October 6, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 PM

TIMBERRRRRR....:

EPA watchdog expands audit of administrator's travel: memo (Valerie Volcovici, 10/07/17, Reuters) 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's watchdog is expanding a review of administrator Scott Pruitt's frequent travels to his home state Oklahoma to include more recent trips taken on military and charter flights, according to a memo seen on Friday.

The Office of Inspector General had been investigating the "frequency, cost and extent" of Pruitt's travels to Oklahoma through July 31, and will now expand the "active audit" to include all travel, including the use of private and military flights he has taken up to Sept. 30.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 PM

HIGHWAY TO HEIL!:

Poll: Just 24 percent say US under Trump headed in right direction (JULIE PACE and EMILY SWANSON, October 7, 2017, AP) 

Just 24 percent of Americans believe the country is heading in the right direction after a tumultuous stretch for US President Donald Trump that included the threat of war with North Korea, stormy complaints about hurricane relief and Trump's equivocating about white supremacists. That's a 10-point drop since June, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The decline in optimism about the nation's trajectory is particularly pronounced among Republicans. In June, 60 percent of Republicans said the country was headed in the right direction; now it's just 44 percent.



Posted by orrinj at 7:39 PM

SHOULD HAVE LET HILLARY HANDLE SECURITY...:

John Kelly's personal cellphone was compromised, White House believes : White House tech support discovered the suspected breach after Kelly turned his phone in to tech support staff this summer. (JOSH DAWSEY, EMILY STEPHENSON and ANDREA PETERSON 10/05/2017, Politico)

White House officials believe that chief of staff John Kelly's personal cellphone was compromised, potentially as long ago as December, according to three U.S. government officials.

The discovery raises concerns that hackers or foreign governments may have had access to data on Kelly's phone while he was secretary of Homeland Security and after he joined the West Wing.

Posted by orrinj at 2:50 PM

DONALD'S (MACHIGUENGA) TRIBALISM:

MONTESQUIEU'S "SWEET COMMERCE" AND COBDEN'S "GOD'S DIPLOMACY" (Matt Ridley, 06 October, 2017, The Times)

The "ultimatum game" is a fiendish invention of economists to test people's selfishness. One player is asked to share a windfall of cash with another player, but the entire windfall is cancelled if the second player rejects the offer. How much should you share? When people from the Machiguenga tribe in Peru were asked to play this game, they behaved selfishly, wanting to share little of the windfall. Not far away, the Achuar in Ecuador were much more generous, offering almost half the money to the other player -- which is roughly how people in the developed world react.

What explains the difference? The Machiguenga are largely isolated from the world of markets and commerce. The Achuar are used to buying and selling to and from strangers at markets. The same pattern emerges throughout 15 small-state societies all over the world, in a fascinating study done by the Harvard anthropologist Joe Henrich and his colleagues. The more integrated into the commercial world people are, the more generous they are. As one of the authors, the economist Herb Gintis, summarises the results: "Societies that use markets extensively develop a culture of co-operation, fairness and respect for the individual."

This would not have surprised Montesquieu, who spoke of "sweet commerce", or Voltaire, who marvelled at the friendly collaboration of "the Jew, the Mahometan and the Christian" on the floor of the London stock exchange, or Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Richard Cobden, the radical champions of free trade in the early years of the industrial revolution.

Cobden said: "Free trade is God's diplomacy and there is no other certain way of uniting people in the bonds of peace." He was right. Recent studies have confirmed that commerce is the main cause of peace. "Within the developing world, economic development leads to interstate peace, whereas democracy does not," concludes Faruk Ekmekci of Ipek University in Turkey. The evidence is overwhelming that markets do not just make people richer, they make people nicer too, less likely to fight and more likely to help each other.

Posted by orrinj at 2:32 PM

THE LEFT IS THE RIGHT:

Liberal groups got IRS scrutiny, too, inspector general suggests (Mike DeBonis October 4, 2017, Washington Post)

A federal watchdog has identified scores of cases in which the Internal Revenue Service may have targeted liberal-leaning groups for extra scrutiny based on their names or political leanings, a finding that could undermine claims that conservatives were unfairly targeted under President Barack Obama.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reviewed cases between 2004 and 2013, which includes the period TIGTA previously examined in a 2013 report that faulted the IRS for using inappropriate political criteria to select groups for heightened scrutiny. [...]

The new report examines a broader range of criteria used by the IRS. It does not characterize the politics of the groups that were selected for scrutiny, a TIGTA spokeswoman emphasized Wednesday. But many of the 17 criteria the report examined had obvious political overtones -- including affiliation with the now-defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), as well as names referencing "Progressive," "Green Energy," "Medical Marijuana," and "Occupy."

Together, the watchdog identified 146 cases in which the IRS examined groups for suspicion of engaging in disallowed political activity using those criteria. Eighty-three of those were definitively chosen for scrutiny because of the selection criteria, the inspector general found; the report could not definitively determine how the other cases were chosen. [...]

For instance, IRS personnel were told starting in 2010 to watch out for groups that had affiliations with ACORN, a national network of community-based organizations that had collapsed amid allegations of wrongdoing by conservative activists. Ultimately, at least 13 applications for tax exemptions were flagged for scrutiny based on possible ACORN ties, and most of those groups waited over a year for their cases to be resolved, the report said -- mirroring many of the allegations leveled regarding conservative groups.

The point, of course, is that they are nakedly political and do not qualify for tax breaks under the law.

Posted by orrinj at 2:23 PM

GREATEST WAR EVER:

Moscow faces 130 fake bomb calls, evacuates 100,000 people : Threats made to all four airports of the Russian capital, part of wave of calls since September that has authorities stumped (AP, October 6, 2017)

Among those targeted by the bomb calls were all four Moscow airports, five railway stations, 15 shopping malls, several hotels, more than 20 schools and many other venues, the state Tass news agency said. No explosives have been found in any of the sites targeted by the anonymous calls.

It was the latest and the most massive flurry of fake bomb threats since a wave of bomb hoaxes began in early September. The fake bomb threats have affected dozens of Russian cities and incurred massive economic damages.

Posted by orrinj at 2:21 PM

RERUNNING THE NUKE TEMPLATE:

Exclusive: Iran open to talks over its ballistic missile program - sources (Parisa Hafezi, Jonathan Saul, John Walcott, 10/06/17, Reuters)

A senior Iranian official, who also asked not to be named, said pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani, Zarif and Revolutionary Guards commanders have had several meetings with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last say on all Iranian policy, to secure his backing for missile talks.

"The leader was not optimistic during the meetings because he does not trust Americans. Others argued that the heightening tension over the missile program could be resolved through talks," said the official, involved in backroom negotiations.

Any talks would not aim to end or suspend Iran's missile program but to "negotiate some dimensions of it, like limiting production of some missiles with specific ranges," he said.

"Diplomacy worked well in ending the nuclear stand-off... The dispute over the missile program also can be resolved through talks," the official said.

A third Iranian official said Tehran would be willing to discuss long-range missiles.

As with the nuclear deal, they can trade something that doesn't exist for genuine trade/economic help.

Posted by orrinj at 2:17 PM

UNDER THE HOOD OF TRUMPISM (profanity alert):

Here's How Breitbart And Milo Smuggled Nazi and White Nationalist Ideas Into The Mainstream : A cache of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News reveals the truth about Steve Bannon's alt-right "killing machine." (Joseph Bernstein, 10/05/17, BuzzFeed News)


In August, after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville ended in murder, Steve Bannon insisted that "there's no room in American society" for neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, and the KKK.

But an explosive cache of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News proves that there was plenty of room for those voices on his website.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, under Bannon's leadership, Breitbart courted the alt-right -- the insurgent, racist right-wing movement that helped sweep Donald Trump to power. The former White House chief strategist famously remarked that he wanted Breitbart to be "the platform for the alt-right."

The Breitbart employee closest to the alt-right was Milo Yiannopoulos, the site's former tech editor known best for his outrageous public provocations, such as last year's Dangerous Faggot speaking tour and September's canceled Free Speech Week in Berkeley. For more than a year, Yiannopoulos led the site in a coy dance around the movement's nastier edges, writing stories that minimized the role of neo-Nazis and white nationalists while giving its politer voices "a fair hearing." In March, Breitbart editor Alex Marlow insisted "we're not a hate site." Breitbart's media relations staff repeatedly threatened to sue outlets that described Yiannopoulos as racist. And after the violent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, Breitbart published an article explaining that when Bannon said the site welcomed the alt-right, he was merely referring to "computer gamers and blue-collar voters who hated the GOP brand."

These new emails and documents, however, clearly show that Breitbart does more than tolerate the most hate-filled, racist voices of the alt-right. It thrives on them, fueling and being fueled by some of the most toxic beliefs on the political spectrum -- and clearing the way for them to enter the American mainstream.

It's a relationship illustrated most starkly by a previously unreleased April 2016 video in which Yiannopoulos sings "America the Beautiful" in a Dallas karaoke bar as admirers, including the white nationalist Richard Spencer, raise their arms in Nazi salutes.

These documents chart the Breitbart alt-right universe. They reveal how the website -- and, in particular, Yiannopoulos -- links the Mercer family, the billionaires who fund Breitbart, to underpaid trolls who fill it with provocative content, and to extremists striving to create a white ethnostate.

They capture what Bannon calls his "killing machine" in action, as it dredges up the resentments of people around the world, sifts through these grievances for ideas and content, and propels them from the unsavory parts of the internet up to TrumpWorld, collecting advertisers' checks all along the way.

And the cache of emails -- some of the most newsworthy of which BuzzFeed News is now making public -- expose the extent to which this machine depended on Yiannopoulos, who channeled voices both inside and outside the establishment into a clear narrative about the threat liberal discourse posed to America. The emails tell the story of Steve Bannon's grand plan for Yiannopoulos, whom the Breitbart executive chairman transformed from a charismatic young editor into a conservative media star capable of magnetizing a new generation of reactionary anger. Often, the documents reveal, this anger came from a legion of secret sympathizers in Silicon Valley, Hollywood, academia, suburbia, and everywhere in between. [...]


For nearly a decade, Devin Saucier has been establishing himself as one of the bright young things in American white nationalism. In 2008, while at Vanderbilt University, Saucier founded a chapter of the defunct white nationalist student group Youth for Western Civilization, which counts among its alumni the white nationalist leader Matthew Heimbach. Richard Spencer called him a friend. He is associated with the Wolves of Vinland, a Virginia neo-pagan group that one reporter described as a "white power wolf cult," one member of which pleaded guilty to setting fire to a historic black church. For the past several years, according to an observer of far-right movements, Saucier has worked as an assistant to Jared Taylor, possibly the most prominent white nationalist in America. According to emails obtained by BuzzFeed News, he edits and writes for Taylor's magazine, American Renaissance, under a pseudonym.

In an October 2016 email, Milo Yiannopoulos described the 28-year-old Saucier as "my best friend."

Yiannopoulos may have been exaggerating: He was asking his acquaintance the novelist Bret Easton Ellis for a signed copy of American Psycho as a gift for Saucier. But there's no question the men were close. After a March 2016 dinner together in Georgetown, they kept up a steady correspondence, thrilling over Brexit, approvingly sharing headlines about a Finnish far-right group called "Soldiers of Odin," and making plans to attend Wagner's Ring Cycle at the Kennedy Center.

Saucier -- who did not respond to numerous requests for comment -- clearly illustrates the direct connection between open white nationalists and their fellow travelers at Breitbart. By spring 2016, Yiannopoulos had begun to use him as a sounding board, intellectual guide, and editor. On May 1, Yiannopoulos emailed Saucier asking for readings related to class-based affirmative action; Saucier responded with a half dozen links on the subject, which American Renaissance often covers. On May 3, Saucier sent Yiannopoulos an email titled "Article idea": "How trolls could win the general for Trump." Yiannopoulos forwarded the email to Bokhari and wrote, "Drop what you're doing and draft this for me." An article under Yiannopoulos's byline appeared the next day. Also in early May, Saucier advised Yiannopoulos and put him in touch with a source for a story about the alt-right's obsession with Taylor Swift.

Saucier also seems to have had enough clout with Yiannopoulos to get him to kill a story. On May 9, the Breitbart tech editor sent Saucier a full draft of the class-based affirmative action story. "This really isn't good," Saucier wrote back, along with a complex explanation of how "true class-based affirmative action" would cause "black enrollment at all decent colleges" to be "decimated." The next day, Yiannopoulos wrote back, "I feel suitably admonished," with another draft. In response, after speculating that Yiannopoulos was trying to "soft pedal" racial differences in intelligence, Saucier wrote, "I would honestly spike this piece." The story never ran.

At other times, though, Yiannopoulos's writing delighted the young white nationalist. On June 20, Yiannopoulos sent Saucier a link to his story "Milo On Why Britain Should Leave The EU -- To Stop Muslim Immigration." "Nice work," Saucier responded. "I especially like the references to European identity and the Western greats." On June 25, Yiannopoulos sent Saucier a copy of an analysis, "Brexit: Why The Globalists Lost."

"Subtle truth bomb," Saucier responded via email to the sentence "Britain, like Israel and other high-IQ, high-skilled economies, will thrive on its own." (IQ differences among races are a fixation of American Renaissance.)

"I'm easing everyone in gently," Yiannopoulos responded.

"Probably beats my 'bite the pillow, I'm going in dry' strategy," Saucier wrote back.

On occasion Yiannopoulos didn't ease his masters at Breitbart in gently enough. Frequently, Alex Marlow's job editing him came down to rejecting anti-Semitic and racist ideas and jokes. In April 2016, Yiannopoulos tried to secure approval for the neo-Nazi hacker "Weev" Auernheimer, the system administrator for the Daily Stormer, to appear on his podcast.

"Great provocative guest," Yiannopoulos wrote. "He's one of the funniest, smartest and most interesting people I know. ... Very on brand for me."

"Please don't forward chains like that showing the sausage being made."
"Gotta think about it," Marlow wrote back. "He's a legit racist. ... This is a major strategic decision for this company and as of now I'm leaning against it." (Weev never appeared on the podcast.)

Editing a September 2016 Yiannopoulos speech, Marlow approved a joke about "shekels" but added that "you can't even flirt with OKing gas chamber tweets," asking for such a line to be removed. Marlow held a story about Twitter banning a prominent -- frequently anti-Semitic and anti-black -- alt-right account, "Ricky Vaughn." And in August 2016, Bokhari sent Marlow a draft of a story titled "The Alt Right Isn't White Supremacist, It's Western Supremacist," which Marlow held, explaining, "I don't want to even flirt with okay-ing Nazi memes."

"We have found his limit," Yiannopoulos wrote back.

Indeed, a major part of Yiannopoulos's role within Breitbart was aggressively testing limits around racial and anti-Semitic discourse. As far as this went, his opaque organization-with-an-organization structure and crowdsourced ideation and writing processes served Breitbart's purposes perfectly: They offered upper management a veil of plausible deniability -- as long as no one saw the emails BuzzFeed News obtained. In August 2016, a Yiannopoulos staffer sent a "Milo" story by Bokhari directly to Bannon and Marlow for approval.

"Please don't forward chains like that showing the sausage being made," Yiannopoulos wrote back. "Everyone knows; but they don't have to be reminded every time."

By Yiannopoulos's own admission, maintaining a sufficiently believable distance from overt racists and white nationalists was crucial to the machine he had helped Bannon build. As his profile rose, he attracted hordes of blazingly racist social media followers -- the kind of people who harassed the black Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones so severely on Twitter that the platform banned Yiannopoulos for encouraging them.

"Protip on handling the endless tide of 1488 scum," Curtis Yarvin, the neoreactionary thinker, wrote to Yiannopoulos in November 2015. ("1488" is a ubiquitous white supremacist slogan; "88" stands for "Heil Hitler.") "Deal with them the way some perfectly tailored high-communist NYT reporter handles a herd of greasy anarchist hippies. Patronizing contempt. Your heart is in the right place, young lady, now get a shower and shave those pits. The liberal doesn't purge the communist because he hates communism, he purges the communist because the communist is a public embarrassment to him. ... It's not that he sees enemies to the left, just that he sees losers to the left, and losers rub off."

"Thanks re 1488," Yiannopoulos responded. "I have been struggling with this. I need to stay, if not clean, then clean enough."

He had help staying clean. It came in the form of a media relations apparatus that issued immediate and vehement threats of legal action against outlets that described Yiannopoulos as a racist or a white nationalist.

"Milo is NOT a white nationalist, nor a member of the alt right," Jenny Kefauver, a senior account executive at CapitalHQ, Breitbart's press shop, wrote to the Seattle CBS affiliate after a story following the shooting of an anti-Trump protester at a Yiannopoulos speech. "Milo has always denounced them and you offer no proof that he is associated with them. Please issue a correction before we explore additional options to correct this error immediately."

Over 2016 and early 2017, CapitalHQ, and often Yiannopoulos personally, issued such demands against the Los Angeles Times, The Forward, Business Insider, Glamour, Fusion, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, and CNN. The resulting retractions or corrections -- or refusals -- even spawned a new category of Breitbart story.

Of course, it's unlikely that any of these journalists or editors could have known about Yiannopoulos's relationship with Saucier, about his attempts to defend gas chamber jokes in Breitbart, or about how he tried to put Weev on his podcast.

Nor could they have known about the night of April 2, 2016, which Yiannopoulos spent at the One Nostalgia Tavern in Dallas, belting out a karaoke rendition of "America the Beautiful" in front of a crowd of "sieg heil"-ing admirers, including Richard Spencer.

Saucier can be seen in the video filming the performance. The same night, he and Spencer did a duet of Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill" in front of a beaming Yiannopoulos.

And there was no way the journalists threatened with lawsuits for calling Yiannopoulos a racist could have known about his passwords.

In an April 6 email, Allum Bokhari mentioned having had access to an account of Yiannopoulos's with "a password that began with the word Kristall." Kristallnacht, an infamous 1938 riot against German Jews carried out by the SA -- the paramilitary organization that helped Hitler rise to power -- is sometimes considered the beginning of the Holocaust. In a June 2016 email to an assistant, Yiannopoulos shared the password to his email, which began "LongKnives1290." The Night of the Long Knives was the Nazi purge of the leadership of the SA. The purge famously included Ernst Röhm, the SA's gay leader. 1290 is the year King Edward I expelled the Jews from England.