Michael Wolff provides a prequel to “Fire and Fury”

How Donald Trump’s White House team handles his giant ego

Soon after the inauguration of Donald Trump on 20 January 2017, GQ columnist Michael Wolff was granted special access to the White House. Over seven months, in more than 200 interviews with the president and his staff, he sought to understand the motivations of the most peculiar presidency in history. Here, with an exclusive excerpt from the Micheal Wolff book on Trump, Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House, we look beyond the rhetoric, ego and dissimulation to expose the truth about the Commander in Tweets’ first breathless year

Eight days into office, President Trump speaks with the Australian prime minister over the phone, joined by national security advisor Michael Flynn (centre) and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, both of whom he would later fire.

On 19 April last year, Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News anchor and the biggest star in cable news, was pushed out by the Murdoch family over charges of sexual harassment. This was a continuation of the purge at the network that had begun nine months before with the firing of its chief, Roger Ailes. Fox achieved its ultimate political influence with the election of Donald Trump, yet now the future of the network seemed held in a peculiar Murdoch family limbo, between ­conservative father and liberal sons.

A few hours after the O’Reilly announcement, Ailes, from his new oceanfront home in Palm Beach, Florida – precluded by his separation agreement with Fox from any efforts to compete with it for 18 months – sent an emissary into the West Wing with a question for Steve Bannon (at the time, still Trump’s chief strategist): O’Reilly and Fox News host Sean Hannity are in, what about you? Ailes, in secret, had been plotting his comeback with a new conservative network. Then in internal exile at the White House, Bannon – “the next Ailes” – was all ears.

As right-wing media had fiercely coalesced around Trump – readily excusing all the ways he might contradict the ­traditional conservative ethos – mainstream media had become as fiercely resistant. The country was divided as much by media as by politics. Media was the avatar of politics. A sidelined Ailes was eager to get back in the game. This was his natural playing field: 1) Trump’s election proved the power of a ­significantly smaller but more ­dedicated electoral base – just as, in cable television terms, a smaller, hardcore base was more valuable than a bigger, less committed one; 2) this meant an inverse dedication by an equally small circle of passionate enemies; 3) hence, there would be blood.

If Bannon was as finished as he appeared in the White House, this was his ­opportunity too. Indeed, the problem with Bannon’s $1.5 million a year internet-centric Breitbart News was that it couldn’t be monetised or scaled up in a big way, but with O’Reilly and Hannity on board, there could be television riches fuelled by, into the foreseeable future, a new Trump-inspired era of right-wing passion and hegemony.

Continue reading Michael Wolff provides a prequel to “Fire and Fury”

Basket of deplorables revisited

{from a conversation on Facebook}


The noun version works just fine for me

Lookups for ‘deplorable’ spike following comments at a New York fund-raiser
Robert Bouillon I wonder if she included a chapter on this comment in her book, “What Happened”?

One would imagine it would be hard to convert a Trump supporter you once labelled as “deplorable”

From her address she said: “you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorable” … – so that half of the target is not in the basket. Second defense: she said this at a fundraiser/meeting foSee More

Robert Bouillon I guess for me, it strikes a personal chord. Not because I supported Trump (I voted for Jill Stein). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown a kind of allergy to name-calling and derogatory labels. They really serve no purpose other than to boost one’s own ego by demeaning someone else. Yes, many of the racist and homophobic actions partaken are repugnant, and deplorable. Does that make the people who perform them deplorable? I would argue no, because I understand that we’re all a product of our environment, our genetics, and out upbringing. We’re all human. If there’s a group of people behaving deplorably, it is a cultural problem. It is a leadership problem. It’s a government problem. If a person is raised to hate blacks, is that their fault? How do you SOLVE the problem? Certainly not by calling someone a name.

So for me, the context in which she delivers this message doesn’t change that perception that it was immature and reflected an egotistical perspective on her part, and poor leadership. I can tell you from many a facebook debate that telling someone who is racist that they are “deplorable” does not push the conversation in a productive direction, and for good reason.

She lost points with me, and disenfranchised many others who were on the fence, and rightfully so. It’s amazing to me that blunders this big are so overlooked as she highlights ‘Russian Meddling’ as the main reason she lost.

Robert Bouillon We should universally condemn racism, homophobia, etc, but not the people. Otherwise, you lose all hope of changing anything.
Richard Pressl Back in my college days, I participated in several group training programs designed to address dysfunctional personality issues, and as I recall, one of the prime transmission lines was to make sure offenders came to understand and internalize the notion their aberrations were “not socially acceptable”. I combined this with Altemeyer’s studies on sociopaths and formed the operating principle that your “social welfare” orientation toward aberrant behavior is suitable for large portions of humanity, yet there is a large segment that gains strength for their aberration by what they perceive as the acquiescence of a targeted audience. Translated to current political phraseology it yields the labeling of progressives as “snowflakes” by the Alt-Right. As a huge fan of “Justice”, I am willing to give people the benefit of doubt on the nature vs nurture seesaw; but once a person steps into the anti-social world I slowly shed my allowances depending on how far the transgressions go. By choosing to actively support a candidate who publically supported a whole “basket full” of deplorable ideas, orientations, and actions – then, in my book they deserved to be called out for it – although ideally, not by Clinton herself….rather it should have been the community saying it.

The unseen World: by George Monbiot

The Unseen World

Posted: 28 Dec 2017 04:43 AM PST

To be aware of the wonders of the living planet is to take on an unbearable burden of grief

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 19th December 2017


What you see is not what others see. We inhabit parallel worlds of perception, bounded by our interests and experience. What is obvious to some is invisible to others. I might find myself standing, transfixed, by the roadside, watching a sparrowhawk hunting among the bushes, astonished that other people could ignore it. But they might just as well be wondering how I could have failed to notice the new V6 Pentastar Sahara that just drove past.

As the psychologist Richard Wiseman points out, “At any one moment, your eyes and brain only have the processing power to look at a very small part of your surroundings. … your brain quickly identifies what it considers to be the most significant aspects of your surroundings, and focuses almost all of its attention on these elements.” Everything else remains unseen.

Our selective blindness is lethal to the living world. Joni Mitchell’s claim that “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” is, sadly, untrue: our collective memory is wiped clean by ecological loss. One of the most important concepts defining our relationship to the living world is Shifting Baseline Syndrome, coined by the fisheries biologist Daniel Pauly. The people of every generation perceive the state of the ecosystems they encountered in their childhood as normal and natural. When wildlife is depleted, we might notice the loss, but we are unaware that the baseline by which we judge the decline is in fact a state of extreme depletion.

So we forget that the default state of almost all ecosystems – on land and at sea – is domination by a megafauna. We are unaware that there is something deeply weird about British waters: namely that they are not thronged with great whales, vast shoals of bluefin tuna, two-metre cod and halibut the size of doors, as they were until a few centuries ago. We are unaware that the absence of elephants, rhinos, lions, scimitar cats, hyaenas and hippos, that lived in this country during the last interglacial period (when the climate was almost identical to today’s), is also an artifact of human activity.
Continue reading The unseen World: by George Monbiot

Unregulated free markets are not optimal systems

Perhaps the most widely admired of all the economic theories taught in our universities is the notion that an unregulated competitive economy is optimal for everyone.

In this optimal economy, each person is said to be a free actor who makes decisions purely in his or her own self-interest. Economists on both the right and left commonly say that these fundamental ideas tie our values of freedom and individuality to the success of our economies.

The problem is that these ideas are flawed. Along with George A. Akerlof, university professor at Georgetown and a fellow Nobel laureate in economic science, I have used behavioral economics to plumb the soundness of these notions.

In our book, “Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception” (Princeton, 2015), we question the all-commanding relevance of the free-market theory to our actual lives and economies. While we confirm the importance of free markets, we have found that market regulation has been crucial, and believe that will continue to be true in the future.

Continue reading Unregulated free markets are not optimal systems

Looking backward in remorse


NASHVILLE, March 7, 1982— New but long-held secret information was disclosed today in one of the most disputed trials in American history, the murder conviction and subsequent mob lynching of Leo Frank almost 70 years ago. (ed: episode occurred in the period 1913-1915)

Mr. Frank, a 29-year-old Jewish factory superintendent, was convicted in Atlanta of killing one of his employees, Mary Phagan, 14, and dumping her in the basement of the pencil factory where they worked.

But in a sworn statement to the newspaper The Tennessean, an 83-year-old Virginian who, seven decades ago, was a frightened and reluctant teen-age witness in that trial, now says that he saw the real killer bear-hugging the long-haired girl at her waist and carrying her limp, unconscious body to a partly opened trap door leading to the basement on the day she was murdered.

”Leo Frank did not kill Mary Phagan,” Alonzo Mann insisted in confirmation of a widely believed theory of historians. Says Janitor Was Murderer

”She was murdered instead by Jim Conley,” he asserted, referring to a factory janitor who was the chief witness against Mr. Frank. Mr. Mann was 14 years old at the time of the murder and was working as Mr. Frank’s office boy for $8 a week. He said the janitor, startled by the boy, threatened to kill him if he ever mentioned what he had seen that day.

Young Alonzo Mann was called to testify at the trial, but was asked only a few perfunctory questions. On the advice of his mother, he volunteered no information and told no one in authority what he had seen that Saturday, April 26, 1913. He said he continued to heed that advice for several years, except for an occasional confidence to relatives and a rebuffed attempt to tell an Atlanta newspaper reporter 30 years ago.
Continue reading Looking backward in remorse

A friend looks at the new tax plan

via Jan Erb on Facebook

How many of you would fall for the pool sharks? Billiards, not swimming. They would let you win small bets, then suggest higher stakes so they have a chance of winning back their money. Then they proceed to systematically clean you out.

This is exactly what the Republican tax bill does for over 75% of the population. I have done the research, run a few of the tax calculators comparing existing versus new tax plan. I do see a lower income tax bill. Several problems with this small savings on taxes.

First, is the debt. I know most of you will think that doesn’t matter but much of the annual deficit is paying interest on the debt. If we didn’t have any debt, then your taxes could be significantly lowered. Israel, to whom we give millions, has no net debt. My personal share of the debt, derived by finding the estimated deficit increase and dividing that by the total number of individual taxes filed for 2016, is more than twice what I will receive in savings the first year.

To add insult to injury, according to the estimates for the future, I will be paying more taxes under the new plan in ten years. Some costs will be more immediate. By removing the mandate in the ACA (Affordable Care Act), the Republicans have destroyed the savings of the ACA. Almost everyone will see an increase in insurance cost in 2019 when this mandate will no longer exist. Some of those choosing to not buy insurance may benefit but their average cost will go up since most health care providers charge significantly more for services when you do not have insurance.

Just check your EOB from your insurance company and see what the original charge was versus the amount that qualifies under your insurance. Emotional maturity requires the ability to plan for the future. Supporting the Republicans and their tax plan is short-sighted unless you are a part of the top 5% and very greedy, caring more about amassing wealth far beyond what one can reasonably spend within several generations than you are about the well being of America and the American economy.

Let’s be blunt. Trickle Down does not work and the tax incentives given to business are more likely to have them investing in technology that reduces the need for as many workers. It is unfortunate that most people will not do the research and instead buy into the Republican propaganda – they will not even read posts like this one because it is too long, preferring to read tweets and listen to sound bites.

Who are we as a country? Time to decide: Sally Yates

Stand up and speak out on America’s core founding values. We are not living in ordinary times, and it’s not enough to admire them from afar.

by Sally Q. Yates, Opinion contributor  – Published 3:15 a.m. ET Dec. 19, 2017 | Updated 1:25 p.m. ET Dec. 19, 2017

When Republican Sen. John Cornyn expressed disappointment in Sally Yates for opposing President Trump’s travel ban, the former acting attorney general reminded him of the promise she made during her 2015 confirmation hearing. USA TODAY

Over the course of our nation’s history, we have faced inflection points — times when we had to decide who we are as a country and what we stand for. Now is such a time. Beyond policy disagreements and partisan gamesmanship, there is something much more fundamental hanging in the balance. Will we remain faithful to our country’s core values?

Our founding documents set forth the values that make us who we are, or at least who we aspire to be. I say aspire to be because we haven’t always lived up to our founding ideals — even at the time of our founding. When the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that all men are created equal, hundreds of thousands of African Americans were being enslaved by their fellow Americans.

Not so long ago, all across the Jim Crow South, our country’s definition was defiled by lynchings, the systematic disenfranchisement of African-American voters, and the burning of freedom riders’ buses. And still today, we have yet to realize fully our nation’s promise of equal justice.

Despite our differences, we as Americans have long held a shared vision of what our country means and what values we expect our leaders to embrace. Today, our continued commitment to these unifying principles is needed more than ever.

What are the values that unite us? You don’t have to look much further than the Preamble to our Constitution, just 52 words, to find them:

 “We the people of the United States” (we are a democratic republic, not a dictatorship) “in order to form a more perfect union” (we are a work in progress dedicated to a noble pursuit) “establish justice” (we revere justice as the cornerstone of our democracy) “insure domestic tranquility” (we prize unity and peace, not divisiveness and discord), “provide for the common defense” (we should never give any foreign adversary reason to question our solidarity) “promote the general welfare” (we care about one another; compassion and decency matter) “and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” (we have a responsibility to protect not just our own generation, but future ones as well).

Our forefathers packed a lot into that single sentence. Our Bill of Rights is similarly succinct in guaranteeing individual liberties — rights that we have come to take for granted but without vigilance can erode and slip away, such as freedom of speech (our right to protest and be heard); freedom of religion (the essential separation between how one worships and the power of the state); and freedom of the press (a democratic institution essential to informing the public and holding our leaders accountable).

Our shared values include another essential principle, and that’s the rule of law — the promise that the law applies equally to everyone, that no person is above it, and that all are entitled to its protection. This concept of equal protection recognizes that our country’s strength comes from honoring, not weaponizing, the diversity that springs from being a nation of Native Americans and immigrants of different races, religions and nationalities.

The rule of law depends not only on things that are written down, but also on important traditions and norms, such as apolitical law enforcement. That’s why Democratic and Republican administrations alike, at least since Watergate, have honored that the rule of law requires a strict separation between the Justice Department and the White House on criminal cases and investigations. This wall of separation is what ensures the public can have confidence that the criminal process is not being used as a sword to go after one’s political enemies or as a shield to protect those in power. It’s what separates us from an autocracy.

And there is something else that separates us from an autocracy, and that’s truth. There is such a thing as objective truth. We can debate policies and issues, and we should. But those debates must be based on common facts rather than raw appeals to emotion and fear through polarizing rhetoric and fabrications.

Not only is there such a thing as objective truth, failing to tell the truth matters. We can’t control whether our public servants lie to us. But we can control whether we hold them accountable for those lies or whether, in either a state of exhaustion or to protect our own political objectives, we look the other way and normalize an indifference to truth.

We are not living in ordinary times, and it is not enough for us to admire our nation’s core values from afar. Our country’s history is littered with individuals and factions who have tried to exploit our imperfections, but it is more powerfully marked by those whose vigilance toward a more perfect union has prevailed.

So stand up. Speak out. Our country needs all of us to raise our collective voices in support of our democratic ideals and institutions. That is what we stand for. That is who we are. And with a shared commitment to our founding principles, that is who we will remain.

Naomi Klein interview: Dec. 22th, 2017

Trump Embodies the Crisis of Capitalism: A Conversation With  – Naomi Klein

Saturday, December 23, 2017By Laura Flanders, Truthout | Interview

President Donald Trump talks with journalists after signing tax reform legislation into law in the Oval Office December 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump praised Republican leaders in Congress for all their work on the biggest tax overhaul in decades. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)  President Donald Trump talks with journalists after signing tax reform legislation into law in the Oval Office December 22, 2017, in Washington, DC. 

How did we get to the Trump presidency and the current political moment? How might things get worse and what can we do to build an alternative? In her new book, Naomi Klein offers what she describes as “a plan for how, if we keep our heads, we might just be able to flip the script and arrive at a radically better future.” Arundhati Roy calls No Is Not Enough “an ordinary person’s guide to hope.” Order your copy today by making a donation to Truthout!

After the spate of disastrous floods, fires and quakes that have shocked us this year, this is a good time to revisit Naomi Klein, whose work continues to dig deep into the way that the global capitalists use shock and chaos to advance their agenda, regardless of the impact on the vulnerable. It’s hard to think of a national or global emergency that Donald Trump hasn’t tried to exploit for his own purposes, but still, a year after his election, roughly 30 percent of Americans polled continue to support his presidency. What is Trump selling? Who’s buying? And why? And what do those who consider themselves part of the resistance need to say “yes” to, after so many months and years of saying “no” to Trump and Trumpism? Naomi Klein is the author of 2017’s No Is Not Enough, as well as The Shock DoctrineNo Logo and This Changes Everything. You can watch this conversation — and many more like this — on the Laura Flanders Show, or subscribe to the free podcast: @lfshow

Laura Flanders: I’m waiting for the book that has “YES” as big on the cover.

Naomi Klein: Yeah, yeah. No, it’s true. I don’t like that when you look at it from far all you see is “No,” because that’s the opposite message of the book.

There’s a really important insight in this book, which has to do with the story we tell about capitalism. It’s changed. No longer the lifting of all boats. Can you just stop there and talk about the implications?

Well, I mean, we are in this moment where the ascendant moment for the so-called free-market project is in profound crisis, and in truth, it’s been in crisis for a long time. It’s been a kind of slow crisis with various stages, right? It was in crisis really, since it no longer became possible to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the consent of all the countries involved.

Lots of people would say it is crisis.

… that it is crisis, absolutely. I think there was a period from the ’80s and ’90s, let’s just say, the Reagan/Thatcher moment through the Clinton era, maybe up until … Seattle [in] 1999, where there was still … the promise and the propaganda of just, “We just need more capitalism and that’s what’s going to fix it. We need to deregulate markets further, we need to privatize everything. We need to lock it all in with these corporate free trade deals …”

… and that in so doing, we’d raise all boats.

Yeah, that it was going to spread around the world, prosperity for everyone. That phase of bringing in every corner of the globe into this singular project, that is what’s been in crisis, and it’s been in crisis because, for a long time, it was largely at the level of promise. Like, “If we do this, then this will happen….” But now, we’re in a moment where there’s a mountain of data, thanks to theorists like Thomas Piketty who have shown us so dramatically how inequality has widened everywhere — that these policies have been adopted, and lived experience, right?

So, that crisis, I think, has been building now for a couple of decades, but the 2008 financial crisis, watching the powerful break all of their lives in broad daylight, right? Intervening so dramatically in the market, doing all the things that they said couldn’t be done, everyone saw that, and once you see it, you can’t unsee it. You understand that the rules can be broken.

The other aspect of this is that the story about lifting all boats is up against a scenario, a reality where I think the last story I heard today was five people — five men — have between them the wealth equivalent to half the rest of the population, the rest of the world’s assets? Something like $400 billion.

Yep, 50 percent, yeah.

So, what you say in the book is that we replace that story of “capitalism will help everybody” with the story of “it’s winners and losers and you don’t want to be a loser.”

Right, right, and that is key to understanding Trump, because what he has been selling in this period as the wealth gap has widened, this period of a small group of super winners, and a whole lot of people who are just losing, is: “I will teach you how to be a winner.” I think it’s really important to understand that that is what he has been promising since he wrote The Art of the Deal. Like, “I’m going to teach you how to be like me, never mind that wealth is inherited, never mind that everything was handed to me….” And this is what he was selling at Trump University. “I’m going to turn you into the next Donald Trump.” University, right. That’s what “The Apprentice” was, right?
Continue reading Naomi Klein interview: Dec. 22th, 2017

Administration wants to change disclosure rules for airline baggage fees

Bad Science Debunked: Aluminum in Health Supplements

kelly brogan real salt aluminum vaccines header

Kelly Brogan, MD: A-Salt With a “Deadly” Weapon (Part One)

by Mark Aaron Alsip

The takeaways:

  • Kelly Brogan, M.D. claims aluminum is toxic to all life forms1 and falsely links it to a plethora of diseases.
  • Brogan’s fear mongering re: aluminum includes steering patients away from life-saving vaccines that contain small amounts of the element.
  • Via her online store, the doctor sells aluminum via a health supplement, in amounts that equal or exceed the aluminum found in the vaccines she wrongly vilifies.
  • Ominously, the 2018 SXSW Festival is offering Dr. Brogan a popular platform to further her dangerous and hypocritical “medical” views.

You can’t swing a virtual dead cat on the internet without hitting a doctor who has an online store, and Kelly Brogan, M.D., is no exception.  While Brogan tirelessly campaigns against aluminum in vaccines, foods, and beauty products, ironically, she sells a health supplement that contains as much or more aluminum than is found in the safe, critical vaccines against which she fear mongers.

Dr. Brogan peddles Real Salt2, touted to contain more than sixty essential trace elements that promote health and well being.3  Unfortunately for the good doctor, one of those elements is aluminum, which she falsely links to a wide range of problems, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease, neurological disorders, ADHD, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and others.1,4,5,6,7,8,10

In the following images, we can see Real Salt for sale at KellyBroganMD.com,2 as well as an elemental analysis of the salt provided by the vendor.9  Please click each image to enlarge.
Continue reading Bad Science Debunked: Aluminum in Health Supplements

Oumuamua from Vega

The Search For Aliens On A Visiting Asteroid

By Brian Koberlein on Dec 17, 2017 07:00 am

If an alien civilization wanted to study planet Earth, how might they do it? They could use powerful telescopes to measure the physical characteristics of our planet, or they could listen for signals from our TV and radio broadcasts. These are things we are doing in our search for alien civilizations. But a really advanced alien civilization might try something a bit more ambitious, such as an actual mission to Earth. One way to do this would be to build a probe within an asteroid, and send it on a journey across the stars. The asteroid could shelter the probe during it’s long trip through interstellar space. Once it arrived in our solar system, the probe could gather detailed information about Earth and the solar system. It might even try to communicate with humans by beaming a radio signal in Earth’s direction. Such an alien probe would look a lot like the recently discovered asteroid Oumuamua, which is why the Breakthrough Listen project wants to study it.

Oumuamua was discovered in October by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope. Unlike any other asteroid, Oumuamua has an interstellar orbit. It is moving through our solar system so quickly that could not have originated in our solar system. Based on its trajectory, it came to our solar system from the general direction of the star Vega. Coincidentally, Vega is star aliens first communicated with humans from in Carl Sagan’s novel Contact. In addition to being the first confirmed interstellar object to enter our solar system, it also has a highly unusual cigar shape, with a length about 10 times longer than its width. Add to this the fact that Oumuamua made a relatively close approach to Earth, within 15 million miles of our planet, and it begins to look a bit alien.

Odds are this asteroid is just a chance visitor to our system. We’ve known that some asteroids can escape the solar system through close flybys of large planets like Jupiter, so it makes sense that asteroids from other star systems could travel between the stars. Such interstellar visitors might be rare, but they don’t require aliens to send them on their way. But Breakthrough Listen is interested in finding evidence of alien civilizations, no matter how long the odds. So when Oumuamua was discovered, it made for a promising target.

Oumuamua is currently about 2 astronomical units away from Earth. About twice as far as the Earth is from the Sun. That’s still much closer than many of the probes we’ve sent into space, such as Cassini and New Horizons. If it is an alien probe sending radio transmissions we should be capable of detecting them. So Breakthrough Listen will use the Green Bank Telescope to look for any evidence of alien technology, searching across four radio bands, from 1 to 12 GHz, for a total time of about 10 hours. If an alien probe wants to be detected, that’s a good frequency range to search.

Just to be clear, the odds of Breakthrough Listen finding anything are really slim. Studies so far haven’t found anything that would imply an artificial origin. But even if Breakthrough Listen doesn’t find anything, their observations will add to those we already have, and help us better understand asteroids that are rare, but natural, alien visitors.

The post The Search For Aliens On A Visiting Asteroid appeared first on One Universe at a Time.

Administration orders the CDC not to use certain words in official documents


One of the easily detected elements of dictatorships is the manipulation, and subjugation of information and shared knowledge with the replacement of truth by propaganda. Gas lighting is one early mechanism, as are manufactured enemies, a sense of national humiliation, and a willingness to accept an authoritarian leader. Here is how this played out in Germany in the 30’s: – https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimpowell/2013/02/05/how-dictators-come-to-power-in-a-democracy/#e5f0d3d7ff70 

This is one way…

Where is the food going to come from?

We Can’t Keep Eating Like This

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 11th December 2017 – Posted: 13 Dec 2017 05:35 AM PST


This is the question everyone should be attending to – where is the food going to come from?

Brexit; the crushing of democracy by billionaires; the next financial crash; a rogue US president: none of them keeps me awake at night. This is not because I don’t care – I care very much. It’s only because I have a bigger question on my mind. Where is the food going to come from?

By mid-century there will be two or three billion more people on Earth. Any one of the issues I am about to list could help precipitate mass starvation. And this is before you consider how they might interact.

The trouble begins where everything begins: with soil. The UN’s famous projection that, at current rates of soil loss, the world has 60 years of harvests left, appears to be supported by a new set of figures. Partly as a result of soil degradation, yields are already declining on 20% of the world’s croplands.

Now consider water loss. In places such as the North China Plain, the central United States, California and north-western India – among the world’s critical growing regions – levels of the groundwater used to irrigate crops are already reaching crisis point. Water in the Upper Ganges aquifer, for example, is being withdrawn at 50 times its recharge rate. But, to keep pace with food demand, farmers in South Asia expect to use between 80 and 200% more water by 2050. Where will it come from?

The next constraint is temperature. One study suggests that, all else being equal, with each degree Celsius of warming the global yield of rice drops by 3%, wheat by 6% and maize by 7%. This could be optimistic. Research published in the journal Agricultural & Environmental Letters finds that 4°C of warming in the US Corn Belt could reduce maize yields by between 84 and 100%.

The reason is that high temperatures at night disrupt the pollination process. But this describes just one component of the likely pollination crisis. Insectageddon, caused by the global deployment of scarcely-tested pesticides, will account for the rest. Already, in some parts of the world, workers are now pollinating plants by hand. But that’s viable only for the most expensive crops.

Then there are the structural factors. Because they tend to use more labour, grow a wider range of crops and work the land more carefully, small farmers, as a rule, grow more food per hectare than large ones. In the poorer regions of the world, people with less than 5 hectares own 30% of the farmland but produce 70% of the food. Since 2000, an area of fertile ground roughly twice the size of the United Kingdom has been seized by land grabbers and consolidated into large farms, generally growing crops for export rather than the food needed by the poor.
Continue reading Where is the food going to come from?

Us & Them

The widening gap between liberals and the people who hate them

via Washington Post by Ishaan Tharoor – Dec. 13, 2017


In a year marked by political turbulence and increased polarization in the West, it more and more seems as though the battered liberal establishment and right-wing populists speak different languages. One side champions a shared global future, the other clings to the mythic bonds of blood and soil. One side agonizes about inclusion and dialogue, the other finds its greatest energy in a climate of rage and fear.

Macron’s globalism — to use a term loaded with political meaning over the past year — and the good intentions of jet-setting financiers have no real answer for what drives the fury of right-wing populists in France. Indeed, the leftist populism of Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn seems perhaps a more effective counter at a time when large sections of the European electorate see themselves losing out amid two decades of rapid globalization.

But the appeal of right-wing populism is not just about economic grievance. Trump and his far-right counterparts across the Atlantic have clung to the issues Macron dodges, namely narrow visions of identity and the siren song of nationalism. As the liberal Bulgarian thinker Ivan Krastev wrote in a recent New York Times column, “populism thrives when politics become about symbols rather than substance,” while populists seek “to keep society highly polarized.”

That is powerfully on show in the United States, where Trump has marshaled his base with claims of restoring a lost past, demonizing immigrants and warring with mainstream institutions, including the media. His messaging revolves around incessant declarations of victory and promises for further success — the building of a wall, the bombing of the enemy, the banning of migrants.

So while Macron and other champions of the liberal order winked and smirked at Trump’s absence in Paris, it’s almost certain the U.S. president didn’t care much — indeed, in the current climate, enemies like Macron are exactly what he may want.

Panama and Trump

Ivanka and the fugitive from Panama


FAMILY BUSINESS: Donald Trump wanted the Ocean Club project in Panama to help his daughter Ivanka learn about the property business, according to Roger Khafif, the club’s developer. Above, Ivanka and her father on the south lawn of the White House in June, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Exclusive: How an alleged fraudster in Panama, working with Donald Trump’s daughter, helped make Trump’s first international hotel venture a success. The broker was in business with a money-launderer and two criminals from the former Soviet Union. Then he fled.
SNAPPED: Ivanka Trump and Alexandre Ventura Nogueira at Trump Tower in New York in 2006, and Donald Trump with Nogueira at Mar-a-Lago in 2007. The photographs were obtained from Nogueira, who did not identify who took them.

Portuguese version        Spanish version

PANAMA CITY/TORONTO – In the spring of 2007, a succession of foreigners, many from Russia, arrived at Panama City airport to be greeted by a chauffeur who whisked them off in a white Cadillac with a Donald Trump logo on the side.

The limousine belonged to a business run by a Brazilian former car salesman named Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, who was offering the visitors a chance to invest in Trump’s latest project – a 70-floor tower called the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower. It was the future U.S. president’s first international hotel venture, a complex including residential apartments and a casino in a waterfront building shaped like a sail.

“Mr Nogueira was an outgoing and lively young man,” remembered Justine Pasek, who was crowned Miss Universe by Donald Trump in 2002 and was acting in 2007 as a spokesperson for Nogueira’s company, Homes Real Estate Investment & Services. “Everybody was so impressed with Homes as they seemed to be riding the top of the real estate boom at the time,” she said.

One of those Nogueira set out to impress was Ivanka, Trump’s daughter. In an interview with Reuters, Nogueira said he met and spoke with Ivanka “many times” when she was handling the Trump Organization’s involvement in the Panama development. “She would remember me,” he said.

Ivanka was so taken with his sales skills, Nogueira said, that she helped him become a leading broker for the development and he appeared in a video with her promoting the project.

A Reuters investigation into the financing of the Trump Ocean Club, in conjunction with the American broadcaster NBC News, found Nogueira was responsible for between one-third and one-half of advance sales for the project. It also found he did business with a Colombian who was later convicted of money laundering and is now in detention in the United States; a Russian investor in the Trump project who was jailed in Israel in the 1990s for kidnap and threats to kill; and a Ukrainian investor who was arrested for alleged people-smuggling while working with Nogueira and later convicted by a Kiev court.

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The Issue Of Jerusalem

Why Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel

Al Jazeera English by Zena Tahhan & Farah Najjar


US President Donald Trump called Jerusalem the capital of Israel on Wednesday and began the process moving his country’s embassy to the city. The move sparked global condemnation from world leaders. Israel occupied East Jerusalem at the end of the 1967 War with Syria, Egypt and Jordan; the western half of the holy city had been captured in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem effectively put the entire city under de facto Israeli control. Israeli jurisdiction and ownership of Jerusalem, however, is not recognized by the international community, including the United States. The status of Jerusalem remains one of the main sticking points in efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

International community position

Under the 1947 UN Partition Plan to divide historical Palestine between Jewish and Arab states, Jerusalem was granted special status and was meant to be placed under international sovereignty and control. The special status was based on Jerusalem’s religious importance to the three Abrahamic religions.  In the 1948 war, following the UN’s recommendation to divide Palestine, Zionist forces took control of the western half of the city and declared the territory part of its state.

During the 1967 war, Israel captured the eastern half of Jerusalem, which was under Jordanian control at the time, and proceeded to effectively annex it by extending Israeli law, bringing it directly under its jurisdiction, in a breach of international law. In 1980, Israel passed the “Jerusalem Law”, stating that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”, thereby formalizing its annexation of East Jerusalem. In response, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 478 in 1980, declaring the law “null and void”.
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The Melting Pot vs The Pool

The Post War I & II periods saw the emergence of the American “Melting Pot”, comprised of Europeans immigrants, rural farmers, trades, communicants, unions, socialists, small towners, feminists, blacks & browns, and human rights advocates which oriented itself toward liberal social and political ideals.

Beginning in the 70’s a contrasting collective formed, a “Pool” consisting of uber-capitalists, Randians, anti-black, Christian fundamentalist, anti-science, anti-elite, white privileged, freedom-focused, Nationalists, survival-of-the-fittest, authoritarian, hostile to universalism, anti-tax, and folks intent on forcing their orientation on others which championed what became known as a “conservative” orientation.

For about sixty years, America functioned under the “Melting Pot” motif, but after Reagan, the center-left lost its hold on the public sphere, and for the past forty years the base has morphed into a “Pool” – today’s Republican and Libertarian parties.

In spite of all the progressive legislation passed in the early period which benefited the majority of American, the latter period has exalted personal wealth, power, dominion, and control of others which has brought the country to its current state of disunity and dysfunction.

The liberal melting pot constituency dissipated, to be replaced on center stage by an orientation which had no appreciation for anything objective, universal, or even broadly humanitarian.

The election of trump simply demonstrates the conservative Pool is larger than the Melting Pot. The “Pool” motif is fitting for another reason: people are generally tribal in public, choosing to associate primarily with others who are like them. Even in extreme perspectives, such as criminality, this holds true, where whites primarily rob/kill/rape whites, and blacks primarily assault their own race members.

Yemen’s situation report

The death of Yemen’s strongman sets the stage for even more chaos

via Washington 202 by Ishaan Tharoor – Dec 5, 2017


Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh dominated the political life of his country for close to four decades. He was president for 33 years and survived the 2011 upheavals that rocked the Arab world, stepping down after political negotiations while autocrats elsewhere were cast out or killed. He later resurfaced, allying himself to a rebellion that unseated the weak Saudi-backed government that had replaced him, and became a key player in the civil war that has ravaged Yemen for the past three years.

Saleh, a Machiavellian political operator who held sway by manipulating Yemen’s mess of tribal and political divisions, infamously referred to his task as “dancing on the heads of snakes.” The snakes, critics contend, were of his own creation. In their view, Yemen was a country consumed by Saleh’s short-term alliances and cynical power plays. Whatever the case, Saleh’s dance has finally come to an end.The 75-year-old former president was apparently killed on Monday by Houthi rebels. Though the circumstances of his death were not clear, some reports suggested he attempted to flee the capital, Sanaa, but was stopped and killed at a Houthi checkpoint.

It is an astonishing development given that Saleh had been allied with the Iran-backed group as recently as last week.It was Saleh’s tacit support that enabled the Houthis to seize the Yemeni capital in late 2014, driving out the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. And it was his designs on power that saw him maintain his pact with the Houthis — a faction linked to a Shiite sect that Saleh had repressed in the past — after the Saudi-led coalition began bombing and blockading the country in March 2015. That same thirst for power, however, was likely what drove Saleh to turn his back on the Houthis, possibly in the hope that his Abu Dhabi-based son could ultimately return home and take control. “Yemeni citizens have tried to tolerate the recklessness of the Houthis over the last two and half years but cannot anymore,” Saleh said on Saturday, in a gesture of conciliation with the Saudi-led coalition.
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Official Pew Research Report on FCC Net Neutrality Public Comments

Public Comments to the Federal Communications Commission About Net Neutrality Contain Many Inaccuracies and Duplicates 

November 2017


Full text of  report: http://www.bizmarts.com/PewReport.pdf