I made Steve Bannons psychological warfare tool: meet the data war whistleblower

Christopher Wylie goes on the record to discuss his role in hijacking the profiles of millions of Facebook users in order to target the US electorate

The first time I met Christopher Wylie, he didnt yet have pink hair. That comes later. As does his mission to rewind time. To put the genie back in the bottle.

By the time I met him in person, Id already been talking to him on a daily basis for hours at a time. On the phone, he was clever, funny, bitchy, profound, intellectually ravenous, compelling. A master storyteller. A politicker. A data science nerd.

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Cambridge Analytica whistleblower: ‘We spent $1m harvesting millions of Facebook profiles’ video

Two months later, when he arrived in London from Canada, he was all those things in the flesh. And yet the flesh was impossibly young. He was 27 then (hes 28 now), a fact that has always seemed glaringly at odds with what he has done. He may have played a pivotal role in the momentous political upheavals of 2016. At the very least, he played a consequential role. At 24, he came up with an idea that led to the foundation of a company called Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that went on to claim a major role in the Leave campaign for Britains EU membership referendum, and later became a key figure in digital operations during Donald Trumps election campaign.

Or, as Wylie describes it, he was the gay Canadian vegan who somehow ended up creating Steve Bannons psychological warfare mindfuck tool.

In 2014, Steve Bannon then executive chairman of the alt-right news network Breitbart was Wylies boss. And Robert Mercer, the secretive US hedge-fund billionaire and Republican donor, was Cambridge Analyticas investor. And the idea they bought into was to bring big data and social media to an established military methodology information operations then turn it on the US electorate.

It was Wylie who came up with that idea and oversaw its realisation. And it was Wylie who, last spring, became my source. In May 2017, I wrote an article headlined The great British Brexit robbery, which set out a skein of threads that linked Brexit to Trump to Russia. Wylie was one of a handful of individuals who provided the evidence behind it. I found him, via another Cambridge Analytica ex-employee, lying low in Canada: guilty, brooding, indignant, confused. I havent talked about this to anyone, he said at the time. And then he couldnt stop talking.

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By that time, Steve Bannon had become Trumps chief strategist. Cambridge Analyticas parent company, SCL, had won contracts with the US State Department and was pitching to the Pentagon, and Wylie was genuinely freaked out. Its insane, he told me one night. The company has created psychological profiles of 230 million Americans. And now they want to work with the Pentagon? Its like Nixon on steroids.

He ended up showing me a tranche of documents that laid out the secret workings behind Cambridge Analytica. And in the months following publication of my article in May,it was revealed that the company had reached out to WikiLeaks to help distribute Hillary Clintons stolen emails in 2016. And then we watched as it became a subject of special counsel Robert Muellers investigation into possible Russian collusion in the US election.

The Observer also received the first of three letters from Cambridge Analytica threatening to sue Guardian News and Media for defamation. We are still only just starting to understand the maelstrom of forces that came together to create the conditions for what Mueller confirmed last month was information warfare. But Wylie offers a unique, worms-eye view of the events of 2016. Of how Facebook was hijacked, repurposed to become a theatre of war: how it became a launchpad for what seems to be an extraordinary attack on the USs democratic process.

Wylie oversaw what may have been the first critical breach. Aged 24, while studying for a PhD in fashion trend forecasting, he came up with a plan to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, and to use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. And then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup.

We broke Facebook, he says.

And he did it on behalf of his new boss, Steve Bannon.

Is it fair to say you hacked Facebook? I ask him one night.

He hesitates. Ill point out that I assumed it was entirely legal and above board.

Last month, Facebooks UK director of policy, Simon Milner, told British MPs on a select committee inquiry into fake news, chaired by Conservative MP Damian Collins, that Cambridge Analytica did not have Facebook data. The official Hansard extract reads:

Christian Matheson (MP for Chester): Have you ever passed any user information over to Cambridge Analytica or any of its associated companies?

Simon Milner: No.

Matheson: But they do hold a large chunk of Facebooks user data, dont they?

Milner: No. They may have lots of data, but it will not be Facebook user data. It may be data about people who are on Facebook that they have gathered themselves, but it is not data that we have provided.

Alexander
Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica CEO. Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images

Two weeks later, on 27 February, as part of the same parliamentary inquiry, Rebecca Pow, MP for Taunton Deane, asked Cambridge Analyticas CEO, Alexander Nix: Does any of the data come from Facebook? Nix replied: We do not work with Facebook data and we do not have Facebook data.

And through it all, Wylie and I, plus a handful of editors and a small, international group of academics and researchers, have known that at least in 2014 that certainly wasnt the case, because Wylie has the paper trail. In our first phone call, he told me he had the receipts, invoices, emails, legal letters records that showed how, between June and August 2014, the profiles of more than 50 million Facebook users had been harvested. Most damning of all, he had a letter from Facebooks own lawyers admitting that Cambridge Analytica had acquired the data illegitimately.

Going public involves an enormous amount of risk. Wylie is breaking a non-disclosure agreement and risks being sued. He is breaking the confidence of Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer.

Its taken a rollercoaster of a year to help get Wylie to a place where its possible for him to finally come forward. A year in which Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of investigations on both sides of the Atlantic Robert Muellers in the US, and separate inquiries by the Electoral Commission and the Information Commissioners Office in the UK, both triggered in February 2017, after the Observers first article in this investigation.

It has been a year, too, in which Wylie has been trying his best to rewind to undo events that he set in motion. Earlier this month, he submitted a dossier of evidence to the Information Commissioners Office and the National Crime Agencys cybercrime unit. He is now in a position to go on the record: the data nerd who came in from the cold.

There are many points where this story could begin. One is in 2012, when Wylie was 21 and working for the Liberal Democrats in the UK, then in government as junior coalition partners. His career trajectory has been, like most aspects of his life so far, extraordinary, preposterous, implausible.

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Cambridge Analytica: the key players

Alexander Nix, CEO

An Old Etonian with a degree from Manchester University, Nix, 42, worked as a financial analyst in Mexico and the UK before joining SCL, a strategic communications firm, in 2003. From 2007 he took over the companys elections division, and claims to have worked on 260 campaigns globally. He set up Cambridge Analytica to work in America, with investment from RobertMercer.

Aleksandr Kogan, data miner

Aleksandr Kogan was born in Moldova and lived in Moscow until the age of seven, then moved with his family to the US, where he became a naturalised citizen. He studied at the University of California, Berkeley, and got his PhD at the University of Hong Kong before joining Cambridge as a lecturer in psychology and expert in social media psychometrics. He set up Global Science Research (GSR) to carry out CAs data research. While at Cambridge he accepted a position at St Petersburg State University, and also took Russian government grants for research. He changed his name to Spectre when he married, but later reverted to Kogan.

Steve Bannon, former board member

A former investment banker turned alt-right media svengali, Steve Bannon was boss at website Breitbart when he met Christopher Wylie and Nix and advised Robert Mercer to invest in political data research by setting up CA. In August 2016 he became Donald Trumps campaign CEO. Bannon encouraged the reality TV star to embrace the populist, economic nationalist agenda that would carry him into the White House. That earned Bannon the post of chief strategist to the president and for a while he was arguably the second most powerful man in America. By August 2017 his relationship with Trump had soured and he was out.

Robert Mercer, investor

Robert Mercer, 71, is a computer scientist and hedge fund billionaire, who used his fortune to become one of the most influential men in US politics as a top Republican donor. An AI expert, he made a fortune with quantitative trading pioneers Renaissance Technologies, then built a $60m war chest to back conservative causes by using an offshore investment vehicle to avoid US tax.

Rebekah Mercer, investor

Rebekah Mercer has a maths degree from Stanford, and worked as a trader, but her influence comes primarily from her fathers billions. The fortysomething, the second of Mercers three daughters, heads up the family foundation which channels money to rightwing groups. The conservative megadonors backed Breitbart, Bannon and, most influentially, poured millions into Trumps presidential campaign.

Wylie grew up in British Columbia and as a teenager he was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. He left school at 16 without a single qualification. Yet at 17, he was working in the office of the leader of the Canadian opposition; at 18, he went to learn all things data from Obamas national director of targeting, which he then introduced to Canada for the Liberal party. At 19, he taught himself to code, and in 2010, age 20, he came to London to study law at the London School of Economics.

Politics is like the mob, though, he says. You never really leave. I got a call from the Lib Dems. They wanted to upgrade their databases and voter targeting. So, I combined working for them with studying for my degree.

Politics is also where he feels most comfortable. He hated school, but as an intern in the Canadian parliament he discovered a world where he could talk to adults and they would listen. He was the kid who did the internet stuff and within a year he was working for the leader of the opposition.

Hes one of the brightest people you will ever meet, a senior politician whos known Wylie since he was 20 told me. Sometimes thats a blessing and sometimes a curse.

Meanwhile, at Cambridge Universitys Psychometrics Centre, two psychologists, Michal Kosinski and David Stillwell, were experimenting with a way of studying personality by quantifying it.

Starting in 2007,Stillwell, while a student, had devised various apps for Facebook, one of which, a personality quiz called myPersonality, had gone viral. Users were scored on big five personality traits Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism and in exchange, 40% of them consented to give him access to their Facebook profiles. Suddenly, there was a way of measuring personality traits across the population and correlating scores against Facebook likes across millions of people.

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Examples, above and below, of the visual messages trialled by GSRs online profiling test. Respondents were asked: How important should this message be to all Americans?

The research was original, groundbreaking and had obvious possibilities. They had a lot of approaches from the security services, a member of the centre told me. There was one called You Are What You Like and it was demonstrated to the intelligence services. And it showed these odd patterns; that, for example, people who liked I hate Israel on Facebook also tended to like Nike shoes and KitKats.

There are agencies that fund research on behalf of the intelligence services. And they were all over this research. That one was nicknamed Operation KitKat.

The defence and military establishment were the first to see the potential of the research. Boeing, a major US defence contractor, funded Kosinskis PhD and Darpa, the US governments secretive Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is cited in at least two academic papers supporting Kosinskis work.

But when, in 2013, the first major paper was published, others saw this potential too, including Wylie. He had finished his degree and had started his PhD in fashion forecasting, and was thinking about the Lib Dems. It is fair to say that he didnt have a clue what he was walking into.

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I wanted to know why the Lib Dems sucked at winning elections when they used to run the country up to the end of the 19th century, Wylie explains. And I began looking at consumer and demographic data to see what united Lib Dem voters, because apart from bits of Wales and the Shetlands its weird, disparate regions. And what I found is there were no strong correlations. There was no signal in the data.

And then I came across a paper about how personality traits could be a precursor to political behaviour, and it suddenly made sense. Liberalism is correlated with high openness and low conscientiousness, and when you think of Lib Dems theyre absent-minded professors and hippies. Theyre the early adopters theyre highly open to new ideas. And it just clicked all of a sudden.

Here was a way for the party to identify potential new voters. The only problem was that the Lib Dems werent interested.

I did this presentation at which I told them they would lose half their 57 seats, and they were like: Why are you so pessimistic? They actually lost all but eight of their seats, FYI.

Another Lib Dem connection introduced Wylie to a company called SCL Group, one of whose subsidiaries, SCL Elections, would go on to create Cambridge Analytica (an incorporated venture between SCL Elections and Robert Mercer, funded by the latter). For all intents and purposes, SCL/Cambridge Analytica are one and the same.

Alexander Nix, then CEO of SCL Elections, made Wylie an offer he couldnt resist. He said: Well give you total freedom. Experiment. Come and test out all your crazy ideas.

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Another example of the visual messages trialled by GSRs online profiling test.

In the history of bad ideas, this turned out to be one of the worst. The job was research director across the SCL group, a private contractor that has both defence and elections operations. Its defence arm was a contractor to the UKs Ministry of Defence and the USs Department of Defense, among others. Its expertise was in psychological operations or psyops changing peoples minds not through persuasion but through informational dominance, a set of techniques that includes rumour, disinformation and fake news.

SCL Elections had used a similar suite of tools in more than 200 elections around the world, mostly in undeveloped democracies that Wylie would come to realise were unequipped to defend themselves.

Wylie holds a British Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa a UK work visa given to just 200 people a year. He was working inside government (with the Lib Dems) as a political strategist with advanced data science skills. But no one, least of all him, could have predicted what came next. When he turned up at SCLs offices in Mayfair, he had no clue that he was walking into the middle of a nexus of defence and intelligence projects, private contractors and cutting-edge cyberweaponry.

The thing I think about all the time is, what if Id taken a job at Deloitte instead? They offered me one. I just think if Id taken literally any other job, Cambridge Analytica wouldnt exist. You have no idea how much I brood on this.

A few months later, in autumn 2013, Wylie met Steve Bannon. At the time, he was editor-in-chief of Breitbart, which he had brought to Britain to support his friend Nigel Farage in his mission to take Britain out of the European Union.

What was he like?

Smart, says Wylie. Interesting. Really interested in ideas. Hes the only straight man Ive ever talked to about intersectional feminist theory. He saw its relevance straightaway to the oppressions that conservative, young white men feel.

Wylie meeting Bannon was the moment petrol was poured on a flickering flame. Wylie lives for ideas. He speaks 19 to the dozen for hours at a time. He had a theory to prove. And at the time, this was a purely intellectual problem. Politics was like fashion, he told Bannon.

[Bannon] got it immediately. He believes in the whole Andrew Breitbart doctrine that politics is downstream from culture, so to change politics you need to change culture. And fashion trends are a useful proxy for that. Trump is like a pair of Uggs, or Crocs, basically. So how do you get from people thinking Ugh. Totally ugly to the moment when everyone is wearing them? That was the inflection point he was looking for.

But Wylie wasnt just talking about fashion. He had recently been exposed to a new discipline: information operations, which ranks alongside land, sea, air and space in the US militarys doctrine of the five-dimensional battle space. His brief ranged across the SCL Group the British government has paid SCL to conduct counter-extremism operations in the Middle East, and the US Department of Defense has contracted it to work in Afghanistan.

I tell him that another former employee described the firm as MI6 for hire, and Id never quite understood it.

Its like dirty MI6 because youre not constrained. Theres no having to go to a judge to apply for permission. Its normal for a market research company to amass data on domestic populations. And if youre working in some country and theres an auxiliary benefit to a current client with aligned interests, well thats just a bonus.

When I ask how Bannon even found SCL, Wylie tells me what sounds like a tall tale, though its one he can back up with an email about how Mark Block, a veteran Republican strategist, happened to sit next to a cyberwarfare expert for the US air force on a plane. And the cyberwarfare guy is like, Oh, you should meet SCL. They do cyberwarfare for elections.

U.S.
Steve Bannon: He loved the gays, says Wylie. He saw us as early adopters. Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters

It was Bannon who took this idea to the Mercers: Robert Mercer the co-CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, who used his billions to pursue a rightwing agenda, donating to Republican causes and supporting Republican candidates and his daughter Rebekah.

Nix and Wylie flew to New York to meet the Mercers in Rebekahs Manhattan apartment.

She loved me. She was like, Oh we need more of your type on our side!

Your type?

The gays. She loved the gays. So did Steve [Bannon]. He saw us as early adopters. He figured, if you can get the gays on board, everyone else will follow. Its why he was so into the whole Milo [Yiannopoulos] thing.

Robert Mercer was a pioneer in AI and machine translation. He helped invent algorithmic trading which replaced hedge fund managers with computer programs and he listened to Wylies pitch. It was for a new kind of political message-targeting based on an influential and groundbreaking 2014 paper researched at Cambridges Psychometrics Centre, called: Computer-based personality judgments are more accurate than those made by humans.

In politics, the money man is usually the dumbest person in the room. Whereas its the opposite way around with Mercer, says Wylie. He said very little, but he really listened. He wanted to understand the science. And he wanted proof that it worked.

And to do that, Wylie needed data.

How Cambridge Analytica acquired the data has been the subject of internal reviews at Cambridge University, of many news articles and much speculation and rumour.

When Nix was interviewed by MPs last month, Damian Collins asked him:

Does any of your data come from Global Science Research company?

Nix: GSR?

Collins: Yes.

Nix: We had a relationship with GSR. They did some research for us back in 2014. That research proved to be fruitless and so the answer is no.

Collins: They have not supplied you with data or information?

Nix: No.

Collins: Your datasets are not based on information you have received from them?

Nix: No.

Collins: At all?

Nix: At all.

The problem with Nixs response to Collins is that Wylie has a copy of an executed contract, dated 4 June 2014, which confirms that SCL, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, entered into a commercial arrangement with a company called Global Science Research (GSR), owned by Cambridge-based academic Aleksandr Kogan, specifically premised on the harvesting and processing of Facebook data, so that it could be matched to personality traits and voter rolls.

He has receipts showing that Cambridge Analytica spent $7m to amass this data, about $1m of it with GSR. He has the bank records and wire transfers. Emails reveal Wylie first negotiated with Michal Kosinski, one of the co-authors of the original myPersonality research paper, to use the myPersonality database. But when negotiations broke down, another psychologist, Aleksandr Kogan, offered a solution that many of his colleagues considered unethical. He offered to replicate Kosinski and Stilwells research and cut them out of the deal. For Wylie it seemed a perfect solution. Kosinski was asking for $500,000 for the IP but Kogan said he could replicate it and just harvest his own set of data. (Kosinski says the fee was to fund further research.)

Dr
An unethical solution? Dr Aleksandr Kogan Photograph: alex kogan

Kogan then set up GSR to do the work, and proposed to Wylie they use the data to set up an interdisciplinary institute working across the social sciences. What happened to that idea, I ask Wylie. It never happened. I dont know why. Thats one of the things that upsets me the most.

It was Bannons interest in culture as war that ignited Wylies intellectual concept. But it was Robert Mercers millions that created a firestorm. Kogan was able to throw money at the hard problem of acquiring personal data: he advertised for people who were willing to be paid to take a personality quiz on Amazons Mechanical Turk and Qualtrics. At the end of which Kogans app, called thisismydigitallife, gave him permission to access their Facebook profiles. And not just theirs, but their friends too. On average, each seeder the people who had taken the personality test, around 320,000 in total unwittingly gave access to at least 160 other peoples profiles, none of whom would have known or had reason to suspect.

What the email correspondence between Cambridge Analytica employees and Kogan shows is that Kogan had collected millions of profiles in a matter of weeks. But neither Wylie nor anyone else at Cambridge Analytica had checked that it was legal. It certainly wasnt authorised. Kogan did have permission to pull Facebook data, but for academic purposes only. Whats more, under British data protection laws, its illegal for personal data to be sold to a third party without consent.

Facebook could see it was happening, says Wylie. Their security protocols were triggered because Kogans apps were pulling this enormous amount of data, but apparently Kogan told them it was for academic use. So they were like, Fine.

Kogan maintains that everything he did was legal and he had a close working relationship with Facebook, which had granted him permission for his apps.

Cambridge Analytica had its data. This was the foundation of everything it did next how it extracted psychological insights from the seeders and then built an algorithm to profile millions more.

For more than a year, the reporting around what Cambridge Analytica did or didnt do for Trump has revolved around the question of psychographics, but Wylie points out: Everything was built on the back of that data. The models, the algorithm. Everything. Why wouldnt you use it in your biggest campaign ever?

In December 2015, the Guardians Harry Davies published the first report about Cambridge Analytica acquiring Facebook data and using it to support Ted Cruz in his campaign to be the US Republican candidate. But it wasnt until many months later that Facebook took action. And then, all they did was write a letter. In August 2016, shortly before the US election, and two years after the breach took place, Facebooks lawyers wrote to Wylie, who left Cambridge Analytica in 2014, and told him the data had been illicitly obtained and that GSR was not authorised to share or sell it. They said it must be deleted immediately.

Christopher
Christopher Wylie: Its like Nixon on steroids

I already had. But literally all I had to do was tick a box and sign it and send it back, and that was it, says Wylie. Facebook made zero effort to get the data back.

There were multiple copies of it. It had been emailed in unencrypted files.

Cambridge Analytica rejected all allegations the Observer put to them.

Dr Kogan who later changed his name to Dr Spectre, but has subsequently changed it back to Dr Kogan is still a faculty member at Cambridge University, a senior research associate. But what his fellow academics didnt know until Kogan revealed it in emails to the Observer (although Cambridge University says that Kogan told the head of the psychology department), is that he is also an associate professor at St Petersburg University. Further research revealed that hes received grants from the Russian government to research Stress, health and psychological wellbeing in social networks. The opportunity came about on a trip to the city to visit friends and family, he said.

There are other dramatic documents in Wylies stash, including a pitch made by Cambridge Analytica to Lukoil, Russias second biggest oil producer. In an email dated 17 July 2014, about the US presidential primaries, Nix wrote to Wylie: We have been asked to write a memo to Lukoil (the Russian oil and gas company) to explain to them how our services are going to apply to the petroleum business. Nix said that they understand behavioural microtargeting in the context of elections but that they were failing to make the connection between voters and their consumers. The work, he said, would be shared with the CEO of the business, a former Soviet oil minister and associate of Putin, Vagit Alekperov.

It didnt make any sense to me, says Wylie. I didnt understand either the email or the pitch presentation we did. Why would a Russian oil company want to target information on American voters?

Muellers investigation traces the first stages of the Russian operation to disrupt the 2016 US election back to 2014, when the Russian state made what appears to be its first concerted efforts to harness the power of Americas social media platforms, including Facebook. And it was in late summer of the same year that Cambridge Analytica presented the Russian oil company with an outline of its datasets, capabilities and methodology. The presentation had little to do with consumers. Instead, documents show it focused on election disruption techniques. The first slide illustrates how a rumour campaign spread fear in the 2007 Nigerian election in which the company worked by spreading the idea that the election would be rigged. The final slide, branded with Lukoils logo and that of SCL Group and SCL Elections, headlines its deliverables: psychographic messaging.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump

Yale psychiatry professor who wanted President Trump ‘contained’ vanishes from Twitter

Yale assistant professor of psychiatry Bandy X. Lee made a huge splash in the media last week after meeting with a handful of Democrats in Congress to sound the alarm over the president’s mental fitness to serve. Lee has appeared on MSNBC and SiriusXM, and pieces about her appeared in Vox, Politico, and The Guardian, all of which she retweeted, having just joined Twitter “to inform people where they may have questions.” Lee tweeted over the weekend that she was demanding a correction to a “wildly speculative and inaccurate article” in The Weekly Standard questioning her “meeting” with a Republican senator, but that tweet has disappeared, along with her entire Twitter account. The whole thing’s been shut down.

She writes in her last post:

Dear All, I was told that Twitter would be a good way to respond to mistaken notions, but I have a full-time job (also, “followers” jumping from the 20’s to the 600’s overnight is a lot to manage). So I am abandoning the idea. Please excuse–it has been nice to try this out!

So that’s all she wrote. After all, she does have a day job — not that it kept her from editing “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” or traveling to Washington, D.C. to meet with a handful of representatives about her concerns.

Looks like the Twitter asylum was too much. Oh well … at least people can still tweet about her:

Read more: https://twitchy.com/brettt-3136/2018/01/08/yale-psychiatry-professor-who-wanted-president-trump-contained-vanishes-from-twitter/

Donald Trump Opens His Sh*thole and Again Disgraces America

Come on, America. What more evidence do you need?

Let me be overly generous here. Suppose you agree that Haiti is a shithole. Its not one of your high-functioning nations, that is true. Of course, if you bother even to go to Wikipedia to read up for 10 minutes, youll find that the mess that is Haiti was partly made by these United States of America, with our ironclad support over three decades of the Duvaliers, father and son, brutal dictators and murderers and thieves, to whose crimes our governments turned many blind eyes. If you look around a bit more, youll see that Haitian soldiers fought in our Revolutionary War, in a battle in Savannah, Georgia. And if youre really intellectually adventurous, youll read about how Haiti was a slave colony in the late 1700s, remorselessly brutalized by Napoleon, and how Toussaint LOuverture, the leader of Haitian independence, has inspired artists from William Wordsworth to Jacob Lawrence to Ralph Ellison to Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Jean-Michel, a great American artist of the 1980s, was born to a Haitian father. A powerful artistbut, to the president of the United States, just another shithole kid.

But what Im saying is this: Even if you agree with Donald Trumps assessment of Haiti, I hope you surely agree that a president of the United States should not be talking that way about countries, no matter what the country is. Because in every country, even in Somalia, by every measure the worlds most dysfunctional country, there are innocent, decent people who have none of the dysfunction on their hands; who are indeed historys most unfortunate victims, people who are just trying to work and raise their kids and who happened to draw the short straw in the global lottery and be born in this place, and who want out.

And for many decades, many of the people across the globe who wanted out wanted to come here, to America, to make a better life. Now I ask you: Who wants to come to Donald Trumps America? Who?

Not the good people of Norway, to whom Trump opened the door with his comments Thursday. Why would they? They have health care, they have free college, they have many weeks of family leave and vacation. They want to visit, sure, because who doesnt want to visit? But move here?

We used to think everyone from everywhere wanted to move here. Of course. Were America! Were the beacon. But not anymore. With the President of the United States making racist comments like this and proposing policies to match the only people whod be really excited about moving here are other racists.

America, its time. Its time to start demanding, bluntly and daily and with a dignity that is completely alien to our president, that he should not be the president of the United States. I am in one sense happy to report that Americans dont need to be persuaded of this. As it happens, just Wednesday, Quinnipiac released a poll. In it, 57 percent of respondents said he was not fit to serve as president, to 40 percent who said he was.

This is a moment. Remember it. January 11, 2018. For one thing, its the first time I ever remember mainstream news outlets all saying the word shit. The word shithole actually appeared in a Washington Post headline. The New York Times couldnt quite bring itself to put the word in the headline. Okay. Its the Times. But it did put in the first graf of the story. On CNN, White House correspondent Jim Acosta used the word on air. He was right to do it. And he was right to say that the President seems to harbor racist feelings toward those who are, well, you know, not white. That seems looks soft in print. It wasnt on TV, trust me.

As the Q-poll shows, a majority of Americans agree. In a democracy, Congress would pay attention to public opinionas expressed in that Q-poll but also in many othersand would begin proceedings on whether the president was fit to be president. Believe it or not, thats what the founders wanted to happen. They wanted a Congress that would see a president say something like this, something so aggressively at odds with our national creed, and put party aside and debate the matter on the merits.

Of course, we have no such Congress. And if we have no such Congress, we have no democracy. We have a joke on democracy. And as long as the congressional majority thwarts the will and sense of the American majority, Im afraid the joke is on us. But we have to hope it wont be for much longer.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/donald-trump-opens-his-shthole-and-again-disgraces-america

So, about that senator’s meeting with a psychiatry professor about Trump’s mental fitness

As Twitchy reported earlier this week, President Trump’s tweet about the nuclear button on his desk sent the media scrambling to fill the week with hot takes on Trump’s mental fitness, with CNN leading the way.

Read more: https://twitchy.com/brettt-3136/2018/01/06/so-about-that-senators-meeting-with-a-psychiatry-professor-about-trumps-mental-fitness/

#REEEEE: Jenna Jameson takes on horde of wailing SJW man babies attacking her for supporting Trump

Another day, another gaggle of menopausal men attacking Jenna Jameson for being a Trump supporter. It’s interesting really, the same men who claim that Trump is a sexist monster say far more horrible things to Jenna than we’ve ever seen from the president … Hypocrites the lot of ’em.

This time the horde was triggered by these tweets, which actually made us lol:

Read more: https://twitchy.com/samj-3930/2018/01/04/reeeee-jenna-jameson-takes-on-horde-of-wailing-sjw-man-babies-attacking-her-for-supporting-trump/

Will President Trumps Physical Show That Hes Obese?

Donald Trumps physical will take place Friday, his first as president. Hell be examined by Dr. Ronny Jackson, a rear admiral in the Navy and the White House physician since 2013, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.

This physical, however, will be anything but routine, providing the American public with rare insighthowever sparseof Trumps baseline health.

Trumps most recent public physical was done in September 2016 under his longtime physician Harold Bornstein in New Yorks Lenox Hill Hospital. Bornsteins letter (which the White House has since removed) proclaimed the then-candidates physical strength and stamina… extraordinary, pointing to Trumps recent loss of 15 pounds.

In the letter, Bornstein released a deluge of statistics intended to showcase a candidate that, despite his status as the oldest occupant of the Oval Office, was vibrant and capable of handling the stresses of being the most powerful person in the world.

But in fact, Americans learned that Trump was teetering on obesity.

He was 6-foot-3, weighing 236 pounds. His BMI (though a controversial measure, one that is widely used) rang in at 29.5, which placed him squarely into being considered overweight, and precariously close to being considered obese. Trumps cholesterol was 169 mg/dL, which isnt great but isn't necessarily terrible. His HDL (good cholesterol) of 63 and LDL (bad cholesterol) of 94 were also fine but sneaking close to dangerous. To his healths advantage, Trump is a teetotaler and doesnt smoke. But any doctor would advise a Trump-like patient to go on a diet.

Compare this to Trumps predecessor, Barack Obama. His last presidential physical, released in March 2016, showcased a man in excellent health: At a little over 6-foot-1, his weight was 175 pounds, which meant a BMI of 23.1, considered normal. Obamas blood pressure (110/68), cholesterol (188 mg/dL, with HDL at 68 and LDL at 125) were all within the boundaries of normalcy and health. Obama was a smoker, but he made some attempts to quit.

Jacksons evaluation of Trump on Friday will probably offer restricted information. But the vitals that will probably come outheight and weight, at least, an indicator of cholesterol and blood pressure levelswill offer valuable insight into Trumps health and how the year since he took office has affected him.

What makes this physical particularly interesting for those who are watching is the fact that so much information has been released of Trumps diet and (lack of) exercise. There are countless reports now of a man who finishes meals with a couple scoops of ice cream paired with chocolate cream pie, washing them down with one of a dozen Diet Cokes a day. His preference for McDonaldsFilet o Fish sandwiches, Big Macs, cheeseburgers as a pre-bedtime snackapparently stem not only from his fear of being poisoned but the simple fact that he loves the predictability and flat saltiness of the stuff. Coupled with the fact that he finds exercise to be misguided, arguing that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy and has bragged about sleeping only four hours a night, and the resulting picture is not one of health.

Indeed, Trumps habits make him a prime example of being a white man in Trumps America: overweight, underslept, static, maybe even obese. The language of obesity and how we measure it remains hazy despite the fact that its considered an American epidemic. But BMI is widely considered the best way to measure obesity, and by that definitionand should Trumps alleged diet in fact be trueit very well could be that Fridays publicly announced height and weight markers may show Trump as the most obese modern president, behind bathtub-stuck William Taft (BMI: 42.3), potbellied Grover Cleveland (BMI: 34.6), and original American cowboy Teddy Roosevelt (BMI: 30.2).

Trumps physical results on Friday may in fact veer his numbers into the dangerous zones theyre so precariously close to. Even if they do, does it mean anything? Does it matter if Trump is not as healthy as hed like us to believe? No matter your feelings or politics about the current administration, one thing is for sure: The presidency is not an easy job. Cant a person eat their feelings in peace?

Surebut Trump is the leader of the free world. Hes apparently got a very large button to shoot nuclear weapons. His words move markets, his signature dictates the lives of refugees. If Trump is sluggish from a couple burgers and a chocolate malt, or slurring his words, feeling irritable from the down of a sugar high, might that affect our daily lives? It very well could.

Trump has vehemently promoted the idea that he is healthy, strong, full of stamina. But stamina is, by definition the ability to exert prolonged, sustained mental and physical effort. If Trump is erratic in his stamina, does it mean hes unfit for office? Thats impossible to measure, but one fact is for sure: A healthy diet is one that allows for the slow and steady release of nutrients and energy. Various outlets reported the effects of following the Trumpian McDonalds diet, with universal consensus that it led to exhaustion, irritability, and sluggishness. Its enough to question if Trump has the actual stamina to lead.

At the very least, Trumps lifestyle is a recipe for a series of health problems: exhaustion, diabetes, high cholesterol. His diet runs counter to that of what the United States Department of Agriculture suggests is a healthy diet, one where a plate is half fruits and vegetables, a quarter protein, and grains composing the last quarterwith just a smidge of fat and salt. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults over 65 to do two-and-a-half hours of moderately intensive cardiovascular activity every week with at least two days of muscle strengthening activities.

Ultimately, Trumps decision to release information will be up to him. We will probably learn frustratingly few details about what Trumps health is outside of very basic parameters.

But that might be enough.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/will-president-trumps-physical-show-that-hes-obese

Jake Tapper picks the PERFECT screencap for a piece on Trump’s mental fitness

As Twitchy reported earlier, lawmakers concerned about President Trump’s mental health invited a Yale psychiatry professor to brief them in December, although Geraldo Rivera says Trump is “sharp, focused, and exactly as he’s been for the last 40 years.”

Read more: https://twitchy.com/brettt-3136/2018/01/04/jake-tapper-picks-the-perfect-screencap-for-a-piece-on-trumps-mental-fitness/

Trump Wins Tax Cuts, Kids Lose Health Insurance

Over the summer, President Donald Trump invited House Republicans to the White House Rose Garden to tout the passage of an Obamacare repeal bill through their chamber. It was a premature celebration, one that looked particularly silly when the Senate failed repeatedly to follow suit months later.

On Wednesday afternoon, the president brought GOP lawmakers over to the White House againthis time to celebrate the real thing.

For roughly half an hour, the president and Republican allies from Capitol Hill boasted of passing a major tax package that will, largely, benefit the wealthy and corporations. And, in true Trumpian fashion, he cast it as a prolonged fight between the winners and the losers.

"It's always a lot of fun when you win," Trump made sure to note, shortly after giving kudos to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the latter of whom he has repeatedly feuded with privately, as well as publicly.

Despite the pomp and circumstance, however, the law remains deeply unpopular, with most voters of the belief that their individual taxes are slated to rise. In fact, the majority of taxpayers will see a decline in taxes in the near-term, though that could change in the latter years of the law, when those individual rates expire.

We believe that the way the bill has been characterized in many cases has been misleading, a senior White House official told reporters during a press briefing on Wednesday.

Republican lawmakers also were celebrating a major legislative win at the precise moment when the rest of the legislative docket remains stagnant. Shortly before they gathered with Trump to applaud the slashing of taxes, news broke that theyd failed to advance a bill that would re-authorize a program providing healthcare to 9 million children.

Senate aides told The Daily Beast they expected the debate over funding the program, CHIP, to be resolved sometime in January. But that is just one of the many pressing issues that the Congress has left for the next year. The others include protections for undocumented children, money for community health centers, and the funding of the actual government.

Sources close to the White House said on Wednesday that they were fully anticipating the possibility that this brew of major items could result in a government shutdown, thereby negating some of the economic gains that the tax cuts would facilitate.

But the administration, for its part, argued that Wednesday legislative win puts them in a better political position for those upcoming fights.

The reality is, [Americans are] going to get a tax cut, a senior White House official said. So we know were gonna be able to have the truth set us free.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-celebrates-a-tax-win-but-a-child-healthcare-crisis-looms

Senate GOP tax plan guts key Obamacare provision

Senate Republicans are expected to include a repeal of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act into its overhaul of the tax code, reviving a healthcare fight that appeared to be dead following an intense public backlash against the plan earlier this year.

President Donald Trump on Monday urged Republicans to end the ACA’s individual mandate, which requires nearly everyone to have health insurance that meets minimal standards.

Repeal of the individual mandate would help with the math involved with the Republican tax plan, but eliminating it risks having more Americans without health insurance.

“I’m pleased the Senate Finance Committee has accepted my proposal to repeal the Obamacare individual mandate in the tax legislation,” said Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, according to the New York Times. “Repealing the mandate pays for more tax cuts for working families and protects them from being fined by the IRS for not being able to afford insurance that Obamacare made unaffordable in the first place.”

The elimination of the ACA mandate does help the Republican tax plan be protected from a Democratic filibuster. As the Times points out, the tax bill cannot add more than $1.5 trillion to the federal budget without facing a likely Democratic filibuster. Repealing the mandate would free up $300 billion over the next decade.

On Monday, Trump floated the idea of getting rid of the mandate in a tweet.

“I am proud of the Rep. House & Senate for working so hard on cutting taxes {& reform.} We’re getting close! Now, how about ending the unfair & highly unpopular Indiv Mandate in OCare & reducing taxes even further? Cut top rate to 35% w/all of the rest going to middle income cuts?” Trump wrote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he was “optimistic” the individual mandate repeal would be “helpful,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Republican tax plan is expected to be unveiled on Tuesday evening. Several efforts by Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed earlier this year

Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/layer8/tax-plan-individual-mandate-repeal/

Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweets about $4,000 ‘raise’ from Trump tax planand it completely backfires

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Sunday asked Twitter users what they would do with money President Donald Trump’s administration believes the “average” American family would save under his tax plan–and the responses were brutal.

“The average American family would get a $4,000 raise under the President’s tax cut plan. So how could any member of Congress be against it?” Sanders wrote in a series of tweets. “What would your family do w/ a $4,000 raise from the President’s tax cut plan? REPLY & I’ll share your family’s story in the press briefing. Do you stand w/ the Democrats for higher taxes & bigger government? Or w/ @POTUS for lower taxes & thousands more $$$ in take home pay?”

Some people were quick to point out that the suggestion that every “average American family” would be receiving $4,000 was misleading. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent would mostly help people who made at least $465,626 annually.

But other people played along with the idea that a magical $4,000 check would land in their laps. As one Twitter user put it, “this isn’t gonna go well for you, Sarah.”

They were right.

Somehow, it doesn’t seem likely Sanders will be sharing any of those ideas during the next press briefing.

Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/layer8/sanders-4000-tweet-backfires/