Saturday, May 27, 2017

The New "Four Freedoms" - What They Mean In A Political Tribal Era

It was none other than Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his Four Freedoms speech (technically the 1941 State of the Union address), who proposed four fundamental freedoms that people "everywhere in the world" ought to enjoy:

  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Freedom of worship
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear

None of these should be controversial although (3) has typically been problematic for conservatives who felt Roosevelt went way too far.   Most conservatives, indeed, are adamant that "freedom from want" ought not be in any proper freedom category. In fact, as the AHCA was being pushed through the House one often heard the refrain that "if people can't afford their health care they shouldn't have any."  Alabama's Mo Brooks even insisted that "good people don't get pre-existing conditions".

Given that lack of decent healthcare often precedes serious illness or disability, it also paves the way for want. It means the people affected are not able to work to pay for their lodging or daily bread, and hence reside in a state of continuing want. Do the Reepos, conservatives care? Evidently most do not. Why not? Because as I described in a previous post (May 5); they all adhere to the "loopy, quasi-religious trope that noble and goodly people prosper on account of their 'goodness' and hence can afford their health care because they 'earned' the jobs to pay for it via their righteousness."

If this trope were the least bit valid, and not a canard, then no one would be able to justify a freedom from want - because want is needed to show who the bad guys or non-believers are in relation to the good. (Unwilling to concede that some of the best people can get fatal illnesses - or be seriously disabled  by a terror attack - such as occurred in Manchester. )

Now, a "new Four Freedoms" has been proposed by Karl Albrecht in his brilliant Mensa Bulletin essay 'The New Four Freedoms - Staying Sane In The Post -Rockwell Culture'. (April/ May, p. 21).

Albrecht references that classic American artist Norman Rockwell did a series of four paintings entitled "The Four Freedoms" based on  FDR's 1941 address.  These appeared in a series of Saturday Evening Post issues and are shown in reduced format below (from Albrecht's article):
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Albrecht argues that the Rockwell images embody a critical cultural, iconic reference mark and that "for more than half a century Americans have carried the Rockwell images in their minds but have seen them slowly fade."    He adds that they have been "displaced by the relentless onslaught of modernity".   But I'd also add they've been superseded by a loathsome mutation of conservatism that now sees freedom from want as no longer valid, given it may spawn too many "entitlements".

Meanwhile, "modernity" for Albrecht translates into "television, movies, blaring music virtually everywhere, ever present video screens, relentless commercials, shocking news stories, computers, electronic games and cellphones".  Each of which, he insists, claims part or all of our senses. This leads him to ask if "fifty years from now Rockwell icons will still be a part of American cultural memory". Or, will they have faded from our collective consciousness?

He leans to the latter given the "digital environment we've created is now creating us". Hence he argues we need to define, claim and celebrate "four additional freedoms".   These he posits as follows (ibid.):

- Freedom from media

- Freedom from Commerce

- Freedom from Politics

- Freedom from religion

In respect of freedom from media, Albrecht means "exercising the right to choose when to tune in to the all pervasive electronic culture and when to switch it off.."   He adds that "media addiction or media habituation much more prevalent than techno-advocates realize."

In terms of current explosive events in the 24/7 cable news cycle he's correct. The craven attack at the Ariane Grande concert, for example, immediately sucked up nearly all air time on all media outlets. Not to say the vicious, cowardly act wasn't newsworthy, but rather was it that newsworthy?  Could it not be true that the endless repetition of the victim horrors played right into the terror vermin's hands and gratified the sick bastards? This is the argument of columnist Froma Harrop, who maintains giving so much air time to this terror filth and Isis spawn merely pumps them up to do more attacks. Hence, less attention is better.

Ditto now with the new story on Jared Kushner, seeking "secure back channel communications" with the Russians and conducting confabs with them that were at least "out of the norm" and definitely "violations of the Espionage Act" in the words of security specialist Malcolm Nance. But after you've watched ''x" programs on it - all reciting the same aspects  - you are merely habituating or addicting yourself to redundancy and overkill. Hence, as in the Manchester attack, I've just tuned out and refuse to even post any more about the latest Trump "bombshells" until the subjects are actually frog marched into courts or prisons. (Janice, by contrast, can't get enough and immerses herself in as many news shows as she can. I've even kidded her for being "addicted").

But this is what Albrecht means, when he speaks of freedom from the media. He means the freedom of each of us to liberate ourselves from the 24/7 "latest, latest news" and not feel the least guilty about it.  My niece Vanessa is at the other pole, where she disallows any cable news entering her home, period. She refuses to view "anything negative" because it can affect her  in a negative way. She is at the extreme that Albrecht refers to as a "media vegetarian".  I'm not there yet by I am becoming much more parsimonious in what I watch and when.

"Freedom from commerce" in Albrecht's view means "exempting yourself from the never ending onslaught of selling messages, 24/ 7, everywhere you go"  And indeed, for anyone who's read the book, A Nation Of Salesman: The Tyranny Of The Market And The Subversion Of Culture, this would mark an obvious freedom given we've literally become a nation of hustlers - out to sell, sell, sell.  Hence, no surprise the arguments of author Earl Shorris and Albrecht dovetail in terms of the U.S. evolving into a society where "citizens are automatically deemed to produce and consume at the maximum possible rate". 

Shorris argues this has lead to a cheapened, culturally deprived nation governed more by rank commercialism than higher values. And if one really wants an example of the weasel salesman, Donald Trump is it, now trying to convert the whole nation into a satellite of Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago.  Shorris' other point is because of the supreme emphasis on selling there has been little potential for more meaningful work to open up.  Unless a college grad now is lucky enough to get in with Google, or some research institute , he or she will be reduced to selling crap that most people don't need, can't afford and don't want.

Albrecht also argues - like Shorris - that in the end we "needn't feel guilty about reducing our levels of consumption and discretionary spending: the economy will adjust as it always has."  Besides, pulling the plug on wanton consumption -whether of Starbucks coffee or the latest smart phone -will free the economy up for other pursuits in other directions.   But as Albrecht writes,  this requires:  "we declare our independence from the constant mind programming that urges us to buy more and have more."

"Freedom from politics"  in Albrecht's opinion means "letting go of emotional attachment to any brand name political party, ideology, tribe or hero figure."    He goes on to aver that "many people have deluded themselves into thinking they're independent, self-made thinkers, even though they've voluntarily enslaved themselves to one of the competing political brands".   That may well be so, but alas, it is identification with one or other of those "brands" that is the basis of voting, elections. And there is simply no way one can simply cease voting, unless there is no care concerning the future direction and policies of one's country.

Further, if one is intellectually committed to voting a certain way, whether for a candidate or referendum, it almost always entails some form of ideology. If I vote in a referendum to expand health services in Colorado, such as last year with the "Colorado Care" initiative, I am ineluctably backing an ideology. In this case that all citizens have a right to affordable, accessible health care, one of the fundamental precepts of democratic socialism. If on the other hand my neighbor voted against it, because he believes the market should determine access, that also is ideology, i.e. neoliberalism - or that the market must decide outcomes.

Where Albrecht is more correct is when he writes (ibid.):

"The quintessential irony of American political discourse seems to be the fusion of willful ignorance with absolute conviction."

The "willful ignorance" refers to voters not having even the basics of knowledge before entering the voting booths.  As I's posted before, this willful ignorance has proven costly in our election because too many vote blindly.  More than two of five registered voters can't name their state Senators and representatives (in the House).  These voters, by any standard, ought to be disallowed from pulling a lever. Another one in three are unable to name even four of the Bill of Rights.  4 in 5 aren't aware of "unenumerated rights" - as ensconced in the Ninth amendment, and an equal number can't recite the general welfare clause in the Preamble of the Constitution.  Why is this level of ignorance bad? Because it plays directly into the fake news dynamic and worse, reinforces it on the basis that the same ignorant people buying fake news are often 100 percent convinced they are right, or at least proud in their profound ignorance.

Albrecht refers to the writings of Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton and others such as set out in Jefferson's 'Notes on Virginia" and The Federalist Papers. When one reads those, as he advocates and I do as well, one sees "how far our culture has descended on the monkey bars of intellectual discourse".  With arrogant, dumbass Trumpism now in the ascendant that discourse is right at the bottom rung.

Albrecht concedes that "freedom from religion" likely involves a bigger challenge for some Americans than others. This is because Americans are outliers in their belief vis-a-vis other western developed nations.. The graphic below shows this:
Showing successful societies in relation to degree of religious beliefs (from Free Inquiry, Vol. 29, No. 1 Jan. 2009). Basically, for  18 out of 19 of the most prosperous democracies,  the share of population reporting absolute belief in a god or gods ranges from between as little as a few percent to at most one-half. In some of these nations, mainly in western Europe, two-thirds proclaim to be either atheists or agnostics. Compare this to the outlier U.S. (U) where 83 percent express solid belief- and this is for the patriarchal, personal version of a hyper-engaged deity.

Albrecht argues, and I concur, that because of this excess religiosity and affiliation the U.S. "remains firmly a pre-scientific society, and the popular culture an anti-intellectual one."  This is seen in everything from rejection of current climate science (nearly 50 percent reject it) to Darwinian evolution - which "30 percent of Americans completely reject".  

By contrast, "Americans are willing to embrace supernatural explanations for reality".    Thus, the long, arduous and algorithmic process of evolution didn't produce the different species it was God making everything 6,000 years ago.

Nevertheless, Albrecht displays more optimism than I can summon, as when he writes (ibid.):

"I surmise that about half or more of Americans may be getting close to the emotional tipping point at which they can let go of the last traces of the religious stories and superstitions that were implanted in their brains as impressionable children.

As they reflect on the grandeur of the universe and come to peace with the idea that their own existence is a cosmic crapshoot, they can evolve to a new kind of faith. That is the faith of not knowing."

A bold statement, for sure, but I will be interested to see the replies of other Mensans in future issues of the Bulletin.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Memo To The Sleep Scolds: Not Everyone Needs Eight Hours Of Sleep A Night

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"Oh my god, I'm gonna die if I don't get back to sleep! I need at least six hours!"

Let us agree at the outset that sleep is an absolute necessity and too many Americans are sleep-deprived, don't get enough. The question remains as to why this is so and what factors are responsible. Like the self-proclaimed "longevity scientists" who believe we will have people living to 150 very soon (no thought how they will support themselves) the "sleep scientists" are convinced that they know what is best for the rest of us. In this regard we are told over and over we ALL need at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night or we'll suffer the dire health consequences. No exceptions!

In the latest study emanating from the sleep scolds, we're informed all those who get less than six hours sleep a night and have metabolic syndrome have double the risk of dying "prematurely". They assure us, however, this conclusion is based on "associations" as opposed to actual cause and effect identifications. For those who need to know, "metabolic syndrome" is generally a precursor to diabetes and includes a set of conditions such as: oversized waistline, bad cholesterol (low HDL and high LDL, specifically), high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high blood sugar (serum glucose levels, also a!c)

On yesterday's medical segment of CBS Early Show, Dr. Tara Narulla informed the hosts of this new study, even as Gail King proclaimed she had to be "dead woman walking" - getting barely 4 hours of sleep per night because of her morning gig. But then, King may or may not have metabolic syndrome - which was the central issue. Then there was Charlie Rose asking if naps counted - say in tabulating "total sleeping hours over a 24 hour period"  - to which Narulla said absolutely not. (Since the study was based on night time sleep only).   All of which again led the curious inquirer to ask: Exactly how much sleep is enough - irrespective of whether one has a deleterious health syndrome?

The fact is that getting eight, seven or even six hours of sleep at one go is a myth. Most of the modern sleep "specialists" - and I use that term loosely- appear to have missed the memo that the ancients never slept in eight hour "blocks" i.e. to get all their sleep one time.   The actual, natural pattern of sleep for humans - for most of their history  - at least up to the Industrial Age, was segmented, i.e. broken up into segments.

Enter historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech who - in 2001-  published a seminal paper, drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks.  His book:  At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, published in 2005, unearths more than 500 references to a segmented sleeping pattern - in diaries, court records, medical books and literature, from Homer's Odyssey to an anthropological account of modern tribes in Nigeria. These references describe a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep.   The segmented paradigm can also include naps (also called "siestas" in many countries), which  Charlie Rose is fond of, as well as yours truly.

I don't think I've ever naturally slept a full eight hours unless I was ill, like with the flu (doped up on Nyquil), or had just completed a red  eye flight someplace  - and  slept 8-9 hours straight at the destination  hotel the next night. I simply am unable to sleep one single long stretch - at least without some kind of meds in the picture. (Which I prefer not to take just to sleep)

In his research into "segmented sleep" Ekirch found that references to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th Century. This started among the urban upper classes in northern Europe and over the course of the next 200 years filtered down to the rest of Western society. By the 1920s the idea of a first and second sleep had receded entirely from our social consciousness.  While that may have happened, there has remained a core of us with "ancient" blood in our veins who are incapable of one continuous sleep at night. In my case it's usually 5 1/2 hours then a 1-2 hr. nap (generally after I take my BP med).  Note that even when I don't nap, which admittedly is seldom, I seldom reach six hours of straight sleep.  Even that is often broken up - maybe three hours or so first, then getting up to have some lemon and honey tea and reading the news on my laptop - then back to bed for the rest.  Like Charlie Rose I don't fret because I can take a nap later.

Ekirch attributes the initial shift in sleep patterns to improvements in street lighting, domestic lighting and a surge in coffee houses - which were sometimes open all night. As the night became a place for legitimate activity and as that activity increased, the length of time people could dedicate to rest dwindled.   According to Ekirch in a BBC interview:

"People were becoming increasingly time-conscious and sensitive to efficiency, certainly before the 19th Century. But the industrial revolution intensified that attitude by leaps and bounds."

Indeed it did. People were now bound to a regulated slot of  work time - eight hours but originally more - and were also chained to an efficiency, factory model. (Thank the original "efficiency expert" - Frederick Winslow Taylor).  Thus, there simply didn't exist the latitude for people- workers  to break sleep into segments.  If you had to be up and at 'em by 7 a.m. or so you'd best be in the sack sawing logs by 11 p.m. . Hence, the need to drive the biological sleep "clock" into getting eight hours at one stretch.

Strong evidence of this shifting attitude was contained in a medical journal from 1829 which urged parents to force their children out of a pattern of first and second sleep. It read in part:

"If no disease or accident there intervene, they will need no further repose than that obtained in their first sleep, which custom will have caused to terminate by itself just at the usual hour . And then, if they turn upon their ear to take a second nap, they will be taught to look upon it as an intemperance not at all redounding to their credit. "

Jeezus! An "intemperance"? What a damned scold!

Anyway, while most people seem to have adapted quite well to the new eight-hour sleep model , Ekirch believes many sleeping problems may have roots in the human body's natural preference for segmented sleep as well as the ubiquity of artificial light.  Well, you can count me in that group. (Interestingly, my late father also had those problems - seldom able to sleep more than four hours at night, often awake by 3 a.m. - then napping in the afternoon.)

Ekirch and others conjecture this could be the root of a condition called sleep maintenance insomnia, where people wake during the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.  Well, this is why I often just get up and make some beverage or other - usually after a trip to the bathroom and being unable to get back to zzzzzzzs.

Interestingly, the condition of sleep maintenance insomnia first appears in the literature at the end of the 19th Century, at the same time as accounts of segmented sleep disappear.  Coincidence? Nope, I don't believe so. As the factory age demanded the eight hour sleep pattern to fit into the industrial efficiency mandate, many humans couldn't comply. Not because of not wanting to, but basic biology - they were unable to - and then were forced into taking sleep aids like Ambien.

According to sleep psychologist Gregg Jacobs, also interviewed by the BBC:

"For most of evolution we slept a certain way. Waking up during the night was part of normal human physiology. "

The idea that we must sleep in a consolidated block could be damaging, he added, if it makes people who wake up at night anxious, as this anxiety can itself prohibit sleep and is likely to seep into waking life too. 

In a real sense, this is where I suspect the real risk of early death lies - from heart attack or stroke - because of anxiety in not being able to sleep, and driving up cortisol levels.

Russell Foster, a professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford University, shares this point of view.

"Many people wake up at night and panic. I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern."

But the majority of today's doctors  (like Tara Narulla) still fail to acknowledge that a consolidated eight-hour sleep may be unnatural for some people. They prefer or insist there be a uniform, single sleep standard for all - like they insist everyone eat a uniform single type diet (low in proteins, high in plant based sources) , despite the fact most "natural" foods,  veggies - fruits especially, lack the nutrients they had fifty years ago.

According to Foster:

"Over 30% of the medical problems that doctors are faced with stem directly or indirectly from sleep. But sleep has been ignored in medical training and there are very few centers where sleep is studied,"

Jacobs suggests that the waking period between sleeps, when people were forced into periods of rest and relaxation, could have played an important part in the human capacity to regulate stress naturally.
In many historic accounts, Ekirch found that people used the time to meditate on their dreams. Today, they more often than not latch onto their little electronic devices - about the worst thing they could do.

In Dr, Jacobs' words:

"Today we spend less time doing those things. It's not a coincidence that, in modern life, the number of people who report anxiety, stress, depression, alcoholism and drug abuse has gone up."

 Maybe it's time to get back to a segmented sleep alternative - at least for those who need it!  But at the same time, in the space between sleeps, let's not go grabbing for the smart phone and more stimulus we don't need.

Montana Elects GOP Thug Gianforte - But Dems Can Use Incident In Ads

Most of the sentient segment of the U.S. voting public had hoped for a miracle in the Montana special congressional election yesterday, but it was not to be. This  was after millions beheld the sordid spectacle of the GOP thug Greg Gianforte body slamming and beating a reporter - Ben Jacobs.  Those who were moved to a moral animus against Gianforte's antics had hoped Montana's voters would send an unambiguous message  i.e. that buffonish bullying doesn't pay. But even as Gianforte's thug idol Trump was seen pushing Montenegro's President out of the way at the NATO summit  Gianforte was prevailing in the Montana special congressional election.  The Associated Press called it after 522 of 681 precincts – or 77% – reported. At that point Gianforte had 163, 539 votes, or 51% of the vote, compared with challenger Rob Quist’s 140,594 votes, or 44%.

Predictably, speaking at the G7 meeting in Sicily on Friday, Trump called the victory a “great win in Montana”. Translation: "I'm very glad another buffoon bully like me got a win!"

In fact, Gianforte's electoral win may not be so much from Montanans not  caring about a thug representing them (though many clearly didn't) but that the outcome was decided before the incident.  Again, the audio recording of the incident can be found here:

Thus, the result may more have been a reflection of the fact that owing to early voting, nearly thirty seven percent of the state's voters had already cast ballots before the manhandling of the Guardian reporter, Ben Jacobs.

A photo op last night captured the thug emerging from a blue curtain to greet a cheering crowd. Gianforte attempted an apology for his actions on Wednesday, talking past the laughter of the gung ho, pro-Trump crowd to say: “Last night, I made a mistake and I took an action that I can’t take back, and I’m not proud of what happened. I should not have responded the way that I did and for that I’m sorry.”

A member of the crowd, likely another thug,  shouted: “And you’re forgiven!

Gianforte continued: “I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that I’m sorry, Mr Ben Jacobs.”

He also added: "That is not the person I am."

But in fact that was exactly the person he is.  As my psychologist niece Shayl puts it: "One's true self isn't revealed under normal steady or favorable circumstances but under high stress."  In other words, if you're harboring a raging ape inside, the right stressor will likely bring it out. In Gianforte's case the "straw that broke the camel's back"  was Jacobs' question on the CBO scoring of the AHCA.

The most laughable aspect from Gianforte's appearance? Promising to work with  Trump to "drain the swamp" when he is part of the swamp.  Clearly one of the more aggressive, unhinged apes lurking about - based on his Wednesday night throttling of Jacobs- sending him to the ER in Bozeman. You can also be sure when this thug arrives in D.C. every eye will be monitoring his behavior every time he appears in public.

Though they lost the MT election, Dems can still parlay it into some political capital by integrating the audio of the incident into ads for the 2018 midterm elections.  The mission: Tie Gianforte's  behavior into Trump -style bullying and intimidation such as we beheld at numerous Trump campaign rallies when protestors or members of the press were beaten mercilessly by Trumpite thugs and apes.

The prime objective is to make all these bullies pay the price at the midterm elections next year.

See also:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Solving The Mystery Of The Sudden Warming Of Uranus' Atmosphere

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True color (left) and false color images of Uranus taken by Voyager 2 in 1986.

Do a back of the envelope computation of Uranus' surface (effective)  temperature and you get about T = 100 K. Investigate a more detailed model (also consistent with other gas giants, i.e. Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune) and you obtain 200 K or -73 C.  We know these planets have to be cold because they're so distant, right? I mean Uranus is at a mean distance from the Sun of 19.2 astronomical units and one of its years is equal to 84 Earth years. Its solar constant is roughly 3.8 watts per square meter compared to Earth's 1400 W/ m2.

However, in the course of the two Voyager flybys in the late 1980s, the actual measurements made of the upper atmosphere didn't conform to the model predictions. The Voyagers found temperatures much hotter than expected, by at least five times. (1,000 K  or 700C, hotter than any ovens can generate on Earth). What was going on? A greenhouse effect on this distant planet? Who (or better, what)  was producing it? In any case how explain such ridiculously high temperatures?

More baffling, though Uranus' upper atmosphere cooled from 750 K to 550 K over the past twenty years it has heated by 50 K/year since 2013. This is significant given the length of Uranus' year so that small variations in the atmospheric temperature as Uranus orbits the Sun ought to be taking place gradually.

One hypothesis offered by Henrik Melin and colleagues at the University of Leicester is a turbulent storm in the lower atmosphere generated the heating. According to Melin, quoted in Earth and Space Science News: "The fact that this turbulent weather phenomenon in the lower atmosphere occurs at the same time there is significant heating in the upper atmosphere suggest the storm is an important mechanism.

Melin actually believes this recent Uranian storm could have generated enough heat to reverse the 20-year cooling trend in the upper atmosphere. See e.g.

Melin went even further, hypothesizing that since storms occur all the time on Jupiter and Saturn they could display higher upper atmosphere temperatures as well.

What about the Sun? Could it be the heating culprit? Nope. As I noted earlier the solar constant is simply too low so we know solar photons don't supply enough energy to heat their upper atmospheres to current temperatures.   What about generation of heat via hot, internal cores? While we know Jupiter and Saturn possess such cores - left over from their formation 4.5 billion years ago- Uranus' core generates little heat.  A diagram of Uranus' interior is shown below:
Image result

What about a greenhouse effect based on methane instead of CO2?  Not likely given hydrogen and helium are the predominant atmospheric gases and methane is primarily in the form of ice. Also, unlike Earth - where released frozen methane can trap heat from incoming solar infrared radiation-  there simply isn't enough solar heat reaching Uranus to trap. As I already showed.

A more likely suspect, as named by Melin, could be low amplitude acoustic waves. These are also known as "gravity waves" - which could be generated by huge, turbulent storms.  Think of ripples on a pond, triggered by some disturbance,  as a reasonable analogy.  We also know that such gravity waves on Earth can be generated by violent thunder storms.  Monster storms on the gas giant planets also create such "p-waves" which propagate toward higher altitudes and generate heat. This would be done via the high density -> low density transition, and generate shocks - the immediate heating agent.

Melin validated this by saying (ibid.): "the appearance of these storms in 2014 correlates well with the abrupt heating of the upper atmosphere".  Melin presented his paper on the Uranian heating mechanism at the 2015 AGU Fall Meeting and those interested can read his abstract here:

Meanwhile, planetary astronomers remain unclear how gas giant planets' upper atmospheres react with the lower.  Also, it is possible that the apparent increase in Uranus' storminess is merely an artifact arising from an observational bias.  This is the take of Leigh Fletcher, also a planetary scientist at the University of Leicester. As Prof. Fletcher puts it (ibid.):

"Only a long term campaign of Uranus' storm tracking can accurately tell us the statistics of Uranus' storms, though the 2014 storms do appear to be bigger and brighter than anything we've seen before.

This is a sober and wise observation which bids us take our time before coming to any hard and fast conclusions regarding Uranus; warming. After all, we do not want to unwittingly generate fake news or fake "discoveries".

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

GOP Gangster Bum Greg Gianforte Body Slams Reporter - Deserves To Lose Montana Election

Ben Jacobs with his broken glasses being carted off in the ambulance.
Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs shown being carted off to the ER in Montana after being body slammed by GOP gangster, Greg Gianforte.

Gangster-style Trumpism has now reached its vile, bloodied hands into local state congressional races, in this case Montana's.  Even long time, news savvy reporters Jennifer Rubin (WaPo) and Steve Rattner, couldn't believe the audio clip  (see link at bottom)  played tonight as Guardian UK reporter Ben Jacobs was body slammed after asking an innocent question (regarding the CBO scoring of the GOP health bill)  of Repuke congressional candidate Greg Gianforte.  Both Rubin and Rattner insisted they'd never seen such a violent spectacle especially in U.S. politics.

We watched ("All In" with Chris Hayes) as the breaking news came in at 6:15 p.m. MT in total belief. "Holy shit!" Janice yelped. "We really have become a gangster state under the Repukes and Trump!"    I mean, let's face it, when you get to the stage of a politician hurling a reporter to the ground you are now talking of Nazi- style thug behavior not seen since the 1930s. As another guest on All In put it, "totally in-American".  Indeed!

Fox News reporter Alicia Alcuna, field producer Faith Mangan and photographer Keith Railey witnessed the incident, according to an account published by After Jacobs asked Gianforte his question, Alcuna wrote, “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him."

She went on:

Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of ‘I’m sick and tired of this!’ ... To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.”

Jacobs subsequently reported the incident to the police. The Gallatin County sheriff’s office is investigating.

All the above puts the kibosh on the Gianforte campaign babble that it was Jacobs who had been the aggressor. Their version, e.g.:

"Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a microphone in Greg's face,  and began asking badgering questions.  Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. "

Is so patently full of bull shit that it rivals the Pizzagate fake news BS about Hillary running a child sex ring in the basement of a D.C. pizza parlor.  Indeed, one merely has to listen to the audio clip and the explosive violence and shouting (by Gianforte) to be able to deduce WHO the aggressor was and it damned sure wasn't Jacobs.  That Jacobs was the "poundee" as opposed to pounder is also validated by FOX News reporter Alicia Acuna who was in the room. So not only was Jacobs body slammed by the Reepo ape, but  Gianforte also  jumped onto Jacobs and punched him too.

Indeed, Gianforte's lackey's (Scanlon's ) account is manifestly contradicted not only by the violent abortive interview where one can almost visually see Jacobs getting body slammed - like Don Knotts by Hulk Hogan, but also by the Fox News reporter's account. Also, at no time during the audio recoding does one hear a word about Jacobs being asked to leave, so we see Gianforte's gangsters are exposed as fucking liars.

Jacobs, who injured his shoulder and had to go to an ER, as well as had his glasses broken, is the victim here and merits filing a law suit, for first degree assault and battery.

"He took me to the ground,” Jacobs said by phone from the back of an ambulance. “I think he wailed on me once or twice ... He got on me and I think he hit me ... This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”

Meanwhile, Montana's voters hopefully will be appraised of this vicious act as they go to the polls tomorrow. They need to do the right thing and send Gianforte a one time message that his sort of jackboot thug political violence will not be tolerated, not in their state and not under any circumstances.

You can hear the audio recording of the incident here:

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Gianforte has been charged with misdemeanor assault and three Montana newspapers have withdrawn their endorsements.

John Brennan Schools House Committee - And How The 2016 Election Was Tossed To Trump

Who is former CIA Director John Brennan?
Former CIA Director John Brenna at yesterday's open Senate Hearing.

"Frequently, individuals on a treasonous path do not even realize they're on that path until it gets to be too late,"   - Former CIA Director John Brennan yesterday before the House Intelligence Committee

Yesterday,  speaking before the House Intelligence Committee, John Brennan offered a frank assessment of Russia's aggressive approach to meddling in the 2016 election and, in the process, complicated Donald Trump's attempts to cast the whole thing as "fake news".  Brennan's statement below put the kibosh on this nonsense:

"I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals. It raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals."

While Brennan would not specifically identify any individuals associated with the Trump campaign who had contacts with Russian officials and would not speculate as to whether there was any collusion or collaboration, he did tell lawmakers why he was concerned about the contacts occurring against the general background of Russian efforts to meddle in the election. Brennan said he'd studied Russian intelligence activities over the years, and how Russian intelligence services have been able to get people to betray their country. "Frequently, individuals on a treasonous path do not even realize they're on that path until it gets to be too late," he said.

Brennan also told the committee he believed that Russia anticipated that Clinton would be the likely winner of the presidential race, and that Russia tried to "damage and bloody" her before Election Day.  Most of this I'd written about in blog posts over the campaign including that Clinton would be the more "warlike" against the Russians. I cited for reference  her saber -rattling AIPAC speech, e.g.

HRC delivering her warnings at CA military base last year

Noting in particular, Clinton's  words:

"The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad."

I added in my post at the time: "Seriously? And you think the Russians will just sit by, smile and allow you to do that? (As you think they'd allow you to implement 'no fly' zones)  You have to be kidding. Again, this is what Bernie referred to in the debates as lack of judgment. "

 Of course, this would have sent red alarms to the Russians too. I'd also delivered a number of posts on Clinton regarding her staunch neoconservative position  - more likely to incite a war with the Russians. All of this, btw, would have been known by anyone following Hillary Clinton's speeches and interviews.  All of it is also factual, based on HRC's actual speeches, events - not fake news!  (In the interests of full disclosure I subsequently came to see Hillary as the more responsible candidate, especially after Trump's "pussy grabbing" video with Billy Bush emerged, and the debates - which found Hillary as far more prepared and Trump trying to "wing it".)

The point I'm making is there was more than ample basis for the Russians to 'go for it' in ensuring the 2016 election outcome went to Trump. On one level there is the issue of "collusion" or conspiracy of actual Trump campaign people with Russian intel or other officials. As Brennan voiced his own concerns yesterday:

"I was worried about the number of the contacts the Russians had with U.S. persons in the Trump campaign".

His primary worry was focused on the Russians "suborning" the latter, which means inciting them to "commit wrongful acts".   In his words:

"I know what the Russians try to do. They try to suborn individuals They try to get individuals including U.S. persons to act on their behalf either wittingly or unwittingly."

We do not have the exact plan or what the Trump bunch agreed to with their Russian counterparts, but it is possible to "reverse engineer" what transpired. This is what I call the "second level" or recruiting American voters themselves to act as a weaponized faction against Clinton. Specifically, it seems voters in the three critical states (WI, MI, PA) which tossed the election to Trump had their brains 'jacked' by sophisticated propaganda stories like "pizzagate", e.g.

As noted in a recent TIME account, ('Mocking Democracy- Inside Russia's Social Media War On America', May 29, p. 30)  "counterintelligence officials saw evidence of Russia using algorithmic techniques to target social media accounts of particular reporters".  Thereby, false stories could be seeded into media enclaves where - according to one CI official "the specific reporter might be slightly slanted to believing things".

With such a reporter's mind in the proverbial 'crapper', the mind virus would then easily be disseminated as the fake story - say Pizzagate- was maliciously spread.

But did this throw the election to Trump? It may well have. While the skinny is that the Russians alone sowed false stories, the TIME account identifies two Trump-linked outfits under probe as well: Cambridge Analytica - partly owned by Trump backer Robert Mercer, and Breitbart News, associated with Steve Bannon.   In effect, the collusion would have theoretically been between Russian fake news sources and the Trump-leaning organizations.

Evidence? Well so far it's indirect not direct. Examining the statistics for Google searches in the three states that tipped the election to Trump, Dem operatives found fake news searches (e.g. for "Pizzagate") were disproportionately higher in swing districts. These searches were not found in districts likely to vote Trump. Why would they? If indeed the purpose of the social media assault was to change brain orientations and beliefs against Hillary, it would not have been necessary to waste energy on the already converted. (E,g. Trump voters).

The Democratic operatives, as it turns out, created a package of background materials indicating that "someone had successfully altered the behavior in key voting districts in key states".

The notion that 77,000 voters' minds might have been changed in the 3 key states to toss the election to Trump is therefore not without some basis.

Most disturbing is that all that was needed for Trump to win the electoral vote race, and hence presidency, was for 77,000 brains to be jacked and their voting preferences altered.  Of course, I'm not saying other factors didn't also play a role, including voter suppression used on African Americans in WI who didn't have the "correct" ID and were not allowed to vote. Some estimates (e.g. in The New Republic) put that total as high as 300,000.

But the sadder aspect is how right thinking, intelligent American voter could remotely believe any of the codswallop such as peddled in the fake pedophilia story of Pizzagate. This means that unless Americans get much smarter and more percipient in future elections, we may see this sordid media gaming play out again.  The key threshold that must be crossed is more Americans being able to spot fake news garbage, as opposed to believing it and worse, acting on it.  To that end, readers might wish to circulate the link below to anyone they believe might be susceptible:

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Trump And Cronies Dance With Saudis While They Screw Millions Of Trump Voters

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Trump cabinet members Wilbur Ross & Rex Tillerson took turns dancing with Saudis, Trump had his turn too.
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Trump -above- after Saudis delivered several lessons on how to do the "ardah". He still screwed it up.
Image result for Trump dancing with saudis, images
"No, you asshole! You're doing it the wrong way!"

Many will likely recall how 7 years ago, Trump raked then President Barack Obama over the coals for "bowing" to foreign potentates. One is led to ask how hypocritical one has to be to do that, and then not only bow to the "supreme" Saudi leader but also curtsey, e.g.

 then do a sword dance with this ilk, along with two members of his cabinet, Wilbur Ross and Rex Tillerson.  By all accounts in the Saudi-controlled media the trio yucked it up pretty good even as within hours Trump put the final touches on a wretched budget plan to reduce Medicaid spending by $800 billion, and also make food stamps cuts of at least 30 percent. Oh, and make those getting food stamps work. (Clue one: 95% of food stamp recipients already work.  It's just that they can't make ends meet with the jobs they have. Since nearly all the non-working food stamp beneficiaries are children, one guesses Trump and his cronies will make them work.)

The Trump supporters and voters need to take  note here, because it's estimated that up to 2 out of 5 of them depend on one or both of these programs. While they may firmly believe the current media firestorm over Trump's transgressions is fueled by media "hysteria", I can assure them that if the Trump budget passes they will experience hysteria first hand.

In his speech on Sunday,  Trump, as a guest of the Saudi monarch, spoke of a stronger alliance with mostly Sunni Muslim nations to fight terrorism and extremist ideology and to push back against Iran.  For reference, nearly all the 9/11 terrorists hailed from Saudi Arabia, whose Sunni monarchy controls Islam’s holiest sites. Ironically this bunch of freaks - recall ISIS is a Sunni entity too  -  sees itself as the natural leader of the Muslim world and has used its lavish oil wealth to spread its austere version of the faith.

Iran, meanwhile, was given short shrift by Trump, as he wailed about "terrorism" issuing from their faction of Islam. For reference, Iran is the world’s largest Shiite nation and is led by clerics who aspire to export the ideology of political Islam that brought them to power in 1979. But let us bear in mind, that ascension as well as the taking of hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran, didn't just occur spontaneously. It was decades building up based on U.S. meddling ending with the support of the brutal regime of the Shah of Iran.

For historical reference,  U.S. oil interests -   in collusion with the then CIA-   deposed Premier Mohammed Mossadegh in a coup d'etat via  in Operation TPAJAX.  His offense? He had sought to audit the books of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), and implement new rules.  The eventual decision was to remove Mossadegh - the best chance at Iranian democracy.  So if Iran is "extremist" today we are the ones to blame, at least in terms of interfering in their then democratic processes by forcefully removing a head of state (like we did with Salvador Allende in Chile - except more violently in that case).

Let's be clear there is nothing in our Constitution that condones or approves of removing foreign heads of state, for whatever reason.

In some disinformationist quarters the CIA's role in the 1953 overthrow of Mossadegh is dismissed as a "myth" in the same way pro-Warrenites dismiss conspiracy in the JFK assassination as a myth - because it serves their nefarious interests to do so -- in bamboozling our fellow citizens. The truth is the CIA had its hands in the Mossadegh coup d'etat as much as they did in Kennedy's. You can read more details, including how the CIA actually admitted its role here:

Meanwhile, three days ago, Frederic Wehrey, a senior fellow in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said:

We are picking one side in this geopolitical struggle, and there is very little room for gray,.  Sectarianism is a byproduct of this geopolitical rivalry, and we are inadvertently picking one side in this sectarian struggle.”

The question is why did we pick the side that featured most of the vermin responsible for the most destructive attack on the nation in history?  Why also side with the nation with an embedded extremist strain (Wahabbi) that makes Iran's shortcoming pale in comparison?  

The Smithsonian channel's documentary, 'Islam and the West', ought to be required viewing for every American and especially the hysterical subset that believes all Muslims are the next thing to demons. The documentary traces the origins of Islam from Mohammed and to the present day, including how none other than the Brits- in the latter days of their Empire - drew up all the boundaries in the Middle East including for Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Palestine - totally ignoring ethnic and tribal affiliations. Viewing this excellent program will indicate why Trump's siding with the Saudis is a grave mistake.

In the meantime, the spectacle of the Trumpite Trio dancing with the Saudis even as they put the finishing touches on budget plans to undermine many of their own supporters couldn't be lost on the astute observer. It was also jarring to see Trump cozying up to this authoritarian, extremist lot in the way he did though we've already beheld his fondness for strong men, e.g. in Erdogan of Turkey, and Duterte in the Philippines.

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