Why Trump’s media intimidation strategy is bound to fail

Trump is pursuing what he thinks is a win-win strategy. But there’s a whiff of panic in his latest maneuver

Why Trump’s media intimidation strategy is bound to fail
(Credit: Getty/Saul Loeb/Twitter/Salon)
This piece originally appeared on BillMoyers.com.

When Donald Trump shoots spitballs at CNN and other “enemy” media, it’s both a bonding ritual and an intimidation gambit. See him wrestle a CNN-branded loser to the ground in a tweeted video! His crowd whoops with joy, all the more so when they can trump up a “blackmailing” scandal that makes CNN look like the aggressor. (Fox News reveled: “CNN was facing almost universal backlash on Wednesday after running an article on the Reddit user who made an anti-CNN, wrestling-themed GIF tweeted by President Trump over the weekend.”)

Trump has also just discovered, if he didn’t already know, that whining about journalists brings him commiseration from fellow victims like, well, Vladimir Putin. When at a photo op before their summit meeting in Hamburg, Putin leaned in to Trump, pointed to the journalists present, and asked: “These are the ones hurting you?” Trump responded, “These are the ones. You’re right about that.”

Trump is pursuing what he thinks is a win-win strategy. But there’s more than a whiff of panic in his recent maneuvers.

Win 1: He heightens polarization by signaling to his loyal base that he’s their man. He’s wired to them. He bears their standard. He suffers for them. Case in point: CNN. Half the public considers the network more trustworthy than Donald Trump, according to a survey released last week. Half of those surveyed trusted CNN more; 43 percent trusted Trump more. Trump’s approval ratings haven’t gone higher than 42 percent since April, according to Gallup, or since March, according to fivethirtyeight.com’s weighted average. But it’s the intensity of feeling among his 42 or 43 percent that he counts on to produce results in the months to come. Self-identified Republicans  drastically prefer Fox News to any other network — indeed, almost three times as many as all other networks put together. Only 9 percent of Republicans trust CNN more than Trump, while 89 percent of Republicans feel the opposite. By all accounts, Trump is himself Fox News’ biggest fan. When he gazes at Fox News, it is his own reflection he sees, which is what he wants most to see.

Win 2: At the same time, Trump strives to intimidate his enemy. He “works the refs,” shouting down the referees so that, over time, in little ways, they recalibrate their judgments and make nicer. Even dreaded CNN is still hiring robotic Trump flacks as “commentators.” The New York Times editorial pages felt it advisable to hire climate denier Bret Stephens as a twice-weekly columnist, although the business rationale for that decision would seem thin. This is not so much a business decision as a self-image touch-up. Management at The Times fears being identified with the left. It ill-comports with their sense of themselves as Establishment guardians.

As for CNN, “White House advisers” let The Times Michael M. Grynbaum know they have discussed a potential point of leverage over their adversary, a senior administration official said: a pending merger between CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, and AT&T. Trump’s Justice Department will decide whether to approve the merger, and while analysts say there is little to stop the deal from moving forward, the president’s animus toward CNN remains a wild card.

A “senior administration official” only tells The Times they’re exploring this “potential point of leverage” when he or she wants to send a message to CNN:

We run Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department. We approve mergers we like.

Some on the right go further, firing a shot closer to the bow of CNN chief Jeff Zucker:

The White House does not support the pending merger between CNN’s parent company Time Warner and AT&T if Jeff Zucker remains president of CNN, a source familiar with President Trump’s thinking told The Daily Caller.

How many sources are “familiar with President Trump’s thinking”?

Intimidation is the name of the game. Zucker made Trump’s reality TV career, and (as Grynbaum himself noted during the 2016 campaign) pulled out the stops to puff up CNN’s coverage of his golden boy. Trump may well feel betrayed now, and nothing brings out his vindictiveness like betrayal. But don’t sell Zucker short. He may have interesting retaliation material in his arsenal.

Meanwhile, warnings as blunt as the one noted by Grynbaum have not worked with the The Washington Post, whose owner, Jeff Bezos, must revel in the attention and esteem his tough-on-Trump reporters have brought him. It’s greatly to The Posts credit that Nixonian threats directed there during Katharine Graham’s stewardship failed four decades ago, though only after Republican business threats on The Posts TV licenses succeeded in halving the value of Post stock. Of course Jeff Bezos’ pockets are deeper than the deep blue sea. Even as Amazon accounts for only 5 percent of retail sales, its growth curve threatens to “eat the retail world” in the years to come, as one industry analyst puts it. Trump’s lawyers, not especially given to niceties, may well be holding threats to Bezos in reserve.

In any event, for the most part, Trump must think — if “thinking” is what he does — that he benefits from polarization. Distrust in media overall, as measured by Gallup, is at a record high since polling began on that question in 1972. It’s the fall-off of Republican trust that makes the biggest difference.

But in the end, Trump’s love of the combat goes beyond calculation. Trump is never happier than when preaching to his choir. The thrill of the wrestling match launches his testosterone. He’s come this far by managing the chaos that encircles him like one of his interchangeable suits. Barely managing it. As I write, White House advisers are beginning to leak dirt about Donald Jr. As White House staff members lawyer up and Robert Mueller continues his investigations, this is not the kind of chaos Trump bargained for. World Wrestling Entertainment won’t save him. It is, after all, the fakest of fake news — that’s its appeal. His political agenda, such as it is, is flaking away. Trump was supposed to be the Gilded Chief, not the gelded one. Watch for more panic.

Todd Gitlin teaches at Columbia University, writes regularly for BillMoyers.comand Tablet, and is the author, most recently, of Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street.

Now we see collusion: Will Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a shadowy Russian lawyer unlock the mystery?

How the tragic story of Sergei Magnitsky led to Donald Trump Jr.’s fateful encounter with a Kremlin-friendly lawyer

A lawyer and whistleblower named Sergei Magnitsky spent 358 days in one of the most notoriously deadly Russian prisons, where he was tortured and eventually died from untreated internal ailments, including pancreatitis, as well as injuries from routine torture incurred at the hands of Russian law enforcement.

Throughout his harrowing incarceration, Magnitsky provided a detailed narrative of his abuse in prison, covered in 450 letters. His stomach-churning story eventually led to a bipartisan American law passed in 2012 known as the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, which applied hard-hitting sanctions against a roster of Russian officials linked to a $230 million kleptocratic tax fraud scandal Magnitsky was endeavoring to uncover. After last year’s election, President Barack Obama signed a second law, the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, extending the original law to apply to any foreign person found to have links to human rights abuses similar to those inflicted upon Magnitsky.

Russia’s response was typically, well, Russian. The Kremlin blacklisted a menu of American officials, while restricting the adoption of Russian babies by American couples. One of the blacklisted officials, oddly enough, was a prosecutor who’s more than familiar to anyone who’s been following the increasingly breathtaking Trump-Russia scandal: Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney from the Southern District of New York. Among myriad other probes, Bharara was said to have been investigating the Trump Organization’s links to Russian money laundering. He was suddenly and personally fired by President Trump after having apparently been assured by Trump himself, during the transition, that he’d be allowed to remain at his post.

According to a Saturday evening article in the New York Times, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort apparently met in Trump Tower last June with a Russian lawyer with “connections to the Kremlin” named Natalia Veselnitskaya. Before we continue, it’s crucial to note that both Trump Jr. and Kushner confirmed the meeting with Veselnitskaya to the Times. Likewise, Manafort confirmed his participation in the meeting. Manafort also confirmed that Trump Jr. spearheaded it. (In other words, this isn’t “fake news.”) Not insignificantly, Bharara was responsible for pursuing Veselnitskaya’s client, Preveson Holdings, a company linked to the $230 million scam Magnitsky was exposing. The case was settled for $6 million.

Veselnitskaya, the Times reported, is a vocal opponent of the Magnitsky Act and, for her part, told the Times that “the meeting lasted about 30 minutes and focused on the Magnitsky Act and the adoption issue.” Trump Jr. also explained that the meeting was “primarily about an adoption program.” (Keep reading — there’s much more to this explanation.) So it seems more than obvious that the discussion had to do with Veselnitskaya conveying a message to the then-presumptive Republican nominee for president that either the Kremlin wanted the Magnitsky Act fully repealed or sanctions lifted from Russian officials impacted by the law or both.

Not only is this highly suggestive of collusion between Trump’s inner circle and the Kremlin, it could also represent the first real journalistic evidence of a possible quid pro quo arrangement between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Specifically, the lifting of sanctions imposed by the Magnitsky Act could be seen as a partial payment to Russia for helping Trump during the campaign, either politically or financially or both.

But wait. Hang onto your hats. There’s more.

second New York Times story dropped on Sunday, lending an almost cataclysmic detail to the meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Kushner, Manafort and Veselnitskaya. The Times reported that Trump Jr. convened the June 9, 2016 meeting after Veselnitskaya informed him that she had damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The following paragraph ought to send chills down your spine:

The meeting — at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Donald J. Trumpclinched the Republican nomination — points to the central question in federal investigations of the Kremlin’s meddling in the presidential election: whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.

The Times added that it’s unclear whether Veselnitskaya handed over the opposition research on Clinton, but “the people interviewed by The Times about the meeting said the expectation was that she would do so.”

This is collusion. Hands down. It appeared more than obvious following the initial Times story on Saturday, but now, with Sunday’s pulse-pounding article, it seems blindingly clear that the meeting was at least intended to be either an offer or a negotiation: Give the Trump campaign Russian-sourced dirt on Hillary Clinton in exchange for the lifting of sanctions outlined in the Magnitsky Act and beyond.

Adding to the profoundly urgent nature of this news, we learned that during their summit in Hamburg, President Trump agreed to form a joint task force on cybersecurity with Putin. To overstate the obvious here, this would be like the George W. Bush administration entering into a joint task force on airport security with Osama bin Laden. Worse, Trump continues to deny or dispute that there was any collusion at all, while accepting Putin’s word over the word of former President Obama, countless former and current government officials, and the entire U.S. intelligence community.

Incidentally, Trump has repeatedly insisted that only four intelligence agencies agreed that Russia hijacked the 2016 election, when in fact the Oct. 7, 2016, assessment by the director of national intelligence represented the analysis of the entire U.S. intelligence community. In fact, the report began with these words: “The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.” Then again, words have no meaning in the age of Trump.

Making matters even more desperate, it appears as though the Russian government is attempting to compromise our nuclear energy facilities.

Ultimately, there is no doubt that we were attacked, and based on the words of James Comey and others, it appears the attack will continue and worsen as time rolls on. Yet we have a president who not only accepts Putin’s explanation, but who may have cooperated with Putin in that sinister enterprise. Simply put: American democracy is under severe threat and the president seems to be acting almost as an enemy combatant, openly hostile to anyone who’s sounding the alarm about the increasingly treacherous Russian crisis.

It can’t be stressed enough that any and all legal and constitutional mechanisms for thwarting Trump’s continuing efforts must be triggered by the proper authorities, be they members of Congress, the Justice Department or the special counsel. The future of American sovereignty is hanging in the balance and we can no longer rely on the White House for aid.

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon.com. He’s also the host of “The Bob Cesca Show” podcast, and a weekly guest on both the “Stephanie Miller Show” and “Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang.” Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

The Uninhabitable Earth

Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.

By 

Fossils by Heartless Machine

In the jungles of Costa Rica, where humidity routinely tops 90 percent, simply moving around outside when it’s over 105 degrees Fahrenheit would be lethal. And the effect would be fast: Within a few hours, a human body would be cooked to death from both inside and out.

9:00 pm

I. ‘Doomsday’

Peering beyond scientific reticence.

It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough.

Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.

Even when we train our eyes on climate change, we are unable to comprehend its scope. This past winter, a string of days 60 and 70 degrees warmer than normal baked the North Pole, melting the permafrost that encased Norway’s Svalbard seed vault — a global food bank nicknamed “Doomsday,” designed to ensure that our agriculture survives any catastrophe, and which appeared to have been flooded by climate change less than ten years after being built.

The Doomsday vault is fine, for now: The structure has been secured and the seeds are safe. But treating the episode as a parable of impending flooding missed the more important news. Until recently, permafrost was not a major concern of climate scientists, because, as the name suggests, it was soil that stayed permanently frozen. But Arctic permafrost contains 1.8 trillion tons of carbon, more than twice as much as is currently suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. When it thaws and is released, that carbon may evaporate as methane, which is 34 times as powerful a greenhouse-gas warming blanket as carbon dioxide when judged on the timescale of a century; when judged on the timescale of two decades, it is 86 times as powerful. In other words, we have, trapped in Arctic permafrost, twice as much carbon as is currently wrecking the atmosphere of the planet, all of it scheduled to be released at a date that keeps getting moved up, partially in the form of a gas that multiplies its warming power 86 times over.

Maybe you know that already — there are alarming stories every day, like last month’s satellite data showing the globe warming, since 1998, more than twice as fast as scientists had thought. Or the news from Antarctica this past May, when a crack in an ice shelf grew 11 miles in six days, then kept going; the break now has just three miles to go — by the time you read this, it may already have met the open water, where it will drop into the sea one of the biggest icebergs ever, a process known poetically as “calving.”

But no matter how well-informed you are, you are surely not alarmed enough. Over the past decades, our culture has gone apocalyptic with zombie movies and Mad Max dystopias, perhaps the collective result of displaced climate anxiety, and yet when it comes to contemplating real-world warming dangers, we suffer from an incredible failure of imagination. The reasons for that are many: the timid language of scientific probabilities, which the climatologist James Hansen once called “scientific reticence” in a paper chastising scientists for editing their own observations so conscientiously that they failed to communicate how dire the threat really was; the fact that the country is dominated by a group of technocrats who believe any problem can be solved and an opposing culture that doesn’t even see warming as a problem worth addressing; the way that climate denialism has made scientists even more cautious in offering speculative warnings; the simple speed of change and, also, its slowness, such that we are only seeing effects now of warming from decades past; our uncertainty about uncertainty, which the climate writer Naomi Oreskes in particular has suggested stops us from preparing as though anything worse than a median outcome were even possible; the way we assume climate change will hit hardest elsewhere, not everywhere; the smallness (two degrees) and largeness (1.8 trillion tons) and abstractness (400 parts per million) of the numbers; the discomfort of considering a problem that is very difficult, if not impossible, to solve; the altogether incomprehensible scale of that problem, which amounts to the prospect of our own annihilation; simple fear. But aversion arising from fear is a form of denial, too.

In between scientific reticence and science fiction is science itself. This article is the result of dozens of interviews and exchanges with climatologists and researchers in related fields and reflects hundreds of scientific papers on the subject of climate change. What follows is not a series of predictions of what will happen — that will be determined in large part by the much-less-certain science of human response. Instead, it is a portrait of our best understanding of where the planet is heading absent aggressive action. It is unlikely that all of these warming scenarios will be fully realized, largely because the devastation along the way will shake our complacency. But those scenarios, and not the present climate, are the baseline. In fact, they are our schedule.

The present tense of climate change — the destruction we’ve already baked into our future — is horrifying enough. Most people talk as if Miami and Bangladesh still have a chance of surviving; most of the scientists I spoke with assume we’ll lose them within the century, even if we stop burning fossil fuel in the next decade. Two degrees of warming used to be considered the threshold of catastrophe: tens of millions of climate refugees unleashed upon an unprepared world. Now two degrees is our goal, per the Paris climate accords, and experts give us only slim odds of hitting it. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues serial reports, often called the “gold standard” of climate research; the most recent one projects us to hit four degrees of warming by the beginning of the next century, should we stay the present course. But that’s just a median projection. The upper end of the probability curve runs as high as eight degrees — and the authors still haven’t figured out how to deal with that permafrost melt. The IPCC reports also don’t fully account for the albedo effect (less ice means less reflected and more absorbed sunlight, hence more warming); more cloud cover (which traps heat); or the dieback of forests and other flora (which extract carbon from the atmosphere). Each of these promises to accelerate warming, and the geological record shows that temperature can shift as much as ten degrees or more in a single decade. The last time the planet was even four degrees warmer, Peter Brannen points out in The Ends of the World, his new history of the planet’s major extinction events, the oceans were hundreds of feet higher.*

The Earth has experienced five mass extinctions before the one we are living through now, each so complete a slate-wiping of the evolutionary record it functioned as a resetting of the planetary clock, and many climate scientists will tell you they are the best analog for the ecological future we are diving headlong into. Unless you are a teenager, you probably read in your high-school textbooks that these extinctions were the result of asteroids. In fact, all but the one that killed the dinosaurs were caused by climate change produced by greenhouse gas. The most notorious was 252 million years ago; it began when carbon warmed the planet by five degrees, accelerated when that warming triggered the release of methane in the Arctic, and ended with 97 percent of all life on Earth dead. We are currently adding carbon to the atmosphere at a considerably faster rate; by most estimates, at least ten times faster. The rate is accelerating. This is what Stephen Hawking had in mind when he said, this spring, that the species needs to colonize other planets in the next century to survive, and what drove Elon Musk, last month, to unveil his plans to build a Mars habitat in 40 to 100 years. These are nonspecialists, of course, and probably as inclined to irrational panic as you or I. But the many sober-minded scientists I interviewed over the past several months — the most credentialed and tenured in the field, few of them inclined to alarmism and many advisers to the IPCC who nevertheless criticize its conservatism — have quietly reached an apocalyptic conclusion, too: No plausible program of emissions reductions alone can prevent climate disaster.

CONTINUED:   http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans.html

What if all journalists wrote like tech journalists?

Hypnotized by Silicon Valley’s hype machine, too many tech writers are little more than fawning lackeys

What if all journalists wrote like tech journalists?

Apple CEO Tim Cook(Credit: AP/Richard Drew)

Ever since the ’90s tech boom, tech journalists have tended to cover their beat a little differently. More specifically, compared to other journalistic fields, tech journalism is more likely to be reverent, even fawning, toward the subjects it is supposed to critique.

“Visit any technology-focused media outlet, or the tech sections of many news organizations, and you’ll see that ‘gadget porn’ videos, hagiographic profiles of startup founders or the regurgitation of lofty growth expectations from Wall Street analysts vastly outnumber critical analyses of technological disruption,” wrote my Salon colleague Angelo Young, in his article about how Silicon Valley sells a side of ideology with its gadgets. “[C]riticisms that do exist tend to focus on ancillary issues, such as Silicon Valley’s dismal lack of workplace diversity, or how innovation is upsetting norms in the labor market, or the class-based digital divide; all are no doubt important topics, but they’re ones that don’t question the overall assumptions that innovation and disruption are at worst harmless if not benevolent.”

This is the dismal state of tech journalism in the digital era: Because of the tech industry’s success at branding itself as selling a sunny, progressive vision of the future, most (but not all) tech journalists don’t really cover it with a critical eye. Some publications and blogs read like advertisements for gadgets, and breathlessly cover minor, quotidian firmware updates as if they were front-page stories.

Which leads us to a thought experiment: What if all news stories were written the way tech journalists cover their beats? What if all journalism was infected with the same cultish CEO adulation, the fawning adoration, the puff pieces about how this week’s disposable gadget is the most amazing thing to have ever existed? How might the news look to us then?

Reader, here’s a take on a shiny new product — not in the tech industry, but the fast-food industry — written from just that perspective.

It’s here: McDonald’s Lobster Roll 7

McDonald’s adds a fresher crustacean and an improved crunch at a higher price point — but should you buy it?

Reviewing the new Lobster Roll 7 is a lot like reviewing the previous models, but different. The roll, which was announced last week at the annual Worldwide Food-Eater’s Conference (WFEC) at the futuristic McDonald’s campus in Oak Brook, outwardly resembles the last Lobster Roll — but inside, it’s totally new.

Until recently, the notoriously secretive fast-food company had been mum about the next generation of its ever-popular sandwich. For the past two years, journalists have had to rely on the slow trickle of supply-chain rumors and leaked photos of questionable veracity to guess at the nature of the next model. The hype machine is so overblown that there’s a cottage industry of excitable vloggers who make a living creating speculative computer mock-ups of the next Lobster Roll and posting them on YouTube.

But back to the WFEC reveal: Perhaps the most surprising announcement from the Wizards of Oak Brook was the changed naming scheme. No more McLobster. It’s just Lobster Roll 7 now.

More elegant, perhaps, and an intriguing shift in marketing strategy for the decidedly minimalist company. Indeed, since meticulously engineering the first McLobster, the company has opted to make subtle year-to-year changes in its sandwich design, a strategy that makes sense given its astonishing popularity. Many reviewers believed the second generation model was “near-perfect”; how can you improve on perfection? Tinkering is all that’s left. Yet as sandwich tech improves, we can surely expect to see some of the fruits of that innovation implicated in this model. McDonald’s certainly spends a pretty penny on R&D.

If you take a closer look, most of the outward changes to this Lobster Roll model are subtle. For example, the way the lobster is cut is more angular than before — an interesting design decision for a company that always had a fetish for bevels. And for the first time, the lettuce no longer comes from Korean-based Lettuce International; relations between the two companies have been frosty ever since LI began selling a competitor crustacean roll.

While anticipation was sky-high for the next iteration of the Lobster Roll line, questions linger about McDonald’s ability to continue to dominate the industry. Mickey D fanboys have reason to be suspicious of this release; ever since the first groundbreaking McLobster was released in 1993, the crustacean fast-food space has become way more crowded. Rival Panera has been innovating in the crustacean sandwich world for the past few years, and has built up an impressive condiment ecosystem to rival that of McDonald’s. Likewise, the new Lobster Roll 7 will be the first iteration of the McDonald’s line released under the aegis of new CEO Steve Easterbrook, who last year took the reins from his iconic, brilliant, industry-defining predecessor, the ever-reclusive wunderkind Don Thompson — whose leadership of the industry-defining company has been immortalized in five biopics over the past 10 years, including an eponymous 2016 film written by Aaron Sorkin.

But enough about expectations. What about the product?

Let’s just say that fanboys are likely to call this Lobster Roll “world changing” (many of them without even tasting it, if the long lines outside McDonald’s stores across the globe are any indication). You may roll your eyes at such an epithet, but they may indeed be right. Even the most crotchety reviewers will likely admit that the Lobster Roll 7 epitomizes a paradigm shift for the industry. And to those who say it’s barely an innovation on previous models, I say this: Why mess with perfection?

Keith A. Spencer is a cover editor at Salon.

Trump’s attack on the press

4 July 2017

It is perhaps appropriate that July 4, 2017, Independence Day, should coincide with yet another degrading spectacle exposing the far-reaching rot of American democracy. The past several days have seen a marked escalation of Trump’s conflict with the US media. Trump’s attack on the press, pitting the fascistic and authoritarian president against a thoroughly corrupt and compromised establishment press.

In a speech Saturday, Trump denounced the New York Times and MSNBC, among others. The next day he posted on his Twitter feed an edited video of a wrestling match, created by an ultra-right supporter, showing Trump beating up an opponent labeled CNN. He told the Fourth of July “Celebrate Freedom” rally, bringing together right-wing veterans and religious groups, “The fake media is trying to silence us, but we will not let them.”

The “Celebrate Freedom” event, sponsored by the Christian broadcasting group Salem Media and the First Baptist Church of Dallas, received relatively little coverage compared to the firestorm over Trump’s twitter attack on MSNBC hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. It was, however, a festival of reaction and backwardness.

Trump, speaking before a gigantic American flag, proclaimed that since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it was understood that liberty comes from God. He heaped praise on the military and the police, declaring, “Not only has God bestowed on us the gift of freedom, he’s also given us the gift of heroes willing to give their lives to defend that freedom.”

Trump’s praise for “freedom” was combined with a robust defense of his unconstitutional and racist Muslim travel ban, recently allowed to go forward by a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court.

Trump’s diatribes over the weekend recall comments he made in February, when he denounced the media as the “enemy of the people” and reprised the fascistic “America First” themes that dominated his Inaugural Address. “We all share one home and one glorious destiny,” he proclaimed Saturday in prose recalling the rants of Mussolini. “And whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood.”

A recognition of the deeply reactionary content of Trump’s polemics does not require that one be sentimental about his immediate targets. In his attack on the “dishonest media,” Trump is seeking to capitalize on widespread and entirely justified hostility to the corporate press for the purpose of advancing a right-wing, authoritarian agenda.

Trump’s rhetoric finds a broader response insofar as the media itself has been deeply discredited and is completely alienated from the concerns of the broad mass of the population. Beyond the super-rich, the constituency of the New York Times, CNN and other outlets consists almost entirely of the most privileged sections of the upper-middle class.

The corporate media’s campaign against Trump has been conducted on the most right-wing basis, employing the methods of McCarthyite-style Russia-baiting, in which “news” has been replaced by the direct channeling of propaganda and lies from the intelligence agencies.

The political-media establishment has no problem with Trump killing Syrians, threatening North Korea with nuclear annihilation or engaging in gunboat diplomacy with China and Russia. Nor does it object to his persecution of immigrants, demonization of Muslims or proposals to deprive tens of millions of people of access to health care.

Moreover, it has, virtually in unison, denounced and slandered journalists and others who have sought to fulfill the responsibility of principled journalism to expose before the public the crimes and lies of the government—people such as Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.

The dilemma of the so-called “liberal” media, whose standard-bearer is the New York Times, is that it is obliged, as a matter of self-defense, to combine, at least nominally, defense of the First Amendment guarantee of press freedom with absolute support for imperialism and the interests of the corporate and financial oligarchy which runs the United States, and which finds its noxious personification in the figure of Donald Trump.

Thus, Charles Blow, in his column in Monday’s New York Times headlined “The Hijacked American Presidency,” proclaims that those who support Trump are “cowering before the belligerent, would-be king. A madman and his legislative minions are holding America hostage.”

But he then pivots to the more central theme of the White House’s establishment critics—Russian aggression and Trump’s complicity. He writes: “We must always remember that although individual Americans made the choice to vote affirmatively for him or actively withhold their support from his opponent, those decisions were influenced, in ways we cannot calculate, by Russian interference in our election, designed to privilege Trump.”

Trump, Blow states, is in office “because a foreign power hostile to our interests wanted him installed.” The president has “not only praised that foreign power, he has proven mysteriously averse to condemning it or even acknowledging its meddling.”

In the Washington Post, columnist Colbert King was even more direct in his McCarthy-style red-baiting, comparing the hacking of the Democratic National Committee last year to the Watergate break-in, only with Russian operatives rather than former CIA agents doing the dirty work. He concludes that “the Kremlin also had its reasons for wanting Trump in White House. No American presidential candidate since Communist Party-USA boss Gus Hall has ever enjoyed greater Moscow acceptance.”

The basic fraud underlying the narrative of Trump’s establishment critics is the idea that Trump himself is somehow an aberration, an interloper into the pristine landscape of American democracy. In Blow’s reading, his rise to power is “the most extraordinary and profound electoral mistake America has made in our lifetimes and possibly ever.” This “electoral mistake” was possible, however, only due to the extraordinarily right-wing character of his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

At a deeper level, Trump is an excrescence of a diseased social system. In this sense, his election was not a “mistake.” Rather, it revealed the true face of American capitalism.

The Trump administration and its establishment critics are both expressions of an underlying disease. The removal of Trump through the methods of political conspiracy, based on anti-Russian propaganda and the concealment of the real issues behind the internecine conflict, would not advance the interests of the working class. It would only substitute a more polished and professional reactionary for the current occupant of the White House.

The opposition of the working class to Trump has nothing in common with the reactionary intrigues of the rival factions within the ruling elite and its wealthy upper-middle class periphery, for which the corporate-controlled media serves as a sounding board.

Patrick Martin and Joseph Kishore

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/07/04/pers-j04.html

Amelia Earhart May Have Survived Crash-Landing, Newly Discovered Photo Suggests

Image: A photo discovered in the National Archives shows a woman who resembles Amelia Earhart on a dock in the Marshall Islands
A photo discovered in the National Archives shows a woman who resembles Amelia Earhart on a dock in the Marshall Islands. National Archives

A newly discovered photograph suggests legendary aviator Amelia Earhart, who vanished 80 years ago on a round-the-world flight, survived a crash-landing in the Marshall Islands.

The photo, found in a long-forgotten file in the National Archives, shows a woman who resembles Earhart and a man who appears to be her navigator, Fred Noonan, on a dock. The discovery is featured in a new History channel special, “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” that airs Sunday.

Independent analysts told History the photo appears legitimate and undoctored. Shawn Henry, former executive assistant director for the FBI and an NBC News analyst, has studied the photo and feels confident it shows the famed pilot and her navigator.

Amelia Earhart mystery may have new clue in never-before-seen photo

“When you pull out, and when you see the analysis that’s been done, I think it leaves no doubt to the viewers that that’s Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan,” Henry told NBC News.

Earhart was last heard from on July 2, 1937, as she attempted to become the first woman pilot to circumnavigate the globe. She was declared dead two years later after the U.S. concluded she had crashed somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, and her remains were never found.

Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart sits in her Electra plane cabin at the airport in Burbank, California, on May 20, 1937. Albert Bresnik / Paragon Agency via AP

But investigators believe they have found evidence Earhart and Noonan were blown off course but survived the ordeal. The investigative team behind the History special believes the photo may have been taken by someone who was spying for the U.S. on Japanese military activity in the Pacific.

Les Kinney, a retired government investigator who has spent 15 years looking for Earhart clues, said the photo “clearly indicates that Earhart was captured by the Japanese.”

Japanese authorities told NBC News they have no record of Earhart being in their custody.

RelatedThe Search Is Still On for Amelia Earhart 80 Years After She Disappeared

The photo, marked “Jaluit Atoll” and believed to have been taken in 1937, shows a short-haired woman — potentially Earhart — on a dock with her back to the camera. (She’s wearing pants, something for which Earhart was known.) She sits near a standing man who looks like Noonan — down to the hairline.

“The hairline is the most distinctive characteristic,” said Ken Gibson, a facial recognition expert who studied the image. “It’s a very sharp receding hairline. The nose is very prominent.”

Gibson added: “It’s my feeling that this is very convincing evidence that this is probably Noonan.”

A newly discovered photo shows a woman who resembles Amelia Earhart and a man who appears to be her navigator, Fred Noonan. National Archives

The photo shows a Japanese ship, Koshu, towing a barge with something that appears to be 38-feet-long — the same length as Earhart’s plane.

For decades, locals have claimed they saw Earhart’s plane crash before she and Noonan were taken away. Native schoolkids insisted they saw Earhart in captivity. The story was even documented in postage stamps issued in the 1980s.

“We believe that the Koshu took her to Saipan [in the Mariana Islands], and that she died there under the custody of the Japanese,” said Gary Tarpinian, the executive producer of the History special.

“We don’t know how she died,” Tarpinian said. “We don’t know when.”

It is not clear if the U.S. government knew who was in the photo. If it was taken by a spy, the U.S. may not have wanted to compromise that person by revealing the image.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/amelia-earhart-may-have-survived-crash-landing-never-seen-photo-n779591

The night they busted Stonewall

I was there when gay power came to Sheridan Square

June 28, 1969, was just another night in New York City. I had graduated from West Point only a few weeks earlier and was spending my graduation leave renting a loft down on Broome Street before I departed for three months’ training for the infantry officer basic course at Fort Benning, Georgia. I know . . . I know . . . what was a West Point graduate doing in a loft in SoHo? Well, truth be told, I was freelancing for the Village Voice that summer. I know . . . I know  . . . what was a West Point graduate doing writing for the Village Voice in the summer of 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War? Well, I had started writing letters to the editor of the Voice while I was still a cadet and the year before had published my first couple of pieces in the paper. It wasn’t such a bad fit.

The three founders of the Voice, Dan Wolf, Norman Mailer, and Edwin Fancher, had all been infantrymen in World War II, and in an interesting twist of circumstance, Ed Fancher had served in the 10th Mountain Division under my grandfather, General Lucian K. Truscott Jr., in Northern Italy near the end of the war. Still, a West Pointer writing for the Voice was  . . . unusual. But I was writing rock criticism — remember rock criticism? — and covering stuff that was all over the map. My first piece was on Christmas Day at the Dom on St. Marks Place with Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farm, soon to be made famous at Woodstock, and only the week before I had covered a Billy Graham religious revival at Madison Square Garden.

I wasn’t expecting to find a story when I left my loft at Broome and Crosby and walked toward the West Village, looking to spend the evening drinking at the Lion’s Head, the writer’s bar on Sheridan Square just off Seventh Avenue. It was a hangout for writers like Pete Hamill, then of the New York Post; Joe Flaherty, a former Brooklyn longshoreman currently writing for the Voice; David Markson, a novelist just making his mark; Nick Browne, the Lion’s Head bartender who covered the Village bar scene for the Voice; Fred Exley, who had just published the marvelous memoir “A Fan’s Notes”; and Joel Oppenheimer, the Village poet and graduate of Black Mountain College. Somehow I managed to fit into a scene that is still celebrated as a kind of golden age for Village writers with a drinking problem, or drinkers with a writing problem. Take your pick.

I was coming up Waverly Place from Sixth Avenue approaching Christopher Street when I saw the police car lights flashing. A cop car and a paddy wagon were pulled up in front of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar two doors down from the Lion’s Head, and uniformed policemen were hauling Stonewall patrons out of the bar and putting them into the back of the paddy wagon. A crowd had gathered across the street, and some of the arrestees were pausing at the door and pursing their lips, doing as best as they could to blow kisses to the crowd with their hands cuffed behind their backs. I stopped to watch.

The crowd was young, some of them very young, the Stonewall being known for its underage crowd. In fact, it turned out that the purpose of the raid was to bust a Mob blackmail ring being run out of the Stonewall. The Mob was using underage hustlers to entrap older gay men, mainly from Wall Street, and extract money from them. All the gay bars in the Village were Mob owned. There was a “morals clause” in the New York State Liquor Authority laws that outlawed selling alcohol to “immoral” persons, which the authority arbitrarily defined as gay people, so they wouldn’t issue a liquor license to bars catering to gays. The Mob was happy to oblige, however, setting up illegal bars like the Stonewall and selling overpriced watered-down drinks to gays without a license and paying off the cops to stay open. It would take several years after Stonewall until the authority issued its first license to a bar with gay owners, the Ballroom on West Broadway, followed quickly by Reno Sweeney on 13th Street.

But on this night, gay bars were still illegal, and as they did every time they busted one, the cops were rounding up and harassing the patrons. The crowd outside was loving it as they came out striking poses, but the cops weren’t loving it. This was not the way gay people were supposed to act when they busted a bar. They were supposed to come out of the bar in cuffs with their heads down, hiding their faces in shame. But not this time. This time they were vamping and calling out to friends in the crowd.

The cops started angrily manhandling the arrestees, shoving them out the door and quickly into the paddy wagon. The guys under arrest were back talking the cops, asking them what their problem was, which only got the cops madder. Some of the crowd started throwing coins at the cops, taunting them. Then the cops pushed a drag queen out of the door of the Stonewall. She was apparently well-known on the street and paused to strike a vampy pose, acknowledging the crowd, calling out to a friend that she’d meet him when she got sprung from the Tombs in the morning. One of the cops pushed her roughly with a nightstick. She said something to the cop, he swung at her, she dodged the swing, and two more cops joined in, grabbing her and roughly shoving her into the paddy wagon.

That was it. Coins rained down. The crowd, which was now probably more than 100 strong, yelled at the cops, cursing them. Someone threw a beer can, and more trash rained down. The cops menaced the crowd, telling them to disperse. They didn’t. When the cops moved on them swinging their nightsticks, the crowd pushed back. Someone picked up a cobblestone and threw it through the window. The crowd yelled and rushed the Stonewall. One of the cops slammed the doors to the paddy wagon closed, it sped away, and the cops ran into the Stonewall and closed the door. The crowd was yelling at the cops, daring them to come out. The crowd had gotten bigger.

The whole street in front of the Stonewall was filled. I got up on a trash can next to the 55 Bar to see better. Someone threw another trash can through the Stonewall’s window. Someone else tried to grab my trash can, but I pushed them away. A guy right next to me  lit a newspaper and threw it into the Stonewall window. I could see the cops inside struggling to put out the fire. Gay people were pissed off that the Stonewall had been busted and its patrons had been arrested and harassed by the cops. There was a riot going on. They weren’t going to take it anymore.

My friend the Voice columnist Howard Smith had gone into the Stonewall earlier to talk to the inspector in charge of the raid, Seymour Pine, and was trapped inside with the cops. The crowd kept throwing stuff at the Stonewall’s window. They pried a parking meter loose from the pavement and a couple of guys used it as a battering ram on the door, but the door held. The cops called for reinforcements and a few minutes later, maybe six cop cars came screaming down Christopher Street from Sixth Avenue. Cops jumped out swinging nightsticks and people started running, but they didn’t run far.

Some of them went around the corner of Seventh Avenue down West 9th Street and right on Waverly Place and came up behind the cops, taunting them with catcalls and curses. That split the cops, some chasing one group east down Christopher Street, some pursuing a crowd across the park, spilling onto West 4th  and Grove Streets. Now there were several hundred people in the streets, the word having spread to gay bars around the Village which emptied into the streets and more people joined the protesters. More cops arrived, sirens screaming. The crowd kept dispersing in every direction and coming back to the Stonewall. Nobody was in charge. The only thing everyone knew was that it started at the Stonewall, and they weren’t giving  up.

This went on for several hours until finally the cops got a sufficient number of reinforcements that they could hold the street in front of the bar and rescue those trapped inside. Jay Levin of the New York Post and I went over to the 6th Precinct around 4 a.m. I don’t recall the exact number, but I think something like 14 people were arrested. The cops wouldn’t give out any names, so my Voice story and Jay’s squib in the Post didn’t record who the heroes of Stonewall were. But they were there. I saw them. And I saw the gay people who poured out of the bars and clubs and  took to the streets.

The next afternoon, the Stonewall reopened with a sign in the window saying something like “We got nothing but college boys and girls in here.” By dark, someone had spray-painted “Gay Power” over the sign. Crowds gathered on the street and it was on again. This time, the cops called in the TPF, the Tactical Patrol Force, with their plastic shields and helmets and plexiglass face masks. A lot of good that did. Word had spread to the boroughs and Fire Island that there had been a protest at the Stonewall on Friday night and the crowd was huge. The TPF didn’t know the twisting, crisscrossing streets of the Village at all, so the crowd had a grand time taunting the cops and leading them down alleys like Gay Street and  Waverly Place and around the block.

About the time the cops arrived back at the front of the Stonewall and thought they had things in hand, a chorus line of protesters appeared behind them doing a kick routine, loudly singing, “We are the Stonewall girls!/ We wear our hair in curls!/ We don’t wear underwear!/ We show our pubic hair!” The TPF would wheel around and chase them, only to have another chorus line appear down the block singing out the same taunt. Soon tear gas canisters flew. People used wet rags and cups of water from hydrants to splash themselves and kept going. Every once in a while the cops would manage to grab one of the protesters and beat them with nightsticks and throw them in a car, but that only served to set off the crowd, which grew louder and larger as the night wore on. If the aim of the TPF was to disperse the riot and shame the gay people back into hiding, it didn’t work. By the wee hours, you could see gay guys walking home from Sheridan Square hand in hand. It was something you never saw on the streets until that night.

Sunday night the crowd was smaller and older, many people having arrived back in the Village from weekend places on Fire Island and upstate. The TPF tried to line up, blocking Christopher at Seventh Avenue, but other bars and businesses were open and complained, so they had to let people through. Occasionally, someone would throw trash at the cops and they would chase a group down the street, but there was no tear gas. The riot was over.

I spied the Warhol superstar Taylor Mead and Allen Ginsberg standing across Seventh Avenue and walked over. They had been out of town and wanted to know what happened, so I told them. Both longtime denizens of the East and West Village, they were amazed. Allen said he’d never been in the Stonewall and asked if I’d take him, so we walked over and went inside. The place had obviously been trashed by the cops, but the Mob guys had erected a makeshift bar and were back to selling overpriced drinks. Loud music was playing in the back room and people were dancing. Ginsberg asked me if I would dance with him, so we went back there and bopped around for a couple of songs and left.

Walking east across 8th St. toward Allen’s apartment, he continued to express amazement at what had happened. “The fags have lost that wounded look they always had,” he said of the people he’d seen on the streets. We passed couple after couple holding hands to Allen’s obvious delight. We reached Astor Place and as I turned south headed toward my loft, Allen called out, “Defend the fairies!” As I once observed elsewhere, as of that night, they didn’t need defending anymore.

As for me? Well, the brand-new second lieutenant of infantry went home to the loft and sat down and cluelessly wrote a story about how the “faggots” had rioted and asserted gay power for the first time. My piece, and one by Howard Smith, ran on the front page of the Voice that Wednesday. Jim Fouratt, who had been one of the protesters over the weekend and had quickly formed the Gay Liberation Front to give some political form to what he had clearly identified as a movement, held a demonstration in front of the Voice protesting my use of the word “faggot” to describe gay people. So the very first protest of the new gay movement was against me. The Voice committed to using “gay” from then on, and so did I. Gay power had come to Sheridan Square.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives on the East End of Long Island and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better. He can be followed on Facebook at The Rabbit Hole and on Twitter @LucianKTruscott.