My gold-trimmed Aladdin-ish (because there used to be an Aladdin pottery, and this is not that) unmarked American redware teapot and the Royal Doulton Clairmont china, Typhoo black in the pot and orange marmalade on the 12 grain toast. Nom!
My gold-trimmed Aladdin-ish (because there used to be an Aladdin pottery, and this is not that) unmarked American redware teapot and the Royal Doulton Clairmont china, Typhoo black in the pot and orange marmalade on the 12 grain toast. Nom!
1/ George W. Bush all but called Trump a threat to democracy, saying "bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication." He called bigotry "blasphemy against the American creed" and that the "identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation." He did not mention Trump by name. (Politico)
2/ Trump suggested that the Democratic Party, the FBI or the Kremlin paid for the dossier alleging ties between him and the Russian government. "Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th," Trump tweeted. "Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?" Two officials from Fusion GPS, the firm behind the dossier, invoked their fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions from the House Intelligence Committee yesterday. (Politico)
Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th. Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 19, 2017
3/ Trump's former campaign manager met with the Senate Intelligence Committee for a closed-door interview. Corey Lewandowski said earlier this year that he did not have any contact with Russian officials, but if there was contact, it was made by Manafort or others on the campaign and Trump didn't know about it. (CNN)
- Jeff Sessions declined to answer questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee about his conversations with Trump before he fired James Comey. As with his June testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sessions cited Trump's executive privilege for his refusal to answer question. (New York Times)
4/ Both Facebook's and Twitter's general counsel will testify before the House and Senate intelligence committees on November 1st into Russia's use of technology to try to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. Google, which was also invited, has not said if it will send a representative to testify. (NBC News / The Hill)
- Internet Research Agency used Russian trolls to co-opt unwitting American activists to stoke fear and influence the election. Two online groups — BlackMattersUS and BlackFist — were among those used by Russian operators to encourage activists to help organize rallies, train in self-defense, and create music videos. In some cases, those activists even received financial support. (ABC News)
5/ John McCain and two Democratic senators will introduce a bill requiring Facebook, Google, and other internet companies to disclose who is purchasing political ads to the election commission. The tech industry has prevented previous efforts to mandate advertising disclosures, saying the ads on their platforms were too small to fit the disclaimers. (New York Times)
6/ Senate Republicans are set to pass their $4 trillion budget plan, which would serve as a vehicle for tax reform later this year without Democratic support. Trump endorsed the plan, tweeting that it is the "first step toward massive tax cuts" but suggested he's not confident of the measure's passage. "I think we have the votes, but who knows?" (ABC News / Fox News)
Republicans are going for the big Budget approval today, first step toward massive tax cuts. I think we have the votes, but who knows?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 19, 2017
7/ John Kelly didn't know Trump would publicize that Obama didn't call when his son died. Kelly and the White House were caught off-guard by Trump using the death of Kelly's son to defend his handling of four soldiers killed in Niger. (CNN)
8/ Trump sent the $25,000 check to the fallen soldier's family the same day it was reported that he never did. The Washington Post reported that Trump had promised the soldier's father a personal donation during a June condolence call but had never followed through. (CNN)
One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.
So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.
Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.
* * *
Here are some things in the news today:
Earlier today by me: Trump's Relentless Malice and One Million Puerto Ricans Still Lack Drinkable Water.
[Content Note: Racism; disablism; classism] Ari Berman at Mother Jones: Rigged: How Voter Suppression Threw Wisconsin to Trump — and Possibly Handed Him the Whole Election. I cannot stress enough how the entirety of this piece is a must-read, but here are some excerpts:
Three years after Wisconsin passed its voter ID law in 2011, a federal judge blocked it, noting that 9 percent of all registered voters did not have the required forms of ID. Black voters were about 50 percent likelier than whites to lack these IDs because they were less likely to drive or to be able to afford the documents required to get a current ID, and more likely to have moved from out of state.Between Russian interference in the election and Republican interference in the election, this presidency is illegitimate as fuck.
...After the election, registered voters in Milwaukee County and Madison's Dane County were surveyed about why they didn't cast a ballot. Eleven percent cited the voter ID law and said they didn't have an acceptable ID; of those, more than half said the law was the "main reason" they didn't vote. According to the study's author, University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Kenneth Mayer, that finding implies that between 12,000 and 23,000 registered voters in Madison and Milwaukee—and as many as 45,000 statewide—were deterred from voting by the ID law. "We have hard evidence there were tens of thousands of people who were unable to vote because of the voter ID law," he says.
...US District Judge James Peterson, who oversaw the implementation of the voter ID law, had found that Wisconsin's process for issuing IDs was a "wretched failure" that "has disenfranchised a number of citizens who are unquestionably qualified to vote." Eighty-five percent of those denied IDs by the DMV were black or Latino, he noted in his ruling. The roster of people denied IDs bordered on the surreal: a man born in a concentration camp in Germany who'd lost his birth certificate in a fire; a woman who'd lost use of her hands but was not permitted to grant her daughter power of attorney to sign the necessary documents at the DMV; a 90-year-old veteran of Iwo Jima who could not vote with his veteran's ID. One woman who died while waiting for an ID was listed as a "customer-initiated cancellation" by the DMV.
...It wasn't just poor African Americans who were disenfranchised. Most college IDs were not accepted under the law because they didn't require signatures or have the state-mandated two-year expiration date—a criterion that made little sense at four-year schools. Only 3 of the 13 four-year schools in the University of Wisconsin system had IDs compliant with the new law.
That meant many schools, including UW-Madison, had to issue separate IDs for students to use only for voting, an expensive and confusing process for students and administrators. To register to vote, students had to bring their new IDs and proof of enrollment. There were more than 13,000 out-of-state students at UW-Madison alone who were eligible to vote but couldn't do so without going through this byzantine process if they lacked a Wisconsin driver's license or state ID.
Meanwhile, Trump's "election integrity commission" being run by Mike Pence and Kris Kobach is essentially going to replicate this unconstitutional horseshit all over the country. Because they can.
* * *
[CN: Threats; video may autoplay at link] Carey Codd at CBS Miami: Rep. Wilson's Office Says She's Getting Threats over Blasting Trump's Call to Widow. "Rep. Frederica Wilson's office claims multiple threatening phone calls directed at congresswoman came into her D.C. office on Wednesday. The congresswoman's staff said they alerted the Capital Police, Miami Garden Police, and the threat division of the U.S. House of Representatives. Codd was told she is safe and that she is being protected at this point. All this comes as [Donald] Trump refutes Wilson's claim that he made an insensitive comment to the widow of a Miami Gardens soldier killed in action." Deplorable.
Esme Cribb at TPM: White House: Kelly Thought Trump's Call to Soldier's Widow Was 'Respectful'. "White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday said [Donald] Trump's chief of staff John Kelly thought Trump's phone call to the widow of a U.S. soldier killed in Niger was 'respectful' and 'completely appropriate.' ...Trump on Tuesday cited Kelly's son, Second Lt. Robert Kelly, who died in Afghanistan in 2010, when asked whether he had called the families of the soldiers killed in Niger. 'You could ask General Kelly,' Trump said. 'Did he get a call from Obama?' ...Sanders did not say whether Trump consulted Kelly before deploying the talking point, but claimed he was 'disgusted' by the politicization of the soldiers' deaths. ..Pressed on whether Trump's remarks about Second Lt. Robert Kelly's death themselves amounted to a politicization, Sanders said, 'He was responding to a question and stating a fact.'"
Washington Post Editorial Board: Trump Trivializes the Deaths of Four Soldiers.
[Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah 'J.W.' Wayne Johnson, 39; Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29; and Sgt. La David T. Johnson, 25] are the four soldiers who were killed Oct. 4 when their unit was ambushed by Islamist extremists in West Africa. Their lives, their brave service and the sacrifice of their grieving families should be discussed and honored. Instead — thanks to a president with a compulsive need to be the center of attention — their deaths have been trivialized. [Donald] Trump reduced condolences to a political competition and treated the grieving families who received them as pawns in a game.And his cluelessness about being a decent human being.
Having failed to publicly acknowledge the deaths for 12 days, Mr. Trump on Monday boasted about reaching out to family members of slain military personnel while falsely accusing his predecessors of not doing so. His whining about how hard the calls are on him — and the apparent hash he made of a conversation in which he allegedly told one widow her husband "must have known what he signed up for" — underscored his cluelessness about being commander in chief.
My condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of Sgts. Black, J.W. Johnson, Wright, and La David Johnson.
* * *
Betsy Woodruff, Ben Collins, Kevin Poulsen, and Spencer Ackerman at the Daily Beast: Trump Campaign Staffers Pushed Russian Propaganda Days Before the Election. "Some of the Trump campaign's most prominent names and supporters, including Trump's campaign manager, digital director, and son, pushed tweets from professional trolls paid by the Russian government in the heat of the 2016 election campaign. The Twitter account @Ten_GOP, which called itself the 'Unofficial Twitter account of Tennessee Republicans,' was operated from the Kremlin-backed 'Russian troll farm,' or Internet Research Agency, a source familiar with the account confirmed with The Daily Beast. ...The discovery of the now-unavailable tweets presents the first evidence that several members of the Trump campaign pushed covert Russian propaganda on social media in the run-up to the 2016 election."
Yeah, well, I'm not surprised. I bet you're not surprised, either. I wonder what this confirmation of what we all suspected will get us, though? Accountability? Unlikely. Reassurance it won't happen during the next time? Nope. Anything meaningful at all? Doubtful.
All of this reporting comes to nothing because the Republicans hold the Congressional majority and won't do anything about any of it.
Which is why I keep saying that the time to care about all this stuff, which we first knew about 18 months ago, was before the election. Now it's too late. The coup is already complete. What we're witnessing now is just the building of the new order.
And I honestly don't know that there's anyone with enough power to do something about it who will.
I've never wanted to be wrong more than I want to be wrong about that.
* * *
Asked how he would grade the White House's Puerto Rico response, Trump says, "I give ourselves a 10." pic.twitter.com/WVr8IL2Lx4— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 19, 2017
And finally, in case you needed something else to worry about... Damian Carrington at the Guardian: Warning of 'Ecological Armageddon' After Dramatic Plunge in Insect Numbers. "The abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years, according to a new study that has shocked scientists. Insects are an integral part of life on Earth as both pollinators and prey for other wildlife and it was known that some species such as butterflies were declining. But the newly revealed scale of the losses to all insects has prompted warnings that the world is 'on course for ecological Armageddon,' with profound impacts on human society." Cool.
What have you been reading that we need to resist today?
We are what we do. What we experience during our daily lives creates our habits, both of action and thought and those habitual actions and thoughts are our character. The character of men and women, and the shared character of a society is destiny. It determines how we respond to what happens, it is as close to fate as exists in a world awash in choice, where we make the choices we are expected to.
The defining characteristic of growing up in the modern world is school. In school, we are taught to sit still, speak only when we are allowed to by an authority figure, and do meaningless work that is not suited to us. For the bright kids, school is stultifying. They sit there bored out of their skulls by how slowly the class proceeds. For the active child, school is stultifyingly boring because they are told to sit on their butt for most of the day, when they’d rather be doing something physical. For the creative child (which is all children, till they have it schooled out of them), school is, yes, stultifyingly boring, since it is all doing what someone else tells you to.
Outside of class, school is about nasty peer pressure and fitting in. Even if you aren’t a loser or a loner, even if you belong to a clique, you quickly understand what happens to someone who doesn’t fit in, who doesn’t do whatever it takes to belong to an in-group. Our society is rife with comments about how something is “high school all over again,” and we don’t mean anything good by that, we mean a horrible game of cool kids and jocks and geeks and fitting in or getting ostracized at best, or possibly beaten down, or worse for the truly unlucky.
By the time we get out of school, most of us have been trained to do what authority figures tell us, had the creativity taken out of us, lost all real intellectual curiosity because intellectual pursuits are associated with the horrors of school, learned that nothing is more important than fitting in and that popularity matters more than virtually everything else. We have come to accept that we don’t make choices except those on offer to us: “You may write an essay from the following list of topics/you may select from the following list of electives.”
Our adult life is little different. We have some more choices, but most of us will work for someone else, and that someone else will tell us what to do, how do it, where to do it (at their workplace), and when to do it. Our consumer existence, in which we appear to have choices, mostly involves choices between Brands X,Y, and Z, and the choice between brands is almost always completely minor: The differences are not substantial. More importantly, again, we choose from choices offered us, we do not create our own choices.
This issue has arisen since most people have entered formal schooling as children and since people have moved into wage labor. Before the late 19th century you do not see this type of conditioning (though they had their types) in the majority of the population. Mandatory regimented schooling, and wage labor, in which we do not decide what we do with our time has made things very different from the previous society.
One of my uncles lived in, call it, the pre-industrialization lifestyle. He was a farmer and a fisherman (and hunted on the side, for food for his plate). He had huge lists of work to do, but he chose when to do it and how to do it. He controlled his own life. This is how free farmers and artisans used to live. In the day-to-day detail of their lives, believe it or not, even many peasants had more freedom than most industrial and post-industrial workers do.
This has grown worse over the last three decades.
Free play time, as a child, was when we used to have choice. As a child, outside of school I had to be home for meals and bedtime, otherwise I was my own boy. I had very few toys, and I and my friends made our games of make-believe. I created the rules to my own games, made my own pieces, and played them. I ran wild through the neighbourhood, living a hundred different imaginary lives from books and movies, but also ones I made up myself. My parents did not try to control the details of my life beyond making sure I got to school and got fed, so long as I didn’t cause (too much) trouble.
Oh, it was still a regimented life, but it was a much less regimented life than today’s helicopter children experience. The conformity of that late industrial society, oddly, was less than the conformity pushed on children for the last couple decades by their own parents.
The workforce has in some respects also become worse. The sort of micro-control that is commonplace in Amazon warehouses, with a supervisor electronically watching you every second, was almost impossible in the past. The sort of micro-measurement of productivity was also impossible in most jobs, though certainly, assembly lines were hell. In most jobs, your boss had to give you the work and check in later to see if it was done and how well. As long as it got done, you were fine.
(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing and want more of it, please consider donating.)
Again, to be sure, there were micro-supervised jobs even then, but technology has made it possible to micro-supervise the sort of work which simply could not be supervised then.
And when you left work there were no cell-phones, no pagers, no lap-tops. For the vast majority of workers, once they left work, work was done for the day. They were not, for all intents and purposes, on call 24-7.
High surveillance societies produce conformity, because we are what we do. What we do forms our habits, our habits form our character. If you are constantly under your boss’s thumb, you learn to reflexively act in ways that will satisfy your boss. Of course, we all rebel where we can, but the margins for that grow smaller and smaller.
We have created a society where people live regimented lives, doing what they are told, choosing from choices given to them, learning that nothing matters more than popularity and constantly under supervision or at the beck and call of their teachers, bosses, and other lords and masters (including their parents; sorry parents).
This is not a society that makes people happy. There is good reason to believe (Diener) that rates of depression are about ten times higher than they were one hundred years ago. But more to the point, it is a society that creates people with the type of character that does not produce better futures, because they are conditioned to choose only from what is offered them, to sit down, shut up, and do what they are told, and to play popularity games. If you don’t, well, no good job for you, or no job at all, and in this society having very little money is very unpleasant. We do not think up our own options, create our own politics, choose options outside of the limited ones offered by our lords and masters.
We have been created this way, conditioned this way, trained this way, by the everyday experience of our lives, starting from a very young age. To be sure, this is far from the only reason our societies are dysfunctional and careening from disaster to disaster, there are very real material constraints on what people can do in this society, largely through control of who is given money and credit, but it is a major reason for our problems. We have been shaped into people our lords and masters sincerely hope are not fitted to freedom, not able to make choices outside what they offer, not able to challenge them effectively, and well suited to the trivial jobs they want us to perform, mostly fighting over which billionaire is the richest.
If you want a free people, you must free your minds, but free minds come from the exercise of practical everyday freedom.
Originally Published November 11, 2013.
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Gabe Ortiz at Daily Kos caught this latest sickening propaganda being pushed by the f-ing moron Sarah Palin:
A collection of right-wing websites teamed up with half-term nitwit Sarah Palin to spread a fake news story that appeared to pin the Northern California wildfires that have tragically killed at least 40 people onto an immigrant man who was arrested at a park in Sonoma, California.
Jesus Fabian Gonzales—who “often sleeps in the park and is well-known to law enforcement”—was arrested Sunday after starting a small fire that he says he lit to stay warm, and one that “was so small a responding sheriff’s deputy was able to mostly put it out before firefighters arrived.” Gonzales was taken into custody without incident for one count of arson, but by Tuesday, Breitbart, InfoWars, and other sites were blaring sensationalist headlines, including one that stated that the “homeless arsonist behind Calif. wildfire that killed 40 people is an illegal alien”:
Breitbart News and InfoWars offered no evidence to link the man’s arrest to the fires and their accounts of the man’s arrest were disputed the same day by Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano.
“There’s a story out there he’s the arsonist for these fires. That is not the case. There is no indication he is related to these fires at all,” Giordano said in a news conference also broadcast on the department’s Facebook page and area TV stations. “I just did want to kill that speculation right now so we didn’t have things running too far out of control.”
Speculation from, say, Palin, who tweeted that “bet you not a single mainstream news organization is going to cover this story. Not PC or something.” No, it’s just fake, dumbass. In fact, USA Today notes that Sonoma County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum said that “the only questions Breitbart News and InfoWars asked were about Gonzales's ethnicity and whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement had placed a detainer on him, which would hold him for an additional 48 hours at the jail.” It’s almost like they have an agenda here!
There's more at the link. It's just, dare I say it,deplorable.
This is the third installment of the What Happened Book Club, where we are doing a chapter a week.
That pace will hopefully allow people who need time to procure the book a better chance to catch up, and let us deal with the book in manageable pieces: I figured we will have a lot to talk about, and one thread for the entire book would quickly get overwhelming.
So! Let us continue our discussion with Chapter Three: Get Caught Trying.
* * *
This chapter wrecked me.
Hillary writes about her decision to run for president — and how difficult it was. Ultimately, she tells us, the thing that convinced her is that the last two Democratic presidents, her husband Bill and her friend Barack, told her that she was the best person for the job.
That's a pretty compelling argument from two pretty compelling characters.
She defends the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative; explores the narrative that she must have had some nefarious reason for running for president; and talks about how she believes that doing corporate speaking gigs was a mistake, because the optics were bad. Given that her speaking fees were such a contentious issue in the campaign, it's hard to believe that critics of the book who insistently claim she doesn't own her mistakes miss this rather significant admission. Ahem.
And of course she provides us with yet another spot-on insight into Donald Trump: "For Trump, if everyone's down in the mud with him, then he's no dirtier than anyone else. He doesn't have to do better if everyone else does worse."
It is, once again, the stark juxtaposition between who Hillary Clinton is as a human being (and what kind of president she would have been) and who Donald Trump is as a human being (and what kind of president he is) that wrecked me.
Every page of the chapter reveals her deliberative process, her self-reflection, her humility, her integrity — all of the qualities that Trump lacks.
I won't ever stop grieving the leadership we could have had. It would suck if she'd lost to Jeb Bush. It is devastating, quite literally, on an unfathomable scale that she lost to Donald Trump.
Nothing broke my heart more deeply than this passage, which underscores such a profound difference between Trump and Clinton:
In the end, I came back to the part that's most important to me. We Methodists are taught to "do all the good you can." I knew that if I ran and won, I could do a world of good and help an awful lot of people.I thought about Hillary having fun preparing to do the toughest job in the world because she wants to help people. And I remembered the photo of her preparing on the campaign trail, which had meant so much to me. And I cried. Again.
Does that make me ambitious? I guess it does. But not in the sinister way that people often mean it. I did not want to be President because I want power for power's sake. I wanted power to do what I could to help solve problems and prepare the country for the future. It's audacious for anyone to believe he or she should be President, but I did.
I started calling policy experts, reading thick binders of memos, and making lists of problems that needed more thought. I got excited thinking about all the ways we could make the economy stronger and fairer, improve health care and expand coverage, make college more affordable and job training programs more effective, and tackle big challenges, such as climate change and terrorism. It was honestly a lot of fun.
Just over a year ago, regarding the overwhelming response I received regarding my short essay about that photo, I wrote:
It occurred to me that there is not just a dearth of stories about Clinton supporters; there is also a dearth of stories about Clinton herself, the way her supporters see her.In the third chapter of What Happened, Hillary Clinton is asking us to see her. She is reaching through from the other side of a wall in which every brick is another misogynist caricature, vitrified with the dual purposes of concealing her and caging her — locking her forever behind other people's notions about who she is.
There is a frustrating abundance of stories casting Clinton as any one of the myriad caricatures of her that have been drawn over decades, but precious few that are written with an eye to look at her, the human being behind the exaggerations, mischaracterizations, and outright lies.
It is remarkably rare to find someone writing about Clinton in a way that neither demeans her, nor tasks her with the colossal obligation to be unyieldingly inspiring. Putting someone on a pedestal, after all, can be just as dehumanizing as kicking them into the dirt.
I do not need Clinton to be on a pedestal. I can see her just fine sitting on a folding chair.
A life in high-level public service, the celebrity of politics, has always struck me as the most irreconcilable of dichotomies: You are at once hyper-visible and unknown.
What a strange thing indeed to have everyone know your face, and believe they know you, but not necessarily know you at all — especially if the mass media labor to make sure you are not.
I don't really know Hillary Clinton, either, but I see her.
And clearly there are other people like me who see her and long for validation; who long to keep company with others who see her, too.
I recognize that particular vulnerability, that thing that women (and marginalized men, and genderqueer folks) have to do, petitioning others to see us as we really are. I know the pain and frustration that lie behind it.
This chapter was hard to read. And what I want to say most after reading it is: I see you, Hillary Clinton. I see you.
Yesterday was a nice office day, tho my face still hurt I had a good afternoon there.
The smoke blew away from here over night and now it's foggy and rainy. I can't find my face mask.
I'm on 100mg neurontin at night for the face nerve pain from shingles. Taking it at 7pm isn't quite early enough (i am still groggy and weird feeling now) I'd like to go off it by the end of next week or decrease the dosage. My face really hurts..... and is cold sensitive. I need one of those microwaveable pillows.... my old one got moldy I think. the actual heating pad is huge (the size of my entire back) and rough textured. My eye is twitching.... it feels tired. I guess all the muscles around my painful face are tensing up. The skin is not too bad now but the pain has moved to a deep ache in my jaw like a toothache.
Working in little fits & starts on my new writing project (a novel)
Actual work still looming though right now I have a little bit of a break. (mid cycle, no dot release so far for 56, the lull before a big push to release 57)
Nazi rally in Gainesville is pissing me off. Hundreds of cops mobilized for this bullshit. It just helps militarize the situation even more.
Reading - Squirrel Girl novel, which was beautiful! Last night read The Lucky Stiff by Craig Rice and this morning The Fourth Postman. Hardboiled detective. But also funny! Craig Rice is Georgiana Craig.
The headline says it all: The Dispatcher is an Amazon Deal of the Day, so you can get it for under a buck on the Kindle. What a deal! But it’s only for the day (October 19, 2017), and it’s for the US and Canada. I’m not sure if the price applies on other retailers today, so you’d have to check it out for yourself. Regardless, if you’ve not picked up this novella yet, today is a good day to do so. Enjoy!
Trump's Big Lie
I wrote about Trumps Big Lie for Salon this morning:
Sometimes I think Donald Trump is trying to drive us all crazy. The relentlessness of the lies, the bizarre behavior and the overall chaos are just plain nuts. We've never experienced anything like this. Well, actually, there is one precedent, the monarch who was on the throne of England when America declared its independence. But that was a very long time ago. Since then we've had good leaders and bad leaders, some were even great while others were actual criminals. But this non-stop presidential pandemonium is unprecedented. And it's downright discombobulating.
In order to keep a grip on reality, it's tempting to try to find logic behind all the activity and ascribe the confusion to some sort of underlying strategy. You observe a wily character like Steve Bannon and read about his bizarre fringe philosophy of "disruption" to bring on some sort of global denouement and you read that he literally called Donald Trump "a blunt instrument for us" and you figure this might just be a big act in service of his ominous vision. Whenever Trump steps in it with an inappropriate tweet or behavior a torrent of commentary follows insisting that it's just a distraction for some other inappropriate tweet or behavior. It's understandable. It's frightening to think that the president's confidantes are all extremists and amateurs while the president himself creates chaos out of sheer incompetence.
On Wednesday Politico reported a startling poll result which the president tweeted when he saw it on Fox news:
"46% of Americans think the Media is inventing stories about Trump & his Administration." @FoxNews It is actually much worse than this!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 19, 2017
This obviously made him very happy. And, needless to say, despite his absurd assertion that it's "much worse than this" that number is higher than one might expect.
The poll showed that 46% did believe that the news media was fabricating stories about Donald Trump and:
Just 37 percent of voters think the media do not fabricate stories, the poll shows, while the remaining 17 percent are undecided.
More than three-quarters of Republican voters, 76 percent, think the news media invent stories about Trump and his administration, compared with only 11 percent who don’t think so. Among Democrats, one-in-five think the media make up stories, but a 65 percent majority think they do not. Forty-four percent of independent voters think the media make up stories about Trump, and 31 percent think they do not.
Among the voters who strongly approve of Trump’s job performance in the poll, 85 percent believe the media fabricate stories about the president and his administration.
So, assuming this poll is a correct reflection of the public's view on this subject, most of the people who think the media is inventing stories about Donald Trump are Republicans and Trump supporters. That makes sense. That would account for between 35 and 40 percent. But what about the rest? Well, frankly I think they simply can't believe what they see and hear because it's --- unbelievable. It's more plausible to think the news media is making it up, especially for people who don't follow closely and only pay attention in passing. It simply can't be this bad.
I am among the 37% who believe the president is exactly what we see: an unqualified, wealthy egomaniac who won the presidency on a fluke and is in so far over his head that he's incapable of doing the job. But I can see that he has done something by accident, out of sheer defensiveness, that is powerfully disorienting: he's created a Big Lie.
"The Big Lie" is, of course, one of Hitler's "insights" so it's always dicey to even mention it in terms of any contemporary politician. And it also implies a conscious strategy which does not apply in this instance. But the idea that people are more inclined to believe a big lie rather than a small one simply because they can't fathom anyone being so audacious as to fabricate something literally unbelievable does describe this current phenomenon.
And you wind up going down the rabbit hole when you try to unpack it. Trump's Big Lie is that the news media is telling the Big Lie.
For instance, Trump has done something completely bizarre from the very beginning of his campaign. At his rallies he always says that the cameras won't show the crowd and that they have cut away from his speech. He says this as the cameras are clearly on and are panning the crowd. He knows that most people are seeing his rallies on television. He follows his coverage with fanatical attention. He's saying "you can believe me or you can believe your eyes" and because it's so frightening to think anyone could lie so shamelessly, many people are choosing to believe him.
Now it must be said that the news media bears some responsibility for this. For years they had played along with a right wing that cynically created the "liberal bias" trope in order to slant the news in their direction.It took Donald Trump viciously attacking them personally for them to challenge it head on. Their behavior during the Clinton and Bush years, as well as their contemptuous coverage of Hillary Clinton in this last campaign, had severely degraded their credibility with members of the public from across the political spectrum.
They are waking up to the consequences of years of excusing and enabling the right's undemocratic tactics but have yet to fully account for their role in it. After all, they eagerly embraced the last Republican Big Lie: the invasion of Iraq. It's undoubtedly the case that some number of those who think they're fabricating news stories today remember that.
Nonetheless, if nearly half the country believes the fake news that the news is fake, and the other half is being gaslit, we have an even bigger problem on our hands than Donald Trump. It means we're losing our grip on reality itself. This has happened before in history and it didn't end well. That's why it's important to keep your eyes focused and your ears open to what is happening even if it makes you feel crazy. You're not.
For a moment, just try to imagine if 80% of the population of a major U.S. city went without electricity for an entire month.
What would the response be? What would the news coverage be? What would the expectation be?
What would we be demanding of our reprehensibly checked-out president?
[Content Note: Neglect; video may autoplay at link] John D. Sutter at CNN reports from the ground in Puerto Rico:
Much of the island feels as if it were hit by a storm yesterday, not one month ago. Mountains are covered in branchless trees, stuck in the dirt like the walking sticks of giants. Power lines are tangled about like spaghetti dropped from the sky. Sheet metal from roofs and fencing has been turned into floppy strips of chewing gum, scattered on the hills. Not only are people such as Sostre exposed to the elements, but supplies of clean drinking water are woefully inadequate and environmental health experts fear a public health emergency could be brewing."Boil the water" is the instruction for people who also lack electricity. Again, I want you to imagine if anyone would find it acceptable for the federal government to expect one million people anywhere on the mainland to boil water over a fucking campfire for a month to survive.
..."I thought we'd learned our lesson after (Hurricane) Katrina where the response was awful, both carelessly slow and incompetent," said John Mutter, a professor at Columbia University and an expert in international disaster relief. "In Puerto Rico, it doesn't look like we've learned anything at all — or we just don't care."
The situation is particularly bad when it comes to water.
There are 3.4 million people in Puerto Rico, and about 35% of households were without access to safe drinking water as of Tuesday, according to government estimates. The World Health Organization says each person needs at least 2.5 liters per day for drinking alone, with a recommended daily allotment of up to 15 liters per day including basic cooking and hygiene.
Yet FEMA has provided 23.6 million liters — 6.2 million gallons — of bottled water and bulk water since the storm hit on September 20, said Justo Hernandez, FEMA's deputy federal coordinating officer. That includes water delivered to hospitals and dialysis centers, he said.
That's only roughly 9% of the drinking water needs for the entire territory.
It's an even smaller fraction if you include basic cooking and hygiene needs.
...[M]any residents remain desperate, week after week, for drinking water.
Lines for water — potable or not — are long in many parts of the island. Rumors of contamination are rampant. Even as some taps turn back on, residents worry about drinking from faucets, which sputter and, in some locations, produce hazy liquid. Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, the water utility in Puerto Rico, says on its website that residents should boil the water and add bleach even after service is restored.
People who are in dire need of water have begun drinking from toxic sites even though they know it's dangerous. One resident of Dorado, who was among people drawing water from a toxic superfund site, told Sutter: "If I don't drink water, I'm going to die. So I might as well drink this water."
The EPA has responded by hiring contractors to repair fencing around the site and stationing security guards to keep people out.
Access to food continues to be an urgent issue, as well. And the situation would be even more dire were it not for the efforts of Chef José Andrés and his nonprofit, World Central Kitchen, whose approximately 500 volunteers have "prepared and delivered a million meals to residents."
Andrés has vowed to stay and keep making food as long as there is a need.
Unlike the United States President, who tweeted that FEMA can't stay there forever — then proclaimed the very next day: "The wonderful people of Puerto Rico, with their unmatched spirit, know how bad things were before the H's. I will always be with them!"
That, six days ago, was his last tweet on the subject.
One million residents of Puerto Rico still lack access to drinkable water.
I think about that all the time — each time I see people being rocked by how vile, how truly depraved Donald Trump really is.
This country wasn't prepared. And I still don't think the majority of its residents have begun to meaningfully reckon with the harm Trump is doing.
But, you know, her emails.
Fuck every single person who said or implied there was no difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.— Melissa McEwan (@Shakestweetz) August 15, 2017
by Tom Sullivan
The JPMorgan Chase & Co. headquarters at 270 Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, via Wikimedia Commons
Like Jesus the carpenter, I am a tradesman. Just without the sandals and his deep compassion and charity. My sin is, I don't aspire to be an entrepreneur. Unlike the sitting president, many of us just don't have the genes for entrepreneurship. Judging by policies that get the most traction in Washington, that makes us second-class citizens.
See, to be an entrepreneur is to be ennobled. A saint among citizens. A star in the capitalist firmament. Someone to make your mother proud. A job creator.
This is the gospel according to the ruling class, Ayn Rand, Horatio Alger, the Heritage Foundation and a heavenly host of other conservative think tanks. And quite a lot of politicians on either side of the aisle.
As venture capitalist Nick Hanauer said so memorably, "It's a small jump from job creator to The Creator. This language was not chosen by accident." It is, he said, a claim on status and privileges.
The business community let out a mighty, "We are not amused."
One of the stepping stones on the path to the Crash of 2008 was the Bush effort to create an "ownership society." Everybody should own a home. It is the American Dream and everyone should have one. Can't afford one? Not a problem. Financial wizards on Wall Street and their mortgage-backed securities could put you in a new home with no money down and no net cash flow. And then put your family out in the street when it all came crashing down.
Bankers did, by the millions, as David Dayen again details in a post this week for The Nation. Wall Street even paid its fines through fraud, according to a lawsuit now being heard in US District Court in New York City:
JPMorgan, it appears, was running an elaborate shell game. In the depths of the financial collapse, the bank had unloaded tens of thousands of toxic loans when they were worth next to nothing. Then, when it needed to provide customer relief under the settlements, the bank had paperwork created asserting that it still owned the loans. In the process, homeowners were exploited, investors were defrauded, and communities were left to battle the blight caused by abandoned properties. JPMorgan, however, came out hundreds of millions of dollars ahead, thanks to using other people’s money.Federal appointees at the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight signed off on the JPMorgan. Former North Carolina congressman Brad Miller, a longtime advocate for financial reform, told Dayen:
“No one in Washington seems to understand why Americans think that different rules apply to Wall Street, and why they’re so mad about that,” said former congressman Miller. “This is why.”Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?
Douglas Schoen, a former Clinton White House senior political adviser, however, is not amused that many Democrats are insufficiently appreciative of the money Wall Street wizards have to offer its candidates, nor of all of the wonderful things they do. In his New York Times op-ed, he argues that Hillary Clinton’s "lurch to the left" cost her the election in this "center-right, pro-capitalist nation."
Therefore, "Democratic leaders must prioritize entrepreneurship, small-business growth and the expansion of job-training and retraining programs." Democrats need to partner more closely with a financial sector. "The financial industry brings to market the world’s most innovate products and platforms that expand the economy and create jobs."
You can never enough entrepreneurs entrepreneurin'. And people complain Democrats don't represent working people anymore. Where do they get such ideas?
The notion that policy should tilt towards entrepreneurs aspiring to be "job creators" devalues real people who work for a weekly paycheck. They take pride in what they do whether or not they are business owners. As Hanauer pointed out, it is consumption that drives the economy. You can't have entrepreneurs entrepreneurin' without consumers consumin'. And working people are the ones getting short-changed in Washington, not the entrepreneurs and the financial industry. As Miller suggested, people outside Washington know it too well.
Part of the impetus behind the ownership society was to create more Republican voters. The theory was that paycheck workers tend to think like and vote for Democrats. Mold them into property owners and you create conservative voters resentful of government programs that helped get them there and of safety net programs that still serve neighbors now beneath them on the social ladder. Not to be all "class warfare" or anything.
What Democrats like Schoen argue for is another version of the ownership society. If only everyone was an entrepreneur, they would think and vote like entrepreneurs. Uh, wait....
* * * * * * * *
Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.
By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –
Iran’s clerical Leader, Ali Khamenei, said on Wednesday that he did not intend to engage in a tit for tat with Donald Trump, who had attacked Iran in a speech last week.
“Naturally, I do not want to spend time right now in replying to the fables and falsehoods of this charlatan president of the republic. . .” He added that replying to such as Trump is “a waste of time.”
He complained that the US has gone about roiling the Middle East, supporting Israeli oppression of the Palestinians and of Lebanon, and creating ISIL [this is a false allegation — JC] and supporting extremist groups that routinely excommunicate Shiites and other Muslims from the religion. He said the US regime is angry with Iran because Tehran had foiled their dastardly plots in the region, including in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. He quoted sardonically former secretary of state Condi Rice’s saying that a new Middle East is being born. Sure it is, he said, and it isn’t the one Washington imagined.
Khamenei said that the new US president had shown himself to be a moron, but nevertheless, Iranians should not let their guard down in the face of the sly tricks of the US.
He seems worried that Iranians will discount the danger the US poses to the Iranian state because the American leader is clearly a stupid individual.
He said that there will be no conventional war, but that things might take place that are just as important.
He complained that the US threatened enmity if Iran did not sign the nuclear deal, but after Tehran signed, the enmity redoubled.
He praised European countries for standing by the nuclear deal. He said that Iran welcomes European steadfastness in the face of Trump’s threats to simply tear up the deal. But, he said, standing by their own treaty is not enough. He pointed out that the deal is in the interest of the Europeans and the Americans.
He added of the Europeans, “We also naturally said that as long as this side does not tear it up, neither will we.” If it is torn up [by Europe] then Iran will also shred the agreement. (US news outlets are mistranslating this part as saying that If Trump tears up the deal, so will Iran; Khamenei is clearly speaking of Europe here).
That is not enough, he said. If the US Congress contravenes the agreement by imposing substantial new sanctions on Iran, he said, he expects the Europeans to step up and foil them. He rejected Western concerns about Iranian missiles, on the grounds that all the Western countries also have rockets and missiles and no one is sanctioning them over it.
By Steven Young | ( The Watchers) | – –
Around 245 BCE Ptolemy III, ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt, made a decision that still puzzles many historians: After pursuing a successful military campaign against the kingdom’s nemesis, the Seleucid Empire, centered mainly in present-day Syria and Iraq, Ptolemy III suddenly decided to return home. This about-face “changed everything about Near-East history,” says Joseph Manning, a historian at Yale University.
Now, Manning and his colleagues have identified a possible reason for Ptolemy III’s trek back to Egypt: volcanoes. It’s a strange link, but one borne out by evidence. Massive eruptions, a new study suggests, can disrupt the normal flow of the Nile River by cooling the planet’s atmosphere. In Ancient Times, that may have led to food shortages and heightened existing tensions in the region. The research, published Tuesday, October 17 in Nature Communications, links eruptions not just to the end of Ptolemy III’s war, but to a series of violent uprisings and other upheavals that rocked Ptolemaic Egypt – an empire that extended over large portions of Northeast Africa and the Middle East.
The study creates a strong case that sudden shifts in climate can have big impacts on human society. And it’s remarkable, Manning says, for doing so by drawing on a wide range of methods and evidence – from ice core records to Egyptian papyri.
“That’s the beauty of these climate records. For the first time, you can actually see a dynamic society in Egypt, not just a static description of a bunch of texts in chronological order,” Manning says. “This is of absolutely enormous importance.”
This research is a product of the Volcanic Impacts on Climate and Society working group of Past Global Changes (PAGES), a global research project of Future Earth.
At the heart of that dynamic society was the Nile River, the lifeblood of the Ptolemaic Kingdom. This empire arose in about 305 BCE, not long after the death of Alexander the Great, and ended around 30 BCE with the death of Cleopatra. During this period, Egyptian farmers depended on the yearly flooding of the Nile in July through September to irrigate their grain fields – inventing systems of channels and dams to store the river’s overflow.
“When the Nile flood was good, the Nile valley was one of the most agriculturally-productive places in the Ancient World,” says Francis Ludlow, a climate historian at Trinity College in Dublin and a co-author of the new study. “But the river was famously prone to a high level of variation.”
In some years the Nile didn’t rise high enough to flood the land, and that could lead to trouble. Historical records suggest, for example, that a shortage of grain and the unrest that followed were behind Ptolemy III’s return to Egypt. And Ludlow had reason to think that volcanoes could be behind some of those bad years.
The reason comes down to a squiggly band of monsoon weather that circles the planet’s equator called the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). Every year around summer in the northern hemisphere, this band moves up from the equator. That, in turn, soaks the headwaters of the Blue Nile River, a major tributary of the Nile. But when volcanoes erupt, they blast out sulfurous gases that, through a chain of events, cool the atmosphere. If that happens in the Northern Hemisphere, it can keep the monsoon rains from moving as far as they usually do.
“When the monsoon rains don’t move far enough north, you don’t have as much rain falling over Ethiopia,” Ludlow says. “And that’s what feeds the summer flood of the Nile in Egypt that was so critical to agriculture.”
But how often would eruptions diminish the river’s flooding? To find out, Ludlow, Manning and their colleagues turned to computer simulations and real-world measurements of the Nile River that date back to 622 CE. The team discovered that poor flood years on the Nile lined up over and over with a recently published timeline of major volcanic eruptions around the world. That evidence suggested that when volcanoes explode, the Nile tended to stay calm.
The team then dug further to see if that might have an impact on Egyptian society during the Ptolemaic era, which is rich in papyri and other written records. They include the trilingual Rosetta Stone. Again, the timelines matched: Volcanic eruptions preceded many major political and economic events that affected Egypt. They included Ptolemy III’s exit from Syria and Iraq – just after a major eruption in 247 BCE – and the Theban revolt, a 20-year uprising by Egyptians against Greek rule. The researchers then examined how likely it was that these events occurred so close in time to eruptions, finding it “highly unlikely to have occurred by chance, such is the level of overlap,” Ludlow says.
The volcanic eruptions didn’t cause these upheavals on their own, both Ludlow and Manning stress. But they likely added fuel to existing economic, political and ethnic tensions. For historians, “it’s like we’ve all been in a dark room bumping into furniture, and now we have a candle lit,” Manning says.
The results may also have implications for the modern era. Currently, Ethiopia is in the middle of building a humongous dam called the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, on the Blue Nile. Tensions are already high between the nation and Egypt over how the water resources of the river will be distributed. A sudden change in climate, such as from a volcanic eruption, could make these “fraught hydropolitics even more fraught,” Ludlow says.
“The 21st century has been lacking in explosive eruptions of the kind that can severely affect monsoon patterns. But that could change at any time,” he says. “The potential for this needs to be taken into account in trying to agree on how the valuable waters of the Blue Nile are going to be managed between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.”
Via The Watchers
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Related video added by Juan Cole:
By Lauren Lluveras | (The Conversation) | – –
The morning after Hurricane Maria blasted through Puerto Rico, I emailed my aunt to ask if she was safe. That was Sept. 21. I heard back from her on Oct. 10. She was fine, she assured me, but “Puerto Rico is destroyed.” After that, my tia and I again lost contact; her email had come through during a brief moment of cell service.
Nearly a month after the hurricane, Puerto Rico still is still struggling with a near-total information blackout. Some 85 percent of the island lacks electricity, and several remote mountain communities have yet to be visited by relief workers.
The island is so crippled in part thanks to the federal government’s underwhelming early hurricane response. The historic storm played its role, of course, destroying homes, triggering mudslides and rendering roadways impassable.
But the Trump administration delayed dispatching military personnel and material relief until after the hurricane made landfall, and let the Jones Act waiver lapse, reducing the number of ships that can bring aid to the island. These actions have slowed recovery considerably.
Numerous commentators – including Ret. Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who ran the U.S. military’s 2005 Hurricane Katrina relief operation – have criticized the Trump administration’s Puerto Rico storm response. Others have contrasted it with the all-hands-on-deck support seen by Harvey and Irma victims in Texas and Florida.
Based on my experience researching equity and inclusion in U.S. policy, racial bias may explain these disparate relief efforts, at least in part. Environmental disasters lay bare existing inequalities like prejudice and poverty. So in a place like Puerto Rico, where nearly 99 percent of the population is Latino, discriminatory decision-making can hurt the community’s capacity to recover.
An unflattering comparison
In Texas and Florida, the president responded swiftly, visiting these southern states in a matter of days. In Puerto Rico, on the other hand, President Trump arrived to survey the wreckage two weeks after Maria struck.
Likewise, while the president vowed to stand with Texas and Florida “every single day” to help them “restore, recover and rebuild,” he seemed to mock Puerto Ricans’ plight at an Oct. 6 Hispanic Heritage Month event.
Most recently, Trump even threatened to withdraw federal aid from Puerto Rico altogether, even though some communities have yet to see a penny.
There is empirical evidence that skin color impacts federal assistance. A 2007 study performed by researchers at Stanford and UCLA found that Americans are less willing to support extensive taxpayer-funded disaster relief when the victim population is not white.
Signs of racial bias in the current federal relief efforts go beyond Puerto Rico. The U.S. Virgin Islands, where 98 percent of the population identifies as black or of African ancestry, were also battered by both Hurricanes Irma and Maria, leaving residents “in survival mode.” The Trump administration has also largely ignored their suffering.
Separate and unequal
There are likely other explanations for why America’s Caribbean citizens are seeing such disparate post-storm treatment.
One is political clout. These two U.S. territories were inevitably facing an uphill disaster recovery process because – unlike Texas and Florida – Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands don’t have representatives defending their interests in Congress.
Partisanship is another likely factor. Facing historic disapproval ratings, President Trump’s agenda has also narrowed toward rallying his base. It’s predictable, then, that the president worked diligently to help Texas and Florida – states that supported him in 2016 – while neglecting Caribbean residents, who cannot vote in a presidential election.
But I would contend that the differential post-hurricane treatment transcends these political disadvantages and reflects racial bias.
Throughout the disaster relief effort, President Trump’s rhetoric has highlighted just how different Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are from mainland America. He has called the islands’ leadership “poor” and “opportunistic” and blamed Puerto Ricans for the financial crisis that’s now confounding the island’s recovery.
Trump has also railed on Puerto Ricans for “wanting everything to be done for them” and failing to contribute more to the relief efforts. According to the president, not aid workers but Puerto Ricans themselves should be out distributing food and water. I have spent a decade studying urban policy toward communities of color, so coded language like this raises red flags for me.
It is especially concerning given President Trump’s own problematic history dealing with race. On the campaign trail he antagonized the Black Lives Matter movement, and as president he defended the violence of white supremacists in Charlottesville.
Flint lives matter
Recent U.S. history also offers examples suggesting that communities of color are neglected when disaster hits.
New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is the classic case study. After the city’s evacuation plan failed, black Americans were left stranded and desperate for up to 14 days while the federal government’s belated and dysfunctional rescue operation flailed.
Assessing the situation, rapper Kanye West famously went off script at a live fundraiser for hurricane victims, declaring, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
More recently, in April 2014, residents of Flint, Michigan, a predominantly black community, began falling ill after the highly contaminated Flint River became their only water source. Community members raised concern about the foul-smelling water coming out of their faucets, and doctors alerted state and federal officials about elevated lead levels in the water.
Even so, state officials did not acknowledge Flint’s crisis until September 2015, after 91 residents had been diagnosed with waterborne bacterial illnesses. And only this year did the city finally agree to replace their water lines. The city won’t have clean water until 2020.
In short, though environmental disasters don’t see race, people do – and if bias influences the decision-making of those in power, survivors will feel it.
Puerto Rico’s demographics diverge from that of the U.S. general population, where just 18 percent of people identify as Latino and 13 percent as black. President Trump’s behavior seems to reflects that racial difference, whether he knows it or not.
Related video added by Juan Cole:
Human Rights Watch | – –
288 Villages, Tens of Thousands of Structures Torched
(New York) – Newly released satellite images reveal that at least 288 villages were partially or totally destroyed by fire in northern Rakhine State in Burma since August 25, 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. The destruction encompassed tens of thousands of structures, primarily homes inhabited by ethnic Rohingya Muslims.
© 2017 Human Rights Watch
Analysis of the satellite imagery indicates both that the burnings focused on Rohingya villages and took place after Burmese officials claimed security force “clearance operations” had ceased, Human Rights Watch said. The imagery pinpoints multiple areas where destroyed Rohingya villages sat adjacent to intact ethnic Rakhine villages. It also shows that at least 66 villages were burned after September 5, when security force operations supposedly ended, according to a September 18 speech by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. The Burmese military responded to attacks on August 25 by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) with a campaign of ethnic cleansing, prompting more than 530,000 Rohingya to flee across the border to Bangladesh, according to the United Nations refugee agency.
© 2017 Human Rights Watch
“These latest satellite images show why over half a million Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in just four weeks,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “The Burmese military destroyed hundreds of Rohingya villages while committing killings, rapes, and other crimes against humanity that forced Rohingya to flee for their lives.”
A total of 866 villages in Maungdaw, Rathedaung, and Buthidaung townships in Rakhine State were monitored and analyzed by Human Rights Watch. The most damage occurred in Maungdaw Township, accounting for approximately 90 percent of the areas where destruction happened between August 25 and September 25. Approximately 62 percent of all villages in the township were either partially or completely destroyed, and southern areas of the township were particularly hard hit, with approximately 90 percent of the villages devastated. In many places, satellite imagery showed multiple areas on fire, burning simultaneously over wide areas for extended periods.
Human Rights Watch found that the damage patterns are consistent with fire. Comparing recent imagery with those taken prior to the date of the attacks, analysis showed that most of the damaged villages were 90 to 100 percent destroyed. Many villages which had both Rohingya and Rakhine residing in segregated communities, such as Inn Din and Ywet Hnyo Taung, suffered heavy arson damage from arson attacks, with known Rohingya areas burned to the ground while known Rakhine areas were left intact.
The Burmese government has repeatedly said that ARSA insurgents and local Rohingya communities were responsible for setting the fires that wiped out their villages, but has offered no evidence to support such claims. Human Rights Watch interviews in Bangladesh with more than 100 refugees who had fled the three townships gave no indication that any Rohingya villagers or militants were responsible for burning down their own villages.
The Burmese government and military has not impartially investigated and prosecuted alleged serious abuses committed against the Rohingya population. UN member countries and international bodies should press the Burmese government to grant access to the UN-mandated fact-finding mission to investigate these abuses. The UN Security Council should also urgently impose a global arms embargo on Burma, and place travel bans and asset freezes on those Burmese commanders responsible for grave abuses. Governments should impose a comprehensive arms embargo against Burma, including prohibiting military cooperation and financial transactions with military-owned enterprises.
“The shocking images of destruction in Burma and burgeoning refugee camps in Bangladesh are two sides of the same coin of human misery being inflicted on the Rohingya,” Robertson said. “Concerned governments need to urgently press for an end to abuses against the Rohingya and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches everyone in need.”
Related video added by Juan Cole: