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Forever War: Here's the Dark Truth the Unending Conflict in Afghanistan Reveals About the United States

August 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch

Almost 17 years and, coincidentally enough, 17 U.S. commanders later, think of it as a war of abysmal repetition.


Fair warning. Stop reading right now if you want, because I’m going to repeat myself. What choice do I have, since my subject is the Afghan War (America’s second Afghan War, no less)? I began writing about that war in October 2001, almost 17 years ago, just after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. That was how I inadvertently launched the unnamed listserv that would, a year later, become TomDispatch. Given the website’s continuing focus on America’s forever wars (a phrase I first used in 2010), what choice have I had but to write about Afghanistan ever since?

So think of this as the war piece to end all war pieces. And let the repetition begin!

Here, for instance, is what I wrote about our Afghan War in 2008, almost seven years after it began, when the U.S. Air Force took out a bridal party, including the bride herself and at least 26 other women and children en route to an Afghan wedding. And that would be just one of eight U.S. wedding strikes I toted up by the end of 2013 in three countries, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen, that killed almost 300 potential revelers. “We have become a nation of wedding crashers,” I wrote, “the uninvited guests who arrived under false pretenses, tore up the place, offered nary an apology, and refused to go home.”

Here’s what I wrote about Afghanistan in 2009, while considering the metrics of “a war gone to hell”: “While Americans argue feverishly and angrily over what kind of money, if any, to put into health care, or decaying infrastructure, or other key places of need, until recently just about no one in the mainstream raised a peep about the fact that, for nearly eight years (not to say much of the last three decades), we've been pouring billions of dollars, American military know-how, and American lives into a black hole in Afghanistan that is, at least in significant part, of our own creation.”

Here’s what I wrote in 2010, …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump's Supreme Court Pick May Have Committed Perjury — And the GOP Appears to Be Suppressing Evidence that Could Prove It

August 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Sen. Patrick Leahy asserts Republicans were ready to request Brett Kavanaugh's records … until they weren't.


One of the top concerns of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding President Donald Trump's Supreme Court Nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, is whether he knew anything about, authorized, or advised the Bush administration on their torture program for detainees in the War on Terror while he served as White House staff secretary.

In 2006, during his confirmation to the D.C. Circuit, Kavanaugh told senators, under oath, that he was “not involved in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants,” and had no knowledge of issues about “the legal justifications or the policies relating to the treatment of detainees,” according to NBC News. However, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) assert that multiple documents and email chains show Kavanaugh was briefed on the issue, implying he was not honest with the Senate.

Some of the documents Judiciary Democrats say prove Kavanaugh's knowledge of the torture program, and potentially even suggest that he perjured himself in his earlier confirmation, have been marked “Committee Confidential” by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — meaning that even most senators are not allowed to review them.

Also of concern is whether the White House is playing any role in steering document requests. On Friday, Leahy submitted a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn, demanding to know what was discussed at a meeting between him and Judiciary Republicans regarding Kavanaugh.

According to a press release from Leahy, prior to the meeting on July 24, Republicans were prepared to ask the National Archives to release documents produced during Kavanaugh's time as White House Staff Secretary for former President George W. Bush. But after the meeting, Republicans refused to do so, allowing a limited release of documents curated by “a lawyer representing the former president.”

“In the 44 years I have served in the United States Senate, I have seen 19 nominations to the Supreme Court, including the nomination of every current member of the Court,” said Leahy. “I have never …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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CNN's Jake Tapper Mocks Kellyanne Conway's Ridiculous Claim that Everyone's 'Obsessed' with Trump

August 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

She made the comments Friday morning to White House reporters.


Kellyanne Conway called it “weird” Friday morning that everybody is “so obsessed with the president of the United States” — despite the fact that President Donald Trump himself is constantly doing whatever he can to draw as much attention as possible.

She made the comments to reporters Friday in front of the White House entrance.

“Why is everybody so obsessed with the president of the United States that they can't even begin or finish a sentence without mentioning his name five times? It's kind of weird,” she said. “And it's infecting people on the news now who fancy themselves security experts.”

On his CNN show “The Lead” Friday evening, Jake Tapper mocked the premise of her question.

“Why is everybody so obsessed with the president of the United States? May I hazard a guess?” he asked with faux seriousness. “Perhaps people keep talking about the president of the United States — the most powerful person on the planet — because he keeps making comments and taking actions that are shocking and unprecedented? Does that — does that make sense?”

Watch the clip below:

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Source: ALTERNET

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Trump Is Actually Desperate for Praise for the 'Fake News Media' — Here's How You Can Tell

August 17, 2018 in Blogs

By The Conversation

Start with his own White House newsletter.


Mainstream press coverage of President Trump has been unfavorable. Thomas Patterson found that 80 percent of stories in the first 100 days of the administration were negative in tone.

The president has attacked the media as “fake news” and journalists as “the enemy of the American people.”

The president’s anti-press assaults are so frequent and potent that newspapers across the United States banded together August 16 to publish simultaneous editorials defending the press’s important watchdog role in democracy.

But for all the president’s complaints, he also craves validation from the media. Trump has given exclusive interviews to The New York Times and, in addition to loving Fox News, reportedly watches CNN and MSNBC every morning.

Trump’s quest for good press is particularly evident in the White House newsletters, a daily email update sent to anyone who cares to subscribe online.

White House spam

As a scholar of media and politics, I have followed the White House newsletters since the Obama administration began sending them in 2009.

The White House Communications Office produced more than 2,000 newsletters during President Obama’s eight years in office. They announced his daily schedule, made official policy statements and provided a regular diet of sleek presidential photos. At times, the Obama newsletter offered behind-the-scenes stories about life inside the White House.

The Trump administration has continued the practice. Its daily email is called 1600 Daily or West Wing Reads, depending on the content and the day. Occasionally, a newsletter entitled Resolute Reads appears.

I’ve never met anyone else who pays the White House newsletter much attention. But I read and analyze every email.

Trump's need for good press

The White House newsletter is a useful window into the Trump administration – just not necessarily in the way its editors may intend.

Early in Trump’s term, when the president cycled through four communications directors in six months, the newsletters mirrored the chaos in the White House.

They looked amateurish. Links didn’t work. The layout was cluttered and busy, and included unconnected, disparate events. Mimicking Trump’s voice, they referred to everything related to …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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History Professor Destroys GOP Senate Candidate's Racist Myths About Robert E. Lee and the Civil War

August 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Chris McDaniel tried to whitewash the cause of Robert E. Lee. An Iowa professor resoundingly schooled him.


Among the numerous white supremacists running for higher office this year is Chris McDaniel, who is challenging Mississippi Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in the special election for Thad Cochran's old seat.

McDaniel, an attorney, talk show host, and state senator with longtime support from the Tea Party, has a history of toxic racial views. He has consorted with neo-Confederates, and in his previous run for Senate in 2014, he accused Cochran of “voter fraud” because black people voted for him in the primary  — as if they were synonymous.

On Wednesday, McDaniel took things further by posting a glowing defense of Confederate commander Robert E. Lee to Facebook.

“Here's the irony,” he wrote. “Robert E. Lee was the most decorated soldier in the U.S. Army. He was a man of unimpeachable integrity. Lincoln offered him command in the Union Army, but Lee refused only because his loyalty was to Virginia. Lee opposed both secession and slavery. And yet to the historically illiterate left, a man who opposed both slavery and secession has come to symbolize both slavery and secession.”

This is an odd characterization of a man who both owned slaves and led an army of traitors who opened fire on U.S. troops in the name of slavery and secession.

But McDaniel did not go unchallenged. In fact, Kevin Gannon, a history professor at Grand View University in Des Moines, IA, posted a scathing rebuttal on Twitter to McDaniel's historical revisionism:

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Here's Why a Former US Attorney Thinks Michael Cohen's Sudden Silence Should Terrify Trump

August 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

For a time, Michael Cohen's name was splashed across national headlines. Now he appears to be laying low.


Omarosa Manigault Newman is making a splash with her new book Unhinged, which recounts her time in President Donald Trump's White House and lobs a series of damning allegations against the president. In her promotional tour for the book, the former White House staffer has also made several new claims — including the explosive assertion that Trump knew ahead of time about hacked emails before they were released by WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign.

She has not been specific about how she knows this to be the case, however, though she has suggested she is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller. Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney, raised doubts Thursday about whether she is really cooperating with Mueller — though he believes another key witness likely is.

“This does not sound like a cooperator to me,” Rosenberg said on MSNBC's “Deadline: White House” on Thursday. “This sounds like somebody, I'm sorry to say this, who is selling books.”

“Let me just — it makes me think of Michael Cohen,” said host Nicolle Wallace, referring to the president's former attorney who is known to be under federal investigation. “He's suddenly quiet. Is he acting this week right now like a potentially cooperating witness?”

“You bet he is,” Rosenberg replied. “Now, he's situated differently, of course, because he might end up being a defendant rather than just the witness. But right, the silence you hear from him is deafening. The reason you're hearing silence, I think, is because he's cooperating. He was asked the same thing: Tell us the truth and don't talk to anyone else. And guess what? he's not talking to anyone else. I think it's a very good guess.”

Interestingly, while Cohen has been relatively far from the headlines after dominating national news coverage for many weeks, he did take the time to respond to one of Manigault Newman's more bizarre claims in her book. She said that she once saw Trump eat a piece of paper in order to destroy it while Cohen was present — but Cohen denied that this ever took place.

Watch the clip below:

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Here's How Democrats Can Defeat Trump — by Pledging to Fulfill One of His Biggest Broken Promises

August 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Joe Conason, Creators.com

This could be a winning issue in the midterms.


While commentators chastise congressional Democrats for lacking a cogent message for midterm voters, does the opposition really need to say much more than “to hell with Trump”? If so, they can start hammering a theme that will unite the party base, attract wavering supporters and blister the hide off this president for a monumental broken promise.

The killer issue is perfectly obvious: infrastructure.

Everybody knows that the collapsing highway bridge in Genoa, Italy, a typically tragic and costly disaster, could have happened anywhere in the United States — indeed, it has, and it will again. Presumably, that was why candidate Donald Trump promised a massive public works reconstruction program almost as fervently as he vowed to “build the wall.” With his usual lying braggadocio, he said again and again in 2016 that a Trump administration would create “the biggest and boldest infrastructure investment in American history.”

Like his wall, the public works program is nowhere to be seen. Unlike the wall, however, rebuilding infrastructure is critical to our future. 

Rather than fulfill his pledge to the nation's workers and families, Trump furtively sold them out for a tax cut that benefits him and his family. Congressional Republicans, who have spent their careers gnawing at America's physical heritage like so many termites, never intended to let Trump appropriate adequate funding to repair roads, bridges, airports, seaports and all the other infrastructure that undergirds the national economy.

Without substantial investment soon, our competitive capacity will shrink as other countries grow. Our daily lives will be dominated by traffic jams, airport delays, transit accidents and all the troubles of a disintegrating public sector. Our health and safety will be at risk to increasing air and water pollution, as will our educational and research advantages.

Again, everyone in government knows these basic facts. Yet over the past 25 years, ever since they first gained control of the House of Representatives under Newt Gingrich, they have preferred cutting taxes on their rich donors to creating decent jobs and a livable country for their constituents. They have opposed every serious attempt …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Here Are 5 of the Worst Scandals Showing the Cruelty and Corruption of the Trump Era

August 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

Each day reveals new stunning behavior from the White House and the president himself.


Republican Charles J. Sykes, author of How the Right Lost Its Mind and one of President Donald Trump’s vocal critics on the right, recently described the Trump era as one of “corruption and cruelty” — summing it up perfectly. There has been no shortage of cruelty under Trump’s presidency, from his immigration policy and the separation of families at the border to efforts to deprive 23 million Americans of health insurance (which, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would have happened had the GOP’s American Health Care Act of 2017 not been defeated in the U.S. Senate).

And Trump is turning out to be, hands down, the most scandal-ridden American president since Richard “Watergate” Nixon. But at least Nixon, for all his corruption, had some positive attributes: he favored universal health care, expanded Medicare and was partly responsible for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Here are five of the worst scandals of the Trump era:

1. The Prosecution and Trial of Paul Manafort

Before the shameless opportunist Kellyanne Conway became Trump’s campaign manager during the summer of 2016, his campaign manager was veteran political operative Paul Manafort — who is presently on trial in a federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia and is facing multiple counts of bank fraud and tax evasion. Federal prosecutors are alleging that Manafort evaded taxes on $15 million worth of income he earned while promoting former Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovych.

2. Former Trump Campaign Aid Rick Gates Agrees to Plea Bargain in Manafort Case

Manafort isn’t the only person from Trump’s 2016 campaign who has faced criminal charges. The prosecution’s star witness in Manafort’s trial has been Rick Gates, former Trump campaign aid and Manafort’s former business partner. Gates agreed to testify against Manafort in exchange for a more lenient sentence, and during his testimony, Gates admitted to a long list of criminal activities — including money laundering, defrauding the U.S. government and falsifying documents to banks. And Gates, demonstrating that there …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Retired Admiral Scolds Trump in Fiery Op-ed: 'You Have Embarrassed Us in the Eyes of Our Children'

August 16, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The rebuke came in response to Trump's targeting of former CIA Director John Brennan.


President Donald Trump has demonstrated a noticeable fondness for military leaders, surrounding himself with officers such as Chief of Staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and former national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. Many have speculated that this fondness comes from personal insecurity, as Trump himself famously avoided military service during the Vietnam War — supposedly because he had “bone spurs.”

So the latest rebuke from retired Navy Admiral William McRaven, who was commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and oversaw the raid the killed Osama bin Laden, is sure to get under his skin.

McRaven denounced Trump's recent unprecedented decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, a fierce critic of the president. He said Brennan has “unparalleled integrity.”

“Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency,” McRaven wrote.

He had high hopes for Trump as president, he writes, but he has been let down.

“Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation,” he continued. “If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.”

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Source: ALTERNET

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Kellyanne Conway Slams Her Husband When She Thinks She's Off the Record: 'A Violation of Basic Decency … If Not Marital Vows'

August 15, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“I told you everything about his tweets was off the record.”


White House counselor Kellyanne Conway's marriage to George Conway, a prominent critic of President Donald Trump, has elicited bewilderment and curiosity from observers across the political spectrum.

A new article by Ben Terris in the Washington Post profiles their marriage, revealing a relationship not too dissimilar from many others — aside from their extreme wealth and the fact that their major disagreement is about Kellyanne's work for the president of the United States.

In perhaps one of the most revealing parts of the article, Kellyanne disparages George's habit of writing and speaking out on Twitter against the president. However, assuming she has an agreement with the writer that such comments would be off-the-record, Kellyanne says to attribute her quotes to an anonymous source. The exchange is stunning:

Me: You told me you found [George’s tweets] disrespectful.

Kellyanne: It is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows . . . as “a person familiar with their relationship.”

Me: No, we’re on the record here. You can’t say after the fact “as someone familiar.”

Kellyanne: I told you everything about his tweets was off the record.

Me: No, that’s not true. That never happened.

Kellyanne: Well, people do see it this way. People do see it that way, I don’t say I do, but people see it that way.

Me: But I’m saying we never discussed everything about his tweets being off the record. There are certain things you said that I put off the record.

Kellyanne: Fine. I’ve never actually said what I think about it and I won’t say what I think about it, which tells you what I think about it.

Here, even when Kellyanne is caught disparaging her own husband, she is still spinning the press. She says that she never “actually said” the remarks about her husband because she wanted them to be attributed to an anonymous source — but that's not actually how interviews or reporting works. 

Overall, the article paints the portrait of a loving marriage with a singular, massively consequential fissure.

“If there’s an issue,” George tells the Washington Post, “it’s because she’s in …read more

Source: ALTERNET