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Cleveland Protests over Tamir Rice’s Assassination & Final Day of #ThisStopsToday

By: wendydavis Saturday December 20, 2014 10:33 am

The video of 12-year-old child Tamir being blown away in two seconds can be seen here.  Note the question asked by the dispatcher three times: “Is he black or white?”

This page from Cleveland.com has a handy schedule of this weekend’s events; our thanks.  At least 100 Ferguson protestors planned to make the trip; shortstack is already there.  Events started at 10 a.m. with a rally and forum at Cudell Recreation Center, where Tamir was murdered, then there will be a demonstration at 11:30 at the Second District Police Headquarters, 3481 Fulton Road.  The killing of mentally ill Tanesha Anderson by Cleveland Serve and Protect officers will also be highlighted.

 

Mr. Turner: Movies Butchering History

By: Barry Lando Saturday December 20, 2014 8:49 am

This is the scene: The housekeeper, in her fifties or sixties, is fully clothed in a long dark Victorian dress and bonnet. She has her back to the camera, perhaps dusting. In strides a heavy, hulk of a man: a coarse, fleshy face, his straw-like hair askew.

He scowls at the woman, grunts something undecipherable, rams himself against her, pinning her to the wall, lifting her skirts as he does so. He thrusts again. Mutely, she submits to the brutish attack. He grunts and thrusts again. Finally, satiated, he stalks away. Not a word has been uttered. She stares after him, without resentment, shock, or horror–her homely, lined features etched with resignation.  Obviously, this was not the first time Mr.Turner had had humped her; nor would it be the last.

Mr. Turner, directed by Mike Leigh, is by no means a coherent biography, but a gorgeous film that presents brief, often unconnected excerpts from the latter years of the great British painter William Turner. In a way, Leigh’s lush, gauzy, cinematographic techniques, might be compared to the brilliant, infused style that Turner himself developed to create his shimmering watercolor landscapes.

The problem is I don’t know how much of the film to trust.

One of the starkest scenes, the scene that must stick in the mind of the majority of the viewers, is the one described above—where Mr. Turner—the genius in rendering light long before the French impressionists ever came on the scene—brutally attacks and has his way with his housekeeper.

In some way, that shocking scene will forever change the way those who see the film will perceive the painter.

All well and good you may say. Indeed, it’s to the credit of Mike Leigh that he has given us the great Turner with all his warts and blemishes.

Except for the fact that the scene may never have happened. That’s according to Mike Leigh himself.

In a packed question and answer session following a screening of the film in at the Curzon Cinema in London, Leigh elaborated on the great amount of time and effort he and his staff had put into researching Turner’s life.

But when asked for the factual basis for Turner’s sexual attacks on his housekeeper, Leigh’s answer was along these lines: “Well, we knew that she had been living with him as his housekeeper for thirty or forty years, and.. it just felt right.” There was, Leigh admitted, no hard evidence, that Turner had regularly forced himself on the woman.

To Leigh, that seems to make no difference.

As much as I admire the talent of Mike Leigh, I can’t believe the arrogance of that reply.

The film is presented as “An exploration of the last quarter century of the great, if eccentric, British painter J.M.W. Turner’s life.” There is no indication anywhere that portions are made up, or based on what “felt right” to the director.

 

Yet, for millions of people who see the film, that is how they will remember Mr. Turner.

 

Another dramatic scene in the film may never have happened. At one point, Turner has himself lashed to the tall mast of a sailing ship in the midst of a ferocious gale, so he can directly experience a treacherous storm at sea. According to the Tate Britain—which houses a huge collection of Turner’s art—it’s most unlikely that Turner ever attempted that deed.

So, now I’m left with the question about the entire film—what was real and what was invented, because it felt right?

The people who turned out the film try to have it both ways: giving the very clear impression that it is based on fact—otherwise why would anyone go to see it?– …while at the same time adding in riveting scenes that aren’t true. Are we to believe that they don’t have the box office as well as history in mind?

One might wonder how Mike Leigh would respond to some future biographer taking the same liberties with Leigh’s life story as Leigh did with Turner’s.

“Mr. Turner” is only the latest in a long list of films supposedly based “in fact” “in reality”, “on a real event, or “a true story.  Driven by a mix of arrogance and cynicism, the people who makes those films count on the ignorance of the audience to make their fortunes by butchering history.

One such thriller, Argo, revealed how several Americans from the U.S. embassy in Tehran were whisked out of Iran at the height of the hostage crisis, by an incredibly brave and resourceful CIA agent. Except the real hero in the true story was not the CIA agent, but the Canadian ambassador to Iran, who sheltered those Americans and came up with the way to get them out.

But who’s going to pay good money to see a movie about a Canadian diplomat? The cliff-hanging conclusion of the film—without which the picture would never have worked—was also totally invented.

Much more egregious, as far as public policy goes, was Zero Dark Thirty, supposedly a totally factual account of how the U.S. tracked down and finally zapped Osama Bin Laden. One stark, scene showing a prisoner being water-boarded, made it clear that it was that torture that led to the biggest breakthrough in the chase: the CIA discovering the identity of the trusted courier used by Bin Laden, who ultimately led them to Bin Laden himself. According to several sources, including the latest Senate Committee report, torture had nothing to do with that breakthrough.

But try to make that point to Dick “torture works” Cheney or anyone of the hundreds of millions of people who have seen the film.

If you queried the people responsible for that film, they’d probably shrug and say something like, “it just felt right”.

 

Ending the Cold War in the Sonoran Desert

By: jaango Saturday December 20, 2014 7:46 am

Ending the Cold War in the Sonoran Desert

For those among us and who appreciate “good” geology, we know that the Northern Border starts at our  Big Hole and well-known by the many as the Grand Canyon.  And as to the Southern Border, we know too that this ends at the tip of South America. 

Now, having said all this and for ease of understanding, the nexus for the end of this Cold War is America’s Torture Report and our ending for our imperialistic behavior relative to the “opening” of Cuba and for the benefit of future generations, here in the good  old USA as well as for the Cuban citizens themselves.  And with this in mind, a “I get it!” Moment arrived earlier today, Saturday, with a very insightful observation that has been well-articulated by Nancy Le Tourneau when she states:  “Todos Somos Americanos.”

 

And since I don’t do links, given that I’m old-fashioned, her article and titled, “Latin America, Torture and the Cold War” and dated today, can be found at the web site for the political blog that is Political Animal and which is part and parcel to the Washington Monthly Magazine.

 

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/

 

And if you have the time, take a gander!

 Jaango

 

The Anti-Empire Report #135: American Exceptionalism and American Torture

By: GREYDOG Saturday December 20, 2014 7:46 am

By William Blum99GetSmart

American Exceptionalism and American Torture

In 1964, the Brazilian military, in a US-designed coup, overthrew a liberal (not more to the left than that) government and proceeded to rule with an iron fist for the next 21 years. In 1979 the military regime passed an amnesty law blocking the prosecution of its members for torture and other crimes. The amnesty still holds. 1

That’s how they handle such matters in what used to be called The Third World. In the First World, however, they have no need for such legal niceties. In the United States, military torturers and their political godfathers are granted amnesty automatically, simply for being American, solely for belonging to the “Good Guys Club”.

So now, with the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, we have further depressing revelations about US foreign policy. But do Americans and the world need yet another reminder that the United States is a leading practitioner of torture? Yes. The message can not be broadcast too often because the indoctrination of the American people and Americophiles all around the world is so deeply embedded that it takes repeated shocks to the system to dislodge it. No one does brainwashing like the good ol’ Yankee inventors of advertising and public relations. And there is always a new generation just coming of age with stars (and stripes) in their eyes.

The public also has to be reminded yet again that – contrary to what most of the media and Mr. Obama would have us all believe – the president has never actually banned torture per se, despite saying recently that he had “unequivocally banned torture” after taking office. 2

Shortly after Obama’s first inauguration, both he and Leon Panetta, the new Director of the CIA, explicitly stated that “rendition” was not being ended. As the Los Angeles Times reported at the time: “Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.” 3

The English translation of “cooperate” is “torture”. Rendition is simply outsourcing torture. There was no other reason to take prisoners to Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Somalia, Kosovo, or the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, amongst other torture centers employed by the United States. Kosovo and Diego Garcia – both of which house large and very secretive American military bases – if not some of the other locations, may well still be open for torture business, as is the Guantánamo Base in Cuba.

Moreover, the key Executive Order referred to, number 13491, issued January 22, 2009, “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations”, leaves a major loophole. It states repeatedly that humane treatment, including the absence of torture, is applicable only to prisoners detained in an “armed conflict”. Thus, torture by Americans outside an environment of “armed conflict” is not explicitly prohibited. But what about torture within an environment of “counter-terrorism”?

The Executive Order required the CIA to use only the interrogation methods outlined in a revised Army Field Manual. However, using the Army Field Manual as a guide to prisoner treatment and interrogation still allows solitary confinement, perceptual or sensory deprivation, sensory overload, sleep deprivation, the induction of fear and hopelessness, mind-altering drugs, environmental manipulation such as temperature and noise, and stress positions, amongst other charming examples of American Exceptionalism.

After Panetta was questioned by a Senate panel, the New York Times wrote that he had “left open the possibility that the agency could seek permission to use interrogation methods more aggressive than the limited menu that President Obama authorized under new rules … Mr. Panetta also said the agency would continue the Bush administration practice of ‘rendition’ … But he said the agency would refuse to deliver a suspect into the hands of a country known for torture or other actions ‘that violate our human values’.” 4

The last sentence is of course childishly absurd. The countries chosen to receive rendition prisoners were chosen precisely and solely because they were willing and able to torture them.

Four months after Obama and Panetta took office, the New York Times could report that renditions had reached new heights. 5

The present news reports indicate that Washington’s obsession with torture stems from 9/11, to prevent a repetition. The president speaks of “the fearful excesses of the post-9/11 era”. There’s something to that idea, but not a great deal. Torture in America is actually as old as the country. What government has been intimately involved with that horror more than the United States? Teaching it, supplying the manuals, supplying the equipment, creation of international torture centers, kidnaping people to these places, solitary confinement, forced feeding, Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Chicago … Lord forgive us!

In 2011, Brazil instituted a National Truth Commission to officially investigate the crimes of the military government, which came to an end in 1985. But Mr. Obama has in fact rejected calls for a truth commission concerning CIA torture. 6 On June 17 of this year, however, when Vice President Joseph Biden was in Brazil, he gave the Truth Commission 43 State Department cables and reports concerning the Brazilian military regime, including one entitled “Widespread Arrests and Psychophysical Interrogation of Suspected Subversives.” 7

Thus it is that once again the United States of America will not be subjected to any accountability for having broken US laws, international laws, and the fundamental laws of human decency. Obama can expect the same kindness from his successor as he has extended to George W.

“One of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better.” – Barack Obama, written statement issued moments after the Senate report was made public. 8

And if that pile of hypocrisy is not big enough or smelly enough, try adding to it Bidens’ remark re his visit to Brazil: “I hope that in taking steps to come to grips with our past we can find a way to focus on the immense promise of the future.” 9

If the torturers of the Bush and Obama administrations are not held accountable in the United States they must be pursued internationally under the principles of universal jurisdiction.

In 1984, an historic step was taken by the United Nations with the drafting of the “Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” (came into force in 1987, ratified by the United States in 1994). Article 2, section 2 of the Convention states: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Such marvelously clear, unequivocal, and principled language, to set a single standard for a world that makes it increasingly difficult for one to feel proud of humanity. We cannot slide back. If today it’s deemed acceptable to torture the person who supposedly has the vital “ticking-bomb” information needed to save lives, tomorrow it will be acceptable to torture him to learn the identities of his alleged co-conspirators. Would we allow slavery to resume for just a short while to serve some “national emergency” or some other “higher purpose”?

If you open the window of torture, even just a crack, the cold air of the Dark Ages will fill the whole room.

Cuba … at long, long last … maybe …

Hopefully, it’s what it appears to be. Cuba will now be treated by the United States as a country worthy of at least as much respect as Washington offers to its highly oppressive, murdering, torturing allies in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Honduras, Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

It’s a tough decision to normalize relations with a country whose police force murders its own innocent civilians on almost a daily basis, and even more abroad, but Cuba needs to do it. Maybe the Cubans can civilize the Americans a bit.

Let’s hope that America’s terrible economic embargo against the island will go the way of the dinosaurs, and Cuba will be able to demonstrate more than ever what a rational, democratic, socialist society can create. But they must not open the economy for the Yankee blood-suckers to play with as they have all over the world.

And I’ll be able to go to Cuba not as a thief in the night covering my tracks and risking a huge fine.

But with the Republicans taking over Congress next month, all of this may be just a pipe dream.

Barack Obama could have done this six years ago when he took office; or five years ago when American Alan Gross was first arrested and imprisoned in Cuba. It would have been even easier back then, with Obama’s popularity at its height and Congress not as captured by the Know-Nothings as now.

So, Cuba outlasted all the punishment, all the lies, all the insults, all the deprivations, all the murderous sabotage, all the assassination attempts against Fidel, all the policies to isolate the country. But for many years now, it’s the United States that has been isolated in the Western Hemisphere.

Reason Number 13,336 why capitalism will be the death of us.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria – the “superbugs” – if left unchecked, could result in 10 million deaths a year by 2050. New drugs to fight the superbugs are desperately needed. But a panel advising President Obama warned in September that “there isn’t a sufficiently robust pipeline of new drugs to replace the ones rendered ineffective by antibiotic resistance.”

The problem, it appears, is that “Antibiotics generally provide low returns on investment, so they are not a highly attractive area for research and development.” 10

Aha! “Low returns on investment”! What could be simpler to understand? Is it not a concept worth killing and dying for? Just as millions of Americans died in the 20th century so corporations could optimize profits by not protecting the public from tobacco, lead, and asbestos.

Corporations are programmed to optimize profits without regard for the society in which they operate, in much the same way that cancer cells are programmed to proliferate without regard for the health of their host.

Happy New Year. Here’s what you have to look forward to in 2015.

  • January 25: 467 people reported missing from a university in Mexico. US State Department blames Russia.
  • February 1: Military junta overthrows President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. Washington decries the loss of democracy.
  • February 2: US recognizes the new Venezuelan military junta, offers it 50 jet fighters and tanks.
  • February 3: Revolution breaks out in Venezuela endangering the military junta; 40,000 American marines land in Caracas to quell the uprising.
  • February 16: White police officer in Chicago fatally shoots a 6-year old black boy holding a toy gun.
  • March 6: Congress passes a new law which states that to become president of the United States a person must have the surname Bush or Clinton.
  • April 30: The Department of Homeland Security announces plan to record the DNA at birth of every child born in the United States.
  • May 19: The Supreme Court rules that police may search anyone if they have reasonable grounds for believing that the person has pockets.
  • May 27: The Transportation Security Administration declares that all airline passengers must strip completely nude at check-in and remain thus until arriving at their destination.
  • June 6: White police officer in Oklahoma City tasers a 7-month-old black child, claiming the child was holding a gun; the gun turns out to be a rattle.
  • July 19: Two subway trains collide in Manhattan. The United States demands that Moscow explain why there was a Russian citizen in each of the trains.
  • September 5: The Democratic Party changes its name to the Republican Lite Party, and announces the opening of a joint bank account with the Republican Party so that corporate lobbyists need make out only one check.
  • September 12: White police officer in Alabama shoots black newborn, confusing the umbilical cord for a noose.
  • November 16: President Obama announces that Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, North Korea, Sudan, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba all possess weapons of mass destruction; have close ties to the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and the Taliban; are aiding pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine; were involved in 9-11; played a role in the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the attack on Pearl Harbor; are an imminent threat to the United States and all that is decent and holy; and are all “really bad guys”, who even (choke, gasp) use torture!
  • November 21: The United States invades Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, North Korea, Sudan, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba.
  • December 10: Barack Obama is awarded his second Nobel Peace Prize
  • December 11: To celebrate his new peace prize, Obama sends out drones to assassinate wrong-thinking individuals in Somalia, Afghanistan and Yemen.
  • December 13: Members of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi parties, which hold several high positions in the US-supported government, goose-step through the center of Kiev in full German Storm Trooper uniforms, carrying giant swastika flags, shouting “Heil Hitler”, and singing the Horst Wessel song. Not a word of this appears in any American mainstream media.
  • December 15: US Secretary of State warns Russia to stop meddling in Ukraine, accusing Moscow of wanting to re-create the Soviet Union.
  • December 16: White police officer shoots a black 98-year-old man sitting in a wheel chair, claiming the man pointed a rifle at him. The rifle turns out to be a cane.
  • December 28: The Washington Redskins football team finish their season in last place. The White House blames Vladimir Putin.

Notes

  1. Associated Press, December 11, 2014
  2. New York Times, December 11, 2014
  3. Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2009
  4. New York Times, February 6, 2009
  5. New York Times, May 24, 2009
  6. Washington Post, December 11, 2014
  7. National Security Archive’s Brazil Documentation Project
  8. Washington Post, December 10, 2014
  9. See note 7
  10. Washington Post, December 13, 2014

Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Anne Rice

By: dakine01 Saturday December 20, 2014 4:00 am
30/365: time for the Anne Rice books to go. except the withching hour  <3

Stack of Anne Rice books

Please Note: When I began this series, it was to cover a lot of authors whom I have found personally influential, even though this may only be because I enjoyed the stories they have told in their books or short stories. I’m just fortunate enough and well read enough that many of the authors I have personally enjoyed have also been influential on a macro scale as well as micro. rrt

I stopped by my local Barnes & Noble store to kill some time Thursday afternoon and saw where Anne Rice has her first new book for The Vampire Chronicles in ten years. Prince Lestat is the eleventh book in this series.

From the Goodreads.com intro for Rice:

Anne Rice (born Howard Allen Frances O’Brien) is a best-selling American author of gothic, supernatural, historical, erotica, and later religious themed books. Best known for The Vampire Chronicles, her prevailing thematical focus is on love, death, immortality, existentialism, and the human condition. She was married to poet Stan Rice for 41 years until his death in 2002. Her books have sold nearly 100 million copies, making her one of the most widely read authors in modern history.

She uses the pseudonym Anne Rampling for adult-themed fiction (i.e., erotica) and A.N. Roquelaure for fiction featuring sexually explicit sado-masochism.

In a somewhat unusual (for me) situation, the first book of Rice’s that I read just happened to be the first she wrote – Interview with the Vampire. My sister had a copy and I read it some time around ’83 or ’84 and that started the two of us reading and sharing the Vampire and Mayfair Witches books. I have not read all of the Vampire books but besides Interview… I have read The Vampire Lestat, Queen of the Damned, The Tale of the Body Thief, Memnoch the Devil, and Blood and Gold. From the Mayfair Witches I have read The Witching Hour, Lasher, and Taltos.

As much as I have enjoyed the Vampire and Mayfair Witches books my absolute favorite of Rice’s is The Mummy or Ramses the Damned (from Goodreads):

Ramses the Great has reawakened in opulent Edwardian London. Having drunk the elixir of life, he is now Ramses the Damned, doomed forever to wander the earth, desperate to quell hungers that can never be satisfied. He becomes the close companion of a voluptuous heiress, Julie Stratford, but his cursed past again propels him toward disaster. He is tormented by searing memories of his last reawakening, at the behest of Cleopatra, his beloved queen of Egypt. And his intense longing for her, undiminished over the centuries, will force him to commit an act that will place everyone around him in the gravest danger.

From the wiki for The Mummy…:

During the Edwardian period in 1914, a wealthy shipping-magnate-turned-archaeologist, Lawrence Stratford, discovers an unusual tomb. The mummy inside, in its left-behind notes, claims to be the famed pharaoh Ramses II, despite the tomb’s dating only to the first century B.C. (the historical Ramses II died in 1224 B.C.). Before he can fully investigate this claim, Lawrence unexpectedly falls dead, and those around him fear he was the victim of a curse placed on the tomb. Nonetheless, the mummy and other belongings are shipped off to London, and placed on temporary display in Lawrence’s house before they are taken by the British Museum.

Lawrence’s daughter Julie Stratford is the designated heir to her father’s shipping company, as well as the dysfunctional family that surrounds it. Her cousin Henry is an alcoholic and gambling addict who has been draining the family fortune with the aid of his uncle. Julie is engaged to marry Alex Savarell, a viscount and son of Elliott, the current Earl of Rutherford. Although the marriage is a standard alliance between the wealthy Stratfords and an impoverished family of nobles, Alex truly loves Julie, though she is unable to return these feelings.

For all the fanfare Rice’s Vampire and Mayfair Witches books have brought, a couple of her other stand alone books may be the most consequential just because of the topics she covered, even as fiction. Feast of All Saints is set in the pre-Civil War New Orleans and covers “free people of color” – predominantly mixed race. Cry to Heaven is set in 18th Century Venice among the castratii.

I am among the people, including Rice herself, who questioned the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat in Interview with the Vampire yet had to admit that he pulled the role off. I have never made it through Queen of the Damned. She has seven total IMDB writing credits though her wiki does discuss some possible future movies and/or TV productions.

According to the critics and such, Rice’s writing is supposed to contain heavy elements of eroticism of various flavors, especially the books she has written under the names Anne Rampling and A. N. Roquelaure. I have not read any of these books though I have watched the movie for Exit to Eden which I consider a “good” bad movie.

Why is Near Term Human Extinction Inevitable?

By: Robert J. Burrowes Friday December 19, 2014 5:36 pm

If you hadn’t previously heard the expression ‘near term human extinction’, you have now. And you will get used to hearing it soon unless you insulate yourself from reality with greater effectiveness than you are doing by reading this article.

The expression ‘near term human extinction’ is relatively new in the scientific literature but, unlike other truths that have been successfully suppressed by national elites and their corporate media, this one will keep filtering out until you start to hear the expression routinely. Why? Because this truth is simply too big to suppress permanently and the planetary environment delivers its feedback directly to us in the form of catastrophic environmental events, climatic and otherwise, whether or not these are reported by the corporate media.

It is now widely accepted that we are living through the sixth mass extinction in planetary history. The last one occurred 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs vanished. We are now losing biodiversity at a rate similar to that time. But this mass extinction is driven by us. And we will be one of the casualties. The only real debate is when. And this debate is predicated on the unstated and highly problematic assumption that we can continue to avoid nuclear war.

So what does the expression ‘near term human extinction’ mean?  In essence, according to those scientists who use the term, it means that human beings will be extinct by about 2030. For a summary of the evidence of this, with many references, listen to the lecture by Professor Guy McPherson on ‘Climate Collapse and Near Term Human Extinction’.

Why 2030? Because, according to McPherson, the ‘perfect storm’ of environmental assaults that we are now inflicting on the Earth, including the 28 self-reinforcing climate feedback loops that have already been triggered, is so far beyond the Earth’s capacity to absorb, that there will be an ongoing succession of terminal breakdowns of key ecological systems and processes – that is, habitat loss – over the next decade that it will precipitate the demise of homo sapiens sapiens.

Now, it should be pointed out, many scientists disagree with this timeframe. For example, science journalist Scott K. Johnson endeavours to explain ‘How Guy McPherson gets it wrong’. And, just recently, Dr Piers J Sellers, acting director of earth science at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, stated that ‘It is almost certain that we will see a rise of two degrees Celsius before 2100, and a three-degree rise or higher is a possibility. The impacts over such a short period would be huge. The longer we put off corrective action, the more disruptive the outcome is likely to be.’ See ‘Wobbling on Climate Change’.

But even if Johnson and Sellers are right, and McPherson is wrong about the timeframe, there are still many scientists who are keen to point out that we are ongoingly breaching ‘tipping points’ that make human survival increasingly problematic. In 2009, for example, Johan Rockström, James Hansen and colleagues explained that three of nine interlinked planetary boundaries – in relation to climate, biodiversity loss and biogeochemical cycles – had already been overstepped. See ‘A safe operating space for humanity’.

And, in 2012, Prof Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the UK’s premier climate modelling institution, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, warned that emissions are now out of control and we are heading for a world that is 6 degrees hotter; he pointed out that even the International Energy Agency, and conservative organisations like it, are warning that we are on track for a 4 degree increase (on the pre-industrial level) by 2040. He also accused too many climate scientists of keeping quiet about the unrealistic assessments put out by governments. See ‘What They Won’t Tell You About Climate Catastrophe’.

And what these assessments do not necessarily take into account is the synergistic impact of our combined assaults on the environment including those unrelated to the climate. These include the devastating assaults on the environment through military violence (often leaving vast areas uninhabitable), rainforest destruction, industrial farming, mining, commercial fishing and the spreading radioactive contamination from Fukushima. We are also systematically destroying the limited supply of fresh water on the planet which means that water scarcity is becoming a frequent reality for many people and the collapse of hydrological systems is now expected by 2020. Human activity drives 200 species of life (birds, animals, fish, insects) to extinction each day and 80% of the world’s forests and over 90% of the large fish in the ocean are already gone. Despite this readily available information, governments continue to prioritise spending $US2,000,000,000 each day on military violence, the sole purpose of which is to terrorise and kill fellow human beings.

The point is simply this: you are welcome to analyse the scientific evidence for yourself and make your own assessment of the timeframe and the degree of severity of the threat. Perhaps human extinction will not occur until next century. But whether we define ‘near term’ as 2030, 2040 or even next century, human extinction is now a distinct possibility. And after 200,000 years of our species, calling this ‘near term’ seems reasonable.

So is near term human extinction inevitable?

In my view, human extinction is the most likely outcome. But not simply because we are inflicting too many insults on the planetary environment. Extinction is inevitable because of human fear and, specifically, unconscious fear: The fear in ourselves and others that is not experienced consciously but which often drives three capacities that are vitally important in any context: the focus of our attention, our capacity to adequately analyse the evidence (if we get our attention focused on it) and our behaviour in response to this analysis. For example, if you do not know that your fear is making you screen out unpalatable information, then you won’t even notice that you have turned your attention elsewhere and have now forgotten what you just read. Or your fear might prevent you adequately analysing the evidence and/or responding intelligently to it. See ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.

So, if you are one of the people still reading this article, you are probably less frightened than most people. The others gave up before they got to this paragraph. So let me now tell you the primary problem with the fear. It distorts the mental focus, capacity for analysis and the behaviour of national elites, that is, corporate owners and their political, military, media, bureaucratic, academic and judicial lackeys. In essence, corporate profits cannot be maximised in a world where environmental constraints are taken into account, either through sensible consideration or legal requirement, so fear will drive dysfunctional corporate activity irrespective of its environmental cost. And corporate executives will ensure that their political and other lackeys do not get in their way because the fear that drives profit maximizing behaviour is deep-seated and far outweighs any fears in relation to the environment. For a fuller explanation of this point, see ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’.

This is why lobbying elites to change their behaviour in the direction of environmental sustainability (or peace and justice, for that matter) is a complete waste of time. It is their fear that locks them into what they focus on, what they are ‘thinking’ and what they are doing, and arguments, no matter how sensible or evidential, cannot work.

In essence then, it is fear that drives dysfunctional environmental behaviours. And, history tells us, fear will prevent us taking sufficient action in time.

So is there any point doing anything given that we are dead on track for near term human extinction?

Well, if you are like me, you are one of those people who does not intend to go down without a fight. A big fight! So you might consider joining those of us participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’: a fifteen year strategy to address all of our environmental challenges systematically in a way that undermines the elite fear that would destroy us all. You might also like to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

The Flame Tree Project was inspired by that great environmentalist, Mohandas K. Gandhi, who identified the environmental crisis nearly one hundred years ago and, having done so, subsequently lived his own life in extraordinary simplicity and self-reliance, symbolised by his daily spinning of khadi: ‘Earth provides enough for every person’s need but not for every person’s greed.’

Extinction might be howling outside our door but, if you have the courage, you can still fight. There is no downside in trying. But we need to fight strategically so that we defeat elite fear. How long do you want to wait before joining the fight?

***

Robert has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is flametree@riseup.net and his website is here.

Boston Bombing News: Tsarnaev Pretrial

By: jane24 Friday December 19, 2014 4:34 pm

Thursday, 18th. December saw the final pretrial conference in the case of U.S. v Dzhokhar Tsarnaev  at Moakley Courthouse in Boston. The trial is due to begin the first week of January, 2015. This hearing was scheduled for 10.00 am and the defendant arrived nearly four hours previous, escorted by at least three divisions of law enforcement. This was the first time Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has attended a court hearing since his arraignment in July of 2013.

Judy Clarke, Miriam Conrad and David Bruck were present for the defense, and William Weinreb, Aloke Chakravarty, Nadine Pellegrini and Steven Mellin. Donald Cabell was also in court, as were an assorted contingent of law enforcement and the USDA for the State of Massachusetts, Carmen Ortiz. Judge Goerge O’Toole was, of course, presiding. I only observed one of the victims of the bombings in the courtroom, that being Marc Fucarile, but it is possible that more were present. The courtroom, by contrast to previous status conferences, was packed.

Proceedings:

Judge O’Toole’s first thanked both the defense and the prosecution for their work in this case. He then acknowledged the presence of the defendant in the courtroom and emphasized the fact that this indeed was the first time the defendant had been present in court for over a year.

The judge then asked four questions of the defendant and each time Dzhokhar Tsarnaev answered quietly but clearly with no trace of an accent. O’Toole’s first question was if the defendant was satisfied with his choice not to attend previous hearings in accordance with his attorneys’ advice. Tsarnaev answered “Yes Sir” and responded same when O’Toole asked if the defense attorneys had been in regular contact and had kept Tsarnaev “up to date with the case.” Judge O’Toole’s third question for the defendant was as to whether he believed that his attorneys were acting in his best interests. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s response to this was “Yes Sir, very much.” The inflection I detected leads me to believe that this is something the defendant genuinely believes. O’Toole’s final question was as to whether there was anything Tsarnaev would like to discuss privately with the judge and Tsarnaev’s  answer was “No Your Honour.”

David Bruck then requested that it be noted by the court that this final pretrial conference was the first hearing since his arraignment that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had been asked to attend and that had he been asked to attend any hearings prior to this then he would have happy to do so. Bruck also requested that it be acknowledged by the court that the defendant’s choice not to attend many of the hearings in his case was quite within the norm. The judge agreed.

Motions pending were then addressed. The first to be discussed was the most recent motion filed by the defense to request a hearing to address alleged “leaks” from law enforcement to the media. O’Toole stated his concern but dismissed the most recent alleged “leaks” as actually being information which could have been gleaned from other sources. (As did the prosecution’s motion filed in response to the request for a hearing.)

It was noted that Judge Young had scheduled a hearing for the following afternoon to address alleged “leaks” in the case of Khairullozhon Matanov. (It is now my understanding that Judge Young has now requested information, in Matanov’s case, from both the defense and the prosecution as to who had access to the information which was allegedly “leaked.”) Judge O’Toole indicated that he intended to await the other judge’s decision before making his own decision on this matter. (?)

The defense’s second motion for access to Grand Jury instructions was denied.

The third motion to be addressed was that filed by the prosecution to exclude the testimony of a witness for the defense. This witness, Janet Vogelsang, was described as an expert in bio/psycho/social issues. The prosecution’s objection to this witness were voiced, via William Weinreb, in that the prosecution views this witness’s testimony to be likely to amount to “hearsay” and “family lore” rather than sound fact. David Bruck then disputed this and claimed that Vogelsang would be able to provide an accurate account of his client’s life history and added that the prosecution has already received documentation listing the names of those interviewed by Vogelsang in the course of her research.

Most notable to me, at this point, was David Bruck’s observation that if Janet Vogelsang were indeed required to testify, that this would likely not be until April 2015. Would a trial wherein the defense was based solely on mitigation, (as some here continue to insist will be the case), really be likely to continue into a fourth month?

Judge O’Toole stated that he had been aware of an “ongoing dispute” between the defense and the prosecution in regard to this witness. He declined to rule and advised the court that he intended to rule on all remaining pending motions “on the papers.” (To which we are now accustomed!)

The judge then declined to discuss jury selection issues in open court. Following this he referenced the number of sealed filings in this case  and went on to say that he expected to see sealed motions be unsealed as the trial date approaches. Courtroom logistics and decorum were addressed briefly and upcoming deadlines noted.

At the very end of yesterday’s hearing, just before 10.30 am, David Bruck announced that an additional Motion for a Continuance would be filed shortly and that this would be a result of “new information” received from the government just 48 hours previous to the hearing.

General Observations:

The presence of law enforcement outside the courthouse was, as expected, most prominent.

I am not able to estimate the number of people attending yesterday’s hearing as it is my understanding that the majority, which included some of the media, were obliged to observe proceedings via closed circuit television in an overflow room . (Or rooms?)

A small group of protestors/supporters were assembled outside and to the right of the courthouse.

Elena Teyer attended the hearing and prior to this spoke to those assembled outside the courtroom about the discrepancies in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and about the harassment and killing of her son-in-law, Ibragim Todashev, at the hands of the FBI in May 2013. After the hearing concluded and as the defendant, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was being prepared to leave the courtroom, she raised her voice in  a brief message of support and encouragement for Tsarnaev which led to her being removed from the courtroom. I understand that Elena was not detained and was able to speak to the media and others outside the courthouse.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev:

Much comment has been made by the media in regard to the physical appearance of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Unfortunately, (and as was to be expected), much of this “descriptive comment” is inaccurate. The defendant did not appear to be physically strong and appeared to be considerably underweight. Judy Clarke demonstrated concern for her client and put her hand on his shoulder several times during the status conference. Tsarnaev’s hair was indeed long but did not look “unkempt” as has been stated in the media. Lastly, anyone who had a reasonable view of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and claims not to have noticed the marked residual effects of his previous injuries must have, in my opinion, very poor eyesight, an agenda, or both.

 

 

 

Unreality Is Becoming the New Reality

By: Isaiah 88 Friday December 19, 2014 10:57 am

Edward R. Murrow . . .

The obscure we see eventually. The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer.

Americans have never been very good at seeing the completely obvious. It’s a nationwide affliction and it’s getting worse. Untold millions do not realize that democracy is being eliminated, that human rights are being eradicated, that reality itself is being discarded. The Powers-That-Be have concluded that reality is not conducive to corporate profits, it is interfering with Wall Street agendas, it is undermining the ability of corrupt politicians to get reelected, so reality is being downsized, it is being phased out, it is being taken off the table.

Unreality is becoming the new reality.

John Pilger, “The Triumph of Propaganda” . . .

The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government.” It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction, and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.

Was Is Peace / Freedom Is Slavery / Ignorance Is Strength

The propaganda has never been so pervasive, so relentless, so effective. It has always been a weapon of the privileged and the powerful, but media consolidation has been a force multiplier, it has made the propaganda orders of magnitude greater in terms of volume and impact. The desecration of journalism is accelerating, network news has become a degrading spectacle, the deceit broadcast every day on Fox News has never been more blatant.

I can no more describe the blinding hypocrisy of these “journalists” than I can the surface of the sun. Even when I shield my eyes from the glare, a few seconds of it is all I can stand.

Glenn Greenwald . . .

Ever since the torture report was released last week, U.S. television outlets have endlessly featured American torturers and torture proponents. But there was one group that was almost never heard from: the victims of their torture. Whenever America is forced to confront its heinous acts, the central strategy is to disappear the victims, render them invisible. That’s what robs them of their humanity: it’s the process of dehumanization. That, in turns, is what enables American elites first to support atrocities, and then, when forced to reckon with them, tell themselves that – despite some isolated and well-intentioned bad acts – they are still really good, elevated, noble, admirable people.

The authors of the torture report reported the facts, they voiced their concerns, but their voices were small cries against a very large darkness. That darkness is spreading, concealing the horror of all that was done at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo, in the secret prisons of the national security underworld. The truth has been perverted by the media to such an obscene extent that torture has become patriotic. Instead of facing condemnation, the torturers are being honored for their resolve, for their determination to protect the homeland. The desired propaganda effect has been achieved–a significant majority of Americans now support the torture of human beings.

Termination. With extreme prejudice. That is how the Powers-That-Be are treating reality, that is how the police are treating reality, that is how America’s “journalists” are treating reality, that is how they will always treat reality from now on, until the sun goes out.

The High and Mighty among us have noted that the shelf life of their War on Terror is expiring, they’ve noted that the ragtag idiots of ISIS have somehow failed to conquer the entire Middle East, so the strategists of the national security state are busy orchestrating an even bigger and better war than the one that got away, the profiteers are eagerly awaiting it, the media is performing its assigned role as it always does.

Pilger . . .

The suppression of the truth about Ukraine is one of the most complete news blackouts I can remember. The biggest Western military build-up in the Caucasus and eastern Europe since World War II is blacked out. Washington’s secret aid to Kiev and its neo-Nazi brigades, responsible for war crimes against the population of eastern Ukraine, is blacked out. Evidence that contradicts propaganda that Russia was responsible for the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner is blacked out.

You don’t need to be a far left extremist or a nihilist or an anarchist or a member of a subversive labor union or even a dangerously unarmed African-American to suspect that the Powers-That-Be seem bound and determined to provoke a major conflict with America’s newly designated existential enemy–Putin’s Russia.

Not when so much critical information is being blacked out, not when reality itself is being blacked out, not when it’s being redacted and revised and rewritten beyond all recognition. At this rate, it won’t be long until there’s nothing left of reality but fading memories of it, covertly shared in the comment thread of a diary on some low-traffic website somewhere.

Unreality is becoming the new reality.

It’s long past time for Americans to finally see the obvious.

If you aren’t ready to fight back yet, if you aren’t ready to speak truth to power in the streets, I suggest you get ready. Because darkness is heading our way and it’s bringing global conflict with it, it’s bringing economic collapse with it, it’s bringing mass arrests with it, it’s bringing hell on earth with it.

(Image by Joel Franusic, Flickr Creative Commons)