Cowards run from fights

Saul Loeb/Getty

❝ Three Republicans aiming to prevent President Donald Trump’s second term in the White House wrote a scathing opinion column condemning their party for canceling its primaries and caucuses in four states…

Three Republicans aiming to prevent President Donald Trump’s second term in the White House wrote a scathing opinion column condemning their party for canceling its primaries and caucuses in four states.

❝ The authors took shot at the state GOP parties in South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, and Kansas, all plan to cancel the 2020 election’s primaries and caucuses. The move would cement Trump’s nomination in the states and prevent any Republican from challenging him before the general election…

State Republicans officials have claimed that there are “no legitimate primary” challengers to Trump, and that taxpayers would be footing millions of dollars to pay for “an unnecessary primary.”

❝ But Sanford, Walsh, and Weld decried the move as un-American and the “latest disgrace, courtesy of Team Trump.”

The country club-clique inside the ruling party pretty much fear anything approaching democracy or dissent. Not the least when their Fearless Leader is a dumbass and a crook.

The CIA is investing your tax dollars in firms helping them to spy on you

Soft robots that can grasp delicate objects, computer algorithms designed to spot an “insider threat,” and artificial intelligence that will sift through large data sets — these are just a few of the technologies being pursued by companies with investment from In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm, according to a document obtained by The Intercept.

Yet among the 38 previously undisclosed companies receiving In-Q-Tel funding, the research focus that stands out is social media mining and surveillance; the portfolio document lists several tech companies pursuing work in this area, including Dataminr, Geofeedia, PATHAR, and TransVoyant…

Those four firms, which provide unique tools to mine data from platforms such as Twitter, presented at a February “CEO Summit” in San Jose sponsored by the fund, along with other In-Q-Tel portfolio companies.

The investments appear to reflect the CIA’s increasing focus on monitoring social media. Last September, David Cohen, the CIA’s second-highest ranking official, spoke at length at Cornell University about a litany of challenges stemming from the new media landscape.

The blather requires politically correct lies – so, official chatter is about terrorists.

The latest round of In-Q-Tel investments comes as the CIA has revamped its outreach to Silicon Valley, establishing a new wing, the Directorate of Digital Innovation, which is tasked with developing and deploying cutting-edge solutions by directly engaging the private sector. The directorate is working closely with In-Q-Tel to integrate the latest technology into agency-wide intelligence capabilities…

In-Q-Tel-backed companies are now openly embracing the practice. Geofeedia, for instance, promotes its research into Greenpeace activists, student demonstrations, minimum wage advocates, and other political movements. Police departments in Oakland, Chicago, Detroit, and other major municipalities have contracted with Geofeedia, as well as private firms such as the Mall of America and McDonald’s.

RTFA for all the delightful details. All of this expansion taking place under the aegis of bi-partisan scumbags in Congress – and a liberal Democrat in the White House.

But, we’re safe, now.

Right-wing school board provokes the civil disobedience they consider unAmerican

This week some families in Arvada, Colo., are bringing one of nation’s founding principles, civil disobedience, back into vogue by supporting their kids in a district-wide student walkout in protest of a new school board curriculum policy that could keep teachers from sharing much of our nation’s history of acts of civil disobedience.

According to The New York Times reporting from Arvada, “A new conservative school board majority here in the Denver suburbs recently proposed a curriculum-review committee to promote patriotism, respect for authority and free enterprise and to guard against educational materials that ‘encourage or condone civil disorder.’”

In response, hundreds of students, teachers and parents from high schools across the Jefferson County school district, the second largest in Colorado walked out of school, the Times reported. “Sympathetic parents brought poster board, magic markers and bottles of water,” according to the Times…

It’s worth a look at what our nation would miss if the Arvada school board did get a chance to remove from the curriculum all events that inspired, what they describe as today’s “educational materials that encourage or condone civil disorder.”

First to go might be the Boston Tea Party (the original one, not today’s national conservative political movement of the same name) leading to the War for Independence…

However, since The Tea Party was also an act of “free enterprise” it might make the cut. If the Tea Party was kept, the school board might instead choose to remove all the anti-war movements involving acts of civil disobedience.

In that case, they could stop teaching the works of Henry David Thoreau, who famously went to jail for refusing to participate in the US war against Mexico in 1849…

Since “civil disorder” is how women got the vote, the board could zap away all references to the US Women’s Suffrage movement which lasted from 1848 to 1920, a time during which thousands of women marched in the streets and were arrested to gain the right to vote.

And one of the most important historical movements in recent history, the civil rights movement, most notably represented by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., wouldn’t have a chance, because it was all about sit-ins and protests that chipped away at segregation.

Nothing new about conservatives burning books – or in the style of groups endorsed by the Koch Brothers [the Arvada School Board], preventing students from access to books and thoughts that encourage independence.

They want tidy obedient little minds to roll out of employee production units – instead of anyone with the potential to fight for human progress and free thought.

There were lots of obedient little minds in Nazi Germany. They were considered Good Germans by the Reichsführer.

Thanks, Mike

Los Alamos political scientist fired for questioning nuclear weapons dogma

james doyle

Political scientist James Doyle had spent almost 2 decades working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) on nonproliferation and nuclear security issues when he decided to write a scholarly article questioning the dogma of nuclear deterrence. Suspecting that his bosses at the Department of Energy (DOE) weapons lab in New Mexico might not agree with his analysis, Doyle researched and wrote the article in his free time and included a disclaimer saying the views were his own. And just to be safe, he got a lab colleague steeped in classification reviews to vet the article before he submitted it to a journal.

The 27-page article—“Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons?”—was published in the February-March 2013 issue of Survival: Global Politics and Strategy. And that’s when Doyle’s professional life was suddenly turned upside down.

Within days of publication, congressional staff asked lab officials whether the article contained classified information. A week later, the head of the lab’s classification office decided that it did—a decision later backed by DOE. Doyle soon lost his top-level security clearance, and he says he became persona non grata among his co-workers after accusing lab officials of retaliation and impinging on his intellectual freedom. Those complaints were dismissed, and last week, after 17 years at the weapons lab, Doyle was laid off—the only victim within his 50-person group of what lab officials told him was a reduction in force due to budget cuts.

The reasons behind Doyle’s termination, first reported by the Center for Public Integrity, an investigative news service based in Washington, D.C., may never be clear. The lab’s official statement says “we do not publicly discuss the specifics of personnel matters. Likewise, it would be inappropriate to discuss specifics surrounding security classification.”…

Many outside arms control specialists are skeptical and believe Doyle’s downfall is the result of his airing of views that are unpopular among those opposing disarmament, including some of the panel’s Republican leaders and staff…

Amid the murky circumstances, many nuclear security experts are sharply criticizing the lab’s actions. “It sends a chilling message not just to employees, but also those beyond the lab, that their ability to work on topics subject to classification could be restricted if they become too critical of policies that the lab holds dear,” says Frank von Hippel, a physicist at Princeton University. “It’s a very disturbing situation,” adds Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C. “DOE leadership needs to reverse this decision.”

You thought the Cold War was over, eh?

RTFA for a long, detailed and truly knowledgeable article on the politics of working for an imperial government. The White House, Pentagon and cheerleaders in Congress are unified in their conviction that only might makes right. They continue in the belief that only the threat of worldwide nuclear annihilation can bring peace to the world.

Our government, from the White House down through assorted bureaucrats, continues to pat themselves on the back solid in their belief that threatening the world with death and fire somehow was the motive force behind peace breaking out a couple decades ago. A peace that was destroyed as soon as Republicans were solidly in office backed by Neo-Con ideology.

So, one employee of the atomic death and destruction brigade writes a scholarly re-examination of our Nuclear Weapons Enterprise – and that constitutes sufficient threat that he must be terminated before he infects others with his freedom of thought.

Contemptible as ever. And still above criticism or oversight.

Saudi Arabia court jails Facebook cyber-activists

Press TV file photo

A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced seven cyber activists to between five to 10 years in prison for inciting protests, mainly by using Facebook…The men were arrested in September last year, according to Human Rights Watch and their trial began in April.

They were charged with posting online messages to encourage protests, although they were not accused of directly taking part in demonstrations.

It is seen as the country’s latest move against online political dissent…

The longest sentence of 10 years was reportedly given to an activist who set up two Facebook groups allegedly explaining the best protest techniques.

The rights group said the men had all admitted contributing to Facebook pages supporting the leading Shia cleric Tawfiq al-Amer, who was held in February 2011 after calling for a constitutional monarchy.

His arrest provoked anti-government rallies inspired by a wave of popular revolt in the country’s Eastern Region, where much of its crude oil is sourced.

The seven men were sentenced on 24 June for “allegedly inciting protests and harming public order, largely by using Facebook“…

Several of the defendants said they had been tortured into signing confessions, according to HRW.

The case contained two elements that the Saudi authorities are particularly sensitive about, the BBC World Service’s Middle East editor Sebastian Usher reports – political criticism expressed online and protests staged by the Shia minority in the east of the country.

Life in a world full of peace. How peace is achieved – or is it controlled – is another matter. From here, it looks like the peaceable kingdom is working harder than ever to shut down dissent.

Italy’s 5-Star movement faces 5-Star mutiny

Beppe Grillo, the fiery comic whose populist 5-Star Movement stunned Italy by winning a quarter of the votes in February’s election, is facing his biggest test since the vote with rebellion brewing among his novice lawmakers.

Publicly blamed by one of his own senators for the party’s poor showing in local elections earlier this week, in which it won only two towns out of more than 500, Grillo faces the threat of a mutiny that could blow the party apart.

As many as 30 parliamentarians are said to be ready to quit the party for various reasons…Some have balked at being asked to hand back daily parliamentary allowances as part of the movement’s rejection of political privilege.

Others chafe at Grillo’s deep intolerance of dissent in a grassroots movement where everyone is supposed to have a say…

What has emerged is his limits as a leader. Any politician knows that managing things in such an absolutist, authoritarian manner is impossible,” said Leonardo Morlino, a professor of political science at LUISS university in Rome.

Grillo’s success was built in equal measure on his own charisma and skill in articulating boiling frustration at a discredited elite, and on widespread public hopes for a new way of doing politics built on youthful energy and the power of the Internet…

His popular blog attracts thousands of comments from young people sick of being shut out of decisions and turned off by a television system divided between Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset empire and state broadcasting carved up between the main political parties.

Play-school imitations of dissent always appeal to the disaffected. And achieve little if anything. Now that his tantrums have taken the “movement” past a couple of expressions of independence – his anarchistic bullying is becoming best known as Sound and Fury, signifying nothing. If there’s nothing to be achieved – there’s no reason to follow.

Arab youth want democracy, not theocracy

Danger over – American politicians fly to Egypt for a photo op in Tahrir Square
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Hosni Mubarak’s resignation resurrected a tsunami wave of articles and commentaries on whether Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood would now come to power. And yet, few have asked why the primary leaders of grassroots revolt in Egypt and across the Arab world curiously have not been Islamic organizations.

Authoritarian rulers in the Arab world, like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, have long justified their repressive governments by warning the United States and Europe that the alternative to their governments was “chaos” and an Islamist takeover.

The new generation of Arab youth and their supporters, however diverse and different, is united in its desire to topple entrenched autocrats and corrupt governments.

Having witnessed the failures of Islamist authoritarian regimes in Sudan, Iran, the Taliban’s Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, and the terror of the Bin Laden’s of the world, they are not interested in theocracy but democracy with its greater equality, pluralism, freedoms and opportunities.

But what about the Islamists, where are they?

The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic groups neither initiated nor have led pro-democracy protest movements. The uprisings have revealed a broad-based pro-democracy movement that is not driven by a single ideology or by religious extremists.

What has occurred is not an attempt at an Islamist takeover but a broad-based call for reforms…

As their signs, placards, statements, demands and the waving of flags not Islamist placards indicated, protesters want to reclaim their dignity, control of their lives and the right to determine their government; they demand government accountability and transparency, rule of law, an end to widespread corruption, and respect for human rights…

In contrast to radical extremists who want to seize power and impose their brand of an Islamic state, mainstream Islamic groups have competed and done well in elections and remained non-violent despite government limitations, harassment, repression, and rigged elections.

They have created effective NGOs that respond to the social and educational needs of their societies. They have come to appreciate diversity and pluralism in society and the need for democracy as the best system to manage this diversity. They have also been advocating many of the values of democracy, such as citizenship, rule of law, constitutionalism, separation of power, good governance and accountability…

I’m not certain how much of this analysis is wishful thinking by John Esposito. Certainly the currents he describes as mainstream, even predominant, have always been a force in the resistance to old-line dictators. Especially to the autocrats so often favored by the US and UK.

But, the youth wing of the Muslim Brotherhood did play a significant role in the overthrow of Mubarak. Without the direction of the traditional membership. They have changed many strategies of Islamist movements – they were bright enough to prevent hackneyed religious sloganeering during the uprising – they haven’t changed much on some individual issues. The most important, democratic participation of all parties is the most welcome change in their ideology.

I hope he’s right. RTFA for the details. He does have significantly more knowledge of the turf than your average politician or pundit.

Mohammad Ali Abtahi faces prison for dissent in Iran

Daylife/Reuters Picture used by permission – passed by Iranian censors

A former Iranian vice president has been sentenced to six years in jail after being accused of fomenting unrest to overthrow the government.

Mohammad Ali Abtahi is the most senior reformer to face imprisonment following the disputed presidential election in June. Abtahi was vice president for parliamentary and legal affairs during the 1997-2005 presidency of Mohammad Khatami.

His lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, said he planned to appeal against the verdict. He has 20 days to submit the appeal. Abtahi was released on $700,000 bail after the verdict was delivered…

Iran’s security forces have warned the opposition not to take part in demonstrations, in an attempt to avoid a revival of the protests that erupted after the presidential elections on 12 June in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad secured a second term. The turmoil after the election was the worst in Iran since its 1979 Islamic revolution. Authorities deny vote-rigging and portrayed the unrest as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the Islamic state…

Iran’s judiciary said last week that five people have been sentenced to death and 81 have received jail terms of up to 15 years in connection with protests and violence after the poll, but it did not give their names.

My personal association with freedom fighters in Iran goes back to the days of the resistance to CIA-led gangsters overthrowing the democratically-elected Mossadegh government. The contradictions are tough.

After all, accusations of foreign intervention, deceit and gangsterism by the United States are rooted in legitimate history. Our own sleazy support of reactionaries and monarchies in the Middle East don’t inspire automatic trust in the opposition to Islamic Republics of any flavor.

Still, reluctance to allow a broader democracy in the nation which led that fight in the region is despicable. A political decision resented by Iranians that matches their contempt for the hypocrites in Congress and the Knesset who have suddenly discovered a need for freedom.

Police State spies on law-abiding Brits

Chief constables will be forced to justify the legality of recording thousands of law-abiding protesters on secret nationwide databases, the government’s privacy watchdog announced today.

Christopher Graham, the information commissioner, said he had “genuine concerns about the ever increasing amount” of personal data held by police.

Graham’s move came after the Guardian revealed how police have developed a covert apparatus to monitor people they consider are, or could be, “domestic extremists”, a term which has no legal basis.

Photographs and personal details of thousands of activists who attend demonstrations, rallies and political meetings are being stored on the databases. Surveillance officers are given so-called “spotter cards” to identify individuals who may “instigate offences or disorder” at demonstrations.

Alan Johnson, the home secretary, was today forced to defend the police for labelling protesters “domestic extremists”. He said: “I haven’t issued any guidance [to police] on the definition of that phrase. The police know what they are doing, they know how to tackle these demonstrations, they do it very effectively…”

David Howarth, the Liberal Democrat justice spokesman, said that “an alphabet soup of agencies appears to have decided to put everyone in this country who protests about anything on a list of suspects”.

RTFA. None of this should surprise anyone in the UK or the US. Give political powers to policing bodies and – guess what? – they expand on those powers as they see fit. No rhyme or reason is required. Don’t worry – a rationale will be provided on the spot.

The sad part is that the coppers think they’re doing their job regardless. The target ends up being citizens at large. The whole populace of the nation might just be out of line.

In case you thought there was a slight difference between Labor and Conservative, liberal and conservative – remember it was the Blair Government that handed over these freedoms in the name of safety. The Bush government did the same thing here.

Jewish writer reports from Iran – raises a storm in America

Inside a synagogue in Esfahan

A row has broken out over allegations of antisemitism at the New York Times, America’s most vaunted name in journalism and a newspaper with a large Jewish readership. The storm centres on a column about Jews in Iran written by New York Times journalist Roger Cohen and a cartoon attacking the recent war in Gaza.

The newspaper, and Cohen in particular, has been accused of being too critical of Israel and an apologist for Iran and its leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Cohen’s column was written from Iran about the country’s small Jewish minority. His piece acknowledged the difficulties the group experienced and portrayed them as part of an Iranian society that he said was more tolerant, democratic and sophisticated than many American critics allowed.

Such sentiments might seem uncontroversial, but in America no one touching on issues around Israel or antisemitism escapes close scrutiny. Cohen was attacked by Jewish writers and bloggers. The Jerusalem Post dubbed him “misled”, while the Atlantic Monthly called him “credulous”. Others went much further…

Perhaps part of the reason for the intensity of the attack is the fact that he is Jewish himself. “I think it’s partly my name. The ‘self-hating Jew’ things can come to the surface in some of the responses,” he said. Another reason is that the column appeared in the Times, which many media experts hardly see as a fierce critic of Israel, given its home audience. “As soon as I read the column I thought a lot of people would be unhappy,” said Jack Lule, a journalism professor at Lehigh University.

Any critic of Israel’s government comes to expect charges of anti-Semitism. It generally is more ferocious than the old McCarthy Days [and post-McCarthy] label of anti-American against any citizen who challenges U.S. foreign policy. After all, Israel occupies a special place in the American mythology of Freedom Fighters We Love and Support.

The ranks of Americans with friends in Israel’s Left has diminished – mostly as that independent Left has dwindled through age, collaboration with Centrist and Right politicians. So, that American Jewish voice shrinks, as well. Even the last of my old friends who once shared the occasional cell during earlier American repressions – are gone – the Arab and the Jew, they used to call themselves in argument. Though they both were Jews.