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FTR #948 Walkin’ the Snake with Breitbart: The Gathering Sturm

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This broadcast was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.

Serpent's WalkIntroduction: The title of the program refers to the Nazi tract Serpent’s Walk. The back cover of that book sums up the essence of the tome: ” . . . It assumes that Hitler’s warrior elite – the SS – didn’t give up their struggle for a White world when they lost the Second World War. Instead their survivors went underground and adopted some of their tactics of their enemies: they began building their economic muscle and buying into the opinion-forming media. A century after the war they are ready to challenge the democrats and Jews for the hearts and minds of White Americans, who have begun to have their fill of government-enforced multi-culturalism and ‘equality.’ . . .”

The “opinion-forming media” in 2017 has crystallized into a frighteningly dominant entity, the Breitbartian engine of Steven Bannon, Robert Mercer, Cambridge Analytica and the latter’s parent company SCL. An article from The Guardian sets forth this terrifying development. (Note that, due to the limitations of time, we were not able to read the entire story. The article will be the centerpiece of a follow-up program.)

Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL, specialize in using AI and Big Data psychometric analysis on hundreds of millions of Americans in order to model individual behavior. SCL develops strategies to use that information, and manipulate search engine results to change public opinion (the Trump campaign was apparently very big into AI and Big Data during the campaign).

Individual social media users receive messages crafted to influence them, generated by the Nazi AI at the core of this media engine, using Big Data to target the individual user!

As the article notes, not only are Cambridge Analytica/SCL are using their propaganda techniques to shape US public opinion in a fascist direction, but they are achieving this by utilizing their propaganda machine to characterize all news outlets to the left of Brietbart as “fake news” that can’t be trusted.

In short, the secretive far-right billionaire (Robert Mercer), joined at the hip with Steve Bannon, is running multiple firms specializing in mass psychometric profiling based on data collected from Facebook and other social media. Mercer/Bannon/Cambridge Analytica/SCL are using Nazified AI and Big Data to develop mass propaganda campaigns to turn the public against everything that isn’t Brietbartian by convincing the public that all non-Brietbartian media outlets are conspiring to lie to the public.

This is the ultimate Serpent’s Walk scenario–a Nazified Artificial Intelligence drawing on Big Data gleaned from the world’s internet and social media operations to shape public opinion, target individual users, shape search engine results and even feedback to Trump while he is giving press conferences!

We begin the program with a “sign of the times.”  Something of a barometer for the present political climate is New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s recognition that: Are you angry about the white nationalist takeover of the U.S. government? . . . Does anyone doubt it? And given this reality, it’s completely reasonable to worry that America will go the route of other nations like Hungary, which remain democracies on paper but have become authoritarian states in practice. . . .”

After discussing Breitbart alumnus Sebastian Gorka’s role as the point man for the Trump administration’s counter-jihadist strategy, the program further develops his roots in Hungarian fascism, past and present. ” . . . . But an investigation by the Forward into Gorka’s activities from 2002 to 2007, while he was active in Hungarian politics and journalism, found that he had close ties then to Hungarian far-right circles, and has in the past chosen to work with openly racist and anti-Semitic groups and public figures. Gorka’s involvement with the far right includes co-founding a political party with former prominent members of Jobbik, a political party with a well-known history of anti-Semitism; repeatedly publishing articles in a newspaper known for its anti-Semitic and racist content; and attending events with some of Hungary’s most notorious extreme-right figures. . . . In the United States, Gorka, who was appointed deputy assistant to the president on January 20, is known as a television commentator, a professor and an “alt-right” writer who describes himself as a counterterrorism expert. A close associate of Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, Gorka is now part of Bannon’s key in-house White House think tank, the Strategic Initiatives Group. The newly formed group consists of figures close to Trump and is seen by some as a rival to the National Security Council in formulating policies for the president.”

Turning to the well-publicized issue of what is portrayed as “anti-illegal” immigrant policy, we note DHS Secretary John Kelly’s recruitment of local law enforcement officers as federal immigration enforcers, a significant step from a standpoint of the constitution.

The Trumpenkampfverbande is moving to publicize crimes actually, or allegedly, committed by illegal immigrants, a tactic that was used by Hitler to maximize anti-Semitism in Germany. When the German populace proved insufficiently responsive to Nazi anti-Semitic policy, crimes committed by Jews became a high-profile propaganda feature of the Reich. “ . . . . In The Nazi Conscience, Duke historian Claudia Koonz notes that the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer ran a feature called ‘Letter Box,’ which published readers’ accounts of Jewish crimes. When the Nazis took power, the German state began doing something similar. Frustrated by the failure of most Germans to participate in a boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933, Adolf Hitler’s government began publicizing Jewish crime statistics as a way of stoking anti-Semitism. In Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Persecution, the historian Saul Friedlander notes that, until 1938, Hitler’s Ministry of Justice ordered prosecutors to forward every criminal indictment against a Jew so the ministry’s press office could publicize it. . . .

Program Highlights Include:

  • The Trump administration’s apparent intent to stop monitoring the activities of domestic fascist and white supremacist hate groups.
  • The League of the South’s formation of a paramilitary cadre, designed with an eye to being deputized as enforcers by federal, state or local governments.
  • The Lithuanian celebration of Third Reich collaborator Kazys Skirpa, who was portrayed as Pepe the Frog, an American “Alt-Right” meme.
  • The appointment of Chrystia Freeland as Canadian Foreign Minister–her grandfather was a major Ukrainian fascist and Nazi collaborator. This appears to have minted her anti-Russian dogma.

1a. Something of a barometer for the present political climate is New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s recognition that: Are you angry about the white nationalist takeover of the U.S. government? . . . Does anyone doubt it? And given this reality, it’s completely reasonable to worry that America will go the route of other nations like Hungary, which remain democracies on paper but have become authoritarian states in practice. . . .”

“The Uses of Outrage” by Paul Krugman; The New York Times; 2/27/2017.

Are you angry about the white nationalist takeover of the U.S. government? . . . Does anyone doubt it? And given this reality, it’s completely reasonable to worry that America will go the route of other nations like Hungary, which remain democracies on paper but have become authoritarian states in practice. . . .

1b. In FTR #947, we highlighted Sebastian Gorka, a Breitbart alumnus and Hungarian fascist. Gorka is now the Trump administration’s point man working against terrorism. His view (and Bannon’s) that we are engaged in an historic clash of civilizations. That is precisely the point of view expressed by ISIS and will play into their hands.

That, in turn, will help propel the U.S. into more endless wars on the periphery of our empire, ultimately sapping the nation’s vitality and leading to the fall of the U.S. in a manner delineated in FTR #944.

“The Islamophobic Huckster in the White House” by Steven Simon and Daniel Benjamin; The New York Times; 2/24/2017.

The new point man for the Trump administration’s counter­jihadist team is Sebastian Gorka, an itinerant instructor in the doctrine of irregular warfare and former national security editor at Breitbart. Stephen K. Bannon and Stephen Miller, the chief commissars of the Trump White House, have framed Islam as an enemy ideology and predicted a historic clash of civilizations.

Mr. Gorka, who has been appointed deputy assistant to the president, is the expert they have empowered to translate their prediction into national strategy. Mr. Gorka was born and raised in Britain, the son of Hungarian émigrés. As a political consultant in post ­Communist Hungary, he acquired a doctorate and involved himself with ultranationalist politics. He later moved to the United States and became a citizen five years ago, while building a career moderating military seminars and establishing a reputation as an ill-­informed Islamophobe. (He has responded to such claims by stating that he has read the Quran in translation.) . . .

2. It turns out Sebastian Gorka has a long and extensive relationship with the Hungarian far-right, including founding a Hungarian political party with two prominent members of Jobbik. In FTR #947, we noted that a member of Jobbik had written a glowing preface to a volume authored by fascist ideologue Julius Evola, one of the philosophical ifluences on Stephen Bannon.

“Exclusive: Senior Trump Aide Forged Key Ties To Anti-Semitic Groups In Hungary” by Lili Bayer; Forward; 2/24/2017.

When photographs recently emerged showing Sebastian Gorka, President Donald Trump’s high-profile deputy assistant, wearing a medal associated with the Nazi collaborationist regime that ruled Hungary during World War II, the controversial security strategist was unapologetic.

“I’m a proud American now and I wear that medal now and again,” Gorka told Breitbart News. Gorka, 46, who was born in Britain to Hungarian parents and is now an American citizen, asked rhetorically, “Why? To remind myself of where I came from, what my parents suffered under both the Nazis and the Communists, and to help me in my work today.”

But an investigation by the Forward into Gorka’s activities from 2002 to 2007, while he was active in Hungarian politics and journalism, found that he had close ties then to Hungarian far-right circles, and has in the past chosen to work with openly racist and anti-Semitic groups and public figures.

Gorka’s involvement with the far right includes co-founding a political party with former prominent members of Jobbik, a political party with a well-known history of anti-Semitism; repeatedly publishing articles in a newspaper known for its anti-Semitic and racist content; and attending events with some of Hungary’s most notorious extreme-right figures.

When Gorka was asked — in an email exchange with the Forward — about the anti-Semitic records of some of the groups and individuals he has worked with, he instead pivoted to talk about his family’s history.

“My parents, as children, lived through the nightmare of WWII and the horrors of the Nyilas puppet fascist regime,” he said, referring to the Arrow Cross regime that took over Hungary near the very end of World War II and murdered thousands of Jews.

In the United States, Gorka, who was appointed deputy assistant to the president on January 20, is known as a television commentator, a professor and an “alt-right” writer who describes himself as a counterterrorism expert. A close associate of Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, Gorka is now part of Bannon’s key in-house White House think tank, the Strategic Initiatives Group. The newly formed group consists of figures close to Trump and is seen by some as a rival to the National Security Council in formulating policies for the president.

Gorka, who views Islam as a religion with an inherent predilection for militancy, has strong supporters among some right-leaning think tanks in Washington. “Dr. Gorka is one of the most knowledgeable, well-read and studied experts on national security that I’ve ever met,” Joseph Humire, executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society, told the Forward. Humire has known Gorka for nearly a decade, and considers him “top-notch.”

Born in London to parents who fled Hungary’s post-World War II Communist regime, Gorka has had a career that’s marked by frequent job changes and shifting national allegiances. The U.S. government is the third sovereign state to hire him in a national security role. As a young man, he was a member of the United Kingdom’s Territorial Army reserves, where he served in the Intelligence Corps. Then, following the fall of Communism in Hungary, he was employed in 1992 by the country’s Ministry of Defense. He worked there for five years, apparently on issues related to Hungary’s accession to NATO.

Gorka’s marriage in 1996 to an American, Katharine Cornell, an heir to Pennsylvania-based Cornell Iron Works, helped him become a U.S. citizen in 2012.

A Web of Deep Ties to Hungary’s Far Right

It was during his time in Hungary that Gorka developed ties to the country’s anti-Semitic and ultranationalist far right.

During large-scale anti-government demonstrations in Hungary in 2006, Gorka took on an active role, becoming closely involved with a protest group called the Hungarian National Committee (Magyar Nemzeti Bizottság). Gorka took on the roles of translator, press coordinator and adviser for the group.

Among the four Committee members named as the group’s political representatives was László Toroczkai, then head of the 64 Counties Youth Movement. Toroczkai founded that group in 2001 to advocate for the return of parts of modern-day Serbia, Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine to form a Greater Hungary, restoring the country’s pre-World War I borders.

In 2004, two years before the Movement’s involvement in the 2006 protests, Hungarian authorities opened an investigation into the Movement’s newspaper, Magyar Jelen, when an article referred to Jews as “Galician upstarts” and went on to argue: “We should get them out. In fact, we need to take back our country from them, take back our stolen fortunes. After all, these upstarts are sucking on our blood, getting rich off our blood.” At the time of the article’s publication, Toroczkai was both an editor at the paper and the Movement’s official leader.
Gorka co-founded his political party with three other politicians. Two of his co-founders, Tamás Molnár and Attila Bégány, were former members of Jobbik. Molnár, a senior Jobbik politician, served as the party’s vice president until shortly before joining Gorka’s new initiative, and was also a member of the Hungarian National Committee during the 2006 protests, issuing statements together with extremist militant figures such as Toroczkai.
Toroczkai currently serves as vice president of Jobbik and is the mayor of a village near the border Hungary shares with Serbia. Last year, he gained notoriety in the West for declaring a goal of banning Muslims and gays from his town.

In January 2007, inspired by the 2006 protests and his experience with the Hungarian National Committee, Gorka announced plans to form a new political party, to be known as the New Democratic Coalition. Gorka had previously served as an adviser to Viktor Orbán, now Hungary’s right-wing nationalist prime minister. But following Orbán’s failed attempts to bring down Hungary’s then-Socialist government, Gorka grew disenchanted with Orbán’s Fidesz party.

In his email exchange with the Forward for this article, Gorka explained: “The Coalition was established in direct response to the unhealthy patterns visible at the time in Hungarian conservative politics. It became apparent to me that the effect of decades of Communist dictatorship had taken a deeper toll on civil society than was expected.”

Gorka co-founded his political party with three other politicians. Two of his co-founders, Tamás Molnár and Attila Bégány, were former members of Jobbik. Molnár, a senior Jobbik politician, served as the party’s vice president until shortly before joining Gorka’s new initiative, and was also a member of the Hungarian National Committee during the 2006 protests, issuing statements together with extremist militant figures such as Toroczkai.

Jobbik has a long history of anti-Semitism. In 2006, when Gorka’s political allies were still members of Jobbik, the party’s official online blog included articles such as “The Roots of Jewish Terrorism” and “Where Were the Jews in 1956?”, a reference to the country’s revolution against Soviet rule. In one speech in 2010, Jobbik leader Gabor Vona said that “under communism we licked Moscow’s boots, now we lick Brussels’ and Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s.”

In founding the New Democratic Coalition, Gorka and the former Jobbik politicians aimed to represent “conservative values, decidedly standing up to corruption and bringing Christianity into the Constitution,” according to the party’s original policy program. At the time, Hungary’s constitution was secular.

The party’s founders did not see themselves as far right or anti-Semitic.

“I knew Gorka as a strongly Atlanticist, conservative person,” Molnár, the former Jobbik vice president and co-founder of Gorka’s party, told the Forward in a phone conversation. He added that he could not imagine Gorka having anti-Semitic views.

Molnár first met Gorka at a book launch event for Gorka’s father, Pál Gorka, in 2002. The younger Gorka and Molnár became friends, bonding over their shared interest in the history of Hungary’s 1956 revolution and the fact that both had parents who were jailed under the country’s Communist regime.

Molnár became involved with Jobbik in 2003, in the far-right party’s early days, and quit in 2006. In his words, “Jobbik went in a militant direction that I did not like.”

Gorka rejects the notion that he knew any of his political allies had connections to the far right.

“I only knew Molnár as an artist and Bégány as a former conservative local politician (MDF if I recall),” Gorka wrote in response to a question regarding the Jobbik affiliations of his former party co-founders. “What they did after I left Hungary is not something I followed.” (MDF is an acronym for the Hungarian Democratic Forum, a now-defunct center-right party.)

In fact, both Molnár and Bégány were members of Jobbik before, and not after, they founded the new party with Gorka. Molnár was Jobbik’s high-profile vice president until September 2006, before he, Gorka and Bégány launched the New Democratic Coalition in early 2007.

Gorka appeared at a press conference with Molnár on September 21, 2006 — one day after Molnár resigned his position as Jobbik’s vice president. Gorka was also photographed on September 23, 2006, wearing a badge with the Hungarian National Committee’s logo as he was standing next to Molnár at a podium while Molnár briefed the press on the Committee’s activities. At the time Gorka was making these public appearances with the Hungarian National Committee’s leadership, extreme-right leader Toroczkai was already a top member of the Committee.

Bégány, meanwhile, had indeed been a member of MDF for a time, but in 2005 he joined Jobbik and served formally as a member of Budapest’s District 5 Council representing the far-right party. Bégány’s formal party biography, posted on the Jobbik website in 2006, said it is his “belief that without belonging to the Hungarian nation or to God it is possible to live, but not worth it.” Like Molnár, Bégány left Jobbik only a few months before starting the new party with Gorka.

Molnár, Bégány and the Hungarian National Committee were not Gorka’s only connection to far-right circles. Between 2006 and 2007, Gorka wrote a series of articles in Magyar Demokrata, a newspaper known for publishing the writings of prominent anti-Semitic and racist Hungarian public figures.

The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, András Bencsik, is notorious in Hungary for his own long-standing anti-Semitic views. In 1995, the Hungarian Jewish publication Szombat criticized Bencsik for writing that “the solid capital, which the Jews got after Auschwitz, has run out.” That same year, Szombat noted, Bencsik wrote in Magyar Demokrata, “In Hungary the chief conflict is between national and cosmopolitan aspirations.” In Hungarian society, “cosmopolitan” is generally a code word for Jews.

In December 2004, the U.S. State Department reported bluntly to Congress that, “the weekly newspaper Magyar Demokrata published anti-Semitic articles and featured articles by authors who have denied the Holocaust.”

In the summer of 2007, Bencsik became one of the founders of the Hungarian Guard, a now-banned paramilitary organization known for assaulting and intimidating members of Hungary’s Roma community. The perpetrators in a spate of racially motivated murders of Roma in 2008 and 2009 were found to have connections to the Guard.

Gorka’s articles for Magyar Demokrata focused not only on decrying Hungary’s then-Socialist government, but also on highlighting the perceived injustices of the Treaty of Versailles, the post-World War I agreement that led to the loss of two-thirds of prewar Hungary’s territory.

“We fought on the wrong side of a war for which we were not responsible, and were punished to an extent that was likely even more unjust — with the exception of the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire — than any other punishment in the modern age,” Gorka wrote in a 2006 article in Magyar Demokrata.

Asked about his choice of journalistic outlets, Gorka wrote, “I am […] unfamiliar with Bencsik. I believe it was one of his colleagues who asked me if I wanted to write some OpEds.” Gorka told the Forward that his writing at the time shows “how everything I did was in the interests of a more transparent and healthy democracy in Hungary. This included a rejection of all revanchist tendencies and xenophobic cliques.”

Gorka’s claim to be unfamiliar with Bencsik must be weighed against his deep immersion in Hungarian politics and Benscik’s status as a major figure in Hungary’s right-wing political scene. At the time, Gorka gave public interviews as an “expert” on the Hungarian Guard, which Bencsik helped to found. In one 2007 interview, Gorka clarified his own view of the Guard, saying, “It’s not worth talking about banning” the group. Despite its extreme rhetoric against minorities, Gorka said, “The government and media are inflating this question.”

An Affinity for Nationalist Symbols

It was in mid-February that Gorka’s affinity for Hungarian nationalist and far-right ideas first came to the American public’s attention. Eli Clifton of the news website Lobelog noticed from a photograph that the new deputy assistant to the president had appeared at an inauguration ball in January wearing a Hungarian medal known as Vitézi Rend. The medal signifies a knightly order of merit founded in 1920 by Admiral Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s longtime anti-Semitic ruler and Hitler’s ally during World War II. Notwithstanding this alliance, and the group’s designation as Nazi-collaborators by the U.S. State Department, many within Hungary’s right revere Horthy for his staunch nationalism during the overall course of his rule from 1920 to 1944.

Breitbart, the “alt-right” publication, where Gorka himself served as national security editor prior to joining the White House staff, defended his wardrobe choice, writing on February 14 that, “as any of his Breitbart News colleagues could testify, Gorka is not only pro-Israel but ‘pro-Jewish,’ and defends both against the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.”

“In 1979 my father was awarded a declaration for his resistance to a dictatorship, and although he passed away 14 years ago, I wear that medal in remembrance of what my family went through and what it represents today, to me, as an American,” Gorka told Breibart on February 15, as the controversy regarding his choice to wear a Horthy-era medal intensified.

But the medal was not the first time Gorka expressed appreciation for symbols that many associate with Hungary’s World War II-era Nazi sympathizers. In 2006, Gorka defended the use of the Arpad flag, which Hungary’s murderous Arrow Cross Party used as their symbol. The Hungarian Arrow Cross Party killed thousands of Jews during World War II, shooting many of them alongside the Danube River and throwing them into the water. Gorka told the news agency JTA at the time that “if you say eight centuries of history can be eradicated by 18 months of fascist distortion of symbols, you’re losing historic perspective.”

Gorka’s Unlikely Transformation

After the failure of his new party in 2007, Gorka moved to the United States and over the past 10 years has worked for the Department of Justice, Marine Corps University, National Defense University, and Joint Special Operations University.

Former colleagues in the States questioned the quality of Gorka’s work on Islam, and said that he shied away from publishing in peer-reviewed journals, according to the Washington Post.

Retired Lt. Col. Mike Lewis told the Post that when Gorka was lecturing to members of the armed forces, he “made a difficult and complex situation simple and confirmed the officers’ prejudices and assumptions.”

But Humire, of the Center for a Secure Free Society, defended Gorka’s worldview. “Since I’ve known him he has been emphasizing a point that is not properly understood by most conventional counterterrorism experts,” said Humire, “that the modern battlefield is fought with words, images, and ideas, not just bombs and bullets. If you study asymmetric war, this emphasizes the mental battle of attrition and the moral battle of legitimacy over the physical battle for the terrain. Dr. Gorka understands this at a very high level and has taught this to our war fighters for several years,” said Humire.

3. The sustenance of Nazi/fascist orientation through generations is evident in the heritage of Christia Freeland, a Ukrainian descended from, and deeply influenced by, her grandfather, an OUN/B fascist who worked with the Nazis.

“. . . . Chrystia Freeland’s dark family secret is that her grandfather, Mykhailo Chomiak, faithfully served Nazi Germany right up to its surrender, and Chomiak’s family only moved to Canada after the Third Reich was defeated by the Soviet Union’s Red Army and its allies – the U.S. and Great Britain.

Mykhailo Chomiak was not a victim of the war – he was on the side of the German aggressors who collaborated with Ukrainian nationalists in killing Russians, Jews, Poles and other minorities. Former journalist Freeland chose to whitewash her family history to leave out her grandfather’s service to Adolf Hitler. Of course, if she had told the truth, she might never have achieved a successful political career in Canada. Her fierce hostility toward Russia also might be viewed in a different light. . . .

. . . . After the start of World War II, the Nazi administration appointed Chomiak to be editor of the newspaper Krakivski Visti (News of Krakow).

So the truth appears to be that Chomiak moved from Ukraine to Nazi-occupied Poland in order to work for the Third Reich under the command of Governor-General Hans Frank, the man who organized the Holocaust in Poland. Chomiak’s work was directly supervised by Emil Gassner, the head of the press department in the Polish General Government.

Mikhailo Chomiak comfortably settled his family into a former Jewish (or Aryanized) apartment in Krakow. The editorial offices for Krakivski Visti also were taken from a Jewish owner, Krakow’s Polish-language Jewish newspaper Nowy Dziennik. Its editor at the time was forced to flee Krakow for Lviv, where he was captured following the occupation of Galicia and sent to the Belzec extermination camp, where he was murdered along with 600,000 other Jews. . . .

. . . . As the war turned against the Nazis and the Red Army advanced across Ukraine and Poland, Nazi propagandist Emil Gassner took Mykhailo Chomiak in 1944 to Vienna where Krakivski Visti continued to publish. As the Third Reich crumbled, Chomiak left with the retreating German Army and surrendered to the Americans in Bavaria, where he was placed with his family in a special U.S. military intelligence facility in Bad Wörishofen, a cluster of hotels situated 78 kilometers from Munich in the foothills of the Alps. . . .”

“A Nazi Skeleton in the Family Closet” by Arina Tsukonova; Consortium News; 2/27/2017.

On Jan. 10, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replaced Foreign Minister Stephane Dion with Chrystia Freeland, a former journalist proud of her Ukrainian roots and well-known for her hostility toward Russia. At the time, a big question in Ottawa was why. Some analysts believed that Trudeau’s decision may have started when it still seemed likely that Hillary Clinton would become the new U.S. president and a tough line against Moscow was expected in Washington. . . .

. . . . People who have followed Freeland’s career were aware that her idée fixe for decades has been that Ukraine must be ripped out of the Russian sphere of influence. Her views fit with the intense Ukrainian nationalism of her maternal grandparents who immigrated to Canada after World War II and whom she has portrayed as victims of Josef Stalin and the Red Army. . . .

. . . . By the next decade, working as the U.S. managing editor of The Financial Times, she proudly interviewed then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who had won control as a result of the 2004 “Orange Revolution.” In her approach to journalism, Freeland made clear her commitment to foment Ukrainian-Russian tensions in any possible way. Indeed, during her journalistic career, which ended in 2013 when she won a seat in Canada’s parliament, Freeland remained fiercely anti-Russian.

In 2014, Yushchenko’s rival Viktor Yanukovych was Ukraine’s elected president while Canadian MP Freeland urged on the “Euro-Maidan” protests against Yanukovych and his desire to maintain friendly relations with Moscow. On Jan. 27, 2014, as the protests grew more violent with ultra-nationalist street fighters moving to the forefront and firebombing police, Freeland visited Kiev and published an op-ed in The Globe and Mail blaming the violence on Yanukovych.

“Democratic values are rarely challenged as directly as they are being today in Ukraine,” Freeland wrote, arguing that the protesters, not the elected president, represented democracy and the rule of law. “Their victory will be a victory for us all; their defeat will weaken democracy far from the Euromaidan. We are all Ukrainians now. Let’s do what we can — which is a lot — to support them.” . . .

. . . . Chrystia Freeland’s dark family secret is that her grandfather, Mykhailo Chomiak, faithfully served Nazi Germany right up to its surrender, and Chomiak’s family only moved to Canada after the Third Reich was defeated by the Soviet Union’s Red Army and its allies – the U.S. and Great Britain.

Mykhailo Chomiak was not a victim of the war – he was on the side of the German aggressors who collaborated with Ukrainian nationalists in killing Russians, Jews, Poles and other minorities. Former journalist Freeland chose to whitewash her family history to leave out her grandfather’s service to Adolf Hitler. Of course, if she had told the truth, she might never have achieved a successful political career in Canada. Her fierce hostility toward Russia also might be viewed in a different light.

Freeland’s Grandfather

According to Canadian sources, Chomiak graduated from Lviv University in western Ukraine with a Master’s Degree in Law and Political Science. He began a career with the Galician newspaper Dilo (Action), published in Lviv. After the start of World War II, the Nazi administration appointed Chomiak to be editor of the newspaper Krakivski Visti (News of Krakow).

So the truth appears to be that Chomiak moved from Ukraine to Nazi-occupied Poland in order to work for the Third Reich under the command of Governor-General Hans Frank, the man who organized the Holocaust in Poland. Chomiak’s work was directly supervised by Emil Gassner, the head of the press department in the Polish General Government.

Mikhailo Chomiak comfortably settled his family into a former Jewish (or Aryanized) apartment in Krakow. The editorial offices for Krakivski Visti also were taken from a Jewish owner, Krakow’s Polish-language Jewish newspaper Nowy Dziennik. Its editor at the time was forced to flee Krakow for Lviv, where he was captured following the occupation of Galicia and sent to the Belzec extermination camp, where he was murdered along with 600,000 other Jews.

So, it appears Freeland’s grandfather – rather than being a helpless victim – was given a prestigious job to spread Nazi propaganda, praising Hitler from a publishing house stolen from Jews and given to Ukrainians who shared the values of Nazism.

On April 24, 1940, Krakivski Visti published a full-page panegyric to Adolf Hitler dedicated to his 51st birthday (four days earlier). Chomiak also hailed Governor-General Hans Frank: “The Ukrainian population were overjoyed to see the establishment of fair German authority, the bearer of which is you, Sir Governor-General. The Ukrainian people expressed this joy not only through the flowers they threw to the German troops entering the region, but also through the sacrifices of blood required to fight Polish usurpers.” (Because of Frank’s role in the Holocaust, the Nuremberg Tribunal found him guilty of crimes against humanity and executed him.)

Beyond extolling Hitler and his henchmen, Chomiak rejoiced over Nazi military victories, including the terror bombings of Great Britain. While praising the Third Reich, Krakivski Visti was also under orders by the German authorities to stir up hatred against the Jewish population. Editorial selections from Chomiak’s newspaper can be found in Holocaust museums around the world, such as the one in Los Angeles, California.

The Nov. 6, 1941 issue of Krakivski Visti ecstatically describes how much better Kiev is without Jews. “There is not a single one left in Kiev today, while there were 350,000 under the Bolsheviks,” the newspaper wrote, gloating that the Jews “got their comeuppance.”

That “comeuppance” refers to the mass shooting of Kiev’s Jewish population at Babi Yar. In just two days, Sept. 29-30, 1941, a total of 33,771 people were murdered, a figure that does not include children younger than three years old. There were more shootings in October, and by early November, Krakivski Visti was enthusing over a city where the Jewish population had “disappeared” making Kiev “beautiful, glorious.” Chomiak’s editorials also described a Poland “iinfected by Jews.”

 

According to John-Paul Himka, a Canadian historian of Ukrainian origin, Krakivski Visti stirred up emotions against Jews, creating an atmosphere conducive to mass murder. In 2008, the Institute of Historical Research at Lviv National University published a paper co-authored by Himka entitled “What Was the Attitude of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists toward the Jews?” The paper states that, by order of the German authorities, Krakivski Visti published a series of articles between June and September 1943 under the title “Yids in Ukraine” that were written in an extremely anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi vein. The Canadian historian writes that Jews were portrayed as criminals, while Ukrainians were portrayed as victims.

Refuge in Canada

As the war turned against the Nazis and the Red Army advanced across Ukraine and Poland, Nazi propagandist Emil Gassner took Mykhailo Chomiak in 1944 to Vienna where Krakivski Visti continued to publish. As the Third Reich crumbled, Chomiak left with the retreating German Army and surrendered to the Americans in Bavaria, where he was placed with his family in a special U.S. military intelligence facility in Bad Wörishofen, a cluster of hotels situated 78 kilometers from Munich in the foothills of the Alps. . . .

4a. DHS secretary John Kelly has implemented an “anti-immigrant” offensive that provides for the de facto federal deputization of local law enforcement officers as enforcers of immigration law. This is an enormous legal/constitutional step. It is one that might be viewed as creeping martial law.

In FTR #864, among other programs, we highlighted how nativist, “anti-immigrant” sentiment was a fundamental part of the fascist world view in the 1930s and 1940s.

“Mr. Trump’s ‘Deportation Force’ Prepares an Assault on American Values;” The New York Times; 2/21/2017.

The homeland security secretary, John Kelly, issued a remarkable pair of memos on Tuesday. They are the battle plan for the “deportation force” President Trump promised in the campaign.

They are remarkable for how completely they turn sensible immigration policies upside down and backward. For how they seek to make the deportation machinery more extreme and frightening (and expensive), to the detriment of deeply held American values.

A quick flashback: The Obama administration recognized that millions of unauthorized immigrants, especially those with citizen children and strong ties to their communities and this country, deserved a chance to stay and get right with the law. It tried to focus on deporting dangerous criminals, national-security threats and recent border crossers.

Mr. Kelly has swept away those notions. He makes practically every deportable person a deportation priority. He wants everybody, starting with those who have been convicted of any crime, no matter how petty or old. Proportionality, discretion, the idea that some convictions are unjust, the principles behind criminal-justice reform — these concepts do not apply.

The targets now don’t even have to be criminals. They could simply have been accused of a crime (that is, still presumed “innocent”) or have done something that makes an immigration agent believe that they might possibly face charges.

Mr. Kelly included a catchall provision allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers or Border Patrol agents — or local police officers or sheriff’s deputies — to take in anyone they think could be “a risk to public safety or national security.” That is a recipe for policing abuses and racial profiling, a possibility that Mr. Kelly will vastly expand if Congress gives him the huge sums required to hire 10,000 ICE officers and 5,000 Border Patrol agents.

He wants to “surge,” his verb, the hiring of immigration judges and asylum officers. He wants to add processing and detention centers, which surely has the private-prison industry salivating at the profits to come.

He wants to ramp up programs deputizing state and local law enforcement officers as immigration enforcers. He calls them “a highly successful force multiplier,” which is true if you want a dragnet. It’s not true if you want to fight crime effectively and keep communities safe. When every local law enforcement encounter can be a prelude to deportation, unauthorized immigrants will fear and avoid the police. And when state and local officers untrained in immigration law suddenly get to decide who stays and who goes, the risk of injustice is profound.

So is the danger to due process. Current procedure allows for swiftly deporting, without a hearing, immigrants who are caught near the border and who entered very recently. But Mr. Kelly notes that the law allows him to fast-track the removal of immigrants caught anywhere in the country who cannot prove they have been here “continuously” for at least two years. He’s keeping his options open about whether to short-circuit due process with a coast-to-coast show-me-your-papers policy.

He plans to publish data on crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants, and to identify state and local jurisdictions that release immigrants from custody. Why? To promote the false idea, as Mr. Trump has shamefully done, that immigrants pose particular safety risks and to punish so-called sanctuary cities that, for reasons of public order and decency, are trying to disconnect themselves from ICE.

This is how Mr. Trump’s rantings about “bad hombres” and alien rapist terrorists have now been weaponized, in cold bureaucratic language.

Mr. Kelly promised before his confirmation to be a reasonable enforcer of defensible policies. But immigrants have reason to be frightened by his sudden alignment with Mr. Trump’s nativism. So does every American who believes that the country is, or should be, committed to the sensible, proportionate application of laws, welcoming to immigrants, and respectful of the facts.

4b. The Trumpenkampfverbande is removing federal scrutiny of white supremacist groups.

“ ‘Trump Is Setting Us Free:’ White Supremacists  Celebrate Reports that Trump Will Dial Down Scrutiny” by Laurel Raymond and Alan Pyke; Think Progress; 2/3/2017.“This

Is Absolutely a Signal of Favor to Us”

Online neo-Nazi and white supremacist forums have been unmistakably jubilant lately, as web chatter moved from celebrating President Donald Trump’s electoral victory to celebrating individual cabinet appointments and policy proposals.

On Thursday, internet racists celebrated another perceived victory: Reports that President Trump will soon remove white nationalist groups from a federal effort to study and neutralize extremist radicalization, and rebrand the program to focus solely on groups associating themselves with Islam.

“Yes, this is real life. Our memes are all real life. Donald Trump is setting us free.”

The Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program partners government agencies with community organizations in hopes of preventing people from being radicalized into various types of terror and hate groups. Its primary focus has always been in Muslim communities, but the Obama administration designed it to also encompass the American far-right groups that propagandize to people like Dylann Roof.

News of Trump’s plan to reverse that symbolic recognition of right-wing threats prompted a wave of celebration in white nationalist circles.

“Donald Trump wants to remove us from undue federal scrutiny by removing ‘white supremacists’ from the definition of ‘extremism,’” the founder and editor of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer (which takes its name from a Nazi propaganda publication) wrote in a post on the site. “Yes, this is real life. Our memes are all real life. Donald Trump is setting us free.”

This interpretation overstates the scope of Reuter’s report somewhat. The meme-filled Daily Stormer post alleges that changing the CVE program and renaming it to focus solely on “Islamic extremism,” as Trump puts it, would also extend to to calling off FBI scrutiny and taking white supremacists and neo-Nazis off of extremist databases. That would actually require separate action from Trump.

But in Trump’s move to take even some measure of scrutiny off of far-right extremism, The Daily Stormer sees a direct parroting of their own writing and a reward for the far-right’s role in getting Trump elected.

“It’s fair to say that if the Trump team is not listening to us directly (I assume they are), they are thinking along very similar lines. We helped get Trump get [sic] elected, and the fact of the matter is, without Alt-Right meme magick, it simply wouldn’t have happened,” the post continues. “This is absolutely a signal of favor to us.”

Another neo-Nazi site that associates itself with the so-called “alt-right,” Infostormer, celebrated the news and took it as a sign of support. “We may truly have underestimated President Trump’s covert support of our Cause (at least in some form), but after this proposal, I am fully ready to offer myself in service of this glorious regime” the post reads.

This celebratory coverage of the news spread widely through white nationalist forums and chat rooms.

Commenters at Stormfront rejoiced.

“Amazing my government no longer targets me as an enemy,” wrote one. “It’s now officially understood at the the highest levels that we are soooo much better than the kidnapper terrorist pedophile left,” wrote another.

On the messaging service Gab, which has become a favorite of white nationalists after Twitter started closing some high-profile accounts for hate speech, users gleefully posted links to the Infowars coverage of the news, mainstream news coverage, and the Daily Stormer article, often tagging the posts #MAGA and editorializing their celebration of the news.

Trump’s presidency has been met with widespread celebration by white supremacist groups, many of which recognized Trump’s “America first” rhetoric as their own.

Civil liberties organizations and libertarian observers have long criticized the CVE program as a counterproductive whitewash of government surveillance of Muslim communities. A former official with the program told CNN that in practice, the controversial program has always focused on Muslim communities, and thus that Trump’s most substantial proposed change is the renaming of the program. According to Reuters, Trump would rechristen it the “Countering Islamic Extremism” or the “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism” program.

Much of the white supremacist celebration seems to revolve around the proposed name change alone.

Only one organization has thus far won a CVE grant for work focused on hate group de-radicalization. Life After Hate, founded in 2009 and run by a small staff of men and women who were once part of skinhead, Aryan, and other violent extremist organizations, has yet to receive the grant it was awarded last summer.

Life After Hate co-founder Christian Picciolini called Trump’s reported plan “extremely troubling,” citing the signal it sends to hate groups.

“It sends a message that white extremism does not exist, or is not a priority in our country, when in fact it is a statistically larger and more present terror threat than any by foreign or other domestic actors,” LAH’s Christian Picciolini told ThinkProgress. “We have hundreds of thousands of homegrown sovereign citizens and militia members with ties to white nationalism training in paramilitary camps across the U.S. and standing armed in front of mosques to intimidate marginalized Americans.”

“It sends a message that white extremism does not exist.”

With the proposed change, Picciolini worries Trump could even end up increasing the likelihood of violence within our borders if he does alter the program to ignore white supremacists, militia groups, and so-called “sovereign citizens.” Since 9/11, attacks from right-wing organizations have killed far more Americans than groups claiming to be Islamic, according to data from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The move “could bolster and legitimize violent white extremism while also potentially serving to radicalize disaffected fringe elements within Muslim communities,” he said.

“This decision, if true, would severely harm or destroy any community-led efforts to helping people disengage from violent extremism and potentially stop future terrorist acts.”

4c. The League of the South has formed a vigilante “Southern Defense Force,” intended to combat “the leftist menace.” But it’s not exclusively intended to be vigilante in nature. If state and local authorities ever feel the need to deputize private citizens, this new ‘Southern Defense Force’ is planning on filling that role too.

The potential deputization of the “Southern Defense Force” should be evaluated against the background of the martial law contingency plans developed by Oliver North. Those plans, as discussed most recently in FTR #945, involved the deputization of paramilitary right-wingers and their use as federal enforcers in the event of an “emergency.”

“League of the South Announces Formation of ‘Southern Defense Force’” by Hatewatch Staff; Southern Poverty Law Center; 2/6/2017.

Edging closer to militancy, the neo-Confederate League of the South says it’s forming a force to combat the ‘leftist menace to our historic Christian civilization.’

In a military-styled order titled “Directive 02022017,” Michael Hill, president of the neo-Confederate League of the South (LOS), announced Friday the formation of a new vigilante “defense force.”

[T]he League of the South is calling for all able-bodied, traditionalist Southern men to join our organization’s Southern Defense Force for the purpose of helping our State and local magistrates across Dixie combat this growing leftist menace to our historic Christian civilization. As private citizens in a private organization, we will stand ready to protect our own families and friends, our property, and our liberty from leftist chaos. Moreover, we will be ready to assist our local and State authorities in keeping the peace should they find it necessary to “deputize” private citizens for that purpose.

It remains to be seen what actions the new “Southern Defense Force” [SDF] will take to “plan for contingencies – natural or man-made –– that might affect the Southern people.” But announcements of plans to militarize the League are not new.

In 2014, the group began developing and training a paramilitary unit called the “Indomitables” to advance a second secession, though such efforts fizzled quickly.

Promising increased LOS militancy has cost the group and led to faltering membership. Since Dylann Roof’s massacre of nine congregants at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in 2015, Hatewatch has documented a string of high-profile departures.

Hill’s announcement closes by directing recruits to contact the League using a web form reserved for normal members. “Are you ready to be a man among men?” Hill asks. “Join the League and its Southern Defense Force today!”

The phrase “man among men” is a reference to propaganda posters for the Rhodesian Army during the Rhodesian Bush War, a civil war from 1964-79 in the unrecognized country of Rhodesia that remains a popular reference for white nationalists. The conflict inspired Dylann Roof, who named his blog “The Last Rhodesian” and posed for pictures on social media with the Confederate Battle Flag while wearing a jacket patched with a Rhodesian flag.

It seems to have inspired Hill, too. He has echoed the Rhodesian mythos in a series of social media posts and on the LOS website, typifying the loss of political hegemony by whites in that war as tantamount to racial genocide.

While Hill is just one voice in a growing chorus contributing to an escalation of violent rhetoric across the South and the United States, the formation of the SDF represents something else, too –– a desperate promise of armed resistance from an aging radical on the fringe of a movement he once dominated.

4d. “The League of the South is calling for all able-bodied, traditionalist Southern men to join our organization’s Southern Defense Force for the purpose of helping our State and local magistrates across Dixie combat this growing leftist menace to our historic Christian civilization. As private citizens in a private organization, we will stand ready to protect our own families and friends, our property, and our liberty from leftist chaos. Moreover, we will be ready to assist our local and State authorities in keeping the peace should they find it necessary to “deputize” private citizens for that purpose.

Michael Hill, president of the League of the South, is making an overtly white-nationalist dog-whistle when he asks: “Are you ready to be a man among men?”, here’s his declaration immediately following election day about how no mercy should be shown towards “Jews, minorities, and anti-white whites”:

“League Of The South Hails Trump, Wants ‘No Mercy’ Towards ‘Jews, Minorities And Anti-White Whites’” by Brian Tashman; Right Wing Watch; 11/10/2016.

As white supremacists and neo-Nazis celebrate the results of the presidential election, Michael Hill, president of the neo-Confederate League of the South, reacted to Donald Trump’s victory yesterday by vowing to show “no mercy” to “the enemies of our God, our Folk and our civilization” and to finally “drive a stake” through the heart of “the globalist-progressive coalition of Jews, minorities, and anti-white whites.”

Once the globalist-progressive coalition of Jews, minorities, and anti-white whites stops reeling in confusion from the results of yesterday’s election, we can expect them to start striking back with trickery and violence. Thus, we as Southern nationalists face both danger and opportunity.

Now, more than ever, we need tight organization and numbers to help drive a stake through Dracula’s heart and keep him from rising once again to menace our people and civilization. No mercy should be shown to the enemies of our God, our Folk, and our civilization. None would be afforded us.

Today, Hill warned neo-Confederate activists that if “you don’t finish the job by routing your enemies and driving them into the sea while you have the chance, they will re-group and be back at your throats in no time! You have been given a reprieve by God (probably undeservedly so); do not give your enemies and His a reprieve.”

He said that a Trump presidency may represent a God-given “short reprieve” from the “demise of old white America,” telling members that they must use this opportunity to fight for and build “White Man’s Land.”

So here is my warning to the victors: do not go back to sleep and think all is well. If you don’t finish the job by routing your enemies and driving them into the sea while you have the chance, they will re-group and be back at your throats in no time! You have been given a reprieve by God (probably undeservedly so); do not give your enemies and His a reprieve.

Their goal is to dispossess you of everything. If you have not heard that over the past year, then you have not been listening. Just what the hell do you think multiculturalism, diversity, and tolerance are all about? Your enemies care nothing about those things. They are merely used as weapons against you for your dispossession and ultimate destruction. The sum of their effect is White Guilt.

These media elites (and others of their elite ilk) look forward to the demise of old white America and the rise of a new paradigm in which they will hold sway. You will be dispossessed, sequestered in the equivalent of ghettos, and will be a despised and hated minority in the country your ancestors built.

You, by God’s grace, may have been given a short reprieve from this scenario. Redeem the time! As for me, I recommend that we get busy with Southern independence. We need our own country, and it must be run by us for our own interests. It must once again be White Man’s Land.

4e. Donald Trump gave his first speech to Congress, a speech that was largely and bizarrely hailed by the press and polls as ‘optimistic’, despite being a pack of lies that was only slightly less dark and inflammatory than his ‘American carnage’ inauguration speech.

If you’re a fan of a creeping Hitlerian agenda, it definitely was an optimistic speech.

“ . . . . In The Nazi Conscience, Duke historian Claudia Koonz notes that the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer ran a feature called ‘Letter Box,’ which published readers’ accounts of Jewish crimes. When the Nazis took power, the German state began doing something similar. Frustrated by the failure of most Germans to participate in a boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933, Adolf Hitler’s government began publicizing Jewish crime statistics as a way of stoking anti-Semitism. In Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Persecution, the historian Saul Friedlander notes that, until 1938, Hitler’s Ministry of Justice ordered prosecutors to forward every criminal indictment against a Jew so the ministry’s press office could publicize it. . . .

In a manner reminiscent of the Third Reich’s treatment of Jews (as excerpted above), a new DHS department will be focused on immigrant crimes and “providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests” (yes, he managed to suggest that there’s a conspiracy to not report crimes by immigrants).

“First, they came for the ‘illegal’ immigrants. . . .”

In short, Trump is using his new DHS program to demonize non-whites and immigrants and blanket the airwaves with stories about immigrant crimes in his 2020 reelection bid, that office is going to be used by GOPers all over the country, especially in TV ads reminiscent of the infamous ‘Willie Horton’ ad.

So, get ready for ‘dangerous violent (non-white) immigrants are coming for you and your family’ to be the GOP’s theme for the foreseeable future. And get ready for the billions of dollars in political advertising to make sure that Americans receive that message over and over. Feeling optimistic?

“Trump Scapegoats Unauthorized Immigrants for Crime” by Peter Beinart; The Atlantic ; 3/1/2017.

The president’s focus on crimes committed by members of one particular group singles them out for blame.

Donald Trump is worried about violence by unauthorized immigrants. When he spoke before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, he invited three relatives of people that unauthorized immigrants had killed to attend as his guests.

In that speech, he calledfor the Department of Homeland Security to create an office focused on the victims of immigrant crime. And in a January 25 executive order, he instructed the Homeland Security Secretary to “make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens.”

On its face, this is odd. As far as researchers can tell, unauthorized immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than the American population at large. A 2007 National Bureau of Economic Research Paper by Wellesley College economist Kristin F. Butcher and Rutgers economist Anne Morrison Piehl found that “immigrants have much lower institutionalization (incarceration) rates than the native born.” (The discrepancy, they noted, could not be explained by the fact that the government deports some immigrant criminals, thus sparing them incarceration in the U.S.). A review of census data between 1980 and 2010 revealed that while non-citizens comprised 7 percent of the U.S. population, they comprised only 5 percent of those in America’s prisons.

Trump’s allies may believe that sneaking into the United States, or using a fake social security number to get a job, predisposes people to rob, rape, or kill. But the evidence does not bear this out. So if Trump’s goal is increasing public safety, publishing a list of crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants is irrational. It’s like publishing a list of crimes committed by people with red-hair.

If, however, Trump’s goal is stigmatizing a vulnerable class of people, then publicizing their crimes—and their crimes alone—makes sense. It’s been a tactic bigots have used more than a century.

Using crime to incite hatred has a long history in the United States. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a professor of history, race, and public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, notes that for at least a century after the end of slavery, northern newspapers generally identified African Americans accused of committing crimes as “negro” or “colored.” Southern newspapers generally referred to the offender as a “negro criminal” in bold—using the individual’s name and “the negro” interchangeably in the story. White criminals, by contrast, were not identified by race. (This tradition continues at Breitbart, which has a special category for “black crime.”)

Government crime statistics reflected ethnic and racial fears too. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, notes Muhammad, when native-born Americans were growing alarmed by mass immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, big city police forces broke down crime statistics by European nationality: Russian, German, Italian, etc. As nativist fears receded following the shutdown of such immigration, the FBI began lumping all European nationalities into the category “foreign born” beginning in 1930. By 1940, the European foreign born were subsumed into “white.”

In The Nazi Conscience, Duke historian Claudia Koonz notes that the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer ran a feature called “Letter Box,” which published readers’ accounts of Jewish crimes. When the Nazis took power, the German state began doing something similar. Frustrated by the failure of most Germans to participate in a boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933, Adolf Hitler’s government began publicizing Jewish crime statistics as a way of stoking anti-Semitism. InNazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Persecution, the historian Saul Friedlander notes that, until 1938, Hitler’s Ministry of Justice ordered prosecutors to forward every criminal indictment against a Jew so the ministry’s press office could publicize it.

Trump’s defenders might claim that what he’s doing differs from these prior examples. He’s publicizing the crimes of a legal group—illegal immigrants—not a religious, ethnic, or racial one. But in the United States in 2017, talking about “illegal immigrants” is like talking about “welfare mothers” or “crack dealers” in 1987. The racial implication is clear. Trump made it so himself in his announcement speech when he said that, “When Mexico sends its people…They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Trump is scapegoating in the classic sense. He’s taking the sin of crime and associating it with one, already stigmatized, group, thus allowing native-born Americans to consider themselves pure. In Leviticus, the high priest takes a goat, “confess[es] over it all the iniquities and transgressions of the Israelites” and then sends it into the wilderness so it won’t contaminate them. When it comes to unauthorized immigrants, Trump is reenacting that ritual. Americans will soon learn just how harsh his legal and moral wilderness is.

5. Another example of the global nature of the “Alt-Right’s” attempts to rebrand far-right ideologies. Check out the image on the main banner used in a Lithuanian far-right march celebrating the WWII pro-Nazi collaborationist Kazys Skirpa: Pepe the frog. Or, more precisely, Kazys Skirpa as Pepe the frog.

“ . . . The banner also included a quote attributed to the Pepe-like portrait of Skirpa, an envoy of the pro-Nazi movement in Lithuania to Berlin, that read ‘Lithuania will contribute to new and better European order.’ . . . ”

As we can see, the “Alt-Right” Pepe-fication of Europe is well underway, and it’s going to include Europe’s many WWII historical revisionism movements: all of those Nazi collaborators were actually misunderstood freedom fighters. Here’s a fun “Alt-Right” meme about them. But don’t call them Nazis.

“Lithuanian Nationalists Celebrate Holocaust-era Quisling, Pepe the Frog Near Execution Site:” Jewish Telegraph Agency; 2/17/2017.

Lithuanian ultranationalists marched near execution sites of Jews with banners celebrating a pro-Nazi collaborationist who called for ethnic cleansing and a symbol popular with members of the U.S. “alt-right” movement.

Approximately 170 people attended Thursday’s annual march in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second city that is also known as Kovno, the website Defending History reported.

The main banner featured a picture of the collaborationist Kazys Skirpa modified to resemble Pepe the Frog, a cartoon figure that was used by hate groups in the United States during the 2016 presidential elections, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

The banner also included a quote attributed to the Pepe-like portrait of Skirpa, an envoy of the pro-Nazi movement in Lithuania to Berlin, that read “Lithuania will contribute to new and better European order.”

Skirpa, who has a street named for him in Kaunas, “elevated anti-Semitism to a political level” that “could have encouraged a portion of Lithuania’s residents to get involved in the Holocaust,” the Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania asserted in 2015. But Skirpa “proposed to solve ‘the Jewish problem’ not by genocide but by the method of expulsion from Lithuania,” the center said.

The procession passed near the Lietovus Garage, where in 1941 locals butchered dozens of Jews. Thousands more were killed in an around Kaunas by local collaborators of the Nazis and by German soldiers in the following months.

“Kaunas is ground zero of the Lithuanian Holocaust,” Dovid Katz, a U.S.-born scholar and the founder of Defending History, told JTA on Friday. He condemned local authorities for allowing the march by “folks who glorify the very Holocaust-collaborators, theoreticians and perpetrators who unleashed the genocide locally.” Katz was one of five people who attended the march to protest and document it.

Lithuania is the only country that officially defines its domination by the former Soviet Union as a form of genocide. The name of the state-funded entity that wrote about Skirpa in 2005 refers both to the Holocaust and the so-called Soviet occupation.

The Museum of Genocide Victims in Vilnius, which until 2011 did not mention the more than 200,000 Lithuanian Jews who died in the Nazi Holocaust, was established in 1992 to memorialize Lithuanians killed by the Nazi, but mostly Soviet, states.

6. The Guardian has a long and critical piece on Robert Mercer and the Mercer clan’s role in the rise of Breitbart as the dominant ‘outsider’ conservative media outlet, and how deeply intertwined that endeavor is with the Mercers’ other big investments.

Of particular interest are the firms Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL, where Cambridge Analytica specializes in using AI and Big Data psychometric analysis on hundreds of millions of Americans in order to model individual behavior. SCL develops strategies to use that information, and manipulate search engine results to change public opinion (the Trump campaign was apparently very big into AI and Big Data during the campaign).

As the article notes, not only are Cambridge Analytica/SCL are using their propaganda techniques to shape the US public opinion in a fascist direction, but this formidable phalanx is going about achieving this shift in attitudes by utilizing its propaganda machine to characterize all news outlets to the left of Brietbart as “fake news” that can’t be trusted.

Only far-right media can be trusted. That’s the meme disseminated by this the Mercer/Bannon meme-machine.

In short, the secretive far-right billionaire (Robert Mercer), joined at the hip with Steve Bannon, is running multiple firms specializing in mass psychometric profiling based on data collected from Facebook and other social media. Mercer/Bannon/Cambridge Analytica/SCL are using Nazified AI and Big Data to develop mass propaganda campaigns to turn the public against everything that isn’t Brietbartian by convincing the public that all non-Brietbartian media outlets are conspiring to lie to the public.

This is the ultimate Serpent’s Walk scenario–a Nazi Artificial Intelligence drawing on Big Data gleaned from the world’s internet and social media operations to shape public opinion, target individual users, shape search engine results and even feedback to Trump while he is giving press conferences.

And you were worried about the NSA. Worry about THIS!

“Robert Mercer: The Big Data Billionaire Waging War on Mainstream Media” Carole Cadwalladr; The Guardian; 2/26/2017.

With links to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage, the rightwing US computer scientist is at the heart of a multimillion-dollar propaganda network

Just over a week ago, Donald Trump gathered members of the world’s press before him and told them they were liars. “The press, honestly, is out of control,” he said. “The public doesn’t believe you any more.” CNN was described as “very fake news… story after story is bad”. The BBC was “another beauty”.That night I did two things. First, I typed “Trump” in the search box of Twitter. My feed was reporting that he was crazy, a lunatic, a raving madman. But that wasn’t how it was playing out elsewhere. The results produced a stream of “Go Donald!!!!”, and “You show ’em!!!” There were star-spangled banner emojis and thumbs-up emojis and clips of Trump laying into the “FAKE news MSM liars!”

Trump had spoken, and his audience had heard him. Then I did what I’ve been doing for two and a half months now. I Googled “mainstream media is…” And there it was. Google’s autocomplete suggestions: “mainstream media is… dead, dying, fake news, fake, finished”. Is it dead, I wonder? Has FAKE news won? Are we now the FAKE news? Is the mainstream media – we, us, I – dying?

I click Google’s first suggested link. It leads to a website called CNSnews.com and an article: “The Mainstream media are dead.” They’re dead, I learn, because they – we, I – “cannot be trusted”. How had it, an obscure site I’d never heard of, dominated Google’s search algorithm on the topic? In the “About us” tab, I learn CNSnews is owned by the Media Research Center, which a click later I learn is “America’s media watchdog”, an organisation that claims an “unwavering commitment to neutralising leftwing bias in the news, media and popular culture”.

Another couple of clicks and I discover that it receives a large bulk of its funding – more than $10m in the past decade – from a single source, the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. If you follow US politics you may recognise the name. Robert Mercer is the money behind Donald Trump. But then, I will come to learn, Robert Mercer is the money behind an awful lot of things. He was Trump’s single biggest donor. Mercer started backing Ted Cruz, but when he fell out of the presidential race he threw his money – $13.5m of it – behind the Trump campaign.

It’s money he’s made as a result of his career as a brilliant but reclusive computer scientist. He started his career at IBM, where he made what the Association for Computational Linguistics called “revolutionary” breakthroughs in language processing – a science that went on to be key in developing today’s AI – and later became joint CEO of Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund that makes its money by using algorithms to model and trade on the financial markets.

One of its funds, Medallion, which manages only its employees’ money, is the most successful in the world – generating $55bn so far. And since 2010, Mercer has donated $45m to different political campaigns – all Republican – and another $50m to non-profits – all rightwing, ultra-conservative. This is a billionaire who is, as billionaires are wont, trying to reshape the world according to his personal beliefs.

Robert Mercer very rarely speaks in public and never to journalists, so to gauge his beliefs you have to look at where he channels his money: a series of yachts, all called Sea Owl; a $2.9m model train set; climate change denial (he funds a climate change denial think tank, the Heartland Institute); and what is maybe the ultimate rich man’s plaything – the disruption of the mainstream media. In this he is helped by his close associate Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign manager and now chief strategist. The money he gives to the Media Research Center, with its mission of correcting “liberal bias” is just one of his media plays. There are other bigger, and even more deliberate strategies, and shining brightly, the star at the centre of the Mercer media galaxy, is Breitbart.

It was $10m of Mercer’s money that enabled Bannon to fund Breitbart – a rightwing news site, set up with the express intention of being a Huffington Post for the right. It has launched the careers of Milo Yiannopoulos and his like, regularly hosts antisemitic and Islamophobic views, and is currently being boycotted by more than 1,000 brands after an activist campaign. It has been phenomenally successful: the 29th most popular site in America with 2bn page views a year. It’s bigger than its inspiration, the Huffington Post, bigger, even, than PornHub. It’s the biggest political site on Facebook. The biggest on Twitter.

Prominent rightwing journalist Andrew Breitbart, who founded the site but died in 2012, told Bannon that they had “to take back the culture”. And, arguably, they have, though American culture is only the start of it. In 2014, Bannon launched Breitbart London, telling the New York Times it was specifically timed ahead of the UK’s forthcoming election. It was, he said, the latest front “in our current cultural and political war”. France and Germany are next.

But there was another reason why I recognised Robert Mercer’s name: because of his connection to Cambridge Analytica, a small data analytics company. He is reported to have a $10m stake in the company, which was spun out of a bigger British company called SCL Group. It specialises in “election management strategies” and “messaging and information operations”, refined over 25 years in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. In military circles this is known as “psyops” – psychological operations. (Mass propaganda that works by acting on people’s emotions.)

Cambridge Analytica worked for the Trump campaign and, so I’d read, the Leave campaign. When Mercer supported Cruz, Cambridge Analytica worked with Cruz. When Robert Mercer started supporting Trump, Cambridge Analytica came too. And where Mercer’s money is, Steve Bannon is usually close by: it was reported that until recently he had a seat on the board.

Last December, I wrote about Cambridge Analytica in a piece about how Google’s search results on certain subjects were being dominated by rightwing and extremist sites. Jonathan Albright, a professor of communications at Elon University, North Carolina, who had mapped the news ecosystem and found millions of links between rightwing sites “strangling” the mainstream media, told me that trackers from sites like Breitbart could also be used by companies like Cambridge Analytica to follow people around the web and then, via Facebook, target them with ads.
[Wow–Google and Facebook dominated by Cambridge Analytica–D.E.]

On its website, Cambridge Analytica makes the astonishing boast that it has psychological profiles based on 5,000 separate pieces of data on 220 million American voters – its USP is to use this data to understand people’s deepest emotions and then target them accordingly. The system, according to Albright, amounted to a “propaganda machine”.

A few weeks later, the Observer received a letter. Cambridge Analytica was not employed by the Leave campaign, it said. Cambridge Analytica “is a US company based in the US. It hasn’t worked in British politics.”

Which is how, earlier this week, I ended up in a Pret a Manger near Westminster with Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s affable communications director, looking at snapshots of Donald Trump on his phone. It was Wigmore who orchestrated Nigel Farage’s trip to Trump Tower – the PR coup that saw him become the first foreign politician to meet the president elect.

Wigmore scrolls through the snaps on his phone. “That’s the one I took,” he says pointing at the now globally famous photo of Farage and Trump in front of his golden elevator door giving the thumbs-up sign. Wigmore was one of the “bad boys of Brexit” – a term coined by Arron Banks, the Bristol-based businessman who was Leave.EU’s co-founder.

Cambridge Analytica had worked for them, he said. It had taught them how to build profiles, how to target people and how to scoop up masses of data from people’s Facebook profiles. A video on YouTube shows one of Cambridge Analytica’s and SCL’s employees, Brittany Kaiser, sitting on the panel at Leave.EU’s launch event.

Facebook was the key to the entire campaign, Wigmore explained. A Facebook ‘like’, he said, was their most “potent weapon”. “Because using artificial intelligence, as we did, tells you all sorts of things about that individual and how to convince them with what sort of advert. And you knew there would also be other people in their network who liked what they liked, so you could spread. And then you follow them. The computer never stops learning and it never stops monitoring.”

It sounds creepy, I say.

“It is creepy! It’s really creepy! It’s why I’m not on Facebook! I tried it on myself to see what information it had on me and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ What’s scary is that my kids had put things on Instagram and it picked that up. It knew where my kids went to school.”

They hadn’t “employed” Cambridge Analytica, he said. No money changed hands. “They were happy to help.”

Why?

Because Nigel is a good friend of the Mercers. And Robert Mercer introduced them to us. He said, ‘Here’s this company we think may be useful to you.’ What they were trying to do in the US and what we were trying to do had massive parallels. We shared a lot of information. Why wouldn’t you?” Behind Trump’s campaign and Cambridge Analytica, he said, were “the same people. It’s the same family.”

There were already a lot of questions swirling around Cambridge Analytica, and Andy Wigmore has opened up a whole lot more. Such as: are you supposed to declare services-in-kind as some sort of donation? The Electoral Commission says yes, if it was more than £7,500. And was it declared? The Electoral Commission says no. Does that mean a foreign billionaire had possibly influenced the referendum without that influence being apparent? It’s certainly a question worth asking.

In the last month or so, articles in first the Swiss and the US press have asked exactly what Cambridge Analytica is doing with US voters’ data. In a statement to the Observer, the Information Commissioner’s Office said: “Any business collecting and using personal data in the UK must do so fairly and lawfully. We will be contacting Cambridge Analytica and asking questions to find out how the company is operating in the UK and whether the law is being followed.”

Cambridge Analytica said last Friday they are in touch with the ICO and are completely compliant with UK and EU data laws. It did not answer other questions the Observer put to it this week about how it built its psychometric model, which owes its origins to original research carried out by scientists at Cambridge University’s Psychometric Centre, research based on a personality quiz on Facebook that went viral. More than 6 million people ended up doing it, producing an astonishing treasure trove of data.

These Facebook profiles – especially people’s “likes” – could be correlated across millions of others to produce uncannily accurate results. Michal Kosinski, the centre’s lead scientist, found that with knowledge of 150 likes, their model could predict someone’s personality better than their spouse. With 300, it understood you better than yourself. “Computers see us in a more robust way than we see ourselves,” says Kosinski.

But there are strict ethical regulations regarding what you can do with this data. Did SCL Group have access to the university’s model or data, I ask Professor Jonathan Rust, the centre’s director? “Certainly not from us,” he says. “We have very strict rules around this.”

A scientist, Aleksandr Kogan, from the centre was contracted to build a model for SCL, and says he collected his own data. Professor Rust says he doesn’t know where Kogan’s data came from. “The evidence was contrary. I reported it.” An independent adjudicator was appointed by the university. “But then Kogan said he’d signed a non-disclosure agreement with SCL and he couldn’t continue [answering questions].”

Kogan disputes this and says SCL satisfied the university’s inquiries. But perhaps more than anyone, Professor Rust understands how the kind of information people freely give up to social media sites could be used.

“The danger of not having regulation around the sort of data you can get from Facebook and elsewhere is clear. With this, a computer can actually do psychology, it can predict and potentially control human behaviour. It’s what the scientologists try to do but much more powerful. It’s how you brainwash someone. It’s incredibly dangerous.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that minds can be changed. Behaviour can be predicted and controlled. I find it incredibly scary. I really do. Because nobody has really followed through on the possible consequences of all this. People don’t know it’s happening to them. Their attitudes are being changed behind their backs.”

Mercer invested in Cambridge Analytica, the Washington Post reported, “driven in part by an assessment that the right was lacking sophisticated technology capabilities”. But in many ways, it’s what Cambridge Analytica’s parent company does that raises even more questions.

Emma Briant, a propaganda specialist at the University of Sheffield, wrote about SCL Group in her 2015 book, Propaganda and Counter-Terrorism: Strategies for Global Change. Cambridge Analytica has the technological tools to effect behavioural and psychological change, she said, but it’s SCL that strategises it. It has specialised, at the highest level – for Nato, the MoD, the US state department and others – in changing the behaviour of large groups. It models mass populations and then it changes their beliefs.

SCL was founded by someone called Nigel Oakes, who worked for Saatchi & Saatchi on Margaret Thatcher’s image, says Briant, and the company had been “making money out of the propaganda side of the war on terrorism over a long period of time. There are different arms of SCL but it’s all about reach and the ability to shape the discourse. They are trying to amplify particular political narratives. And they are selective in who they go for: they are not doing this for the left.

In the course of the US election, Cambridge Analytica amassed a database, as it claims on its website, of almost the entire US voting population – 220 million people – and the Washington Post reported last week that SCL was increasing staffing at its Washington office and competing for lucrative new contracts with Trump’s administration. “It seems significant that a company involved in engineering a political outcome profits from what follows. Particularly if it’s the manipulation, and then resolution, of fear,” says Briant.

It’s the database, and what may happen to it, that particularly exercises Paul-Olivier Dehaye, a Swiss mathematician and data activist who has been investigating Cambridge Analytica and SCL for more than a year. “How is it going to be used?” he says. “Is it going to be used to try and manipulate people around domestic policies? Or to ferment conflict between different communities? It is potentially very scary. People just don’t understand the power of this data and how it can be used against them.”

There are two things, potentially, going on simultaneously: the manipulation of information on a mass level, and the manipulation of information at a very individual level. Both based on the latest understandings in science about how people work, and enabled by technological platforms built to bring us together.

Are we living in a new era of propaganda, I ask Emma Briant? One we can’t see, and that is working on us in ways we can’t understand? Where we can only react, emotionally, to its messages? “Definitely. The way that surveillance through technology is so pervasive, the collection and use of our data is so much more sophisticated. It’s totally covert. And people don’t realise what is going on.”

Public mood and politics goes through cycles. You don’t have to subscribe to any conspiracy theory, Briant says, to see that a mass change in public sentiment is happening. Or that some of the tools in action are straight out of the military’s or SCL’s playbook.

But then there’s increasing evidence that our public arenas – the social media sites where we post our holiday snaps or make comments about the news – are a new battlefield where international geopolitics is playing out in real time. It’s a new age of propaganda. But whose? This week, Russia announced the formation of a new branch of the military: “information warfare troops”.

Sam Woolley of the Oxford Internet Institute’s computational propaganda institute tells me that one third of all traffic on Twitter before the EU referendum was automated “bots” – accounts that are programmed to look like people, to act like people, and to change the conversation, to make topics trend. And they were all for Leave. Before the US election, they were five-to-one in favour of Trump – many of them Russian. Last week they have been in action in the Stoke byelection – Russian bots, organised by who? – attacking Paul Nuttall.

You can take a trending topic, such as fake news, and then weaponise it, turn it against the media that uncovered it

“Politics is war,” said Steve Bannon last year in the Wall Street Journal. And increasingly this looks to be true.

There’s nothing accidental about Trump’s behaviour, Andy Wigmore tells me. “That press conference. It was absolutely brilliant. I could see exactly what he was doing. There’s feedback going on constantly. That’s what you can do with artificial intelligence. You can measure ever reaction to every word. He has a word room, where you fix key words. We did it. So with immigration, there are actually key words within that subject matter which people are concerned about. So when you are going to make a speech, it’s all about how can you use these trending words.”

Wigmore met with Trump’s team right at the start of the Leave campaign. “And they said the holy grail was artificial intelligence.”

Who did?

“Jared Kushner and Jason Miller.

Later, when Trump picked up Mercer and Cambridge Analytica, the game changed again. “It’s all about the emotions. This is the big difference with what we did. They call it bio-psycho-social profiling. It takes your physical, mental and lifestyle attributes and works out how people work, how they react emotionally.”

Bio-psycho-social profiling, I read later, is one offensive in what is called “cognitive warfare”. Though there are many others: “recoding the mass consciousness to turn patriotism into collaborationism,” explains a Nato briefing document on countering Russian disinformation written by an SCL employee. “Time-sensitive professional use of media to propagate narratives,” says one US state department white paper. “Of particular importance to psyop personnel may be publicly and commercially available data from social media platforms.”

Yet another details the power of a “cognitive casualty” – a “moral shock” that “has a disabling effect on empathy and higher processes such as moral reasoning and critical thinking”. Something like immigration, perhaps. Or “fake news”. Or as it has now become: “FAKE news!!!!”

How do you change the way a nation thinks? You could start by creating a mainstream media to replace the existing one with a site such as Breitbart. You could set up other websites that displace mainstream sources of news and information with your own definitions of concepts like “liberal media bias”, like CNSnews.com. And you could give the rump mainstream media, papers like the “failing New York Times!” what it wants: stories. Because the third prong of Mercer and Bannon’s media empire is the Government Accountability Institute.

Bannon co-founded it with $2m of Mercer’s money. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, was appointed to the board. Then they invested in expensive, long-term investigative journalism. “The modern economics of the newsroom don’t support big investigative reporting staffs,” Bannon told Forbes magazine. “You wouldn’t get a Watergate, a Pentagon Papers today, because nobody can afford to let a reporter spend seven months on a story. We can. We’re working as a support function.”

Welcome to the future of journalism in the age of platform capitalism. News organisations have to do a better job of creating new financial models. But in the gaps in between, a determined plutocrat and a brilliant media strategist can, and have, found a way to mould journalism to their own ends.

In 2015, Steve Bannon described to Forbes how the GAI operated, employing a data scientist to trawl the dark web (in the article he boasts of having access to $1.3bn worth of supercomputers) to dig up the kind of source material Google can’t find. One result has been a New York Times bestseller, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, written by GAI’s president, Peter Schweizer and later turned into a film produced by Rebekah Mercer and Steve Bannon.

This, Bannon explained, is how you “weaponise” the narrative you want. With hard researched facts. With those, you can launch it straight on to the front page of the New York Times, as the story of Hillary Clinton’s cash did. Like Hillary’s emails it turned the news agenda, and, most crucially, it diverted the attention of the news cycle. Another classic psyops approach. “Strategic drowning” of other messages.

This is a strategic, long-term and really quite brilliant play. In the 1990s, Bannon explained, conservative media couldn’t take Bill Clinton down because “they wound up talking to themselves in an echo chamber”.

As, it turns out, the liberal media is now. We are scattered, separate, squabbling among ourselves and being picked off like targets in a shooting gallery. Increasingly, there’s a sense that we are talking to ourselves. And whether it’s Mercer’s millions or other factors, Jonathan Albright’s map of the news and information ecosystem shows how rightwing sites are dominating sites like YouTube and Google, bound tightly together by millions of links.

Is there a central intelligence to that, I ask Albright? “There has to be. There has to be some type of coordination. You can see from looking at the map, from the architecture of the system, that this is not accidental. It’s clearly being led by money and politics.”

There’s been a lot of talk in the echo chamber about Bannon in the last few months, but it’s Mercer who provided the money to remake parts of the media landscape. And while Bannon understands the media, Mercer understands big data. He understands the structure of the internet. He knows how algorithms work.

Robert Mercer did not respond to a request for comment for this piece. Nick Patterson, a British cryptographer, who worked at Renaissance Technologies in the 80s and is now a computational geneticist at MIT, described to me how he was the one who talent-spotted Mercer. “There was an elite group working at IBM in the 1980s doing speech research, speech recognition, and when I joined Renaissance I judged that the mathematics we were trying to apply to financial markets were very similar.”

He describes Mercer as “very, very conservative. He truly did not like the Clintons. He thought Bill Clinton was a criminal. And his basic politics, I think, was that he’s a rightwing libertarian, he wants the government out of things.”

He suspects that Mercer is bringing the brilliant computational skills he brought to finance to bear on another very different sphere. “We make mathematical models of the financial markets which are probability models, and from those we try and make predictions. What I suspect Cambridge Analytica do is that they build probability models of how people vote. And then they look at what they can do to influence that.”

Finding the edge is what quants do. They build quantitative models that automate the process of buying and selling shares and then they chase tiny gaps in knowledge to create huge wins. Renaissance Technologies was one of the first hedge funds to invest in AI. But what it does with it, how it’s been programmed to do it, is completely unknown. It is, Bloomberg reports, the “blackest box in finance”.

Johan Bollen, associate professor at Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing, tells me how he discovered one possible edge: he’s done research that shows you can predict stock market moves from Twitter. You can measure public sentiment and then model it. “Society is driven by emotions, which it’s always been difficult to measure, collectively. But there are now programmes that can read text and measure it and give us a window into those collective emotions.”

The research caused a huge ripple among two different constituencies. “We had a lot attention from hedge funds. They are looking for signals everywhere and this is a hugely interesting signal. My impression is hedge funds do have these algorithms that are scanning social feeds. The flash crashes we’ve had – sudden huge drops in stock prices – indicates these algorithms are being used at large scale. And they are engaged in something of an arms race.”

The other people interested in Bollen’s work are those who want not only to measure public sentiment, but to change it. Bollen’s research shows how it’s possible. Could you reverse engineer the national, or even the global, mood? Model it, and then change it?

“It does seem possible. And it does worry me. There are quite a few pieces of research that show if you repeat something often enough, people start involuntarily to believe it. And that could be leveraged, or weaponised for propaganda. We know there are thousands of automated bots out there that are trying to do just that.”

THE war of the bots is one of the wilder and weirder aspects of the elections of 2016. At the Oxford Internet Institute’s Unit for Computational Propaganda, its director, Phil Howard, and director of research, Sam Woolley, show me all the ways public opinion can be massaged and manipulated. But is there a smoking gun, I ask them, evidence of who is doing this? “There’s not a smoking gun,” says Howard. “There are smoking machine guns. There are multiple pieces of evidence.”

“Look at this,” he says and shows me how, before the US election, hundreds upon hundreds of websites were set up to blast out just a few links, articles that were all pro-Trump. “This is being done by people who understand information structure, who are bulk buying domain names and then using automation to blast out a certain message. To make Trump look like he’s a consensus.”

And that requires money?

“That requires organisation and money. And if you use enough of them, of bots and people, and cleverly link them together, you are what’s legitimate. You are creating truth.”

You can take an existing trending topic, such as fake news, and then weaponise it. You can turn it against the very media that uncovered it. Viewed in a certain light, fake news is a suicide bomb at the heart of our information system. Strapped to the live body of us – the mainstream media.

One of the things that concerns Howard most is the hundreds of thousands of “sleeper” bots they’ve found. Twitter accounts that have tweeted only once or twice and are now sitting quietly waiting for a trigger: some sort of crisis where they will rise up and come together to drown out all other sources of information.

Like zombies?

“Like zombies.” . . .

 

 

Discussion

11 comments for “FTR #948 Walkin’ the Snake with Breitbart: The Gathering Sturm”

  1. With the Trump administration rolling out the presumably-less-unconstitutional revised version of its ‘Muslim ban’ today, it’s probably a good time for another peek into Steve Bannon’s psyche. Which unfortunately means we have to take another peek into far-right hate literature:

    The Huffington Post

    This Stunningly Racist French Novel Is How Steve Bannon Explains The World

    “The Camp of the Saints” tells a grotesque tale about a migrant invasion to destroy Western civilization.

    By Paul Blumenthal, JM Rieger
    03/04/2017 05:00 pm ET | Updated 10 hours ago

    Stephen Bannon, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist and the driving force behind the administration’s controversial ban on travelers, has a favorite metaphor he uses to describe the largest refugee crisis in human history.

    It’s been almost a Camp of the Saints-type invasion into Central and then Western and Northern Europe,” he said in October 2015.

    “The whole thing in Europe is all about immigration,” he said in January 2016. “It’s a global issue today — this kind of global Camp of the Saints.”

    “It’s not a migration,” he said later that January. “It’s really an invasion. I call it the Camp of the Saints.”

    “When we first started talking about this a year ago,” he said in April 2016, “we called it the Camp of the Saints. … I mean, this is Camp of the Saints, isn’t it?”

    Bannon has agitated for a host of anti-immigrant measures. In his previous role as executive chairman of the right-wing news site Breitbart — which he called a “platform for the alt-right,” the online movement of white nationalists — he made anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim news a focus.

    But the top Trump aide’s repeated references to The Camp of the Saints, an obscure 1973 novel by French author Jean Raspail, reveal even more about how he understands the world. The book is a cult favorite on the far right, yet it’s never found a wider audience. There’s a good reason for that: It’s breathtakingly racist.

    “[This book is] racist in the literal sense of the term. It uses race as the main characterization of characters,” said Cécile Alduy, professor of French at Stanford University and an expert on the contemporary French far right. “It describes the takeover of Europe by waves of immigrants that wash ashore like the plague.”

    The book, she said, “reframes everything as the fight to death between races.”

    Upon the novel’s release in the United States in 1975, the influential book review magazine Kirkus Reviews pulled no punches: “The publishers are presenting The Camp of the Saints as a major event, and it probably is, in much the same sense that Mein Kampf was a major event.”

    Linda Chavez, a Republican commentator who has worked for GOP presidents from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush but opposed Trump’s election, also reviewed the book back then. Forty years later, she hasn’t forgotten it.

    “It is really shockingly racist,” Chavez told The Huffington Post, “and to have the counselor to the president see this as one of his touchstones, I think, says volumes about his attitude.”

    The plot of The Camp of the Saints follows a poor Indian demagogue, named “the turd-eater” because he literally eats sh it, and the deformed, apparently psychic child who sits on his shoulders. Together, they lead an “armada” of 800,000 impoverished Indians sailing to France. Dithering European politicians, bureaucrats and religious leaders, including a liberal pope from Latin America, debate whether to let the ships land and accept the Indians or to do the right thing — in the book’s vision — by recognizing the threat the migrants pose and killing them all.

    The non-white people of Earth, meanwhile, wait silently for the Indians to reach shore. The landing will be the signal for them to rise up everywhere and overthrow white Western society.

    The French government eventually gives the order to repel the armada by force, but by then the military has lost the will to fight. Troops battle among themselves as the Indians stream on shore, trampling to death the left-wing radicals who came to welcome them. Poor black and brown people literally overrun Western civilization. Chinese people pour into Russia; the queen of England is forced to marry her son to a Pakistani woman; the mayor of New York must house an African-American family at Gracie Mansion. Raspail’s rogue heroes, the defenders of white Christian supremacy, attempt to defend their civilization with guns blazing but are killed in the process.

    Calgues, the obvious Raspail stand-in, is one of those taking up arms against the migrants and their culturally “cuckolded” white supporters. Just before killing a radical hippie, Calgues compares his own actions to past heroic, sometimes mythical defenses of European Christendom. He harkens back to famous battles that fit the clash-of-civilizations narrative — the defense of Rhodes against the Ottoman Empire, the fall of Constantinople to the same — and glorifies colonial wars of conquest and the formation of the Ku Klux Klan.

    Only white Europeans like Calgues are portrayed as truly human in The Camp of the Saints. The Indian armada brings “thousands of wretched creatures” whose very bodies arouse disgust: “Scraggy branches, brown and black … All bare, those fleshless Gandhi-arms.” Poor brown children are spoiled fruit “starting to rot, all wormy inside, or turned so you can’t see the mold.”

    The ship’s inhabitants are also sexual deviants who turn the voyage into a grotesque orgy. “Everywhere, rivers of sperm,” Raspail writes. “Streaming over bodies, oozing between breasts, and buttocks, and thighs, and lips, and fingers.”

    The white Christian world is on the brink of destruction, the novel suggests, because these black and brown people are more fertile and more numerous, while the West has lost that necessary belief in its own cultural and racial superiority. As he talks to the hippie he will soon kill, Calgues explains how the youth went so wrong: “That scorn of a people for other races, the knowledge that one’s own is best, the triumphant joy at feeling oneself to be part of humanity’s finest — none of that had ever filled these youngsters’ addled brains.”

    The Camp of the Saints — which draws its title from Revelation 20:9 — is nothing less than a call to arms for the white Christian West, to revive the spirit of the Crusades and steel itself for bloody conflict against the poor black and brown world without and the traitors within. The novel’s last line links past humiliations tightly to its own grim parable about modern migration. “The Fall of Constantinople,” Raspail’s unnamed narrator says, “is a personal misfortune that happened to all of us only last week.”

    Raspail wrote The Camp of the Saints in 1972 and 1973, after a stay at his aunt’s house near Cannes on the southern coast of France. Looking out across the Mediterranean, he had an epiphany: “And what if they came?” he thought to himself. “This ‘they’ was not clearly defined at first,” he told the conservative publication Le Point in 2015. “Then I imagined that the Third World would rush into this blessed country that is France.”

    Raspail’s novel has been published in the U.S. several times, each time with the backing of the anti-immigration movement.

    The U.S. publishing house Scribner was the first to translate the book into English in 1975, but it failed to reach a wide audience amid withering reviews by critics. A rare favorable take appeared in National Review. “Raspail brings his reader to the surprising conclusion that killing a million or so starving refugees from India would be a supreme act of individual sanity and cultural health,” then-Dartmouth professor Jeffrey Hart wrote in 1975. “Raspail is to genocide what [D.H. Lawrence] was to sex.” Hart added that “a great fuss” was being made over “Raspail’s supposed racism,” but that the “liberal rote anathema on ‘racism’ is in effect a poisonous assault upon Western self-preference.”

    The book received a second life in 1983 when Cordelia Scaife May, heiress to the Mellon fortune and sister to right-wing benefactor Richard Mellon Scaife, funded its republication and distribution. This time it gained a cult following among immigration opponents.

    May’s money has also been instrumental in funding the efforts of John Tanton, the godfather of the anti-immigration movement in the U.S. Tanton, who began as an environmentalist and population control proponent, founded a host of groups focused on restricting immigration, including the Federation of American Immigration Reform, the Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA and U.S. English. May’s fortune has fueled these groups with tens of millions of dollars in contributions over the years.

    Linda Chavez was recruited in 1987 to head U.S. English, which advocates for English to be designated the country’s official language. But then a series of disturbing stories painted Tanton’s motives in a racial light. Among other issues, Chavez said she learned that his funding came from the pro-eugenics Pioneer Fund and from May, who Chavez knew had helped publish The Camp of the Saints. Chavez recalled seeing Tanton’s staffers carrying the book around their offices. She quit the group.

    Tanton, who insists his opposition to immigration is not connected to race at all, told The Washington Post in 2006 that his mind “became focused” on the issue after reading The Camp of the Saints. In 1995, his small publishing house, Social Contract Press, brought the book back into print for a third time in the U.S., again with funding from May. Historians Paul Kennedy and Matt Connelly tied the book to then-current concerns about global demographic trends in a cover story for The Atlantic.

    “Over the years the American public has absorbed a great number of books, articles, poems and films which exalt the immigrant experience,” Tanton wrote in 1994. “It is easy for the feelings evoked by Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to obscure the fact that we are currently receiving too many immigrants (and receiving them too fast) for the health of our environment and of our common culture. Raspail evokes different feelings and that may help to pave the way for policy changes.”

    In 2001, the book was republished one more time, again by Tanton, and again gained a cult following among opponents of immigration like the border-patrolling Minutemen and eventually the online “alt-right.”

    Bannon’s alt-right-loving Breitbart has run multiple articles over the past three years referencing the novel. When Pope Francis told a joint session of Congress that the U.S. should open its arms to refugees in September 2015, Breitbart’s Julia Hahn, now an aide to Bannon in the White House, compared his admonition to Raspail’s liberal Latin American pontiff. And the novel’s thesis that migration is invasion in disguise is often reflected in Bannon’s public comments.

    The refugee crisis “didn’t just happen by happenstance,” Bannon said in an April 2016 radio interview with Sebastian Gorka, who now works for the National Security Council. “These are not war refugees. It’s something much more insidious going on.”

    Bannon has also echoed the novel’s theory that secular liberals who favor immigration and diversity weaken the West.

    Now Bannon sits at the right hand of the U.S. president, working to beat back what Bannon calls “this Muslim invasion.” And Trump is all in on the project. During the campaign, he called for a ban on all Muslims entering the country. His Jan. 28 executive order, since blocked in the courts, turned this campaign idea into executive policy.

    Trump has continued to defend the executive order as a life-or-death national security issue. “We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America,” he said in his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.

    Five days earlier, Trump had called his immigration enforcement efforts a “military operation.”

    Although Department of Homeland Security officials walked back that statement, the president’s conflation of immigration with warfare did not go unnoticed.

    “They see this as a war,” Chavez said.

    Chavez, who supports some of Trump’s economic policy proposals, called the direction the White House is taking on immigration and race “extremely dangerous.” She said Trump’s immigration moves are “a kind of purging of America of anything but our Northern European roots.” Bannon, she added, “wants to make America white again.”

    The Camp of the Saints — which draws its title from Revelation 20:9is nothing less than a call to arms for the white Christian West, to revive the spirit of the Crusades and steel itself for bloody conflict against the poor black and brown world without and the traitors within. The novel’s last line links past humiliations tightly to its own grim parable about modern migration. “The Fall of Constantinople,” Raspail’s unnamed narrator says, “is a personal misfortune that happened to all of us only last week.””

    Yeah, that definitely sounds like the kind of book we might find on Steve Bannon’s bookshelf. Or Trump’s bookshelf, right next to the book of inspirational speeches.

    In tangentially related news, Ben Carson gave his first official address as Housing and Urban Development secretary today. The topic of non-white immigration to the US came up during the speech. And while he didn’t exactly have a Bannon-esque view on the topic, it didn’t go very well.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 6, 2017, 9:03 pm
  2. Guess which Trump of Trump’s national security advisor spoke positively back in 2007 about the move by the far-right Jobbik party to start its own “Hungarian Guard” paramilitary militia based on the WWII “Array Cross” Hungarian Nazis. On TV. And if you’re tempted to guess “Steve Bannon”, that’s a good guess since he probably would have been pro-“Hungarian Guard” at the time. But the correct answer is the more obvious one:

    Forward

    EXCLUSIVE: Controversial Trump Aide Sebastian Gorka Backed Violent Anti-Semitic Militia

    By Lili Bayer
    April 3, 2017
    BUDAPEST

    As a Hungarian political leader in 2007, Sebastian Gorka, President Trump’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, publicly supported a violent racist and anti-Semitic paramilitary militia that was later banned as a threat to minorities by multiple court rulings.

    In a video obtained by the Forward of an August 2007 television appearance by Gorka, the future White House senior aide explicitly affirms his party’s and his support for the black-vested Hungarian Guard (Magyar Gárda) — a group later condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for attempting to promote an “essentially racist” legal order.

    Asked directly on the TV interview program if he supports the move by Jobbik, a far-right anti-Semitic party, to establish the militia, Gorka, appearing as a leader of his own newly formed party, replies immediately, “That is so.” The Guard, Gorka explains, is a response to “a big societal need.”

    Hungary’s official military, he stressed, “is sick, and totally reflects the state of Hungarian society…. This country cannot defend itself.”

    As he speaks during the program, a banner headline reading “UDK Supports The Hungarian Guard” runs across the screen. The Hungarian acronym is a reference to Gorka’s own, party, known in English as the New Democratic Coalition.

    Both the interviewer and Gorka refer to the move to establish the paramilitary outfit as “the Fidesz-Jobbik initiative,” reflecting Gorka’s contention that Fidesz, a larger right-wing party, was quietly backing Jobbik in its effort.

    Gorka’s affirmation of support for the far-right militia echoed statements his party posted on its website that same month, backing the Guard’s establishment and referring to it as “the Fidesz-Jobbik initiative,” an apparent attempt by Gorka and his party to somewhat distance themselves from the controversial militia at the same time. In one such statement, a party faction indicated its awareness of the Guard leaders’ extremism, declaring bluntly, “We support the establishment of the Hungarian Guard despite the personalities involved.” Another August statement spoke more generically of “a need for guards” in discussing the new militia’s establishment.

    The following month, another party statement attacked critics of the Guard, alleging that they opposed the militia to please U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor who had proposed legislation to bar Guard members from entering the United States. Lantos, a California Democrat, cited the Guard’s affinity for “the fascist Arrow Cross regime” that ruled Hungary at the end of World War II, when it participated in the deportation of Hungarian Jews into Nazi hands and killed thousands more.

    On the TV presentation, when his interviewer notes the ways in which the Guard “echoes October 1944, or sometime around then” through its uniforms, arms training and street marches, Gorka strongly defends his party’s support for the Guard, though not without some ambivalence.

    “I’m not saying it’s a good solution, but neither shooting training nor using the Arpad flag [is] unconstitutional,” he replied. The Arpad red-and-white flag, a nationalist symbol emblazoned on the Guard’s uniform, was also used by the Arrow Cross during World War II.

    As for the Guard’s black vests, which the interviewer cited as reminiscent of the Arrow Cross’s black shirts, Gorka said: “When the police shows up to deal with bank robbers in black uniforms, who talks about a fascist police in Hungary? Nobody! Now, it is possible that when they put together all these things, the effect in the end will be very bad, but it’s not my problem. It would be Fidesz and Jobbik’s problem.”

    During the 11-minute interview, which aired on Hungary’s Echo TV, Gorka dismissed concerns expressed by the Jewish community, and in particular fears that the Guard provoked among Hungarian Holocaust survivors. As is often the case in Hungary, the interviewer refers to Holocaust survivors obliquely, as “people who experienced 1944” — when hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps — or as those who experienced “the Arrow Cross regime.”

    Many such people, the interviewer noted, “are saying now is the time to leave Hungary. So in effect [the establishment of the Hungarian Guard] is facilitating the flaring-up of anti-Semitism?”

    “This is a tool,” Gorka replied. “This type of accusation is the very useful tool of a certain political class.”

    The Guard was well known for its members’ anti-Semitism. Members often attended memorial ceremonies for World War II-era Hungarian fascists. In a 2008 speech, István Dósa, who served in the Guard as a high-ranking captain, referred to Jews as “Zionist rats” and as “locusts” while also discussing “Zionist-Bolshevik genocide” and calling Hungarian Jews “nation-destroyers.”

    In his current position as deputy assistant to the president, Gorka, who immigrated to the United States and became an American citizen in 2012, serves as Trump’s chief consultant on counter-terrorism issues, and in particular on fighting jihadists. He has characterized the United States in this effort as a country “at war” and, in a recent interview, reaffirmed Trump’s call during his presidential campaign for surveillance of American Muslim communities. Neither Gorka nor the White House responded to emailed requests from the Forward for a response to the information the video reveals about Gorka’s support for the Guard.

    Critics have questioned Gorka’s expertise in the field of terrorism, which was the subject of his doctoral thesis at Budapest’s Corvinus University, where he received his doctorate. Some have cited serious flaws in his thesis and noted his failure to publish any scholarship on the issue in peer-reviewed journals. But his August 2007 TV interview also raises questions about his understanding, at least at that point in time, of basic security structures and legal realities in key countries that are fighting terrorism.

    Asked during the interview if it was “normal” for a political party in “developed democracies” to establish “in reality, a paramilitary group,” Gorka responded: “Well it depends on which country. If we look at the Swiss or Israeli example, then it’s completely natural…. Even in America, where the largest and wealthiest military exists, there are such programs where people can access weapons almost for free if they attend an organized shooting training and always belong to an organization.”

    Gorka dismisses the interviewer’s objection that the units in these countries — military reserve units in Israel and Switzerland, or, in the United States, National Guard forces — “are in effect under the military’s control.”

    “It is clear after the disturbances in Hungary last year [that] a need has arisen” to which Jobbik is responding, Gorka says.

    Jobbik, which announced its establishment of the Hungarian Guard in June 2007, has a long record of anti-Semitic and anti-Roma positions and statements. One of the Guard’s founding members was Gábor Vona, Jobbik’s leader. The organization’s declared aim was to defend “ethnic Hungarians,” since, its founders argued, Hungary lacked other means of “physical, mental or spiritual self-defense.”

    The Guard was formally banned in 2009, with the country’s highest court ruling that its anti-Roma marches violated the rights of the Hungarian Roma community. In 2013, two of its members were found guilty in a string of racially motivated murders of Hungarian Roma, including the killing of a 5-year-old, committed in 2008 and 2009.

    In 2013, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Hungary’s unusual blanket ban on the group was legal. “The movement’s activities and manifestations were based on the racial conflict between Hungarian majority and Roma minority,” the court ruled.

    Gorka’s interview was aired about three weeks before the Guard’s first official swearing-in ceremony. But at the time, many observers and Jewish groups were already protesting against the Guard and calling for a ban.

    In an August 2007 open letter, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder and European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor warned then-Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány that the “impending creation of an armed guard, under the false guise of ‘sporting and shooting clubs,’ with uniforms resembling those worn by fascists in World War II” was a danger to democracy and should be stopped.

    Gorka’s party, which he had launched only recently, was competing intensely with Jobbik and Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party at the time. While confirming his support for the Guard, its uniforms and its paramilitary nature, when asked whether the Guard would, indeed, resolve the problems he outlined in Hungary’s military and society, Gorka remarked: “Ah, it’s not that sure. With some kind of presentable organization, or several organizations, it could be possible.”

    Following the interview, the New Democratic Coalition posted a link on its own party website, under the heading “UDK Supports The Hungarian Guard: Sebestyen [Sebastian] Gorka on EchoTV.” But nearly two weeks later, the party complained in a post on its website that his comments had been “misinterpreted.”

    During the TV exchange, Gorka’s interviewer alluded to a popular conspiracy theory in Hungary regarding Israeli security companies maintaining an armed presence on Hungarian territory to back the government. “As you all mention in the analysis you wrote as well, Israeli-owned security companies which also do government tasks have to be liquidated,” the interviewer told Gorka.

    The coalition’s leader did not contradict his interviewer’s account.

    The televised interview was not the only time Gorka defended the Guard. A month later, in an interview with a Hungarian online portal, Gorka said that when it comes to the Guard, “it’s not worth talking about banning or a national security risk.”

    Gorka left Hungary shortly thereafter, as his efforts to build a career in politics there failed. In 2008, after a report surfaced in a German-language publication about his support for paramilitary organizations, he wrote a letter denying that he had ever supported the Guard.

    There is no evidence that Gorka himself has ever engaged in overtly anti-Semitic acts or participated in any of the Guard’s activities. But Gorka and some of his political supporters have argued that he has fought anti-Semitism throughout his career. The newly available video footage signals that Gorka not only failed to fight anti-Semitism, but also supported an openly intolerant paramilitary group and publicly rejected the Jewish community’s concerns about their own safety and the safety of other minorities due to the group’s founding.

    “The Guard was formally banned in 2009, with the country’s highest court ruling that its anti-Roma marches violated the rights of the Hungarian Roma community. In 2013, two of its members were found guilty in a string of racially motivated murders of Hungarian Roma, including the killing of a 5-year-old, committed in 2008 and 2009.”

    Jobbik’s “Hungarian Guard” may not have been long-lived after all the anti-Semitism and murders associated with it, but the underlying ideas driving the “Hungarian Guard” have clearly endured over the decades. And it was Sebastian Gorka who was trying to get the people driven by those ideas to join Gorka’s new Hungarian political party, the New Democratic Coalition. It didn’t work, but he tried:


    Gorka’s party, which he had launched only recently, was competing intensely with Jobbik and Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party at the time. While confirming his support for the Guard, its uniforms and its paramilitary nature, when asked whether the Guard would, indeed, resolve the problems he outlined in Hungary’s military and society, Gorka remarked: “Ah, it’s not that sure. With some kind of presentable organization, or several organizations, it could be possible.”

    Following the interview, the New Democratic Coalition posted a link on its own party website, under the heading “UDK Supports The Hungarian Guard: Sebestyen [Sebastian] Gorka on EchoTV.” But nearly two weeks later, the party complained in a post on its website that his comments had been “misinterpreted.”

    During the TV exchange, Gorka’s interviewer alluded to a popular conspiracy theory in Hungary regarding Israeli security companies maintaining an armed presence on Hungarian territory to back the government. “As you all mention in the analysis you wrote as well, Israeli-owned security companies which also do government tasks have to be liquidated,” the interviewer told Gorka.

    The coalition’s leader did not contradict his interviewer’s account.

    The televised interview was not the only time Gorka defended the Guard. A month later, in an interview with a Hungarian online portal, Gorka said that when it comes to the Guard, “it’s not worth talking about banning or a national security risk.”

    Gorka left Hungary shortly thereafter, as his efforts to build a career in politics there failed. In 2008, after a report surfaced in a German-language publication about his support for paramilitary organizations, he wrote a letter denying that he had ever supported the Guard.

    And after that unsuccessful attempt to garner the Hungarian far-right vote in 2007 Gorka eventually left to build his political career elsewhere.

    And now you know the rest of the story…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 3, 2017, 8:30 pm
  3. Trouble in Paradise? Possibly. At least that’s what Roger Stone recently claimed on InfoWars. Specifically, according to Stone, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon are at war with each other and Kushner keeps texting Morning Joe’s Joe Scarborough anti-Bannon stories:

    The Daily Beast

    Roger Stone: Kushner Is Leaking Intel to Scarborough
    The president’s friend and self-proclaimed ‘dirty trickster’ alleged on InfoWars that ‘there is no question now sources are telling me’ Kushner was texting negative information about other White House officials to the MSNBC host.

    Gideon Resnick
    04.04.17 3:29 PM ET

    During a segment on InfoWars today, Roger Stone, who was previously an adviser during the early months of President Trump’s campaign, claimed to host Alex Jones that Trump’s own son-in-law Jared Kushner was leaking information to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough.

    “Jared Kushner, perhaps the one presidential aide who cannot be fired, is now in regular text message communications with Joe Scarborough,” Stone claimed. “Many of the anti-Steve Bannon stories that you see, the themes that you see on Morning Joe, are being dictated by Kushner. And while Mr. Kushner’s plate is very full with Middle Eastern peace and the China visit, and so on, in this case I think he is disserving the president.”

    Stone did not respond to a subsequent text and email from The Daily Beast seeking clarification on this claim.

    “There is no question now that sources tell me that the president’s son-in-law enjoys a very lively text exchange with Joe Scarborough,” Stone continued. “Joe Scarborough is no friend of the president, he revels in passing fake news. He himself has more scandals than you can shake a stick at.”

    Scarborough has oscillated between criticizing the president on air and maintaining a friendly relationship with him, for instance recently meeting with Trump prior to his address to Congress. Trump, in turn, has claimed over and over again that he no longer watches the show.

    Stone said that his information has not hit the news and “was breaking on InfoWars.”

    Jones responded that he didn’t want to “run Jared down” because he “looks like a smart guy, good looking guy.” But he was adamant that, in his mind, leaking to Scarborough was a bad idea.

    Stone would not go into detail about the claims he made.

    ““There is no question now that sources tell me that the president’s son-in-law enjoys a very lively text exchange with Joe Scarborough,” Stone continued. “Joe Scarborough is no friend of the president, he revels in passing fake news. He himself has more scandals than you can shake a stick at.””

    Could Roger Stone actually be telling the truth for once? If so, Trump choose family? Or his heart? It’s quite dilemma. And just a day after Roger Stone makes those claims Steve Bannon gets removed from the National Security Council principals committee:

    Politico

    Bannon ousted from National Security Council

    The Trump administration initially faced a bipartisan wave of complaints over a political official serving in a national security role.

    By Shane Goldmacher, Josh Dawsey, Tara Palmeri and Bryan Bender

    04/05/17 11:54 AM EDT

    Updated 04/05/17 12:26 PM EDT

    White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has been removed from an important seat on the National Security Council — a posting that had stirred controversy for placing one of President Donald Trump’s top political hands in a key national security position.

    The change represents the first real diminution of authority for Bannon, who has been cast as an all-powerful whisperer to Trump in the administration’s first 75 days, mocked by his critics as “President Bannon.”

    In recent weeks, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has asked searching questions — sometimes for hours — of inside and outside advisers about the White House’s performance and complained about Bannon in particular, according to people who have spoken with Kushner. Kushner, a onetime New York Democrat, and Bannon, a hard-right nationalist, have clashed as Kushner has told people that Bannon’s desire to deconstruct the government is hurting the president.

    One person familiar with Kushner’s thinking says Kushner believes Bannon is more of a problem than Reince Priebus, the chief of staff.

    “Big fight is between nationalists and the ‘West Wing Democrats,’” one senior administration official said.

    The White House tried to downplay the significance of Bannon’s removal from the NSC — it went unannounced by the press office — depicting him as simply moving on after successfully completing limited tasks.

    “It’s not like this is a major shake-up,” said another administration official.

    But Bannon’s exit, revealed in a federal register filing and confirmed by multiple White House officials, is perceived to represent a significant long-term increase in authority for H.R. McMaster, Trump’s new national security adviser, who now has greater authority over the council’s agenda without one of Trump’s closest aides watching closely over him.

    “McMaster won,” one NSC official said.

    One White House official said Bannon was placed on the NSC to “babysit” Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who resigned in mid-February after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

    This official said Bannon’s role was also to ensure that the NSC was “de-operationalized” following the Obama administration. “That job is done,” the official said.

    “It’s not like he’s been in principal committee meetings constantly saying [to McMaster], ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that,’” another of the officials said. “That hasn’t happened.”

    Bannon had not been a regular attendee of NSC principals meetings. One person said he attended one meeting; another said he hadn’t attended any.

    Some cautioned not to make too much of Bannon’s removal. “I get a sense that people are going, ‘Ding-dong, the witch is dead,’” said Eric Edelman, who served as undersecretary of defense for policy in the George W. Bush administration. “The only thing he doesn’t appear to have is a seat at the NSC principals committee, and it’s not clear how important that will be.”

    The immediate reading by several longtime NSC officials and experts was that the policy-making body is reverting to a much more traditional structure — with the national security adviser in the driver’s seat and meetings attended by Cabinet heads, top intelligence officials and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who in the Flynn approach was not even designated a regular member, even as Bannon was.

    “It really reflects well on H.R. McMaster, who has orchestrated all the key moves behind the scenes in advance of announcing them and gotten their approval,” David Rothkopf, author of two histories of the NSC, said in an interview. “That is a sign of a smart, effective bureaucrat and leader. This restores the traditional structures to the NSC. It is putting in place a professional team of national security advisers. It gives McMaster more authority and restores the roles of the military and intelligence leadership.”

    The removal of Bannon also raised questions of whether more changes are in the works, in particular the fate of K.T. McFarland, who was brought in as Flynn’s deputy and remains the No. 2 at the NSC.

    “Trump loves [McFarland], so I’m not sure McMaster can fire her,” an NSC official said.

    One NSC source said no additional staffing changes are planned to the agency in the near term, saying that NSC intelligence director Ezra Cohen-Watnick would remain in that post. McMaster had tried to re-assign Cohen-Watnick to a different position last month but was overruled by Trump after Bannon and Kushner intervened.

    Cohen-Watnick subsequently became a key player in the controversy over leaked intelligence when it was revealed that he and another White House aide provided House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) with evidence reportedly showing that communications from Trump’s team were intercepted in foreign surveillance by U.S. intelligence.

    In addition to Bannon, one other change was made Wednesday. Thomas Bossert, an assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, held co-equal status with Flynn when he was national security adviser. He is now subordinate to McMaster, in another sign of the former general’s empowered role in the Trump White House.

    The changes were not welcomed among some Trump loyalists.

    Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., tweeted that “Flynn/Bannon most loyal to DJT (both out at NSC),” using the president’s initials, and he complained that McMaster “wont say ‘Radical Islam.’”

    “Is WH serious abt defeating our enemy?” Flynn Jr. wrote.

    “In recent weeks, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has asked searching questions — sometimes for hours — of inside and outside advisers about the White House’s performance and complained about Bannon in particular, according to people who have spoken with Kushner. Kushner, a onetime New York Democrat, and Bannon, a hard-right nationalist, have clashed as Kushner has told people that Bannon’s desire to deconstruct the government is hurting the president.”

    Is Roger Stone correct and Jared Kushner just won some sort of White House turf war with Bannon? It’s possible, although let’s keep in mind that the removal of Bannon appears to be part of a much larger shakeup of the NSC that effectively reverses the shakeup Trump did back in January when he placed Bannon on the NSC in the first place. And while getting Bannon out of there is reason to breath at least a bit of a sigh of relief, keep in mind the larger context of all this: It’s happening right after a chemical weapons incident in Syria that apparently has radically shifted Trump’s attitude towards regime change in Syria, so the kinds of stuff Trump’s NSC is going to be engaged in soon could be a lot more ‘Syrious’. Soon. And the guy who replaced Michael Flynn, Lt. General H.R. McMaster, was trying to get various people kicked off the NSC but was overruled at the behest of Steven Bannon and Jared Kushner a few weeks ago:

    Politico

    Report: Trump Overrules McMaster on NSC Aide’s Ouster

    Trump steps in to keep 30-year-old NSC aide

    Bannon and Kushner prevail on the president to override his national security adviser and keep a Flynn protégé.

    By Kenneth P. Vogel and Eliana Johnson
    03/14/17 09:47 PM EDT

    President Donald Trump has overruled a decision by his national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, to sideline a key intelligence operative who fell out of favor with some at the Central Intelligence Agency, two sources told POLITICO.

    On Friday, McMaster told the National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence programs, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, that he would be moved to another position in the organization.

    The conversation followed weeks of pressure from career officials at the CIA who had expressed reservations about the 30-year-old intelligence operative and pushed for his ouster.

    But Cohen-Watnick appealed McMaster’s decision to two influential allies with whom he had forged a relationship while working on Trump’s transition team — White House advisers Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. They brought the matter to Trump on Sunday, and the president agreed that Cohen-Watnick should remain as the NSC’s intelligence director, according to two people with knowledge of the episode.

    The incident raises questions about just how much autonomy Trump is giving to McMaster, who was tapped last month as national security adviser amid questions about whether he’d have full staffing authority over the NSC.

    It also highlights ongoing tensions between the CIA and Trump aides who are skeptical of the agency, feeding into concerns expressed by the president and his allies about the intelligence community.

    “But Cohen-Watnick appealed McMaster’s decision to two influential allies with whom he had forged a relationship while working on Trump’s transition team — White House advisers Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. They brought the matter to Trump on Sunday, and the president agreed that Cohen-Watnick should remain as the NSC’s intelligence director, according to two people with knowledge of the episode.”

    Yes, just a few weeks ago Jared Kushner helped intervene, with Steve Bannon, to get Trump to overrule McMaster and keep Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a protege of Michael Flynn, on the NSC. So in that particular instance Kushner and Bannon appeared to see eye to eye, although let’s keep in mind that we’ve subsequently learned that Cohen-Watnick was acting as the source feeding information from the White House to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes in order to keep the ‘Obama wiretapped me!’ claim alive. So there was a distinct and urgen political motive for Bannon and Kushner to work together on that one. But now here we are with McMaster keeping Cohen-Watnick on the NSC but Bannon leaving. It’s a situation that’s not obvious how to interpret.

    But, again, this is all happening right after a big change in Trump’s stance towards Syria and look who just got added to the NSC on the same day Bannon left: UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the doofus in charge of all the nukes. Plus, the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have also been reinstated as regular attendees after they were knocked down to ‘invite only’ status during the previous shakeup. Which means we probably shouldn’t forget that this big NSC overhaul is happening at a time when Trump is probably preparing to go to war and needs the full backing of his generals:

    The Hill

    Perry, Haley added to National Security Council principals committee

    By Mallory Shelbourne – 04/05/17 03:49 PM EDT

    United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and Energy Secretary Rick Perry are slated to join the National Security Council’s (NSC) principals committee as part of its latest reshuffling.

    Haley and Perry will now be “regular attendees” of the committee’s meetings, according to a memorandum published Wednesday in the Federal Register.

    Haley’s addition to the committee comes the same day the U.N. envoy condemned Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack in Syria, which the U.S. has blamed on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

    The memorandum also solidifies Perry’s position as an adviser to Trump on national security issues, as he oversees a vast national security complex in his role as Energy secretary.

    National security adviser H.R. McMaster made the decision to remove Bannon, a request President Trump approved. McMaster was tapped to lead the NSC following the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn in February.

    The decision to add Bannon in a January reorganization of the NSC was met with ire from Democrats and some national security experts, who argued that his involvement could politicize the NSC.

    The director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have also been reinstated as regular attendees, while the CIA director has been added to the committee.

    Under a 2009 presidential policy directive when former President Obama took office, the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs were listed as “regular members.” But Trump’s January reshuffling order said the director and the chairman would attend meetings only “where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.”

    “The memorandum also solidifies Perry’s position as an adviser to Trump on national security issues, as he oversees a vast national security complex in his role as Energy secretary.”

    So while it’s possible that Roger Stone is correct about some sort of Bannon/Kushner turf war, given the larger context of a possible significant ramping up of the US’s military involvement in Syria and the addition of Nikki Haley and Rick “I’m in charge of nukes now?” Perry to the NSC, it’s hard to interpret the big shakeup as the NSC as overall a good sign. Although it is quite nice to see Bannon out of there.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 5, 2017, 3:40 pm
  4. Here’s a question raised by the sudden shakeup of Trump’s National Security Council and Bannon’s apparent ouster: So what’s happening with the Strategic Initiatives Group (SIG)? It’s a pretty big question considering it’s a think tank described as the “Alt-NSC” that was created by Steven Bannon and Jared Kushner soon after Bannon’s elevation to the NSC Principles Committee and was looking like it might eclipse the NSC in shaping Trump’s foreign policy (with a distinct Alt-Right leaning) just a few weeks ago:

    AlterNet

    Bannon and Trump Have Quietly Installed an Alt-National Security Council Operating Inside the White House

    The Strategic Initiatives Group is the White House pipeline to the white nationalists of the European right.

    By Jefferson Morley
    March 14, 2017

    Less than a month after much-admired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster took over from Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser, Trump’s alter-ego Steve Bannon appears to be more in control of U.S. foreign policy than ever.

    There is little sign McMaster will be able to restore traditional U.S. foreign policy commitments to NATO and the European Union, and every indication that Bannon’s shadowy Strategic Initiatives Group, denounced by two national security experts as “dangerous hypocrisy,” is driving U.S. policy.

    McMaster, a lieutenant general with a reputation as an intellectual, was perhaps the last-gasp hope of Washington’s foreign policy professionals against the radical ambitions of the Trump administration. He was seen as a man who could speak unpopular truths to Trump and block Bannon’s improvisations while restoring a degree of continuity to U.S. foreign policy under Obama and Bush.

    Losing Ground

    No sooner had Flynn been fired over undisclosed meetings with a Russian diplomat, it was reported that McMaster would impose order on Flynn’s chaotic NSC, purging ideologues and removing Bannon from the National Security Council as urged by Admiral Mike Mullen,, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    “Given the gravity of the issues the NSC deals with, it is vital that that body not be politicized, and Bannon’s presence as a member of that body politicizes it instantly,” Mullen said.

    McMaster urged Trump not to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” arguing, along with virtually every other U.S. military leader, that the phrase only alienates friendly Muslims and increases the risk to U.S. personnel stationed in Islamic countries without providing any military or political advantages.

    McMaster’s influence has been fading ever since. There would be no “purge” at NSC, an unnamed senior White House official told Foreign Policy. “Key NSC officials focused on the Middle East and other vital areas will keep their positions in the near term,” the official said.

    Bannon remains on the NSC’s Principals Committee, while the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is only a part-time participant.

    Trump pointedly ignored McMaster’s advice and denounced “radical Islamic terrorism” in his address to the Congress, much to the satisfaction of deputy national security adviser Sebastian Gorka. A lightly credentialed acolyte of Bannon, Gorka seems to have more influence with Trump than McMaster, a decorated lieutenant general.

    While Colin Kahl, former national security adviser to Vice-President Joe Biden, recently expressed hope that an “axis of adults” can take control of Trump’s foreign policy, all indications are that the “axis of ideologues,” led by Bannon and Gorka, are ascendant.

    What SIG does

    The Strategic Initiatives Group is emerging as Bannon’s conduit for aiding the populist right in Europe. Described as a “White House think tank,” SIG is run by Chris Liddell, formerly chief financial officer at a Hollywood talent agency. The group’s mission is described as supporting Trump administration collaboration with “private forums.”

    In practice, that seems to mean Liddell will assist in marketing the message of the chauvinist European right.

    Last week, Gorka signaled the ascendant ideology by endorsing a white nationalist opus by Georgetown University professor Joshua Mitchell in the debut issue of a policy journal called American Affairs.

    For globalists, Mitchell writes, “political justice involved material growth made possible by global management and the identity debt-points that global elites dispensed to this or that oppressed ‘identity’ group as a consequence of past infractions or of the irredeemable fault of others—typically (the imaginary category of) White People.”

    “The dark Protestant machinations about human freedom and pride that drove President Bush and President Obama, respectively, make no appearance in the thinking of Trump,” Mitchell writes. “He will ask of foreign nations, simply, are they going to be allies or not; and will America be able to win with or without them?”

    In other words, Europeans who favor economic integration, ethnic pluralism and military deterrence of Russia are no longer regarded as U.S. allies.

    “Trump has made clear that he’s at best indifferent, if not openly hostile to the modern European project, and Bannon has indicated that anti-E.U. populists have a friend in the White House,” writes American conservative James Kirchick in the German daily, FAZ.

    Bannon approved of the visit of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen to Trump Tower in January. He published Dutch anti-immigration leader Geert Wilders in Breitbart News. And now he seems to be targeting Angela Merkel, the pro-immigration German prime minister who has emerged as the de facto leader of Europe, if not the free world. Merkel, who faces elections this fall, certainly sees Bannon’s media strategy as a threat.

    While Bannon often talks in apocalyptic terms about war between the Christian West and Islam, his initial moves in the National Security Council are more political than militaristic. Through SIG, Bannon seeks to midwife a more nationalist and Christian Europe, as a prelude to escalating a “clash of civilizations” war against Islam.

    “There is little sign McMaster will be able to restore traditional U.S. foreign policy commitments to NATO and the European Union, and every indication that Bannon’s shadowy Strategic Initiatives Group, denounced by two national security experts as “dangerous hypocrisy,” is driving U.S. policy.”

    That was how things looked just a few weeks ago: H.R. McMaster, who was brought in to replace Michael Flynn, was unable to persuade Trump to dump Bannon off the NSC and the SIG was emerging as not just a competitor to the NSC in crafting Trump’s foreign policy but even more more influential:


    The Strategic Initiatives Group is emerging as Bannon’s conduit for aiding the populist right in Europe. Described as a “White House think tank,” SIG is run by Chris Liddell, formerly chief financial officer at a Hollywood talent agency. The group’s mission is described as supporting Trump administration collaboration with “private forums.”

    In practice, that seems to mean Liddell will assist in marketing the message of the chauvinist European right.

    Last week, Gorka signaled the ascendant ideology by endorsing a white nationalist opus by Georgetown University professor Joshua Mitchell in the debut issue of a policy journal called American Affairs.

    “In practice, that seems to mean Liddell will assist in marketing the message of the chauvinist European right.”

    So what the deal with the SIG? Is it getting demoted too? Are there any more issues of “American Affairs” (promoting white nationalist opuses)?

    Well, it’s worth noting that just a day before this big NSC shakeup, the SIG was demoted. Sort of. Remember the Office of American Innovation (OAI) that was recently created for Jared Kushner to overhaul and privatize the federal government? Well, the White House is now saying the SIG never existed and was instead replaced by OAI:

    The Hill

    WH: Internal Bannon think tank never actually existed

    By Jonathan Easley – 04/04/17 05:27 PM EDT

    The White House is downplaying the importance of an internal policy shop that was once believed to be the brainchild and power center of chief strategist Stephen Bannon, saying the Strategic Initiatives Group (SIG) never even existed.

    That appears to contradict media reports and the claims of at least one White House staffer who previously said that he was a member of the SIG.

    The group — described in scores of media reports as an internal think tank launched by Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus and senior adviser Jared Kushner — would be irrelevant now even if it had formed, a White House aide said.

    Any need there may have been for the internal policy shop, which critics have described as an attempt by Bannon to promote his own agenda, is moot now that President Trump has tapped Kushner to run the Office of American Innovation (OAI), which is charged with government modernization, according to multiple White House officials.

    “I’ve never known [SIG] to exist,” said a White House aide. “There was a lot of speculation about this early, but it was never officially rolled out and if anything, the OAI is an evolution and realization of some of these initial ideas.”

    A second White House official said the SIG was “always informal” and has since “morphed to the new group,” the OAI.

    A third White House official echoed that sentiment but said it’s possible that Bannon could still use the SIG for his own projects.

    Members of the SIG once talked openly about their involvement and the group’s initiatives.

    In early February, Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president who is a member of the group, hit the airwaves to dispute reports that the SIG was an effort by Bannon to launch his own sphere of influence to rival the National Security Council, which at the time was helmed by Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser.

    Gorka said that, as a member of SIG, he was working on a cyber-security task force with former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani. There were also projects aimed at tackling veterans affairs issues, U.S. manufacturing and government technology and infrastructure.

    “We are charged with doing long-range initiatives that are really important to the president,” Gorka told CNN at the time.

    “We have a Strategic Initiatives Group to do things with the private industry and bring in outside experts on key issues such as government IT, and that is very different from what the National Security Council is doing every day under the sterling leadership of General Flynn.”

    Kushner will now spearhead government modernization efforts — and the various other projects in his ever-expanding portfolio — as the head of OAI.

    When the initial reports surfaced about the SIG, critics believed that Bannon would use the platform to push his own long-term foreign policy goals separate from the NSC, which handles day-to-day national security developments.

    Reports about the SIG’s creation came as, in a controversial move after the election, Trump elevated Bannon to the NSC principals committee, a spot typically reserved for military officials.

    At the time of the first reports about the SIG’s formation in late January, critics worried that it was a further example of Bannon’s outsized influence inside the White House.

    “Any need there may have been for the internal policy shop, which critics have described as an attempt by Bannon to promote his own agenda, is moot now that President Trump has tapped Kushner to run the Office of American Innovation (OAI), which is charged with government modernization, according to multiple White House officials.”

    That’s the new line from the White House: The SIG is a non-entity and made redundant by the OAI under Kushner’s control. So does that mean the SIG was disbanded? Well…


    A third White House official echoed that sentiment but said it’s possible that Bannon could still use the SIG for his own projects.

    That sure sounds like the SIG is still up and running. And now that Jared Kushner is running the OAI to apparently do much of what the SIG was set up to do it seems like a good bet that SIG is going to be increasingly just Bannon’s white nationalist think tank in the White House.

    So the question remains, is the SIG going to still be a deeply influential white nationalist think tank that Bannon can use to develop of alternate foreign policy or is it slowly fading away? It would be nice to get a answer on that but considering the White House doesn’t appear to want to acknowledge that the SIG ever existed we probably shouldn’t expect an straight response. Although if we see more issues put out by the SIG’s white nationalist new journal that will be a clue.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 6, 2017, 2:43 pm
  5. One of the more curious aspects of the Trump administration’s general embrace of Steve Bannon’s worldview was the strange contradiction between an alleged white nationalist isolationism that called for an “America First” eschewing of foreign entanglements couple with Steve Bannon’s apparent desire to see a WWIII-style clash of civilizations. It’s quite a tightrope act. So with Donald Trump launching 59 cruise missiles against an air base in Syria following an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government perhaps it’s not super surprising that there are reports that Trump White House is actually considering not just pulling Bannon off the National Security Council but removing him altogether. Steven Bannon the isolationist might not fit in with a White House planning on major military involvement in Syria. But what about Bannon the global warmonger who is intent on a giant clash of civilizations between “the West” and “Islam”? Isn’t that Bannon exactly the kind of figure we should expect to be playing a leading role in just this situation? It’s all quite a head scratcher. But, yeah, White House insiders are apparently saying Steven Bannon, along with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, might be out soon:

    Talking Points Memo
    Livewire

    Reports: Trump Weighing Major Shakeup That Could Ax Priebus, Bannon

    By Allegra Kirkland
    Published April 7, 2017, 3:19 PM EDT

    The clash between the many rival power centers in President Donald Trump’s White House may finally be coming to a head.

    According to twin reports out Friday from Axios and the Wall Street Journal, Trump is fed up with palace intrigue stories about his top aides and is considering removing his Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.

    The timing of potential Priebus and Bannon exits, as well as who would replace them if they departed the White House, was unclear from the reports. Of course, Trump is famously mercurial and could just as quickly decide to keep both men on board as dismiss them.

    Both sites reported that Trump’s economic adviser, Gary Cohn, is under consideration to replace Priebus. Unnamed White House advisers also told Axios that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and two far lesser-known Trump allies, Blackstone Group’s Wayne Berman and American Continental Group’s David Urban, are other possibilities.

    White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters adamantly denied the reports in a statement to Time’s Zeke Miller, calling it a “completely false story.”

    “The only thing we are shaking up is the way Washington operates as we push the President’s aggressive agenda forward,” Walters said.

    NEW: Statement from WH spox @LWalters45 denying shake-up reports pic.twitter.com/CnXaNhY8en— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) April 7, 2017

    The first sign that Bannon’s favor may be fading came Wednesday with the sudden announcement that he was being removed from the National Security Council’s Principals’ Committee. While foreign policy experts cautioned that move alone wasn’t enough to assume Bannon’s role was diminished, given his continued access to the President, the rumor mill that has Bannon on the outs kicked into overdrive over the past 48 hours.

    Several reports citing anonymous White House aides surfaced in that time period describing bitter fighting between Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner.

    Others, like this Friday Washington Post story, claimed that Bannon was the one considering a departure, preferring the free-wheeling, knives-out strategy of campaigning to his new buttoned-up reality in the White House.

    As the Post reported, “One friend said he hates attending meetings, bemoans the need to frequently wear suits, and finds the government bureaucracy stifling.”

    Bannon has dismissed stories about an impending departure as “100 percent nonsense.”

    “According to twin reports out Friday from Axios and the Wall Street Journal, Trump is fed up with palace intrigue stories about his top aides and is considering removing his Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.”

    Well, we’ll presumably find out relatively soon if there’s any truth to these reports. But don’t forget that Bannon doesn’t actually need to be on the National Security Council to exert enormous influence over Trump so we his apparent demotion at the NSC is the only apparent demotion we see, it’s entirely possible that we’re looking at political theater. But also don’t forget that if the Trump administration really is planning on engaging in a much deep military engagement in the Middle East having Steven Bannon openly whispering in his ear is just horrible public relations and risks turning America’s upcoming foreign interventions into “Bannon’s war(s)”.

    Of course, it’s possible that the missile strike on the Syrian air base is also just theatrics and we aren’t about to see a major new US military initiative in the region. It’s possible. But if not and the US does end up entering into the Syrian war with the intent on removing the Assad government and putting the rebels in power, it’s going to be very interesting to see how Trump’s team plans on doing that without replace Assad with al Qaeda:

    AlterNet
    The GrayZone Project

    Is Trump Rescuing Al-Qaeda’s ‘Heartland’ in Syria?
    Western intervention would save Syria’s beleaguered al-Qaeda-affiliated rebels.

    By Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton / AlterNet
    April 5, 2017

    After formally calling off the longstanding U.S. policy of regime change in Syria, the Trump administration is sending signals of shifting its Syria policy under massive political pressure following a grisly chemical attack in the rebel-held province of Idlib.

    The chemical attack allegedly took place on April 4. Dozens of civilians were reportedly killed, although many details are still unknown.

    “We have not yet any official or reliable confirmation” of what took place or who was responsible, said the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, at a press conference after the incident.

    “We also do not have evidence at the moment,” added Federica Mogherini, high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy.

    The chemical attack occurred just as peace talks were beginning in Geneva, and with the Syrian army in a dominant position in the sixth year of a war fueled by outside powers.

    The attacks threaten to reverse the political gains made by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, leading to unrelenting bipartisan pressure for Donald Trump to authorize a bombing campaign targeting the Syrian government and its military.

    For the al-Qaeda-allied rebels who were ousted from their stronghold in eastern Aleppo in December 2016, and whose gains in a recent series of offensives have been rapidly reversed, Western military intervention is the only hope.

    Given its dominant position, why would the Syrian government authorize a chemical attack that was likely to trigger renewed calls for regime change? The answer remains elusive.

    War on the table

    Despite a dearth of independently sourced evidence about the attack, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, warned that the U.S. was “compelled to take our own action” in Syria, although it was unclear what she meant by this.

    For his part, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there was “no doubt in our mind” that the Syrian government carried out a chemical attack in Idlib, but provided no evidence to support his claim. Tillerson warned Russia it should reconsider its alliance with President Assad, suggesting regime change was back on the table.

    The Pentagon has reportedly begun drawing up a list of targets to attack. (Update: Several hours after this article was published, the U.S. attacked the Syrian government, launching 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat air base, in the city of Homs. ISIS seized on the opportunity and launched an offensive against the Syrian government immediately after the U.S. strike. The attack was likewise applauded by the Salafi jihadist militia Ahrar al-Sham, Saudi Arabia and Israel.)

    The media has helped spread the war fever. New York Times columnist and Iraq war cheerleader Thomas Friedman reflexively proposed that Syria be partitioned, with U.S. troops if necessary. On CNN, correspondent Arwa Damon wept over the lack of U.S. resolve, suggesting that a bombing campaign against Damascus would somehow salve the wounds of Syria.

    But there has been one issue major media outlets have refused to touch, and that is the nature of the rebels who would gain from any U.S. military offensive. Who holds power in Idlib, why are they there and what do they want? This is perhaps the most inconvenient set of questions for proponents of “humanitarian” military intervention in Syria.

    The reality is that Idlib is substantially controlled by al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, which has gone through a series of rebranding schemes but remains the same jihadist group it always was: Jabhat al-Nusra. In the province it rules, al-Nusra has imposed what a leading scholar has described as a Taliban-like regime that has ethnically cleansed religious and ethnic minorities, banned music and established a brutal theocracy in which it publicly executes women accused of adultery.

    Even analysts who have repeatedly called for U.S.-led regime change in Syria have described Idlib as the “heartland of al-Nusra.”

    The ‘Talibanization of Idlib’

    Joshua Landis, the director of the University of Oklahoma’s Middle East Studies Center, is among the leading U.S. scholars of Syria, and lived in the country for several years. In a January 2016 article in Foreign Affairs, Landis provided a chilling survey of life in Idlib:

    To judge how incompetent the rebels have been in providing a viable or attractive alternative to Assad, one need merely consider the situation in the province of Idlib, where the rebels rule. Schools have been segregated, women forced to wear veils, and posters of Osama bin Laden hung on the walls. Government offices were looted, and a more effective government has yet to take shape. With the Talibanization of Idlib, the 100-plus Christian families of the city fled. The few Druze villages that remained have been forced to denounce their religion and embrace Islam; some of their shrines have been blown up. No religious minorities remain in rebel-held Syria, in Idlib, or elsewhere. Rebels argue that Assad’s bombing has ensured their failure and made radicalization unavoidable. But such excuses can go only so far to explain the terrible state of rebel Syria or its excesses. We have witnessed the identical evolution in too many other Arab countries to pin it solely on Assad, despite his culpability for the disaster that has engulfed his country.

    More hawkish experts have acknowledged the same. On a panel in January at the Atlantic Council, a pro-regime change think tank that is funded by Western governments and their allies, Nancy Okail, executive director of the Tahrir Institute, acknowledged that Syria is today the “newest and most important safe haven for [al-Qaeda’s] ideology.”

    “There is a new generation of Syrian children that is growing up with al-Qaeda’s ideology in some parts of rebel-held Syria as the norm,” added Jennifer Cafarella, a lead intelligence planner at the neoconservative think tank the Institute for the Study of War, which has received funding from the biggest names in the military industry, including Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and DynCorp.

    Charles Lister, perhaps the foremost advocate of regime change and the arming of Islamist rebels in Syria, sounded a similar note. He explained, “People on the ground in different areas of Syria are increasingly willing not just to accept al-Qaeda operating within their midst, but are actually willing to overtly support the fact that they are in their midst.”

    He later warned, “al-Qaeda’s relative success in Syria has seen its ideology and its narrative mainstreamed, not just in parts of Syria, but also in parts of the region.”

    Lister noted local populations have protested not just the Syrian government, but also the al-Qaeda extremists terrorizing them. People living under rebel rule in Idlib, Lister indicated, have been lamenting, “This place is hell; we don’t want to live under this Islamist rule, under all this oppression.” In Idlib, “they see what life would be like under this organization, and they don’t like it.”

    In 2016, Amnesty International published a report documenting an array of “serious violations of international humanitarian law” committed by militant groups in Idlib and elsewhere, including summary killings, torture, abductions, and sectarian attacks. The report detailed how extremist Syrian rebels have imposed harsh Sharia law in the areas they control.

    With music officially outlawed in Idlib, the U.S.-funded media outlet Radio Fresh has resorted to novel measures. Instead of music, station director Raed Fares has been reduced to broadcasting the sound of bleating goats and bird chirps. Ordered by Idlib’s authorities to fire all his female employees, Fares instead relied on a computer program that auto-tuned their voices to make them sound male.

    “They now sound more like robots,” he said.

    ‘The most loved cleric’

    When Al Nusra and its ally, Ahrar Al Sham, took Idlib’s Abu al-Dhuhur Air Base in 2015, a cleric appeared on the scene in camouflaged battle dress uniform. Standing among a group of blindfolded, exhausted captives, all Syrian army regulars, the cleric blessed their mass execution, cursing them as takfir for fighting on the government’s side.

    “I don’t like to call them Sunni. They were once Sunni but became apostatized once they enlisted in the Alawites’ regime,” he said of the 56 captives. Moments later, they were lined up and riddled with bullets.

    The cleric was Abdullah Muhaysini, a 33-year-old zealot from Saudi Arabia, who was a student of Sulayman Al-Alwan, the Wahhabi cleric who oversaw what his Muslim critics have called a “terrorist factory” in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Qassim Province. Al-Alwan was also the instructor of the 9/11 hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari.

    Today, Muhaysini commands an almost mystical status among the Islamist armed groups rampaging across northern Syria. According to Bilal Abdul Kareem, an American-born rebel propagandist currently in Idlib, Muhaysini is “probably the most loved cleric in the Syrian territories today.”

    After moving to Syria in 2014, Muhaysini embedded himself among the rebels’ most powerful factions and worked to unite them under a single banner. At first, he helped cobble together the coalition known as Jaish al-Fatah, or the Army of Conquest. Drawing on his connections in the Gulf, he successfully oversaw the “wage jihad with your money” fundraising effort that raised some $5 million for the rebels’ push to take the northern Idlib governate from the Syrian army in 2015.

    Through his Jihad Caller’s Network, Muhaysini has mobilizing resources thanks to a collection of wealthy Gulf oligarchs. In an online interview, Muhaysini thanked “a group of brothers in Islam from Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), some from our brother Abu Ahmed from Kuwait, some from our brother Abu Joud from Qatar.”

    A deeply unsettling video from Muhaysini’s Jihad Caller’s Network shows him recruiting child fighters inside the Atmeh Refugee Camp on the Syrian-Turkish border, a squalid redoubt for some 30,000 war victims, handing the adolescent volunteers rifles before trucking them off to Idlib and elsewhere. More recently, Muhaysini appeared before an assembly of fighters from Tahrir al-Sham, his latest jihadist coalition, to deliver a motivational battlefield sermon.

    Tahrir al-Sham was responsible for a twin suicide bombing that killed dozens of civilians at the Palace of Justice in Damascus and during a birthday celebration at a restaurant on March 15. It has waged a furious campaign to retake lost territory around the city of Hama, wielding suicide attacks but ultimately failing to hold on against a Syrian army counter-attack.

    If the U.S. and its Western allies carry out their threats to attack the Syrian government, the intervention is the last best hope for Muhaysini and the al-Qaeda-aligned forces in his thrall.

    Trump’s Saudi connection

    One of the least reported yet most significant developments of the Trump administration’s foreign policy has been its warm embrace of the ultra-conservative, theocratic Saudi monarchy. Immediately after he entered office, Trump made a pact with Saudi Arabia to escalate aggression in Yemen.

    After a friendly White House meeting with Trump and Steve Bannon, the architect of Trump’s Muslim ban, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman hailed Trump as “his Excellency,” describing him as a “true friend of Muslims who will serve the Muslim world in an unimaginable manner, opposite to the negative portrait of his Excellency that some have tried to promote.”

    Trump has also pledged to work with Saudi Arabia to create so-called safe zones in Syria. What exactly these would look like has been unclear. Hillary Clinton campaigned on the promise to create such zones, although in a 2013 speech to Goldman Sachs, she conceded that safe zones could “kill a lot of Syrians.”

    At the heart of the Trump administration’s foreign policy has been diehard opposition to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s mortal enemy. The Syrian government is one of Iran’s closest allies.

    “The reality is that Idlib is substantially controlled by al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, which has gone through a series of rebranding schemes but remains the same jihadist group it always was: Jabhat al-Nusra. In the province it rules, al-Nusra has imposed what a leading scholar has described as a Taliban-like regime that has ethnically cleansed religious and ethnic minorities, banned music and established a brutal theocracy in which it publicly executes women accused of adultery.”

    That’s unfortunately the reality: if the US makes Syrian regime change a major military goal, it’s going to either have to fight the al Qaeda rebels while it fights the Syrian government simultaneously (and ISIS). Or it’s going to have to join team al Qaeda. That’s the situation on the ground that even the advocates of a regime-change policy in the US foreign policy establishment acknowledge:


    Charles Lister, perhaps the foremost advocate of regime change and the arming of Islamist rebels in Syria, sounded a similar note. He explained, “People on the ground in different areas of Syria are increasingly willing not just to accept al-Qaeda operating within their midst, but are actually willing to overtly support the fact that they are in their midst.”

    He later warned, “al-Qaeda’s relative success in Syria has seen its ideology and its narrative mainstreamed, not just in parts of Syria, but also in parts of the region.”

    Lister noted local populations have protested not just the Syrian government, but also the al-Qaeda extremists terrorizing them. People living under rebel rule in Idlib, Lister indicated, have been lamenting, “This place is hell; we don’t want to live under this Islamist rule, under all this oppression.” In Idlib, “they see what life would be like under this organization, and they don’t like it.”

    And let’s not forget, General Petraeus, the former head of the CIA, explicitly encouraged the US to use al Qaeda to defeat ISIS just back in 2015, so it’s not a wild stretch to imagine that’s also one of the plans being considered for taking out Assad.

    So is the US going to be going to war with the Syrian government, al Qaeda-affiliated rebels, and ISIS simultaneously involving a major US military mission that could last years with heavy casualties or does Team Trump have the Petraeus-plan in mind where al Qaeda becomes the primary anti-ISIS/anti-Assad group force?

    Those are the kinds of choices facing the Trump White House at this point so if Bannon really is about to get kicked out of the White House it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s secretly somewhat relieved. We’ve clearly entered the ‘sh#t just go real’ phase of the Trump presidency and that’s probably a lot less fun than campaigning. Unless, of course, he really does want to start WWIII in which case, yeah, he’s probably pretty pissed if those reports of the imminent political demise of Bannon and Preibus are true. Priebus might not mind the rumors.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 7, 2017, 3:46 pm
  6. With the question of “what’s next?” swirling in the air after Donald Trump’s missile attack on a Syrian air base in retaliation for an alleged sarin gas attack by the Syrian government, Joan Walsh has a piece that notes a number of important points to keep in mind when asking “what’s next?”: For starters, the noisiest opposition to the missile strikes isn’t coming from the left. It’s coming from Trump’s Alt-Right base, including not just the Richard Spencer neo-Nazi contingent but also key Trump backer Ann Coulter, who sort of straddles the full-blown white supremacist Alt-Right with the mainstream conservative far-right GOP. Given the central role the Alt-Right has played in Trump’s entire political life up to this point it’s a remarkable tension to see flare up this early on in his presidency. Especially given how much deeper the US’s involvement in the Syrian conflict could go if Trump ends up following the advice of the more tradition war hawk-wing of the DC establishment.

    Another key point Walsh notes is that at this point we still have no idea if sarin really was used and who did it. Given the abundance of evidence suggesting that the previous chemical weapons attack in 2013 was actually done by al Nusra, the possibility that this was an ruse by al Qaeda-affiliated groups can’t be dismissed. And the fact that the alleged chemical weapons attack happened in al Nusra’s heartland and one of the doctors providing video evidence that it was a sarin gas attack has a history of working with jihadists, the possibility that this was an attempt by al Nusra to pull the US much deeper into the conflict (and on al Nusra’s side) can’t be dismissed. And when you consider that it’s the Alt-Right faction of Trump’s base that’s also the most open minded to conspiracy theories like the possibility that this was a false-flag attack it suggests the real possibility that if Trump dives deeper into the Syrian conflict he’s going to be doing it at a growing cost of his Alt-Right supporters.

    So when we’re asking “what’s next?” from the Trump administration, it’s kind of amazing but “what’s next” might involve trading the support of the isolationist Alt Right neo-Nazis faction of Trump’s base for the support that being a wartime president might bring him:

    The Nation

    Too Many of Trump’s Liberal Critics Are Praising His Strike on Syria
    Anyone who supports these missile strikes has to account for what comes next.
    By Joan WalshTwitter

    4/7/2017 2:19 pm

    It shouldn’t be surprising, but it is to me nonetheless: Plenty of liberals who’ve long criticized Donald Trump as unfit to be president are praising his strike on Syrian airfields.

    On CNN’s New Day Thursday, global analyst Fareed Zakaria declared, “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States” last night. To his credit, Zakaria has previously called Trump a “bullshit artist” and said, “He has gotten the presidency by bullshitting.” But Zakaria apparently thinks firing missiles make one presidential. On MSNBC, Nicholas Kristof, an aggressive Trump critic, said he “did the right thing” by bombing Syria. Anchor Brian Williams, whose 11th Hour has regularly been critical of Trump, repeatedly called the missiles “beautiful,” to a noisy backlash on Twitter.

    While The New York Times posted several skeptical, even critical stories, it gave us this piece of propaganda: an article initially titled “On Syria attack, Trump’s heart came first,” buying the president’s line that his opposition to anti-Assad military action was reversed by seeing the heartrending photos of children struggling to breathe after a chemical attack.

    “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack,” Trump declared. “No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” (No word how he felt about ugly babies.) The piece also failed to even mention that Trump is keeping refugees from the Syrian war, even children, out of the United States. Victims of chemical weapons are “beautiful babies”; children trying to flee such violence require “extreme vetting” and an indefinite refugee ban. After a public outcry, the Times changed the headline.

    Remember just last week, phantom Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Turkey: “I think the…longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.” The Kremlin-funded Russia Today described that as “a U-turn from Washington’s long-held policy” that Assad must go. Six days later, Tillerson was telling reporters, “There is no doubt in our minds, and the information we have supports, that the Syrian regime under the leadership of Bashar al-Assad are responsible for this attack. It is very important that the Russian government consider carefully their support for Bashar al-Assad,” because “steps are underway” to muster international support for a strike. Russia Today seemed disappointed that the United States believes Assad is behind the gassing of his people, arguing that the source is the international rescue group White Helmets, which RT shockingly calls “al-Qaida affiliated.”

    Any liberal who praises these missile strikes has to account for what comes next. Obviously, Trump cares little about diplomacy, leaving Tillerson out of key meetings and slashing the State Department’s budget. On Wednesday night, the White House released a photo of his team receiving a briefing on the Syria attack. At the table were Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross; Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin; Goldman Sachs alum Dina Powell, deputy national-security adviser; along with Jared Kushner; Steve Bannon; and Bannon’s sidekick Steven Miller. Why are the Commerce and Treasury secretaries there? What explains why Tillerson, who was in Palm Beach with the president, was not?

    The noisiest outrage against the Syrian attack isn’t coming from the left, but the right—particularly the alt-right. Trump’s noninterventionism and his friendliness to Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin were big selling points to white nationalists. Now that he seems to be challenging both men, his former acolytes are enraged. On Twitter, alt-right white supremacist Richard Spencer called it a “total betrayal”; the white nationalists at VDARE blamed it on the “boomercucks” in the administration. Ann Coulter went apoplectic:

    Trump campaigned on not getting involved in Mideast. Said it always helps our enemies & creates more refugees. Then he saw a picture on TV.

    — Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) April 7, 2017


    It was disappointing to see Hillary Clinton say Wednesday afternoon that she thought air strikes on Syrian airfields were an appropriate response to the chemical-weapon attack. She was always more hawkish than I wished, and that shows it. But it’s wrong to insist she’d have done the “same thing” as Trump. Clinton’s secretary of state wouldn’t likely have told Assad we were no longer concerned about removing him; if she did fire missiles at Syrian airfields, she would have done so with a clearer notion of what comes next. Trump appears to be clueless.

    Senator Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, didn’t quite oppose the Syrian strike, calling Assad a “war criminal” and lamenting his murder of civilians with chemical weapons. But noting that “it’s that it’s easier to get into a war than get out of one,” Sanders demanded that Trump “must explain to the American people exactly what this military escalation in Syria is intended to achieve, and how it fits into the broader goal of a political solution, which is the only way Syria’s devastating civil war ends.”

    Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sounded closer to Sanders than Clinton on the airstrikes, decrying Trump’s “unilateral military action by the US in a Middle East conflict” as well as “the absence of any long-term plan or strategy to address any consequences from such unilateral action.” Like Sanders, she demanded that Trump seek authorization of military force from Congress. By contrast, her New York colleague Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called Trump’s move “the right thing to do.” Schumer may find that many constituents think it was the wrong thing.

    There remains the possibility that some of this is theater. It should be said: Some observers, besides RT, say it’s unproven that the chemical weapons attack came from Assad; rebels could be behind it. There’s also the possibility of a kabuki performance from Trump, Putin, and Assad. We already know the United States warned Putin of the coming missiles, and that Putin warned Assad, whose military moved airplanes and other military equipment away from the intended target. Trump, plummeting in the polls, his domestic health-care and tax plans on the rocks, the investigation into Russian election meddling closing in on his team, really needed a boost; maybe they gave it to him. Trump’s sudden about-face on Syria makes it hard to judge.

    However, according to Syrian state media, nine civilians, including four children, were killed in the air strikes. That is not kabuki. Trump has said nothing about those “beautiful babies,” nor will he. Liberals have to sober up and stop being besotted by beautiful missiles and presidential cruelty. Trump is the same Trump he was Tuesday, and that should scare all of us.

    The noisiest outrage against the Syrian attack isn’t coming from the left, but the right—particularly the alt-right. Trump’s noninterventionism and his friendliness to Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin were big selling points to white nationalists. Now that he seems to be challenging both men, his former acolytes are enraged. On Twitter, alt-right white supremacist Richard Spencer called it a “total betrayal”; the white nationalists at VDARE blamed it on the “boomercucks” in the administration. Ann Coulter went apoplectic”

    That’s where the political situation resides at this moment, when it’s unclear if the missile strike is the start of something much, much bigger. If Trump is seriously pondering a a much deeper US military engagement, he’s going to do it at the cost of that the support from everyone from Alex Jones to Richard Spencer to Ann Coulter. That’s a huge chunk of Trump’s base.

    At the same time, wars do tend to make presidents more popular, and with Trump starting off his first term with historically low approval ratings it’s possible the Trump clan is ready to make a big gamble and bet that the Alt-Right/Alex Jonesian support they lose will be more than offset by the support a war-time Trump will gain. Pissing off the far-right while still executing a war is the kind of thing a cynical far-right administration like the Trump administration is going to be willing to do. Especially if it still works politically. We can’t rule the possibility out.

    So with all that mind, it’s also worth noting that the drip, drip, drip about Steven Bannon’s apparent demotion as part of some sort of fight between a Bannon-wing and a Jared Kushner-wing just keeps coming. The latest reports are that Reince Priebus, who was also said to be on the outs along with Bannon, is going to be given a chance to stay on. And Bannon might be allowed to stay too. But he’s got to be more of a team player. As one report put it, “In their view, Bannon is too inclined to want to burn things down and blow things up. They want a more open process driven by the interests of the president, not ideology.”:

    Talking Points Memo
    Editor’s Blog

    Trump Inc Making Bannon An Offer He Can’t Refuse

    Josh Marshall
    April 8, 2017,

    Mike Allen likely has as good a sources as anyone for the White House Game of Thrones story. He says this morning that Priebus will now be allowed to stay. He is “‘with the program’ of a more inclusive style, and will stay.”

    It is worth noting here that Priebus was a job-seeker convert to Bannonism in the first place. Now he’ll unconvert to keep his job. Bannon too might get to stay. But only at a steep price. As Allen puts it, “Either Steve becomes a team player and gets along with people, or he’ll be gone.” To render this in the alt-Trump creole, Bannon can stay if he agrees to go cuck.

    Through all this report, though, one sentence (this one describing Kushner’s and Ivanka Trump’s viewpoint) captures the real story: “In their view, Bannon is too inclined to want to burn things down and blow things up. They want a more open process driven by the interests of the president, not ideology.”

    Let’s not be naive. Personal political interest is always in tension with ideology for every politician. But there is something qualitatively different here. What is I think being accurately described is an understanding of the “interests of the president” which is entirely separate not only from “ideology” but what we’d likely consider even the broadest sort of political viewpoint and belief. The “interests of the president” here is being popular, having strong poll numbers, ‘winning’ as Trump himself might put it. Bannon is putting “ideology” ahead of that.

    It goes to the heart of the Family, Brand-driven, Kleptocratic nature of the Trump White House. The core aim is for the President to be popular, to succeed, a goal in key ways even more important to the thirty-something Kushner/Trumps than the 70 year old President. Politics or policy and ideology, whatever you want to call it, is changeable and secondary, just as Trump can shift from authoritarian isolationist to faux values driven internationalist in a day and a half. This is precisely what you’d expect from people who were probably apolitical or perhaps, if pushed, something like Bloomberg Democrats and then became executors of far-right, blood and soil, racist nationalist political program. Words and policy have no meaning. What matters is protecting and maximizing the value of the new family acquisition: the presidency.

    Bannon and his supporters now appear to making a rearguard argument that this approach is self-defeating on its own terms. Here from the Times

    But Mr. Bannon has his own core of supporters outside the White House. And he has argued that Mr. Kushner’s efforts to pull his father-in-law more to the center on issues like immigration would poison him with the conservative base — a hopeless position to be in because Mr. Bannon believes so few Democrats would ever consider supporting Mr. Trump.

    This seems almost certainly correct in my view. But it is telling that Bannon’s supporters seem obliged to argue their case on Kushner’s terms. Whoever ‘wins’ this battle it is highly revealing of the Trump White House’s core values.

    “Through all this report, though, one sentence (this one describing Kushner’s and Ivanka Trump’s viewpoint) captures the real story: “In their view, Bannon is too inclined to want to burn things down and blow things up. They want a more open process driven by the interests of the president, not ideology.”

    Keep in mind that all this is happening right when the Trump administration appears to be gearing up for a war that will make that Alt-Right Breitbart base extra unhappy. Also keep in mind that, in terms of the popularity of Trump’s policies so far, the policies that fall under the “Bannonesque” category are actually wildly more popular than the policies that fall under the “Paul Ryan/traditional GOP” category. Build a wall with Mexico and the ‘Muslim ban’ might be dubious policies from the standpoint of effectiveness and basic decency and were overall deeply polarizing, but they were still a hell of a lot more popular than the Trumpcare plan Paul Ryan came up with for Trump’s Obamacare replacement.

    Trump won the GOP primary in part because the traditional GOP’s policies are so unpopular even among the GOP base. And catering to what we can thing of as the Bannon/Breitbart Alt-Right-wing was part of Trump’s political secret sauce. And yet here we are with reports that Bannon could be out as part of a shift towards the political center and it’s happening at the same time Trump appears to be preparing for a war that’s going to send that Bannon-base back to the political wilderness. Given the potential political costs with such a strategy Trump must be planning on a very popular war. And that probably means it’s going to be a big one. And probably more than just one because let’s not forget about those reports of Eric Prince trying to secretly negotiate with Russia terms for giving Trump a green light to go to war with Iran.

    And yes, Bannon himself may have a strange longing for WWIII, but much of his Breitbart/Alex Jones base doesn’t. At the same time, even if Bannon really is somehow ‘demoted’, that doesn’t mean Trump abandons the larger Breitbart policy agenda…he’ll just be abandoning the isolationist part. Still, if we’re on the cusp on a much deeper US military involvement in the Middle East (which might not be limited to Syria) that could overwhelm whatever support continuing the Breitbart/Bannon domestic policy agenda will get him. So if this Bannon demotion thing is real and if it represents a preemptive move to go to war over the objections of that critical Bannon/Breitbart/Infowars wing of Trump’s coalition, the model of Trump as a popular wartime president probably just got a major promotion within the White House too. Yikes.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 8, 2017, 2:19 pm
  7. NBC News sent a team to home town of Sebastian Gorka to investigate further what exactly his ties were to the Vitez Rend Order of fascist Nazi collaborators. And while they couldn’t find any that could provide solid proof that he was a member of the order, there was no shortage of people confidently asserting that ‘everyone knew’ Gorka was a member when he was running for political office despite Gorka’s ongoing denials. And here’s another fun fact they turned up and confirmed: Gorka’s mom worked as a translator for David Irving back in the 80’s:

    NBC News

    Sebastian Gorka Made Nazi-Linked Vitezi Rend ‘Proud’ by Wearing Its Medal

    by Alexander Smith and Vladimir Banic
    Apr 8 2017, 9:40 am ET

    BUDAPEST, Hungary — A group with alleged historical links to Nazi Germany has told NBC News it was “proud” when President Donald Trump’s deputy assistant wore its medal.

    Controversy has swirled around Sebastian Gorka, one of Trump’s top counterterrorism advisers, ever since he attended the president’s Jan. 20 Inaugural Ball wearing the honorary medal of Hungarian nationalist organization Vitezi Rend.

    NBC News traveled to Hungary to dig deeper into Gorka’s ties with the group, speaking with members of the organization as well as with locals who knew him when he lived there.

    “When he appeared on U.S. television … with the medal of the Vitez Order … it made me really proud,” Vitezi Rend spokesman Andras Horvath said in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. Vitezi Rend is also known as the Order of Vitez.

    Three people, including one of Gorka’s former political allies, said he was a well-known member of Vitezi Rend back in Hungary, a charge he strongly denies.

    Gorka’s decision to wear the medal — which he said was awarded to his Hungarian-born father — has provoked outrage among Jewish groups.

    While in Budapest, NBC News also spoke with Andras Heisler, the Hungarian vice-president of the New York-based World Jewish Congress, who said that wearing the medal “isn’t a good message for a democratic society.”

    Under the Direction of Nazis

    Vitezi Rend was founded in 1920 by Hungarian ruler Miklos Horthy to award medals to Hungarian veterans of World War I. But the group’s history became murky after the country allied with Nazi Germany in 1938.

    Heisler told NBC News that members of the organization were likely complicit in the murder of some of the hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews toward the end of World War II.

    During the war, the State Department listed Vitezi Rend among a group of “organizations under the direction of the Nazi government of Germany.” And Horthy, its founder, once said that “I have always been an anti-Semite throughout my life,” according to "The Jews of Hungary," a 1995 book by Hungarian-Jewish historian Raphael Patai.

    The Soviet-allied communist government outlawed Vitezi Rend when they took control of the country after the war. But since then, several private organizations have emerged claiming to be the true successors of the group and its ideals.

    Horvath, the spokesman interviewed by NBC News, represents the most prominent modern-day faction. He vehemently denied his organization of 5,000 members is anti-Semitic or extremist, although he conceded that his group has no Jewish members.

    According to its followers, Vitezi Rend is merely “a politically independent organization with Christian-conservative values that keeps its military traditions,” said Vitez John Molar-Gazso, the captain of another modern-day faction of the group. “It has never been radical or a fascist group. Its members have always defended the nation’s interests and fought for the Hungarian communities,” he said.

    Similarly, Gorka has denied he has ever been a sworn-in member of Vitezi Rend — whose name translates to “valiant order.”

    In several statements to the media, he has explained that he wore the medal to honor his late father, Paul Gorka, who was awarded it for his fight against communism during Hungary’s period of communist rule. He has given a similar reasoning for occasionally using the initial “v.” in his name — a mark used by Vitezi Rend members to show the order has been bestowed upon them. He said it was in remembrance of his dad.

    Last month, three Vitezi Rend officials told American-Jewish newspaper The Forward that Sebastian Gorka was one of their order.

    The reports about Gorka prompted the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, an American civil-rights group, to call for Sebastian Gorka’s resignation, or at least an investigation into his alleged links with the far-right.

    “How many ducks in the Trump White House must walk, talk and quack Anti-Semitically before our country wakes up and sees the greater problem?” it told NBC News in a statement. “Who among us wears a medal of a Nazi-sympathetic organization to remember loved ones?”

    When asked about the allegations in NBC News’ investigation, Sebastian Gorka dismissed them as “fake news” and pointed to a statement he gave to online Jewish magazine Tablet last month.

    “I have never been a member of the Vitez Rend. I have never taken an oath of loyalty to the Vitez Rend,” he told the publication. “Since childhood, I have occasionally worn my father’s medal and used the ‘v.’ initial to honor his struggle against totalitarianism.”

    He told NBC News he “completely distanced myself” from any white-supremacist or Nazi ideology. He declined to answer specific questions about NBC News’ reporting.

    Horvath, the Vitezi Rend spokesman, said Paul Gorka was a senior Vitezi Rend lieutenant for the western Hungarian city of Sopron and its surroundings.

    “This is, in the various ranks of the order, an advanced level,” he said, his own Vitezi Rend medal on proud display.

    The 69-year-old was speaking on the banks of the Danube river in Hungary’s storied post-Soviet capital, where some buildings still bear bullet-holes from a failed anti-Soviet revolution in 1956.

    Paul Gorka “was more than an average Vitezi member … I had good experiences and conversations with [him],” the spokesman said, his grey hair and trimmed moustache matching his relaxed yet matter-of-fact demeanor.

    Although Horvath was unable to confirm that Sebastian Gorka was a member himself, he said it was possible. There are many chapters all over the world, he said, any of which could have conducted the inauguration ceremony.

    He explained that the first sons of Vitezi Rend members can either choose hereditary membership or to apply in their own names.

    “The membership can be inherited by the children and this membership enters into force when they participate in an inauguration ceremony,” said Molár-Gazsó, the captain of the other Vitezi Rend group.

    The Road to Piliscsaba

    Sebastian Gorka, 47, was born in London in 1970 to Hungarian parents and gained American citizenship in 2012. Before finding his seat in the president’s inner-circle, he spent years in his parents’ former homeland in the 1990s and 2000s.

    After interviewing Horvath and Heisler in Budapest, NBC News drove 14 miles north to the small, sleepy town of Piliscsaba, where several prominent locals alleged that Sebastian Gorka was a member of Vitezi Rend.

    The future White House aide ran for mayor here in 2006, but was unable to persuade its population of 7,500 that he was the right man for the job. He came third out of three candidates but only lost by a margin of 39 votes.

    “Everybody knew that he was member of the Order of Vitez,” according to Csaba Gáspár, who came in second that day but later became mayor between 2010 and 2014.

    This was corroborated by one of Sebastian Gorka’s political allies during that campaign.

    ”I knew that Sebastian Gorka was a member of Vitezi Rend, even then,” said Dr. Gabor Solti, a respected Hungarian geologist who ran for the town council on Sebastian Gorka’s ticket in 2006. Solti, who served as mayor between 2009 and 2010, is not known to be a member of the group.

    Although the three people NBC News interviewed in the town said emphatically that Sebastian Gorka made no effort to hide his membership while he campaigned in the town, they did not provide any evidence of their claims.

    Picturesque Piliscsaba couldn’t contrast more with Sebastian Gorka’s current environs of Washington, D.C.

    A regular line of cars run along the two-lane road that cuts the town in half, but most are just passing through, stopping for little more than a bathroom break.

    A large Catholic church next to a cake shop marks the center of the town, which is surrounded by rolling green hills.

    Erika Laszlo also knew Sebastian Gorka during his failed mayoral bid. Back then, she was the chairwoman of a local environmentalist group called For Piliscsaba, and as part of the group’s activities she wrote leaflets about the campaign.

    “It was common knowledge he was a Vitezi,” she said, petting her Labrador during a long afternoon at her woodland home. “And for many people this was a shine on the armor, if you like, because it was the old, golden days before the war.”

    The Gorkas’ controversial past does not end with the father and son.

    In the 1980s, Sebastian Gorka’s mother, Susan Gorka, worked as a translator for David Irving, the discredited British historian who caused outrage by suggesting the Holocaust did not happen, or was at least greatly exaggerated.

    A British judge ruled in 2000 that Irving was a “Holocaust denier … anti-Semitic and racist, and that he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism.” And in 2006, he was sentenced to three years in prison in Austria on charges of denying the Holocaust.

    Irving wrote an email to NBC News describing his warm working relationship with Susan Gorka.

    “His mother was very helpful, checked translations in the 1980s and tapes of interviews,” Irving said. “My impression of both Gorkas [Susan and Paul] was at all times good.”

    NBC News attempted to ask Sebastian Gorka about his mother’s involvement with Irving but he declined to answer detailed questions.

    V is for Vitezi

    In addition to wearing the group’s medal, Sebastian Gorka has occasionally used the initial “v.” in his name — short for Vitezi. He claimed this was merely something to honor his father, but experts interviewed by NBC News were in no doubt that it signified his membership.

    “I called him Vitez, firstly because he used to call himself Vitez while being in Hungary,” according to Gabor Horvath, managing editor of Hungary’s Nepszava newspaper. “And second to let the readers know that anyone claiming to belong to the order … it means that he is a right-wing conservative.”

    Gabor Horvath knew all too well that the “v.” indicated someone was a Vitezi Rend member — his own grandfather belonged to the order. He too could have inherited the title had it not been for his father marrying a Jewish woman and breaking the family lineage.

    “In theory I might have been Vitezi myself … not that I wanted to,” he said, speaking in his newsroom back in Budapest. “The original charter of the order prescribed a Christian family life.”

    Paul Gorka was born in Budapest in 1930. As a 15-year-old boy in 1944, he “fought with a submachine gun through the ruins of the Hungarian capital,” according to Sebastian Gorka’s 2016 book "Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War."

    He didn’t specify which side his father fought on — Soviet or Nazi — but a large part of Paul Gorka’s life thereafter was dedicated to fighting against the former.

    After the war, Paul Gorka joined Hungary’s underground anti-Soviet resistance. He was caught, jailed and tortured, according to his son’s account, but then broke free during the failed revolution of 1956.

    It was these anti-Soviet acts that earned him the medal in 1979 that his son would wear to Trump’s ball.

    Ardent Nationalism

    Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s wartime leader and the founder of Vitezi Rend, remains a hugely divisive figure even today. Some say he attempted to protect Hungarian Jews from the Nazis, others point to a series of anti-Semitic laws he passed and claim his actions led to the deaths of tens of thousands.

    Similarly, the actions of Vitezi Rend’s original members are the source of some disagreement.

    The spokesmen for the two modern-day factions said their predecessors were not complicit in the deportation of at least 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Nazi death camps in 1944.

    But many experts disagree.

    “Vitezi Rend had a lot of anti-Semitic, racist members,” according to Heisler, the vice-president of the World Jewish Congress. “The organization had some members who were actors in the killing of the Jews,” as well as taking Jewish property, he said.

    Historian Eva S. Balogh fled Hungary to the U.S. in 1956 before gaining her Ph.D. and teaching at Yale. She said that “the likelihood that a good number of the [Vitezi] Order’s members embraced the ideas of Hitler is fairly strong.”

    Almost “the entire Hungarian high command belonged to the [Vitezi] Order,” according to Balogh, who also runs the news website Hungarian Spectrum and has written extensively about the Gorkas. She said that these Hungarian elites “were avid supporters of Germany and eager to join Germany’s war efforts.

    Today’s Vitezi Rend members, according to Balogh, follow the same “ethical and moral code” as their predecessors in the 1920s — “ardent nationalism, a fostering of Hungarian military traditions [and] an attraction to right-wing ideologies.”

    Aside from the question of whether or not Sebastian Gorka was a member of Vitezi Rend, his credentials as a counterterrorism expert have also been called into question.

    “In the 1980s, Sebastian Gorka’s mother, Susan Gorka, worked as a translator for David Irving, the discredited British historian who caused outrage by suggesting the Holocaust did not happen, or was at least greatly exaggerated.”

    So on top of the mountain of evidence contradicting Gorka’s denials of his involvement with the far-Vitezi Rend organization that Gorka apparently inherited from his father, it turns out Gorka’s mom worked with David Irving:


    A British judge ruled in 2000 that Irving was a “Holocaust denier … anti-Semitic and racist, and that he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism.” And in 2006, he was sentenced to three years in prison in Austria on charges of denying the Holocaust.

    Irving wrote an email to NBC News describing his warm working relationship with Susan Gorka.

    “His mother was very helpful, checked translations in the 1980s and tapes of interviews,” Irving said. “My impression of both Gorkas [Susan and Paul] was at all times good.”

    NBC News attempted to ask Sebastian Gorka about his mother’s involvement with Irving but he declined to answer detailed questions.

    it would be interesting to learn if Susan Gorka was paid for her translation work or just did it for free. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that Gorka himself is going to open up about that. Fortunately, David Irving did in a recent interview with the Huffington Post: Susan Gorka volunteered to work for Irving:

    The Huffington Post

    Top Trump Adviser Faces Calls For Resignation After Reports Of Ties To Nazi-Aligned Group
    Sebastian Gorka proudly wears a medal from a Hungarian group that collaborated with Nazis during World War II.
    By Jessica Schulberg

    03/17/2017 07:48 pm ET | Updated 04/05/2017 days ago

    WASHINGTON – A top counterterrorism adviser to President Donald Trump faces growing calls to resign after a series of news reports alleging he has ties to a far-right Hungarian group with historical links to the Nazi party.

    Sebastian Gorka was photographed during the January inaugural ball wearing a medal that foreign policy news site LobeLog later identified as a symbol of membership in the Hungarian Order of Heroes. The group, known as Vitézi Rend in Hungarian, collaborated with the Nazi government during World War II, according to the State Department. Members of the group are ineligible for American visas.

    Gorka did not respond to LobeLog’s request for comment. He later told Breitbart that the medal belonged to his late father, Paul Gorka, who “was awarded a declaration for his resistance to a dictatorship.” The Forward followed up with a series of reports alleging that Sebastian Gorka spent years immersing himself in far-right, anti-Semitic political organizations in Hungary, and is a sworn member of the Vitézi Rend. Gorka ignored requests for comment on the article and instead issued a denial to a friendly reporter at Tablet after The Forward published the allegations.

    Paul Gorka’s Vitézi Rend membership is not the only indication that the Gorka family fostered connections to anti-Semitic fringe characters.

    After the failed 1956 effort to overthrow the Soviet government in Hungary, Paul Gorka and his soon-to-be-wife Susan fled the country, eventually settling in England, where Sebastian was born in 1970.

    Years later, Susan Gorka crossed paths with David Irving, a British author known for his anti-Semitic revisionist accounts of World War II. Irving gained international notoriety in the 1990s during an an unsuccessful libel suit against a historian who had accused him of being a Holocaust denier. But he was already a controversial figure decades before the lawsuit. In 1977, he published a book called Hitler’s War, which asserted that Adolf Hitler was unaware of the Holocaust.

    Irving met Susan Gorka in the 1970s while he was working on a book about the 1956 Hungarian revolution, he told The Huffington Post in an interview. He suspected his interpreter was “tendentiously” translating his interviews, and later concluded the interpreter was a Hungarian spy. He began searching for a new Hungarian speaker who could go through translations of previous interview transcripts to make sure they were correct. Susan Gorka volunteered, he said.

    In the resulting book Uprising!, Irving asserts that the Hungarian revolution against the communist government was “primarily an anti-Jewish uprising” – an assessment disputed by mainstream historians.

    “The whole conclusion of the book is dead wrong,” Eva Balogh, an emeritus professor of Eastern European history at Yale University, said in an interview. Balogh, who left Hungary after the revolution, was the first to notice Susan Gorka’s work with Irving.

    “I went through that revolution and I remember it pretty well, there was no sign of anti-Semitism as far as I could see it,” Balogh said. “This is a figment of [Irving’s] imagination and his prejudice.”

    Sebastian Gorka did not respond to a detailed list of questions about his mother’s work with Irving, and his own views on Irving’s books. According to Irving, Susan Gorka shared his belief that the 1956 uprising was motivated by antipathy toward Jews. “Most Hungarian exiles do believe that,” he said. “They regard the uprising as starting as an anti-Jewish program.”

    In the introduction to Uprising! Irving thanked Susan Gorka as one of four interpreters who made the book possible. He also listed two interviews in London with Paul Gorka in 1974 and 1978 in the section on sourcing.

    Irving said he stayed in touch with Susan Gorka for several years after the book was published in 1981, and met Sebastian Gorka “two or three times.” He said he has since lost touch with the family. He had never heard of the Vitézi Rend, he said.

    Irving’s past relationship with the family, Balogh said, “shows what kind of milieus the Gorkas lived in.”

    “Irving met Susan Gorka in the 1970s while he was working on a book about the 1956 Hungarian revolution, he told The Huffington Post in an interview. He suspected his interpreter was “tendentiously” translating his interviews, and later concluded the interpreter was a Hungarian spy. He began searching for a new Hungarian speaker who could go through translations of previous interview transcripts to make sure they were correct. Susan Gorka volunteered, he said.

    Yeah, that certainly gives us hint of the kind of milieus the Gorka’s lived in. Milieus that clearly made a lasting impression on Sebastian. Like father, like son. And also like mother, like son. Very unfortunately in both cases.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 10, 2017, 3:38 pm
  8. The consolidation of the Trump administration’s national security team under the direction of national security advisor H.R. McMaster expanded recent to include the reassignment of K.T. McFarland from the post of deputy national security advisor to ambassador of Singapore. So that’s Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, and now K.T. McFarland who have lost their national security council position less than three months into the new administration. And since all three are from the distinctly ‘loopier’ faction of the Team Trump and McFarland had reportedly narrowly avoided losing her position back in February but was saved by an intervention by Trump himself, it raises the question of who’s next to from Team Loopy?

    For instance, how about Sebastian Gorka? Is he going to continue advising Trump on national security issues or is a new job in his near future? Well, as the following article indicates, it’s possible Gorka will indeed be reassigned. But it’s also possible this reassignment will still involve advising Trump on some key national security issues. And Gorka himself is actively lobbying for this new position: Gorka wants to become the US special enjoy to Libya and has lot’s of advice on what to do about the nightmare situation in Libya that he’d like to give Trump. Specifically, break Libya up into three countries along the old Ottoman empire lines. That’s the kind of advice Gorka wants to give Trump as the special envoy to Libya:

    The Guardian

    Trump aide drew plan on napkin to partition Libya into three

    Exclusive: Sebastian Gorka told proposal would be ‘the worst solution’ when he suggested it to senior European diplomat

    Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome and Julian Borger in Washington

    Monday 10 April 2017 02.00 EDT
    Last modified on Monday 10 April 2017 03.23 EDT

    A senior White House foreign policy official has pushed a plan to partition Libya, and once drew a picture of how the country could be divided into three areas on a napkin in a meeting with a senior European diplomat, the Guardian has learned.

    Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to Donald Trump under pressure over his past ties with Hungarian far-right groups, suggested the idea of partition in the weeks leading up to the US president’s inauguration, according to an official with knowledge of the matter. The European diplomat responded that this would be “the worst solution” for Libya.

    Gorka is vying for the job of presidential special envoy to Libya in a White House that has so far spent little time thinking about the country and has yet to decide whether to create such a post.

    Libya has been mired in a conflict between two competing governments since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 after a Nato-led intervention. As rival jostle for influence and position in Washington on the hitherto neglected issue, sharp differences have emerged over how much say Russia should have in Libya’s fate.

    There are fears among some European allies that the White House will reverse the Obama administration’s strong support for the UN-backed Libyan government of national accord, which is based in Tripoli and led by Fayez al-Sarraj.

    While the GNA has been seen by some as the best option for achieving stability in the country, it has struggled against a rival government based in Tobruk, eastern Libya, backed by Khalifa Haftar, an anti-Islamist military strongman. Haftar, who would not back partition, has support in some parts of the Egyptian and Russian governments.

    In January, he was welcomed onboard the Admiral Kuznetsov, the Russian flagship, as the aircraft carrier sailed along the north African coast. Haftar, a 73-year-old field marshal and former Gaddafi general who later became his bitter opponent, presents himself as a bulwark against Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood, which makes him appealing to elements of the Trump foreign policy team.

    Gorka advocates hardline policies aimed at defeating “radical Islam” and sees the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group bent on infiltrating the US. As a former Breitbart editor, he is close to Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, who believes the struggle against radical Islam should be the central theme of US foreign policy. But Bannon’s star is on the wane in the White House and he lost his seat on the national security council last week.

    Gorka has alarmed foreign diplomats with his views on Libya’s future. The map he drew on a napkin during the transition period cut Libya into three sections, apparently based on the old Ottoman provinces of Cyrenaica in the east, Tripolitania in the north-west and Fezzan in the south-west.

    Former Ottoman provinces of Libya

    Mattia Toaldo, a Libya expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations thinktank, said: “This is like a litmus test of how much you know about Libya. If you the only thing you know is that it was cut into three, then it shows you are clueless about the situation in Libya.”

    Gorka’s rivals for the envoy job include Pete Hoekstra, a former congressman and lobbyist, and Phillip Escaravage, a former US intelligence official who worked on Libya for more than a decade.

    Escaravage is generally considered to be the clear favourite to take on the unpaid role. He is believed to have put forward a peace proposal heavily dependent on tens of billions of dollars in western financial support.

    At least one European ally has privately expressed frustration at the US state department’s lack of a position on Libya, voicing concerns over Russia’s growing influence.

    While separatists who support partition claim that a viable state could be built in eastern Libya, most experts agree that the move would stoke another civil war because the boundaries would be hotly disputed.

    Representatives of the Tobruk government, including Haftar, have sought to influence the Trump administration, calling for the US to radically change its position and withdraw support for the Sarraj government.

    In a phone interview with the Guardian, Ari Ben-Menashe, an Israeli security consultant based in Canada, whose company has a $6m (£4.9m) contract to lobby on behalf of Haftar and Aguila Saleh Issa, the head of the Libyan house of representatives in Tobruk, said the White House had been “briefed” on Libya and was “willing to play on our terms”.

    “There is not going to be a partition,” Ben-Menashe said. “None of them [Trump administration officials] really knew anything about what was going on. They were briefed pretty extensively by us and … they understand that Sarraj will never work.”

    Ben-Menashe said it was understood by the Trump administration that a central Libyan government acceptable to the west and east of the country could be created “in three days” if Russia were more involved. The Trump administration, he added, was “interested in getting the help of Russians and interested in getting them to resolve it”.

    Gorka is vying for the job of presidential special envoy to Libya in a White House that has so far spent little time thinking about the country and has yet to decide whether to create such a post.”

    Whether or not Gorka is reading the writing of the wall after the departure of Flynn and McFarland or whether he really does want to be the special enjoy to Libya, Gorka is clearly interested in the position. So he can advocate for recreating the old Ottoman provinces:


    Gorka has alarmed foreign diplomats with his views on Libya’s future. The map he drew on a napkin during the transition period cut Libya into three sections, apparently based on the old Ottoman provinces of Cyrenaica in the east, Tripolitania in the north-west and Fezzan in the south-west.

    Former Ottoman provinces of Libya

    Mattia Toaldo, a Libya expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations thinktank, said: “This is like a litmus test of how much you know about Libya. If you the only thing you know is that it was cut into three, then it shows you are clueless about the situation in Libya.”

    And while partitioning Libya might seem like an extreme solution, keep in mind that the country is already fragmented and has two primary rival governments: the Islamist-friendly GNA and the anti-Islamist (but strongman-friendly) Tobruk government. And international support for the governments is split:


    There are fears among some European allies that the White House will reverse the Obama administration’s strong support for the UN-backed Libyan government of national accord, which is based in Tripoli and led by Fayez al-Sarraj.

    While the GNA has been seen by some as the best option for achieving stability in the country, it has struggled against a rival government based in Tobruk, eastern Libya, backed by Khalifa Haftar, an anti-Islamist military strongman. Haftar, who would not back partition, has support in some parts of the Egyptian and Russian governments.

    In January, he was welcomed onboard the Admiral Kuznetsov, the Russian flagship, as the aircraft carrier sailed along the north African coast. Haftar, a 73-year-old field marshal and former Gaddafi general who later became his bitter opponent, presents himself as a bulwark against Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood, which makes him appealing to elements of the Trump foreign policy team.

    So given all that, who knows, it’s not impossible that splitting up Libya could end up being Trump’s policy in Libya. And maybe Gorka will be the one to craft it. But if that does end up being the plan, it also raises the question of whether or not Gorka is planning on a major US military commitment to keeping the peace between the new rival nations he proposes creating. Because as the article below notes, if you break up Libya along the old Ottoman empire borders you’re going to end up handing most of the oil to the Tobruk government and many oil fields will be right next to the new borders which almost certainly means the military conflict will continue:

    Politico
    Magazine

    So You Want to Partition Libya …

    A memo for Dr. Sebastian Gorka, Ph.D.

    By Geoff D. Porter

    April 11, 2017

    Dear Dr. Gorka,

    So I hear you’re interested in being Donald Trump’s envoy to Libya. You even sketched a plan on a napkin to partition the country. The plan would divide Libya into three provinces that date back to the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, and thereby solve Libya’s current crisis. If it were only that simple.

    But it’s not. Libya’s ongoing conflict is complicated. It has to do with the legacy of four decades of brutal dictatorial rule under Muammar Qadhafi that obliterated any semblance of functional governmental institutions and pitted Libyan against Libyan. It has to do with lack of rule of law and poor governance that has allowed the democratic process initiated after the 2011 revolution to be perverted and then aborted. And it has to do with regional proxy powers intervening both openly and clandestinely in Libya to make sure that they have an oil-rich ally on the Mediterranean when the dust settles.

    The current mess in Libya is layers upon layers, with multiple bodies in different cities claiming to be the country’s true government. And then there are the fence-sitters—not yet with this side or that but waiting to see where the chips fall. And all of these groups are armed. We’re not talking about just small arms, but armor, artillery and air power. Also, let’s not forget the Islamic State, which was only recently ousted from its stronghold in Sirte. Many of those fighters who fled likely linked up with clandestine cells throughout the country. But let’s put all this aside for the moment and focus on why your plan is a clunker.

    For starters, your plan is predicated on the notion that the Ottoman division of Libya into three provinces (Tripolitania in the west, Cyrenaica in the east, and the Fezzan in the south) “worked.”

    Well, let’s review a little history. (Yes, I too have a Ph.D.) The Ottomans first conquered and created Cyrenaica, today’s eastern Libya, in 1517. It took them another 34 years to conquer Tripolitania, the region closer to Tunisia. The Ottomans only conquered and created the Fezzan, Libya’s vast and mostly empty desert south, 300 years later. And this glosses over the fact that Istanbul lost control of Tripolitania for more than a century in the intervening years. These were not happy, seamless times.

    But how did these Ottoman provinces function? For starters, the borders between the regions were primarily for the purposes of tax collection to be paid to Istanbul, not for the full remit of governance that we would require today. People moved back and forth and families and interests spanned different regions. Law enforcement, such as it was, devolved to the local level.

    But all this was before oil—which wasn’t discovered in Libya until 1957. Had oil been discovered in Libya during the Ottoman era, would Istanbul have divided it the way it did? Wouldn’t we then be sketching different borders on different napkins?

    But for the sake of argument, let’s say we do divide Libya according to 600-year-old borders (regardless of whether this is what Libyans want or not). Oil is Libya’s lifeblood. It pays for everything from food to water to public-sector salaries. Without oil revenue there is no Libya.

    The problem is, borders on the ground don’t always neatly line up with the oil reserves in it. In Libya’s case, most of the oil is in the east, in what would be Cyrenaica. The Fezzan would have some too. There is considerably less in what would be Tripolitania, the region that contains the capital, Tripoli.

    Recreating Ottoman divisions then would ultimately cut a future Tripolitania’s revenue by more than two thirds. Making matters worse, the oil fields that Tripolitania would lose would be just across the border in neighboring Cyrenaica—so close that Tripolitania would be forgiven were it to be tempted to fight for them. And while the Fezzan would end up with some oil, it has no access to ports and would have to pay Tripolitania transit tariffs to get its oil to market. Given how much revenue it would have lost, you can bet Tripolitania will extract a pretty penny. Plus, the Fezzan would end up a landlocked country. The United Nations and the World Bank have ample statistics demonstrating how fragile landlocked countries are.

    But the Libyan conflict is already about oil and about controlling the revenue that oil generates. This became abundantly clear last month when militias allied with the Government of National Accord in Tripoli seized four oil export terminals that had earlier been captured by the military allied with the eastern government in Tobruk, which in turn had captured from a separatist cum gangster. (Are you following along, Dr. Gorka?) Even though the Tobruk government had continued to allow oil revenue from the ports under its control to keep going to the government in Tripoli after it captured them in September 2016, some political leaders in Tripoli were uneasy with that “gentlemen’s agreement” and felt they needed to take the oil terminals “back,” not only to undermine their opponents in the east, but also to guarantee oil revenue for themselves in the future. They managed to do so briefly in March, but the Tripoli government was able to hold the terminals for only a few days before the government in Tobruk took them back. Now that it has taken them back, the Tobruk government is exploring ways of selling oil on its own.

    Meanwhile, the government in Tripoli is trying to figure out how to exert more control over oil revenue, likely to deprive that revenue of going to the government in Tobruk. Further south, other groups are also leveraging oil, periodically shutting down a pipeline leading from two large southwestern fields to deprive the government in Tripoli of revenue and force it to bow to their demands.

    Libya’s current conflict, though, is also about more than oil. It is about former Qadhafi regime members trying to reclaim what they lost in the 2011 revolution. It is about Islamists—no, not radical Islamic terrorists—trying to preserve the political gains they made during Libya’s brief democratic interlude in the aftermath of the revolution that ousted Qadhafi. It is about former political dissidents—some who were imprisoned, others who were exiled, trying to gain some political power for the first time in a country they call their own. And into this mix add jihadi terrorists organizations like the Islamic State; the remnants of Benghazi consulate attackers Ansar al-Sharia; and some components of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a regional terrorist group with a large presence in the south. None of these groups fits neatly into Ottoman-era borders. Which new country would you give to the Islamists? Which one would the former Qadhafi henchmen get? Who ends up with the bulk of the terrorists?

    Despite all of this, perhaps you still think creating three new countries is a good idea. But you don’t have to look very far to find instances where this approach has been a disaster. This is especially the case when oil is involved. Case in point: South Sudan, which not only fought a calamitous 20-year war for independence from Sudan that reignited over oil less than a year after winning independence, but is now engulfed in a civil war of its own and failing. Do we really want to be flirting with the prospect of more failed states in the Sahara? After all, failed states are hothouses for jihadi salafis who are already abundant in Libya and the Sahara. We should be working to limit their areas of operations, not creating new ones for them.

    Finally—and this is a big one—despite having two governments and being on the cusp of civil war, most Libyans still think of themselves as “Libyan.” They don’t think of themselves as Tripolitanian or Cyrenaican or Fezzani. The solution for Libya’s crisis is to foster this sense of “Libyaness” as a way of countering the zero-sum mentality that is driving the current crisis. The National Oil Corp. recognizes this. It has consistently maintained in the face of all sorts of confrontations that Libya’s oil is for Libyans, east and west, north and south. The challenge now is to spread the “Libya for Libyans” mentality to other governmental institutions. Admittedly, a plan for doing this doesn’t fit on a napkin, but neither would any plans for dealing with the mess created by divvying up Libya into borders from a bygone era.

    “The problem is, borders on the ground don’t always neatly line up with the oil reserves in it. In Libya’s case, most of the oil is in the east, in what would be Cyrenaica. The Fezzan would have some too. There is considerably less in what would be Tripolitania, the region that contains the capital, Tripoli.”

    That certainly sounds like a recipe for a lot more war. Especially war over the oil fields just over the border that ‘Tripolitania’ is going to be very unhappy about losing. and then there’s the fact that one of the new nations would be landlocked:


    Recreating Ottoman divisions then would ultimately cut a future Tripolitania’s revenue by more than two thirds. Making matters worse, the oil fields that Tripolitania would lose would be just across the border in neighboring Cyrenaica—so close that Tripolitania would be forgiven were it to be tempted to fight for them. And while the Fezzan would end up with some oil, it has no access to ports and would have to pay Tripolitania transit tariffs to get its oil to market. Given how much revenue it would have lost, you can bet Tripolitania will extract a pretty penny. Plus, the Fezzan would end up a landlocked country. The United Nations and the World Bank have ample statistics demonstrating how fragile landlocked countries are.

    So that’s all part of Gorka’s plan. It’s not actually a plan for peaceful resolution to Libya’s civil-war, but it is a plan. And there is a certain logic to it in the sense that it’s a plan that would starve the Islamist-friendly new nation Tripolitania of oil revenues that would instead go towards the anti-Isamlist Tobruk government of ‘Cyrenaica’. That seems like the kind of plan the Trump team might go with…except the logic breaks down when you considered that even if the Trump administration got the rest of the world to go along with the partition plan those reduced oil revenues for the Islamists of Tripolitania isn’t going to stop them from getting plenty of access to weapons and fighters from its various Gulf monarchy sponsors if it does decide to wage a war for that lost oil.

    So you have to wonder what else Gorka has in mind with this plan. Because don’t forget one of Donald Trump’s rallying cries throughout the 2016 campaign: he would have kept Iraq’s oil as a ‘spoil of war’ which would have prevented the rise of ISIS. Well, Sebastian Gorka is proposing the creation of a new oil-rich anti-Islamist strongman-led state that’s going to have a new super pissed-off oil-poor Islamist neighbor with extensive military capabilities and likely broad support military support from the Gulf monarchies.

    So is a US military peace-keeping presence in ‘Cyrenaica’ part of Gorka’s plan? And is Cyrenaica’s oil going to be the price Trump charges for this protection? We’ll see.

    At least it doesn’t sound like KT McFarland has any master plan of her own she’s going to push while serving in Singapore. Phew. Although it’s probably just a matter of time. She’s pretty creative.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 11, 2017, 3:40 pm
  9. We probably should have seen this coming: The Trump administration just reversed the Obama administration’s policy on voluntarily disclosing the the White House visitors log. So if you want to see who’s coming and going from the White House, be prepared to fill out a Freedom of Information Act request:

    The Washington Post

    Trump will keep list of White House visitors secret

    By John Wagner
    April 14, 2017 at 4:19 PM

    The Trump administration announced Friday that it would not follow President Barack Obama’s policy of voluntarily disclosing the names of most visitors to the White House complex, citing “grave national security risks and privacy concerns.”

    The announcement, from an administration that has faced pointed questions about its commitment to transparency, marks a significant shift from the Obama White House, which released the names of nearly 6 million visitors, including scores of lobbyists.

    Instead, the Trump administration said it would release information under far more limited circumstances: When Freedom of Information Act requests are filed for those visiting offices of the White House classified under the law as separate agencies, such as the Office of Management and Budget.

    Under the new policy, it will be up to the White House to decide whether to release the names of visitors coming to meet with the president, vice president and their senior staff, at least in the short term. Under a separate statute, much of that information can become public years after Trump leaves office.

    Friday’s announcement was harshly criticized by an array of government watchdog groups.

    “The only excuse for this policy is that the Trump administration has something to hide,” said David Donnelly, president and chief executive of Every Voice. “This kind of secrecy will allow big donors, lobbyists and special interests to have unknown levels of influence in the White House.”

    “It’s the exact opposite of ‘draining the swamp,'” Donnelly added, referring to Trump’s pledge to usher in a more ethical and less corrupt era in Washington.

    The Trump administration was sued in federal court earlier this week by a coalition of watchdog groups to compel the release of the White House visitor logs. Under Obama, such records, which were published on a White House-maintained Web page, were typically disclosed 90 to 120 days after the visit.

    Since Trump took office in January, the page where the visitor logs had been publicly available has gone dark, and Trump administration officials said Friday that they will no longer maintain it, which the White House said would save taxpayers $70,000 by 2020.

    After initial resistance, Obama’s policy was crafted in 2009 in response to earlier lawsuits by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, one of the groups now part of the new lawsuit against Trump.

    The policy permitted some exceptions to disclosure, including private visits to the Obama family. The Obama White House also maintained the prerogative not to release records of particularly “sensitive” meetings, such as interviews with potential Supreme Court nominees.

    Obama at times drew criticism for such carve-outs, as well as for other ways for skirting the agreement, including meetings between White House officials and lobbyists at a coffee shop near the White House that didn’t show up in the logs.

    Trump aides highlighted such loopholes under Obama and said the new policy is consistent with a legal distinction that Obama officials drew in a 2012 lawsuit. Despite the voluntary disclosure of visitor logs, the Obama administration maintained that the logs were White House records and therefore not required to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act.

    Others have argued that the records are subject to disclosure under the FOIA because they are created by the Secret Service, which is an agency covered by the law.

    As a private citizen, Trump was highly critical of the Obama administration’s position in 2012, writing on Twitter: “Why is @BarackObama spending millions to try and hide his records? He is the least transparent President — ever — and he ran on transparency.”

    The existence of the visitor logs burst back into the news last month when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) went to the White House grounds to review intelligence reports on which he later briefed the president. Both Nunes and White House officials initially declined to say whom Nunes had visited and who had cleared him onto the grounds, information that is typically contained in the logs, along with the length of the stay.

    White House communications director Mike Dubke said Friday that the Trump administration has taken several steps to ensure the government “is both ethical and accessible to the American people.” Among those he mentioned were new restrictions on lobbyists and allowing journalists to participate remotely in White House briefings via Skype.

    “Given the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, the White House Office will disclose Secret Service logs as outlined under the Freedom of Information Act, a position the Obama White House successfully defended in federal court,” Dubke said in a statement, referring to the 2102 lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative organization.

    With the new policy, the White House officials made clear Friday that they believe Trump is under no legal obligation to disclose visitors to the complex. As a matter of practice, the White House has disclosed the names of many of those who meet directly with the president on the days the meetings take place. There has been very little disclosure of meetings with staff.

    Some past and present government officials have argued that White House officials should be permitted to conduct meetings outside the public eye as a matter of policy.

    “I tend to feel it’s the prerogative of the White House to have people come visit, and the public doesn’t need to know who they are,” Andrew H. Card Jr., chief of staff under President George W. Bush, said in an interview last week. “We don’t have a log on everybody who visits Congress, and they’re a coequal branch of government.”

    Christina Reynolds, who served as director of media affairs under Obama, said Trump had made “the wrong call” but that it was somewhat understandable why he made the call he did. Despite being the first to open up the logs, the Obama administration was criticized for not going far enough and endured negative news stories about some of its visitors.

    “If your only guide is whether you’re going to get bad stories, it’s more understandable,” Reynolds said, saying that the Trump White House may have decided to “take its lumps” Friday but be spared criticism based on what would later be disclosed in the logs.

    ““If your only guide is whether you’re going to get bad stories, it’s more understandable,” Reynolds said, saying that the Trump White House may have decided to “take its lumps” Friday but be spared criticism based on what would later be disclosed in the logs.”

    That’s some good advice from Christina Reynolds, media affairs under Obama. If the Trump White House wants to avoid a bad stories about who’s coming and going in the future, it’s going to have to take a day of bad press now and change the rules. And it’s not like we haven’t seen some awfully bad press emerging from these logs already:


    The existence of the visitor logs burst back into the news last month when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) went to the White House grounds to review intelligence reports on which he later briefed the president. Both Nunes and White House officials initially declined to say whom Nunes had visited and who had cleared him onto the grounds, information that is typically contained in the logs, along with the length of the stay.

    Given the fact that there’s already been a bit of a blockbuster story to emerge from the discovery of Devin Nunes’s visit to the White House via those visitor logs it’s hard to see how the White House isn’t going to be routinely bombarded with FOIA requests. It will be interesting to see what kinds of reasons they give for not releasing them…presumably it will be like “blah blah *national security!* blah blah blah”. Or something along those lines.

    So now that FOIA requests are going to be required for the release of those White House visitor logs it might be tempting to assume that nothing much of interest will be learned from that data source. But that may not be the case. For example, remember James Guckert aka “Jeff Gannon”, the male prostitute-turned far-right ‘journalist’ who was acting as the Bush White House’s deflection-point man in the press pool and who was found to be spending an unbelievable amount at the White House? Don’t forget that the White House logs were critical to that story and it happened despite the FOIA request requirement:

    Raw Story

    Secret Service records raise new questions about discredited conservative reporter

    By John Byrne| RAW STORY Editor
    Article originally published Apr. 24, 2005.

    Updated: Day discovered with two check-ins but no check outs; Other events found on some days without press briefings

    READ THE DOCUMENTS

    In what is unlikely to stem the controversy surrounding disgraced White House correspondent James Guckert, the Secret Service has furnished logs of the writer’s access to the White House after requests by two Democratic congressmembers.

    The documents, obtained by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveal Guckert had remarkable access to the White House. Though he wrote under the name Jeff Gannon, the records show that he applied with his real name.

    Gannon’s ready access to President Bush and his work for a news agency that frequently plagiarized content from other reporters and tailored it to serve a conservative message may raise new questions about the White House’s attempts to seed favorable news coverage. Democrats have sought to paint Guckert in the context of other efforts by the Administration to “plant” positive spin by paying for video news releases and columnists to espouse their views.

    Guckert made more than 200 appearances at the White House during his two-year tenure with the fledging conservative websites GOPUSA and Talon News, attending 155 of 196 White House press briefings. He had little to no previous journalism experience, previously worked as a male escort, and was refused a congressional press pass.

    Perhaps more notable than the frequency of his attendance, however, is several distinct anomalies about his visits.

    Guckert made more than two dozen excursions to the White House when there were no scheduled briefings. On many of these days, the Press Office held press gaggles aboard Air Force One—which raises questions about what Guckert was doing at the White House. On other days, the president held photo opportunities.

    On at least fourteen occasions, Secret Service records show either the entry or exit time missing. Generally, the existing entry or exit times correlate with press conferences; on most of these days, the records show that Guckert checked in but was never processed out.

    In March, 2003, Guckert left the White House twice on days he had never checked in with the Secret Service. Over the next 22 months, Guckert failed to check out with the Service on fourteen days. On several of these visits, Guckert either entered or exited by a different entry/exit point than his usual one. On one of these days, no briefing was held; on another, he checked in twice but failed to check out.

    “I’d be worried if I was the White House and I knew that a reporter with a day pass never left,” one White House reporter told RAW STORY. “I’d wonder, where is he hiding? It seems like a security risk.”

    Others who have covered the White House say not checking in or out with the Secret Service is unusual, especially in the wake of Sept. 11. The Secret Service declined to comment.

    “We responded to the FOIA request and can provide no further information,” Service spokesman Jonathan Cherry said.

    Guckert declined to comment, directing all questions to the Service.

    The records furnished by the Service are unlikely to finally answer who approved Gannon’s “temporary” day passes into the presidential residence. The Service keeps a record of who approved passes only for the last sixty days; previous records are kept by the White House.

    Since December 2004, all but one of Gannon’s forty-eight temporary appointments were requested by Lois Cassano, a White House Press Office media assistant. One additional request was made by Peter Watkins, a press assistant who now works as deputy press secretary to First Lady Laura Bush.

    Guckert sometimes stayed for an extended period of time before and after press conferences, particularly early in his tenure. This was especially common during his first few months, when he might be in the White House for as long as six hours.

    A White House reporter dismissed this as insignificant, noting that sometimes reporters stay between events.

    “You could probably find people who stayed there for nine hours,” the reporter said.

    Occasionally, the former Talon News reporter visited the White House twice on the same day. This was also most common in the early months.

    The Secret Service furnished the records after a Freedom of Information Act request from Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY).

    Guckert drew fire from liberals after asking a question of President Bush earlier this year in which he misquoted the Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Investigative bloggers at Daily Kos and AmericaBlog.org discovered that Guckert owned male escort sites, and was himself a male prostitute.

    The now-blogger has also been accused of lifting copy from press releases and other reporters.

    A Massachusetts editor and reporter have accused Guckert of plagiarism, which RAW STORY reported in March. The watchdog Media Matters for America has also found that many of Guckert’s stories lifted directly from White House press releases.

    Talon News, which shut down after the fracas over Gannon erupted, was self-avowedly Republican. Bobby Eberle, the site’s founder, told the Washington Post, “We make no bones about it: It’s a partisan site.”

    “Guckert made more than 200 appearances at the White House during his two-year tenure with the fledging conservative websites GOPUSA and Talon News, attending 155 of 196 White House press briefings. He had little to no previous journalism experience, previously worked as a male escort, and was refused a congressional press pass.”

    Good ‘ol “Jeff Gannon”, the gay male prostitute found to be seemingly staying overnight at the White House. It was an, uh, interesting time for American politics. But at least we were able to learn about it even with a FOIA request requirement. So that’s a bit of a relief. At the same time, note this caveat:


    The records furnished by the Service are unlikely to finally answer who approved Gannon’s “temporary” day passes into the presidential residence. The Service keeps a record of who approved passes only for the last sixty days; previous records are kept by the White House.

    So some of the relevant information of who is visiting the White House is kept by the Secret Service, but only for 60 days. And after that it’s kept by the White House. And as we saw in the first article excerpt, the Trump administration is making the same case the Obama administration made in court: that White House records are not required to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act:


    Obama at times drew criticism for such carve-outs, as well as for other ways for skirting the agreement, including meetings between White House officials and lobbyists at a coffee shop near the White House that didn’t show up in the logs.

    Trump aides highlighted such loopholes under Obama and said the new policy is consistent with a legal distinction that Obama officials drew in a 2012 lawsuit. Despite the voluntary disclosure of visitor logs, the Obama administration maintained that the logs were White House records and therefore not required to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act.

    Others have argued that the records are subject to disclosure under the FOIA because they are created by the Secret Service, which is an agency covered by the law.

    So that’s something for the press and public to remember when it comes to these visitor logs: FOIA early, and FOIA often.

    It’s also worth noting that the James Gannon/Jeff Gucker chapter reminds us of another lesson the press and public should probably keep in mind: The Trump team is creating an army of Jeff Gannon media shills for the White House press briefings :

    Media Matters

    Donald Trump Wants An Army Of Jeff Gannon Shills In The White House Press Briefing Room

    MATT GERTZ
    January 18, 2017 10:00 AM EST

    The Trump administration’s reported proposal to move the White House press briefing to a large room that can accommodate pro-Trump sycophants and propagandists is brazen and destructive. But it’s also not entirely new — the Bush administration adopted a similar strategy in 2004, granting press briefing access to a shill working for a right-wing outlet who they could rely on for softball questions.

    That shill’s name was Jeff Gannon. Actually, that shill’s name was James Guckert. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

    Gannon parlayed a two-day, $50 broadcast journalism workshop at the right-wing Leadership Institute into a job reporting from the White House briefing room for Talon News. Talon News was a shell organization run by a GOP political operative that used articles written by right-wing activists to drive traffic to another conservative website run by the operative.

    Thanks to the access the White House press office provided, Gannon had a platform to draw plaudits from Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, get his work published by the American Enterprise Institute, and even attend White House Christmas parties.

    The White House got something in return: Gannon became the lifeline for Bush’s press secretary at the time, Scott McClellan.

    Here’s how it would work: Other journalists would be grilling McClellan over the Bush administration’s activities. McClellan would call on Gannon for a question. And Gannon would bail McClellan out, frequently with a leading question ladened with false assumptions.

    In August 2004, for example, after taking several questions from a reporter about whether American forces had killed any innocent people in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and another seeking President Bush’s opinion of the disgraced Ahmad Chalabi, McClellen turned to Gannon. And Gannon came through: He asked McClellan about a new “piece of evidence showing the direct terror ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda” and followed up by asking “how damaging” a New York Times story had been “to our war on terror.”

    In June 2004, McClellan escaped from a series of tough questions about Bush’s foreign policy record by calling on Gannon, who offered up the following question: “Why hasn’t the administration made more of the U.N. inspectors’ report that says Saddam Hussein was dismantling his missile and WMD [weapons of mass destruction] sites before and during the war? And doesn’t that, combined with the now-proven Al Qaeda link between Iraq — between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist organization — unequivocally make the case for going to war in Iraq?”

    The list goes on and on.

    Gannon even got to ask a question at Bush’s January 26, 2005, White House press conference. He used that opportunity to inquire how the president would be able to “work with” Democratic leaders given that they had, in Gannon’s words, “divorced themselves from reality.”

    But that appearance was the beginning of the end for Gannon. He drew tremendous scrutiny from Media Matters and others, and with his schtick (and the fact that “Jeff Gannon” was a pseudonym) exposed, he was forced to resign within two weeks.

    Thirteen years later, the landscape has shifted. Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer is openly discussing moving the press briefings to a larger space in order to accommodate “talk radio, bloggers and others.” While the White House Correspondents Association currently determines who gets the 49 seats in the briefing room, the White House Press Office handles credentialing and distributes daily press passes, giving Spicer significant control over the composition of the press room.

    In practice, that means that Spicer could have a sea of Jeff Gannons on which to rely — “reporters” from openly pro-Trump propaganda outlets who will side with the president over their colleagues in the press.

    If ABC News gives him trouble during the briefing, he could turn to the reporter from Breitbart.com. When The Washington Post tries to pin him down, he could retreat to the representative from Right Side Broadcasting Network. If The Associated Press and CNN and NBC News are all pressing him for answers, he could take questions from Laura Ingraham’s LifeZette or One America News Network or Infowars to stall.

    We could even see our first all-shill press briefing, with reporters from mainstream outlets entirely shut out while Spicer calls on the sycophants.

    Meanwhile, Trump is warning that there will be repercussions for the press if they fight back against the move, suggesting that his administration will use the limited space in the current briefing room as an excuse to deny access to credible news outlets and grant it to more supportive ones. “There’s too many people for this small room,” he said this morning during an interview on Fox & Friends. “We have so many people that want to go, so we’ll have to just pick the people that go into the room.” He added that if that happens, the press will “be begging for a much larger room very soon. You watch.”

    When the press is the enemy, taking briefing questions from propagandists makes perfect sense.

    “Thirteen years later, the landscape has shifted. Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer is openly discussing moving the press briefings to a larger space in order to accommodate “talk radio, bloggers and others.” While the White House Correspondents Association currently determines who gets the 49 seats in the briefing room, the White House Press Office handles credentialing and distributes daily press passes, giving Spicer significant control over the composition of the press room.”

    A whole army of White House presstitutes. That’s the Gannon plan and it was the plan even before this administration official began.

    So did they follow through with that plan? LOL:

    The New Yorker

    Is Trump Trolling the White House Press Corps?
    At daily briefings, Sean Spicer calls on young journalists from far-right sites. The mainstream media sees them as an existential threat.

    By Andrew Marantz
    March 20, 2017 Issue

    In normal times, White House press briefings make for boring television. Robert Gibbs, Jay Carney, and Josh Earnest, the three generic-looking white guys who served as successive press secretaries under President Barack Obama, could walk unmolested through the streets of most American cities. Only on rare occasions was a clip from one of their briefings—for example, a testy exchange between Carney and Jonathan Karl, of ABC News, debating the logistics of Obamacare enrollment—remarkable enough to make headlines.

    President Trump seems to have no tolerance for boring television. His press secretary, Sean Spicer, now a recurring character on “Saturday Night Live,” is often tongue-tied, enraged, or both. Spicer’s briefings, broadcast live on C-SPAN, are among the most highly rated programs on daytime TV, beating out “General Hospital” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” On major networks, many hours are devoted to nightly exegeses of Spicer’s serial self-contradictions, and to Sunday-morning sermons about how he is imperilling the First Amendment. On YouTube, accounts with names such as Trump Mafia and Based Patriot repost Spicer’s briefings, and others post exultant compilations of the “spiciest” moments, overlaying his rebukes of reporters with images of flames and chili peppers.

    The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, in the West Wing, has seven rows of seven seats. The Associated Press, Reuters, and the biggest TV networks have reserved seats in the front row; blogs like Politico and Real Clear Politics are near the middle; BuzzFeed and the BBC are in the back. The seating chart is the purview of the White House Correspondents’ Association, an independent board of journalists who, with the sombre secrecy of a papal conclave, assess news organizations according to factors such as regularity of coverage and centrality to the national discourse.

    There are also correspondents who might be called floaters—those who have White House credentials but no assigned seat. Some floaters work for outlets that are too new to have been included in the most recent seating chart; others work for outlets that are marginal or disreputable. When press briefings are half empty, floaters can find vacant seats. In the early days of the Trump Administration, when each day’s briefing is oversubscribed, floaters pack the aisles, angling for a spot visible from the podium. The paradigmatic example of a floater is Raghubir Goyal, an amiable, somewhat absent-minded man in his sixties. Goyal claims to represent the India Globe, a newspaper that, as far as anyone can tell, is defunct. Nevertheless, he has attended briefings since the Carter Administration, and has asked so many questions about Indo-American relations that his name has become a verb. “To Goyal”: to seek out a reporter who is likely to provide a friendly question, or a moment of comic relief. All press secretaries get cornered, and all have, on occasion, Goyaled their way out. But no one Goyals like Spicer.

    Until recently, the more established White House correspondents have regarded floaters as a harmless distraction—the equivalent of letting a batboy sit in the dugout. Now they are starting to see the floaters as an existential threat. “It’s becoming a form of court-packing,” one White House correspondent told me. Outlets that have become newly visible under the Trump Administration include One America News Network, which was founded in 2013 as a right-wing alternative to Fox News; LifeZette, a Web tabloid founded in 2015 by Laura Ingraham, the radio commentator and Trump ally; Townhall, a conservative blog started by the Heritage Foundation; the Daily Caller, co-founded in 2010 by Tucker Carlson, now a Fox News host; and the enormously popular and openly pro-Trump Breitbart News Network. Most of the White House correspondents from these outlets are younger than thirty. “At best, they don’t know what they’re doing,” a radio correspondent told me. “At worst, you wonder whether someone is actually feeding them softball questions.” He added, “You can’t just have a parade of people asking, ‘When and how do you plan to make America great again?’ ”

    For years, the first question of each press briefing has usually gone to the Associated Press, whose reporters sit in the middle of the front row. In Spicer’s first briefing, on January 21st, which lasted five and a half minutes, he uttered several verifiable falsehoods—“This was the largest audience to ever witness an Inauguration, period”—then left without taking any questions. For the first question of his second briefing, he called on the New York Post, whose reporter, sitting in the fifth row, was clearly surprised. He asked, “When will you commence the building of the border wall?” In Spicer’s third briefing, his first question went to a reporter from LifeZette, who wondered why the Administration hadn’t taken a harder line on immigration. Many of Spicer’s early briefings were unusually short—about half an hour, with ten minutes of prepared remarks in the beginning. He often escapes from the podium without facing many tough questions from mainstream journalists. (This month, perhaps hoping to foreclose public scrutiny, or to starve “Saturday Night Live” of material, Spicer did his briefings off-camera for a week.)

    About once a week, the walls behind the lectern are turned inside-out, revealing built-in screens from which reporters around the country can ask questions by video link. This is another Spicer innovation—the “Skype seats.” Recent Skype questions were allotted to a Trump supporter and newspaper owner in Kentucky, who asked about reducing coal-mining regulations, and to a talk-radio host named Lars Larson, who addressed the press secretary, an officer in the Navy Reserve, as “Commander Spicer,” before asking whether the Administration would privatize federally protected parkland. During one of these sessions, Jared Rizzi, a White House correspondent for Sirius XM, tweeted, “Skypeophant (n.) – super-friendly questioner used to burn up briefing time through the magic of early-aughts technology.” “I certainly appreciate the purpose of bringing geographic diversity into the room,” Rizzi told me. “I also appreciate ideological diversity. I don’t appreciate diversity of journalistic practice.”

    A longtime Washington reporter from a mainstream network echoed that sentiment. “I don’t mind them bringing in conservative voices that they feel have been underrepresented,” he said. “Personally, I don’t even mind them fuc king with the front-row guys, the Jonathan Karls of the world. Those guys are a smug little cartel, and it’s fun to watch them squirm, at least for a little while. But at what point does it start to delegitimize the whole idea of what happens in that room? When does it cross the line into pure trolling?”

    “Until recently, the more established White House correspondents have regarded floaters as a harmless distraction—the equivalent of letting a batboy sit in the dugout. Now they are starting to see the floaters as an existential threat. “It’s becoming a form of court-packing,” one White House correspondent told me. Outlets that have become newly visible under the Trump Administration include One America News Network, which was founded in 2013 as a right-wing alternative to Fox News; LifeZette, a Web tabloid founded in 2015 by Laura Ingraham, the radio commentator and Trump ally; Townhall, a conservative blog started by the Heritage Foundation; the Daily Caller, co-founded in 2010 by Tucker Carlson, now a Fox News host; and the enormously popular and openly pro-Trump Breitbart News Network. Most of the White House correspondents from these outlets are younger than thirty. “At best, they don’t know what they’re doing,” a radio correspondent told me. “At worst, you wonder whether someone is actually feeding them softball questions.” He added, “You can’t just have a parade of people asking, ‘When and how do you plan to make America great again?’ ”

    That sure sounds like an army of ‘Gannons’ is battling for Team Trump. So given the strange history of ‘Jeff Gannons’ implausibly frequent visits to the Bush White House and the presstitute role Gannon was playing, you have to wonder just how many of the current generation of presstitutes are going to be following the Gannon template: spending lots and lots of time at the White House, presumably to get tips on which question the Trump administration wants asked and wants not asked, and hoping no one notices. Sure, it seems like there should be easier and less conspicuous ways to coordinate these kinds of activities but the extreme privacy of White House once you’re inside the place would have its appeal too.

    So that’s all something to keep in mind in mind in light of this White House policy shift: The ‘army of Gannons’ is already here. Of course, given the fact that Trump appears to have turned Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago into alternative White Houses, let’s also keep in mind that a focuse on whether or not Trump’s army of Gannons is spending nights at the White House for special in-person coordinating is kind of outdated. Yes, that complicates tracking the movements of the army of Gannons, but at least Trump himself isn’t spending much time at Trump Tower for some reason so that simplifies things a bit.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 14, 2017, 3:34 pm
  10. The “does he stay or does he go?” battle between Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner took a rather salacious twist a few days ago. Or at least a potentially salacious twist. Leading Alt-Right personality, and big Bannon backer, Mike Cernovich just issued a threat: “If they get rid of Bannon, you know what’s gonna happen? The motherlode. If Bannon is removed, there are gonna be divorces, because I know about the mistresses, the sugar babies, the drugs, the pill popping, the orgies. I know everything”:

    The Daily Beast

    Alt-Right Ringleader Mike Cernovich Threatens to Drop ‘Motherlode’ If Steve Bannon Is Ousted
    The Pizzagate conspiracy theorist claims to have a cache of dirty secrets that he’s willing to deploy.

    Ben Collins
    04.14.17 4:20 PM ET

    A week after President Donald Trump began to publicly distance himself from White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, alt-right ringleader Mike Cernovich threatened to release a “motherlode” of stories that could “destroy marriages” if Bannon is formally let go from the administration.

    Cernovich made the claims that he’d release a series of “scoops” if Bannon is officially pushed out of the White House on an eleven-minute, self-recorded Periscope Thursday night.

    “If they get rid of Bannon, you know what’s gonna happen? The motherlode. If Bannon is removed, there are gonna be divorces, because I know about the mistresses, the sugar babies, the drugs, the pill popping, the orgies. I know everything,” said Cernovich.

    “If they go after Bannon, the mother of all stories is gonna drop, and we’re just gonna destroy marriages, relationships—it’s gonna get personal.”

    The Daily Beast reached out to Cernovich, asking who he meant by “they” and if he had documentation for the claims. He was on InfoWars’ radio show and livestream most of Friday afternoon, and did not respond at press time.

    Alt-right leaders have spent the week pushing a #KeepBannon hashtag on Twitter, less than a week after a #FireKushner hashtag prominently amplified by Cernovich became the No. 1 trend in the United States on Twitter.

    The hashtags refer to the falling out between Bannon and Jared Kushner that played out through planted quotes in websites like Breitbart, where Bannon previously worked as its CEO, after Trump’s son-in-law began to take over more responsibilities inside the Trump White House.

    The proxy quote war led Trump to tell the New York Post on Tuesday that, “Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will.”

    The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted just last week that Cernovich deserved a Pulitzer for his recent coverage of Susan Rice’s efforts to better identify Trump campaign officials in intelligence reports.

    “Congrats to @Cernovich for breaking the #SusanRice story,” Trump Jr. tweeted. “In a long gone time of unbiased journalism he’d win the Pulitzer, but not today!”

    Cernovich cited the Rice story and another piece about Trump National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, which were both scoops later picked up by Bloomberg’s Eli Lake, as proof of his sourcing inside the White House.

    “I have more stories that I haven’t released. I haven’t released every scoop that I have. I release my scoops strategically. I’m sitting on way more stories,” he said on his Periscope.

    Cernovich and many other alt-right leaders famously split from the Trump administration’s party line last week when Trump signed off on a 59-missile strike on a Syrian airbase. Alt-right and conspiracy websites like InfoWars echoed both Russian public officials and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s claim that the attack was a “false flag.” On Thursday, Assad floated to state media that the attack was entirely staged.

    “I will go TMZ on the globalists. I will go Gossip Girl on the globalists. I will go Gawker on the globalists. So you mother-effers going after Bannon, just know I broke two of the biggest stories before anybody else,” Cernovich said on his Periscope. “If you think I don’t know the pills people are popping, the mistresses, the sugar babies—I know all of it. So you better be smart. Because the mother of all stories will be dropped because I don’t care.”

    Cernovich has a long history of floating conspiracy theories about alt-right opponents and people he deems to be “globalists”. He was one of the leading peddlers of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which claimed Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were central figures in a fictitious child sex ring run out of the basement of a pizza shop. He also repeatedly claimed throughout the campaign that Clinton was dying of a litany of diseases, from syphilis to Parkinson’s.

    Fox News ran an article on Friday commending Cernovich’s recent stories, however, saying his “two recent scoops have been anything but fake.”

    ““I will go TMZ on the globalists. I will go Gossip Girl on the globalists. I will go Gawker on the globalists. So you mother-effers going after Bannon, just know I broke two of the biggest stories before anybody else,” Cernovich said on his Periscope. “If you think I don’t know the pills people are popping, the mistresses, the sugar babies—I know all of it. So you better be smart. Because the mother of all stories will be dropped because I don’t care.””

    That’s quite a shot across the bow. So now we know someone is popping pills with their mistresses. At least if Cernovich isn’t bluffing. But even if he is bluffing, don’t forget, this is one of the leading Pizzagate guy. Bluffing isn’t going to be an issue. But who knows, maybe he really does have the goods. It’s certainly not unbelievable.

    Still, it’s pretty amazing the Cernovich is so publicly blackmailing the White House. After all, if Bannon’s position in the Trump Team survives this period it’s going to be hard to rule out the idea that Cernovich really did have the dirt he claimed and his blackmail really did work. You can’t undo what Cernovich just claimed. And even if he suddenly reverses his claims, well, how do we know that the White House didn’t counter-blackmail him? That’s the can of worms Cernovich just opened.

    It’s also worth noting that a Trump administration seemingly run by a coterie of Jews who seemingly kick out the Bannon-faction, and yet still push for very Bannon-esque policies, just might be the kind of smoke and mirrors theatrics that Trump and Bannon might have concocted together. For instance, imagine a plan where Cernovich drops the ‘motherlode’ of some real and some fake scandals with the intent of having it all discredited as ‘Pizzagate guy revenge stuff’. Who knows, Although, if that’s the case, it’s a pretty risky move. Because as Josh Marshall noted recently, this Kushner/Bannon bum fight is turning into a Trumpian Alt-Right snuff novel guaranteed to push Alt-Right buttons in a very bad way:

    Talking Points Memo
    Editor’s Blog

    Inside the Emerging Trumpian Alt-Right Snuff Novel

    By Josh Marshall
    Published April 7, 2017, 11:27 PM EDT

    All signs suggest we’re now in the “President Trump has full confidence in Michael Flynn” phase of Steve Bannon’s tenure in the Trump White House. I don’t know whether this is some moron genius dialectic on Bannon’s part or just Karma. But can we miss that the man who gave coherence and verve to Trump’s campaign against the ‘globalists’ and unrooted cosmopolitan elites is about to be booted by the President’s Jewish tycoon son-in-law and a group of bankers (yes, Jewish bankers) from Goldman Sachs? These are I confess uncomfortable observations, but consider this …

    It is always important to remember that Steve Bannon came late to Trump’s campaign. As pro-Trump as Breitbart News may have been, it was still seen – understandably – as a wild, suicidal and entirely unexpected development when Bannon was put in charge of the campaign on August 17th, 2016, almost a month after the Republican convention.

    Before then, Trump had run a thoroughly jingoistic and xenophobic campaign, with protestor beatings and various shades of crypto- and non-crypto racism. All on his own he drew around himself that coterie of “alt-right” white nationalists and neo-Nazis who will likely be his greatest and most lethal contribution to the American political scene. But it was only with Bannon’s arrival that Trump took on the much more coherent and consistent language of Europe-derived rightist nationalism, anti-“globalism” and the thinly covert language of anti-Semitism.

    Let’s be clear. This is no defense of Trump. It was all there all along from rage and intuition and impulse. But Bannon packaged it together and tailored the suit. It was pure Bannon, remember, who was behind the speech that became this notorious anti-Semitic closing ad, released on November 5th, 2016.

    And yet here we are and let’s not shy away from it. All accounts suggest that Bannon has fallen from grace and will soon be fired by the President. His ouster comes as the loser in a battle with a group of Jewish Goldman Sachs (Cohn, Mnuchin) bankers and the tall, dapper and yet nebbishy Jewish legacy real estate tycoon Jared Kushner. (I’m Jewish. I can say all of this.) It all reads like the kind of alt-right morality play one of Bannon’s deplorables might have written in some grand alt-right dystopic novel. Even the non-Jews are veritable auslanders: A key new player is Dina Powell (born Dina Habib), an Egyptian immigrant (albeit a Copt) who was herself a banker at Goldman Sachs in addition to being a Republican policy insider.

    Only in the world of Trump could such a turn of events be possible – perhaps also inevitable. Trump himself being a ‘populist’ was always in many ways a ridiculous proposition: a doyen of the wealth, entitlement and hedonism that is the aspiration and milieu of New York’s upper crust, Trump connected to his base not through lifestyle but through the experience of disrespect, grievance and the desire for revenge. He ran a campaign which more and more literally and explicitly demonized (especially under Bannon’s late guidance) the ‘globalist’ machinations of Goldman Sachs. Yet, increasingly, he has built an administration run by Goldman Sachs bankers. Of course, it’s Goldman Sachs bankers and Jared Kushner and protectionist ‘economic nationalist’ xenophobes and racists. It’s an interesting combination. They’ve even imported period piece Eastern European racist nationalists to be part of the fun – see, Sebastian Gorka. Of course, it’s them and the general officers. But they don’t seem to be part of this narrative and drama.

    How all this ends is impossible to tell. We’re less than a hundred days into Trump’s term. We’re more at beginnings than endings. From people with a front row seat to the action, I had always heard that Kushner and Bannon got on surprisingly well and that Kushner – who seemingly had no real political views at all before this started – was quite taken by Bannon’s ‘nationalism’. Perhaps the whole drama is manufactured and the factions less coherent than we’re led to believe. The Greek-American Priebus is also said to be on the chopping block. But he barely plays in the narrative, mere ethnographic roadkill of no symbolic significance. Along with the generals, he doesn’t fit into this conflict between ‘nationalists’ and ‘New York Democrats’.

    The one thing we’ve always known about Donald Trump is that it’s all about Donald Trump – Donald Trump and in a tight inner ring almost coterminous with Trump himself, the Trump family. Different rules apply, or rather there are no rules except what seems to work at the moment for Donald Trump. Until it doesn’t. Or until it does again. Populist, real American, Jew, reactionary, cosmopolitan, plutocrat, vicious and violent or bombing for the suffering babies, it’s all malleable and subject to revision. He ran a campaign which more and more literally and explicitly demonized (especially under Bannon’s late guidance) the ‘globalist’ machinations of Goldman Sachs. Yet, increasingly, he has built an administration run by Goldman Sachs bankers. Of course, it’s Goldman Sachs bankers and Jared Kushner and protectionist ‘economic nationalist’ xenophobes and racists.

    “And yet here we are and let’s not shy away from it. All accounts suggest that Bannon has fallen from grace and will soon be fired by the President. His ouster comes as the loser in a battle with a group of Jewish Goldman Sachs (Cohn, Mnuchin) bankers and the tall, dapper and yet nebbishy Jewish legacy real estate tycoon Jared Kushner. (I’m Jewish. I can say all of this.) It all reads like the kind of alt-right morality play one of Bannon’s deplorables might have written in some grand alt-right dystopic novel. Even the non-Jews are veritable auslanders: A key new player is Dina Powell (born Dina Habib), an Egyptian immigrant (albeit a Copt) who was herself a banker at Goldman Sachs in addition to being a Republican policy insider.”

    As we can see, if the Bannon/Kushner fight is theatrics, is the kind of theatrics almost designed to absolutely demoralize and enrage the neo-Nazi/Alt-Right faction of Trump’s base (in which case that’s probably a rather terrifying plan). So who knows, maybe Cernovich’s threat was real, in which case we shouldn’t be too surprised if headlines like “Bannon out, Kushner on top” in the New York Times get followed up with headlines “Pill popping Mistresses in the White House” in The National Enquirer TMZ.

    Strange times for Alt-Right. Next thing you know they’re going to learn that Alex Jones is just a fake persona doing an act. Wouldn’t that be demoralizing…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 18, 2017, 6:59 pm
  11. Kudos,Dave Emory! I’ve sometimes posted the links to your show archives, but more often I put them in comments to relevant posts of others. This Breitbart series is outstanding! Wish I’d followed up the headline sooner!

    Posted by Atlanta Bill | December 9, 2017, 8:14 pm

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