Both Sides Now
June 22, 2020

Several federal national security and law enforcement agencies warned last week that "violent adherents of the boogaloo identity" are planning to infiltrate protests and, as a Homeland Security Department (DHS) intelligence note put it, "threaten or incite violence to start the 'boogaloo' — a colloquial term referring to a coming civil war or the fall of civilization," Politico reported Friday night. Politico, citing several U.S. extremism experts, called "boogaloo" a "far-right extremest movement."

These assessments are "striking," Politico said, given the "public emphasis" President Trump "and Attorney General William Barr have placed on alleged violence carried out by adherents of the left-wing ideology antifa, while refusing to specifically identify and denounce the far-right groups like boogaloo that have been charged in recent weeks for acts ranging from felony murder to terrorism."

DHS found the reports striking for another reason, tweeting Saturday that the Politico article is "a work of fiction" because the DHS note did "not identify the Boogaloo movement as left-wing OR right-wing. They are simply violent extremists from both ends of the ideological spectrum." DHS went on to claim "the mainstream media is losing credibility with the vast majority of Americans."

The tweets raised eyebrows because U.S. federal agencies don't typically adopt Trump's "fake news" idiolect in public statements and because they incorrectly downplay right-wing violence and elevate left-wing violence.

"There is a clear link between far-right groups and gun culture that doesn't really exist in the culture of individuals who identify with the antifa movement," Jason Blazakis, a senior research fellow at the nonprofit Soufan Center, tells Politico. "That's a key distinguishing feature. There is a potential shared narrative between boogaloo and antifa, given the anti-government bent. But the way they project the threat is different." Far-right extremists have been tied to 27 homicides since 2019, versus zero for the far left since at least 2016, said Brian Levin, executive director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernardino. Other recent reports have found similar disparities. Peter Weber

April 3, 2020

President Trump is meeting at the White House on Friday with the top executives of some of the largest U.S. oil companies to discuss ways his administration might support the oil and gas industry amid an oil crash. On Thursday, Trump tweeted that he had spoken with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Russia — whose price war combined with a sharp drop in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic to tank oil prices — and expected them to cut production, which "will be GREAT for the oil and gas industry!" Indeed, oil prices shot up after Trump's tweet and continued rising early Friday.

But higher oil prices mean higher gas prices for consumers, as CNN political analyst Joe Lockhart noted.

Trump embraced that tension at Wednesday's coronavirus press briefing: "Now, gasoline's gonna be 99 cents a gallon and less, you know that. That's already starting, it's popping up — 99 cents. So that's like giving a massive tax cut to people of our country." He also mentioned, "I'm going to meet with the oil companies on Friday," and said, "We don't want to lose our great oil companies."

On Tuesday, Trump told the White House press corps that he'll join Russia and the Saudis "at the appropriate time if need be" to work on helping end their price war, explaining, "it's hurtful to one of our biggest industries, the oil industry." In mid-March, meanwhile, Trump said he "would have dreamed about" oil prices this low, adding: "With gasoline prices coming down, that's like a tax cut. Frankly, that's like a big tax cut, not a little tax cut, for the consumer." Tax cuts, it appears, don't solve everything. Peter Weber

March 7, 2017

On Monday, the White House labored to explain President Trump's tweets on Saturday morning accusing former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump's Trump Tower phones during the presidential election. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, speaking to reporters without cameras, said that Congress would find the evidence for Trump's accusations — though, so far, most Republicans in Congress seem as baffled as everyone else. "I think that there's no question that something happened," Spicer said. "There's been enough reporting that strongly suggests that something occurred."

Spicer's deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, went on network TV to defend Trump's claim, while White House counselor Kellyanne Conway had the easier task of going on Fox News, which devoted much of Monday to trying to find proof that Obama (or, usually, his administration) might have done what Trump alleged. The other networks were notably more skeptical. If Trump has evidence to back up his unsubstantiated claim, "we certainly have yet to see it," Anderson Cooper said on CNN Monday night.

"His information appears to come from conservative radio hosts and websites," Cooper said, "and the basis for their story? As-yet-unverified reporting from the BBC, The Guardian, and a new British website called Heat Street on Obama administration efforts last year to get court permission to monitor four Trump team members suspected of irregular contact with Russia. Now, that reporting has so far not been matched by U.S. news organizations with prior good contacts in the intelligence community," he added, and "it's important to point out that none of these British outlets or the conservative outlets in the U.S. that are pushing the story reported that President Obama either ordered or sought wiretaps on then-Mr. Trump," as Trump claimed.

On Fox News, Tucker Carlson decided to fact-check Obama's denial that he had ordered Trump's phones wiretapped, and he enlisted Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge to help. "It's technically correct that the White House and the president don't order surveillance of U.S. citizens, but it would happen through their FBI and their Justice Department," Herridge said, "so if there was a surveillance order, it would happen on Mr. Obama's watch." She called Obama's claim that his administration never interfered in a federal investigation "patently false," because of Obama's statements about Hillary Clinton. Watch her and Carlson's fact-check below. Peter Weber

December 10, 2015

The first season of the Serial podcast was a huge success, both in terms of reach and because it won a Peabody award. Thursday morning, Serial released the first episode of Season 2, focusing on Bowe Berghdal, the Army sergeant held captive by the Taliban for five years after leaving his base in Afghanistan, finally traded by President Obama for five Taliban detainees. Republicans have criticized the prisoner swap, and the large Army manhunt for Bergdahl that preceded it, with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) saying two months ago that Berghdal is "clearly a deserter" and GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump called him a "traitor" who "should have been executed."

In the first episode of Serial, Bergdahl starts to tell his side of the story, beginning with his realization, 20 minutes after leaving the base, that he was "in over my head." Suddenly, he told screenwriter Mark Boal — in taped interviews that are the backbone of Serial's new season — "it really starts to sink in that I really did something bad. Or, not bad, but I really did something serious." Bergdahl says he originally planned to hike 18 miles to a larger Army base to report leadership problems he saw in his platoon, but quickly decided to gather information about Taliban improvised explosive devices, to mitigate "the hurricane of wrath that was going to hit me."

"When I got back to the FOB (forward operating base), you know, they could say, 'You left your position,'" he told Boal. "But I could say: 'Well, I also got this information. So, what are you going to do?'" Berghdal also said he was "trying to prove to myself, I was trying to prove to the world, to anybody who used to know me, that I was capable of being that person," meaning a good soldier or even someone like fictional spy-hero Jason Bourne.

Serial won't say what the rest of the season will entail, but that there will probably be 8 to 10 episodes and it won't just feature Bergdahl. Executive producer Julie Snyder told The New York Times some things the podcast will explore: "Exactly how long did the search last? What were the consequences of the search? Was this all a search in the name of Bowe? Was this top cover for stuff that they wanted to be doing, but they already knew Bowe was in Pakistan anyway?... We definitely are heading down that path." You can start the second season at Serial's site or your favorite podcast app. Peter Weber

November 6, 2014

GoPro's small, rugged video cameras are changing the way we see the world, and people are still coming up with innovative ways to use them (including, yes, sex tapes). Over the summer, on the International Space Station, NASA astronauts Steve Swanson and Reid Wiseman and the European Space Agency's Alexander Gerst used a GoPro to change the way we see space.

In this video, released by NASA this week, the astronauts played around with the phenomenon of surface tension in near-zero gravity — the reason water clumps up in a ball in space. If that sounds dry, they conducted their experiment by encasing a sealed GoPro into a baseball-sized glob of water, then videotaping the water ball from both the inside and out. You can watch below, but if you're lucky enough to have red-and-blue 3-D glasses lying around, NASA has the whole experiment in a 3-D version here. --Peter Weber

June 3, 2014

Conservatives get a lot of blame for ignoring or denying science, notably on climate change, said Samantha Bee on Monday night's Daily Show, but science denial isn't exclusive to the political right. Case in point: the return of measles, mumps, rubella. Of the 288 new measles cases reported in the U.S. this year, 166 of them are in Ohio's Amish community. But lots of the other cases of these preventable diseases are found in white, upper middle class, liberal enclaves.

Dr. Paul Offit at the Vaccine Education Center certainly lays the blame on liberals, especially well-educated ones who "believe simply by googling the term 'vaccine' on the internet they can know as much if not more than anyone who's giving them advice," he told Bee. The foil in this episode is Sarah Pope, a health and nutrition blogger who opposes vaccinations, and The Daily Show gave her plenty of time to prove Offit's case. Eventually, Offit said, the real human cost of these diseases returning will win the day. "So there is a cure for science denial," Bee concluded, hopefully. "Once Florida is underwater and we all have polio, it'll be better." --Peter Weber

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