Floating Guantánamos: How the U.S. Coast Guard Uses Indefinite Detention to Wage ‘War on Drugs’ at Sea
A shocking new exposé reveals how the U.S. Coast Guard is detaining thousands of suspected drug smugglers they arrest in international waters and keeping them jailed at sea for up to several months before they are charged in a U.S. federal court. Many of the suspects are low-level smugglers from impoverished fishing towns in Latin America. During their imprisonment at sea they are shackled on deck, exposed to the elements and denied access to lawyers and their families. The increased detentions began when General John Kelly headed the Pentagon’s Southern Command from 2012 to 2016. Kelly is now President Trump’s White House chief of staff after briefly serving as Secretary of Homeland Security. We are joined by Seth Freed Wessler, the journalist who broke the story in The New York Times Magazine in a piece headlined, ‘The Coast Guard’s ‘Floating Guantánamos’. Wessler is a Puffin Fellow at the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. (Democracy Now!)
The revelations overcame Edgar Maddison Welch like a hallucinatory fever. On December 1st, 2016, the father of two from Salisbury, North Carolina, a man whose pastimes included playing Pictionary with his family, tried to persuade two friends to join a rescue mission. Alex Jones, the Info-Wars host, was reporting that Hillary Clinton was sexually abusing children in satanic rituals a few hundred miles north, in the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant. Welch told his friends the “raid” on a “pedo ring” might require them to “sacrifice the lives of a few for the lives of many.” A friend texted, “Sounds like we r freeing some oppressed pizza from the hands of an evil pizza joint.” Welch was undeterred. Three days later, armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, a .38 handgun and a folding knife, he strolled into the restaurant and headed toward the back, where children were playing ping-pong. As waitstaff went table to table, whispering to customers to get out, Welch maneuvered into the restaurant’s kitchen. He shot open a lock and found cooking supplies. He whipped open another door and found an employee bringing in fresh pizza dough. Welch did not find any captive children – Comet Ping Pong does not even have a basement – but he did prove, if there were any lingering doubts after the election, that fake news has real consequences.
Welch’s arrest was the culmination of an election cycle dominated by fake news – and by attacks on the legitimate press. Several media outlets quickly traced the contours of what became known as Pizzagate: The claim that Hillary Clintonwas a pedophile started in a Facebook post, spread to Twitter and then went viral with the help of far-right platforms like Breitbart and Info-Wars. But it was unclear whether Pizzagate was mass hysteria or the work of politicos with real resources and agendas. It took the better part of a year (and two teams of researchers) to sift through the digital trail. We found ordinary people, online activists, bots, foreign agents and domestic political operatives. Many of them were associates of the Trump campaign. Others had ties with Russia. Working together – though often unwittingly – they flourished in a new “post-truth” information ecosystem, a space where false claims are defended as absolute facts. What’s different about Pizzagate, says Samuel Woolley, a leading expert in computational propaganda, is it was “retweeted and picked up by some of the most powerful faces of American politics.”
The US reckoning on sexual-misconduct allegations against powerful men has turned to former President Bill Clinton, and his critics now include important liberal voices.
On Thursday, the same day that the TV and radio host Leeann Tweeden accused Democratic Sen. Al Franken of forcibly kissing and groping her in 2006, Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democratic senator who holds Hillary Clinton‘s former seat, said the former president should have resigned after his own sex scandal.
Asked whether Clinton should have resigned as president after his affair with a young intern, Gillibrand on Thursday replied, “Yes, I think that is the appropriate response,” The New York Times reported.
The Times suggested Gillibrand tried to clarify that she meant Clinton’s affair should have resulted in a resignation specifically when judged by today’s standards, but the condemnation was still notable given Gillibrand’s ties to the Clintons.
Just last year, when Gillibrand endorsed Hillary Clinton‘s 2016 presidential run, she wrote that she was returning the favor after being “truly honored that President Bill Clinton campaigned for me in my first run for Congress in 2006.”
Gillibrand’s strongest rebuke yet of Clinton followed other prominent voices in liberal politics, like Vox’s Matt Yglesias.
Donald Trump Jr.’s private Twitter exchanges with WikiLeaks have added a new level of intrigue to the probe of the 2016 presidential election. On Monday, The Atlantic first reported secret correspondences between Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks during the campaign. Later that day, Trump Jr. released all of his correspondences on Twitter.
The news has raised questions about the credibility of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. After WikiLeaks launched in 2006, the nonprofit organization gained a well-earned reputation as an unbiased platform where whistleblowers could publish secret information and classified media and maintain their anonymity. WikiLeaks lived up to its motto: “We open governments.” Assange prided himself and his organization on being nonpartisan—committed to uncovering wrongdoing, regardless of political affiliation.
But in 2016, after releasing thousands of emails related to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, WikiLeaks became a controversial part of the election story. The group’s many enemies questioned its motives. Assange denied he was working as a political operative, favoring the Donald Trump campaign. Now, can we be sure?
Well, the results are in, and they don’t look promising for police bodycams being the end all be all in stopping police abuse and brutality. But I think we knew this. As many anti-brutality activists have maintained, it’s not about tactics (though they may help) but dismantling the system and culture.
A new study by the Lab @ DC found that there was not a “statistically significant effect of the body-worn cameras,” according to a researcher who took part in the report. Meaning, police abuse is about the same as it has always been, even with the body cameras being worn by officers.
The study, according to NPR, followed the police force in Washington, D.C., where 2,600 of its officers wear body cameras.
The study ran from June 2015 to December 2016 and worked with local police officials to ensure that cameras were assigned randomly. But alas, there were still lots of citizen complaints against officers.
Back in March 2016, I made a prediction:
If, God forbid, Trump is elected, some day, assuming we’re all still alive, we’ll be having a conversation in which we look back fondly, as we survey the even more desultory state of political play, on the impish character of Donald Trump. As Andrew March said to me on Facebook, we’ll say something like: What a jokester he was. Didn’t mean it at all. But, boy, could he cut a deal.
When I wrote that, I was thinking of all the ways in which George W. Bush, a man vilified by liberals for years, was being rehabilitated, particularly in the wake of Trump’s rise.
Thursday’s speech, in which Bush obliquely took on Trump, was merely the latest in a years-long campaign to restore his reputation and welcome him back into the fold of respectability.
Remember when Michelle Obama gave him a hug?
That was step two or three. This week’s speech was step four.
“I think that when Americans talk about the Vietnam War … we tend to talk only about ourselves. But if we really want to understand it … or try to answer the fundamental question, ‘What happened?’ You’ve got to triangulate,” says filmmaker Ken Burns of his celebrated PBS documentary series “The Vietnam War.” “You’ve got to know what’s going on. And we have many battles in which you’ve got South Vietnamese soldiers and American advisors or … their counterparts and Vietcong or North Vietnamese. You have to get in there and understand what they’re thinking.”
Burns and his co-director Lynn Novick spent 10 years on “The Vietnam War,” assisted by their producer Sarah Botstein, writer Geoffrey Ward, 24 advisors, and others. They assembled 25,000 photographs, feature close to 80 interviews of Americans and Vietnamese, and spent $30 million on the project. The resulting 18-hour series is a marvel of storytelling, something in which Burns and Novick take obvious pride. “The Vietnam War” provides lots of great vintage film footage, stunning photos, a solid Age of Aquarius soundtrack, and plenty of striking soundbites. Maybe this is what Burns means by triangulation. The series seems expertly crafted to appeal to the widest possible American audience. But as far as telling us “what happened,” I don’t see much evidence of that.
Like Burns and Novick, I also spent a decade working on a Vietnam War epic, though carried out on a far more modest budget, a book titled “Kill Anything That Moves.” Like Burns and Novick, I spoke with military men and women, Americans and Vietnamese. Like Burns and Novick, I thought I could learn “what happened” from them. It took me years to realize that I was dead wrong. That might be why I find “The Vietnam War” and its seemingly endless parade of soldier and guerrilla talking heads so painful to watch.
The largely tax-free religion industry is one of the biggest in America, worth $1.2 trillion a year, a number that includes religious “healthcare facilities, schools, daycare and charities; media; businesses with faith backgrounds; the kosher and halal food markets; social and philanthropic programmes; and staff and overheads for congregations.”
The figure comes from The Socio-economic Contribution of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis, co-authored by Georgetown’s Brian J Grim and Newseum’s Melissa E Grim, and published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion. The authors describe the estimate as “conservative” and note that while religion as a whole is declining in the US, spending on religious “social programs” has tripled since 2001, to $9T.
Grim and his co-author Melissa Grim of the Newseum Institute in Washington came up with three estimates of the worth of US religion. The lowest, at $378bn, took into account only the revenues of faith-based organisations. The middle estimate, $1.2tn, included an estimate of the market value of goods and services provided by religious organisations and the contributions of businesses with religious roots.
2017 has become the year when absurd jokes appear to be coming true. When Dennis Rodman made his first trip to North Korea back in 2013, it was amusing to imagine the eccentric NBA legend acting as the United States’ de facto ambassador to the country. The idea was as preposterous as Donald Trumpsomehow being elected president.
It sounds surreal, but with tensions rising between the two countries thanks to North Korea’s growing nuclear weapons program, there’s a very real possibility that Rodman, a man who once married himself, ends up playing a key role in preventing armageddon. Rodman himself certainly believes he will. In an interview with Good Morning Britain, the five-time NBA champion offered to“straighten things out” between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, emphasizing that he considers both men friends.
Rodman, along with a group of journalists from Vice, first visited North Korea in 2013 after an invitation from Kim. It turns out that the North Korean leader grew up a fan of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls teams from the 1990s. Rodman, one of the best defensive players of the era, was a key figure on those teams, although ultimately he received far more attention for his (literally) colorful antics than his formidable basketball skills.
[…] Military officers, like all of us, are products of their background and environment. The three members of Trump’s junta have 119 years of uniformed service between them. They naturally see the world from a military perspective and conceive military solutions to its problems. That leads toward a distorted set of national priorities, with military “needs” always rated more important than domestic ones.
Trump has made clear that when he must make foreign policy choices, he will defer to “my generals.” Mattis, the new junta’s strongman, is the former head of Central Command, which directs American wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. Kelly is also an Iraq veteran. McMaster has commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan almost without interruption since he led a tank company in the 1991 Gulf War.
Military commanders are trained to fight wars, not to decide whether fighting makes strategic sense. They may be able to tell Trump how many troops are necessary to sustain our present mission in Afghanistan, for example, but they are not trained either to ask or answer the larger question of whether the mission serves America’s long-term interest. That is properly the job of diplomats. Unlike soldiers, whose job is to kill people and break things, diplomats are trained to negotiate, defuse conflicts, coolly assess national interest and design policies to advance it. Notwithstanding Mattis’s relative restraint on North Korea, all three members of Trump’s junta promote the confrontational approach that has brought protracted war in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond, while fueling tension in Europe and East Asia.
Donald Trump’s speech on Afghanistan will briefly turn the media spotlight onto America’s longest war. Much of the media analysis will undoubtedly be about how the speech impacts Trump politically. Given the events of the past week, it seems unlikely that Democratic pundits will repeat their inane praise of the State of the Union address, in which Trump apparently became presidential for the first time. But this speech should serve as a moment to seriously examine the trajectory of the U.S. war machine from 9/11 to the present.
Amid the deluge of scandal, incompetence, and bigotry emanating from the Trump White House, the relative calm of the Obama era seems like a far-off galaxy. The reality that Trump may not even finish a full term as president, either due to removal or resignation, means that the palace intrigue must be reported on thoroughly by the press. But a dangerous consequence of the overwhelming, obsessive focus on the daily Trump affairs is a virtual dearth of coverage on the permanent, unelected institutions of U.S. power, namely the military and the CIA.
Spend just a moment studying moves of the Pentagon and Langley during the Trump era, and you will find that very little has changed in their post-9/11 course. Covert operations continue unabated throughout the Arab world and, increasingly, in Somalia. The U.S. remains in Iraq and Afghanistan and is becoming entrenched more deeply in Syria. If anything, the military and CIA are less restrained and are in greater control of decisions — that arguably create policy rather than implement it — than they were under Obama. And civilians are being killed at a greater rate under Trump, particularly in Iraq and Syria. There are reports that Trump has delegated more unilateral authority to the commanders than his predecessor and has relaxed rules ostensibly put in place to minimize civilian deaths. He has surrounded himself with generals who have spent their lives studying and preparing for war and know how to marshal the resources needed for overt and covert campaigns. This — combined with Trump’s questionable sanity, his pathological addiction to television and Twitter, and his compulsive need to respond to random pundits and congressmen at all hours — removes a crucial component of civilian oversight of the world’s most lethal force.
President Trump has become the third president to renew a post-9/11 emergency proclamation, stretching what was supposed to be a temporary state of national emergency after the 2001 terror attacks into its 17th year.
But the ongoing effects of that perpetual emergency aren’t immediately clear, because the executive branch has ignored a law requiring it to report to Congress every six months on how much the president has spent under those extraordinary powers, USA TODAY has found.
Exactly 16 years ago Thursday, President Bush signed Proclamation 7463, giving himself sweeping powers to mobilize the military in the days following terrorist attacks that crashed planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field. It allowed him to call up National Guard and Reserve troops, hire and fire military officers, and bypass limits on the numbers of generals that could serve.
Presidents Bush and Obama renewed that emergency each year. And on Wednesday, Trump published a now-routine notice in the Federal Register extending the emergency for the 16th time, explaining simply that “the terrorist threat continues.”
But as Trump extends the emergency into a third presidential administration, legal experts say a review of those powers is long overdue.
Amy Goodman speaks with Andrew Cockburn, whose latest piece is headlined ‘Crime and Punishment: Will the 9/11 case finally go to trial?‘ (Democracy Now!)
The first Americans to spend much time in South Florida were the U.S. Army men who chased the Seminole Indians around the peninsula in the 1830s. And they hated it. Today, their letters read like Yelp reviews of an arsenic café, denouncing the region as a “hideous,” “loathsome,” “diabolical,” “God-abandoned” mosquito refuge.
“Florida is certainly the poorest country that ever two people quarreled for,” one Army surgeon wrote. “It was the most dreary and pandemonium-like region I ever visited, nothing but barren wastes.” An officer summarized it as “swampy, low, excessively hot, sickly and repulsive in all its features.” The future president Zachary Taylor, who commanded U.S. troops there for two years, groused that he wouldn’t trade a square foot of Michigan or Ohio for a square mile of Florida. The consensus among the soldiers was that the U.S. should just leave the area to the Indians and the mosquitoes; as one general put it, “I could not wish them all a worse place.” Or as one lieutenant complained: “Millions of money has been expended to gain this most barren, swampy, and good-for-nothing peninsula.”
Today, Florida’s southern thumb has been transformed into a subtropical paradise for millions of residents and tourists, a sprawling megalopolis dangling into the Gulf Stream that could sustain hundreds of billions of dollars in damage if Hurricane Irma makes a direct hit. So it’s easy to forget that South Florida was once America’s last frontier, generally dismissed as an uninhabitable and undesirable wasteland, almost completely unsettled well after the West was won. “How far, far out of the world it seems,” Iza Hardy wrote in an 1887 book called Oranges and Alligators: Sketches of South Florida. And Hardy ventured only as far south as Orlando, which is actually central Florida, nearly 250 miles north of Miami. Back then, only about 300 hardy pioneers lived in modern-day South Florida. Miami wasn’t even incorporated as a city until 1896. And even then an early visitor declared that if he owned Miami and hell, he would rent out Miami and live in hell.
[…] Caritas was a pyramid scam. The first investors received the promised return, but they were paid out of the receipts of the next round of investors. Ultimately, one in five households in Romania were invested in the scam. But like all pyramid scams — also known as Ponzi schemes — Caritas eventually collapsed, with nearly half a billion dollars in debt. This economic catastrophe fell hardest on the people with the least amount of money and the most desperate hopes of advancement.
The other insidious part of the story is that quite a few people invested in Caritas knowing that it was a fraud. But they calculated that they could get in and out before the pyramid disintegrated.
It is often said that Donald Trump is a confidence artist, a snake-oil salesman, a fraudster. The truth is much more disturbing. The U.S. president is a Ponzi scheme unto himself. He has gotten many hardworking people to invest their hopes and dreams in him.
It is often said that Donald Trump is a confidence artist, a snake-oil salesman, a fraudster. The truth is much more disturbing. The U.S. president is a Ponzi scheme unto himself. He has gotten many hardworking people to invest their hopes and dreams in him.
But he has also attracted the support of the more calculating kind, those who smell an easy profit. These Trump supporters know that he is a scam (and will admit so at unguarded moments). But that hasn’t stopped them from getting in on the action, as quickly as possible, before the Trumpian pyramid begins to crumble.
With the eviction of Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka from the inner precincts of the White House and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson besieged and taking fire from virtually all sides, neoconservatives – even the NeverTrumpers among them – must be quietly harboring renewed hopes that their restoration may soon be within reach.
And, as should become clear Tuesday, those hopes reside largely with the Trump administration’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who’s been on a tear against Iran for several weeks now. Her campaign culminated recently in her unsubstantiated claims—in contradiction to the most recent findings of her own State Department and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), not to mention Washington’s P5+1 partners—that Tehran is not in full compliance with the two-year-old Iran nuclear deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Why Tuesday? Because Haley will give a formal policy address on Iran policy at Neocon Central, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). That’s the same “think tank” that acted as the Bush administration’s principal cheerleader for the 2003 Iraq invasion and provided the Pentagon with a number of its “scholars” as consultants to put together the totally failed strategy that followed Washington’s conquest of Baghdad. Who can forget the machismo-filled “black coffee briefings”—featuring the likes of then-Defense Policy Committee chair Richard Perle, serially mistaken Iran “experts” Michael Rubin, Michael Ledeen, and Reuel Marc Gerecht (the last two now with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies), and former CIA director James Woolsey—that bolstered the propaganda blitz about Saddam Hussein’s alleged ties to al-Qaeda, his enormous WMD factories, his fast-developing nuclear weapons program, and the gratitude which we should all feel toward the tremendous sacrifices and promise of Ahmad Chalabi as the George Washington of Iraq? If ever there was a highly developed “echo chamber” for going to war in modern U.S. foreign policy, it was AEI that provided the initial shouting points. All of that makes the title of Haley’s impending address, “Beyond the Echo Chamber: Considerations on U.S. Policy Toward Iran,” especially ironic, not to say ominous.
[…] The film allegedly sparked North Korea to hack Sony and leak thousands of internal Sony emails. North Korea also warned the Obama administration not to allow the film to be released, branding it “an act of terrorism.” So, when Bennett invited questions at his congressional briefing, I asked him: what was his involvement in The Interview, and did he think it was effective?
At first, Bennett was elusive, saying, “I did not work on the movie.” When I reminded him that he had been listed as an adviser, he changed course. “I heard about it for the first time when I was sent a copy of the DVD by the president of Sony Pictures, who was asking, do we need to be worried about this?” he explained, inspiring a ripple of laughter throughout the room. Bennett continued: “So I had a tail-end role in trying to help them appreciate what they might be worried about.”
But there’s a lot more to the story. Now that Kim is dominating the news once again, it’s time to revisit this film and how it became a weapon in the long-running American war against North Korea.
Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman speak with Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the liberal magazine The American Prospect, about his telephone interview with Steven Bannon prior to him leaving the Trump White House. (Democracy Now!)
Netflix recently released an original documentary series called Hip-Hop Evolution. Already intrigued by this topic, I devoured the entire series in one evening.
Hip-hop and the spontaneous order of free markets are inseparable: a fact that was reinforced after watching the series. It was born out of the unregulated exchange of ideas. And it has become what is arguably the most organically libertarian musical genre existing today.
Hip-hop was built upon taking someone else’s art, putting your own spin on it, and creating something new. In other words, it is the antithesis of intellectual property.
The most obvious example of this free exchange of intellectual property is Grandmaster Flash. From a young age, Flash was obsessed with anything that spun: washing machines, bicycle wheels, and most of all, record players.
He began “scratching” by finding breaks within song tracks, a place where there was a natural pause in the music. He would then “spin” the record, making his own melodic remixes. Marking the exact spot where these breaks occurred on the record with a crayon, he would be able to remember where these breaks occurred while DJing in a dark club on the weekends.
By taking something someone else created and literally putting a “spin” on it, he created an entirely new genre of music.
[…] A rightward shift is afoot in Latin American politics. Triumphant socialist governments had once swept the region for much of the 21st century – from Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to land reform populist Manuel Zelaya in Honduras – championing new programs for the poor, nationalizing businesses, and challenging U.S. dominance in hemispheric affairs.
In recent years, however, leftist leaders have fallen one after another, sometimes in spectacular fashion. Zelaya was led from the presidential palace in his pajamas in a military coup; in Argentina, a real-estate baron swept to the presidency and Kirchner was indicted for corruption; and in Brazil, the ruling Workers’ Party, facing a growing corruption scandal and a mass protest movement, was swept out of office via impeachment over charges of budget chicanery.
This shift might appear as part of a larger regional rebalancing, merely economic circumstances taking hold. And yet the Atlas Network seems ever-present, a common thread nudging political developments along.
The story of the Atlas Network and its profound impact on ideology and political power has never been fully told. But business filings and records from three continents, along with interviews with libertarian leaders across the hemisphere, reveal the scope of its influential history. The libertarian network, which has reshaped political power in country after country, has also operated as a quiet extension of U.S. foreign policy, with Atlas-associated think tanks receiving quiet funding from the State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy, a critical arm of American soft power.
Though recent investigations have shed light on the role of powerful conservative billionaires, such as the Koch brothers, in developing a business-friendly version of libertarian thought, the Atlas Network, which receives funding from Koch foundations, has recreated methods honed in the Western world for developing countries.
The network is expansive, currently boasting loose partnerships with 450 think tanks around the world. Atlas says it dispensed over $5 million to its partners in 2016 alone.
Over the years, Atlas and its affiliated charitable foundations have provided hundreds of grants to conservative and free-market think tanks in Latin America, including the libertarian network that supported the Free Brazil Movement and organizations behind a libertarian push in Argentina, including Fundación Pensar, the Atlas think tank that merged with the political party formed by Mauricio Macri, a businessman who now leads the country. The leaders of the Free Brazil Movement and the founder of Fundación Eléutera in Honduras, an influential post-coup neoliberal think tank, have received financial support from Atlas, and are among the next generation of political operatives that have gone through Atlas’s training seminars.
The Atlas Network spans dozens of other think tanks across the region, including prominent groups supporting right-wing forces behind the unfolding anti-government movement in Venezuela and the campaign of Sebastián Piñera, the right-of-center candidate leading the polls for this year’s presidential election in Chile.
Amy Goodman speaks with Lee Fang of The Intercept about the above piece on the Atlas Network’s involvement in Latin American politics (Democracy Now!)
[…] Like its fellow mega-platforms Twitter and Facebook, YouTube is an enormous engine of cultural production and a host for wildly diverse communities. But like the much smaller Tumblr (which has long been dominated by lively and combative left-wing politics) or 4chan (which has become a virulent and effective hard-right meme factory) YouTube is host to just one dominant native political community: the YouTube right. This community takes the form of a loosely associated group of channels and personalities, connected mostly by shared political instincts and aesthetic sensibilities. They are monologuists, essayists, performers and vloggers who publish frequent dispatches from their living rooms, their studios or the field, inveighing vigorously against the political left and mocking the “mainstream media,” against which they are defined and empowered. They deplore “social justice warriors,” whom they credit with ruining popular culture, conspiring against the populace and helping to undermine “the West.” They are fixated on the subjects of immigration, Islam and political correctness. They seem at times more animated by President Trump’s opponents than by the man himself, with whom they share many priorities, if not a style. Some of their leading figures are associated with larger media companies, like Alex Jones’s Infowars or Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media. Others are independent operators who found their voices in the medium.
To the extent that these personalities challenge their viewers, it’s to commit even more deeply to what their intuitions already tell them is true — not despite those opinions’ rejection from mainstream liberal thought, but because of it. Theirs is a potent and time-tested strategy. Unpopular arguments can benefit from being portrayed as forbidden, and marginal ideas are more effectively sold as hidden ones. The zealous defense of ideas for which audiences believe they’re seen as stupid, cruel or racist is made possible with simple inversion: Actually, it’s everyone else who is stupid, cruel or racist, and their “consensus” is a conspiracy intended to conceal the unspoken feelings of a silent majority. Trump has developed an intuition for this kind of audience cultivation; so have countless pundits, broadcasters, salespeople and politicians of different populist political stripes. But Zack Exley, in his final analysis of B.P.S., points to an especially apt historical parallel: conservative talk radio. “Fixated as they are with Fox News,” he says, “liberals, scholars and pundits have failed to give talk radio — which is almost wholly conservative — its due, even though it’s now nearly three decades old and reaches millions each day. They now stand to miss a new platform that, so far, is also dominated by the right wing.”
I drink coffee in the morning on a round, ornate oak table that once belonged to Harlan Fiske Stone, a U.S. Supreme Court justice from 1925 to 1946 and the chief justice for the last five of those years. Stone and his family spent their summers on this windswept, remote island six miles off the coast of Maine.
Stone, a Republican and close friend of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, embodied a lost era in American politics. His brand of conservatism, grounded in the belief that the law is designed to protect the weak from the powerful, bears no resemblance to that of the self-proclaimed “strict constitutionalists” in the Federalist Society who have accumulated tremendous power in the judiciary. The Federalist Society, at the behest of President Trump, is in charge of vetting the 108 candidates for the federal judgeships that will be filled by the administration. The newest justice, Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, comes out of the Federalist Society, as did Justices Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. The self-identified “liberals” in the judiciary, while progressive on social issues such as abortion and affirmative action, serve corporate power as assiduously as the right-wing ideologues of the Federalist Society. The Alliance for Justice points out that 85 percent of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees—280, or a third of the federal judiciary—had either been corporate attorneys or government prosecutors. Those who came out of corporate law firms accounted for 71 percent of the nominees, with only 4 percent coming from public interest groups and the same percentage having been attorneys who represented workers in labor disputes.
Stone repeatedly warned that unchecked corporate power would mean corporate tyranny and the death of democracy. He was joined in that thinking by Louis D. Brandeis, his fellow justice and ally on the court, who stated, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
Previously on the Bizarro World version of The West Wing, Steve Bannon’s far-right campaign to get the national security adviser fired appeared to be backfiring. With Rupert Murdoch urging Trump to fire his chief strategistand the introduction of a new character, Chief of Staff John Kelly, it seemed we might finally see the Bannon exit the show has been hinting at all season.
But Wednesday’s episode ended with a shocking twist: In a callback to the dramatic departure of Anthony Scaramucci after he called The New Yorkerto share some profane thoughts about his co-workers, Bannon called Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect and shared his own unfiltered, possibly career-ending musings.
Kuttner says that Bannon, whom he’s never spoken to before, contacted him on Tuesday after reading his column in the liberal magazine on how China is profiting from the U.S.–North Korea standoff. Bannon told Kuttner he “absolutely nailed it,” and said he saw no reason to curtail the “economic war with China,” since Beijing won’t take stronger action against Pyongyang and mutually assured destruction will rein in both sides. Then he contradicted Trump’s threat to respond to any provocations from North Korea with “fire and fury”:
Jack Posobiec is one of the right’s leading agitators and conspiracy theorists.
He implied there may be a child-sex ring under a D.C. pizza joint run by Democrats. He peddled rumors about the murder of former DNC staffer Seth Rich. He interrupted a supposedly anti-Trump Julius Caesar play, yelling “you are all Goebbels.” He popularized a WikiLeaks campaign against a French presidential candidate. He even tried to sabotage a D.C. protest by holding up a sign that said, “Rape Melania.”
Posobiec did all of this, and more, as a U.S. Navy intelligence officer, apparently while he had one of the military’s highest security clearances. How can a person with a record of spreading disinformation for political reasons be allowed access to raw intelligence?
The words “alt-left” sounded strange coming from Donald Trump’s mouth, but then most words do. After a weekend of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left three dead, including an anti-fascist activist murdered by the far right, Trump has refused to unequivocally condemn the “alt-right” neo-Nazis responsible for the violence. Instead, he complains that his exterminationist supporters have been treated “very unfairly.” What about the violence of the anti-fascists, he wants to know: “What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem?”
The existence of this strange and terrifying alt-left is new to most people; Trump’s mention of it seemed like a transparent attempt to somehow pretend that the murderousness of the Nazis and the Klan is no worse than the people forced to defend themselves against it. And that’s exactly what the idea of an “alt-left” is. But not in the way you might think.
After Trump announced the existence of the alt-left on live TV, media outlets scurried to tell the world exactly where the term emerged from. CBS explains that it “came out of the conservative media.” CNN, quoting a director at the Anti-Defamation League, describes it as a “made-up term used by people on the right.” Heavy.com writes that “the term ‘alt-left’ began being used by the online conservative media in 2016 before it slowly migrated to more mainstream conservative voices, like Fox News’ Sean Hannity.” (Hannity, who repeatedly uses the term on his TV show, seems to be getting widespread credit.) The British Telegraph newspaper, meanwhile, flatters the president with a power of logodaedaly he definitely doesn’t have, claiming the phrase was “coined by Mr Trump” himself.
None of these explanations is really true. The term “alt-left” was probably simultaneously invented hundreds or thousands of times, always bearing a slightly different meaning depending on its inventor. But up until now, the people who most forcefully pushed the idea of an alt-left weren’t Nazis or 4chan posters or anyone else in the orbit of Trump and pro-Trump Republicans trying to invent a mythical opposite to the alt-right. The alt-left is, first and foremost, a figment of centrist Democrats.
Amy Goodman speaks with Mark Bray about one of the groups who confronted the white supremacists in the streets, the antifascists known as Antifa. Bray is the author of the new book titled Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook. (Democracy Now!)
The white supremacist forces arrayed in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend — the largest gathering of its sort in at least a generation — represented a new incarnation of the white supremacy movement. Old-guard groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations and the Nazi skinheads, which had long stood at the center of racist politics in America, were largely absent.
Instead, the ranks of the young men who drove to Charlottesville with clubs, shields, pepper spray and guns included many college-educated people who have left the political mainstream in favor of extremist ideologies over the past few years. A large number have adopted a very clean cut, frat-boyish look designed to appeal to the average white guy in a way that KKK robes or skinhead regalia never could. Interviews show that at least some of these leaders have spent time in the U.S. armed forces.
Many belong to new organizations like Vanguard America, Identity Evropa, the Traditionalist Workers Party and True Cascadia, which have seen their numbers expand dramatically in the past year. Most of these groups view themselves as part of a broader “alt-right” movement that represents the extreme edge of right-wing politics in the U.S.
These organizations exhibited unprecedented organization and tactical savvy. Hundreds of racist activists converged on a park on Friday night, striding through the darkness in groups of five to 20 people. A handful of leaders with headsets and handheld radios gave orders as a pickup truck full of torches pulled up nearby. Within minutes, their numbers had swelled well into the hundreds. They quickly and efficiently formed a lengthy procession and begun marching, torches alight, through the campus of the University of Virginia.
[…] Yes, the U.S. has had plenty of presidents in recent decades who have dog-whistled to racists and bigots, and even incited hate against minorities — think Nixon’s Southern Strategy, Reagan and his “welfare queens,” George H.W. Bush and the Willie Horton ad, and the Clintons and their “super-predators” — but there has never been a modern president so personally steeped in racist prejudices, so unashamed to make bigoted remarks in public and with such a long and well-documented record of racial discrimination.
So can we stop playing this game where journalists demand Trump condemns people he agrees with and Trump then pretends to condemn them in the mildest of terms? I hate to say this, but it is worth paying attention to the leader of the Virginia KKK, who told a reporter in August 2016: “The reason a lot of Klan members like Donald Trump is because a lot of what he believes, we believe in.”
So can we stop pretending that Trump isn’t Trump? That the presidency has changed him, or will change him? It hasn’t and it won’t. There will be no reset; no reboot; no pivot. This president may now be going through the motions of (belatedly) denouncing racism, with his scripted statements and vacuous tweets. But here’s the thing: why would you expect a lifelong racistto want to condemn or crack down on other racists? Why assume a person whose entire life and career has been defined by racially motivated prejudiceand racial discrimination, by hostility toward immigrants, foreigners, and minorities, would suddenly be concerned by the rise of prejudice and discrimination on his watch? It is pure fantasy for politicians and pundits to suppose that Trump will ever think or behave as anything other than the bigot he has always been — and, in more recent years, as an apologist for other bigots, too.
We would do well to heed the words of those who have spent decades studying this bizarre president. “Donald is a 70-year-old man,” Trump biographer David Cay Johnston reminded me in the run-up to his inauguration in January. “I’m 67. I’m not going to change and neither is Donald.”
Prayer candles. Action figures. Temporary tattoos. Coloring books.
Elizabeth Warren isn’t just a progressive icon, she’s a merchandising industry unto herself.
The Massachusetts senator and presidential prospect is at the center of a sprawling business built around her appeal to liberals across the country — a reminder of the unabashed devotion she inspires on the left and the footprint she’ll cast in the 2020 Democratic primary.
“Elizabeth Warren is an increasingly popular brand that people want to associate with,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “She’s the Apple of politics.”
It’s impossible to know the true size of the Warren merchandising-industrial complex. The bulk of it exists beyond the Democratic senator’s control on sites like online marketplace Etsy. And her campaign, which hosts its own online store, declined to disclose the exact amount of money it raises from merchandise sales.
But it’s safe to say no other senator has anything like it.