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Geopolitics / Bury me in the flag': Elderly Catalans speak out
« Last post by RE on Today at 02:00:13 AM »

'Bury me in the flag': Elderly Catalans speak out
by Creede Newton
18 hours ago

Teresa Bou says 'for the first time in a century, we're capable of uniting' [Creede Newton/Al Jazeera]
more on Spain

    Spain-Catalonia standoff to intensify as deadline looms
    Catalan leader Puigdemont told to act with 'good sense'
    'Bury me in the flag': Elderly Catalans speak out
    Protests erupt as Catalan separatist leaders jailed

El Bruc, Catalonia, Spain – Three generations of Catalans gathered outside on an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon in El Bruc, a town of 2,000, to celebrate the matriarch of the family, 81-year-old Teresa Bou.

Paella, one of Spain's most famous dishes, was on the stove. Though it comes from Valencia, the Catalan-speaking region to the south of Catalonia, it has become a must-try dish for tourists visiting Barcelona.

Cava, a sparkling wine produced in Catalonia, was served. The nearly 20 members of Bou's family sat in the October sun, speaking Catalan.

So many cultural staples of Catalonia were appropriate: Bou is very Catalan.

Since the political crisis over Catalonia's independence began, she has been known to say "Bury me in the Catalan flag!"

Bou, in a moment of heated debate over independence, vowed she would never again step foot "in Spain".

The events of October have weighed heavily on the matriarch. Bou has felt very patriotic and sentimental for the cause of Catalonia's independence. "Maybe not very rational, but very sentimental," the octogenarian said.

Bou views the push for independence as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: "For the first time in a century, we're capable of uniting. We have the hope of constructing a new country - more just, freer and more equal."
Franco's shadow

For Bou, and many Catalans regardless of their age, a discussion about independence isn't complete without mentioning the brutality of Spain's civil war, which began in 1936, and the Franco period, which lasted from 1939 to 1975.

The Spanish Civil War had been raging for more than three months when Bou was born in October 1936.

Though the war ended in 1939, she lived through its consequences. Bou described her memories of people accused of war crimes being summarily executed in 1945.
Thousands demand release of jailed Catalan separatists

The memory still unsettles her: "It left a large mark on me," Bou said, almost shaking. "They shot them like they were sheep."

The Franco government was responsible for a wide gamut of human rights abuses and was known for its efforts to homogenise Spain. Catholicism was the only state-sanctioned religion. Minority languages and culture, such as Catalan, were made illegal.

Bou recounted that, although she spoke Catalan at home, it was as if it didn't exist anywhere else. "Catalan nearly disappeared," Bou said.

While attending an all-girls Catholic school at the age of 16, Bou met a teacher who was pro-Catalan, but "did not indoctrinate the students … he opened my eyes that there was a country I didn't find in the text books."
'I didn't vote'

Franco died in 1975, but not before naming former King Juan Carlos as his successor. The world assumed Spanish autocracy would continue - Franco groomed Juan Carlos to rule Spain with the same authoritarian streak.

Juan Carlos instead stewarded a democratic transition. Political parties were made legal, and a constitution was written and approved in 1978. The first democratic government was formed in 1982.
What's next for Catalonia: Confrontation or dialogue?
Rafa Perez Bel
by Rafa Perez Bel

Bou said she had some hope for the future after the death of Franco. But like many Catalans, aspects of the democratic transition displeased her.

The country was to remain a monarchy, which Bou thought was bad for the people, and the People's Party, Spain's foremost conservative party, was founded by former ministers from Franco's government.

The transitional government passed an amnesty law that protected crimes committed during the Civil War and Franco's reign.

"I quickly realised they were the same dogs with different collars," Bou said of post-Franco Spanish politicians. "Nothing changed … so in the [first free] elections in 1977, I didn't vote."

Though there is no official count of the people killed or disappeared during the Franco government, Human Rights Watch (HRW) placed the number at more than 100,000 between 1936 and 1951.

The crimes weren't legally acknowledged until the Law of Historical Memory was passed in 2007. "Spanish courts have routinely failed to investigate allegations of horrendous crimes of the past," HRW said in 2010.

The Spanish Ministry of Justice has taken some steps towards recognising victims, such as compiling a map showing the mass graves that nearly cover the country, but the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, which has ruled since 2011, has been criticised for neglecting enforcement of the law.
The path of Gandhi

The Spanish High Court ruled the October 1 referendum on independence illegal and ordered police to stop the vote.

Images of the national police and Civil Guard, a military contingent tasked with law enforcement, assaulting voters, some of whom were elderly, shocked the world.

HRW said that "excessive force" was used to stop the vote.

Two elderly women discussed the violence at a popular restaurant in Barcelona's trendy Gracia neighbourhood.

Soft-spoken Paula Soler Font, a woman in her late 60s, said she saw violence first-hand on the day of the referendum. "The police didn't discriminate between young or old," she said.


Spain's media spin on Catalonia

Since then, Madrid and Catalonia have been engaged in a political barter. Puigdemont declared and then suspended independence on October 10. Prime Minister Rajoy issued an ultimatum to Puigdemont to clarify his stance on independence by Monday, October 16.

On October 16, Puigdemont offered two months of dialogue. In response, Madrid granted a three-day extension while threatening to enact Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which would strip Catalonia of its independence.

"It will happen soon. [Catalan President Carles] Puigdemont will declare independence," Soler said.

Regarding the back and forth between Puigdemont and Rajoy, Soler said Puigdemont "is allowing the situation to de-escalate, while gaining international support."

If the Spanish government does enact Article 155 and national police are again sent to Catalonia, Soler said Catalan people would "take the path of Gandhi. It's the only choice we have."

Soler's companion, 71-year-old Marta Fabregat, agreed. Catalans "have neither arms nor a desire for violence. Nonviolence is the way to independence."

Back in El Bruc, Bou echoed the nonviolent sentiments of Fabregat and Soler. She added that it wouldn't be easy.

Whether or not independence is declared, there will be "tough years ahead", Bou concluded.
You won't find me pretending to know much about this stuff, but it sure sounds pretty bad to me.
Came across it a while a few minutes ago and know it is a Diner topic of interest.

      Oil sands at Fort McMurray. Alberta is home to 68% of Canada’s natural gas production, 47% of its light crude oil production as well as 80% of all crude oil and equivalents. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
'This is a really big deal': Canada natural gas emissions far worse than feared | World news
Ashifa Kassam

Alberta’s oil and gas industry – Canada’s largest producer of fossil fuel resources – could be emitting 25 to 50% more methane than previously believed, new research has suggested.

The pioneering peer reviewed study, published in Environmental Science & Technology on Tuesday, used airplane surveys to measure methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure in two regions in Alberta. The results were then compared with industry-reported emissions and estimates of unreported sources of the powerful greenhouse gas, which warm the planet more than 20 times as much as similar volumes of carbon dioxide.

“Our first reaction was ‘Oh my goodness, this is a really big deal,” said Matthew Johnson, a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa and one of the study’s authors. “If we thought it was bad, it’s worse.”

Carried out last autumn, the survey measured the airborne emissions of thousands of oil and gas wells in the regions. Researchers also tracked the amount of ethane to ensure that methane emissions from cattle would not end up in their results.

In one region dominated by heavy oil wells, researchers found that the type of heavy oil recovery used released 3.6 times more methane than previously believed. The technique is used in several other sites across the province, suggesting emissions from these areas are also underestimated.

In the second region, home to a mix of gas and light oil wells, researchers found results that were roughly equal to those reported by industry and unreported sources. However, they found that only 6% of methane emissions in this region were from industry-reported sources, with the remaining emissions, known as fugitive emissions, from unreported sources such as unintentional equipment leaks.

The finding could have major implications as Alberta and Ottawa strive to reduce methane emissions by 45% from 2012 levels by 2025, said Johnson. “It shows how much isn’t captured in current reporting requirements, and therein is a challenge and an opportunity all wrapped in one.”

The study then sought to conservatively extrapolate the findings, correcting only for sites that are home to heavy oil. What they found was in Alberta – home to 68% of Canada’s natural gas production, 47% of its light crude oil production as well as 80% of all crude oil and equivalents – total emissions were likely 25 to 50% higher than previous government estimates. The findings excluded mined oil sands, which are believed to be responsible for about 11% of methane emissions.

Canadian advocacy group Environmental Defence described the findings as alarming. “The methane gas currently being wasted would supply almost all the natural gas needs of Alberta, and is worth $530m per year,” Dale Marshall of the organisation said in a statement. “This represents an economic cost for governments in the form of lost royalties and taxes, and for industry in terms of revenue.”

Marshall pointed to the readily available solutions for controlling leaks and intentional releases of methane gas, portraying them as some of lowest cost strategies available to reduce carbon emissions.

Researchers said they have already begun presenting their findings to various levels of government, depicting it as a chance for industry and regulators to more effectively tackle emissions of methane – a gas far more potent than CO2 but which persists for less time in the atmosphere.

“When you take methane emissions and convert them to CO2 emissions so you can compare to cars, for Alberta, the total methane we’re talking about on a 100-year scale is 8 to 9.7 million vehicles. If we do it on a 20-year timescale, we’re talking maybe 28 to 33 million vehicles,” said Johnson. “This is a real opportunity.” :icon_study:

Environment / Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico’s Neo-Colonial Legacy
« Last post by RE on October 18, 2017, 06:59:20 PM »

Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico’s Neo-Colonial Legacy

By Jon Lee Anderson

4:53 P.M.

Two of the Spanish-American War’s last battles were fought near Aibonito, Puerto Rico, on land now owned by Ramón Rivera.
Photograph by Christopher Gregory for The New Yorker

The view southward from the Asomante hills outside the Puerto Rican town of Aibonito is spectacular, reaching all the way to the Caribbean coast. A pretty little town situated in the island’s southeastern Cayey mountain range, Aibonito has the highest altitude in Puerto Rico—twenty-four hundred feet. It’s known for its cool climate, its bucolic scenery, its flowers, and its chicken farms.

In the small valleys around the town, many of the long, low, tin-roofed chicken breederies—polleros—were smashed to smithereens, and their occupants killed, during Hurricane Maria. In the middle of last week, when I visited, the dead chickens had been buried, but there was still wreckage strewn around the blasted polleros. The eye of the storm came right through these hills on September 20th and was especially fierce along the exposed ridgelines. The winds, whipping in at a hundred and fifty-five miles an hour, ripped apart wooden houses; they also turned most of the leaves on the trees in the surrounding forests from green to brown. Along the road leading up to Aibonito from the capital city of San Juan, which is a two-hour drive, there is—as everywhere else on the island—a dismal panorama of ruined houses and businesses, toppled and twisted trees, and downed utility poles.

I went to Aibonito in the company of a friend, Ana Teresa Toro. A talented journalist in her early thirties, Ana Teresa comes from Aibonito; she had always spoken proudly to me of her home town, and promised to show it to me one day. (She is also a newlywed; her wedding took place in the brief lull between Hurricanes Irma and Maria.)

Now we had our chance. In Aibonito, Ana Teresa took me to meet her aunt and uncle, who live in the same house where her grandmother, a traditional healer, had lived and worked until her death, a few years ago. We walked to Aibonito’s central plaza to admire its unique red, white, and blue “mural de la bandera,” representing a detail of the Puerto Rican flag, which Ana Teresa’s cousin Humberto had painted, using an entire house as his canvas. The flag’s single illuminated star, which had stood on a stanchion on the rooftop, had been destroyed by Maria. Humberto had painted the mural as a patriotic gesture, and, as Ana Teresa pointed out, it was a pro-independence flag—its blue was the distinctive baby-blue of the independistas, whereas the Puerto Rican flags of those who are pro-statehood favor a darker hue.

After Hurricane Maria, Ana Teresa and her husband, Modesto, didn’t go on a honeymoon but, instead, flew to Boston and sought assistance from the Puerto Rican community there. They had also met with mayors and businesspeople to solicit help for the island. Ana Teresa told me that she was happy to have helped make “a small contribution” to a fund-raising campaign, organized by several philanthropic organizations, that had raised about a million dollars for N.G.O.s involved in relief efforts on the island. But she had returned home, nonetheless, feeling extremely depressed. Looking around at the beat-up places of her Aibonito childhood, Ana Teresa also knew that, henceforth, things would probably not improve in Puerto Rico but get worse.

Like most of the other Puerto Ricans I met, Ana Teresa was outraged and wounded by the things Donald Trump had said about Puerto Rico. She felt more deeply than ever that she and her fellow Puerto Ricans were second-class U.S. citizens. During her recent U.S. trip, she told me, one politician had come up to her and said, in a whisper that was intended to be confiding as well as comforting, “Don’t worry, we’re going to push for statehood for you.”

For Ana Teresa, a proud Puerto Rican nationalist, the remark was a crushing reminder that most non-Puerto Rican U.S. citizens are blissfully ignorant of the island’s cultural heritage, its history, and some of its people’s national aspirations. “I know that it didn’t occur to the mayor that he was hurting my feelings, nor did it occur to him that I might possibly aspire to anything higher than full U.S. citizenship,” Ana Teresa said. (Since 1917, when Puerto Rico was made an unincorporated U.S. territory, its citizens have been American citizens, but they do not have congressional voting rights, nor can they vote for President.)

A view from Ramón Rivera’s property in Aibonito, Puerto Rico. The town is situated at an elevation of twenty-four hundred feet in the island’s southeastern Cayey mountain range.
Photograph by Christopher Gregory for The New Yorker

Puerto Rico’s neo-colonial status is shared with the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, which, along with Cuba and the Philippines, were the Spanish colonial possessions acquired by the United States after its military victory in the Spanish-American War. Both Cuba and the Philippines eventually became independent.

As it turns out, two of the last battles of the Spanish-American War in Puerto Rico took place just outside Aibonito on the bluff overlooking the island, at the edge of the Asomante hills. On August 9, 1898, a column of American troops probing into the central highlands met heavy resistance at Asomante from Spanish troops who were dug into the hilltop along a trench line. The U.S. troops were led by Major General James H. Wilson, a celebrated veteran of the American Civil War, on the Unionist side. (He was famous, among other things, for having captured the defeated Confederate President, Jefferson Davis.) Wilson’s troops retreated after coming under heavy fire; several American soldiers were wounded in the fracas. Three days later, his troops made another attempt to take the hilltop, and were again rebuffed, with several more men injured.

The war, such as it was, had already ended for the Spaniards, however. The next day, hostilities ceased when Spain agreed to surrender its forces and to relinquish Puerto Rico and its other colonial territories. A month later, on September 13, 1898, in the Protocol of Peace, as it was called, Spain formalized its defeat by a vote of 161 to 48 in the Spanish parliament, the Cortes. While Spain entered the twentieth century as a defeated nation on the world stage, the United States launched itself forth with swagger as a new and expansionist military player.

As for Puerto Rico, the U.S. victory over Spain meant a new form of political vassalage. Like neighboring Cuba, Puerto Rico had also had a pro-independence movement and launched several short-lived revolts that had been quelled by the Spaniards. Instead of receiving its emancipation, however, from 1898 onward Puerto Rico became a virtual American colony, under the authority of the U.S. military, which also appointed Puerto Rico’s governor. In 1914, the U.S. Congress rejected a unanimous vote made by the rump Puerto Rican legislature in favor of Puerto Rico’s independence. In 1917, by another act of Congress, Puerto Rico was made an unincorporated U.S. territory.

The place where the Asomante battles took place is known nowadays as Trinchera, or Trench. The bluff where the siege lines were laid is just a short walk downhill from the house of Ramón Rivera, a heavy-equipment operator who works for the municipality of Aibonito, and who owns the lands thereabouts. Rivera, a handsome man of seventy-two, lives alone above the bluff in a concrete bungalow, its windows still covered with plywood, which, he said, had withstood Maria without damage. He had lost power like everyone else, and was still without electricity. He shrugged; the power would eventually come back. He was O.K. He and Ana Teresa made their introductions and swapped family names; Rivera said he knew her uncle. She smiled happily and said to me, “One way or another, we’re all connected in Aibonito.”

Rivera waved across the little road that led up to his house toward a small green valley; it was where he had grown up. His father had owned much of the land there, including a cattle ranch. He was living on what was left of the family property, which had been sold off over the years, and their big old house with a wraparound porch was gone, too. The valley was dotted with homes and several large polleros, the roof of one of them shattered by the hurricane.

A home in Aibonito, Puerto Rico, shows damage from Hurricane Maria, which struck the island on September 20th as a Category 4 storm.
Photograph by Christopher Gregory for The New Yorker

Rivera led us downhill behind his house, past a grazing horse, to a flat area that ended where the hill fell away sharply. There were no trenches visible, and Rivera explained that years earlier, one of his brothers, who planned to build a house there, had levelled the hilltop with a bulldozer. In the process, the earth he’d removed had covered the old trench lines. “In those days nobody thought about preserving anything,” he said. He had helped his brother level the hill. There was, however, a stone plinth at the edge of the bluff. It was inscribed with the following message in Spanish: “The Asomante Trenches: In this place the advance of the American troops was halted on the 12th of August 1989 when the last battle between American and Spanish troops in the Spanish-American War was waged.” (The plinth had been erected by Aibonito’s mayor on the centenary of the war, in 1998.)

Rivera casually mentioned that his father, who had lived to a hundred and fifteen, had been an eyewitness to the Asomante battle. His father, he explained, had died forty-eight years before. After some mental calculations, I concluded that his father had been born in the eighteen-fifties. Did that sound right? Rivera nodded. “Did he ever talked to you about the battle?” I asked Rivera wistfully. “Not really,” Rivera said. His father was already old by the time he’d come along, and he had been a forbidding man. “He was old-fashioned and close-lipped, and never talked about the past,” Rivera said. “He never joked, either.”

By way of further explanation, Rivera said that he was just one of his father’s forty-eight children, and that they had never been close. When I exclaimed at the number, Rivera disclosed that he himself had fathered seventeen children—that he knew of—with thirteen different women. With a smile, Rivera said that he had never been rich, and always had to work for his living, but that he enjoyed his life. He wasn’t pampered as a boy, like young people are today, he said. He had gone to work on neighbors’ farms for his money, planting coffee or sugarcane; he left for the U.S. at eighteen, because it was so difficult to make ends meet at home. The difference in pay was dramatic—his wages in Puerto Rico had been fifty cents a day and a glass of orange juice, he recalled, while in the U.S., his first wage was six dollars a day. He named several addresses in the Bronx and in Brooklyn where he had worked in a plastics factory, on one occasion, and on another in one that made mannequins. He had also worked on a potato farm in New Jersey, driving a truck and also operating the potato weigher. He had been in New York when J. F. K. was killed. He said that people around him had stopped what they were doing and cried when they heard the news. He didn’t know who J. F. K. was, so he hadn’t felt anything, but he remembered the moment. The last time he had gone to the U.S. he had been around twenty-eight or thirty, but he hasn’t returned since 1973, when he had been hired by the Aibonito public-works department, where he has worked ever since. He was technically retired, but still worked when he was needed. Most recently, he had helped retrieve people from their flooded houses with a front loader following Hurricane Maria.

When I asked Rivera about Donald Trump’s recent critical remarks about Puerto Rico, he said that he was not much interested in politics, but assumed that Trump had been trying to “impose some respect.” Rivera ventured, “I think he wants people to work, not just ask for things, even if he did say it a little strongly.” He also said that he supported Puerto Rico’s status as an “estado libre asociado,” but believed that life would improve if the island’s governments were cleaned up. He blamed the island’s economic problems on corrupt officials who had enriched themselves on public-works projects, and compared them to Catholic priests who abused their parishioners.

Fourteen of his seventeen children had gone to the United States to live, Rivera said. They had gone, just as he once had, to earn better money than they could in Puerto Rico. Rivera said that he was upset about those Puerto Ricans leaving the island in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, however. “I don’t think those are real Puerto Ricans,” he said. “If we’re in a crisis, we have to help ourselves and each other in order to help the country move forward. How can we do that if everyone leaves? I am not in agreement.”

Rivera waved at the land around his house and to the view that extended all the way to the distant sea, and he said, “I’m happy here, anyway. Why would I ever leave?”

Jaime Mendoza and his son-in-law José Colón in front of Jaime’s home in Aibonito. Hurricane Maria tore off the second story of the structure.
Photograph by Christopher Gregory for The New Yorker

    Jon Lee Anderson, a staff writer, began contributing to The New Yorker in 1998. He is the author of “The Lion’s Grave: Dispatches from Afghanistan and Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life.
Far Out Newz / Are You A Starseed?
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Economics / Did Russia Just Issue A New Eurasian Currency?
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Geopolitics / Re: Dopamine Dreams
« Last post by Surly1 on October 18, 2017, 05:02:50 PM »
The article forgot to mention who the voters had for an alternative.


Like a gent we both admire said, Chris Hedges, "Jill Stein graciously offered to step aside and let Bernie run in her place."

He also said Sanders should have accepted. He betrayed all his supporters after there was proof Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC dicked him.  :dontknow:

Birds of a feather.

Plus, the checks cleared.
Knarfs Knewz / Wildlife photography does not have to be pretty.
« Last post by knarf on October 18, 2017, 04:44:42 PM »
Harvard study finds over half of deaths wrongly classified, in latest example of databases greatly undercounting police killings

Over half of all police killings in 2015 were wrongly classified as not having been the result of interactions with officers, a new Harvard study based on Guardian data has found.

The finding is just the latest to show government databases seriously undercounting the number of people killed by police.

“Right now the data quality is bad and unacceptable,” said lead researcher Justin Feldman. “To effectively address the problem of law enforcement-related deaths, the public needs better data about who is being killed, where, and under what circumstances.”

Feldman used data from the Guardian’s 2015 investigation into police killings, The Counted, and compared it with data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). That dataset, which is kept by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was found to have misclassified 55.2% of all police killings, with the errors occurring disproportionately in low-income jurisdictions.

“As with any public health outcome or exposure, the only way to understand the magnitude of the problem, and whether it is getting better or worse, requires that data be uniformly, validly, and reliably obtained throughout the US,” said Nancy Krieger, professor of social epidemiology at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health and senior author of the study. “Our results show our country is falling short of accurately monitoring deaths due to law enforcement and work is needed to remedy this problem.”

NVSS data has been collected since the late 1800s and today is responsible for, among other things, aggregating all annual US deaths. In 1949, the report added a category to capture “legal intervention” as a cause of death along with classifications like cancer, heart disease and accidents. Typically these determinations are made by local medical examiners and coroners, reported on death certificates, and submitted to the CDC.

To assess how accurately that classification was being used, the team took the 1,146 police-related deaths recorded by The Counted in 2015, removed 60 cases that did not fit the criteria of the CDC’s “legal intervention” category and requested death certificate data for the remaining 1,086 individuals. They found that a majority, 599 deaths, were classified as resulting from something other than legal intervention – principally “assault”.

Researchers found the accuracy varied wildly by state, with just 17.6% misclassification in Washington, but a startling 100% in Oklahoma.

“[Oklahoma] had more than 30 people were killed by police there in 2015 and none of them were counted on death certificates,” Feldman said.

According to the report, there were 36 cases of “legal intervention” captured in the NVSS which were not included in The Counted.

“We hope that this paper is a call to action to improve public health reporting, whether that’s following a method like the Guardian did by integrating media sources better, or by changing the policy around requiring clinicians [medical examiners and coroners] to report these deaths,” Feldman said.

Feldman also noted that this problem was law-enforcement specific. “Evidence suggests that the accuracy of mortality classification for homicide – an outcome similar to law-enforcement-related mortality … is very high”, the report reads. One 2014 study cited puts the figure at 99%.

In 2015 the Guardian launched The Counted, an interactive, crowdsourced database attempting to track police killings throughout the US. The project was intended to help remedy the lack of reliable data on police killings, a lack that became especially visible after the 2014 unrest in Ferguson put policing in the national spotlight.

Other federal databases, including the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) arrest-related death count and the FBI’s supplementary homicide reports were similarly criticised for severely undercounting police-related deaths. Both programs have been dramatically reworked since The Counted and similar media/open source databases forced officials such as the former FBI director James Comey to admit that newspapers had more accurate data than the government on police violence.
Knarfs Knewz / Steve Bannon's Armageddon
« Last post by knarf on October 18, 2017, 04:37:43 PM »
The Yellowstone caldera has a lot of people on edge this week, apparently for good reason. For those not in the know, a caldera is the depression left in the ground after a supervolcano erupts. Yellowstone did so about 630,000 years ago, and the violence of that mighty explosion -- the likes of which have never been seen by human eyes -- made that gorgeous national park what it is today.

If Yellowstone decides to erupt, well, buy canned goods. An eruption won't be the continent-obliterating event depicted in the disaster flick 2012 (I'm sure Woody Harrelson will be fine), but it would be quite completely bad. Every crop within 500 miles in all directions at least will be buried in ash, and the sky will be last-book-in-the-Bible black until a good, stiff breeze picks up the ejecta cloud and drags it out over the Atlantic.

The good folks at the United States Geological Survey tell us not to worry, but people are worried anyway. An eruption at the Yellowstone caldera would be preceded by one if not several earthquakes, and there have been something like 800 earthquakes around the caldera in the last couple of weeks. Lots of smart people are saying no big deal, but if you hear a loud thud from the upper left corner of Wyoming, don't say you weren't warned.

Lately, when I think of Yellowstone exploding, I think of former White House adviser Steve Bannon's nascent "revolution." Like the caldera, it'll be something else indeed. If he fails, he could unleash chaos. If he succeeds, the very survival of the nation could be cast into doubt.

Steve Bannon's curiously corkscrewed path through this life has been well-documented. His husbanding of the far-right racist, misogynist, Islamophobic "news" site Breitbart landed him on the Trump presidential campaign and put him in the White House as chief strategist for a small slice of time, but it is his gleeful wrecking ball enthusiasm that has him in the news lately.

"I want to bring everything crashing down," he told Ronald Radosh of The Daily Beast in August of last year, "and destroy all of today's establishment." The establishment he has his eyes set on today belongs, as it happens, to the Republican Party. At the Values Voter Summit last weekend, he whipped the crowd into a delirious froth at the prospect of running primary challenges at any GOP officeholder who draws his ire by not living up to his white supremacist standards. "This is not my war, this is our war," he declared. "And you all didn't start it, the establishment started it. I will tell you one thing -- you all are gonna finish it."

Republican Senators Mitch McConnell, Orrin Hatch, Bob Corker, John Barasso, Dean Heller and Deb Fischer all were splashed with Bannon's mark of Cain, worthy of being overthrown and tossed aside because, in some form or fashion, they displeased or defied the president. Few will shed tears if these loathsome establishment Republicans lose their seats; they have harmed the country beyond measure. Yet if Bannon gets his way, it's possible they will be replaced with Roy Moore clones seeking to unmake the country even as they pledge their loyalty to Trump. Either way, there's no cause for celebration in sight.

The details behind the infrastructure of this insurgency remain murky, but here's the grim part: Bannon has the perfect partner in Donald J. Trump, whether or not the two are seen actually working together. The president has been a demonstrable catastrophe in office, but don't tell him that. "I'm not going to blame myself," said Trump before a meeting with McConnell this week. "I'll be honest; they are not getting the job done."

Trump blames Congress. Bannon blames Congress. Congress is Republican to all intents and purposes, so it's war on the Republicans on two fronts, and hats over the windmill.

The reality of this is ruthless in its irony. This whole bent, benighted situation has come to a boil exactly and precisely because the Republican Party set it up to be this way over the long course of many deliberate years. They created this scenario, and then totally lost control of it.

Take a large voting block and steal from them reason, science and expertise in the name of nonsense economic theories and a narrow-minded Jesus who offers absolution for irresponsible hate. Inculcate them with abhorrence for immigrants and Black and Brown people after you send their jobs overseas for your profit, because they'll need someone to blame when the factories close down. Make facts frightening, a cozen meant to steal from them what little they have even as the voracious ocean laps at their shoeless toes.  Offer them enemies. Turn them loose.

That is the story of the Republican Party as brought to you by John Birch, first voiced in clarion call by Barry Goldwater in 1964, massaged into landslide victory by Nixon's brazenly racist "Southern Strategy" before being embraced and successfully marketed by Ronald Reagan. The rest is aftermath compounded by aftermath, resulting in a muscular voting bloc numbering in the millions which has gone from being "values voters" to Trump loyalists.

Steve Bannon and Donald Trump are opportunistic peas in a pod, the perfect symbiotic relationship. They are not publicly working together, but Bannon is firing up the only people Trump has left. They're both attacking the GOP leadership in Congress. They're both stoking the base for their own purposes. Bannon is using Trump, and Trump is all too happy to be used if it gets him in front of those cheering crowds. The two men seek approval from the exact same people. It isn't a spoken alliance, but there has been no public break between the two. Bannon is a Trump guy, using Trump for Bannon's sake.

Bannon is also a wrecker of the purest stripe, a white supremacist, an Islamophobic xenophobe, an anti-Semite, a racist and a misogynist pretending to be a cultural revolutionary. Trump, who shares many of these characteristics, mainly seeks cheering crowds. A rudderless GOP base makes for a perfect audience, and a better army. Bannon sets them up, Trump knocks them down, and the GOP establishment cowers in a corner dumbfounded at what they have wrought while still pining away for that billion-dollar tax cut their paymasters so desperately desire. It is the perfect storm.

This "revolution," like Trump's whole administration to date, is a scrambled and incoherent thing. Let that caldera crack, however, and we will be presented with a scenario unprecedented in modern US politics. The best-case outcome -- Bannon and Trump cause the complete collapse of the GOP -- would still be extremely dangerous and deeply destabilizing. The two (and those who think like them) might well retain control over a segment of the populace capable of wreaking terrible havoc both in and out of politics.

Or they could win, and find themselves in control of a dreadnought party set to make total war on everyone who is not white hetero Christian, anyone who ever crossed them, anyone and everyone simply because they can. That party in charge of all three branches of government, with the looming ability to nominate several Supreme Court justices, would signal the end of the country once and for all.

"I want to bring everything crashing down," Bannon said. He is going to try, he is in the process of trying, and one way or another, you'll be able to see the smoke for miles around.

On Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump sent his first tweet about the Wine Country fires.

President Trump tweeted, "Our hearts are with all affected by the wildfires in California. God bless our brave First Responders and @FEMA team. We support you!"

The tweet was quoted under a re-tweet of FEMA administrator Brock Long, who had a posted photo Tuesday on Twitter of officials from FEMA, California Office of Emergency Services and Cal Fire surveying fire damage in Santa Rosa.

It took Trump 10 days to tweet about the fires. A San Francisco Chronicle editorial Sunday took President Donald J. Trump to task for his "perfunctory" response to the California wildfire crisis.

Karen Peterson @KarenMPeterson

Dead: 40
Missing: ?
Bldgs destroyed: 3500+
Acres burned: 221,000@realDonaldTrump tweets since 10/9: 75
Trump tweets about CA: 0
12:37 PM - Oct 16, 2017

    1 1 Reply
    14 14 Retweets

"This is a president who views tweets as his primary means of connecting with the people, without the media filter he loathes," the editorial noted.

So, what did Trump tweet after the devastating fires broke out on the night of Oct. 8-9?

Here is a breakdown of every tweet sent before Wednesday's tweet about the fires (note, a few tweets cover more than one topic):

Fake News: 10 tweets

Obamacare is imploding, but is being dismantled: 10 tweets

Tax 'reform': 8 tweets

How great the stock market/economy is doing since Election Day: 6 tweets

Obstructionist Democrats: 5 tweets

NFL players who don't stand for anthem: 5 tweets

Crooked Hillary/Comey protected her: 4 tweets

Promoting interview with Sean Hannity: 4 tweets

Can't keep FEMA, military & first responders in Puerto Rico forever: 3 tweets

Hated Iran deal: 3 tweets

Failing New York Times did not mention my accomplishments: 2 tweets

Immigration/border wall: 2 tweets

Welcoming Greek prime minister 2 tweets

Support for Republican Ed Gillespie: 1 tweet

Lou Dobbs complimented me: 1 tweet

Pakistan is more cooperative: 1 tweet

Americans worship God, not government: 1 tweet

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, U.S. Navy!: 1 tweet

Support for Puerto Rico: 1 tweet

Happy National Farmers Day!: 1 tweet

$1 million for Las Vegas: 1 tweet

Honored to host NHL champion Pittsburgh Penguins: 1 tweet

Failing NY Times set 'Liddle' Bob Corker' up: 1 tweet

'Really good book' about me: 1 tweet

ESPN ratings tanking: 1 tweet

Happy Columbus Day!: 1 tweet

North Korea policy hasn't worked for 25 years: 1 tweet

Rep. Tom Marino, a 'great congressman,' withdraws name from consideration for drug czar: 1 tweet

Thanks for the 'beautiful welcome,' South Carolina!: 1 tweet

Freedom comes from God, not govt.: 1 tweet

Democratic congresswoman lied about what I said to soldier's widow: 1 tweet

California wildfires: 0 tweets *

* The president did tweet a 1:46 min. video from Harrisburg on Wednesday during which he mentions the California wildfires along with the hurricane disasters. His comments about the wildfires, praising first responders and especially FEMA, lasted less than 30 seconds.

Mikel Jollett

Replying to @Mikel_Jollett

This is California.

Trump played golf today.
6:00 PM - Oct 15, 2017

    868 868 Replies
    14,170 14,170 Retweets

Last Tuesday, Trump said he had spoken with Gov. Jerry Brown and that the federal government would stand with the "people of California and be there with you in this time of terrible tragedy and need."

Brown toured Santa Rosa on Saturday.

"This is truly one of the greatest, if not the greatest, tragedy that California has ever faced," the governor said. "The devastation is just unbelievable. It's a horror that no one could have imagined."

While the president has traveled to Houston and Puerto Rico in the aftermath of hurricane disasters, he has yet to visit the wildfire-ravaged counties of Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa.
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