Friday, September 30, 2016

California Joins New York and New Jersey in Outlawing Criticism of Israel

yournewswire |  California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a new law that prevents companies from engaging in actions that could be deemed critical of Israel. 

The new law prevents companies that boycott or discriminate against any country, including Israel, from doing business with California.

Brown signed Assembly Bill 2844 on Saturday afternoon. The State Senate approved the bill by a vote of 34 to 1 on August 24, and the State Assembly passed it by 69 to 1 on August 30.

An earlier version of the legislation banned the state from making contracts worth over $100,000 with companies boycotting Israel.

In order to satisfy critics, who said it violated the constitutional right to boycott, the bill was modified to include reference to other countries as well.

The approved version does not prohibit companies working with the state from boycotting Israel. Rather, companies have to certify that they do not violate California civil rights laws in boycotting a foreign country – including Israel, the only country mentioned by name – according to The Jewish Journal.

“We commend Governor Brown for signing this bill,” said Janna Weinstein Smith, American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles Regional Director, in a statement.

An Intriguing Link Between Police Shootings and Black Voter Registration

wired |  What we found was staggering. The number one determinant of over-representation in fatal police shootings—after controlling for all other aforementioned indicators—was the percentage of eligible black Americans registered to vote within the state in question. In other words, the higher the percentage of eligible black Americans registered to vote, the lower the over-representation ratio in a given state. Furthermore, states suffering from increased rates of income inequality (i.e. Gini index, median household income) demonstrated higher over-representation ratios, while states with increased diversity (i.e. percentage of noncitizen residents) demonstrated lower over-representation ratios.

What does this all mean? In addition to promoting diversity and reducing income inequality, these preliminary results suggest that increasing voter registration among black Americans could potentially reduce the risk of fatal police shootings of black victims.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Minority groups are routinely excluded from voter registration drives due to higher rates of unlisted individuals. Furthermore, most states require voters to register several weeks before Election Day—a practice that disproportionately suppresses minority registrants. (Voter registration remains open in most states ahead of Election Day 2016; check whether you’re registered to vote here.)

Despite controlling for several socioeconomic variables, these results don’t conclusively imply causation. But they’re a reasonable starting point. Expanding on that knowledge and finding other potentially actionable mitigation strategies will require reframing the issue as a public health crisis, with a focus on data-driven research and policy recommendations.  Fist tap Dale.

When America Becomes South Africa?

unz |  “Elections to be meaningful presuppose a certain level of political organization. … The primary problem is … the creation of a legitimate public order. Authority has to exist before it can be limited, and it is authority that is in scarce supply in the modernizing countries,” warned Samuel Huntington in “Political Order In Changing Societies.” Little did Huntington consider that, with enough tinkering by its ruling elites; a modern and mighty country like the U.S. could devolve into an atavistic and dangerous place.

Not nearly as hopeful as Horowitz was that “noted student of nationalism” Elie Kedourie. “If majority and minority are perpetual, then government ceases to have a mediatory or remedial function, and becomes an instrument of perpetual oppression of the minority by the majority,” concluded Kedourie. It was after a visit to South Africa that he wrote the following, in the November 1987 issue of the South Africa International:
The worst effects of the tyranny of the majority are seen when parliamentary government on the unalloyed Westminster model is introduced into countries divided by religion or language or race. Such for example was the case of Iraq … where an extremely heterogeneous society came to be endowed with constitutions which made no provision for diversity, and where the result was tyranny of one groups over the other groups in the society.
A prerequisite for a classical liberal democracy is that majority and minority status be interchangeable and fluid in politics; that a ruling majority party be as likely to become a minority party as the obverse. By contrast, in South Africa, the majority and the minorities are politically permanent, not temporary.

America’s Founding Fathers had attempted to forestall raw democracy by devising a republic. Every democratic theorist worth his salt—Robert Dahl and Elaine Spitz come to mind—has urged that the raw, ripe rule of the mob and its dominant, anointed party be severely curtailed under certain circumstances fast approaching in the United States of America. These are “whenever people of different languages, races, religions, or national origins, with no firm habits of political co-operation and mutual trust, are to unite in a single polity.”

In other words, multicultural America.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Is There an "Economic" Basis for the Colonization of Space?

WaPo |   In 2002, SpaceX basically consisted of carpet and a mariachi band. That was it. That's all of SpaceX in 2002. As you can see, I'm a dancing machine. And, yeah, I believe in kicking off celebratory events with mariachi bands. I really like mariachi bands.

“But that was what we started off with in 2002. And really, I mean, I thought we had maybe a 10 percent chance of doing anything, of even getting a rocket to orbit, let alone getting beyond that and taking Mars seriously. But I came to the conclusion if there wasn't some new entrant into the space arena with a strong ideological motivation, then it didn't seem like we were on a trajectory to ever be a space-faring civilization and be out there among the stars. Because, you know, in '69 we were able to go to the moon and the space shuttle could get to low-Earth orbit, and then after the space shuttle got retired.”

On how the first people going to Mars might die:

“Well, I think the first journey to Mars is going to be really very dangerous. The risk of fatality will be high. There's just no way around it. So I would not suggest sending children. It would be basically are you prepared to die, then if that's okay, then, you know, you're a candidate for going.

“But really this is -- this is less about, like, you know, who goes there first or -- it's -- the thing that really matters is making a self-sustaining civilization on Mars as fast as possible.”

On how what SpaceX is doing is a lot like the early days of the United States railroad system:

“The goal of SpaceX is really to build the transport system. It's like building the Union Pacific Railroad. And once -- once that transport system is built, then there's a tremendous opportunity for anyone who wants to go to Mars and create something new or build the foundations of a new planet. So it's like who wants to sort of be, you know, among the founding members of a new planet and, like I said, build everything from iron refineries to the first pizza joint. You know, we will want them all.

“And then things on Mars that people can't even imagine today that might be unique or would be unique to Mars. And -- but that's really where a tremendous amount of entrepreneurship and talent would flourish. Just as happened in California when the Union Pacific Railroad was completed. And when they were building the Union Pacific, a lot of people said, ‘Well, that's a super-dumb idea because there's no -- you know, hardly anybody lives in California.’ But now, I mean, today, [it's] the U.S. epicenter of technology development and entertainment. And it's the biggest state in the nation. But you need that transport link. If you can't get there, then none of those opportunities exist. Our goal is just to make sure you can get there.”

On why the return trip to Earth will be free:

“I think it's pretty important to give people the option of returning. The number of people who would be willing to move to Mars is much greater if they know that they have the option of returning, even if they never actually return. I mean, most of the people that went to the original English colonies in North America, they never returned to Europe, even once.

“But some did. And just knowing that if you don't like it there, that you can come back, I think makes a big difference in people's willingness to go there in the first place.

“In any case, we need the spaceship back. So it's coming. You can jump onboard or not. It's cool. You get a free return trip, if you want.”

why there is Trump

theautomaticearth |  It’s over! The entire model our societies have been based on for at least as long as we ourselves have lived, is over! That’s why there’s Trump.

There is no growth. There hasn’t been any real growth for years. All there is left are empty hollow sunshiny S&P stock market numbers propped up with ultra cheap debt and buybacks, and employment figures that hide untold millions hiding from the labor force. And most of all there’s debt, public as well as private, that has served to keep an illusion of growth alive and now increasingly no longer can.

These false growth numbers have one purpose only: for the public to keep the incumbent powers that be in their plush seats. But they could always ever only pull the curtain of Oz over people’s eyes for so long, and it’s no longer so long. 

That’s what the ascent of Trump means, and Brexit, Le Pen, and all the others. It’s over. What has driven us for all our lives has lost both its direction and its energy.

We are smack in the middle of the most important global development in decades, in some respects arguably even in centuries, a veritable revolution, which will continue to be the most important factor to shape the world for years to come, and I don’t see anybody talking about it. That has me puzzled.
The development in question is the end of global economic growth, which will lead inexorably to the end of centralization (including globalization). It will also mean the end of the existence of most, and especially the most powerful, international institutions.

In the same way it will be the end of -almost- all traditional political parties, which have ruled their countries for decades and are already today at or near record low support levels (if you’re not clear on what’s going on, look there, look at Europe!)

This is not a matter of what anyone, or any group of people, might want or prefer, it’s a matter of ‘forces’ that are beyond our control, that are bigger and more far-reaching than our mere opinions, even though they may be man-made.

whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me...,

weburbanist |  Former mayor of the world’s second-largest refugee camp, humanitarian Kilian Kleinschmidt notes “the average stay today in a camp is 17 years. That’s a generation.” These places need to be recognized as what they are: “cities of tomorrow,” not the temporary spaces we like to imagine. “In the Middle East, we were building camps: storage facilities for people. But the refugees were building a city,” Kleinschmidt said in an interview. Short-term thinking on camp infrastructure leads to perpetually poor conditions, all based on myopic optimism regarding the intended lifespan of these places.

Many refugees may never be able return home, and that reality needs to be realized and incorporated into solutions. Treating their situation as temporary or reversible puts people into a kind of existential limbo; inhabitants of these interstitial places can neither return to their normal routines nor move forward with their lives.. On the one hand, assert experts like Kleinschmidt, planners need build up refugee camps to be durable and sufficient places in their own right. On the other, they also need to move refugee migrants toward countries and regions where they will end up virtuously integrated into struggling economies, including (though controversially): areas of nearby Europe with unused housing and high labor needs.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

No Knowledge, Ability, Skill, or Money? You and Yours MUST BE Left Behind

cnbc |  SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk spilled the details on his plan to colonize Mars. 

Musk revealed the plans for an "interplanetary transport system" Tuesday at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. 

In his address, Musk said that the goal of SpaceX's planned missions to Mars is to turn humans into a "multiplanetary species." Musk has said in the past that making humanity "multiplanetary" is his primary reason for starting SpaceX. 

The ship in the video is what the company intends the actual craft to look like, Musk said. It would need to fit about 100 people, and enough cargo to build self-sustaining colonies on the planet, with "iron foundries, pizza joints, you name it." 

sciencealert |   A rocket engine to get to Mars

This isn't the first the world has heard about the Raptor engine, but it's allegedly the first test-firing of the device – and definitely the first photo we've seen of it.

The image shows a static fire test, which is when a cone-shaped rocket engine is hooked up to a fuel source, ignited, and pushed to the limits to measure its performance.

The Raptor's fuel is almost certainly methane burned with liquid oxygen, based on SpaceX's previous intimations about its Mars rocket system, previously called the Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) – and before that a self-descriptive "Big F**ing Rocket" (BFR).

Musk shared a few of the Raptor's test-firing details on Monday morning as well, including a beautiful image. "Production Raptor goal is specific impulse of 382 seconds and thrust of 3 MN (~310 metric tonnes) at 300 bar," Musk wrote on Twitter.

only the most visible, vocal element of the Left Behind phenomenon?

kunstler |  As a blog-writer, I correspond with some interesting people. One of them is a middle-aged black man who has worked for a long time in the Baltimore black ghetto. He is one of those rare Americans these days not susceptible to pre-cooked ideas about what is actually going on in this country. He would prefer to remain anonymous for reasons that ought to be self-evident, but I want you to see his interesting theory about what is going on in the black community vis-à-vis the police shooting meme. The subject line in his email to me was “Trauma programming.”

Its a type of narcissism designed to compensate for [the] fact nobody (of any value) really wants to deal/interact with them; therefore, they gladly adopt this false narrative that “somebody is after us and wants to kill us…”

See how that raises their value by claiming somebody “wants us?”

Its like the ugly fat girls obsessed with getting raped/sexually assaulted.

Truth be told, because so many black people are not useful to each other and/or other people… they end up only a liability. Therefore, most people spend a significant amount of time trying to dodge them. (but the police can’t do this)

This increases their sense of worthlessness, which forces them to cling ever so tighter to this false narrative of “the police are after us and want to kill us…”

(nobody wants you and we wish you would just go away)

But wait,

it gets worse.

At this point, some black people decide, “try as you might, I’m NOT going to allow you to ignore me, because I’m going to act like a belligerent a-hole until I force you to deal/interact with me…”

NOW you gotta call the police.

And when the police show up, the black person says:

“see, here come the police; they are always after us because they want to kill us…”

But at the end of the day, the key is; the “Long Emergency” is generating increasing numbers of superfluous people; black people are only the most visible, vocal element of this phenomenon.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

the most important issue facing this generation

robertscribbler |  The 2016 presidential candidates’ stances on the most important issue facing this generation couldn’t be clearer.

Donald Trump believes climate change is a hoax, wants to increase fossil-fuel burning until the planet bakes and the oceans putrefy, plans to shut down the EPA, wants to back out of the Paris Climate Agreement, can’t wait to kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and has a noted penchant for attacking climate change solutions like wind power. Trump’s stances on climate change are so appalling that 375 of the world’s top scientists, including Stephen Hawking and 30 Nobel Prize winners, issued an open letter to the U.S. electorate, essentially pleading that we not vote for Trump on the basis of climate change alone.

The letter notes:
The United States can and must be a major player in developing innovative solutions to the problem of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. Nations that find innovative ways of decarbonizing energy systems and sequestering CO2 will be the economic leaders of the 21st century. Walking away from Paris makes it less likely that the U.S. will have a global leadership role, politically, economically, or morally. We cannot afford to cross that tipping point.
Hillary Clinton, by comparison, wants to push a big solar energy build-out, support electric vehicles, cut carbon emissions, and ensure that policies like COP 21 and Obama’s Clean Power Plan are enacted and enhanced. Though some climate hawks might not be completely satisfied with Clinton’s record on climate change (we’re going to have to do quite a bit more than what Clinton is shooting for), the reality is that Clinton’s proposed climate policies are aimed at building on and improving Obama’s initial plans.

Obama Warns of "Mass Migrations" If Climate Change Is Not Confronted

scientificamerican |  President Obama used his final address to the U.N. General Assembly yesterday to warn that climate change would worsen the kind of unrest and inequality that has spurred a global refugee crisis.

Speaking before a high-level summit on migrants he convened at U.N. headquarters, Obama told the assembly of world leaders and foreign ministers that the problems they are seeing would only worsen in a warming world.

“If we don’t act boldly, the bill that could come due will be mass migrations, and cities submerged and nations displaced, and food supplies decimated, and conflicts born of despair,” he said.

The president, as he has in the past, pleaded for a “sense of urgency” from countries to help bring last year’s landmark Paris climate agreement into force this year. The United States ratified the deal with China early this month, and 31 more countries have done so today.

Obama also acknowledged the need for countries to do more than they promised in the French capital last year if the world is to avoid the worst impacts of warming.

“The Paris Agreement gives us a framework to act, but only if we scale up our ambition,” he said.
The president also alluded to what is likely to be a particular area of focus at a round of U.N. climate talks that opens in Marrakech, Morocco, in six weeks time: money. He said the $10 billion Green Climate Fund (GCF) to help poor nations address warming “should only be the beginning” of the wealthy world’s commitment.

“We need to invest in research and provide market incentives to develop new technologies, and then make these technologies accessible and affordable for poorer countries,” Obama said, adding that these investments would help developing countries “leapfrog” directly to lower-carbon solutions. 

“And only then can we continue lifting all people up from poverty without condemning our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair.”

missing ingredient to solving the refugee crisis: Common Sense

mishtalk |  UK prime minister Theresa May will address the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. She seeks UN Action to Control Mass Migration Flows.

In contrast, I propose a 10-point “common sense” solution, not UN action.

What the hell can the UN do?

The answer of course is nothing. And asking a political body that cannot possibly do anything useful to solve a problem is like hoping a wish-granting magic genie will pop out of the bottle.

Some readers may be thinking “stop criticizing and offer a solution”. Fair enough.

Mish Ten Point Refugee Plan
  1. Don’t start wars. This especially applies to the US.
  2. Don’t nation build. This especially applies to the US.
  3. Don’t interfere in the internal politics of other nations. Universal
  4. Don’t welcome refugees with open arms. This especially applies to the EU
  5. Don’t pay bribes to halt refugee flows. This especially applies to the EU.
  6. Don’t demand other countries accept refugees they do not want. This especially applies to the EU.
  7. Don’t criticize other countries for controlling their borders. This especially applies to the EU.
  8. Do recognize the difference between economic refugees and political refugees. Universal
  9. Do be willing to accept Australian-style solutions of forcibly stopping refugees from entering a country. Universal
  10. Do Recognize a nation’s first priority must be the safety and welfare of its own citizens. Universal
If point 6 had been followed, Brexit would never have happened.

Instead of seeking UN action, how about a little common sense?

Scientists “too frightened” to tell truth on climate impacts

climatechangenews |   China is protecting itself against future food supply problems caused by climate change by buying or leasing large tracts of land in Africa and South America, a leading UK climate scientist says.

Professor Peter Wadhams, an expert on the disappearing Arctic ice, says that while countries in North America and Europe are ignoring the threat that changing weather patterns are causing to the world food supply, China is taking “self-protective action”.

He says that changes in the jet stream caused by the melting of the ice in the Arctic are threatening the most productive agricultural areas on the planet.

“The impact of extreme, often violent weather on crops in a world where the population continues to increase rapidly can only be disastrous,” he warns.

“Sooner or later, there will be an unbridgeable gulf between global food needs and our capacity to grow food in an unstable climate. Inevitably, starvation will reduce the world’s population.”

Monday, September 26, 2016

the enforcement of unjust laws is what puts you on the wrong side of morality, justice, and truth...,

NYTimes |  How do we keep people safe? How do we ensure that laws are enforced clearly and impartially?

I helped lead President Obama’s task force on 21st-century policing and have dedicated my career to thinking about these questions. One answer I keep returning to is a greater commitment to partnering with community groups. The police must not be seen by residents as quasi-military occupiers, but rather as allies and partners.

This will require significant efforts by police departments around the country to develop training that goes far beyond learning the criminal code, filling out an incident report or firing a gun.

It’s not an abstract notion. I have seen it in action in educational programs, like the ones offered by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, that help officers better understand their role in a democracy and the dire consequences a society faces when the police fail to live up to their role as guardians of freedom.

Police officers carry a lot of baggage. They have not always been on the right side of justice as we define justice today. In some cases, they were enforcing unjust laws of a different era. When I went into the Chicago Police Department in the late 1960s, it wasn’t the most popular thing a young black kid could do.

There are consequences to that difficult history that will take time to repair. But this challenging moment is also a tremendous opportunity to make real improvements. I hope none of us squander it.

outside of a tongue-lashing, industrial-scale thievery will go entirely unpunished...,

newyorker | In case there was any doubt about Elizabeth Warren’s feelings toward John Stumpf, the C.E.O. of Wells Fargo, it was cleared up on Tuesday during a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee. “Okay, so you haven’t resigned, you haven’t returned a single nickel of your personal earnings, you haven’t fired a single senior executive,” Warren said to Stumpf, during an interaction that might properly be characterized as a verbal evisceration. “Instead, evidently, your definition of ‘accountable’ is to push the blame to your low-level employees who don’t have the money for a fancy P.R. firm to defend themselves.”

Warren kept going, articulating a very pointed attack on the head of the company. She estimated that Stumpf’s stock holdings had increased by two hundred million dollars in value during the time that “this scam,” as Warren put it, occurred, in which fifty-three hundred employees opened unauthorized customer bank accounts in order to meet sales targets. “You should resign,“ she finally said. “You should be criminally investigated by both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.”

The banker was ostensibly there to defend his company’s handling of the falsified accounts, which were first reported in detail in 2013, but which became major news after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined the bank a hundred and eighty-five million dollars, earlier this month. At the same time, though, the episode seemed designed to remind the public that, almost exactly eight years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and one of the worst financial crises in history, very little about the unrestrained, incentive-driven banking culture that caused so many problems has changed.

Wall Street has always been bonus-driven; the amount of money an employee receives in January or February each year is seen as a direct reflection of a person’s worth. Even the staid retail portion of the industry—checking, savings, mortgage, and credit-card accounts–came to mimic the culture of Wall Street trading firms. Dozens of regulatory investigations since the crisis have shown that this high-stakes incentive culture that works so well to motivate employees to push and take risks has no apparent mechanism in place to moderate bad decisions.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

with so much to coon about lately, i wondered why sharif coonius been so quiet and downlow...,

Policy Overseers: Marijuana Legalization Will Not Change Policing

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?

Methamphetamine is Nazism in Pill Form

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

a monument to the imaginally impoverished governance of fossils, museum-pieces, and frauds...,

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.

compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard

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.”

damned if you do and damned if you don't...,

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

Contagious Mizzou Mandingoism Pinching Plutocratic Pocketbooks...,

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.

Global Beta Test: Who is Behind the Riots in Charlotte?

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.

In Vino Veritas: Why Did Pittenger Backpeddle From His Core Beliefs?

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

Open Thread Thursday

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

Duterte Doing in Philippines What the Hon.Bro.Min/Hon.Bro.Prez Should've Done in the Hood...,

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.

How Will the Empire Handle a Problem Like Rodrigo Duterte?

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.

Duterte Playing High Stakes Poker at the Big Boy's Table

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.

Duterte the Realist Cat on the World Stage in Generations....,

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

Why U.S. Policies Serve No National Interests

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.

There's Still A Civil War Bubbling For Control Of The Israeli Government

mondoweiss |    Any Palestinian following the developments in the Israeli protest movement against “the judicial coup” will require nerves...