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Aug. 17 2017 2:56 PM

At Least 13 Dead in Vehicular Terrorism Attack in Barcelona

This post has been updated as new details have been reported.

A van crashed into dozens of people in Barcelona in what police are treating as a terrorist attack. After conflicting reports of the number of people killed, a Spanish government official confirmed 13 people were dead and 50 were injured.

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Videos on social media show what appear to be several serious injuries after the crash on Las Ramblas, a popular shopping and tourist destination in the city center. The driver reportedly fled after the crash. Police have told people in the area to stay inside. Sky News and Reuters had earlier cited local TV networks reporting that two armed men entered a nearby restaurant and took hostages. However, Catalan police now say there are no hostages or suspects holed up in a restaurant. Police have also confirmed at least one arrest.

Cars have been used in a number of deadly terrorist attacks in Europe since last year in cities including Nice, Berlin, London, and Stockholm. This latest incident also comes just a few days after a protester was killed in a car attack in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Today’s attack is likely to be the worst terrorist incident in Spain since the 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed nearly 200 people. The clumsy response to that attack—authorities initially tried to blame the jihadi attack on the militant Basque separatist group ETA—resulted in the electoral defeat of Spain’s conservative government several days later and the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq.

Spain hasn’t seen any attacks carried out by members of ISIS—who are responsible for most of the worst recent incidents throughout Europe. But in April, police in Catalonia—Barcelona’s region—arrested nine alleged ISIS supporters suspected of links to the 2016 Brussels airport attack.

Spain has a long history of political violence, much of it linked to ETA, which was involved in more than 800 killings over a 40-year armed conflict. ETA says it has ended its armed campaign and handed over its weapons to authorities this year, though, there are some doubts about whether it has given up entirely.

Catalonia also has an active separatist movement, though an almost entirely peaceful one. The region is gearing up for a controversial planned independence referendum this fall, which the government in Madrid has declared illegal and pledged not to recognize.

Aug. 17 2017 12:26 PM

Dozens of Activists Turn Selves in Spartacus-Style for “Crime” of Toppling Durham Confederate Statue

Activists in Durham County, North Carolina, attempted to surrender en masse at a courthouse on Thursday morning in an act of solidarity with those charged for the act of pulling down a statue of a Confederate soldier on Monday, news reports and social media accounts say. The gesture remained symbolic when law enforcement officials declined to take anyone who hadn't had a warrant issued for their arrest into custody: "Officials at the jail, where the magistrate’s office is located, blocked their entry into the buildings," the Raleigh News & Observer reported. Video of the scene:

A total of seven individuals appear to have been actually arrested thus far for helping pull down the statue, which had been in place since 1924. Four have been charged with misdemeanors and released on "unsecured" bonds, meaning they didn't have to pay to be released. A law in North Carolina prohibits municipalities from taking down public monuments without the approval of the state's right-wing Legislature—but, as my colleague Christina Cauterucci wrote on Wednesday, North Carolina's Democratic governor and attorney general could hypothetically decide not to actually prosecute any removals.

Aug. 17 2017 10:48 AM

Trump Describes Confederate Monuments as “Beautiful” in Today’s Edition of Our Dumb Universe

Tacking slightly away from such poorly received talking points as "defending your hometown from the KKK is just as bad as being in the KKK" and "the rally during which white men carrying torches shouted Nazi slogans involved 'some very fine people,' " Donald Trump is focusing Thursday on the cause of preserving monuments to America's most fondly remembered slavery/treason rebellion:

Incidentally, two of Stonewall Jackson's great-great-grandsons wrote a piece in Slate, published Wednesday night, calling on the city of Richmond, Virginia, to take down its statue of their great-great-grandfather. "In our view, the removal of the Jackson statue and others will necessarily further difficult conversations about racial justice," they wrote. "It will begin to tell the truth of us all coming to our senses." That'd be nice.

Aug. 17 2017 10:31 AM

Americans Are Sharply Divided Over Trump’s Charlottesville Response, Poll Shows

A new CBS poll shows a partisan divide in opinions about President Trump’s response to Charlottesville: 22 percent of Republicans disapprove, compared with 82 percent of Democrats, 53 percent of independents, and 55 percent of Americans overall. Most Americans—again 55 percent—also disagree with his blaming of “many sides” for the weekend’s violence. By party affiliation, opinion breaks down into 83 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of independents who disagree but only 21 percent of Republicans who do (while 68 percent of Republicans agree with Trump on the cause of the violence). From CBS:

Interviewing for this poll began the night before Tuesday's press conference and continued for two nights after it. Disapproval of the president's handling of events rose following the press conference. Both partisan groups showed at least slight ticks up in disapproval, with Republicans becoming a bit more disapproving and Democrats even more so.
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Majorities of all groups agree that the attack on protesters was an act of domestic terrorism: 51 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of independents, and 63 percent of Americans overall.

Aug. 17 2017 10:29 AM

Here Is the Steve Bannon Interview That Crashed the American Prospect’s Website

On Wednesday, Robert Kuttner published a fascinating and explosive interview with White House strategist Steve Bannon on the website of the American Prospect. The article drew so much interest, TAP's servers have had trouble keeping up and the website has been intermittently down. With the Prospect's permission, we're republishing the story so readers can find it as their site stabilizes. Try reading it on their website first by clicking here. If their site is down, you can find the full text below.

Aug. 17 2017 10:26 AM

UVA Is a Deeply Imperfect Place. Last Night’s Vigil Was the School at Its Best.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia—Last night a warming onslaught of students, faculty, staff, and greater community members gathered at the University of Virginia to begin healing its campus (or “Grounds,” as its known in Charlottesville) in the aftermath of a violent white supremacist march on the school this past Friday night. Wednesday evening’s event—informally billed as “Take Back the Lawn”—began at a spot known around UVA as “Nameless Field” and culminated on the titular Lawn, a long, rolling stretch of grass at the foot of the Rotunda, the university’s iconic domed building designed by its founder, Thomas Jefferson. The marchers carried candles, sang, talked, listened, laughed, hugged. I do not know exactly how many people came out to march—hundreds at least, and quite possibly more. It doesn’t really matter; what matters is that there were far, far more of us than there were of them.

There were no long speeches, no specific calls to action, no recriminations or denunciations or demands for redress. All that will come, as it should, but last night it could wait. As the march wound its way onto the Lawn itself, people burst into spontaneous choruses of “We Shall Overcome,” which continued in more organized fashion once we were all assembled in front of the Rotunda. “This Little Light of Mine” was next, with improvised lyrics contributed from the crowd: “Black Lives Matter here/ I’m gonna let it shine,” and “Shine all over Charlottesville/ I’m gonna let it shine.”

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There was a stirring reading of Maya Angelou’s “Still, I Rise,” and, like at nearly any UVA gathering, a chorus of “The Good Old Song,” the school’s de facto alma mater that’s really just a hackneyed rewrite of “Auld Lang Syne” but never sounded as fresh and urgent as it did last night. After the “official” proceedings wrapped many continued to linger, launching into impromptu renditions of “Lean On Me,” “Amazing Grace,” and other songs I was tired of until last night.

I have taught at the University of Virginia since 2014, and during that time have come to know it as a complex and deeply imperfect place. Founded by a slaveholder and built by slave labor, the university was a stronghold of Southern white supremacy for much of its history, at times openly virulent, at others insidiously genteel. As late as the 1920s, the university happily accepted financial gifts from the Ku Klux Klan; UVA did not begin to integrate until 1950 and did not begin admitting women until 1970. And despite the many alumni who live in town, UVA’s relationship to broader Charlottesville, and to the city’s black community in particular, has long been fraught. Unwelcome in its classrooms for well over a century, to this day black Charlottesvilleans make up a disproportionate amount of the university’s workforce and support staff, and many are vastly undercompensated.

And yet UVA is also special, in real and intoxicating ways. The campus is beautiful, almost comically so, and if you find yourself here in the right mood at the right time of day, it’s hard not to get caught up in the school’s own grand and deeply romantic view of itself. And for all its storied history and traditions, UVA’s greatest assets are its youngest ones: Its students are as intelligent and gifted as any in the country, and fiercely devoted to their school. Their collective reputation has been damaged as of late, as two of last weekend’s most prominent personalities—white supremacist Richard Spencer, and local blogger Jason Kessler, who organized the “Unite the Right” event—are UVA graduates. But Spencer and Kessler are outliers and failures; like so many of UVA’s disgraces, they belong to its past. UVA’s current students are its unwritten future, and the vast majority I’ve known in my time here are much, much closer to the small, heroic band of protesters surrounding the statue of Thomas Jefferson on Friday night than to the hateful thugs and frauds who threatened them.

Faculty, of course, don’t have the same relationship to a school that its students do, but our attachment to our students and their well-being provokes its own breed of devotion, protectiveness, and, right now in Charlottesville, fear. The image of neo-Nazis marching on the UVA Lawn last Friday night, where students and faculty families live, was unbearable, and not one that will leave anyone’s mind anytime soon. But last night was a chance to show the country and world another view of the University of Virginia, one that is much closer to who we are, and who we are trying to be.

Aug. 17 2017 9:47 AM

Removing Confederate Memorials Doesn’t Mean Washington and Jefferson Are Next

In his press conference on Tuesday, President Donald Trump asked whether the push to take down Confederate monuments would lead to the removal of statues for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. On Wednesday’s Trumpcast, Jamelle Bouie addressed the comparison. You can also read Jamelle Bouie’s longer response to Trump’s Tuesday remarks. This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Jamelle Bouie: I’ve spent entirely too much time of my life reading neo-Confederate apology, and that comparison—if Robert E. Lee now, what about George Washington next?—is sort of typical of those arguments. Elevating Lee, and Trump also mentioned Stonewall Jackson (and there’s also a Stonewall Jackson statue in Charlottesville), elevating those two figures with men like Washington and  Jefferson—even among mainstream conservatives you see statements like, “Oh there’s a slippery slope between taking the Lee statues and taking down someone like Jefferson.”

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Jacob Weisberg: First they came for the Confederate generals. Then they came for the ordinary Confederate soldiers. Then the came for the Founding Fathers. Then they came for me.

Bouie: So if I’m reading that stuff in good faith then I think they error they’re making is that they’re saying, “OK, Lee was a slaveholder. Jefferson was a slaveholder. So what distinguishes the two? Why not take Jefferson down along with Lee?”

The answer is that, yes, Jefferson was a slaveholder, Washington was a slaveholder, but the reason we memorialize them is not because of their slaveholding. We memorialize them because one wrote the Declaration of Independence, and one led the Continental Armies and basically formed the model for the presidency. And while their public memories should include the fact that they owned slaves—I think it should be pretty central to how we remember them—in terms of memorializing there is material for creating a broad narrative that everyone can buy into. That was basically the whole project of the musical Hamilton.

Lee is only famous because he led Confederate armies. If secession had never happened and the Confederacy had never come into existence, Lee would have lived his live and died as an obscure member of the United States military. You can’t untangle him from the Confederacy. And if you look at even a cursory history of the memorialization of the Confederacy, it all pops up in the 1890s and 1900s and 1910s, as Jim Crow was being codified. These statues were explicitly raised as symbols of Jim Crow and of white supremacy.

So Trump’s comparison there is dumb. It doesn’t really even make any sense. And the notion that there’s some slippery slope is dumb.

Aug. 16 2017 11:47 PM

Steve Bannon Gives an “Interview” That Makes Him Look Suspiciously Sane

In a bizarre twist in the Steve Bannon White House puppet master narrative, Bannon called up the editor of the liberal magazine the American Prospect on Tuesday afternoon and proceeded to give him what appears to be his unvarnished opinion on many things. On the other end of the line was Robert Kuttner, who then proceeded to write a story about his 25-minute conversation with one of the key, but elusive, figures in the Trump White House. As Kuttner tells it, Bannon called him apparently following up on a column Kuttner had written on how China was profiting from the U.S. and North Korea’s nuclear squabbles.

The interview reads like an off-the-record conversation caught on the record. Immediately White House watchers asked: How could the media-savvy Bannon been so careless? How could he commit such a gaffe? It’s a narrative that a few timely unsourced quotes in Axios about Bannon being shocked—yes, shocked—that when he called a journalist on the phone to discuss U.S. policy, the journalist wrote about it. Shocked!

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Let’s pump the brakes for a second and take a look at the crux of what Bannon said:

White Supremacists Are Bad and Need to Be Crushed

“Ethno-nationalism—it's losers. It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.” “These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.

Unhinged Nuclear Saber-Rattling Won’t Work with North Korea:

“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

How Bannon Fights “Every Day” in the White House for the U.S. to Finally Take on China Economically:

“To me,” Bannon said, “the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we're five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we'll never be able to recover.”
Bannon’s plan of attack includes: a complaint under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act against Chinese coercion of technology transfers from American corporations doing business there, and follow-up complaints against steel and aluminum dumping. “We’re going to run the tables on these guys. We’ve come to the conclusion that they’re in an economic war and they’re crushing us.”
“That’s a fight I fight every day here,” he said. “We’re still fighting. There’s Treasury and [National Economic Council chair] Gary Cohn and Goldman Sachs lobbying.”
“We gotta do this. The president’s default position is to do it, but the apparatus is going crazy. Don’t get me wrong. It’s like, every day.”

To recap: During a stretch where the president of the United States has stepped in white supremacist quicksand and spoken breezily about nuclear war, Bannon gives an “interview” outside of the normal mélange of media outlets, and well beyond the far-right press. In that interview Bannon frames himself as explicitly anti–white supremacist and against unhinged and unproductive nuclear saber-rattling, while painting himself as the true voice of the American worker in the White House fighting to get big bad Goldman banker types to, at last, take on China.

And you thought Steve Bannon didn’t know the interview was on the record?

Aug. 16 2017 9:40 PM

Trump’s Lawyer Peddles Pro-Confederacy Talking Points Email, May Literally Be Your Racist Uncle

You know how your kinda, sorta racist uncle sometimes forwards you things? Donald Trump’s lawyer—shockingly—is just like that. On Wednesday, the New York Times got hold of an email forwarded by President Trump’s personal lawyer John Dowd that, in part, consists of a patently absurd ahistorical comparison between Robert E. Lee and George Washington—not to mention Napoleon and Shaka Zulu. I know that all sounds a bit circuitous, but just give it a second.

The email Dowd deemed worthy enough to forward carried the subject line “The Information that Validates President Trump on Charlottesville” and presented itself as talking points for Trump’s response to Charlottesville, during which, in an effort to never admit he’s wrong, Trump has painted him into a corner where the only escape hatch is arguing the leader of the Confederate Army is the real hero here. “You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington,” the email reads, “there literally is no difference between the two men.”

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The talking points read like a dystopian SAT question.

“You’re sticking your nose in my personal email?” Mr. Dowd told the Times in response to questions about the email. “People send me things. I forward them.” Just like your racist uncle. One difference here is that this is the president of the United States’ lawyer. A second point of interest is that Dowd didn’t just send the crackpot equivalency to his family (although he also sent it to them), according to the Times, he also relayed it to the Wall Street Journal editorial page and journalists at Fox News and the Washington Times.

What about the author of the email made the president of the United States’ lawyer think it was worth flagging the Wall Street Journal editorial page? “The email’s author, Jerome Almon, runs several websites alleging government conspiracies and arguing that the F.B.I. has been infiltrated by Islamic terrorists,” according to the Times. “He once unsuccessfully sued the State Department for $900 million over claims of discrimination.” Seems legit. Sign him up. Perhaps he has some ideas on health care reform.

You may be wondering how someone like Almon, who is black incidentally, came to be in touch with the president’s lawyer. The answer is the most Trumpy thing ever. “Mr. Almon said he sent the email to follow up on a phone call he had last week with Mr. Dowd,” according to the Times. “He said he had called to offer damaging information about James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, and to provide other information about the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign.”

A veritable legal dream team Trump's got going here.

Aug. 16 2017 6:54 PM

Today in Conservative Media: The Confederate Monument Debate Is About Ideology, Not Slavery

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A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.

Conservatives continued to debate the Charlottesville protests and the ethics of defending Confederate monuments on Wednesday. In an emotional segment on Fox & Friends, both Republican analyst Gianno Caldwell and Democratic political analyst Wendy Osefo tearfully condemned President Trump’s Tuesday remarks, in which he stated that “fine people” were among those who demonstrated to defend Charlottesville’s monument to Robert E. Lee.

Caldwell: Last night I couldn’t sleep at all because President Trump, our president has literally betrayed the conscience of our country. The very moral fabric in which we’ve made progress when it comes to race relations in America--he’s failed us. And it’s very unfortunate that our president would say things like he did in that press conference yesterday. When he says, ‘Well, you know, there are good people on the side of the Nazis. They weren’t all Nazis. They weren’t all white supremacists.’ Mr. President—good people don’t pal around with Nazis and white supremacists.  This has become very troubling. And for anyone to come on any network and defend what President Trump did and said at that press conference yesterday—it’s completely lost and the potential to be morally bankrupt.
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At the Daily Wire, Aaron Bandler wrote about a potential effort to remove the Confederate monument at Stone Mountain, Georgia.:

Clearly, there is a lot of evil, ugly racism associated with the Stone Mountain monument.

And yet, [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay] Bookman argues that it should not be taken down.
"It is easier and simpler and more emotionally gratifying to say it should just be removed, but removal would itself be a form of whitewashing of our history every bit as deceptive as the carving itself," wrote Bookman. "While the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP is right to condemn the carving itself as 'a glorification of white supremacy,' that glorification happened."
In other words, the monument serves as an ugly reminder of the evil racism that took place in the state and in the country and as a teaching opportunity to ensure that the state and the country doesn't fall back into that evil time period.

On his show, Rush Limbaugh had an exchange with a caller who argued he had given insufficient attention to the morality of slavery in his coverage of  Confederate monument controversies:

Kathy: We have this heritage of people being treated very, very poorly and horribly and killed in some cases and lynched in some cases, and I just think that when we talk about these issues that verge on slavery, I hope that we will be a little more direct in being honest about what it was really all about. That was a long sentence.
Limbaugh: Well, do you know that the Native Americans were slaveholders? Did you know that Christopher Columbus, the ostensible discoverer of America —
Kathy: Yeah.
Limbaugh: — it was the order… The United States was not in any way unique in this. In fact, what makes the United States unique is that we are the first serious major country, population that ended it. We went to war to end it, and 500,000 citizens of this country died in that effort. Nobody here denies slavery. Nobody’s denying it at all. But there’s a missing sense of proportion about this — and I have to disagree with you on one thing, Kathy. This is ideological. Every bit of this is ideological. It is left versus right, centrist versus whatever. It is. And the fact that a lot of people don’t see that is, I think, what permits much of this to happen.

At National Review, Ian Tuttle took aim at President Trump’s reference to an “alt-left” that had stirred up trouble in Charlottesville. “By ‘alt-left,’ Trump and others seem to be referring primarily to Antifa, the black-clad ‘anti-fascists’ who rioted on Inauguration Day in D.C., at Berkeley shortly after (to forestall an appearance by alt-right icon Milo Yiannopoulos), and have made appearances elsewhere (most recently in Seattle),” he wrote. “But Antifa has never cast itself as a political alternative to the Democratic party as currently constituted, and it has no positive agenda (‘anti-fascism’). No one is running on the Antifa platform.”

In other news:

Multiple outlets reported the FBI’s reopening of a Freedom of Information Act request from Trump attorney Jay Sekulow about former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton last year. From the Washington Free Beacon:

The letter reopening the FOIA dated Aug. 10 came after Sekulow pointed out in an appearance on Fox and on the ACLJ's website that it had recently received documents from the Department of Justice (DOJ) showing that FBI emails and other agency documents exist about the tarmac meeting.
Critics of Comey's handling of the agency's investigation into Hillary Clinton's email abuses point to the tarmac meeting as a turning point in the probe. After the late June meeting created a media firestorm questioning whether Lynch could remain impartial in the probe, Lynch announced that she would accept Comey's determination on whether or not to indict Clinton based on the FBI's email findings.

Sekulow described the turnaround on Fox & Friends:

Sekulow: The biggest issue is not so much what we’ve gotten so far—which is significant. It shows communication to the Department of Justice and the FBI, the Department of Justice and the White House were all involved with this Clinton-Lynch meeting ... but there was a three page email produced, which they redacted completely—that means three blank pages—that were the “talking points” and they refused to release those.

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