Sunday, September 25, 2016
npr | Lake Merritt in Oakland, Calif., is a mecca for joggers and families out with their strollers. Along with the smell of sweat and goose poop, weed is an equally present aroma.
Police seemingly take a "light up and let live" attitude here. But Nashanta Williams, who's out walking her dog, says it's not like this in other parts of the city.
"I have been pulled over and been told that my car smells like marijuana and put on the sidewalk and had my vehicle searched," Williams says. "And I felt like they were fishing."
California is one of five states this year where marijuana legalization is on the ballot. Washington and Colorado paved the way for making recreational pot legal back in 2012. Since then marijuana arrests have plunged in Washington. They've also gone down in Colorado, but not by as much.
This raises the question, what is the effect of legalizing marijuana on policing?
guardian | The story Ohler tells begins in the days of the Weimar Republic, when Germany’s pharmaceutical industry was thriving – the country was a leading exporter both of opiates, such as morphine, and of cocaine – and drugs were available on every street corner. It was during this period that Hitler’s inner circle established an image of him as an unassailable figure who was willing to work tirelessly on behalf of his country, and who would permit no toxins – not even coffee – to enter his body.
“He is all genius and body,” reported one of his allies in 1930. “And he mortifies that body in a way that would shock people like us! He doesn’t drink, he practically only eats vegetables, and he doesn’t touch women.” No wonder that when the Nazis seized power in 1933, “seductive poisons” were immediately outlawed. In the years that followed, drug users would be deemed “criminally insane”; some would be killed by the state using a lethal injection; others would be sent to concentration camps. Drug use also began to be associated with Jews. The Nazi party’s office of racial purity claimed that the Jewish character was essentially drug-dependent. Both needed to be eradicated from Germany.
Some drugs, however, had their uses, particularly in a society hell bent on keeping up with the energetic Hitler (“Germany awake!” the Nazis ordered, and the nation had no choice but to snap to attention). A substance that could “integrate shirkers, malingerers, defeatists and whiners” into the labour market might even be sanctioned. At a company called Temmler in Berlin, Dr Fritz Hauschild, its head chemist, inspired by the successful use of the American amphetamine Benzedrine at the 1936 Olympic Games, began trying to develop his own wonder drug – and a year later, he patented the first German methyl-amphetamine. Pervitin, as it was known, quickly became a sensation, used as a confidence booster and performance enhancer by everyone from secretaries to actors to train drivers (initially, it could be bought without prescription). It even made its way into confectionery. “Hildebrand chocolates are always a delight,” went the slogan. Women were recommended to eat two or three, after which they would be able to get through their housework in no time at all – with the added bonus that they would also lose weight, given the deleterious effect Pervitin had on the appetite. Ohler describes it as National Socialism in pill form.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
whitehouse | When I learned of the decades-long effort to establish a national museum dedicated to preserving that too often untold story, I readily joined the effort. Every session of Congress for 15 years, I introduced a bill to create this national museum.
While the journey has been long, today the history of African Americans will finally take its place on the National Mall next to the monuments to Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson -- exactly where it belongs.
It is important that The National Museum of African American History and Culture tells the unvarnished truth of America's history -- a story that speaks to the soul of our nation, but one few Americans know.
It's a reminder that 400 years of history can't be buried; its lessons must be learned. By bringing the uncomfortable parts of our past out of the shadows, we can better understand what divides us and seek to heal those problems through our unity.
If we look at the glass-topped casket that displayed the brutalized body of Emmett Till and hear his story, we may better understand the exasperation and anger Americans feel today over the deaths of Trayvon Martin or Tamir Rice.
If we see that an everyday leather wallet is what's left of Harry T. Moore -- a man who fought for the right to vote and died in a bombing meant to silence his activism on Christmas Day in 1951 - perhaps we will see why so many are fighting to protect any encroachment on that most sacred right today.
And as we look at the exhibit dedicated to an African American who now leads the free world from a White House built by black slaves, we can better understand the unshakeable optimism that has defined his belief that -- with dedicated work and a little good trouble -- we can help create a society that is more fair and more just, which benefits all Americans.
This museum casts a light on some of the most inspiring -- and uniquely American -- heroes who were denied equal rights but often laid down their lives to defend this nation in every generation. Often they profited least from the struggle they were willing to die for because they believed that the promises of true democracy should belong to us all, equally and without question.
I hope you will join me and President Obama for the opening ceremony of the National Museum of African American History and Culture today.
When you hear about the heroes memorialized in its halls, you may discover the depths of the invincible American spirit. As we learn and confront this history together, we can begin to build one inclusive, and truly democratic family -- the American family.
theintercept | Students are being threatened with punishment for not participating in rituals surrounding the national anthem or Pledge of Allegiance — and they are fighting back.
Since NFL 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the national anthem in August to protest oppression of people of color, many Americans, particularly professional athletes and students, have followed suit. But their constitutional right to engage in such gestures of dissent is not always being respected.
Threats from school administrators and teachers have put free speech advocates like the ACLU on high alert. At Lely High School, a public school in Naples, Florida, the principal told students that they would be removed from athletic events if they refused to stand during the national anthem — though he said the quote was misunderstood when the ACLU of Florida reached out.
“You will stand, and you will stay quiet. If you don’t, you are going to be sent home, and you’re not going to have a refund of your ticket price,” Lely High School Principal Ryan Nemeth told students.
“The Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that public schools may not constitutionally force students to salute the flag,” Lee Rowland, a First Amendment attorney who works with the ACLU, told The Intercept. “That ruling is crystal clear about a student’s right not to be compelled into patriotism by their government, and it is over 70 years old.”
The ruling that Rowland references came after many Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States began to refuse to salute the flag in solidarity with their brethren in Nazi Germany who were being arrested for refusing to salute that country’s fascist flag.
The action by the American Jehovah’s Witnesses provoked a backlash, and a number of followers of the faith were persecuted for refusing to salute. In West Virginia, a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses brought suit after their children were sanctioned for doing so.
The court ruled in favor of the family. In his opinion, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson wrote, “Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.”
vox | Late Show host Stephen Colbert on Thursday night pointed out that Black Lives Matter activists just can’t win over some people.
On one hand, you have the first two nights of protests in Charlotte, North Carolina, in reaction to the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. Some — but not all — of the protesters turned violent, leading critics on social media to characterize all the protesters as people senselessly destroying their own communities.
“I sure wish there was some sort of respectful, silent civil protest that people could engage in that wouldn’t enrage the other side,” Colbert said. Then an image of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick flashed on the screen.
“Yeah, no, that’s not gonna work either,” Colbert quipped.
By taking a knee during the national anthem during football games, Kaepernick has drawn tremendous criticism and anger online — becoming the most hated football player in the league, according to a poll by E-Poll Marketing Research. Many people, such as conservative pundit Tomi Lahren, have characterized Kaepernick as unpatriotic, telling him to “leave” if America “disgusts you so much.”
Friday, September 23, 2016
Forbes | It is starting to look like disrespecting the country during the national anthem is accomplishing what the concussions, domestic violence and deflategate could not do–drive down television ratings for the National Football League.
Through two weeks of football the NFL’s television ratings are down across the board. The drop in ratings and viewership is unprecedented in recent years and has occurred during the protest of the national anthem, started by San Francisco 49ers backup QB Colin Kaepernick. Just last year some opined that the league’s ratings had no ceiling. That appears to be false.
To summarize Sports Business Daily: NBC’s three primetime games, which includes the NFL Kickoff game, have averaged 23.7 million viewers, down 12% from the same period last year. ESPN also is seeing a 12% decline for its three “MNF” games to date. While CBS CBS -0.02% and NFL Network have only one Thursday night game to date, that lone game (Jets-Bills, 15.4 million viewers) was down 27% compared to the opening “TNF” game last season. Looking at Sunday afternoons, Fox is off (-0.2%) through two weeks, averaging 20.9 million viewers. CBS is averaging 17.3 million viewers through the same point, down 5%.
While some suggest that the drop in ratings may be due to the lack of “marquee” match ups, I don’t buy it. For starters, none of the recent PR debacles, such as drugs, beatings or concussions, creating something like #boycotnfl. Two, Kaepernick is the most-disliked player in the NFL. Three, I challenge anyone to look at the comments on stories about the NFL national anthem protests and tell me the anecdotal evidence does not strongly suggest many, if not most viewers are fed up either because they are against the protests, or just don’t want politics of any kind to interfere with their football.
citylab | Ferguson, Baltimore, and now Charlotte: We sometimes see that local protests in response to police killings morph into riots. Why do you think this is?
Riots, though they do occur, are relatively rare. More frequent are peaceful protests and community meetings, but these of course don’t get the same coverage. Riots occur because these police killings just keep happening, no matter how many peaceful marches happen. It is, in every sense, maddening.
Many have tried to discredit the riots by pointing to the occasional looting that has occurred, claiming such actions by protestors are destructive to "their own communities." In Ferguson, a QT gas station became an iconic site of destruction during the protests. In Baltimore, it was a CVS and the payday lender ACE Cash Express. In Charlotte on Tuesday, it was a Walmart. What drives the animus against these institutions, which often seem to be large corporate chains, and why are they the secondary targets of anti-police brutality protests?
For poor black people in cities, the surveillance that they experience at stores and on the streets are of a piece. When they walk in a store they are watched. When they leave the store, their receipts are questioned. They might be ripped off, or not, but they are made to feel less like sovereign customers and more like suspects. Unwarranted police stops feel similar. Those who are watched feel disrespected, and constantly reminded that they are not in charge. Riots provide that sense of control, but at a terrible cost.
Middle-class white people rarely have these experiences, so it is hard for them to understand what Walmart and police could have in common.
You have written that "riots reflect fury not just at the police, but at the constraints of the ghetto’s retail economy, where the poor pay more." How do police uphold this “ghetto retail economy,” where the poor are deprived of the competitive market pricing present in better-off suburbs?
In places where there are few legitimate jobs, the underground economy makes up the difference. Payday lenders and pawn brokers are the tip of an illicit iceberg, of which the drug trade is a major part. Fighting this illegal economy has resulted in police becoming an occupying force. Policing an economy with a handgun, needless to say, is an impossible task.
Are there historical cases in which riots have been an effective tactic for police brutality reform?
Riots draw attention to these issues in a way that protests and op-eds do not. It is hard to say that riots lead to reform, but without the riots, these kinds of activities would easily slip forgotten into the news cycle. In that sense, they are effective. But too much rioting, and the goodwill of Americans will ebb.
charlotteobserver | U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger apologized Thursday after saying the violence in Charlotte stems from protesters who “hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.”
Pittenger is a Republican whose district includes parts of the city where protests have turned violent in the wake of a police shooting of a black man.
He made the statement on a BBC-TV news program Thursday when asked to describe the “grievance” of the protesters.
“The grievance in their minds – the animus, the anger – they hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not,” Pittenger said. He then criticized people who receive welfare. “It is a welfare state. We have spent trillions of dollars on welfare, and we’ve put people in bondage, so they can’t be all they’re capable of being.”
He later apologized on Twitter, saying his answer “doesn't reflect who I am. I was quoting statements made by angry protesters last night on national TV. My intent was to discuss the lack of economic mobility for African Americans because of failed policies.”
Thursday, September 22, 2016
motherjones | If you believe that the criminal justice system is racially biased, you need to know Heather Mac Donald.
She'll mess with your mind and make you either up your politico-cultural game or admit you were wrong. What worries me is that so few on 'our' side can, or bother to, go toe to toe with her. Just about every one of her pieces is a statistical and analytical tour-de-force, while we liberals tend too often to mouth liberal pieties like inside jokes. Just yesterday, I was listening to Angela Davis address the Commonwealth Club (sorry. speech not posted) on my car radio. I agreed with nearly everything she said, but they were dissatisfying lefty bromides, one and all. Racist criminal justice system. Slavery was bad. War in Iraq. The crowd whooped and hollered, but where was the beef, the analysis, the facts? Forgive me Angela, patron saint of the streets, but Mac Donald would have had you for lunch.
According to her byline, Mac Donald "is a contributing editor of City Journal and the John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute". She's also among America's harshest critic of blacks. Harshest and most devastating; unlike most of the right-wing blovio-sphere, home girl does her homework. And for her, 2 and 2 always equal black deficiency, whether in morals, culture or crime. Trouble is, she comes loaded for bear.
I read her religiously—even have a Google alert set up in her honor—much the same way one looks for dismembered limbs and blood stains at an accident scene while knowing one shouldn't. One will only get upset if successful and MacDonald upsets me every time because with every piece, she sets out to prove that the only problems blacks face are of their own making.
She doesn't mess around. Her City Journal latest is a devastating response to the liberal shibboleth that the criminal justice system is racist and designed to criminalize and incarcerate blacks en masse. No, says Mac Donald. Black incarceration rates are a simple function of rampant black crime.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
atimes | Yes, American friends, Duterte is referring to one of the most brutal and shameful chapters in the history of American imperialism, the brutal subjugation of the Muslim population of Philippines’ Mindanao over 30 years of formal war and informal counterinsurgency from 1898 into the 1920s.
Mindanao is where the United States first applied the savage lessons of its Indian war to counterinsurgency in Asia—including massacre of civilians, collective punishment, and torture. Waterboarding entered the US military toolkit in Mindanao, as immortalized on the May 22, 1902 front cover of Life magazine.
And the war never ended. After the Philippines shed its colonial status, the Manila Roman Catholic establishment continued the war with US help. Today, the Philippines is locked in a cycle of negotiation and counterinsurgency between the central government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) —a cycle that Duterte as president hopes to bring to its conclusion with a negotiated peace settlement.
This is not ancient history to Duterte, who emphatically stated in his press conference that the reason Mindanao is “on the boil” today is because of the historical crimes of the United States.
Duterte has additional reasons for his choler.
As I wrote previously at Asia Times, Duterte suspects US spooks of orchestrating a deadly series of bombings in his home city of Davao in 2002, with the probable motive of creating a pretext for the central government to declare martial law on Mindanao to fight the MILF. The 2002 Davao bombings form the foundation of Duterte’s alienation from the United States and his resistance to US-Philippine joint exercises on Mindanao, as he declared upon the assumption of his presidency.
And, though it hasn’t received a lot of coverage in the United States, last week, on September 2, another bomb ripped through a marketplace in Davao, killing fourteen people. It was suspected of being part of an assassination plot against Duterte, who was in town at the time, and the Communist Party of the Philippines (which is also engaged in peace talks with Duterte) accused the United States of being behind it.
The CPP characterized the group that claimed the bombing, Abu Sayyaf, as CIA assets. Not too far off the mark, apparently. Abu Sayyaf is a group of Islamic fighters/bandits formed out of the dregs of US recruitment of Philippine Muslims to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. When these fighters came home, they apparently were enrolled and armed as central government/CIA deniable assets in the war against the MILF. Duterte has vowed to destroy, indeed, consume them.
So, mindful of the human rights crimes the US has committed historically, recently, and perhaps currently in Mindanao, including a possible assassination attempt against himself, Duterte declared himself unwilling to submit to any questioning or censure by President Obama. And his “son of a …” remark at the airport appears to have been along the lines of, “If President Obama confronts me, son of a …, I’ll tell him…”
At the ASEAN gathering in Laos, Duterte apparently tried to explain the roots of his indignation but is getting the psycho crank who “veered off speech and launched a tirade” treatment via AFP:
“The Philippine president showed a picture of the killings of American soldiers in the past and the president said: ‘This is my ancestor they killed. Why now we are talking about human rights,'” an Indonesian delegate said. The Philippines was an American colony from 1898 to 1946.
The delegate described the atmosphere in the room as “quiet and shocked.”
It should be noted that in his press conference at the airport in Manila, Duterte referenced the pictures he wanted to show, so it was more of a planned event rather than a spontaneous piece of hysterics by an unstable leader, which seems to be the frame being applied here.
The messy reality of a century of no-holds-barred counterinsurgency under US coordination, drugs, corruption, and murder in the Philippines distracts from the pretty picture of sailor suits, battleships, and yo-ho-ho in the South China Sea with American and the Philippine democracies shoulder-to-shoulder against China that the US wants to present to the world.
Judging by the spate of attacks on Duterte in the Western press and veiled criticism from some of the Manila papers, it looks like Duterte’s insufficient loyalty to the pivot vision may result in his downfall. Indeed, with the Duterte-US split deepening, his removal may become a strategic imperative for America.
unz | The actual story is that Duterte is not only using the threat of summary executions to round up addicts and pushers; he’s naming names, both of cartel leaders and the national and local politicians and officers who shelter them. It’s a rather thrilling high stakes game—allegations emerged this week that the bombing in Davao that killed 14 people and was apparently an assassination attempt on Duterte was actually conducted by threatened narcopoliticians, not the Abu Sayyaf Islamist banditti—but the US press has apparently shown little interest in covering these ramifications.
Also I haven’t seen a lot of reporting on the fact that Duterte’s drug war necessitates deeper PRC-Philippine engagement in several important aspects.
First of all, the Philippine drug trade—primarily meth, locally known as shabu—is dominated by Chinese Triads by virtue of the fact that the large and poorly regulated PRC drug industry is a ready source of the intermediates needed to make the drug and also by the fact that Triads are deeply embedded in the major Chinese-diaspora presence in Filipino society. The PRC has a lot to offer in terms of tighter enforcement on the mainland and perhaps in using its good offices to encourage crackdowns in a key Triad operational base, Hong Kong.
On the other hand, the PRC can make life difficult for Duterte if it wants to, by turning a blind eye to the export-oriented meth trade. So there you have it.
Duterte made his expectations concerning PRC assistance quite clear by summoning the PRC ambassador back in August:
The Philippines government said on Wednesday it had summoned the Chinese ambassador earlier this week to explain reports that traffickers were bringing in narcotics from China, opening a new front in President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial war on drugs.
On Tuesday, the country’s police chief told a Senate hearing that China, Taiwan and Hong Kong were major sources of illegal drugs, and Chinese triads were involved in trafficking.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay told a Senate hearing on Wednesday that the Chinese ambassador had been summoned for an explanation, and the government would also send a diplomatic communication to Beijing to “pursue this in a more aggressive note.”
Another area of potential Philippine-PRC cooperation is PRC assistance in a crash program to rehabilitate the Philippine drug users who have turned themselves in to the police to avoid getting targeted by the death squads.
Though virtually unreported in the Western media, over 700,000 users have turned themselves in.
Let me repeat that. 700,000 drug users have turned themselves in.
And they presumably need to get a clean “rehab” chit to live safely in their communities, presenting a major challenge for the Philippines drug rehabilitation infrastructure. Duterte has called on the Philippine military to make base acreage available for additional rehab camps and the first one will apparently be at Camp Ramon Magsaysay.
Duterte has turned to the PRC to demand they fund construction of drug treatment facilities, and the PRC has obliged. According to Duterte and his spokesman, preparatory work for the Magsaysay facility has already begun.
There’s an amusing wrinkle here.
Magsaysay is the largest military reservation in the Philippines. It is also the jewel in the diadem, I might say, of the five Philippine bases envisioned for US use under EDCA, the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement that officially returned US troops to Philippine bases. It looks like the US military might be sharing Magsaysay with thousands of drug users…and PRC construction workers.
I expect the Pentagon is quietly fuming at Duterte’s presumption.
rehmat1 | On Monday, Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte offended the Israeli colony (United States) by calling for the withdrawal of American Special Forces in the South Philippines. These American force has been training Philippine soldiers to use US supplied military hardware against Muslim separatists in the Mindanao and other Muslim majority islands.
“They have to go,” Duterte said in a speech during an oath-taking ceremony for new officials. “I do not want a rift with America. But they have to go.”
Speaking at an event being held in honor of the Islamic day of Eid’l Fit’r in Davao City in July 2016, Duterte challenged the narrative that the Middle East is the root of terrorism. It is not that the Middle East is exporting terrorism to America; America imported terrorism (to the Middle East), he said.
rappler | The Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) was a contingent of US troops, including Special Forces, that was set up to fight terrorism in the Philippines in 2002.
But it was deactivated in February 2015. Its mission was "to advise and assist Philippine security forces at the tactical, operational and strategic levels against violent extremist organizations throughout the southern Philippines," according to the US embassy.
A small group of US soldiers have stayed in the Philippines to help the Philippine military and police in their operations against the Abu Sayyaf and terrorists. Some of them, for example, had helped gather intelligence that led to the Mamasapano operation in 2015 against alleged Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, according to high-level government sources. The operation killed Marwan and 44 elite cops.
The US troops have a rotating presence in the region as part of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which the Philippine government signed with the US government.
Duterte previously said he would implement the EDCA after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.
'It will get more tense'
Duterte also seemed to say that the presence of American soldiers in Mindanao would make the situation there more tense. Though no American soldier has been held captive by the Abu Sayyaf, Duterte seemed to say American soldiers would be prime hostage targets for the terrorist group.
"Mas lalong iinit. Pag makakita ng Amerikano, papatayin talaga 'yan. Kukuha ng ransom, papatayin. Even if you're black or white American, basta Amerikano," said Duterte.
chinamatters | With that context, let's take another look at Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte is not native to Mindanao. His family comes from a central Philippine island group, the Visayan Islands. Christians from Visayan Islands and other regions were settled in Mindanao by the U.S. and Philippine governments as part of a strategy to demographically submerge the Moro, distribute prime land and resources to settlers and corporations, and economically and politically marginalize the Moro and criminalize their resistance in a manner that will be familiar to observers of tactics in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Palestine.
It appears to have been successful to the point that Moros are perhaps 17% of the population of Mindanao today, down from 90% in 1900.
A 2015 news article/puff piece provides a useful perspective on Dutarte and his attention to the Mindanao/security issue beyond the usual “murderous buffoon” framing.
Concerning the Moro disdain for the term “Filipino”, I have to say I did find it odd that an Asian nation decided to keep King Philip II of Spain as its namesake, but I guess naming America after some Italian sailor is just as weird.
All in all, a thoughtful perspective on coexistence and reconciliation in a difficult and complicated neighborhood--made more difficult and complicated by a century of massacre and meddling by the US and Manila-- that Duterte has been governing for a couple decades with considerable success.
How 'bout that.
Having said that, I would not take that “Safest City in the World” designation to the bank. Apparently an on-line poll was successfully freep'd with 800 responses.
By now, it should be clear that there's more to the Philippines than Manila, more to its politics and society than upper class Catholicism, and more to its security concerns than partnering with the United States to push back against the PRC in the South China Sea.
There's Mindanao, there's Moros, there's separatism, there's issues of justice that have been papered over by the Manila establishment to present a neat neo-liberal narrative that complements the US pivot to Asia.
And there's Duterte.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
unz | The deep state in American is completely corrupt because it exists to sell out the public interest and it includes both major political parties as well as government officials. Politicians like the Clintons who leave the White House “broke” and accumulate more than $100 million in a few years exemplify how it rewards its friends while a bloated Pentagon churns out hundreds of unneeded flag officers who receive munificent pensions and benefits for the rest of their lives. And no one is punished, ever. Disgraced former general and CIA Director David Petraeus is now a partner at the KKR private equity firm even though he knows nothing about financial services. More recently, former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, who supports Hillary and is publicly advocating assassinating Russians and Iranians, has become a Senior Counselor at Clinton-linked Beacon Global Strategies. Both Petraeus and Morell are being rewarded for their loyalty to the system.
What makes the deep state so successful? It wins no matter who is in power by creating bipartisan supported money pits within the system. Unending wars and simmering though hard to define threats together invite more spending on national security and make for good business. Monetizing the completely unnecessary and hideously expensive global war on terror benefits the senior government officials, beltway industries and financial services that feed off it. Because it is essential to keep the money flowing, the deep state persists in promoting policies that otherwise make no sense, to include the unwinnable wars currently enjoying marquee status in Iraq/Syria and Afghanistan. The deep state knows that a fearmongered public will buy its product and does not even have to make much of an effort to sell it.
The United States of America is not exactly deep state Turkey but to be sure any democracy can be subverted by particular interests hiding behind the mask of patriotism buttressed by phony international threats. Ordinary Americans frequently ask why politicians and government officials appear to be so obtuse, rarely recognizing what is actually occurring in the country. That is partly due to the fact that the political class lives in a bubble of its own creation but it might also be because many of America’s leaders actually accept and benefit from the fact that there is an unelected, un-appointed and unaccountable presence within the system that actually manages what is taking place from behind the scenes. That would be the American deep state.
truthdig | Yes, self-identified liberals such as the Clintons and Barack Obama speak in the language of liberalism while selling out the poor, the working class and the middle class to global corporate interests. But they are not, at least according to the classical definition, liberals. They are neoliberals. They serve the dictates of neoliberalism—austerity, deindustrialization, anti-unionism, endless war and globalization—to empower and enrich themselves and the party. The actual liberal class—the segment of the Democratic Party that once acted as a safety valve to ameliorate through reform the grievances and injustices within our capitalist democracy and that had within its ranks politicians such as George McGovern, Gaylord Nelson, Warren Magnuson and Frank Church and New Deal Democrats such as Franklin D. Roosevelt—no longer exists. I spent 248 pages in my book “Death of the Liberal Class” explaining the orchestrated corporate campaign to erase the liberal class from the political landscape and, more ominously, destroy the radical labor and social movements that were the real engines of social and political reform in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Democratic and the professional elites whom Frank excoriates are, as he points out, morally bankrupt, but they are only one piece of the fake democracy that characterizes our system of “inverted totalitarianism.” The problem is not only liberals who are not liberal; it is also conservatives, once identified with small government, the rule of law and fiscal responsibility, who are not conservative. It is a court system that has abandoned justice and rather than defend constitutional rights has steadily stripped them from us through judicial fiat. It is a Congress that does not legislate but instead permits lobbyists and corporations to write legislation. It is a press, desperate for advertising dollars and often owned by large corporations, that does not practice journalism. It is academics, commentators and public intellectuals, often paid by corporate think tanks, who function as shameless cheerleaders for the neoliberal and imperial establishment and mock the concept of independent and critical thought.
The Democratic and the professional elites are an easy and often amusing target. One could see them, in another era, prancing at a masked ball at Versailles on the eve of the revolution. They are oblivious to how hated they have become. They do not understand that when they lambast Donald Trump as a disgrace or a bigot they swell his support because they, not Trump, are seen by many Americans as the enemy. But these courtiers did not create the system. They sold themselves to it. And if Americans do not understand how we got here we are never going to find our way out.
During Barack Obama’s administration there has been near-total continuity with the administration of George W. Bush, especially regarding mass surveillance, endless war and the failure to regulate Wall Street. This is because the mechanisms of corporate power embodied in the deep state do not change with election cycles. The election of Donald Trump, however distasteful, would not radically alter corporate control over our lives. The corporate state is impervious to political personalities. If Trump continues to rise in the public opinion polls, the corporate backers of Hillary Clinton will start funding him instead. They know Trump will prostitute himself to money as assiduously as Clinton will.
Our political elites, Republican and Democrat, were shaped, funded and largely selected by corporate power in what John Ralston Saul correctly calls a coup d’état in slow motion. Nothing will change until corporate power itself is dismantled.
guardian | Exclusive: New survey, part of most definitive portrait of gun ownership in decades, shows just 3% of American adults own half of guns in the US.
Americans own an estimated 265m guns, more than one gun for every American adult, according to the most definitive portrait of US gun ownership in two decades. But the new survey estimates that 133m of these guns are concentrated in the hands of just 3% of American adults – a group of super-owners who have amassed an average of 17 guns each.
The unpublished Harvard/Northeastern survey result summary, obtained exclusively by the Guardian and the Trace, estimates that America’s gun stock has increased by 70m guns since 1994. At the same time, the percentage of Americans who own guns decreased slightly from 25% to 22%.
The new survey, conducted in 2015 by public health researchers from Harvard and Northeastern universities, also found that the proportion of female gun owners is increasing as fewer men own guns. These women were more likely to own a gun for self-defense than men, and more likely to own a handgun only.
Women’s focus on self-defense is part of a broader trend. Even as the US has grown dramatically safer and gun violence rates have plummeted, handguns have become a greater proportion of the country’s civilian gun stock, suggesting that self-defense is an increasingly important factor in gun ownership.
“The desire to own a gun for protection – there’s a disconnect between that and the decreasing rates of lethal violence in this country. It isn’t a response to actuarial reality,” said Matthew Miller, a Northeastern University and Harvard School of Public Health professor and one of the authors of the study.
The data suggests that American gun ownership is driven by an “increasing fearfulness”, said Dr Deborah Azrael, a Harvard School of Public Health firearms researcher and the lead author of the study.
Monday, September 19, 2016
nntaleb | By some coincidence, the day before the Boston barbecue, I was flaneuring in New York, and I dropped by the office of a friend I wanted to prevent from working, that is, engage in an activity that when abused, causes the loss of mental clarity, in addition to bad posture and loss of definition in the facial features. The French physicist Serge Galam happened to be visiting and chose the friend’s office to kill time. Galam was first to apply these renormalization techniques to social matters and political science; his name was familiar as he is the author of the main book on the subject, which had then been sitting for months in an unopened Amazon box in my basement. He introduced me to his research and showed me a computer model of elections by which it suffices that some minority exceeds a certain level for its choices to prevail.
So the same illusion exists in political discussions, spread by the political “scientists”: you think that because some extreme right or left wing party has, say, the support of ten percent of the population that their candidate would get ten percent of the votes. No: these baseline voters should be classified as “inflexible” and will always vote for their faction. But some of the flexible voters can also vote for that extreme faction, just as nonKosher people can eat Kosher, and these people are the ones to watch out for as they may swell the numbers of votes for the extreme party. Galam’s models produced a bevy of counterintuitive effects in political science –and his predictions turned out to be way closer to real outcomes than the naive consensus.
This idea of one-sidedness can help us debunk a few more misconceptions. How do books get banned? Certainly not because they offend the average person –most persons are passive and don’t really care, or don’t care enough to request the banning. It looks like, from past episodes, that all it takes is a few (motivated) activists for the banning of some books, or the black-listing of some people. The great philosopher and logician Bertrand Russell lost his job at the City University of New York owing to a letter by an angry –and stubborn –mother who did not wish to have her daughter in the same room as the fellow with dissolute lifestyle and unruly ideas. 
The same seems to apply to prohibitions –at least the prohibition of alcohol in the United States which led to interesting Mafia stories.
Let us conjecture that the formation of moral values in society doesn’t come from the evolution of the consensus. No, it is the most intolerant person who imposes virtue on others precisely because of that intolerance. The same can apply to civil rights.
An insight as to how the mechanisms of religion and transmission of morals obey the same renormalization dynamics as dietary laws –and how we can show that morality is more likely to be something enforced by a minority.