to a group backing Wisconsin’s Republican governor Scott Walker, during Walker’s contentious battles against the state’s organized labor forces. After Menard was forced to pay a $1.7 million fine in the 1990s for illegal dumping of hazardous waste, one state official says Menard told him he “just didn’t believe in environmental regulations.” More recently, a Menards spokesperson announced that the company did not plan to open a new store until Obama was no longer president.

    No one suffers the brunt of John Menard, Jr.’s conservative beliefs more directly than his own employees. Menards’ virulently anti-union policies stand out even in an industry full of anti-union corporations. The company was recently sanctioned by the National Labor Relations Board for violating labor laws after it was revealed that the company had required managers to sign contracts stating that they would forfeit more than half of their pay if employees formed a union on their watch.

    But Menards is not satisfied with merely having a non-union work force. Documents provided to us by a Menards employee show that the company conducts what can only be describe a systematic indoctrination into conservative political beliefs, under the guise of its “In-Home Training Program” (IHT).

    The IHT is an online training course for Menards employees. It is supposed to be a sort of continuing job education program that expands and updates the skills of Menards workers—by training them to work in different departments throughout the store, for example. The program is not mandatory, but participation in it is strongly encouraged by the company. Menards closely tracks how many employees are using the program, and incentivizes employees and managers to keep that number high. Employees are offered small rewards for completing sections, and there are even competitions between stores to see who can get the highest participation level. Below is a screenshot from a company newsletter that went out in April, the entire purpose of which is to share how many employees are using the IHT in each store and region, and to encourage more of them to do so.

    Documents: How a Major Company Bombards Employees With Right-Wing Propaganda

    What makes Menards’ employee training program unique: It is not at all limited to job skills. In fact, it includes multiple sections dedicated to extolling the virtues of free market capitalism, bemoaning taxes, and instructing employees on how to become advocates of political beliefs that mirror those of the boss who will not allow them to unionize.

    Embedded below are four separate courses from the “Civics 101" section of the Menards IHT. The first two sections, “Introduction to American Civics” and “Modern US Politics,” are a combined 122 pages of the sort of American history that appears in outdated textbooks in our nation’s more neglected middle schools. The official Menards version of U.S. history dwells on the Revolutionary War; includes the full text of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and George Washington’s farewell address; gives exhaustive details of how each branch of government works and what federalism is; and even has the trusty old “How a bill becomes a law” flowchart.

    It is in course three, “American Job Security,” where Menards’ right wing beliefs really begin to shine. It begins with a cartoonish fearmongering chart about our national debt, in which the low-debt “Path to Prosperity” is in a welcoming green hue, while the cliff-like “Current Path” is in a foreboding red. The very first paragraph lets workers know that if they have any employment problems, they should blame not John Menard, Jr., but the federal government:

    What affect does Washington have on job security? In truth, everything. Unemployment numbers can be tied to economic policies. These policies are the rules and regulations that we covered in the previous course. These policies often make it more difficult for business to create jobs and force an increase in unemployment or underemployment. Therefore job security - your personal security for your Self Governing Will of independence and to ‘make your way’ in the world - is inevitably tied to American civil policy.

    Having established that regulation is the enemy, the course launches into a primer on Adam Smith and then an extended lionization of Andrew Jackson, who—despite his imperialist massacres of native Americans to steal their land—was “loved by the common people,” especially when he paid off our national debt.

    The material continues to pound away at the free market gospel for page after page. “A government dedicated to individual liberties is one that understands that private property is to be protected, not taken or taxed,” it says. “Government does have a role to play, but we must remember that taxes always limit freedom.” This is all presented as fact:

    Documents: How a Major Company Bombards Employees With Right-Wing Propaganda

    The material takes a detour to pillory cap-and-trade rules for limiting air pollution and bailouts of private companies, and then reprints in full an essay by Herman Cain entitled “Economics & the Basis of Prosperity.” Later, there are a series of the sort of charts that are used to celebrate trickle-down economics, with titles including “Tax Cuts Attract Capital,” “Bottom 95 Percent Pays Less Than the Top 1 Percent,” “High Corporate Taxes Make the US Uncompetitive,” and, best of all, “Rich Pay More Than Their Fair Share.”

    Documents: How a Major Company Bombards Employees With Right-Wing Propaganda

    In case it isn’t clear:

    Documents: How a Major Company Bombards Employees With Right-Wing Propaganda

    The last of these four training courses, “Action,” instructs employees on how to contact elected representatives and write letters to newspapers to spread the free market gospel they have just absorbed.

    Not to generalize, but this seems like the sort of content more suited to a multi-billionaire business owner than to his working class employees. We asked Menards for comment on these sections of the IHT, and what involvement John Menard, Jr. may have had with them. They have not replied, but we will update this story if they do.

    If even half of Menards employees participate in the IHT program, that is more than 20,000 workers who are being rather forcefully fed right wing economic doctrines by their billionaire employer. At the end of the fourth course, the document drives home the need for (business-friendly) individualism: “As a citizen of the United States of America, you should personify your own self governing will and protect your opportunity for free enterprise by educating yourself of the topics (past, current, and future), and then making your voice and vote heard.”

    As long as your voice is not asking for a union.

    Menards Employee Training Documents

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    Trump Fundraiser Threatens Romney Republicans with Possibility of Gary Busey Being Nominated to the Supreme Court
    Photo: AP

    This weekend, Gawker pal Anthony Scaramucci was in Park City, Utah, trying to raise money for Donald Trump by warning Romney Republicans that if they don’t support their party’s presumptive nominee they might end up with Gary Busey on the Supreme Court.

    Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus and various Trump allies were in Utah to meet with 300-odd members of the GOP elite at a three-day ideas festival hosted by Mitt Romney. “I love what this country is built upon, and its values—and seeing this is breaking my heart,” Romney told attendees, the Associated Press reports.

    Though he has taken a somewhat roundabout path to supporting Trump—he first endorsed Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, and then Jeb Bush—Scaramucci is wholeheartedly working to unite the party behind him. From BuzzFeed News:

    “We need your wisdom,” he told a skeptical Republican, suggesting Trump would like his advice.

    Then Scaramucci tried a harder sell.

    “Let me ask you one other question,” he said. “What if he wins?”

    “Do you want Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs to be the secretary of state and Gary Busey to be on the Supreme Court?”

    This, Scaramucci suggested, is what Republicans can expect if they don’t get on the Trump Train now. (Combs and Busey — who Trump fired in 2013 on Celebrity Apprentice — support Trump. However, the candidate’s actual appeal to Republicans is how very very responsible he will be about Supreme Court appointments.)

    The hedge fund manager deployed all sorts of pop culture references on the weekend. “I feel like Jon Snow, trying to get the Wildlings to team up with the kings of the castles,” he told the Washington Post.

    Recalling his conversations with establishment Republicans, Scaramucci said: “Your father just got slayed by your uncle, whom you don’t really like, and your uncle is now in charge. You’ve got the White Walkers descending from the north and they’re coming to hunt you and all the living. What do you do? Do you fight with your uncle or band together and fight the White Walkers?”

    Later, he turned towards 20th century history. “If Joseph Stalin and Franklin Roosevelt could get together to defeat Adolf Hitler, we can end the schism in our party,” Scaramucci said. “We’ve got to change the rhetoric and the nonsense that’s going on in the party right now. We have to unify this party.”

    Meanwhile, Trump lashed out at Romney in Tampa on Saturday, calling him “poor, sad, Mitt Romney” and a “stone-cold loser.” Romney, he said, “choked like a dog.” (?)

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    The AR-15 Was Built for Slaughter in War Zones
    An American Special Forces commando in Vietnam with his AR-15, 1963: AP

    In 1962, the Pentagon had a pickle on its hands: America wanted to give South Vietnam guns with which to kill its Communist brothers and sisters in North Vietnam, but we couldn’t figure out which guns. The answer became as clear 50 years ago as it is today: The AR-15 is an incredibly good tool for killing lots of other humans.

    The AR-15 rifle, now manufactured by a variety of firms and available in automatic or (more common) semi-auto variants, has become one of the most widely owned weapons in the United States (the NRA boasts that it’s “America’s most popular rifle”). Not coincidentally whatsoever, the AR-15 has also become the weapon of choice for Americans who want to murder other Americans in large numbers, as was the case in the massacres at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, an office party in San Bernardino, and now a gay nightclub in Orlando.

    The gun lobby (backed by sympathetic legislators) has been quick to say the AR-15 is scapegoated, a victim of its own success. The NRA eagerly points out that it comes “in all different types of colors and patterns” and that it may have a variety of perfectly safe and legitimate non-murder uses. In 2013, former NRA President David Keene said it was a smear to call the AR-15 an instrument of war, when in fact these are “firearms that are designed and built not for the military, but for the civilian market”:

    AR 15s are good for hunting. Some buy an AR for home defense and about six percent of buyers are either collectors or varmint hunters. The standard AR is illegal in most states for deer and big game hunting because it is not considered powerful enough to reliably put down deer-sized or larger game, but is used for coyote, wolf and feral pig hunting in many states.

    But the fact that the AR-15 is on the civilian market simply means that a military weapon is being routinely sold to civilians. It doesn’t change the nature of the product: The AR-15 is a weapon explicitly designed for the purpose of accurately killing other people, potentially at great distances.

    We know this because the U.S. military spent a long time studying and detailing just how effective the AR-15 is at warfare. Whether or not some AR-15s end up in use by “varmint hunters,” the unimpeachable truth is that these guns were invented and built to do the job of killing human beings.

    In the early ’60s, the Defense Documentation Center for Scientific and Technical Research (now the Defense Technical Information Center) released a 55-page study on the AR-15's suitability for the South Vietnamese army. “The AR-15 Armalite rifle has been subjected to a comprehensive field evaluation under combat conditions in Vietnam,” the report began. It went on: “because of the controversy which has surrounded this weapon, particular care was exercised to insure that the tests were objective, thorough and adequately documented, and to insure that valid data and conclusions were derived therefrom.”

    The results, culled from evaluations by American “advisors” and South Vietnamese already deployed against the Viet Cong, were crystalline: “The lethality of the AR-IS and its reliability record were particularly impressive.”

    The report describes, with grisly detail, how the AR-15, chambered with the same .223 ammunition that it uses today, not only killed VC soldiers but decapitated and dismembered them:

    The AR-15 Was Built for Slaughter in War Zones

    VC soldiers shot with the AR-15 were regularly described as looking as if they had “exploded”:

    The AR-15 Was Built for Slaughter in War Zones

    Another report notes that among five VC soldiers shot and killed by an AR-15 in one engagement, “four were probably killing wounds with any weapon listed, but the fifth was essentially a flesh wound. The AR-15 made it a fatal wound.” Another field report describes how an AR-15 shot “exploded” one man’s head and turned another person’s torso into “one big hole.”

    The AR-15 Was Built for Slaughter in War Zones

    A member of the Airborne Brigade lauded the rifle’s “excellent killing or stopping power.”

    The AR-15 proved remarkably durable during jungle warfare conditions:

    The AR-15 Was Built for Slaughter in War Zones

    It inspired awe and respect among soldiers for its capacity to kill:

    The AR-15 Was Built for Slaughter in War Zones

    It could even shoot through dense jungle underbrush:

    The AR-15 Was Built for Slaughter in War Zones

    In The Gun, C.J. Chivers’ Pulitzer-winning history of the AK-47, he describes the AR-15 as “an American shift in rifles for killing men,” and recounts the thousands of Pentagon tests with live animals and cadavers that charted just how well the rifle could blow through internal organs and turn brains into mist on the battlefield.

    This is the genetic makeup of the AR-15: It’s not a household tool for hunting feral pigs. Nor is it meant for defending yourself against against a home invasion, unless of course a platoon of Viet Cong is invading your home. And although the early AR-15 proved to be mechanically unreliable in Vietnam, its raw killing power, its ability to blow holes through people, is just as clear inside a gay bar in 2016 as it was in a jungle in 1962.

    Gun advocates will tell you the AR-15 is a peacetime weapon that should remain legal and subject to as few regulatory obstacles as possible, but they’d never say the same thing about a cluster bomb or rocket launcher. And why not? Surely both could be used for self-defense or hunting (and with automatic barbecuing!) just as easily as they could be used to slaughter enemy combatants.

    But the AR-15 is slippery—it’s much more easily disappeared from the context of pure violence by NRA sleight of hand than the other instruments we associate with war. The civilian models, in deference to the few effective gun control laws we still have, are modified from their military counterparts by being unable to spray fully automatic gunfire. But the underlying machinery, used semiautomatically by lone gunmen, has done to dozens of American civilians at a time exactly what it did to the Viet Cong.

    In Orlando, the AR-15 performed exactly as it was built to perform. It made lethal intent into lethal results, killing and maiming human targets with efficiency and ease. It was an instrument of war, and it turned a nightclub into a war zone. Wherever we allow the gun to go, that war will go on.

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    Donald Trump today veered off his scripted remarks to briefly lie about where the Orlando shooter was born in an apparent effort to bolster his call for a ban on Muslims entering the country.

    Trump gave a press conference Monday afternoon, aided by a teleprompter, at the Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. Almost immediately, he suggested the suspected killer, Omar Mateen, could have been prevented from entering the country.

    “The killer, whose name I will not use or ever say, was born in Afghan, of Afghan parents, who immigrated to the United States,” Trump said during a press conference Monday afternoon. “The only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here.”

    A compelling argument, but for the fact that Mateen was born in New York—just like Donald Trump.

    So how did such a blatant lie make it into his scripted speech? Well, according to a copy of his remarks, Trump ad-libbed the line:

    Donald Trump Went Off-Script to Lie About Where the Orlando Shooter Was Born 

    A good point—the only reason Donald Trump is in America is because we allowed his family to come here, too. Something to think about.

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    The Hamilton of Russia Is a Metal Propaganda Musical By Putin’s Biker-Gang Friends
    Photo composite: Jim Cooke/Gawker, photos: AP, YouTube

    Vladimir Putin’s friend Alexander “The Surgeon” Zaldostanov is the leader of the Night Wolves nationalist motorcycle club, a hardcore Motherland-loving campaigner for “resistance to the global Satanism” and “all this homosexual talk.” He can also put on quite a musical! Perhaps you’d like to feast your eyes on some highlights from the Night Wolves’ first and second annual theatrical extravaganzas, complete with acrobats, fireworks, unauthorized Nirvana covers, revisionist historical reenactments, and sick-ass bike tricks:

    The first shows took place two summers in a row on a rugged Mad Max-style set at the Night Wolves’ “patriotic extreme sports center” in Sevastopol, Crimea, the annexation of which isn’t recognized by the majority of the world’s countries and councils. There, the biker gang is renting land from the Russian government at a 99% discount. The show was funded by $1 million worth of government grants for “cultural programming,” courtesy of the Ministry of Culture, and broadcast live on Russian state TV. Ah, the perks of Putin’s friendship!

    The Hamilton of Russia Is a Metal Propaganda Musical By Putin’s Biker-Gang Friends
    Photo: AP

    The 2014 show featured good ol’ anti-Maidan propaganda: Maidan protestors were played by fascist ninjas, goose-stepping in a swastika formation, setting shit on fire as they overthrow the pro-Russian president, so orchestrated by a set of giant metal “puppeteer” hands representing Western and American moneyed influencers, yanking the ninja-fascists’ strings. There was also an Illuminati pyramid, “bloody” drum beating, terrible rock musicians doing patriotic numbers, and the Surgeon doing some spoken word readings about “traitors to Russia” and “slaves to America.” This fit the narrative of “rejoining” Crimea “back” with Russia perfectly. One hundred thousand people reportedly attended.

    Last summer, with the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II coming up, the performance was “set” mostly during World War II. A replica of a fighter plane—the clubhouse’s decorative fixture—glittered with controlled explosions. Women and children in historical costumes ran around and cried. Soldiers fell and died. A metal maiden in a billowing dress rose over a sea of fallen soldiers with the help of a crane, and kept beating at the show’s big motif with her serenade: “Motherland, look at me! My open palm has become a fist.”

    “Russia! Remember! Wide open arms are convenient for crucifixion,” one of the performers crooned ecstatically in front of a chorus of sailors. “Russia! Remember! You are the best on the planet. You are an eternal empire.” That’s some time before a fire-breathing steel mill worker dance number and after the Surgeon, a cartoonish giant in paramilitary gear, read poetry from a tall pedestal: “People who went through hell are holy. There are no atheists on the battlefield.” After that, bikers did jumps, donuts, and flips to some sort of Limp Bizkit scatting over hard guitar riffs while a giant cross lit up with fireworks.

    The Night Wolves also terrified children on New Years in another government-funded musical production where our beloved Snegurochka (Russian Santa’s beautiful daughter) is kidnapped by “evil” people “across the ocean” including a tight-dressed Statue of Liberty trying to ruin everything forever.

    Before he was a founding president of the Night Wolves, “The Surgeon” was an actual facial reconstruction surgeon. Before he came out as a government tool who would “do anything to keep any creature from getting up close to” Putin, he was a different kind of bad boy. According to the club’s self-curated history, the Night Wolves came up out of the Soviet underground in the 80s, putting on illegal rock shows and “cultivating the philosophy of personal freedom.” In the 90s, they became Russia’s first official motorcycle club. Things were never the same after the Kremlin became interested.

    Putin invited the Surgeon to hang out. They had a lot in common. They both loved Russia, God and “family values,” hated liberal values and US “soft powers,” and seemed to embrace performative masculinity. Putin started joining the Night Wolves’ very photographed rides on his own three-wheeled Harley and catapulted the Surgeon’s already rising political celebrity, a celebrity blossoming with militant patriotism and rebel aesthetics all over state television. The club’s had some financial interests—owning several rock clubs, tattoo shops, and a clothing line—and now, government benefactors. The Russian opposition (and many Russians in general) considered them a bunch of leather-clad clowns, but the Night Wolves were a thing now, and their warrior posturing became real.

    According to US government reports, the Night Wolves as a club are “responsible for or complicit in, or has engaged in, directly or indirectly, actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine.” They directly aided in the annexation of Crimea by setting up roadblocks, recruiting separatists fighters, fighting alongside pro-Russian separatists, storming a natural gas facility in Strikolkove, and coordinating “the confiscation of Ukrainian weapons with the Russian forces” from a naval facility in Sevastopol. There’s a sad mini-doc on the Guardian about their base in Luhansk, a self-proclaimed state in east Ukraine (annexed along with Crimea) where members are “waiting for action,” shooting targets, drinking beer and pontificating on how they found their life’s meaning in this God-loving Harley-straddling “Motherland”-“liberating” militia.

    On May 9th, a few of the Night Wolves crashed the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park, Berlin, ending their annual 3,728-mile motorcade recreation of the Red Army march to Berlin to, as the Surgeon says, “remind Europeans that it was Russia that saved them from the fascist hell.” For all their antics in Ukraine, they were sanctioned by the US and several NATO countries. The bans, especially Poland’s, made for a bumpy ride. But in Russia, they were awarded medals for “liberating Crimea.” They were invited to roll through the Red Square in the military Victory Day parade, along with the gear and equipment, brigades and airplanes. Many Russians are tired of this dick-waving army parade pageantry, but the Night Wolves definetly fit in.

    They rode in with striped orange and black flags, the colors of a ribbon that traditionally held a medal commemorating the victory over Germany in 1945. As Julia Ioffe noted in her 2014 piece about Putin co-opting the country’s memory of World War II, that victory “has been used to justify the annexation of Crimea and to fight opposition to Putin at home.” The orange and black ribbons “are now a symbol of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine and of Putinists in Russia.” That theater magic. It’s everywhere.

    Supercut video by Erika Audie.

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    Last night, out journalist Owen Jones found himself surrounded by people who disagreed when he claimed, “At the end of the day, [the Pulse shooting] was a homophobic hate crime, as well as terrorism.” This happened on Sky News, which airs in the UK.

    “It’s something that’s carried out against human beings, isn’t it, no matter what...,” claimed host Mark Longhurst, effectively taking up the all-lives-matter cause.

    Jones and Longhurst bickered for a bit and then Jones said in frustration, “You don’t understand because you’re not gay.” Co-panelist Julia Hartley-Brewer suggested Jones incorrectly felt “ownership” over this crime because he is gay.

    After more bickering, Jones stormed off the set. The Pulse shooting is the largest massacre of gay people in American history. Don’t stand for any claims to the contrary.

    Later, Jones reflected on his walk-off in The Guardian:

    I walked off in disgust during a discussion about the massacre: it was an instinctive reaction to an unpleasant and untenable situation. The presenter continually and repeatedly refused to accept that this was an attack on LGBT people. This was an attack “against human beings”, he said, and “the freedom of all people to try to enjoy themselves”. He not only refused to accept it as an attack on LGBT people, but was increasingly agitated that I – as a gay man – would claim it as such.

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    Trump Vows to Ban Immigration From Basically Everywhere
    Photo: AP

    In a speech today, amid lots of other incoherence, Donald Trump articulated a newly expanded version of his xenophobic “ban Muslims” immigration policy. Consider the implications of this statement:

    Trump said in his speech. “When I am elected,” Trump said in his speech, “I will suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we understand how to end these threats.”

    Last December, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” In a long and illustrious year full of insane and repugnant statements by Donald Trump, that was the single most insane and repugnant statement by Donald Trump. Let us be very clear: he is now calling for an expansion of this insane and repugnant policy.

    Trump says he would block immigrants coming from any “areas of the world” with a “history of terrorism” against not only the US, but also “our allies.” You may want to peruse this list of some of America’s most awkward allies. Under a Trump presidency, we can expect not only a blanket ban on Muslim immigrants, but also on immigrants from any nation that is antagonistic with Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia, or Egypt. Sorry, India—no immigration! Sorry, Israel—stay out! And add to that any nation whose citizens have ever committed violence against Ethiopia, Honduras, or Kyrgystan! It is not long before our list of allies and enemies folds in on itself like a black hole. Besides being embarrassingly xenophobic and utterly stupid, this policy proposal is self-defeating on its face. The fact that he ends it by saying “until we understand how to end these threats” guarantees that the policy will have no expiration date, ever.

    And, of course, if we bar anyone from coming here from a place with “a proven history of terrorism against the United States,” we will be shutting down immigration from one nation in particular: the United States.

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    Hillary Clinton Wants You to Remember the Spirit of 9/12 and Forget What Happened Next
    Photo: AP

    On Monday, in a 20 minute speech, delivered from a Cleveland stage devoid of campaign paraphernalia, Hillary Clinton reminded Americans that, fundamentally, the world is divided into people whose lives matter and people whose lives don’t matter, and that on some level the only real difference between any two politicians is the question of where they draw the line.

    “This has always been a country of we, not me,” Clinton said, an offensively ahistorical platitude on the best of days rendered particularly horrible by the incident the former secretary of state was purportedly addressing: the murder on Sunday of 49 gay nightclub goers by an American citizen. “We stand together because we are stronger together.

    Whatever meaning political language ever has is transient and contingent, and it is easy enough to claim that what the former secretary really meant was that what we need now is togetherness, and unity, and to support each other—which is true enough!—and that each and every public statement a presidential candidate does not have to take into account the centuries of racial and sexual violence this country is founded upon. And, in fairness, it would be hard to fit that into 20 minutes.

    The aim of political rhetoric is to emphasize America’s good intentions—the road to Hell being paved with good intentions. Erasing the past for the sake of rhetorical expediency is a dangerous thing, and at bottom nobody rewrites history (whether ancient or recent) with love in their heart.

    After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Clinton said, Americans came together. “We did not attack each other. We worked with each other to protect our country and to rebuild,” she said. “It is time to get back to the spirit those days—the spirit of 9/12.”

    To whatever meager degree it is true that we did not attack each other after 9/11—the Muslim American victims of hate crimes who were targeted in the immediate aftermath as well as those targeted following more recent attacks might beg to differ—it is also true that the resultant unity, born out of fear, was used to justify the embarkation upon two disastrous wars and the unprecedented expansion of the surveillance state.

    “Since 9/11, law enforcement agencies have worked hard to build relationships with Muslim communities,” Clinton said. (Again, Muslims might disagree.) “They are most likely to recognize the insidious effects of radicalization before it is too late and the best positioned help us block it.” She added: “We should be intensifying contacts in those communities, not scapegoating or isolating them.”

    All of that is to say nothing of the eerie rhetorical convergence of Clinton’s statements with Glenn Beck’s “9/12 Project,” the purpose of which, as one might imagine, is “uniting our communities back to the place we were on 9/12/2001.”

    “The day after America was attacked we were not obsessed with political parties, the color of your skin, or what religion you practiced,” the project’s website states. “We were united as Americans, standing together to protect the greatest nation ever created. Our goal is to bring us back to that same feeling of togetherness again.”

    There is no denying that Americans were united after 9/11—in fear, in terror, in a whirling panic over an ill-defined yet assuredly existential threat that could only be defeated through swift, justified, violence. Bombs were dropped, flickering green and white on the night-vision news. “America Strikes Back,” read the chyron, invoking the second installment of a famous Hollywood trilogy, in which a failing empire retaliates against a ragtag bunch of armed militants living in a hostile and remote landscape.

    (In a trilogy, as the protagonists reach their nadir, the antagonists hit their zenith—rendering the heroes’ triumph all the more dramatic.)

    There is no reason to doubt that Hillary Clinton is being genuine when she says she wants Americans to “get back” to “the spirit of 9/12,” and the “always been a country of we, not me” is ahistoric but also wishful. And yet, the “spirit of 9/12” ended in hundreds of thousands of dead Afghanis and Iraqis, because wherever there is an “us,” there is a “them.” As bleak as the present may feel, the nostalgized past will always make for even more horrific future.

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    The Best and Worst From WWDC 2016
    Image: Getty

    The WWDC keynote is finally over, and if we learned one thing, it’s that Apple has fundamentally changed. Most of the news from the developer’s conference wasn’t too earth-shattering: there were no new apps being ported to Android, no allusions to any Apple hardware whatsoever, and Tim Cook even seemed a little off during his presentation.

    But throughout the keynote presentation you could sense an undeniable change in vision—Apple is finally opening up. What began with small updates in iOS 8 when third-party developers were given access to keyboards and widgets has now reached its zenith with iOS 10. Apple is now opening major applications like Siri and Messages to third-party developers.

    Apple also finished its years-long quest to bring Siri to every conceivable Apple platform, and even watchOS and tvOS got some attention. Here’s all the stuff we liked (and didn’t like) from WWDC 2016.

    The Best and Worst From WWDC 2016

    Best: Siri is now on macOS

    First off, Apple renamed OS X to macOS. But the usual desktop demo dude Craig Federighi spent the most time during the keynote focusing on Siri.

    It’s nothing revolutionary compared to what Microsoft has been doing with Cortana on Windows 10, but the inclusion of Siri on macOS means Apple’s virtual assistant is now available on every Apple product. Siri’s inclusion on all Apple devices make it easier than ever before to jump between a Mac laptop, desktop, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.

    Worst: No new Macbook Pros

    If you were thinking “new name, new Macbooks,” you were sorely disappointed. Like most WWDCs, Apple stuck strictly to the software side of things. This doesn’t mean we’ll never get new Macbook Pros—we may get them very soon even—but we’ll have to wait longer after what’s already been a very long wait.

    The Best and Worst From WWDC 2016

    Best: iOS opens up to developers

    With Siri, Maps, and Messages, Apple is giving developers unprecedented access to building apps on these platforms. It goes without saying that this access will make these once closed-off applications infinitely more useful. Just the ability to voice dictate to Siri with specific functions within certain apps makes the assistant an actual useful assistant.

    Of course, developers will still need time to build in that functionality, but it’s undeniably a big +1 for habitual users of iOS.

    [NOTE: There were so many iOS updates, it’d be insane to list everything we loved and hated. So read this instead.]

    Worst: Some features are still MIA

    There is always room for improvement, and iOS is still missing some glaring features after 10 complete iterations of the operating system. One of those features is dark mode. Apple introduced the feature as part of tvOS this year, paving the way for it to come to iPhone as well. But Federighi was completely silent on the subject. Also, split-screen multitasking on iPhone still remains stubbornly MIA.

    Apple usually talks about more new software when launching new iPhones in the fall, so we’re not quite done with iOS just yet.

    The Best and Worst From WWDC 2016

    Best: Messages gets serious about the upcoming chat wars

    Facebook is tirelessly updating Messenger, and Google is launching an all-out assault with its new text and video apps. Apple isn’t wasting time either, and added more features to its popular messaging service than ever before.

    At the heart of this update is opening Messages to developers and creating an app store for the platform. Apple’s also integrated new stuff like a live camera feed when you want to share a photo, the ability to resize texts fonts and apply short animations to messages, and also the ability to obscure photos and texts for more “dramatic” communication. It’s a lot of stuff, but no must-have features that’ll make you ditch other chat apps already out there.

    Worst: It’s not coming to Android

    This. Sucks. It was likely a long shot to begin with, but rumors began circulating late last week that Apple was toying with the idea of releasing Messages for Android. One the one hand, it would take away one of the iPhone’s best exclusive features. But if Apple has hopes of competing with platform agnostic messengers like Facebook, Snapchat, and Google, then opening up might not only be wise but inevitable. Unfortunately, it looks like Messages will stay in-house at least another year.

    The Best and Worst From WWDC 2016

    Best: Apple TV is way less annoying

    Last year, tvOS made a big move by finally embracing an app store. Now, Apple is tweaking tvOS to make the little set top box less annoying. The big new feature is called Single Sign-On, which makes signing into new apps much easier because you no longer need to deal with typing authentication codes in separate browsers over and over and over. But Apple didn’t stop there. The Apple TV remote now has an iPhone app as well (thank god) and a dark theme, meaning Apple TV’s UI won’t blind you needlessly as you binge-watch Netflix in your black-out bedroom.

    Worst: Apple TV is still missing some big features

    Rumors circulated for some time that Amazon was finally building a tvOS app for Prime users. Unfortunately, Apple made no mention of the new app. Apple also made no mention of trying to become its own internet-television service like PlayStation Vue or Sling TV, though Apple did announce a new Sling TV app. For now, Apple TV remains just a machine for your various entertainment apps rather than an all-in-one entertainment service.

    The Best and Worst From WWDC 2016

    Best: WatchOS is much more useful

    Apple opened WWDC by focusing on watchOS. The highlights included faster app loading, a new dock function, a texting system called “Scribble,” and a shortcuts feature that basically copies iOS’s control center. Apple also made two new health apps focusing on activity sharing and deep breathing (which is concerning). Nothing that’s going to make you run to the Apple store to get a new wristputer per se, but evidence that Apple Watch is slowly maturing into a useable OS.

    Worst: Scribble copies from...Palm OS?!

    One of the most highlighted new features for the Apple Watch is called Scribble, allowing you to write letters on the Apple Watch screen that are then translated into digital text. Cool! But also a feature already on Android Wear..oh..and a Palm Pilot from the late 90s. Innovation at its finest!

    The Best and Worst From WWDC 2016
    WatchOS is clearly better, but I’m just saying!

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    A Running List of the Publications and Reporters Who Have Had Their Credentials Revoked By Donald Trump
    Photo: AP

    This afternoon, Donald Trump announced his campaign would be revoking the press credentials of the “phony and dishonest” Washington Post, which has run a host of stories critical of his candidacy and campaign. As it were, they are in great company—Trump has banned individual reporters and entire outlets for far less.

    The Des Moines Register

    In July 2015, Trump’s campaign denied credentials for the Des Moines Register at a rally in Oskaloosa, Iowa because Trump was unhappy with an editorial titled “Trump should pull the plug on his bloviating side show.”

    “We’re not issuing credentials to anyone from The Des Moines Register based on the editorial that they wrote earlier in the week,” Corey Lewandowski reportedly explained.


    In March 2016, Politico reporter Ben Schreckinger had his credentials to cover a rally at Mar-a-Lago revoked after he wrote a piece critical of Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. He was not given an explanation for the sudden ban.

    According to Politico’s Hadas Gold, Schreckinger attempted to attend anyway and was denied entry and escorted off the property.


    BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins has reportedly been banned from covering Trump events after writing several pieces critical of Trump.

    The New Tri-State Defender

    Historically black paper the New Tri-State Defender couldn’t even get a response from the Trump campaign when it applied for credentials to a March rally in Memphis.

    “We sent out two email requests,” executive editor Karanja Ajanaku told TheWrap at the time. “The first email was sent on the Monday before the event, but we never heard back. The second email was sent on Thursday. They never even acknowledged our emails.”

    Still the campaign did manage to acknowledge emails from James Edwards’ white supremacist site, The Political Cesspool, which obtained credentials for the event.

    The New York Times

    Times reporter Trip Gabriel was ejected from a January rally in Waukee, Iowa, after publishing a story critical of Trump’s Iowa field operation. Gabriel, who says he was escorted out of the rally by a staffer and a police officer, was told he was ejected on orders from “Chuck and Stephanie,” an apparent reference to Trump’s Iowa state director, Chuck Laudner, and his wife, Stephanie.

    The Daily Beast

    The Trump campaign began denying credentials to reporters from the Daily Beast in November—right around the time executive editor Noah Schactman called for a boycott of Trump’s businesses. Campaign reporter Olivia Nuzzi, who was barred for a time, has been let into some events since, though she appears to be the only one: Daily Beast reporter Gideon Resnick writes on Twitter, “I and every other reporter at The Daily Beast have not had access for months and months.”


    The Trump campaign began categorically denying credentials to Univision reporters in October, which he sued for $500 million after they refused to air the Miss Universe pageant citing his comments on Mexicans. That ban has extended to reporters for Fusion TV, which is owned by Univision: In October, the campaign revoked their credentials for a rally in Doral, Florida. Trump also banned Univision employees from using his Miami golf course.

    The Huffington Post

    Reporters from the Huffington Post, which first filed Trump coverage to its entertainment section and later affixed an addendum on Trump stories declaring him a racist, were reportedly banned from getting credentials for Trump campaign events. Another HuffPo reporter, Samantha-Jo Roth, who attempted to enter a rally with the general public, says she was also turned away, apparently because of camera equipment in her backpack.

    The National Review

    Reporters for the National Review, many of whom had previously been credentialed for Trump events, were reportedly blacklisted by the campaign after the Review published a January cover story collection of editorials denouncing Trump. Reporter Alexis Levinson says the revocation has led to the publication covering Trump less: “I just don’t pitch stories that involve me covering Trump stuff anymore,” she told Mother Jones in March. “I don’t have three hours to go spend in line. It’s so irritating.”

    Mother Jones

    Mother Jones reporter Patrick Caldwell says he was denied credentials, without explanation, to a February Nevada victory party, even though the press pen clearly had room for additional reporters. Caldwell reports similar outcomes for his colleagues:

    When Mother Jones’ Russ Choma tried to go through the media entrance to a New Hampshire event in December, Trump’s campaign staff summoned local police to escort him from the venue. My colleague Pema Levy was turned away from a Trump event in Iowa in January, along with several other reporters.

    Those reporters included BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins and the Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi.


    Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan is pretty sure he applied for press credentials for a rally in New Hampshire. As far as he can recall, he didn’t get them. Night editor Hudson Hongo was also denied credentials at a May rally in Eugene, OR.

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    Orlando Shooter Was Reportedly a Regular at Pulse and Had a Profile on Gay Dating App

    Early Sunday morning, Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, perpetrating the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Mateen, his father explained the next day, had repeatedly been angered by the sight of two men kissing. But according to witnesses, Mateen was also a regular at the club and exchanged messages with at least one gay man on a gay dating app.

    “It’s the same guy,” Chris Callen, who performs under the name Kristina McLaughlin, told the Canadian Press. “He’s been going to this bar for at least three years.”

    Ty Smith, who also goes by the name Aries, also said he’d seen Mateen being escorted drunk from the club, Pulse, on multiple occasions.

    “(He’d get) really, really drunk... He couldn’t drink when he was at home—around his wife, or family. His father was really strict... He used to bitch about it,” Smith told the Canadian Press.

    “Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” Smith also explained to the Orlando Sentinel, which spoke with at least four clubgoers who remembered seeing Mateen at Pulse at least a dozen times. “We didn’t really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times... He told us he had a wife and child.”

    Both Callen and Smith, who are married, tell the Canadian Press they stopped speaking to Mateen after he threatened them with a knife, apparently after someone made a joke about religion.

    “He ended up pulling a knife,” Callen said. “He said if he ever messed with him again, you know how it’ll turn out.”

    Mateen, who was married in 2009, was abusive and unstable, his ex-wife says. They were married for just a few months before her parents rescued her from their home in Florida, leaving most of her belongings behind. It’s still unclear if he was married again after their divorce was finalized in 2011.

    MSNBC host Chris Hayes also says he spoke to a man who claims both he and a friend received messages from Mateen via a gay dating app. The full story is set to air tonight on Hayes’ show, All In.

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    Trump Says You'll Just Have to Parse His Innuendos About Obama and Islam Yourself
    Photo: AP

    With his improvised, frequently contradictory policy statements, Donald Trump’s proposals have often better resembled a Rorschach test than a traditional political platform. On Monday, however, the presumptive Republican nominee offered his clearest rejection of authorial intent yet, tasking the American people with decoding his claim that “there’s something going on” with President Obama and radical Islam.

    During interviews Monday morning, Trump repeatedly implied that Obama might have ulterior motives for not mentioning “radical Islamic terrorism” in the wake of the Orlando Pulse shooting, saying, among other things, the President either “doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands.” When later asked by conservative talk show host Howie Carr to explain what he meant, Trump deferred to the imaginations of presumably more lucid conspiracy theorists. From Buzzfeed (emphasis added):

    Well, you know, I’ll let people figure that out for themselves Howie,” Trump said on the Howie Carr Show. “Cause to be honest with you there certainly doesn’t seem to be a lot anger or passion when he – when we want to demand retribution for what happened over the weekend.”

    “There was certainly not a lot of passion,” continued Trump. “There was certainly not a lot of anger. You know, I’ll let that, we’ll let people figure it out. But it’s very, very, it’s a very sad situation when we have the kind of a tragedy that we had and we have a president that gave a press conference and talks about gun control. This was a licensed person, who could have had a gun anyway.”

    Taking him at his word, The Washington Post did just as Trump suggested and attempted to “figure out” his comments, concluding that Trump “seemed to repeatedly accuse President Obama on Monday of identifying with radicalized Muslims who have carried out terrorist attacks.” For their close reading effort, the Trump campaign then revoked the Post’s press credentials.

    “I am no fan of President Obama, but to show you how dishonest the phony Washington Post is, they wrote, ‘Donald Trump suggests President Obama was involved with Orlando shooting’ as their headline,” wrote Trump on Facebook. “Sad!”

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    Reports: Ex-Wife and Classmate Say Orlando Killer Was Gay

    Orlando shooter Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people inside a gay nightclub early Sunday morning, was gay, both his ex-wife and a former classmate have reportedly claimed.

    Initial reports indicated only religious motives—he had already been investigated by the FBI on two separate occasions, in 2013 and 2014, for alleged links to extremism. He also placed a 911 call mid-attack to pledge his allegiance to ISIS, and appeared extremely intolerant of gay men—his father told reporters hours after the massacre that his son had recently been angered by the sight of two men kissing.

    ISIS later claimed responsibility for his actions, though they might regret it now: New reports suggest Mateen was himself gay, or at least an active participant in the Orlando gay scene.

    Mateen’s former classmate, who was not named in the story, tells the paper Mateen asked him on a date when they were both students at the Indian River Community College police academy in 2006. His account, via the Palm Beach Post:

    He said Mateen asked him out romantically.

    “We went to a few gay bars with him, and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer,” he said.

    He believed Mateen was gay, but not open about it. Mateen was awkward, and for a while the classmate and the rest in the group of friends felt sorry for him.

    “He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him,” he said. “He was always socially awkward.”

    Mateen was married at least once, to a woman named Sitora Yusufiy, who said Sunday that he was unstable and abusive during their brief marriage. Yusufiy, who is now dating a Brazilian man, also sat for an interview with Brazilian TV Monday. Speaking in Portuguese, her boyfriend said in the interview that she had described Mateen as having “gay tendencies” and said his dad had called him gay in front of her on several occasions.

    The boyfriend also said Yusufiy told the FBI her ex-husband was unstable and that she did not believe he was part of a terrorist group.

    “The FBI asked her not to tell this to the American media,” he claimed.

    Their accounts echoed others who came forward Monday saying Mateen was part of the gay scene. Mateen was a regular at Pulse, the Orlando nightclub he attacked Sunday, patrons say—as often as twice a month. While he was there, he spoke of a wife and children and would often get so drunk he had to be escorted out of the club.

    “He’s been going to this bar for at least three years,” Pulse performer Chris Callen told the Canadian Press.

    Mateen also reportedly chatted with gay man online. One man, Kevin West, tells the Los Angeles Times he talked with Mateen over the gay dating app Jack’d on and off for about a year. He says he never met Mateen in person, but believes they passed each other on the street outside Pulse the night of the shooting.

    West was dropping off a friend at the club when he noticed Mateen – whom he knew by sight but not by name – crossing the street wearing a dark cap and carrying a black cellphone about 1 a.m., an hour before the shooting.

    “He walked directly past me. I said, ‘Hey,’ and he turned and said, ‘Hey,’” and nodded his head, West said. “I could tell by the eyes.”

    Mateen’s father, a man named Seddique Mateen who has bizarrely claimed to be the president of Afghanistan, told the Palm Beach Post his son was not gay.

    “If he was gay, why would he do something like this?” he said.

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    NRA Claims FBI Failed to Stop Orlando Shooter Due to "Political Correctness"
    Photo: AP

    Monday night, the National Rifle Association finally broke its silence on the attack that killed 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub this weekend, predictably blaming the deadliest mass shooting in American history on everything other than our nation’s lax gun control laws.

    In an op-ed titled “Gun laws don’t deter terrorists,” chief NRA lobbyist Chris W. Cox argued that limiting access to firearms has failed to completely stop terrorist shootings in the West, making further legislation “the definition of insanity.” Instead, suggested Cox, America must defeat terrorism by defeating terrorists, something the Obama administration has apparently failed to do because of “political correctness.” From USA TODAY:

    The terrorist in Orlando had been investigated multiple times by the FBI. He had a government-approved security guard license with a contractor for the Department of Homeland Security. Yet his former co-workers reported violent and racist comments. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s political correctness prevented anything from being done about it.


    It’s time for us to admit that radical Islam is a hate crime waiting to happen. The only way to defeat them is to destroy them — not destroy the right of law-abiding Americans to defend ourselves.

    Cox didn’t clarify how, exactly, the FBI might have stopped Omar Mateen if it had been less politically correct, which is understandable, given that the agency still lacked evidence of a crime after reportedly using wiretaps and an undercover informant to investigate him.

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  • 06/14/16--04:33: 146 Days and a Wake Up
  • 146 Days and a Wake Up
    Photo: AP

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    Officials: French Jihadi Recruiter Broadcast Stabbing Death of Police Commander on Facebook Live
    Photo: AP

    A Frenchman claiming allegiance to the Islamic State stabbed a policeman outside his home in Magnanville, a northwestern suburb of Paris, on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. French officials said the man recorded the attack and broadcast it on Facebook Live.

    The attacker, Larossi Abballa, was sentenced to three years in prison in 2013 for recruiting jihadis. He was from the nearby suburb of Mantes-la-Jolie. After stabbing the policeman repeatedly, Agence France Presse reports, Abballa went inside, where he found the policeman’s partner—an employee of the French Interior Ministry—and their three-year-old son.

    Loud detonations were heard at the scene as elite RAID police moved in following failed negotiations with the attacker.

    Officers found the woman’s body after they stormed the house, and her attacker was killed during the assault, interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.

    The couple’s toddler son was “in shock but unharmed,” a prosecutor added, saying the boy was receiving medical attention.

    At one point in the Facebook Live video, the AP reports, Abballa wondered what to do with the boy. In a statement, the ISIS-linked Amaq news agency said, “Islamic State fighter kills deputy chief of the police station in the city of Les Mureaux and his wife with blade weapons.”

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    Anonymous Member Fights ISIS With Porn
    Image: AP File

    Everyone wants to fight ISIS. One member of Anonymous is doing it by hacking into their Twitter accounts and making them tweet porn.

    WauchulaGhost, who for some strange reason did not want to give his real name, told the Washington Post that ISIS “doesn’t like porn” and doesn’t like women in general. (He’s definitely right about the latter, given the reports of mass rape and keeping of sex slaves.)

    The logic goes that therefore hacking accounts with porn helps to run them off the social network. “We just started using [pornbots] to poke fun at them and diminish their presence online,” he adds. Another reason, he told Softpedia, is that the hacked accounts can be used to “monitor other accounts from the inside, as there are a lot of protected accounts that the public can’t see.”

    Ghost has hacked about 160 accounts so far, which were compiled in a “jacked accounts” list, though Twitter has suspended most of them already. The hacked accounts have tweeted provocative photos (“nothing X-rated, just simple sexy photos”) instead of encouraging people to join their group, or have had their avatars changed to say “I [heart] porn.” Ghost been doing this for a couple of months, though the hacking has picked up after the Orlando shooting at a gay club this past weekend, which the murderer dedicated to ISIS.

    Understandably, Ghost doesn’t want kids logging on to see beheading videos. But not everyone thinks that porn is the best way to fight ISIS, and several experts told WaPo that it’s likely many who don’t want to see beheading videos might not want to see “simple sexy photos” either. While the images are meant to offend ISIS, known for preaching modesty, they might also offend people who have no affiliation with the group whatsoever.

    At any rate, this isn’t the first anti-ISIS activism on the part of Anonymous. The group swore payback for ISIS after the Paris attacks last year and have been trying to troll the group by posting mocking photos and using the #Daeshbags hashtag. (Daesh is the Arabic transliteration of ISIS.) It’s had scuffles with Twitter too, after a disgruntled Anonymous member complained that the company was suspending Anonymous profiles that reported ISIS accounts too often. (Twitter, for its part, says it’s shut down 125,000 terrorist accounts since May of last year.)

    People have come up with plenty of internet-based ways to fight ISIS, whether it’s tracking traffic spikes on a particular video to predict attacks or “dropping cyberbombs.” But Ghost has taken it to another level. He thinks we’re here for a purpose, and he’s found his: “waking up in the morning and see messages from Daesh, telling me they’re going to kill me or cut my head off.”

    [Washington Post, Softpedia]

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