Trump announces new government entity for tracking the crimes of immigrants, tells the wife of the Navy SEAL killed in Yemen that her husband is happy with the “record-breaking” applause that his death has received

Going into tonight’s State of the Union speech, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Given all of the developments over the past several days, I really didn’t know what Trump would say, or the tone he’d try to strike. “Would he, in an attempt completely reboot his presidency, dial back on the rambling insanity we’ve come to expect and take a conciliatory tone, or would he double down on the authoritarian doublespeak, accusing the Democrats and the ‘globalist international media’ of conspiring against him?”, I wondered. One thing I was pretty certain of, though, was that, whatever the tone, he’d take responsibility for the things that have gone well this past month, regardless of his involvement, while blaming others for the bad things that happened thus far during his tenure as President…. Regardless of what he might say, or how he might say it, that’s a constant.

Remember how, just yesterday, we were debating the extent to which the Trump administration might be responsible for setting the tone that brought about this recent wave of anti-Semitic acts that we’ve been experiencing? Well, the story took yet another strange twist today, before the State of the Union, when Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told the press about something Trump had said to him and other state attorneys this morning at the White House. Trump, Shapiro said, seemed to indicate that 90-some bomb threats that have been reported against Jewish Community Centers since he took office one month ago, could well have been perpetrated by either Jews or progressives who are out to paint his administration as pro-white nationalist. According to Shapiro, Trump, speaking about the bomb threats, said, “Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people, or to make others, look bad.” Shapiro, for what it’s worth, also said that Trump had called the threats “reprehensible,” before veering off script and suggesting that these threats could be part of a larger false flag operation meant to delegitimize his presidency.

Also of note, speaking of passing the buck and sidestepping responsibility, Trump told his friends at Fox News this morning that he thinks Obama is somehow responsible for the leaks that have plagued his administration. Yes, there was news yesterday that White House press secretary Sean Spicer had demanded to check the phones of his aides, in hopes of determining which of them might be leaking information to the press, but it’s easier to just blame Obama. [When all else fails, blame the black guy, right?] Furthermore, Trump said that it wasn’t his fault that Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens died during a raid in Yemen last month. “This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do,” Trump said, speaking of the generals who planned the raid. “They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do ― the generals ― who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.” Yes, “they lost Ryan.” [Oh, how far we’ve gone from the days of Harry Truman, when the buck stopped with the President.]

Speaking of Ryan, his death played a prominent role in Trump’s State of the Union speech tonight… Near the end of his remarks, Trump pointed out the deceased man’s widow in the audience and spoke of his sacrifice on behalf of the nation. It would have been a poignant moment, had Trump allowed himself to stay on script. Instead, though, he decided to take the opportunity to tell this woman that her dead husband is happy in heaven right now, knowing that his death got the biggest round of applause of the night. [Just think about that for a minute. We know that Trump is obsessed by applause and ratings, but there’s apparently no fucking end to his obsession. It even resonates in death.]

To Trump’s credit, he didn’t take the opportunity to remind everyone, yet once again, that the young man’s death was the fault of the previous administration and the generals who planned the raid, and not his. [For what it’s worth, Trump has an excuse. As we know now, he was tweeting as the raid went down.]

As for tonight’s speech, I thought it started well. I liked that Trump noted the recent bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers, and the shooting of three Indian men in what appears to be a racially motivated hate crime in Kansas, and actually said that such actions should not be tolerated. [I believe my exact words on Twitter were, “Someone’s got himself a new speechwriter.”] It was refreshing. As he’s made it a practice to only talk about crimes committed by non-whites, I thought it showed some evolution in the right direction. Unfortunately, though, things fell apart pretty quickly after those first few sentences left his pursed lips. [While he stay glued to the teleprompter for all but a few seconds, showing considerable restraint, the speech that had been prepared for him moved rapidly to the authoritarian right, with mentions of the deadly immigrants who walk among us, and the need to spend more on our police and military forces.] And, of course, he wrapped things up by announcing that he’d be launching a new governmental agency, called VOICE, charged with recording incidents of crime carried out by immigrants. [As someone else noted on Twitter, it’s worth remembering that Nazi Institute for Research on the Jewish Question kept files on “crimes committed by Jews.”]

As for how this new department will work, I’m not sure. He didn’t offer a great deal of detail. I’m imagining, however, that it’ll be like the department of motor vehicles, and there will be a little office in every American town where people can go in and vent about immigrant auto mechanics who they think overcharged them, and immigrant maids who may have helped themselves to a can of Pringles or a half pound of lunchmeat. Or may there will just be kiosks around where people are encouraged to talk shit about people of color, snitch on their neighbors, etc.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, Trump, as I noted at the top of the post, didn’t just pass the buck this week. He also took credit for things that he had absolutely nothing to do with. In a tweet sent out a few days ago, for instance, he claimed that, since taking office, he’d brought the nation debt down by $12 billion, despite the fact that he’s yet to propose a budget, or, for that matter, pass any financial legislation. No, just like his personal fortune, Trump inherited this.

Sorry for the jumbled nature of tonight’s post. I’m having a hard time focusing. There’s just too much to talk about… I want to talk about the fact that Trump brought one successful charter school graduate with him to make the case that it’s public education that’s holding our children of color back, but I just can’t seem to keep my eyes open.

One last thing before I pass out. I loved the enthusiastic applause Trump got when he called for aggressive spending in order to improve our aging infrastructure. I wonder, though, where all this Republican support was for the idea when it was Obama calling for the same thing. I hate to be cynical, but I’m starting to think that maybe they didn’t want to pursue it under the previous administration, even though they knew it would be good for the country, because they didn’t want the previous administration to get credit for putting people to work, improving the economy, and fixing our bridges, tunnels and highways.

Oh, and when he introduced the young woman in the wheelchair, I was half expecting Trump, a well known mocker of the disabled, to say, “She wouldn’t be by first choice.”

And, as you made it all the way to the end of the post, here’s my big takeaway from the speech… Trump has apparently been convinced to play the part of President, which, if he can keep it up, will make him harder to fight. Fortunately, though, I don’t think he’s going to be able to stay on script. I don’t think he can help himself. Even though it would make things exponentially easier for him and the Republicans to get their agenda enacted if he were to keep giving speeches like this, I can’t see him doing it. I think the thrill of the big lie, and the applause is too great. I think, when all is said and done, it’s more about ratings for him than it is agenda. And that may be the thing that, in the end, saves us.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The trickle down anti-Semitism of the Bannon, Gorka White House

For some reason, in spite of the fact that we have Donald “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life” Trump as our President, we seem to be experiencing a wave of anti-Semitic acts across the country. Last week, over 170 gravestones were toppled at an historic Jewish cemetery in St. Louis. And, just last night, nearly 100 more were pushed over at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. And this is in addition to the 90 bomb threats called into Jewish organizations across the United States since Trump won the election. Today alone, according to the Jewish Community Center Association, “there were 21 incidents of bomb threats called into 13 JCCs and eight Jewish day schools in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia,” with the Michigan incident happening right here in Ann Arbor. Thankfully, no bombs have been found to date. That doesn’t mean, however, that the threat isn’t real. Just last week, as you might recall, a South Carolina white supremacist by the name of Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell was arrested by the FBI and charged with planning a terror attack “in the spirit of Dylann Roof” on a synagogue.

Why is this coming to a head now? Well, some, I’m sure, would say that it has something to do with the rising influence of those like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, who left Breitbart News – which Bannon himself has referred to as as the “the platform for the alt-right” – to join the Trump White House, where, among other things, you have to imagine they’ve had a hand in doing things like removing any mention of the Jews from the White House’s annual statement of Holocaust Remembrance Day. [If you haven’t yet, you might want to check out this recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center showing the marked increase in instances of anti-Semitic sentiment being expressed in the Breitbart comments section since 2014.

While we’ve talked quite a bit about Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon in the past, and the charges of anti-Semitism that have dogged him these past several years, I don’t think we’ve ever discussed Deputy White House Strategist Sebastian Gorka, the self-proclaimed “irregular warfare strategist,” who, along with Bannon, is a member of Trump’s Strategic Initiatives Group, which, as I understand it, is the internal think tank that determines what Trump should do and when he should do it. Here’s a photo of Gorka from the night of Trump’s inauguration. Note the jacket and the medals.

The jacket, according to research by Talking Points Memo, is called a “bocskai,” and it was apparently popular in Hungary, where Gorka’s family hales from, back in the day of Miklós Horthy, the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary from March 1920 to October 1944. In fact, the medals Gorka is wearing have been identified as ones given to members of Horthy’s Order of Vitéz… Oh, and, yeah… Horthy’s regime was in power when hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were murdered. The following comes from Talking Points Memo.

…András Biro-Nagy, a professor at Budapest’s Corvinus University, where Gorka did his Ph.D. studies, said that the “bocskai” he wore was popular during Horthy’s rule and today is often worn by members of the “right-wing” on special occasions. But he noted the medal has a distinct connotation.

“The medal is a clear sign that he sympathizes with the Horthy era—this medal was awarded as a state honor only between 1920 and 1944,” Biro-Nagy told TPM.

A few far-right Hungarian publications wrote up approving stories about Gorka’s attire shortly after inauguration.

…Horthy was a Hungarian admiral and statesman who controlled the country from 1920 through 1944, and entered into an alliance with the Nazis early in World War II, according to the U.S Holocaust Memorial Museum. Horthy’s paramilitary units killed hundreds of Jews, and 437,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz under his watch during the summer of 1944 alone, per the museum.

Despite that brutal legacy, in the last few years Horthy has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity among Hungary’s ultranationalist far-right, particularly in the Jobbik party, whose leaders have been accused of stoking anti-Semitism. Statues of Horthy have been erected in towns across Hungary, and conservatives have taken to wearing bocskai jackets to formal events…

So, yeah, you can kind of see why some might think that the ascendency of Bannon and Gorka might have sent a signal to racists within the United States that they, at long last, were free to throw off the shackles of “political correctness” and speak their minds about the “globalist elites” (code for “Jews”) who have taken over our once great country… Speaking of the “globalist elites” anti-Semitic dog whistle, which has been been used so successfully on Breitbart for years, did you happen to hear Bannon’s tirade at the CPAC conference last week, when he went off on the “globalist media“? [“They’re corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has,” Bannon said of the press.] The Chicago Tribune, to their credit, called Bannon out on the use of the the “globalist media canard.” “‘Globalist media’,” Tribune reporter Rex Huppke wrote, “is a loaded term that bubbled up out of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of a media controlled by Jewish elites, a concept akin to ‘international bankers,’ cabals of wealthy Jews supposedly plotting to take over the world. Bannon knows this, I have no doubt. He ran Breitbart, a website that caters to white nationalists, many of whom are overtly anti-Semitic.” Steven Goldstein, the director of the Anne Frank Center, agreed, saying, “Globalist and corporate media — these are code words of anti-Semitism, and when they’re used by a man with an anti-Semitic history such as Steve Bannon, you’d have to be living in the Stone Age not to connect the dots.” “We are now seeing a pattern,” he went on to say, and “that doesn’t happen by accident.”

But enough on Bannon. Let’s get back to Gorka. I wanted to share this clip from the Jewish publication Forward.

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

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

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

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

In fairness to Gorka, I should add that it’s not just his perceived anti-Semitism that people dislike about him. There’s also the fact that he doesn’t seem to be too knowledgeable about terrorism.

A great many in the counter terrorism community, it would seem, think that Gorka is completely out of his depth and terrifyingly uneducated on the real threats we face as a nation. If you have a few minutes, check out this audio of an angry Gorka calling noted terrorism expert Michael E. Smith II at his home and demanding to know why he (Smith) keeps tweeting about how he (Gorka) doesn’t know what he’s talking about. [Smith has recently tweeted that Gorka “doesn’t know the enemies’ ideologies well enough to combat them.” He’s also tweeted at Trump, “You are endangering the lives of Americans by hiring fake ‘terrorism experts.’”] Smith, when asked about the call by Newsweek, said, “I thought it was a prank. He began by threatening me with a lawsuit.” This kind of behavior, I think it’s fair to say, isn’t something we typically see from presidential administrations, especially ones that we’re told are running like fine tuned machines.

Here, to sum up how Gorka understands terrorism, is a clip from Newsweek: “His views on the ‘global jihadist movement,’ as he calls it, align with a small cadre of right-wing observers who depict Islamist militants and extremists as being driven principally by passages from the Koran, rather than by government repression, or sectarian, tribal, political or economic factors.”

I’m not sure where all of this leaves us, but it’s time for me to call it a night and turn in… Tomorrow, we’ll resume the fight, OK?

[note: The image at the top of this post was borrowed from a photo essay in the New Republic titled “Hate in the Age of Trump,” which looks inside America’s growing white nationalist movement.]

Posted in Ann Arbor, Civil Liberties, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Alt State Department issues list of politically vulnerable GOP Reps

For those of you who might have missed it, what with all the hoopla about the Oscars, our Alt State Department issued a list earlier this evening of those GOP Representatives who, according to the data, may be most vulnerable in the upcoming midterm elections, and the state of Michigan has two Republican members of Congress on it; Dave Trott, of Michigan’s 11th district, who got rich foreclosing on the homes of Michiganders and now refuses to meet with his constituents, and retired General Jack Bergman, of Michigan’s 1st district, who was pretty much wasn’t even living in Michigan when he decided to run for office here, and has likewise apparently been hiding from the people he’s sworn to represent. I don’t know that either will be easy to beat, but one has to think that we’d at least have a shot. I know there are other factors to be considered, as circumstances change over time, but I’ve got $10 earmarked for each of their Democratic opponents, as soon as they become known, and I’m going to do my best to start covering them both more here on the blog, in hopes of helping flip those two seats. If you have any information on either one, let me know. And, if there are other seats that you think might be in play, I’d like to know that as well… So, now let’s strategize on how to flip these seats.

Here’s the entire Alt State Department list, for those of you who aren’t lucky enough to be living in the great state of Michigan.

Posted in Michigan, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Caught on tape, Sean Spicer explains why the New York Times, CNN and others were banned from Friday’s White House press conference: “We’re going to aggressively push back.”

As we were just discussing, the White House banned reporters from the New York Times, CNN, and Politico from this past Friday’s scheduled briefing with Sean Spicer. At the time, the administration assured us that it was nothing out of the ordinary, and that we shouldn’t read too much into it. Audio just released from the private press event, however, tells a different story. In it, the White House Press Secretary can be heard telling those journalists that were allowed into the room why their associates had been kept out. “We’re going to aggressively push back,” he said. “We’re just not going to sit back and let, you know, false narratives, false stories, inaccurate facts get out there.” The following audio comes by way of Politico.

As for why this is happening right now, I hope to post more later tonight, but, for the time being, let’s just say that Dan Rather was probably onto something last night when he told Chris Matthews that a lot of this is a “very calculated smokescreen” meant to draw attention away from stories about Trump’s Russian connections.

Posted in Other, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Three months ago, Sean Spicer said that banning media outlets from presidential press conferences is something that dictatorships do. Yesterday, the White House did just that.

At some point prior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump, angered by what he perceived to be negative press coverage, banned reporters from the Washington Post, Politico, and Buzzfeed from his campaign events. When asked this past December by Politico’s Jake Sherman whether or not we might expect to see the same kind of aggressive vindictiveness toward the press under the Trump administration, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that would never happen. “There’s a big difference between a campaign, where it is a private venue, using private funds, and a government entity,” Spicer told Sherman. “And I think we have a respect for the press when it comes to the government. That is something that you can’t ban an entity from; conservative, liberal or otherwise. I think that’s what makes a democracy a democracy, versus a dictatorship.”

Well, yesterday, the White House announced that reporters from the New York Times, CNN, and Politico would be banned from the day’s scheduled briefing with Sean Spicer, the man who, as I just noted, recently said that keeping reporters from press events would signal a shift away from democracy and toward dictatorship.

And, as you might imagine, this isn’t sitting well with people. The White House Correspondents’ Association, which represents the press corps, has issued a statement of protest, and both the Associate Press and Time pulled their reporters from the briefing in a sign of solidarity. The White House defended the move, saying that this was a less formal press event, and that the agencies who were not invited would still be represented by press pool journalists who would be sharing their reports. The New York Times, as you might expect, saw it differently. New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet wrote, “Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties. We strongly protest the exclusion of The New York Times and the other news organizations. Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest.” It should be noted that, while the Times was left out, conservative media organizations like Breitbart News, The Washington Times and One America News Network were allowed to participate.

Interestingly, at the same time this was playing out yesterday, Donald Trump was on the stage at CPAC, ranting about “fake news,” and referring to certain news organizations as the “enemy of the people.”

Veteran newsman Dan Rather, I think said it best. These actions, he said, “must be seen as a real and present threat to our democracy.”

Here, by way of Ken Vogel, is video of Sean Spicer agreeing with Rather.

For what it’s worth, this most recent move on the part of the Trump administration shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. Trump himself said on January 18 that he would be selecting which journalists were able to cover the White House. And, now, he’s apparently testing the waters, seeing if he might be able to intimidate America’s press into submission.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Connect

Sidetrack ad Aubree’s ad BUY LOCAL... or shop at Amazon through this link Banner Initiative Sleestack