A Blow to Interventionists, as US and North Korea Move Toward Peace

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Critics and pundits have been reacting dismissively to President Donald Trump’s engagement with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. A few weeks ago Donald Trump was going to start World War III with the Korean peninsula’s “Rocket Man,” or so observers said. Now, the prospect for peace, which has never been formally codified by treaty with North Korea since 1953, seems to have critics equally vexed and upset.
Yet, hoping for peace to fail in order to prevent Trump from gaining a victory is to engage in precisely the type of behavior his critics accuse him of displaying.
It is premature to determine the ultimate outcome of this meeting between Trump and Kim. But such a meeting is precisely what President Barack Obama suggested doing in 2008. The GOP derided Obama for this proposal, and many Democrats likely scorned it at the time as well, and they certainly are now.
Engaging North Korea is challenging. First, there is the legacy of the war from 1950-53, in which the North was completely bombed into rubble. The end of the Cold War did little to alleviate tensions; indeed, North Korea had nowhere to turn when it suffered a deadly famine in the 1990s that took anywhere from 500,000 to 3.5 million lives in a country with a population of 22 million.
After 9-11, President George W. Bush named North Korea along with Iraq and Iran as the “Axis of Evil.” Bush intended to send a strong message to North Korea’s then-Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il. Yet, the elder Kim drew another conclusion, which was to accelerate development of nuclear weapons in order to prevent regime change. North Korea carried out its first successful test of an atom bomb in October 2006.
The fates of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, executed by hanging, and of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, whose killing and mutilation was filmed by a rebel militia, further fixed in mind the lesson that to protect one’s regime it is necessary to possess weapons of mass destruction. After all, Gaddafi unilaterally gave up his chemical and nuclear weapons programs to improve Libya’s relations with the West. The uprisings of the Arab Spring, however, led the liberal interventionists in Washington and Europe to back the forces seeking his overthrow.
But, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to President Trump, is willing to denuclearize. What might be his reasons for disarming and trusting the US, when doing so led Gaddafi to a bloody and gruesome end? And what are the grounds for trusting North Korea this time, when the arms control agreements of the past have fallen apart?
The current situation hints that conditions in North Korea may have shifted in decisive ways. Much of the population in the North appears to have attained a higher standard of living through illegal or semi-legal trade. Such gains are threatened by US-led sanctions, and the triage measures taken by North Korea in the past may not be as effective in keeping the country afloat. Although North Korea remains in principle a socialist state, nevertheless, the government has built complexes for its citizens to engage in this unofficial commerce.
Second, the US proposal to halt military exercises with South Korea is a goodwill gesture that assuages North Korea’s concern for its security and gives neighbors China and Russia greater incentive to cooperate with the US.
Third, Trump’s embrace of Obama’s 2008 strategy to talk with leaders “hostile” to the US, along with rejection of regime change policies of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists may bring about greater regional stability by reducing the risk of armed conflict, a prospect that China and Russia are certain to welcome along with the two Koreas.
Finally, the administration of Moon Jae-in in South Korea has committed itself to engaging the North, breaking with the hardline stances of the two previous presidents. What should not be expected is for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear industry. Nuclear technology can be used to generate electricity and is a prestige item for the North generally.
In short, neoconservatives and liberal interventionists aside in the United States, there is much to cautiously herald in the current moves by Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump toward peace in North Korea.

By Jeffrey Sommers – Peter Paik/Counterpunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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Plainclothes Police Officers are Terrorizing, Robbing and Killing Black People

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Plainclothes or undercover police officers are engaged in an inordinate amount of killings, suggesting there is a fundamental problem with the practice of placing law enforcement out of uniform.
In the New York Police Department, plainclothes officers are involved in fatal shootings far in excess of their numbers on the force, as The Intercept reported. An analysis of 174 fatal shootings by NYPD on-duty officers since 2000 found that plainclothes or undercover officers, who are approximately 6 percent of the force, were involved in nearly one third — 31 percent — or 54 of those killings.
According to a 2016 report from the NYPD, plainclothes cops accounted for nearly half of officers involved in “adversarial conflicts” in which police are in confrontation with a suspect and intentionally discharge a weapon. Specialty units such as anti-crime units, which proactively pursue people on the street, claim one-third of these gun discharges. These elite units of plainclothes officers, unlike their uniformed counterparts, do not respond to 911 calls but instead pursue violent criminal activity while or before it takes place. Typically, undercover officers patrol without body cameras, use unmarked vehicles, and operate without accountability. Further, unlike beat NYPD cops who may form relations with the community, plainclothes police are known to instigate, harass and engage in aggressive and dangerous behavior.

Plainclothes officers have long been associated with death in the Black community, failing to protect and placing Black lives in harm’s way. In the 1960s, the NYPD used Black undercover officers to infiltrate Black radical organizations through the department’s clandestine operations, the Bureau of Special Services, or BOSS. The NYPD was monitoring Malcolm X up until his assassination. Undercover agent Gene Roberts was a member of Malcolm X’s OAAU and the minister’s chief of security. Known as “Brother Gene,” he unsuccessfully administered CPR to the fallen leader at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. This man who betrayed Malcolm went on to infiltrate the Black Panthers. FBI agents worked undercover in the Nation of Islam, including John Ali, the NOI national secretary. Another undercover NYPD agent, Ray Wood, who infiltrated the Bronx chapter of CORE, was reportedly seen running out of the Audubon at the time of the assassination.

Over the past few decades, plainclothes officers have been involved in the slayings of a number of Black men. For example, in 1999, members of the infamous NYPD street crimes unit killed Amadou Diallo in a hail of 41 bullets because they reportedly thought he was a suspect and mistook his wallet for a gun. Although the NYPD disbanded the unit, the brutality against Black people continued unabated.

Another casualty of undercover police was Sean Bell, who was shot to death in 2006 at his bachelor party, hours before his wedding. Undercover officers opened fire on Bell’s car with 50 shots, killing Bell, 23 and injuring two others. In 2013, Kimani Gray, 16, was fatally shot by members of an anti-crime unit in Crown Heights. The officer who choked Eric Garner to death in 2014 on Staten Island on suspicion of selling untaxed “loosie” cigarettes was working in plainclothes as well.
The Baltimore Police Department abolished plainclothes policing because of a “cutting corners mindset” among crime fighting units, as the Baltimore Sun reported, and as a result of federal indictments against seven officers who were engaging in robbery and extortion of Baltimore residents, filing false police reports and fraudulently collecting overtime pay. Members of the Gun Trace Task Force acted as both cops and robbers, stealing large amounts of money from Black men with no recourse. Such units charged with fighting and reducing crime have violated the rights of the public.
Undercover police are also a common fixture of antifascist protests, infiltrating crowds and student activist groups that oppose the presence of white supremacist hate groups on college campuses. As white extremist groups continue their demonstrations, police arrest anti-racist protesters, sometimes at home or their place of work, in an effort to intimidate left-wing and racial justice activists. This as campus, state and local police face accusations they protect and collaborate with white supremacists. For example, when white supremacist Richard Spencer was scheduled for a speaking engagement at Michigan State University in March, 200 officers from eight different departments were present that day, including nine undercover officers, of whom two were campus police.

As plainclothes officers violate the civil rights of Black people, sometimes they are taken to court and made to answer for their crimes. In 2014, a federal jury awarded art student Jordan Miles, 22, $119,000 for a 2010 false arrest and beating from three white Pittsburgh police officers. Because of his race and dreadlocks, the police, who reportedly assumed Miles was a drug dealer, rolled up in an unmarked car, without identifying themselves, asking for drugs, money and a gun. Jacqueline Little, a Philadelphia resident and IRS employee, sued the city and three plainclothes officers who pulled her over, claimed she had drugs in her possession, and falsely arrested her. She admitted herself to a hospital after sustaining injuries from the tight handcuffs while in police custody. Meanwhile, Glen Grays, a New York postal worker, was nearly struck while making a delivery by an unmarked NYPD police vehicle, then arrested in his uniform. The officers involved had a history of various civil rights complaints filed against them.
It is clear that plainclothes police are a problem, particularly where Black people are concerned.

By David Love/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Era of Fake Video Begins The digital manipulation of video may make the current era of “fake news” seem quaint.

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Edmon de Haro

In a dank corner of the internet, it is possible to find actresses from Game of Thrones or Harry Potter engaged in all manner of sex acts. Or at least to the world the carnal figures look like those actresses, and the faces in the videos are indeed their own. Everything south of the neck, however, belongs to different women. An artificial intelligence has almost seamlessly stitched the familiar visages into pornographic scenes, one face swapped for another. The genre is one of the cruelest, most invasive forms of identity theft invented in the internet era. At the core of the cruelty is the acuity of the technology: A casual observer can’t easily detect the hoax.
This development, which has been the subject of much hand-wringing in the tech press, is the work of a programmer who goes by the nom de hack “deepfakes.” And it is merely a beta version of a much more ambitious project. One of deepfakes’s compatriots told Vice’s Motherboard site in January that he intends to democratize this work. He wants to refine the process, further automating it, which would allow anyone to transpose the disembodied head of a crush or an ex or a co-worker into an extant pornographic clip with just a few simple steps. No technical knowledge would be required. And because academic and commercial labs are developing even more-sophisticated tools for non-pornographic purposes—algorithms that map facial expressions and mimic voices with precision—the sordid fakes will soon acquire even greater verisimilitude.

The internet has always contained the seeds of postmodern hell. Mass manipulation, from clickbait to Russian bots to the addictive trickery that governs Facebook’s News Feed, is the currency of the medium. It has always been a place where identity is terrifyingly slippery, where anonymity breeds coarseness and confusion, where crooks can filch the very contours of selfhood. In this respect, the rise of deepfakes is the culmination of the internet’s history to date—and probably only a low-grade version of what’s to come.
Vladimir Nabokov once wrote that reality is one of the few words that means nothing without quotation marks. He was sardonically making a basic point about relative perceptions: When you and I look at the same object, how do you really know that we see the same thing? Still, institutions (media, government, academia) have helped people coalesce around a consensus—rooted in a faith in reason and empiricism—about how to describe the world, albeit a fragile consensus that has been unraveling in recent years. Social media have helped bring on a new era, enabling individuated encounters with the news that confirm biases and sieve out contravening facts. The current president has further hastened the arrival of a world beyond truth, providing the imprimatur of the highest office to falsehood and conspiracy.

But soon this may seem an age of innocence. We’ll shortly live in a world where our eyes routinely deceive us. Put differently, we’re not so far from the collapse of reality.
We cling to reality today, crave it even. We still very much live in Abraham Zapruder’s world. That is, we venerate the sort of raw footage exemplified by the 8 mm home movie of John F. Kennedy’s assassination that the Dallas clothier captured by happenstance. Unedited video has acquired an outsize authority in our culture. That’s because the public has developed a blinding, irrational cynicism toward reporting and other material that the media have handled and processed—an overreaction to a century of advertising, propaganda, and hyperbolic TV news. The essayist David Shields calls our voraciousness for the unvarnished “reality hunger.”
Scandalous behavior stirs mass outrage most reliably when it is “caught on tape.” Such video has played a decisive role in shaping the past two U.S. presidential elections. In 2012, a bartender at a Florida fund-raiser for Mitt Romney surreptitiously hit record on his camera while the candidate denounced “47 percent” of Americans—Obama supporters all—as enfeebled dependents of the federal government. A strong case can be made that this furtively captured clip doomed his chance of becoming president. The remarks almost certainly would not have registered with such force if they’d merely been scribbled down and written up by a reporter. The video—with its indirect camera angle and clink of ambient cutlery and waiters passing by with folded napkins—was far more potent. All of its trappings testified to its unassailable origins.

Donald Trump, improbably, recovered from the Access Hollywood tape, in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women, but that tape aroused the public’s passions and conscience like nothing else in the 2016 presidential race. Video has likewise provided the proximate trigger for many other recent social conflagrations. It took extended surveillance footage of the NFL running back Ray Rice dragging his unconscious wife from a hotel elevator to elicit a meaningful response to domestic violence from the league, despite a long history of abuse by players. Then there was the 2016 killing of Philando Castile by a Minnesota police officer, streamed to Facebook by his girlfriend. All the reports in the world, no matter the overwhelming statistics and shattering anecdotes, had failed to provoke outrage over police brutality. But the terrifying broadcast of his animalistic demise in his Oldsmobile rumbled the public and led politicians, and even a few hard-line conservative commentators, to finally acknowledge the sort of abuse they had long neglected.

That all takes us to the nub of the problem. It’s natural to trust one’s own senses, to believe what one sees—a hardwired tendency that the coming age of manipulated video will exploit. Consider recent flash points in what the University of Michigan’s Aviv Ovadya calls the “infopocalypse”—and imagine just how much worse they would have been with manipulated video. Take Pizzagate, and then add concocted footage of John Podesta leering at a child, or worse. Falsehoods will suddenly acquire a whole new, explosive emotional intensity.
But the problem isn’t just the proliferation of falsehoods. Fabricated videos will create new and understandable suspicions about everything we watch. Politicians and publicists will exploit those doubts. When captured in a moment of wrongdoing, a culprit will simply declare the visual evidence a malicious concoction. The president, reportedly, has already pioneered this tactic: Even though he initially conceded the authenticity of the Access Hollywood video, he now privately casts doubt on whether the voice on the tape is his own.

In other words, manipulated video will ultimately destroy faith in our strongest remaining tether to the idea of common reality. As Ian Goodfellow, a scientist at Google, told MIT Technology Review, “It’s been a little bit of a fluke, historically, that we’re able to rely on videos as evidence that something really happened.”
The collapse of reality isn’t an unintended consequence of artificial intelligence. It’s long been an objective—or at least a dalliance—of some of technology’s most storied architects. In many ways, Silicon Valley’s narrative begins in the early 1960s with the International Foundation for Advanced Study, not far from the legendary engineering labs clumped around Stanford. The foundation specialized in experiments with LSD. Some of the techies working in the neighborhood couldn’t resist taking a mind-bending trip themselves, undoubtedly in the name of science. These developers wanted to create machines that could transform consciousness in much the same way that drugs did. Computers would also rip a hole in reality, leading humanity away from the quotidian, gray-flannel banality of Leave It to Beaver America and toward a far groovier, more holistic state of mind. Steve Jobs described LSD as “one of the two or three most important” experiences of his life.

Fake-but-realistic video clips are not the end point of the flight from reality that technologists would have us take. The apotheosis of this vision is virtual reality. VR’s fundamental purpose is to create a comprehensive illusion of being in another place. With its goggles and gloves, it sets out to trick our senses and subvert our perceptions. Video games began the process of transporting players into an alternate world, injecting them into another narrative. But while games can be quite addictive, they aren’t yet fully immersive. VR has the potential to more completely transport—we will see what our avatars see and feel what they feel. Several decades ago, after giving the nascent technology a try, the psychedelic pamphleteer Timothy Leary reportedly called it “the new LSD.”

Life could be more interesting in virtual realities as the technology emerges from its infancy; the possibilities for creation might be extended and enhanced in wondrous ways. But if the hype around VR eventually pans out, then, like the personal computer or social media, it will grow into a massive industry, intent on addicting consumers for the sake of its own profit, and possibly dominated by just one or two exceptionally powerful companies. (Facebook’s investments in VR, with its purchase of the start-up Oculus, is hardly reassuring.)
The ability to manipulate consumers will grow because VR definitionally creates confusion about what is real. Designers of VR have described some consumers as having such strong emotional responses to a terrifying experience that they rip off those chunky goggles to escape. Studies have already shown how VR can be used to influence the behavior of users after they return to the physical world, making them either more or less inclined to altruistic behaviors.

Researchers in Germany who have attempted to codify ethics for VR have warned that its “comprehensive character” introduces “opportunities for new and especially powerful forms of both mental and behavioral manipulation, especially when commercial, political, religious, or governmental interests are behind the creation and maintenance of the virtual worlds.” As the VR pioneer Jaron Lanier writes in his recently published memoir, “Never has a medium been so potent for beauty and so vulnerable to creepiness. Virtual reality will test us. It will amplify our character more than other media ever have.”

Perhaps society will find ways to cope with these changes. Maybe we’ll learn the skepticism required to navigate them. Thus far, however, human beings have displayed a near-infinite susceptibility to getting duped and conned—falling easily into worlds congenial to their own beliefs or self-image, regardless of how eccentric or flat-out wrong those beliefs may be. Governments have been slow to respond to the social challenges that new technologies create, and might rather avoid this one. The question of deciding what constitutes reality isn’t just epistemological; it is political and would involve declaring certain deeply held beliefs specious.
Few individuals will have the time or perhaps the capacity to sort elaborate fabulation from truth. Our best hope may be outsourcing the problem, restoring cultural authority to trusted validators with training and knowledge: newspapers, universities. Perhaps big technology companies will understand this crisis and assume this role, too. Since they control the most-important access points to news and information, they could most easily squash manipulated videos, for instance. But to play this role, they would have to accept certain responsibilities that they have so far largely resisted.

In 2016, as Russia used Facebook to influence the American presidential election, Elon Musk confessed his understanding of human life. He talked about a theory, derived from an Oxford philosopher, that is fashionable in his milieu. The idea holds that we’re actually living in a computer simulation, as if we’re already characters in a science-fiction movie or a video game. He told a conference, “The odds that we’re in ‘base reality’ is one in billions.” If the leaders of the industry that presides over our information and hopes to shape our future can’t even concede the existence of reality, then we have little hope of salvaging it.

By Franklin Foer/TheAtlantic

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Breaking My Silence on RussiaGate

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We are facing a precarious historic moment. Democracy is threatened by interference in our elections, and by interference in our civil liberties. Likewise we are endangered by warmongering, rampant militarism, nuclear confrontation and accelerating climate change. To solve any of these interlinked problems, we need a functioning democracy and a voting system we can have confidence in.
As first steps to restore trust in that system, we are calling for a nonpartisan Emergency Commission for Election Protection & Voting Justice, as well as international negotiations for an election non-interference treaty. These should be stepping stones toward broader international dialogue to address other urgent looming threats that endanger not only our democracy, but our very survival.
Handing Over Materials to Senate Committee
Today, cooperating with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, our campaign has completed the handover of materials in response to the Committee’s request. The information provided includes documents regarding my 2015 visit to Russia to speak at RT‘s 10th anniversary conference on media and international relations, an extension of my trip to the UN climate conference in Paris, where I also spoke with international leaders and activists. The materials include records of the campaign’s payment for my trip to Russia as well as longstanding Green Party policy objectives of promoting dialogue and diplomacy as essential alternatives to war, nuclear confrontation and climate catastrophe.
Interference in Our – or Any Country’s – Elections Is a Blow Against Democracy.
We take very seriously the issue of interference in our elections, as demonstrated by our continuing efforts to conduct the first and, according to public information, the only 2016 post-election examination of vulnerable US voting machines, a critical cross check on election security that should be routine.
Interference in our – or any country’s – elections is a strike against democracy – whether the intruder is a foreign government, criminal network or domestic actor.
While Pursuing Concerns About Foreign Interference, We Should Not Ignore Domestic Interference in Plain Sight
Concerns about foreign interference should not distract us from interference in plain sight originating from within our own borders. That includes the actions of the Democratic National Committee, which biased its party’s own primaries, effectively disenfranchising millions of Bernie Sanders’ voters; corporate media that gave Donald Trump billions in extra free airtime because he was “damn good” for network profits, in the words of CBS’ CEO; or voter suppression schemes like voter ID laws, Interstate Crosscheck and felon disenfranchisement that systematically deny millions of Americans their constitutional right to vote.
New Election Threats Posed by Big Data/Microtargeting/Psy-Ops Tower Over Primitive Russian Social Media Strategies
Recent revelations surrounding the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal underscore the expanding scope of election interference. The scandal represents a disturbing convergence of a massive data privacy violation with a “military-style”, “full-scale propaganda machine”, as described by whistleblower Christopher Wiley.
The cutting-edge tactics of the Cambridge Analytica scandal make alleged Russian social media meddling look primitive and insignificant by comparison. Cambridge Analytica is accused of using without permission the private information of up to 87 million people, assembling thousands of data points on individuals to craft micro-targeted messages in a campaign of mass manipulation with the scale and sophistication of military-style psy-ops. The actions of the Russian Internet Research Agency, on the other hand, appear to be the opposite of sophisticated and strategic. The lack of targeting, timing and relevance of the vast majority of their Facebook ads underscores the doubts expressed by investigative reporters who’ve suggested the Internet Research Agency may in fact be a “click-bait” factory intended to generate advertising revenue, and not an election meddling operation. The insignificant numbers of the Internet Research Agency’s social media posts – compared to the vastness of the social media universe – further diminishes the claim that it had significant impact on the election outcome. Facebook posts from the Internet Research Agency amounted to a mere 0.0004% of total Facebook content; Russian-associated tweets accounted for 0.02% of election related tweets, and Russian-linked Youtube videos had hit totals only in the hundreds, hardly the stuff of viral transmission.
While the full extent of the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal is as yet unknown, the huge quantities of data harnessed for state-of-the-art microtargeting and manipulative messaging suggest that it is the Cambridge Analytica-type threats that truly endanger our elections and demand protections to safeguard our democracy.
We Call for Emergency Commission to Advance Many Urgently-Needed Solutions
Cambridge Analytica is not alone in using this new, malignant form of election interference that combines big data, micro-targeting, and psyops. It adds yet another danger to the existing threats to secure and just elections. To restore confidence in our elections, each type of interference can and must be remedied, but time is short before the 2018 elections. Therefore, we are calling for a nonpartisan, Emergency Commission on Election Protection & Voting Justice to oversee urgently-needed immediate as well as longer-term solutions to ensure a secure and just vote.
We must end voter suppression schemes and ensure the constitutional right to vote. Prior to the 2018 election, we need a rapid transition to paper ballots, especially in the 12 states that still use the most vulnerable electronic machines lacking any paper record whatsoever; cybersecurity best practices, universal rigorous post-election audits, and routine post-election recounts as warranted. Congress has provided substantial funding for cybersecurity in the March, 2018 Congressional budget. The funding should prioritize paper ballots, and be expedited to ensure reforms are in place by the 2018 midterms.
To begin addressing the abuses of big data, micro-targeting and military-style psyops, privacy protections must be created for personal data and internet/social media communications. In the rush to guard against propaganda and “fake news”, however, we must ensure that the rights of free speech and political opposition – increasingly stifled in current social media and conventional press – are restored and protected.
We must also take on the fundamental corruption of our elections that has been so normalized that it’s rarely even discussed: the stranglehold of big money over the entire process. We can break this stranglehold by establishing public financing for political campaigns and free air time for ballot-qualified candidates, which would greatly diminish the cost of political campaigns. We can expand voter choice and end fear-based elections through Ranked Choice Voting, which liberates voters to vote for what they want, instead of against what they dislike. And we can ensure voters are informed about the greater range of choices that they are clamoring for – by creating a new presidential debate commission not controlled by the two establishment parties. For further details see http://www.votingjustice.us .
We Must Also End US Interference in Other Countries’ Elections
To effectively deal with foreign election interference, we must address the fact that the US is not only a victim of election interference, but a leading perpetrator of it as well, whether through nonviolent or violent means. Given our track record, it is simply unrealistic and unethical to expect other countries to respect the sovereignty of foreign elections unless we commit to doing so as well. Effectively ending election interference requires international diplomacy and treaties. The Emergency Commission would provide consistent long-term public education, advocacy and watch-dogging that will be required to overcome resistance to the reforms required to achieve truly fair elections.
We Support Corruption Probe but Decry Misuse of “Russiagate” for Warmongering, Censorship, Political Repression
We support the investigation of potential concrete crimes related to corruption, quid pro quo deals, money laundering, financial conflicts of interest, and obstruction of justice. Such investigations should not be tainted by misuse of “Russiagate” in broader political discourse for the purpose of promoting censorship, warmongering and politically-motivated efforts to intimidate and silence political opposition to the bipartisan political establishment.
The letter we are releasing today from our lead attorney, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, to the Senate Intelligence Committee details how their bipartisan investigation into our campaign – the flagship of an independent opposition political party – intrudes into First Amendment rights protecting freedom of speech and political liberty for all Americans. While we provided documents responsive to the Committee’s requests, we declined to provide Constitutionally protected materials, including the internal policy deliberations of our campaign, the flagship for an opposition political party. This request intrudes into the First Amendment rights of political and associational freedom that are critical to political liberty for all Americans.
Such Constitutional threats add to the dangerous current climate in which progressive political opposition, social movements, and the anti-war community are being targeted with censorship, surveillance and political intimidation. This includes recent censoring of social media and the internet, blacklisting progressive and anti-war media and organizations, restricting the right to protest, expanding surveillance, and disparaging social movements like Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock water protectors, anti-pipeline activists, and the gun control movement as “tools” of “Russian interference”.
“Russiagate” is also being used to argue for aggressive foreign policies, disparage peace advocates and justify massive military expenditures. This is all the more alarming in the setting of the resurgent cold war, accelerating nuclear arms race, and 17 years of unbridled US militarism that has proven disastrous abroad and devastating to human needs at home.
Emergency Commission and Treaty Can Restore Confidence in our Elections & Act As Stepping Stone to International Dialogue for Peace, Nuclear Weapons Ban & Climate Action.
In short, we are endangered by interference in our elections, interference in our civil liberties, by unbridled militarism and needless warmongering. On all these counts, we must defend our imperiled future and the democracy it depends on.
A military-industrial-surveillance complex is now deeply entrenched within the bipartisan political establishment and much of the corporate media. This dangerous juggernaut must not be allowed to twist legitimate concerns about election interference into support for political repression, censorship and warmongering. Instead, we can begin restoring confidence in our democracy right now with a nonpartisan Emergency Commission for Election Protection & Voting Justice and international negotiations for an election non-interference treaty. These should be stepping stones toward broader international dialogue for nuclear disarmament as called for in the recent UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons, for major reductions in military budgets, and for steeply accelerated climate action. These actions would go a long way to actually begin reducing dire threats that endanger not only our democracy, but civilization as we know it. Time is short. We must not be diverted from this task.

By Jill Stein/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Why is Trump Ignoring An American Hero? His Silence On the Waffle House Murders is Deafening James Shaw Jr. disarmed a mass shooter single-handed. Everything about that is a problem for Donald Trump

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During the early morning hours last Sunday, a 29-year-old white man named Travis Reinking allegedly used an AR-15 rifle to kill four people and injure two others at a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville. Reinking is reportedly a member of the Sovereign Citizens, a right-wing extremist movement that is heavily influenced by white supremacist political ideology. It is likely not a coincidence that all of Reinking’s victims were nonwhite.

A 29-year-old black man named James Shaw Jr. disarmed Reinking by grabbing the barrel of his AR-15. Shaw is the true definition of a hero. He acted selflessly, without training or compensation, and at great personal risk.

Like most real heroes, Shaw refused any special praise or honor. As Shaw explained at a press conference on Sunday, “I’m not a hero. … I’m just a regular person. I think anybody could have did what I did if they’re pushed. You have to either react or fall. I chose to react because I didn’t see any other way to live.”

During those few minutes last Sunday morning in a Waffle House, a mini-drama of American life in the age of Trump took place.
A young black man protected the public from a white man hell-bent on committing mass murder. In America, black men are all too often subjected to harassment, state-sponsored violence and racial profiling. By comparison, white men — even when they are mass murderers or domestic terrorists — are described by default as “nice” and “normal” people who are “lone wolves” or suffer from mental illness. Their crimes come as a surprise and not indicative of a broader “cultural problem” among the “white community.”
The patrons at the Nashville Waffle House were lucky that James Shaw Jr. was not arrested and kicked out for trespassing like the two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks store last week. If the manager in Nashville had a case of “negrophobia” like his peer in Philadelphia, more people might have died.
On the same day that Shaw saved lives in a Nashville, a black woman was arrested, stripped almost naked, and brutalized by police at a different Waffle House, a few hundred miles away in Alabama. Her crime? She complained to the manager about why her party had been charged for plastic utensils, when on a previous visit they had not been.
America’s police routinely claim that they were in fear for their lives and “had no choice” after they kill unarmed or otherwise vulnerable black and brown people. James Shaw Jr., who had neither weapons nor police training, disarmed a killer with his bare hands.

And once again a white man who commits mass murder is captured alive, while black and brown people who are unarmed, talking on telephones, sitting in their cars, sleeping or generally minding their own business are killed by America’s police nearly as a matter of routine. Reinking, who is accused of four murders, was even offered bond by a judge — although in the face of public outrage this has since been revoked. Do you believe that a black or brown person credibly accused of mass murder would be given the opportunity to go free while awaiting trial?

Then there is Donald Trump. A president who finds countless hours to watch Fox News, play golf, and rage via Twitter about such important matters as the cartoon character Mr. Magoo has not made any public statement about the massacre in Nashville. (During a press briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered a routine statement of condolences for the victims and praise for Shaw on the president’s behalf.)

Speaking personally and directly about Shaw’s heroism and the mass shooting in Nashville might seem like a political slam dunk. But Trump’s White House has demonstrated a remarkable gift for causing controversy where none is necessary. Could the president’s near-silence on the Nashville shooting be another example of his supposed political incompetence? Unlikely.

The National Rifle Association and the single-issue voters it commands have Trump and the entire Republican Party in a vise grip. The Trump administration, for instance, rescinded common-sense rules put in place under Barack Obama meant to prevent mentally ill people from buying firearms. If such rules were actually enforced, they could have potentially stopped Reinking from obtaining the guns he apparently used to kill four people last Sunday. Perhaps Donald Trump has chosen not to speak directly about the mass murder in Nashville because his political masters demand it?

Given Trump’s level of narcissism one would also think he would celebrate Shaw for stopping Reinking, who was detained by the Secret Service last July after attempting to breach the grounds of the White House.

The explanation for Trump’s relative silence is obvious. Trump, his advisers, his political party and their media allies have thrived on their contempt for the humanity, dignity, and freedom of black and brown people. Honoring a black man for stopping an armed white man during what may have been a racially motivated killing spree runs counter to Donald Trump’s political worldview and personal morality.

Let’s recall that Trump has slurred black athletes (and others) who have exercised their constitutional rights to protest police brutality and racism. He has repeatedly attacked black journalists and elected officials, especially women, as stupid and ignorant. Trump has suggested that the people of Puerto Rico, who are United States citizens, have been lazy about their recovery from one of the worst natural disasters in recent history. Trump has repeatedly demonized Latin American immigrants as rapists and murderers. He has consistently refused to apologize to the Central Park Five, the group of black and Latino teenagers who were unjustly imprisoned for raping a white woman in 1989, and whom Trump longed to see executed.

The American right has engaged in a coordinated effort, over many years, to deny black Americans and other nonwhites the right to vote through gerrymandering and voter suppression. Trump and his Republican allies long to change our immigration laws to ensure that white people remain a permanent majority and that nonwhites are deported or otherwise removed whenever possible.

Trump has stated that black people live in hellish conditions, and therefore (for unclear reasons) they should support his presidency. He infamously described some of the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who gathered last August in Charlottesville, Virginia, as “very fine people.”

Instead of focusing on the threat to public safety posed by right-wing extremist groups such as the Sovereign Citizens movement (which law enforcement officials have consistently identified as more dangerous than Islamic terrorist groups) Donald Trump’s administration has defunded the programs targeting them. It is no surprise that the Ku Klux Klan and other overtly racist organizations have claimed Donald Trump as their leader.

It takes no special insight or powers of political prestidigitation to know that if a Muslim, an “illegal alien,” a “Dreamer” or a black person had committed mass murder in Nashville on Sunday, that Trump and his media followers would be howling about “extremism” and “terrorism.”  But when right-wing Christian conservatives commit mass murder or other acts of terror, such events are shrugged off as unfortunate curiosities. They are never understood as evidence of a systemic cultural problem caused by toxic white masculinity and white male privilege.

In another reality, James Shaw Jr. would have already been flown to the White House and celebrated as a national hero. The president of the United States has many responsibilities. These include formal obligations such as being the commander of the military and chief legislator. There are informal obligations as well, including serving as the country’s cheerleader and providing moral leadership both on a day-to-day basis and during times of crisis and tragedy. As shown once again by his near-total silence after the mass shooting in Nashville, Donald Trump has spectacularly failed in this regard.

By Chauncey DeVega / Salon

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Here Are 16 of the Dumbest Things Americans Believe — And the Right-Wing Lies Behind Them We’ve gone beyond Stephen Colbert’s’ truthiness’ into a ‘truth-be-damned’ environment.

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#FreeSpeechTVSoWhite

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#FreeSpeechTVSoWhite

“Progressive media is itself a bastion of white domination.”

A few years ago, the hashtag, “#Oscar so white” was all the rage in progressive media circles. The hashtag referred to the lack of Oscar nominations and awards given to African American and other “people of color” actors. The attention was well deserved as Hollywood had certainly shown its cultural bias in favor of white actors, directors, etc. Progressive media outlets such as Democracy Now! gleefully reported on the issue and even had black actors on to talk about the lack of racial diversity in Tinsel Town. What was odd, and still is so today, is that progressive media is itself a bastion of white domination that has little to no racial diversity in either its programming or its on air personalities.

One progressive media outlet, Free Speech TV , is almost entirely white in its orientation. A cable news channel, it boasts shows such as “Democracy Now!,” “The Thom Hartman Show,” “Rising Up with Sonali” [Kolhatkar], “The David Pakman Show,” “the Laura Flanders Show,” “Empire Files with Abby Martin” and others, but African American leftists are noticeable absent from the station’s programming. The cream of the crop of black radical left political commentators, such as Jared Ball, Frank Wilderson, Joy James, Ajamu Baraka, Gerald Horne and Dhoruba Bin Wahad and so many others, simply cannot get a spot on these white leftist shows to give their political analysis.

“Black radicals’ political analysis is absent on a network and on shows that claim to present a leftist point of view.”

Just as important, black radicals cannot get a program of their own to host on a “progressive” channel like Free Speech TV. As such, their political analysis is absent on a network and on shows that claim to present a leftist point of view. Because of this, the channel itself reinforces white supremacy by having a programming orientation where leftist Blacks are screened for their political views, and if found to be too radical, are ignored and not interviewed altogether. These voices and views are therefore marginalized just as they are on channels like MSNBC, or at worst, they are villainized as being out of step with the so-called radical analysis of the white hosts. One could just as easily adopt and apply the hashtag, #ProgressiveMediaSoWhite, as black actors did with the #OscarSoWhite hashtag.

Specifically, the hashtag, #FreeSpeechTVSoWhite is appropriate. The absence of black leftist thought on Free Speech TV is glaring. The cable channel that black leftists must turn to in order to get a left analysis does not offer a black leftist analysis in its programming. The programming is entirely white. This gives the white or non-Black hosts of these shows the power to select which Blacks get featured on their shows as if black leftists thought is an afterthought and not worthy of regular of programming. Black American thinkers, whose struggle is arguably the main social issue in this country, can’t get a syndicated show on Free Speech TV, the main television station for leftist viewers.

“One could argue that white leftist programming is only concerned with the ‘free speech’ of white leftists.”

The black thinkers and educators listed previously, all of whom have deep connections to leftist movements in America and internationally, are relegated to “guest” status on the channel. The delegation of “guest” for black thinkers is a validation that white progressives are uncomfortable with strong radical black people. This is so because the radical black perspective would force the channel and its show’s hosts to acknowledge the reality of their own racism. This is something white society in general is loath to do and white left media outlets are no different. These channels and shows are simply a segment of white society that presents a left perspective on a white reality. As the writer and scholar Michael C. Dawson states in his excellent work, Blacks In and Out of the Left, “not only has the white left historically been complicit in the erasure of black radicals and their contributions from the historical record, but it has also often been openly hostile toward black radicals and their aspirations, ideas, and programs.”

Based on Dawson’s observation, one could argue that white leftist programming is only concerned with the “free speech” of white leftists. But one cannot overlook the economic aspect of this programming and its hosts’ selection of who gets featured as well. Amy Goodman, Chris Hedges, Kholhalter, Hartmann, et al, get to command speaker’s fees, foundation money, book deals, syndication royalties, etc., from their white progressive stardom. As the faces of white progressivism (or simply as the faces of progressivism), they benefit economically in ways that the black radical thinkers have not and never could. This arrangement itself is white supremacy at its best and it perpetuates the white racial gap where white leftists get rich from their progressivism and black progressives continue to struggle for donations and financial support. This is true not only for individual Black leftists, but also for their publications and their organizations.

“Black thinkers are relegated to ‘guest’ status on the channel.”

Particular blacks do appear on these shows and sometimes they are radical black leftists. But, they appear when the white hosts decided their viewpoint and analysis is valuable and not a moment before. This reality is problematic. First, by choosing which African Americans they want to have on their shows, these hosts (and this station) get to select, from a white progressive point of view, who gets heard. They therefore, are the overseers of progressive thought, including progressive black thought. Black radicals who leave this plantation by not adhering to the white progressive line of analysis, are left to roam the boundaries of leftist circles where they are rarely heard.

People like Dhoruba bin Wahad, despite his decades of activism and writings, is not invited in these spaces. Even episodes that discuss the Black Panthers on Democracy Now! or Rising Up, do not include Wahad in their list of speakers. This is no different than the censoring process of the white corporate media where shows like MSNBC promote black analysts who essentially tow the Democratic Party line. It is the same with CNN where Van Jones is the official face of the black left, when he too, is basically the black face of the black wing of the Democratic Party. As such, no black thinkers to the left of Jones are allowed on CNN. It is the same for the shows on Free Speech TV. In this way, white left media, is the same as corporate media in that it tells its viewers who is left and who isn’t by who they allow to appear. They both like their Blacks as non-threatening to the white world they live in, profit from and promote, as does the corporate/mainstream white media.

“White left media tells its viewers who is left and who isn’t by who they allow to appear.”

Second, without radical black programming, white left media essentially “gives” or “tells” black people what their views should be and who they should accept it from. This “progressive” analysis is clearly filtered through their own white left lens. Third, it presents the most intelligent and radical analysis as those of the white hosts and their predominantly white guests. Black excellence in political theory, social commentary, left analysis, Black Power theorists, are seen as being either not worthy of consistent airing and/or beneath the political philosophies of the white shows and their hosts. The Black thinkers they do present are deemed to be the exceptional negroes and their presence on one of these shows, where Black excellence is at a premium, is proof of their exceptional negro-ness.

The last, and perhaps most serious, problem with the complete dearth of black shows on stations like Free Speech TV and on the programming they offer, is that African Americans have been in the vanguard of leftists/progressive social movements, “political revolutions” and have been among the most radical of thinkers and agitators in same. To relegate us to the margins or as minorities in movements that we have been central to and in many cases led, is to do what white people have always done to black people, namely, to co-opt and/or to culturally appropriate our ideas, methods, music, styles and struggles. More previously noted, in this way, the white left and its media sources are no different than white America overall. It segregates, isolates and imprisons radical black perspectives and the most aggressive radical elements of Black America, letting in only those it feels comfortable with or those who conform or those it can profit from. This is true even of spaces like RT. Black radicals like Gerald Horne and the aforementioned bin Wahad, have been on the station in ways they never have on the establishment white progressive stations. But, RT is still white progressivism. Chris Hedges, Thomm Hartmann, Jesse Ventura, all have shows on RT and all are, of course, white. Therefore one cannot argue that because the station is Russian television that this explains the lack of racial diversity. If white Americans can get their own shows on RT then black progressives who have a critique of U.S. imperialism should also.

“Their sense of superiority prevents them from seeing the whiteness of their project.”

Still, the premier American leftist cable channel is Free Speech TV. Its “blackout” of black radical thinkers is more egregious than even RT. As Dr. King so insightfully argued in Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?: “Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.”

So it is also with white liberal media and channels like Free Speech TV. Their sense of superiority prevents them from seeing the whiteness of their project and programming and, in not seeing it, patting themselves on the back for their supposed radicalness and “inclusion.” King’s criticism of white liberals is just as applicable to white progressive programming, when he said, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” One is hard pressed to really understand whether the lack of radial black programming on white progressive media is “lukewarm acceptance” or in fact, “outright rejection.” #FreeSpeechTVSoWhite and #WhiteProgressiveMediaSoWhite indeed.

By Attorney Bryan K. Bullock/BlackAgendaReport

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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