Tag Archives: White House

Thomas Frank: We’re Still Aghast at Donald Trump—but What Good Has That Done? Declaring it all so ghastly isn’t going to halt these trends or remove the reprobate from the White House.

It has been one year since the US slipped through a hole in the space-time continuum and chose as its leader the most unpopular presidential candidate of all time. Every now and then you get a bracing reminder of the crazy that has been transpiring ever since.

One of these came to me while I was flipping through Donald Trump’s 2015 campaign book,Crippled America, the cover of which displays his proud pompadour and the first few pages of which assert that “As for the presidency and the executive branch” – meaning the executive branch of Barack Obama – “the incompetence is beyond belief.”

To recapitulate, that’s Trump calling Obama incompetent. What do you say when confronted with a big-league, flat-out, beyond-belief distortion like that? Do you get all sincere and point out that, no, Obama was actually good at the job and Donald Trump is the incompetent one … that Trump gets all kinds of things wrong and doesn’t know what’s in the constitution and is unaware that the executive has this power and that power and is ignorant of everything else on this-here long, long list of examples extending the entire length of the page?

That’s certainly how the liberal wing of America’s pundit class has dealt with Trump. They have been at it every day for a year now, and the literature of Trump-denunciation they have produced is enormous, a vast Alexandrine library of lamentation and deploring.

Pundits pronounce him dangerous, if not “F*cking Crazy”. They explore the depths of his stupidity. They apologize for him to Muslims. They compile long lists of the man’s falsehoods and misrepresentations. They look to the past and compare him to Hitler, to Mussolini, to Nero and Caligula. They look to the future and try to imagine the exact nature of the apocalypse the dunce will surely precipitate.

They are aghast, almost every one of them, and they compete fiercely with one another to say just how aghast they are. It is a “parade of the aghast”, as an acquaintance calls it, with all the skills of the journalist reduced to a performance of perturbation and disgust.

The parade of the aghast is the obverse of the gullible way our pundits usually contemplate American leaders – lionizing them as men of crisis, admiring their gravitas as they go from international summit to emergency bank bailout. And now the buffoon Trump has exposed it all as a fraud.

A solid year of the aghast has been a good thing overall. It’s healthy for the country to have pundits periodically choose to despise our leaders instead of honor them.

But the parade of the aghast is also sharply limited. In the race to depict Trump in the worst possible light, the parade of the aghast conceives his iniquity to be a thing unique and unprecedented.

In certain ways, of course, this is correct: Trump’s incompetence is one-of-a-kind. He is also the first tycoon president, the realization of a long-running Republican dream that has brought with it many unforeseen conflicts of interest and constitutional issues. And if it turns out he colluded with the Russian government during last year’s election, that will make him, shall we say, singular.

Yet in other ways, Trump’s sins are continuous with the last 50 years of our history. His bigotry and racist dog-whistling? Conservatives have been doing that since forever. His vain obsession with ratings, his strutting braggadocio? Welcome to the land of Hollywood and pro wrestling.

His tweeting? The technology is new, but the urge to evade the mainstream media is not. His outreach to working-class voters? His hatred of the press? He lifts those straight from his hero Richard Nixon. His combination of populist style with enrich-the-rich policies? Republicans have been following that recipe since the days of Ronald Reagan. His “wrecking crew” approach to government, which made the cover of Time magazine last week? I myself made the same observation, under the same title, about the administration of George W Bush.

The trends Trump personifies are going to destroy this country one of these days. They’ve already done a hell of a job on the middle class.

But declaring it all so ghastly isn’t going to halt these trends or remove the reprobate from the White House. Waving a piece of paper covered with mean words in Trump’s face won’t make him retreat to his tower in New York. To make him do that you must understand where he comes from, how he operates, why his supporters like him, and how we might coax a few of them away.

The parade of the aghast will have none of that. Strategy is not the goal; a horror-high is. And so its practitioners routinely rail against Trump’s supporters along with Trump himself, imagining themselves beleaguered by a country they no longer understand nor particularly like.

They denounce people who tell the truth about how the Democratic party operates on the grounds that such knowledge is an “obstacle” to anti-Trump efforts.

A year of this stuff, and never has mainstream opinion journalism seemed so inconsequential, so powerless to envision anything useful about our national predicament.

Look at the grand sweep of history: this is an angry, populist age, and with every year – with every little tightening of the inequality index – it grows angrier and more populist still. To the satisfied and comfortable American pundit class, these are alien and deplorable sentiments, and so they fall back on high-decibel moral aghastitude. They scold and they scold and they scold. But if they really want to send Trump and the Republicans packing, they will make an effort to understand.

By Thomas Frank / The Guardian

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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White House Close to Finalizing Over $100 Billion in Arms Sales to Saudis

White House Close to Finalizing Over $100 Billion in Arms Sales to Saudis

Earlier this month, US officials said the US was seeking to reach “billions” of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia as part of Trump’s visit to Riyadh. With a week left before the visit, officials now say the White House is very close to the deal, and that it will amount to over $100 billion in sales.

Details are still emerging, but the plan is for this to set out a series of growing deals over the next decade that will involve more than $300 billion going to arms dealers, not just to arm the Saudis, but in extra aid to Israel to ensure their “qualitative military edge” over the Saudis.

White House officials said the move would be good for the economy, and insisted that building Saudi Arabia’s already substantial military was “essential” because of regional problems. Saudi Arabia, of course, spends much of its military budget invading Yemen and trying to reinstall former President Hadi in power.

Given Saudi Arabia’s Yemen-centric foreign policy, US sales are likely to be heavily on warplanes and bombs to drop on northern Yemen, as the conflict has lasted far longer than the Saudis anticipated, and there is little sign they are interested iin extricating themselves from the conflict anytime soon.

How much this means Israel will get greatly depends on the sort of weapons the US is giving Saudi Arabia, and particularly if there is anything “new” in the shipments, or just more of the same old stuff. The US commitment to ensuring Israel has an advantage over the rest of the Middle East militarily, while at the same time selling large amounts of arms to the rest of the Middle East, has been icing on the cake for US arms makers, who end up supplying all sides of this arms race.

by Jason Ditz/AntiWar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Nerve Gas Attack Described in White House Report Did Not Occur, Expert Says of Syria Incident

  Video frames from the location in Khan Shaykhun where mass casualties either occurred or were being treated. (The wording below some of the images is embedded in the original recordings.)

Theodore A. Postol is professor emeritus of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a specialist in weapons issue. At the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, he advised on missile basing, and he later was a scientific consultant to the chief of naval operations at the Pentagon. He is a recipient of the Leo Szilard Prize from the American Physical Society and the Hilliard Roderick Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and he was awarded the Norbert Wiener Award from Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility for uncovering numerous and important false claims about missile defenses.

This analysis contains a detailed description of the times and locations of critical events in the alleged nerve agent attack on April 4 in Khan Shaykhun, Syria. The conclusion assumes that the White House Intelligence Report (WHR) issued on April 11 correctly identified the alleged sarin release site.

Analysis using weather data from the time of the attack shows that a small hamlet about 300 meters to the east-southeast of the crater could be the only location affected by the alleged nerve agent release. The hamlet is separated from the alleged release site (a crater) by an open field. The winds at the time of the release would have initially taken the sarin across the open field. Beyond the hamlet there is a substantial amount of open space, and the sarin cloud would have had to travel a long additional distance for it to have dissipated before reaching any other population center.

READ: A Critique of ‘False and Misleading’ White House Claims About Syria’s Use of Lethal Gas

Video taken on April 4 shows that the location where the victims were supposedly being treated for sarin exposure is incompatible with the only open space in the hamlet that could have been used for mass treatment of victims. This indicates that the video scenes where mass casualties (the dead and dying) were laid on the ground randomly was not at the hamlet. If the location where the bodies were on the ground was instead a site where the injured and dead were taken for processing, then it is hard to understand why bodies were left randomly strewn on the ground and in mud as shown in the videos.

The conclusion of this summary of data is obvious—the nerve agent attack described in the WHR did not occur as claimed. There may well have been mass casualties from some kind of poisoning event, but that event was not the one described by the WHR.

The findings of this analysis can serve two important purposes:

1. It shows exactly what needs to be determined in an international investigation of this alleged atrocity. In particular, if an international investigation can determine where casualties from the nerve agent attack lived, it will further confirm that the findings reported by the WHR are not compatible with the data it cites as evidence for its conclusions.

2. It also establishes that the WHR did not utilize simple and widely agreed upon intelligence analysis procedures to determine its conclusions.

This raises troubling questions about how United States political and military leadership determined that the Syrian government was responsible for the alleged attack. It is particularly of concern that the WHR presented itself as a report with “high confidence” findings and that numerous high-level officials in the U.S. government have confirmed their belief that the report was correct and to a standard of high confidence.

Methodology Used in This Analysis

The construction of the time of day at which particular video frames were generated is determined by simply using the planetary geometry of the sun angle during the day on April 4. The illustration below of the sun-angle geometry shows the Day/Night Sun Terminator at the location of Khan Shaykhun on April 4. The angle of the sun relative to local horizontal is summarized in the table that follows the image of the planetary geometry along with the temperature during the day between 6:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The next set of two side-by-side images shows the shadows at a location where a large number of poison victims are being treated in what appears to be the aftermath of a poisoning event. The shadows indicate that this event occurred at about 7:30 a.m. This is consistent with the possibility of a nerve agent attack at 7 a.m. on April 4, and it is also consistent with the allegation in the WHR that an attack occurred at 6:55 a.m. on that day.

The timing sequence of the attack is important for determining the consistency of the timelines with the allegations of a sarin release at the crater identified in the WHR.

Assuming there was enough sarin released from the crater identified by the WHR to cause mass casualties at significant downwind distances, the sarin would have drifted downwind at a speed of 1 to 2 meters a second and for several minutes before encountering the only location where mass casualties could have occurred from this particular release. The location where these mass casualties would have had to occur will be identified and described in the next section. If there was a sarin release elsewhere, mass casualties would have not occurred at this location but would have occurred somewhere else in the city.

Assuming the victims of the attack were exposed to the plume, the symptoms of sarin poisoning would have expressed themselves almost immediately. As such, the scene at 7:30 a.m. on April 4 is absolutely consistent with the possibility of a mass poisoning downwind of the sarin-release crater.

The next figure shows the earliest photograph we have been able to find of an individual standing by the sarin-release crater where the alleged release occurred. The photo was posted on April 4, and the shadow indicates the time of day was around 10:50 a.m. Thus the individual was standing by the crater roughly four hours after the dispersal event.

If the dispersal event was from this crater, the area where this unprotected individual is standing would be toxic, and this individual would be subjected to the severe and possibly fatal effects of sarin poisoning. As a result, this throws substantial suspicion on the possibility that the crater identified by WHR would be the source of the sarin release.

At the time of the sarin release, the temperature of the air was about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and the sun was at an angle of only 8 degrees relative to local horizontal. This means that liquid sarin left on the ground from the dispersal event would remain mostly unevaporated. By 11 a.m., the temperature of the air had risen to 75 degrees, and the angle of the sun relative to horizontal was at 66 degrees. Thus, one would expect that the combination of the rise in air temperature and the sun on the crater would lead to significant evaporation of liquid sarin left behind from the initial dispersal event. The air temperature and sun angle are such that the area around the crater should have been quite dangerous for anybody without protection to operate.

This is therefore an important indication that the crater was probably not a dispersal site of the sarin.

The final set of three photographs shows arriving victims seeking treatment at a hospital at some location in Khan Shaykhun. The arrivals at the hospital are between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on the day of the attack. This is perhaps late since victims were seriously exposed by 7:30 a.m., but victims could have been trailing in after the initial arrival of severely affected victims. This time is considerably earlier than the time at which WHR alleges that a hospital was attacked while treating victims of the poisoning attack.

In the next section, we discuss the location where mass casualties would have occurred if the sarin release occurred at the location alleged by the WHR.

Sun shadows at about 7:30 a.m. on April 4 at a location where large numbers of victims from a poisoning event were being treated.

A man without protective equipment standing next to the crater at 10:50 a.m. on April 4—roughly four hours after the sarin release alleged by the WHR.

Victims arriving at a hospital in Khan Shaykhun between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on April 4 following the mass casualty event observed at 7:30 a.m.

An image from about 10:30 a.m. in Khan Shaykhun suggesting a possible additional location where casualties were generated from a poisoning attack.

Identification of the location of the mass casualties.

The figure on the next page shows the direction of the toxic sarin plume based on the assumption that the alleged release point was the crater identified by the WHR. The wind conditions at the time of the release, which would have been at about 7 a.m. on April 4, would have carried the plume across an empty field to an isolated hamlet roughly 300 meters downwind from the crater. Pages 2, 3

By Theodore A. Postol/Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Dance of Death

The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminate and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.

The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus. The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population. The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.

The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war. President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.

The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”

Civilizations in decline, despite the palpable signs of decay around them, remain fixated on restoring their “greatness.” Their illusions condemn them. They cannot see that the forces that gave rise to modern civilization, namely technology, industrial violence and fossil fuels, are the same forces that are extinguishing it. Their leaders are trained only to serve the system, slavishly worshipping the old gods long after these gods begin to demand millions of sacrificial victims.

“Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create even more dangerous messes,” Ronald Wright writes in “A Short History of Progress.” “Hope elects the politician with the biggest empty promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller knows, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism.”

The Trump appointees—Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Rick Perry, Alex Acosta and others—do not advocate innovation or reform. They are Pavlovian dogs that salivate before piles of money. They are hard-wired to steal from the poor and loot federal budgets. Their single-minded obsession with personal enrichment drives them to dismantle any institution or abolish any law or regulation that gets in the way of their greed. Capitalism, Karl Marx wrote, is “a machine for demolishing limits.” There is no internal sense of proportion or scale. Once all external impediments are lifted, global capitalism ruthlessly commodifies human beings and the natural world to extract profit until exhaustion or collapse. And when the last moments of a civilization arrive, the degenerate edifices of power appear to crumble overnight.

Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence. It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II.

“It is in sadism, where the death instinct twists the erotic aim in its own sense and yet at the same time fully satisfies the erotic urge, that we succeed in obtaining the clearest insight into its nature and its relation to Eros,” Freud wrote. “But even where it emerges without any sexual purpose, in the blindest fury of destructiveness, we cannot fail to recognize that the satisfaction of the instinct is accompanied by an extraordinary high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfillment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence.”

The lust for death, as Freud understood, is not, at first, morbid. It is exciting and seductive. I saw this in the wars I covered. A god-like power and adrenaline-driven fury, even euphoria, sweep over armed units and ethnic or religious groups given the license to destroy anything and anyone around them. Ernst Juenger captured this “monstrous desire for annihilation” in his World War I memoir, “Storm of Steel.”

A population alienated and beset by despair and hopelessness finds empowerment and pleasure in an orgy of annihilation that soon morphs into self-annihilation. It has no interest in nurturing a world that has betrayed it and thwarted its dreams. It seeks to eradicate this world and replace it with a mythical landscape. It turns against institutions, as well as ethnic and religious groups, that are scapegoated for its misery. It plunders diminishing natural resources with abandon. It is seduced by the fantastic promises of demagogues and the magical solutions characteristic of the Christian right or what anthropologists call “crisis cults.”

Norman Cohn, in “The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and Its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements,” draws a link between that turbulent period and our own. Millennial movements are a peculiar, collective psychological response to profound societal despair. They recur throughout human history. We are not immune.

“These movements have varied in tone from the most violent aggressiveness to the mildest pacifism and in aim from the most ethereal spirituality to the most earth-bound materialism; there is no counting the possible ways of imagining the Millennium and the route to it,” Cohen wrote. “But similarities can present themselves as well as differences; and the more carefully one compares the outbreaks of militant social chiliasm during the later Middle Ages with modern totalitarian movements the more remarkable the similarities appear. The old symbols and the old slogans have indeed disappeared, to be replaced by new ones; but the structure of the basic phantasies seems to have changed scarcely at all.”

These movements, Cohen wrote, offered “a coherent social myth which was capable of taking entire possession of those who believed in it. It explained their suffering, it promised them recompense, it held their anxieties at bay, it gave them an illusion of security—even while it drove them, held together by a common enthusiasm, on a quest which was always vain and often suicidal.

“So it came about that multitudes of people acted out with fierce energy a shared phantasy which though delusional yet brought them such intense emotional relief that they could live only through it and were perfectly willing to die for it. It is a phenomenon which was to recur many times between the eleventh century and the sixteenth century, now in one area, now in another, and which, despite the obvious differences in cultural context and in scale, is not irrelevant to the growth of totalitarian movements, with their messianic leaders, their millennial mirages and their demon-scapegoats, in the present century.”

The severance of a society from reality, as ours has been severed from collective recognition of the severity of climate change and the fatal consequences of empire and deindustrialization, leaves it without the intellectual and institutional mechanisms to confront its impending mortality. It exists in a state of self-induced hypnosis and self-delusion. It seeks momentary euphoria and meaning in tawdry entertainment and acts of violence and destruction, including against people who are demonized and blamed for society’s demise. It hastens its self-immolation while holding up the supposed inevitability of a glorious national resurgence. Idiots and charlatans, the handmaidens of death, lure us into the abyss.

By Chris Hedges/Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Petition calls for Obama to be tried for ‘war crimes’ in The Hague

Image: earthreform.org

A petition accusing Barack Obama of war crimes and demanding he be prosecuted has been published on the White House website. It has already gained about 4,000 signatures.

“We demand conviction of a war criminal Barack Obama and trial in the International Criminal Court in [The] Hague. He is guilty of crimes not only against the USA citizens, but against the whole world,” the petition states.

The authors also note that “one of the most dreadful prisons in history – Guantanamo – continues to function.”

The US added to the de-stabilization of the situation in the Middle East, too, the petition’s authors state.

“Libya was destroyed as a result of Obama’s aggression. In Syria, Obama’s agents train, fund and organize terrorist groups, deceitfully naming them ‘moderate opposition,’ who, among other things, bear a relation to Al-Qaeda, implicated in crimes against the American people.”

More from Russia Today

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Fence jumper probe finds problems at Secret Service

 

GTY 456486744 A POL USA DC
Image: Win McNamee, Getty Images

 

A federal review of how a fence jumper managed to elude the Secret Service and enter the White House found inadequate training, staffing shortages and problems with communications at the agency in charge of protecting the president.

A summary of the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation released Thursday night revealed new details about the Sept. 19 events in which an Army veteran climbed the exterior fence, raced across the lawn and entered an unlocked door on the north front of the White House.

The intruder, Omar Gonzalez, got over the White House’s protective fence at a point where an ornamental spike, or trident, was missing, the report said. An officer who tried to raise an alarm about the jumper was unaware his radio warnings were not received by uniformed officers.

The report said some officers were unable to see the intrusion because of construction on the White House grounds. Other errors included an assumption by officers on duty that an intruder could not make it through thick barrier bushes and that the exterior White House door would be locked. It was unlocked.

More from USA Today

Posted by Libergirl

American Doomsday: White House Warns of Climate Catastrophes

Temperatures across the world in the 1880s (left) and the 1980s (right)
Image: EPA

Sorching temperatures, flooded cities, wildfires and changes in the growing season are just some of the hard realities of a changing climate that are beginning to hit Americans directly, says a new White House report.

“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the White House report released on Tuesday says.

 The third National Climate Assessment, the result of four years of research by hundreds of leading scientists and experts, draws a dire picture of a future in which human activity has contributed directly to massive changes in weather. A 1,000-page draft version of the National Climate Assessment was issued last year, and the final version was approved on Tuesday.
Posted by Libergirl