Bannon’s White House ouster may not be as dramatic as it seems

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Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart who salvaged Donald Trump’s flailing presidential campaign, is out of his White House post.

Steve Bannon is out at the White House. For weeks, politicians and pundits have called on Trump to fire the man who made him president, and today it was confirmed Bannon is moving out. While this could hardly be seen as bad news – and after this week, anyone who feels like taking a moment to celebrate probably should – it’s not quite the earth-shattering event that the headlines it’s generated make it seem.

For one thing, it’s not totally clear what Bannon’s formal power was. As the Chief Strategist he was certainly influential, but he was chiefly an advisor to Trump – a role he can continue to play. Bannon himself predicted he’d be in the job only eight months. In that time he was able to begin his goal of “deconstructing the administrative state” by helping Trump appoint cabinet heads who were brazenly hostile to the mission of public service. So his departure may, indeed, have been planned well in advance, and had nothing to do with the political pressure on Trump.

It doesn’t do much to change the crypto-white nationalist composition of Trump’s White House, either. There is still Sebastian Gorka, Stephen Miller, and Jeff Sessions, for starters, not to mention Trump himself. Trump insists there were “very fine people” carrying torches for the Confederate statues in Charlottesville. He first came to national attention in the 1970s over housing discrimination and he rode the birther lie to political prominence in 2011 and 2012. He doesn’t need anyone whispering in his ear to be racist; it comes from within.

What is interesting is to note just how embattled this presidency now is. Republican Congressmen are starting to trickle away here and there. Some establishment Republican pundits have turned away. Even some elements of Big Business, the primary movers and shakers of the GOP, want to distance themselves. Now some of the alt-right, which was always more loyal to Bannon than to Trump, may ponder jumping ship as well – a senior Breitbart writer has already warned that Trump may be “Schwarzenegger 2.0” and many of the reader comments convey a sense of panic and betrayal.

This may cause a fissure for some of Trump’s base, but not much of one. The proudly deplorable racists of the alt-right, who dress like Trump and wear his hats, won’t give up hope. And Trump will still enjoy the support of tens of millions of Americans who simply don’t care one way or the other about race issues, who aren’t that well-informed, or who only want their taxes cut and they don’t care who does it.

And Bannon isn’t going to just disappear gently into the good night, either. His allies are warning that “Bannon the Barbarian” is now unleashed. He already pulled Breitbart from its dark corner on the fringe-right web into being the de facto propaganda network of the US presidency. With the influence he’s amassed in his White House run, Bannon could potentially do far more damage outside the government, as a propagandist and organizer, than he ever could within.

America’s new battle with Nazism is only beginning

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Self-described “identitarian” Peter Cvjetanovic denies being a racist. His face went viral as he marched alongside torch-bearing neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the alt-right – call them what you will, this group of angry, white men had a busy weekend. Hundreds of them descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, for a Unite the Right rally. Demonstrators began a torchlit march on Friday night and by Saturday had turned the city into a warzone, culminating in an act of right-wing terror that caused one death and injured 19 others. In response, President Trump couldn’t bring himself to denounce one side more than any other. Continue reading

Trump’s stock market enthusiasm shows how out of touch he is

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Trump’s unpredictability initially caused the market to worry, but since his election stock prices have soared.

President Trump held a pep rally for himself on Twitter earlier this week, touting his base as “bigger and stronger than ever before” despite all the “fake news” – into which category he put virtually every media source except his dedicated propaganda networks, Breitbart and FOX. Trump then listed some of his successes so far, including economic enthusiasm, the stock market, jobs, and deregulation. As usual with Trump, he is wrong in more ways than are easily counted. Continue reading

The simple reason Republicans can’t reform healthcare

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Disabled protesters outside Senator Mitch McConnell’s office are removed from their wheelchairs and kicked off the premises for voicing their opposition to Trumpcare.

Millions of Americans celebrated last week when Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act seemingly hit a brick wall. After weeks of backroom deal-making, renegotiations, and demonstrations by committed healthcare activists, three Republican senators defected from their party and pushed the latest vote to 51-49 against repeal. President Trump is already working with some senators to revive the effort, but there is a simple reason Republican healthcare reform hasn’t gone well: it has nothing to do with healthcare. Continue reading

The real reason Trump banned trans people from the military

Transgender airman: ‘I would like to see them try to kick me out of my military’

After his commander-in-chief’s tweeted declaration, Logan Ireland, a trans member of the military, said, “I’d like to see them try to kick me out of my military.”

In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump dictated a new policy for the US military: transgender people will not be allowed to serve. Reaction was swift, emphatic and hotly divided. Many citizens, celebrities and service members were dismayed and expressed support for trans troops. But on the far right, especially at outlets like Breitbart, the ban was enthusiastically applauded. While the ban seemed arbitrary and capricious, the divisive reaction to it may have been precisely the point. Continue reading

What if climate change is a hoax?

Australia blog about climate change science media coverage : Anti-carbon tax protesters in Canberra

Pro-oil protesters hold signs at a demonstration against taking action on climate change.

The most demanding issue of our time is environmental protection. Over hundreds of years of exploding populations, consumption-driven economies, and carving up the planet for resources, the human species has completely reshaped its humble home world. For decades now, scientists have warned that this behavior, unchecked, could have an ominous consequence. Science has given humanity a simple ultimatum: change our behavior or face nature’s wrath.

This has led to a deep schism. Those who are most heavily invested in the current system fight scientists’ claims aggressively. Corporate giants have spent untold millions on disinformation campaigns and disseminated their propaganda through far-right outlets. They have successfully transformed a scientific and moral issue into a political one.

But for the sake of argument, suppose the denialists are right. If we turn our resources to the fight against climate change and it turns out to be a hoax, what will we have done? Continue reading

A brief history of Republican presidents as mascots

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Donald Trump makes an entrance fit for a Lady Gaga concert at the 2016 GOP Convention.

In a sixth season episode of The Simpsons, Springfield’s Republicans gather to discuss their next mayoral candidate. Mr. Burns insists on “a true leader, who will do exactly as he’s told.” A political strategist says the next mayor of Springfield is just behind the door. When it’s opened, there’s nothing there but a water cooler, prompting a round of applause. Moments later Sideshow Bob, a former TV personality, steps into frame, and the Republicans decide he’s even better.

Three of the last four Republican presidents – Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump – could have easily been devised in such a meeting. In real life, as on The Simpsons, the Republican Party has shown a preference for presidential candidates who lack substance but put on a good show. It seems they don’t want a president so much as they do a mascot. Continue reading

What happens when the worst person in America becomes president

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After shoving a diplomat out of the way, President Trump adjusts his jacket and takes center stage.

Donald Trump is not, yet, the worst-ever president. He’s trying to be, but his administration has been too hamstrung by controversy to get much done. Part of this is because, on a personal level, Trump is almost certainly the worst person to occupy the White House. He’s crude, ignorant, abusive, and greedy – just for starters. Whatever he does or doesn’t accomplish in terms of policy, having such a toxic person in the nation’s highest office is already having destructive consequences. Continue reading

Far right blames negative Trump coverage for congressional baseball shooting

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At rallies across America during the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump called for violence from his podium.

At a practice for the Republican congressional baseball team Wednesday morning, a mass shooter opened fire and struck five people. One of them was Steve Scalise, the third-ranked Republican in the House of Representatives. The shooter, identified as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson, was killed in a shootout with Capitol police. In the ensuing news cycle, Hodgkinson’s political persuasion became public knowledge. He was, apparently, a political progressive who volunteered on the Bernie Sanders campaign and despised Donald Trump’s presidency.

Figures on the far right wasted no time blaming Trump’s critics for the attack. Comments on right-wing message boards, and on Hodgkinson’s own Facebook page, excoriated liberals for dividing the country and encouraging violence. Sean Hannity, whose FOX News program is the leading Trump propaganda hour on cable, warned, “When Democrats continue to dehumanize Republicans… the climate around the country becomes more than toxic.” Newt Gingrich blamed “an increasing intensity of hostility on the left.” Continue reading

Russia collusion among least of Trump’s crimes

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Putin and Trump Matryoshka dolls. Image taken from Politico.

The number one political scandal in Washington, D.C., continues to be President Trump’s campaign and cabinet’s association with Russia. A steady trickle of salacious, but ultimately inconclusive, headlines has dominated the D.C. press ever since the election. Each new testimony and new detail, however minor, is treated like a bombshell. But even if the worst possible scenario between Trump and Russia is confirmed, it will still be among the least of his crimes. Continue reading