This overfed man is the poster boy for narcissism, isn’t he? Oh well, people get the government they deserve, no? What I am afraid of is of a civil war that would disintegrate the States to Smithereens. Too much noise, as I live above them.
This overfed man is the poster boy for narcissism, isn’t he? Oh well, people get the government they deserve, no? What I am afraid of is of a civil war that would disintegrate the States to Smithereens. Too much noise, as I live above them.
Moscow’s permanent mission to the UN issued a statement on Thursday questioning why Ukraine, Georgia, the UK, US, and EU had shot down its proposal, arguing that these nations “refused to cast aside politicized approaches and interests,” and that their decision could negatively affect “a great number of people” – especially in developing nations currently under sanctions.
The rejected motion called for broad international cooperation on combating the spread of Covid-19, as well as the “rejection of trade wars and unilateral sanctions adopted without the mandate of the UN Security Council, in order to ensure early access to food and medication.” The draft also called on member states to reject “stigmatizations of states, peoples and individuals with regard to the pandemic, and the need to circulate only reliable and science-based information about it.”
The declaration was co-sponsored by 28 UN member states, Russia’s UN mission said. The General Assembly ultimately passed a different resolution calling for “international cooperation” and “multilateralism” to combat coronavirus.
There are more than 1 million confirmed cases of the virus worldwide, resulting in more than 50,000 deaths, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
“In Verduno, near Turin in northern Italy, a hospital that has been under construction for 20 years, and is still unfinished, will open as a Covid-19 hospital next week, and will take in its first 60 coronavirus victims.
In comparison, the Italian government will be well aware that China, using 7,000 builders working around the clock, built a 1000-bed hospital in just 10 days, and that Russia, with parallel ambition, is looking to finish a virus hospital on the outskirts of Moscow within a month.”
When this coronavirus pandemic has passed and the nations of the European Union are counting the cost of decimated populations, shattered public health infrastructures and economic meltdowns, one thing is certain: the dynamics within the bloc will have changed forever.
Before the global outbreak of this killer virus, Russia and China were always the West’s undisputed bogeymen. Troublemakers, always up to mischief, playing dangerous geopolitical games intended to undermine Western democracies and divide allies in the EU and NATO.
Many in the Western mainstream media are addicted to a daily fix of either Russian or Chinese conspiracy, so they probably don’t appreciate the irony here. Because things have changed.
In a big way.
It’s largely due to the generosity of these two “tricksy” outsider superpowers that some European nations, fully paid-up, long-term members of the EU, have even a remote chance of getting to grips with the immense public health demands caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus.
And thank heavens for that, because if either Italy or Spain had been looking to the EU — or the USA for that matter — for real, on-the-ground assistance that would enable them to simply stop people dying in their thousands in overcrowded hospitals, then they would have found themselves waiting in vain.
Sure, the ECB weighed in only last week, with an unprecedented fiscal bazooka aimed at reducing the economic impact that is being caused by the virus (ar at least by the measures governments are taking to try to stop it). But that’s fighting the virus in one manner only, very much after the fact and certainly not on the frontline.
This significance of that fiscal help will only really be apparent once the health crisis is over and the full, disastrous economic consequences are realized. And the fact that it is far from over right now is what needs immediate attention, like providing more medical staff, personal protection gear, ventilators, hospitals and, obviously, a vaccine.
But the message from Brussels to Italy, Spain and other EU members is clear: in dealing with the pandemic and the thousands of dead citizens it leaves in its wake, you are on your own.
The EU’s abject hopelessness and indifference started to become clear some weeks back in the face of the escalating virus, when the export beyond national borders of facemasks and medical equipment was banned by some EU members, including Germany.
ALSO ON RT.COMRussian military planes with medics & supplies land in coronavirus-hit Italy (VIDEO)It’s unlikely the Italians will forget that. Compare it with the generosity of the Chinese consumer electronics company Xiaomi which has sent tens of thousands of face masks to Italy at the same time as Beijing has filled planes with medical experts and crucial equipment of which Rome was, and remains, in desperate need.
Compare it too with the help from Moscow sent over the weekend: 100 virus specialists, disinfection trucks and medical equipment. All being sent at the request of Italy.
It seems the close ties the Italian government maintained with Russia over the last few years, particularly at the initiative of former coalition foreign minister Matteo Salvini, have paid off. His refusal to be drawn into the EU’s Kremlin-bashing of recent times, preferring to cultivate a closer friendship of his own, has to be applauded for the dividends it has produced in the Italian hour of need.
And one unintended consequence of that must be that it is driving critics of the controversial Italian populist absolutely nuts.
It also won’t escape the attention of NATO that the aid from Russia is coming via military channels, which must sting those of its members with a more hawkish view towards Moscow. Just so they don’t miss the irony, the supplies bear a “From Russia with Love” label.
What cannot be denied is that actions speak louder than words. The people of those nations being helped from outside the EU will be eternally grateful for that assistance. It’s help that can be seen. It’s brigades of medical experts, boxes of supplies delivered in big planes. It will save the lives of family and friends and it will provide help on the frontline where it is most needed.
In Verduno, near Turin in northern Italy, a hospital that has been under construction for 20 years, and is still unfinished, will open as a Covid-19 hospital next week, and will take in its first 60 coronavirus victims.
In comparison, the Italian government will be well aware that China, using 7,000 builders working around the clock, built a 1000-bed hospital in just 10 days, and that Russia, with parallel ambition, is looking to finish a virus hospital on the outskirts of Moscow within a month.
It is these sorts of highly visible acts that people need to see. It builds confidence from despair and hope from misery.
Confidence and hope. As millions of terrified Europeans sit confined in their homes today, isolated voluntarily or by law, those are two things in critically short supply.
Here is an example of political censorship from Facebook (for those of you who don’t use Facebook)
Facebook banned me for 24 hours for saying this. Stupid Americans cannot be told dissident opinions, as their puny brainwashed brains cannot handle it.
There is no democracy in the USA. American politics is a farce of epic proportions:
By Daniel Patrick Welch
I have to start by saying that I really find it depressing and almost embarrassing to find myself back in this time frame of commenting on the quadrennial farce the Americans call an “election process.” It really is terrible. And what the Iowa debacle shows to the world is that there is no limit to the hypocrisy of the American consciousness or the American ruling class when it comes to accusing everyone else of having rigged elections, bad systems, not democracy etc etc.
The latest twist—of there being a neck-and-neck battle for New Hampshire, which is tomorrow (today)—is just the latest stint in this show, which is all about stopping Sanders. There is only one story in this whole election cycle, and that is stopping Sanders. The Democrat Party has been working on it not just for the last four years, but the very idea going back to at least 1980, with the Democratic Leadership Council. What they always want is just a new neoliberal with a twist. A fresh young face: Obama was the ‘black’ one; Mayor Pete is the ‘gay’ one. And that is new and fresh enough for the Democrats as long as you never say anything about class, or actually threaten the status quo in any real way.
It is designed to create a certain narrative. They’re making it up out of whole cloth. “There are no results.” This is 2020. Everyone has a cell phone, everyone has devices. They had results. But they relied on this app that was a sort of DNC front group called “Stealth” or “Shadow” or some other creepy name. They’re hiding the fact that this is an oligarchy. And the way the parties pick their nominee—not only do they produce two virtually identical candidates. But the process is repulsive; it’s completely opaque.
The real threat (or what they perceive as a threat) is this idea of a Sanders. And Sanders’ supporters call him a “movement” politician. I reject that, because I don’t think that the US voting populace has enough of a developed political consciousness to spawn a movement politician. But I would say that he is a moment politician.
As terrible as he is, especially on foreign policy, he has captured this moment on all these issues that he has been working on for decades. And at a time when people are very, very angry. Trump exploited it as a sort of faux populism that was based partly on a racial, xenophobic appeal. But there is a popular anger: people are unbelievably angry in this country. They don’t yet understand imperialism, and they have been bred not to ask questions about the wider picture.
But they know when somebody tells them that the economy is doing well they look around and they say ‘What are you talking about?’ And these are normal people. The statisticians can say well, the US created 225,000 jobs in January. And some poor schmuck in the pub sharing a drink with you will say ‘Yeah I know there are a lot of jobs—I have three of them!’ The question is why does it take 3 or 4 jobs to have the living you used to be able to have with one job.
The sad part is that Sanders is anything but an anti-imperialist, especially on foreign policy. The way he speaks about Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Russia –he comes down full force on the wrong side of history. It’s absolutely terrible. But, that said, he does reach into the anger in the vast majority of Americans, who are living paycheck to paycheck, who are scared about tomorrow, scared about health care, scared about the safety of their children, they’re scared about the future of the job market. They’re scared about education, and costs, and money, and working all the time and not being able to retire.
And what I think is that this idea is powerful. And if allowed to continue, it would have a solid chance of beating Trump. It would beat anybody: the people united, you know… But the Democrats are determined to divide people along all lines but class, so that they keep this non discussion [in place].
And I think that even from the perspective of the left—I mean, I’m not a Sanders supporter—but I think it is reasonable to try to organize on the outskirts of this moment. I think it’s silly not to engage. This is like the Superbowl; everybody is talking about it. So why not join the conversation? It’s a chance for a thousand—for millions of conversations—where you can talk to people who ordinarily would not be able to discuss anything like this. And say “What do you mean? What’s wrong with universal health care? The whole world has universal health care.”
Or “What’s wrong with universal free education? The entire developed world has this. What is wrong with questioning the idea that billionaires don’t need to be restricted in what they can say and buy and do?” And the ability to have that [discussion] is exceedingly rare. What foreigners don’t realize is how terrible the system is in this country in terms of restricting thought. They constantly use the term “autocrat” or “authoritarian” to describe Iran, or Russia, or anyplace that they don’t like, and then they say it’s not democratic, it’s this or that.
Not only are there crappy non-democratic elections here, where it’s just about how much power rich people can buy—the atmosphere here is so scared. There is no secret police—well of course there is, but I mean they’re not sitting in the bar listening to your conversations. Everybody is their own censor. It’s shocking. Foreigners are constantly shocked at the range of things that are just off the table, that you cannot discuss in American society. And because it’s kind of self imposed, or purchased—i.e. the idea of manufactured consent—people think they’re free.
So the Democratic National Committee, the Leadership Council, the GOP, the Deep State, all the powers that be, the oligarchs—are absolutely petrified—scared to death of these conversations taking place. But they are the key to getting rid of the US empire, of not only Trump but in the long term, beyond Trump: The Forever Wars, the permanent war machine, the oppression of black and brown people at home and abroad. All of this has to start with those conversations. And Americans are just not allowed to participate in it. So we have to fight for the very idea of talking, which is kind of strange. Wish us luck!
Daniel Patrick Welch is a writer of political commentary and analysis. Also a singer and songwriter, he lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts with his wife. Together they run The Greenhouse School. He has traveled widely, speaks five languages and studied Russian History and Literature at Harvard University. Welch has also appeared as a guest on several TV and radio channels to speak on topics of foreign affairs and political analysis–around his day job. He can be available for interview requests as time and scheduling permit. Despite the price of being outspoken against US foreign policy and military adventurism — which can be steep in today’s circumstances — he believes firmly as did Rosa Luxemburg that “It will always be the most revolutionary act to tell the truth out loud.”
Welch wrote this article for Press TV website.
Jan 31, 2020
YouTuber Josh Pieters has revealed that he pranked far-right British commentator Katie Hopkins by flying her to Prague and presenting her with a fake award. Hopkins, who is frequently retweeted by President Trump and was recently suspended on Twitter, was awarded the Campaign to Unify the Nation Trophy, abbreviated as C.U.N.T. And if you think that’s mean, just wait until you hear her hate-filled acceptance speech for the award.
The 26-year-old Pieters explained the prank in a new video on his YouTube channel, which has over 1.2 million subscribers. And it was a surprisingly large undertaking to convince Hopkins that she was getting a real award. Pieters organized flights, hotels, a dinner at the Four Seasons, and even hired actors to play members of his fake advocacy group, the Cape Town Collective For the Freedom of Speech.
Pieters, who’s originally from South Africa but lives in the UK, set up a fake website to make his organization appear more authentic, though there are some clear hints it might be fake. The photo of the founder that appears on his website is the current leader of the Ku Klux Klan, as just one example.
Pieters flew from his home in London to Prague and set up hidden cameras to capture the prank from a number of angles before Hopkins got there. Hopkins, who has previously echoed Nazi language by tweeting about the need for a “final solution” to the problem of terrorism, never seems to understand that the YouTuber’s banquet is a joke.
“We made Katie Hopkins fly 1,600 miles and accept a fake award and put the word ‘cunt’ behind her without her noticing,” Pieters says in the video. “You might wonder if this is a bit mean. For a moment I did too. But then she made her speech and told us what she really thought.”
The video delivers a rapid fire assault of Hopkins saying hateful things during her acceptance speech like, “If you call Mohammad in a school playground, 2,000 fucking kids come running and you don’t want any of them,” and “Epileptics are all weirdos. They’re up there with the Asians.”
Hopkins can also be heard repeatedly saying that Muslims are “raping their own mother” and she also mocks Arabic names, calling them “retards.” Hopkins can also be heard referring to 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg as an “autistic fucking wench.”
Interestingly, if you look closely at the video, Pieters shows one of Hopkins’ emails from when they were setting up the trip, which includes her suggestion that the fake group meet with Dominik Tarczynski, a member of Poland’s Law and Justice Party.
“He is more South African than many South Africans and I think an excellent contact for your group!,” Hopkins writes.
Who’s Tarczynski and why is he “more South African than many South Africans” in Hopkins’ estimation? He’s a far-right politician who says he doesn’t want Poland to be “taken over by Muslims, Buddhists, or someone else,” as he told Al Jazeera. Apparently, Hopkins believes that all white South Africans must be as racist as Tarczynski.
Full article: Source
Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist based in Russia.
On Wednesday, Russia’s government resigned. Dmitry Medvedev departed the political frontline, Vladimir Putin effectively confirmed he will leave the presidency at the end of his present term, and Mikhail Mishustin became the new Russian prime minister. As Van Morrison once crooned, there will be days like this.
And it’s only the 15th of January. A week after Russians observed Orthodox Christmas, and a fortnight since they celebrated New Year, it didn’t take long for real business to resume.
In the morning, Mishustin was so unknown outside of Russia that he didn’t even have an English language Wikipedia page. And his profile inside the country was minor, beyond the world of political and administrative wonks.
But there’s no doubt he’s an effective manager. As the head of the Russian tax service he’s been a tremendous success. Revenues have risen by around 20 percent under his watch despite only a 2 percent rise in the tax burden itself. Indeed, only last year the Financial Times dubbed him the “taxman of the future” for his role in rebuilding Russia’s tariff collection system into one of the most advanced and efficient in the world.
No mean feat in a country where tax avoidance was once, pretty much, a sort of national sport.
A native Muscovite, Mishustin, like Putin himself an avid hockey player, has been described as a “little known political figure in Russia… a bureaucrat, someone to get the job done.”
But the same sort of description could have been applied to Putin himself in 1999, and here were are, 21 years later.
Today, the president set out the roadmap for his exit from the Kremlin, more-or-less kicking off the build-up to the transition of power. He will step down in 2024, or perhaps even earlier, and he intends to dismantle the “hyper-Presidential” system which allowed him to wield so much control in office. This was introduced by Boris Yeltsin in 1993 with American support, after he had used tanks to fire on the Parliament.
Putin plans to give more powers to the latter body, with the prime minister, in particular, enjoying more authority. He also wants to bulk up the role of the State Council. Indeed, he will probably end up there himself after leaving office, in some sort of “elder statesman” role. The body will consist of heads of Russian regions and members of the Presidential Administration. It seems it will fulfill an advisory function.
To achieve these goals, Putin wants to reduce presidential powers and introduce a two-term limit. This would mean a maximum of 12 years in the Kremlin; he has already been there for 16. The broad vision is to have more checks and balances, with a weaker presidency and other branches of government strengthened.
Make no mistake, Putin’s goal is to preserve the system which he inherited from Yeltsin, and then tweaked. For all its faults, after a difficult birth it has given Russians the greatest freedom and prosperity they have ever known. Even if much work remains to be done on distributing economic gains more fairly.
Putin’s place in history would then be much the same as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s in America, a unique four-term president who repaired the country after a financial & social catastrophe (in Russia’s case the Soviet collapse and the disastrous 1990s). This also fits with what insiders in Moscow frequently point out: Putin wants to be remembered well by history. A status enjoyed by relatively few Russian leaders.
One notable suggestion is that future presidents must have lived in Russia for 25 continuous years before taking office, and have never held a foreign passport or residency permit. This would bar a lot of the Western-leaning Moscow opposition from running. Not to mention a large swathe of Russian liberals, a great many of whom have lived abroad at some point. Interestingly, if this rule had existed in 2000 Vladimir Putin himself wouldn’t have been able to become Russia’s president. He lived in Germany from 1985-1990 (albeit on state duty).
The proposed changes will likely be made after public votes on them, to ensure broad consent. Even though they could be passed by the Duma. Rumors suggest it may be held in September.
Putin also addressed many domestic concerns in his speech today. He promised the increase of salaries for teachers and more childcare facilities, introduced free hot lunches for children in the initial four school years and extended child benefit by 48 months.
As for Medvedev, he hasn’t been cast aside. Instead, the former president has been moved to a semi-ceremonial, but still prestigious, role ending a twelve-year “tandem” where he governed Russia with Putin. It would be a mistake to write him off politically, but it would be surprising if he wields the same clout again.
As they shook hands, and Medvedev left the Kremlin for the final time as prime minister, Putin told him “not everything worked out, but it’s never the case that everything works out.”
Nevertheless, Putin will hope “everything works out” for the eventual power transition in Russia. A process that has now begun.
The late psychonaut/philosopher Terence McKenna once said “The cost of sanity, in this society, is a certain level of alienation,” and I think my regular readers will immediately and experientially understand exactly what he was talking about.
It’s not always easy to be on the outside of consensus reality. Our entire society, after all, has been built upon consensus — upon a shared agreement about what specific mouth sounds mean, on what money is and how it works, on how we should all behave toward each other in public spaces, and on what normal human behavior in general looks like.
We all share a learned agreement that we picked up from our culture in early childhood that it’s normal and acceptable to stand around with your hands in your pockets and babble about the weather to anyone who gets too close to you, for example, whereas it would be considered weird and disruptive to stand around slathered in Cheese Whiz shrieking the word “Poop!” But we could just as easily reverse that consensus on behavioral norms tomorrow, and as long as we all agreed, we could do that without missing a beat.
In exactly the same way, there exists a general consensus about what’s going on in our world at the moment. There’s a general consensus that we live in the kind of society we were taught about in school: a free and democratic nation which maybe did some not so great things in the past, but is now a supremely virtuous beacon of light on this earth that kicked Hitler’s ass and then surfed into the present day on a wave of truth and sensible fiscal policy. There’s a general consensus that the news reporters on our screens paint us a more or less accurate picture of world affairs, that there are a lot of Bad Guys in our world with whom the Good Guys in our government are fighting, and that most of our nation’s problems are caused by the people in the other political party.
This consensus is grounded in delusion. It is insanity.
In reality, of course, we live in a world where our understanding of the world is constantly being deceitfully manipulated by oligarchic media propaganda and the utterances of oligarch-owned politicians. Where elections are mostly just a live-action role-playing game that allows the rabble to pretend that they have some degree of influence over the things that their government does. Where our government routinely forms alliances with the worst Bad Guys on the planet while manufacturing consent to topple governments whose downfall would be utterly disastrous. Where our nation’s problems have almost nothing to do with half its population disagreeing with our personal ideology, and practically everything to do with the loose international alliance of plutocrats and government agencies who actually run things behind the facade of the comings and goings of official elected governments.
Friendships Can End
Sanity means seeing this as it is, rather than subscribing to the mass delusion of the consensus worldview. Which, as you probably already know, can make it difficult to relate to others in some ways. Conversations about politics often either get heated very rapidly when you challenge a tightly-held orthodoxy or dead-end in awkwardness. Friendships can end. Family relationships can be ruined. Collective narratives about you can be woven and circulated within your social circle which have nothing to do with how you actually see things.
And that’s just if you talk about your worldview. If you keep your views to yourself, as many do, that’s just another kind of alienation. It’s to stand outside of public political discourse completely, unable to participate out of fear of the backlash you’d receive from your friends, loved ones and acquaintances if you started talking about President Donald Trump as a symptom rather than the disease, or said that the U.K.’s Jeremy Corbyn is being targeted by a transparently bogus smear campaign, or said that Russia’s interventions in world affairs are clearly dwarfed by America’s by orders of magnitude. The specific heresies will vary depending upon the social circle, but the inability to voice them necessarily comes with the same sense of alienation.
But the alternative to that sense of alienation is to live a lie. It’s to climb back inside the distorted funhouse-mirror reality tunnel of the establishment narrative control matrix and plug yourself back into the same delusions that everyone else is living. Most of us couldn’t even do that if we wanted to. Even if we could, the intense mental gymnastics we’d have to perform just to avoid the discomfort of cognitive dissonance would make it not worth the effort.
We close ourselves off from a full sense of participation in our society when we depart from the consensus worldview, but in closing that door we open so many more. Because, as it turns out, all that effort that people pour into staying on the same wavelength as everyone else closes them off to a vast spectrum of potential human experience. The allure of the mass delusion is that you need to devote yourself to being plugged into it in order to achieve what the mass delusion defines as “success”, but in so doing you lose the ability to leap down psychological and experiential rabbit holes of consciousness that those still jacked into the matrix can’t even imagine. And in so doing you open up the possibility for an immensely more fulfilling and enjoyable life that has really deeply explored the more intimate questions about what it means to be a human being on this planet.
Jiddu Krishnamurti once said, “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” And a profoundly sick society is indeed what we have here. The alienation which we experience is an alienation from something that isn’t worth belonging to anyway.
I began this essay with a quote from one of the celebrated thought leaders of the psychedelic movement, and I think the question of what we can do to cope with the alienation McKenna spoke of is best answered by ending with a quote from another such leader, Timothy Leary:
Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on Facebook, Twitter, or her website. She has a podcast and is the author of “Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.”
This article was re-published with permission.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
Blumenthal was subjected to an early morning arrest in October on a five-month-old warrant, which stemmed from an accusation against him and fellow activist Ben Rubinstein. A Venezuelan opposition activist said they attacked her when they were delivering food to people who took cover in the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC trying to prevent supporters of US-backed self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido from taking over the place.
The journalist says the charge was bogus from the start, but his defense took a surprising turn when Blumenthal’s lawyer requested exculpatory evidence in the form of logs from the US Secret Service, whose agents were present at the scene. If agents failed to call an ambulance after a violent incident resulting in an injury, a lack of such call would indicate that the allegations were false, he reasoned.
However, the logs for the day were completely missing. Blumenthal believes the Secret Service obstructed the request because the logs would confirm that they were acting hand-in-glove with the crowd trying to take over the diplomatic mission, he told RT.
“What I think could be the case here is that they are concerned that their collusion with this right-wing band of hooligans, who were used to do what the Secret Service was legally forbidden from doing, which is prevent food and medicine from getting into the embassy,” would have been exposed, he said.
[Releasing the logs] would have exposed that collusion and embarrass the Secret Service.
The Grayzone journalist said he was obviously targeted with a false accusation because he personally and his colleagues were vocal opponents of Guaido and his Washington-backed attempts to overthrow the Venezuelan government. The opposition activists simply used the friendly US government to harass their critics, and there needs to be a push-back against such malpractice, he believes.
“It’s really scary that someone could be hauled out of his house by a team of cops, listed falsely as ‘armed and dangerous,’ and then jailed for two days and possibly put on trial because someone who doesn’t like their political views decides to level a false allegation against him,” he said. “There has to be some deterrence against this happening again.”
The confrontation at the embassy happened between April and May, and resulted in the pro-Guaido crowd taking over the building. Two Grayzone journalists were covering the tense standoff from inside the embassy.
Furious at the verdict, the state police union issued a veiled threat the same day asking whether citizens of Chicago were “ready to pay the price” of police officers not feeling comfortable doing their jobs. And while the Chicago Police Department has denied there was any work slowdown, an analysis of crime data by VICE News shows a significant reduction in police activity following Van Dyke’s sentencing on January 18.
Arrests by Chicago police officers dropped by nearly 50% citywide the evening after the sentence came down, and almost 25% in the two weeks following. At the same time, total crime as reported by police dropped to the lowest level in at least two decades, a stat consistent with a policing slowdown. Crime reports arising through street stops, such as drug arrests and weapons violations, fell the most precipitously, as officers continued to respond to serious incidents like shootings.
Police see slowdowns as a way of punishing a community by letting crime flourish unaddressed. But in Chicago, something unexpected happened: While arrests and crime reports by police fell during the two-week slowdown, they stayed low when police returned to work.
In the weeks and months following Van Dyke’s sentencing, serious crime continued to decline even though cops had returned to more active policing. So far in 2019, the number of homicides — which was previously among the highest in the U.S. — has dropped by 8%. Murders have fallen to their lowest level in five years. Shootings are down 9% compared to last year. Police were doing less, but somehow Chicago became safer.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot even used a press conference with the city’s police chief to note the improvement, saying the city was “trending in the right direction but has a long way to go.”
The proof of a slowdown lies in the fact that three particular kinds of arrests virtually stopped: drug possession, weapons violations and prostitution. This is important because narcotics, weapons and prostitution arrests are an indicator of a type of policing known as “proactive,” in which officers initiate encounters with citizens without the report of a crime. This can include stopping people based on “suspicious activity” — which can be interpreted as standing on a particular corner or moving away from a police car. Proactive policing is a fraught and controversial practice, as people of color are often disproportionately targeted.
Between January 18 and January 31, the two weeks after Van Dyke’s sentencing, police made less than one-third the average number of narcotics arrests in the previous 18 years. Prostitution arrests fell by about 90% from the average over the same time period. Weapons violations dropped as well. The massive decline suggests that officers weren’t stopping people on the street nearly as often.
During the slowdown, the crime reduction was also concentrated within black and Latino communities on the city’s south and west sides with higher crime rates, suggesting that different groups of police officers responded to the union calls for a slowdown differently. Former Baltimore police officer and professor of law and police science at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Peter Moskos said many cops ignore such statements by the union.
It isn’t possible to definitively determine the reason for the crime reduction after the slowdown ended. But some experts believe the drop in proactive policing, or sentencing — or both — may have improved relationships between Chicagoans and the police, ultimately playing a significant role in driving crime down.
There’s some evidence that was the case. Excessive force complaints have fallen by more than 13% so far this year. “That would suggest some improvement in police-community relations,” said Richard Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. Van Dyke’s sentence may have also helped to quell anger at the department. Public reaction to the jail term varied, with McDonald’s family describing it as a “victory” while some police reform activists termed it “a slap in the face.”
“It’s possible that [citizens said], ‘OK, finally somebody’s doing something; they’re listening,’” so there’s less willingness for the public to challenge authority, and that would bleed into [fewer] other conflicts as well,” said Scott Wolfe, a professor of criminology at Michigan State University.
And better relationships between officers and the public might lead to more tips and information that could improve the police’s ability to deter and solve crimes in their districts. The arrest rate for homicides, which had hovered below 20% before the sentencing, experienced a sharp uptick to around 23% in the following months. Since the sentence, it has increased to the highest level it had been in four years.
Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi credited the decline in crime to “considerable investments in data and technology” as well as community policing. He cited gunshot-detecting microphones scattered throughout the city as helping to deter crime and enabling police to more rapidly respond to shootings. But many aspects of Chicago’s violence-reduction strategy — including the gunshot-detection technology — had been in place since 2017 or earlier, long before the inflection point in arrests and crime this past January.
Chicago’s policing slowdown and subsequent decrease in crime was echoed in New York City only months later, and under similar circumstances.
In mid-August, five years after police officer Daniel Pantaleo choked Eric Garner to death for resisting arrest, the New York police commissioner removed the cop from duty. New York City police answered by beginning a slowdown: In the week following Pantaleo’s firing, arrests dropped by 27% compared to the prior year, a reduction that police privately admitted was retaliation for what they viewed as an unjust dismissal.
There is precedent for slowdowns failing to negatively affect crime — and sometimes even reducing it. In 2015, when an assailant killed two New York City officers in their patrol car, cops also slowed down their policing. The pullback resulted in major declines in proactive policing, ticketing, and arrests, just like this year after Pantaleo was removed.
Researchers at Louisiana State University and the University of Michigan found that violent crimes fell during and after the slowdown. Their study showed that there were thousands fewer major crime reports and that the reduction continued for more than three months beyond the end of the slowdown.
Various other research has also indicated little impact or small reductions in crime after slowdowns. “They say they’re pulling back, that their colleagues are pulling back, and the data would suggest that indeed they are. But what we’re not seeing a lot of, at least on average is … change in crime,” Wolfe said of his own findings.
His study focused on a policing slowdown after the August 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. There, traffic stops fell precipitously after massive protests, but the rate at which officers recovered contraband in stops actually increased — which suggests a decrease in proactive policing meant cops were focusing on citizens who were more likely to be actually breaking the law.
Chicago PD spokesman Guglielmi disputed the slowdown in an interview with VICE News, and noted that some measures of morale, like sick days, did not increase after Van Dyke’s sentencing. But he didn’t explain why arrests declined so dramatically. Another significant influencer of crime — the weather — wouldn’t explain such a severe dropoff. The state union did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and the local chapter declined to comment.
And as narcotics stops and other forms of proactive policing have begun to increase in Chicago again, the crime rate has also increased in the latter half of the year. Excessive force complaints were down by more than 20% in the first half of the year, but they’ve begun to return to their old rates as well. Like the 2015 slowdown in New York, any effects of the slowdown — whether positive or negative — may be only temporary.
But Rosenfeld said that the declines in arrests in New York and Chicago are part of a longer-term, more widespread trend toward fewer stops and reduced policing across the nation. Litigation and public outcry against aggressive proactive practices like New York’s stop-and-frisk program — which was shown to be used mostly to stop and search minorities — has drastically cut the number of arrests for minor offenses. According to his research, arrest rates for all kinds of offenses have been decreasing for at least a decade, beginning years before videos of police violence led to a massive protest movement led by Black Lives Matter.
Presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders yesterday released a plan to overhaul the US broadband market by breaking up giant providers, outlawing data caps, regulating broadband prices, and providing $150 billion to build publicly owned networks.
“The Internet as we know it was developed by taxpayer-funded research, using taxpayer-funded grants in taxpayer-funded labs,” the Sanders plan said. “Our tax dollars built the Internet, and access to it should be a public good for all, not another price-gouging profit machine for Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.”
If enacted, Sanders’ “High-Speed Internet for All” plan would be the polar opposite of the Trump administration’s treatment of broadband companies and far more aggressive than the regulatory approach of the Obama administration. Sanders pledged to “use existing antitrust authority to break up Internet service provider and cable monopolies,” specifically by “bar[ring] service providers from also providing content and unwind anticompetitive vertical conglomerates.”
Perhaps most notably, this could force Comcast to divest NBCUniversal and force AT&T to divest Time Warner. Of course, a US president can’t simply issue an order to break up these companies. But if Sanders is elected, he could nominate Department of Justice officials who are likely to file antitrust lawsuits against the companies that dominate the broadband industry.
Sanders also pledged to regulate broadband providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act, reinstate net neutrality rules, and impose other pro-consumer rules. This could be achieved via legislation, appointments of aggressive regulators to the Federal Communications Commission, or a combination of both.
Sanders said he would “eliminate data caps and ban throttling” and “instruct the FCC to regulate broadband Internet rates so households and small businesses are connected affordably.” This would include a requirement “that all Internet service providers offer a Basic Internet Plan that provides quality broadband speeds at an affordable price.”
The FCC is an independent agency, so it wouldn’t have to do what Sanders says. But if Sanders was president, he could nominate commissioners and appoint a chairperson who is likely to carry out his wishes. 1935, a time when 90 percent of rural households lacked it.”
Sanders’ $150 billion proposal includes a Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Service program “to provide capital funding to connect all remote rural households and businesses and upgrade outdated technology and infrastructure, prioritizing funding for existing co-ops and small rural utilities.” Sanders said that $7.5 billion should be set aside for tribal areas and that all public housing should provide free broadband to residents.
Sanders said the $150 billion investment will “ensure that communities stay connected during natural disasters.” Sanders also proposed a full review of broadband networks to make sure they are “resilient to the effects of climate change.”
US government plans for broadband often focus on network access without talking much about lowering prices. Sanders wants to do both. His plan said:
Large Internet service providers have enjoyed government funding, protection from competition, and light regulation while gouging customers with some of the highest prices for service in the world. Bernie will regulate these providers like a utility. The FCC will review prices and regulate rates where necessary, ensuring areas without competition aren’t able to run up prices.
Moreover, Sanders proposed eliminating the hidden fees broadband providers use to make the actual cost higher than their advertised rates. ISPs would have to “clearly state the cost of service” and not impose “unexpected rate increases” or “service termination fees.”
Sanders also wants the FCC to define broadband as a minimum of 100Mbps download speeds and 10Mbps uploads, instead of the current 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up. Sanders would also “reinstate and expand privacy protection rules,” reversing the Trump-era decision to eliminate broadband-privacy rules.
is a medical doctor and social commentator on medicine, science, and technology.
The UK general election is a week away and a significant chunk of the country’s media, three-quarters of which is reportedly owned by a few billionaires, is hard at work digging up dirt on Jeremy Corbyn to prevent a Labour Party victory at all costs. However, this uphill task is becoming harder as recent polls show the frequently cited Conservative lead over Labour is rapidly decreasing. The possibility that Mr Corbyn will be Britain’s next prime minister, perhaps at the head of a minority government, is now grudgingly acknowledged.
When Corbyn launched Labour’s manifesto at the end of November, he pledged to conduct a formal enquiry into the legacy of the British Empire “to understand our contribution to the dynamics of violence and insecurity across regions previously under British colonial rule” and set up an organisation “to ensure historical injustice, colonialism, and role of the British Empire is taught in the national curriculum.”
The idea of teaching a population about the unsavoury aspects of its history, and in Britain’s case revealing how several of today’s geopolitical crises are rooted in the past folly and avarice-fuelled actions of its ruling class, is commendable.
It would be prudent to inform UK citizens about the British Empire’s divide and conquer tactics across the Indian subcontinent and Africa, the stirring up of Hindu-Muslim antagonism in the former, or the impact of the Sykes-Picot agreement that precipitated instability across the Middle East which continues to the present day. Doing so might enable the public to gain a better understanding of how past actions affect present realities, in turn making them more eager to hold contemporary politicians to account so past mistakes are not repeated. As Spanish philosopher George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Some right-wingers may be quick to dismiss Corbyn’s manifesto promise as self-indulgent politically-correct onanism. Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage commented: “I don’t think I should apologise for what people did 300 years ago. It was a different world, a different time.” Yet, some of the violence perpetuated in the name of protecting the empire’s interests is not exactly ancient history, having occurred within living memory for some. The Malayan Emergency, Kenya’s Mau Mau uprising, the Suez Crisis, or the deployment of British troops to Northern Ireland are a few examples.
Segments of the intelligentsia may also feel unease at Corbyn’s manifesto promise, namely those academics who still view the British Empire as the UK’s legacy and ‘gift’ to the world. This includes those who, by extension, consider modern Britain (and the West in general) as bestowed with a cultural superiority that makes it the unchallenged arbiter of global affairs and the indisputable defender of ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’, regardless of what these laudable terms have been corrupted into justifying. The invasion of Iraq, the destruction of Libya, and the civil wars in Syria and Ukraine are a few manifestations of Western intervention.
Some Western historians fall over themselves condemning the USSR for the millions who died under the dictatorship of Stalin, with a significant proportion of these victims perishing during famines. The people of the former Soviet Union need to come to terms with their history, just like any other country. In the meantime, Western historians should shine a spotlight closer to home. Engineered famines across the Indian subcontinent reportedly killed up to 29 million in the late 19th century and a further 3 million in 1943.
The Indian subcontinent was only one of the regions under British rule and the deaths mentioned above do not include those violently killed by occupying forces. Unlike the USSR, which kept oppression confined within its borders and those of neighbouring countries under its sphere of influence, Britain together with the American Empire (to which it handed over the baton of imperialism after WWII) has interfered on pretty much every continent except Antarctica. In modern times we see the UK, now a vassal of the US-led NATO empire, condemn nations that refuse to submit to Western hegemony.
Apologists for Empire claim it brought ‘progress’ such as railways, infrastructure, education, cricket, as well as free trade and order (i.e. Pax Britannica). Irrespective of whether such ‘gifts’ were appreciated by occupied nations, this line of reasoning opens up a dangerous precedent. For example, supporters of Stalin overlook his despotism by crediting him with rapidly industrializing an underdeveloped nation that later played a major role in defeating Nazism, bestowing upon him an honour that instead belongs to millions of rank and file soldiers, officers, and commanders of the Red Army.
During the time of the British Empire, as was the case with other European empires and many dictatorships, the majority of working people were not personally enriched by the plunder of imperialism and their descendants are not to blame for the actions of the former ruling class. Nevertheless, learning one’s history is the first step to understanding the present, ensuring today’s leaders are held to account, and preventing the same mistakes from being repeated.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
Following decades of increased life expectancy rates, Americans have been dying earlier for three consecutive years since 2014, turning the elusive quest for the ‘American Dream’ into a real-life nightmare for many. Corporate America must accept some portion of the blame for the looming disaster.
Something is killing Americans and researchers have yet to find the culprit. But we can risk some intuitive guesses.
According to researchers from the Center on Society and Health, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, American life expectancy has not kept pace with that of other wealthy countries and is now in fact decreasing.
The National Center for Health Statistics reported that life expectancy in the United States peaked (78.9 years) in 2014 and subsequently dropped for 3 consecutive years, hitting 78.6 years in 2017. The decrease was most significant among men (0.4 years) than women (0.2 years) and happened across racial-ethnic lines: between 2014 and 2016, life expectancy decreased among non-Hispanic white populations (from 78.8 to 78.5 years), non-Hispanic black populations (from 75.3 years to 74.8 years), and Hispanic populations (82.1 to 81.8 years).
“By 2014, midlife mortality was increasing across all racial groups, caused by drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, suicides, and a diverse list of organ system diseases,” wrote researchers Steven H. Woolf and Heidi Schoomaker in a study that appears in the latest issue of the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.
At the very beginning of the report, Woolf and Schoomaker reveal that the geographical area with the largest relative increases occurred “in the Ohio Valley and New England.”
“The implications for public health and the economy are substantial,” they added, “making it vital to understand the underlying causes.”
Incidentally, it would be difficult for any observer of the U.S. political scene to read that passage without immediately connecting it to the 2016 presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Taking advantage of the deep industrial decline that has long plagued the Ohio Valley, made up of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, Trump successfully tapped into a very real social illness, at least partially connected to economic stagnation, which helped propel him into the White House.
Significantly, thirty-seven states witnessed significant jumps in midlife mortality in the years leading up to 2017. As the researchers pointed out, however, the trend was concentrated in certain states, many of which, for example in New England, did not support Trump in 2016.
“Between 2010 and 2017, the largest relative increases in mortality occurred in New England (New Hampshire, 23.3%; Maine, 20.7%; Vermont, 19.9%, Massachusetts 12.1%) and the Ohio Valley (West Virginia, 23.0%; Ohio, 21.6%; Indiana, 14.8%; Kentucky, 14.7%), as well as in New Mexico (17.5%), South Dakota (15.5%), Pennsylvania (14.4%), North Dakota (12.7%), Alaska (12.0%), and Maryland (11.0%). In contrast, the nation’s most populous states (California, Texas, and New York) experienced relatively small increases in midlife mortality.
Eight of the 10 states with the highest number of excess deaths were in the industrial Midwest or Appalachia, whereas rural US counties experienced greater increases in midlife mortality than did urban counties.
A tragic irony of the study suggests that greater access to healthcare, notably among the more affluent white population, actually correlates to an increase in higher mortality rates. The reason is connected to the out-of-control prescription of opioid drugs to combat pain and depression.
“The sharp increase in overdose deaths that began in the 1990s primarily affected white populations and came in 3 waves,” the report explained: (1) the introduction of OxyContin in 1996 and overuse of prescription opioids, followed by (2) increased heroin use, often by patients who had become addicted to prescription opioids, and (3) the subsequent emergence of potent synthetic opioids (eg, fentanyl analogues)—the latter triggering a large post-2013 increase in overdose deaths.
“That white populations first experienced a larger increase in overdose deaths than nonwhite populations may reflect their greater access to health care (and thus prescription drugs).”
In September, Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, reached a tentative settlement with 23 states and more than 2,000 cities and counties that sued the company, owned by the Sackler family, over its role in the opioid crisis
Other factors also helped to drive up the U.S. mortality rate, including alcoholic liver disease and suicides, 85% of which occurred with a firearm or other method.
The United States spends more on health care than any other country, yet its overall health report card fares worse than those of other wealthy countries. Americans experience higher rates of illness and injury and die earlier than people in other high-income nations.
Researchers were perplexed but not surprised by the data as there existed clear signs back in the 1980s that the United States was heading for a cliff as far as longevity rates go.
So what is it that’s claiming the life of Americans, many at the prime of their life, at a faster pace than in the past? The reality is that it is likely to be an accumulation of negative factors that are finally beginning to take a toll. For example, apart from the opioid crisis, there has also been an almost total collapse of union representation across Corporate America, which has essentially crushed any form of workplace democracy. This author, a former member of three worker unions, witnessed this egregious abuse of corporate power firsthand, which is apparent by the total stagnation of wages for many decades.
Today’s real average wage – that is, after accounting for inflation – has about the same purchasing power it did about half a century ago. Meanwhile, in the majority of cases, increases in salary have a marked tendency to go to the highest-paid tier of executives.
In a report by Pew Research, “real terms average hourly earnings peaked more than 45 years ago: The $4.03-an-hour rate recorded in January 1973 had the same purchasing power that $23.68 would today.”
One needs only consider the growing mountain of tuition debt now consuming the paychecks of many university graduates, many of whom have yet to land their dream 6-figure job from their relatively worthless liberal education, to better understand the quiet desperation that exists across the country.
At the same time, the exponential rise in the use of social media, which has been proven to trigger depression and loneliness in users, also deserves serious consideration. What society is experiencing with its massive online presence is a total overhaul as to the way human beings relate to each other. Presently, it would be very difficult to argue that the changes have been positive; in fact, they seem to be contributing to the early demise of millions of Americans in the prime of life.
Taken together, abusive labor practices that ignores workplace democracy, the epidemic of opioid usage, compounded by the anti-social features of ‘social media’ suggests a perfect storm of factors precipitating the rise of early deaths in the United States. Since all of these areas fall in one way or another under the control of corporate power, this powerful agency must find ways to help address the problem. The future success of America depends upon it.
“Davos is a family reunion for the plutocrats that broke the modern West.. who think that they are changing the world when they are exactly what needs changing. A gathering of people who use the idea of making a difference as a kind of lubricant in the engine of making a killing, of people who promote generosity as a cheap substitute for justice.
“Change the world” has become a way for them to shoot down and remove from serious consideration ideas that would threaten their power of privilege. And so then what Davos is becomes clearer, which is that it is a way of getting together, using the world’s problems as a convening mechanism, to form a cartel against real change…
The genius thing that these people understand, that maybe prior generations of plutocrats didn’t, is you don’t fight public pressure for people-friendly change by shooting mine workers and busting unions in the light of day. They do that secretly. But what you actually do is you fight back by claiming to be one of those people. You claim to be a revolutionary yourself. You claim to be fighting for the people yourself. And your relatively modest do-gooding provides your credibility that pays for itself many, many times over.”
By 2015, Anand Giridharadas felt that the world he was inhabiting was built on a charade.
As an Aspen Institute fellow for five years and a former McKinsey analyst, he lived and worked among a collection of elites who believed their exchange of ideas, philanthropy, and so-called conscious capitalism could “save the world.” But it began to feel like “MarketWorld,” a term he coined for the bubble where it’s accepted that the private sector can fix anything with enough money.
He decided he would be transparent with the rest of the Aspen crowd, and gave a speech where he declared that, “we may not always be the leaders we think we are,” which brought a mixture of praise and outrage.
Giridharadas has written for the New York Times and taught journalism at New York University, and late last year, he published his book “Winners Take All.” It’s a thorough, nuanced takedown of MarketWorld that declares companies should work to do less harm, but that systemic changes must come from policy changes. Giridharadas’s thesis is therefore not only a cultural critique but a political one, with a progressive lens.
The book is currently in a second wave of popularity in the wake of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting at Davos, Switzerland, where it came up in conversation, and with the official start of the 2020 presidential race.
Giridharadas spoke with Business Insider about Davos, the idea of “better capitalism,” why he’s so avidly against Howard Schultz and Michael Bloomberg as presidential candidates, and why he wants Americans to take back their country from billionaires.
The following transcript was edited for length and clarity.
Richard Feloni: What does Davos stand for in your view? Do you have any particular thoughts on this year’s, specifically?
Anand Giridharadas: I think Davos is a family reunion for the plutocrats that broke the modern West. I’ve never been to it, so I’m a cultural critic looking from a distance, but it seems to me to be a gathering of people who think that they are changing the world when they are exactly what needs changing. A gathering of people who use the idea of making a difference as a kind of lubricant in the engine of making a killing, of people who promote generosity as a cheap substitute for justice.
And what was so great about Davos this year is that the mask slipped. Normally, they’re able to go there and pull off their Bono impact investing, ESG something, give-one-get-one something, social impact, social this, social that — anything but actual social justice. And it works. And this time, in great measure because there has been this rising chorus of critics — I’m one out of many. Way more prominently, you have AOC [Alexandria Ocasio Cortez] out there, Elizabeth Warren out there, staking really bold positions about how to actually change the world, how to actually fight structural inequality. And a lot of these guys, when actually pushed about those specific proposals —I don’t know if you saw the Gates and Blair clips about me…
Meanwhile, her fellow Democrats appear abysmally unconcerned about the human and financial toll.
The Democratic establishment is increasingly irritated. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, long-shot candidate for president, is attacking her own party for promoting the “deeply destructive” policy of “regime change wars.” Gabbard has even called Hillary Clinton “the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party.”
Senator Chris Murphy complained: “It’s a little hard to figure out what itch she’s trying to scratch in the Democratic Party right now.” Some conservatives seem equally confused. The Washington Examiner’s Eddie Scarry asked: “where is Tulsi distinguishing herself when it really matters?”
The answer is that foreign policy “really matters.” Gabbard recognizes that George W. Bush is not the only simpleton warmonger who’s plunged the nation into conflict, causing enormous harm. In the last Democratic presidential debate, she explained that the issue was “personal to me” since she’d “served in a medical unit where every single day, I saw the terribly high, human costs of war.” Compare her perspective to that of the ivory tower warriors of Right and Left, ever ready to send others off to fight not so grand crusades.
The best estimate of the costs of the post-9/11 wars comes from the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. The Institute says that $6.4 trillion will be spent through 2020. They estimate that our wars have killed 801,000 directly and resulted in a multiple of that number dead indirectly. More than 335,000 civilians have died—and that’s an extremely conservative guess. Some 21 million people have been forced from their homes. Yet the terrorism risk has only grown, with the U.S. military involved in counter-terrorism in 80 nations.
Obviously, without American involvement there would still be conflicts. Some counter-terrorism activities would be necessary even if the U.S. was not constantly swatting geopolitical wasps’ nests. Nevertheless, it was Washington that started or joined these unnecessary wars (e.g., Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen) and expanded necessary wars well beyond their legitimate purposes (Afghanistan). As a result, American policymakers bear responsibility for much of the carnage.
The Department of Defense is responsible for close to half of the estimated expenditures. About $1.4 trillion goes to care for veterans. Homeland security and interest on security expenditures take roughly $1 trillion each. And $131 million goes to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which have overspent on projects that have delivered little.
More than 7,000 American military personnel and nearly 8,000 American contractors have died. About 1,500 Western allied troops and 11,000 Syrians fighting ISIS have been killed. The Watson Institute figures that as many as 336,000 civilians have died, but that uses the very conservative numbers provided by the Iraq Body Count. The IBC counts 207,000 documented civilian deaths but admits that doubling the estimate would probably yield a more accurate figure. Two other respected surveys put the number of deaths in Iraq alone at nearly 700,000 and more than a million, though those figures have been contested.
More than a thousand aid workers and journalists have died, as well as up to 260,000 opposition fighters. Iraq is the costliest conflict overall, with as many as 308,000 dead (or 515,000 from doubling the IBC count). Syria cost 180,000 lives, Afghanistan 157,000, Yemen 90,000, and Pakistan 66,000.
Roughly 32,000 American military personnel have been wounded; some 300,000 suffer from PTSD or significant depression and even more have endured traumatic brain injuries. There are other human costs—4.5 million Iraqi refugees and millions more in other nations, as well as the destruction of Iraq’s indigenous Christian community and persecution of other religious minorities. There has been widespread rape and other sexual violence. Civilians, including children, suffer from PTSD.
Even stopping the wars won’t end the costs. Explained Nita Crawford of Boston University and co-director of Brown’s Cost of War Project: “the total budgetary burden of the post-9/11 wars will continue to rise as the U.S. pays the on-going costs of veterans’ care and for interest no borrowing to pay for the wars.”
People would continue to die. Unexploded shells and bombs still turn up in Europe from World Wars I and II. In Afghanistan, virtually the entire country is a battlefield, filled with landmines, shells, bombs, and improvised explosive devices. Between 2001 and 2018, 5,442 Afghans were killed and 14,693 were wounded from unexploded ordnance. Some of these explosives predate American involvement, but the U.S. has contributed plenty over the last 18 years.
Moreover, the number of indirect deaths often exceeds battle-related casualties. Journalist and activist David Swanson noted an “estimate that to 480,000 direct deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, one must add at least one million deaths in those countries indirectly caused by the recent and ongoing wars. This is because the wars have caused illnesses, injuries, malnutrition, homelessness, poverty, lack of social support, lack of healthcare, trauma, depression, suicide, refugee crises, disease epidemics, the poisoning of the environment, and the spread of small-scale violence.” Consider Yemen, ravaged by famine and cholera. Most civilian casualties have resulted not from Saudi and Emirati bombing, but from the consequences of the bombing.
Only a naif would imagine that these wars will disappear absent a dramatic change in national leadership. Wrote Crawford: “The mission of the post-9/11 wars, as originally defined, was to defend the United States against future terrorist threats from al-Qaeda and affiliated organizations. Since 2001, the wars have expanded from the fighting in Afghanistan, to wars and smaller operations elsewhere, in more than 80 countries—becoming a truly ‘global war on terror’.”
Yet every expansion of conflict makes the American homeland more, not less, vulnerable. Contrary to the nonsensical claim that if we don’t occupy Afghanistan forever and overthrow Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, al-Qaeda and ISIS will turn Chicago and Omaha into terrorist abattoirs, intervening in more conflicts and killing more foreigners creates additional terrorists at home and abroad. In this regard, drone campaigns are little better than invasions and occupations.
For instance, when questioned by the presiding judge in his trial, the failed 2010 Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, a U.S. citizen, cited the drone campaign in Pakistan. His colloquy with the judge was striking: “I’m going to plead guilty 100 times forward because until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan and stops the occupation of Muslim lands and stops Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan, and stops the occupation of Muslim lands, and stops killing the Muslims.”
Ajani Marwat, with the New York City Police Department’s intelligence division, outlined Shahzad’s perspective to The Guardian: “’It’s American policies in his country.’ …’We don’t have to do anything to attract them,’ a terrorist organizer in Lahore told me. ‘The Americans and the Pakistani government do our work for us. With the drone attacks targeting the innocents who live in Waziristan and the media broadcasting this news all the time, the sympathies of most of the nation are always with us. Then it’s simply a case of converting these sentiments into action’.”
Washington does make an effort to avoid civilian casualties, but war will never be pristine. Combatting insurgencies inevitably harms innocents. Air and drone strikes rely on often unreliable informants. The U.S. employs “signature” strikes based on supposedly suspicious behavior. And America’s allies, most notably the Saudis and Emiratis—supplied, armed, guided, and until recently refueled by Washington—make little if any effort to avoid killing noncombatants and destroying civilian infrastructure.
Thus will the cycle of terrorism and war continue. Yet which leading Democrats have expressed concern? Most complain that President Donald Trump is negotiating with North Korea, leaving Syria, and reducing force levels in Afghanistan. Congressional Democrats care about Yemen only because it has become Trump’s war; there were few complaints under President Barack Obama.
What has Washington achieved after years of combat? Even the capitals of its client states are unsafe. The State Department warns travelers to Iraq that kidnapping is a risk and urges businessmen to hire private security. In Kabul, embassy officials now travel to the airport via helicopter rather than car.
Tulsi Gabbard is talking about what really matters. The bipartisan War Party has done its best to wreck America and plenty of other nations too. Gabbard is courageously challenging the Democrats in this coalition, who have become complicit in Washington’s criminal wars.
A new survey shows that 51 per cent of women in Stockholm, Sweden feel unsafe going out at night, while the number who feel insecure in the daytime has doubled.
According to the County Administrative Board’s new citizen survey, more than half of women feel insecure in the evenings while the overall figure who feel unsafe rose from 33 per cent to 44 per cent.
Since 2011, the proportion of citizens who feel unsafe in their own residential area during the daytime almost doubled from 11 per cent to 20 per cent.
“The growing insecurity in Stockholm is also underscored by the fact that more and more county residents are refraining from activities due to concern about being exposed to crime, such as walking, cinema or visiting acquaintances,” the report stated.
34 per cent of county residents now say they have ceased almost all outdoor activity due to fear of crime, compared to 20 per cent who gave the corresponding answer in 2011.
Sweden continues to experience huge problems with violent crime, shootings, explosions and grenade attacks, mostly as a result of turf warfare between rival migrant gangs. The country has accepted hundreds of thousands of new migrants, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, since 2015.
A recent opinion poll found that the anti-mass migration Sweden Democrats are now the most popular party in Sweden. The Sweden Democrats would get 24.2% of the votes if an election was held today, beating the ruling Social Democrats.
Back in October, Leif Östling, former CEO of trucking company Scania, warned that Sweden is heading towards civil war due to uncontrolled mass immigration.
“We’ve taken in far too many people from outside. And we have. Those who come from the Middle East and Africa live in a society that we left almost a hundred years ago,” he said.
Meanwhile, new figures show that more Swedes than ever before are on anti-depressants, with a million of them taking the pharmaceutical drugs.
That’s one tenth of the population – double the amount who took anti-depressants in the early 2000s.
What could possibly explain the reason as to why people living in Sweden’s progressive utopia feel so unsafe and unhappy?
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NOVEMBER 28, 2019
In 1961, I left Greece for the United States. The reason for that life-changing decision was education. The University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin welcomed me and gave me a free education. I earned my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Illinois and my doctorate from Wisconsin.
My education was a mixture of science and humanities. I combined zoology with Greek (ancient, medieval and modern) history, as well as Roman history and modern European (Russian, Soviet Union, Southeastern European and British) history. To this multidisciplinary bowl I added the history of science from my postdoctoral studies at Harvard.
I did all this book reading, test taking, and writing a dissertation in ten years. The next step was finding work. By the time I graduated from Wisconsin, in 1972, I was married with my first child. This made earning a living imperative.
I worked on Capitol Hill and the US Environmental Protection Agency for twenty-seven years.
Sporadically, I taught at several universities about things I learned at work: how the federal government regulates or fails to regulate pesticides and agriculture.
The hidden truth
If this sounds obscure, technical, and of little value, it is not. There’s complexity in these things, but within this complexity there are gems of truth on how this country works.
Imagine a group of bureaucrats led by a political representative of the president deciding how much pesticide poison goes into each fruit, vegetable, grain, bread, cheese and meat Americans eat. That’s what the Office of Pesticide Programs does. The responsibility is awesome. The science is dubious; the ethics abhorrent. I did not want to do anything with it, save for criticizing the very idea of poisoning our food under the guise of environmental protection, which translated into protecting the farmer and poison maker from legal suits. The moment I came across evidence of massive and chronic malpractice and fraud in the testing of pesticides, I knew my early suspicions were legitimate; I knew how agribusiness rules America.
This experience helped me understand the meaning and practice of “environmental protection” in an industrialized America. In other words, I brought to the classroom information not in environmental policy textbooks
History, and especially the history of science, hovered around me, always tempting my thought to precedents: how did people of earlier times and other societies face the natural world or raise food?
The message to my students
I probably overwhelmed my students with data, facts and explanations about the environment and how America works. But the take-home message to my students was a warning:
”Your elders have abandoned your protection to the unkind and often corrupt industry and politicians. Study the natural world, study the science of the environment and, once out of school, reform or change the politics of this country for your protection and the protection and health of the natural world. A polluted natural world is your enemy. It will make you sick or kill you.
“Do away with pesticides, industrial agriculture, nuclear bombs, nuclear power plants, plastics, and toxic chemicals. They were the products of war, ignorance and hubris.
“Build a society with different values, one based on carbon-free and toxic pollution-free technologies, including respect for nature. Don’t approve any industry disrupting ecosystems, poisoning the natural world, and causing the extinction of species. Learn from science and older traditions and wisdom how the world works. Learn from the natural world.”
I don’t know if my students understood me. I treated them like graduate students. I opened their eyes to the beauties of science and truth as well as the secret and corrupt ways of the chemical industry. I let them see and examine original documents showing industry-government corruption. Some of them might have passed my ideas to their parents and, possibly, administrators.
I knew college and universities were rarely on the forefront of justice or truth, much less political change. In many instances, like the land grant universities, they become the inventors of hazardous chemicals and technologies that enable agribusiness to control rural America. At other instances, universities legitimize pollution.
With some exceptions, my college colleagues were indifferent to me and my teaching.
At Humboldt State University in northern California, I taught about society and the environment in a sociology department. There was a possibility for a permanent position for me but the chairman of the department said not to bother to apply because my doctorate was in history, not sociology. I asked him to come to my class, so he could form his own opinion about my teaching. “I care less about your teaching or the admiration students have for you,” he said.
Twice at two different schools (the University of Maryland and Pitzer College) I spoke to the Dean about expanding teaching and research on the fate of black farmers in America who declined by 98 percent in the twentieth century. The Deans were black. They listened to me politely but did nothing.
These anecdotes may be a fly in the ointment, but they suggest a deeper malady.
America after WWII
Since World War II, the culture of America is becoming inimical to democracy and civilization. By civilization I mean justice, the rule of law, the employment of science for making decisions, equal opportunity for humans to make a living, relative equality among citizens and ethical and science-based government rules regulating corporate and business behavior. Moreover, protecting human and environmental health should be at the core of this civilization.
Civilization is in trouble in America. Perpetual wars, the nuclear bomb, and the supremacy of money have made this country an empire. This political transformation is dismantling democracy at home and threatens the planet.
An oligarchy of billionaires are behind this aggression. They have captured the government, milking its fat Pentagon budget while using other government departments like the Environmental Protection Agency to buy legal protection for their chemicals polluting our food, drinking water, air, rivers, lakes and the seas.
The spectacle of Trump
The spectacle of Trump being president says it all. This is a very bad man. Some people, including senior government officials, and especially ambassador Gordon Sondland, are saying Trump urged the government of Ukraine to dig dirt about his political opponent Joe Biden. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) accused Trump of being “a criminal in the White House.” Others charge him with betrayal and infamy for allowing the Turks to slaughter the Kurds who have been faithful American allies.
Trump is threatening democracy. He displays and employs government power for his personal benefit. He does not have a clue about international relations. He is an enemy of public and environmental health.
In desperation, the Democrats in the House are collecting evidence of wrongdoing for “impeaching” him. They know, however, that the Republicans in the Senate will declare Trump innocent of all charges.
This effort of finding Trump guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors is the ethical thing to do. But for me, Trump’s persistent undermining of this country’s environmental laws, including his willful ignorance of climate change, constitute high crimes and misdemeanors. They are translated into policies hurting and killing people all over the country. And pretending there’s no climate change, as the Trump EPA does, exacerbates the onslaught from climate change.
This official apathy and blindness is affecting the country, even the Democratic politicians running for president. The warming of the Earth and the fossil fuels causing it have all but disappeared from public discourse.
With the possible exception of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), I just don’t think these candidates are passionate enough to embrace the climate threat and opportunity for shaping American politics and assuring the survival of civilization and the natural world. Yet they say climate change is the gravest danger America and the world face.
The hegemony of commercial television
Another way of explaining this pathology is the overwhelming power and influence of commercial television. It has remade Americans into obedient corporate subjects. Just like cigarette companies during most of the twentieth century brained-washed Americans to do nothing without a cigarette hanging from their mouth, advertisements and news reporting mix with each other so thoroughly the viewer, in most case, does not understand the difference between the two. The result of this willful malpractice and propaganda is the dumbing down of Americans.
Second, commercial television networks treat the natural world like a zoo: a place for expensive cruises, hunting, industrialized farming, logging, mining and forest fires. Even the PBS and BBC nature documentaries keep corporate crimes against nature strictly separate from the lives of the threatened species they document.
This television onslaught has been taking place for decades while most Americans live increasingly in cities, which separate them further from the natural world.
Despite this undemocratic and plutocratic record, commercial television is in charge of the Democratic presidential debates. They ask the questions and restrict answers to seconds and minutes.
Undoing this industrial-cultural-academic-television-propaganda complex requires a “political revolution” even greater than the revolution Senator Bernie Sanders has in mind.
The Sanders agenda
Sanders is an angry American prophet who insists in bringing justice back to America. He wants an economy for all. He is lashing at bankers, drug and insurance companies, billionaires, Trump and the Republicans. He is accusing them of theft: sucking trillions to an oligarchy and impoverishing the rest.
Should Sanders be elected, this country may be spared some of the calamity of climate change. He has promised repeatedly to put fossil fuel companies out of business – replacing them with carbon-free alternatives and creating 20,000,000 well-paying jobs.
In addition, Sanders is likely to save America from tyranny. This will demand a Herculean labor: channeling the Potomac River through the Washington stables of billionaires and industry lobbyists.
This would demand the end of exporting American jobs; taxing the billionaires enough to narrow the gigantic gap between them and the rest of Americans: use that money to fund climate change and cleaning up and eliminating pollution; outlawing the fossil fuels industry and funding alternative carbon-free energy technologies; revive the New Deal government programs of President Roosevelt for healthy farming, environment, and rebuilding of rural America; upgrade America’s medical mess to European health standards; make state universities free; give EPA the freedom and independence it needs to embrace its real mission; regulate commercial television: it should not be able to interrupt news with advertisements, nor charge money to politicians running for office; regulate and tax Wall Street; regulate and tax agribusiness: ban pesticides, break up large plantations, and bring back family farms.
Finally, take money out of politics.
Only this broad agenda of economic, social and ecological renewal can put the breaks to a Hothouse Earth and violent political revolution.