Smugness & Pain Created

via a commentary on Facebook: Apr 29th, 2017

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One of many, many infuriating parts of having Trump as the President is the insufferable smugness of conservatives. When they’re not telling you to “suck it up, snowflake” or trying to sell you fake news, they’re gloating: “We suffered for eight years under that tyrant Obummer. Now it’s your turn.”

One man, Scott Mednick had enough with his Republican acquaintances and penned this powerful response

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I am surprised you would wish suffering upon me. That, of course, is your right, I suppose. I do not wish harm on anyone. Your statement seems to continue the ‘US v THEM’ mentality. The election is over. It is important to get past campaigning and campaign rhetoric and get down to what is uniting, not dividing and what is best for ALL Americans.

There will never be a President who does everything to everyone’s liking. There are things President Obama (and President Clinton) did that I do not like and conversely there are things I can point to that the Presidents Bush did that I agree with. So I am not 100% in lock step with the outgoing President but have supported him and the overall job he did.

And, if you recall, during the Presidential Campaign back in 2008 the campaign was halted because of the “historic crisis in our financial system.” Wall Street bailout negotiations intervened in the election process. The very sobering reality was that there likely could be a Depression and the world financial markets could collapse. The United States was losing 800,000 jobs a month and was poised to lose at least 10 million jobs the first year once the new President took office. We were in an economic freefall. So let us recall that ALL of America was suffering terribly at the beginning of Obama’s Presidency.

But I wanted to look back over the last 8 years and ask you a few questions. Since much of the rhetoric before Obama was elected was that he would impose Sharia Law, Take Away Your Guns, Create Death Panels, Destroy the Economy, Impose Socialism and, since you will agree that NONE of this came to pass, I was wondering: Why have you suffered so?

Continue reading Smugness & Pain Created

Atlanta’s Cityhood Movement Explained

Atlanta’s Controversial ‘Cityhood’ Movement

via The Atlantic by Sam Rosen – Apr. 26th, 2017

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On the Saturday before Election Day last November, Jason Lary, a former insurance executive, crouched on a rough patch of grass at the center of a busy intersection 20 miles outside of Atlanta in DeKalb County. Lary was holding a hammer, and he tapped carefully on the thin wire base of a campaign sign. “My hand is like Fred Flintstone’s right now because I banged my hand in the night,” he said, noting his latest sign-related injury. This hazard, though, was worthwhile: “If you don’t start [the sign] with your hand, it will bend. It takes longer—guys are 10 times faster than I am. But my sign’s still gonna be up.”

This was a non-trivial advantage for Lary, who for the past month had begun most mornings with a kind of ground-game whack-a-mole. He would put up signs under the cover of night, only to have his opponents dislodge them by hand or, when that failed, run over them with their cars. Nevertheless, Lary was feeling good. “My opposition? Worn down,” he told me. “They don’t even have any more signs. And I kept a stash, knowing this time was coming. This is not my first picnic with nonsense.”

Lary’s opponents were from his own community, folks who were fiercely against turning their stretch of the county into a new city called Stonecrest, Georgia. Lary, the president of the Stonecrest City Alliance, had been working for four years to turn a 50,000-person swath of unincorporated DeKalb County into its own city. If the referendum passed the following week, it would become the latest and most symbolic victory for the “cityhood movement,” a local-government arms race that, for the past decade, has been reshaping the political, economic, and racial landscape of metro Atlanta.

Between 2005 and 2015, eight unincorporated neighborhoods in Georgia’s three largest counties—Fulton, Gwinnett, and DeKalb—voted to form their own cities. In doing so, they rejected the county’s political leadership and withdrew much of their resources from the county’s tax pool. Prior to incorporation, all of these areas were putting more money into the county via taxes than they got back in services. Pulling their money out of the county pool has thus been a boon for these new cities, which can re-prioritize and increase services to meet the needs of their more homogeneous constituencies without raising taxes.

For those left behind in unincorporated parts of these counties, however, the cityhood movement has been disastrous. Data on the overall economic impact of the movement doesn’t yet exist, but the withdrawals of wealthy enclaves have left county governments with a recurring and unpleasant choice: raise taxes or provide less. In 2012, Fulton County’s manager calculated that the cityhood movement had cost the county $38 million per year.

But Lary, his supporters, and his opponents—the folks ripping up his campaign signs—are not the white people at the center of the cityhood movement. Rather, they are a black community: If Lary were to succeed, Stonecrest would become the 15th-largest city in Georgia and the first majority-black city created by its own residents since Reconstruction. Many of Lary’s neighbors and friends couldn’t believe that he was aligning the area with cityhood and employing the strategies of the very people whose political tactics had weakened local black communities for more than a decade. Worse, not only had Lary aligned with the cityhood movement; he had enlisted its most famous advocate.

And so, with a swollen hand, the help of a world-renowned government-efficiency expert, and only a few days left before the vote, Lary was scrambling to convince these folks that he really did have their best interests at heart.

Lary’s predicament is deeply rooted in the spatial and racial politics of metro Atlanta in the post-civil-rights era—and in the story of Sandy Springs, Georgia. Continue reading Atlanta’s Cityhood Movement Explained

Propaganda, lies, hate, and dystopia

 Feel The Propaganda, Feel the Hate
photo by Steve Helber

We’re familiar with President Trump’s dystopian vision of an America in chaos, preyed on by foreigners and awash in citizens violated by feral criminals and “illegals.” Through last year’s campaign and into this year, Trump has repeatedly lied about the national crime rate, murder rates and much more. Here though is a case where anti-immigrant policies continue to be justified by at least deliberately misleading statements and what can only be called incitement.

Here’s a statement released today by the Justice Department, justifying a letter sent out to nine so-called “sanctuary cities” threatening loss of federal funds if they don’t collaborate and assist Trump administration immigration policies.

Here’s the second paragraph (emphasis added) …

Additionally, many of these jurisdictions are also crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime. The number of murders in Chicago has skyrocketed, rising more than 50 percent from the 2015 levels. New York City continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city’s “soft on crime” stance. And just several weeks ago in California’s Bay Area, after a raid captured 11 MS-13 members on charges including murder, extortion and drug trafficking, city officials seemed more concerned with reassuring illegal immigrants that the raid was unrelated to immigration than with warning other MS-13 members that they were next.

The second highlighted sentence doesn’t explicitly say the murder rate continues to rise in New York City. But that is certainly the intended impression, along with the dig at ‘soft on crime’ policies.

But as Professor John Pfaff of Fordham Law School noted on Twitter, precisely the opposite is the case.

As many of us noted last year, you cannot infer a trend from a single year. And this chart covers little more than a quarter of a single year. But New York City is and has been for years the safest big city in America. Over this relatively brief period, the murder rate is actually down significantly. Crime over all is down too.

If New York City’s policy is ‘soft on crime’, the whole country needs a lot more ‘soft on crime’ law enforcement. And fast.

There’s not much more to say. If this were one deception it might be dismissed. But of course it is not. It is a single illustrative example of deception as policy, one peep in a symphony of lies that President Trump, Attorney General Sessions and all their fellow travelers and appointees use regularly to sell their anti-immigrant crackdown and attempt to return to the ‘tough on crime’ policies of the past.

One Hundred Days of Damage

100 Days of Deconstruction

At CPAC, Steve Bannon declared that key members of Trump’s Cabinet were “selected for a reason.” In the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency, that reason has become clear.

by Steven Harper on Moyers.com | APRIL 17, 2017

President Donald Trump speaks at EPA headquarters in Washington, DC on March 28, 2017 before signing an energy independence executive order as (from left) Vice President Mike Pence, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry look on. If you look at these Cabinet appointees, they were selected for a reason. And that is for the deconstruction [of the administrative state] (Photo by Ron Sachs/Pool via Bloomberg)

Editor’s Note

Donald Trump may be a racist, misogynist, sexual predator, liar and bully, but he is still president of the United States, and we underestimate him at the nation’s peril. Viewed in isolation, his policies seem idiosyncratic and incoherent. Viewed in context, they reveal a strategy to plunder the government of what is profitable to Trump’s family and minions and leave what remains smoldering in the ruins. This series — “100 Days of Deconsruction” — seeks to provide that context.

If Trump succeeds, little of what makes America great survives. But knowledge is power, so read these essays and keep fighting in this decisive battle for our country’s heart and soul. Their author, Steven J. Harper, produced our recent Trump/Russia Timeline. He is a former litigation partner at Kirkland & Ellis, adjunct professor at Northwestern University and the author of several books, including The Lawyer Bubble — A Profession in Crisis.

–Bill Moyers
Continue reading One Hundred Days of Damage

The circle of life

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE

In Life by Brian Koberlein – 

More than 3 billion years ago, life appeared on planet Earth. We aren’t entirely sure how life arose on Earth, but a common idea is that it first formed around hydrothermal vents in our planet’s young oceans. These vents provide not only the thermal energy necessary to sustain life as we know it, they also provide a rich source of chemical compounds useful in forming living organisms. Even today deep sea hydrothermal vents are rich with a diversity of life. If such vents were the home of Earth’s tree of life, similar vents on other worlds might foster life as well. 

We normally think of possible alien life as existing on Earth-like worlds, with warm sunlight and firm ground, but life could actually be more common around the icy moons of a cold gas planet. That’s true even if we limit ourselves to life similar to terrestrial life, which is carbon based and dependent upon plentiful water.

WATER ON EUROPA AND EARTH COMPARED. CREDIT: KEVIN HAND

For one thing, water is far more common in the outer solar system than on Earth. Jupiter’s moon Europa, for example, has much more water than Earth. Ganymede, another Jovian moon, has about 70% more liquid water than Earth. Water is an incredibly common molecule in the solar system, and without the intense heat of the Sun to drive water away from these worlds, they keep much of their water. If these worlds were small planets, their water could have frozen into ice long ago (although even lonely Pluto hints of having liquid water beneath its surface).  But these are moons orbiting a massive planet, and the gravitational stress upon them helps to keep their interior warm. We know that life could survive in the oceans of these worlds, but could it arise?

New evidence suggests that it’s possible, at least for Saturn’s moon Enceladus. We’ve known that Enceladus has liquid water in its interior for a while. Water geysers have been seen erupting from the moon’s surface. But in October of 2015 the Cassini spacecraft flew directly through some of these plumes, giving the probe direct access to their composition. Chemical analysis found high levels of H2, which is likely produced by hydrothermal vents within its interior. In other words, the interior ocean of Enceladus is quite similar to the early oceans of Earth.

Even if the conditions are right for life to form on Enceladus, it might not have had the time. We aren’t sure how old the moon is. It’s surface is relatively young, though that could be due to its thermal activity. Some computer models of the orbital dynamics of Saturn’s moons imply that all the moons closer to Saturn than Titan could be quite young, and Enceladus could be only 100 million years old. But other icy moons could have similar hydrothermal vents and are much older. Europa, for example, is about the same age as Earth and has liquid water. If it has vents similar to those on Enceladus, life could have formed on Europa long ago.

Paper: J. Hunter Waite, et al. Cassini finds molecular hydrogen in the Enceladus plume: Evidence for hydrothermal processes. Science Vol. 356, Issue 6334, pp. 155-159 DOI: 10.1126/science.aai8703 (2017)

The fault dear Brutus..Marine Corp Style

Volume 101, Issue 2
 
GySgt Paul Nichols, USMC(Ret)
 I am now thoroughly convinced there is something deeply wrong with the part of the Marine Corps occupying the I-95 corridor leading to the Pentagon. What has become painfully apparent to me is the drastic difference between the mindset of the Operating Forces and the Supporting Establishment. While I grant that, in the case of the former, the prospects of being shot, blown up, or otherwise extinguished tend to be wonderful motivators to constantly improve and perform, the Marine Corps Supporting Establishment is filled with senior officers whose backgrounds include extensive experience in combat within the Operating Forces. Why then is there such a divide between the organizational energy and innovative agility of our Marines and the depressive stagnation found within the Supporting Establishment?

I believe I know a big part of the answer: self-delusion.

Let us first begin with the fundamental underpinnings of this delusion: our measures of performance and effectiveness in recent wars. It is time that we, as professional military officers, accept the fact that we lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Objective analysis of the U.S. military’s effectiveness in these wars can only conclude that we were unable to translate tactical victory into operational and strategic success.1 As military professionals, it is not sufficient to offload the responsibility for these failures, at least in their entirety, to decision makers in Washington or in perceived lack of support from other governmental agencies. We must divorce ourselves from the notion that criticism of our performance is an indictment or devaluation of the sacrifices our Marines made on the battlefield. Like many of you, I lost Marines in the “Long War” as well. It has taken several years of personal struggle to arrive at the conclusions I am writing now. What makes this necessary, however, is that if you accept the objective, yet repulsive, fact that our Marines died on the losing side of our most recent wars, you cannot then accept that the status quo of the Marine Corps, and the larger defense establishment, is in an acceptable state of affairs.

This is further compounded by future forecasts of conflicts with adversaries that are beginning to look more like peers despite the self-aggrandizing “near-peer” label we assign them.2 We allow ourselves to look at our impressive defense budget and expensive systems and throw around hyperbole about the United States having the greatest military in the world. How, then, have we been bested by malnourished and under-educated men with antiquated and improvised weaponry whilst spending trillions of dollars in national treasure and costing the lives of thousands of servicemen and hundreds of thousands of civilians?

Judging military capability by the metric of defense expenditures is a false equivalency. All that matters are raw, quantifiable capabilities and measures of effectiveness. For example: a multi-billion dollar aircraft carrier that can be bested by a few million dollars in the form of a swarming missile barrage or a small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capable of rendering its flight deck unusable does not retain its dollar value in real terms. Neither does the M1A1 tank, which is defeated by $20 worth of household items and scrap metal rendered into an explosively-formed projectile. The Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Organization has a library full of examples like these, and that is without touching the weaponized return on investment in terms of industrial output and capability development currently being employed by our conventional adversaries.
Continue reading The fault dear Brutus..Marine Corp Style

The House is infected with rats !!!

While we were distracted by Trump, Republicans advanced these 9 terrifying bills

 The Republican-led Congress is wasting no time forcing through the most horrendous bills seen in decades while America’s eyes are on Russia.

With both houses of Congress solidly under Republican control, there’s little in the way to stop House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) from sending bills to President Trump’s desk that embody the most dangerous aspects of radical right-wing ideology.

 However unlikely these bills’ passage would have seemed in the 114th Congress, the possibility of these nine bills becoming law is much higher now, especially considering the flurry of headlines around Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal on the ongoing investigation into the president’s Russian connections, and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s multiple meetings with several of Trump’s top lieutenants.

Here are the nine worst bills to keep an eye on:

1. H.R. 861: To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency

This bill — cosponsored by Republican members of Congress from fossil fuel-producing states — is just one sentence long, and says nothing about what would happen to the multiple environmental regulations the EPA has instituted since 1970, or its multibillion-dollar budget, or its thousands of staffers. H.R. 861 is currently awaiting action in the subcommittee on environment.

2. H.R. 610: Tax dollars for private schools

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced this bill in January, which would redistribute funding earmarked for public schools in the form of vouchers for parents to send children to private schools. Over the long term, this would eventually bankrupt public schools, and create a stratified education system in which cash-strapped public schools would be unable to meet the educational needs of low-income students. The bill is awaiting action in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

3. H.R. 899: To terminate the Department of Education

If this bill, introduced by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky), becomes law, the U.S. Department of Education would terminate by the end of 2018. The bill’s brevity leaves many questions unanswered, like what would happen with Department of Education grants for public schools and universities, its budget, or its staff. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said she would personally be “fine” if the agency she heads were to be abolished.

4. H.J.R. 69: To repeal a rule protecting wildlife

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), whose constituents likely include hunters who kill wildlife for sport rather than for food, introduced this joint resolution voicing displeasure with a Department of Interior rule that prohibits “non-subsistence” hunting in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. The resolution passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.

5. H.R. 370: To repeal the Affordable Care Act

While President Obama was in office, House Republicans voted at least 60 times to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — despite its futility. However, the Trump administration has made the repeal of Obamacare a top priority, meaning the repeal bill from Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) is likely to pass.

6. H.R. 354: To defund Planned Parenthood

Despite the widely publicized debunking of the video alleging the women’s health nonprofit was selling human organs, Republicans are still refusing to stop destroying Planned Parenthood. Rep. Diane Black (R-Tennessee) introduced a bill that would prevent any federal grants from going to Planned Parenthood for a full year unless they swore to not perform abortions. As the chart below from Planned Parenthood shows, only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood resources go toward abortions, while the vast majority of funding is used to help low-income women get STD tests, contraceptive care, and breast cancer screenings:

7. H.R. 785: National Right-to-Work legislation

Conservative ideologue Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is aiming to cripple unions at the nationwide level with a bill that would systematically deprive labor unions of the funding they need to operate. Unions often provide one of the crucial pillars of support for Democratic candidates and causes, and conservatives aim to destroy them once and for all by going after their funding. It’s important to note that right-to-work is bad for all workers, not just union members — in 2015, the Economic Policy Institute learned that wages in right-to-work states are roughly 3.2 percent lower than in non-right-to-work states.

8. H.R. 83: Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Act

Multiple cities and states around the country have openly stated that they won’t abide by President Trump’s plan to aggressively round up and deport undocumented immigrants. A bill by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pennsylvania) would strip all federal funding of any city that doesn’t obey Trump’s immigration policies for up to a year.

9. H.R. 147: To criminalize abortion

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona) wants to aggressively prosecute pregnant women seeking abortions, along with abortion providers, by making abortion a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The bill is currently awaiting action in the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.

To fight back against these bills, call 202-224-3121, ask for your member of Congress, and tell them to vote no.

 

Tom Cahill is a writer for the Resistance Report based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at tom.v.cahill@gmail.com, or follow him on Facebook

Syrian missile strike – the aftermath

Reflexive partisanship drives polling lurch on Syria strikes

via Washington Post – April 11th, 2017 –  by JAMES HOHMANN with Breanne Deppisch

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THE BIG IDEA: More Americans than ever view the news through red-colored glasses.

In 2013, when Barack Obama was president, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that only 22 percent of Republicans supported the U.S. launching missile strikes against Syria in response to Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons against civilians.

A new Post-ABC poll finds that 86 percent of Republicans support Donald Trump’s decision to launch strikes on Syria for the same reason. Only 11 percent are opposed.

— Overall, a bare 51 percent majority of U.S. adults support the president’s action in our new poll. In 2013, just 30 percent supported strikes. That swing is driven primarily by GOP partisans. For context, 37 percent of Democrats back Trump’s missile strikes. In 2013, 38 percent of Democrats supported Obama’s plan. That is well within the margin of error.

Independents are split evenly, with 46 percent backing Trump’s decision and 45 percent opposing it.

— Trump’s decision has had no impact on confidence in his leadership. A plurality say last week’s action doesn’t make a difference in their views of him:

These numbers break down along partisan lines, as well: 54 percent of Republicans say the strikes make them more confident in Trump, while just 23 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats do.

— The electorate’s view is somewhat nuanced:

  • There is not much confidence that firing 59 Tomahawks at one base will make much of a difference, even as a deterrent. “Nearly 7 in 10 say they are ‘not so’ or ‘not at all’ confident the U.S. missile strike will end the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, while one-quarter are at least somewhat confident,” pollster Scott Clement notes.
  • But 54 percent oppose additional strikes against Syrian targets right now. While roughly two-thirds of Republicans favor additional action, just under one-third of independents and under one in five Democrats do.
  • Just over half the country supports a policy of trying to remove Assad from power, yet just over one-third back using military force to do it. See the full results here.)

— The Post’s poll tracks with three other public surveys conducted since Friday. Gallup pegged support for the airstrikes at 50 percent. A YouGov/HuffPo survey put it at 51 percent. And CBS News, which did not include Trump’s name in the question, registered 57 percent support.

— Political polarization helps explain why public support for the Syria strike rates low in historical context. Gallup has tracked the immediate public reaction to 11 other military interventions over the past 35 years. A majority approved of all the actions with one exception: 47 percent approved of the bombing of Libya in 2011. The 50 percent approval of the missile strikes against Syria is in line with three other actions: the same Libya bombing in 2011, Kosovo and the Balkans in 1999 (51 percent), and Grenada in 1983 (53 percent). (Check out the breakdown here.)


But barrel bombs are used nearly every day inside Syria, so taking action each time one is dropped would mark a dramatic shift in strategy and quickly ramp up U.S. involvement.
“Although Spicer lumped barrel bombs in the same category as chemical weapons on three separate occasions during a Monday briefing with reporters, he later insisted that his comments should not be interpreted as a change in U.S. policy,” Jenna Johnson and Ashley Parker note— Sean Spicer stepped in it again. The White House press secretary said yesterday that the Trump administration is prepared to take more action against Syria’s government if Assad continues to use chemical weapons and barrel bombs. “If you gas a baby, if you put a barrel bombing to innocent people, I think you can see a response from this president,” he told reporters. “That’s unacceptable.”

“Nothing has changed in our posture,” Spicer wrote in a statement yesterday afternoon to clean up his confusing message. “The president retains the option to act in Syria against the Assad regime whenever it is in the national interest … And as the president has repeatedly made clear, he will not be telegraphing his military responses.”

— Meanwhile, Eric Trump told The Daily Telegraph of London that his father bombing Syria proves he is “not in league” with Russia and “unintimidated” by Vladimir Putin. The first son also confirmed that his pop’s decision to launch the strikes was influenced by the reaction of his sister Ivanka, who was “heartbroken and outraged” by the gruesome images of dead children. The younger Trump’s remarks came as Boris Johnson said Russia will face fresh sanctions if it does not pull its armed forces out of Syria and end its support for Assad. The British Foreign Secretary, who is at a G-7 summit with Rex Tillerson, said the U.S. missile strikes “changed the game.”

— An important reminder: The U.S. still has 800 ground troops stationed inside Syria as part of the fight against ISIS. Some are close to Russian military installations:

— What lessons will Trump learn from the Syria strike? Walter Pincus worries that the president will be emboldened to use military force as a first resort and to order airstrikes on something whenever he’s in a political pickle. “Although last Thursday’s pinprick attack will have little direct impact on the Syrian civil war, it has given Trump a needed success that he has savored,” Walter laments in his column this morning for The Cipher Brief. “Trump wants immediate results and does not appear to recognize, as commander-in-chief, he must consider secondary and tertiary longer-term results that may come from any quick, immediate military decisions. … With that in mind, it seems clear that the highly-publicized sending of a U.S. Navy carrier strike group toward the Korean Peninsula in advance of a series of expected North Korean demonstrations later this month is a sign that the White House wants to build on Trump’s new appearance of ‘toughness.’”

Why did Clinton lose?

The big list of reasons why Sec. Clinton lost the Election include:

Russian meddling in the election, polls incorrectly predicted she had an insurmountable lead, FBI Director James Comey’s involvement toward the end of the race, WikiLeaks’ theft of emails from Campaign Chairman Podesa, two decades of Right Wing animus toward her, some progressives took offense against her for the Democratic Party’s treatment of Sen. Sanders, Misogyny, the Electorate believed House Republican claims about her role in the Benghazi affair, the professional class was assured that only low information/low capacity whites would accept Trump as President, a significant portion of the electorate believed the falsehoods about Clinton but ignored the evidence pointing to the defects in Trump, a large portion of the lower economic white population segment was put off by her elitism which they thought would not help them, some simply wanted a return to an imagined state of society from the past, older white Americans were uncomfortable with all the Democratic emphasis on LGBT and Black Lives Matter issues, many had no fear that Trump could cause any real harm, and with extensive efforts by Republicans to limit voter participation by Democrat leaning population segments especially in “swing” States, and finally, some truly unsophisticated voters thought she was unskilled in the necessary abilities to be “The Leader of the Free World”.

If I missed your reason, please add it to the comments below.

A resource for fighting disinformation

How to Survive the Misinformation Age: Skeptical Inquirer Takes on “Alternative Facts”

April 3, 2017

With the rise of fake news and “alternative facts,” no publication is better suited than Skeptical Inquirer to serve as a survival manual for the wilderness of misinformation. In its latest issue, leading thinkers confront the storm of falsehoods and pseudoscience with practical strategies built on a foundation of facts.

Columbia University astronomer David Helfand takes the lead as our guide through the Misinformation Age, warning that we are allowing ourselves to become “Google-fed zombies,” too reliant on dubious information sources that all seem equally valid. “If the talking box on your dashboard knows exactly where you are and can tell you how to get where you are going, why should talking to dead relatives not be plausible?”

If self-reinforcing social media feeds have broken the limits of plausibility, what is the answer? For Hefland, the only way to navigate the Misinformation Age — and begin to reverse its effects — is to mount a “counterinsurgency.” The reality-based community must forego partisan judgment, and instead break down arguments into their understandable component truths. “The power of science lies in its skeptical, rational, evidence-based approach to understanding the world,” writes Hefland. “This power begins with facts, and in my experience, these facts are the best tools with which to start the revolution.”

Polling results

What Americans Believe – Spring 2017

The American Empire

Empire?

The United States is the most powerful nation in the world and it often acts unilaterally, but is it an Empire?
Though some insist that “empire” means only direct rule over large-scale conquered territory, the United States today looks decidedly imperial. The term empire has entered common usage, not only among critics but also among advocates of muscular US policy and global superiority. Economist Niall Ferguson has written about the British Empire as a lesson-book for contemporary US power. Influential Washington neo-conservatives are using the E-word freely, insisting that the United States is the world’s most benevolent nation and that it should use its imperial power robustly to expand “freedom” across the globe.
This section considers not only the utility of the Empire concept but also the way in which the United States (empire or not) deploys its economic, political and military power globally, limiting the force of international law, shrinking the capacity of international organizations, and reducing the possibility of multilateral action and democratic self-governance in an increasingly interdependent world. We ask also: what limits will this empire encounter, can it sustain “full spectrum dominance” for the forseeable future or will it provoke such broad opposition that its era of hegemony and prosperity comes swiftly and decisively to a close?
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https://www.globalpolicy.org/empire.html

Noam Chomsky interview: Behind the Trump circus

Noam Chomsky: Trump’s First 100 Days Are Undermining Our Prospects for Survival

Tuesday, March 28, 2017By C.J. Polychroniou, Truthout | Interview

Behind the Trump circus, the policies being enacted are the most reactionary of the Republican fringe, warns Chomsky.Behind the Trump circus, the policies being enacted are the most reactionary of the Republican fringe, warns Noam Chomsky. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

* * * * * * * *

The first 100 days are considered to be a benchmark for presidential performance. This is part of the legacy of FDR, who managed to reshape the US government’s role in the economy within the first 100 days of his administration. However, the fact of the matter is that usually, a first-time president doesn’t have the slightest inkling of what governing from the Oval Office is all about. There’s no better proof of that than the early records of the most recent US presidents, from Nixon to Obama. Nonetheless, no recent US president has demonstrated such an overwhelming ignorance about governing as the current occupant of the White House.

But is Trump’s apparent inability to govern and conduct himself in a remotely conventional manner an innate character flaw or part of a well-conceived strategy aimed at a society that loves reality TV? Is Trump’s fondness for Putin simply an “infatuation” with a strongman and admiration for autocratic rule, or something of a more political and strategic nature? And what does Trump mean when he says “jobs?” In this exclusive Truthout interview, world-revered public intellectual Noam Chomsky shares for the first time his views about the first 100 days of the Trump administration.

C. J. Polychroniou: The first 100 days of Donald Trump in the White House are characterized by complete disrespect for the truth and the freedom of the press and, overall, a style of political leadership that is not merely authoritarian but also smacks of fascism. In your view, is all this part of a preconceived strategy or simply a reflection of the whims of a person with a very fragile ego?

Noam Chomsky: I don’t pretend to have any special insight into the mind of this strange person, though the people around him have been fairly coherent, in particular Steve Bannon, who seems to be the shadowed figure behind the throne.

What is happening before our eyes appears to be a two-pronged operation, I presume planned.

Bannon/Trump (and the pathetic Sean Spicer, who has to defend the latest shenanigans in public) have the task of dominating TV and headlines with one wild performance after another, the assumption apparently being that his fabrications will quickly be forgotten as the next episode displaces them, and the base will be satisfied for a time, believing that their champion is standing up for them. So, who remembers the millions of undocumented immigrants who “voted for Clinton,” or the charge that that really bad guy Obama (“sad!”) literally wiretapped poor Trump — a claim now downgraded to irrelevance, but not withdrawn — and so on? Look how well the birther tales played for many years, ending hilariously with Trump blaming Clinton for initiating the farce.

Meanwhile, the real work is going on more quietly, spearheaded by Paul Ryan, a different and more malicious kind of posturer, who represents the most brutal fringe of the Republican establishment and somehow manages to present himself as a man of ideas, maybe because — as Paul Krugman argues — he rolls up his sleeves and uses PowerPoint. The ideas are quite familiar. They are the standard fare of the component of the Republican establishment dedicated with unusual ferocity to enriching the rich and powerful — bankers, CEOs, and other types who matter — while kicking in the face the vulnerable, the poor and Trump’s rural and working-class constituency. All of this abetted by the ultra-right billionaire cabinet and other appointees, selected very carefully to destroy whatever within their domains might be helpful to mere humans, but not to the chosen few of extreme wealth and power.

The consistency is impressive, if not breathtaking.

With the collapse of the shameful GOP health care proposals, we are likely to see this scenario enacted with real passion. The White House and its congressional allies have many ways to undermine the current health care system, which, with all its flaws, is a considerable improvement over what preceded it though still well behind comparable societies, let alone what the population wants and deserves, as polls continue to show: a rational single-payer universal health care system. That is a fairly resilient phenomenon over many years, with some variation, quite remarkable in that there is virtually no articulate elite advocacy of this sane and popular position.
Continue reading Noam Chomsky interview: Behind the Trump circus

The Weakness of Weimar

Note: Excerpt from the book published in 2004 by Richard J. Evans. “The Coming of the Third Reich”.

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THE FAILURE OF DEMOCRACY -THE WEAKNESSES OF WIEMAR
I

“Fear and hatred ruled the day in Germany at the end of the First World War. Gun battles, assassinations, riots, massacres and civil unrest denied Germans the stability in which a new democratic order could flourish. Yet somebody had to take over the reins of government after the Kaiser’s abdication and the collapse of the Reich created by Bismarck. The Social Democrats stepped into the breach.

A group of leading figures in the labour movement emerged in the confusion of early November 1918 to form a revolutionary Council of People’s Delegates. Uniting, for a brief period at least, the two wings of the Social Democratic movement (the Majority, who had supported the war, and the Independents, who had opposed it), the Council was led by Friedrich Ebert, a long-time Social Democratic Party functionary. Born in 1871, the son of a tailor, he became a saddler and entered politics through his trade union activities.

He worked on the editorial staff of the Social Democratic newspaper in Bremen, then in 1893 opened a pub in the city, which like so many such institutions functioned as a centre for local labour organizations. By 1900 he was active in Bremen’s municipal politics, and as leader of the local Social Democrats he did much to improve the party’s effectiveness. In 1905 he was elected secretary to the national party’s central committee in Berlin, and in 1912 he entered the Reichstag.
Continue reading The Weakness of Weimar

Dyson: Death In Black and White

Photo

Images showing the dying moments of Philando Castile, a black man shot by the police in Minnesota during a traffic stop. Mr. Castile’s girlfriend broadcast the scene on her Facebook page.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

This essay has been updated to reflect news developments.

We, black America, are a nation of nearly 40 million souls inside a nation of more than 320 million people. And I fear now that it is clearer than ever that you, white America, will always struggle to understand us.

Like you, we don’t all think the same, feel the same, love, learn, live or even die the same.

But there’s one thing most of us agree on: We don’t want cops to be executed at a peaceful protest. We also don’t want cops to kill us without fear that they will ever face a jury, much less go to jail, even as the world watches our death on a homemade video recording. This is a difficult point to make as a racial crisis flares around us.

We close a week of violence that witnessed the tragic deaths of two black men — Alton B. Sterling and Philando Castile — at the hands of the police with a terrible attack in Dallas against police officers, whose names we’re just beginning to learn. It feels as though it has been death leading to more death, nothing anyone would ever hope for.

A nonviolent protest was hijacked by violence and so, too, was the debate about the legitimate grievances that black Americans face. The acts of the gunman in Dallas must be condemned. However, he has nothing to do with the difficult truths we must address if we are to make real racial progress, and the reckoning includes being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed or discounted.

Continue reading Dyson: Death In Black and White

Patent exhaustion

Why You Should Care About The Supreme Court Case On Toner Cartridges

A corporate squabble over printer toner cartridges doesn’t sound particularly glamorous, and the phrase “patent exhaustion” is probably already causing your eyes to glaze over. However, these otherwise boring topics are the crux of a Supreme Court case that will answer a question with far-reaching impact for all consumers: Can a company that sold you something use its patent on that product to control how you choose to use after you buy it?

The case in question is Impression Products, Inc v Lexmark International, Inc, came before the nation’s highest court on Tuesday.

As with many SCOTUS disputes, Lexmark is a devil-in-the-details case that could have wide-ranging implications for basically everyone who ever buys anything — so, all of us.

Here’s the background: Lexmark makes printers. Printers need toner in order to print, and Lexmark also happens to sell toner.

Then there’s Impression Products, a third-party company makes and refills toner cartridges for use in printers, including Lexmark’s.

Lexmark, however, doesn’t want that; if you use third-party toner cartridges, that’s money that Lexmark doesn’t make. So it sued, which brings us to the legal chain that ended up at the Supreme Court.

Printer makers are notoriously finicky about cartridges, because that’s where all the money is. Companies like Canon, HP, and Lexmark aren’t really making their millions from the $75 you spend on a printer; the real cash comes over the longterm when you have to keep spending $30 on name-brand ink cartridges once or twice every year that follows.

In an effort to keep others from getting a piece of that sweet toner revenue, Lexmark turned to its patents: The company began selling printer cartridges with a notice on the package forbidding reuse or transfer to third parties. Then, when a third-party — like Impression — came around reselling or recycling the cartridges, Lexmark could accuse them of patent infringement.

So far the courts have sided with Lexmark, ruling that Impression was using Lexmark’s patented technology in an unauthorized way. The Supreme Court is Impression’s last avenue of appeal.

What’s the legal argument? Continue reading Patent exhaustion

30 Days of Commentary

Thirty Days in the Swamp

(commentary sent via Facebook, Twitter, and Google by Richard Pressl)

3/19/2016: LGBT Issues

We have a problem Houston, and New York, and LA…and it can be seen in the LGBT issue, where the interests of the average American diverge sharply from that of the LGBT community, and which also points a challenging finger at the Democratic Party and the “Left” in general.

The “average American”, being in the majority, considers the focus of both political parties on sex matters, whether it’s abortion, same sex marriage, mixed sex bathroom facilities, et al to be a legitamized subject of concern; but by being mostly hetero they perceive the focus on LGBT issues to be distinct from their own concerns and orientation.

The perception arises that the Democratic Party political base consists only of a collection of special interest groups that fundamentally does not include “people like me”. America has a long history of bipolarism in its politics which at times in the past resulted in a consensus obtained by necessity and compromise.

This is no longer the case. As a simple examination of the failures one only need review the dysfunctional condition of our political system which feature corporate and special interest domination of political fundraising, party line voting, extremism, and elitism.

Thus, the legitimate core concerns for fairness, equality before the law, equal opportunity, and shared civility promoted by our Constitution becomes corrupted, disfigured, and potentially subject to autocratic or tyrannical forces. It has happened in countless tribes, regions, and civilizations from ancient Mesopotamia to Mississippian to Aztec cultures from pre-historic to modern times.

We have ample evidence in the animal kingdom describing what happens when the organizing framework of a society degrades past a tipping point, whether it be from pesticides, glaciation, climate change, or human interventions. Sometimes it is slow and generally imperceptible like with species extinctions, sometimes rapidly due to what are considered “natural disasters”.

As a species we collectively must begin to develop a ‘hive mentality’ if we envision a planet containing up to 10 billion humans. With that collective featuring an all-against-all, survival of the fittest mindset there can be no sustainable future for humanity that does not demand autocratic control of differentiated populations.

A meme floating around the Internet suggest, America’s future will depend on whether citizens begin to think and act as generic Americans, not as Democrats, Republicans, or members of an LGBT community.

————————————————————————————- Continue reading 30 Days of Commentary

Calvin considers death

US Dollar to MX Peso Exchange Rate Chart

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Tools for Resisters

 – Nov. 21st, 2016 –
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“Here are 20 lessons from across the fearful 20th century, adapted to the circumstances of today.
 
1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.
 
2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.
 
3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.
 
4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.
 
5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.
 
6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mindby Czeslaw Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.
 
7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.
 
8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.
 
9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.
 
10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.
 

Continue reading Tools for Resisters