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  • 14 Trump and Russia Questions Robert Mueller Knows the Answers To
    WIRED Garrett M. Graff 12.05.18 05:00 am

    Michael Flynn's sentencing memo, filed yesterday with the most intriguing and interesting parts redacted by special counsel Robert Mueller, provided yet another frustrating glimpse into an investigation that seems at times almost maddeningly opaque. It made clear that Flynn was cooperating in three criminal investigationsand that he had cooperated extensivelybut shed little light on the "what" or the "how."

    Amid the flurry of revelations from special counsel Robert Muellers investigation of Russias role in the 2016 campaign, its worth revisiting the loose ends of his probe. Specifically, focusing on questions that remain mysteries to us but that clearly Mueller himself knows by this pointthe Rumsfeldian known unknownsprovides particular clarity as to where the investigation will head next.

    Decoding Muellers 17-month investigation has been a publicly frustrating exercise, as individual puzzle pieces, like Flynn's sentencing memo, often dont hint at the final assembled picturenor even tell us if were looking at a single interlocking puzzle, in which all the pieces are related, or multiple, separate, unrelated ones.

    The sheer breadth of alleged, unrelated criminality by so many different Trumpworld playersfrom Paul Manaforts money laundering and European bribes to Michael Flynns Turkish conspiracies to Michael Cohens tax fraud to even the indictments of the first two members of Congress to endorse Trump, representatives Chris Collins and Duncan Huntermake it particularly difficult to disentangle what might have transpired at Trump Tower and the White House.

    Muellers investigation, though, has been remarkably focused and consistent straight throughzeroing in on five distinct investigative avenues: money laundering and Russian-linked business deals; the Russian governments cyberattack on the DNC, other entities, and state-level voting systems; its related online information influence operations, by the Internet Research Agency; the sketchy contacts by Trump campaign and transition officials with Russia; and the separate question of whether Trump himself, or others, actively tried to obstruct justice by impeding the investigation of the above.

    A sixth investigative avenue was opened this spring by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, where Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws by paying hush money to Stormy Daniels and otherswhich he says occurred at Trumps instruction.

    Muellers careful, methodical strategy often only reveals itself in hindsight, as the significance of previous steps becomes clear with subsequent ones. Examining today the totality of what Mueller and prosecutors have shown thus far illuminates numerous areas of clear interest.

    Despite the massive revelationsand more than 300 pages of a Mueller report that has already been written through court filingsthere remain very basic details we still dont know, starting with three overarching concerns:

    1. Is Matt Whitaker overseeing the Russia probeand is his appointment as attorney general even legal? Its remarkable how little we know about the status of the acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, whose appointment is being challenged in multiple legal forums currently as unconstitutional, and whether hes actively overseeing the Russia investigation. Under immense pressure, Whitakerwho has publicly criticized the Mueller probe and whose appointment seemed designed to hinder Muellerannounced soon after his appointment that he would seek the guidance of Justice Department ethics lawyers, but the department has refused to say whether hes done so. As Tom Goldstein, one of DCs most respected Supreme Court attorneys and observers, wrote to the Court, It is a constitutional crisis even if we are distracted from and dulled to it.

    2. Is Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross involved in any of this? Scandals come and go so quickly in the Trump administration that its hard to keep them straight, but its worth revisiting that investigative journalists, primarily at Forbes, have spent the year documenting myriad sketchy financial dealings by Cabinet member and billionaire Wilbur Ross, including his apparent ties to a Cyprus bank controlled by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who has been mixed up with Michael Cohen and whose companies funneled Cohen more than $4.4 million for consulting services after Trumps election. (The same Cyprus bank was a key conduit of Paul Manaforts alleged money laundering, and cooperated with Muellers investigation.) As Cabinet secretary, Ross also maintained part ownership in a shipping company owned by another Russian oligarch who was under sanctions by the US government. While Rosss scandals have thus far appeared separate from Trumps, he adds to the unusually large number of Trump associates with complex financial ties to Russia. And Rosss continued well into his time in the Cabinet, providing another potential point of leverage for Russian influence.

    3. How closely related is the investigation of the 2016 election to the Trump Organizations financial scandals? The Michael Cohen plea agreement highlighted another uncomfortable fact: just how little we know about the business holdings, income, business partners, or investors in Donald Trumps business empire. Again, earth-shaking scandals sweep past in the Trump era too quickly to remember, so its easy to forget that just two months ago, The New York Times reported that Donald Trump as a businessman had engaged in an apparent $400 million tax fraud. Trump money watchers noted quickly that the Times investigation complemented an earlier Washington Post report that pointed to how Trump abruptly switched in the 2000swhen, we now know, his fathers funds dried upto paying for projects with massive, largely unexplained piles of cash. Around that same time period, Donald Trump, Jr. said that Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. The first rule of any scandal is always the Watergate maxim: Follow the money. Who were, or are, Trumps business partners, and did any of them play a part in the 2016 election attack? We know from excellent reporting by people like Adam Davidson, in the the New Yorker, that Trump was happy to do business with Russian oligarchs. The June 2016 Trump Tower meeting involved at least some of Trumps business partners, like Aras Agalarov, who may have moved money around suspiciously soon thereafter. Given how intertwined Russias business elite is with Vladimir Putin, it hardly seems like these connections are entirely unrelated to Russias multi-pronged attack on the 2016 election.

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    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp

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    • Trump and Russia Questions Pt 2

      Beyond those three broader potential scandalsany one of which in ordinary times would have been the subject of wall-to-wall news coveragea close examination of the state of Muellers investigation offers a host of intriguing questions yet to be answered, and puzzle pieces left unplaced:

      4. How did Trump himself, and the Trump family, react to Cohens updates on various schemes? Michael Cohens two plea agreements both discuss his interactions with Individual 1, aka Donald Trump. Notably, though, the court filings stop short of providing any clear detail about just how Trump or, in the case of the Trump Tower Moscow project, Trumps family members reacted to Cohens updates. However, Cohen has gone out of his way in court to point out verbally that he acted at the direction of Donald Trump. Prosecutors cant ethically allow him to say things in court that they dont have reason to believe are true, so if Cohen is saying that, they almost certainly have documentary evidence to back it up. Remember, prosecutors seized about 291,000 documents in their April raid of Cohens office, as well as around 30 iPads, cell phones, computers, and other devices. Cohen himself has made clear that he secretly recorded conversations around Trump, so its possible that prosecutors even have some of the exchanges in question verbatim. Given how thorough and detail-rich Muellers court filings have been, it seems likely theres a reason to have left these details out so far.

      5. What has Felix Sater told Mueller? The man known as Individual 2 in the Cohen agreement, real estate developer and peripheral Trump figure Felix Sater, possesses perhaps the most intriguing background of anyone wrapped up in the scandal. Hes a longtime intelligence asset and businessman who was a key participant in the Trump Tower Moscow project. From another case involving the Russian mob, he also has a pre-existing relationship with Andrew Weissmann, Muellers bulldog prosecutor. Sater has been apparently cooperating with the special counsel, and that assistance, paired with Michael Cohena walking, 70-hour-talking Rosetta Stone of Trumplandwould potentially provide comprehensive insights.

      6. What has George Nader told Mueller? Beyond the questions around WikiLeaks, the biggest part of the Trump puzzle that hasnt seen any public action centers around another enigmatic figure, would-be Middle Eastern power broker George Nader, who, like Sater, apparently has been cooperating for some time with Mueller. A whole series of questions remain about a meeting in the Seychelles involving Blackwater founder Erik Prince. Its possible that they havent come to light because Mueller found nothing there. But given his sustained months of interviews and questions, it seems equally likely Muellers building something we havent seen.

      7. What happens to Cozy Bear? The Russian government perpetrated two distinct cyberattacks on the DNC, one by the military intelligence unit GRU, and its hacking team known as Fancy Bear, and a separate, apparently uncoordinated attack by the state security service FSB, known as Cozy Bear. Mueller brought a narrative-rich indictment against the GRUs Fancy Bear team, but we know from European reporting that the US knowledge of Cozy Bears activities is at least as rich. Dutch intelligence hacked Cozy Bears offices and has security camera footage of the individual hackers involved, all of which was turned over to the US. If the Cozy Bear hackers havent been charged, theres presumably a reasonand, given the public knowledge of the Dutch intelligence coup, its likely not just about protecting sources and methods. Is there a Cozy Bear shoe still to drop or did the FSB play some larger role in the plot that will become clear in time?

      8. Who is the Atlanta traveler? In some ways, the deeply detailed nature of Muellers filings make the details he doesnt include just as interesting. In the Internet Research Agency indictment, he laid out how three IRA employees traveled to the US in 2014. Mueller indicted two of them in February, but left unindicted someone from the Internet Research Agency who evidently traveled to Atlanta as part of the operation for four days in 2014. Its not for a lack of knowledge. Mueller makes clear in the indictment that he knows the precise IRA official who this unnamed, evidently male traveler filed his Atlanta expenses to after the tripso if this traveler is remaining anonymous, you can bet there's a good reason. Does Mueller have a cooperator from inside the Internet Research Agency?

      9. Why was Trumps team so concerned about the transition documents? Its easy to lose track of threads of the Trump case, as it sprawls across numerous characters, plots, and subplots, so its easy to forget at this point just how much material Mueller has accumulated in his investigation. Fully a year ago, a controversy erupted over how Mueller had (legally) obtained emails from Trumps presidential transition team. Mueller was using the emails, including those from Jared Kushner, to question witnesses, causing concerns among the presidents lawyers. What was in the documents, and what were the questions, that raised such objections? What did Muellers team know that the presidents lawyers had hoped to keep out of their hands?

      10. How much more of the Steele Dossier is true? The explosive and infamous dossier compiled on Trumps business activities by one-time MI6 operative Christopher Steele has been the source of controversy since even before BuzzFeed published it for the world to see. Yet as much as Fox News, conservative pundits, and Trump allies have attacked it, much of the dossierwhich its creator has always said was meant to reflect merely raw intelligence, and not necessarily an endorsement of the informations veracityhas proven true as we learn more about Trumps ties to Russia. As former director of national intelligence James Clapper said in May, As time has gone on, more and more of it has been corroborated. Were obviously a long way from knowing whether the most salacious details are true, but thanks to Cohens plea agreement, we do know that Russia possessed compromising information about the Trump Organization during the course of the campaign, mainly that it was engaging in business deals in secret in the midst of the election. Its no longer impossible to imagine that thats not the only kompromat that Russia had.

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      • Trump and Russia Questions Pt 3

        11. Is it a coincidence that the IRA scheduled a Down with Hillary rally in New York, weeks in advance, for the day after WikiLeaks dumped the DNC emails? Bob Muellers court filings are filled with interesting dates and nuggets, all pointing to the conclusion that he knows far moreand possesses far more intelligencethan we imagine. He notes without comment, for instance, that Michael Cohen decided to scrap pursuing the Trump Tower Moscow project on June 16, 2016, which happens to be the same date the DNC hack first became public. A similar date coincidence appears in the IRA indictment: If the Internet Research Agency knew the date that the Clinton emails would drop on WikiLeaks weeks in advance, how closely did Russia coordinate with WikiLeaks? And how closely did WikiLeaks coordinate with people affiliated with the Trump campaign, given the flurry of attention over the last two weeks around Assange, Corsi, and Stone, all of whom appear to be in prosecutors sights?

        12. Why isnt Mueller prosecuting Maria Butina and Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova? The cases of the gun-loving Russian operative, arrested this summer in Washington, and the purported accountant for the Internet Research Agency, charged this fall with interfering with US elections, both have been handled by the Justice Departments National Security Division, which traditionally handles counterintelligence cases, even though both cases appear to fall squarely in Robert Muellers mandateand he did charge many of Khusyaynovas IRA colleagues earlier this year. Reporting at the time indicated that the investigation of Butina predated Muellers appointment, which could be one reason Mueller didnt handle her case. Yet given her ties to the NRA and Muellers apparent interest in the sources of the NRAs funding and Russian banker (and alleged Butina handler) Alexander Torshin, it seems like shed be of great interest to him. Similarly, why was Khusyaynova only charged this fall, when she clearly could have been part of the February indictment? The odd manner in which her case was filed and then unsealed a month later offers intriguing possibilities: Did US officials think they had a chance to catch her overseas somewhere? Both of these casesand the incongruent manner in which they were handledpoint to puzzle pieces we havent been shown yet.

        13. Why is Mueller charging Michael Cohen? Just as were missing puzzle pieces in the Butina and Khusyaynova prosecutions, its not fully clear why Mueller handled Michael Cohens plea agreement last week. As legal scholar par excellence Paul Rosenzweig noted last week, Cohens earlier August case was actually referred out of Muellers office to federal prosecutors in New York. The more recent charge of lying to Congress would be typically handled by the US Attorney for the District of Columbia. So the fact that Mueller himself brought Cohens latest plea agreement back into his office appears to have significance beyond what we currently understand. Regardless, charging people who lied to Congress as part of its Russia investigation opens new avenues for Mueller. Congressional investigators are already discussing how others might face similar prosecution, including perhaps Donald Trump, Jr. himself. However, it might also mean that Cohens discussions about the Trump Tower Moscow project more directly tie into the larger questions about Russias influence on the election. Understanding this puzzle piece would also presumably help answer another core question: How intimately ensnared are Don Jr. and Jared Kushner?

        14. Was the Guardian correct in reporting that Paul Manafort met with Julian Assange? Its been a full week since the Guardians bombshell report that Trumps campaign chairman met in person with the founder of WikiLeaks, an incredible story to emerge so late in the investigation. It was seemingly well-sourced, down to misspellings in intelligence documents and the precise outfit Manafort was said to be wearing, yet in the subsequent week, no other news outlet has matched the reporting, despite frantic attempts to. While thats not necessarily dispositive on its own, there's an old journalism maxim: Every reporter wants an exclusive, just not for too long. Meanwhile, the Guardian itself softened some of the language post-publication. Regardless, the Guardian report should be easy for intelligence sources to confirm one way or the other; London is the most surveilled city in the western world, and its blanket of CCTV cameras surely would have proof of Manafort approaching the embassy. The lack of corroboration has led some to wonder: Did someone go out of their way to plant true fake news? https://www.wired.com/story/robert-m...red-questions/

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        • Saudi Arabia is reportedly outsourcing its war in Yemen to child soldiers
          Some Sudanese families are reportedly so desperate for money, they bribe militia officers to take their children to warzones.
          VOX Amanda Sakuma Dec 30, 2018, 3:54pm EST

          Saudi Arabia is reportedly outsourcing its war in Yemen to be fought by child soldiers from Sudan.

          According to a bombshell investigation from the New York Times David Kirkpatrick, the Saudis are dipping into their deep pockets to bankroll a militia of Sudanese fighters many of them children to fight on the frontlines against Yemens Houthi rebels, insulating the Kingdom from casualties and the political blowback they could cause. Many of the Sudanese fighters come from the region of Darfur, where violent conflict consumed the countryside for more than a decade. Across the Red Sea in Yemen, they face a steep risk of death again:

          At any time for nearly four years as many as 14,000 Sudanese militiamen have been fighting in Yemen in tandem with the local militia aligned with the Saudis, according to several Sudanese fighters who have returned and Sudanese lawmakers who are attempting to track it. Hundreds, at least, have died there.

          The conditions inside Yemen were already bleak. The war there, led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has by some estimates claimed the lives of nearly 50,000 people. The conflict has spurred a massive humanitarian crisis, leaving more than 12 million people on the brink of starvation and in desperate need of assistance.

          Kirkpatrick reports that some families in Sudan are so desperate for money from Riyadh, they bribe militia officers to allow their children to fight, some as young as 14 years old. While estimates vary and Saudi Arabia denied employing child soldiers, the Times reports that minors make up anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent of the Sudanese fighters in a unit:

          People are desperate. They are fighting in Yemen because they know that in Sudan they dont have a future, said Hafiz Ismail Mohamed, a former banker, economic consultant and critic of the government. We are exporting soldiers to fight like they are a commodity we are exchanging for foreign currency.

          Congress has made a half-hearted attempt to curtail the violence in Yemen
          The US government as a whole from Congress to President Donald Trump so far has done little to meaningfully put an end to hostilities in Yemen. The US currently sells weapons to the Saudi-backed coalition in Yemen, and provides them with some intelligence support. And while the US indicated in November it will stop refueling the coalitions aircraft used in the conflict, which potentially limits the Saudis ability to carry out bombing campaigns, calls are growing for Congress to do more.

          When Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in October, momentum built briefly. Lawmakers made preliminary moves to cut Americas ties to the three-year conflict, with the Senate passing a historic resolution to cut military aid to Saudi Arabia related to the war in Yemen.

          But as Voxs Tara Golshan explains, the resolution was thrown back to square one after House Democrats helped Republicans stall any action on Yemen until at least the new Congress comes into session.

          Meanwhile, the White House has pushed back against efforts to end aid, and done little more than turn a blind eye to Riyadhs range of troubling actions including the crown princes likely involvement in Khashoggis murder.

          But as new harrowing stories come to light detailing the atrocities being carried out in Yemen, the conflict and the USs complicity in the violence may become harder to ignore.
          https://www.vox.com/2018/12/30/18161...child-soldiers


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          • John Kellys exit interview lifts the curtain on the chaos within the Trump White House
            The outgoing chief of staff is trying to save face after a rocky tenure under Trump.
            VOX Amanda Sakuma Dec 30, 2018, 1:18pm EST

            Outgoing Chief of Staff John Kelly is out defending his time trying to wrangle the Trump White House. And while the disarray at the White House has long-been well-documented between public staff upheaval and reported details of Trumps TV-binging habits Kelly is taking the rare move of lifting the veil and confirming bits of the chaos that happen behind the scenes.

            In a wide-ranging exit interview with Los Angeles Times reporter Molly OToole, Kelly discussed his tumultuous 17 months overseeing President Donald Trumps White House. And while Trump has earned a reputation as a rash decision-maker who sometimes ignores the advice of his own experts, Kelly wants to make clear that its not because he didnt do his job of keeping the president informed:

            Kelly said he made sure that Trump had access to multiple streams of detailed information before he made a decision even if the president says he often relies on his gut, rather than U.S. intelligence.

            Its never been: The president just wants to make a decision based on no knowledge and ignorance, Kelly said. You may not like his decision, but at least he was fully informed on the impact.

            Kelly was supposed to be the adult in the room a highly disciplined, retired Marine Corps general tasked with wrangling an understaffed administration and bringing order to a White House beset with rivalries between advisers and different agencies.

            But his relationship with the president has reportedly soured in recent months. Kelly reportedly called Trump an idiot numerous times, according to NBC News, (Kelly says those allegations are total BS) and told the LA Times he continued to serve out of a sense of duty.

            Military people, he said, dont walk away.

            Kellys replacement, Mick Mulvaney of the Office of Management and Budget, takes over the post in an acting capacity at the start of the year. Between the government shutdown and a future divided Congress, Mulvaney already has his hands full and its unclear how long hes expected to stay in the post as acting chief of staff. But Kellys exit provides a cautionary tale for what to expect from working with Trump.

            Kelly blames Jeff Sessions for the disastrous family separation policy at the border
            Though he tried to run an orderly White House for the president, some things, Kelly insisted, were outside his control. When US immigration authorities began separating young migrant children from their parents at the border last summer, Kelly says that even the White House was blindsided by the policy. He blames the fallout on Jeff Sessions, who was fired last month from his post as attorney general.

            What happened was Jeff Sessions, he was the one that instituted the zero-tolerance process on the border that resulted in both people being detained and the family separation, Kelly told the LA Times. He surprised us.

            The finger-pointing at Sessions is a noteworthy admission considering how the administration addressed the widespread public outcry to the policy, first by denying its existence, then blaming Democrats and past immigration laws before eventually taking ownership of the policy. Trump eventually put an end to family separation with an executive order after weeks of backlash.

            But for all his reflection on the zero-tolerance policy, Kellys own role in the fiasco will follow his reputation. He infamously treated the prospect of children being torn from their parents with indifference, saying the kids would be put into foster care, or whatever.

            Before joining the Trump administration, Kelly oversaw the Pentagons Southern Command, where he had a front-row seat to the violent conditions that are now driving mass migration out of Central America, namely in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. His tenure under Trump began with heading the Department of Homeland Security, where he became the face of the administrations immigration policies, even as he personally disagreed with Trumps aggressive stance on the issue.

            Kelly emphasizes now that he has great compassion for immigrant children. Illegal immigrants, overwhelmingly, are not bad people, he told the Times, adding that many are exploited by gangs and traffickers. I have nothing but compassion for them, the young kids.

            The interview is Kellys first candid account of his tenure and first attempt to write his legacy. But much has happened under his watch since he came on as chief of staff in July 2017. And like many who left before him, its hard to walk away from the Trump White House untarnished. https://www.vox.com/2018/12/30/18161...ps-white-house



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            • Trump orders federal pay freeze for 2019
              It comes at the worst time: in the middle of a government shutdown.
              VOX Amanda Sakuma Dec 30, 2018, 10:21am EST

              Federal workers are really being left out in the cold this holiday season.

              President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Friday freezing federal workers salaries for 2019, coming as hundreds of thousands of them are either furloughed or working without pay because of a political standoff over government funding.

              The order halts the automatic 2.1 percent increase all civilian workers would have received under federal pay laws. Military personnel, who have been funded separately, will still receive a 2.6 percent raise.

              Workers unions say Trump is pouring salt into the wound by delivering the pay freeze as 800,000 federal workers continue to shoulder the burden of a partial government shutdown. Were now nine days in to the political standoff between the president and Congress over Trumps requested $5 billion for the border wall with no end in sight. The Office of Personnel Management has even taken the unusual step of issuing guidance to workers about how to bargain with landlords and mortgage companies if they cant make rent.

              Trump initially announced the across-the-board pay freeze in August, saying the federal government couldnt sustain the cost-of-living pay increase and that raises should be tied to performance. His decision was swiftly met with widespread outcry, and he then promised to study the matter over Labor Day weekend. But as Voxs Emily Stewart noted at the time, the only studying he did that weekend was spending time at his golf club and tweeting at Fox News personalities.

              Trump appointees may actually get a massive pay bump

              Past presidents have eased up on scheduled raises for federal workers. President Barack Obama issued a two-year federal pay freeze in 2010 in response to the financial crash. And in 2012 and 2013, House Republicans stepped in to freeze pay for both federal workers and congressional staff.

              Theres still a chance for federal workers to see that raise. Congress has the power to override the presidents executive order, and House Democrats have indicated a willingness to fund a pay increase. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said a 1.9 percent cost-of-living pay raise would be the first order of business for Congress when it convenes in January. (The Senate already included a 1.9 percent bump in spending bills it passed earlier this year.)

              And as the Washington Post notes, even top level government employees may see their paychecks padded into the new year. The executive order points out that a 2013 pay freeze for senior officials is set to expire in January. If that goes into effect, the Post reports, then Trumps political appointees may be eligible for catch-up raises that amount to thousands of dollars.
              https://www.vox.com/2018/12/30/18161...ay-freeze-2019

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              • The alt-right is drunk on bad readings of Nietzsche. The Nazis were too.
                The alt-right is obsessed with the 19th-century German philosopher. They dont understand him.
                VOX Sean Illing@seanillingsean.illing@vox.com Updated Dec 30, 2018, 9:31am EST

                You could say I was red-pilled by Nietzsche.

                Thats how white nationalist leader Richard Spencer described his intellectual awakening to the Atlantics Graeme Wood last June. Red-pilled is a common alt-right term for that eureka moment one experiences upon confrontation with some dark and previously buried truth.

                For Spencer and other alt-right enthusiasts of the 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, that dark truth goes something like this: All the modern pieties about race, peace, equality, justice, civility, universal suffrage thats all bull****. These are constructs cooked up by human beings and later enshrined as eternal truths.

                Nietzsche says the world is in constant flux, that there is no capital-T truth. He hated moral and social conventions because he thought they stifled the individual. In one of his most famous essays, The Genealogy of Morality, which Spencer credits with inspiring his awakening, Nietzsche tears down the intellectual justifications for Christian morality. He calls it a slave morality developed by peasants to subdue the strong. The experience of reading this was shattering, Spencer told Wood. It upended his moral universe.

                There is, of course, much more to Nietzsche than this. As someone silly enough to have written a dissertation on Nietzsche, Ive encountered many Spencer-like reactions to his thought. And Im not surprised that the old German philosopher has become a lodestar for the burgeoning alt-right movement. There is something punk rock about his philosophy. You read it for the first time and you think, Holy ****, how was I so blind for so long?!

                But if you read Nietzsche like a college freshman cramming for a midterm, youre bound to misinterpret him or at least to project your own prejudices into his work. When that happens, we get bad Nietzsche, as the Weeks Scott Galupo recently put it.

                And it would appear that bad Nietzsche is back, and he looks a lot like he did in the early 20th century when his ideas were unjustly appropriated by the (original) Nazis. So nows a good time to reengage with Nietzsches ideas and explain what the alt-right gets right and wrong about their favorite philosopher.

                The obsession with decline
                In her recent book about the rise of the alt-right, Irish academic Angela Nagle discusses their obsession with civilizational decay. Theyre disgusted by what they consider a degenerate culture, she told me in a recent interview.

                Nietzsche made these same arguments more than 100 years ago. The story he tells in The Genealogy of Morality is that Christianity overturned classical Roman values like strength, will, and nobility of spirit. These were replaced with egalitarianism, community, humility, charity, and pity. Nietzsche saw this shift as the beginning of a grand democratic movement in Western civilization, one that championed the weak over the strong, the mass over the individual.

                The alt-right or at least parts of the alt-right are enamored of this strain of Nietzsches thought. The influential alt-right blog Alternative Right refers to Nietzsche as a great visionary and published an essay affirming his warnings about cultural decay.

                Future historians will likely look back on the contemporary West as a madhouse, the essays author writes, where the classic virtues of heroism, high culture, nobility, self-respect, and reason had almost completely disappeared, along with the characteristics of adulthood generally.

                Christianity is wrong, Christendom is right
                In his interview with the Atlantic, Spencer, an avowed atheist, surprised Wood with a peculiar defense of Christianity: that the religion is false but it bound together the civilizations of Europe.

                Spencers view is common among the alt-right. They have no interest in the teachings of Christ, but they see the whole edifice of white European civilization as built on a framework of Christian beliefs. From their perspective, Christendom united the European continent and forged white identity.

                Its a paradox: They believe the West has grown degenerate and weak because it internalized Christian values, but they find themselves defending Christendom because they believe its the glue that binds European culture together.

                Last August, Vox Day, a prominent alt-right thinker (who often cites Nietzsche in his posts), laid out the central tenets of the alt-right in a post titled What the Alt-Right is. There are a number of revealing points, one of which reads:

                The Alt Right believes Western civilization is the pinnacle of human achievement and supports its three foundational pillars: Christianity, the European nations, and the Graeco-Roman legacy.

                Nietzsche accepted that Christianity was central to the development of Western civilization, but his whole philosophy was focused on convincing people that the West had to move beyond Christianity.

                When Nietzsche famously declared that God is dead, he meant that science and reason had progressed to the point where we could no longer justify belief in God, and that meant that we could no longer justify the values rooted in that belief. So his point was that we had to reckon with a world in which there is no foundation for our highest values.

                The alt-right skipped this part of Nietzsches philosophy. Theyre tickled by the death of God thesis but ignore the implications.

                Nietzsche's argument was that you had to move forward, not fall back onto ethnocentrism, Hugo Drochon, author of Nietzsches Great Politics, told me. So in many ways Spencer is stuck in the 'Shadows of God' claiming Christianity is over but trying to find something that will replace it so that we can go on living as if it still existed, rather than trying something new.

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                • Alt-Right is Drunk Pt 2

                  The irony of racist Nietzscheans
                  The alt-right renounces Christianity but insists on defending Christendom against nonwhites. But thats not Nietzsche; thats just racism. And the half-baked defense of Christendom is an attempt to paper over that fact.

                  Nietzsche was interested in ideas, in freedom of thought. To the extent that he knocked down the taboos of his day, it was to free up the creative powers of the individual. He feared the death of God would result in an era of mass politics in which people sought new isms that would give them a group identity.

                  The time is coming when the struggle for dominion over the earth will be carried on in the name of fundamental philosophical doctrines, he wrote. By doctrines, he meant political ideologies like communism or socialism. But he was equally contemptuous of nationalism, which he considered petty and provincial.

                  Listening to Spencer talk about Nietzsche (and, regrettably, I listened to his Nietzsche podcast) is like hearing someone who never got past the introduction of any of his favorite books. Its the kind of dilettantism you hear in first-year critical theory seminars. He uses words like radical traditionalist and archeofuturist, neither of which means anything to anyone.

                  Like so many superficial readers of Nietzsche, Spencer is excited by the radicalism but doesnt take it seriously. Spencers rejection of conventional conservatism clearly has roots in Nietzsches ideas, but Spencers fantasy of a white ethnostate is exactly what Nietzsche was condemning in the Germany of his time.

                  Nietzsche's way forward was not more [racial] purity but instead more mixing, Drochon told me. His ideal was to bring together the European Jew and the Prussian military officer. Spencer, I take it, only wants the latter. Nietzsche, for better or worse, longed for a new kind of European citizen, one free of group attachments, be they racial or ideological or nationalistic.

                  Racists find affirmation in Nietzsches preference for Aryan humanity, a phrase he uses in several books, but that term doesnt mean what racists think it means. Aryan humanity is always contrasted with Christian morality in Nietzsches works; its a reference to pre-Christian Paganism. Second, in Nietzsches time, Aryan was not a racially pure concept; it also included Indo-Iranian peoples.

                  People often say that the Nazis loved Nietzsche, which is true. Whats less known is that Nietzsches sister, who was in charge of his estate after he died, was a Nazi sympathizer who shamefully rearranged his remaining notes to produce a final book, The Will to Power, that embraced Nazi ideology. It won her the favor of Hitler, but it was a terrible disservice to her brothers legacy.

                  Nietzsche regularly denounced anti-Semitism and even had a falling-out with his friend Richard Wagner, the proto-fascist composer, on account of Wagners rabid anti-Semitism. Nietzsche also condemned the blood and soil politics of Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian statesman who unified Germany in 1871, for cementing his power by stoking nationalist resentments and appealing to racial purity.

                  So theres no way to square Nietzsches philosophy with the racial politics of the alt-right, just as it wasnt fair to charge Nietzsche with inspiring Nazism. But both of these movements found just enough ambiguity in his thought to justify their hate.

                  Nietzsche as a mirror
                  Nietzsche liked to say that he philosophized with a hammer. For someone on the margins, stewing in their own hate or alienation or boredom, his books are a blast of dynamite. All that disillusionment suddenly seems profound, like you just stumbled upon a secret that justifies your condition.

                  He tells you that the world is wrong, that society is upside down, that all our sacred cows are waiting to be slaughtered. So if youre living in a multiethnic society, you trash pluralism. If youre embedded in a liberal democracy, you trumpet fascism. In short, you become politically incorrect and fancy yourself a rebel for it.

                  Nietzsche was a lot of things iconoclast, recluse, misanthrope but he wasnt a racist or a fascist. He would have shunned the white identity politics of the Nazis and the alt-right. That hes been hijacked by racists and fascists is partly his fault, though. His writings are riddled with contradictions and puzzles. And his fixation on the future of humankind is easily confused with a kind of social Darwinism.

                  But in the end, people find in Nietzsches work what they went into it already believing. Which is why the alt-right, animated as they are by rage and discontent, find in Nietzsche a mirror of their own resentments. If youre seeking a reason to reject a world you dont like, you can find it anywhere, especially in Nietzsche.

                  This story was originally published on August 17, 2017. https://www.vox.com/2017/8/17/161408...spencer-nazism

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                  • ATLANTIC COUNCIL FREDERICK KEMPE DECEMBER 22, 2018
                    Defense Secretary Mattis Resignation Letter is a Must-Read Warning About the Future

                    The unprecedented nature of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resignation letter to President Trump raises a host of disturbing questions. The most significant of them arise from Secretary Mattis suggested differences with his Commander-in-Chief regarding the value of allies and the dangers of strategic, authoritarian competitors.

                    Read Mattis words closely and they serve to both define and narrow the range of his possible successors to those who better embrace President Trumps world view. The President will be looking for an individual who will share in his suspicion of allies (who he believes dont carry sufficient defense burden while enjoying unfair trade benefits), and who will be more willing to work with adversaries, particularly Russia.

                    My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues, wrote Secretary Mattis. Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other issues, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.

                    So who that might that individual be?
                    Until recently, Senator Lindsay Graham was considered a front-runner, but this past week he criticized the Presidents move on Syria, and called for Congressional hearings on both that withdrawal and the potential troop drawdown in Afghanistan. He has been leading the charge against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, again out of step with President Trump.

                    At the beginning of the Trump administration, Senator Tom Cotton, a military veteran and defense hawk, was considered a leading candidate for either the Pentagon job or CIA director. As a former Army officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, hes got the credentials. However, as a potential presidential candidate with a safe Senate seat, he would likely think twice before entering a besieged administration with two years remaining.

                    Retired Army four-star General Jack Keane, former Army Vice Chief of Staff who was thought to be valued by Trump, also seems to have withdrawn himself from the field, saying on Thursday that he and Mattis both opposed Trumps Syria decision and that he didnt want the Pentagon post.

                    One name is mentioned more frequently these days is that of Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, a frequent White House visitor and former Boeing executive who has built a sound relationship with President Trump and Vice President Pence. He pushed hard within the Department of Defense for Trumps recently announced Space Force, and as more of a business efficiency-expert than a geopolitical or policy architect, he may turn out to be the safe pick.

                    Whats clear is that, given the unusual nature of his departure, Mattis successor is likely to be very different in background and approach to world affairs.

                    The last time a cabinet official so publicly resigned from a national security position over differences with the President was in 1980. It was then that Cyrus Vance quit the Carter administration as Secretary of State in disagreement with President Jimmy Carters ultimately botched effort to rescue US hostages in ran.

                    What sets Mattis resignation apart from that episode is that he doesnt point to a single event, as Vance did, but rather to a larger philosophical difference. He says nothing at all about the presidents decision to withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria, the move that appears to have triggered the resignation.

                    The most salient message
                    What historians will cite many years from now in Mattis powerful letter is its carefully crafted language that is as much a warning about the future as it is a resignation.

                    I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours, he writes. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model gaining veto authority over other nations economic, diplomatic and security decisions to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies.

                    He then delivers the most salient message for those of us who consider alliances to be our most valuable of all assets.

                    Writes Mattis: We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity, and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

                    Nothing is wrong, of course, with making deals with adversaries. Some of Americas greatest presidents, including Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, have written themselves into history by doing just that. Nothing is wrong either with demanding more from allies. Great leaders do so all the time.

                    Yet, as this calendar year closes, its worth remembering that the Trump administration hasnt yet faced a challenge of the magnitude of the 9-11 attacks or the Afghan and Iraq wars that followed.

                    The unwritten bottom line of the Mattis manifesto and the message of the last seventy years of global history is that such moments require more rather than less attention to allies to address strategic competitors.

                    It is unlikely that the next two years will pass without an unpleasant security surprise.

                    Such a challenge will be more difficult to face without the experience and cool head of Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

                    It will be impossible to address without the support of the allies who served as the primary theme of his departure letter. https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blog...out-the-future


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                    • THE ECONOMIST Dec 17th 2018
                      The World in 2019
                      Historys view of Donald Trump will be determined by decisions made in 2019
                      He will face bigger constraints and be less buoyed by good fortune in the new year

                      FOR THE past two years the global political stage has been overshadowed by one man. President Donald Trump has divided America and dominated world affairs to a degree that has no modern precedent. That is partly thanks to Mr Trumps style: diplomacy-by-tweet to his 55m followers, contempt for conventional norms of presidential behaviour and a reality-television stars gift for attracting attention. But it is mainly because Mr Trumps world-viewa zero-sum, grievance-laden, mercantilist, racially tinged nationalismmarks such a wrenching change from that of his predecessors and from his countrys post-war role. The leader of the free world is the embodiment of an angry, populist backlash to politics-as-usual.

                      The outsize presence has brought extreme reactions. To his critics, Disastrous Donald has been a catastrophe, a man whose abuses of power and divisive rhetoric threaten the fabric of American democracy; whose transactional and bullying approach to Americas international leadership is economically illiterate, morally bankrupt and geostrategically short-sighted. To his supporters he is Tough Trump: boorish and embarrassing, but someone who has delivered a roaring economy and called time on an outdated global order. He has shaken up geopolitical stalemates (such as the stand-off over North Koreas nuclear weapons) and forced a reckoning on long-standing problems, whether it is Chinas cheating at global trade rules or European allies paltry defence spending. Both sides acknowledge he is a wrecking ball. At issue is whether the destruction is creative or just damaging.

                      The evidence so far points to somewhere in between. Serious damage has been done, particularly to Americas political culture. The presidents habitual lying, his attacks on the press and his wilful stoking of grievance among his supporters have all contributed to a mood in American society that is more divided, febrile and angry than at any point since at least the late 1960s. This was especially evident in the run-up to the mid-term elections, from the furore over the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court to the murderous rampage at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Mr Trumps economic stewardship is less stellar than his supporters claim. Yes, the economy has been booming. But that is largely because it is in the midst of a sugar high thanks to a fiscally irresponsible tax cut.

                      In foreign policy, the damage from the wrecking ball has been obvious and immediate. Mr Trumps penchant for abandoning commitments he considers a bad deal has caused America to pull out ofor threaten to pull out ofa remarkable number of international agreements, from the high-profile Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal to the lesser-known Universal Postal Union. This has sometimes obscured areas where the Trump approach has been prescient or created genuine opportunities.

                      Beyond the wrecking ball
                      In North Korea, Mr Trumps dizzying shift from insult-trading to self-described love-affair with a suddenly wooable Kim Jong Un has brought an opening for a better relationship with a rogue nuclear power; though it has yet to yield substantive results, the affair will simmer on in 2019. From Syria to Afghanistan the Trump administrations approach is proving better, or at least no worse, than Barack Obamas. And, most important, the Trump teams view of China as a strategic threat, whose economic assertiveness must be countered even as its geopolitical ambitions are parried, has resonated with both political parties and with Americas foreign-policy establishment.

                      The jury is still out on the tactics, especially the presidents penchant for weaponising tariffs. However, the evidence from the past year suggests that American bullying on trade brings results, albeit at a price. Yes, Mr Trump has weakened the global trading system, not least by emasculating the World Trade Organisation (WTO). But in his stand-offs with South Korea, Canada and Mexico as well as, to a degree, with the European Union, he has also compelled large trading partners to agree to changes that, defined in terms of narrow mercantilist American self-interest, amount to modest negotiating successes.

                      Rather than Trumpism being about simply smashing the international order, these mini-deals could be evidence of a strategy to tilt its terms, declare victory and move on. If so, China will be the biggest test of that strategy. The outcome will be decided in 2019. And it will be the single most powerful piece of evidence of whether there is anything to the Trump show beyond the wrecking ball.

                      Brand new plot lines
                      The circumstances will be different. In 2019 Mr Trump will face bigger constraints. He will also be less buoyed by good fortune.

                      For a start, with Democrats in control of the House of Representatives, the Trump administration will face aggressive questioning from committees with subpoena power. Mr Trump himself will see a spotlight shone on his tax payments (or lack thereof) and whether his use of Trump properties violates the constitution. Unless Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor looking into links between Mr Trumps campaign and Russias meddling in the 2016 election, comes up with explosive material, Democratic leaders will hold back their colleagues who are itching to start impeachment proceedings against the president. Nevertheless, the House will be combative and determined to hold the executive to account.

                      In addition, stock prices (a favourite barometer of Mr Trumps) will sag and the economy will begin to weaken during 2019. That is because the fiscal boost from the tax cut will start to fade even as higher tariffs and higher interest rates both slow growth. On January 1st Mr Trumps tariffs on $200bn-worth of Chinese goods are set to rise from 10% to 25%. The Federal Reserve will continue along its path towards tighter money: at least two more quarter-point rate rises are likely by the middle of 2019. Hitherto, most of the impact of higher American interest rates has been felt in the emerging world. In the year ahead it will increasingly be felt at home.

                      How will Mr Trump react? If Disastrous Donald is the right frame of reference, he will dial up the aggressive rhetoric to deflect attention from these troubles. The result will be countless Twitter rages against Democrats, ever more pointed attacks on the central bank and a slew of aggressive executive actions in areas, such as immigration control, that appeal to his base. An angry country will become even angrier. And the economy will not be helped one iota. For that reason, it is possible that Mr Trump, ever keen to confound prognosticators, will try a different approach. He could cook up a deal with Democrats to extend the fiscal boost, and hence prop up the economy. A tax cut focused on workers rather than the wealthy is one option; more likely is a package to boost Americas infrastructure spending.

                      The extent of the economys slowdown also depends on Mr Trumps biggest foreign-policy decision: how to deal with China. In many ways Mr Trump is in a strong position. America, so far, is suffering less from the tariff war than China. He has wrong-footed the Chinese leadership, which did not anticipate the aggressiveness or scale of Americas tariff strategy. But Mr Trump is also constrained: on one side by the damage that an escalating tariff war will wreak; on the other by the extent of Americas new Sinophobia. A quick and dirty deal that does little to change Chinas underlying trade practices could see Mr Trump attacked at home for caving in to Americas ascendant rival.

                      Bring on the builder
                      How Mr Trump deals with this trade-off will say a lot about his presidency. A far-sighted president would see it as a historic opportunity to remake the worlds relationship with China. Hewould enlist allies to work within the WTO framework to reshape global trade rules, while bolstering military alliances in Asia to counter any Chinese attempts at encroachment. He would pivot from two years of wrecking-ball tactics to make a start at building a new world order, more reflective of 21st-century realities and designed to manage the rivalry between the United States and China that will define the century. The fact that it is hard to imagine Mr Trump doing this is, alas, a powerful pointer to how history will assess him. https://www.economist.com/the-world-...s-made-in-2019




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                      • THE ECONOMIST Leo Abruzzese December 26, 2018
                        The Economist sees economic trouble ahead in 2019
                        Americas longest-ever expansion will approach its end.

                        Red lights are flashingnot everywhere and not all at once, but enough to signal economic trouble in 2019. Borrowing costs are rising, debt is soaring, stockmarkets are volatile and cash is leaving emerging economies. The worlds two biggest economies are in a trade war, and though America is booming, Chinas consumers and markets seem to have lost their mojo.

                        Emerging markets will be particularly unsettled. A decade of ultra-low interest rates in the rich world is ending: Americas Federal Reserve, having raised its main borrowing rate several times in 2018, will do so again in 2019. Higher financial returns in America, Europe and Japan will pull capital away from emerging economies. Rising interest rates go hand-in-hand with a stronger dollar, making it harder for developing countries to repay dollar-denominated debt. The result has been faltering currencies in Turkey, Argentina, South Africa and Brazil.

                        The underlying weakness, as ever, is debt. The world is more indebted today than it was before the start of the global financial crisis. The Bank for International Settlements, the central bankers think-tank, put global debt at an eye-watering 217% of GDP at the end of 2017, up more than 20% from 2007. In emerging markets, debt is 50% higher. Rising interest rates and soaring debt are a toxic combination. Central bankers say they will not raise rates too quickly, but avoiding harm amid a mountain of debt is tricky.

                        The underlying weakness, as ever, is debt. The world is more indebted today than it was before the start of the global financial crisis. The Bank for International Settlements, the central bankers think-tank, put global debt at an eye-watering 217% of GDP at the end of 2017, up more than 20% from 2007. In emerging markets, debt is 50% higher. Rising interest rates and soaring debt are a toxic combination. Central bankers say they will not raise rates too quickly, but avoiding harm amid a mountain of debt is tricky.

                        American economic policy is not helping. President Donald Trumps tax cuts have boosted growth at home, but at a cost: the countrys budget deficit will approach 6% of GDP in 2019, the highest ever when the country wasnt fighting its way out of a war or a recession. Mr Trump has chastised the Fed for raising interest rates, but it wont stop doing so, given the spurt in economic growthand early evidence of higher prices. Businesses, mainly in America but also in Europe, piled on debt during the cheap-money era. Their capacity to service that debt will be tested as rates rise.

                        Defaults are common towards the end of business cycles, and this one is showing its age. The global economic slump ended in mid-2009, and Americas expansion, if it lasts until July, will reach 121 months, the longest ever. Bond investors are certainly cautious. The yield on ten-year US government debt has been climbing as markets demand higher returns to offset an uptick in inflation. Higher bond yields are often bad news for stockmarkets as companies are forced to grapple with higher borrowing costs. A slump in America may look unlikely when the unemployment rate is below 4%. But the last two times the jobless rate was near that level, the country was in a recession less than a year later.

                        Mr Trumps trade war with China has high stakes. His tariff hikes alone could shave a few tenths of a percentage point from Americas GDP growth in 2019, and even more from Chinas and that of other emerging markets. But the greater effect will be on business confidence. Most exporters are worried, and worried companies invest less.

                        Even if China decides to compromise with America on trade, it has other problems. The government is tightening credit after a borrowing binge, and the inflated property market is a big concern. Household debt in China is more than 110% of disposable income, higher than in America, Japan and France. Chinas consumers, who were supposed to drive global consumption, are instead spending less.

                        Indias consumers are doing just the opposite: they will push GDP growth to 7.6%, the best of any big economy. Europe will grow, but the pace will slow, and the European Central Bank will agonise over raising lending rates. A widening budget deficit in Italy, the euro-zones most indebted country, risks plunging the single currency back into crisis.

                        The Trump slump?
                        A global downturn in 2019 is not inevitable. Banks are better capitalised than in 2007, and countries and companies are better at managing risks. Pent-up demand may extend the business cycle a bit longer. Any American recession, in any case, wont begin until the back end of the year, as the fractures in the economy widen. But signs of stress are evident, and the world has never escaped the reckoning that comes from rising interest rates, excessive borrowing and risky policies. It wont this time, either. https://www.economist.com/the-world-...ts-end-in-2019

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                        • How Trump Got Bad at Twitter
                          Once he ruled the medium, but read his feed now and you can see something has gone very wrong.
                          POLITICO MAGAZINE JOANNA WEISS January 01, 2019

                          The late-December tweet from @RealDonaldTrump was brief and absurd: Farm Bill signing in 15 minutes! #Emmys #TBT. It was accompanied by a clip from the 2005 Emmy awards in which the future leader of the free world, wearing a straw hat and overalls, sings the Green Acres theme song with actress Megan Mullally. The internet responded with predictable shock, tinged with mockery. But there was also a hint of excitement, maybe even relief: Had Trump gotten his Twitter mojo back?

                          That tweet felt like an exception to one of the biggest surprises in American politics this year. Donald J. Trump the man who redefined the possibilities of social media, singlehandedly turning a chatty platform into a must-read political assault weapon has become bad at Twitter.

                          You wouldnt know this from news coverage, since reporters still count on the occasional shocking Trump tweet to drive the news cycle, and he occasionally obliges. (He changed US Syria policy in one tweet, and used another to bump Defense Secretary James Mattis out of office early.) His tendency to govern by tweet has also shifted other politicians behavior, making the formerly staid back-room business of D.C. feel like an online free-for-all.

                          But if you still think of Trump as the tweeter-in-chief, master of the pithy insult and well-placed exclamation point, just visit his feed. The crisp, unpredictable tweets from the start of his presidency have largely become rambling and verbose. His account is weirdly turgid, loaded with ponderous attacks on his perceived enemies and obscure multi-part arguments about his legal situation. At other times, it veers as close as Trump has ever sounded to Washingtonesque.

                          In case you havent been reading faithfully, a typical Trump tweet, circa late 2018, reads something like this:

                          Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
                          We signed two pieces of major legislation this week, Criminal Justice Reform and the Farm Bill. These are two Big Deals, but all the Fake News Media wants to talk about is the mistake of bringing our young people back home from the Never Ending Wars. It all began 19 years ago!
                          94.7K 2:45 PM - Dec 23, 2018

                          Or this:

                          Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
                          While the disgusting Fake News is doing everything within their power not to report it that way, at least 3 major players are intimating that the Angry Mueller Gang of Dems is viciously telling witnesses to lie about facts & they will get relief. This is our Joseph McCarthy Era!
                          95.1K 8:39 AM - Nov 28, 2018

                          Note the defensive posture, the multiple messages jumbled into one, the catchphrases breathlessly piled atop one another. This Trump sounds more like a kid trying to talk his way out of detention than the communications savant who took over the 2016 campaign 140 characters at a time.

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                          • Trump's Twitter Pt 2

                            That talent isnt totally gone. The president still manages the occasional Trumpian turn of phrase (on December 7, he called Rex Tillerson dumb as a rock) and he can still use Twitter as a potent weapon to redirect public attention. Indeed, in the days surrounding Trumps Worst Week Ever the resignation of his defense secretary, a plunging stock market, a looming government shutdown, ominous advances in the Mueller investigation the presidents feed was stocked with diversions. He posted a rendering of a Steel Slat Barrier border wall, in the Modern Kings Landing aesthetic. He delivered one-liners designed to send his foes into paroxysms of fact-checking and fury. (Ive done more damage to ISIS than all recent presidentsnot even close!)

                            Not long ago, that was just a typical week for Trump. Now its the exception. The rambling tweets have returned with a vengeance, and the clutter-to-clarity ratio is rising every day. This change isnt just a curiosity: Twitter has always seemed a direct wire into the presidents brain. So if his tweets are descending into unintelligible self-absorption, what does that say about his frame of mind?

                            ITS NOT MUCH of an overstatement to say that Trump wouldnt be president without that Twitter feed. Around the midpoint of the campaign when the idea began to wedge, in the dark shadows of peoples minds, that his candidacy wasnt just an oddball piece of performance art but a viable, growing force his ability to hijack the national conversation on Twitter, over and over, proved that he had nailed something essential about modern-day political communications.

                            Voters hunger for authenticity, a quality increasingly hard to project in the era of the press release, the 24-hour cable show, and the massive political consultancy class. Washingtons standard media dance had become the opposite of spontaneous. The rules of expression were clear: Whatever swearing or ranting or touchdown dancing you might do behind closed doors, your official communication downplayed conflict, respected opponents, bent over to give credit wherever it was due, and ensured that every word was committee-drafted and vetted to the hilt. Candidates social-media accounts followed largely the same rules, leading to a lot of supremely dull Twitter accounts.

                            Trumps media skills were forged in the far-less-polite confines of the New York Posts Page 6, and he was different from the start. The man who became nationally famous by saying Youre fired understood the power of a direct personal attack, and the value of a slogan that could be boiled down to fit on a hat. Throughout his candidacy and well into his presidency, he wielded Twitter in just that way. It was easy to track his movements and mood though his spurts of Twitter activity; we learned he was an obsessive viewer of Fox and Friends due to his tendency to tweet the contents in real time. And like a standup comic testing material, he used Twitter to launch and deploy his catchphrases: Fake News, No Collusion, Rigged Witch Hunt.

                            The sheer volume of Trumps tweets, though at this point his account has logged some 40,000 posts began to make each one less essential. As it was early in his Twitter career, filler is abundant. He recommends a lot of books, many of them by Fox News personalities. For a stretch leading up to the midterms, he used his feed almost exclusively to name-check Republican candidates; nearly every tweet felt perfunctory.

                            And as he has grown busier with the work of public office, the voice of the press release has crept in. He uses his feed for milquetoast updates on official business:

                            Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
                            Statement from China: The teams of both sides are now having smooth communications and good cooperation with each other. We are full of confidence that an agreement can be reached within the next 90 days. I agree!
                            79K 7:56 PM - Dec 6, 2018

                            He offers quasi-presidential responses to disasters, holding hands with Democratic opponents after the California wildfires:

                            Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
                            Thank you @JerryBrownGov. Look forward to joining you and @GavinNewsom tomorrow in California. We are with you!

                            Jerry Brown@JerryBrownGov
                            Tomorrow @GavinNewsom and I will join @POTUS during his visit to the state. Now is a time to pull together for the people of California.
                            https://twitter.com/JerryBrownGov/st...61072731279360

                            And he has begun to post stilted video messages, which feature him standing on the White House grounds or in front of a backdrop of flags. They feel a bit like hostage videos: a deadness in the eyes, an absence of joy.

                            https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/...27086037741568

                            Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
                            Lets not do a shutdown, Democrats - do whats right for the American People!
                            129K 4:21 PM - Dec 13, 2018

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                            • Trump's Twitter Pt 3

                              PART OF THE BLAME lies with Twitter itself. If you want to pinpoint the arrival of Boring Trump Twitter, it might trace back to November 7, 2017, the day the platform doubled the maximum length of a tweet from 140 to 280 characters. Trump busted out of his 140-character box the very next day, with a run-on sentence about his trip to Asia:

                              Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
                              Getting ready to make a major speech to the National Assembly here in South Korea, then will be headed to China where I very much look forward to meeting with President Xi who is just off his great political victory.
                              58.5K 8:00 PM - Nov 7, 2017

                              The new character limit meant that his official press-release tweets could get longer. But, as it turns out, he has largely used the extra space to air out the most essential part of his political personality: His defensiveness. Since before he became president, Twitter was the place where Trump ranted about the woes visited upon him; NO COLLUSION was his version of opening the window and unleashing a primal scream. But freed from the useful confines of brevity, Trumps rhetoric has become notably flabby. He embraced the multi-part Twitter thread, if not its standard conventions. (He doesnt number his tweets or declare that a thread is coming; he just uses copious ellipses to indicate he hasnt finished yet.) His tweets began to feel like painfully faithful transcriptions of his thought process. And those could be especially difficult to follow.

                              Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
                              Robert Mueller and Leakin Lyin James Comey are Best Friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest. And bye the way, wasnt the woman in charge of prosecuting Jerome Corsi (who I do not know) in charge of legal at the corrupt Clinton Foundation? A total Witch Hunt...
                              86.6K 6:18 AM - Dec 7, 2018

                              Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
                              ....Will Robert Muellers big time conflicts of interest be listed at the top of his Republicans only Report. Will Andrew Weissmans horrible and vicious prosecutorial past be listed in the Report. He wrongly destroyed peoples lives, took down great companies, only to be........
                              64.4K 6:28 AM - Dec 7, 2018

                              Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
                              .....overturned, 9-0, in the United States Supreme Court. Doing same thing to people now. Will all of the substantial & many contributions made by the 17 Angry Democrats to the Campaign of Crooked Hillary be listed in top of Report. Will the people that worked for the Clinton....
                              59K 6:40 AM - Dec 7, 2018

                              Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
                              ....Foundation be listed at the top of the Report? Will the scathing document written about Lyin James Comey, by the man in charge of the case, Rod Rosenstein (who also signed the FISA Warrant), be a big part of the Report? Isnt Rod therefore totally conflicted? Will all of....
                              68.8K 6:53 AM - Dec 7, 2018

                              Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
                              ...the lying and leaking by the people doing the Report, & also Bruce Ohr (and his lovely wife Molly), Comey, Brennan, Clapper, & all of the many fired people of the FBI, be listed in the Report? Will the corruption within the DNC & Clinton Campaign be exposed?..And so much more!
                              86.1K 7:15 AM - Dec 7, 2018

                              Trump is not the only person to overuse Twitter, or to let a reflexive tweeting habit deepen into what feels more like an addiction. One reason the platform has become so exhausting is that Twitter has become our prime medium for beating a dead horse in public: too many people tweeting, on a daily or hourly basis, variations on the same theme. You could boil post-2016 political Twitter down to four basic sentiments: Trump is terrible, Trump is great, Liberals are losers, and We are all doomed.

                              Indeed, since Twitter itself is now so focused on Trumpas is cable news, one of the presidents chief sources of information about the world it stands to reason that Trumps own set of references would become circular and self-obsessed. The result doesnt look healthy. His feed by now is clogged with tweets piled on tweets, rambling rants; hes a guy standing on the street corner whose constant patter you cant ignore, but you cant actually follow, either. For the close reader, the only enjoyment left is in the formwhat is he going to misspell or capitalize this time?and the parlor game of wondering where, amid the noise, he might drop a hiring or firing or, gift of gifts, some surreal old video clip.

                              In the meantime, new masters are moving in, taking lessons or inspiration from the old Trump feed and using it, in some cases, for opposite ends. Incoming U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for instance, wields social media much like the president used to do. Her voice is different; shes more literate, partial to lists and punchlines. But she, too, trolls her opponents, tosses hashtags, takes on a snarkily human tone, and isnt afraid to occasionally play a little fast with the facts in service of a larger rhetorical point. And, unlike Trump, she has figured out Instagram.

                              Her ascendancy throws what Trumps Twitter feed has lost into stark relief. He used to tweet like a 29-year-old, newly flush with power. Now, hes tweeting like a 72-year-old who doesnt want to lose it. It could be that relentlessness of the attacks on Trump are taking a toll on his psyche. It could be that the profound isolation of the American presidency is making him a little batty. Whatever it is, he remains in the West Wing with jittery thumbs, baring his thoughts to the world in real timegiving us all a window into the shrinking, repetitive outlook of the man with the worlds most powerful job.
                              https://www.politico.com/magazine/st...twitter-223572

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                              • FOURTH ESTATE
                                Senator Mitt Romney Is the Season 3 Character We Needed
                                Just mind you dont get whiplash.
                                POLITICO JACK SHAFER January 02, 2019

                                Everybodys favorite chameleon Republican, Mitt Romney, arrived in Washington this week flashing a brand-new color.

                                A never-Trumper during the campaigna con man, a fake, Romney said in a savage March 2016 speech about Donald TrumpRomney so despised the future president that he boycotted his nominating convention in Cleveland. Hes playing the members of the American public for suckers. He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat, Romney said in his speech.

                                But just a few months later, after the election made Trump the president-elect, Romneys Never Trump colors had faded enough for him to choke back the vomit and sit through an audition with Trump for the job of secretary of state. Trump allowed Romney to kiss and slobber on his ring because he cant get enough of that. But seeing through whatever protective coloration Romney had conjured up for the meeting, Trump wisely dumped him from contention. Who would want to hire somebody who had called them a phony in a national speech?

                                Then, as Romney came to realize that the contemporary Republican Party had turned into a Trump thing, he further modified his colors. First, he accepted Trumps endorsement for his senatorial candidacy in Utah. Second, in October 2018, when reporters asked if he wasnt a hypocrite, he flabbergasted them by saying hed never been a Never Trump leader!

                                Rainbow Mitt changed hues again with an op-ed in the Washington Post on Tuesday. Reminding readers that he had opposed Trumps presidential candidacy, Romney effused positively on Trumps tax policies, his China trade policy, his criminal justice policies, his regulatory changes and his appointment of conservative judges, calling them all examples of sound Republicanism. He also praised the original teamTillerson, Sessions, Haley, Cohn, McMaster, Kelly and MattisTrump brought to the White House. But the majority of the piece echoed Romneys March 2016 condemnation of Trump, citing Trumps bad character, his poor manners, his America first foreign policy, his appeals to tribalism, his dismantling of the original White House team and his disregard for the deficit.

                                If you dont like Romneys views on Trump, give them a few minutes. Theyll change.

                                What does Romney really stand for? You cant dismiss Romneys chameleonism as standard political flip-floppery, although his critics note that hes changed his positions on abortion, Reaganism, Vietnam, health care policy, immigration, stem-cell research, the climate and even flip-floppery itself over the years (Im a strong believer in stating your position and not wavering, 2002; I changed my position, 2007). Rather, Romney subscribes to a personal kind of Rockefeller Republicanism that gives him maximum flexibility to say and do whatever he finds most expedient at the moment that makes Trump look strangely principled in comparison. At least Trump delivers the chaos that he promises.

                                Romneys new chameleonism positions him as Trumps loyal underminer, extolling the president on the upstroke and damning him on the down. The Janus-face act of playing both supporter and critic puts Romney at a distance from departing Republican Trump critics in the Senate like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, who didnt burn much fuel trying to find the good in Trumpism. As a hedge position, it also places Romney, who now has a six-year sinecure in the Senate, in a good political position should the Mueller investigation or other political calamity cripple the presidents reelection chances or shuttle him into impeachment hearings.

                                Nobody who runs for president ever runs just once. Even if defeated the first time out or the second, they run every four yearsif only in their minduntil friends or family place them in lockdown. Romney, who is a youthful 71, understands that Trumpism is a political aberration. It has no future as a Republican ideology beyond Trumps political life because it cant be expressed as even a semi-consistent set of political positions. Trump has no inheritor on tapcertainly not Mike Penceshould scandal destroy his presidency or a cholesterol-hating god call him to a premature final reward.

                                For that reason, Romney hopes to be the Trump-loving, Trump-hating stalwart of the Republicanism that the party faithful will turn to if Trump stumbles, crashes and burns. When and if called, what color will Mitt show voters? Any color they request. https://www.politico.com/magazine/st...tration-223616

                                æ, !

                                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp

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