Sebastian Gorka Resigns From White House Post

A week after the White House pushed out former chief strategist Steve Bannon, the Trump administration has lost another controversial staffer. The departee this week is Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president and former Breitbart employee who was closely allied with the White House’s rapidly shrinking anti-globalist faction. News of Gorka’s resignation was first reported by the Federalist, and later confirmed by Axios and a host of other news outlets.

As with Bannon’s ouster last week, the storyline of who said what when has gotten muddled: Gorka claimed he resigned, while the White House insinuated that he was pushed out.

News of Gorka’s ouster broke shortly after Trump announced that he would be pardoning sheriff Joe Arpaio, a decision that was widely expected after Trump hinted that he “wouldn’t do it tonight” at a rally in Phoenix earlier this week. It also comes as Hurricane Harvey, which has been upgraded to a category four hurricane, is threatening to lay waste to the southwest.

In a copy of Gorka’s bluntly worded resignation, which he leaked to the Federalist, the former staffer “expressed dissatisfaction with the current state of the Trump administration.”

“[G]iven recent events, it is clear to me that forces that do not support the MAGA promise are – for now – ascendant within the White House,” Gorka wrote. “As a result, the best and most effective way I can support you, Mr. President, is from outside the People’s House.”

In the letter, Gorka blamed the president's failure to outline a plan for exiting Afghanistan after “16 years of disastrous policy decisions" for being the final straw. He also criticized the president and his military advisers for omitting any mention of Radical Islam from the president's statement on Afghanistan, delivered earlier this week.

“Regrettably, outside of yourself, the individuals who most embodied and represented the policies that will ‘Make America Great Again,’ have been internally countered, systematically removed, or undermined in recent months. This was made patently obvious as I read the text of your speech on Afghanistan this week…

 

“The fact that those who drafted and approved the speech removed any mention of Radical Islam or radical Islamic terrorism proves that a crucial element of your presidential campaign has been lost…

 

“Just as worrying, when discussing our future actions in the region, the speech listed operational objectives without ever defining the strategic victory conditions we are fighting for. This omission should seriously disturb any national security professional, and any American who is unsatisfied with the last 16 years of disastrous policy decisions which have led to thousands of Americans killed and trillions of taxpayer dollars spent in ways that have not brought security or victory.”

Echoing comments made by Bannon following his ouster last week, Gorka reportedly told the president that he could better serve his America First agenda from the outside: "[I]t is clear to me that forces that do not support the MAGA promise are – for now – ascendant within the White House…"

That's probably not far from the truth. As Axios points out, Gorka, a self styled national security and counterterrorism expert, was best known for his fiery television appearances, his only real contribution to the administration, and the quality that initially endeared him to the president. Gorka can easily keep up his TV schedule from outside of the West Wing. Gorka was widely reviled by Trump opponents because of his reputed affiliation with Hungarian nationalist group Vitezi Rend.  

According to Axios, Gorka's resignation is a sign that Chief of Staff John Kelly is tightening control of the White House's sprawling, unaccountable fiefdoms.

The White House communications department confirmed that Gorka was no longer employed at the White House, but wouldn't comment on whether he was fired or left voluntarily, according to ABC.

"I can confirm he no longer works at the White House,” the official said.

His ouster brings the number of officials who have been fired or otherwise departed the Trump administration to 14:

Finally, with the ouster of Bannon, the list of high-ranking personnel fired by Trump rises to 14. They are:

Sally Yates
Michael Flynn
Katie Walsh
Preet Bharara
James Comey
Michael Dubke
Walter Shaub
Mark Corralo
Sean Spicer
Micheal Short
Reince Priebus
Anthony Scaramucci
Steve Bannon
Sebastian Gorka

Maybe Trump will start putting weekly firings on the White House calendar?
 

Korea, Afghanistan, And The Never-Ending War Trap

Authored by Pepe Escobar via Asia Times,

While the US-backed 'Hunger Games' in South Korea plow on, a 'new strategy' for Afghanistan is really all about business. But China is already there…

There are more parallels between an unfinished 1950s war in Northeast Asia and an ongoing 16-year-old war in the crossroads between Central and South Asia than meet the eye.

Let’s start with North Korea.

Once again the US/South Korea Hunger Games plow on. It didn’t have to be this way.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explained how: “Russia together with China developed a plan which proposes ‘double freezing’: Kim Jong-un should freeze nuclear tests and stop launching any types of ballistic missiles, while US and South Korea should freeze large-scale drills which are used as a pretext for the North’s tests.”

Call it sound diplomacy. There’s no conclusive evidence the Russia-China strategic partnership floated this plan directly to the administration of US President Donald Trump. Even if they did, the proposal was shot down. The proverbial “military experts” lobbied hard against it, insisting on a lopsided advantage to Pyongyang. Worse, National Security Adviser H R McMaster consistently lobbies for preventative war – as if this is any sort of serious conflict “resolution”.

Meanwhile, that “plan for an enveloping fire” around Guam remains on Kim Jong-un’s table. It is essential to remember the plan was North Korea’s response to Trump’s “fire and fury” volley. Kim has stated that for diplomacy to work again, “it is necessary for the US to make a proper option first”. As in canceling the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian war games – featuring up to 30,000 US soldiers and more than 50,000 South Korean troops.   

South Korean President Moon Jae-in dutifully repeats the Pentagon mantra that these Hunger Games, lasting until August 31, are “defensive”. Computer simulations gaming a – very unlikely – unilateral Pyongyang attack may qualify as defense. But Kim and the Korean Central News Agency interpret the war games in essence for what they are: rehearsal for a “decapitation”, a pre-emptive attack yielding regime change.

No wonder the KCNA insists on a possible “catastrophe”. And Beijing, crucially, concurs. The Global Times reasonably argued that “if South Korea really wants no war on the Korean Peninsula, it should try to stop this military exercise”.

Can’t pack up our troubles

It would be a relief to defuse the drama by evoking that great World War I marching song; “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag/ And smile, smile, smile.”

But this is extremely serious. A China-North Korea mutual defense treaty has been in effect since 1961. Under this framework, Beijing’s response to Trump’s “fire and fury” was a thing of beauty. If Pyongyang attacks, China is neutral. But if the US launches a McMaster-style pre-emptive attack, China intervenes – militarily – on behalf of Pyongyang.

As a clincher, Beijing even made it clear that its preference is for the current status quo to remain. Checkmate.

Hunger Games apart, the rhetorical war in the Korean Peninsula did decrease a substantial notch after China made its position clear. According to a Beltway intel source, that shows “the US and Chinese militaries, as the US and the Russians in Syria, are coordinating to avoid a war”.

Evidence may have been provided by a very important meeting last week between the chairmen of the US and Chinese Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford and General Fang Fenghui. They signed a deal that the Pentagon spun as able to “reduce the risk of miscalculation” in Northeast Asia.

Among the prodigious fireworks inherent to his departure as White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon nailed it: “There’s no military solution, forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

And extra evidence in the “they got us” department is that B-1B heavy bomber “decapitation” practice runs – out of Andersen Air Force Base in Guam – have been quietly “suspended”. This crucial, largely unreported fact in the air supersedes rhetoric from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Pentagon head James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who previous to Bannon’s exit were stressing  “strong military consequences if North Korea chooses wrongly”.  

Once again, it’s all about The Belt & Road Initiative

Now let’s move to Afghanistan.

“Mad Dog” Mattis once famously said it was fun to shoot Taliban fighters. “Known unknowns” Don Rumsfeld was more realistic; he moved out of Afghanistan (toward Iraq) because there were not enough good targets to bomb.

Anyone who spent time working/reporting on the Afghan Hindu Kush and the southwestern deserts knows why the proverbial “there’s no military solution” applies. There are myriad reasons, starting with the profound, radicalized Afghan ethnic divide (roughly, 40% are mostly rural, tribal Pashtun, many recruited by the Taliban; almost 30% are Tajik, a great deal of them urban, literate and in government; more than 20% are Hazara Shiites; and 10% are Uzbek).

The bulk of Washington’s “aid” to Kabul throughout these past 16 years has been on the bombing, not the economy, front. Government corruption is cataclysmic. Warlords rule. The Taliban thrive because they offer local protection. Much to Pashtun ire, most of the army is Tajik. Tajik politicians are mostly close to India while most Pashtun favor Pakistan (after all, they have cousins on the other side of the Durand line; enter the dream of a future, reunited Pashtunistan).

On the GWOT (Global War on Terror) front, al-Qaeda would not even exist if the late Dr Zbig “Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski had not come up with the idea of a sprawling, well-weaponized private army of demented jihadis-cum-tribal Afghans fighting the communist government in Kabul during the 1980s. Add to this the myth that the Pentagon needs to be on the ground in Afghanistan to prevent jihadis from attacking America. Al-Qaeda is extinct in Afghanistan. And Daesh does not need territory to concoct/project its DIY jihad.

When the myth of the US in Afghanistan as a categorical imperative is exposed, that may unveil what this is all about: business.

And we’re not even talking about who really profits from large-scale opium/heroin trade.

Two months ago the Afghan ambassador to Washington, Hamdullah Mohib, was breathlessly spinning how “President Trump is keenly interested in Afghanistan’s economic potential”, as in “our estimated $1 trillion in copper, iron ore, rare-earth elements, aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury and lithium”. This led to the proverbial unnamed  “US officials” telling Reuters last month that what Trump wants is for the US to demand some of that mineral wealth in exchange for “assisting” Kabul.

A US Geological Survey study a decade ago did identify potential Afghan mineral wealth – gold, silver, platinum, iron ore, uranium, zinc, tantalum, bauxite, coal, natural gas and copper – worth as much as US$1 trillion, with much spin dedicated to Afghanistan as “the Saudi Arabia of lithium”.

And the competition – once again, China – is already there, facing myriad infrastructure and red-tape problems, but concentrated on incorporating Afghanistan, long-term, into the New Silk Roads, aka Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), along with its security cooperation arm, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

It’s no secret the Russia-China strategic partnership wants an Afghan solution hatched by Afghans and supervised by the SCO (of which Afghanistan is an observer and future full member). So from the point of view of neocon/neoliberalcon elements of the War Party in Washington, Afghanistan only makes sense as a forward base to harass/stall/thwart BRI.

What Russia and China want for Afghanistan – yet another node in the process of Eurasia integration – is not much different from what Russia, China and South Korea want for North Korea: increased connectivity as in a future Trans-Korean Railway linked to the Trans-Siberian.

As for Washington and the proverbially bombastic, failed futurists  across the Beltway, do they even know what is the end game of “investing” in two never-ending wars with no visible benefits?

Philly AntiFa ‘Cell’ Calls For All-Out Revolution, Demands “Gender Abolition”, “Expropriate Land From Rich”

Authored by Ian Miles Cheong via DailyCaller.com,

An armed Antifa group is launching a new cell in Philadelphia, with support from the “alt-left” alternative media.

The group currently hosts anti-police workshops called “Our Enemies in Blue.” The group draws inspiration from convicted murderers and calls for violence against the police, theft of goods, and armed insurrection.

Antifa websites like It’s Going Down, Sub.Media and Insurrection News have been promoting the group, which calls itself the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement, calling on their readers to donate to a Fundrazr account for the creation of the new cell.

The press release the group published in far-left media is filled with hyperbolic claims about how “mosques are being ruthlessly bombed” and how “LGBTQ are being battered.”

“The destruction of black life continues unabated as millions languish in the plantations of the modern day slave system,” the group states.

Taking pride in the “legacy” of “Philadelphia’s rich revolutionary tradition,” RAM cites Mumia Abu Jamal, the Black Panther activist who shot and killed Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981.

It also cites Russell Shoats, who shot a police officer in the back five times in 1970. Similar to Antifa, the actions of the Black Panthers have been described as having a “very undefined purpose of assaulting police officers.”

Like other Antifa groups, RAM claims to oppose the usual -isms and white supremacy, but a quick look at the organization’s “Political Foundation” page, as highlighted by Far Left Watch, notes the inclusion of several alarming points, including the “Abolition of Gender,” and the “Expropriation and the Cooperative Economy.”

Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement (Screenshot: RAM website)

The latter calls on members to “expropriate” or “take away” goods, lands, and tools to “begin the revolutionary process.” Expropriation is another way of saying “seize” or “steal.”

The organization models itself after the so-called Rojava Revolution, a leftist guerilla movement currently active in northern Syria. RAM states that the communists offer a “foundation in communal and council based political organization and militant defense.”

The organizations within the Rojava Revolution are currently involved in combat against ISIS.

Far Left Watch notes that RAM has been hosting a variety of anti-police workshops including a “Legal Training” workshop, a class on the “Introduction to Anarchism,” and one called “Our Enemies in Blue,” which deals with anti-police action–or how to handle police officers during violent clashes.

Despite active calls for violence against law enforcement and revolution against the government, the liberal media has been surprisingly lenient in its coverage of Antifa, depicting them as righteous crusaders against the rise of white supremacy.

These Are The States Where $1 Million Lasts The Longest

If you had a million dollars, would you retire?

For most Americans, the answer to that question would be no. Which is especially problematic for millennials, who, having been permanently scarred by the financial crisis, are investing at lower rates than members of Generation X or the Baby Boomers, making it more difficult for them to build wealth. Furthermore, the generation that now comprises the largest share of working Americans is having trouble saving money, thanks in no small part to their $1.3 trillion in student debt.

Their present financial predicaments suggest that millennials probably won’t retire in the large numbers that members of their parents’ generation will, primarily out of necessity. Even for some baby boomers, perennially low interest rates since the crisis – and possibly from here on out – have made things more difficult for conservative savers who may now need to redo their longstanding retirement plans to make do with less.

For workers in this situation, choosing a location where they can stretch their money the furthest in retirement is paramount. Enter a new study by GoBankingRates that measures how long $1 million will last in different locations around the country.

“A new report from GOBankingRates measures how long a million dollars would last for retirees 65 and older, state by state. It did that by multiplying the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ mean annual expenditures for that age group by a cost-of-living measure for each state, provided by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. The tally separated out annual spending on health care, housing, groceries, transportation, and utilities.”

The upshot is unsurprising: Retirees hoping to squeeze the maximum value from their dollars should head down south:

In Mississippi, retirees can stretch a million dollars for more than 26 years – the longest of any US state, according to the study. Arkansas, Michigan, Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri, Texas, Indiana and Alaska are also states where a million dollars can last for longer than 24 years.

The state where $1 million will be consumed most quickly is, unsurprisingly, California.  

According to Bloomberg, the study’s figures are conservative.

“These are conservative figures. They don’t factor in any entertainment or travel, which would make for a pretty grim retirement. Nor do they take into account how inflation might cut into purchasing power as we age. Inflation can take a bigger bite for seniors, because medical costs, which may account for a bigger chunk of expenses, have an inflation rate significantly higher than that for the broad economy.”

And while health-care costs are projected to rise, the study also doesn’t factor in any investment returns on the $1 million.

“Health-care costs for retirees will rise at an average annual rate of 5.5 percent over the next decade, according to HealthView Services, which makes retirement health-care cost projection software. To put that in perspective, from 2012 to 2016, the average annual broad inflation rate in the U.S. was 1.9 percent."

Of course, to many young people, one day having $1 million in assets seems like an impossible dream. One recent study suggested that 70% of millennials have less than $1000 in savings. But this is just one more reason why they should start thinking about retirement now.