Earlier, the Trump administration said it recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president.
Maduro says U.S. diplomatic personnel have 72 hours to leave the country. The U.S. State Department said it would not comply with that order.
Published 22 January 2019 (20 hours 33 minutes ago)
While the so-called Lima Group and the U.S. refused to recognize Maduro’s new mandate, many progressive governments and international organizations have shown support and solidarity to Maduro.
Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez Tuesday said U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was “openly calling for a coup d’état in Venezuela ” after Pence issued a video message of support to the Venezuelan opposition to encourage those who are protesting against President Nicolas Maduro and underline U.S. backing for opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido, the self-appointed head of the suspended National Assembly.
The Venezuelan VP’s statement followed an earlier message from Venezuelan Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez who said Pence was, “promoting instability and violence in Venezuela.”
“Because Mr. Pence doesn’t have a job, now he wants to come and run Venezuela, handing out instructions on what should happen in Venezuela tomorrow,” Rodriguez said in a press in a short statement following Pence’s interventionist message. “Openly calling for a coup d’état in Venezuela. I will say it like the Venezuelan people would say it to you, ‘Yankee, go home.’ We’re not going to allow you to intrude on issues of the country of Bolivar and the country of Hugo Chavez.”
Venezuela’s opposition on Wednesday plans to hold marches nationwide as part of an annual event that marks the fall of a military government in 1958.
In a taped video message in English with a few Spanish words and phrases mixed in, Pence, who has lashed out at Maduro before, declared him a “dictator” who has no rightful claim to power.
Pence declared U.S. support again for Guaido, with whom he spoke by phone earlier this month, and the suspended National Assembly, which he leads, as the “last vestige of democracy.” Pence said Washington supported Guaido’s decision to assert the body’s powers, declare Maduro a “usurper” and push for a transitional government to be established.
The decision by the suspended National Assembly to appoint Guaido as the head of the body was invalidated by the country’s Supreme Court because the body itself has been in contempt of court since 2016.
On Jan. 11, 2016, the Supreme Court of Justice declared the National Assembly in contempt of court for swearing in three deputies from the self-appointed Unity Roundtable (MUD) elected by the state of Amazonas in December 2015. The three Indigenous legislators should have been temporarily suspended because of voting irregularities in that region, but instead took possession of their seats on July 28.
The contempt of court is maintained to this day because the new board of the assembly refuses to accept the judgments of the top court.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was inaugurated for a second term in office on Jan. 10 and his term would last until 2025. His new term comes amid continuing economic war against the country and its people using harsh economic sanctions led by the United States in an effort to oust Maduro and his progressive government.
While the so-called Lima Group, the United States and other right-wing governments refused to recognize Maduro’s new mandate, many progressive governments and international organizations have shown support and solidarity to Maduro. It is a critical moment for the region and the world amid a rise in right-wing politics and governments such as that of far-right Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.
LONDON — As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem.
The firm had secured a $15 million investment fromRobert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.
So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.
An examination by The New York Times and The Observer of London reveals how Cambridge Analytica’s drive to bring to market a potentially powerful new weapon put the firm — and wealthy conservative investors seeking to reshape politics — under scrutiny from investigators and lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Christopher Wylie, who helped found Cambridge and worked there until late 2014, said of its leaders: “Rules don’t matter for them. For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair.”
“They want to fight a culture war in America,” he added. “Cambridge Analytica was supposed to be the arsenal of weapons to fight that culture war.”
Details of Cambridge’sacquisitionand use of Facebookdatahave surfaced in several accounts since the business began working on the 2016 campaign, setting offa furious debateabout the merits of the firm’s so-called psychographic modeling techniques.
But the full scale of the data leak involving Americans has not been previously disclosed — and Facebook, until now, has not acknowledged it. Interviews with a half-dozen former employees and contractors, and a review of the firm’s emails and documents, have revealed that Cambridge not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of the trove.
Cambridge paid to acquire the personal information through an outside researcher who, Facebook says, claimed to be collecting it for academic purposes.
During a week of inquiries from The Times, Facebook downplayed the scope of the leak and questioned whether any of the data still remained out of its control. But on Friday, the companyposted a statementexpressing alarm and promising to take action.
“This was a scam — and a fraud,” Paul Grewal, a vice president and deputy general counsel at the social network, said in a statement to The Times earlier on Friday. He added that the company was suspending Cambridge Analytica, Mr. Wylie and the researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American academic, from Facebook. “We will take whatever steps are required to see that the data in question is deleted once and for all — and take action against all offending parties,” Mr. Grewal said.
Alexander Nix, the chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, and other officials had repeatedly denied obtaining or using Facebook data, most recently during a parliamentary hearing last month. But in a statement to The Times, the company acknowledged that it had acquired the data, though it blamed Mr. Kogan for violating Facebook’s rules and said it had deleted the information as soon as it learned of the problem two years ago.
In Britain, Cambridge Analytica is facing intertwined investigations by Parliament and government regulators, who are scrutinizing possible data privacy violations and allegations that it performed illegal work on the “Brexit” campaign. In the United States, Mr. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, a board member, Mr. Bannon and Mr. Nix received warnings from their lawyer that it was illegal to employ foreigners in political campaigns, according to company documents and former employees.
Congressional investigators have questioned Mr. Nix about the company’s role in the Trump campaign. And the Justice Department’s special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, hasdemandedthe emails of Cambridge Analytica employees who worked for the Trump team as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the election.
While the substance of Mr. Mueller’s interest is a closely guarded secret, documents viewed by The Times indicate that the firm’s British affiliate claims to have worked in Russia and Ukraine. And the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange,disclosed in Octoberthat Mr. Nix had reached out to him during the campaign in hopes of obtaining private emails belonging to Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The documents also raise new questions about Facebook, which is already grappling with intense criticism over the spread of Russian propaganda and fake news. The data Cambridge collected from profiles, a portion of which was viewed by The Times, included details on users’ identities, friend networks and “likes.”
“Protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do,” Mr. Grewal said. “No systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked.”
Still, he added, “it’s a serious abuse of our rules.”
Reading Voters’ Minds
The Bordeaux flowed freely as Mr. Nix and several colleagues sat down for dinner at the Palace Hotel in Manhattan in late 2013, Mr. Wylie recalled in an interview. They had much to celebrate.
Mr. Nix, a brash salesman, led the small elections division at SCL Group, a political and defense contractor. He had spent much of the year trying to break into the lucrative new world of political data, recruiting Mr. Wylie, then a 24-year-old political operative with ties to veterans of President Obama’s campaigns. Mr. Wylie was interested in using inherent psychological traits to affect voters’ behavior and had assembled a team of psychologists and data scientists, some of them affiliated with Cambridge University.
The group experimented abroad, including in the Caribbean and Africa, where privacy rules were lax or nonexistent and politicians employing SCL were happy to provide government-held data, former employees said.
Then a chance meeting bought Mr. Nix into contact with Mr. Bannon, the Breitbart News firebrand who would later become a Trump campaign and White House adviser, and with Mr. Mercer,one of the richest men on earth.
Mr. Nix and his colleagues courted Mr. Mercer, who believed a sophisticated data company could make him a kingmaker in Republican politics, and his daughter Rebekah, who shared his conservative views. Mr. Bannon was intrigued by the possibility of using personality profiling to shift America’s culture and rewire its politics, recalled Mr. Wylie and other former employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had signed nondisclosure agreements. Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Bannon declined to comment.
Mr. Mercer agreed to help finance a $1.5 million pilot project to poll voters and test psychographic messaging in Virginia’s gubernatorial race in November 2013, where the Republican attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, ran against Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic fund-raiser. Though Mr. Cuccinelli lost, Mr. Mercer committed to moving forward.
The Mercers wanted results quickly, and more business beckoned. In early 2014, the investor Toby Neugebauer and other wealthy conservatives were preparing to put tens of millions of dollars behind a presidential campaign for Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, work that Mr. Nix was eager to win.
When Mr. Wylie’s colleagues failed to produce a memo explaining their work to Mr. Neugebauer, Mr. Nix castigated them over email.
“ITS 2 PAGES!! 4 hours work max (or an hour each). What have you all been doing??” he wrote.
Mr. Wylie’s team had a bigger problem. Building psychographic profiles on a national scale required data the company could not gather without huge expense. Traditional analytics firms used voting records and consumer purchase histories to try to predict political beliefs and voting behavior.
But those kinds of records were useless for figuring out whether a particular voter was, say, a neurotic introvert, a religious extrovert, a fair-minded liberal or a fan of the occult. Those were among the psychological traits the firm claimed would provide a uniquely powerful means of designing political messages.
Mr. Wylie found a solution at Cambridge University’s Psychometrics Centre. Researchers there had developed a technique to map personality traits based on what people had liked on Facebook. The researchers paid users small sums to take a personality quiz and download an app, which would scrape some private information from the their profiles and those of their friends, activity that Facebook permitted at the time. The approach, the scientists said, could reveal more about a person than their parents or romantic partners knew — a claim that has been disputed.
When the Psychometrics Centre declined to work with the firm, Mr. Wylie found someone who would: Dr. Kogan, who was then a psychology professor at the university and knew of the techniques. Dr. Kogan built his own app and in June 2014 began harvesting data for Cambridge Analytica. The business covered the costs — more than $800,000 — and allowed him to keep a copy for his own research, according to company emails and financial records.
All he divulged to Facebook, and to users in fine print, was that he was collecting information for academic purposes, the social network said. It did not verify his claim. Dr. Kogan declined to provide details of what happened, citing nondisclosure agreements with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, though he maintained that his program was “a very standard vanilla Facebook app.”
He ultimately provided over 50 million raw profiles to the firm, Mr. Wylie said, a number confirmed by a company email and a former colleague. Of those, roughly 30 million contained enough information, including places of residence, that the company could match users to other records and build psychographic profiles. Only about 270,000 users — those who participated in the survey — had consented to having their data harvested.
Mr. Wylie said the Facebook data was “the saving grace” that let his team deliver the models it had promised the Mercers.
“We wanted as much as we could get,” he acknowledged. “Where it came from, who said we could have it — we weren’t really asking.”
Mr. Nix tells a different story. Appearing before a parliamentary committee last month, he described Dr. Kogan’s contributions as “fruitless.”
An International Effort
Just as Dr. Kogan’s efforts were getting underway, Mr. Mercer agreed to invest $15 million in a joint venture with SCL’s elections division. The partners devised a convoluted corporate structure, forming a new American company, owned almost entirely by Mr. Mercer, with a license to the psychographics platform developed by Mr. Wylie’s team, according to company documents. Mr. Bannon, who became a board member and investor, chose the name: Cambridge Analytica.
The firm was effectively a shell. According to the documents and former employees, any contracts won by Cambridge, originally incorporated in Delaware, would be serviced by London-based SCL and overseen by Mr. Nix, a British citizen who held dual appointments at Cambridge Analytica and SCL. Most SCL employees and contractors were Canadian, like Mr. Wylie, or European.
But in July 2014, an American election lawyer advising the company, Laurence Levy, warned that the arrangement could violate laws limiting the involvement of foreign nationals in American elections.
In a memo to Mr. Bannon, Ms. Mercer and Mr. Nix, the lawyer, then at the firm Bracewell & Giuliani, warned that Mr. Nix would have to recuse himself “from substantive management” of any clients involved in United States elections. The data firm would also have to find American citizens or green card holders, Mr. Levy wrote, “to manage the work and decision making functions, relative to campaign messaging and expenditures.”
In summer and fall 2014, Cambridge Analytica dived into the American midterm elections, mobilizing SCL contractors and employees around the country. Few Americans were involved in the work, which included polling, focus groups and message development for the John Bolton Super PAC, conservative groups in Colorado and the campaign of Senator Thom Tillis, the North Carolina Republican.
Cambridge Analytica, in its statement to The Times, said that all “personnel in strategic roles were U.S. nationals or green card holders.” Mr. Nix “never had any strategic or operational role” in an American election campaign, the company said.
Whether the company’s American ventures violated election laws would depend on foreign employees’ roles in each campaign, and on whether their work counted as strategic advice under Federal Election Commission rules.
Cambridge Analytica appears to have exhibited a similar pattern in the 2016 election cycle, when the company worked for the campaigns of Mr. Cruz and then Mr. Trump. While Cambridge hired more Americans to work on the races that year, most of its data scientists were citizens of the United Kingdom or other European countries, according to two former employees.
Under the guidance of Brad Parscale, Mr. Trump’s digital director in 2016 and now the campaign manager for his 2020 re-election effort, Cambridge performed a variety of services, former campaign officials said. That included designing target audiences for digital ads and fund-raising appeals, modeling voter turnout, buying $5 million in television ads and determining where Mr. Trump should travel to best drum up support.
Cambridge executives have offered conflicting accounts about the use of psychographic data on the campaign. Mr. Nix has said that the firm’s profiles helped shape Mr. Trump’s strategy — statements disputed by other campaign officials — but also that Cambridge did not have enough time to comprehensively model Trump voters.
In a BBC interview last December, Mr. Nix said that the Trump efforts drew on “legacy psychographics” built for the Cruz campaign.
After the Leak
By early 2015, Mr. Wylie and more than half his original team of about a dozen people had left the company. Most were liberal-leaning, and had grown disenchanted with working on behalf of the hard-right candidates the Mercer family favored.
Cambridge Analytica, in its statement, said that Mr. Wylie had left to start a rival firm, and that it later took legal action against him to enforce intellectual property claims. It characterized Mr. Wylie and other former “contractors” as engaging in “what is clearly a malicious attempt to hurt the company.”
Near the end of that year, a report in The Guardianrevealedthat Cambridge Analytica was using private Facebook data on the Cruz campaign, sending Facebook scrambling. In a statement at the time, Facebook promised that it was “carefully investigating this situation” and would require any company misusing its data to destroy it.
Facebook verified the leak and — without publicly acknowledging it — sought to secure the information, efforts that continued as recently as August 2016. That month, lawyers for the social network reached out to Cambridge Analytica contractors. “This data was obtained and used without permission,” said a letter that was obtained by the Times. “It cannot be used legitimately in the future and must be deleted immediately.”
Mr. Grewal, the Facebook deputy general counsel, said in a statement that both Dr. Kogan and “SCL Group and Cambridge Analytica certified to us that they destroyed the data in question.”
But copies of the data still remain beyond Facebook’s control. The Times viewed a set of raw data from the profiles Cambridge Analytica obtained.
While Mr. Nix has told lawmakers that the company does not have Facebook data, a former employee said that he had recently seen hundreds of gigabytes on Cambridge servers, and that the files were not encrypted.
Today, as Cambridge Analytica seeks to expand its business in the United States and overseas, Mr. Nix has mentioned some questionable practices. This January, in undercover footage filmed by Channel 4 News in Britain and viewed by The Times, he boasted of employing front companies and former spies on behalf of political clients around the world, and even suggested ways to entrap politicians in compromising situations.
All the scrutiny appears to have damaged Cambridge Analytica’s political business. No American campaigns or “super PACs” have yet reported paying the company for work in the 2018 midterms, and it is unclear whether Cambridge will be asked to join Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign.
In the meantime, Mr. Nix is seeking to take psychographics to the commercial advertising market. He has repositioned himself as a guru for the digital ad age — a “Math Man,” heputs it. In the United States last year, a former employee said, Cambridge pitched Mercedes-Benz, MetLife and the brewer AB InBev, but has not signed them on.
Matthew Rosenberg, Nicholas Confessore and Carole Cadwalladr reported from London. Gabriel J.X. Dance contributed reporting from London, and Danny Hakim from New York.
03 December 18 Our long-awaited “Mueller Time” has filled the punditocracy with tales of collusion and delusion. But most have missed the two-word trap door through which Donald Trump is likeliest to fall.
Yes, the Trumputins did steal 2016.
Collusion, technically, is not a crime. Treason is. So is conspiracy. But they may be hard to prove.
Yes, the Don Jr.-Eric-Ivanka-Kushner-Cohen-Manafort cabal has lied to Congress, the courts, and the people. More will arise as the Trump consiglieri flee the sinking ship.
These Rosetta Stones let us view the evolution of Trump’s most obvious illegalities:
• The Donald was born into organized crime.
• His grandfather (a German immigrant) ran a mobbed-up brothel in California.
• His father, a mobbed-up Queens slumlord, was a KKK-supporting, federally-prosecuted racist intimately linked to at least two of the city’s infamous Five Families.
• From age six, Donald helped launder dad’s money with a six-figure income that did not come from his youthful paper route.
• Infamous for stiffing those who backed and worked for him, Donald plunged into billions of debt and at least four bankruptcies.
• But after the Soviet Union fell, a new mobster class of Russian billionaires needed to launder cash into the U.S.
• Many favored Germany’s Deutsche Bank, which became the only financial institution willing to loan Trump money.
• As a shady real estate developer who took cash and asked few questions, The Donald became a Russo-American bag man.
• Trump obliged his ex-Soviet saviors with at least 1300 real estate transactions allowing them to slip countless rubles into the American banking system.
• At the peak sits Vladimir “don” Putin, who took power at the moment of Y2K, to whom nearly all the new Russian billionaires owe fealty, and whose files (forget about that “pee tape”) undoubtedly contain more than enough documentation to sink the entire Trump apparatus in a single afternoon.
• Trump Tower on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue has became largely a dormitory for Putin’s billionaire cohorts.
• Trump and his family have used the White House as a personal laundromat, leveraging licenses, a bailout for Kushner’s disastrous investments in 666 Fifth Avenue, and much more.
• Much of this has happened in New York, where prosecutions will be beyond the reach of White House pardons.
But the methodical Mueller clearly has Trump’s tax returns. The Donald’s net worth may well be negligible, all in rubles, defined by mobster illegalities dating back at least three decades, many of them prosecutable in Manhattan, where his enemies are legion.
Will Trump’s fake House of Cards then collapse, and his presidency with it?
The real bottom line to the Trump trifecta of collusion, mass perjury, and fiscal felony will not require likely impeachment by a Democratic House or unlikely removal by a GOP Senate.
It could come instead with Trump desperately trying to negotiate pardons for his children … facing post-presidency jail time for the money-laundering buried in those Deutsche Bank files and the testimony of so many desperate consiglieri trying to avoid prison … with the almost certain collapse of his phony financial empire … and with the fury of a media and public to whom he’s been lying nonstop with felonious contempt dating at least from the 1980s.
At some point, the stability-loving corporations that really run this world just might say (as with Dick Nixon):
“ENOUGH!… He got us our tax break and gutted environmental regulation … now he needs to leave.”
The collapse could come in months and weeks, not years. Given his relentless assault on the planet, let’s project Donald’s departure to happen by Earth Day. Nature always bats last.
So, too, might Mueller and New York.
But ultimately, the real push must come from an awakened public, bouncing back at last (in a process begun with2018’s Rainbow Tsunami) with a rebirth of grassroots outrage and social democracy.
Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman’sLife & Death Spiral of US History: From Deganawidah to Trump to Solartopia,will be published around Earth Day, hopefully in sync with Trump’s departure. His Green Power & Wellness Show podcasts atprn.fm; California Solartopia broadcasts at KPFA-Pacifica 90.7FM in Los Angeles.
We Know How Trump’s War Game Ends
December 21, 2018
Nothing unites our political class like the threat of ending our never-ending war
So we’re withdrawing troops from the Middle East.
What’s the War on Terror death count by now, a half-million? How much have we spent, $5 trillion? Five-and-a-half?
For that cost, we’ve destabilized the region to the point of abject chaos, inspired millions of Muslims to hate us, and torn up the Geneva Convention and half the Constitution in pursuit of policies like torture, kidnapping, assassination-by-robot and warrantless detention.
It will be difficult for each of us to even begin to part with our share of honor in those achievements. This must be why all those talking heads on TV are going crazy.
Unless Donald Trump decides to reverse his decision to begin withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan, cable news for the next few weeks is going to be one long Scanners marathon of exploding heads.
“Today’s decision would cheer Moscow, ISIS, and Iran!” yelped Nicole Wallace, former George W. Bush communications director.
“Maybe Trump will bring Republicans and Democrats together,” said Bill Kristol, on MSNBC, that “liberal” channel that somehow seems to be populated round the clock by ex-neocons and Pentagon dropouts.
Kristol, who has rarely ever been in the ballpark of right about anything — he once told us Iraq was going to be a “two month war” — might actually be correct.
Trump’s decisions on Syria and Afghanistan will lay bare the real distinctions in American politics. Political power in this country is not divided between right and left, and not even between rich and poor.
The real line is between a war party, and everyone else.
This is why Kristol is probably right. The Democrats’ plan until now was probably to impeach Trump in the House using at minimum some material from the Michael Cohen case involving campaign-finance violations.
That plan never had a chance to succeed in the Senate, but now, who knows? Troop withdrawals may push a collection of hawkish Republicans like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Ben Sasse and maybe even Mitch McConnell into another camp.
The departure of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — a standard-issue Pentagon toady who’s never met an unending failure of a military engagement he didn’t like and whose resignation letter is now being celebrated as inspirational literature on the order of the Gettysburg Address or a lost epic by Auden or Eliot — sounded an emergency bell for all these clowns. The letter by Mattis, Rubio said:
“Makes it abundantly clear we are headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation, damage our alliances & empower our adversaries.”
Talk like this is designed to give political cover to Republican fence-sitters on Trump. That wry smile on Kristol’s face is, I’d guess, connected to the knowledge that Trump put the Senate in play by even threatening to pull the plug on our Middle Eastern misadventures.
You’ll hear all sorts of arguments today about why the withdrawals are bad. You’ll hear Trump has no plan, which is true. He never does, at least not on policy.
But we don’t exactly have a plan for staying in the Middle East, either, beyond installing a permanent garrison in a dozen countries, spending assloads of money and making ourselves permanently despised in the region as civilian deaths pile up through drone-bombings and other “surgical” actions.
You’ll hear we’re abandoning allies and inviting massacres by the likes of Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan. If there was any evidence that our presence there would do anything but screw up the situation even more, I might consider that a real argument. At any rate, there are other solutions beyond committing American lives. We could take in more refugees, kick Turkey out of NATO, impose sanctions, etc.
As to the argument that we’re abandoning Syria to Russians — anyone who is interested in reducing Russian power should be cheering. If there’s any country in the world that equals us in its ability to botch an occupation and get run out on a bloody rail after squandering piles of treasure, it’s Russia. They may even be better at it than us. We can ask the Afghans about that on our way out of there.
The Afghan conflict became the longest military engagement in American history eight years ago. Despite myths to the contrary, Barack Obama did not enter office gung-ho to leave Afghanistan. He felt he needed to win there first, which, as anyone who’s read The Great Game knows, proved impossible. So we ended up staying throughout his presidency.
We were going to continue to stay there, and in other places, forever, because our occupations do not work, as everyone outside of Washington seems to understand.
TV talking heads will be unanimous on this subject, but the population, not so much. What polls we have suggest voters want out of the region in increasing numbers.
A Morning Consult/Politico poll from last year showed a plurality favored a troop decrease in Afghanistan, while only 5 percent wanted increases. Polls consistently show the public thinks our presence in Afghanistan has been a failure.
There’s less about how the public feels about Syria, but even there, the data doesn’t show overwhelming desire to put boots on the ground.
When Trump first ordered airstrikes in Syria over Assad’s use of chemical weapons, 70 percent favored sanctions according to Politico, while 39 percent favored sending troops. A CBS poll around that time found 45 percent wanted either no involvement period, or airstrikes and no ground troops, versus 18 percent who wanted full military involvement.
Trump is a madman, a far-right extremist and an embarrassment, but that’s not why most people in Washington hate him. It’s his foreign-policy attitudes, particularly toward NATO, that have always most offended DC burghers.
You could see the Beltway beginning to lose its mind back in the Republican primary race, when then-candidate Trump belittled America’s commitment to Middle Eastern oil states.
“Every time there’s a little ruckus, we send those ships and those planes,” he said, early in his campaign. “We get nothing. Why? They’re making a billion a day. We get nothing.”
As he got closer to the nomination, he went after neoconservative theology more explicitly.
“I don’t think we should be nation-building anymore,” he said, in March of 2016. He went on: “I watched as we built schools in Iraq and they’re blown up. We build another one, we get blown up.”
Trump was wrong about a thousand other things, but this was true. I had done a story about how military contractors spent $72 million on what was supposed to be an Iraqi police academy and delivered a pile of rubble so unusable, pedestrians made it into a toilet.
The Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction noted, “We witnessed a light fixture so full of diluted urine and feces that it would not operate.”
SIGIR found we spent over $60 billion on Iraqi reconstruction and did not significantly improvelife for Iraqis. The parallel body covering Afghanistan, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, concluded last year that at least $15.5 billion had been wasted in that country between 2008 and 2017, and this was likely only a “fraction” of financial leakage.
Trump, after sealing the nomination, upped the ante. In the summer of 2016 he said he wasn’t sure he’d send troops to defend NATO members that didn’t pay their bills. NATO members are supposed to kick in 2 percent of GDP for their own defense. At the time, only four NATO members(Estonia, Poland, the U.K. and the U.S.) were in compliance.
Politicians went insane. How dare he ask countries to pay for their own defense! Republican House member Adam Kinzinger, a popular guest in the last 24 hours, said in July 2016 that Trump’s comments were “utterly disastrous.”
“There’s no precedent,” said Thomas Wright, a “Europe scholar” from the Brookings Institute.
When the news came after Trump’s election that he’d only read his intelligence briefings once a week instead of every day as previous presidents had dutifully done, that was it. The gloves were off at that point.
“The open disdain Trump has shown for the agencies is unprecedented,” said Patrick Skinner, a former CIA official for both George W. Bush and Obama.
All that followed, through today, has to be understood through this prism.
Trump dumped on basically every segment of the political establishment en route to Washington, running on a classic authoritarian strategy — bash the elites, pose as a populist.
However fake he was, there were portions of the political establishment that deserved abuse, the Pentagon most of all.
The Department of Defense has been a money pit for decades. It has trillions in expenditures it can’t account for, refused an audit for nearly 30 years and then failed this year (as in failed completely, zero-point-zero, not producing any coherent numbers) when one was finally funded.
We have brave and able soldiers, but their leaders are utter tools who’ve left a legacy of massacres and botched interventions around the world.
NATO? That’s an organization whose mission stopped making sense the moment the Soviet Union collapsed. We should long ago have repurposed our defense plan to focus on terrorism, cyber-crime and cyber-attacks, commercial espionage, financial security, and other threats.
Instead, we continued after the Soviet collapse to maintain a global military alliance fattened with increasingly useless carriers and fighter jets, designed to fight archaic forms of war.
NATO persisted mainly as a PR mechanism for a) justifying continued obscene defense spending levels and b) giving a patina of internationalism to America’s essentially unilateral military adventures.
We’d go into a place like Afghanistan with no real plan for leaving, and a few member nations like Estonia and France and Turkey would send troops to get shot at with us. But it was always basically Team America: World Police with supporting actors. No wonder so few of the member countries paid their dues.
Incidentally, this isn’t exactly a secret. Long before Trump, this is what Barney Frank was saying in 2010: “I think the time has come to reexamine NATO. NATO has become an excuse for other people to get America to do things.”
This has all been a giant, bloody, expensive farce, and it’s long since time we ended it.
We’ll see a lot of hand-wringing today from people who called themselves anti-war in 2002 and 2003, but now pray that the “adults in the room” keep “boots on the ground” to preserve “credibility.”
Part of this is because it’s Trump, but a bigger part is that we’ve successfully brainwashed big chunks of the population into thinking it’s normal for a country to exist in a state of permanent war, fighting in seven countries at once, spending half of all discretionary funding on defense.
It’s not. It’s insane. And we’ll never be a healthy society, or truly respected abroad, until we stop accepting it as normal.
Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone and winner of the 2008 National Magazine Award for columns and commentary. His most recent book is ‘I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street,’ about the infamous killing of Eric Garner by the New York City police. He’s also the author of the New York Times bestsellers ‘Insane Clown President,’ ‘The Divide,’ ‘Griftopia,’ and ‘The Great Derangement.’
**Veteran died after confrontation at Kansas City VA hospital. Senators demand answers**
BY ANDY MARSO
DECEMBER 11, 2018 05:30 AM
A man named Dale Farhner died in May after a confrontation with Kansas City VA Medical Center police. The VA has declined to provide any information about his death.
Two U.S. senators are seeking answers about the death of a veteran following an altercation at the Kansas City \[VA Medical Center\]\[\]. VA officials have declined for months to provide information to The Star.
Dale Farhner of Kingston, Mo., died in May, and since then The Star has sought details about what happened. ButVA officials have withheld information, saying the matter remains under review.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, and U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, sent a joint letter to U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie last week, asking for answers.
“We certainly appreciate the requirements of an investigation, but hope that after over six months some initial information can be forthcoming,” the letter reads. “The health and well-being of our veterans have been among our highest shared priorities in Congress. Please release any information that can be made public regarding Mr. Farhner, and if not, please explain the reasons why.”
The Star received an anonymous tip that on May 10 Farhner had a confrontation with VA police outside the entrance to the medical center’s emergency department, at 4801 Linwood Blvd. The tipster said Farhner was comatose following the confrontation and was taken to the University of Kansas Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage.
The tipster said Farhner died May 12 at KU Hospital. That much is confirmed by \[online obituaries\]\[\], which said he was 66 and from Kingston. Efforts to reach his next-of-kin, as identified by his funeral home, were not successful.
**HELP LIFT A BURDEN FOR THOSE WHO SERVE**
Military families—even those with VA benefits—often face health care bills they can’t pay, raising their risk for depression, substance abuse and suicide.
That’s why we’ve launched The War Within Initiative to abolish millions in military medical debt. Every dollar our readers contribute to RIP Medical Debt, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, forgives $100 in unpaid medical bills.
The Star sought comment in May from Dwayne Rider, who was then the spokesman for the Kansas City VA Medical Center.
Rider responded via email on May 31, saying “due to privacy restrictions, we cannot release additional information at this time.”
The Star filed a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act that same day.
The VA responded on July 7 with an emailed letter saying it had identified “nine documents totaling 18 pages of written records, and one video, and one audio recording” relevant to the request.
But VA records manager Laura Hughes wrote that she was withholding all of it “based on the open/pending status of the Veterans Health Administration Office of Security & Law Enforcement review.”
“Due to the open/pending status the documents are pre-decisional to VHA’s findings and decision regarding this incident,” Hughes said. “Based upon the information available to me I believe release of the records could potentially impair the deliberative process as release of the pre-decisional document to the public would likely negatively impact a frank discussion on matters of policy between subordinates and supervisors.”
The Star lodged a formal appeal of that decision on July 20.
As of Monday, the VA’s appeals office had provided no response. Tracy Knight, an information specialist in the Washington, D.C., office of the VA’s general legal counsel, said she could give no time line for a decision.
“The attorney who’s working it has been in contact with his deputy and they’ve got to go back and forth and do some additional work,” Knight said.
On Monday, Kansas City VA staff once again rebuffed requests for comment on Farhner’s death.
The Jackson County Medical Examiner’s office performed Fahrner’s autopsy, but Marshanna Hester, a spokeswoman for the office, said no information could be released because the case is still open.
“All documents prepared by and in the custody of the Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office relating to this matter are investigative reports of a law enforcement agency and are thus closed records until the investigation becomes inactive,” Hester said Friday via email.
I Witnessed the Horror of Border Militarization, and Vow to Fight It
I ‘ve just returned from the San Diego-Tijuana border where I had the honor of participating in “Love Knows No Borders” — an interfaith action sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and co-sponsored by a myriad of faith organizations from across the country. As a staffer for AFSC and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace (one of the many co-sponsoring organizations), I took a special pride in this interfaith mobilization, in which more than 400 people from across the country gathered to take a moral stand against our nation’s sacrilegious immigration system. I’m particularly gratified that the extensive media from our action could shine a light on the brutal reality at our increasingly militarized southern border.
The date of the action (December 10) was symbolically chosen to take place on the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and served as the kick off to a nationwide week of action that will conclude on December 18, International Migrant’s Day. The action set three basic demands before the US government: to respect people’s human right to migrate, to end the militarization of border communities, and to end the detention and deportation of immigrants.
Over the course of this past weekend, hundreds of participants streamed into San Diego for orientation and training. To conclude our preparation and as a precursor to the upcoming action, an interfaith service was held in the packed sanctuary of University Christian Church. As one of the Jewish leaders of the service, I noted that it was the eighth and final night of Hanukkah and invited the Jewish members of our delegation up to sing the blessings.
Before the lighting, I explained that the final night of Hanukkah is the night in which our light shines the brightest, and I pointed out the wonderful confluence of this Jewish festival with our interfaith action the following day. Rev. Tracie Blackmon, a United Church of Christ leader and prominent social justice activist, delivered one of the most powerful messages of the evening, properly placing the issue of immigrant justice within the context of US white supremacy.
Arrests at the Border
The next morning, we gathered at AFSC’s San Diego office and left in buses to Border Field State Park, located just north of the border with Tijuana. After a press conference, we marched west down the trail to the beach, then turned south and approached the border fence, which snaked across the beach and jutted several hundred feet into the water. As we got closer, we could see a tangle of barbed concertina wire laid out in front of the fence. Behind the wire stood a phalanx of heavily armed border police.
The action set three basic demands before the US government: to respect people’s human right to migrate, to end the militarization of border communities, and to end the detention and deportation of immigrants.
When we reached the edge of the wire, some of the clergy formed a semi-circle and offered blessings for the migrants. As the prayers were spoken aloud, the police used a megaphone to inform us that we were trespassing on federal property and that we needed to move to the back of the wire. I recited the Priestly Benediction in Hebrew and English (“May God bless you and keep you …”), doing my best to articulate the prayer between the voices of police barking out orders (a ceremonial first for me).
When our blessings were over, we went back to the other side of the barbed wire and those of us in front formed a line directly facing the guards. A policeman repeatedly told us to leave, adding that he did not want any violence — an ironic statement considering that he and the rest of the riot-gear clad border police wielded automatic weapons in front of our faces. We began to chant freedom chants and held the line, even as the police inched forward and started to push us back.
While we were careful not to touch any law enforcement officers, we continued to hold the line as the police pushed us forward. Eventually, protesters who did not yield were grabbed, pulled to the police side of the line and arrested. Most men were thrown to the ground and held down with their faces in the sand while their hands were bound together with plastic ties; women were generally allowed to kneel before they were led away from the beach to waiting police vans.
When we stood up to the line of armed border police, I couldn’t help but flash back to my very similar experience in Hebron.
As I continued to hold the line on the far west end of the front line, I noticed a commotion at the other end: Police had broken through the line and were chasing protesters down the beach. I saw one of our protest organizers, AFSC staffer Matt Leber, roughly thrown to the ground by at least five or six border police officers, handcuffed and led away. While Leber did not intend to take an arrest, this kind of intentional targeting of organizers is a common police tactic.
We learned later that Leber had been charged with felony assault against a federal officer. In video taken of the incident, however, you can see Leber (wearing the red T-shirt and backpack) guiding the protest when he is suddenly attacked, unprovoked, by the police who lunge at him and yank off his backpack. You can also see AFSC staffer Jacob Flowers (wearing the yellow vest) attempt to nonviolently de-escalate the situation by placing his body between Leber and the police before they throw him to the ground.
Shortly after Leber’s arrest, I dropped to my knees and was grabbed and pinned down by two border police officers. When it became clear that I wasn’t resisting, they allowed me to stand of my own accord and led me to the line of arrested protesters who were arrayed along a fence, waiting to be placed into police vans.
All told, 32 of us were arrested and charged with the misdemeanor of “nonconformity to the orders of a Federal Law Enforcement officer.” After we were cited and released, we learned that Leber had been charged with felony assault of a law enforcement officer. When a day went by with no further word, AFSC released a statement calling for his immediate release. To our collective relief, Leber was eventually let out later on Tuesday afternoon and the charges against him were dropped.
The True Meaning of Border Militarization
During our debrief, many noted the ferocity of the border guard’s response to our prayerful, nonviolent demonstration. Many of us — in particular the white, privileged members of our delegation — agreed that we had gained a deeper sense of empathy and solidarity with our migrant neighbors, a stronger understanding of the toxic effects of militarization on our border communities, and a more profound conviction than ever that we must all fight for a nation that receives immigrants with open hearts and open doors.
This experience also served to demonstrate what “militarization of the border” truly means. My friend and fellow Jewish Voice for Peace member Elaine Waxman put it well when she wrote about our experience on her Facebook page:
What has stuck with me most in the last 24 hours is a deeply uncomfortable sense of what that border surely looks like when the witnesses are gone, the journalists are not taking pictures, and the encounters are with migrants instead of documented (and often white) community leaders. Because what we saw yesterday looks like a police state.
Indeed, when we stood up to the line of armed border police, I couldn’t help but flash back to my very similar experience in a direct action with Youth Against Settlements during the summer of 2006 in Hebron. In both cases we faced heavily armed soldiers, the loud screaming of orders, and the use of the threat of violence to intimidate and deter those who do not yield to state control.
Clergy demonstrators hold the line at the San Diego-Tijuana border fence.
I also noticed another, more specific similarity between these two experiences. When I stood in front of the border guards on the beach, I noticed familiar tear gas canisters belted across their chests. I’d seen the same on soldiers throughout the West Bank and Gaza: silver cylinders with blue writing manufactured by Combined Tactical Systems in Jamestown, Pennsylvania.
Seeing those same canisters at the US-Mexico border reminded me of the multiple intersections between systems of state violence and corporate profit – and of the need for a movement that will expose and dismantle them once and for all.
I have reprinted an article about the rise of censorship on the internet. Censorship is deeply troubling for those that cherish freedom of thought. And the censorship that Barbara Lee Fisher speaks of does not only apply to vaccine information but also political thought. What is particularly troubling is the support of so called “liberals” in this movement of censorship. And the organization of censors and their software offends the 1st and 5th Amendment rights to free speech and association. We must all fight back against the fascist regulation of thought.
The New Internet Police Protecting You From Freedom of Thought and Speech by Barbara Lee Fisher Before the Internet was launched in 1992, our thoughts, values and beliefs were informed by our family and friends and by the books, magazines and newspapers we read and by what we heard on radio and saw on television. If we wanted to communicate with each other we would pick up the telephone, write a letter or meet face to face. The Internet changed everything. The World Wide Web gave us electronic access to free, uncensored information on our computers, tablets and cell phones and the ability to instantly share that information with each other. It connected us together in a virtual public square, where we could do our own research and talk about our personal experiences, and express what we think and believe and how we feel about important issues that affect our lives. There are three billion people on the Internet communicating with each other. 1 Except for the printing press created in the 15th century, there is no other single means of communication that has had as profound an impact on freedom of thought and speech as the World Wide Web. Yes, the Internet has changed everything. And, now, everyone needs to know how the Internet is changing. internet In the very near future you may not be able to find information about vaccine science, policy and law published on websites like NVIC.org and TheVaccineReaction.org or be able to connect with us on social media platforms to have an open conversation about it. With the cancellation of net neutrality in the U.S. in 2017, 2 3 the two decade forging of public-private business partnerships between governments and politically powerful corporations and institutions has cleared the way for factual information about health to be censored as “fake news” and quietly removed from the Internet if it does not conform with public health policy and government recommendations for use of pharmaceutical and food products. Has the Internet been hijacked by Wall Street? It sure looks that way. An electronic wall is being built to block you from getting information you want so you only get information someone else decides you need. An electronic burning of the books has begun, and the people are being silently herded into a virtual Dark Age. While this censorship is starting with conversations about health and vaccination, it will not end there. Those who have bought and control the Internet now have the power to restrict or block any kind of information they do not want you to see or talk about with your family, friends and others you connect with online. 4 5 So who is doing the judging of what is truth and what is “fake news” online? The Internet Police Thinking and Speaking for You Web of Trust 6 and Snopes, 7 both for-profit enterprises, have attempted to police the Internet for the past decade by rating websites for “trustworthiness” or branding articles published online as “true” or “false,” even as they themselves became embroiled in controversy about trustworthiness. 8 9 10 But Snopes and Web of Trust are rookies compared to the professional SWAT team hired this year by a new corporation, NewsGuard Technologies, Inc., to rate websites and online publications so, in their own words, they can quote “fight false news, misinformation and disinformation.” 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 NewsGuard is collaborating with The Paley Center for Media,18 Google, 19 Microsoft, 2021 Publicis, 22232425262728293031 schools, libraries 32 and other institutions to protect you and your children from news and perspective they think will harm you and society. There is no question that “fake news” is a real problem in both mainstream and alternative media when demonstrably false information is deliberately disguised as fact. However, it is also a real problem when demonstrably factual information or perspective is mislabeled as “fake news,” simply because it criticizes government policy or threatens the bottom line of corporations selling government recommended commercial products like liability free vaccines. dollars handshake One of the most politically powerful public-private partnerships today is the lucrative one that has been forged by the pharmaceutical industry with government, 333435363738 mainstream media 39 and wealthy philanthropic foundations with political agendas. 404142434445 NVIC Giving a Voice for the Vaccine Injured, Defending Human Rights It has been 25 years since the nonprofit charity founded in 1982 by parents of vaccine injured children, the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), began posting vaccine information on the Internet. Our mission is to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and to protect the ethical principle of informed consent to medical risk taking, which serves as the foundation for the ethical practice of medicine. 46 The co-founders and parent representatives of NVIC have a long, transparent public record of consumer advocacy, including working with Congress to secure vaccine safety informing, recording, reporting and research provisions in the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 and serving on federal vaccine advisory committees and testifying in congressional and state legislative hearings. 4748 We represent and give a voice to a vulnerable minority, the ones for whom the risks of vaccination turn out to be 100 percent. But we also represent and give a voice to people who believe that the human right to freedom of thought, speech, conscience and informed consent must be protected. 49 Verifiable Facts About Vaccination Not “Fake News” Ten years before the birth of the Internet, one of the best-kept secrets in America was that vaccines can and do cause injury and death and that some individuals are more vulnerable to being harmed by vaccination. In 1982, an Emmy award winning television documentary DPT: Vaccine Roulette produced by consumer reporter Lea Thompson alerted parents and pediatricians that the whole cell pertussis vaccine in DPT shots could brain damage children. 5051 It was a mainstream media outlet – NBC – that blew the whistle on the pharmaceutical industry’s neglect, and the medical establishment’s denial of DPT vaccine reactions, and the 50-year failure of industry and government to improve the safety of a vaccine mandated for all children to attend school. These are verifiable facts: the truth, not “fake news.” Three years later in 1985, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich published DPT: A Shot in the Dark, a book that further documented the risks and failures of the old crude whole cell pertussis vaccine. 52 A year later, Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. In that legislation, for the first time the US government acknowledged that FDA licensed and CDC recommended vaccines can and do injure children. 5354 Since the 1986 Act was passed, the government has awarded four billion dollars in compensation to thousands of children and adults who have suffered permanent injuries, or whose loved ones have died after being given federally licensed and recommended vaccines. 55 These are verifiable facts: the truth, not “fake news.” Between 1991 and 2013, the National Academy of Sciences published a series of reports on vaccine adverse effects. 56 These reports confirmed that vaccines can cause brain and immune system disorders, and that genetic, biological and environmental risk factors make some individuals more vulnerable to being harmed but doctors don’t know how to identify them because of gaps in vaccine science. 57 boy being vaccinated These are verifiable facts: the truth, not “fake news.” More than 684,000 adverse events following vaccination, including hospitalizations, injuries and deaths, have been reported to the federal government since 1990. 58 This number is estimated to represent less than one percent of all vaccine adverse events that have actually occurred. 59 These are verifiable facts; the truth, not “fake news.” The U.S. government now recommends that children receive 69 doses of 16 vaccines between the day of birth and age 18, with 50 doses given before the age of six, 60 which is triple the number of vaccinations given to children in 1983. 61 Almost all of these vaccinations are mandated by states for children to attend school 62 and some children are being refused medical care and adults are being fired from their jobs if they don’t get every one of them, even after suffering vaccine reactions and deterioration in health. 6364656667 Vaccine policy and mandates have helped to create a global vaccine market now projected to bring in a staggering $57 billion dollars for drug companies by 2025.6869 These are verifiable facts, not “fake news.” But very soon you may not be able to get this information or talk about it online. It is already happening. Discrimination and Censorship: NVIC’s Information Targeted Online Traffic to NVIC’s websites has fallen more than 50 percent since net neutrality was cancelled last year and access to our online information was restricted by suppressive algorithms and rating systems. 70 Although NVIC takes a pro-education, pro-informed consent position and does not make vaccine use recommendations, NVIC’s Pinterest account was recently suspended. 71 The reason given was that Pinterest takes action “against accounts that repeatedly save content that includes harmful advice, misinformation that targets individuals or protected groups or content that originates from disinformation campaigns” and that Pinterest operators “don’t allow advice when it has immediate or detrimental effects on a Pinner’s health or on public safety. This includes promotion of false cures for terminal or chronic illnesses and anti-vaccination advice,” adding that they rely on “information from national and internationally recognized institutions like the CDC and WHO World Health Organization” to guide their judgments. NVIC is awaiting the judgment of NewsGuard Technologies about whether our weekly online journal newspaper The Vaccine Reaction will be given a green or red rating, which will send a signal to major search engines and social media platforms with the power to preserve or censor and make information disappear from the Internet. Censoring Information for The Greater Good? The new Internet Police scrubbing the World Wide Web of information they do not want you to see or talk about is part of the larger culture war going on today in our country and in many countries. 72 73 When it comes to vaccination, discrimination and censorship is justified in the name of public safety and The Greater Good. 7475 Who’s greater good? Who among us in society should be given the power to take away our freedom to seek and obtain knowledge, to engage in rational thinking, to speak in the public square and follow the judgment of our conscience when making decisions about what we are willing to risk our lives and our children’s lives for? In America, where the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution guarantees civil liberties to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority, we cannot wait any longer to publicly discuss and answer that question. It is a question that needs open public discussion, not censorship, because what is at stake affects not only freedom of thought and speech, but the loss of autonomy, the first and most sacred of all natural rights that protects every one of us from exploitation by wealthy corporations and politically powerful institutions. Taking Positive Action with Eyes Wide Open and No Fear In this time of oppression, we cannot know what needs to be done unless we go forward with our eyes wide open, understanding the new reality without fearing it. It is time to collect, preserve and cherish the good books, articles, films, videos and podcasts that have been published about vaccination and share them with our family and friends; time to save and download to our computers and external hard drives the written and video information still online that we want to keep and share with our children and our grandchildren. Time to expand the open public record by attending, testifying at and recording every legislative hearing, every town hall gathering, and every federal vaccine advisory committee meeting where people discuss vaccination or attempt to eliminate the human right to autonomy and censor freedom of thought and speech. If the doors to the Internet are closing, we can still stand up and speak in the smaller public squares that have always been there. We can come together and talk the old fashioned way, meeting in cafes, hotels, churches and in the privacy of our own homes. We can set up telephone trees and stay in touch by mail the way we did before the Internet. We can still use the World Wide Web to create private messaging and host webinars. We can create new ways of communicating with each other using more secure channels for uncensored conversations about vaccination and health. No matter what happens to the Internet, the best way to not lose touch with us is to register today for the free online NVIC Advocacy Portal, which is a secure communications network that puts you in electronic contact with your own legislators and provides you with real time information about vaccine-related legislation moving in your state. Taking that action provides us with an address to send you information in the mail, which also happens if you make a charitable donation to NVIC in any amount. Today, everybody knows somebody who was healthy, got vaccinated and was never healthy again. NVIC has been here for 36 years telling the truth about vaccination and advocating for better quality vaccine science, higher government vaccine safety licensing standards, more humane public health policies and protection of informed consent rights. The truth about vaccination is out there now and the truth will shine bright and clear in the end, no matter who tries to stop it from being known. It’s your health, your family, your choice and our mission continues: No forced vaccination. Not in America!
The following is the Epilogue from Jeffrey St. Clair’s and Joshua Frank’s new book The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink, available now from CounterPunch Books.
In the spring of 2017, the carbon dioxide readings at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawai’i cracked 410 parts per million, an all-time record and a frightening one. On Earth Day, climate marches took place in cities across the world. Trump’s policies didn’t drive the spiking CO2 levels, but they did propel tens of thousands onto the streets for a few hours of fun. Where were those people during eight years of Barack Obama, an oil and gas man of some distinction? Where were they during eight years of Bill Clinton, one of the greatest environmental con men of our time?
Has Donald Trump finally shattered our illusions, so that we can see clearly the forces—economic, political and technological—that are plunging the planet toward a man-made heat death? Is he, in fact, a kind of clarifying agent for the real state of things?
One can hope so.
Except one mustn’t hope.
As Kafka, the High Priest of Realism, admonished his readers, “There is hope. But not for us.”
Hope is an illusion, an opiate, an Oxycontin for the masses. Instead of hope, we need a heavy dose of realism. A realism as chilling as reality itself.
Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Buddha instructed us that the world is suffering, and indeed it is. He also advised us that the cure for suffering is empathy, especially for those living beings—among which we would include redwood trees, sea coral and saguaro cacti—which have no defense against the forces that are inflicting that globalized torment.
That’s where we come in. Defenders of the Earth need to abandon all hope before entering the fray. Hope is a paralytic agent. Hope is the enemy.
Protests will not prick the conscience of the unmasked beast called Donald Trump. Trump has no conscience to arouse, no shame to trigger, no remorse to cultivate. Trump is a full-frontal menace, that dangerous object in the mirror that is closer than it appears. It is the old threat, coming at us faster than before and from all directions at once. An unchained beast that will not be moderated by regulations, social conventions or appeals to common decency.
We are witnessing the wet-dream of Steve Bannon—the Trump Whisperer—made manifest: the dismantling of the regulatory state. This new reality compels us—for those who are willing to look—to confront the shedding of another illusion, an illusion that mainstream environmentalists have been marinating in since the 1970s, when our most progressive president, Richard M. Nixon, cynically created the modern environmental regulatory state in order to split the anti-war movement, pacify the Left and smother a much more radical defense of the natural world.
The green regulatory state—as personified by the EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service and the BLM (Bureau of Livestock and Mining), as well as thousands of laws, administrative rules and regulations, the meaning of which can only be divined by lawyers, lobbyists and professional environmentalists—has not slowed the decimation of native forests, the extirpation of wildlife or the poisoning of our air and water. It has simply codified and systematized the destruction, allocating the looting to a coterie of well-connected corporations large enough and shrewd enough to navigate the legal labyrinth for their own bloody profits.
At the same time, the creation of the regulatory state effectively neutered the once potent environmental movement as a real threat to the System. As their budgets swell, often fattened by the largess of grants from foundations linked to the fossil fuel industry, the big DC-oriented conservation groups become more and more complicit with the political fool’s gold of neoliberalism. Try finding a lobbyist from NRDC with callouses on their hands and a trace of mud on their boots.
As Trump begins the demolition of the regulatory state, we start to see how hollow many of Gang Green’s alleged environmental victories of the past—from coal mining and air quality regulations to endangered species protections and new national monuments—really are. They are being wiped out with a slash of the pen.
As the archdruid David Brower used to say: “When we win, it’s only a stay of execution, when they win it’s forever. Thus we must be eternally vigilant.” These days the corporate environmental movement is vigilant about only one thing: claiming fake victories in their sustained barrage of fund-raising appeals.
But the days of the laptop environmentalism are numbered. Trump is creating a battlefield where professional conservationists will fear to tread, a direct, face-to-face confrontation with the machinery of ecocide.
And we know who will rise to the call. The ones who always have in the past: the indigenous, the altruists and the anarchists. Those are the ones who will fight as if their lives depend on the outcome, because, of course, they do.
If we are to believe the sociobiologists, such as E.O. Wilson, the altruistic gene may only be present in three percent of the human population—may their gene pool increase! But, hell, that’s still three times as many people as the one-percenters who are running the show! If you want hope, there’s a microdot to swallow.
Small, scruffy and unruly as it is, we’ve seen the power of our movement in the past. When our backs are—often literally—against the wall, when the battle lines are clear from the immobilizing fog of liberal rhetoric and free from the timid advice of professional compromisers. We’ve seen it emerge from the Lacandon jungle to say enough is enough and overtake the streets of Seattle to shut down the World Trade Organization. We’ve seen grandmothers and housewives expose the toxic crimes of Love Canal and corn farmers shut down nuclear power plants. We’ve taken the international timber industry to its knees on its home turf, blocked strip mines, pipelines and river-killing dams. We’ve thrown monkey-wrenches big and small into the gears of the System. It has been done and it will be done again and again. No grant applications or protest permits needed.
As Ed Abbey used to say: there’s no battle more important, no fight more fun waging, no comrades more trustworthy than those in the trenches with us when we rise up together in defense of life on Earth. To crib a line from Leonard Cohen: “we may be ugly, but we’ve got the music.”
So draw a line and take a stand—almost any place will do, since the whole shebang is under threat—and let loose an old battle cry so that others will know where to come join you: Earth First!
The madness around us is no accident. Donald Trump is not an anomaly, but he is the worst of what this nation has to offer. Intentional ignorance fuels his hatred and money fuels his bloated and undeserved ego. We live in a nation ruled by small minded and heartless men and women whose egos match their ill begotten bank accounts. Their perception of justice is that which serves the market and the market is only viable as far as it serves their paymasters. Men and women with no place to live idle away their days in libraries and doorways, their hope for a different future slowly fading into their lives of despair. Work for any gain like a place they can afford to rent or even a car to live in grows more distant with each ordinance passed against the state of being poor. Police in their obeisance to the state and the class it serves enforce these ordinances with nary a pang of conscience. Or, even worse, a conscience that demands they beat the poor and obey the wealthy. Meanwhile, the wealthy spread their gospel of prosperity as if they actually believe the lies they tell themselves. Angry and ultimately misanthropic citizens accept the rich people’s lies hoping that their deliverance will soon arrive. Maybe if they believe the gospel of wealth they will become wealthy. It’s the myth upon which US capitalism is built. P.T. Barnum put it more succinctly when he spoke about suckers being born every minute.
The work I do demands interaction with homeless, often desperate people. Like me when I was on the streets, these men and women know the location of every restroom open to the public, the hours of the library and the rules they need to follow to stay in the building. This information is especially important on days the weather makes being outside uncomfortable if not downright dangerous. Those economically better off either choose to ignore the poor among them or turn to charitable acts; acts which are usually motivated by a belief one should care for their fellow human, but not enough to destroy the system that makes them poor and others rich. The very essence of a system that insists on inequality demands some kind of allegiance after all.
Then there are those whose very person is composed of a hate so vile they need nothing else to sustain themselves. They pine for the days when their hate was the law and not just the spirit in some parts of the nation. From where I sit, this describes the very nature of the current occupant of the White House and most of the members of his party. A policy honed over a history of slaughter and present in virtually every intervention by the US military is once again becoming commonplace on US soil and at its borders. I say once again because there are millions of US residents who are shocked when border police fire tear gas at women and children; when cops kill unarmed (most Black) citizens and get away with it; when protesters are sprayed in the face with pepper spray in front of the news media; when people trying to feed hungry people without homes are arrested for trying to feed hungry people without homes. Millions are shocked because they don’t understand the history of the nation they call home. Millions are shocked because they believe the nation is a good place. Millions are shocked until they are no longer shocked because the commonplace nature of these and other human rights abuses desensitizes them to the brutal nature of these acts and the system that requires them.
Drone strikes, once considered to be some kind of humane warfare (perhaps because it was Barack Obama who turned to them as his primary means of killing), are now barely discussed in the media. This is despite the fact that they have actually increased under Donald Trump. US wars of aggression have also continued, with civilian deaths increasing in Afghanistan and elsewhere. That increase is present even when using the Pentagon rubric which essentially labels any male ten years and older as a combatant, much like any Black male over ten in the US is considered by police to be the domestic equivalent of a combatant. On the southern US border military and police forces combine their numbers to deny refugees their internationally protected right to asylum. Certain media outlets champion this violation of international law and cheer the use of tear gas on the refugees. Many politicians proclaim their shock at the brutality against refugees while they continue to defend the ongoing US military operations around the world—operations which violate international law as a matter of policy.
The Trumpist reign has once again shown the world what the US really is. It has also created a certain chaos that proves how fragile the world capitalist system is. Both of these might be construed as positive phenomena. What matters it what is done with this knowledge. Overturning the neoliberal capitalist world order should be a good thing. However, capitalists have proven over and over again that they will do whatever it takes to keep the capitalist system going. War, genocide, mass incarceration, Hitler and Mussolini—anything to keep it going. The current chaos serves them well. Donald Trump isn’t Hitler, but he doesn’t need to be. The Trumpist approach has already proven to be effective in its reordering of the capitalist world towards its most reactionary factions.
The recent elections proved at least two things. The first is that there are enough people living in the United States who want to see its policies of greed and brutality changed. The second is that voting to change those policies is not a very effective means of doing so. The fact that elections can be manipulated by the ruling party if it so desires is just one reason why. I fear that come 2019, we will also discover once again that changing the faces of the members of Congress is not enough to change the influence of money, the military, and the lure of power. Those members old and new who do not go along with the ongoing transfer of wealth to the richest families in the nation will be silenced no matter how much noise they make. Indeed, unless the public engages in popular, loud and relentless protest, those few elected officials who care what their constituents want will be irrelevant. The rest will feel they have to answer only to those who pay their way As the more cynical among us knows, even if that protest is popular and relentless, nothing may change for the better. This fact is no reason not to protest, however. It is instead, reason to consider something more than trying to fix a system that by its nature requires the abuses listed here and worse to continue. It also requires the silence of those who are uneasy with what they are watching. Indeed, it requires that silence at least as much as it requires the support of those who point their fear and hatred towards those whom the rulers have scapegoated. It’s past time for hope. It’s time for struggle.
More articles by:RON JACOBS
***Ron Jacobs** is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.*