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Archive for the ‘Interwebz’ Category

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS)

Climate Alert

Dan Ward says: “The region circled in red, is a portion of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS). This region is roughly the same square kilometers as Greenland, it contains an estimated 1700 gigatons(gts) of frozen methane, about 20 kilometers thick. Note: The ridges in the Arctic abyssal basin are higher than the Alps, and many are volcanos. There is enough methane there, to blow Texas to the moon, or further . . . “If 50gts suddenly releases, we cannot survive it” ~ Professor Peter Wadhams. 50gts is just 3% of total methane stores there! It’s under only 50+/-mdters of water, that used to be covered with sea ice year round. Sea ice served (past tense) as a cap or seal, to keep the methane from releasing. Guess what? The sea ice is GONE”.1

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Beyond Cambridge Analytica and Facebook

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All of a sudden people all around the wold have woken up to the fact that we are living in a surveillance state of our own making today . . . This time though, the culprit is not called Big Brother. No, this time the culprit is known as Social Media, with Zuck’s business at the forefront, apparently. Facebook has become a constant and usually unacknowledged presence in most of our lives, most if not all of the time . . . particularly, through the medium of the smartphone or iPhone. These devices have turned into men’s best friend, replacing dogs and cats, and arguably also spouses, lovers, and casual acquaintances. But now, Carole Cadwalladr has revealed that the rabbit hole goes way deeper, and that unscrupulous businessmen eagerly exploit voluntarily proferred personal information, colloquially referred to as data these days, which become Big Data when compiled, collated and aggregated: “Cadwalladr told BBC Radio 4’s Media Show [that the] resulting Observer scoop took more than a year to bring together”.1 The PressGazette‘s Charlotte Tobitt summarises neatly that the “investigation, which was first published in Sunday’s paper (18 March 2018), exposed Cambridge Analytica’s alleged harvesting of the data of 50m Facebook users to influence the US presidential elections. Cadwalladr said the Observer took the decision to share the scoop with Channel 4 News and the New York Times prior to publishing. She [furthermore] told the BBC that Facebook had made a ‘series of missteps’ in responding to the revelations and said it had issued legal threats to deter publication”.2 As a result, now the whole world is talking about the once obscure company called Cambridge Analytica (CA). In fact, already last year, Cadwalladr had broken the story about CA’s involvement in the Brexit vote. In her piece, she took the story back to the year 2013, when “London . . . was still basking in the afterglow of the Olympics. Britain had not yet Brexited. [And t]he world had not yet turned”.3 At the time, her source, ‘a former Cambridge Analytica employee’ whom she called ‘Paul’ told her the following: 2013, “[t]hat was before we became this dark, dystopian data company that gave the world Trump . . . It was back when we were still just a psychological warfare firm”.4

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In the course of her research, Cadwalladr spoke to Professor Jonathan Albright, from Elon University, North Carolina. Cadwalladr explains that Professor Albright “was the first person to map and uncover an entire ‘alt-right’ news and information ecosystem and he was the one who first introduced me to Cambridge Analytica. He called the company a central point in the right’s ‘propaganda machine’, a line I quoted in reference to its work for the Trump election campaign and the referendum Leave campaign. That led to the second article featuring Cambridge Analytica – as a central node in the alternative news and information network that I believed Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon, the key Trump aide who is now his chief strategist [, a position he held till he was dismissed on 18 August 2017], were creating. I found evidence suggesting they were on a strategic mission to smash the mainstream media and replace it with one comprising alternative facts, fake history and rightwing propaganda”.5 As such, Professor Albright had also penned a piece about his concerns in December 2016.6 But all that is neither here nor there. And already in 2015, the ‘writer/researcher’ Harry Davies had published a piece on the Cruz campaign and its links with CA: “Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign is using psychological data based on research spanning tens of millions of Facebook users, harvested largely without their permission, to boost his surging White House run and gain an edge over Donald Trump and other Republican rivals, the Guardian can reveal. A little-known data company, now embedded within Cruz’s campaign and indirectly financed by his primary billionaire benefactor, paid researchers at Cambridge University to gather detailed psychological profiles about the US electorate using a massive pool of mainly unwitting US Facebook users built with an online survey. As part of an aggressive new voter-targeting operation, Cambridge Analytica – financially supported by reclusive hedge fund magnate and leading Republican donor Robert Mercer – is now using so-called “psychographic profiles” of US citizens in order to help win Cruz votes, despite earlier concerns and red flags from potential survey-takers”.*

Professor Jonathan Albright

Back to Cadwalladr and Brexit: in February 2017, the journalist wrote that she “ended up in a Pret a Manger near Westminster with Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s affable communications director” in the second half of February 2017.7 Wigmore let Cadwalladr know that “Facebook was the key to the entire campaign” . . . explaining that a Facebook ‘like’ is a “potent weapon”. Wigmore then went on: “[b]ecause using artificial intelligence, as we did, tells you all sorts of things about that individual and how to convince them with what sort of advert. And you knew there would also be other people in their network who liked what they liked, so you could spread. And then you follow them. The computer never stops learning and it never stops monitoring . . . It is creepy! It’s really creepy! It’s why I’m not on Facebook! I tried it on myself to see what information it had on me and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ What’s scary is that my kids had put things on Instagram and it picked that up. It knew where my kids went to school”.8 As for CA’s relationship with the Brexit vote and the Leave.EU campaign, Wigmore simply said that “[t]hey [meaning Cambridge Analytica] were happy to help”. And they were happy to help “[b]ecause Nigel [Farage] is a good friend of the Mercers. And Robert Mercer introduced them to us. He said, ‘Here’s this company we think may be useful to you.’ What they were trying to do in the US and what we were trying to do had massive parallels. We shared a lot of information. Why wouldn’t you?”.9

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Right from the horse’s mouth, as it were . . . Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, the Brexit vote and the Trump victory, they are all interconnected. Or, the real culprit is Facebook, or is it?!?!? Has Facebook become the proverbial Big Brother that has turned its awesome archive of social data into a lucrative commodity for the highest bidder available?!?!? Vladimir Duthier states that “Facebook has been named in a proposed class-action lawsuit accusing it of negligence and it has lost nearly $50 billion in market value. A movement to encourage users to delete their accounts, called #DeleteFacebook, has [also] received lots of attention”.10

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Now that the antics of Cambridge Analytica on Facebook have grabbed everyone’s attention, the intrepid journalist Greg Palast is here to remind us that there is more afoot than the mere monies wielded by the Mercers: “[i]n fact, the dark art of dynamic psychometric manipulation in politics was not pioneered by Cambridge Analytica for Trump, but by i360 Themis, the operation founded by . . . the Brothers Koch. Mark Swedlund, himself an expert in these tools, explained in the film The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, that i360 dynamically tracks you on 1800 behaviors, or as Swedlund graphically puts it . . . “They know the last time you downloaded porn and whether you ordered Chinese food before you voted.” Swedlund adds his expert conclusion: “I think that’s creepy.” The Koch operation and its competitor, DataTrust, use your credit card purchases, cable TV choices and other personal info — which is far more revealing about your inner life than the BS you put on your Facebook profile. Don’t trust DataTrust: This cyber-monster is operated by Karl Rove, “Bush’s Brain,” who is principally funded by Paul Singer, the far Right financier better known as The Vulture”.11

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i360 is a data analytics company that maintains “a database of over 250 million 18+ adults, including the 190 million who are registered to vote” sourced from “multiple consumer data compilers”.12

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“The Data Trust serves to continually develop a Republican and conservative data ecosystem through voter file collection, development, and enhancement while lowering the cost and barriers to access the data”.13

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Palast explains that the “Cambridge Analytica story was first reported by The Guardian and Observer in 2015. Did we listen? Did any US paper carry the story the British paper worked on for years? So, my first reaction reading this story was nostalgia — for the time when I was a reporter with The Guardian and Observer investigations team. We could spend a year digging deep into complex stories, working with crazy insiders. There, in 2000, I uncovered another cyber-crime: Using database matching to purge felons from Florida voter rolls. (None, in fact, were felons; most were Democrats). I moved back to America, but found I had to give up any hope of doing true, deep investigative reports for newspapers in my own country. US papers will sometimes re-report Guardian news, but American media almost never initiates deep investigation. And THAT, fear of digging out the truth, is a greater threat to America than Steve Bannon”.14

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1 Charlotte Tobitt, “Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr: I became a ‘news slave’ in pursuing Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scoop” PressGazette (22 March 2018).

2 Charlotte Tobitt, “Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr: I became a ‘news slave’ in pursuing Cambridge Analytica data”.

Carole Cadwalladr, “The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked” The Guardian (07 May 2017). https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy.

4 Carole Cadwalladr, “The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked”.

5 Carole Cadwalladr, “The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked”.

6 Jonathan Albright, “Stop worrying about fake news. What comes next will be much worse” The Guardian ( 09 December 2016). https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/09/fake-news-technology-filters.

* Harry Davies, “Ted Cruz using firm that harvested data on millions of unwitting Facebook users” The Guardian (11 December 2015). https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/11/senator-ted-cruz-president-campaign-facebook-user-data.

7 Carole Cadwalladr, “Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media” The Observer (27 Feb 2017). https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/robert-mercer-breitbart-war-on-media-steve-bannon-donald-trump-nigel-farage.

8 Carole Cadwalladr, “Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media”.

9 Carole Cadwalladr, “Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media”.

10 Vladimir Duthie, “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admits ‘misthttps://www.cbsnews.com/news/facebook-data-cambridge-analytica-mark-zuckerberg-ceo-statement-today-2018-03-30/akes’ in Cambridge Analytica scandal” CBS News (21 March 2018). .

11 Greg Palast, “Cambridge Analytica Ain’t Nuthin: Look Out For i360 and DataTrust” Greg Palast (19 March 2018). http://www.gregpalast.com/cambridge-analytica-aint-nuthin-look-i360-datatrust/.

14 Greg Palast, “Cambridge Analytica Ain’t Nuthin: Look Out For i360 and DataTrust” .

The Mandalay Bay Massacre: Multiple Shooters and Mandatory Metal Detectors

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The sociology instructor Ed Curtin (Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts or MCLA)* says that “[t]he he mainstream media’s (MSM) ongoing narrative of the massacre in Las Vegas is clearly deceptive . . . [w]hat the media do not say is that there is video and witness evidence that there were at least two more shooters, maybe more, one from a lower floor and another at the Bellagio Hotel that was locked down. This means that there was a conspiracy involved. They don’t mention this so that someone like me can do so and be branded a “conspiracy theorist,” the term created by the CIA to besmirch anyone questioning the official narrative of the JFK assassination . . . Why would the MSM push this narrative of the lonely crazed gunman? . . . People need to realize that they must be immediately skeptical of such official narratives and do their own research, and they will learn that there are excellent alternative websites that are doing real journalism and are seeking truth for truth’s sake”.1

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And, as it is, Collective Evolution‘s Joe Martino “came across a post on Facebook from a girl named Rikki Raulerson who was in Las Vegas the night of the shooting”. . . and Miss Raulerson subsequently seems to have told Martino that ‘[t]he security guard at the Cosmopolitan exact words were “I know about as much as you do. I have heard 7 confirmed shooters at multiple hotels including the Bellagio.” I do not have any idea how he knew this info, but this is the time they were locking down the hotel. There were a few metro police officers alongside security guards outside our hotel Vdara, and as they were checking our credentials we asked are there really multiple shooters, what’s going on? And the police officer confirmed yes multiple shooters at multiple hotels including Aria next door. He did not say 7 however he just said multiple. I assume he heard this over the radio, bc he was a metro officer . . . We did not hear any shots from our hotel room. However while running from Cosmo we did hear shots, but they weren’t loud enough for me to think they were right next to us. The Bellagio is quite far from the Vdara on one side, and the Mandalay is about 1.7 miles on the other side. I don’t believe the shots we heard were coming from Mandalay however, because quickly after we got to the room they had released that he was dead. I could be wrong however. It was all happening so fast.”.2 On Facebook, California native and resident Rachel Monroy posted that she “KNOW[s] for sure that the first reports stated MULTIPLE shooters, including a shooter at Bellagio. People listening to police scanners heard ‘multiple shooters’. The people who were THERE have said there were multiple shooters. But yeah, just ignore the witnesses, if media says ‘lone shooter’ it must be true. MSM never lies. 🙄Nothing to see here. I read a lengthy, detailed account of one guy’s experience. He said people were being shot as they tried to escape. They were running from one shooter, towards another shooter. This guy and his girlfriend escaped and ended up hiding in a dumpster for HOURS because they didn’t know how many shooters were out there”.3

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As a result, it really seems that eyewitnesses on the ground ‘heard’ multiple shooters, which does not necessarily denote the actual presence of multiple shooters . . . but, as they say, there it is. And the below screen shot, provided by my Facebook friend Paula Densnow, might give an insight into a possible additional reasoning behind the occurrence of the Mandalay Bay Massacre.4

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Moreover, the Drumpf met with Sheldon Adelson on Monday, 2 October 2017: “[t]he [Monday] afternoon meeting had been scheduled before the shooting attack and was aimed at discussing policy, the Las Vegas ReviewJournal reported on Tuesday [, 3 October 2017], citing a representative from the Sheldon’s Las Vegas Sands casino and resort company. Adelson, who owns the Review-Journal, was one of Trump’s biggest financial backers during his successful 2016 presidential election campaign, donating millions to the Republican candidate’s cause. The two men both own casinos in Las Vegas. Adelson is also a major backer of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and owns the widely circulated Israel Hayom free daily”, as related by Stuart Winer in the Times of Israel.5

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1 Edward Curtin, “A Provocation to Investigate the Las Vegas Massacre” The Greanville Post (05 Oct 2017). http://www.greanvillepost.com/2017/10/05/a-provocation-to-investigate-the-las-vegas-massacre/.

2 Joe Martino, “EYE WITNESS AT LAS VEGAS SHOOTING STATES ‘THERE WERE 7 CONFIRMED SHOOTERS’” Collective Evolution (04 Oct 2017). http://www.collective-evolution.com/2017/10/04/eye-witness-at-las-vegas-shooting-states-there-were-7-confirmed-shooters/.

3 Rachel Monroy on Facebook (Yesterday [05 Oct 2017] at 12:01am ). https://www.facebook.com/rachel.monroy.3/posts/10208117984026899.

5 Stuart Winer, “Casino mogul Adelson met with Trump hours after Las Vegas shooting” The Times of Israel (04 Oct 2017). https://www.timesofisrael.com/casino-mogul-adelson-met-with-trump-hours-after-las-vegas-shooting/.

Grenfell Tower Disaster: Diane Abbott and a Woman called Donna

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Diane Abbott, the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and shadow Home Secretary, has now come out to say that “Grenfell Tower is not just an accident; Grenfell Tower is not just an unfortunate incident. Those hundreds of people that died are a direct consequence of Tory attitudes in social housing . . . The Tories think people in social housing are second-class citizens. And, as we have seen from Grenfell House, they are offering them second-class standards of safety. So, a direct consequence of that. A direct consequence of outsourcing . . . and a direct consequence of deregulation”.(1) In contrast, the official narrative of the disaster holds that its death toll is limited to 79 . . . As Abbot points out though, “I think we are going to find that the numbers of people that have died will be in triple figures, just because it’s a 23-storey [sic] block”.(2)

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Adding insult to injury, as noted by the Independent‘s Greg Wilford, a “wealthy Kensington resident claimed she would leave her luxury block of flats if victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy were given shelter there, telling a radio host the accommodation ‘shouldn’t be given for free’. The woman, called Donna, asked LBC listeners to ‘stand in my shoes’ as she complained that her council tax bill might increase if people were re-housed in her building, which she said has a £15,500 annual service charge. She told radio host Shelagh Fogart she would be ‘resentful’ if those who lost their homes in the recent fire were allowed to move in because she has worked ‘very hard’ to afford her property”.(3) Trying not to appear like the heartless bitch that she is, the woman called Donna explained that her “service charge bill, and this is a low one this year, is £15,500, and I would feel really resentful if someone got the same thing for free. I feel sorry for those people, but my husband and I work very hard to be able to afford this”.(4)

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In a clear effort to convince the world that even moderately rich people are scum of the earth, the woman called Donna next went to great lenghts explicating her lack of humanity on the radio: “And for someone to get it free . . . I would move. Our council tax bill is very, very high, our service charge bill is very, very high, so why should someone get it for free? I know it sounds harsh, believe me I feel sorry for those people, but I work very, very hard and so does my husband . . . I’m not hard-hearted, but When I’m paying that kind of money and someone else is getting it for free, if you stand in my shoes you can say that because you’re not. It’s like paying a rent to stay in your house, £15,500 a year”.(5)

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(1) Shehab Khan, “‘Hundreds’ died in Grenfell Tower fire, says shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott” The Independent (24 June 2017). http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/grenfell-tower-fire-diane-abbott-victims-number-hundreds-labour-shadow-home-secretary-a7806106.html.

(2) Shehab Khan, “‘Hundreds’ died in Grenfell Tower fire, says shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott”.

(3) Greg Wilford, “Wealthy Kensington resident says Grenfell Tower victims shouldn’t be given shelter in luxury flats” The Independent (24 June 2017). http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-fire-victims-kensington-row-rehoused-lbc-luxury-flats-a7806026.html.

(4) Greg Wilford, “Wealthy Kensington resident says Grenfell Tower victims shouldn’t be given shelter in luxury flats”.

(5) Greg Wilford, “Wealthy Kensington resident says Grenfell Tower victims shouldn’t be given shelter in luxury flats”.

Brexit means Brexit

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The British PM’s quite infamous words have now come back to haunt her . . . as Berlin Bureau Chief at The Economist Jeremy Cliffe laid bare on his twitter feed: “Today’s FAZ report on May’s disastrous dinner with Juncker [on 25 April 2017] – briefed by senior Commission sources – is absolutely damning” . . . and here it is,i in 30 tweets:

1) May had said she wanted to talk not just Brexit but also world problems; but in practice it fell to Juncker to propose one to discuss.

2) May has made clear to the Commission that she fully expects to be reelected as PM.

3) It is thought [in the Commission] that May wants to frustrate the daily business of the EU27, to improve her own negotiating position.

4) May seemed pissed off at Davis for regaling her dinner guests of his ECJ case against her data retention measures – three times.

5) EU side were astonished at May’s suggestion that EU/UK expats issue could be sorted at EU Council meeting at the end of June.

6) Juncker objected to this timetable as way too optimistic given complexities, eg on rights to health care.

7) Juncker pulled two piles of paper from his bag: Croatia’s EU entry deal, Canada’s free trade deal. His point: Brexit will be v v complex.

8) May wanted to work through the Brexit talks in monthly, 4-day blocks; all confidential until the end of the process.

9) Commission said impossible to reconcile this with need to square off member states & European Parliament, so documents must be published.

10) EU side felt May was seeing whole thing through rose-tinted-glasses. “Let us make Brexit a success” she told them.

11) Juncker countered that Britain will now be a third state, not even (like Turkey) in the customs union: “Brexit cannot be a success”.

12) May seemed surprised by this and seemed to the EU side not to have been fully briefed.

13) She cited her own JHA opt-out negotiations as home sec as a model: a mutually useful agreement meaning lots on paper, little in reality.

14) May’s reference to the JHA (justice and home affairs) opt-outs set off alarm signals for the EU side. This was what they had feared.

15) ie as home sec May opted out of EU measures (playing to UK audience) then opted back in, and wrongly thinks she can do same with Brexit

16) “The more I hear, the more sceptical I become” said Juncker (this was only half way through the dinner)

17) May then insisted to Juncker et al that UK owes EU no money because there is nothing to that effect in the treaties.

18) Her guests then informed her that the EU is not a golf club

19) Davis then objected that EU could not force a post-Brexit, post-ECJ UK to pay the bill. OK, said Juncker, then no trade deal.

20) …leaving EU27 with UK’s unpaid bills will involve national parliaments in process (a point that Berlin had made *repeatedly* before).

21) “I leave Downing St ten times as sceptical as I was before” Juncker told May as he left

22) Next morning at c7am Juncker called Merkel on her mobile, said May living in another galaxy & totally deluding herself

23) Merkel quickly reworked her speech to Bundestag to include her now-famous “some in Britain still have illusions” comment

24) FAZ concludes: May in election mode & playing to crowd, but what use is a big majority won by nurturing delusions of Brexit hardliners?

25) Juncker’s team now think it more likely than not that Brexit talks will collapse & hope Brits wake up to harsh realities in time.

26) What to make of it all? Obviously this leak is a highly tactical move by Commission. But contents deeply worrying for UK nonetheless.

27) The report points to major communications/briefing problems. Important messages from Berlin & Brussels seem not to be getting through.

28) Presumably as a result, May seems to be labouring under some really rather fundamental misconceptions about Brexit & the EU27.

29) Also clear that (as some of us have been warning for a while…) No 10 should expect every detail of the Brexit talks to leak.

30/30) Sorry for the long thread. And a reminder: full credit for all the above reporting on the May/Juncker dinner goes to the FAZ.

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In case you were wondering about FAZ and what it means, FAZ stands for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung and Forbes‘ Frances Coppola explains furthermore that “[r]eleasing details of the dinner to a German newspaper for printing in German only is a slap in the face for May and her team. The Commission, it seems, is very angry indeed. Jeremy Cliffe, The Economist’s Berlin bureau chief, tweeted the salient points from the FAZ article. They are absolutely damning. No wonder the Commission is angry”.ii

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ii Frances Coppola , “The UK Government Is Completely Deluded About Brexit” Forbes (30 April 2017). https://www.forbes.com/sites/francescoppola/2017/04/30/the-uk-government-is-completely-deluded-about-brexit/#60db7b714f04.

The American Civil War according to the Drumpf

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As voiced by the journalist Ishaan Tharoor on Twitter: “Trump’s right-wing populism is built on historical amnesia”.i Tharoor is obviously referring to the Drumpfian presentation of “alternative facts” regarding the American Civil War (1861-65) and the presidency of the genocidal Andrew Jackson (1829-37) . . . and, in response, Professor David Blight told Mother Jones’ Tim Murphy the following: “[s]o he really said this about Jackson and the Civil War? All I can say to you is that from day one I have believed that Donald Trump’s greatest threat to our society and to our democracy is not necessarily his authoritarianism, but his essential ignorance—of history, of policy, of political process, of the Constitution. Saying that if Jackson had been around we might not have had the Civil War is like saying that one strong, aggressive leader can shape, prevent, move history however he wishes. This is simply 5th grade understanding of history or worse. And this comes from the President of the United States! Under normal circumstances if a real estate tycoon weighed in on the nature of American history from such ignorance and twisted understanding we would simply ignore or laugh at him. But since this man lives in the historic White House and wields the constitutional powers of the presidency and the commander in chief we have to pay attention. Trump’s ‘learning’ of American history must have stopped even before the 5th grade. I wish I could say this is funny and not deeply disturbing. My profession should petition the President to take a one or two month leave of absence, VP Pence steps in for that interim, and Trump goes on a retreat in one of his resorts for forced re-education. It could be a new tradition called the presidential education leave. Or perhaps in New Deal tradition, an ‘ignorance relief’ period. This alone might gain the United States again some confidence and respect around the world” . . . and then, Professor Blight added, “[h]ope this helps. God help us”.ii

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And the Drumpf being the Drumpf did what he does best, dictate another tweet to his assistant at 3:55 AM – 2 May 2017: “President Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War started, saw it coming and was angry. Would never have let it happen!”.iii While, on the White House website the following appraisal of President Jackson can be found: “Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States from 1829 to 1837, seeking to act as the direct representative of the common man. More nearly than any of his predecessors, Andrew Jackson was elected by popular vote; as President he sought to act as the direct representative of the common man. Born in a backwoods settlement in the Carolinas in 1767, he received sporadic education. But in his late teens he read law for about two years, and he became an outstanding young lawyer in Tennessee. Fiercely jealous of his honor, he engaged in brawls, and in a duel killed a man who cast an unjustified slur on his wife Rachel”.iv In other words, the Drumpf would probably like to present himself as a latter-day Jackson, winning the popular vote and representing the common man, though he would probably never engage in a duel to defend Melania’s honour.

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Writing in Indian Country Today, Gale Courey Toensing matter-of-factly declares that a “man nicknamed ‘Indian killer’ and ‘Sharp Knife’ surely deserves the top spot on a list of worst U.S. Presidents. Andrew Jackson ‘was a forceful proponent of Indian removal,’ according to PBS. Others have a less genteel way of describing the seventh president of the United States”.v In the next instance, Courey Toensing fleshes out her argument, detailing the catalogue of misdeeds committed by the seventh U.S. President: “Andrew Jackson was not only a genocidal maniac against the Indigenous Peoples of the southwest, he was also racist against African peoples and a scofflaw who ‘violated nearly every standard of justice,’ according to historian Bertram Wyatt-Brown. As a major general in 1818, Andrew Jackson invaded Spanish Florida chasing fugitive slaves who had escaped with the intent of returning them to their ‘owners,’ and sparked the First Seminole War. During the conflict, Jackson captured two British men, Alexander George Arbuthnot and Robert C. Ambrister, who were living among the Seminoles. The Seminoles had resisted Jackson’s invasion of their land. One of the men had written about his support for the Seminoles’ land and treaty rights in letters found on a boat. Andrew Jackson used the ‘evidence’ to accuse the men of ‘inciting’ the Seminoles to ‘savage warfare’ against the U.S. He convened a ‘special court martial’ tribunal then had the men executed. ‘His actions were a study in flagrant disobedience, gross inequality and premeditated ruthlessness . . . he swept through Florida, crushed the Indians, executed Arbuthnot and Ambrister, and violated nearly every standard of justice,’ Wyatt-Brown wrote”.vi

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ii Tim Murrphy, “Historian on Donald Trump’s Civil War Comments: ‘God Help Us’” Mother Jones (01 May 2017). http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/05/historian-donald-trumps-civil-war-comment-god-help-us.

v Gale Courey Toensing, “Indian-Killer Andrew Jackson Deserves Top Spot on List of Worst US Presidents” Indian Country Today (20 Feb 2017). https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/history/people/indian-killer-andrew-jackson-deserves-top-spot-on-list-of-worst-us-presidents/.

viGale Courey Toensing, “Indian-Killer Andrew Jackson Deserves Top Spot”.

The Prez and Putin: A Friendship in Flux

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The Russian news agency TASS reported that Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russia’s Vladimir Putin engaged in a telephone conversation on Wednesday, 14 December 2016. The Kremlin issued the following press release: “The two heads of state continued the exchange of opinions on the Syrian problem. Specifically, they discussed the situation in Aleppo. They made emphasis on the importance of a buildup of joint efforts to improve the humanitarian situation and to give a start to a political process in Syria in practical terms. In the wake of a large terrorist attack committed in Istanbul on December 10 that resulted in numerous casualties, the Russian president once again expressed heart-felt condolences to the leadership and people of Turkey. The two sides reaffirmed readiness for further joint actions to neutralize the terrorist threat in the Middle Eastern region”.[1]

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This telephonic rapprochement between Russia and Turkey appears highly significant in view of the fact that the interaction took place against the backdrop of the “liberation” of the Syrian city of Aleppo – the city’s liberation from the clutches of Jihadi terrorists hell bent on the removal of Bashar al-Assad, Jihadi terrorist enjoying the overt and covert support of AKP-led Ankara. Turkey’s close ties to Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra are long-standing and well-documented. On 15 December 2016, the Writer and Contributor at 21st Century Wire Vanessa Beeley published the following on her facebook page: “The Old City. #Aleppo. The long walk from the upturned vehicles that marked the dividing lines between SAA soldiers and Nusra terrorist fighters, literally fighting from next door and facing houses. Walking towards the battle scarred Umayyed Mosque that less than 24 hours previously had still harboured Nusra snipers. We were also told that terrorists were still sheltering in the basements of one of the surrounding buildings during our walk..the SAA soldiers were dispatched to find them. Apologies for the wobbly footage. I was trying to pick my way through the debris from the fierce street battles to liberate this ancient and culturally iconic Old City from the Nusra Front desecration and destruction of this jewel of history. Thank you to Fares Shehabi for organising everything for us. It was an incredibly poignant moment to enter the Mosque past the destroyed Minaret, strewn with Nusra black flags and Ahrar Al Sham pennants. It is hard to imagine the ferocity of the fighting to regain Syria’s territory but East Aleppo is now freed from its NATO and Gulf state terrorist infestation, thanks to the SAA and its allies”.[2]

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[1] “Putin, Erdogan discuss Syria, situation in Aleppo ― Kremlin” TASS (14 Dec 2016). http://tass.com/politics/919457.

[2] Vanessa Beeley on facebook (15 Dec 2016). https://www.facebook.com/vanessa.beeley?fref=ts.