Thursday, March 23, 2017

The man behind the Trumpian curtain: Robert Mercer (and the war on information)

Read this (or watch the video)!

Excerpts from
[New Yorker writer] Jane Mayer on Robert Mercer & the Dark Money Behind Trump and Bannon (Transcript, Democracy Now broadcast)

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about that moment [August 2016], … This was the time that [Paul] Manafort was forced out as the campaign manager for Donald Trump. The campaign was in disarray. He was being forced out because of his ties to Ukraine and Russia….

JANE MAYER: … Trump’s campaign was…floundering. It was in August, and there was headline after headline that was suggesting that Paul Manafort, who had been the campaign manager, had really nefarious ties to the Ukrainian oligarchs and pro-Putin forces….
     And the campaign was…spinning in a kind of a downward spiral, when, at a fundraiser out in Long Island, …Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of this hedge-fund tycoon, Bob Mercer, sort of cornered Trump and said, "You know, we’d like to give money to your campaign. We’ll back you, but you’ve got to try to, you know, stabilize it." And basically, she said, "And I’ve got just the people for you to do the job."
     …[O]ne being Steve Bannon…. The other was Kellyanne Conway, who had been running this superfund…for the Cruz campaign, that was filled with the money from the Mercers. And so she became the campaign manager. Bannon became the campaign chairman. And a third person, David Bossie, whose organization Citizens United was also very heavily backed by the Mercer family, he became the deputy campaign manager. So, basically, as Trump’s campaign is rescued by this gang, they encircle Trump. And since then, they’ve also encircled Trump’s White House and become very key to him. And they are the Mercers’ people.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: …Rebekah Mercer, whom you mentioned, is known—described as "the first lady of the alt-right." Now, you tried to get Rebekah and Robert Mercer to speak to you for this piece. What response did you get?

JANE MAYER: Oh, I mean, it was hopeless, clearly, from the start. They have nothing but disdain for…the mainstream media. Robert Mercer…he much prefers the company of cats to humans….
     His daughter, Rebekah Mercer, who’s 43 and has also worked at the family’s hedge fund a little bit and is a graduate of Stanford, she’s a little more outspoken. … But she doesn’t speak to the press….
. . .
     …Robert and his daughter Rebekah met Andrew Breitbart back—I think it was late 2011 or early 2012, speaking at a conference of the Club for Growth…. And they were completely taken with Andrew Breitbart. … Breitbart was outspoken and gleefully provocative and loved to offend people and use vulgar language just to catch their attention.…
     And…[Robert Mercer] was captivated by, I think, was Breitbart’s vision, which was, … "Conservatives can never win until we basically take on the mainstream media and build up our own source of information." He was talking about declaring information warfare in this country on fact-based reporting and substituting it with their own vision. And what he needed, Breitbart, at that point, was money….
. . .
JANE MAYER: …Andrew Breitbart had helped The Huffington Post get set up. And his idea was that he was going to launch The Huffington Post of the right. And so, he was setting it up, and his very close friend was Steve Bannon. ... So Bannon got the Mercers to put $10 million into turning this venture into something that was really going to pack a punch. And they were just about to launch it…when Andrew Breitbart died. … And that’s when Steve Bannon stepped in and became the head of Breitbart News.
     And in Bannon’s hands, it became a force of economic nationalism and, in some people’s view, white supremacism. It ran…a regular feature on black crime. It hosted and pretty much launched the career of Milo Yiannopoulos…. [It] just…became, as Bannon had said, a platform for the alt-right, meaning the alternative to the old right, a new right that was far more angry and aggressive about others….
. . .
     … [The Mercers] became the sponsors, really, behind [Breitbart News]. [Rebekah] reads every story, I’m told, … [T]here is a force behind Breitbart News that people don’t realize, and it’s the Mercer family. …[Breitbart News] pushed the conservatives in this country towards this economic nationalism, nativism, anti-immigration, pro-harsh borders, anti-free trade, protectionist. And it spoke the language of populism, but right-wing populism.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: … But can you also talk about the Government Accountability Institute…?

JANE MAYER: …You’ve got this family with all the money in the world, wanting to change American politics. And they hadn’t been very effective in their earlier efforts at this, until they joined forces with Steve Bannon…. And so, he very much focused their efforts on this information warfare, first with Breitbart…. And then, after 2012, when the Mercers were very disappointed that Obama got re-elected, at Bannon’s direction, they started to fund a brand-new organization called the Government Accountability Institute. It’s based in Tallahassee. It’s small. It’s really a platform for one major figure, Peter Schweizer, who is a conservative kind of investigative reporter.
     And what they did with this organization, which the Mercers poured millions of dollars into, was…drive the political narrative in the 2016 campaign. They created a book called Clinton Cash, which was a compendium of all the kinds of corruption allegations against the Clintons. And they aimed to get it into the mainstream media…. It was like an opposition research organization, sort of masked as a charity and nonprofit. And they took this book, Clinton Cash, gave it to The New York Times exclusively, early, and the Times then ran with a story out of it, that they said they corroborated. …
[This]…launched this whole narrative of Hillary Clinton as corrupt. And it just kept echoing and echoing through the media after that. So, it was a real home run for them….
 …[W]hat I finally was able to do what was talk to partners and people [the Mercers] work with in business and people who’ve known them a long time, who paint this picture of them as having these really peculiar beliefs, and based on kind of strange far-right media. …Bob Mercer…is convinced that the Clintons are murderers, literally, have murdered people. ... OK, so he’s driven by this just hatred of the Clintons and, coming into 2016, is determined to try to stop Hillary Clinton, and looking for a vehicle who would do that, who eventually becomes Trump….

Mayer’s New Yorker article:
How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency.
By Jane Mayer


Hell Freezes Over: USC Faculty vow to "fight on" against Trump

On page 7 of today's LA Times:
We are USC Faculty.

We are scientists, artists, and thinkers from over 115 countries, working together every day, side by side, to understand the world around us and to share what we’ve learned with future generations.
We proudly affirm the core mission of the university as a place for the generation of knowledge, the preservation of scholarship, and informed discussion and debate, all of which are vital to a healthy democracy.

We will vigorously defend our core values of academic freedom, high standards of evidence, free inquiry, openness, and inclusion against policies and actions driven by fear, bigotry, and propaganda.
We are committed to:
-- protecting the human rights of our students, our fellow faculty, staff, and all members of the USC community, irrespective of their race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, nationality, or citizenship status.
-- supporting and encouraging all university efforts to provide critical resources for staff, students and faculty who are most vulnerable and at greatest risk.
-- supporting faculty, students, and staff who engage in civil disobedience and protest if members of the academic community are harmed or deported due to targeted state actions.
We will Fight On!

It was funded through a Go Fund Me page. Check it out:


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Trump Land: blowing up

Russia Russia Russia Russia Russia....
Poll: Trump's support slipping among Republicans, white voters, men (TheHill)
President Trump's support among Republicans, white voters and men is dropping, according to a new survey….


Protests start anew as Cal State tuition vote looms today
(OC Reg)
LONG BEACH >> Protesters renewed their rallies in opposition this morning as Cal State University trustees were expected to take up a $270 tuition increase later today in Long Beach.
. . .
     The University of California’s Board of Regents has already approved a tuition increase. Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Buena Park, has introduced a bill that would prohibit the CSU and California Community Colleges from hiking tuition and enrollment fees until after the 2019-20 school year. The bill has been referred to the Assembly Higher Education committee….
Fired Assistant Professor Alleges Anti-Gay Bias at UC Irvine
(OC Weekly)
Aslan (@ UC Riverside)
     In March 2016, the University of California, Irvine issued a press release praising assistant professor Hung Duc Nguyen for receiving a prestigious National Science Foundation grant, but months later school administrators ignored overwhelming faculty recommendations for his tenure and instead terminated his employment….
Reza Aslan Thinks TV Can End Bigotry
Q: Apparently because you didn’t want people to know that you were from Iran, you used to tell people you were Mexican. 
A: Yeah, that tells you how little I knew about America. I didn’t realize you guys don’t like Mexicans either….
Before Trump job, Manafort worked to aid Putin
WASHINGTON (AP) — Before signing up with Donald Trump, former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire with a plan to "greatly benefit the Putin Government," The Associated Press has learned. The White House attempted to brush the report aside Wednesday, but it quickly raised fresh alarms in Congress about Russian links to Trump associates....
Travel Ban Threatens a Lincoln Center Festival Play
     This summer’s Lincoln Center Festival is about crossing borders. But its plan to present the North American premiere of a work by the Syrian playwright Mohammad al-Attar risks being stopped at the United States border if President Trump’s travel ban is upheld....
And, from the recent past:

The Darkness Beneath Huell Howser

Reveling In California’s Joys Has Always Been Partly About Making Up For Broken Dreams
...That Howser, in stepping away from his celebrity, has adopted Garbo’s pose of being gone but always around is of a piece with his portrayal of another type from the same Californian golden age. Howser was the best of the “folks.”
     Historian Kevin Starr, in his series Americans and the California Dream, traced the story of the “folks” who came to California beginning in the late 19th century and identified them as Protestant, fundamentalist, mildly Evangelical, prejudiced, narrow in conventional ways, and stoic but secretly yearning. The “folks” frequented the cafeterias downtown, worshipped at Aimee Semple McPherson’s Angelus Temple, gathered at annual state picnics in Long Beach to reminisce about back home, and joined the “lonely clubs” that were a feature of Los Angeles and San Francisco until the 1950s. The “folks” were mostly lower-middle-class Anglos, many from the border south, who came here—particularly to Los Angeles—for health and happiness in the sunshine. They found sunshine, at least.
     The “folks”—however much they were mocked by later, big-city migrants for their provincialism—defined the everyday culture and politics of California past the mid-20th century in their expectation that the state would remain permanently theirs. They managed one last triumph: the passage in 1978 of the Proposition 13 property tax limitation measure....

Monday, March 20, 2017

BIG red herring fail!

F.B.I. Is Investigating Trump’s Russia Ties, Comey Confirms (NYT)
Director Sees No Evidence to Back Wiretap Claim
WASHINGTON — The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, took the extraordinary step on Monday of announcing that the agency is investigating whether members of President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
     Mr. Comey’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee created a treacherous political moment for Mr. Trump, who has insisted that “Russia is fake news” that was cooked up by his political opponents to undermine his presidency. Mr. Comey placed a criminal investigation at the doorstep of the White House and said officers would pursue it “no matter how long that takes.”....
Community Invited to Honor Dr. Tod A. Burnett at 17th Annual Saddleback College Foundation Gala
     Sponsorships and individual tickets are still available for the 17th Annual Saddleback College Foundation Gala to be held on Saturday, April 1, 2017 at 6:00 pm at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel.
     The year’s gala will honor Dr. Tod A. Burnett, who is retiring from Saddleback College after nine years of exemplary service as president. “I am humbled by the foundation’s honor and I am extremely proud of the unprecedented work they have done over the past nine years. Last year the foundation awarded the most scholarships in the college’s history totaling $793,719 benefitting 517 students. I have no doubt that the foundation and community will continue increasing the annual level of financial assistance and support for Saddleback students each year going forward.”...

Sunday, March 19, 2017

More on Trump's "trademark product" (aka "bullshit")

Rancho Santiago Community College District Holds Immigrant Rights Forums (OC Weekly)
     Rancho Santiago Community College District, whose board recently adopted a resolution reaffirming support for all students regardless of their legal immigration status, sponsors an “Understanding Your Rights” forum from 1-3 p.m. Saturday in the Centennial Education Center, 2900 W. Edinger Ave., Santa Ana.
     The session is free and open to students as well as the general public. Parking is also free.
     “We are launching these forums to inform our students and hopefully ease their anxiety,” explains Raúl Rodríguez, RSCCD's chancellor. “The Rancho Santiago Community College District will continue to support all our students, including our undocumented students. We will stand firmly behind FERPA regulations and protect our students’ confidentiality. We remain resolute in our mission to provide all our students access to quality educational programs and services that address the needs of our diverse students and communities.”....

8-14: do you regret all the lying?

✅ Trump Encourages Racist Conspiracy Theory on Kamala Harris’s Eligibility to Be Vice President NYT ✅ Orange County Sees Overall Coronavirus...

Goals and Values and Twaddle

blather: long-winded talk with no real substance*
The whole concept of MSLOs [measurable student learning outcomes] as the latest fad in education is somewhat akin to the now discredited fad of the '90's, Total Quality Management, or TQM. Essentially, the ACCJC adopted MSLOs as the overarching basis for accrediting community colleges based on their faith in the theoretical treatises of a movement.... After repeated requests for research showing that such use of MSLOs is effective, none has been forthcoming from the ACCJC [accreditors]. Prior to large scale imposition of such a requirement at all institutions, research should be provided to establish that continuous monitoring of MSLOs has resulted in measurable improvements in student success at a given institution. No such research is forthcoming because there is none….
The Accountability Game…., Leon F. Marzillier (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, October, 2002)
In the summer of ’13, I offered a critique of the awkward verbiage by which the district and colleges explain their values, goals, and objectives —aka SOCCCD'S G&V (goals and values) blather.
I wrote a post each for the district, Saddleback College, and Irvine Valley College efforts. (See the links below.)
This verbiage—stated in terms of “values,” “missions,” “goals,” “visions,” and whatnot—is often badly written. It is sometimes embarrassingly trite.
It occasionally communicates something worthwhile.
No doubt you are familiar with the usual objections to jargon. Higher education, too, has its jargon—an irony, given typical college-level instruction in writing, which urges jargon eschewery.
Sure enough, SOCCCD G&V blather is riddled with jargon and with terms misused and abused. For instance, in the case of the district’s dubious blather, the so-called “vision” is actually a purpose. Why didn't they just call it that?
As one slogs through this prattle, one finds that "visions" tend to be awfully similar to “missions,” with which they are distinguished. The latter in turn are awfully similar to “goals,” which must be distinguished from “objectives.” But aren't goals and objectives pretty much the same thing?
These perverse word games will surely perplex or annoy anyone armed with a command of the English language. In fact, readers will be perplexed to the degree that they are thus armed. Illiterates, of course, will be untroubled.
Here's a simple point: the district and colleges’ G&V blather tends to eschew good, plain English in favor of technical terms and trendy words and phrases (i.e., it tends to be bullshitty and vague). Thus, one encounters such trendy terminological turds as “dynamic,” “diversity,” “student success,” and “student-centered.” Even meretricious neologisms such as ISLOs and “persistence rates” pop up, unexplained, undefended.
Does anyone see a transparency problem with all of this? Shouldn't the public, or at least the well educated public, be able to comprehend statements of the colleges' goals and values?
In the case of the district, to its credit, all it really seems to want to say is that it wants to teach well and it wants students to succeed. Admirable!
So why all the ugly, common-sense defying, buzzword-encrusted claptrap?

Districtular poppycock: our “vision” and our “mission” and our tolerance of twaddle - July 31, 2013

THEY BUZZ: Saddleback College's "Mission, Vision, and Values" - August 4, 2013

IVC’s vision, mission, and goals: nonsense on stilts - August 5, 2013

THE IRVINE VALLEY CHRONICLES: no ideas, just clichés & buzzwords - Sep 30, 2013

*From my Apple laptop's dictionary