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The Devolution Will Be Televised: Our Body-cam President

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Gil Scott-Heron was only partially correct when he predicted the revolution would not be televised. “There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down brothers in the instant replay,” he sang. While the revolution may not be aired live in prime time, in the age of mass surveillance, the abuses that may give rise to it are. Yet despite our body-cammed, go-to-the-video response to police brutality and other overt authoritarian abuses, there are few signs of a brewing revolution, televised or not.

Donald Trump is America’s body-cam, the not so smart smartphone streaming medium through which the nation glimpses itself. Like these instruments of public surveillance, Trump presents to us a portrait of American life that is as unrelenting in its ugliness as it is gruelingly uncomfortable to watch, prompting swift if disingenuous denials of a reality that for far too long had been rejected in favor of national hagiography.

Decades before these devices, Americans of color had complained of police malfeasance only to be met with condescending skepticism. Today, these technologies have helped to mitigated such skepticism, providing a digital archive of atrocities that make what was once hidden glaringly apparent to all but the most flagrant deniers. In a similar way, Trump has exposed the perennial undercurrents of American racism, bringing them to the surface for all to see: Torch-bearing white supremacist march in Virginia; nationally, an alphabet soup of negrophobic whites (BBQ Becky, Cornerstore Caroline, Coupon Carl, ID Adam, Pool Patrol Paula, et al.) take up the white wo/man’s burden of policing black and brown bodies; the sordid tragedy of humanity caged at its southern border.

With Trump in power, the devolution has been televised, in 4K, 24/7/365 as the nation binge watches the erosion of its deceptively adulatory national self-portrait. In those halcyon pre-Trump days, we liked to speak of “polite racism,” a gentlemen’s agreement for the new millennium, the perfect anodyne for the “post-race,” Change-and-Hope Obama years. The days of raw, unapologetic racial animus, white America told itself, were a relic of its past. To a large degree, the corporate media promulgated this myth, until the internet, social media, smartphones, and body cams belied it, and a narcissistic, camera-hungry plutocrat replaced the man who gave it a semblance of naïve credence. Trump has become the personification of this new-yet-old America: boorish, bigoted, undeservedly boastful, the buffoonish embodiment of a nation that benefits from the exploitation of others while vigorously denying that it does.

Salon’s Amanda Marcotte observes, “What drives the Trump base isn’t actually Donald Trump himself. It’s the bigotry. Everything else is gravy.” It is not that Trump has demonstrably made America more racist but that he has given racists – and those who refuse to see them – a face to rally around. Indeed, it is all too easy to dismiss Trump’s base as “trolls” – both among the general public and in attendance at his recently convened “social media summit” – as MAGA-hatted troglodytes with a penchant for white extremism and xenophobia, since this would spare the rest of America the discomforting but necessary angst of unflinching self-reflection. However, while their views may arguably be fringeworthy, they themselves are not marginal; instead, they occupy positions of power and authority, as they have historically, from the days of slave patrols and paddyrollers, Jim Crow and more recently Stop and Frisk and Broken Windows. In each case, they view themselves as Guardians and Defenders of a threatened republic and the whiteness for which it stood – and defiantly still stands, the same roles that Trump envisions himself performing with every sniffle-punctuated vilification of its citizens of color.

A number of recent reports expose the extent to which normalized extremism permeates the ranks of those who serve and protect the state. The investigative website Reveal reports it was able to join dozens of closed Facebook hate groups which have as its members hundreds of active duty and retired cops “at every level of American law enforcement, from tiny, rural sheriff’s departments to the largest agencies in the country, such as Los Angeles and New York police departments.” Currently, over 50 police departments across the nation are under investigation.

The Associated Press reports that police departments in five states (Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Missouri) have launched investigations into their officers’ public Facebook accounts following the publication of a database that revealed racist, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant posts, some glorifying police brutality. In Philadelphia alone, 72 police officers have been placed on administrative duty, with “several dozen” possibly facing disciplinary action and termination for racist Facebook posts.

There is nothing particularly new here, save the spate of coverage. As the Intercept reports, a 2015 classified FBI Counter Terrorism Policy Guide noted law enforcement’s “deep historical connections to racist ideologies” and the “longstanding strategy [white extremist groups] “to infiltrate the law enforcement community.” The report also called out the practice of such groups of encouraging “ghost skins” – those who publicly conceal their white supremacist views so as to pass undetected into the mainstream and covertly advance their cause – to pursue jobs in law enforcement in order to alert them to police investigations.

Of course, extremist infiltration is not confined to “America’s finest.” In 2006, ten years after the armed forces cracked down on white extremists in its ranks, the Southern Poverty Legal Center reported that these groups had once again infiltrated the military. According to a Department of Defense investigator cited in the report, “Recruiters are knowingly allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists to join the armed forces, and commanders don’t remove them from the military even after we positively identify them as extremists or gang members.” During the Iraq War the military cast a blind eye to such individuals in order to meet its recruitment goals.

More recently, ProPublica reported the existence of “I’m 10-15,” a secret Customs and Border Protection agency racist Facebook group whose membership consists of 9,500 current and former Border Patrol agents.

This not a matter of a “few rotten apples”; this is the orchard: When Mark Morgan, former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the newly installed acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, justifies such confinements on the grounds that he could “unequivocally” tell just by “looking at their eyes” that “so-called minors” held in detention were “soon-to-be-MS-13 gang members,” there can be no doubt the rot is endemic, infesting both the rank and file and the top.

The devolution will be televised.

On July 4th, the world had foisted upon it a “Salute to America,” with Trump as three-ring carnival barker, a gauche spectacle that featured tanks stationed in front of the Lincoln Memorial and waves of military aircraft flying over the Washington Monument – indeed, if you look closely, you could, despite Trump’s previous insistence to the contrary, even see an F-35 fighter, though if he actually believed in their literal invisibility, it would make them a poor choice for an air show. (Still, Trump probably defended his choice to include them by insisting earlier versions of these Wonder Woman jets were used by American militias to secure British airports during the Revolutionary War.) All that was absent were clear skies and goose-stepping soldiers, though given Trump’s authoritarian proclivities, the latter may not be far behind.

Yet, as Americans sat before their TVs to celebrate their independence, immigrants and asylum seekers lingered – and continue to linger – in standing-room-only cages in unsanitary condition and drinking from toilets as their children grow sick and die. And when members of Congress toured detainment centers in El Paso, Texas, the “trolls” emerged from beneath their cyberspace bridges to greet them with jeers and Islamophobic slurs. Actions speak louder than words, or, it seems, Facebook posts.

It is telling, however, that some prefer to debate the nomenclature of exclusion rather than act against policies that repeat the nation’s historical mistakes and confront its ugly past. Some were offended that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez referred to these facilities as “concentration camps,” claiming she callously invoked the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. However, concentration camps did not originate in Nazi Germany but in South Africa’s Boer War and America’s own racist, genocidal past, one whose legacy includes not only the internment of Japanese-Americans at Tule Lake, Manzanar, Gila River, and Granada, but also Native Americans to Ross’s Landing, Fort Cass, and Fort Snelling, and the “sheltering” of freed African Americans slaves so-called contraband camps, many of whose conditions resembled those of today’s detention centers, though we have tended to describe these facilities with a variety of palliative euphemisms: “relocation camps,” “internment camps,” “assembly centers,” “Indian camps,” and “reservations” that minimize their role in the removal, confinement, and, yes, death of people of color in America. And in the shadow of this bowdlerized history, FOX News apparatchik brush off their present-day iteration as “overcrowded luxury hotels,” “border schools,” and, as Laura Ingraham dismissively described them, “summer camps.”

If the above names are not as familiar Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka or Buchenwald, it is because they reflect a history that Americans would prefer to ignore, as well as the fact that Nazi concentration camps and the racial policies that preceded their construction were inspired by America’s. As Yale Law school professor James Q. Whitman notes in his Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law, in 1928 Hitler “spoke admiringly about the way Americans had ‘gunned down the millions of Redskins to a few thousand and now keep the modest remnant under observation in a cage.’” In Adolf Hitler, historian John Toland goes a step further, explaining, “Hitler’s concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the wild West; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s extermination – by starvation and uneven combat – of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity.” And while the debate over nomenclature and “false equivalencies,” has been reengaged, we should not lose sight of their similarities. In 1998, the Japanese American Nation Museum and American Jewish Committee issued a joint statement that emphasized these commonalities, pointing out that “[d]espite differences, all had one thing in common: the people in power removed a minority from the general population and the rest of society let it happen” (my emphasis), which seems as apt a description as any of the shared intent of those who create such facilities and the complicity of those who permit their use.

Body cams can be turned off; our body-cam president has not – and arguably should not, at least until Americans have fully inspected the toxic reality of what their nation is. I am tempted to say “has become,” but it has been this way for some time; it is simply that Trump has brought its racism out into the open.

As the 2020 election approaches, the question facing Americans is often framed in terms of whether, they will ignore Trump’s all too obvious flaws and grant him another four years (that this remains a serious possibility after two and a half years of lies, scandals, and overtly racist tantrums, including his latest slander of Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley, is frankly stupefying). What this question fails to address is the far more unsettling matter of why, through our inaction and that of our political leadership, we allow him to remain in office when constitutional mechanisms exist to remove him. And yet, even if Trump were successfully ousted, I cannot help wonder if this would be the equivalent of turning off a body-cam so that we can once again indulge our perpetual state of denial, for in the absence of political will directed at eliminating the systemic sources of our dysfunction, changes at the top of the hate chain will only be cosmetic and placatory.

Psychology Stories: Children

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Photograph Source: diario fotográfico ‘desde Palestina’ – CC BY-SA 3.0

The majesty and burning of the child’s death…. After the first death, there is no other.

– Dylan Thomas

The sniper who shot at Muhammad the child
Beneath his father’s arm
Wasn’t acting alone

– Aharon Shabtai, J’Accuse

If you are overcome by the horrific crimes against the humanity of children and then wonder how this can be, it may help to understand stories that adults tell children in their day-to-day lives. What kinds of core beliefs justify so much atrocity? My understanding comes in part from psychoanalytic work with children and adults. There are countless children’s stories, but I will focus here on Roger Hargreaves’ Little Miss Helpful and compare it to the Hobans’ A Birthday for Frances, and then touch on Israeli filmmaker Avi Mograbi’s revelatory documentary about the Masada and Samson heroic suicide terrorism stories told to Israeli children as they grow up.

Normalizing the pathological is a counterpart to the practice of “Pathologizing Kids”, written about recently by Martha Rosenberg’s Counterpunch article.

Little Miss Helpful is part of a 130 book series of Little Miss and Mr. Men pocket-sized, inexpensive books published by Penguin-Random House and promoted as one of the best-selling children’s books of all time. According to the Wikipedia, the books sold “100 million worldwide across 28 countries”. The illustrations are basically one-dimensional emoticons with heads and bodies blended in one big bubble. There is no separation or intercession between a thinking head and acting body. The stories give no impression that there is an inner life of thinking, feeling, or sensing.

“Little Miss” is a caricature, not a character. “Little Miss” is a cute and sarcastic term. “Little Miss Helpful was one of those people who loves to help other people, but who ends up helping nobody. Do you know what I mean?” The story goes from one slapstick incident to another, with physical pain being funny but never conveyed as painful, dangerous, or shaming. Every attempt to help turns into a silly mess, and Little Miss Helpful learns nothing and is never regretful or empathic. The explicit moral: Helping is Ridiculous. In some of the other books, the presenting problem is fixed by magic or resolved when Little Miss or Mr. Man is humored by Mr. Happy’s positive thinking. Do these stories distill the worldview of capitalism?

In contrast, A Birthday for Frances shows how a little girl can struggle and even change when confronted with some of the knottiest of human problems. It is Frances’ little sister’s birthday, and Frances must deal with her own jealousy, resentment, rationalizations, and her all-or-nothing belief about the distribution of desirable goods.

“Your [my] birthday is always the one that is not now”. The characters are possums but the illustrations depict subtleties of many emotions. Frances’ parents are parental, neither matriarchal nor patriarchal, and they sense when to offer help and when to step aside as they infuse a sense of proportion and reality to Frances. Frances draws mean pictures and relishes being witch-like. Both sisters remember mean things they’ve done to each other. Frances experiences psychological conflict: she cries as she does, and does not want to give her sister a present. She does buy with her own money a gift that she knows her sister will like – a chocolate “Chompo” bar, something she would love to eat too. She struggles with holding on to it, giving it a ‘Squeeze” as she is finally able to give it to her sister. There is no magic in this story. Their mother comments on how wishes to settle conflicts is “a special kind of good wish that can make itself come true.” And Frances is able to say to her sister “You can eat it all, because you are the birthday girl”. Frances is a child who is already quite a full person: she loves words and she makes up rhymes, songs, and expressive stories in the process of knowing herself.

The Mograbi documentary Avenge But One of My Two Eyes shows ways that adults clearly indoctrinate children with stories. Mograbi films parents, teachers, religious and military leaders depicting the Samson and Masada stories in compellingly exciting, frightening, and seductive ways that tap specifically into the various anxieties at different phases of development. The adult story-tellers conflate fiction and reality: a father graphically describes to his very young children how “Samson The Hero” disgorged and mutilated a lion, dramatizing how sadism is the key to security. A group of older teens, as part of their military training, hear about heroic Masada leaders and are asked what they would do if under siege by an occupying force, and without hesitation or any hint of irony, the majority said they would commit kamikaze acts against the military occupiers. A religious leader whips up sexualized frenzy as he conflates ancient Philistines with modern Palestinians.

I presented a detailed analysis of this film at the 2008 Gaza Community Mental Health Programme/World Health Organization “Building Bridges” meeting held just before Operation Cast Lead erupted against Gaza.i The telling of the stories evokes unquestioning admiration of powerful authority when children are beginning to form their own values; guides press for loyalty to the group at a time when teens waver between individual and group identity. The stark outcome is that these children and adolescents identify with historic victimhood as an entitlement to be grandiose aggressors like Samson or the Massada leaders.

A different and respectful message comes from Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who “A person’s a person no matter how small.”

The Coal Industry is Not a Major Employer

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Photograph Source: Surface coal mining in Wyoming – Public Domain

The NYT had a column by Eliza Griswold talking about the prospect of job loss in coal mining areas due to efforts to restrict greenhouse gas emissions. While it is often traumatic for workers to lose jobs, especially long-held jobs, it is important to realize that relatively few jobs are at stake in the coal mining industry.

For example, in Pennsylvania, one of the states mentioned in the piece, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are now 5,000 coal mining jobs in the state. The state has over 6 million workers, which means that coal mining accounts for roughly 0.08 percent of employment in the state.

Kentucky has 5,800 jobs in coal mining, with total employment of 1,950,000. That comes to a bit more than 0.3 percent of total employment.

Even in West Virginia, the heart of coal country, there are only 23,000 jobs in coal mining out of a total of 740,000 jobs. This comes to a bit more than 3.0 percent of total employment.

In all three states there were sharp drops in employment in the industry in the past, which drastically reduced the importance of coal mining employment.

It is a bit peculiar that the earlier declines in coal mining employment, which were primarily due to productivity growth (specifically, replacing underground mining with strip mining — a policy often opposed by environmentalists), received relatively little attention in the media or from politicians.

By contrast, the prospect of considerably smaller future declines due to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is drawing extensive attention.

Corporate Gangster: Adani’s Pursuit of Scientists

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The Adani conglomerate should be best described as a bloated gangster, promising the earth even as it mines it. Like other corporate thugs of such disposition, it will do things within, and if necessary outside, the regulatory framework it encounters. Where necessary, it will libel detractors and bribe critics, speak of a fictional number of as yet non-existent jobs, and claim that it is green in its coaling practices. It will also hire legal firms claiming to be trained attack dogs and hector the national broadcaster to pull unflattering stories from publication and discussion.

As a marauder of the environment, the Indian mining giant has left little to chance. It has politicians friendly to its cause in Australia at both the state and federal level, but it faces an environmental movement that refuses to dissipate. It also has a problem with environmental science, particularly in the area of water management. Conditional approvals have been secured, albeit hurried in the aftermath of May’s federal election, and even here, further testing will have to be done.

Given the inconveniences posed by scientists wedded to methodology and technique, the company did not surprise in freedom of information findings by the environmental group Lock the Gate that it had asked the federal environment department for “a list of each person from CSIRO and Geoscience Australia involved in the review” of the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan (GDEMP) and Groundwater Monitoring and Management Plan (GMMP).

In a bullying note to the Department of Environment and Energy (DOEE) in January 25 this year, Hamish Manzi, head of the company’s environment and sustainability branch officiously gave a five day limit to the request, claiming that it “simply wants to know who is involved in the review to provide it with peace of mind that it is being treated fairly and that the review will not be hijacked by activists with a political, as opposed to scientific, agenda.” Manzi had noted “recent press coverage regarding an anti-coal and/or anti-Adani bias potentially held by experts reviewing other Adani approvals.” For Manzi, the only expert worthy of that name would have to be sympathetic to the mining cause.

The corporate instinct is rarely on all fours with that of the scientific one. The former seeks the accumulation of assets, profits and dividends; the latter tests hypotheses using a falsification system, a process that can only ever have fidelity to itself. The corporate instinct is happy to forget troubling scientific outcomes, and, where necessary, corrupt it for its ends. Where the science does not match, it is obviously the work of ill-motivated activists or those inconvenienced by conscience.

The Union of Concerned Scientists in February 2012, through its Scientific Integrity Program, supplied readers with a list of fields where science, and scientists, have been attacked or compromised. More importantly, it notes how governments become the subject of influence, their decisions ever vulnerable to wobbling. “Corporations attempt to exert influence at every step of the scientific and policy-making processes, often to shape decisions in their favour or avoid regulation and monitoring of their products and by-products at the public’s expense. In so doing, they often attempt to fundamentally alter the decision-making process.”

The methods of corrupting science are not exhaustive, but the UCS report suggests a view tried ones. Research, for instance, is either held up by the company in question or terminated. Scientists are intimidated or coerced through threats to job security, defunding and litigation. Defective methodologies in testing and research are embraced. Scientific articles are ghost written, with corporate sponsorship blurred. Negative results are slyly underreported; positive results are glowingly celebrated. And never forget good old fashioned vilification.

The FOI documents regarding Adani’s conduct show the company as a witchdoctor wooing the federal government into timed releases of information and an obsession with preventing a broader public discussion of findings. A January 9 email from Adani to DOEE demanded that CSIRO/GA reports not be circulated to third parties or the public. The next day, the department obligingly informed the company that it would only share advice with Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science.

The uncovered documents also show a certain degree of cyber stalking at play. On January 15, a staff member of Geoscience Australia wrote to DOEE expressing concern that the company had viewed LinkedIn profiles of employees. Such concerns did little to ruffle the growing accord between the department and the company.

The abdication of government to the corporate sector is one of the more troubling features of this tawdry chapter in Australian non-governance. Corporate giants know they must enlist the support of representatives who they can trust to be of sound mind. History is replete with successful lobbying efforts in the name of corrupted science.

In 2007, ReGen Biologics, a New Jersey company, faced a sceptical Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concerned with Menaflex, a device intended to replace knee cartilage. With the FDA’s rejection came a mobilisation effort. Politicians were sought and cultivated. In December that year, Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, and Rep. Steve Rothman all wrote to FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach. The Commissioner’s ear had been bended sufficiently to lead to a new review headed by Dr Daniel Schultz, head of the FDA’s medical devices division. Scepticism vanished; the product was approved. In 2010, a shamefaced FDA had to concede that it had erred and duly revoked approval.

Instead of defending practices of departments and professionals engaged in the task of assessing the merits of such ventures, individuals such as the Australian deputy prime minister suggest that Adani might have a point in is heavy-handed enthusiasm to root out contrarians. In Michael McCormack’s view, Adani “were made to jump through more environmental hoops than perhaps any previous project in the nation.” They merely “wanted to determine… that those arguing against their proposals were not just some quasi anti-development groups or individuals.” The thug’s narrative has found a home in the hearts of the anti-scientific representatives that currently rule the Canberra roost. Scientists have been warned.

National Polls Don’t Mean Much. Here’s Why.

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“Here we go with the Fake Polls,” President Donald Trump tweeted on July 15.  “Just like what happened with the Election against Crooked Hillary Clinton.” He’s complaining about several polls that show him losing the national popular vote to various Democratic presidential aspirants, in some cases by double digits.

He has a point. In 2016, most polls showed Hillary Clinton winning handily and most Americans seem surprised when Trump emerged victorious.

On the other hand, Trump’s future isn’t quite as indisputably bright as he’d have you believe.

We’re looking at two separate problems.

The first problem is the false perception that there’s a “national popular vote” or, concomitantly, “winning nationally.” There isn’t.

The second problem is that in recent years polling techniques just haven’t produced very accurate results.

First, the “national popular vote”:  Hillary Clinton received more votes nationwide than Trump did in 2016, but lost the election because  all of each state’s electoral votes go to the winner of the popular vote in that state (except Nebraska and Maine, which apportion their electoral votes by congressional district). A narrow win in a state gets you exactly as many electoral votes as a landslide and vice versa.

Clinton won California, beating Trump by more than 4 million votes. Clinton received nearly 3 million more votes than Trump nationwide. But Trump racked up 304 electoral votes to her 227 with small-margin wins in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Nationally, the election turned on fewer than 80,000 individual votes in those last three states.

That’s how it works. A “national” poll can’t tell us who will win a presidential election because it doesn’t capture the relevant data.

Second, the problem with polling as such: Pollsters are having a harder time identifying and reaching representative samples of likely voters who willingly share their preferences.

In 2016, I predicted (six months in advance) that Trump would win Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Friends told me I was crazy to think he’d win any of those states. He won them all — and with them, the election.

My formula for predicting the outcome those states was simple: I believed that any state in which Clinton didn’t enjoy at least a 5% polling advantage would go for Trump, because Trump was  activating a demographic — rural Republicans — that was going to turn out at much higher than usual levels but that pollsters weren’t reaching.

What’s Trump’s 2020 problem? A few tens of thousands of Democratic votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and possibly Florida would enough to reverse the Electoral College outcome.

In 2016, Trump was at the top of his turnout game and the Democrats were at the bottom of theirs. He has nowhere to go but down. They have nowhere to go but up.

My prediction: Trump won’t win any states in 2020 that he didn’t win in 2016. The question is how many states (and thus how many electoral votes) the Democratic nominee can wrench from his grasp. Two would be enough, if one of them is Florida. Without Florida, it would take three.

It’s closer than it looks, folks.

Africans Solving African Problems; Bringing Peace to Sudan

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The recent peace deal being implemented in Sudan was brokered by African leaders without any interference or even input by non African players ie the UN or western countries. As a matter of fact the deal was made in Asmara, Eritrea where the head of the Sudanese military that had overthrown the long time despot Omar Al Bashir sat down for two days with Eritrean mediators, agreed to the deal, flew back to Khartoum and announced the deal a few hours later.

No western “input”, no UN involvement, actually no African Union involvement to speak of, though the AU spokesperson was allowed to make the public announcement of the peace deal.

Just like the last, hopefully, South Sudan peace deal, the only one that has been pretty much successful, the road to peace in the Horn of Africa once again ran through Asmara. And not one so called “expert” in matters African has pointed out the obvious, that it was only a few hours after returning from Eritrea that the deal was announced.

Say something positive about a “socialist country”, Eritrea? They all seem to know how NOT to bite the hand that feeds them. Nothing positive can be said about Eritrea, no ways no how. Never mind that peace has descended on Sudan, or at least the capital Khartoum, and it arrived on the wings of a jet direct from Asmara.

So once again, as in the case of Ethiopia’s “Peaceful Revolution”, peace has broken out in the Horn of Africa, or at least a major step in that direction, and credit must be given to those who deserve it, the leadership of Eritrea. It’s a matter of Africans solving African problems, the only way real, durable peace anywhere on the continent will be obtained.

History Is Happening: WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate

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Nozomi Hayase dedicated WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate: History Is Happening to “the youth who grew up on the Internet,” then added, “The future of civilization depends on great acts of courage inspired by the heart.” Hayase is a psychologist, essayist, and activist, and her book is a chronological collection of her essays about WikiLeaks, written from 2010 to 2017. It’s a thought- provoking look back at how WikiLeaks made history during these years by publishing leaked documents that exposed the malfeasance of governments from Russia to Australia and most famously that of the US State Department, Pentagon, and Democratic National Committee. Since 2018, I have joined Hayase in a number of actions to defend WikiLeaks and call for the freedom of Julian Assange.

She and I both live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and share the experience of riding Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the subway and aboveway that connects its far corners and urban centers. In Chapter 3 she writes, “Even though I have no interest in sports and don’t know much about them, I know when the games are on, as I experience immediate changes in the familiar scenery of my commute. Whenever there is a game, the station is transformed into a kind of zoo, or maybe a shopping mall. The train is packed with people wearing uniforms and San Francisco Giants [or Golden State Warriors, Oakland As, Oakland Raiders, or San Francisco 49ers] hats. The people are filled with excitement, finding kindred spirits and sharing cheers for their team.”

I do take interest in one sport, basketball, and one Bay Area team, the Golden State Warriors. Sometimes I even join a rowdy crowd cheering for the Warriors in a local sports bar during the NBA playoffs. However, I’m well aware that it’s a cheap thrill, a short-lived, faux community or, less charitably, tribalism. What would I share with these fellow rowdies before or after a Warriors’ playoff game?  And besides, the players aren’t hometown boys; they’re hired guns who work for billionaires and bring in billions in corporate advertising, broadcast rights, and merchandise sales. Asian sweatshop labor is the grim reality behind all their Nike advertisements and player endorsements.

So the morning after I always ask myself, as Hayase does, “What would be possible if all those people who had crammed into the train to go see the game went out onto the street and expressed grievances toward the actions of their government?”

That’s not a wholly unfamiliar experience here. In the run-up to the Gulf War, tens of thousands of protestors filled the streets of San Francisco, blocked both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, and covered large parts of downtown with anti-war graffiti. Thousands surged at the Federal Building, including ACT UP and Queer Nation activists chanting, “We’re here! We’re queer!” Greenpeace joined in, and I remember marching behind a group of young African Americans chanting, “Martin Luther King! Martin Luther King!” One night I climbed up some construction scaffolding to watch a march that ended in a spontaneous, illegal bonfire in downtown San Francisco where we were all chanting, “Fuck the deadline!” (The deadline that the first President George Bush had given to Saddam Hussein.)

In the 2003 run-up to the Iraq War, people traveled from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and more to make the anti-war march through San Francisco the largest on the West Coast. The almost successful campaign to make Matt Gonzalez the Mayor of San Francisco created another intense, thrilling, but once again short-lived sense of community, as did the 2011 Occupy Oakland marches and general assemblies. Looking back one could cite the huge anti-Vietnam War protests in San Francisco, and the massive outpourings over the assassination of Mayor George Moscone, the last progressive mayor of San Francisco, and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California. Protestors filled the streets with silence and candles, then with rage—the White Night Riots—after their coldblooded killer, Dan White, was sentenced to a mere seven years.

None of these movements had the institutional foundations that the pro sports spectacles have for staying alive to enrich the oligarchy and distract the masses. Only a few NGO professionals were paid, meagerly, to continue the struggle. Nevertheless, those uprisings were like light breaking through clouds of apathy, alienation, loneliness, cynicism, desperation, and drudgery. People spoke freely and relished the thrill of joining a community of equals united behind a single goal.

Nozomi Hayase recounts many liberatory moments like these, damns the oppression and exploitation that inspire them, and considers the role that WikiLeaks played in them. “April 2010 was a typical spring day in San Francisco,” she begins. “The world I knew was about to change. The WikiLeaks publication of the ‘Collateral Murder’ video became an international sensation. The cruel scenery in an Iraqi suburb viewed from a US military helicopter gunsight was laid bare for the whole world to see.”

As part of the WikiLeaks movement and the movement to free Assange, Hayase heralds its basic creed—borrowed from Jeff Bezos’s specious Washington Post—that “democracy dies in darkness.” Those who do evil, who rob, bomb, and devastate entire populations, conspire behind doors in corporate boardrooms, government offices, lavish estates, and extravagant global gatherings like the Bilderberg Conference and the World Trade Organization. Their plans are hidden in corporate and classified documents, as are the consequences, but WikiLeaks made it possible for whistleblowers to expose them anonymously.

The organization has never been compelled to retract a publication, and it has never busted a source. (Chelsea Manning confided in an unstable and untrustworthy online connection who turned her in for leaking the Iraq War Logs, the Afghanistan War Diaries, and the US diplomatic cables.) Cryptocurrency has secured the donations that keep WikiLeaks alive, even after Paypal and all the banks and credit card companies moved to cut them off.

Because of WikiLeaks’ ingenious distributed technology, no army or intelligence agency has been able to destroy its searchable archives of well over 10 million leaked documents, including video and audio recordings. Sites using WikiLeaks technology and sharing its goals have proliferated.

Hayase quotes Julian Assange speaking to the Splendour in the Grass Festival in 2011:

“This generation is burning the mass media to the ground. We’re reclaiming our rights to own history. We are ripping open secret archives from Washington to Cairo. We are reclaiming our rights to share ourselves and our times with each other, to be the agents and writers of our own history. We don’t know yet exactly where we are but we can see where we’re going.”

Then Hayase herself writes:

“The economic and political events seemed to be saying outwardly that justice is losing and greed is winning. Is it too late? It’s too early to say. WikiLeaks released material, pushing the ball across the centerline. We need to move it further forward. First, those who are willing to do the research and journalistic work need to do the heavy lifting of the material to tell the stories. Then lawyers and those who are driven by justice need to dig into the evidence of crimes and create a case. All the while, artists around the world sing and speak freely to enliven the cultural sphere, cultivating compassion that makes it possible for us to share the suffering of the world. Together, all this can bring justice into the court of public opinion.”

It’s a beautiful vision, but it raises the question, “Can we recruit the people-power?” Do we have enough journalists willing to do the research and “the heavy lifting of the material to tell the stories”? If so, do they have outlets with a wide enough audience? Do we have the lawyers to dig into the evidence of crimes and create a case? That seems unlikely unless they’ve been assigned to a case about crimes exposed by WikiLeaks or to cases in which WikiLeaks can serve as evidence.

I have written at least ten stories about truths exposed by a single WikiLeaks document or by a collection of them, and these stories are extremely time- consuming. I’ve been paid for some, but the pay works out to so little per hour that I can hardly call it working.

In many cases, I am able to see the significance of particular WikiLeaks only because I have already spent considerable time studying their context. I’m working on a piece about WikiLeaks that reveal decades-long Western designs on Burundi’s nickel reserves, and I understand their significance only because I’ve been following the East/West tug-of-war over those nickel reserves for the past five years.

Browsing through batches of WikiLeaks, I’ve come across a number of other stories I could write, many of them less obscure, but they will take more time than I can find in the foreseeable future. Before closing down the Edward Snowden archives, Glenn Greenwald said that the Intercept had stopped producing stories about them in part because they take so much time. The “Collateral Murder” video is immediately gut-wrenching, but few other documents reveal so much so readily.

Nevertheless, stories about particular WikiLeaks are being published, academics are citing or writing whole books around them, and WikiLeaks are being submitted as evidence in courts.

The most pressing question right now is the fate of Julian Assange. Will he be extradited to the US, tried in secret, and thrown in prison for life? There’s little chance of success in the British court where the judge accused Assange of being a narcissist before sentencing him to an unprecedented 50 weeks for skipping bail. She has ruled against him in earlier cases brought by his defense team, and she refuses to recuse herself despite conflicts of interest posed by her husband’s military industrial engagements. The greatest hope seems to lie in an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, but despite its formal commitment to objectivity, success seems unlikely without a mass movement to free Assange. A protest of 20,000, the number who typically pack basketball arenas, or the 100,000 who typically pack soccer or football stadiums, would jump-start a movement that would be hard to turn back, but how likely is that? How many of the millions who took to the streets to try to stop the Iraq War will take any action in support of the man who did so much to expose its cruelty?

If Assange is convicted of espionage for publishing classified documents, the walls will close in on the freedom of speech and press, and on the transparency movement’s promise to expose the sociopaths who conspire to impoverish, exploit, and destroy us in their drive for ever greater wealth and power. Our destruction, at this point, is just “collateral damage.”

Don’t Open the Door 

Counterpunch Articles -

Don’t Open the Door 

When the knock came at the door for
A second
I thought about a man: Davino Watson
A US citizen
Locked up for forty-one months by ICE
Over 3 years
Of his life lost. For what? A clerical error
Or clerical terror
And then about Bello, the Bakersfield poet
Targeted by ICE
and locked up for reading his critical verse

So, when the unexpected knock came
at the door
At first I froze
Just me at home and my two-year-old
And now we all know,
And it’s no exaggeration,
That ICE tortures children,
And rapes them,
and kills them.

The knocker, however,
Was only the super
As it turned out,
This time.

 

Trump Hits a New Low . . . Again

Mother Jones Magazine -

Were tonight’s Trump-led chants of “send her back” at a rally in North Carolina a new low for our president? Sure, probably. But Trump hits a “new low” about once every month or so. As a public service and a walk down memory lane, here’s a very non-exhaustive list of things that have been called new lows for Trump over the past few years. Enjoy.

2015

July 20: Attacks John McCain for being a POW.

November 13: Compares Ben Carson to child molester.

November 21: Proposes Muslim registry.

November 23: Retweets claim that 81 percent of white people are killed by blacks.

November 26: Mocks a reporter’s disability.

December 8: Calls for ban on Muslim entry.

2016

March 8: Defends his penis size in nationally televised debate.

March 23: Attacks Ted Cruz’s wife.

March 30: Says that women who get abortions should be punished.

May 3: Suggests that Ted Cruz’s father killed JFK.

June 3: Attacks federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel.

July 27: Asks Russia to please find and release Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 emails.

August 1: Says that Khizr Khan had “sacrificed nothing and no one.”

August 10: Suggests his supporters might want to shoot Hillary Clinton.

October 8: “Grab ’em by the pussy” tape.

October 12: More women accuse Trump of sexual assault.

October 19: Invites President Obama’s estranged half-brother to final debate.

2017

February 22: Attacks transgender children.

March 4: Accuses Obama of tapping his wires.

June 29: Accuses Mika Brzezinski of “bleeding badly from a face-lift” during a New Year’s party.

July 2: Retweets video of CNN being attacked.

August 15: Suggests that there were “very fine people on both sides” at Charlottesville.

September 30: Attacks mayor of San Juan after Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico.

October 13: Ends Obamacare cost-sharing program.

November 29: Retweets three anti-Muslim videos from the leader of an extremist British group.

2018

January 12: Shithole countries.

June 8: Begins separating children from their parents at the border.

July 5: Insists on meeting with Vladimir Putin with no one else present.

September 13: Says the 3,000 dead from Hurricane Maria is “fake news” invented by Democrats.

October 18: After murder of Jamal Khashoggi, reminds everyone that Saudi Arabia is a good customer.

October 19: Calls Stormy Daniels “horseface.”

October 19: Applauds Rep. Greg Gianforte’s body slam of a reporter.

November 1: Runs racist ad just before midterm elections.

November 7: Suspends CNN reporter Jim Acosta.

November 12: As wildfires are raging, threatens to cut off federal aid to California unless they change their “forest management” practices.

December 29: Says any deaths of children along the border are strictly the fault of the Democrats.

2019

February 9: Mocks native American genocide.

March 8: Accuses Democrats of being the “anti-Jewish party.”

March 20: Attacks John McCain yet again.

May 24: Retweets doctored video of Nancy Pelosi.

July 11: Attacks British prime minister Theresa May.

July 14: Tells Democratic congresswomen to go back where they came from.

Why North Korea May Relinquish Its Nukes

AntiWar.com News -

The assumption that North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons, no matter the security guarantees or economic incentives, may finally be put to the test according to a report that the Trump administration is considering a groundbreaking diplomatic proposal to end its decades-long commitment to maximum pressure. Based on comments from an unidentified … Continue reading "Why North Korea May Relinquish Its Nukes"

The post Why North Korea May Relinquish Its Nukes appeared first on Antiwar.com Original.

Who Killed Oscar and Valeria: The Inconvenient History of the Refugee Crisis

AntiWar.com News -

History never truly retires. Every event of the past, however inconsequential, reverberates throughout and, to an extent, shapes our present, and our future as well The haunting image of the bodies of Salvadoran father, Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter, Valeria, who were washed ashore at a riverbank on the Mexico-US border cannot be … Continue reading "Who Killed Oscar and Valeria: The Inconvenient History of the Refugee Crisis"

The post Who Killed Oscar and Valeria: The Inconvenient History of the Refugee Crisis appeared first on Antiwar.com Original.

Five Men Sentenced to Life for Operation Condor Killings Trained at School of the Americas

AntiWar.com News -

Five of the 24 men sentenced last week by an Italian court to life in prison for their roles in a brutal and bloody US-backed Cold War campaign against South American dissidents graduated from a notorious US Army school once known for teaching torture, assassination and democracy suppression. On July 8 judges in Rome’s Court … Continue reading "Five Men Sentenced to Life for Operation Condor Killings Trained at School of the Americas"

The post Five Men Sentenced to Life for Operation Condor Killings Trained at School of the Americas appeared first on Antiwar.com Original.

Trump’s Rally Seals It: “Send Her Back” Is the Official Position of the GOP

Mother Jones Magazine -

Near the beginning of his campaign rally Wednesday evening, Donald Trump let loose a string of insults and smears against the four congresswomen of color who he’d previously said should “go back” to the countries they came from. All four lawmakers—Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts—are US citizens. All but Omar, who emigrated from war-torn Somalia as a child, were born here. Omar and Tlaib went on to become the first Muslim women to serve in Congress.

But Trump and his adoring fans in Greenville, North Carolina, don’t think these members of Congress qualify as Americans. As the president did his best to link Omar to Islamic terrorists, the crowd broke into a chant of “Send her back, send her back.” Trump paused his speech and basked in the moment. He seemed to realize he’d hit upon this election’s version of the infamous “Lock her up” chant. Once in office, Trump attempted to follow through on his 2016 campaign rhetoric about sending Hillary Clinton to prison. He and his supporters have now singled out Omar as their new enemy, one whose very presence in the country they view as illegitimate. 

Crowd at tonight's Trump rally in North Carolina breaks out into chants of "Send her back!" as the president attacks Rep. Ilhan Omar pic.twitter.com/0q5L39W61h

— Jon Passantino (@passantino) July 17, 2019

It was an appalling moment, but not a particularly surprising one. From the beginning, Trump has made it clear that he doesn’t want people like Omar in the country. On the campaign trail in 2015, he called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Days before the election, he flew to Omar’s home city of Minneapolis and criticized the “large numbers of Somali refugees coming into your state.” Once in office, Trump issued a travel ban barring visas for people from Somalia.

In his speech, Trump blasted Omar and her colleagues for daring to criticize his administration. “If they don’t love it, tell them to leave it,” the president said—though he added that “they can come back.”

Trump also took time to praise North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, a right-wing congressman with a history that is particularly relevant to the Republican Party’s embrace of the “send her back” theme. On the stump in 2012, Meadows declared that “we are going to send Mr. Obama home to Kenya or wherever it is”—a reference to the racist birther smear that Trump helped popularize.

Meadows was one of 187 Republicans to vote against condemning Trump’s racist tweets this week. Just four Republicans voted for the resolution. Fifty-seven percent of Republican respondents who were familiar with the president’s “go back” comments said they agreed with them, according to a USA Today Ipsos poll. The party has made its position clear: Progressive people of color should leave the country.

Most Americans disagree, however. The same poll found that 68 percent thought that Trump’s comments were “offensive,” and 59 percent called them “un-American.”

Explosive Photos Capture Puerto Ricans Taking to the Streets to Demand the Governor’s Resignation

Mother Jones Magazine -

Thousands of Puerto Ricans took to the streets this week calling for the resignation of the island’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló. The protests were ignited when the island’s Center for Investigative Journalism published nearly 900 pages of text messages full of misogynistic and homophobic comments shared between Rosselló and his advisers. The scandal, dubbed #TelegramGate and #RickyLeaks online, comes less than two weeks after the FBI arrested six former members of the Rosselló administration on fraud-related charges.

Starting on Monday, Puerto Ricans who were fed up with up with government corruption and neglect organized demonstrations in San Juan and in cities throughout the world, including New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and Madrid. In less than a week, the hashtag #RickyRenuncia (#RickyResign) has been posted nearly twenty-five thousand times on Instagram alone. On Wednesday, #RickyVeteYa was trending on Twitter. On Tuesday, Rosselló announced he would not be resigning from his post, stating: “I have not committed any illegal acts, or corrupt acts. I committed an improper act.” Two members of Rosselló’s cabinet have resigned.

Prominent Puerto Rican artists like Ricky Martin (who was mentioned in the leaked text messages), Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daddy Yankee, and Latin Trap star Bad Bunny have all taken to social media to support the protests. Bad Bunny dropped a protest song following the scandal. “Y que se enteren todos los continente’ / Que Ricardo Rosselló es un incompetente / Homofóbico, embustero, delincuente / A ti nadie te quiere, ni tu propia gente. (And let all of the continent know / that Ricardo Rosselló is an incompetent / homophobic, lying, delinquent / no one wants you, not even your own people),” he rapped. “I want to pay my respects to all the people who have always had the bravery, courage and initiative to go out into the streets and fight for the sake of our country,” he said in a video posted on Instagram. On Wednesday, Martin and Bad Bunny were both said to be in attendance at another protest march in San Juan.

Last week I reported on the history of a black and white version of the Puerto Rican flag, which has come to be known as the resistance flag. As I wrote:

Today, many Puerto Ricans feel suffocated by the island’s social and economic crisis. The population is rapidly dwindling, schools are closing en masse, entire communities have no access to hospitals, and 44 percent of people live in poverty. 

The flag is “used as a symbol of resistance to colonialism,” explains Jorell A. Melendez-Badillo, a historian of Latin America and the Caribbean at Dartmouth College. The resistance flag could be seen flying high during this week’s protests in San Juan, as you’ll note in some of the photos below.

Crowds gather in San Juan, as protesters call for Governor Rosselló’s resignation.

Thais Llorca/ ZUMA Press

A sign at the San Juan protest states: “abuser,” “inept,” “misogynist,” “homophobe,” and “assassin.” 

Thais Llorca/ ZUMA Press

A protester holds up a sign that translates to: “the people do not want you.”

Thais Llorca/ ZUMA Press

A woman waves the black and white resistance flag in front of La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion in San Juan. 

Thais Llorca/ ZUMA Press

A protester waves the official flag of Puerto Rico, which was once banned by the insular government for nearly a decade. 

El Nuevo Dias / ZUMA Press

A protestor stands opposite a wall of police at a demonstration against Rosselló. 

El Nuevo Dias / ZUMA Press

The protest against Rosselló turn violent as night falls.

Luis Alcala Del Olmo/ Zuma Press 

Hundreds of Protesters Just Flooded the Streets of New York in Blistering Heat to Protest the Eric Garner Case

Mother Jones Magazine -

One day after Attorney General William Barr declined to bring federal charges against the police officer who killed Eric Garner, hundreds of protesters gathered in New York City to demand that Officer Daniel Pantaleo be held accountable.

Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, addressed a crowd of about 300 in Foley Square. “My son was killed five years ago today, and I’m still feeling that same pain,” she said, pausing between sentences to allow the crowd, acting as a sort-of microphone, to repeat her words back. “I just appreciate your support that I’m getting from all of you. This makes my heart smile. But especially the youth. You are the ones that are usually the target. We can’t let that be the norm. You deserve the chance to walk these streets like anyone else.”

 

Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother, addressed protesters on July 17, 2019, the fifth anniversary of her son’s death.

Sam Van Pykeren

Garner, an unarmed black man, died after Pantaleo held him down using an illegal chokehold maneuver. Police officers were in the process of arresting Garner on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes in 2014. Garner’s last words were famously “I can’t breathe,” which has become a powerful rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Despite the blistering heat Wednesday, protesters huddled close together, raising signs that read “STILL CAN’T BREATHE” and “WE ARE ERIC GARNER,” and chanting, “Black lives, they matter here.” Carr and members of local youth activist organizations pleaded with the city to fire the officers involved in Garner’s death, while New York police officers stood calmly by, watching at the fringes of the crowd. Then Carr, followed by men carrying a mock casket bearing Eric Garner’s name, led the crowd on a march around City Hall and toward the New York Police Department headquarters, about a quarter mile away. All the while, marchers wiped sweat from their brows and chanted “No justice, no peace” and “Hey hey, ho ho, racist cops have got to go.”

Most of those marching were affiliated with criminal justice activist organizations, and many said they felt that Pantaleo was not adequately punished for his role in Garner’s death.

Alexis Silva, a 25-year-old Amnesty International staffer, was born and raised in New York and said that she has seen the disproportionate policing of black and brown communities firsthand, as she has always lived in disenfranchised communities with a heavy police presence. “I truly believe that [the police’s] main and only goal in the United States is to uphold the Constitution, which does not protect black and brown people,” she said. “Therefore, they are state-sanctioned murderers.”

 

Alexis Silva holds at sign at a protest against police brutality.

Sam Van Pykeren

Zoë Hopkins, a 19-year-old student and activist, said that Garner’s death inspired her to work toward prison abolition. “I’m yelling and I’m screaming and I’m here in the streets because I need to demand justice for my people and for all those murdered by the police,” she said.

Zoë Hopkins holding at sign in the crowds protesting Eric Garner’s case.

Sam Van Pykeren

Lillian Forman, 83, has been attending various civil rights rallies since the 1970s. As the protesters marched toward the New York Police Department headquarters Wednesday afternoon, Forman, a volunteer with an anti-Trump political organization called Refuse Fascism, hung at the back of the crowd.

“I can’t believe that a citizen was killed by police for selling cigarettes,” she said. “I can’t believe that happened.”

Lillian Forman joins a group of protesters marching toward NYPD headquarters.

Sam Van Pykeren

Aya Messaoudi, a 21-year-old Moroccan immigrant and member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, said that she has been rallying against police violence since she moved to the US in 2014, around the time of the Ferguson protests. “Every single reform hasn’t given justice to anyone,” she said.

Aya Messaoudi brings up the rear of a group of protesters marching toward NYPD headquarters.

Sam Van Pykeren

Marvin Knight, a 76-year-old retired security and shipping clerk, said he thought that President Donald Trump was responsible for Barr’s decision not to prosecute Pantaleo with federal civil rights charges. When asked how the police’s treatment of people of color has changed over his more than 50 years as a New York City resident, Knight replied, “Not at all.”

Marvin Knight displays the sign he made Wednesday morning in anticipation of the afternoon’s protest.

Sam Van Pykeren

Do You Know Where Your Barycenter Is?

Mother Jones Magazine -

As you undoubtedly already know, being the scholars and gentlepeople that you are, the moon does not precisely revolve around the earth. Its mass is so big relative to the earth that the two of them revolve jointly around each other. It looks something like this:

The red cross at the center of the two-body system is called the barycenter. The solar system has a barycenter too, largely because of the influence of Jupiter, and the barycenter moves around relative to the sun in a complex pattern that looks like this:

A new paper in Scientific Reports by V. V. Zharkova, S. J. Shepherd, S. I. Zharkov and E. Popova explains what this means for climate change:

Since the Sun moves around the solar system barycenter…then the distances to its perihelion will be 1.47 × 108 km and to it aphelion 1.52 × 108 km. The solar inertial motion means for the Earth that the distance between the Sun and the Earth has to significantly change (up to 0.02 of a.u) at the extreme positions of SIM, and so does the average solar irradiance, which is inversely proportional to the squared distance between the Sun and Earth.

….If the Sun moves in its SIM closer to Earth’s aphelion (position 1) decreasing the Earth orbit eccentricity and to the autumn equinox as it is happening in the current millennium starting from Maunder Minimum, then the distance between Sun and Earth at the aphelion will become shorter approaching 1.49 × 108 km during the summer in the Northern and winter in the Southern hemispheres, and longer at the perihelion approaching 1.50 × 108, or during a winter in the Northern and summer in the Southern hemispheres. Hence, at this SIM position of the Sun, the Earth in aphelion should receive higher solar irradiance (and temperature) during the Northern hemisphere summers and Southern hemisphere winters….This is what happening in the terrestrial temperature in the current millennium starting since Maunder minimum and lasting until ≈2600.

Thanks to the sun’s movement around the solar system’s barycenter, its distance to the earth changes on a cycle lasting about 2200 years, with smaller cycles of about 200 years embedded within the larger one. Thus, the earth has been warming since 1500 AD and will continue warming until 2600 AD, after which it will begin a cooling cycle lasting until 3700 AD. This is what’s causing global warming. However, the next 30 years will see a cooling trend thanks to one of the smaller cycles reaching a minimum in 2050.

This all sounds great except for one thing: it’s completely full of shit.

Ken Rice of the University of Edinburgh, UK, criticised the paper for an “elementary” mistake about celestial mechanics. “It’s well known that the sun moves around the barycentre of the solar system due to the influence of the other solar system bodies, mainly Jupiter,” he says. “This does not mean, as the paper is claiming, that this then leads to changes in the distance between the sun and the Earth.”

….Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies says the paper contains egregious errors. “The sun-Earth distance does not vary with the motion of the sun-Earth system around the barycentre of the sun-Jupiter system, nor the sun-galactic centre system or any other purely mathematical reference point,” he says. He says the journal must retract the paper if it wants to retain any credibility.

So how and why was this article written? And how did it get published, even in an open-source journal? Those are both mysteries. Scientific Reports says it has begun an “established process” to investigate the paper it has published. “This process is ongoing and we cannot comment further at this stage,” a spokesperson said.

In the meantime, all the climate denialists have themselves a jen-u-ine scientific paper to show that greenhouse gases aren’t doing any harm after all. It turns out that global warming is all down to celestial mechanics. And if the paper is eventually retracted? Then it will become yet more evidence of the scientific establishment covering up inconvenients truths. Oh joy.

House Blocks Maverick Democrat’s Trump Impeachment Effort

TruthDig.com News -

WASHINGTON — The House easily killed a maverick Democrat’s effort Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for his recent racial insults against lawmakers of color, a vote that provided an early snapshot of just how divided Democrats are over ousting him as the 2020 presidential and congressional campaigns rev up.

Democrats leaned against the resolution by Texas Rep. Al Green by 137-95. That showed that so far, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has successfully prevented a Democratic stampede toward impeachment before additional evidence is developed that could win over a public that has so far been skeptical about ousting Trump.

Even so, the roll call also showed that the number of Democrats open to impeachment remains substantial and may be growing. About two dozen more conversions would split the party’s 235-member caucus in half over an issue that could potentially dominate next year’s elections. Until now, just over 80 Democrats had publicly said they were open to starting an inquiry over removing Trump.

Related Articles by by Common Dreams

“There’s a lot of grief, from a lot of different quarters,” Green, speaking to reporters after the vote, said of the reaction he received from colleagues. “But sometimes you just have to take a stand.”

Democrats voting in favor of the impeachment resolution included some of the party’s most outspoken freshmen, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and leaders of House Democrats’ black, Hispanic and liberal caucuses.

As some Democrats feared, the measure’s lopsided 332-95 defeat — the House’s first vote on removing Trump since Democrats took control of the chamber this year — also opened the door for him to claim vindication.

“You see the overwhelming vote against impeachment and that’s the end of it,” Trump told reporters as he arrived in North Carolina for a campaign rally. “Let the Democrats now go back to work,” he said, calling the effort the “most ridiculous project I’ve ever been involved in.”

Green’s resolution did not mention special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump’s 2016 campaign conspired with Russia to influence that year’s congressional election or whether the president obstructed Mueller’s probe. That inquiry and the questions it raised over Trump’s actions have been the main reasons some Democrats have backed impeachment.

Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters that six House committees are investigating Trump, adding, “That is the serious path we’re on.”

Democrats are eagerly awaiting Mueller’s scheduled public testimony next week to two House committees.

Democrats rejected Trump’s claim that the vote showed he’d been absolved of anything.

“It’s not vindication,” said Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla. “It’s that we believe in an orderly process. We’re putting our faith in the Judiciary Committee and the hearing they’re going to hold,” she said.

Every voting Republican favored derailing Green’s measure.

With Democrats preparing to defend their House majority in next year’s elections, Green’s measure put incumbents in closely divided districts in a difficult spot. Democrats owe their House majority to 39 challengers who won in 2018 in what had been GOP-held districts, places where moderate constituents largely predominate. Many of those voters have little interest in removing Trump from office.

“It’s not ideal for a lot of people to have to take that vote right now,” one of them, Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., said of impeachment. She said “if and when” the House votes on impeaching Trump, it should happen when “we can make sure our constituents understand and can get behind” the move.

Recent polling has shown solid majorities of the public oppose impeachment. Even if the Democratic-run House would vote to impeach Trump, the equivalent of filing formal charges, a trial by the Republican-led Senate would all but certainly acquit him, keeping him in office.

Efforts by party leaders to dissuade Green from forcing vulnerable incumbents to take what they viewed as a perilous and divisive vote fell flat. The vote also risked enflaming Democrats’ already raw rift over impeachment, with dozens of the party’s most liberal lawmakers long itching to oust Trump, and Republicans used it to denigrate Democrats’ impeachment talk as an obsession.

“This is all they’ve ever wanted to do from the day of the election” in 2016, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a brief interview.

Green’s measure cites Trump’s recent “racist” comments imploring Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to their native countries. The House voted Tuesday largely along party lines to condemn those statements. His targets were Ocasio-Cortez and Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

All are American and all but Omar were born in the U.S. They’ve also been among the party’s most outspoken advocates of impeachment.

Trump is “unfit to be President, unfit to represent the American values of decency and morality, respectability and civility, honesty and propriety, reputability and integrity, is unfit to defend the ideals that have made America great, unfit to defend liberty and justice for all,” Green’s resolution said.

Mueller’s 448-page report detailed several episodes in which Trump tried to influence his investigation. Mueller said he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction and indicated in a May news conference that it was up to Congress to decide what to do.

Those who support an impeachment inquiry have argued that it would accelerate the process and bolster their arguments in court. Some Democrats are frustrated with the slow pace of their party’s investigations of the president. Democrats have had little success so far in their attempts to investigate beyond what Mueller detailed, as the White House has blocked several witnesses from answering questions.

Green, an eight-term veteran, also forced impeachment votes in 2017 and 2018 and spurned leadership entreaties to hold off both times.

The post House Blocks Maverick Democrat’s Trump Impeachment Effort appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

House Holds 2 Trump Officials in Contempt in Census Dispute

TruthDig.com News -

WASHINGTON — The Democratic-controlled House voted Wednesday to hold two top Trump administration officials in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas related to a decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The House voted, 230-198, to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt. The vote, a political blow to the Trump administration, is largely symbolic because the Justice Department is unlikely to prosecute the two men.

The action marks an escalation of Democratic efforts to use their House majority to aggressively investigate the inner workings of the Trump administration.

Related Articles by

President Donald Trump abandoned the citizenship question last week after the Supreme Court said the administration’s justification for the question “seems to have been contrived.” Trump directed agencies to try to compile the information using existing databases.

The White House called the vote “ridiculous” and “yet another lawless attempt to harass the president and his administration.”

The Justice and Commerce departments have produced more than 31,000 pages of documents to the House regarding the census issue, and senior officials from both agencies, including Ross, have spoken on the record about the matter, the White House said, adding that Democrats continue to demand documents that the White House contends are subject to executive privilege.

“House Democrats know they have no legal right to these documents, but their shameful and cynical politics know no bounds,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said the contempt vote was an important step to assert Congress’ constitutional authority to serve as a check on executive power.

“Holding any secretary in criminal contempt of Congress is a serious and sober matter — one that I have done everything in my power to avoid,” Cummings said during House debate. “But in the case of the attorney general and Secretary Ross, they blatantly obstructed our ability to do congressional oversight into the real reason Secretary Ross was trying for the first time in 70 years to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.”

While Ross and other officials have claimed the sole reason they wanted to add the citizenship question was to enforce the Voting Rights Act, “we now know that claim was nothing but a pretext,” Cummings said. “The Supreme Court said that.”

At the direction of Barr and Ross, “the departments of Justice and Commerce have been engaged in a campaign to subvert our laws and the process Congress put in place to maintain the integrity of the census,” Cummings said.

The contempt resolution “is about protecting our democracy, protecting the integrity of this body. It’s bigger than the census,” he said

Ross called the vote a public relations “stunt” that further demonstrates Democrats’ “unending quest to generate headlines instead of operating in good faith with our department.”

Democrats prefer to “play political games rather than help lead the country” and “have made every attempt to ascribe evil motivations to everyday functions of government,” Ross said.

Ross told the oversight committee that the March 2018 decision to add the question was based on a Justice Department request to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Democrats disputed that, citing documents unearthed last month suggesting that a push to draw legislative districts in overtly partisan and racist ways was the real reason the administration wanted to include the question.

Democrats feared that adding the question would reduce participation in immigrant-heavy communities and result in a severe undercount of minority voters. They have pressed for specific documents to determine Ross’ motivation and contend the administration has declined to provide the material despite repeated requests.

“The real issue we should be debating” is why Democrats are afraid to ask how many citizens live in the United States, said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky. Contrary to Democrats’ claims, Ross and other officials have cooperated with the oversight panel and provided thousands of documents, Comer said.

“If the Democrats can’t impeach President Trump, they will instead hold his Cabinet in contempt of Congress,” he said. “This is just another episode in political theater.”

In a letter late Wednesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Barr and Ross asked Democrats to postpone the vote, saying they have shown a “clear record of cooperation” with Congress. The contempt vote “is both unnecessarily undermining” relations between the two branches and “degrading” Congress’ “own institutional integrity,” they wrote.

Trump has pledged to “fight all the subpoenas” issued by Congress and says he won’t work on legislative priorities, such as infrastructure, until Congress halts investigations of his administration.

The post House Holds 2 Trump Officials in Contempt in Census Dispute appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

How Corporate Media Are Fueling a New Iran Nuclear Crisis

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The U.S. news media’s coverage of the Iran nuclear issue has been woefully off-kilter for many years. Now, however, those same outlets are contributing to the serious crisis building between Washington and Tehran.

Iran has responded to Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal by resuming the stockpiling of low enriched uranium, removing the cap on the level of uranium enrichment and resuming work at the Arak nuclear reactor, while making it very clear that those steps would be immediately reversed if the United States agreed to full compliance.

The major fact about Iranian nuclear policy before the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was negotiated should shape public understanding of the current conflict: For more than three years, from 2012 to 2015, Iran could have enriched enough uranium at 20% enrichment level for one or more nuclear weapons, but it chose not to do so. Instead, it used the U.S.’s knowledge of that capability as leverage against the U.S. in negotiating what eventually became the JCPOA.

The real nuclear crisis facing the United States is not that of an Iranian regime threatening a nuclear conflict. Rather, it’s a U.S. government policy that rejects the 2015 compromise and seeks to provoke Iran even further.

Yet that’s not the way The New York Times and other news media have covered the story. From the start of the current phase of the conflict, corporate media coverage has overwhelmingly emphasized a presumed new Iranian threat to “break out” in order to obtain the enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon.

A July 1 Times story by Rick Gladstone about Iran’s breach of the JCPOA cap on uranium stockpile stated that Iran’s latest move “does not by itself give the country the material to produce a nuclear weapon. … But it is the strongest signal yet that Iran is moving to restore the far larger stockpile that took the United States and five other nations years to persuade Tehran to send abroad.”

In his article, Gladstone went on to challenge Iran’s assertion of its legal right to withdraw from some commitments in the JCPOA a year after Trump had unilaterally withdrawn from the agreement. Iranian leaders, he said, “have sought to justify these steps as a response to the Trump administration’s abandonment of the nuclear accord last year and its reimposition of sanctions.” He claimed that “[W]estern experts on the agreement” had disputed Iran’s reasoning.” But Gladstone cited only one “expert,” Henry Rome of the Eurasia Group, who called the Iranian claim “a unilateral interpretation from the Iranian side of what the nuclear deal means….”

Rome is evidently unfamiliar, however, with the fundamental principle of international law that grants a party to an agreement the inherent right to reduce or terminate the fulfillment of an agreement if there is a “material breach” by another party. In response to an email query for this story, Dr. Richard Falk, a leading scholar on international law, responded to Rome’s statement by commenting, “The U.S. repudiation of the agreement and reimposition of sanctions constitutes without any reasonable doubt, a material breach of the Nuclear Agreement, which relieves Iran of any legal obligations with respect to complying with the treaty.”

David Sanger, who for two decades has served as chief national security correspondent for The New York Times, wrote a story published July 1 that led with the assertion that Iran had “violated a key provision” of the 2015 nuclear deal. Sanger thus ignored the distinction between a response to complete renunciation of the entire deal by the Trump administration and a violation of it. Sanger also called the announcement by foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran’s intention to increase the level of purity of enrichment “a provocative action” that “could move the country closer to possessing fuel that with further processing could be used in a weapon.”

Sanger acknowledged Iran has “consistently denied that it has any intention of making a nuclear weapon,” but asserted, “[A] trove of nuclear-related documents, spirited out of a Tehran warehouse by Israeli agents last year, showed extensive work before 2003 to design a nuclear warhead.”

But the alleged Mossad theft in 2018 of half a ton of purported top-secret Iranian nuclear weapons archive documents from an unguarded shack in Tehran was a highly implausible tale. No evidence was offered to prove that the entire story—and the new documents shown by the Israelis—were not completely fraudulent.

The Associated Press ran a story on May 16 with a lede declaring, “Iran made a veiled threat this week to enrich uranium stocks closer to weapon-grade levels….” Iran had denied that it had ever sought nuclear weapons, the story said, but “Western officials and experts say that prior to the nuclear deal, Iran had a breakout capability of just a few months if it were to decide to build a bomb.”

The Washington Post published its version of the Iranian “breakout capability” threat story July 3. Reporting Iran’s plans to enrich uranium to 20%, the Post explained, “Such a move would mean that Iran could jump to producing weapons-grade uranium more quickly.”

Furthermore, the Post reported, “Experts estimate that before the nuclear deal, the amount of time that Iran needed to accumulate enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb was two or three months.” The JCPOA, on the other hand, “was designed to increase that breakout period to about a year.”

National Public Radio chimed in with its own contribution to the breakout narrative on July 10, quoting John Negroponte, a former U.S. Director of National Intelligence, declaring, “Iran’s newly-announced levels appear modest at the moment, but would become more concerning if there were further increases. Such steps would imply a willingness on Iran’s part to go all the way to construction of a bomb.”

The media narrative about Iran’s resuming uranium enrichment thus suggests that what Americans should be worried about primarily is not the provocative character of the Trump administration’s Iran policy but the threat that Iran will move toward a “breakout” strategy vis-à-vis its nuclear weapons capability.

Iran’s enrichment diplomacy 

The real history of Iran’s uranium enrichment strategy shows, however, that that nation was always aimed at rolling back U.S. financial sanctions and compelling the United States to acknowledge legitimate Iranian interests in the region rather than to fuel a race for a nuclear bomb.

Iran began enriching uranium to 20% in February 2010 for the first time to provide fuel plates for its Tehran Research Reactor, which produces isotopes for cancer treatment. But its overarching objective was to put pressure on the Obama administration, which was seeking to on coerce Iran to give up its nuclear program altogether.

In 2012, Iran began an new phase of diplomatic pressure on the Obama administration by making very large additions to its capabilities for enrichment at 20% while still avoiding converting those capabilities to a higher stockpile of 20% enrichment uranium. Meanwhile, Iran’s government signaled to the United States that it had the option of reversing the increase through an agreement.

The number of centrifuges at the two Iranian enrichment facilities, where 20% enrichment was being carried out, stood at 696 in May 2012. By that August, it had increased to 2,140, according the International Atomic Energy Agency’s August 30, 2012 report. Furthermore, its total production of 20% enriched uranium increased from 143 kg in May to 189.4 kg in August.

But the same IAEA report revealed that Iran’s stockpile of 20% enriched uranium had actually fallen during that period from 101 kg to 91.4 kg. The reason for that seemingly contradictory result was that between May and August 2012, Iran had increased the amount of the 20% enriched uranium it had produced to powder for fuel plates for its Tehran medical reactor instead of adding it to the stockpile. That meant that the enriched uranium was in a form that could not be reconverted easily or quickly to weapons-grade enriched uranium.

Behind that reduction was an even bigger political decision: None of the 1,440 centrifuges added to Iran’s two enrichment facilities during that period was put into operation, as the IAEA report showed.

This all amounted to a clear signal to the Obama administration that Iran was ready to negotiate strict limits on its enrichment if the United States abandoned its zero-enrichment demand. “They are creating tremendous capacity,” a senior U.S. official told The New York Times, “but they are not using it.” The official acknowledged, moreover, that Iran’s enrichment diplomacy gave it “leverage” on U.S. policy.

The widely accepted notion that Iran was prevented only by U.S. pressure from making a breakout bid for a nuclear weapon and that Iran is now once again threatening to do so is central to the present toxic political atmosphere surrounding the Iran nuclear issue.

In fact, by mid-2012 Iran already had what was called a “breakout” capability but chose to use instead to induce the United States to negotiate seriously with Iran.

As the IAEA documented in its August 2012 report, Iran already had produced 189 kg of 20% enriched uranium, which was close to the minimum estimate of what experts believe it would take to produce the 25 kg of 90% enriched uranium needed for a single nuclear weapon. And had Iran actually used the additional 1,440 centrifuges available, Iran could have tripled its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium within a matter of months.

A media crisis on the Iran nuclear issue 

From mid-2012 until the JCOPOA was completed in mid-2015, Iran chose to pursue an agreement with the United States instead of exploiting its capabilities for a breakout. But that pivotal episode in Iran’s past enrichment diplomacy has been ignored by the corporate media. Now the media are once again portraying Iran primarily as the aggressor in the breakout narrative despite the clearly expressed Iranian readiness to reverse the process.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is already preparing for a new confrontation with Iran over its resumption of enrichment even as it planned to add still more onerous sanctions. Hidden near the bottom of its story, The New York Times revealed on July 1 that the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies were “beginning to review what steps to take if the president determined that Iran was getting too close to producing a bomb.”

The new nuclear crisis with Iran is being stoked by the corporate media’s collective failure to convey the reality of the situation to the public. Thus, the Trump administration and the media have, to date, successfully made the Iranian government the focus of scrutiny that the public would be well-served to turn on them as well.

The post How Corporate Media Are Fueling a New Iran Nuclear Crisis appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

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