Saturday Reading

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Love is in the air as the American Legislative Exchange Council cozies up to the Real Donald.

ALEC and Trump are unlikely lovers. One gets excited about slamming borders shut, raising tariffs on imports, and promising massive infrastructure spending ($1 trillion in borrowed money says Steve Bannon), the other has never seen a free trade agreement it hasn’t embraced and objects to spending programs that might actually grow jobs.

But ALEC is casting doubts aside and is ready to guide Trump to mutual fulfillment.

This is a big change of heart for one of the nation’s largest associations of far-right politicians and corporate lobbyists.

No Trump backers were spotted at the ALEC meeting in San Diego in 2015. The Times of San Diego described how famed Fox pollster Frank Luntz asked the ALEC luncheon crowd at the Manchester Grand Hyatt:

“How many of you are supporting Donald Trump?”

The reply?

“Crickets,” wrote the paper. “None of the hundreds of American Legislative Exchange Council members or guests, including more than 400 lawmakers, said a word.”

Moreover, ALEC stalwarts like ALEC President Leah Vukmir, a State Senator from Wisconsin, were part of a “never Trump” team that first endorsed Marco Rubio, before rallying behind Ted Cruz, helping to put Wisconsin into the unlikely Cruz column in the GOP primary.

My, have times changed.

@ TRUTHOUT

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FWRYEday PHuNNeezz

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Oligarch Thursday

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Eeet eez goot to be king, no?

Believe it or not, there’s a key connection to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, in the fight over North America’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

One of President Donald Trump’s first actions in office was to sign an executive order on January 24 expediting the approval of the Keystone XL. Owned by TransCanada, this tar sands oil pipeline was halted by former President Barack Obama in November 2015. Trump signed another order on January 24, calling for steel for U.S. pipelines to be made in the U.S. to the “maximum extent possible,” and two days later TransCanada filed a new presidential permit application for Keystone XLwith the U.S. Department of State.

Critics, such as John Kemp of Reuters, pounced on the caveat language in Trump’s steel order and noted that it appears “designed to preserve lots of wiggle-room.” In fact, a DeSmog investigation reveals that much of the steel for Keystone XLhas already been manufactured and is sitting in a field in rural North Dakota.

DeSmog has uncovered that 40 percent of the steel created so far was manufactured in Canada by a subsidiary of Evraz, a company partly owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who is a close ally of Putin and a Trump family friend. Evraz has also actively lobbied against provisions which would mandate that Keystone XL‘s steel be made in the U.S.

Steve Horn – Itai Vardi @ COUNTERPUNCH

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Wowzer Wednesday

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Cast your mind back to four months ago, when Donald Trump was just a long-shot candidate with a hot-headed adviser by the name of Michael Flynn.

It was the homestretch of the presidential election and national security wasn’t some side issue, mentioned in passing. Trump promised he would be a tough national security president with the toughest national security team.

In fact, one of his favorite arguments was that Hillary Clinton couldn’t be trusted with the country’s national security because, he claimed, she couldn’t be trusted with her private email server.

It sounded ridiculous at the time. But after a month of this gonzo president, our memories are already fading. Propaganda will do that to you, as George Orwell warned us all in 1984. Sometimes two and two are four. Sometimes they are five.

@ TG

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Toasty Tuesday

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Heat waves are hitting the globe from north to south, with the Arctic, parts of Australia and the central United States sweating record warmth in recent days.

The Arctic is in the midst of another hot spell, with temperatures soaring far above average for the third time this winter. The heat comes after yet another record-breaking month for low levels of sea ice at the North Pole, part of a dramatic and troubling warming trend that scientists have reported over the past few months.

In Oklahoma and Texas, temperatures reached into the 90s over the weekend. Mangum, Okla. broke a daily record when the thermometer hit 99 degrees on Saturday.Last week, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin issued an emergency burn ban in response to the extreme weather, but a grass fire broke out anyway in Oklahoma City, prompting authorities to ask some residents to leave their homes.

Parts of southeastern Australia are also in the midst of an extreme heat wave, with temperatures topping 115 degrees on Saturday west of Sydney. The heat has helped fuel dozens of bush fires that are forcing evacuations. Authorities have said the fire conditions are as bad as they have seen.

INSIDE CLIMATE NEWS

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Internet Lynch Mob Monday

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Here’s how lynch mobs form, in the age of the alt-right and “alternative facts.”

First, you inadvertently wave a red flag at an arena full of bulls. Then you sit back and wait for the internet to do its dark magic.

In my case, the red flag was a few paragraphs at the end of a recent column, speculating on what would happen if Donald Trump truly and dangerously lost his marbles. I wondered about one “possibility … that until recently I would have said was unthinkable in the United States of America: a military coup, or at least a refusal by military leaders to obey certain orders”:

The principle of civilian control of the military has been deeply internalized by the US military, which prides itself on its nonpartisan professionalism.… But Trump … [is] thin-skinned, erratic, and unconstrained — and his unexpected, self-indulgent pronouncements are reportedly sending shivers through even his closest aides.

What would top US military leaders do if given an order that struck them as not merely ill-advised, but dangerously unhinged? An order that wasn’t along the lines of “Prepare a plan to invade Iraq if Congress authorizes it based on questionable intelligence,” but “Prepare to invade Mexico tomorrow!” or “Start rounding up Muslim Americans and sending them to Guantanamo!” or “I’m going to teach China a lesson — with nukes!”

It’s impossible to say, of course. The prospect of American military leaders responding to a presidential order with open defiance is frightening — but so, too, is the prospect of military obedience to an insane order. After all, military officers swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not the president. For the first time in my life, I can imagine plausible scenarios in which senior military officials might simply tell the president: “No, sir. We’re not doing that,” to thunderous applause from the New York Times editorial board.

Needless to say, when I wrote this, it didn’t occur to me that anyone could construe it as a call for a military coup. Perhaps this should have occurred to me, given the current state of American political discourse, but it didn’t. I received a couple of polite email messages from readers who argued that I shouldn’t have even raised this as a hypothetical possibility, but most initial comments came from readers who took what I wrote in the spirit in which it was intended: What might happen if the US president gave an order that was truly, frighteningly unhinged, and all normal checks and balances had failed? Could we imagine a military refusal to obey the commander in chief? Should we imagine it?

Rosa Brooks @ BILL MOYERS

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Mooney Sunday

SNOW MOON PASSES THROUGH EARTH’S SHADOW: According to folklore, this weekend’s full Moon is called the “Snow Moon.” For northerners, it often feels like the brightest Moon of the year as moonlight glistens off the white February landscape. For a while on Friday night, the Snow Moon lost some of its luster when it passed, off center, through the shadow of our planet. Tom Bailey photographed the event from Urbandale, Iowa:

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Note the darkening in the upper left quadrant of the lunar disk. That’s our planet’s shadow. When the Moon skims the edge of Earth’s shadow as it did on Friday night, astronomers call it a “penumbral lunar eclipse.” In this case, it was a double eclipse: “As I was shooting the eclipse, a jet passed between my location and the Moon,” says Bailey.

@ SPACEWEATHER

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