I include the Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial because that is not a liberal town. Item two makes it look to me like Steve Bannon has not just bought into the cyclic theories of Neil Howe's, but is trying to short-circuit them to get them to a desired position - and certainly adds another layer to his desire for massive war in the mideast. And there's another round of Jewish cemetery desecration, in a new city.
Leakers continue to leak, 'cause leakers gonna leak, even when it's a memo about leakers. Six and seven are about the vote coming on Tuesday to more or less shut down Trump investigations in Congress. Eight has the new EPA head talking about how awful the EPA is - as he's done his entire career, of course.
Item 10 is important because it charts together some of the previously-murkier people involved at the high-money/high-data levels of the rightist/authoritarian movement. It's long, but worth reading.
11 - Trump may have more secret loans, but no proof - just curiously inconsistent data. 12 - meet the 16-year-old Canadian girl known only as "Julia" who got the NeverTrump Republicans attention on the Milo videos. And finally, the current candidate for Secretary of the Navy withdraws.
----- 1 -----
White House directly threatens a free press
The Editorial Board | Fort Worth Star-Telegram
February 24, 2017
We find what happened at the White House Friday an alarming threat to American democracy, and we believe it should worry you as much as it worries us.
President Donald Trump has lashed out against national news media for months, calling them dishonest and their news fake. The trajectory of his insults reached a new height this past week when he referred to the media as “the enemy of the American people.”
There’s no benefit in getting mad at someone who calls you names.
But what the Trump administration did Friday went beyond name-calling, even beyond politics.
Instead of its regular afternoon briefing, the White House press office convened a meeting of reporters in press secretary Sean Spicer’s office and barred representatives of certain disfavored news organizations — The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, Buzzfeed and others — from attending.
It’s not unusual for access to certain events to be limited to only a small group of reporters, called a pool, who then pass on information to other organizations in the press room. That’s simply crowd management.
Friday’s meeting pool was greatly expanded to include favored organizations — Breitbart News (Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s alma mater), The Washington Times, One America News Network and others.
Of the major television news outlets, only CNN was blocked. CNN most recently encountered Trump’s ire by reporting that FBI officials declined a White House request to discredit reports of contacts between Trump associates and Russians known to U.S. intelligence.
----- 2 -----
Where did Steve Bannon get his worldview? From my book.
By Neil Howe | The Washington Post
February 24, 2017
The headlines this month have been alarming. “Steve Bannon’s obsession with a dark theory of history should be worrisome” (Business Insider). “Steve Bannon Believes The Apocalypse Is Coming And War Is Inevitable” (the Huffington Post). “Steve Bannon Wants To Start World War III” (the Nation). A common thread in these media reports is that President Trump’s chief strategist is an avid reader and that the book that most inspires his worldview is “The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy.”
I wrote that book with William Strauss back in 1997. It is true that Bannon is enthralled by it. In 2010, he released a documentary, “Generation Zero,” that is structured around our theory that history in America (and by extension, most other modern societies) unfolds in a recurring cycle of four-generation-long eras. While this cycle does include a time of civic and political crisis — a Fourth Turning, in our parlance — the reporting on the book has been absurdly apocalyptic.
I don’t know Bannon well. I have worked with him on several film projects, including “Generation Zero,” over the years. I’ve been impressed by his cultural savvy. His politics, while unusual, never struck me as offensive. I was surprised when he took over the leadership of Breitbart and promoted the views espoused on that site. Like many people, I first learned about the alt-right (a far-right movement with links to Breitbart and a loosely defined white-nationalist agenda) from the mainstream media. Strauss, who died in 2007, and I never told Bannon what to say or think. But we did perhaps provide him with an insight — that populism, nationalism and state-run authoritarianism would soon be on the rise, not just in America but around the world.
Because we never attempted to write a political manifesto, we were surprised by the book’s popularity among certain crusaders on both the left and the right. When “The Fourth Turning” came out, our biggest partisan fans were Democrats, who saw in our description of an emerging “Millennial generation” (a term we coined) the sort of community-minded optimists who would pull America toward progressive ideals. Yet we’ve also had conservative fans, who were drawn to another lesson: that the new era would probably see the successful joining of left-wing economics with right-wing social values.
----- 3 -----
Dozens of headstones damaged at Philadelphia Jewish cemetery
By Bob Brooks | ABC 6
Sunday, February 26, 2017
WISSINOMING (WPVI) -- Dozens of headstones at a Jewish cemetery in the Wissinoming section of Philadelphia have been broken and overturned.
The Philadelphia police say this was an act of vandalism at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery on the corner of Frankford and Cheltenham avenues.
Aaron Mallin of North Jersey made the disturbing discovery Sunday when he came to visit his father's grave.
"It's just very disheartening that such a thing would take place," Mallin said.
He says he knows this doesn't look good, but is hoping that somehow this wasn't an anti-Semitic attack.
----- 4 -----
Sean Spicer targets own staff in leak crackdown
The push includes random phone checks overseen by White House lawyers.
By Annie Karni and Alex Isenstadt | Politico
Press secretary Sean Spicer is cracking down on leaks coming out of the West Wing, with increased security measures that include random phone checks of White House staffers, overseen by White House attorneys.
The push to snuff out leaks to the press comes after a week in which President Donald Trump strongly criticized the media for using unnamed sources in stories and expressed growing frustration with the unauthorized sharing of information by individuals in his administration.
Last week, after Spicer became aware that information had leaked out of a planning meeting with about a dozen of his communications staffers, he reconvened the group in his office to express his frustration over the number of private conversations and meetings that were showing up in unflattering news stories, according to sources in the room.
Upon entering Spicer’s office for what one person briefed on the gathering described as “an emergency meeting,” staffers were told to dump their phones on a table for a “phone check," to prove they had nothing to hide.
Spicer, who consulted with White House counsel Don McGahn before calling the meeting, was accompanied by White House lawyers in the room, according to multiple sources.
----- 5 -----
Roll over, grandma, and tell Robert Peston the news
There are no soldiers in the streets, and no one’s seized control of the radio stations, but nonetheless, we’re in an ‘alt-right’ state
Stewart Lee | The Guardian
26 February 2017
What would a coup d’état look like? Would you even notice if one was happening all around you? Should we even be allowed to use the phrase coup d’état, now that we are leaving the EU? Should we return the very words themselves to the vile continent whence they came, and accept back in turn le weekend, le camping, and loads of leather-skinned racist pensioners currently dwelling in Spanish retirement complexes, to drain the resources of our imminently even more understaffed NHS?
Well, roll over grandma, and tell Robert Peston the news. This is not your mother’s seizure of political power. I suspect we western liberal democracies may be in the middle of a very modern type of coup, namely an alt-coup. Look! I’ve used the hipster prefix ‘alt’, but in relation to reactionary politics, rather than in a phrase like “alt-country”, “alt-porn”, or “alt-crochet”. How thrillingly 21st-century! This is what it must have felt like to be Milo Yiannopoulos!!
Unlike the classic coup, the new government haven’t seized the national radio and television services, as there has been no need to do so, Laura Kuenssberg in particular being essentially just a state-sponsored town crier, who runs around the filthy lanes in a Theresa May tabard blowing a heraldic trumpet in celebration of every government pronouncement. Snitch!
Indeed, earlier this week, the BBC chose to run a coincidentally timed documentary about the senile freeloaders in the irrelevant House of Lords, just as the honourable checks and balances were debating Brexit, the unelected peers intimidated from the sidelines by the unelected prime minister, sporting the face of a vicar’s daughter who had eaten a whole bucket of spicy huevos de toro before being told which part of the toro they were made from.
Surely there must be at least a peerage in waiting for the head of BBC scheduling, if the House of Lords isn’t abolished? Here’s hoping for an equally well-timed reappraisal of the professional/personal irregularities that led to expense-muddling Brexiter and disgraced former defence secretary Liam Fox’s now forgotten 2011 resignation.
Sadly the newspapers aren’t up to policing the coup either. When he interviewed Donald Trump for the Times, Michael Gove didn’t even notice that Rupert Murdoch was in the room. I’m not a respected journalist like Michael, I’m just a comedian, but to me Murdoch’s presence changes the whole story, and makes it look as if the far-right coup is part of an international network of corrupt self-interested parties, a massive scoop for Gove to miss.
----- 6 -----
On Tuesday, House Republicans Will Betray Their Oaths, Their Country, And The American People.
By Dartagnan | Daily KOS
Sunday Feb 26, 2017 · 7:09 AM PST
Next Tuesday, on February 28, 2017, the United States will witness the what may be the single greatest act of collective treachery by its elected government officials since the Confederate States voted to secede from the Union in 1860 and 1861.
And in all likelihood, the U.S. media will completely ignore it.
On Tuesday the Republican-dominated House Judiciary Committee is expected to reject House Democrats’ Resolution for a formal inquiry into the the potential ethical and legal violations committed by the Trump campaign apparatus in its contacts, communications and financial transactions with Russia during the run-up to Trump’s election last November, and throughout the transition since then. It will also reject calls to examine evidence of Trump’s solicitation and receipt of foreign gifts intended to influence American policy, and the potential violations of the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution.
The evidence pointing to Trump’s betrayal of American strategic interests has (thus far) included illegal contacts between Trump emissaries and Putin officials concerning the lifting of existing U.S. sanctions, evidence that the Trump campaign was aware of and likely complicit in Russian efforts to sway the election to Trump through Russian propaganda, and evidence suggesting that Trump himself may be compromised and subject to Russian blackmail due to either his financial dealings or his unusual sexual proclivities. These issues, unearthed by our intelligence agencies, directly implicate the integrity of our national government. It’s difficult to imagine any matter that could be more compelling for investigation and resolution. This is, in essence, a determination whether an elected President has been corrupted, compromised, or tainted by a hostile foreign power.
As Jonathan Chait points out in New York Magazine, despite the enormous implications for the nation, the political risk to House Republicans from refusing to investigate Trump is practically nil. As Mark Sumner explains here, the Republicans have carefully assigned the House’s decision on the resolution to their own Judiciary Committee, and carefully timed their pre-ordained rejection of the Resolution to minimize or hide it from the public. Few Republicans are members of the Committee itself, and those who make it up are from “safe seats,” carefully selected by the House leadership.
But the treachery and betrayal will be complete. The moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party will have reached its apotheosis. A Republican Congress, through their own hand-picked “Committee,” will deliberately turn a blind eye towards patent evidence disclosed by our Intelligence Services of collaboration between Trump’s highest campaign officials, Trump himself, and the Russian government, its emissaries, and its President-dictator, Vladimir Putin. Putting their own interests before the integrity of the country itself, they will choose to ignore the fact that an unfriendly foreign state, is directly interfering with our system of government.
----- 7 -----
This Obscure News Story, Which Should Be Huge, Shows How Trump Gets Away With Corruption
By Jonathan Chait | New York Magazine
23 February 2017
One of the flaws in the design of the federal government is that, while the founders envisioned competing branches of government, unified party control of government can turn those branches into partners who do not check each other’s abuses. A second flaw is that Congress has a diffuse and often-confusing decision-making process that can make public accountability extremely difficult. Both problems come together in a new story that ought to be huge news but will instead be relegated to legislative arcana.
Here is the story. The House of Representatives has refused to investigate either one of the two massive ongoing legal and ethical violations involving the Trump administration: President Trump’s opaque ties (financial and otherwise) to Russia, and his ongoing self-enrichment in office and violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.
If the House won’t investigate, what happens next? Well, the next-best course of action would be some form of public debate on the matter. This is not nearly as good as a real investigation, since the absence of subpoena power means Republicans can simply deny Trump has done anything wrong while blocking any efforts to acquire the evidence that would prove the case. But at least it’s something. That’s why House Democrats introduced a “resolution of inquiry” that would force House action on these issues.
Today, Politico reports the House’s response: It will divert the resolution to the House Judiciary Committee, which will (almost certainly) vote on Tuesday along party lines to kill the inquiry. It will be a minor story that probably receives scant or nonexistent coverage from television news, and then it will be quickly over. To be sure, coverage of Trump’s scandals will surely continue. But coverage of the House role in permitting Trump’s behavior will be extremely minimal.
----- 8 -----
EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Says Those Who Want To Kill His Agency Are 'Justified'
“I think people across this county look at the EPA much as they look at the IRS."
By Ryan J. Reilly | The Huffington Post
OXON HILL, Md. ― Those who want the Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate the department are “justified” in their beliefs, the EPA head under President Donald Trump told a gathering of conservatives on Saturday.
“I think people across this county look at the EPA much as they look at the IRS,” said EPA chief Scott Pruitt during an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in a suburb of D.C.
He said that those who believed the EPA should be eliminated were “justified” because of the agency’s actions during the Obama administration.
Pruitt, who sued the agency he now heads 13 times as attorney general of Oklahoma, was narrowly confirmed by the Senate this month. At CPAC on Saturday, he indicated some announcements would likely be made next week about regulations being rolled back.
“There are going to be some big steps taken to address some of those regulations,” Pruitt said.
----- 9 -----
Congress returns, with health care, Supreme Court on agenda
Erica Werner, Ap Congressional Correspondent
Updated 2:09 pm, Sunday, February 26, 2017
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress returns to Washington this week to confront dramatic decisions on health care and the Supreme Court that may help determine the course of Donald Trump's presidency.
First, the president will have his say, in his maiden speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. Majority Republicans in the House and Senate will be closely watching the prime-time address for guidance, marching orders or any specifics Trump might embrace on health care or taxes, areas where some of his preferences remain a mystery.
Congressional Republicans insist they are working closely with the new administration as they prepare to start taking votes on health legislation, with the moment finally upon them to make good on seven years of promises to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. House Republicans hope to pass their legislation by early April and send it to the Senate, with action there also possible before Easter.
Republicans will be "keeping our promise to the American people," House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said as he sent lawmakers home for the Presidents Day recess armed with informational packets to defend planned GOP changes to the health law.
But land mines await.
The recess was dominated by raucous town halls where Republicans faced tough questions about their plans to replace the far-reaching law with a new system built around tax credits, health savings accounts and high risk pools. Important questions are unanswered, such as the overall cost and how many people will be covered. There's also uncertainty about how to resolve divisions among states over Medicaid money.
With lawmakers set to return to the Capitol on Monday, it will become clearer whether the earful many got back home will affect their plans. GOP leaders are determined to move forward, reckoning that when confronted with the reality of voting on the party's repeal and replace plan, Republicans will have no choice but to vote "yes."
Many Republicans say that how they will handle health legislation will set the stage for the next big battle, over taxes. And that fight, many believe, will be even trickier than health care. Already, it has opened major rifts between House and Senate Republicans.
Senators also will be weighing the nomination of federal appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump's pick for the Supreme Court. Hearings soon will get underway in the Senate Judiciary Committee; floor action is expected before Easter.
Despite Gorsuch's sterling credentials, Democrats are under pressure from their liberal supporters to oppose him, given voters' disdain for Trump and the GOP's refusal last year to allow even a hearing for Obama's nominee for the high court vacancy, federal appeals Judge Merrick Garland.
----- 10 -----
Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media
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
Carole Cadwalladr | The Guardian
Sunday 26 February 2017
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.”
We’re not quite in the alternative reality where the actual news has become “FAKE news!!!” But we’re almost there. Out on Twitter, the new transnational battleground for the future, someone I follow tweets a quote by Marshall McLuhan, the great information theorist of the 60s. “World War III will be a guerrilla information war,” it says. “With no divisions between military and civilian participation.”
----- 11 -----
Donald Trump's Mystery $50 Million (or More) Loan
The president of the United States might have a secret creditor.
Russ Choma | Mother Jones
Feb. 23, 2017
Among Donald Trump's debts—the source of some of his most intractable conflicts of interest—is a mystery loan that Trump has not publicly explained. And this means that the president could have a secret creditor to whom he owes tens of millions of dollars.
According to Trump's financial disclosure records and various news reports, Trump is carrying hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. These transactions could provide his creditors with leverage over the new commander-in-chief. Moreover, it would be difficult for Trump to refinance or modify the terms of his various loans without raising suspicion that he is receiving favorable treatment because of his position. (Imagine a bank gives him a good rate. Would this suggest it might receive preferential treatment from the US government Trump heads?) Because Trump has refused to release his tax returns, it's impossible for the public to know exactly how much he owes and to whom. And Trump never kept his campaign promise to reveal all his creditors and obligations.
The financial disclosure form he filed last year did note more than a dozen loans totaling at least $713 million. But the full amount could be more. And buried in the paperwork is a puzzling debt that ethics experts say could suggest that Trump has a major creditor he has not publicly identified.
According to the disclosure, in 2012, Trump borrowed more than $50 million from a company called Chicago Unit Acquisition LLC. (The true value of the loan could be much higher; the form requires Trump only to state the range of the loan's value, and he selected the top range, "over $50,000,000.") Elsewhere in the same document, Trump notes that he owns this LLC. That is, he made the loan to himself. There's nothing necessarily unusual about that.
Here's where the situation gets odd. With Trump owning the Chicago Unit Acquisition LLC—and the LLC being owed $50 million or more by Trump—this company should be listed on Trump's disclosure as worth at least that much, unless it has debt offsetting this amount. Yet on Trump's latest disclosure form, Chicago Unit Acquisition is not listed at all. The disclosure rules say that any asset worth more than $1,000 must be noted. So this is the mystery: Why is this Trump-owned firm that holds a $50 million-plus note from Trump not worth anything?
----- 12 -----
This 16-year-old Canadian girl helped American conservatives take down Milo Yiannopoulos
By Mathew Rodriguez
February 25, 2017
A 16-year-old Canadian girl known only as "Julia," who is keen on American politics but not keen on President Donald Trump and the burgeoning white nationalist alt-right movement, is the person responsible for finding the video of Yiannopoulos seemingly defending pedophilia, according to a report from Vox.
According to Vox, Julia dug to find the video with conservative Twitter account @ReaganBattalion after she caught wind that Yiannopoulos would be speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference. Julia, whose identity Vox kept secret in order to protect her from harassment, is not a fan of Yiannopoulos' brand of conservatism.
"I see Milo as this embodiment of the awfulness you see over the past few years with the general tilt of millennial conservatism," Julia said to Vox. "It's diverged from this traditional conservatism so much. You've seen it essentially become full of awfulness and all about attacking the left and not about actual principles. It has nothing to do with conservative ideology so much as it has with opposing the leftists, SJWs, and so on and so forth."
----- 13 -----
Trump's choice to be Navy secretary withdraws from consideration
Associated Press | February 26, 2017, 8:27 PM
WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump’s choice to be secretary of the Navy, businessman Philip Bilden, said Sunday he was withdrawing from consideration for the post, citing concerns about privacy and separating himself from his business interests.
Bilden’s withdrawal raises similar issues to that of Vincent Viola, Trump’s nominee for Army secretary who stepped aside earlier this month. Just last week, the Pentagon sought to tamp down reports that Bilden might pull out.
In a statement released Sunday by the Pentagon, Bilden said he determined that he would not be able to satisfy the Office of Government Ethics requirements without what he called “undue disruption and materially adverse divestment of my family’s private financial interests.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement that he would make a recommendation to Trump for a nominee in the coming days.