Solarbird (solarbird) wrote,

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good morning, it's 26 february 2017

[Posting this a little early to get it done]

White supremacist Steve Bannon brought in Sebastian Gorka to the White House staff. Gorka has extensive ties to anti-Semetic groups back in Hungary. Also in Breitbart alumni, we have a pro-Trump megadonor who is part owner of Breitbart News empire. And Bannon promises daily war against the press and everybody not part of the Trumpian movement.

Fox News has been holding up a convicted felon as some sort of Swedish government security official. He's not. But I doubt that'll sink in - as another story shows, people still mad (at CPAC) over alleged Obama holidays and spending refuse to believe the numbers incurred by Mr. Trump. They just flatly reject the data.

Churches are putting together immigrant protection cells - safe houses, transport networks, etc. A few other immigrant stories, too, including another legal Visa holder ejected at the border.

The White House told DHS to justify Trump's travel ban - their report did the opposite. So it was suppressed, then leaked.

Where is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson? He's been invisible. Particularly to the press.

Kansas is having an intra-Republican fight over the fiscal implosion caused by the polices Trump and Ryan intend to implement nationally. It's blown the budget and job growth fell and is below national averages. Governor Brownback doesn't care and is fighting the hardliner side; they fell three votes short of overriding his veto.

Trump is reportedly going to throw out more anti-environment EOs this coming week; targeting clean water rules, in particular.

This is what passes for a quiet day these days.

----- 1 -----
Churches Are Readying Homes And Underground Railroads To Hide Immigrants From Deportation Under Trump
“I really feel like what we’re doing is what God would want us to do.”
Buzzfeed News
Feb. 25, 2017

Churches across the US are fighting back against the Trump administration’s mandate to ramp up deportations with new sanctuary practices of their own, using private homes in their congregations as shelter and potentially creating a modern-day underground railroad to ferry undocumented immigrants from house to house or into Canada.

Church leaders from California to Illinois and New York told BuzzFeed News they’re willing to take their sanctuary operations for undocumented immigrants underground should federal immigration authorities, emboldened by Trump’s recent directives to take a harder line on deportations, ignore precedent and raid their campuses.

“We’re willing to take that risk because it is our call to justice, and this is how we live our faith,” Rev. Justo Gonzalez II, pastor of Pilgrim St. Luke’s in Buffalo, told BuzzFeed News. He leads one of the churches that has reached out to an organization in Canada to possibly take in undocumented families.

----- 2 -----
Trump administration withdrew legal memo that found 'ample legal justification' to halt Dakota Access pipeline
By James Hill | ABC News
Feb 23, 2017, 7:01 PM ET

Two days before the Trump administration approved an easement for the Dakota Access pipeline to cross a reservoir near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation, the U.S. Department of the Interior withdrew a legal opinion that concluded there was “ample legal justification” to deny it.

The withdrawal of the opinion was revealed in court documents filed this week by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the same agency that requested the review late last year.

“A pattern is emerging with [the Trump] administration,” said Jan Hasselman, an attorney representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “They take good, thoughtful work and then just throw it in the trash and do whatever they want to do.”

----- 3 -----
Exclusive: Senior Trump Aide Forged Key Ties To Anti-Semitic Groups In Hungary
Lili Bayer - February 24, 2017 - BUDAPEST

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.


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.

----- 4 -----
Fake Sweden expert on Fox News – has criminal convictions in US, no connection to Swedish security
Uppdaterad 00:03 Publicerad Igår | Dagens Nyheter
24 February 2017

Fox News continues to focus on the debate about how immigration is breaking Sweden. One guest last night, described as a ”Swedish defense and national security advisor”, spoke about the problems caused by criminality in Swedish cities and suburbs. But neither the Swedish Defense Ministry nor Foreign Office have heard of the expert. Nils Bildt, who called for an “open and honest” debate on crime, has previously been convicted of a violent offence in the United States.

President Trump's statements about Sweden, based on a report on his favourite TV-channel Fox News, continue to drive the debate about the country in the United States. Sweden is portrayed as a nation plagued by crime and rape, in large part due to immigration.

Friday the question was the focus of debate during the conservative Fox-presenter Bill O’Reillys show, where Nils Bildt confirmed Donald Trumps negative view of Sweden. Nils Bildt was introduced by Fox as a ”Swedish defense and national security advisor”, which has caused more than a few raised eyebrows.

Marie Pisäter at the Swedish Defense Ministry says that no-one called Nils Bildt works there. ”We have no spokesman by that name”, she said. The Foreign Office also denies that he works there. ”We do not know who he is.”

----- 5 -----
White House rejects DHS research on travel ban: report
By Max Greenwood - 02/25/17 11:11 AM EST
The Hill

The White House is dismissing a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intelligence report rebuffing President Trump’s claims that citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries pose an increased terror threat, the Wall Street Journal reported late Friday.

“The president asked for an intelligence assessment,” a senior administration official told the Journal. “This is not the intelligence assessment the president asked for.”

Trump administration officials claim that the report failed to include available evidence that supports the president’s Jan. 27 order barring citizens from Syria, Iraq, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia from entering the U.S.

That executive order was blocked by a federal appeals court earlier this month, and Trump has said he is crafting a new order that can withstand legal muster.
Acting DHS Press Secretary Gillian Christensen also challenged the agency’s report, calling it an “incomplete product.” But she said the administration’s reason for taking issue with it was not political.

----- 6 -----
Pro-Trump megadonor is part owner of Breitbart News empire, CEO reveals
By Elise Viebeck and Matea Gold | February 24, 2017
The Washington Post

Breitbart News Network, the far-right media outlet that heralded President Trump’s rise and was once led by his top White House strategist, is owned in part by a wealthy conservative family that poured millions into propelling Trump into office, the company’s chief executive acknowledged Friday.

The site’s financial backing from the Mercers further cements the family’s status as some of the most influential financiers of the Trump era. The news comes as Breitbart has enjoyed a higher profile within the White House press corps.


Solov also said that the site’s former executive chairman, White House senior strategist Stephen K. Bannon, resigned from the company in a phone call after the election.

But Solov said he could not provide documentation of Bannon’s separation from Breitbart.

Neither White House officials nor a spokeswoman for Breitbart and the Mercers returned requests for comment.

The Los Angeles-based Breitbart News, founded in 2007, has been criticized for airing inflammatory stories about immigrants and refugees and promoting nationalist views. Bannon once touted it as a “platform” for the ­alt-right, a small, far-right movement that seeks a whites-only state and whose adherents are known for espousing racist, anti-Semitic and sexist points of view.

----- 7 -----
Conservative activists refuse to believe Trump is spending more on travel than Obama
Updated by Jeff Stein Feb 23, 2017

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — Sarah Chaulk says she remains “extremely bitter” about how much taxpayer money was spent on President Barack Obama’s travel and family vacations during his time in office.

“When Obama put his dog on Air Force One and then told us to give more to help poor people, it was a slap in the face to the entire country,” Chaulk, 60, a graphic designer from Columbus, Ohio, said on Wednesday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the marquee annual gathering for conservative activists.

Her friend Elaine Kent, 58, chimed in: “And when Michelle Obama and her friends went to Spain and spent millions of dollars on a vacation? They did so much nickel-and-diming of taxpayers."

They are less concerned — which is to say, not concerned at all — with recent reports that suggest President Trump cost taxpayers nearly as much in his first month in office as Obama did in a year. Their sentiments were widely shared here at CPAC, where attendees gave a wide array of explanations for why they were outraged by Obama’s travel spending but not Trump’s.

“Mr. Obama went on so many vacations and played golf every week. The news media can say, ‘Trump went to Mar-a-Lago,’ and their hair catches on fire. But if they will look at this honestly — and I’m all for the truth — they’ll see Trump is just using his own resources and money to take care of things,” Chaulk said. “It doesn’t bother me one bit.”

Over the course of the Obama administration, outrage over the president’s travel expenses became a major talking point in right-wing circles. Though debunked by fact-checkers, one rumor claimed that first pup Bo Obama got his own personal flight to join the family in Hawaii. Another faulted Michelle Obama for her allegedly lavish Spanish getaway — though the Obamas personally paid for the bulk of its expenses.


On Wednesday, more than a dozen CPAC attendees greeted those reports with skepticism, hostility, and, in few occasions, mild concern.

Overwhelmingly, the most common reason they cited was that they didn’t trust the underlying story — because they didn’t trust the press to tell the truth.

Donald Ely, 83, a Pennsylvania Republican Party official, had heard the stories of Trump’s travel expenses. But he wasn’t sure he could trust them.

“I resented Obama going to all these places overseas, particularly because his agenda was anti-American,” Ely said. “But the way people make up the stories about the Trumps, I don’t know if I believe it. I don’t think it’s accurate.”

Similarly, Arthur Herstein, 74, a writer from Bowie, Maryland, said he was frustrated by Obama’s “over-the-top” vacation and travel expenses.

Still, Herstein said he doesn’t believe it’s the case that Trump is on pace to spend more on vacation and travel. He waved away a Washington Post story held up on a reporter’s phone.

“I believe that the story exists,” Herstein said. “But the facts in it can’t possibly be right. That absolutely can’t be right. How did Trump spend $10 million in one month and Obama spent $11 million in a year? It defies logic.”

Of course, the idea that Trump and his supporters are frustrated by the media is nothing new. But some CPAC attendees’ distrust of even government institutions ran strikingly deep.

“I don’t trust the bookkeepers. I don’t trust the people who say, ‘This president spent X and this president spent Y,’” said Roy Postel, 58, a real estate developer from near Chicago. “The whole bureaucracy is against Trump, so I’d like to know who is getting greased to tell us what Obama spent. I wouldn’t trust anyone with an estimate of what the Trump administration has spent on travel.”

----- 8 -----
Calling Secretary Tillerson
The New York Times | FEB. 24, 2017

When Rex Tillerson showed up for his first day of work at the State Department earlier this month, he moved quickly to allay the concerns of diplomats and others alarmed by President Trump’s security policies and his disparaging comments about allies and partners.

Addressing a crowd in the department lobby, the new secretary of state spoke of his “high regard” for the public servants he was appointed to manage, extolled the importance of teamwork and pledged to “depend on the expertise of this institution.” Mr. Tillerson generated good will that day, but there have since been worrying signs that the man many hoped would provide thoughtful balance to Mr. Trump’s more impetuous, hard-line advisers has in fact been marginalized, along with the department he runs, with potentially unfortunate consequences for the country and a world facing multiple crises.

Mr. Tillerson has largely been absent from White House meetings with foreign leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and reportedly was excluded from such major decisions as Mr. Trump’s withdrawal of support for a Palestinian state and his declaration that Iran is now “on notice” for testing ballistic missiles. Mr. Trump’s rejection of Mr. Tillerson’s choice for deputy secretary of state was a public rebuke that undermined the secretary within his department and raised further doubts about his standing with the president.


Mr. Tillerson has not helped himself by moving too slowly to build a competent staff. He is also said to have isolated himself from career diplomats who know the issues best by restricting the number and types of officials who attend senior staff meetings or have access to him. Every secretary needs his own people in top positions, but it is impossible to devise or execute good policies without the support of the institution — something Mr. Tillerson must know from his Exxon days.

Meanwhile, he has made few public statements, given no public interviews, tightly restricted the number of reporters he allows to travel on his plane and suspended the daily State Department press briefings — a decades-old practice that is useful in explaining the administration’s policies and reactions to world events. (The department said Friday that briefings would resume on March 6 but not necessarily on a daily basis.) No president can expect Americans to support his policies if they are not explained.

The bottom line: If Mr. Tillerson is going to be the secretary of state, he needs to start acting like one.

----- 9 -----
Bannon vows a daily fight for ‘deconstruction of the administrative state’
By Philip Rucker and Robert Costa February 23 2017
The Washington Post

The reclusive mastermind behind President Trump’s nationalist ideology and combative tactics made his public debut Thursday, delivering a fiery rebuke of the media and declaring that the new administration is in an unending battle for “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

Stephen K. Bannon, the White House chief strategist and intellectual force behind Trump’s agenda, used his first speaking appearance since Trump took office to vow that the president would honor all of the hard-line pledges of his campaign.

Appearing at a gathering of conservative activists alongside Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Bannon dismissed the idea that Trump might moderate his positions or seek consensus with political opponents. Rather, he said, the White House is digging in for a long period of conflict to transform Washington and upend the world order.


At the core, Bannon said in his remarks, is a belief that “we’re a nation with an economy — not an economy just in some global marketplace with open borders, but we are a nation with a culture and a reason for being.”


Bannon and Priebus were interviewed jointly on stage by Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC. Priebus celebrated Trump’s administration as “the best Cabinet in the history of Cabinets,” and Bannon said that many nominees “were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction.”

Bannon has emerged in the minds of many Trump opponents as a mysterious and menacing puppeteer, portrayed as a harrowing Grim Reaper on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” He is best known for being the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, a conservative news site. Bannon once called Breitbart a “platform” for the alt-right, a small movement whose adherents are known for espousing racist, anti-Semitic and sexist points of view.

Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland (D) said Bannon is a “dangerous person driven by an authoritarian ideology who, I fear, has more influence than anyone in the administration.”

“This is a mean, vicious, intolerant group,” Strickland continued. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my political life.”


Still, Bannon’s power center in the White House is quite different from that of Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman. Bannon has found a kindred spirit in Stephen Miller, the conservative ideologue who is Trump’s senior policy adviser. One of his assistants is Julia Hahn, a former Breitbart immigration writer who was a fierce critic of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), one of Priebus’s closest allies.


Writers for Breitbart, a main sponsor of CPAC, were treated as if they were ESPN anchors at a major sports event. Washington editor Matthew Boyle, who has scored several Trump interviews and counts Bannon as a mentor, was trailed by a photographer from a magazine that is profiling him.

Bannon’s trusted inner circle, including his public relations adviser, Alexandra Preate, and GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, were followed by an entourage of aides and friends. They fielded questions about “Steve” — and not just from reporters.

But the air of secrecy remained.

“I don’t comment on the record,” Mercer said flatly.

----- 10 -----
Deported With A Valid U.S. Visa, Jordanian Says Message Is 'You're Not Welcome'
Jane Arraf | NPR
February 24, 2017

Yahya Abu Romman, a 22-year-old languages major, had just graduated from university. To celebrate, he planned a six-week trip to the U.S., where his brother, uncles and aunts and more than a dozen cousins have lived for years.

With good grades, an engaging personality and fluency in three languages — English, Arabic and Spanish — he had worked as a nature conservation ranger while studying, and had his pick of jobs with tour companies in Jordan, a strong U.S. ally.

In 2015, Abu Romman was issued a tourist visa at the U.S. embassy in Amman, good for five years. With money from a graduation present, he bought a round-trip ticket and landed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport a few days after the start of President Trump's travel ban on the citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries.

That's where the positive impression of the U.S. he'd inherited from his father came to a screeching halt.

"My dad is a graduate from the University of Illinois," says Abu Romman. "He always told me America is the land of justice, land of opportunities, of generosity. That there are very kind people. And there are. But I think things have changed."


Abu Romman says the officer told him he would not be allowed to call his embassy before he signed papers agreeing to be deported. He says he wasn't allowed to phone a lawyer or a family member.

"He said, 'If you refuse to sign the papers ... I will ban you from entering the United States for the rest of your life,'" Abu Romman says.

He was told he would be deported the following morning.

CBP officers took his jacket, his belt, his phone and his shoelaces, he says, and put him in a cold cell with a steel door and open toilet, along with five other people.

"I sat there and introduced myself to my cellmates. Most of them were engineers or something," Abu Romman says.

There were five mattresses on the floor for six people. Abu Romman says everyone crammed into the cell had advanced degrees, including an Indian engineer working for an American company.

Refugee and immigrants' rights organizations have gone to court over the issue of other travelers who were earlier denied entry to the U.S. after the ban. The case argues that the travelers were coerced by border officials into agreeing to be deported. This is similar to Abu Romman's account of his experience at O'Hare, though he is not represented in the case.

As of Friday afternoon, CBP had yet to comment in response to NPR requests about Abu Romman's experience.


Khabbas, wearing designer sunglasses and an elegant head scarf woven with gold threads, is an engineer. She says it's tough to make ends meet in Jordan, but neither she nor her friends are considering the U.S.

"America was an opportunity for people here before," says the 22-year-old. "But now, no one is actually thinking about the United States for a future place to live."

----- 11 -----
Warned to leave, Kansas shooting victim refused to abandon the ‘country he loved,’ his wife said
By Avi Selk February 25 2017
Washington Post

Before Srinivas Kuchibhotla’s death in a possible hate crime, his family warned him about the dangers of remaining in the United States.

His wife was unsure whether they should stay, even as they planned to start a family in Kansas. “I told him many times we should think about going back [to India],” Sunayana Dumala said at a news conference Friday.

And yet, Dumala said, Kuchibhotla was not fearful. He refused to abandon “the country he loved.”

“He always assured me good things will happen to good people,” she said, speaking briefly and between deep breaths, two days after his death.

Police say Adam W. Purinton, 51, opened fire Wednesday night on Kuchibhotla and another Indian man drinking with him at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, a Kansas City, Kan., suburb — killing Kuchibhotla, wounding his friend and a third patron who tried to help.

Witnesses reported that Purinton shouted racial slurs and told the two men “Get out of my country.” He was arrested at a bar in Missouri, where the bartender told police Purinton claimed to have killed two Middle Eastern men, according to the Kansas City Star. The FBI is investigating whether to add hate-crime charges to his counts of murder and attempted murder.


The father of Kuchibhotla’s friend, co-worker and fellow immigrant Alok Madasani, expressed similar concerns. “The situation seems to be pretty bad after Trump took over as the U.S. president,” he told the Hindustan Times.

“I appeal to all the parents in India not to send their children to the United States in the present circumstances,” he said.

----- 12 -----
Why Kansas' Fiscal Implosion Is Bad News for Trump
The state was supposed to offer a model for trickle-down economics. Instead, Republicans are raising taxes.
Patrick Caldwell | Mother Jones
Feb. 23, 2017

An ambitious effort by a Republican governor to drastically cut his state's taxes is crumbling—and that's a bad omen for Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress who are hoping to slash tax rates at the national level.

Shortly after he became governor of Kansas in 2011, Sam Brownback went to work on rewriting the state's tax code. Together with the Republican-dominated legislature, he eliminated the top income tax bracket, lowered everyone else's income tax rate, and created a loophole that allowed some business owners to pay no state income taxes at all.

Brownback sold the cuts as a way to jolt the Kansas economy to life, promising major job growth thanks to the lower tax rates. To pass these tax measures, Brownback worked to replace moderate Republicans in the legislature who opposed his ideas with true-believer conservatives. He helped knock off nine moderate Republican incumbents, and the effort paid off when his tax reform passed in 2012.

But instead of the miracle growth that Brownback promised, the tax cuts have left a widening crater in the state budget. State economic growth has lagged behind the national pace, and job growth has stagnated. Lawmakers have been left scrambling each year to pass unpleasant spending cuts when tax revenue comes in below expected levels, leading to contentious fights in the legislature and state courts over reduced public school funding. When the state legislature convened last month, it faced a $320 million budget shortfall that needed to be closed before the end of the current fiscal year in June—and a projected additional $500 million shortfall for the next fiscal year.

----- 13 -----
Longtime diplomat criticizes isolationism in retirement speech
By Max Greenwood - 02/25/17
The Hill

The longest-serving U.S. diplomat on Friday delivered a firm rebuke of isolationism in his retirement speech, calling for the country to continue its longstanding push for an “open, rules-based world."

Without directly mentioning or criticizing President Trump, Ambassador Dan Fried rebuffed calls for protectionism and nationalism during his retirement speech. The U.S., he said, has sustained an extended period of relative peace through international institutions and openness.

“This track record suggests that an open, rules-based world, with a united West at its core, is an asset and great achievement, and a foundation for more,” Fried said, according to Reuters.

His remarks were an indirect rebuke of Trump’s calls for “America first” policies and his suggestions that the U.S. should reevaluate its relationships abroad.
“Some argue that [an open, rules-based world] is actually a liability, that values are a luxury, that in a Hobbesian or Darwinian world we should simply take our share, the largest possible,” said Fried, who has spent 40 years at State Department and most recently served as Coordinator for Sanctions Policy.

He blasted the idea of “spheres of influence,” in which certain powerful countries hold a certain degree of leverage over other states in their regions, saying that such a notion would allow certain countries, like Russia and China, to “dominate their neighbors through force and fear.”

----- 14 -----
Trump to order reversal of Obama water regulation rule: official
By David Shepardson | Reuters
Fri Feb 24, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign a measure as early as Tuesday aimed at rescinding a major Obama administration water regulation and direct an end to the government's defense of the rule, a Trump official briefed on the plan said late Friday.

Trump is expected to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which expands the number of waterways that are federally protected under the Clean Water Act.

The rule was finalized by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May 2015, and was blocked by a federal appeals court pending further court challenges.


Trump is also expected to issue other environmental executive orders as early as next week, including a reversal of the Obama administration's clean power plant rule and instructing the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management to lift a ban on new coal mining leases on federal lands.

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Tags: fascism watch, political
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