Solarbird (solarbird) wrote,

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good morning, it's 14 march 2017

Lots of entries applicable to neofascism and related today, and this is, after all, the fascism watch, so let's get straight to it.

"Steve King Says Civilization Can’t Be Restored With ‘Somebody Else’s Babies’" - as 'mainstream' GOP elected officials start openly embracing the white supremacist (né "white nationalist") positions. Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer has already declared Steve King's assertion "the 15 words," echoing Hitler's "14 words" slogan from Mein Kampf. (See: )

I've been warning about this for a while, but apparently it's a shocker for some people: "American Citizens: U.S. Border Agents Can Search Your Cellphone." Surprise! It's mostly Muslims they're targeting! And in the headline case, they put a chokehold on an American after he said no, until his wife handed over her phone for the same search purposes.

Today's executive order is more than it looks like on first glance, says "President Bannon Is Laying the Groundwork for Destroying the Executive Branch," particularly in that it authorises wholesale eliminations of Executive departments.

And in "let's make up reality," we have "Sean Spicer just explained why ‘wire tapping’ is different from wiretapping" (trying to pretend a walkback of Trump's claims of spying by Obama aren't what they are in plain text) and "Deep State: Inside Donald Trump's Paranoid Conspiracy Theory." Fun times.

So, from there, to corruption! Lots of that, too. "Kushners Set to Get $400 Million From Chinese on Marquee Tower" has been getting some notice. It's basically a payoff. For what, we don't know. "Donald Trump, Jr is a patent-troll and his biggest client now does business with the US government" is pretty straightforward. "Want to Keep the President at Bay? Two Consultants Have an Inside Track" is Trump associates putting up a shingle for shakedowns - don't want Trump to tweet negatively about your company? Well, come talk to us! We can't stop it but we can handle it for you and maybe help you prevent it. How is this different to a "shame if something was t'happen to it" shakedown racket? Business suits. And to top it off, enjoy, "This Level of Corruption Is Unprecedented in the Modern History of the Presidency."

Oh, and whether this is related to corruption, fascism, or staggering incompetence, I can't tell you, but "Exclusive: Russia appears to deploy forces in Egypt, eyes on Libya role - sources."

Trying to assert empirical rationality, we have "Meteorologists refute EPA head on climate change." Not that it matters, since empiricism isn't the point or even a consideration - except insofar as it is the enemy. Shying away from the insanity, "Girl Guides of Canada, reacting to Trump, won't send groups to United States." They're afraid of having girls turned back and stranded. They won't even do layovers now.

Finally, we have an amusing health care duo: "Affordable Care Act revision would reduce insured numbers by 24 million, CBO projects," "White House analysis of Obamacare repeal sees even deeper insurance losses than CBO." The Republican response has been to attack the CBO as corrupt ("Newt Gingrich Says the Congressional Budget Office Is 'Corrupt' and Should Be Abolished"), of course.

----- 1 -----
Kushners Set to Get $400 Million From Chinese on Marquee Tower
by David Kocieniewski and Caleb Melby | Bloomberg
March 13, 2017, 11:57 AM EDT

A company owned by the family of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, stands to receive more than $400 million from a prominent Chinese company that is investing in the Kushners’ marquee Manhattan office tower at 666 Fifth Ave.

The planned $4-billion transaction includes terms that some real estate experts consider unusually favorable for the Kushners. It provides them with both a sizable cash payout from Anbang Insurance Group for a property that has struggled financially and an equity stake in a new partnership.

The details of the agreement, which is being circulated to attract additional investors, were shared with Bloomberg. It would make business partners of Kushner Cos. and Anbang, whose murky links to the Chinese power structure have raised national security concerns over its U.S. investments. In the process, an existing mortgage owed by the Kushners will be slashed to about a fifth of its current amount.

----- 2 -----
Steve King Says Civilization Can’t Be Restored With ‘Somebody Else’s Babies’
By MATTHEW HAAG | The New York Times
MARCH 12, 2017

Representative Steve King, a Republican from Iowa who has a history of making inflammatory statements viewed by many as insensitive or outright racist, was roundly criticized on Sunday for his apparent endorsement of white nationalism.

Mr. King made the remark on Twitter when he shared a story by the Voice of Europe website about the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who wants to end Muslim immigration and ban the Quran and who has called Moroccan immigrants “scum.”

----- 3 -----
This Level of Corruption Is Unprecedented in the Modern History of the Presidency
And it's threatening our democracy.
By Charles P. Pierce | Esquire Magazine
Mar 12, 2017

The important part about dealing with epidemics is to deal with them early. Just like the fire department would really rather come into a building when there was smoke coming out of one window instead of when there are flames coming out of every window, because it's a lot easier to control the fire early on, it's much easier to control an epidemic early on.

—Dr. Don Francis, AIDS researcher, 2006.

It's almost as though the entire bureaucratic immune system of the government is reacting to an invading virus. The worst thing any of us can do is assume that the ascent of El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago was not the sui generis event that it clearly was, and that he, himself, is not the sui generis occupant of the White House that he clearly is, and that he has not surrounded himself with dubious quacks and hacks that are sui generis in their approach to government as they clearly are.

There is a level of intellectual—and, perhaps, literal—corruption that is unprecedented in the modern history of the presidency and that is a genuine and unique threat to democratic institutions that are the objects of destructive contempt. The man ran on chaos. He won on chaos. And now he's governing on chaos. The checks and balances and safety valves of the Constitution—the things that, well, constitute—the immune system of this self-governing republic are facing a threat that is as different as it is lethal.

The latest manifestation of this phenomenon is the sudden firing of U.S. Attorneys all over the country—specifically, those appointed by the previous administration. It is true that every president can do what this president did, and that most have. But the people who said all through the campaign that the rules changed with the elevation of Donald Trump cannot say that the rules are back now that he's president. In addition, what he did on Friday was precipitous in the extreme and so much so that it seems to have been improvised on the spot, and that it might have been prompted by a virulent paranoia at the White House about "deep-state" saboteurs, a feeling encouraged by the hardbar caucus in Congress and pimped heavily by the conservative media auxiliaries.

By contrast, in 2009, the newly elected Barack Obama put his U.S. Attorneys in place, but he didn't fire all of the incumbent ones all at once without having the faintest idea who their replacements might be. And this was in the wake of the naked politicization of the DOJ during the Bush Administration. From Tiger Beat On The Potomac:

----- 4 -----
Donald Trump, Jr is a patent-troll and his biggest client now does business with the US government
Cory Doctorow / Boing Boing / Mon Mar 13, 2017

Oklahoma's Anyware Mobile Solutions was founded in 1997 to make PDA software, but after its sales collapsed, it changed its name to Macrosolve and devoted itself to suing people for violating a farcical patent that they said covered filling in questionnaires using an app.

Starting in 2011, Macrosolve became a prolific patent troll, suing 59 companies in dozens of lawsuits, filing in the notorious, patent-troll-friendly East Texas court system. It made its first million bucks in a few months. As a PR move it Macrosolve then hired Donald Trump Jr to be the company's spokestroll, paying him $45,000 and 5,000,000 shares for two years' worth of PR consulting.

Junior was happy to extol Macrosolve's business model to the press, praising them as a "pioneer" and calling apps "digital real estate." Junior promised aggressive expansion of Macrosolve's business, thanks to its "landmark patent" but the company effectively ceased to generate any income, except from lawsuits. Then, as the noose started to tighten around patent trolls, Junior penned an editorial, "Defending Innovation in America," in which he argued that the real problem for the software business in America was limits on patent trolling, not trolling itself.

Junior took Macrosolve's case to the Fox Business Channel, arguing that his client was a "true innovator." But once Newegg challenged Macrosolve's patent threats, the company's other victims also stopped settling, and then the US Patent Office invalidated Macrosolve's patent altogether. The company was sold to Drone Aviation Holding Corporation, whose vice-chairman is General Michael Flynn -- a position Flynn retained even during his brief stint as Trump Sr's security adviser.

Trump, Sr is going to get to choose the next head of the US Patent and Trademark Office.

----- 5 -----
Sean Spicer just explained why ‘wire tapping’ is different from wiretapping
By Callum Borchers March 13, 2017
The Washington Post

Last week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he was going to let President Trump's tweets alleging wiretapping by former president Barack Obama speak for themselves. This week, Spicer is not merely speaking for the tweets; he is rewriting their meaning.

“If you look at the president's tweet, he said very clearly, quote, 'wire tapping' — in quotes,” Spicer said during Monday's news briefing, making air quotes with his fingers to emphasize his point. “There's been substantial discussion in several reports. … There's been reports in the New York Times and the BBC and other outlets about other aspects of surveillance that have occurred. The president was very clear in his tweet that it was, you know, 'wire tapping' — that spans a whole host of surveillance types of options.”

Ah, the old air-quotes defense. According to Spicer's new argument, Trump didn't necessarily mean wiretapping when he said “wire tapping” — and reporters should know this because he put the phrase in quotation marks. By “wire tapping,” Trump could have been referring to any one among “a whole host of surveillance types.” Obviously.

----- 6 -----
Girl Guides of Canada, reacting to Trump, won't send groups to United States
Updated 5:41 pm, Monday, March 13, 2017

The Girl Guides of Canada have slapped a ban "until further notice" on travel to the United States, on grounds of being sure that no girl is barred at the U.S. border and left behind.

The ban does not mention the latest Executive Order by President Trump barring travel to "the States" by citizens of six predominantly Muslim countries, and imposing a 120-day moratorium on accepting Syrian refugees.

"While the United States is a frequent destination for Guiding trips, the ability of all our members to equally enter this country is currently uncertain," GGC executives Sharron Callahan and Holly Thompson said in an advisory Monday afternoon.


Why are the Guides staying out of "the States" until further notice?

"We have lots of girls across the country that travel every year overseas and to the U.S.: We really wanted to make sure that no girl gets left behind," Sarah Kiriliuk, Girl Guides' marketing and communications manager, told CBC News.

----- 7 -----
Meteorologists refute EPA head on climate change
By Timothy Cama - 03/13/17 10:48 AM EDT
The Hill

The nation’s top organization for meteorology is refuting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s recent comments on the role of carbon dioxide in climate change.

Pruitt questioned mainstream climate science last week, saying in a CNBC interview, “I would not agree that [carbon dioxide is] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

The American Meteorological Society wrote a letter to Pruitt Monday saying he is wrong.

“In reality, the world’s seven billion people are causing climate to change and our emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the primary cause,” the group’s executive director, Keith Seitter, wrote in the letter.

“This is a conclusion based on the comprehensive assessment of scientific evidence. It is based on multiple independent lines of evidence that have been affirmed by thousands of independent scientists and numerous scientific institutions around the world,” Seitter said. “We are not familiar with any scientific institution with relevant subject matter expertise that has reached a different conclusion.”

----- 8 -----
White House analysis of Obamacare repeal sees even deeper insurance losses than CBO
By Paul Demko | Politico

The White House's own internal analysis of the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare show even steeper coverage losses than the projections by the Congressional Budget Office, according to a document viewed by POLITICO on Monday.

The executive branch analysis forecast that 26 million people would lose coverage over the next decade, versus the 24 million CBO estimate — a finding that undermines White House efforts to discredit the forecasts from the nonpartisan CBO.

The analysis found that under the American Health Care Act the coverage losses would include 17 million for Medicaid, six million in the individual market and three million in employer-based plans.

A total of 54 million individuals would be uninsured in 2026 under the GOP plan, according to the White House analysis. That’s nearly double the number projected under current law.

White House spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment Monday evening.

----- 9 -----
Deep State: Inside Donald Trump's Paranoid Conspiracy Theory
Everything you need to know about the supposed forces within the federal government that the President believes are out to get him
9 March 2017

As the Trump White House wheezes and lurches its way into actually governing, it's become clear that we are in a somewhat different era in American politics. Unlike the Obama administration, which kept things obscured from the public, the Trump team seems more likely to pop open that top button and let the world see what it’s working with – which has proven to not always be the most effective method thus far.

What constitutes a normal day in Trumpland usually includes a meeting, typically behind closed doors, which sometimes takes hours or even minutes to find its way into the Washington Post, Politico, or the New York Times. To wit: Sean Spicer called a meeting to crack down on leaks. The details of that meeting leaked within days, with a moment-by-moment recap appearing in Politico. Michael Flynn said that he didn't talk to Russia before the inauguration. News broke early February that he had, in fact done so, which led to his resignation just days later. We could go on, but you get the idea. After each story, the White House hammered the message: The leakers are the story.


The culprit, each time, is something Trump backers are calling the "deep state." Their essential argument is that there are entrenched forces deep within the American government that are working to sabotage the nascent administration, preventing them from enacting policy agenda.

What, exactly, is the deep state?

The term deep state has often been applied to Turkish politics under the dictator President Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish would be "derin devlet." People there use it to mean a violent intra-government resistance to the ruling party. Here, people use it to mean unelected officials in the bureaucracy, tech sector and on Wall Street. That also includes the military and contractors, like Edward Snowden. The theory goes that this shadow government works to keep things running smoothly, but it also fights against people that it considers counter to its interests. So there are two strains, government bureaucracy, which is real and keeps the government functioning administration to administration, and the deep state, which is a supposedly a shadow government that pulls the strings behind the scenes.

Duke professor Timur Kuran, who's studied the Turkish deep state, says that suggestion of a deep state is a feature of authoritarian regimes.

"A deep state involves more than an array of vested interests," Kuran tells Rolling Stone. "It involves vested interests that are coordinated by a powerful agent and that obey a hierarchy. In many autocracies, the dictator often blames failures on a deep state ostensibly commanded by an enemy of the legitimate state. Often the perceived enemy is a foreign agent, such as the CIA. In Turkey, which is now an autocracy, President Erdoğan's team justifies his ongoing witch hunt by invoking Turkey's deep state. Supposedly it is run by imam Fethullah Gülen from Pennsylvania, in cooperation with the CIA, Jewish bankers, and assorted other villains. The deep state reaches into the police, the army, the Central Bank, universities, ministries etc. etc. And they all work together, following orders from Pennsylvania."

----- 10 -----
American Citizens: U.S. Border Agents Can Search Your Cellphone
by Cynthia McFadden, E.D. Cauchi, William M. Arkin and Kevin Monahan
NBC News | Mar 13 2017, 7:29 pm ET

When Buffalo, New York couple Akram Shibly and Kelly McCormick returned to the U.S. from a trip to Toronto on Jan. 1, 2017, U.S. Customs & Border Protection officers held them for two hours, took their cellphones and demanded their passwords.

"It just felt like a gross violation of our rights," said Shibly, a 23-year-old filmmaker born and raised in New York. But he and McCormick complied, and their phones were searched.

Three days later, they returned from another trip to Canada and were stopped again by CBP.

"One of the officers calls out to me and says, 'Hey, give me your phone,'" recalled Shibly. "And I said, 'No, because I already went through this.'"

The officer asked a second time.

Within seconds, he was surrounded: one man held his legs, another squeezed his throat from behind. A third reached into his pocket, pulling out his phone. McCormick watched her boyfriend's face turn red as the officer's chokehold tightened.

Then they asked McCormick for her phone.

"I was not about to get tackled," she said. She handed it over.

----- 11 -----
President Bannon Is Laying the Groundwork for Destroying the Executive Branch
A new executive order empowers the White House to dismantle federal agencies it doesn't like.
By Jay Willis | GQ Magazine
13 March 2017

Are you one of the 13 remaining people on this planet who believes that President Trump is actually calling the shots in his administration, instead of merely serving as a tweet-happy puppet of White House chief strategist and Joseph McCarthy fanboy Steve Bannon? If so, the executive order signed on Monday, the "Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch," might just be the straw that breaks the eternally optimistic, hopelessly naïve camel's back. (At least this executive order doesn't attempt to ban a religious group from the United States. Silver linings, I guess.)

The directive's stated goal is to improve the "efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability" of federal agencies, which sounds innocuous enough. However, it proposes some rather, um, extreme measures for attaining those ends, including axing agency components, merging them with one another, or even—if a forthcoming review reveals redundancies or inefficiencies—eliminating agencies altogether. In an inadvertently hilarious photo opp, Trump signed the order surrounded by members of his cabinet—in other words, a few of the people whose jobs his directive places in jeopardy. I'm so happy to have you here as my Secretary of Education, Ms. DeVos. I look forward to hearing whether your colleagues believe that your department should even exist.

----- 12 -----
Want to Keep the President at Bay? Two Consultants Have an Inside Track
MARCH 13, 2017

Attention: corporate America.

For a fee, Corey Lewandowski, President Trump’s pugilistic former campaign manager, and Barry Bennett, a former Trump senior adviser, will protect you from “tweet risk” — what happens to the stock price and reputation of your company when the president tells his 26 million Twitter followers that you’re killing factory jobs or refusing to sell Ivanka Trump handbags.

“If he’s gonna come after you, there’s nothing we can do to stop it,” Mr. Bennett said of Avenue Strategies, the firm he and Mr. Lewandowski opened in offices overlooking Mr. Trump’s White House bedroom window. “But if you want to figure out how to win in this environment, we can help you.

“We’re your sherpa through turbulent times.”

Mr. Trump has promised "to grow the economy 4 percent per year and create at least 25 million new jobs through massive tax reduction and simplification, in combination with trade reform, regulatory relief and lifting the restrictions on American energy.”

So far, the administration “hasn’t done much beyond “a few executive orders,” Mr. Bennett says. So he and Mr. Lewandowski are pressing American companies to “call Jared Kushner and tell him you’re gonna build a new factory,” or invite Mr. Trump to “fly somewhere, cut a ribbon, and high-five 200 employees.”

That “drives optimism, and it drives his power,” Mr. Bennett said last week over breakfast at the Hay-Adams Hotel, where he is most mornings, pitching his new business. “There are few things a president can do to build power faster than to lead a great economic comeback.”

Or to give voters the impression that he is leading such a comeback.

Avenue Strategies opened on Dec. 21, the day after Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump’s senior counselor, said, “Draining the swamp is not just about lobbying and politicians. It’s also about consultants.” Since then, Trump-related advisers, lawyers, or former campaign hands have opened or joined a host of lobbying and consulting businesses.

The two men say they’re not swamp creatures, because they are not just helping their clients; they are helping Mr. Trump. The firm even operates a fledgling super PAC to help Mr. Trump win re-election. Fired from the campaign and denied a plum job in the administration, Mr. Lewandowski still reveres Mr. Trump and glides past his rival Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, to visit Mr. Trump in the Oval Office. Mr. Lewandowski, who declined to be interviewed, has called any suggestion that he’s cashing in “absolutely disgusting.”

----- 13 -----
Exclusive: Russia appears to deploy forces in Egypt, eyes on Libya role - sources
By Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali and Lin Noueihed
Reuters | Mon Mar 13, 2017

Russia appears to have deployed special forces to an airbase in western Egypt near the border with Libya in recent days, U.S., Egyptian and diplomatic sources say, a move that would add to U.S. concerns about Moscow's deepening role in Libya.

The U.S. and diplomatic officials said any such Russian deployment might be part of a bid to support Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar, who suffered a setback with an attack on March 3 by the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) on oil ports controlled by his forces.

The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States has observed what appeared to be Russian special operations forces and drones at Sidi Barrani, about 60 miles (100 km) from the Egypt-Libya border.

Egyptian security sources offered more detail, describing a 22-member Russian special forces unit, but declined to discuss its mission. They added that Russia also used another Egyptian base farther east in Marsa Matrouh in early February.

The apparent Russian deployments have not been previously reported.

The Russian defense ministry did not immediately provide comment on Monday and Egypt denied the presence of any Russian contingent on its soil.

----- 14 -----
Affordable Care Act revision would reduce insured numbers by 24 million, CBO projects
By Amy Goldstein, Elise Viebeck, Kelsey Snell and Mike DeBonis | March 13, 2017
The Washington Post

House Republicans’ proposal to rewrite federal health-care law would more than reverse the gains the Affordable Care Act has made in the number of Americans with health insurance, while curbing the federal deficit, according to a widely anticipated forecast by congressional analysts.

The analysis, released late Monday afternoon by the Congressional Budget Office, predicts that 24 million fewer people would have coverage a decade from now than if the Affordable Care Act remains intact, nearly doubling the share of Americans who are uninsured from 10 percent to 19 percent. The office projects the number of uninsured people would jump 14 million after the first year

But the GOP legislation, which has been speeding through House committees since it was introduced a week ago, would lower the deficit by $337 billion during that time, primarily by lessening spending on Medicaid and government aid for people buying health plans on their own.

----- 15 -----
Newt Gingrich Says the Congressional Budget Office Is 'Corrupt' and Should Be Abolished
Kevin Lui | Time Magazine
2:35 AM UTC

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich blasted the Congressional Budget Office's report on the Republicans' Obamacare replacement plan Monday and called for the CBO's abolishment.

"They should abolish the Congressional Budget Office," Gingrich told Fox News host Martha MacCullum on The First 100 Days. "It is corrupt. It is dishonest. It was totally wrong on Obamacare by huge, huge margins. I don't trust a single word they have published, and I don't believe them."

The former Speaker called the CBO's scoring system "disgustingly wrong," and proposed replacing the office by "putting out to bid and having three to five professional firms score these things."

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Tags: fascism watch, political
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