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Survivor Of Bowling Green Tragically Dies In Sweden Terror Attack

Reprinted with permission from Breaking Burgh.

(Bowling Green, KY) In a cruel twist of fate, a former resident of Bowling Green, KY – who survived the horrific attack that tore that city apart earlier this month – has tragically died under similar circumstances in Sweden.

Jason Vargus was playing Pokémon Go when he narrowly escaped death during the Bowling Green Massacre, during which scores of immigrant terrorists – who had arrived there due to the absence of appropriate travel bans – machine-gunned large segments of the population to death.

After surviving Bowling Green by playing dead for ten hours amidst the corpses, the young man felt so blessed to have a new lease on life that he vowed to live it to the fullest by seeing the world.

Unfortunately, that fateful desire took him to Sweden, where he would pay with his life in another terrible attack on February 17.

His family ask that people leave them alone at this time to grieve for Jason, unless they have any concrete details about the attack which are proving very hard to come by.

IMAGE: Breaking Burgh

A ‘Spicy’ Memoir: How To Lie With A Straight Face

Anonymously mass-mailed proposal for a blockbuster new book:

Dear [fill in name of editor],

As you devour the explosive details of this book manuscript, you’ll understand why I need to withhold my identity at this time.

I currently work at the highest level of government in Washington. My official job description is “press secretary,” though my real duties are much more sensitive.

My boss (let’s call him “Thump”) is an impulsive, vain, petty megalomaniac, but I accepted this job believing I could make him appear thoughtful, caring, and poised.

What the hell was I smoking? Every day there’s a new train wreck, and I’m the one lying bloody on the tracks.

In only three weeks, I’ve compiled enough shocking “insider” material for a surefire bestseller. It’s possible I won’t be employed here much longer, so I’ve been hurriedly working on this memoir in my spare time.

The first chapter kicks off with my job interview, an unforgettable morning. I was summoned to midtown Manhattan and escorted to a bright atrium, where a crew of painters perched on scaffolds was applying industrial bronzer to my future boss.

“Spicer!” he bellowed. No, wait, scratch that.

“Dicer!” he bellowed. “The position of press secretary requires one essential skill: Can you lie and keep a straight face?”

“Excuse me, sir?”

“You’ll be my front man with the scum-dog media. Some of the things I’ll order you to say will be so outlandishly false and silly that you’ll want to burst out laughing. I need somebody who can keep a straight face, no matter what.”

“I can do that, sir!”

And thus began my grim descent.

On my first day at work, “Thump” spoke at a large public event. The aerial photographs showed several hundred thousand people there — a very respectable turnout — but the boss told me to report the crowd as a whopping 1.5 million.

Which I did, loyally, without cracking a smile.

He also instructed me to bash the media for questioning the crowd size, so I bashed those suckers big-time. Seriously, I was IN THEIR FACES! It’s all laid out in Chapter Two.

Every day was a new battle, and I thought I was doing fine. Every night, standing in front of the bathroom mirror, I’d practice my disdainful stare and scolding tone. For pointers I even studied old tapes of Ron Ziegler, Richard Nixon’s press secretary, scoffing at the Watergate break-in.

What I didn’t know, until later, was that my boss — who watches like 23 hours of TV a day — was replaying each press conference, rating my performance.

The feedback was crushing. He said I wasn’t tough enough, slick enough, or dapper enough. I write about this, sadly, in Chapter Seven.

Then a certain Saturday-night comedy program featured a sketch about me totally losing my s–t at a press conference. I’d thought it was pretty funny, until Thump hauled me into his office.

“The actor who played you was really a chick!” he hollered.

“What? No way!”

He put on the video and we watched it nine times. He was right — a movie actress named Melissa had been made up to look like me.

No fan of parody, Thump was furious. He said being impersonated by a woman made me look weak, and that made him look weak for hiring me.

I innocently asked if he didn’t have more important stuff to worry about, such as Iran’s missile tests or his daughter’s troubled line of designer handbags. He responded by throwing a golf ball at my head, a scene I chillingly recreate in Chapter Eleven.

Last week was the worst. In defending Thump’s views on Muslim immigrants, I was told to mention the terrorist attacks in Boston, San Bernardino, and Atlanta.

Except it turns out that the only bomber to go after Atlanta was a Florida-born redneck who targeted the 1996 Olympics — definitely not a jihadist.

Yet, somehow I named Atlanta in three different interviews. So, when the blowback began, I got the brilliant idea to say I was actually referring to the city of Orlando.

Except it turns out the Pulse nightclub shooter isn’t an immigrant, either. He was born in New York. The media sure drilled me a new one after that, as you’ll see in Chapter Thirteen.

Still I’m hanging in there, faithfully saying whatever whacky made-up stuff the boss wants me to say, regardless of facts. I might not have a job by the time you read this book proposal, but at least I’ll go out with a straight face.

Can we work that into the title?

IMAGE: White House spokesman Sean Spicer holds a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Trump’s Team Of TV Surrogates Constantly Lie

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

Here are some of the blatant falsehoods White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller told on the Sunday shows this week:

  • Fourteen percent of noncitizens in the United States “are registered to vote.”
  • Voter fraud is a “very serious” problem in New Hampshire.
  • The White House has provided “enormous evidence” to confirm widespread voter fraud in the U.S.
  • White House press secretary Sean Spicer, “as always, is 100 percent correct.”

It was a stunning display of mendacity.

So here’s my question: If President Donald Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway has a widely acknowledged “credibility” problem, given her long history of fabrication on behalf of her boss, how should the press describe the trouble now hovering over Miller, who became the latest Trump TV surrogate who forcefully wrestles the truth to the ground?

Additionally, how should the press describe Spicer’s daily White House briefings, which are accentuated with bold fabrications?

For anyone under the illusion that Conway was an outlier among Trump’s TV surrogates, we now have overwhelming proof that she’s simply part of a team at war with reality. And that means the press needs to expand its circle of who is deemed to have potentially crippling “credibility” problems.

It was Conway’s recent Bowling Green “massacre” fabrication that received lots of attention in the press, as did CNN’s decision to decline her as a State of the Union guest last week, in part because of questions about her trustworthiness. Days later, the news channel did invite Conway back for an interview, but questions about her veracity certainly linger and it continues to be a topic of intense media analysis inside the Beltway.

And it should be.

But the debate shouldn’t revolve around only Conway. She’s not the overarching problem. This current crisis of confidence is about an entire White House philosophy of dishonesty driven by Trump himself. And that certainly includes Trump TV surrogates such as Spicer and Miller, who are quickly amassing resumes built around pushing daily falsehoods. If news producers are avoiding Conway, they should also be pondering the worth of hosting Spicer and Miller.

Have we ever had a modern-day press secretary who put some many substantial lies up on the board in just a few short weeks?

From Media Matters’ running tally:

LIE 1: Spicer Doubled Down On The False Claim That Trump Had The Most-Watched Inaugural Of All Time

LIE 2: Spicer Falsely Claimed That Trump’s Feud With The Intelligence Agency Was A Myth

LIE 3: Spicer Hyped Trump’s False Claim That Millions Voted Illegally In The 2016 Election

LIE 4: Spicer Claimed Trump Won “The Most” Electoral Votes “Since Any Republican Since Reagan”

LIE 5: Spicer Claimed 2001 And 2017 National Security Council Principals Committee Makeups Are “100 Percent The Same”

LIE 6: Spicer Claimed CNN Retracted Statements Questioning Kellyanne Conway’s Credibility

LIE 7: Spicer Claimed There Wasn’t Concern With Obama’s Criticism Of The Supreme Court

Additionally, Spicer has repeatedly defended as a “success” the U.S.-led military raid in Yemen last month — which The New York Times described as a situation where “everything that could go wrong did.”

Spicer told reporters the raid was planned during the Obama administration, and that the goal was “intelligence-gathering.” But NPR reported that neither claim was true. (The plan was to nab high-ranking Al Qaeda leaders, which didn’t happen.)

While Spicer has gotten criticism (and the SNL treatment) over his repeated lying, he’s still drawn some friendly coverage recently. “On the airwaves … he is daytime television’s new big hit,” the Times reported, even though ratings have ticked up just 10 percent when Spicer’s briefings air live. The Times also downplayed Spicer’s dishonesty in a second, recent news article highlighting how Spicer is “shaking up” the briefings.

And now we have the arrival of Miller as Trump’s favorite new TV surrogate. Pushing an array of previously debunked claims, assertions, and flat-out fabrications, Miller gave such a strange, detached-from-realitytelevision performance that you have to wonder about the parallel universe that’s being assembled inside the White House these days.

For the record, Kellyanne Conway isn’t the only one building it.

The Government Really Did Fear A ‘Bowling Green Massacre’ — From A White Supremacist

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica. This story was co-published with The New York Times.

The year was 2012. The place was Bowling Green, Ohio. A federal raid had uncovered what the authorities feared were the makings of a massacre. There were 18 firearms, among them two AR–15 assault rifles, an AR–10 assault rifle, and a Remington Model 700 sniper rifle. There was body armor, too, and the authorities counted some 40,000 rounds of ammunition. An extremist had been arrested, and prosecutors suspected that he had been aiming to carry out a wide assortment of killings.

“This defendant, quite simply, was a well-funded, well-armed, and focused one-man army of racial and religious hate,” prosecutors said in a court filing.

The man arrested and charged was Richard Schmidt, a middle-aged owner of a sports-memorabilia business at a mall in town. Prosecutors would later call him a white supremacist. His planned targets, federal authorities said, had been African-Americans and Jews. They’d found a list with the names and addresses of those to be assassinated, including the leaders of NAACP chapters in Michigan and Ohio.

But Schmidt wound up being sentenced to less than six years in prison, after a federal judge said prosecutors had failed to adequately establish that he was a political terrorist, and he is scheduled for release in February 2018. The foiling of what the government worried was a credible plan for mass murder gained little national attention.

For some concerned about America’s vulnerability to terrorism, the very real, mostly forgotten case of Richard Schmidt in Bowling Green, Ohio, deserves an important place in any debate about what is real and what is fake, what gets reported on by the news media and what doesn’t. Those deeply worried about domestic far-right terrorism believe United States authorities, across many administrations, have regularly underplayed the threat, and that the media has repeatedly underreported it. Perhaps we have become trapped in one view of what constitutes the terrorist threat, and as the case of Schmidt shows, that’s a problem.

The notion of a “Bowling Green massacre,” of course, has been in the news recently. Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, referred to it in justifying the president’s travel ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Conway had Bowling Green, Kentucky, in mind, but she eventually conceded there had been no massacre there. She meant, she said, to refer to the 2011 case of two Iraqi refugees who had moved to Kentucky and been convicted of trying to aid attacks on American military personnel in Iraq. One was sentenced to 40 years, the other to life in prison.

Her gaffe, accidental or intentional, prompted a mock vigil in New York and a flood of internet memes. The imaginary massacre now even has its own Wikipedia page.

On Monday, Trump made the provocative, unsubstantiated claim that the American media intentionally failed to cover acts of terrorism around the globe. “It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported,” he said in a speech to military commanders. “And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.”

At the Southern Poverty Law Center, Ryan Lenz tracks racist and extreme-right terrorists. So far, he said, he’s seen little from the Trump administration to suggest it will make a priority of combating political violence carried out by American racist groups.

“It doesn’t seem at all like they are interested in pursuing extremists inspired by radical right ideologies,” said Lenz, who edits the organization’s HateWatch publication.

Indeed, Reuters reported last week that the Department of Homeland Security is planning to retool its Countering Violent Extremism program to focus solely on Islamic radicals. Government sources told the news agency the program would be rebranded as “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” and “would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the Department of Homeland Security chose to look away. In 2009, Daryl Johnson, then an analyst with the department, drafted a study of right-wing radicals in the United States. Johnson saw a confluence of factors that might energize the movement and its threat: the historic election of an African-American president; rising rates of immigration; proposed gun control legislation; and a wave of military veterans returning to civilian life at a time of painful economic recession.

The report predicted an uptick in extremist activity, particularly within “the white supremacist and militia movements.”

Response to the document was swift and punishing. Conservative news outlets and Republican leaders condemned Johnson’s report as a work of “anti-military bigotry” and an attack on conservative opinion. Janet Napolitano, the head of Homeland Security at the time, retracted the report and closed Johnson’s office, the Extremism and Radicalization Branch.

Three years later, Richard Schmidt came to the attention of the federal government almost by accident. Schmidt had been suspected of trading in counterfeit NFL jerseys. Searching his home and store for fake goods, FBI agents discovered something far more sinister: a vast arsenal. A secret room attached to Schmidt’s shop “contained nothing but his rifles, ammunition, body armor, his writings, and a cot,” wrote prosecutors in a court document.

Beefy, thick-necked, standing 6-foot-4, and weighing about 250 pounds, Schmidt had spent years in the Army as an active-duty soldier and a reservist. His military service ended in 1989 when he got into a fight and shot three people, killing one of them, a man named Anthony Torres. As a result, Schmidt spent 13 years in prison on a manslaughter conviction and was legally barred from owning firearms.

After searching his property, the government came to believe he was involved with the National Alliance, a virulent and long-running extremist group, which was once among the nation’s most powerful white supremacist organizations. They also suspected him of an affiliation with the Vinlanders, a neo-Nazi skinhead gang.

Founded by William Pierce, who died in 2002, the National Alliance has long been linked to terrorism. Pierce, who started the group in 1970 and ran it for many years from a compound in West Virginia, wrote The Turner Diaries, an apocalyptic novel that basically lays out a blueprint for unleashing a white supremacist insurgency against the government. The novel was described by Timothy J. McVeigh as the inspiration for his bombing in 1995 of a federal office building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.

FBI agents came to believe Schmidt had been planning his own string of racially motivated attacks on African-American and Jewish community leaders. The agents spread out across Ohio and Michigan to alert his apparent targets. “They had a notebook of information from Schmidt’s home,” recalled Scott Kaufman, the chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. “Some of the items related specifically to our organization and staff — people’s names, locations, maps. It was certainly disturbing.”

In court, the defense lawyer Edward G. Bryan disputed the government’s portrayal of Schmidt, who was 47 at the time of his arrest. Bryan painted his client as a slightly eccentric survivalist who didn’t intend to “harm anyone, including those listed in written materials found within his property.”

The government saw it differently. Schmidt, prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo filed in court, planned to assassinate “members of religious and cultural groups based only on their race, religion, and ethnicity.” His cache of weapons, added prosecutors, had only one purpose: to start a “race war.” Other court documents suggest that he planned to videotape his killing spree and email the video clips to his fellow white supremacists.

After pleading guilty to weapons and counterfeiting charges, Schmidt was sentenced to 71 months in federal prison by Judge Jack Zouhary in December 2013.

These days, Kaufman of the Jewish Federation in Detroit doesn’t think much about Schmidt. He’s got plenty of other things to worry about. “In the last two weeks in our community we’ve had two bomb scares,” as well as an incident involving spray-painted swastikas, he said. He’s noted a spike in anti-Semitic incidents over the past year.

“This whole thing is trending in the wrong direction,” he said.

IMAGE: Richard Schmidt / Department of Justice