Category Archives: Donald Trump

Yes, George W. Bush Was That Bad

Corey Robin writes for Jacobin:

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.

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America’s Slow-Motion Military Coup

Stephen Kinzer writes for The Boston Globe:

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 28: (L-R) National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence attend a joint news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in the East Room of the White House August 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. The two leaders discussed security in the Baltic Sea region, NATO and Russia during their meeting. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***[…] 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.

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Trump May Not Finish His Term But the Assassination Complex Will Live On

Jeremy Scahill writes for The Intercept:

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, NV - AUGUST 08:  A pilot's heads up display in a ground control station shows a truck from the view of a camera on an MQ-9 Reaper during a training mission August 8, 2007 at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada. The Reaper is the Air Force's first "hunter-killer" unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and is designed to engage time-sensitive targets on the battlefield as well as provide intelligence and surveillance. The jet-fighter sized Reapers are 36 feet long with 66-foot wingspans and can fly for as long as 14 hours fully loaded with laser-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles. They can fly twice as fast and high as the smaller MQ-1 Predators reaching speeds of 300 mph at an altitude of up to 50,000 feet. The aircraft are flown by a pilot and a sensor operator from ground control stations. The Reapers are expected to be used in combat operations by the United States military in Afghanistan and Iraq within the next year.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)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.

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A Permanent Emergency: Trump Becomes Third President to Renew Extraordinary Post-9/11 Powers

Gregory Korte reports for USA Today:

AFP AFP_SB72R A AOT USA DCPresident 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.

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The President Is a Ponzi Scheme

John Feffer writes for Foreign Policy In Focus:

trump-ponzi-scheme-corruption[…] 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.

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American Prospect Editor Robert Kuttner on His Extraordinary Interview with Steve Bannon

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!)

For the New Far Right, YouTube Has Become the New Talk Radio

John Herrmann writes for The New York Times:

[…] 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.”

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The Corruption of the Law

Chris Hedges writes for Truthdig:

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.”

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Why Did Steve Bannon Bash His Colleagues, and Trump’s Foreign Policy, to a Liberal Journalist?

Margaret Hartmann reports for New York Magazine:

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”:

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The Myth of the Alt-Left

Sam Kriss writes for Politico:

GettyImages-832184054.jpgThe 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.

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Antifa: A Look at the Antifascist Movement Confronting White Supremacists in the Streets

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!) 

A New Generation of White Supremacists Emerges in Charlottesville

A.C. Thompson and Karim Hajj report for ProPublica:

Image result for Twitter Facebook Comment Email A New Generation of White Supremacists Emerges in CharlottesvilleThe 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.

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Donald Trump Has Been a Racist All His Life — And He Isn’t Going to Change After Charlottesville

Mehdi Hasan writes for The Intercept:

RICHMOND, VA - JUNE 10: A man wears a shirt with a confederate flag on it as Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, VA on Friday June 10, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)[…] 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.”

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Andrew Bacevich: Trump’s Handling of North Korea, His First National Security Crisis, is Very Troubling

Amy Goodman speaks with Andrew Bacevich, retired colonel and professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University. (Democracy Now!)

Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Urges Trump to Privatize Afghan War and Install Viceroy to Run Nation

Amy Goodman speaks with longtime investigative journalist and activist Allan Nairn about the White House considering an unprecedented plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan at the urging of Erik Prince, founder of the now-defunct private mercenary firm Blackwater. Prince told USA Today the plan would include sending 5,500 private mercenaries to Afghanistan to advise the Afghan army. It would also include deploying a private air force—with at least 90 aircraft—to carry out the bombing campaign against Taliban insurgents. The plan’s consideration comes as a federal appeals court has overturned the prison sentences of former Blackwater contractors who were involved in a 2007 massacre in Nisoor Square in central Baghdad, killing 17 civilians when they opened fire with machine guns and threw grenades into the crowded public space. (Democracy Now!)

Trump Deportations Lag Behind Obama Levels

Ted Hesson reports for Politico:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are pictured here. The U.S. is deporting people more slowly than during the Obama administration despite President Donald Trump’s vast immigration crackdown, according to new data from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

From Feb. 1 to June 30, ICE officials removed 84,473 people — a rate of roughly 16,900 people per month. If deportations continue at the same clip until the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, federal immigration officials will have removed fewer people than they did during even the slowest years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

In fiscal year 2016, ICE removed 240,255 people from the country, a rate of more than 20,000 people per month.

In fiscal year 2012 — the peak year for deportations under Obama — the agency removed an average of roughly 34,000 people per month.

The lower rate of deportations doesn’t mean Trump has embraced a hands-off approach to immigration enforcement. But it may mean that deportations are lagging behind arrest rates or removal orders, which by all accounts have soared since Trump took office.

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Trump Aide Gorka: U.S. Is Now a Hyperpower

MarketWatch reports:

Despite its saber rattling of late, North Korea poses “a very, very insignificant threat in terms of scale,” according to White House national-security aide Sebastian Gorka, particularly vis-à-vis a United States that, in Gorka’s estimation, is no longer a mere superpower: “We were a superpower. We are now a hyperpower.”

Nobody, he said during an appearance on the Fox News morning show “Fox & Friends,” and “especially North Korea,” comes close to matching the U.S.’s military might. On Twitter, President Donald Trump appeared to claim credit for vouchsafing that status via the signing of an executive order: “My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!”

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Megachurch Pastor Says Trump Has God’s Approval to Start Nuclear War

Jake Johnson reports for Common Dreams:

U.S. President Donald Trump and Pastor Robert Jeffress participate in the Celebrate Freedom Rally at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on July 1, 2017 in Washington, D.C.After President Donald Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” on Tuesday, many began to worry about the prospect of nuclear war.

Not Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress.

Shortly following the president’s remarks, Jeffress—who is also one of Trump’s “evangelical advisers“—released a statement declaring that “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-un,” the leader of North Korea.

Jeffress went on to say he is “heartened to see that our president…will not tolerate any threat against the American people.”

“When President Trump draws a red line, he will not erase it, move it, or back away from it,” Jeffress concluded. “Thank God for a president who is serious about protecting our country.”

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U.S. Ramps Up Border Militarism as Trump Appoints DHS Head General John Kelly to Chief of Staff

Amy Goodman speaks with two-time Emmy Award-winning journalist John Carlos Frey, whose new investigation in partnership with ABC’s “20/20” is titled ‘Life and Death at the Border’. (Democracy Now!)

Donald Trump Is Pushing America’s Special Forces Past the Breaking Point

Micah Zenko writes for Foreign Policy:

Donald Trump Is Pushing America’s Special Forces Past the Breaking Point With little policy guidance or public attention, the Donald Trumpadministration has further expanded former President Barack Obama’s use of lethal counterterrorism operations in nonbattlefield countries — namely Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. During the final 193 days of Obama’s presidency, there were 21 such operations. Over a comparable number of days under President Trump, there have been five times as many operations: at least 92 in Yemen, four in Pakistan, and six in Somalia.

The workhorse for these expanded missions is the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) — a sub-unified command of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). We know that JSOC, and not the CIA, is the lead executive authority for these operations because they are overt, rather than covert. Military officials have publicly explained the missions, and the Defense Department has even issued press releases about them. (The only operations undeclared were the reported four drone strikes in Pakistan — a country that the CIA has been bombing intermittently since the summer of 2004.) Operations in Yemen and Somalia — which fall under Title 10, the part of U.S. law that outlines the role and authority of the armed forces — are broadly acknowledged and even reported to Congress every six months.

Despite that, the public knows relatively little about the organization carrying them out. We can catch glimpses inside JSOC from anecdotal reporting or from rare histories, like Sean Naylor’s masterful Relentless Strike. But the extent of America’s understanding of the primary military command responsible for “direct action” operations is best summarized by President George W. Bush’s declaration in 2008: “Listen, JSOC is awesome.”

Through a series of discussions and interviews over the past few years, I have uncovered insights into how the command has evolved, how the congressional oversight of its lethal operations is really exercised, and what the limits are to what JSOC, however “awesome” it may be, is able to accomplish.

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The Anthony Scaramucci Era Will Be Freakish, Embarrassing and All Too Short

Matt Taibbi wrote for Rolling Stone:

I already miss Anthony Scaramucci. Of course, he hasn’t officially been fired yet (checks Twitter), or committed suicide by jumping into boiling steak fat at his Gotti-esque Hunt and Fish Club restaurant in Manhattan (checks Twitter again). But it sure seems like he’s not long for this earth. Even by Trumpian standards, has any federal official had a more disastrous rollout?

The big headline this morning is that the new White House Communications Director got upset and decided to call Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker and go full-on Glengarry Glen Ross without asking for background or off-the-record privileges.

In the call, Scaramucci hounded Lizza to give up his sources, threatened to fire the entire White House communications staff, and gave what Saddam Hussein would have described as the mother of all quotes in an effort to bash fellow backstabbing Trump insider Steve Bannon:

“I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President.”

Bannon declined to comment on Scaramucci’s charge that he sucks his own cock.

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Trump and the Christian Fascists

Chris Hedges writes for Truthdig:

Donald Trump’s ideological vacuum, the more he is isolated and attacked, is being filled by the Christian right. This Christianized fascism, with its network of megachurches, schools, universities and law schools and its vast radio and television empire, is a potent ally for a beleaguered White House. The Christian right has been organizing and preparing to take power for decades. If the nation suffers another economic collapse, which is probably inevitable, another catastrophic domestic terrorist attack or a new war, President Trump’s ability to force the Christian right’s agenda on the public and shut down dissent will be dramatically enhanced. In the presidential election, Trump had 81 percent of white evangelicals behind him.

Trump’s moves to restrict abortion, defund Planned Parenthood, permit discrimination against LGBT people in the name of “religious liberty” and allow churches to become active in politics by gutting the Johnson Amendment, along with his nominations of judges championed by the Federalist Society and his call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, have endeared him to the Christian right. He has rolled back civil rights legislation and business and environmental regulations. He has elevated several stalwarts of the Christian right into power—Mike Pence to the vice presidency, Jeff Sessions to the Justice Department, Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Betsy DeVos to the Department of Education, Tom Price to Health and Human Services and Ben Carson to Housing and Urban Development. He embraces the white supremacy, bigotry, American chauvinism, greed, religious intolerance, anger and racism that define the Christian right.

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Why Autocrats Fear LGBT Rights

Masha Gessen writes for the New York Review of Books:

July 26, 2017, was a personal anniversary for me: one year earlier I had written a piece in which I argued for setting aside the idea of a Trump-Russia conspiracy (yes, this idea was with us a year ago) for the much more important task of imagining what a Trump presidency might bring. I wrote that Trump would unleash a war at home and while it was difficult to predict the target, “my money is actually on the LGBT community because its acceptance is the most clear and drastic social change in America of the last decade, so an antigay campaign would capture the desire to return to a time in which Trump’s constituency felt comfortable.” This was a thought exercise; even as I made an argument that I believed to be logical, I could not believe my own words. On Wednesday of this week, one year to the day since I made that prediction, President Trump announced, by tweet, that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the US military—a policy reversal that would directly and immediately affect thousands of people.

Many commentators immediately branded this move a distraction, an attempt to draw attention away from the Russian-conspiracy story, the health care battle, or anything else they deem more important than the president’s declaration that a group of Americans are second-class citizens. This is not only a grievous insult to transgender people but a basic failure to understand the emotional logic of Trumpism. This is a logic that Trump shares with most modern-day strongmen, and it was this logic that made his attack on LGBT rights so predictable, even while he was literally draping a rainbow flag over his body last year.

Trump got elected on the promise of a return to an imaginary past—a time we don’t remember because it never actually was, but one when America was a kind of great that Trump has promised to restore. Trumps shares this brand of nostalgia with Vladimir Putin, who has spent the last five years talking about Russian “traditional values,” with Hungarian president Viktor Orbán, who has warned LGBT people against becoming “provocative,” and with any number of European populists who promise a return to a mythical “traditional” past.

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Leftwing Breitbart? Chapo Trap House is a Strong New Voice in Resistance to Trump

Edward Helmore writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Chapo Trap HouseIt has been called the leftwing alternative to Breitbart – a subversive, humorous and politics-focused new media presence that has attracted a devoted following on both sides of the Atlantic.

Chapo Trap House has mostly attracted followers of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, but recently it burst into the mainstream US media when a dispute erupted between the podcast’s provocative, hard-left commentators and the New Republic, a stately institution of polite neoliberalism.

As part of a takedown of the “dirtbag left”, the century-old commentary magazine noted that a phrase used by Chapo’s Brooklyn-based hosts had prompted outrage in some quarters.

In a recent edition, co-host Will Menaker said – not for the first time – that Clintonian liberalism was the architect of its own defeat. “But get this through your fucking head,” he said. “You must bend the knee to us. Not the other way around. You have been proven as failures, and your entire worldview has been discredited.”

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Joshua Green on his new book: Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency

Amy Goodman speaks with Bloomberg journalist Joshua Green, the author of a new book titled Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency. (Democracy Now!)

How a Racial Theorist Tied to Mussolini and Hitler Influenced Steve Bannon

Amy Goodman speaks with Bloomberg journalist Joshua Green about two men who influenced Steve Bannon’s philosophy: the Italian philosopher Julius Evola, whose ideas became the basis of fascist racial theory, and René Guénon, who developed an anti-modernism philosophy called ‘Traditionalism’. Green writes about Evola and Guénon in his new book titled Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency. (Democracy Now!)

Donald Trump’s AmeriKKKa: His Craziest, Most Racist Supporters

A collection clips showing a selection of some just some of the hate-filled lunatics who support U.S President Donald Trump. (Reich Wing Watch)

Poland’s Courting of Trump is a Few Supporters Short of a Picnic

Remi Adekoya writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Poland’s Courting of TrumpPoland’s rightwing government is pulling out all the stops for what it sees as its greatest foreign policy achievement to date: a visit to Warsaw today by US president Donald Trump. In what has to be acknowledged as wily diplomacy, the Law and Justice (PiS) government is appealing to the US president’s achilles heel: his vanity, reportedly luring him with promises of adoring crowds, in contrast to the chillier receptions he can expect in western Europe.

The ruling party is bussing in its supporters from all over Poland, encouraging them to take part in a “great patriotic picnic” on the occasion of Trump’s visit. The idea is to make the big man feel as good about himself as possible, which will hopefully benefit Poland in some way, such as a more categorical assertion that Nato would – under US leadership – protect Poland from any aggression from Moscow.

PiS is working hard to tickle Trump’s ego. The party’s leader and Poland’s most important politician, Jarosław Kaczyński, described Trump’s decision to visit Warsaw as a “new success” for Poland. “[Others] envy it, the British are attacking us because of it.” Meanwhile, the defence minister, Antoni Macierewicz, described Trump as “a man who is changing the shape of the world’s political scene”, adding that his “historic” visit would “once and for all, erase [Poland’s] experience of occupation and Soviet enslavement”.

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Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse Warns Against ‘Weaponizing Distrust’

Susan Wright reports for Red State:

Image result for Ben Sasse Warns Against “Weaponizing Distrust”Leave it to Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse to be the voice of reason.

Again.

While President Trump is intent on ramping up the caustic rhetoric towards the media, cooler heads, like that of Sasse, are stepping forward and speaking real truth.

Said Sasse:

“I mean there’s an important distinction to draw between bad stories or crappy coverage, and the right that citizens have to argue about that and complain about that, and trying to weaponize distrust,” Sasse told host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“And it’s not helpful to call the press ‘the enemy of the American people,’” Sasse added, referring to a past comment by the president. Sasse warned such rhetoric could lead to a new form of “tribalism.”

He’s absolutely right.

Donald Trump is not the first president to get bad coverage from the media. He’s the first to dissolve into a ranting puddle of crazy over it, though.

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How the Left Lost Its Mind

McKay Coppins writes for The Atlantic:

[…] Over the past two decades, an immense amount of journalistic energy was spent exploring the right-wing media ecosystem—from talk radio, to Fox News, to Breitbart and beyond—and documenting its growing influence on mainstream GOP politics. This turned out to be a worthy and prescient pursuit, and if any doubt remains about that, I’d present “President Donald Trump” as Exhibit A. While serious Republicans in the political class spent years scoffing at the “entertainers” and “provocateurs” on the supposedly powerless fringe, the denizens of the fever swamp were busy taking over the party.

But 2017 poses the question: Could the same thing happen on the left?

It’s a prospect that deserves more serious attention and debate than it’s gotten this year. The Trump era has given rise to a vast alternative left-wing media infrastructure that operates largely out of the view of casual news consumers, but commands a massive audience and growing influence in liberal America. There are polemical podcasters and partisan click farms; wild-eyed conspiracists and cynical fabulists. Some traffic heavily in rumor and wage campaigns of misinformation; others are merely aggregators and commentators who have carved out a corner of the web for themselves. But taken together, they form a media universe where partisan hysteria is too easily stoked, and fake news can travel at the speed of light.

Before we go on, let me try to quiet the cries of “False equivalence!” before they begin: No, these personalities and publications do not yet wield the same influence in the Democratic Party that their counterparts do in the GOP. But ignoring them would be a mistake. In recent months, some of the most irresponsible actors in this world have proven alarmingly adept at influencing venerated figures of the left—from public intellectuals, to world-famous celebrities, to elected officials.

What follows is an attempt to map the topography of the left’s modern alternative media landscape. It is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully it provides a useful start to the kind of exploration and anthropology that’s needed.

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