Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Some thoughts on Pearl Harbor & December 7th, a day that still lives in Infamy

Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.
                                                         - The Art of War by Sun Tzu
I recently heard an Asian martial arts trainer explain the importance of striking the first blow, in fact, the absolute necessity of striking the first blow if one is to have any hope of persevering against an attacker that, by all appearances, is stronger than you. He said that should a bully approach you on the street, with the clear intent of doing you harm, the bully will not expect you to strike the first blow in the back and forth preceding the attack, but that is precisely when you must act, landing your most powerful blow before he has a chance to hurt you, and while he isn't expecting it.

This struck me as sound advice from The Art of War. Many Westerners would be uncomfortable with this advice because it involves prejudging the intentions of the other guy in the negative. We have been taught that it is wrong to strike the first blow, although that clearly is a winning strategy, so everyone may not share our cultural bias against it. It should also be added that this sound military advice has little to do with on which side justice stands, or even if justice has a dog in the fight at all.

Sir Thomas Dale
This is also the "moral" stand of one who has already obtained an empire and no longer finds such desperate measures expedient. The invaders who first conquered America for England had no qualms about landing the first blow. In The Barbarous Years, Knopf 2012, Bernard Bailyn described how Sir Thomas Dale,
a participant to the ruthless slaughter of noncombatants in Ireland on the ground that "terrour...made short Warrs," launched a program of deliberate military provocation and savage harassment. [ around Jamestown, Virginia] His campaign to reduce the natives to the status of subject people and drive them off the most valuable lands was part of what has been called England's "First Anglo-Powhatan War (August 1609 to April 1614)."   That series of bloody clashes, Frederick Fausz, the war's most careful analyst, writes "translated England's ad terrorem tactics from the Irish wars of the late sixteenth century-specifically the use of deception, ambush, and surprise, the random slaughter of both sexes and all ages; the calculated murder of innocent captives, and the destruction of entire villages...."
These infamous tactics and worst were considered acceptable when the West was on the make. This is probably the line of reasoning the Imperial Japanese took 76 years ago on December 7, 1941 when they bombed the United States naval fleet at Pearl Harbor. They had been aggressively building "their" empire in Asia for a decade, and friction had been growing with the US. Japan was under heavy sanctions from the US, and faced having it sources of oil and raw materials cut off. WWII was already on and the war clouds between the US and Japan were growing darker every day. Everyone knew war could break out any day, so the Japanese, being the weaker party, and following the philosophy of that martial arts trainer, struck first. They thought their slim chance for victory rested upon knocking out the US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor and forcing the US to sue for peace to avoid an attack on the mainland, but Slim had left the harbor and taken the American aircraft carriers with him. As they say, the rest is history.

It didn't work out that well for the Japanese, at least in terms of the five year plan. Our moral prohibition against striking first would seem to have been vindicated, although they never had any real chance of prevailing in a sustained conflict with the United States then. It was a costly miscalculation on all sides, and it matters not to those who lost sons and daughters on the anti-fascist side that the Japanese lost more.

I think it could be very important to draw some lessons from the Pearl Harbor attack as Donald Trump heats up the atmosphere between the United States and another Asian adversary. In comparison to Japan at the height of its empire, North Korea is much weaker, but it has what Japan was on the receiving end of at the conclusion of that war. After having lost more than three million of it citizens in its last war with the United States, the North Korean government has expended tremendous effort and expense to create what it thinks it needs to deter that from happening again. This apparently is the ability to strike the United States mainland with a nuclear tipped missile. By most accounts they are there already. Earlier this year they apparently successfully tested a thermonuclear device, and more recently their test of a missile that could carry such a warhead to any part of the US was successful. It is said that they haven't a proven warhead reentry capability as of yet. Even if this is true, it is cold comfort, given that that is the easiest part of the puzzle to solve, and even without it they could detonate over America for the EMP effect and atmospheric destruction.

So while President Trump threatens the complete destruction of this country of 25 million and calls its leader names, as he talks in more and more bellicose terms and sends US warplanes and warships ever closer to North Korea; we would do well to consider the real possibility that Trump will convince the North Koreans that they really do face imminent destruction, and therefore their best option is to land the first blow and use the few nukes they have while they still have them.

Dotard Trump may think it's all fun and games on twitter, but he is playing with the end of the world.

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

What is Trump reading in the wee hours of the morning?

A lot of attention has been focused on Donald Trump's re-tweeting of three anti-Muslim tweets from the UK white supremacist Britain First group. Much has already been written about the racist character of these tweets and their false content. Looking at the timestamps on these tweets tells its own story. @realDonaldTrump re-tweeted those tweets around 6:40 in the morning, only 2 hours after the last of the three Jayda Fransen (@JaydaBF) racist attacks were put on the Internet by a Britain First twitter bot.

Assuming @realDonaldTrump is not a bot, he would have had to see these tweets before he could retweet them. Personally, I think I spend far too much time on twitter, and I focus on these political issues, and I never even heard of the @JaydaBF twitter handle, let alone seen these tweets before @realDonaldTrump retweeted them to his followers, which includes me. So how is it that he happened to see these tweets between 4:40AM ET and 6:40AM ET? It's not like they were trending on twitter, at least not before the president made his support for the British fascist site public.

Here are some other fun facts about @JaydaBF from twitonomy: The account has sent out 3,197 tweets between 28 June 2017 and 30 November 2017. In this period it has been retweeted 97.7% of the time for a total of 349,368 retweets, its tweets have been favorited  97.7% of the time for a total of 390,857, and it has replied to a tweet only 1 time, and that was to @realDonaldTrump.

While the twitter account @realDonaldTrump officially only follows 45 [45 get it!] others, mostly family members, and @JaydaBF isn't one of them, it seems likely that Trump is following some accounts surreptitiously that it wouldn't be prudent to list as officially being followed by the president, because when someone retweets a tweet that isn't trending within hours, it's likely they are keeping a close eye on the output of that twitter feed.

I reported earlier how some of the white supremacists that tried to bust up the meetings of the Santa Monica Committee for Racial Justice were convinced that Donald Trump was watching their livestreams. It has also been reported that the bodyguard of Baked Alaska, a leader both of the Santa Monica disrupters and the Charlottesville torch carriers, was visited in the hospital by an unidentified representative of the Trump campaign.

It has been widely reported that in addition to Fox and Friends, the president likes such questionable websites as Breitbart News and Alex Jones. It now appears likely that in the wee hours of the morning he is engaging with white supremacist and fascist elements more extreme than we know. These retweets are a warning. The question isn't merely: Why did he retweet them? The first question is: How did he ever happen to see them?

Here are some timestamps to consider. All times below are EST unless otherwise noted. The three Jay Fransen tweets:

VIDEO: Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!    2:40 AM 29 November 
VIDEO: Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!                                           4:40 AM 29 November
VIDEO: Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!                               3:40 AM 29 November

We don't know the exact time @realDonaldTrump re-tweeted them, but by looking at his timeline we can tell that he retweeted them between 6:32 AM - 6:49 AM 29 November 2017 because they are bracketed by his tweets.

There is another things I noticed about these tweets and this twitter account. Each of the three tweets @realDonaldTrump re-tweeted had been initially tweeted 40 minutes into the hour exactly, in three consecutive hours between 7:40 AM and 9:40 AM BST, and looking into the history of this account it is clear that it had been regularly broadcasting tweets like clockwork 40 minutes into the hour for as far back into its history as I cared to go, about 20 a day. This was true, with relatively rare exceptions right up until 7:05 AM when it thanked @realDonaldTrump for the retweets less than 30 minutes after he sent them to his 44 million followers. Since then, it has been a whole different story. @JaydaBF has now become very active with a lot of randomly timed tweets like you'd expect from a normal account, and refreshing my browser, it appears they've added 1300 new followers overnight. It appears the @realDonaldTrump has breathe new life into a twitter account that seemed largely robotic before, but the fact remains that the President of the United States was up at 6:30 in the morning re-tweeting anti-Muslim garbage put on the Internet by automation.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders broke new ground in Alt-Reality when defending the president's promotion of fake anti-Muslim videos:
“Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real. His goal is to promote strong border security and strong national security.”
But the British didn't take too kindly to our president promoting their domestic terrorists:

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

After decades of voter suppression Trump & Moore say "Let Alabamians Decide!"

When asked if President Donald Trump believed the women that are accusing Alabama Senatorial candidate Roy Moore dating them when he was in his 30s and they were teenagers as young as 14, charges he denies, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, 16 November 2017:
"Look, the president believes these allegations are very troubling and should be taken seriously, and he thinks the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their senator should be."
That quickly became the response of Moore supporters around the country when asked to weigh in on the moral character of Roy Moore in the face of charges of sexually inappropriate behaviour with at least nine women. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said it's "up to the people of Alabama." Conservative commentator Ed Martin repeated "And my point is, as the president has said, let the people of Alabama decide." The letters section of the Orange County Register echoed the headline "Let Alabama decide on Roy Moore’s fate."

They say this about a state in which racism and voter
suppression has distorted every election it has ever had.

Alabama instituted its first measures to limit the African-American vote only two years after the Civil War ended with its first felony disenfranchisement law in 1867. At the same time African-Americans were criminalized. Jeff Manza wrote about this period in Ballot Manipulation and the “Menace of Negro Domination”: Racial Threat and Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States, 1850–2002:
The sharp increase in African-American imprisonment goes hand-in-hand with changes in voting laws. In many Southern states, the percentage of nonwhite prison inmates nearly doubled between 1850 and 1870. Whereas 2% of the Alabama prison population was nonwhite in 1850, 74% was nonwhite in 1870, though the total nonwhite population increased by only 3% (U.S. Department of Commerce 1853, 1872). Felon disenfranchisement provisions offered a tangible response to the threat of new African-American voters that would help preserve existing racial hierarchies.
It was written into the state constitution by the Jim Crow era 1901 Alabama Constitutional Convention. As note by Manza:
[W]hich altered that state’s felon disenfranchisement law to include all crimes of “moral turpitude,” applying to misdemeanors and even to acts not punishable by law (Pippin v. State, 197 Ala. 613 [1916])...John Field Bunting, who introduced the new disenfranchisement law, clearly envisioned it as a mechanism to reduce African-American political power, estimating that “the crime of wife-beating alone would disqualify sixty percent of the Negroes” (Shapiro 1993, p. 541).
In his opening address, John B. Knox, president of the all-white convention, openly justified the law on the basis of white supremacy:
“[In 1861], as now [1901], the negro was the prominent factor in the issue. . . . And what is it that we want to do? Why it is within the limits imposed by the Federal Constitution, to establish white supremacy in this State. . . . The justification for whatever manipulation of the ballot that has occurred in this State has been the menace of negro domination. . . . These provisions are justified in law and in morals, because it is said that the negro is not discriminated against on account of his race, but on account of his intellectual and moral condition.”
With time they learned the disadvantages of such frank expression, but the motivations and justifications have never changed. This law was intentionally vague as to what constituted "moral turpitude,” which allowed un-elected county registrars to interpret it as they saw fit. The effect was as intended. The power of the black vote was greatly diminished.

In 1985, US Attorney Jeff Sessions indicted a number of Alabama civil rights workers on false charges of election fraud for assisting elderly black citizens with absentee voting ballots. That same year the Supreme Court found the "moral turpitude” provision of the Alabama state constitution to be in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and unanimously invalidated it, but 11 years later Alabama passed a new felony disenfranchisement law, which did pretty much the same thing.

That statute led to the disenfranchisement of a quarter-million Alabamians, most of them black. 15% of Alabama's African-American voters lost their right to a ballot because of this law. Finally last May, after a long struggle led by community and civil rights organizations, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a law that defined the legal phrase "moral turpitude" and limited the number of crimes to which it could be applied to about 50. The was heralded as a great victory for voting rights and was suppose to restore as many as 250,000 voters to the rolls. But there was a big BUT: In spite of the new law, anyone who had lost their franchise as a result of a criminal conviction still could not regain the right to vote until they pay off any outstanding court fines, legal fees and victim restitution. As a practical matter, that means that most ex-felons still can not exercise the right to vote in Alabama. In effect they have imposed a new poll tax, a voter discrimination measure the 24th Amendment abolished in 1964. These policies will likely be found unconstitutional one day, but not before the help Roy Moore.

A year after a 2013 Supreme Court decision gutted parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Alabama passed a law requiring citizens to have a photo identification in order to vote. Then it closed 31 DMV offices, most in African American communities. John Archibald wrote in “Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one.” Mass protests and public exposure, and a DOT investigation that concluded:
"African Americans residing in the Black Belt region of Alabama [were] disproportionately underserved by ALEA's driver licensing services, causing a disparate and adverse impact on the basis of race," 
forced the state to reopen the shuttered offices, but the voter suppression effects of the new law otherwise remain in effect.
At the 52nd anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march over Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge that remains to this day the iconic example of Alabama's opposition to black voting rights, Rev. William Barber said about Alabama’s voter ID law "We can’t be polite about this. We can’t be casual or cavalier. We have more voter suppression in recent years than we’ve seen since Jim Crow.”

In 2016 Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) opposed automatic voter registration saying "if you’re too sorry or lazy to get up off of your rear and to go register to vote, or to register electronically, and then to go vote, then you don’t deserve that privilege.” The year before he insisted: “The closure of 31 DMV offices will not leave citizens without a place to receive the required I.D. card to vote...All 67 counties in Alabama have a Board of Registrars that issue photo voter I.D. cards." To the ex-cons that the new law is intended to allow to vote, Merrill reminds "In order for you to have your voting rights restored, you have to make sure all your fines and restitution have been paid," Merrill is a Roy Moore supporter and plans to vote for him, of Moore's accusers he said "I don't know whether they're making it up or not, because I don't know their intention."

So, after more than a century of rigging the Alabama vote to insure that bigots like Roy Moore can keep getting elected, they can all sound so fair and democratic by saying "Let the people of Alabama decide," when really, that is their worst nightmare.

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Why the Moore-Trump approach to sexual assault is so toxic

It is beginning to look like the Harvey Weinstein revelations have initiated a deep and far ranging sea-change in women's acceptance of sexual abuse and misconduct. What may have been awakened by the sexually abusive bragging of criminal misconduct by a candidate for the presidency and the United States, and then proven by more than a dozen women who bore witness against him, has turned into a tsunami with the charges against Roy Moore, Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, John Conyers, and so many others, most not nearly so famous.

This social transformation is likely to require an extended period of social introspection and change to right the many historic wrongs. Donald Trump and Roy Moore have exampled one way of dealing with these allegations - deny, deny, deny. Al Franken has exampled another - admit past wrongdoing while asking for further investigation and forgiveness.

Moore, Trump, Fox News et al, have taken the tack of demanding harsh punishment for Franken, based on his admission of guilt, while opposing any for Trump or Moore based on a presumption of innocence flowing from their denials no matter how strong the evidence against them is. For example, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said
"I think in one case specifically Sen. Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the president hasn't. I think that's a very clear distinction."
We have all heard Trump admit to a practise that most would call sexual assault, but we are suppose to give him a pass because he doesn't see it as wrong.

This is a very dangerous tact to take at this historic juncture.

The message to men who may have been guilty of sexual misconduct in the past is: Whatever you do, don't admit it. If you do you may be summarily and severely punished. It's much safer to hide behind the presumption of innocence and force your accusers to prove their case in a court of law. It will likely never come to trial, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is statute of limitations.

While recent headlines have highlighted the news about the "rich & famous," the problem of male sexual misconduct is one that is rampant throughout society and is one that affects people of all strata. Most cases will never come to trial or even a legal conclusion. Only the worst or most famous cases will. If society is to get through this sea change so that humanity can rise to a higher plane with a minimum of bloodshed and a maximum of healing, the process must look a lot more like the "Truth and Reconciliation" process which South Africa went through than the Nuremberg Trials.

That being the case, Al Franken has shown us the way forward and is to be commended for his honesty. This is the example all men who know they are guilty of sexual misconduct should be encouraged to follow. A spirit of forgiveness should also be encouraged. If the abused woman isn't demanding punishment, who rightly should?

Moore, Trump, Fox News et al, claim they are demanding punishment for Franken's admitted past deeds. As a practical matter they are demanding punishment for Franken breaking the code of silence and admitting to his bad past acts. They also example how to avoid that. Given the scope of the social wrongs that must be corrected, this position is a very dangerous one. Their example encourages men to fight these changes by denying past bad acts for fear that any willful admission is the surest path to punishment.

Moore, Trump, Fox News et al, are taking their approach for self-defensive and partisan political advantage, but they are also advocating social policy at this world historic juncture of the relations between the sexes, and it is very toxic social policy.

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Friday, November 24, 2017

#ThemToo: America's sexual violence blindspot

Sexual violence by some men against other men is endemic in America's prison system and that fact is well known. We can deduct that by the way it is casually referenced in our culture. Everyone knows that a young man, or boy, that is not well connected or well protected, is subject to being repeatedly raped in prison. Here's an example:
Option A, Brandon takes the deal.

Option B, Brandon goes up to the penitentiary and gets his rectum resized about yay big.
Considered as a revelation, this is certainly one of the least shocking revelations in Breaking Bad, because Saul Goodman is just telling us what most already know.

Nobody knows how widespread this type of sexual violence is within our prison systems because few care, and nobody is keeping count.

Generally speaking, it isn't even considered. For example, following Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, this is the way Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, described the problem of sexual assault on Democracy Now today:
My thoughts about this are that—exactly what Tarana said earlier, that this kind of violence is as American as apple pie. I am both heartbroken by all of the stories that I have seen being shared—there’s more stories being shared every day. And lots of people that I know, that I’m in community with, and people that I don’t know, are asking themselves, “What do we do about this epidemic of violence—violence against women, violence against women of color, violence against black women, queer people, trans people? And even, what do we do about violence against men?” Right? Cis men, trans men.
Sexual assault that is regularly visited upon mostly heterosexual men in the form of violent homosexual anal rape in our prison system gets mentioned by no one.

This is a type of sexual violence which is entirely within the state's ability to control. It does not because it is used by the state, as also exemplified by the above Breaking Bad quote. The "criminal justice" system quite deliberately uses this threat of sexual violence to enhance the deterrent value of incarceration. The fictional scene above is replayed many times a day in real world lockups. In weighing his options, that image of having his rectum resized, more than just about anything else, is likely to persuade the young defendant to take the deal even though it has nothing to do with his guilt or innocence. Externally, they use sexual violence as a deterrent. Internally they used it as a lever of control over the prison population. They welcome it as a beneficial parasite that is useful to the prison host, and so they feed it what it needs.

We must consider these victims too. Anyone who thinks we can end sexual violence and sexual abuse, while leaving this state sponsored incubator intact, is on a engaged in "a task that has little to no chance of being successful or beneficial."

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