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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Jack Posobiec, Pizzagate and Seth Rich Conspiracy Theorist, Has Top Secret Security Clearance

James Laporta reports for The Daily Beast:

Jack PosobiecJack Posobiec is one of the right’s leading agitators and conspiracy theorists. 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?

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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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U.S. Cities Step Up Removal of Confederate Statues, Despite Virginia Violence

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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Inside the Elizabeth Warren Merchandising Empire

Lauren Dezenski reports for Politico:

Elizabeth Warren is pictured. | Getty ImagesPrayer 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.

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Sales of Mind, Body, Spirit Books Boom In UK Amid ‘Mindfulness Mega-Trend’

Alison Flood reports for The Guardian:

Image result for mindfulness mega-trendThe UK’s “mindfulness mega-trend” shows no sign of running out of breath, with sales of “mind, body, spirit” books booming, against a background of slowing sales elsewhere on the shelves.

Topped by Buddhist monk Haemin Sunim’s The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, a guide to “how to be calm in a busy world” that has sold more than 43,000 copies this year, sales of titles offering spiritual assistance are up by almost 13.3% in volume in 2017, according to sales monitor Nielsen Book. This sits against a total consumer market drop of 1.6% on the same measure.

Rhonda Byrne’s perennial bestseller The Secret is the next-best performer, with 29,000 print sales. Other hits include Eckhart Tolle’s 1999 guide to spiritual enlightenment, The Power of Now, Gabrielle Bernstein’s The Universe Has Your Back, Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life and Dominique Loreau’s L’art de la Simplicite: How to Live More With Less.

In fourth place is the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu’s The Book of Joy, with sales of more than 12,000 copies so far this year. Its premise perhaps best sums up what anxious book buyers have been looking for this year: “How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering?”

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Feeling Bad About Feeling Bad Can Make You Feel Worse

Yasmin Anwar reports for Berkeley News:

Image result for pressure to feel happyPressure to feel upbeat can make you feel downbeat, while embracing your darker moods can actually make you feel better in the long run, according to new UC Berkeley research.

“We found that people who habitually accept their negative emotions experience fewer negative emotions, which adds up to better psychological health,” said study senior author Iris Mauss, an associate professor of psychology at UC Berkeley.

At this point, researchers can only speculate on why accepting your joyless emotions can defuse them, like dark clouds passing swiftly in front of the sun and out of sight.

“Maybe if you have an accepting attitude toward negative emotions, you’re not giving them as much attention,” Mauss said. “And perhaps, if you’re constantly judging your emotions, the negativity can pile up.”

The study, conducted at UC Berkeley and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, tested the link between emotional acceptance and psychological health in more than 1,300 adults in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Denver, Co., metropolitan area.

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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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Photo Essay: The North Korea Washington Doesn’t Want Americans To See

Doug Bandow writes for Forbes:

North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, long has been called “the Hermit Kingdom,” as the ancient Korean monarchy was known. The moniker long irritated DPRK officials, though 25 years ago when I first visited it was more accurate. There weren’t many Western travelers and engaging in common American activities, such a jogging, which I did every day, garnering stares from virtually everyone—though, even more weirdly, virtually no one made eye contact. On this trip, in response to an invitation from the Institute for American Studies of the Foreign Ministry, there were few stares.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration plans to ban travel by Americans to the North as of September 1. That’s a mistake, since U.S. visitors both educate North Koreans and are educated by North Koreans. It is a process that encourages social transformation and long term change in the DPRK, which is desperately needed in a system of monarchical communism which holds an entire population in bondage.

Although more Westerners visit the North today, Beijing remains the primary entry point. You can fly in on Air Koryo, as I did, or Air China, though the latter is known to adjust its service to reflect both economics and politics. Perhaps someday American airports will display Pyongyang as a destination. But not in the near future, since it soon will be illegal for Americans to travel to the DPRK. At least, their passports will be tagged as invalid for travel there. But Pyongyang could accept them anyway. I suspect Americans will continue to visit, just as Americans routinely traveled to Cuba illicitly despite the only recently modified ban.

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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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Newly Declassified Documents Confirm U.S. Backed 1953 Coup in Iran Over Oil Contracts

Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman speak with Professor Ervand Abrahamian, author of Iran Between Two Revolutions, about the newly declassified State Department documents which show oil contracts played a key role in the U.S.-backed 1953 coup in Iran that led to the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. (Democracy Now!) 

The Real Scandal: Americans Don’t Care About Afghanistan

Andrew J. Bacevich writes for The American Conservative:

“Dwelling on the past is just not useful,” not at least in the opinion of Brigadier General Roger B. Turner Jr., U.S. Marine Corps. General Turner’s current duty station is Afghanistan, where he commands a modest conglomeration of Marines and sailors known as Task Force Southwest.

We might empathize with General Turner. After all, what’s the point of getting hung up on the past when you are facing a dauntingly tough job in the here-and-now? That job requires Turner to do what a run of previous U.S. military commanders have been attempting to do without notable success for almost sixteen years: to pacify Helmand Province. Were he to reflect too deeply on the disappointments of those sixteen years— the U.S. troops killed and wounded, the billions of dollars expended, all to no evident purpose—Turner just might reach the conclusion that he and his charges are engaged in a fool’s errand conceived by idiots.

We don’t want brigadier generals entertaining such heretical thoughts about basic U.S. national security policy. Their proper role is to implement, not to formulate; to comply rather than to question; to do or die not to wonder why. So General Turner’s reluctance to dwell on the course that the Afghanistan War has followed since U.S. troops entered that country in 2001 qualifies as prudent and perhaps even necessary.

Unfortunately, the officials who issue Turner his marching orders seemingly share in his reluctance to contemplate the past. The people back at the White House and in the Pentagon who should be thinking long and hard about why America’s longest war has gone so badly even as it drags on and on appear incapable or unwilling to do so. A willful amnesia prevails.

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Trump Intel Chief: North Korea Learned From Libya War to ‘Never’ Give Up Nukes

Jon Schwarz reports for The Intercept:

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 12, 2014 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (front L) inspecting the command of Korean People's Army (KPA) Unit 534.    AFP PHOTO / KCNA via KNS    REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT   THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP    ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS        (Photo credit should read KNS/AFP/Getty Images)The media is now filled with headlines about North Korea’s missile teston Friday, which demonstrated that its ICBMs may be able to reach the continental U.S. What isn’t mentioned in any of these stories is how we got to this point — in particular, what Dan Coats, President Donald Trump’s Director of National Intelligence, explained last week at the Aspen Security Forum.

North Korea’s 33-year-old dictator Kim Jong-un is not crazy, said Coats. In fact, he has “some rationale backing his actions” regarding the country’s nuclear weapons. That rationale is the way the U.S. has demonstrated that North Korea must keep them to ensure “survival for his regime, survival for his country.”

Kim, according to Coats, “has watched, I think, what has happened around the world relative to nations that possess nuclear capabilities and the leverage they have and seen that having the nuclear card in your pocket results in a lot of deterrence capability.” In particular, “The lessons that we learned out of Libya giving up its nukes …  is, unfortunately: If you had nukes, never give them up. If you don’t have them, get them.”

This is, of course, blindingly obvious and has been since the U.S. helped oust longtime Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011. But U.S. officials have rarely if ever acknowledged this reality.

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John Oliver’s Alex Jones Segment Explored Bizarre Products Sold By InfoWars

Lani Seelinger writes for Bustle:

Image result for john oliver alex jonesLast night on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver delved into something that it’s usually more pleasant to stay far, far away from: Alex Jones and Infowars. Instead of just showing the usual clips of Jones spouting conspiracy theories, John Oliver’s segment on Alex Jones explored the collection of strange products that Jones, or as Oliver dubbed him, “the Walter Cronkite of shrieking batshit gorilla clowns,” sells on the Infowars website.

In one of his four-hour long broadcasts, Jones complained about John Oliver just taking his words of of context. Oliver, then, segued into his main segment of the night by pledging to do exactly the opposite. “People are right,” Oliver said, “That people don’t present [Jones] in his full context. So tonight, we’re going to do that.”

Oliver then dedicated quite a lot of time and energy to showing that rather than just lecturing people on the evils of chemicals in tap water, Jones actually lectures people about the evil chemicals in tap water and then pivots right around to selling products meant to get rid of those chemicals. “If you play small clips in isolation, he looks like a loon,” Oliver said. “But, if you play them in context, he looks like a skilled salesman spending hours a day frightening you about problems like refugees spreading disease and then selling you an answer.”

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Kurt Vonnegut’s Dystopian Future Has Come to Pass

Ed O’Loughlin writes for The Irish Times:

Image result for player piano vonnegut[…] The degenerate autocracy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World runs on soft power – sex and drugs and suggestion. George Orwell foresaw an inhuman future controlled by the stark yet artful lies of a brutal surveillance state. But Vonnegut, who had worked at General Electric just after the second World War, saw a future where engineers and managers would sincerely do their best to improve the world by building ever more efficient machines to do all the work for us. The result: a new form of dystopia.

In Player Piano’s future America, the old professions and trades have been automated, one by one, until only the oligarchs, engineers and senior managers still have real jobs – and even they are beginning to automate themselves out of existence. Everyone else of working age has been drafted to the army (but without loaded guns, for fear that they’ll mutiny) or assigned to a catch-all, make-work programme called the Reconstruction and Reclamation Corps – “Reeks and Wrecks”.

Doctors and lawyers, but not dentists or barbers, are already obsolete. Theoretical science faculties in the surviving universities, being of little practical use, have been amalgamated with the remnants of the schools of liberal arts, their old facilities taken over for yet more schools of engineering. A few writers are still tolerated, but they have to conform to one of 12 practical, sure-sale genres, such as dog story of the month, or else go into public relations.

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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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Declining Sperm Count Could Lead to ‘Extinction’

Michael Cook writes for BioEdge:

In the first systematic review of trends in sperm count, researchers this week reported in the journalHuman Reproduction Update a significant decline in sperm concentration and total sperm count among men from Western countries.

They found a 52.4 percent decline in sperm concentration, and a 59.3 percent decline in total sperm count among men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand who were not selected based on their fertility status. In contrast, no significant decline was seen in South America, Asia and Africa, although far fewer studies have been conducted there.

The study also indicates the rate of decline among Western men is not decreasing: the slope was steep and significant even when analysis was restricted to studies with sample collection between 1996 and 2011.

Dr Hagai Levine, of Hebrew University, in Jerusalem, the lead author, told the BBC that if the trend continued humanity was in deep trouble. “If we will not change the ways that we are living and the environment and the chemicals that we are exposed to, I am very worried about what will happen in the future. Eventually we may have a problem, and with reproduction in general, and it may be the extinction of the human species.”

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The Washington Post Worships Principled, Humanitarian McCain That’s Never Existed

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Washington Post: What We Can All Learn From John McCainIn a fawning editorial Saturday (7/22/17), pillar of the national security establishment the Washington Post fell over itself to commend a John McCain that never existed, instead lavishing praise on a well-curated PR facsimile developed over decades.

After praising McCain for issuing a “toughly worded criticism” on Twitter of Donald Trump for allegedly ending an entirely pointless, destructive and likely illegal CIA program supporting unnamed “rebels” in Syria (the highest act of moral courage for the Post is gunrunning to CIA proxies), the Fred Hiatt–run editorial board proceeds to paint McCain as the antidote to the problem of “partisan warfare, where politicians will say just about anything at all, true or untrue, to gain an advantage.”

This is clearly meant to be an opaque shot at Trump, but the Post is too cowardly to say so outright, much like McCain was too cowardly to actually vote against any of Trump’s cabinet—aside from the OMB director who McCain only opposed because he believed he would cut defense budgets. Never mind, the Washington Post had a childhood hero to worship:

And all over this world, Mr. McCain is associated with freedom and democracy. He has championed human rights with verve and tirelessness — speaking out against repression and authoritarianism, and inviting — no, cajoling — his colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, to bear witness with him on trips abroad. He has frequently welcomed victims of repression to the corridors of the capital, too, giving them succor and encouragement in the fight against tyranny.

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Despite What the Press Says, John McCain Has a Long and Distinguished Record of Horribleness

Mehdi Hasan writes for The Intercept:

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 13: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) answers questions from reporters as he walks to a meeting of Republican senators where a new version of their healthcare bill was scheduled to be released at the U.S. Capitol July 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. The latest version of the proposed bill aims to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also knows as Obamacare. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)What sort of person takes a break from taxpayer-funded cancer treatment and flies 2,000 miles to cast a vote that could result in 22 million people losing their health insurance and tens of thousands of them also losing their lives, then makes a big speech about how messed up the whole process is?

Perhaps the same sort of person who relentlessly agitated for an invasion and occupation of Iraq that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and led to millions of others being displaced from their homes?

Or maybe the same sort of person who put personal and party interests ahead of the national interest when he picked the know-nothing, far-right demagogue Sarah Palin, the ur-Trump, as his running mate in 2008?

Meet John Sidney McCain III: veteran Republican senator from Arizona and former GOP presidential candidate, who endured horrific torture and abuse at the hands of the Viet Cong between 1967 and 1973, and who was tragically diagnosed with brain cancer last week — and who has also been a loathsome human being for most of his eight decades on this planet.

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We’re Moving Toward a Cashless Society, and Lots of People are Going to be Left Behind

Jan Dawson writes for Recode:

This week, I was driving in my neighborhood when I spotted that most American of sights — a bunch of kids running a lemonade stand, waving signs and trying to flag down passing cars. In some ways, it seemed like a great business opportunity — the temperatures where I live have rarely dipped below the high 90s lately. And yet I didn’t stop — not because I don’t like lemonade (or kids), but because I simply don’t carry cash anymore, and I’m fairly sure the neighbor children weren’t taking credit cards.

This got me thinking about all the people and sectors of our economy that are still dependent on cash, and how they might be affected by our increasingly cashless society.

Cash is in decline

Whether anecdotally or based on solid data, I think most of us have a sense that cash is in decline. One study from last year suggests that cash is the preferred payment method of just 11 percent of U.S. consumers, with 75 percent preferring cards. In other markets such as China, cash is dying out even more quickly, with mobile payments increasingly eating into both its share and that of cards. Though my local dry cleaner in New Jersey was a rare (and suspicious) exception, I very rarely come across businesses that don’t take cards, to the extent that it now really takes me aback when it happens. For many of us these days, credit and debit cards — and to a lesser extent, mobile payments — are making cash largely irrelevant. I still have a huge jar of loose change I accumulated over many years, and which now mostly gets used for the occasional school lunch or visits from the tooth fairy, but not much else.

But not for everyone

However, assuming that this pattern holds for everyone would be a mistake. There are still big sectors of the economy and large groups of people that remain heavy users of cash and are heavily dependent on it, and as others move away from it, that’s increasingly going to cause them problems. Sadly, this likely applies most to some of the more vulnerable and marginalized parts of our society, who will be least in a position to make the changes necessary to keep up as the rest of society moves on.

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