Sunday, August 25, 2019

Making Your Bed and Lying: review of “The Great Hack” available now on Netflix



by Roger Herried

The Netflix documentary  about Cambridge Analytica titled "The Great Hack," made in conjunction with the UK's Guardian newspaper, contains a number of important themes worth flagging:

  The loss of privacy due to social media and big data;

  The new age of advanced voter suppression tactics – referred to as weapons grade psychological warfare;

  The mainstream media's role in voter suppression;

  Facebook as God - or did we all miss the moment when it took over?

  Steve Bannon and his chump Trump's crusade to break democracy;

  and our Voter's ranked choice:  What Authoritarian State do you prefer to be trapped within?  


“The Great Hack” uses the personal stories of three different characters, David Carroll, Britney Kaiser and Carole Cadwalladr to develop  Cambridge Analytica's (CA) role in the 2016 Brexit vote and the U.S. 2016 presidential elections.  David Carroll, who teaches computer sciences in the U.S., and concerned that his 8-year-old daughter would likely have 70,000 data points she could not control by the time she reached 18 years of age, filed suit against CA in an attempt to obtain the personal data the company had on him. At the end of the film he bemoans the fact that after suing CA, it refused to give him his data and likely went into bankruptcy rather than releasing the government ordered release. Britney Kaiser, who was an employee of CA, claimed it aimed "weapons grade communications" technology against voters in the US and UK elections, while the glue that brings the CA scandal together comes from the Guardian's investigative journalist, Carole Cadwalladr who spent two years, day and night tracking down the story and its main characters.  


“The Great Hack” is a complicated but well done story about issues intentionally buried by the US media in keeping with  its own historic role of electoral voter suppression since the days of Jim Crow. Central to the film is Carroll's use of the CA scandal to legally obtain a copy of the personal data the company had on him. Yet for most Americans, data privacy is considered a dead cow, or more to the point, it suggests the immoral state of most of the country's media and those who have led us down a path that makes 1984 look like a happy alternative.  


Prior to going bankrupt, CA claimed to have scooped up to 5,000 data points for every U.S. citizen, aiming their weapons grade software system at US and UK citizens, specifically against undecided voters in an attempt to suppress or shift their voting behavior.  At one point, the documentary shows a Washington Post headline from the Ted Cruz campaign claiming to credit the CA system taking him from last place to actually beating Trump in the Iowa primary. The Netflix presentation glosses over this rather quickly, but there is a 30 minute Youtube piece made in Germany by Alexander Nix, the head of CA, that goes into extensive detail about the weapons grade voter profiling system. 



Before delving into the details of the CA system, readers should understand what is meant by a data point. A single data point might be the entire history of every single time anyone uses a debit/credit card to purchase groceries or when and where someone buys gas, dines out, etc.  Such a large data point can then be sorted through by category and used to create a personal map of what that person bought, why and when that can then be integrated back into the digital advertising world growing around us.  And this traces just one data point.



Who is selling and trading these data points?  A decade ago progressives were already alarmed about what data the government had on the public, unaware that corporate data collection and sales go far beyond what the government has. Phone companies, banks and telecommunication companies retain digital copies of everything anyone does today, not just the meta-data.  Google for example has a database listing every single search anyone ever looked at or went to.  That's another data point.   Imagine what PG&E is collecting with their smart meters (another) or Amazon's cute little Ring video security box (another) that EFF recently exposed as having a direct line to law enforcement—without the user's knowledge. 



Thus, David's concern is ultimately supported by Kaiser and Carole, shown giving a TED Talk in Silicon Valley where she confronts  Bay Area tech companies about their role manipulating elections here and around the world with their deployment of big data models.



The documentary itself starts out with a visit to Donald Trump's election headquarters in Texas with images of both Google and Facebook staffers actually embedded along with Trump workers to help coordinate #45’s online ad campaign.  It shows that the Trump campaign spent over a million dollars a day or $80 million in 2016 on social media.  During the election cycle their social media project produced 5.9 million targeted ads compared to 66,000 by his challenger, who spent most of her far bigger budget on TV ads. 





The half hour presentation by CA's Alexander Nix demonstrates specific details showing how behavioral science, data analytics and addressable ad technology, focused down to the individual, were applied during the Cruz and the Trump campaigns.  Nix’s and CA's goal aimed to identify a very tiny public minority undecided about whether to vote or for whom. Cambridge psychologist (Professor Aleksandr Kogen) designed a short Facebook survey called OCEAN or Openness - Conscientiousness - Extroversion - Agreeableness - and Neuroticism specifically used to identify 5 major personality profiles as a way to build personally targeted attack ads once other polling data identified someone as a likely candidate meriting their attention. 



It was this specific OCEAN system that Britany Kaiser identified as the "weapons grade technology" which was use to the key swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania during the 2016 election. A UK government investigation referred to it, claiming that the UK election system was no longer safe. What happened to those databases?  Might they have been sold to the RNC or somebody else? 



To clarify such speculation it may be helpful to understand that CA was started by Steve Bannon, Trump's campaign manager, and funded by the secretive right-wing billionaire, Robert Mercer,  the Breitbart operative who suggested that Putin create a Europe-wide nationalist movement and whose stated agenda has been to break up the United States through social media disinformation.



Why would the U.S. media establishment find it very uncomfortable to share the fact that the U.S. is in the early stages of applying psychological warfare against its own citizens?  Or that CA's profiling model on Facebook is just the tip of this country's historic voter suppression agenda? 




The Washington Post published a couple of documentaries about Facebook's agenda going back to 2013 as well as experiments the social media giant had been conducting internally to see if it could impact the mood of its users.   But the Post has never repeated these bombshell stories!  It should be clear that CA understood that their model doesn't necessarily work on everyone being targeted, but then the full story of CA has yet to be exposed.  



The company itself is a subsidiary of the SCL Group which dates back to the 1990's and has long been in the business of destroying elections in third-world countries for its clients, the US and UK military and intelligence communities.  Here is where the story gets really dirty. Nix goes into detail how the company used fake movements they created and seeded to undermine the elections of Trinidad and Tobago as well as over a dozen other countries.  The Guardian's coverage finally broke out with underground footage of Alexander Nix vaunting his claim for their involvement in election manipulation, and showed shots of them partying along with leaders of the Brexit campaign with Trump during his election eve victory. The Guardian revealed how CA's global skill-set destroying elections helped them come up with the crooked Hillary meme and launch it on the internet. 



Footage shows Zuckerberg prevaricating before Congress while Britany jumps on the phone to and texts a senator an urgent question she thinks needs to be asked at the hearing...


At the film’s climax, with voice-over commentary by Britany it shows what at first appears to be an onscreen file identifying the size of the CA's voter database but another screen does identify the many different databases totaling 150 million Americans that they were using as part of the Trump campaign.  Close-ups review her own life and testimony in the UK and the US, along with shorts of her involvement with the Brexit campaign and explain why she went from working on the Obama election campaign to Trump.  But ultimately the viewer gets the complicated story needing far more attention on this convergence of critical issues.



How much of Facebook's income is made by its monetization of its users' personal data? Britany and David follow up with their own answer to the question, "All of it."





This means we are talking about one of the largest companies in the world actively seeking to play a dominant role in manipulating elections here and around the world via its AI newsfeeds and advertising models, and that the only country in the world that has any regulatory authority over it is the U.S.  


It’s been decades since the McCain Feingold hearings heard testimony by witnesses exposing the fact that the strongest opponent of campaign finance reform is the media and its broadcaster's association, with the election cycle is its biggest cash cow.  


Maybe it’s why we appear to be going through a three-year presidential election cycle because the media has nearly been overtaken monetarily by Facebook and is not yet ready to spill the beans.  At least not yet. 



As the Amazon, the Arctic, and Africa burn, demand Trump take action on climate change before it’s too late at https://petitions.signforgood.com/ActionOnClimateNow?firstName=Cecile&lastName=Leneman&email=cecilep@sonic.net&zip=94704&ask=1&amounts=1,5,25,50,100,250&code=daga&redirect=https%3A%2F%2Fsurveys.signforgood.com%2Fdaga-climate-action%3Fcode%3Djtk799-ja-nd

Tell Congress and ICE to stop the raids that took over 600 people recently in Mississippi at https://action.momsrising.org/sign/ICEraids/?t=6&referring_akid=12720.8086.oTCoTa

 

Saudis are without defense against long range attack on Saudi oil field, which forces end to war on Yemen.

American Medical Assn. quits coalition fighting Medicare for all.
In response to the Trump EPA’s approval of bee-killing pesticide, enviro groups sue.
Local Portland anti-fascists stage counter protest against Proud Boy rally including almost every segment of the community successfully overshadowing the fascist rally.

NYPD fires Pantaleon, the copy who killed Eric Garner five years ago.

Six states sue EPA over its approval of chlorpyrifos pesticide linked to brain damage.

Georgia groups move to block use of unverifiable voting machines.

Scott Warren facing federal charges for aiding migrants says he won’t be deterred.

Private prisons face 87.4 percent financial gap as banks continue to flee.

Austrian parliament commissions study on 5G health effects.

Brussels halts 5 G plans over radiation rules.

5 G rebellion grows as reported by Ecological Options Network.

Tucson becomes 5 G “smart city.”

Sta Cruz, CA puts 5 G on hold.

In Mexico, EZLN announces creation of new rebel municipalities.

States sue to block curbs on legal immigration.

Joe Balash, top Top Trump official leading charge on drilling in the Arctic Refuge,  steps down.

Chicago Trib. publishes results of year-long investigation of cell phones, which emit radiation exceeding government safety levels. Radiofrequency exposure from iPhone 7 measures over the legal safety limit, more than twice what Apple reported to federal regulators from its own “testing.” The FCC is now investigating.

Columbia Gas denied right to take public land for Potomac Pipeline.

Standing Rock Sioux renew the fight against the DAPL.

Tribes win ruling against copper mine on ancestral territory.

Workers seize shipyard that built the Titanic, plan to make renewable energy there.

Water Protectors lock to Enbridge office gates, successfully halt work.

Western Coal takes another hit as appeals court rules against export terminal.

Rural American beings to realize Trump isn’t working for them as Nebraska Farm Bureau makes clear.

Women protest raping spree by burning police station in
Mexico.

Opposition delivers blow to Macri in Agentina’s primary elections.

Japan’s trade negotiator puts the screws to the Trump administration.

Sanders’ co-chair, Nina Turner calls for all Democratic candidates to unite against DNC over #ClimateDebate.

Sunrise protest breaks out after DNC committee votes against holding 2020 #ClimateDebate.

Enviro groups sue to block Trump endangered species act rule changes.

A wave of solidarity with Kashmir spreads world-wide.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

WHY AMERICANS STILL CAN’T SPELL F-A-C-I-S-M



In 2007, during the Bush administration, Naomi Klein published an article on the ten benchmarks of fascism. This is what she wrote at the time (12 years ago): As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.

What are these ten benchmarks?

1, Invoke terrifying internal and external enemies.  And of course, find a catchy name for it: The Global War on Terror for example.  Or an invasion by immigrants who are rapists and murderers.

 

2. Create a gulag (or several gulags). Guantanamo (see above) is only a beginning. It can proliferate to encompass immigrant detention. Now we have immigrant detention facilities and prisons which hold a larger percentage of our population (.7%) than any other country on Earth.

 

3. Develop a thug caste. Well, yes, private security guards in New Orleans in 2005 can proliferate. We now can invoke white supremacists, Proud Boys, and paramilitaries, like the ranchers who invaded the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and the citizens militias who  carry arms  on the U.S. Mexico border threatening the  lives of immigrants. And shooters who target Mexicans in shopping centers in El Paso.

 

4. Establish an internal surveillance system. Google and Facebook now market millions of datapoints to the NSA, boasting they know more about you than you know yourself, can predict your behavior, and influence your decisions.

Protesters face state troopers in Georgia
5. Harass citizens’ groups. The Venezuelan Embassy protectors have been hounded, harassed, and now face prosecution as do the Plowshares who face trial for protesting nuclear weapons of mass destruction.


 6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release. A pattern which applies, among others, to Chelsea Manning,  who served three years in jail, only to be incarcerated again.

7. Target key individuals. Here again we can reference Snowden, Assange, Greenwald, and Manning, among others.

8. Control the press. Chelsea Manning is in prison refusing to testify before the Grand Jury; Edward Snowden is in exile in Russia, and Julian Assange’s health is deteriorating as he awaits probable extradition to the U.S. Assange has made powerful enemies, among them Hilary Clinton, and Lenín Moreno of Ecuador whom he outed in the Panama Papers. And Glenn Greenwald is under threat from Bolsonaro for revealing the conspiracy which denied Lula the presidency. Bolsonaro’s agenda for the Amazon has much to do with the wild fire spreading relentlessly in the Amazon. And the New York Times, the newspaper of record admits to consulting the administration first before printing anything controversial.

9. Refer to dissent as treason. #45 referred to Jews who vote Democratic as treason.

 

10. Suspend the rule of law. The DNC has just voted not to include the Climate Catastrophe in the presidential debates. #45 has imposed sanctions (that is economic warfare) ag. Venezuela and Iran among others, acts in contravention to the UN Nations.

 

Twelve years later, we have an administration all too ready not only to take up where the Bush administration left off, but carry it to its reductio ad absurdum with a dictator who declares himself god and “chosen.”

Yet, Americans still don’t know how to spell F-A-C-I-S- M. They know how to spell White Supremacists, they know how to spell White Nationalists, they know how to spell Far Right, Islamophobia, Proud Boys, Christian Fundamentalists, but a simple 6 letter word (starts with F) eludes them.

How come?  Wrote Chris Hedges: “The corporate elite will work with Trump..[who] has given them enormous tax cuts, [slashed] what is left of government oversight, and…increased the budgets for internal security and the military. For corporate elites it’s far more preferable [than]  having to deal with a Bernie Sanders or an Elizabeth Warren. Capitalists throughout history have backed fascism to thwart even the most tepid reforms of socialism. …The hollowing out of our democratic institutions, which cannot be blamed on Trump, makes tyranny inevitable.”

Americans still can’t spell F-A-C-I-S-M because they’ve been conditioned to shy away from anything that looks “controversial”, because it’s not yet politically correct (unlike Capitalism, the C-word,  of which we are now reading quite a lot) but mainly because to spell F-A-C-I-S-M would be to recognize that they are a defeated people.

 

But once they recognize the name of their enemy, they might learn something about it, the better to counteract it.


Greenland considering buying America.


Demand  Blackrock stop financing destruction of the Amazon at
https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/sign-the-petition-demand-blackrock-stop-financing-amazon-destruction?source=direct_link&referrer=group-amazon-watch

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Blueprint for Xing #45 in 16 days


This week, while the internet kept Americans buzzing, it kept them off the streets. With one poll setting pro-impeachment sentiments at 87%, to the south, people in Puerto Rico showed the U.S. the way. (Perhaps many in Puerto Rico are still without the internet after Hurricane Maria laid the island waste in Sept. 2017.) Millions took to the streets in cities, towns and villages all over Puerto Rico to protest a corrupt, misogynist U.S. stooge Governor. They did not wait for pundits to pontificate, nor did they wait for bought politicians who’ve ceased representing them long ago to take the initiative.

In 16 days Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resigned.


Monsanto, U.S. Top Terminator Corporation


This week, while the USDA opened the door to new, untested, unlabeled GMOs, it’s time to look at Monsanto, the “agricultural company” that killing bees worldwide to control the world’s food supply,.

Founded by a knight of Malta and named for his Sefardi wife, Monsanto Chemical Work’s first product was saccharin, sold to Coca Cola as an artificial sweetener, though the government knew that it was poisonous, and sued to stop its manufacture, it lost in court. Next Monsanto introduced polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) an oil that would not burn, recognized for its damage to reproductive, developmental and immune system disorders. Monsanto was fully aware of its deadly effects but hid them from the public. It’s still present in nearly all animal and human blood and tissue cells across the globe. Its plant outside of East St. Louis is surrounded by the highest fetal death clusters in the state.

 

In the 1930, Monsanto created its first hybrid seed corn, and expanded its production line with detergents, soaps, industrial cleaning products synthetic rubbers and plastics, all of them toxic. In 1940 with uranium research they participated in the Manhattan Project’s first atom bomb, killing hundreds of thousands in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Its pesticides contain dioxin, guilty of poisoning the planet’s food and water. Monsanto failed to reveal that it used dioxin in many of its  products so it wouldn’t have to admit it destroyed the environment.

It’s emblematic of Monsanto’s perseverance that when its partner, Disney attempted first to break down the “House of the Future” Monsanto had constructed, impervious to  torches, jackhammers and chain saws—even wrecking balls bounced off the glass fiber materials, which could only be removed  by choker cables biting it off piece by piece before it could be hauled away.

In the 1960s Monsanto teamed up with Dow to manufacture Agent Orange. contaminating over 3 million people, killing half a million Vietnamese, and thousands of U.S. servicemen who still suffer from it today—those who haven’t died of it. In court Monsanto was allowed to present its own research claiming dioxin was safe, and without any threat to human health, although it knew at the time that dioxin is a killer. In an internal memo it reflected: “Where do we go from here? …Go out of business, sell the hell out of [Agent Orange and dioxin] as long as we can  [and] try to stay in business…”

Partnering with I.G. Farben of Zyklon B fame, Monsanto next introduced aspartame, a neurotoxin.  Its parent G.D. Searle came up with over 100 faked studies claiming aspartame is safe, although the FDA revealed that it causes Alzheimers in humans, and tumors and massive holes in rat brains before killing them.  But Donald Rumsfeld became Monsanto CEO, using his political influence to sway the FDA. When the FDA product investigator resigned to join Searle’s law firm, the investigation was dropped.

The FDA’s attempts to keep Nutrasweet off the market were stalled by Ronald Reagan who fired the investigator, hired a stooge in his place, allowing Nutrasweet to be approved for human consumption. Now it’s present in 5,000 products, including diet and non diet sodas, sport drinks, mints, chewing gum, frozen deserts, cookies, cakes, vitamins, pharmaceuticals, milk drinks, instant tea, coffees, yogurt and BABY FOOD.

In the 90s Monsanto spent millions—the cost of doing business—to dump dioxins, and other carcinogenic products into drinking water systems.  It continued to be sued for birth defects. injury to plant workers and people living in areas where it operates. It developed synthetic bovine growth hormone and sued companies who refused to use it. When farmers refuse to use Monsanto’s terminator seeds, they are sued and driven out of business although their organic farms are contaminated through wind drift.It continued its ecocidal course with GMO round-up-resistant crops such as soy, corn, wheat and canola oil all of which are toxic, all of which are banned in the EU, but not in the U.S. GMOs are engineered to “self-pollinate”. When bees pollinate a GMO plant or flower, they die of poison. To make sure GMOs crash bee populations, Monsanto bought out Beelogics a firm researching bee colony collapse.

 

Monsanto buys up multiple seed companies trying to eliminate all natural food from the market.  But Monsanto is very careful not to serve GMOs to their employees, claiming it “believes in choice.” although poor nations and Americans at large do not share this choice. 

In the 2000s U.S. spends hundred of millions to fund Round up aerial spraying. Fish and animals die by the thousands, human respiratory distress and cancer spike. Nonetheless, now that the FDA has been captured by the industry, spraying continues. Monsanto merges with Pharmacia and Upjohn and rebrands itself as an agricultural company producing safe and nutritious food.  Its Dupont rival, too big to merge with it, agrees they will mutually drop all patent lawsuits, and share GMO technologies for their mutual benefit.  Meanwhile Monsanto files frivolous SLAP lawsuits, against farmers infringing on their terminator seed patents.  The Supreme Court sides with Monsanto each time such suits are appealed. One hundred thousand farmers in India, bankrupted by GMO crops. drink pesticide so their families can inherit their death benefits.

Whole Foods in collusion with Monsanto, crams its shelves with “natural & organic” food loaded with GMOs, pesticides, rBGH, hormones and antibiotics,  delaying as long as possible any mandatory labeling and coming up with deceptive GMO labeling laws to confuse the public, and keep it in the dark.

Monsanto and partners Archer Daniels Midland, Sodexo, and Tyson write and  push the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, giving corporate factory farms a monopoly to police and control all food grown anywhere, including private backyards, penalizing individuals who refuse the use of its chemicals and non-organic fertilizers.

Obama signs the “Continuing Resolution, aka Monsanto Protection Act,” guaranteeing that no federal court can stop it from planting GMO crops anywhere they want.

America happens to be Monsanto’s last stand.  Why?  Because its practices reflect U.S. domestic and foreign policies. But people have begun to notice that beyond its obscene profits, Monsanto has an even bigger fish to fry: the destruction of human health and the entire planet’s environment.

Despite Monsanto’s  appeals, recent court cases have granted cancer victims affected by use of its products millions of dollars compensation.  And people in general have become more aware that they must practice politics while grocery shopping by reading the labels on every packaged product, and by avoiding octopus Amazon’s Whole Foods.

But for people impacted by aerial spraying on industrial farms, and foreign battlefields, such escape is never guaranteed.



Demand FDA ban glyphosate at:
https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/sign-the-petition-regulate-monsanto-pesticides-they-are-literally-killing-us?source=2019Monsanto_PA&referrer=group-progress-america&link_id=0&can_id=447ac5b0d7a5124338b20f2bb702d0f8&email_referrer=email_586323___subject_761376&email_subject=what-did-they-know-and-when-did-they-know-it

Save bees from toxic pesticides at:
https://secure.actblue.com/donate/e_s19_july_pesticidebees_efundraiser_27_c4?express_lane=true&amount=27&refcode=express_lane_SLA


 

If you can't go to D.C. and surround the WH, here are the calls you need please to make NOW. Identify yourself, ask them to support an immediate impeachment  investigation via their subcommittee.

Call to impeach to Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil rights, and Liberties at:
Chair, Steve Cohen, TN 09 (202) 225-3265
Vice Chair: Jamie Raskin, MD-08 (202) 225-5341
Eeric Swalwell, CA-15 (202) 225-5065
Mary Gay Scanlon, PA-05 (202) 225-2011
Madeleine Dean, PA-04 (202) 225-4731
Sylvia R. Garcia, TX-29 (202) 225-1688
Veronica Escobar, TX-16 (202) 225-4831
Sheila Jackson Lee, TX-18 (202) 225-3816

Ask these other Judiciary Committee members to support an immediate impeachment investigation at
Chair: Jerrold Nedler, NY-10 (202) 225-5635
Zoe Lofgren, CA-19 (202) 225-3072
Hank Johnson, GA-04 (202) 225 1605
Ted Deutch, FL-22 (202) 225-3001
Karen Bass, CA-37 (202) 225 7084
Cedric Richmond, LA-02 (202) 225 6636
Hakeem Jeffries, NY-08, 202) 225 5926
David Cicilline, RI-01 (202) 225 4911
Ted Lieu, CA-33 (202) 225 3976
Pramila Jaayapal, WA-07 (202) 225-3106
Val DeMings, FL-10 (202) 225 2176
J. Louis Correa, CA-46 (202) 225 2965
 Joe Neguse, CA-01 (202) 225-2161
Lucy Mcbath, GA-06 (202) 225 4501
Greg Stanton, AZ-09 (202) 225-9888
Debbie Mucarset-Powell, FL-26 (202) 225-2778

Making 24 calls might take less time and money than a trip to D.C.


  
Foreign

Puerto Rico’s Gov. Rosselló steps down as party leader, says he won’t seek re-election, as massive demonstrations block Puerto Rico’s main highway and force him to resign 16 days later.

National strike against the Ecuadorian Government demands Assange’s freedom.

Colombia youth bring lawsuit against the president for failing to protect rights of the Amazon forest, and  of future generations.

Reiwa Shinsengumi make splash in Japanese election debut, giving voice to people with disabilities.

Costa Rica doubles its tropical rainforest in just 30 years.

Iceland to hold memorial for Okjökull glacier lost to climate change.

Taliban claims deal on U.S. troop pullout from Afghanistan is near.

Two dozen world prominent scientists ask UN to make environmental damage in conflict zones a war crime.

Crying “Climate Emergency,” Greenpeace, UK blocks Johnson’s motorcade as it makes its way to Buckingham Palace.

Domestic

In response to backlash, Twitter restores Assange activism account.

Actions to #CloseTheCamps escalate throughout the U.S.

Hundreds return to Fort Sill, OK protesting #45 plan to jail migrant kids at site.

Sen. Jim Inhofe says plans to hold incarcerated migrant children at Fort Sill have been put on hold.

Thanks to anti-ICE activism, First Third Bancorp following B of A, Wells, Chase, Suntrust, and BNP Paribas announces it will no longer finance the private prison and immigrant detention industry.

Activists pressure Wall Street to drop support for Core Civic and Geo Group the two largest private prison companies who stand to lose $1.9 billion in financing.

Hermitage, TN community members form human chain to block ICE from detaining neighbor.

Federal Judge blocks #45’s restrictions on asylum seeking at the border.

House votes to eliminate subminimum wages, one legacy of slavery.

Amazon workers, angry about low pay and sweltering heat, organize.

A federal district court judge declares registration for the draft requirement for men, but not women is unconstitutional.

California becomes latest state to consider a 2020 ballot measure assuring parolee voting rights.

Exeter and Nottingham New Hampshire adopt Right to Climate laws along with a dozen other New Hampshire communities to protect themselves from corporate polluters from hazard waste dumping. 

Toledo Ohio adopts a charter amendment recognizing the rights of Lake Erie, securing the Lake’s right to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.

Environmental activists claim victory after Detroit incinerator closes.

San Juan Islands leads way with six-month educational and outreach program building support for recognizing their Rights of Nature in law to protect the Salish Sea. 

The White Earth Band of Objibwe adopts Right of Manoomin (wild rice) law, guaranteeing its legal rights and  securing on and off reservation protection and the clean, fresh water resources on which it depends.

In California Berkeley leads way banning natural gas hookups.

Oakland’s Police Commission calls for firing five Oakland officers involved in shooting of Joshua Pawlik in 2018.

California legislature votes to ban Ticketmaster scalping software.

House of Reps passes anti-robocall legislation to end harassment and costly calls.

California’s Gov. Newsom calls out Bureau of Land Management for proposing oil and gas development in  California’s Central Coast region in conflict with California policies reducing fossil fuel consumption. 

California and four major automakers uphold fuel efficiency standards in response to #45 fecklessness.

Pushing back against #45’s call for billions of cuts, progressive advocates make case for expanding Social Security during historic House committee hearing.

In Iowa, activists confront 2020 candidates about drones and war making.

Forth Circuit Court of Appeals throws out Atlantic Coast Pipeline permit to continue construction.

Friday, July 19, 2019

This Week's Quiz


WHAT IS A ROCK STAR DOING WEARING A SUIT AND RED POWER TIE?

Impersonating a president of the United States.

WHY IS A PUTZ FRAU (German for lavatory attendant) DOING WITH A FACE LIFT?

Impersonating the Speaker of the House. Brushing impeachment and climate change off the table, whiting out the “Squad” (AOC, Tlaib, Omar, and Pressley) from the (Progressive) map, allocating billions to ICE to Keep Kids in Kages, and showering billions on the Pentagon to insure more waroholism, more bases, and more intense and faster climate collapse.

Our quiz today is designed to point out one important, and entirely overlooked factor governing today’s politics: #45 can’t be touched, no mud slinging, no protestations, no revilements can reach him. We have a rock star phenomenon on our hands, and rock stars are impervious, hailed for racking up their peckerdildos on bedposts. Wasn't it John Lennon who said in an interview: “We’re better than Jesus?” And indeed, his mob views #45 as the Second Coming, and Nuclear war as the long-sought Rapture. Global warming is too slow for them: they're slathering to get there first.

Better'n Jesus
There is a very real chance that we may have to endure the twittering pronouncements of #45 for an additional 4 years.  The U.S. vote has been hacked by Republican-owned voting machines, by the Gov. of Florida who reversed the recent Florida legislation restoring the vote to 4 million ex-felons, not to mention nationwide gerrymandering, a Republican popular sport, recently abetted by the Supreme Court’s decision. And topping the list, keep in mind that rock stars are not like you and me. They are walking mythologies, ambulating myths, this one groupied by MAGA mob hysteria.

In Empire of Illusion: The end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle, Chris Hedges laid down the ground rules of a culture governed by trash TV, by Facebook (which has just been slapped with the highest penalty fine ever, 5 billion U.S. dollars) by a politics no longer predicated on the issues, but rather on appearances, and by a stenographic media which depends on sound bites to convey news-as-entertainment. Call it the vulgarization of everything. And the beastialization of the U.S. presidency, which from the start, was never particularly fastidious about with ethics. Pegged on the over-the-top funeral of Michael Jackson, prominently displaying his gold casket, Hedges’ work foregrounds the simulacrum that passes for Americans’ most popular pursuit.

Putz Frau with Putsch Broom
How to down a rock star, not on electoral terms, and not on Congressional terms, but on a symmetrical playing field, charged with the same level of trashiness, unreason, and obscene display?  That is the question before us all.  To assume that a roster of would-be Democratic candidates or a Congress dominated by a putz frau is an appropriate or symmetrical weapon, is utter nonsense.


Digging up “Treasure” on Treasure Island. Maybe Not So Much

This past weekend, I took in a performance of Treasure Island by  the San  Francisco Mime Troupe, the longest operating (60 years) theater in San Francisco.  The secret to their longevity? The San Francisco Mime Troupe is a political agit prop theater and has been from its inception, passing through various performance styles such as Italian commedia, noir, melodrama, and now docudrama. 


S. F. Mime Troupe presents Treasure Island
Treasure Island, created in 1936,  became a Naval Base in 1941,  for the duration of WWII, before the city turned it over entirely to the Navy. During that time, it was used as a military firing area, for weapons storage, ship and aircraft storage and refueling, illegal dumping, open burning of “debris.” and repairing ships with deck makers painted with radium.  

After the war, the Navy established a training center for dealing with radiological contamination, where the mock ship USS Pendemonium, containing cesium 137, a radiological isotope, served as a tool for Navy students preparing for atomic warfare. Swabs practiced decontamination by scrubbing the decks—just as they continued doing after the Fukushima earthquake and explosions, when U.S. navy vessels became highly contaminated, technology be damned.

When the Navy base closed, San Francisco City legislation required the city to develop Treasure Island for housing low income folks. Today it provides subsidized housing to 1,561 residents of the total 3,129, mostly people of color, who live below the poverty line. Most of them live in Site 12, previously used by the Navy as an ammunition bunker and storage area, which contain such contaminants as polychlorinated biphenyls, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins, arsenic, lead and radium 226. Soil samples contain elevated levels of lead, DDT, dioxins, PCBs, PAHs, motor oil pollutants, arsenic and vanadium. Residents, who complain of serious health problems such as asthma and cancer, are instructed not to dig, garden, or drag soil from their backyards or from the schoolyard or the daycare into to their homes.  

Although contaminants remain, and so-called “clean-up” is ongoing, San Francisco plans up to 8,000 new residences, hotels, shops and offices on Treasure Island, fully aware of its contamination. In fact, far from trustworthy, one of the companies involved in decontamination is Tetra Tech, the very same outfit that committed massive fraud in the botched cleanup of Hunter’s Point Shipyard Superfund Site, yet despite whistleblowers who’ve come forward with reports of similar fraud at Treasure Island, the government refuses to investigate. 

The Mime Troupe's Treasure Island deploys a Byzantine plot to expose government and corporate malfeasance at the expense of the people who actually live there.  It leaves its audience with the final point:  once upon a time the houseless population of San Francisco were low-wage employed people who were able to rent there, and who have been turned out into the streets by rising rents and gentrification, some of them with no where left to go but radiologically contaminated Treasure Island.

But the global picture is far more dire. Wherever the U.S. military keeps its nearly one thousand bases (or leaves  them derelict) all these areas on Earth are highly polluted, home to Guillain Barré syndrome and other ailments for the military unlucky enough to be housed there, and each of those bases contributes to global climate collapse because the military uses 93% of the U.S. total yearly consumption of fossil fuels. The choice is stark: continue war-making and lose life on this planet, or learn to live in peace.

Correction


Following up on our last week’s essay about the radiologically contaminated hot spots in Japan and in the U.S.  µSv/h refers to microSieverts per hour. About 0.12µSv/h is considered the "safe" threshold for ambient radiation by the ICRP (the International Commission on Radiological Protection). That figure translates to ~1 milliSievert per year, which is also considered safe by the ICRP. (After the explosions at Fukushima, the Japanese government raised that threshold to 20 mSv/year, the maximum dosage for nuclear industry workers, in complete indifference to evidence that women are even more susceptible to radiation damage than men, and children even more so, especially female children.)



Below is a list of petitions to end war:  war in Afghanistan, war in  Syria, and to end compulsory registration for the draft. 

https://worldbeyondwar.org/thankyouafghanistan/

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/us-out-of-syria-stop-endless-war?source=ufpj

https://couragetoresist.org/petition-end-draft-registration/




Thanks to pressure by activists, House of Representative passes defense budget including provision banning Easy Fire Nukes and limiting deployment of the weapons ordered by the #45 administration’s Nuclear Posture Review.

UN high commissioner on human rights calls for action to avoid climate apartheid.

Giant cave in week of caves as #45 walks away from citizenship question.

Maine’s Gov. Mills signs law supporting net neutrality and protecting internet users.

Zucked: Federal Trade Commission approves 5 billion fine against Facebook.

South Africa environmental justice advocates sue the government to force it to clean up the air in the Mpumalanga Highveld region.

Thanks to incompetence in high places, #45’s anti-immigrant raids slated for Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, L.A. Miami, New York and San Francisco never happened.

Nearly 800 events nationwide as grassroots organizations and student and labor groups protest concentrations camps on the U.S.-Mexico border.

At Amazon ‘s annual summit, hundreds demand tech giant stop providing “invisible backbone” to #45’s anti-immigrant agenda.

Over 7,000 colleges and universities declare climate emergency and unveil three-point plan to combat it.

Beyond Regulation, a new U.S. campaign calls for moratorium on facial recognition surveillance.

Responding to Pelosi’s putdown, AOC reminds her that public “whatever” is actually called public sentiment.

Beyond Extreme Energy, the activist group makes house call on FERC Commissioner LaFleur.

State Department analyst resigns after his testimony on climate crisis is blocked by White House.

#Lights for Liberty stages a wave of protest from coast to coast.

Bank of America to stop lending to private prison firms. 

Following protests, hotel chains promise they won’t let ICE use their rooms for temporary detention.

Minnesota Amazon workers to state Prime Day strike.

More than 25,000 comments flood New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation in opposition to the Williams Pipeline.

Pipeline fighter Phillip Flagg locks down in path of Mountain Valley Pipeline near Elliston, VA. blocking construction.

15 states have already taken steps to make the Electoral College obsolete. (Where are the other 35?)

Six states, D.C and Puerto Rico are expanding the Earned Income Tax Credits this year.

Detroit’s tiny houses offers solution to homelessness.

San Francisco becomes the 12th entity nationwide to pass a Surveillance Equipment Transparency Ordinance. 

Sanders urges all Dem candidates to reject insurance and big pharma cash.

Rep, Ilhan Omar’s new resolution affirms right to engage in boycotts.

Rep. Al Green warns impeachment can’t wait: “blood of somebody on our hands” if #45 not stopped, puts impeachment on. the table.

Amazon facing Congressional grilling as EU launches antitrust probe of online behemoth.

Dozens arrested as over 1,000 Jewish activists shut down ICE headquarter entrances, demanding closure of detention camps.

Demonstration led by Catholic groups protesting #45 immigration policies at Capaitol sustains 70 arrests. 

Nationwide bus tour pushes for higher taxes on the rich, remind the nation the fight for fair taxation is far from over.

All day standoff by several hundred native Hawaiians protesting construction of new Mauna Kea telescope as violation of sacred site results in no arrests.

House Majority Leader, Stenny Hoyer announced for the first time in history, a stand alone bill to protest the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas driping has come to the House floor  for a vote.

Huge Texas win: a court fight stops Formosa Plastics discharges of plastic pollution into the Gulf's Bay of Lavaca, tops decades of clean-water heroism on the part of advocates. 

World's largest sovereign wealth firm managing part of Norway's assets to ditch fossil fuels.

Border Patrol Agent whistleblower calls migrant prison camp "a scene from a Zombie Apocalypse."

Ilhan Omar introduces pro-BDS resolution, announces visit to Israel.

House orders Pentagon to say if it weaponized ticks and released them.