Tag Archives: articles

201111

Trump Tees Up a New Type of Coup: In Plain Sight
by Ted Rall, 201111

Donald Trump revolutionized political campaigning. It was by accident. Because he was too lazy to prepare for or memorize a stump speech, he ad-libbed his rallies; TV networks gave him $2 billion worth of free airtime because something he said might prove newsworthy. Because he was cheap, he made appearances at any random dump that would have him for free; he used the money he saved on big data research that paid off handsomely.

Now the president is attempting to revolutionize the art of the coup d’état.

Leaders of broad-based movements who want to overthrow an existing government usually agitate for revolution in plain sight. The activism of a popular front attracts new recruits.

A coup is the opposite of a revolution. Unlike revolutionaries, who need the masses to succeed, coup plotters require secrecy. A coup is usually carried out by a very small group of insiders. Coup schemers are not interested in, or have concluded that they cannot, obtain popular support. They do not seek to transform society. They simply want power. It is an attempt by a minnow to swallow a whale.

Without the protection of millions of adherents and operating outside constitutional norms, politicians and/or military men who plot a coup must take over the government by surprise. Leaders of the outgoing regime have to be in prison or dead, and thus powerless, before their supporters realize that their nation has been seized by a small faction. A coup d’état is over before it begins in the event that some element of the conspiracy comes to light before the zero hour. The classic example of a failed coup is Operation Valkyrie, the 1944 attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler and overthrow of the Nazi government of Germany by a group of military officers. The plot unraveled when Hitler survived a bomb attack and went on the radio.

Successful coups include the 2004 overthrow of democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, whom the CIA kidnapped and spirited away to the Central African Republic, whose president Ange-Félix Patassé had himself been deposed in a coup a year earlier, the Taliban-supported takeover of Pakistan by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999, and the bizarre 1993 self-coup by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who illegally shelled and dissolved parliament.

All of these events seemingly came out of nowhere. By contrast, Donald Trump is laying the groundwork for a coup attempt in plain sight.

Defying tradition, Trump is still refusing to concede the election since the Associated Press and other media organizations called the race in favor of Joe Biden on Saturday, November 7th. Without presenting evidence of fraud or other wrongdoing, he has filed several lawsuits challenging the legitimacy of the vote count.

Most top Republicans are supporting Trump, or remaining silent and refusing to congratulate Biden. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the floor of the U.S. Senate. “President Trump is 100 percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” said McConnell. “Let’s not have any lectures about how the president should immediately, cheerfully accept preliminary election results from the same characters who just spent four years refusing to accept the validity of the last election.”

Asked whether he planned to congratulate Biden, Ron Johnson (R-WI) replied: “Nothing to congratulate him about.” Even as world leaders called to acknowledge Biden’s win, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

Roger Stone, the political adviser and loyalist pardoned by Trump, previewed the possibility of a post-election military takeover in September. If Trump lost, Stone said at the time, he ought to declare “martial law,” invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, nationalize state police forces and round up critics and political opponents including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “the Clintons,” and journalists because they’re involved in “seditious activities.” On November 2nd Stone said Former CIA Director John Brennan, Former FBI Director James Comey and other former officials who offended Trump “must be tried and convicted of treason” and then “they must be hung by the neck until dead.” Stone is still tight with Trump: news just broke that the president had the IRS wipe away Stone’s bill for back taxes, which totaled $1.5 million.

Attorney General William Barr, following Stone’s recommendation, ordered the Department of Justice to investigate irregularities and improprieties in the election.

In order to enforce martial law Trump would need, and has, widespread support among the police. He would also need the military. Though inherently reactionary, active-duty troops have moved away from the president in recent months. So he is replacing top Pentagon brass with compliant loyalists likelier to follow his illegal and unconstitutional orders.

On November 9th Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who refused to deploy troops against Black Lives Matters protesters in June. “In my experience, there would only be a few reasons to fire a Secretary of Defense with 72 days left in an administration,” Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and an official in Obama’s Pentagon, said. “[One] would be because the President wants to take actions that he believes his Secretary of Defense would refuse to take, which would be alarming.”

“Two White House officials said later on Monday that Mr. Trump was not finished, and that Christopher A. Wray, the FBI director, and Gina Haspel, the CIA director, could be next in line to be fired. Removing these senior officials — in effect decapitating the nation’s national security bureaucracy — would be without parallel by an outgoing president who has just lost re-election,” reported The New York Times.

In a major, unprecedented transition-period shakeup, policy chief James Anderson, intelligence boss Joseph Kernan and Esper’s chief of staff Jen Stewart have also been fired from the Pentagon. Anderson’s replacement is retired Army General Anthony Tata, a nutty far-right white nationalist who called Obama a “terrorist leader,” said Islam was the “most oppressive violent religion I know of” and used a racist slur against CNN host Don Lemon. He will do whatever Trump wants.

What’s going on? Stupid impetuous drama? Or a real coup?

If it turns out to be a coup, it may well prove that teeing it up in plain sight improves its chances of success. Trump’s supporters, disproportionately prone to violence and more heavily armed, are watching and waiting. They can only pitch in as paramilitaries or freelance goons if, like the rest of us, they see the dark days ahead.

Then Trump’s coup becomes a counterrevolution.


Coups For Dummies
by Clay Jones, 201111

On November 10, 2016, President Obama hosted President-elect (sic) Donald Trump in the White House. Vice-President Joe Biden hosted vice-president elect (sic) Mike Pence in the VP residence. First Lady Michelle Obama gave a White House tour to Melania Trump. Today, it’s November 11, 2020, and instead of inviting the future president of the United States to the White House, Donald Trump is hiding inside his bunker in denial he lost. What makes this even worse is that he has enablers. These enablers are helping Donald Trump thwart democracy.

Republicans are pointing out that Democrats whined about the 2016 election. This is true. I whined. I didn’t like the results. I still don’t like it. But while I said the election was tampered with and Russia meddled, I never said any ballots were fraudulent. No Democrats opposed the transition of power. Today, the Trump administration is not allowing a transfer of power.

The Trump Administration could still pursue legal challenges over the election while allowing the process of a transition to happen. That would be in the best interest of the nation. Instead, offices are not being created for the transition, funds aren’t being released, and the next president isn’t even being given security briefings. These were all acts afforded to Donald Trump when he was the incoming president (sic).

The United States condemns leaders of other nations who refuse to leave office and give up power after losing fair elections. Now, our leader (sic) is refusing to give up power and is hiding inside his palace sending his minions out to help him stage a coup. Donald Trump has not been seen since last Thursday.

Mitch McConnell is supporting Trump’s legal challenges even though there isn’t any evidence of massive voter fraud. Lindsey Graham is telling Trump not to concede. McConnell and Graham both won their Senate elections last week but neither one of these two men refused their opponent’s concessions.

Ted Cruz says allowing the media to declare the winner is not how we do it in America. Except, he was more than happy to accept the media’s declaration of a winner in 2016. He was more than happy to accept their declaration in 2018 when he won reelection to the Senate.

When asked if he had congratulated President-Elect Joe Biden yet, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, whose state went for Biden, said he doesn’t have anything to congratulate Biden for.

Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana said, “We have got to allow our courts to hear these allegations of voting irregularities by the president.” You may as well allow the courts to hear allegations of lizard people running our government too because you have just as much evidence of that as you do of voter fraud.

North Carolina’s Thom Tillis was finally declared the winner of his race yesterday and he said about the presidential election, “Every vote legally cast must be counted.” Who says they shouldn’t? Who says they haven’t been counted? Guess what. Tillis didn’t stop his opponent from conceding saying, “Every legal vote must be counted” bullshit.

Isn’t it fucked up that right after you elect someone, that they make a pronouncement against democracy and fair elections?

Attorney General William Barr is releasing the Justice Department’s legal hounds to fight Trump’s loss in the courts. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani is holding press conferences outside dildo shops claiming the election was stolen from Trump.

It’s funny Democrats stole the election for Biden while simultaneously losing the Senate and seats in the House. It’s also funny that it hasn’t occurred to any of these Republicans claiming fraudulent ballots, that they also have their names on those “fraudulent” ballots. If we’re going to wipe out who won the election, that should also mean we wipe out all those Republican victories. Should we wipe out McConnell’s, Graham’s, and Tillis’ victories?

Each government department is being told to prepare their budgets for next year as though the administration will still be operating. As if they’re still going to be in town and not all applying at Fox News at the same time. And Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, the nation’s top diplomat has said there will be a “smooth transition…to a SECOND Trump administration.”

What the fuck? The top diplomat or the world’s leading democracy is telling the world we don’t obey election results anymore. Pompeo said the eletion has not been decided. It has LITERALLY been decided.

Can you imagine the outrage if instead of conceding the election the day after, Hillary Clinton had refused to admit defeat, mounted legal challenged, and claimed the election had been stolen? Can you imagine if instead of inviting Trump to the White House, President Obama had refused to release transition funding?

In Michigan, Trump beat Clinton by 10,704 votes in 2016. In 2020 in Michigan, Biden beat Trump by over 146,000 (and still counting). In case you’re a Republican, 146,000 is greater than 10,000.

In Pennsylvania, Trump beat Clinton by 46,765. In 2020 in Pennsylvania, Biden beat Trump by over 48,000 (and still counting). In case you’re a Republican, 48,000 is more than 46,000. Now, Trump is suing to overturn the election in Pennsylvania.

As the counting continues, Biden is heading for a 306 electoral vote win. That’s the exact same amount Trump won with in 2016. How are they going to win the presidency by overturning one state without any actual evidence of election fraud? They would need to overturn more than one state. Maybe they can do it in Georgia where the two GOP senators are calling for their own Republican Secretary of State to resign because they don’t like that his count shows Donald Trump is losing.

This is banana republic type shit here, people. This is a coup attempt. Maybe people like Pompeo are just trying to appease Trump for now. Maybe Pompeo is a coward. He wants to appease Trump’s base for when he runs for the Senate in Kansas or even for the presidency in 2024, if Trump doesn’t. Or maybe, he’s afraid of being fired two months before he’s scheduled to lose his job. Trump is already lashing out and firing people.

Maybe people like Mitch McConnell, John Kennedy (not the good one), Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Thom Tillis, and Ted Cruz are all just big, fat ass kissers. Or…they’re trying to steal an election and are engaging in a coup.

I predicted before the election that Joe Biden would win… but I did not predict he’d take the White House because I was afraid the Republicans would try to steal the election. Even before the election, Trump said the only way he could lose was if there was corruption and voter fraud. Boy, did I call it or did I call it?

We know this about Trump supporters: They are all cowards. They have made their party into one of a cult. They put one man before their nation. They are putting one man before democracy. They don’t care if they turn our democracy into a dictatorship.

The Trump administration will NOT legally continue, but the resistance must.

🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬‼

ever since he was born, i have been afraid that i will be forced into the situation where i have to apologise to my son for bringing him into a world that, through no fault of his own, is going to end, for all intents and purposes, before his life will end. to me, it seems a large amount of irresponsible, to have brought a being into the world, who is faced with his own death, before his time, especially since i seem to be charmed when it comes to the potential of my life ending before my time.

and it’s even harder for me, because i have been fighting my entire adult life to change the things that i can, that would lead to my not having to offer that apology.

ezra, i’m sorry that the world is such a fucked up place. i’m sorry i brought you into this world, with no way to change it. i’m sorry you have to share this world with people who don’t care that it will end before your lifetime is complete.

A Grim New Definition of Generation X
by Ted Rall – 191231

People born in the 1960s may be the last human beings who will get to live out their full actuarial life expectancies. “Climate change now represents a near- to mid-term existential threat” to humanity, warns a recent policy paper by an Australian think tank. Civilization, scientists say, could collapse by 2050. Some people may survive. Not many.

Some dismiss such purveyors of apocalyptic prognoses as hysterics. To the contrary, they’re Pollyannas. Every previous “worst-case scenario” prediction for the climate has turned out to have understated the gravity of the situation. “Paleoclimatologists have shown that past warming episodes show that there are mechanisms which magnify its effects, not represented in current climate models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to the Paris Accords,” reports The Independent. It’s probably too optimistic to assume that we’ll make it to 2050.

Gives new meaning to Generation X.

Millennials and the children we call Generation Z face the horrifying prospect that they will get stuck with the tab for humanity’s centuries-long rape of planet earth, the mass desecration of which radically accelerated after 1950. There is an intolerably high chance that today’s young people will starve to death, die of thirst, be killed by a superstorm, succumb to a new disease, boil to death, asphyxiate from air pollution, be murdered in a riot or shot or blown up in a war sparked by environmentally-related political instability long before they survive to old age.

Long threatened, never taken seriously, not even now that it’s staring us right in the face, human extinction is coming for the children and grandchildren we claim to love but won’t lift a finger to save.

Shelves sag under the weight of books that have been written arguing that we still have a chance to save ourselves. I wish I could believe that. Human population has tripled since the 1950s. More than a million species have gone extinct. Ninety percent of the fish in the ocean have vanished, replaced by one billion tons of plastic. Two-thirds of the trees have been cut down. The polar ice cap is gone; it’s never coming back.

We can’t stop global warming. An increase of four degrees Celsius over the baseline set at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution means game over. We’re well on our way there. It doesn’t make sense to think that we can avoid extinction.

What if we woke up and demanded action from our political leaders? Radical problems require radical solutions; only the most radical of solutions could resolve the most radical problem of ruining our planet’s ability to sustain us: revolution. We would have to rise up and abolish — immediately — consumer capitalism in all the major greenhouse gas-producing nations, prioritize cleaning the environment as the human race’s top concern, and pivot to an economic mindset in which we extract the bare minimum from the ecosystem that we need in order to survive and nothing more.

Voting might achieve some incremental reforms but reform falls far short of what we require. Saving our young people (and their children, should they be foolish enough to have any) would require global revolution, the violent overthrow of the ruling elites and replacing them with people who understand what must be done. It would need to happen today. Fifty years ago would be better. Got a time machine?

None of this is going to happen. We are going to sleepwalk to our doom in a haze of social media and corporate entertainment distraction.

So it’s time for people who are younger than I am to start thinking about how they want to spend the rest of their likely-to-be-truncated lives, and how they plan to face mass premature death.

Pending human extinction destroys the answers provided by religion and philosophy. Knowing that there won’t be anyone to know that we were ever here raises the question: why bother to do anything? This column, this year’s “important” presidential election, love, hate, everything will lose its meaning when the last member of our species draws her last breath. Earth is unlikely to be visited by an alien archaeologist, much less uncover everything we’ve made and created (assuming any of it survives), much less figure out what any of it meant, before the sun expands into a red giant and ends it all.

Much is to be said for hedonism: eat, drink, have sex, and don’t bother to sort your recycling, for tomorrow we die. Stoicism has its advantages too; go out with dignity rather than weeping and gnashing your teeth and making your fellow survivors miserable.

Nihilism is about to become the best worst possible life strategy. Life is meaningless. That will soon become obvious. Moral principles, relics of a time with a future, will blow away like the irradiated dust we leave behind.

None of this will have mattered.

Trump’s Attack on Medicare for All Has Industry Fingerprints All Over It

Trump’s Attack on Medicare for All Has Industry Fingerprints All Over It
By Wendell Potter
19 October, 2018

Recently, the president decided to take a break from tweeting conspiracy theories to write an op-ed attacking supporters of Medicare for All. While engaging in what psychologists would probably call “projection,” he accused the Medicare for All movement of putting seniors at risk, rationing health care and trying to destroy the Medicare system.

I’m a former executive at two of the country’s largest insurance companies. I spent 20 years working in PR for Humana and then Cigna, rising to the level of vice president before I had a crisis of conscience. As a result, I know exactly how this op-ed came to be. The process doesn’t start at the White House. It didn’t include a careful review of policy, and it wasn’t an idea his staff came up with.

I can see the industry’s fingerprints on this op-ed from a mile away, because I was the ghost writer for many pieces just like it. During my two-decade tenure in the industry, every time an idea that would threaten shareholder profits started gaining momentum, my employer would decide we’d need to find a friendly and influential politician to carry water for the industry. I’d sit down with my communications team, create talking points, or even write a complete op-ed or speech, and then make sure our well-connected lobbyists got it to the right people.

And the industry won’t just go to Republicans. For instance, Ed Rendell, a Democrat who was formerly a governor of my home state of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, recently wrote an op-ed promoting several half-measures he claimed would be stronger reforms than single-payer health care, none of which posed a serious threat to private insurance. Currently, Rendell is affiliated with the Bipartisan Policy Center, which has regularly hosted organizations like America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). Meanwhile, so-called think tanks like the Pacific Research Institute regularly write Medicare for All hit pieces for Forbes and other outlets.

The purpose of these op-eds was always to mislead and scare people, because when the facts aren’t on your side, you have to find a politician who’s willing to obfuscate, misdirect and outright lie. It’s no surprise that the industry went right to the White House.

Many people were quick to challenge the president’s claims. Medicare for All would actually expand coverage for seniors currently on Medicare by covering dental and vision care and lowering drug prices. And contrary to Trump’s claim about rationing, the truth is that real rationing occurs in the US when people don’t seek treatment due to cost. It happens every day because millions of Americans are either uninsured or have such high deductibles they can’t afford to actually get the care they need. Medicare for All would eliminate that barrier.

Others have pointed out the hypocrisy. Since taking control of Congress and the White House, President Trump and his party have been engaged in a non-stop assault on Medicare, threatened patients with pre-existing conditions and tried to force through a plan that would have kicked tens of millions of people off their insurance.

Here’s the thing: I’m fairly confident that the president and his staff don’t actually believe that Medicare for All would threaten seniors. I can tell because Trump doesn’t use the national platform as an opportunity to lay out a vision to expand coverage, or protect people with pre-existing conditions, or manage drug prices or lower health care costs.

What the president does know is that a Medicare for All system is the worst nightmare of insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Right now, they have a virtually limitless ability to charge American patients, families, workers and businesses exorbitant prices, and they want to keep it that way. That’s why they have spent decades abusing our campaign finance system, pumping money into campaigns, hiring armies of lobbyists, and using a combination of political incentives and threats to push through legislation they like, making sure that any legislation that threatens to limit their profits never sees the light of day.

Now that the American people are starting to wake up to their scam, the entrenched special interests have decided to cash in their favors. And so, the president decided to parrot the talking points of his donors and their shareholders, no matter how much harm it will cause the American people.

Trump Tower board seeks nearly $90,000 from estate of art collector who died in 50th-floor fire

Trump Tower board seeks nearly $90,000 from estate of art collector who died in 50th-floor fire
By Meagan Flynn
18 October 2018

Six months after a fire in Trump Tower killed 50th-floor resident Todd Brassner, the building’s residential board is coming after Brassner’s estate for tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid common charges stemming from a lien on his apartment, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in the Supreme Court in New York County.

Brassner, a longtime Trump Tower resident who lived alone with hundreds of vintage instruments and an elaborate multimillion-dollar art collection, died April 7 after an electrical fire engulfed his apartment, which had no working smoke alarms. He was 67.

Now, with backing from a Trump Organization attorney, the Residential Board of Trump Tower Condominium is suing Brassner’s estate for more than $64,600 in unpaid common charges, an amount that includes fees accrued in the months after Brassner died. The residential board is also seeking a judgment of at least $25,000, bringing the total amount sought to nearly $90,000. Common charges are condo fees that typically include maintenance, utilities or other services. Brassner defaulted on common charge payments in June 2015, according to the complaint.

Brassner’s family members and executors of his estate, Heather and Aaron Brassner, could not immediately be reached for comment, nor could the attorney representing the board.

The fire at Trump Tower, where the president’s penthouse and the Trump Organization headquarters are located, captured wide attention in April both for Trump’s silence on Brassner’s death and for the lack of sprinklers in the building, a feature that Trump had lobbied against installing in the condos in the late 1990s.

Brassner moved into Trump Tower in 1996, according to property records. The son of a wealthy New York art collector, Brassner was described by friends as an “utter expert on Pop Art” who was “constantly swapping, buying and selling” and at the center of the action in the art world, as his friend, Stuart Pivar, told the Art Newspaper. Brassner ran with Andy Warhol’s Factory crowd in the 1970s as he built his impressive art collection, including a 1975 portrait Warhol made of Brassner, which the Trump Tower resident valued at $850,000 in 2015.

He kept the portrait in his Trump Tower condo, along with a collection of more than 100 vintage guitars, $25,000 worth of banjos, about 150 ukuleles from the early 20th century, an organ, a Robert Indiana sculpture and artwork by Jack Kerouac — just to name a few items.

But over the years, he appeared to have trouble keeping up with the condo payments. Trump Tower’s residential board filed multiple liens against him between 2003 and 2013 for unpaid common charges, New York court records show. And in 2015 he filed for bankruptcy, which included listing all of the assets kept in his apartment. The condo was valued at $2.5 million.

At the time of Brassner’s death, friends told the New York Times he was in declining health and that he had been trying unsuccessfully to sell the apartment. Once Trump became president, resulting in omnipresent armed security outside Trump Tower, Brassner couldn’t seem to find a buyer, one friend told the Times.

“It haunts me,” Brassner’s friend Stephen Dwire, a musician and producer, told the paper. “He said, ‘This is getting untenable.’ It was like living in an armed camp. But when people heard it was a Trump building, he couldn’t give it away.”

Trump built the tower in 1983, when installing sprinklers was not required. In 1998, when two tragic New York City high-rise fires left several people dead, the city moved to begin requiring sprinklers in high-rises. But Trump opposed retrofitting his building with the sprinklers and lobbied to persuade city officials to drop a proposal that would have required them in older apartment buildings, as The Washington Post previously reported.

Some speculated that the April fire could have been mitigated had they been installed.

The New York City Fire Department ultimately found that the fire was caused by an overloaded electrical board. The Times reported that the building was equipped with smoke sensors, which is what alerted firefighters to the blaze.

In a statement on Twitter in April, Trump did not offer condolences for Brassner’s family but did brag about the construction of the building.

“Fire at Trump Tower is out,” he tweeted, before the fire had been put out. “Very confined (well built building). Firemen (and women) did a great job. THANK YOU!”

A month after Brassner died, a Trump Organization attorney filed a lien against the deceased man on behalf of the Residential Board of the Trump Tower Condominium, seeking at that time $52,000 in unpaid common charges since July 2016, according to New York City Department of Finance records.

Can’t Hit the Snooze Button No More

my impression is that the democratic malaise goes back at least as far as George McGovern, in 1972, but you’ve got to start somewhere…

Can’t Hit the Snooze Button No More
October 9, 2018
by Marc Salomon

In 1980, when I turned 18 and first voted, John Anderson sounded the alarm about the duopoly rot. The Democrats hit the snooze button and Reagan won.

In 1984, Gary Hart sounded the alarm and the Democrats slapped him down, again in 1988, and hit the snooze button, nominated the execrable Mondale and Reagan won.

In 1988, Jesse Jackson sounded the rainbow alarm, the Democrats hit the snooze button, nominated the hapless Dukakis who ran with the odious Bentsen and Bush I won.

In 1992, Jerry Brown v1.5 sounded the alarm, the Democrats hit the snooze button and nominated Bill “Rapey Bubba” Clinton who won but rammed NAFTA through and forfeited the Congress to the Republicans.

In 1996, Nader sounded the alarm. the Democrats hit the snooze button. The Republicans impeached Rapey Bubba.   As a parting shot of gratitude, Clinton I deregulated Wall Street.

In 2000, Ralph Nader sounded the alarm, the Democrats hit the snooze button and lost to Bush II (the previous Hitler on the Potomac) and instead of taking stock of their failure, raged at Nader.

In 2004, Howard Dean sounded a weak alarm, the Democrats hit the snooze button and nominated the patrician Kerry who lost to Bush II, blaming the Greens again.

In 2008, Obama sounded the alarm as a trojan horse, got in running center-left and governed center-right, throwing away historic strong majorities  in the Congress to the Republicans.

In 2016, Bernie Sanders sounded the alarm and the Democrats hit the snooze button so hard that they broke the alarm clock and nominated a neoliberal warmonger candidate who was as unpopular with the electorate as she held them in contempt ushering in Obama’s true legacy: Donald Trump. And here we are.

Do you want to know why there is a Justice Kavanaugh? That’s why.

These Democrats are not stupid. They claim that they represent the meritocracy. Yet in what meritocracy do losers like this rise to the top and stay there after losing election after election?

This “meritocracy” selects for those able to appeal to and manipulate the elites into being allowed to be temporary custodians of power on their behalf.

Their reward is a lifetime of sinecure and wealth.

The only way that these Republicans can win is when these Democrats willfully and maliciously manipulate the electorate into acting against their best interests.

None of those Democrats who sounded the alarm had any real intention of making the kind of structural change needed to put us on a different course, they were playing the angle.

Nader who would have followed through, Sanders, less so, were the exceptions.

But they all did tap into an increasing resentment amongst the voters as to the failure of the duopoly to be responsive to popular sentiment.

When Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party arose, the Republicans welcomed the Tea Party into their midst while the Democrat big city mayors, coordinated by the Obama Department of Justice brutally and violently repressed the encampments.

Politics in this model is not symmetric.

If politics is warfare by other means, the Republicans have torn up any treaties that might have been in place and adopted a policy of total war.

These Democrats still do not know what hit them and they have proven themselves strategically incompetent of ever getting out from behind the eight ball.

The only way to work our way out from under this mess is by creating independent grassroots democratic organizations that can mobilize mass movements to make the elites offers they cannot refuse.

If people with access to many fewer resources than we, facing death squad governments and apartheid, can organize to win, then we have no excuses.

Our primary impediment in this task has been the Democrat Party which views its base, not the Republicans, as its opponent, and leverages its patronage network against independent popular organizing.

The veil of delusion is strong with the Democrat base, they are at a point where they have been made as impervious by MSNBC to logical arguments as any Fox [sic] News addict.

We are going to need to pierce that veil to shake some sense into them and more importantly organize outside of our usual comfort zones where the Democrat spell is weak, where people are wise to their bait and switch and have voted with their feet by staying home.

None of this will be easy, but it is not rocket science, others who have come before us have made these heavy lifts.

We have no excuses.

Trump administration sees a 7-degree rise in global temperatures by 2100

180925 odd bodkins
180925 Odd Bodkins by Dan O’Neill

Trump administration sees a 7-degree rise in global temperatures by 2100
By Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney
September 28, 2018

Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous 7 degrees by the end of this century.

A rise of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 4 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists. Many coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans. Parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses. Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.

But the administration did not offer this dire forecast as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.

The draft statement, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was written to justify President Trump’s decision to freeze federal fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020. While the proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the impact statement says, that policy would add just a very small drop to a very big, hot bucket.

“The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it,” said Michael MacCracken, who served as a senior scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program from 1993 to 2002.

The document projects that global temperature will rise by nearly 3.5 degrees Celsius above the average temperature between 1986 and 2005 regardless of whether Obama-era tailpipe standards take effect or are frozen for six years, as the Trump administration has proposed. The global average temperature rose more than 0.5 degrees Celsius between 1880, the start of industrialization, and 1986, so the analysis assumes a roughly 4 degree Celsius or 7 degree Fahrenheit increase from preindustrial levels.

The world would have to make deep cuts in carbon emissions to avoid this drastic warming,the analysis states. And that “would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today’s levels and would require the economy and the vehicle fleet to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible.”

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

World leaders have pledged to keep the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels, and agreed to try to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But the current greenhouse gas cuts pledged under the 2015 Paris climate agreement are not steep enough to meet either goal. Scientists predict a 4 degree Celsius rise by the century’s end if countries take no meaningful actions to curb their carbon output.

Trump has vowed to exit the Paris accord and called climate change a hoax. In the past two months, the White House has pushed to dismantle nearly half a dozen major rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, deregulatory moves intended to save companies hundreds of millions of dollars.

If enacted, the administration’s proposals would give new life to aging coal plants; allow oil and gas operations to release more methane into the atmosphere; and prevent new curbs on greenhouse gases used in refrigerators and air-conditioning units. The vehicle rule alone would put 8 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere this century, more than a year’s worth of total U.S. emissions, according to the government’s own analysis.

Administration estimates acknowledge that the policies would release far more greenhouse gas emissions from America’s energy and transportation sectors than otherwise would have been allowed.

David Pettit, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council who testified against Trump’s freeze of fuel efficiency standards this week in Fresno, Calif., said his organization is prepared to use the administration’s own numbers to challenge their regulatory rollbacks. He noted that the NHTSA document projects that if the world takes no action to curb emissions, current atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide would rise from 410 parts per million to 789 ppm by 2100.

“I was shocked when I saw it,” Pettit said in a phone interview. “These are their numbers. They aren’t our numbers.”

Conservatives who condemned Obama’s climate initiatives as regulatory overreach have defended the Trump administration’s approach, calling it a more reasonable course.

Obama’s climate policies were costly to industry and yet “mostly symbolic,” because they would have made barely a dent in global carbon dioxide emissions, said Heritage Foundation research fellow Nick Loris, adding: “Frivolous is a good way to describe it.”

NHTSA commissioned ICF International Inc., a consulting firm based in Fairfax, Va., to help prepare the impact statement. An agency spokeswoman said the Environmental Protection Agency “and NHTSA welcome comments on all aspects of the environmental analysis” but declined to provide additional information about the agency’s long-term temperature forecast.

Federal agencies typically do not include century-long climate projections in their environmental impact statements. Instead, they tend to assess a regulation’s impact during the life of the program — the years a coal plant would run, for example, or the amount of time certain vehicles would be on the road.

Using the no-action scenario “is a textbook example of how to lie with statistics,” said MIT Sloan School of Management professor John Sterman. “First, the administration proposes vehicle efficiency policies that would do almost nothing [to fight climate change]. Then [the administration] makes their impact seem even smaller by comparing their proposals to what would happen if the entire world does nothing.”

This week, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned leaders gathered in New York, “If we do not change course in the next two years, we risk runaway climate change… Our future is at stake.”

Federal and independent research — including projections included in last month’s analysis of the revised fuel-efficiency standards — echoes that theme. The environmental impact statement cites “evidence of climate-induced changes,” such as more frequent droughts, floods, severe storms and heat waves, and estimates that seas could rise nearly three feet globally by 2100 if the world does not decrease its carbon output.

Two articles published in the journal Science since late July — both co-authored by federal scientists — predicted that the global landscape could be transformed “without major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” and declared that soaring temperatures worldwide bore humans’ “fingerprint.”

“With this administration, it’s almost as if this science is happening in another galaxy,” said Rachel Cleetus, policy director and lead economist for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ climate and energy program. “That feedback isn’t informing the policy.”

Administration officials say they take federal scientific findings into account when crafting energy policy — along with their interpretation of the law and President Trump’s agenda. The EPA’s acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, has been among the Trump officials who have noted that U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants have fallen over time.

But the debate comes after a troubling summer of devastating wildfires, record-breaking heat and a catastrophic hurricane — each of which, federal scientists say, signals a warming world.

Some Democratic elected officials, such as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, said Americans are starting to recognize these events as evidence of climate change. On Feb. 25, Inslee met privately with several Cabinet officials, including then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt, and Western state governors. Inslee accused them of engaging in “morally reprehensible” behavior that threatened his children and grandchildren, according to four meeting participants, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide details of the private conversation.

In an interview, Inslee said that the ash from wildfires that covered Washington residents’ car hoods this summer, and the acrid smoke that filled their air, has made more voters of both parties grasp the real-world implications of climate change.

“There is anger in my state about the administration’s failure to protect us,” he said. “When you taste it on your tongue, it’s a reality.”

No, I Will Not Debate You

No, I Will Not Debate You
Civility will never defeat fascism, no matter what The Economist thinks.
19 September, 2018
by Laurie Penny

There are some stupid mistakes that only very smart people make, and one of them is the notion that a sensible argument seriously presented can compete with a really good piece of theatre.

Every day, people on the internet ask why I won’t “debate” some self-actualizing gig-economy fascist or other, as if formal, public debate were the only way to steer public conversation. If you won’t debate, the argument goes, you’re an enemy of free speech. You’re basically no better than a Nazi, and certainly far worse than any of the actual Nazis muttering about not being allowed to preach racism from prestigious pulpits. Well-meaning liberals insist that “sunlight is the best disinfectant,” anti-fascists disagree, the far right orders more popcorn, and round and round we go on the haunted carousel of western liberal thought until we’re all queasy.

This bad-faith argument is a repeating refrain of this low, dishonest decade, and this month it built to another crescendo. In the U.S., The New Yorker bowed to public pressure and disinvited Steve Bannon, Trump’s neo-nationalist former chief strategist, from its literary festival. And in the U.K., The Economist chose to do the opposite.

I’m accidentally responsible for a very small amount of the fuss here. I was due to speak at the Economist’s Open Future festival, where Bannon was scheduled to be interviewed by the editor in chief directly after the “future of MeToo” panel I’d be on with journalists Laura Bates and Ally Fogg. My note to The Economist, in part:

To speak personally, my opposition to Bannon’s place at this conference has nothing to do with wishing to see him silenced — that would be infeasible as well as illiberal.

I’ve spent much of the past five years hearing out and attempting to debate people like Bannon, and in my experience it only emboldens and legitimizes them. As far as I am concerned, I am not interested in hearing those arguments again.

Bates agreed, writing that “there is a very small minority of cases in which it is justified to refuse to participate on a platform alongside a person because they explicitly and deliberately advocate hatred and harm to groups of people on the basis of their race, sex, religion or other characteristics. It is my belief that Steve Bannon meets this high standard, that his deeply racist, misogynistic, white nationalist views pose real threat and harm to a large number of people, and that it is therefore irresponsible and damaging to provide him with the legitimacy of such a highly respected mainstream platform as The Economist.” Fogg said that “to invite contributions from Steve Bannon, and furthermore to schedule his appearance immediately after a discussion about what happens after #MeToo, directly contradicts the very essence and message of the #MeToo movement. This schedule honors a man whose primary claims to fame are establishing an online magazine that specialized in inciting misogynistic and racial hatred and then maneuvering a self-confessed sexual abuser into place as the most powerful politician on earth.”

To me, refusing to appear alongside Bannon was an obvious choice, as obvious as the protest against Donald Trump’s visit to Britain earlier this year, when millions of people made my country inhospitable to a president who has done nothing to deserve our deference. Bannon, unsurprisingly, disagreed, calling New Yorker editor David Remnick a coward for rescinding his invitation.

We probably should have anticipated the disingenuous firestorm that followed. We should have anticipated the accusations of being the real fascists for refusing to make nice with white supremacists, the harassment and YouTube hobgoblining from self-appointed defenders of free speech, who seem to have forgotten that for Bates, for me, and for any other woman who flashes the merest inch of independent thought online, harassment is nothing terribly new. It’s just Tuesday.

There’s a term for this sort of bad-faith argument: it’s called the justification-suppression model. The theory is that bigots refrain from directly defending their own bigotry but get hugely riled up justifying the abstract right to express bigotry. So instead of saying, for example, “I don’t like foreigners,” they’ll fight hard for someone else’s right to get up on stage and yell that foreigners are coming to convert your children and seduce your household pets.

Focusing the conversation on the ethics of disseminating speech rather than the actual content of that speech is hugely useful for the far right for three reasons. Firstly, it allows them to paint themselves as the wronged party — the martyrs and victims. Secondly, it stops people from talking about the actual wronged parties, the real lives at risk. And thirdly, of course, it’s an enormous diversion tactic, a shout of “Fire!” in the crowded theatre of politics. But Liberals don’t want to feel like bad people, so this impossible choice — betray the letter of your principles, or betray the spirit — leaves everyone feeling filthy.

There’s no way to come out of this convinced of your own political purity. The thing is, though, that establishing your own political purity isn’t what progressive politics are supposed to be about. As Ms. Marvel says: Good is not a thing you are. It’s a thing you do. This is not about censorship. It never was. It’s about consequences, about drawing a line in the sand.

That can be harder in practice than it sounds. The problem with taking a stand within and against respectable organizations is that however righteous you may feel, you create a lot of work for people in that organization — especially people lower down the chain of command who don’t get to make the big ethical decisions. And it takes rather a lot of courage to defy the customs of polite society, especially if it means compromising social capital you yourself have worked hard for. Some people speaking at the Open Future festival are female activists of color whose positions and profile deserve the same institutional recognition that Bannon doesn’t.

The Economist defended its decision to keep Bannon on the program:

The future of open societies will not be secured by like-minded people speaking to each other in an echo chamber, but by subjecting ideas and individuals from all sides to rigorous questioning and debate. This will expose bigotry and prejudice, just as it will reaffirm and refresh liberalism. That is the premise The Economist was founded on. When James Wilson launched this newspaper in 1843, he said its mission was to take part in “a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.”

I don’t believe that holding this position makes anyone evil or stupid. I understand why people cling to it like shipwreck survivors on a floating door. The problem is that it relies on two pieces of magical thinking: number one, that intellectual ideas are the same as moral ones, and number two, that the sucking ethical vacuum at the center of public life can be replaced with a commitment to the polite forms of a free society.

There’s a good case to be made for what anarchists call “prefigurative politics” — the idea that part of the way you build a better world is by creating a version of the world you want to see. The Occupy movement did this, creating microcosms of sharing societies based on mutual aid and consensus… before the camps were summarily squashed by police. The culture of “debate” operates on similar lines but at a much higher budget: it’s live-action roleplaying of a Classical fever-dream of a society where pedigreed intellectuals freely exchange ideas in front of a respectful audience, the sort of society that would have made certain ancient Greek philosophers drop their hemlock in excitement.

Personally, I prefer an exchange of ideas that is less hierarchical and performative, because I’ve found that a lot of the people whose voices matter most are people who don’t put themselves forward as spokespeople, if they are invited at all. Or written dialogue, because it gives all parties more time to think and reflect. Or any format where good ideas are what count, not how good you are at showboating and humiliating the other guy.

Remember the U.S. presidential debates of 2016? Remember how the entire liberal establishment thought Hillary Clinton had won, mainly because she made actual points, rather than shambling around the stage shouting about Muslims? What’s the one line from those debates that everyone remembers now? It’s “Nasty Woman.” What’s the visual? It’s Trump literally skulking around Hillary, dominating her with his body. It’s theatre. And right now the bad actors are winning.

* * *

The far right does not respect the free and liberal exchange of ideas. It is not open to compromise, and it does not want a debate. It wants power. Last week, when I was on the evening news discussing my refusal to attend The Economist‘s event, the showrunners sat us in front of a big screen with Bannon’s face on it — twice. And that, of course, is the problem.

Steve Bannon, like the howling monster from the id he ushered into the White House, exploits the values of the liberal establishment by offering an impossible choice: betray their stated principles (free, open debate) or dignify fascism and white supremacy. This weaponizes tolerance to legitimize intolerance. If we deny racists a platform, they feed off the appearance of censorship, but if we give them a platform, they’ve also won by being respectfully invited into the penumbra of mainstream legitimacy. Either way, what matters to them is not debate, but airtime and attention. They have no interest in winning on the issues. Their image of a better world is one with their face on every television screen.

The marketplace of ideas is just as full of con artists, scammers, and Ponzi schemes as any other marketplace, and as always, when the whole thing comes crashing down, it’s ordinary marks who lose everything. Bannon is that rare thing: a true Gordon Gekko in the attention economy, a man who is both troll and true believer, a man whose lack of integrity is part of the ideology: win at all costs and screw the other guy, because fools and their morals are easily parted. There is no deeper truth to be divined from “holding him to account,” no point at which his racism and xenophobia will somehow become unacceptable to a public that has already bought its penny stocks in neo-nationalism.

Mere weeks ago he told a gathering of the far-right National Front in France to be proud “when people call you racist, when people call you xenophobic… wear it as a badge of honor.” Too many well-meaning liberals are clinging with ten fingernails to the idea that their institutions are robust enough to withstand fascism. They believe, because the belief is soothing, that the marketplace of ideas cares about the value, durability, and quality of its wares rather than how shiny the packaging is, how catchy the jingle, how many times it shows up in your peripheral brand awareness until it’s the one you reach for on the shelf. They’re the equivalent of the people who tried to sell cars in the 1920s by taking out full-page ads solemnly explaining how unlikely their machines were to break down rather than trying to sell you a dream of freedom and potency on four wheels.

The left is catastrophically losing the PR battle in the marketplace of ideas. Inviting someone like Steve Bannon to your conference about how to build a free and open society is a little like inviting Ronald McDonald to your convention on solving world hunger.

I’m not saying that there’s no point in talking to the far right at all. I have interviewed members of the far right in my capacity as a journalist. But academic research and investigative journalism are very different from formal public debate. Public debate — at least the way I was taught to do it at my posh school — is not about the free exchange of ideas at all. You only listen to the other guy so you can work out how to beat him, and ideally, humiliate him. I’m choosing my pronouns deliberately here. The format is fundamentally an intellectual dick-smacking contest dressed up in institutional lingerie, and while there are plenty of women out there who can unzip their enormous brains and thwack them on the table with the best of them, the formula is catastrophically macho.

People rarely change their minds in the course of formal public debate. Not the people on stage, and very few of those in the audience. Years of robust debate in my capacity as a commentator and journalist have taught me that you don’t change minds simply by pointing out where someone is wrong. As a dear friend once told me, trying to bring someone over to your side by publicly demonstrating that their ideas are bad and that they should feel bad is like trying to teach a goat how to dance: the goat will not learn to dance, and you will make him angry. The ways people actually change their minds is by reading the mood of those around them and then going away and thinking about it, by being given permission to think what they were already thinking, or by being shamed into realizing how ignoble their assumptions always were.

Plus, being better at debating does not make you right. It just makes you better at debating. Any prep school debate champion can tell you that a bad story well told can beat a sober litany of facts, though it helps if you also have facts on your side.

Curating debate participants is itself a political choice, because the terms of a debate inform public opinion as much as its content. I’ve lost count of the number of evenings I’ve spent in the role of “shouty leftist” juxtaposed with a set of Tory talking points in a suit, with ten or fifteen minutes (if we’re lucky, a whole hour) to decide whether poor children should be allowed to eat during school holidays or whether migrants deserve human rights. What matters is not who wins on the merits. What matters are the terms: who gets to speak, and who must be silent.

The idea of the public sphere has always been elitist in practice, if not in principle. The people most likely to lose out are some of the least likely to have been trained in the art of public speaking or to have spent the past decade building a career in the media. They were too busy holding down four jobs, or trying to escape a civil war, or practicing medicine in a different language in a country they fled to with their family, or raising and then mourning their children. These are the people whose voices are truly being silenced, whose place in the lofty theatre of formal political debate is not subject to public discussion because they were never invited in the first place.

* * *

The far right are not themselves committed to the principle of free speech. Far from it. In my encounters with neo-nationalists and professional alt-right trolls I have found them remarkably litigious — more than willing to use money and legal threats to silence their more serious critics. I’ve been legally prohibited from describing racists as racists. That’s why you’ll see so many news outlets use phrases like “alleged white supremacist” or “the deportation policy, which critics have described as xenophobic.” It’s not because there’s serious doubt over where these people stand, it’s because journalists are silenced by threats from speech “defenders” who have the money and spite to shut down their critics. I will not be bullied by bad-faith actors trying to rules-lawyer my own principles against me into treating neo-Nazis with respect they don’t deserve.

They are unscrupulous. They incite violence. It’s not my place to tell anyone else who to host at their events, but I can make a choice as a free individual about who I choose to associate with in a professional context, and the more of us who make that choice, the stronger the message it sends.

Sunlight is neither literally nor figuratively the best disinfectant. Modern white supremacy does not grow like bacteria — it grows like a weed, aggressively, crowding out everything else that stretches towards the light. Nor is sunlight what the ritual of formal debate offers. What it offers is a chance to build one’s brand.

Curation is a political choice, and so is the choice of who we allow to take lead roles in the theatre of public discourse. I say: If Bannon has to have a public platform, make him work for it. Have him stand on a stage and play the audio footage of the toddlers at the Mexican border screaming for their parents as they’re dragged away to detention. Have him answer to the mothers of children who were gunned down by police because of the color of their skin, or to the friends and family of migrants who drowned in the Mediterranean. That’s not a polite thing to say. It wouldn’t be a polite thing to do. But the idea that politeness and civility is owed to anyone in a position of power is one of the great gotchas of liberal thought.

Moderate liberalism cherishes the idea of “civility” because it allows it to believe in its own goodness and relevance. To refuse to debate someone is an act of discourtesy. It is rude. It implies that you do not consider that person’s ideas or behavior worthy of basic respect. You would be amazed at the contortions people yank themselves into to avoid being rude, especially to people in positions of authority, or simply people whose faces they’ve seen on the television. Television interviewers have repeatedly failed to hold far-right leaders properly to account because one simply does not call someone a liar and a bigot on a respectable news program.

I’ve come to think of this as the deference trap. It’s a huge part of why I refuse to formally debate fascists. It is staggeringly clear that formal debate is failing to stop white supremacy. This is not an abstract philosophical issue. White supremacy is here, at the heart of world governments. The discussion about whether free speech can stop fascism is not actually about free speech; it’s a proxy for a rolling identity crisis among the political mainstream. About whether the mechanisms of state power can withstand fascist takeover. About whether good people with good ideas can stop bad people with worse ones.

Which, right now, they cannot. The arguments about what freedom of speech actually means are endlessly reheated because they’re the last piece of real philosophical meat moderate conservatives have in their cupboard. It’s a mistake to think that the far right cares about the free speech debate as anything other than a way of confusing the enemy. The far right doesn’t have a profound philosophy, it has a media strategy.

The first time that white supremacists are denied a formal public platform, they get to plead martyrdom, to call the opposition cowards. And the second time. And the third time. But there’s only so many times you can whine that people aren’t paying you enough attention before those same people get bored and lose interest. Milo Yiannopoulos, who spent much of 2017 thrashing around in a self-ordained orgy of far-right martyrdom, recently complained on Facebook:

My events almost never happen. It’s protests, or sabotage from Republican competitors or social media outcries. Every time, it costs me tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. And when I get dumped from conferences, BARELY ANYONE makes a sound about it — not my fellow conservative media figures and not even, in many cases, you guys. When was the last time any of you protested in the street at the treatment meted out to me or Pamela Gellar or Mike Cernovich or Alex Jones?… For my trouble, I have lost everything standing up for the truth in America, spent all my savings, destroyed all my friendships, and ruined my whole life.

Cry me a river of blood. What stopped Yiannopoulos was neither formal debate nor the dubious disinfectant of a spotlight. What stopped him was progressives collectively refusing to put up with his horseshit.

If we deny racists a platform, they feed off the appearance of censorship, but if we give them a platform, they’ve won by being respectfully invited into the mainstream. Either way, what matters to them is not debate, but attention. There is no perfect choice.

But there is a choice, and this, to my mind, is the sensible one: To refuse to dignify these people with prestigious public platforms, or to share them. To refuse to offer them airtime or engage them in public debate.

Fortunately, we live in a brave new world where real censorship is something that is almost infeasible unless you are extremely rich and venal and have an army of lawyers. If you want to hear what Bannon thinks, you can. Extensively, at many, many websites and forums. If you want to try to tease out and challenge the deeper truth behind far-right ideas, you’re free to do so, although be prepared to be disappointed. You see, the deeper truth is that there is no deeper truth. No hidden nuance. The new right have already shown us exactly who they are. Now the rest of us get to choose who we want to be.

As for me, I can’t dictate who should and should not be allowed to speak, and I wouldn’t want to. But I can make my own choice as a free citizen. So I choose not to debate them. I choose not to treat them with deference they don’t deserve. I am not interested in hearing out the ideas of the far right, because there are no new ideas on the far right. There are only new recruits. And every time progressives sacrifice the public good on the altar of personal purity, there will be more.

September 11, Puerto Rico and the Racism of Callous Indifference

September 11, Puerto Rico and the Racism of Callous Indifference
September 11, 2018
by William Rivers Pitt

It’s been 17 years since the September 11 terrorist attacks and one year since Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico. The death tolls from the two crises are nearly equivalent, but the official US responses to these calamities have been starkly different.

After 9/11, the US government memorialized the victims while pouring trillions of dollars into the process of making millions of new victims by way of permanent war. In the case of Hurricane Maria, the US government has all but washed its hands of the Puerto Ricans — US citizens, all — who still struggle to recover from the storm. Taken together, the aftermath of these two tragedies opens a window on some grim truths the country has yet to face.

Everyone has their own 9/11 story. Mine is tamer than most. Seventeen years ago today I was a teacher on the first day of school. I happened to be grazing through the morning newspapers online before classes started when Flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

An hour later, students who had gathered around televisions in the library were wall-eyed with fear when the towers finally fell. It was all over, I soothed them … but as I heard the low growl of fighter jets flying racetrack patterns over the city of Boston, I realized I was lying to children. It had only just begun.

Seventeen years.

High school seniors today have never known anything but a country at war, at several wars up front and by proxy. Those wars have eaten their future. I wonder if they know it yet.

I would like to think we’ve learned something in that wrenching, blood-soaked span of time, but that clearly isn’t the case. The last presidential election saw a Democratic nominee who had voted in favor of the calamitous Iraq war and the total surveillance of the PATRIOT Act. Her opponent, the Republican nominee, was for the war before he was against and then later for it again. Along the way he was also a bombastic liar, proud racist and sexual predator whose only credentials were five bankruptcies and a TV show.

The historical record states 2,996 people perished on September 11, 2001, hijackers included. There remains a lingering doubt as to the final accuracy of that number, as there were reportedly scores of undocumented immigrant workers in the building at the time of the attack, but their families did not inform the authorities they were missing for fear of being deported themselves.

Seventeen years later, and that fear is as present now as it was then, thanks to a president whose policies are grounded and founded in xenophobia and racism. We haven’t learned a damn thing.

One year ago this month, Hurricane Maria tore the island of Puerto Rico to shreds. On September 6, 2017, as the monster storm approached, Donald Trump spoke to the media during a meeting with members of Congress. Addressing the potential dangers represented by the oncoming storm, he said, “Hopefully we can solve them in a rational way, and maybe we won’t be able to.”

The latter half of that sentence has proven prophetic. Puerto Rico has yet to recover from the aftermath of Maria, due in no small part to the barking negligence of the administration and the man who pretends to lead it on TV.

Trump visited Puerto Rico in the immediate, catastrophic wake of the storm, telling Puerto Ricans who were complaining bitterly about wildly insufficient assistance that they “have to give us more help.” This was after he called them “politically motivated ingrates.” During the visit, he threw paper towels at storm victims and fished for compliments wherever he could find them. “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack,” he said. “But that’s fine, because we’ve saved a lot of lives.”

Odd comment, that. The Trump administration put the death toll in Puerto Rico at 64 people, and that number stayed put as the bodies piled up. Finally, in July of 2018, nearly a year after Maria, the official death toll was revised up to 2,975 people. A scant 21 fewer than September 11. Subtract the terrorists from the equation and the margin drops to two … and, like September 11, that final number is far from firm.

One day after Puerto Rico’s governor added 2,911 names to the victim’s list, Donald Trump praised his administration’s response to Maria in glowing terms. “I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico,” he said. “I think most of the people in Puerto Rico really appreciate what we’ve done.”

Splinter News collected letters from people directly affected by the storm. “I remember seeing the Mayor of San Juan,” wrote one survivor, “trying to help her city and those in desperate need all over the island. The help never came and when it did sometimes it was too late, some had died. My God how can we let this happen.” There are many such letters.

The difference in the US responses to the 9/11 attacks and to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is stark. While the death count was the same in both cases, the responses were dramatically different. That difference cannot be chalked up simply to the fact that the former tragedy was an act of will, while the second was an act of nature.

After September 11, the US unleashed two ill-conceived wars that killed, maimed or displaced millions of innocent people, all in the names of those killed in New York and DC. In the 17 years this country has spent bombing the rubble in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere, few here bother to spare a thought for those suffering the immediate consequences of our incoherent wrath.

After Hurricane Maria, in contrast, the US dragged its feet and hesitated to take the most minimal actions for the people of Puerto Rico as thousands perished. Given Trump’s calling-card disdain for those who aren’t a whiter shade of pale, the government’s lack of response to the yearlong disaster in Puerto Rico should come as no shock.

The core calamity, however, goes far beyond one man. In every way that matters, the victims of Hurricane Maria suffer from the US government’s negligence in much the same way the victims of the 9/11 vengeance tour do: Both are targets of indifference born of a strain of racism that goes bone deep and all the way, in both cases, to the White House.

It is all the same carcass to the carrion crows: The war profiteers redoubled their fortunes in Iraq and Afghanistan after September 11, and Wall Street hedge fund pillagers feast on Puerto Rico’s post-Maria debt. George W. Bush, like Donald Trump, walked away from the debacle virtually untouched.

Seventeen years since September 11. One year since Maria and Puerto Rico. We haven’t learned a damn thing.

Wheel Of Dystopia

180821 sorenson wheel of dystopia
180821 sorenson wheel of dystopia

Wheel Of Dystopia

I’m writing this after spending the day hunkered down indoors next to an air purifier, as I have the good fortune of being in Washington state while it’s home to some of the world’s worst air pollution. For the second year in a row, smoke from wildfires has rendered the normally refreshing air practically unbreathable. My primary source of entertainment these days is checking air quality monitoring websites for signs of ominous red and purple bulges making their way down from Canada. Fires in other parts of Washington aren’t helping.

As if things didn’t already feel apocalyptic enough, there’s something about these wildfire episodes, with their sickly grayish-orange skies and sense of entrapment, that truly give one the sense that the end of the Anthropocene is nigh. Scientists say that warming temperatures plus population growth in burn-prone areas are causing the surge in wildfires; meanwhile, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is, of course, blaming environmentalists. Hard to see how we come back from this brink, since we’re already so far over it.

Why the Pledge of Allegiance Is Un-American

Why the Pledge of Allegiance Is Un-American
August 15, 2018
by Tom Mullen

An Atlanta, Georgia, charter school announced last week its intention to discontinue the practice of having students stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance during its school wide morning meetings at the beginning of each school day, opting to allow students to recite the pledge in their classrooms instead. Predictably, conservatives were immediately triggered by this "anti-American" decision, prompting the school to reverse its decision shortly after.

The uproar over periodic resistance to reciting the pledge typically originates with Constitution-waving, Tea Party conservatives. Ironically, the pledge itself is not only un-American but antithetical to the most important principle underpinning the Constitution as originally ratified.

Admittedly, the superficial criticism that no independent, free-thinking individual would pledge allegiance to a flag isn’t the strongest argument, although the precise words of the pledge are “and to the republic for which it stands.” So, taking the pledge at its word, one is pledging allegiance both to the flag and the republic. And let’s face it, standing and pledging allegiance to anything is a little creepy. But, then again, it was written by a socialist.

But why nitpick?

"One Nation"
It’s really what comes next that contradicts both of the republic’s founding documents. "One nation, indivisible" is the precise opposite of the spirit of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution ("under God" wasn’t added until the 1950s).

The government in Washington, D.C., is called "the federal government." A federal government governs a federation, not a nation. And the one persistent point of contention throughout the constitutional convention of 1787 and the ratifying conventions which followed it was fear the government created by the Constitution would become a national government rather than a federal one. Both the Federalist Papers and the Bill of Rights were written primarily to address this concern of the people of New York and the states in general, respectively.

Moreover, the whole reason for delegating specific powers to the federal government and reserving the rest to the states or people was to ensure there would not be "one nation," but rather a federation of self-governing republics which delegated a few powers to the federal government and otherwise reserved the rest for themselves.

By the way, the Bill of Rights as originally written applied only to the federal government and not to the states. Sorry, liberals, but the First Amendment doesn’t guarantee a "separation of church and state" within the states. It was written for the opposite reason, to protect the existing state religions of the time from the federal government establishing a national one and thereby invalidating them.

And sorry, conservatives, the Second Amendment wasn’t written to keep states from banning guns. Quite the opposite. It was written to reserve the power to ban guns to the states. That’s why most states, even those established after the Bill of Rights was ratified, have clauses in their own constitutions protecting the right to keep and bear arms. They understood the Second Amendment applied only to the federal government, not the states.

If there is one thing that is clear from all of the above, the Constitution did not establish "one nation." In fact, the states only agreed to ratify it after being repeatedly promised the United States would be no such thing, allowing the states to govern themselves in radically different ways, at their discretion.

"Indivisible"
Then, there’s "indivisible." One would think a federation born by its constituent states seceding from the nation to which they formerly belonged would make the point obvious enough. But the Declaration makes it explicit:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

It would be impossible to exercise that right — that duty, as the Declaration later calls it — if the republic were indivisible. The strictest constructionists of the time didn’t consider the nation indivisible. Thomas Jefferson didn’t threaten to send troops to New England when some of its states considered seceding upon his election. Quite the opposite. And in an 1804 letter to Joseph Priestly, he deemed a potential split in the union between "Atlantic and Mississippi confederacies" not only possible but "not very important to the happiness of either part."

The people advocating "one nation, indivisible" in those days were big government Federalists like Hamilton, whose proposals to remake the United States into precisely that were flatly rejected in 1787.

Proponents of absolute, national rule like to quip this question was "settled" by the American Civil War. That’s like saying Polish independence was "settled" by Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939.

In fact, it is precisely the trend towards "one nation" that has caused American politics to become so rancorous, to the point of boiling over into violence, over the course of the last several decades. This continent is inhabited by a multitude of very different cultures, which can coexist peacefully if left to govern themselves. But as the "federal" government increasingly seeks to impose a one-size-fits-all legal framework over people who never agreed to give it that power, the resistance is going to get more and more strident. If there is any chance to achieve peace among America’s warring factions, a return to a more truly federal system is likely the only way.

Getting rid of the un-American pledge to the imaginary nation would be a good, symbolic start.

Enlightenment

ENLIGHTENMENT
180406 by Om Swami

“How do I gain enlightenment?” someone said to me the other day. “Can you not grant me some deep experience? I want a radical change in my life.”

I get this asked frequently by many enthusiastic seekers. They are in search of a panacea, some mystical reality that will solve all their problems (spiritual and emotional) forever. While many aspirants understand the importance of persistence and individual effort, most others are looking for a quick fix. Here’s a beautiful quote by Adya Shanti that mirrors my own thoughts in ways more than one:

Many seekers do not take full responsibility for their own liberation, but wait for one big, final spiritual experience which will catapult them fully into it. It is this search for the final liberating experience which gives rise to a rampant form of spiritual consumerism in which seekers go from one teacher to another, shopping for enlightenment as if shopping for sweets in a candy store. This spiritual promiscuity is rapidly turning the search for enlightenment into a cult of experience seekers. And, while many people indeed have powerful experiences, in most cases these do not lead to the profound transformation of the individual, which is the expression of enlightenment.

One of the greatest misconceptions about enlightenment is that it will just happen. Not so. It has to be earned, it has to be lived. Sometimes I find it challenging to explain to seekers that true enlightenment is not a one-off special moment, but more a culmination of lifelong experiences and practices that result in the dawning of a great insight. I don’t blame them for thinking that by the magical touch of some guru or maybe by being struck by lightning, they will arrive at a moment of enlightenment. Partly because we have plenty of spiritual books out there that give that impression. Even I may have inadvertently conveyed the same by sharing one of my most defining spiritual experiences in my memoir. For that matter, Buddha’s enlightenment under the Bodhi tree is often construed as an isolated event of extraordinary significance. It was anything but that.

In comprehending and highlighting such experiences, we tend to overlook the tremendous amount of effort that goes in realizing that state. For a moment, think of enlightenment as winning the Nobel Prize. We can’t have it just by visiting other Nobel Laureates and we certainly can’t be awarded it just because we want it. After a lifetime of commitment to a cause or producing a phenomenal body of work, and assuming the circumstances are favorable, the committee might consider your nomination and grant you one. No doubt winning the Nobel Prize will bring about a change in your life and lifestyle to a degree, you will inspire more people and so on. But, beyond that, there’s not much. It’s not going to improve your relationships, it’s not going to fix your physical health etc. Those challenges will remain.

Without preparation and readiness, any spiritual experience is hardly transformational. And if an experience doesn’t trigger some kind of lasting transformation in you, however subtle, it holds little meaning ultimately. When you continue to walk the path sincerely, diligently, many learnings, lessons and experiences give you the wisdom to lead your life differently. Differently so in a manner that it’s more conducive to retaining a state of bliss. Having said that, even if you are enlightened, it doesn’t mean that you won’t experience pain or that you will always find joy in everything that goes on in your life.

R.K. Laxman (1921 – 2015), one of India’s most famous cartoonists ever, writes a lovely passage in his travelogue The Distorted Mirror.

People are curious about my profession and try to clear their doubts by putting all sorts of questions. Recently a lady asked me, “Do you do the drawings for your cartoons yourself?” I answered, “Yes, I do.” Then she questioned, “And the captions to the cartoons, do you write them too?” “Of course,” I said. And, finally, she asked, “The ideas for the cartoons, don’t say you think them up too?”

There is one [question] that is rather rarely asked but which makes me go into deep introspection. This is: “When you look around, does everything appear funny to you?”

A cartoonist does not lead a charmed life of perpetual fun out of the reach of the cares and worries that bedevil his fellow men. The fluctuating prices of onions affect me in the same way as they delight or outrage a primary schoolteacher. Likewise, taxes depress my spirit. Bores at the mike, and traffic jams drive me crazy. Surely a doctor does not always look at life in terms of coughs, colds, allergies and bronchial inflammations. A star of the silver screen, I am sure, has enough sense to know that beyond the range of the camera life does not continue to be full of idyllic scenes, sex, songs and ketchup-blood. Why, then, should a cartoonist see living caricatures and hear rib-tickling dialogue all around him? So I comfort myself with the self-assurance that my view of life is normally as banal as that of the next man in the queue for sugar or kerosene.

Enlightenment is something like that. It does not mean that you don’t feel the pain or remain eternally unaffected by everything that goes around you. All of that we must go through based on our karma, temperament and attitude towards life. The only thing that changes is that you grow into a more spiritual being, you become increasingly resilient and kind. What life hurls at you doesn’t change, how you catch it or dodge it, does. When it builds to a tipping point, you become kind of independent, very independent. Less worried about what the world thinks of you, how it perceives you and so on. In other words, you draw your own cartoons, write your own captions and, much to the fascination or disbelief of others, come up with the ideas too.

As the famous Zen saying goes, “Before enlightenment: chop wood, fetch water. After enlightenment: chop wood, fetch water.”

Being a jivan-mukta, a liberated soul, or an enlightened person does not relieve one of his/her duties. Self-realization is not, as Eknath Easwaran put it, a compensation for one’s good deeds. It is but simply an outlook towards life that you gain from experiential understanding. If you really wish to get a grip on the notion of enlightenment then look upon it as a way of life, a commitment to virtues, as a promise to carry yourself a certain way and leading your life in a manner that befits you.

Liberation is not plonking a glorious flag on top of Mount Everest, it is but a mindful and diligent journey meandering through many treks and hikes, stopping and camping along the way, meeting and greeting fellow travelers, absorbing the breathtaking views, appreciating the challenges, rejoicing in where you are already. All this while you remain inward focused but goal-oriented.

When you realize this, a better sense of wellbeing and happiness shrouds you. You understand that there are no dark moments, that you are already enlightened. You just need to live a certain way to experience it. Then you laugh at the discovery that how unnecessarily seriously you’ve been taking yourself. As Thích Nhất Hạnh said:

I laugh when I think how I once sought paradise as a realm outside of the world of birth. It is right in the world of birth and death that the miraculous truth is revealed. But this is not the laughter of someone who suddenly acquires a great fortune; neither is it the laughter of one who has won a victory. It is, rather, the laughter of one who; after having painfully searched for something for a long time, finds it one morning in the pocket of his coat.

A religious man called a monk and invited him to bless his new home. The monk politely turned down the request saying he’s busy.
“But, what are you doing?” the man insisted.
“Nothing.”
Thinking that the monk was perhaps not in a mood to visit that day, he let it be and phoned again the next day. “Can you come today to bless my home?”
“Sorry,” said the monk, “I’m busy.”
“Doing what?”
“I’m doing nothing,” replied the monk.
“But that was what you were doing yesterday!” said the man.
“Right,” the monk replied. “I’m not finished yet!”

Enlightenment too is an ongoing affair. No doubt, there can be a transformational moment that changes something in you forever. Living that change, however, is a matter of mindfulness and more. True enlightenment, that.

This is it. This life. It’s beautiful. Live it. Love it. For yourself, for others. Laugh it away. That’s all there is to know. Most of the rest, life can do without.

All Smoke Is Not Created Equal

All Smoke Is Not Created Equal
by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
January 7, 2016

Long-term exposure to tobacco smoke is demonstrably harmful to health. According to the United States Center for Disease Control, tobacco smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and chronic exposure to tobacco smoke is linked to increased incidences of cancer as well as vascular disease. Inhaling tobacco smoke is also associated with a variety of adverse pulmonary effects, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Does smoking cannabis pose similar dangers to lung health? According to a number of recent scientific findings, marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke vary considerably in their health effects. So then why are lawmakers in various states, such a Minnesota and New York, imposing new restrictions explicitly prohibiting the inhalation of herbal preparations of cannabis?

Marijuana Smoke vs. Tobacco Smoke
Writing in the Harm Reduction Journal in 2005, noted cannabis researcher Robert Melamede explained that although tobacco smoke and marijuana smoke have some similar chemical properties, the two substances possess different pharmacological activities and are not equally carcinogenic. Specifically, he affirmed that marijuana smoke contains multiple cannabinoids – many of which possess anti-cancer activity – and therefore likely exerts “a protective effect against pro-carcinogens that require activation.” Melamede concluded, “Components of cannabis smoke minimize some carcinogenic pathways whereas tobacco smoke enhances some.”

Marijuana Smoke and Cancer
Consequently, studies have so far failed to identify an association between cannabis smoke exposure and elevated risks of smoking-related cancers, such as cancers of the lung and neck. In fact, the largest case-controlled study ever to investigate the respiratory effects of marijuana smoking reported that cannabis use was not associated with lung-related cancers, even among subjects who reported smoking more than 22,000 joints over their lifetime. Summarizing the study’s findings in The Washington Post, pulmonologist Dr. Donald Tashkin, Professor Emeritus at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, concluded: “We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use. What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”

A meta-analysis of additional case-control studies, published in the International Journal of Cancer in 2014, similarly reported, “Results from our pooled analyses provide little evidence for an increased risk of lung cancer among habitual or long-term cannabis smokers,” while a 2009 Brown University study determined that those who had a history of marijuana smoking possessed a significantly decreased risk of head and neck cancers as compared to those subjects who did not.

Marijuana Smoke and Pulmonary Function
According to a 2015 study conducted at Emory University in Atlanta, the inhalation of cannabis smoke, even over extended periods of time, is not associated with detrimental effects on pulmonary function, such as forced expiratory volume (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FCV). Assessing marijuana smoke exposure and lung health in a large representative sample of U.S. adults, age 18 to 59, they maintained, “The pattern of marijuana’s effects seems to be distinctly different when compared to that of tobacco use.” Subjects had inhaled the equivalent of one marijuana cigarette per day for 20 years, yet did not experience FEV1 decline or deleterious change in spirometric values of small airways disease.

Marijuana Smoke and COPD
While tobacco smoking is recognized as a major risk factor for the development of COPD – a chronic inflammation of the airways that may ultimately result in premature death – marijuana smoke exposure (absent concurrent tobacco smoke exposure) appears to present little COPD risk. In 2013, McGill University professor and physician Mark Ware wrote in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society: “Cannabis smoking does not seem to increase risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or airway cancers… Efforts to develop cleaner cannabinoid delivery systems can and should continue, but at least for now, (those) who smoke small amounts of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes can breathe a little bit easier.”

Mitigating Marijuana Smoke Exposure
The use of a water-pipe filtration system primarily cools cannabis smoke, which may reduce throat irritation and cough. However, this technology is not particularly efficient at eliminating the potentially toxic byproducts of combustion or other potential lung irritants.

By contrast, vaporization heats herbal cannabis to a point where cannabinoid vapors form, but below the point of combustion – thereby reducing the intake of combustive smoke or other pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and tar. Observational studies show that vaporization allows consumers to experience the rapid onset of effect while avoiding many of the associated respiratory hazards associated with smoking – such as coughing, wheezing, or chronic bronchitis. Clinical trials also report that vaporization results in the delivery of higher plasma concentrations of THC (and likely other cannabinoids) compared to smoked cannabis. As a result, the authors affiliated with the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research and elsewhere now acknowledge that vaporizers provide a “safe and effective” way to for consumers to inhale herbal cannabis.

The Bottom Line
Based on this scientific record, it makes little sense for lawmakers to impose legislative bans on herbal cannabis products, such as those that presently exist for patients in Minnesota and New York and which are now being proposed in several other states (e.g., Georgia and Pennsylvania). Oral cannabis preparations, such as capsules and edibles, possess delayed onset compared to inhaled herbal cannabis, making these options less suitable for patients desiring rapid symptomatic relief. Further, oral administration of cannabis-infused products is associated with significantly greater bioavailability than is inhalation – resulting in more pronounced variation in drug effect from dose to dose (even in cases where the dose is standardized). These restrictions unnecessarily limit patients’ choices and deny them the ability to obtain rapid relief from whole-plant cannabis in a manner that has long proven to be relatively safe and effective.

Congress quietly ends federal government’s ban on medical cannabis

now all we’ve got to do is convince the media that it’s really called “cannabis”…

—–

Congress quietly ends federal government’s ban on medical cannabis
By Evan Halper at The LA Times

Tucked deep inside the 1,603-page federal spending measure is a provision that effectively ends the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana CANNABIS and signals a major shift in drug policy.

The bill’s passage over the weekend marks the first time Congress has approved nationally significant legislation backed by legalization advocates. It brings almost to a close two decades of tension between the states and Washington over medical use of marijuana CANNABIS.

Under the provision, states where medical pot CANNABIS is legal would no longer need to worry about federal drug agents raiding retail operations. Agents would be prohibited from doing so.

Should the U.S. legalize marijuana CANNABIS?
Bloomberg’s Olivia Sterns reports on the New York Times’ advocacy of the legalization of marijuana.

The Obama administration has largely followed that rule since last year as a matter of policy. But the measure approved as part of the spending bill, which President Obama plans to sign this week, will codify it as a matter of law.

Pot CANNABIS advocates had lobbied Congress to embrace the administration’s policy, which they warned was vulnerable to revision under a less tolerant future administration.

More important, from the standpoint of activists, Congress’ action marked the emergence of a new alliance in marijuana CANNABIS politics: Republicans are taking a prominent role in backing states’ right to allow use of a drug the federal government still officially classifies as more dangerous than cocaine.

“This is a victory for so many,” said the measure’s coauthor, Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa. The measure’s approval, he said, represents “the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana CANNABIS.”

By now, 32 states and the District of Columbia have legalized pot CANNABIS or its ingredients to treat ailments, a movement that began in the 1990s. Even back then, some states had been approving broader decriminalization measures for two decades.

The medical marijuana CANNABIS movement has picked up considerable momentum in recent years. The Drug Enforcement Administration, however, continues to place marijuana CANNABIS in the most dangerous category of narcotics, with no accepted medical use.

Congress for years had resisted calls to allow states to chart their own path on pot CANNABIS. The marijuana CANNABIS measure, which forbids the federal government from using any of its resources to impede state medical marijuana CANNABIS laws, was previously rejected half a dozen times. When Washington, D.C., voters approved medical marijuana CANNABIS in 1998, Congress used its authority over the city’s affairs to block the law from taking effect for 11 years.

Even as Congress has shifted ground on medical marijuana CANNABIS, lawmakers remain uneasy about full legalization. A separate amendment to the spending package, tacked on at the behest of anti-marijuana crusader Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), will jeopardize the legalization of recreational pot in Washington, D.C., which voters approved last month.

Marijuana CANNABIS proponents nonetheless said they felt more confident than ever that Congress was drifting toward their point of view.

“The war on medical marijuana CANNABIS is over,” said Bill Piper, a lobbyist with the Drug Policy Alliance, who called the move historic.

“Now the fight moves on to legalization of all marijuana CANNABIS,” he said. “This is the strongest signal we have received from Congress [that] the politics have really shifted. … Congress has been slow to catch up with the states and American people, but it is catching up.”

The measure, which Rohrabacher championed with Rep. Sam Farr, a Democrat from Carmel, had the support of large numbers of Democrats for years. Enough Republicans joined them this year to put it over the top. When the House first passed the measure earlier this year, 49 Republicans voted aye.

Some Republicans are pivoting off their traditional anti-drug platform at a time when most voters live in states where medical marijuana CANNABIS is legal, in many cases as a result of ballot measures.

Polls show that while Republican voters are far less likely than the broader public to support outright legalization, they favor allowing marijuana CANNABIS for medical use by a commanding majority. Legalization also has great appeal to millennials, a demographic group with which Republicans are aggressively trying to make inroads.

Approval of the pot CANNABIS measure comes after the Obama administration directed federal prosecutors last year to stop enforcing drug laws that contradict state marijuana policies. Since then, federal raids of marijuana merchants and growers who are operating legally in their states have been limited to those accused of other violations, such as money laundering.

“The federal government should never get in between patients and their medicine,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland).

Proposed Legislation Could Federally Legalize Cannabis

Proposed Legislation Could Federally Legalize Cannabis
Joseph Lemiuex
23 February, 2015

On Friday, two congressmen have put forth bills that would ultimately end the federal prohibition of cannabis.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. This act would remove marijuana scheduling from the Controlled Substances Act, and put marijuana under the control of the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives). This move would regulate cannabis no different than alcohol on the federal level.

The Marijuana Tax Revenue Act introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) would set up a federal excise tax for regulated marijuana.

The bills would not force any state government to legalize marijuana, but it would set a framework for states that are interested. This framework, if passed, would expedite states legalization if they choose to legalize. Cannabis has been making its mark upon the American people, and many are now in support of legalization.

So far, the U.S. has 4 states that out right legalized marijuana, 23 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, and 11 others have legalized marijuana in a restricted shape or form for medical use.

“While President Obama and the Justice Department have allowed the will of voters in states like Colorado and 22 other jurisdictions to move forward, small business owners, medical marijuana patients, and others who follow state laws still live with the fear that a new administration — or this one — could reverse course and turn them into criminals,” Polis said in a statement Friday. “It is time for us to replace the failed prohibition with a regulatory system that works and let states and municipalities decide for themselves if they want, or don’t want, to have legal marijuana within their borders.”

Even though many Americans and states look favorably upon cannabis, it is still a federal crime. While federal guidance has been going easy on the states that have legalized, people are still going to federal prison for marijuana related convictions. This makes you wonder, if these bills pass, what will become of the already convicted felons of marijuana possession? Will the federal government release these inmates, or continue to hold them for a crime the government now deems legal.

Blumenauer called the federal prohibition of marijuana “a failure” that has wasted tax dollars and ruined lives. He also said it’s time for the government to forge a new path ahead for the plant.

“As more states move to legalize marijuana as Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Alaska have done,” Blumenauer said, “it’s imperative the federal government become a full partner in building a workable and safe framework.”

Here are 4 ways cannabis is good for your brain — and may save your life

Here are 4 ways cannabis is good for your brain — and may save your life
Dana Larsen, AlterNet
17 February, 2015

Modern research is showing that cannabis extracts protect and benefit the human brain. Here’s four amazing ways scientists are showing that cannabis actually helps to keep your brain safe from disease, dementia and even death!

#4 – Cannabis promotes new brain cell growth
Government scare campaigns often claim that cannabis kills brain cells, but now we are learning the truth. Those discredited studies were done in the ’70s, by strapping a gas mask onto a monkey and pumping in hundreds of joints worth of smoke. The monkeys suffered from lack of oxygen, and that’s why their brain cells died.

Modern research is now proving the opposite. The active ingredients in cannabis spur the growth of new brain cells!

Back in 2005, Dr. Xia Zhang at the University of Saskatchewan showed that cannabinoids cause “neurogenesis” – which means that they help make new brain cells grow!

“Most ‘drugs of abuse’ suppress neurogenesis,” said Dr. Zhang. “Only marijuana promotes neurogenesis.”

Scientists in Brazil expanded on this research, demonstrating in 2013 that CBD, another chemical in cannabis, also causes new brain cells to sprout up. Researchers in Italy then produced the same result with CBC, another “cannabinoid” found in cannabis resin.

Now there is no doubt that cannabinoids cause new brain cells to grow in the hippocampus. This helps explain previous research showing that cannabinoids effectively treat mood disorders like depression, anxiety and stress – they are all related to a lack of adult neurogenesis.

#3 – Cannabis prevents Alzheimer’s
About 5 millions Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s. but there’s hope in sight. Modern research shows that using cannabis helps prevent the incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia by cleaning away beta-amyloid “brain plaque.”

A 2014 study into cannabis and Alzheimer’s was lead by Dr. Chuanhai Cao, PhD, a neuroscientist at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute.

“THC is known to be a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties,” said Cao, explaining that THC “directly affects Alzheimer’s pathology by decreasing amyloid beta levels, inhibiting its aggregation, and enhancing mitochondrial function.”

This confirmed earlier studies, such as one from 2008 which found that THC “simultaneously treated both the symptoms and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.” This study concluded that, “compared to currently approved drugs prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, THC is considerably superior.”

These studies used very low levels of THC to find these results — the levels you might find in a moderate cannabis user. So where’s the headlines saying “Smoking Cannabis Prevents Alzheimer’s”?

#2 – Cannabis prevents brain damage after strokes and trauma
Several recent studies have found that cannabinoids protect the brain from permanent damage after trauma or stroke.

Studies done in 2012 and 2013 found that a low dose of THC protected mice’s brains from damage by carbon monoxide and head trauma.

Researchers found that THC “protected brain cells and preserved cognitive function over time” and suggested that it could be used preventively, for ongoing protection.

A 2014 study found that people with low amounts of THC in their system were about 80% less likely to die from serious head injuries than those without.

This last study is actually quite remarkable and should have been headline news. Researchers analyzed blood samples from hundreds of people who had suffered head injuries, and found that people with small amounts of cannabinoids in their bloodstream were 80% less likely to be killed from head trauma.

This means that in a group of occasional pot smokers and a group of abstainers who suffer similar brain injuries, the pot smokers will have only 2 deaths for every 10 suffered by the abstainers!

There are 52,000 deaths every year from traumatic head injury in America. This study showed that if every adult American had a puff of cannabis once a week, 20% of those deaths would be avoided — that’s about 41,600 lives that could be saved, every year. Why isn’t this front page news?

#1 – Cannabis extracts treat brain cancer
One exciting use of cannabinoids is in the treatment of cancer. Repeated laboratory and animal studies have shown that cannabinoids kill cancer cells and shrink tumours, while helping to protect normal cells.

Recent research includes a 2012 study showing that CBD stopped metastasis in aggressive forms of cancer, a 2013 study showing that a blend of six cannabinoids killed leukemia cell, and a 2014 study showing that THC and CBD could be combined with traditional chemotherapy to produce “dramatic reductions” in brain tumour size.

Using cannabis extracts for brain cancer is nothing new. A 1998 study found that THC “induces apoptosis [cell death] in C6 glioma cells” — an aggressive form of brain cancer. A 2009 study showed that THC acted “to kill cancer cells, while it does not affect normal cells” in the brain.

The medicinal benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids are immense, and it’s time everyone is allowed full access to this amazing healing herb.

Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll even get to use outdoor-grown hemp to produce vast quantities of pure, cheap cannabinoids for the millions of Americans who need them.

Mushroom-induced brain rewiring could hold the key to fighting mental illness

Mushroom-induced brain rewiring could hold the key to fighting mental illness
Scott Kaufman
31 Oct 2014

Psychedelic mushrooms dramatically increase connectivity between otherwise uncommunicative parts of the brain, according to researchers from Imperial College London in an article to be published in the November edition of the Royal Society’s journal Interface.

Paul Expert and his team analyzed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from two groups of people — one who had ingested a small amount of the active agent in hallucinogenic mushrooms, psilocybin, and another group who was given a placebo.

They found that the main effect was the creation of stable connections between parts of the brain that, under normal conditions, only communicate with each other in dream states — such as the hippocampus (which deals with short term memory and spatial recognition) and anterior cingulate cortex (which regulates rational cognitive functions).

The result of this stable cross-wiring is a more interconnected brain, as shown on the diagram below:

brain rewiring on mushrooms

On the left is a data visualization of a brain administered the placebo; on the right, one that has been subjected to a mild dose of psilocybin.

“We can speculate on the implications of such an organization,” Dr. Expert said. “One possible by-product of this greater communication across the whole brain is the phenomenon of synaesthesia” — which is the experience of having senses overlap, such that certain smells are accompanied by flashes of color, or certain sounds are accompanied by tastes.

It is also believed that rewiring the brain in this manner may allow scientists to find more effective ways to treat depression or help smokers and alcoholics battle their addictions.

This research is only possible thanks to a a recent loosening on the regulations regarding the study of psychedelic drugs for medical purposes. This is a positive measure, said study co-author Giovanni Petri, who told Wired that “in a normal brain, many things are happening. You don’t know what is going on, or what is responsible for that. So you try to perturb the state of consciousness a bit, and see what happens.”

Cannabis use associated with lower death rates in patients with traumatic brain injuries

Cannabis use associated with lower death rates in patients with traumatic brain injuries
2 October, 2014

Surveying patients with traumatic brain injuries, a group of Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) researchers reported today that they found those who tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, were more likely to survive than those who tested negative for the illicit substance.

The findings, published in the October edition of The American Surgeon, suggest THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, may help protect the brain in cases of traumatic brain injury, the researchers said. The study included 446 patients who suffered traumatic brain injuries and underwent a urine test for the presence of THC in their system. The researchers found 82 of the patients had THC in their system. Of those, only 2.4% died. Of the remaining patients who didn’t have THC in their system, 11.5% died.

“Previous studies conducted by other researchers had found certain compounds in cannabis helped protect the brain in animals after a trauma,” said David Plurad, MD, an LA BioMed researcher and the study’s lead author. “This study was one of the first in a clinical setting to specifically associate THC use as an independent predictor of survival after traumatic brain injury.”

The researchers noted that the timing of their study was “pertinent” because of current efforts to decriminalize cannabis and other research that has shown THC can increase appetite, reduce ocular pressure, decrease muscle spasms, relieve pain and alleviate symptoms associated with irritable bowel disease. But they noted that their study has some significant limitations.

“While most — but not all — the deaths in the study can be attributed to the traumatic brain injury itself, it appears that both groups were similarly injured,” Dr. Plurad said. “The similarities in the injuries between the two groups led to the conclusion that testing positive for THC in the system is associated with a decreased mortality in adult patients who have sustained traumatic brain injuries.”

Additional data available from the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

snrk…

Was Robin Williams murdered by the Illuminati?

INTERNET — Fans mourn the death of Robin Williams, famed comedian who popularized rainbow suspenders in the 80’s with his spunky alien television character, Mork. However, newspapers around the world report this smiling and funny man committed suicide by asphyxiation without making any serious attempt at explaining how or why. In what appears to be yet another clear case of celebrity homicide by the Illuminati, such vague and general explanations by the media have been swallowed hook, line, and sinker by the gullible sleeping masses.

Robin Williams was beloved by billions, and his movies brought joy and compassion into the hearts of adults and children everywhere. It is rare that such a passionate man could make it very far in the movie industry without selling his soul to the devil and succumbing to Illuminati influence, and perhaps there was a building tension in his life between his compassionate side and the hateful necessity of Illuminati membership. Perhaps this tension tore Robin Williams apart and he did commit suicide, or more likely, perhaps he decided to leave the Illuminati once and for all and was quickly eliminated by an assassination squad that made his death look like a suicide.

In Robin Williams’ classic movie Hook, the grown Peter Pan returns to Never Never Land — Michael Jackson, being the greatest opponent of the Illuminati in our generation also used this imagery for his Illuminati refuge — where he again learned to fly, although it was supposed to be impossible for an adult. As it is said in the bible, only those with the heart of a child may enter the kingdom of heaven. Did Williams decode his own movie and try to learn to fly, to return to Never Never Land, where the Illuminati’s powers are reduced and regressed back to that of Captain Hook, from the early modern period? Almost surely, yes, but this time, he didn’t make it through to the end. Hook won, and Robin Williams was murdered by the Illuminati.

Should we have a right not to work?

Should we have a right not to work? — this guy is headed in the right direction. as with most people, he is a lot more concerned about how it’s going to work, whereas i believe that it’s necessary to get more people to agree that it’s something that can be done, before we start “arguing” over what it’s going to take to make it work… but he’s headed in the right direction…

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