By Doug Porter
Today we’ll look at some recent developments as the divisions of power within the White House are coming into focus.
So-called President Donald Trump is there for the fame and fortune. Vice President Pence and his buddy Reince Priebus are there to oversee the dismantling of the new deal social contract. And ‘Economic Nationalist’ Steve Bannon is overseeing the reshuffling of the world order while tweaking domestic social policies.
The rise of a nationwide resistance continues. While Senate Democrats won’t actually achieve the historically rare feat of denying cabinet confirmations, the drip, drip, drip of damning information combined with an increasingly aware and active electorate will continue to challenge the administration’s priorities.
Moving the Goalposts & Ginning Up the Fear
The national media has not apparently learned its lesson yet, having spent 24 hours chasing down an obviously ridiculous assertion from Dear Leader about a lack of coverage of incidents of terrorism.
A demand by a reporter for a list of the supposedly under-reported attacks the president referenced led to a hastily compiled (from media sources!) list of 78 terrorist attacks.
From Vanity Fair’s Hive:
The media pounced on the hastily compiled list, which was rife with misspellings and typos, and began picking apart the selection. Critics highlighted that many of the attacks the White House claimed were under-covered, such as the San Bernardino and Orlando nightclub shootings, actually fueled weeks of coverage. Others, which didn’t receive much coverage, were smaller incidents, far from the U.S. and Europe, which resulted in few or no casualties. Terrorist attacks perpetrated by non-Islamic extremists—such as white supremacist Dylann Roof, who killed nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina church—were also missing from the list.
But in playing Trump’s game, the media may already have lost. For one, Spicer effectively moved the goalposts, turning a controversy over an obviously false Trump claim—“it is not even being reported”—into a broader conversation about what kinds of attacks journalists cover. TV news producers and assignment editors may think twice, in the future, about whether to cover smaller terrorist incidents or failed plots, of which the White House wants to increase public awareness. List-gate also forced the press to spend half a day debating the total number of attacks occurring across the world, drumming up fear and helping to buttress the president’s defense of his embattled immigration order.
Transparent Animal Cruelty
Meanwhile, the Agriculture Department has removed critical animal welfare inspection reports from its website, presumably so puppy mills, roadside zoos, and horse breeders can abuse their animals without the threat of oversight.
Gone are the inspection records and annual reports for every commercial animal facility in the U.S.—including zoos, breeders, factory farms, and laboratories.
From the Washington Post:
In place of the online database is a new message from the department saying it is “implementing actions to remove documents” related to the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act that contain personal information.
The records have been removed “based on our commitment to being transparent, remaining responsive to our stakeholders’ informational needs, and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals,” the online message says.
The FBI’s Freedom of Faxing
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has announced they will no longer be accepting Freedom of Information requests by email, effective March 1. The FBI suggests future requests be filed via fax or snail mail.
There will, however, be a dedicated portal on the interwebs for a limited number of requests by those who insist on living in the 21st century. The terms of service agreement for the portal limit filers to one request per day, along with demanding personal details. Also, service is limited to certain hours of the day so they apparently can rest the hamsters providing power to their servers.
I’m thinking they’ll start requiring requests to be typed with carbon copies.
Another Climate Denier ‘Scandal’
A bunch of Republicans on the House Science Committee are holding a hearing today to talk up a story in the Daily Mail on the EPA’s use of ‘manipulated’ data to aimed at exaggerating global warming with the intent of influencing the June 2015 Paris Climate Conference.
The story is bunk, and relies on a source, as it turns out, who was not involved in any aspect of the work. Media Matters has a complete rundown of the faux controversy.
Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist with the nonprofit Berkeley Earth Institute, wrote on Twitter that the Daily Mail’s claims about climate data are “so wrong it’s hard to know where to start,” pointing out that data from satellites, buoys, and Argo floats “all agree” with NOAA’s data.
At the heart of this latest denial-fest is an ongoing effort to obtain personal data on climate researchers. Last fall NOAA refused to comply –citing privacy concerns– with a subpoena by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, requesting internal communications.
The conservative organization Judicial Watch has filed suit to force the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to release 8,000 pages of researchers’ communications.
The university and government scientists fear the release of the correspondence–all the data has been publicly reported–will trigger another round of threats and harassment.
From Inside Climate News:
Not only are there organized efforts like Lamar Smith’s House science committee issuing subpoenas and striving to discredit scientists, but harassment and hate mail arrives every day via the Internet. Their work has found itself in the crosshairs of a political ideology that has an ugly side.
InsideClimate News spoke to nearly a dozen climate scientists and communicators about the harassment they face. For them, death threats, sexist remarks, claims of fraud, bomb threats, letters laced with powdery substances, references to rape and Nazis have become almost standard. According to emails shared with ICN, messages range from derisive (“I hope your mental illness gets better”) to downright threatening (“YOU ARE GOING TO HANG SOON!”).
World Wide White (Catholic) Power
The New York Times and Esquire, among others, published stories this morning detailing the role of White House advisor Steve Bannon in working to undermine the influence of Pope Francis.
Bannon, we’re told, is making nice with theological reactionary Cardinal Raymond Burke, who last year was booted from his position with the Congregation of Bishops.
From the Times:
Just as Mr. Bannon has connected with far-right parties threatening to topple governments throughout Western Europe, he has also made common cause with elements in the Roman Catholic Church who oppose the direction Francis is taking them. Many share Mr. Bannon’s suspicion of Pope Francis as a dangerously misguided, and probably socialist, pontiff… For many of the pope’s ideological opponents in and around the Vatican, who are fearful of a pontiff they consider outwardly avuncular but internally a ruthless wielder of absolute political power, this angry moment in history is an opportunity to derail what they see as a disastrous papal agenda. And in Mr. Trump, and more directly in Mr. Bannon, some self-described “Rad Trads” — or radical traditionalists — see an alternate leader who will stand up for traditional Christian values and against Muslim interlopers.
Here’s Charles P. Pierce at Esquire:
If it wasn’t clear already, it should be now. Stephen Bannon, the last descendant of House Harkonnen, is not someone who wants to “disrupt the elites,” or whatever techie garbage he likes to toss around. He wants to establish himself at the head of a new, worldwide authoritarian elite that will reach into every institution and that will demolish any of those institutions that stand in the way of what he wants. The man is a political thug, and Burke is a theological thug. Marriage made somewhat lower than heaven.
This isn’t just a matter of the cafeteria having a few new and unfamiliar faces in the buffet line. This is dragging elements of the Church into alliances with white supremacists all over the world, lining up parts of the Church with the likes of Marine Le Pen in France. This is entering into an alliance with forces so completely contrary to the Church’s stated mission that they might as well give Cardinal Burke an army and let him march against the Languedoc.
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