Monthly Archives: August 2017

Steve Bannon’s Friends (And Trump’s) – The Lunatics Who Want To Run The Asylum And May Well Succeed

The passage below is not fabricated, although you could be forgiven for thinking it was, so harebrained, unpleasant and cockamamie are some of the characters and ideas described therein.

No, this is reality, that is Donald Trump and Steve Bannon’s reality as reported in Joshua Green’s much-praised study of the Trump-Bannon relationship, Devil’s Bargain, a book which some might think would be better titled Fruitcake’s Bargain. Others will see it as the natural outworking of neo-liberal American capitalism.

This short extract introduces the reader to one of the key figures in the effort to elect Donald Trump to the White House, a reclusive billionaire called Robert Mercer who gave goodness knows how many millions of dollars to his campaign

Mercer is also the man behind Steve Bannon. A Citizen Kane of the 21st century, Mercer financed Bannon’s efforts to build up the alt.right mouthpiece, Breitbart before Trump’s run, and now, following his departure from the White House, reportedly intends to fund an effort by Bannon to create a TV channel which will compete with Fox News for the loony, right-wing market. Only in America!

Robert Mercer – bizarre billionaire behind Trump and Bannon

The passage below is literally something you could not make up. But the people described are a) real, and b) in no small measure responsible for inflicting Donald Trump on the world. They will, albeit from the sidelines now, continue to exert a significant influence on American, and world, politics.

God help us all.

THE ALT-KOCHS

It was early December 2015, and Steve Bannon was wearing a full-on bombardier costume with leather jacket and goggles, and toting a goatskin flying helmet. He was dressed up as one of his favorite movie characters of all-time, Brigadier General Frank Savage, the tough-as-nails commander, played by Gregory Peck, who takes over a demoralized World War II bombing unit and whips them into fighting shape in the 1949 classic Twelve O’Clock High. Ordinarily, Bannon wasn’t big into cosplay. But this was a special occasion: the annual Christmas party thrown by the reclusive billionaire Robert Mercer, an eccentric computer scientist who was co-CEO of the fabled quantitative hedge fund Renaissance Technologies.

As introverted and private as Bannon was voluble and outspoken, Mercer was nonetheless a man of ardent passions. He collected machine guns and owned the gas-operated AR-18 assault rifle that Arnold Schwarzenegger wielded in The Terminator. He had built a $ 2.7 million model train set equipped with a miniature video camera to allow operators to experience the view from inside the cockpit of his toy engine. He was a competitive poker player. He liked to relax by shaping gemstones. And he loved to dress up in costumes.

The Armalite rifle from ‘The Terminator’

Each year, Mercer and his family threw an elaborate, themed Christmas party at Owl’s Nest, his opulent waterfront mansion on Long Island’s North Shore. Past themes had included “Cowboys and Indians” and “The Roaring Twenties.”  This year’s theme was “The End of World War II.” Mercer, styled as General Douglas MacArthur, had obtained an authentic World War II tank to park on his lawn and had flown in artifacts from the National World War II Museum in New Orleans: a piece of the USS Arizona recovered from the floor of Pearl Harbor, a parachute-silk wedding dress that once belonged to the French wife of an American GI, and the Medal of Honor given to PFC Arthur Jackson, a young Marine who single-handedly killed fifty Japanese soldiers on the South Pacific island of Peleliu in 1944. As guests mingled beneath tents spread across Mercer’s sprawling twelve-acre lawn, a group of Andrews Sisters impersonators provided the evening’s entertainment.

Mercer, who was then sixty-nine, had recently developed another late-in-life interest: politics. From a distance, his hard-line anti-government views appeared no different from those of any number of financial-industry power moguls scattered throughout the country, whose collective fortune financed the Republican Party and its affiliated think tanks and pressure groups. Up close, however, Mercer was . . .well, he was different. He resembled the bloodless capitalist hero in an Ayn Rand novel. Mercer wanted to bring back the gold standard and abolish the fractional-reserve banking system upon which the modern economy is built. He funded an Idaho activist who foments legal challenges to environmental laws, claiming they are part of a United Nations plot to depopulate rural America. He was once overheard by a Renaissance colleague insisting that radiation from the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in World War II actually improved the health of people outside the blast zone. “He’s a very independent thinker,” said Sean Fieler, a fellow conservative hedge fund manager who has worked with Mercer to lobby for a return to the gold standard. “He’s a guy with his own ideas, and very developed ideas.”

Mercer’s budding interest in right-wing politics was propitiously timed. He started to become active just as the Supreme Court was getting ready to hand down its decision in the 2010 Citizens United case—the case David Bossie had brought—opening the floodgates for wealthy individuals to take a larger and more active role in electoral politics. Mercer excited the Republican political world because, though he was a talented poker player, he didn’t bluff about his intentions and he was willing, and even eager, to make an enormous ante to a candidate or a cause he believed in.

Of course, Mercer’s eccentricity made it a bit difficult for ordinary Republican candidates to maneuver themselves into a position where they might catch the billionaire’s eye. The first horse Mercer bet on in a big way was a candidate so far out on the right-wing fringes that simply to describe him is to invite disbelieving laughter (which it often did). In 2010, a sixty-eight-year-old research chemist named Arthur Robinson, who lived on a sheep ranch deep in the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon, decided to challenge the longtime Democratic congressman, Peter DeFazio. Calling Robinson a “research chemist,” while technically accurate, doesn’t quite do justice to the exotic nature of the man’s pursuits. A self-funded medical renegade, Robinson was consumed with extending the human life span and believed that the secret to staving off death and disease could be found in human urine. To that end, Robinson collected thousands upon thousands of urine samples, which he froze in vials and stored in massive refrigerators that stood among his wandering sheep. Robinson published a newsletter to share his findings and to periodically put out calls for more urine (“ We need samples of your urine” read a typical house ad). Mercer was a subscriber to Robinson’s newsletter (this was likely the source of his claim that exposure to atomic radiation can benefit human health, a theory known as “hormesis”)…………..

…………..As the evening stars rose over Owl’s Nest, friends and courtiers from all walks of life strolled across the Mercers’ lawn, magically transported, if just for the evening, back to 1945. Jack Hanna, the khaki-clad celebrity zookeeper, came wandering by (the Mercers gave $ 100,000 to his zoo). But the evening’s buzz was all about politics. With the presidential election less than a year away, Rebekah Mercer (Robert Mercer’s third daughter), who was dressed as Rita Hayworth, stood to be a figure of consequence. Texas senator Ted Cruz, dressed as Winston Churchill, was especially solicitous of her. As everyone gathered on the lush grounds of Robert Mercer’s estate was keenly aware, the Mercer family had given away more than $ 77 million to conservative politicians and organizations since 2008.

You didn’t have to be a brilliant scientist to see the joy Bob Mercer derived from his annual Christmas pageant, or to understand that anyone hoping to curry favor with him would be wise to play along. This is how it came to be that adults who never imagined themselves dressing up in costumes—adults like Steve Bannon—wound up hunting for just the right period-appropriate accoutrements to make a positive impression. The effort could pay off handsomely. In fact, for Bannon, it already had. Over the past three years, the Mercers had become the key financial backers of a far-flung network of interlocking political and media groups that Bannon either had conceived of or had come to control. Bob Mercer was going to be vitally important to the presidential race. He was a man you’d dress up for. Bannon called him “the Godfather.”

 

Boston Cops Mobilise For Neo-Nazi Rally

Really?

What Bannon’s Firing Tells Us About Trump

First, he’s a coward. This is the man who earned his reputation as a tough business tycoon by telling people ‘You’re Fired!’ on his TV reality show, ‘The Apprentice’. But when it came to firing Bannon he sent along his Chief of Staff, Gen. Kelly to do the dirty deed. He didn’t have the balls to do it himself.

Second, he’s an ungrateful, disloyal piece of work. Bannon joined the Trump campaign when it was foundering and facing humiliating defeat by Hillary Clinton; but Bannon turned things around and got Trump elected to the White House. Trump owes him big time but it didn’t matter; he’s been dumped.

Without Bannon, Trump would have been history, and reduced to a sad, squalid footnote in America’s political history.

Now that Bannon has gone, we’ll soon discover whether Trump really has any politics of his own. My suspicion, widely shared I’d bet, is that he’s a political chameleon, adopting whatever political colours suit him best in the circumstances he finds himself in.

Bannon gave shape and focus to a campaign that had already been fashioned by Trump. The two men agreed on all the basics – Islamophobia, anti-immigration, economic populism and so on – but Bannon melded them together to make a winning brand.

So by dumping Bannon, is Trump sending a possibly important message that he’s ready to dump Bannon’s politics as well, make up with the mainstream Republicans and go legit, as it were?

I guess we’ll find out soon enough. Those to watch? The mainstream media for any softening of their almost universal hostility to the Trump White House. And the late night comedians. Watch the Trump joke count for any fall off.

‘Redneck Revolt’, The ‘Antifa’s’ Armed Wing At Charlottesville

As is well known by now, the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who turned up to Charlottesville last weekend included large numbers of armed militia members, equipped with modern automatic rifles which they were apparently ready to use (see photo below).

Neo-Nazi militia members at Charlottesville

Less well known is that the anti-fascist, or ‘antifa’ opposition also had armed supporters deployed in Charlottesville. A left-wing group known as ‘Redneck Revolt’ intervened to protect anti-racist protesters at several points and also came to the rescue of the radical African-American cleric and academic, Dr Cornel West and his colleagues when they came under attack by white supremacists.

The group, which has around 40 branches throughout the US, describes itself as:

‘…..a national network of community defense projects from a broad spread of political, religious, and cultural backgrounds. It is a pro-worker, anti-racist organization that focuses on working class liberation from the oppressive systems which dominate our lives. In states where it is legal to practice armed community defense, many branches choose to become John Brown Gun Clubs, training ourselves and our communities in defense and mutual aid.’

The group has a website which can be found here; its statement of principles includes a belief ‘in the right of militant resistance’.

I’d bet the mortgage that Attorney-General Jeff Sessions already has the group in his sights. What better way to vindicate Trump’s ‘both sides’ assertions than to target ‘Redneck Revolt’ along with the neo-Nazis.

Here is a report the group published of its activities in Charlottesville last weekend:

REPORTBACK: CHARLOTTESVILLE

 August 12, 2017

Redneck Revolt

The situation on the ground in Charlottesville, Virginia, is still developing and unstable, but a few of our Redneck Revolt members on the ground took some time to provide the following report back. We will continue to share updates as they’re available.

For those who are still unaware, this weekend has been the largest convergence of far-right and white nationalist/white supremacist organizations in recent US history. They have descended on Charlottesville, a town of approximately 48,000 people, as a response to the planned removal of a statue commemorating Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Earlier this year, self-described White Nationalist Richard Spencer led a torchlit march on the statue, with the intention of terrorizing locals who support the statue’s removal, particularly people of color.

This weekend, the stakes were raised at an event called “Unite the Right,” organized to tie together white supremacist groups across the spectrum. Participating groups and white supremacist personalities included Richard Spencer, Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Worker’s Party, Baked Alaska, Based Stickman, Augustus Invictus, Mike Enoch, Proud Boys, the Ku Klux Klan, and Nazi groups.

Locals and members of surrounding communities gathered in Charlottesville to take a stand against the “Unite the Right” rally, and defend their town from white supremacist organizing. Five Redneck Revolt branches from nearby towns have been on the ground in Charlottesville since yesterday, and working closely with the SRA, BLM, and local organizers to develop plans to protect the local community.

Last night, Dr. Cornel West and several local faith leaders called for a prayer meeting at the St. Paul’s Memorial Church in Charlottesville. Armed Redneck Revolt members were on-hand to assist with security, when word was received that the 300+ white supremacists were marching with torches across the University of Virginia campus towards the church. Across the street from the church, the fascist march encountered several anti-fascist and student counter-protestors, and a skirmish erupted. Redneck Revolt members assisted with escorting folks from the church to their cars, and everyone was evacuated safely.

Today, with hundreds more white supremacists expected to converge on Charlottesville, our Redneck Revolt branches worked together with local organizers to create and secure a staging area at Justice Park, within a short distance of the planned Unite the Right rally location, Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park). Approximately 20 Redneck Revolt members created a security perimeter around the park, most of them open-carrying tactical rifles.

Starting from early in the morning, there were eruptions of violence scattered throughout downtown Charlottesville, and around 11:30am, the governor of Virginia declared a state of emergency and ordered the police to cancel and evacuate the “Unite the Right” rally. National Guard and local police forces worked to contain the scattered violence, with little impact.

Throughout the day, the staging area at Justice Park was a safe haven for a wide range of protesters and other community members. Support teams provided food, water, medical support, and sanctuary, and groups such as the Quakers, Black Lives Matter, antifa groups, queer radical orgs, and the IWW moved in and out of Justice Park as needed to regroup and take care of each others’ injuries.

At many points during the day, groups of white supremacists approached Justice Park, but at each instance, Redneck Revolt members formed a unified skirmish line against them, and the white supremacists backed down. Most of the groups were not easily identified, but at separate points, contingents from Identity Europa and the Proud Boys were recognized.

The groups that threatened the park yelled racial and homophobic slurs, and many yelled things specifically at the Redneck Revolt fire teams which indicated that they were familiar with our principles. Some of the groups that approached numbered as many as 40 people, but the security of Justice Park was never breached.

The worst moment of an entire weekend of white supremacist violence came when someone rammed their Dodge Charger into a large crowd of anti-racist protesters. A 32 year old woman was killed, and at least 19 others have been reported injured. The crash and screams were heard by the groups staged at Justice Park, and two Redneck Revolt members ran down the street and assisted in direct medical support.

There are ongoing security actions planned throughout the night, to protect groups or locations which are at a higher risk of being attacked by the fascists, and our Redneck Revolt members on the ground will continue to check in as they are able to. They are especially appreciative of the camaraderie of the SRA, and look forward to building stronger defense networks together.

For folks looking for ways to provide support, there are several fundraisers circulating for legal and medical funds for the anti-racist protesters. We have not been able to independently verify these funds yet, so we appreciate any locals who can vouch for them. These fundraisers have been shared on our national Facebook page, and we will add them to this reportback as they’re verified.

If you’re in Charlottesville, please connect with other community members and form plans to keep each other safe. Folks who feel at risk are encouraged to stay together in groups, and check in on community members regularly who may be more isolated. Take precautions if you’re going to be downtown, and be aware that there are still reports of groups of fascists wandering around looking to inflict violence. We recommend being armed if you are able to be. There are many accessible less-than-lethal options which can help out considerably in a self-defense situation, such as mace. Take the time to eat, drink water, and rest. Solidarity!

Neo-Nazis Model Their Uniform On Trump’s Golf Gear…..

I knew that many of the neo-fascists and white supremacists on view at Charlottesville last weekend had worn chinos and white shirts but I didn’t know that this was a conscious modelling of Trump’s golfing outfit until today.

Thanks to The Village Voice’s photo spread on the riots at the University of Virginia town, we now know, apparently, that this is another revealing and embarrassing link between the alt.right cum fascisti spawned by the election of the construction magnate to the White House and the man himself.

Here is the VV pic:

And here is a recent photo of Trump playing golf (he could lose some weight!):

 

Is The Charlottesville Rammer Irish?

This post will probably get me into trouble. But, what the hell!

What do you think? Hmmm…..

Answers on a postcard to Niall O’Dowd, Editor & Publisher, The Irish Voice, New York……

Virginia police mugshot of James Fields, of Ohio, charged with killing one person and wounding 19 others when he rammed his car into an anti-fascist protest in Charlottesville on Saturday.

 

Niall O’Dowd Sells Out To Trump On Immigration

None of what follows will surprise anyone who has watched, or experienced, Niall O’Dowd’s journalistic and political career over the last three or so decades.

Cynical opportunism and an eye for the main chance have characterised his behaviour as editor/publisher of The Irish Voice, during his bromance with Sinn Fein, especially its leader Gerry Adams, and his wooing of the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party.

Niall O’Dowd – wants Ireland to accept Trump’s ‘only English speakers’ immigration plan

But expressing support for Trump’s racist immigration plans – only English speakers need apply – and urging the Irish community here in America and back in Ireland to break with the opposition to Trump and strike their own visa deal with possibly the most racist, overbearing, dangerous and despotic US president ever to occupy the White House is a breathtaking low.

The message that this would send to the civilized world, that Irish political and community leaders should side with the Trump White House’s overt racism, and implicitly endorse all the other horrors of his administration (including nuclear sabre-rattling to N.Korea), to ensure that a few thousand more Irish people – potential Irish Voice readers? – gain entry to the US, is horribly reminiscent of the worst kind of appeasement to pre-war fascism in Europe.

But that is precisely the message O’Dowd is sending, both in this Irish Voice article, reprinted below, and in interviews he has apparently given to RTE radio in Dublin.

Now it’s official. The one time Hillary Clinton devotee and Gerry Adams aficianado has now joined the American alt.right. Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller are now O’Dowd’s new buddies. Because that is what the article below means.

Read it:

It is time for Irish to go it alone on immigration reform

@niallodowd

 

Campaigners rallying in 2007 for comprehensive immigration reform: It's time for the Irish to go it alone.

Campaigners rallying in 2007 for comprehensive immigration reform: It’s time for the Irish to go it alone. Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform

Comprehensive immigration reform is dead – the Irish need to work with Trump’s plan

Did you know approximately 143,500 Irish-born people live in America down from 250,000 in 1980? In a few years because of immigration restrictions, there will be none.

Annie Moore from Cork, the first person off at Ellis Island will turn in her grave.

What are the Irish communities in the US going to do about it?

First, we must face reality. Comprehensive immigration reform is dead. It is time for the Irish to unhitch their wagon from that particular dead horse.

Second, there are significant positives in Donald Trump’s new immigration plan and the Irish need to work with it.

Third, the best hope for Ireland is a go-it-alone strategy.

Donald Trump’s new immigration plan

In a week when New York Times columnist Ross Douthat called out the left on its continued obsession with not appearing racist on immigration, it is time we all embraced a new reality.

Douthat wrote: “…liberalism has gone a little bit insane on immigration, digging into a position that any restrictions are ipso facto racist, and any policy that doesn’t take us closer to open borders is illegitimate and un-American.”

Hear hear! The left has lost its way on immigration. Britain, Australia, Canada all favor English-speaking graduates who immediately contribute to the economy. Trump is merely suggesting the same priorities for the United States.

"There are significant positives in Donald Trump’s new immigration plan."

“There are significant positives in Donald Trump’s new immigration plan.”

Currently, America is continuing its immigration obsession of family reunification, prioritizing even immigrants’ adult brothers and sisters living abroad whose visas take up to 12 years to process. The system is absurd and broken.

Ireland is one of the countries most badly affected. The Irish simply cannot immigrate legally to the United States. Yet, if we say that we are accused of overlooking other countries’ needs and breaking the compact on comprehensive reform for all.

If the election of Donald Trump clarified one thing it was that Americans have no appetite for comprehensive immigration reform – quite the opposite.

1965 Immigration Reform Act betrayed the Irish

We need to talk about the 1965 Immigration Reform Act and how it betrayed the Irish, one of the founding groups of this country who contributed mightily to its success (read Washington’s St. Patrick’s Day message to his Irish troops if you need convincing or Lincoln kissing the Irish flag at Harrison’s Landing after the Irish Brigade fought fearlessly for him.)

Yet we have been essentially excluded from America since 1965. We get one fifth of one percent of the million green cards a year. Somehow, if you lobby for the Irish it makes you an odd person as if you are not supposed to lobby for your own people but instead lobby for work visas for every country on earth.

E3 Visas – Go it alone

Consider this, Australia did some smart lobbying a few years back and got 10,500 visas a year for themselves – all on their own. Google the term “E3 visas” if you don’t believe me. How many Australians fought with Washington, gave their blood in foreign wars, died to preserve the Union?

The Irish government has been trying hard, but the effort needs a new intensity and focus which I believe should be an E3 visa scheme for Ireland which would re-establish the links between two countries forever bound together by history.

We should use the Trump proposals as a starting point. Unless we do this, soon enough an Irish-born man or woman will be as rare in America as hen’s teeth. It is not good enough.