Wednesday, August 23, 2017

SUGGESTED READINGS FOR AUGUST 23, 2017


Patrick Radden Keefe's Reporter at Large column in the latest edition of the New Yorker, titled "Carl Icahn’s Failed Raid on Washington", asks the rhetorical question: "Was President Trump’s richest adviser focussed on helping the country—or his own bottom line?" Although it falls somewhat short of arriving at a definitive answer, it does a fantastic job of familiarizing the unacquainted with one of the most powerful men in America, whose wields so much power, with so few checks and balances to rein him in, it's enough to make you wonder why the USA even bothers to hold elections at all.

About 1/10th of the way down the article, after a brief review of the massive and obvious conflicts of interest involved in appointing Icahn to a governmental role vis-a-vis industrial deregulation, the following paragraphs, which bear repeating here, appear:
Several weeks after Trump’s victory, Icahn tweeted, “I’ve agreed to serve as a special advisor to the president on issues relating to regulatory reform.” In a press release, Trump said, “Carl was with me from the beginning and with his being one of the world’s great businessmen, that was something I truly appreciated. He is not only a brilliant negotiator, but also someone who is innately able to predict the future, especially having to do with finances and economies.” He added that Icahn would help him address regulations that were “strangling” American business. 
Icahn’s role was novel. He would be an adviser with a formal title, but he would not receive a salary, and he would not be required to divest himself of any of his holdings, or to make any disclosures about potential conflicts of interest. “Carl Icahn will be advising the President in his individual capacity,” Trump’s transition team asserted. 
In the months after the election, the stock price of CVR, Icahn’s refiner, nearly doubled—a surge that is difficult to explain without acknowledging the appointment of the company’s lead shareholder to a White House position. The rally meant a personal benefit for Icahn, at least on paper, of half a billion dollars. There was an expectation in the market—an expectation created, in part, by Icahn’s own remarks—that, with Trump in the White House and Icahn playing consigliere, the rules were about to change, and not just at the E.P.A. Icahn’s empire ranges across many economic sectors, from energy to pharmaceuticals to auto supplies to mining, and all of them are governed by the types of regulations about which he would now potentially be advising Trump. 
Janet McCabe, who left the E.P.A. in January, and now works at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, told me, “I’m not naïve. People in business try to influence the government. But the job of the government is to serve the American people, not the specific business interests of the President’s friends. To think that you have somebody with that kind of agenda bending the President’s ear is troubling.” 
Conflicts of interest have been a defining trait of the Trump Administration. The President has not only refused to release his tax returns; he has declined to divest from his companies, instead putting them in a trust managed by his children. Questions have emerged about the ongoing business ties of his daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who, since early 2016, have reaped as much as two hundred million dollars from the Trump hotel in Washington, D.C., and from other investments. Although Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” he has assembled a Cabinet of ultra-rich Americans, including two billionaires: Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, and Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce. 
But Icahn is worth more than the Trump family and all the members of the Cabinet combined—and, with no constraint on his license to counsel the President on regulations that might help his businesses, he was poised to become much richer. Robert Weissman, who runs the watchdog group Public Citizen, told me, “This kind of self-enrichment and influence over decision-making by an individual mogul who is simultaneously inside and outside the Administration is unprecedented. In terms of corruption, there’s nothing like it. Maybe ever.” In conversations with me, financiers who have worked with Icahn described his appointment as a kind of corporate raid on Washington. One said, “It’s the cheapest takeover Carl’s ever done.”
That's America they're talking about, just FYI. Anyway, it's depressing as Hell, but still necessary, to educate ourselves. Read this article, top to bottom, and consider it your lesson on civics for the day. Oh, and don't put too much stock in that "Icahn may have messed up royally by hitching his wagon to the Trump Train, with a possible end result that he's broken laws and will soon end up behind bars" jazz. That kind of shit just doesn't happen to people like Icahn. Not in this lifetime, not in this world.

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Timothy Zaal wrote a think piece about Charlottesville for Politico, titled "I Used to be a Neo-Nazi. Charlottesville Terrifies Me". It begins:

When I was a skinhead, living in the Los Angeles area in the 1980s, I remember watching a favorite video with my fellow extremists. It was footage of the 1979 Greensboro massacre, when Ku Klux Klan members shot and killed five people at a workers’ demonstration in North Carolina. A group of cars pulled up. KKK members jumped out of the vehicles, killed a group of communists, then drove away. 
We laughed at it.
This past weekend, the news from Charlottesville brought back that memory—of being surrounded by fellow white supremacists in my old house, watching our odd choice of Friday-night entertainment. Today, of course, you can find clips like these online. In those days, extremist groups had mail-order services where you could purchase VHS tapes. That was where we bought it.
I gave up being a skinhead years ago. But now, I’m getting uncomfortable feelings of déjà vu as I watch footage of the bloody events in Charlottesville. The white supremacist organizations of my day were different, but after researching these “alt-right” groups, and seeing the violence this weekend, I realize they’re all too similar. They hate the same minorities we did. They spew the same conspiracy theories. They consume the same kinds of propaganda.
But there’s one huge difference: These newer offshoots have been far more successful than we could ever have dreamed.
The article continues, giving a brief history of the White Power movement(s) of the 80's and 90's, exploring the parallels between then and now, theorizing how the rabbit hole paradigm that first led the author towards his views is almost infinitely worse today, relating his personal story of emerging from the fog of hate, before ending on an ominous and disturbing note. Nevertheless, this is a highly recommended, must-read op/ed.

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One of my favorite authors currently writing about such outre subjects as Secret Societies, strange historical synchronicities, ritual magick, and other such things is the wonderful Peter Levenda. I am sadly aware that these so-called crackpot subjects often attract crackpots as self-declared "experts", many of whom tilt Far Right... an issue exacerbated by the fact that the media ecosystem where these topics are most often discussed are the domain of Far Right gatekeepers, so when I saw that Mr Levenda had written an op/ed piece on the subject of Charlottesville, I have to admit I was just a little bit worried. Then I read what he wrote:
If anyone doubts where my feelings may be located concerning Charlottesville, you obviously haven’t read my previous work. I’ve written three books on Nazism alone, and even more volumes on the American political and cultural currents that have contributed to the present state of affairs, plus lengthy blog postings on my website. I am not a member of any political party, in case you’re wondering, but I don’t believe that this issue is a partisan one in the sense of Republican versus Democrat, or conservative versus liberal. It’s not my intention to carry water for a politician or a party but to raise awareness of the context of current events, to “connect the dots” as my work sometimes has been described. But there has never been any ambiguity where my feelings are concerned when it comes to fascism, racism, and Nazism. In fact I hesitated to post anything at all about this because … who needs it, really? You all have been inundated with pundits and jeremiads already. Who needs yet another old white guy’s point of view? 
But … if you insist … 
Most of you know I was detained by actual Nazis in South America in 1979, that I was threatened at gun point at midnight by a Klansman in Pennsylvania a little later, and debated neo-Nazis in New York in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I’m no stranger to any of this, unfortunately, and that means I am not fooled by pretentious pseudo-intellectual arguments that attempt to form moral equivalencies between Nazis on one side and those who oppose them on the other. 
The recent Vice interview with the weeping white supremacist who said it was his intention to form an “ethno-state” underlines just how intellectually bankrupt this movement is. What is the ethnos to which he refers? Is “white” an ethnicity? A hundred years ago, the Irish were not considered “white” by American racists. The Slavs were not considered “white” by the Nazis. The Jews still aren’t. Where do we draw that particular line? Catholics were considered “papists” and therefore part of the problem, and I still hear white nationalists refer to Italians, Portuguese and Spaniards as “not quite white” (which is interesting considering Mussolini, Salazar and Franco, but who’s keeping score anyway?). We all know what that guy means, though. He means a state where there are no black people, no Jews, no other people of color. That, of course, would only be phase one of his “ethno state”. Phase two means going after the other shades of white on the Klan’s color card. These guys are so fixated on “white” it gives a whole new meaning to that offensive pejorative “snowflake.”
It only gets better from there. I urge you all to read and share it. Oh, and if you ever want to have your mind blown while simultaneously learning loads of hidden American history, look no further than Levenda's Sinister Forces trilogy (the first of which you will find at the other end of the provided link). Also, if you purchase them through the link provided, yer old pal Jerky hears a tinkle in his beggin' cup!



*** QUOTE OF THE DAY ***

“It’s amazing what I say, and what I do, and what I get away with. It’s amazing.”

- Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph "Joe" Arpaio--Preznit Trump's favorite law-breaking lawman--marvels at how none of the people he was elected to serve were bothered that his department failed to go after predatory pedophiles so that they could instead concentrate on finding and deporting undocumented immigrants. I guess that means the race is on... can Trump pardon Sheriff Joe before being removed from office? Keep watching this space to find out!

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