NY Times Reporter Shows What Is Fundamentally Wrong with Corporate Media

AlterNet.org - August 29, 2016 - 2:47pm
A tweet about Anthony Weiner illustrates the worst kind of journalism—false equivalence wrapped in a false narrative.

For political reporters at the New York Times, it seems every horrible new revelation about the Republican presidential nominee—say he hired a guy who boasts about providing the internet platform for white supremacists and who was charged with domestic violence—requires some tortured comparison suggesting the Democratic nominee is just as bad.

On Monday, Maggie Haberman, one of the paper's lead political correspondents, joined their ranks with a particularly noxious tweet, drawing a false equivalence, wrapped in a false narrative:

The problem for Clinton team - after Democrats repeatedly pointed to Bannon personal past, going to be hard to argue Weiner is off limits

— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) August 29, 2016

Stephen K. Bannon, the Breitbart News chief executive Donald Trump hired to lead his campaign, not only boasted to journalist Sarah Posner that, under his leadership, Breitbart provided the platform for the racist "alt right" movement; he was also revealed to have a credible charge of domestic violence against him, Politico reported. The charge was dropped only when authorities were unable to locate the woman who had made the charge. (Police called to the scene of the incident had a corroborating eyewitness report of evidence that the complaint made by Bannon’s then-wife was credible.)

 

Meanwhile, Anthony Weiner, the former congressman caught—yet again—tweeting photos of his Jockey-clad, bulging crotch to a woman who is not his wife, was never hired by Hillary Clinton to do anything. Plus, no one in the Clinton campaign has ever argued that Weiner is “off-limits.” 

 

Weiner is married to longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin. What happened was that Abedin issued a statement saying that, in the wake of revelations of the latest Weiner sexting scandal by the New York Post, she and Weiner are separating, and asked that the couple's privacy be respected. That’s it.

 

To recap: Haberman is essentially saying that the scandalous behavior of someone Hillary Clinton never hired—Anthony Weiner—reflects as poorly on her as Donald Trump’s decision to hire—as his campaign chief—a known stoker of a racist movement who was credibly charged with domestic violence reflects on Trump.

 

Don’t get me wrong, Anthony Weiner is a despicable person whose willingness to humiliate his wife suggests no small measure of misogyny on his part. But he is not part of the Clinton campaign.

 

On the other hand, Stephen Bannon gleefully spreads the poison of a racist, misogynist movement, and was hired by Donald Trump, whose people likely knew of Bannon's domestic violence issue (assuming they vet their hires), as his campaign's chief executive officer.

 

Sure, those two things are just like each other—not. It's almost as if certain mainstream reporters get scared every time they have to report the truth about Donald Trump: that he's running a campaign based on racism, xenophobia and misogyny, facts that are irrefutable. But, crap, Republicans will accuse us of bias! they fret. Well, of course they will; what other defense do the Republicans have? And since when is it your job to make sure they're kept happy?

 

At the Times, the making of such false equivalencies by its political reporters is an ongoing problem. As Eric Alterman reported in June:

In the paper of record’s political coverage, false equivalence often appears to be the rule rather than the exception. For instance, on March 13, while most political observers were approaching panic over the chaos that Trump’s followers were causing—even Fox’s Chris Wallace felt compelled to tell the candidate, “You have condoned violence in rally after rally”—a front-page story in the Times investigated the question of responsibility for Trump-rally violence. The article, by Barbaro, Ashley Parker, and Trip Gabriel, quoted the corporate-friendly Democrat William M. Daley observing, “Both sides are fueling this.” Neither Daley nor the authors offered any evidence to support this accusation. It wasn’t even clear who represented “the other side.” 

While the practice of such false-equivalent framing of political stories is all too common throughout the media, the Times' stubborn adherence to it is particularly damaging to the body politic. Since the New York Times is regarded as the paper of record, the way in which its stories are framed often sets the parameters of political debate. Its pronouncements are given outsized credence. It's time for the paper's political reporters to take their responsiblity seriously.

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Maine's Governor Openly Calls for Race War Against People of Color

AlterNet.org - August 29, 2016 - 12:21pm
Governor Paul LePage called people of color the "enemy."

Calls are mounting for Maine Republican governor Paul LePage to resign after he doubled down Friday on openly racist statements he made calling for a race war against people of color.

LePage made the remarks during a press conference at which he sought to defend himself against accusations of racism. During those comments, he indicated that people of color are the enemy and should be shot.

“A bad guy is a bad guy,” he said. “I don’t care what color he is. When you go to war, if you know the enemy, the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, you shoot at red… You shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy. And the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in are people of color or people of Hispanic origin.”

Those remarks followed statements last Wednesday at a town hall meeting in North Berwick, where the governor stated:

Let me tell you this, let me tell you, explain to you: I made the comment that black people are trafficking in our state. Now, ever since I said that comment, I’ve been collecting every single drug dealer who has been arrested in our state …

I don’t ask them to come to Maine and sell their poison, but they come. And I will tell you that 90-plus percent of those pictures in my book, and it’s a three-ring binder, are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Connecticut, the Bronx and Brooklyn. I didn’t make the rules, I’m just telling you what’s happening.

Yet LePage's claims are incorrect. Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups in the United States, told AlterNet, “On top of everything else, LePage is making a claim that is simply false. The fact is that most drug dealers and consumers in the United States are white.”

On Thursday, the Maine ACLU filed a public records request demanding access to the "three-ring binder" LePage referenced.

LePage lashed out in response to public outcry and even objections from some Maine lawmakers. Following a news report that Democratic State Rep. Drew Gattine had criticized the governor’s remarks, LePage left a violent rant on the lawmaker’s voicemail, saying:

Mr. Gattine, this is Gov. Paul Richard LePage. I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist, you c**ksucker. I want to talk to you. I want you to prove that I’m a racist. I’ve spent my life helping black people and you little son of a bitch, socialist c**ksucker. You… I need you to… just friggin’. I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you. Thank you.

He appeared to threaten Gattine's life in remarks made later to the Portland Press Herald, in which he declared: "When a snot-nosed little guy from Westbrook calls me a racist, now I’d like him to come up here because, tell you right now, I wish it were 1825. And we would have a duel. That’s how angry I am. And I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you; I would not be [Alexander] Hamilton. I would point it right between his eyes, because he is a snot-nosed little runt and he has not done a damn thing since he’s been in this legislature to help move the state forward."

This is not the first time LePage has made openly racist or violent statements. In January, he blamed the state’s opioid epidemic on "guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty," who are from New York and Connecticut and "half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave." And in 2011, LePage told the Maine NAACP to “kiss my butt.”

According to the SPLC's Potok, LePage’s latest comments are “par for the course. He has made plain his antipathy to black people. To me, his latest remarks are utterly unsurprising. Are they racist statements? Yes.”

Teddy Burrage, a community activist and participant in Black Lives Matter protests who has organized with the Portland, Maine Racial Justice Congress, told AlterNet that LePage is “putting people in danger. It’s not just a political gaffe or something that came about because he is unstable. The governor has potentially empowered dangerous people to hurt people of color.”

On Saturday night, Democratic leaders in the legislature wrote a letter to their Republican counterparts calling on them to rebuke the governor’s statements and press him either to get help or resign. The letter states that LePage “appears to be unfit to hold office at this time.”

Burrage cautioned, “It would be easy to say Paul LePage is crazy or unstable, but the reality is that he is a manifestation of the people who put him in office. This is an issue in the governor’s office, but it’s a larger issue as far as racism being acceptable.”

While Donald Trump-style racism may embolden figures like LePage, Burrage emphasized that the Maine governor's racism predates the 2016 presidential election cycle. "It's doesn't feel new to me," said Burrage, "and I am not shocked."

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What's New: Fighting for $15 and Fairness in Brampton

Socialist Project - August 29, 2016 - 12:00pm
The Fight for 15 and Fairness is in high gear in Peel Region. More than 80 people attended a community organizing event in Brampton on July 28. Just days earlier, CUPE Local 1989, Mississauga Library Workers Union, had concluded a three-week strike with a resounding victory. During the strike, I had received numerous invitations to the community meeting and the timing couldn’t have been better.
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Watch: Michael Moore and Bill Maher Go on Hilarious Hunt for Trump's Tax Returns on the Donald's Private Jet

AlterNet.org - August 29, 2016 - 11:49am
Late Sunday, the two jokingly made a grab for the GOP nominee's records.

Donald Trump infamously refuses to release his tax returns, citing an audit as grounds for keeping the documents secret. But filmmaker Michael Moore and "Real Time" host Bill Maher aren't buying it. And yesterday, at LaGuardia Airport, they decided to take matters into their own hands. After attending a Mets game, Moore and Maher spotted Trump's plane at LaGuardia.

So sitting next 2 the Mets stadium is LaGuardiaAirport-& what do u think is sitting there in full view? Trump's plane! So, we had an idea...

— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) August 28, 2016

The two maneuvered their way onto the runway, and afterward claimed they'd snagged the sought-after paperwork.

Bill Maher runs onto Trump's plane and grabs Trump's tax returns! pic.twitter.com/F7ae1Fw0q8

— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) August 28, 2016

"Bill,"I said,"u know he's guarding his tax returns w/his life & probably carries em w/ him!" Mission accomplished! pic.twitter.com/EYfUGIFl7j

— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) August 28, 2016

Even Fox News relished the humor of this scheme:

Michael Moore and Bill Maher sneak on runway and storm Trump plane https://t.co/MHtgZQLgli

— FOX & Friends (@foxandfriends) August 29, 2016

On the other hand, Trump has agreed to release his medical records and has called on Hillary Clinton to do the same:

I think that both candidates, Crooked Hillary and myself, should release detailed medical records. I have no problem in doing so! Hillary?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 28, 2016  Related Stories
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Pickle Jar Truthers: Alex Jones' Latest Hillary Health Conspiracy Is Extra 'Twisted'

AlterNet.org - August 29, 2016 - 11:13am
Conspiracy nut and Hillary-hater Alex Jones has a new theory on Clinton's health based on her opening of a jar.

When radio conspiracy theorist and exploiter of paranoiacs, Alex Jones, insisted that President Obama used “tiny helicopters and airplanes” to guide a super-tornado toward a small Oklahoma town in order to distract from yet another alleged “gun grab,” I thought we’d reached Peak Jones. I thought we’d finally witnessed the most ludicrous conspiracy theory since the one about shape-shifting lizard people from outer space infiltrating every level of our government.

But somehow Jones managed to top it, while also completely embarrassing himself. Finally.

For several years now, Jones has led the effort to diagnose Hillary Clinton’s physical health, theorizing that the Democratic nominee is suffering from a not insignificant brain injury, which, by the way, she’s failed to disclose and ought to immediately. Naturally, the real-life springboard for the theory emerged from a December 2012 story about Hillary suffering a concussion when she collapsed from apparent dehydration.

Since then, we’ve been told by Jones and others that the concussion is merely a cover story or a false flag, masking the fact that Hillary is significantly incapacitated and incapable of enduring the rigors of the presidency. The theories became mainstreamed this summer when photos emerged of Hillary being helped up a set of porch stairs — stairs, we learned, that were icy and therefore dangerous. Because it was February, and not June; a detail the alt-right news outlets, including Fox News, conveniently omitted. Furthermore, Hillary was wearing high heels while being careful to not slip and fall on icy stairs during a presidential campaign. Nevertheless, the photo of Hillary being helped up the stairs was the smoking gun that apparently vindicated the Hillary Health Truthers. The tall tale about the stairs was followed closely by another story in which an awkward Hillary double-take during a press gaggle was diagnosed as a mini-seizure. To any thinking human, it clearly wasn’t.

This brings us to Jimmy Kimmel, who welcomed Hillary on his late night show last week and asked the candidate to open a jar of pickles, proving her dexterity. The intention was to cleverly ridicule theorists like Jones, Sean Hannity and, yes, Donald Trump, who continue to insist that Hillary’s in an obviously enfeebled condition, even though she’s not. Naturally, Hillary was easily able to open the pickle jar, facetiously confirming that her health is robust. To repeat: it was a bit intended to take the piss out of the alt-right, and it worked. Big laughs and, politically, Hillary came off as fun and gregarious.

Alex Jones disagreed. The 42-year-old talk show host, who curiously looks at least 15 years older, perhaps due to a debilitating illness (kidding), dedicated a seemingly interminable segment of his Thursday show to proving that Hillary couldn’t have opened the jar without help. Jones growled on-and-on about the proper way to open a “can” of pickles, which would’ve been a truly amazing feat since it’s nearly impossible for anyone, much less Hillary, to tear open a metal can of anything with her bare hands.

Yes, the “Pickle Jar Truth” meta-conspiracy is upon us.

Using actual pickle jars of various brands and sizes, Jones explained that no onetwists the lids off vacuum-sealed jars — everyone knows, Jones said, that we’re supposed to remove lids by pushing them down and then popping them off. Odd, considering how every jar of pickles I’ve ever opened required twisting, just as Hillary did with Kimmel’s pickle jar. But, OK, Jones thinks “cans” of pickles are opened by yanking the lid off. Fine, even though the rest of the pickle-jar-opening public disagrees.

All told, Jones’ theory explains that the can-slash-jar of pickles was pre-loosened by Kimmel’s staff because Hillary obviously couldn’t have opened it without help, proving she has one foot in the grave. A pickle jar. Ultimately and obviously, it doesn’t matter whether the jar was pre-loosened. If it was, so what? It was a comedy bit, not a peer-reviewed medical experiment. We shouldn’t have to explain the joke, but the irony is that Kimmel and Hillary jabbed the conspiracy theorists for dealing in silly tests to prove Hillary’s physical weaknesses by asking her to undergo a silly test, the pickle jar, which is ultimately an irrelevant metric of 1) physical health, and 2) presidential qualifications. In reaction to Kimmel’s satirizing of these silly tests, Jones was totally suckered into responding by jumping on the pickle jar test to prove that Hillary is incapacitated.

Well done, Jimmy and Hillary.

The same day that Jones inaugurated himself as the first Pickle Jar Truther, Donald Trump reacted to Hillary’s prepared remarks about Trump and his fanboys in the “alt-right” movement by tweeting the following:

Hillary Clinton only knows how to make a speech when it is a hit on me. No policy, and always very short (stamina). Media gives her a pass!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2016

Josh Barro hilariously observed, “It is such a window on Trump’s psyche that Hillary gave a 37-minute speech ruthlessly attacking him, and his main objection is it was too short.”

Maybe Trump would’ve preferred Hillary to summarily define Trump and his loyalists as “racists” for an additional 37 minutes? That’s right, Trump inadvertently clamored for a longer speech — a speech about how he’s a race-baiter and a fear-monger — in order to shoehorn into his reaction these insane health conspiracies via his parenthetical “stamina” remark. In other words, Trump affirmed his allegiance to Jones and Jones’ wacky conspiracy theory by interjecting a one-word confirmation, “stamina,” into a tweet about Hillary’s alt-right speech. Her speech was short because she couldn’t handle anything longer than 37 minutes.

Trump, who famously injected himself into the Birther movement, is also attempting to mainstream the entirety of the conspiracy theory fringe and, with it, Alex Jones himself who, like Trump, is nothing more than a wealthy con-man, selling gibberish to deeply impressionable and, perhaps, mentally ill listeners. In doing so, Trump also stupidly called attention to the fact that his own health may or may not be an issue, given that Trump released an extremely suspicious doctor’s letter in lieu of releasing his actual medical records. Of course we have no way to prove that Trump is in poor health, any more so than Trump can prove Hillary’s alleged poor health. But we do, indeed, have evidence pointing to Trump’s obvious paranoia as well as his susceptibility to suggestion — his willingness to accept unfounded nonsense marketed by a professional matchstick man, Jones, who once said the federal government is turning young boys gay via poison juice boxes.

We have to ask then: what’s Trump hiding? For that matter, what’s Jones hiding? Full medical records, please, gentlemen.

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Fear Culture Gone Wild as False Reports of Gunfire Shut Down Another Airport

AlterNet.org - August 29, 2016 - 10:41am
Weeks after false reports of gunfire led to police crackdown at JFK, panic at LAX as cops tackle man in Zorro costume.

False reports of an active shooter Sunday night at the Los Angeles International Airport set off panic and a heavy police crackdown, shutting down traffic and terminals, disrupting hundreds of flights and sending passengers fleeing onto the tarmac.

The false alarm came just weeks after a separate incident at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the cheering and clapping of people watching the Olympics was errantly reported as gunfire. These reports set off a multi-agency law enforcement counter-terror response, with the NYPD aggressively patrolling the terminals.

The police departments of Los Angeles and New York are both recipients of Urban Areas Security Initiative federal funds, which bankroll the militarization of police forces nationwide under the guise of countering terrorism.

The incident at LAX, the seventh busiest airport in the world, started around 8:45pm, when gunfire was reported in terminals 6, 7 and 8. Police proceeded to shut down numerous terminals, as well as nearby traffic, and all flights were halted between 9 and 9:30pm.

“Word spread quickly through the terminals by word-of-mouth, social media, and additional calls were made to Airport Police about an active shooter in other terminals, with some reporting having heard gunshots,” LAX staid in a statement released to the press. “Many passengers and employees evacuated onto the airfield and into the Central Terminal Area roadways,” the airport continued, noting that terminals 1, 4, 6, 7 and 8 were eventually impacted by the upheaval.

Footage posted to social media shows passengers being evacuated onto the tarmac.

Video shows airline passengers evacuated onto Tarmac at LAX following unconfirmed reports of shots fired.https://t.co/0MmbOSKYoa

— ABC News (@ABC) August 29, 2016

In a strange twist, multiple police officers were captured in video footage aggressively arresting a man who appeared to be dressed in a Zorro costume with their guns drawn.

Before things got really crazy - a man in a Zorro costume with a plastic sword was arrested. pic.twitter.com/COdNEIb1pL

— sam macon (@sayczars) August 29, 2016

Witness Paula Leonhauser told local media outlet KTLA, “I turned around and I saw a man in a Zorro costume … greeting what appeared to be his girlfriend … she said to him, 'I have one more bag to get. Wait out here.’ And he turned and went down the sidewalk a little bit... I don’t know whether that is the person who they were frightened of, but what happened next was the police yelled… at all of us to get down and get away.”

At 10:33pm, LAX tweeted that the man in the Zorro costume had been detained, but it was not immediately clear what connection he had to the false alarm.

Individual in Zorro costume has been detained by @LAAirportPD

— LAX Airport (@flyLAXairport) August 29, 2016

Andy Neiman, the commanding officer of media relations for LAPD, later acknowledged that the reports of gunfire were false.

Report of shooting at LAX proven to be LOUD NOISES only No Shots Fired No Injuries investigation continues to locate source

— Andy Neiman (@LAPDNeiman) August 29, 2016

According to LAX, at least 281 arrivals and departures were delayed and 27 flights diverted.

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Shocker: Even Trump Admitted 'Economy Does Better Under Democrats'

AlterNet.org - August 29, 2016 - 10:32am
"We've had some pretty bad disasters under Republicans," Trump told Wolf Blitzer.

Donald Trump has been a Republican for decades. But during an unsually candid interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer in 2004, he admitted that his party fell short in an area that has been central to his campaign—the economy.

"I've been around long now and I think of myself as a young guy, but I'm not so young anymore, and I've been around for a long time and it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans. Now, it shouldn't be that way but if you go back, I mean, it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats," Trump told Blitzer.

"Well it certainly did well under Clinton but I wouldn't suggest it was so great under Jimmy Carter," Blitzer said in response, adding, "If you remember the interest rates." 

Trump agreed.

"I know, I know. Jimmy Carter was not doing the same thing, but certainly we had some very good economies under Democrats as well as Republicans, but we've had some pretty bad disasters under the Republicans," Trump said. 

This comparison between political parties actually resurfaced during the 2016 election when Hillary Clinton made the same claim. In April, Poltifact rated Clinton's statement, "The economy always does better when there's a Democrat in the White House," half true. 

According to Politifact, "Clinton's comments require several caveats.The current growth in the economy under Obama is lower than the Republican average. Factors such as oil prices also reflect the higher GDP growth under Democratic presidents. On top of that, comparing one period of time to another or one president to another can be problematic."

However, Politifact also stated that, "Democratic presidents do have more Gross Domestic Product growth than Republicans, according to quarterly GDP data dating back to 1947, when the data was first tracked."

Watch: 

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Paul Krugman Exposes What's Behind the Cruel Politics Killing Pregnant Women in Texas

AlterNet.org - August 29, 2016 - 9:08am
Trump did not invent mean-spirited policies.

After a great deal of commentary on the presidential election, Paul Krugman takes it local in Monday's column; specifically, to Texas where a deeply upsetting trend is taking hold. The mortality rate for pregnant women in the Lone Star state has doubled in recent years, and is now comparable to places like Russian and the Ukraine, Krugman points out. By way of recent history, the upward trend in deaths happens to coincide with the state's decision to defund Planned Parenthood, and many if its clinics have been forced to close.

"All of this should be seen against the general background of Texas policy, which is extremely hostile toward anything that helps low-income residents," Krugman writes.

It's not just a potential sociopath in the White House; local politicians can also ruin an awful lot of people's lives. Krugman digs into the healthcare question:

This is especially true when it comes to health care. Even before the Affordable Care Act went into effect, there was wide variation in state policies, especially toward the poor and near-poor. Medicaid has always been a joint federal-state program, in which states have considerable leeway about whom to cover. States with consistently conservative governments generally offered benefits to as few people as the law allowed, sometimes only to adults with children in truly dire poverty. States with more liberal governments extended benefits much more widely. These policy differences were one main reason for a huge divergence in the percentage of the population without insurance, with Texas consistently coming in first in that dismal ranking.

And the gaps have only grown wider since Obamacare went into effect, for two reasons. First, the Supreme Court made the federally-funded expansion of Medicaid, a crucial part of the reform, optional at the state level. This should be a no-brainer: If Washington is willing to provide health insurance to many of your state’s residents — and in so doing pump dollars into your state’s economy — why wouldn’t you say yes? But 19 states, Texas among them, are still refusing free money, denying health care to millions.

Beyond this is the question of whether states are trying to make health reform succeed. California — where Democrats are firmly in control, thanks to the GOP’s alienation of minority voters — shows how it’s supposed to work: The state established its own health exchange, carefully promoting and regulating competition, and engaged in outreach to inform the public and encourage enrollment. The result has been dramatic success in holding down costs and reducing the number of uninsured.

No such luck if you happen to live in one of the red states, which have have refused to help their poor and uninsured even when the federal govenment is paying. What accounts for this cruelty? There's always that claim that free market economics is the only thing that helps create jobs, and Krugman does have to concede that Texas has been a leader in job growth. But are policies the reason, or energy and cheap housing, Krugman wonders.

The great red state of Kansas is having no such luck, whereas California is having an employment boom under left-leaning Jerry Brown. Long story short, there's no economic justification for being cruel to the less fortunate. 

"A large part of the answer, surely, is the usual one: It’s about race," Krugman regrets to inform. "Medicaid expansion disproportionately benefits nonwhite Americans; so does spending on public health more generally. And opposition to these programs is concentrated in states where voters in local elections don’t like the idea of helping neighbors who don’t look like them."

Mix in a little misogyny, and you've got Planned Parenthood clinics closing down and pregnant women dying.

Krugman's larger point. Don't stop voting when all the presidential shouting is done, lest the cruelty continue to be carried out in your name.

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Jimmy Fallon Sidesplittingly Roasts Ryan Lochte at VMA Awards

AlterNet.org - August 29, 2016 - 7:48am
Fallon took the event as an opportunity to slam Lochte before he becomes as irrelevant as... music videos.

This may be the lowest point in Ryan Lochte's career yet. After lying about being robbed at gunpoint in Rio and losing several high-end endorsements, the Olympic swimmer has had a tough week. And Fallon's imitation of Lochte at MTV's VMAs last night was just icing on the cake. 

On Sunday night, the "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon took to the stage in Lochte-esque bleach-blonde locks, sporting the swimmer's Olympic sweats. Fallon then proceeded to quote Justin Bieber - and take credit for all the videos nominated.

“Is it too late now to say sorry?” Fallon asked the audience. “Who had the best video of the year? I can't tell you that. They're all so great and talented, I could never choose. I couldn’t tell you even if there was a gun to my head." 

Fallon' biggest reward for the skit may have been Michael Phelps' reaction. 

Beyoncé was great and all, but Michael Phelps' reaction to Jimmy Fallon as Ryan Lochte was the winner for me #VMAs pic.twitter.com/azUDK6Cu81

— Breanne L. Heldman (@BreanneNYC) August 29, 2016

Lochte is still hoping to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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What's New: Critiquing Chavismo's Shortcomings

Socialist Project - August 29, 2016 - 2:00am
21st-century socialism needs to adapt itself to today’s world, with today’s technology, within a globalized economy. This is the reality that we must take into account in order to transform Venezuela. We would not have to close private media, but we can compete against them and produce high-quality television because that’s what people want.
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DJ Khaled, Major Hip Hop Artist with Millions of Fans and Followers, Endorses Hillary Clinton

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2016 - 10:47pm
Khaled told Katie Couric his key issue was inequality.

In an interview with Katie Couric on Yahoo Global News on Friday, hip-hop hitmaker/mogul, Snapchat icon and living breathing internet meme DJ Khaled endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in the 2016 election. DJ Khaled has what Couric called a "huge" following of over 7 million followers on Snapchat.

Khaled, an American Muslim whose family immigrated from Palestine to New Orleans, called out Donald Trump as the candidate of “they,” or those who “don’t want you to win… don’t want you to progress… didn’t want you to prosper,” and indicated that he will “not vote for [Trump]” and will “definitely” vote for Clinton. “The key,” he advised the young people who follow him, “is to stay away from ‘they’” and “to vote to put the people in power that we want to represent us.” For Khaled and for those who share his interest in personal success, opportunity and prosperity, that means Hillary Clinton.

Khaled, who owns hip-hop label We The Best and whose recently released ninth studio album, Major Key, is currently sitting pretty at number six in the Billboard charts, is as well known for his Snapchat profile as for such hits as “All I Do Is Win,” “I’m On One” and the Drake-featuring “For Free” off the current album. Khaled’s Snapchat account features amusing incidents from his personal life, such as a story about getting lost on a jet ski as well as his meme-worthy personal phraseology and success tips, or “major key” alerts.

Khaled says he is motivated by inequality because, as he tells Couric, " I feel they hid the keys from me when I was coming up."

Khaled joins a laundry list of celebrities such as Lena Dunham, George Clooney, Jon Stewart, and Will Smith, who have endorsed Clinton for the presidency or even threatened to move to Canada if Trump is elected.

The full interview covers a range of topics including a breakdown of several of his best Khaled-isms, his new album and his tour supporting it with Beyonce. Watch the entire interview below:

 

 

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Robert Reich: We're Stuck With Trumpism Whether He Wins or Loses

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2016 - 8:46pm
After Trump, our politics seem likely to remain as polarized as before—between establishment and anti-establishment.

I recently got a call from a political analyst in Washington. “Trump is dropping like a stone,” he said, convincingly. “After Election Day, he’s history.”

I think Trump will lose the election, but I doubt he’ll be “history.”

Defeated presidential candidates typically disappear from public view. Think Mitt Romney or Michael Dukakis.

But Donald Trump won’t disappear. Trump needs attention the way normal people need food. 

For starters, he’ll dispute the election results. He’s already warned followers “we better be careful because that election is going to be rigged and I hope the Republicans are watching closely, or it’s going to be taken away from us.“

His first campaign ad, released last week, features an image of a polling site with the word “rigged” flashing onscreen less than two seconds after the spot begins.

Trump won’t have any legal grounds to stand on—this election won’t be a nail-biter like 2000—but his goal won’t be to win in court. It will be to sow enough doubt about the legitimacy of Hillary Clinton’s election that he can continue to feed paranoia on the right.

A recent Pew Research Center survey shows even now, 51 percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters have little or no confidence in the accuracy of the vote count nationally. That’s a big change from supporters of the defeated Republican nominees in 2004 and 2008.

Reportedly, Trump is also considering launching his own media network. He’s already hired two of the nation’s most infamous right-wing fight promoters—Roger Ailes, the founder and former CEO of Fox News, and Stephen Bannon, the pugilistic former head of Breitbart News—who’d take to such an enterprise like alligators to mud.

According to one source, Trump’s rationale is that, “win or lose, we are onto something here. We’ve triggered a base of the population that hasn’t had a voice in a long time.”

Triggered indeed. Many of them angry and bigoted before his campaign, Trump supporters have only become more so under his tutelage.

The poison has even seeped down to America’s children. A Southern Poverty Law Center survey of 2,000 school teachers recently found Trump’s campaign producing an “alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color” and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom. “Teachers have noted an increase in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets … on the campaign trail.” 

Most likely to remain after Trump are the economic anxieties Trump exploited. Globalization and technological displacement will continue to rip away the underpinnings of the bottom half of the population, creating fodder for another demagogue. 

The real problem isn’t globalization or technological change per se. It’s that America’s moneyed interests won’t finance policies necessary to reverse their consequences—such as a first-class education for all the nation’s young, wage subsidies that bring all workers up to a livable income, a massive “green” jobs program, and a universal basic income.

Hillary Clinton hasn’t proposed anything remotely on this scale, and House Republicans (who will almost certainly remain in power) wouldn’t go along anyway.

After Trump, our politics seems likely to remain as polarized as before—but divided less between traditional right and left than between establishment and anti-establishment.

Trump will leave the GOP sharply split between its corporate donor class and its working class. Clinton will preside over a party divided only somewhat less dramatically between its own donor class and an increasingly vocal progressive base.

Which raises an intriguing, if unlikely, scenario. What if Trump’s authoritarian populists join with progressive populists to form an anti-establishment third party dedicated to getting big money out of American politics?

The combination could prove an invincible force for wresting back the economy and democracy from the moneyed interests.

It’s not impossible. This has been the strangest election year in modern history, partly because such a large swath of Americans—Republicans, Democrats, and Independents—have concluded the system is rigged in favor of the privileged and powerful.

Trumpism will continue after Trump loses. The open question is whether anything good can be salvaged from its wreckage.

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Is the TPP Falling Apart? Let's Take a Look at Where the 12 Nations Are At

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2016 - 5:16pm
Both Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan recently came out against it.

As the ratification fight intensifies, we're watching closely as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) winds its way through national legislatures across the globe. So grab your popcorn, and let's take a look at where the TPP stands in each country yet to ratify.

United States

In addition to opposition from both major U.S. presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the TPP recently faced two significant setbacks as Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi came out against the deal and House Speaker Paul Ryan deemed it pointless to even bring it up during the Lame Duck session of Congress later this year.

However, President Obama is convinced he's "got the better argument," for this "political football" and is continuing to push hard for TPP ratification, as claims abound that a failure to do so could have costly consequences for the U.S. as a power in the Asian-Pacific region and in the eyes of its partners. He recently put Congress on notice that the TPP is coming, so it looks like we've a major fight ahead of us this fall.

Japan

The new minister of economy, trade and industry, Hiroshige Seko, has not been shy in openly admitting that he wants the TPP ratified as soon as possible and is crossing his fingers for the deal to go through in the U.S. before President Obama leaves office in January. Domestic firms are keen on this prospect, however, not everyone is on the same boat: the deal faces strong opposition in Japan's Tonoku region and from our Fair Deal partners at the Movement for the Internet Active Users.

Vietnam

Not so fast! Before the TPP goes into force, Vietnam must change its labour protection laws upon request of the the Obama administration, which for Vietnam is a big commitment. Failure to do so may result in higher tariffs for Vietnam, which is a little ironic, considering one of the supposed selling points of the TPP is reducing tariffs between countries. How likely is Vietnam to change its provisions and the U.S. to enforce it? Experts are skeptical, judging by both countries' rather unimpressive track records.

Singapore

Singapore has (unsurprisingly) urged the U.S. to maintain its pro-TPP stance (because, well, without the U.S. there’s no TPP) and equally, the U.S. regards Singapore as a "rock solid partner" (touché!). Why so much woo for the deal from this nation? Singapore heavily relies on international trade to thrive economically, as exemplified by their successful bilateral deal with the U.S. which earned both nations a cool couple of billion. Also, Singapore is a strong supporter of the U.S. role in Asia's security and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has raised a red flag over damage to the U.S.-Japan relationship if the deal were to fail.

Brunei

Well, they signed in February and since then things have been rather quiet at this end of the table.

Australia

Malcolm Turnbull’s government is known to be a strong supporter of the TPP. However, the Government's Productivity Commission just released its Trade and Assistance review for 2014/2015 in which they raised serious concerns about the TPP’s provisions related to copyright and the (terrifying) Investors-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism. Additionally, Australia's opposition party, Labor, has put its foot down and come out firmly against ISDS clauses. So it looks like the government faces an uphill fight if it's to ram the TPP through.

New Zealand

This is where the deal was signed on February 4, in the midst of mass protests in downtown Auckland. Unlike a vast majority of American media that has voiced its skepticism on Obama getting the deal through Congress before he leaves, political experts in New Zealand believe there is still plenty of chance for it to go through before then. Why? Because U.S. political analysts have hinted that it could be introduced to Senate and pass with a slim majority. Political experts in this nation are also skeptical on whether Clinton will turn the tables (once again) on the TPP were she to be elected. The speculation continues (sigh

Canada

The rising unpopularity of the deal in Canada may be paving the road to the TPP’s tomb north of the U.S. border. As promised, the government has tasked a cross-party parliamentary committee with hosting a series of nationwide public consultations (check out our reports from Vancouver and Toronto) where people have voiced their concerns and made it clear how disappointed they are in the lack of consultation prior to, or during, the TPP negotiations.

Additionally, the public input submissions for the Standing Committee on International Trade have been extended until the end of October this year. However, Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland has said "there is no rush to ratify the TPP" quoting the fact that no other country has ratified yet (she might have missed Malaysia!) and that we have until 2018 to do so. So we might as well just continue to slowly, but painfully rip off the band aid until then right?

If you're in Canada, make sure to voice your concerns using our Let's Talk TPP tool!

Mexico

The Mexican senate has begun reviewing the TPP, and expect to have an answer regarding ratification by the end of the year. However, once again, the U.S. presidential elections will have a major role on Mexico's next move -- for instance, Trump will not only reject the TPP but has also said he will annul NAFTA and even build a wall on the Mexican border. We remain doubtful that will encourage goodwill in Mexico.

Chile

As of August 17, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had yet to set a date for when it will submit the treaty for parliamentary discussion. Again, its ratification is all dependent on the outcome in the U.S. Some people, like ex-U.S. ambassador to Chile, Gabriel Guerra Mondragón, have deemed the deal dead in the land of the free. However, an advocacy group called "Chile mejor sin el TPP" (Chile better off without the TPP), which has been quite vocal in its opposition to the deal since the beginning, has recently flagged Clinton's and Trump's anti-TPP stances as mere political strategy. And our valiant allies at Derechos Digitales are continuing to push hard for Chile to reject this reckless deal.

Peru

Peru recently submitted the TPP to the Congress for approval on July 21 and its Prime Minister, Pedro Cateriano, has claimed that the deal is supposedly key to the development of the country. The newly elected president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, said he will sign the deal once it’s been approved by Congress, which could tentatively happen by the end of the year. So it looks like Peru is ready to dive in, head first.

A New Player?

The Philippines has shown interest in the joining the deal and recently held an informal conversation with (you guessed right!) the U.S. But similarly to Vietnam, it would require constitutional changes for the nation to join. Their timeframe for TPP membership? Uncertain, because so is ratification.

What's the takeaway judging by the current status of the agreement in the 12 nations?

It's well known that without Japan and the U.S. there is no TPP. In order for the TPP to be brought into force, six of the 12 countries will need to have ratified and together those countries must comprise 85 per cent of the total GDP of the 12 original nations that signed the treaty. The U.S. and Japan alone account for nearly 80 per cent of the total GDP of signatories. So that says it all.

But most importantly, what it boils down to is: Will the TPP make its way through the U.S. Congress before Obama steps down? It remains uncertain, very, and that will ultimately have a domino effect on all other nations. We'll be working hard to ensure that as many people as possible have a chance to speak out before and during the lame duck session, and you can be sure that the TPP won’t be getting an easy ride this fall.

Or in other words, as editor of the Financial Times Shawn Donnan, recently said: "The deal [is] not quite a dead duck, but 'a duck on life support.'"

 

 

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Al Gore's Warning for Voters Worried About Climate Change

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2016 - 5:16pm
"Don't vote for a third party," Gore told Think Progress.

Is Al Gore still bitter about his 2000 election loss to George W. Bush? Or just terrified Trump may win? Gore did not attend the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, after remaining silent on his choice for president for much of the primaries. However, in July Gore did tweet:

I am not able to attend this year’s Democratic convention, but I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. (1/3)

— Al Gore (@algore) July 25, 2016

As some Sanders supporters jumped ship to vote Green last month, Gore was brought back to the time third-party voting played a large role in electing Bush.

Gore told Think Progress:

"First of all, I understand their feelings and misgivings. But if they are interested in my personal advice, I am voting for Hillary Clinton. I urge everyone else to do the same. I particularly urge anyone who is concerned about the climate crisis, sees it as the kind of priority that I see it as, to look at the sharp contrast between the solar plan that Secretary Clinton has put forward, and her stated commitment to support the Clean Power Plan, and the contrast between what she has said and is proposing with the statements of the Republican nominee, which give me great concern."

Meanwhile, Jill Stein insists that the Democrats are the problem. According to Stein:

"We're really seeing an energy policy under Obama and the Democrats, so-called 'all of the above,' which has really been worse for the environment than under George Bush. It's really created a situation where the U.S. is now the number one producer of fossil fuels around the world. We can't keep using this failed policy of silencing ourselves with politics of fear."

Yet Stein has nearly no chance of winning the presidency—and a vote for her or any third-party candidate is, realistically speaking, a protest vote. 

"I would also urge them [voters] to look carefully as I know they have, at the consequences of going in another direction for the third or fourth alternative," Al Gore said. "The harsh reality is that we have two principal choices."

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Donald Trump in the Bayou: The Tea Party, a Sinkhole in Louisiana, and the Contradictions of American Political Life

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2016 - 5:10pm
What would Trump mean for the environment?

This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

You might not care to admit it, but there’s a little bit of Donald Trump in all of us. Yes, his curiously insinuating, allusive, and always inflammatory comments—from his invocation of gun owners as the force to deal with a Hillary Clinton presidential victory to his dubbing of “Barack Hussein Obama” as the “founder” of ISIS—are regularly dangerous, remarkably ignorant, and often quite crackpot; yes, he plans to defend the working man by cutting taxes on the ultra-wealthy; yes, he’s left just about every group that ever depended on him holding the bag; yes, we’ve never quite seen such an unfiltered narcissist on the public stage (with the thinnest skin in human history); yes, he’s “unfit” to hold much of anything, no less the presidency; yes, his reported comments on nuclear weapons and their possible uses should make your hair stand on end. But come on, admit it: sometimes, just sometimes, he says something and you go: Oh yeah, right. And maybe it’s just a little too often for comfort.

I know that I, for instance, experience this whenever he points to Hillary Clinton’s role in the disastrous U.S. intervention in Libya. (“We came, we saw, he died,” was the way she summed up that particular triumph, speaking of the death of the autocrat Muammar Qaddafi before his whole country fell to pieces and looted weaponry from his arsenal was shipped to terror groups from the Sinai Peninsula to Nigeria.) I feel it when, responding to 50 Republican national security types who, in an open letter, denounced Trump as potentially “the most reckless president in American history,” he said that “these insiders—along with Hillary Clinton—are the owners of the disastrous decisions to invade Iraq, allow Americans to die in Benghazi, and they are the ones who allowed the rise of ISIS.” You might, it’s true, argue with parts of that formulation, but the crew that signed that letter are indeed a rogue’s gallery when it comes to Washington’s disastrous wars and national security policies of the post-9/11 era. I even feel a hint of it in his comments on Obama’s role in the creation of ISIS. Yes, that claim is genuinely off-the-wall. In withdrawing American troops from Iraq in 2011, Obama was simply following through on an agreement already negotiated by the Bush administration. But it’s also true that George W. Bush & Co. in particular did have a major hand in creating the conditions for ISIS’s predecessor al-Qaeda in Iraq to establish itself and flourish, and that the U.S. military essentially introduced just about the complete leadership of the Islamic State, including its “caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to each other in one of its notorious Iraqi prisons.

In other words, The Donald has rich material to draw upon when it comes to what’s distasteful these days in American life and in the country’s militarized global reach. I mention this only to put you in the mood for the remarkable journey you’ll be taking atTomDispatch today: a piece adapted from Arlie Hochschild’s riveting, soon-to-be-published new book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. It transports you directly into a world where Trump rings far truer, far oftener than in ours, a world where, as John Feffer has recently written, there is a yearning for “simpler solutions... a fundamentalist message that appeals to British nationalists, Trumpian exceptionalists, and Islamic State reactionaries alike.” It’s important to get inside this mindset if you really want to understand the contradictions that now power our increasingly strange American world. —Tom Engelhardt

Donald Trump in the Bayou
The Tea Party, a Sinkhole in Louisiana, and the Contradictions of American Political Life
By Arlie Russell Hochschild

[This essay has been adapted from Arlie Hochschild’s new book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right (The New Press), which will be published on September 6th.]

Sometimes you have to go a long, long way to discover truths that are distinctly close to home. Over the last five years, I’ve done just that—left my home in iconically liberal Berkeley, California, and traveled to the bayous of Tea Party Louisiana to find another America that, as Donald Trump’s presidential bid has made all too clear, couldn’t be closer to home for us all. From those travels, let me offer a kind of real-life parable about a man I came to admire who sums up many of the contradictions of our distinctly Trumpian world.

So come along with me now, as I turn right on Gumbo Street, left on Jambalaya, pass Sauce Piquant Lane, and scattering a cluster of feral cats, park on Crawfish Street, opposite a yellow wooden home by the edge of waters issuing into Bayou Corne, Louisiana. The street is deserted, lawns are high, and branches of Satsuma and grapefruit trees hang low with unpicked fruit. Walking toward me along his driveway is Mike Schaff, a tall, powerfully built, balding man in an orange-and-red striped T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. He’s wearing tan-rimmed glasses and giving a friendly wave.

“Sorry about the grass,” he says as we head inside. “I haven’t kept things up.” On the dining room table, he has set out coffee, cream, sugar, and a jar of homegrown peaches for me to take when I leave. Around the edges of the living and dining rooms are half-filled cardboard packing boxes. The living room carpet is rolled into a corner, revealing a thin, jagged crack across the floor. Mike opens the door of the kitchen to go into his garage. “My gas monitor is here,” he explains. “The company drilled a hole in my garage to see if I had gas under it, and I do; twenty percent higher than normal. I get up nights to check it.” As we sit down to coffee at the small dining room table, Mike says, “It’ll be seven months this Monday and the last five have been the longest in my life.”

After the disaster struck in August 2012, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal issued an emergency evacuation order to all 350 residents of Bayou Corne—a community of homes facing a canal that flows into an exquisite bayou (a river through wetlands) with white egrets, ibis, and spoonbills soaring across the water. When I visited in March 2013, Mike was still living in his ruined home.

“I was just starting life with my new wife, but with the methane gas emissions all around us now, it’s not safe. So my wife has moved back to Alexandria, a hundred and eighteen miles north, and commutes to her job from there. I see her on weekends. The grandkids don’t come either, because what if someone lit a match? The house could blow up. I’m still here to guard the place against a break-in and to keep the other stayers company,” he says, adding after a long pause, “Actually, I don’t want to leave.”

I had come to visit Mike Schaff because he seemed to embody an increasingly visible paradox that had brought me to this heartland of the American right. What would happen, I wondered, if a man who saw “big government” as the main enemy of local community, who felt a visceral dislike of government regulations and celebrated the free market, was suddenly faced with the ruin of his community at the hands of a private company? What if, beyond any doubt, that loss could have been prevented by government regulation?

Because in August 2012, exactly that catastrophe did indeed occur to Mike and his neighbors.

Like many of his conservative white Cajun Catholic neighbors, Mike was a strong Republican and an enthusiastic supporter of the Tea Party. He wanted to strip the federal government to the bone. In his ideal world, the Departments of Interior, Education, Health and Human Services, Social Security, and much of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be gone; as for federal money to the states, much of that, too. The federal government provides 44% of Louisiana’s state budget—$2,400 per person per year—partly for hurricane relief, which Mike welcomes, but partly for Medicaid and, as he explained, “Most recipients could work if they wanted to and honestly, they’d be better off.”

Louisiana is a classic red state. In 2016, it’s ranked the poorest in the nation and the worst as well in education, health, and the overall welfare of its people. It also has the second highest male incidence of cancer and is one of the country’s most polluted states. But voters like Mike have twice elected Governor Bobby Jindal who, during his eight years in office, steadfastly refused Medicaid expansion, cut funding for higher education by 44%, and laid off staff in environmental protection. Since 1976, Louisiana has voted Republican in seven out of ten presidential elections and, according to a May 2016 poll, its residents favor Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by 52% to 36%.

Mike was an intelligent, college-educated man with a sense of stewardship over the land and the waters he loved. Given the ominous crack in his floor and the gas monitor in his garage, could he, I wondered, finally welcome government as a source of help? And had the disaster he faced altered his views of the presidential candidates?

“Alka Seltzer” in the Rain Puddles

The first sign that something was wrong had been a tiny cluster of bubbles on the surface of Bayou Corne’s waters, and then another. Had a gas pipe traversing the bottom of the bayou sprung a leak? A man from the local gas company came out to check and declared the pipes fine. At the time, Mike recalls, “We smelled oil, strong.”

Soon after, he and his neighbors were startled when the earth began to shake. “I was walking in the house when I felt like I was either having a stroke or drunk, ten seconds,” Mike recalls. “My balance went all to hell.”

It was then that he noticed that crack in his living room floor and heard a sound like a thunderclap. A single mother of two living in a mobile home a mile from Bayou Corne thought her washing machine was on, and then remembered it had been broken for months. Lawns started to sag and tilt. Not far from Mike’s home, the earth under the bayou started to tear open, and, as if someone had pulled the plug in a bathtub, the bayou began sucking down brush, water, and pine.

Majestic century-old cypress trees crashed in slow motion and disappeared into the gaping mouth of the sinkhole then forming. Two clean-up workers had cast out booms not far from the sinkhole to contain an area of water shiny with oil. To steady their boat, they tied it to a nearby tree, which then slid into the sinkhole, as did their boat, though both men were rescued.

In the following weeks, pristine swamp forest was replaced by oily sludge as the earth began to leak natural gas. “During a rain, the puddles would shine and bubble, like you’d dropped Alka Seltzer tablets in them,” Mike said. Gradually, gassy sludge infiltrated the aquifer, threatening the local drinking water.

What had caused the sinkhole? The culprit was Texas Brine, a lightly regulated, Houston-based drilling company. It had drilled a hole 5,600 feet beneath the floor of Bayou Corne to mine intensely concentrated salt, which it sold to companies making chlorine. The drill accidently punctured one wall of an underlying geological formation called the Napoleon Salt Dome, three miles wide and a mile deep, sheathed in a layer of oil and natural gas. (One hundred twenty-six such domes lie under Louisiana’s land and water and are often mined for brine, with toxic chemicals sometimes being stored in the resulting cavities.) When the drill accidentally pierced the side of a cavern inside the dome, the wall crumpled under the pressure of surrounding shale, sucking down everything above it.

The sinkhole grew. First, it was the size of one house lot, then five house lots, then the length of Crawfish Street. By 2016, it covered more than 37 acres. The pavement of the main road into and out of Bayou Corne began to sink, too. Levees along the bayou, originally built to contain rising waters in times of flood, also began to go down, threatening to extend the oily sludge over nearby grassland and forest. Meanwhile, shell-shocked evacuees doubled up with family members in spare rooms, campers, and motels, turning to each other for news of the expanding sinkhole.

Environmental Protection: Missing in Action

Mike backs his boat into the canal. I climb in. It sputters to life and putts out into the wider bayou. “Around here you pull up bass, catfish, white perch, crawfish, and sac-a-lait,” he says, “at least we used to.”

Mike was a water baby. He loved to fish and could describe the habits and shapesof a dozen kinds of local fish. He headed for the water as often as he could, although he got little time off. So “environment” wasn’t simply a word to him; it was his passion, his comfort, his way of life.

Mike has long disliked the idea of a strong federal government because “people come to depend on it instead of on each other.” He grew up in a close-knit community not far from Bayou Corne on the Armelise sugarcane plantation, the fifth of seven children of a plumber and a homemaker. As a boy, he tells me, “I went barefoot all summer, and used to shoot crows with my rifle, use the guts for fish bait.” As an adult, he worked as an estimator,measuring and pricing materials used in constructing the gigantic platforms that house oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. As a child of the old South who grew to manhood in an era of big oil, he was for state’s rights and wanted even state government kept to a minimum.

This, however, was the last situation he’d ever imagined being in. “We’re a close community here. We leave our doors unlocked. We help each other rebuild levees during floods. You got the two-beer levee job, or the four-beer one.” He laughs. “We love it here.”

For a man who could lose himself for hours in his garage welding together parts of a two-seater Zenith 701 airplane from a kit, and who described himself as “to myself,” he welcomed the easy sociability of Bayou Corne. It wasn’t the simple absence of government Mike wanted; it was the feeling of being inside a warm, cooperative group. That’s what he thought government replaced: community. And why pay heavy taxes to help the government rob you of what you most prize?

At a distance, we see a sign nailed to the gray trunk of a Tupelo tree: “DANGER, KEEP OUT, HIGHLY FLAMMABLE GAS.” Around it in the water are concentric circles of bubbles, scuttling outward like small bugs. “Methane,” says Mike, matter-of-factly.

By mid-2013, officials had declared Bayou Corne a “sacrifice zone” and most of the 350 residents had fled. A small group of “stayers” like Mike were now criticized by the “leavers” who feared their presence suggested to Texas Brine that “it wasn’t so bad,” and so might lower the price the refugees could set for their suffering.

Everyone knew that the company’s drill had caused the sinkhole, but that didn’t settle the question of blame. To begin with, Texas Brine blamed Mother Nature, claiming (falsely) that earthquakes were natural in the area. Then it blamed its insurers and the company from which it rented space in the dome.

Both those who stayed and those who left were mostly angry at “the government.” For one thing, Governor Bobby Jindal had waited seven months before visiting the victims. And why was his first visit so delayed, he was asked, and why was it announced so abruptly on the morning of a mid-week day when most sinkhole refugees were at work?

Like so many of his neighbors, Mike Schaff had twice voted for Bobby Jindal and, as someone who had worked in oil all his life, approved the governor’s $1.6 billion tax incentive program to lure more of that industry to the state. For three years, it was impossible to tell whether the oil companies had paid a penny to Louisiana since, under Jindal, the job of auditing their payments had been handed over to the Office of Mineral Resources, which has close ties to the industry and between 2010 and 2013 performed no audits at all.

In Louisiana, on-the-books environmental regulations were laxly enforced by conservative state legislators many of whom were oilmen or, like Governor Jindal, took donations from Big Energy. An eye-opening 2003 report from the Inspector General of the EPA ranked Louisiana last in its region when it came to implementing federal environmental mandates. Louisiana’s database on hazardous waste facilities was error-ridden. The state’s Department of Environmental Quality (a title missing the word “protection”) did not know if many of the companies it was supposed to monitor were “in compliance.” Its agents had failed to inspect many plants and even when it did find companies not in compliance with state regulations, it neglected to levy or collect penalties.

The Inspector General was “unable to fully assure the public that Louisiana was operating programs in a way that effectively protects human health and the environment.” According to the state’s own website, 89,787 permits to deposit waste or do other things that affected the environment were requested between January 1967 and July 2015. Of these, only 60—or .07%—were denied.

The Redder the State, the More the Toxic Waste

Louisiana was, it turned out, in good company. A 2012 study by sociologist Arthur O’Connor showed that residents of red states suffer higher rates of industrial pollution than those of blue states. Voters in the 22 states that went Republican in the five presidential elections between 1992 and 2008 live in more polluted environments. And what was true for Red States generally and Louisiana in particular was true for Mike himself. Looking into exposure to toxic waste, my research assistant Rebecca Elliot and I discovered that people who believe Americans “worry too much about the environment,” and that the U.S. already “does enough” to protect that environment were likely to be living in zip codes with high rates of pollution. As a Tea Party member enmeshed in the Bayou Corne sinkhole disaster, Mike was just an exaggerated version of a haunting national story.

Mike wanted to live in a nearly total free-market society. In a way Louisianaalready was exactly that. Government was barely present at all. But how, I wondered, did Mike reconcile his deep love of, and desire to protect, Bayou Corne with his strong dislike of government regulation? As it happened, he did what most of us tend to do when we face a powerful conflict. He jerrybuilt a new world out of desperate beliefs, becoming what he termed a “Tea Party conservationist.”

Seated at his dining room table surrounded by cardboard boxes filled with his belongings, he composed letter after letter of complaint to members of the Louisiana legislature, demanding that they force companies like Texas Brine to pay victims in a timely way, that they not permit storage of hazardous waste in precarious waterways, or again permit drilling in Lake Peigneur, which had suffered a devastating drilling accident in 1980. By August of 2015, he had written 50 of them to state and federal officials. “This is the closest I’ve come to being a tree-hugger,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of the environmentalists I meet are liberal. But I’ve had to do something. This bayou will never be the same.”

As we putted around the bayou, I asked, “What has the federal government done for you that you feel grateful for?”

He paused.

“Hurricane relief,” he finally responded.

He paused again. “The I-10...,” he added, referring to a federally funded freeway.

Another long pause. “Okay, unemployment insurance.” (He had once briefly been on it.)

I ask about the Food and Drug Administration inspectors who check the safety of our food.

“Yeah, that too.”

The military in which he’d enlisted?

“Yeah, okay.”

“Do you know anyone who receives federal government benefits?”

“Oh sure,” he answers. “And I don’t blame them. Most people I know use available government programs, since they paid for part of them. If the programs are there, why not use them?”

And then the conversation continued about how we don’t need government for this, for that, or for the other thing.

Mike and his wife had recently moved from their ruined home near the sinkhole into a large fixer-upper on a canal flowing into Lake Verret, some 15 miles south of Bayou Corne. At nights, he can hear the two-toned calls of tree frogs and toads. He had jacked up the living room floor, redone the bedroom molding, put in a new deck, and set up his airplane-building kit in the garage. A recent tornado had ripped the American flag from a pole on that garage, although it hadn’t harmed the Confederate flag hanging from the porch of his neighbor.

His new home lies near the entrance to the spillway of the magnificent Atchafalaya Basin, an 800,000-acre National Wildlife Refuge—the largest bottomland hardwood swamp in the country—overseen, in part, by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. On my last visit, he took me in his flatboat to fish for perch, pointing out a bald eagle on the bare branch of a tall cypress. “I’ve gone from the frying pan to the fire,” he explained. “They are disposing of millions of gallons of fracking waste—the industry calls it 'produced water'—right here in the Basin. It can contain methanol, chloride, sulphates, and radium. And they’re importing it from Pennsylvania and other fracking sites to go into an injection well near here. Salt can corrode the casing of those wells, and it’s not far from our aquifer.”

A Sinkhole of Pride

Mike loves the waters of Louisiana more than anything in the world. A vote for Hillary Clinton would protect the Clean Water Act, secure the EPA, and ensure that government would continue to act as a counterbalance to the Texas Brines of the nation. But there was one thing more important to Mike than clean water: pride in his people.

He had struggled hard to climb out of the world of a poor plumber’s fifth son, to make it to a salary of $70,000 a year with a company that built oil rigs, to a third and at-last-right wife, and to a home he loved that was now wrecked. At the entrance gate to the middle class, he felt he’d been slapped in the face. For progressive movements from the 1960s on—in support of blacks, women, sexual minorities, immigrants, refugees—the federal government was, he believed, a giant ticket-dispensing machine in an era in which the economy was visiting on middle-class and blue-collar white men the sorts of punishment once more commonly reserved for blacks. Democrats were, he was convinced, continuing to make the government into an instrument of his own marginalization—and media liberals were now ridiculing people like him as ignorant, backward rednecks. Culturally, demographically, economically, and now environmentally, he felt ever more like a stranger in his own land.

It mattered little to him that Donald Trump would not reduce the big government he so fervently wanted cut, or that The Donald was soft on the pro-life, pro-marriage positions he valued, or that he hadn’t uttered a peep about the national debt. None of it mattered because Trump, he felt, would switch off that marginalization machine and restore the honor of his kind of people, of himself. Mike knew that liberals favored care for the environment far more than Republicans, Tea Partiers, or Donald Trump. Yet, despite his lost home in a despoiled land, like others of his older white neighbors back at the Bayou and here in the Basin, Mike was foursquare for Trump; that’s how deeply his pride was injured and a measure of just how much that injury galled him.

What would Trump do to prevent another calamity like Bayou Corne with its methane-drenched mud, its lost forest, its dead fish? He has been vague on many of the policies he might pursue as president, but on one thing he was clear: he would abolish the Environmental Protection Agency.

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The Most Misunderstood Phrase of the Trump Campaign (Video)

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2016 - 4:57pm
"You tell me."

Donald Trump appears to be walking back his controversial immigration stance, which has defined his campaign for the past year. During a Fox News Town Hall with Sean Hannity Wednesday night, the GOP nominee hinted that he was open to changing his previous proposal of a universal deportation force for 11 milion undocumented Americans. 

"You also seem to be indicating there might be something other than 'they have to go back,'" Hannity told Donald Trump, referencing reports that Trump may be softening his plan. 

"We have to follow the laws of our country," Trump told Hannity.

"That means they go back," Hannity said.

"I'll ask the audience," Trump said. "Can we go through a process, or do you think they have to get out?"

The Fox News crowd had mixed reviews. 

"Tell me," Trump continued. "I mean, I don't know. You tell me." 

It's a phrase Trump tosses out a lot: Discussions on everything from Obama's birthplace, to why gays support Clinton, to why Ghazala Khan stayed silent at the DNC all end the same. Either Trump's stumped, or he thinks we are. 

Watch:

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Why Can't Our Economy Promote Equality and Shared Prosperity?

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2016 - 4:53pm
Meet "Take On Wall Street," a grassroots movement preventing America's plunge into plutocracy.

Instead of griping about the greedheads of Wall Street and the rip-off financial system they've hung around our necks—why don't we "Take On Wall Street"?

You don't have to be in "Who's Who" to know what's what. For example, if tiny groups of Wall Street bankers, billionaires and their political puppets are allowed to write the rules that govern our economy and elections, guess what? Only bankers, billionaires and puppets will profit from those rules.

That's exactly why our Land of Opportunity has become today's Land of Inequality. Corporate elites have bought their way into the policy-making backrooms of Washington, where they've rigged the rules to let them feast freely on our jobs, devour our country's wealth and impoverish the middle class.

"Take On Wall Street" is both the name and the feisty attitude of a nationwide campaign that a coalition of grassroots groups has launched to do just that: Take on Wall Street. The coalition, spearheaded by the Communication Workers of America, points out that there is nothing natural or sacred about today's money-grabbing financial complex. Far from sacrosanct, the system of finance that now rules over us has been designed by and for Wall Street speculators, money managers, and big bank flim flammers. So—big surprise—rather than serving our common good, the system is corrupt, routinely serving their uncommon greed at everyone else's expense.

There's good news, however, for a growing grassroots coalition of churches, unions, civil rights groups, citizen activists and many others are organizing and mobilizing us to crash through those closed doors, write our own rules and reverse America's plunge into plutocracy. The "Take On" campaign has the guts and gumption to say enough! Instead of continuing to accept Wall Street's plutocratic perversion of our democracy, We The People can rewrite their rules and reorder their structures so the system serves us.

For starters, the campaign has laid out a five-point people's reform agenda and are now taking it to the countryside to rally the voices, anger, and grassroots power of workers, consumers, communities of color, Main Street, the poor, people of faith... and just plain folks. The coalition is holding information and training sessions to spread the word, forge local coalitions, and learn how we can get right in the face of power to create a fair finance system that works for all. The coalition's structural reforms include:

  • Getting the corrupting cash of corporations and the superrich out of our politics by repealing Citizens United and providing a public system for financing America's elections.
  • Stopping "too big to fail" banks from subsidizing their high-risk speculative gambling with the deposits of us ordinary customers—make them choose to be a consumer bank or a casino, but not both.
  • Institute a tiny "Robin Hood Tax" on Wall Street speculators to discourage their computerized gaming of the system, while also generating hundreds of billions of tax dollars to invest in America's real economy.
  • Restore low-cost, convenient "postal banking" in our Post Offices to serve millions of Americans who're now at the mercy of predatory payday lenders and check-cashing chains.

​There's an old truism about negotiating that says: "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu." The "Take On Wall Street" campaign intends to put you and me—the People—at the table for a change.

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Noam Chomsky Schools Nationalist Attendee at Google Talk, Calls on Audience to Preserve Cultural Wealth

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2016 - 4:44pm
Says Google is a powerful tool to prevent language extinction.

Noam Chomsky has a fairly lukewarm relationship with the tech giant Google. But after voicing concern over the tech giant's role in the secrecy state, Chomsky returned to Google to host a talk on April 8, 2014. 

Chomsky clearly recognizes the value of Google but is constantly wary because of so-called democracy. 

Still, Chomsky considers Google a powerful tool to prevent language extinction and ultimately save cultures. 

"Language is a repository of cultural wealth... a way of understanding and interpreting the world. It carries the wealth of tradition and history, oral history which can be extremely rich... the Bible, for example, for a thousand years that was oral history before anything was written down... and that's all over the world and we're losing those treasures," Chomsky told the audience.

One example was that of the Wampanoag tribe, which was reconstructed and "now has its first native speaker," Chomsky points out. 

"Every time a language disappears [people are] losing their identity. If English disappeared we would lose our cultural identity and that same is true if it's a small group," Chomsky stated. "A language is a repository of cultual wealth."

Watch the video:

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A Guide to the Alt-Right, Modern White Supremacists Bolstering Trump

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2016 - 3:17pm
This social media savvy group skews young, and embraces white ethno-nationalism as a fundamental value.

Background

The Alternative Right is a term coined in 2008 by Richard Bertrand Spencer, who heads the white nationalist think tank known as the National Policy Institute, to describe a loose set of far-right ideals centered on “white identity” and the preservation of “Western civilization.” In 2010, Spencer, who had done stints as an editor of The American Conservative and Taki’s Magazine, launched the Alternative Right blog, where he worked to refine the movement’s ideological tenets.

Spencer describes the Alt Right as a big-tent ideology that blends the ideas of neo-reactionaries (NRx-ers), who advocate a return to an antiquated, pseudo-libertarian government that supports “traditional western civilization”; “archeofuturists,” those who advocate for a return to “traditional values” without jettisoning the advances of society and technology; human biodiversity adherents (HBDers) and “race realists,” people who generally adhere to “scientific racism”; and other extreme-right ideologies. Alt-Right adherents stridently reject egalitarianism and universalism.

At the heart of the Alt-Right is a break with establishment conservatism that favors experimentation with the ideas of the French New Right; libertarian thought as exemplified by former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas); anarcho-capitalism, which advocates individual sovereignty and open markets in place of an organized state; Catholic traditionalism, which seeks a return to Roman Catholicism before the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council; and other ideologies. It is a reaction to the conservative establishment as exemplified by the nomination of Barry Goldwater for the presidency in 1964. According to Spencer, that solidified several aspects of contemporary conservatism, including an emphasis on liberty, freedom, free markets and capitalism. Spencer considers these ideas to be “anti-ideals” and says the Alt-Right is redefining categories for a new kind of conservative.

Spencer describes Alt-Right adherents as younger people, often recent college graduates, who recognize the “uselessness of mainstream conservatism” in what he describes as a “hyper-racialized” world. So it’s no surprise that the movement in 2015 and 2016 concentrated on opposing immigration and the resettlement of Syrian refugees in America. Although such stances align with older forms of white racism, Spencer insists that the Alt-Right is “a liberation from a left-right dialectic.”

The Alt-Right is intimately connected American Identitarianism, a version of an ideology popular in Europe that emphasizes cultural and racial homogeneity within different countries. One difference is that while European Identitarians indict the generation known as the “68ers,” a reference to the left of the 1960s, their American counterparts attack baby boomers, who are presumed to comprise the bulk of the current Republican Party’s base. But the movements on both continents are similar in accusing older conservatives for selling out their countries to foreigners.

Spencer left his Alternative Right blog on Christmas Day 2013 in order to focus on theRadix Journal, an online journal published by the National Policy Institute that promotes the creation of a white ethno-state. Spencer’s abrupt departure, referred to as the “Christmas Day Purge,” left the blog to two fellow white nationalists, Colin Liddell of the United Kingdom and Andy Nowicki, a former college professor. The blog has struggled since then to stay relevant to the white nationalist movement.

Although Spencer has positioned himself as the effective leader of the Alt-Right, other proponents include several well-known names on the far right, including Jared Taylor , editor of the American Renaissance racist journal; Greg Johnson of the publishing house Counter-Currents; Matthew Parrott and Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Youth Network; and Mike Enoch, who runs The Right Stuff blog. But the general population of the Alt-Right is composed, by and large, of anonymous youths who were exposed to the movement’s ideas through online message boards like 4chan and 8chan’s /pol/ and Internet platforms like Reddit and Twitter.

The movement is not monolithic. The diversity of far-right ideologies that it includes has resulted in some disagreement with regard to Jews, and whether to blame them for the perceived plight of white culture—a belief that has undergirded many sectors of white nationalism for decades. While some Alt-Right leaders are unquestionably anti-Semitic, others, like Jared Taylor, are not, seeing Jews simply as white people. For his part, Spencer has repeatedly brought in anti-Semites to speak at his events.

In March 2016, for instance, Spencer invited former California State University-Long Beach professor Kevin MacDonald, the author of a trilogy purporting to show that Jews seek to undermine the host Christian societies in which they often live, to speak at an event titled “Identity Politics.” After the event, Spencer stopped just short of questioning the Holocaust, telling a Huffington Post reporter that if it “really happened, then of course it wasn’t justified. If it happened differently than what the story we’ve been told [is], then I think that needs to be let out.”

Social media have been instrumental to the growth of the Alt-Right. Legions of anonymous Twitter users have used the hashtag #AltRight to proliferate their ideas, sometimes successfully pushing them into the political mainstream.

The best example of that is probably the term “cuckservative”—a combination of “cuckold” and “conservative,” coined to castigate Republican politicians who are seen as traitors to their people who are selling out conservatives with their support for globalism and certain liberal ideas. The phrase has a racist undertone, as some of its backers have suggested, implying that establishment conservatives are like white men who allow black men to sleep with their wives. It received widespread media attention, including, to the delight of Spencer and others, in The Washington Post.

But the Alt-Right has taken on many more issues than that, including issues of high importance to white nationalists like the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S. and Europe in 2015 and 2016, the Black Lives Matter movement and immigration reform. Propaganda campaigns also have been organized around hashtags such as #WhiteGenocide, a reference to the myth that white people are being subjected to an orchestrated eradication campaign; #ISaluteWhitePeople; #BoycottStarWarsVII, a racist campaign to protest the black actor who was cast in a lead role in the 2015 “Star Wars” reboot; and #NROrevolt, which arose after the National Review, a journal that has historically served as the gatekeeper to mainstream conservatism and has vehemently opposed Donald Trump’s candidacy for president.

Trump is a hero to the Alt-Right. Through a series of semi-organized campaigns, Alt-Right activists applied the “cuckservative” slur to every major Republican primary candidate except Trump, who regularly rails against “political correctness,” Muslim, immigrants, Mexicans, Chinese and others. They have also worked hard to affix the Alt Right brand to Trump through the use of hashtags and memes.

The movement is not limited to the Internet. At least twice a year, Spencer reserves the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., for a coat-and-tie gathering of his followers. The events are open to reporters but also cloaked in secrecy—attendees regularly use false names or refuse to identify themselves for fear of being labeled as racists. Topics and themes vary. The gathering in March 2015 was titled “Beyond Conservatism” and capitalized on the strength of the “cuckservative” meme. “Identity Politics” in March 2016 focused heavily on the continued success of Trump’s presidential campaign. Each of the speakers featured there addressed a different facet of Trump’s influence of politics and American culture. Kevin MacDonald classified Trump’s rise as part of an implicit white backlash against present-day politics, while Spencer declared that Trump was merely creating a political space, intentionally or not, in which the Alt-Right could grow.

The Alt-Right also has a stable of publishing houses. Most notably, both NPI and Counter-Currents have publishing arms—NPI’s is Washington Summit Press—that focus on historical and contemporary extremists. They distribute the works of such well-known white nationalist writers as Alexander Dugin, Corneliu Codreanu, Guillaume Faye and Alain de Benoist, along with more contemporary authors like F. Roger Devlin, Andy Nowicki, Greg Johnson and Richard Spencer.

In March 2016, Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos wrote an article for the right-wing Breitbart news site that claimed that the Alt-Right was fundamentally about youthful provocation and subversion, rather than simply another “vehicle for the worst dregs of human society: anti-Semites, white supremacists, and other members of the Stormfront set,” a reference to an online forum run by a former Alabama Klan leader. Yiannopoulos, who was instrumental in the online harassment campaign against women in the electronic gaming world known as Gamergate, was not well received. Virtually every mainstream conservative publication, from the National Review to The Federalist, condemned it. And some on the furthest extremes of the Alt-right attacked him as a “Jewish homosexual,” in the words of Andrew Anglin, who runs the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, which Anglin describes as “The World’s Most Visited Alt-Right Web Site.” Anglin said Yiannopoulos had “a history of engaging in sneaky Jewish tricks” and added that “this is how they get you. Clearly, the man seeks to undermine right-wing movements for Jewish purposes.”

That last attack, which came despite the fact that Yiannopoulos has been photographed wearing a necklace with the German Iron Cross symbol, illustrates the diversity of opinion within the Alt-Right world. But, at the end of the day, neo-Nazis like Anglin, coat-and-tie racists like Richard Spencer and Jared Taylor, and oddball figures like Yiannopoulos have more in common, in terms of sharing a vision of society as fundamentally determined by race, than they disagree about.

In their own words:

“Martin Luther King Jr., a fraud and degenerate in his life, has become the symbol and cynosure of White Dispossession and the deconstruction of Occidental civilization. We must overcome!”
—National Policy Institute column, January 2014

“Immigration is a kind a proxy war—and maybe a last stand—for White Americans, who are undergoing a painful recognition that, unless dramatic action is taken, their grandchildren will live in a country that is alien and hostile.”
—National Policy Institute column, February 2014

“Since we are fighting for nothing less than the biological survival of our race, and since the vast bulk of Jews oppose us, we need to err on the side of caution and have no association with Jews whatsoever. Any genuine Jewish well-wishers will understand, since they know what their people are like better than we ever can. Saving our race is something that we will have to do ourselves alone.”
—Greg Johnson, “White Nationalism & Jewish Nationalism,” August 2011

“I oppose the Jewish diaspora in the United States and other white societies. I would like to see the white peoples of the world break the power of the Jewish diaspora and send the Jews to Israel, where they will have to learn how to be a normal nation.”
—Greg Johnson, “White Nationalism & Jewish Nationalism,” August 2011

“At the core of the JI [Jewish Identity] is a malevolent supremacy. This is the manifest in their rejection of outgroups who wish to participate and innovate traditional Jewish cultural activities. Why reject diversity and progress within your community if not a false feeling of ‘betterness’? The root of this problem is, of course, a sexual feeling of inferiority. Mighty psychosexual urges must not be downplayed within group dynamics. As a remedy to this, the JI must be infiltrated with foreign members to procreate with their men and women. That way, the deep psychological psychosis can be treated at the root.”
—“A Critical Analysis of the Jewish Identity,” The Right Stuff, January 2016

“The new left doctrine of racial struggle in favor of non-Whites only, a product of decolonization and the defeat of nationalists by egalitarians after WWII, must be repudiated and Whites must be allowed to take their own side in their affairs. A value system that says Whites are not allowed to have collective interests while literally every other identity group can do so and ought to do so is unacceptable.”
—“The Fight for the Alt-Right: The Rising Tide of Ideological Autism Against Big-Tent Supremacy,” The Right Stuff, January 2016

“This is our home and our kith and kin. Borders matter, identity matters, blood matters, libertarians and their capitalism can move to Somalia if they want to live without rules, in the West we must have standards and enforce them. The ‘freedom’ for other races to move freely into white nations is nonexistent. Stay in your own nations, we don’t want you here.”
—Matthew Heimbach, “I Hate Freedom,” Traditionalist Youth Network, July 7, 2013

“Those who promote miscegenation, usury, or any other forms of racial suicide should be sent to re-education centers, not tolerated.”
—Matthew Heimbach, “I Hate Freedom,” Traditionalist Youth Network, July 7, 2013

 

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The New 'Two-State Solution' That Would Colonize Palestine

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2016 - 3:11pm
A ludicrous blueprint for permanent foreign military domination.

A powerful pro-Israel policy group with ties to the Obama administration and the Israeli military intelligence establishment is promoting plans for a "two state solution" that would subordinate Palestinians to Israeli military rule, supervised by a permanent U.S. military presence. 

The plans have been put together by the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), a New York-based advocacy group founded in 1993 at the behest of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, to promote the Oslo peace process. Shortly after taking office in 2009, President Obama adopted the IPF’s Middle East “roadmap.”

Among the plan’s recommendations are the complete demilitarization of Palestine, despite it being defined as a "sovereign" territory, a comprehensive border surveillance infrastructure, and a permanent U.S. military operation to police the Jordan River.

Security First—for Israel

The Forum’s Two State Security project has commissioned Commanders for Israeli Security (CIS)—a network of over 200 former senior Israel military and intelligence officials—and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) in Washington DC, to produce studies on a two0state solution. The CNAS report, published in May, describes itself as the “product” of “numerous consultations and workshops with former and current Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, and American security officials and negotiators.”

The report’s precondition for its two-state vision is the elimination of Hamas in Gaza, although this is asserted vaguely as follows: 

“Part of the challenge is that transition in Gaza would first require the Palestinian Authority [PA] to reassert governance and security control of Gaza—an issue beyond the scope of this study.”

Within this scheme, the PA is viewed as a proxy force which enforces internal security across the West Bank and Gaza on behalf of Israel.

The internal Palestinian security system would include, the report proposes, three key components: a “non-militarized Palestinian security force (PASF)”; a small “Palestinian counterterrorism (CT) unit trained and equipped to a level analogous with a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit of a large American city”; a “full-spectrum, self-contained Palestinian counter-terrorism system composed of vetted and protected personnel, including intelligence officers”; and joint Israeli-Palestinian operations centres between “Israeli security forces (ISF) and PASF for sharing intelligence, identifying potential targets, and coordinating operations.” 

The latter would provide the main mechanism by which a "sovereign" Palestinian state’s internal security force, the PASF, would function effectively under Israel’s operational control.

Permanent U.S. presence

The report highlights the need for “multiple mechanisms” to resolve disagreements between the PASF and Israeli security forces “through American mediation,” and a final option for Israel in undefined “extreme situations.” 

Israel’s final option involves the power to “act unilaterally to defend itself with the knowledge that it would receive American diplomatic support in the aftermath.”

In other words, the Americans are expected to pretend to be impartial "honest brokers" who would back Israel in any circumstance where Israel felt the need to act unilaterally against Palestinians.

More than that, the report calls for a permanent U.S. military presence in the region. A functional Palestinian security force will require “a long-term commitment and continuous presence of U.S. trainers, mentors, and monitors,” asserts the document.

Also required “would be roving patrols on the patrol roads that include a small American force along the border between Palestine and Jordan” in the form of “a permanent American force, numbering in the low hundreds.” 

The report emphasises that whoever ultimately conducts the patrols—whether Israeli, Jordanian or Palestinian forces—“overall security responsibility in this area would fall to the United States.”

Sovereignty without sovereignty

Perhaps the most absurd proposals involve the insistence that Palestine’s territorial sovereignty over its own airspace and maritime waters must remain subordinated to Israeli control.

Apart from stipulating a novel definition of “sovereign Palestinian airspace” as being limited to “10,000 feet” above mean sea level (the cruising altitude for a commercial flight is a minimum of 28,000 feet), the document goes further in demanding that “Israeli controllers must have the technical capacity to seamlessly take control of Palestinian airspace and air traffic in the event of an air defense emergency.” 

The report goes on to explain: “As in the airspace domain, Palestinians would govern their territorial waters off Gaza, but with certain restrictions that enable Israelis to maintain overall security”—namely, “standard procedures in international waters, where Israel” but not Palestine, “is free to intercept, board, and inspect any ship (in accordance with international law).”

My sovereignty is bigger than yours

At the core of the two-state solution envisaged is a fundamental disparity in military power. While Palestinians are expected to permanently demilitarize as part of “Gaza’s transition back to Palestinian Authority control,” Israel will receive U.S. support to do the very opposite: 

“And as part of the reintegration of Gaza and the West Bank, the government in Gaza would have to agree to dismantle Gaza’s military industry, rocket systems, and offensive military capabilities… We also assume that Israel will maintain (or increase) its existing capabilities to defend itself… In other words, Israel’s current security apparatus will not be replaced, but rather augmented.”

The report proposes a range of regional, border and internal security layers that would provide Israel an unprecedented degree of “invisible” control over Palestinian society.

Among them is the idea of formal mechanisms for joint intelligence, countersmuggling and counterterrorism operations with Jordan, Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

This would accompany new joint internal security institutions “to detect terrorist activity”—including PA-led counterterrorism forces “to raid sites and arrest perpetrators,” along with a new Palestinian policing structure including “stand-alone detention facilities.”

“These five external layers [would] provide Israel great strategic depth,” the report concludes, providing Israel the capacity to militarily withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank—while relying on proxy security arrangement with the PA, Arab regimes and the U.S. to police Palestine. 

The crucial caveat here is that Israeli military rule over Palestine would not end, but simply continue by other less visible means:

“Like any other sovereign state, Israel would retain the ability to respond in extreme circumstances where it deemed it necessary to defend itself, even if it meant violating the sovereignty of another state. But, just as for any other sovereign state, taking such actions would come with political risks and other consequences that would need to be weighed by Israel’s leadership. To mitigate some of those risks, there could be a side agreement between the United States and Israel on the general circumstances under which the United States would diplomatically side with Israel in the event Israel took unilateral action inside Palestine.”

So the IPF is basically proposing that in return for Israel withdrawing its own settler-colonies from Palestine, Palestine itself becomes one giant surrogate-colony of Israel.

Breaking the impasse?

The recurring blind spot of the report’s authors is that the sovereignty offered to Palestinians is completely at odds with the most elementary definition of state sovereignty.

Imagine, for a moment, the following: A think-tank with connections to Hamas produces a report, much like this one. The Hamas-linked report advocates that as a precondition for a two-state solution, the government of Israel led by Benjamin Netanyahu would have to be "somehow" replaced by a more appropriate, less fanatical Israeli partner. 

The new more amenable Israeli partner would need to accept the complete demilitarization of any of its offensive military capabilities underpinning its power to invade Gaza and the West Bank unilaterally. The Israeli state would be expected to install joint operations centers with the Palestinians to identify extremists in Israel who incite to violence and terror, including organizations that actively promote illegal settlement activities.

And the new Palestinian state would require the capacity to conduct unilateral military operations “in extremis,” to be agreed with an external power of their choosing (let’s say, the European Union), which would provide diplomatic cover for any such unilateral Palestinian military action. 

If such a report was ever released, it would firstly be met with laughter, then with derision, and then very quickly after that, horror that such an idea would be taken seriously by Palestinians as a viable path for a peaceful two-state solution.

And that’s exactly how Palestinians would view the latest U.S.-Israeli vision for “peace”—a ludicrous blueprint for permanent foreign military domination that has learned nothing from the impasse of Oslo.

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