• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

zaterdag 12 augustus 2017

Branden op Groenland

Klimaatverandering veroorzaakt nu ook branden op Groenland

Op Groenland worden in 2017 ongewoon veel ‘bodembranden’ geconstateerd. Het gaat over uitgedroogde veengronden die ontvriezen en ontbranden door de ongewoon hoge temperaturen.
donderdag 10 augustus 2017
Tachtig procent van Groenland is bedekt met ijs. Op de delen die in de zomer ijsvrij worden rgebeurt het wel eens dat veengrond ontbrandt. Sinds 2017 is dat aantal echter spectaculair toegenomen, zo blijkt uit satellietbeelden. Vuur verspreidt gemakkelijk zich via droog gras en klein struikgewas. Echte bossen zijn er niet op Groenland.
Experts vermoeden dat de oorzaak van deze toename ligt aan de grotere oppervlaktes van veenbodem, die ijsvrij worden en bij blootstelling aan de zon brandbaar worden. “Branden die op deze manier smeulen, worden vaak veroorzaakt door de aanwezigheid van veel organische brandstof in de grond”, verklaarde expert Jessica McCarty van de Universiteit van Miami aan de Britse omroep BBC.

Smeltend permafrost

McCarty stelt dat smeltende permafrost (permafrost betekent letterlijk 'permanent bevroren grond') heeft bijgedragen aan de brand die momenteel woedt in de omgeving van Sisimiut, een vissersstadje met 5.500 inwoners op de westkust van Groenland.
Aantal geregistreerde veenbranden in IJsland sinds 2002 (tabel Modis.C6)
 Onderzoeker Stef Lhermitte van de Technologie Universiteit Delft publiceerde op 7 augustus een diagram met de meetgegevens van de NASA. Die laat een sterke piek zien sinds 2015, met dit jaar 2017 als uitschieter.

We Can No Longer Outrun Antibiotic Resistance

We Can No Longer Outrun Antibiotic Resistance. So, Here's What We Need to Do Instead

Saturday, August 12, 2017 By Lindsey KonkelEnsia | News Analysis 
From the muddy bottoms of deep ocean trenches to Komodo dragon blood, scientists have scoured Earth's remote corners in search of molecules that could yield the world's next antibiotic. They hope to discover powerful new medicines against which bacteria have not yet evolved defenses. It's a high-stakes pursuit. Disease-causing bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics more quickly than we're discovering new ones.
That's a big problem for humans. Infections that throughout the 20th century became easy to treat because of antibiotics have today become deadly. In the United States alone, more than 2 million people each year are infected with bacteria that can't be killed by the drugs that were meant to stop them. At least 23,000 of those people will die as a result of their infections.
"[I]n the antibiotic 'arms race' against bacteria, humanity is rarely ahead," wrote a team of researchers headed by microbiologist Gautam Dantas in a recent review article. Dantas, an associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis, is trying to change that.
We can no longer outrun antibiotic resistance by simply mining nature for new compounds, Dantas explains. He and others now are tackling the problem head on -- by hunting for the genes that enable bacteria to become resistant to life-saving medications. Finding and decoding these genes may provide fresh clues about how antibiotic resistance emerges -- and how to shut it down.
Unearthing the Antibiotic Resistome
Antibiotics are chemical substances that kill or slow the growth of bacteria. They are often thought of in terms of their medicinal properties that stop infections in humans, but many bacteria in the environment naturally produce chemicals with antibiotic properties, too.
In fact, some of our most important antibiotic discoveries have come from microorganisms in the environment. Scientists isolated penicillin, the world's first antibiotic, from a type of mold in 1928. Other antibiotic discoveries -- including streptomycin, the first medical cure for tuberculosis -- came from soil bacteria. In the span of a generation, people stopped dying from injuries and illnesses such as pneumonia, scarlet fever and syphilis.
Scientists aren't exactly sure why bacteria started making antibiotics in the first place, but they've been at it for a long time -- probably since around the time bacteria emerged about 3.5 billion years ago. And since they were essentially creating their own poison with the antibiotics, the bacteria needed an antidote. So, over time, they evolved a suite of antibiotic resistance mechanisms.
Researchers have found genes encoding antibiotic resistance just about everywhere they've looked in the environment -- on fossils scraped from the walls of subterranean caves or buried beneath feet of permafrost, even in the healthy gut microbes of people in a Yanomami Amerindian village who have never had contact with modern medicine.
"It's an ancient feature of virtually every microbial ecosystem on the planet," says Dantas. Scientists call this collection of resistance-conferring genes the antibiotic resistome.
Dantas and other researchers have spent the past decade cataloguing the resistomes of various environments -- soil, farm animals, wastewater treatment plants, even the human gut. A stark picture is beginning to emerge -- they've found genes encoding resistance to our most important antibiotic medicines lurking nearly everywhere they looked.
Growing Problem
If antibiotic resistance is ancient, why is it just becoming a problem for humans now?
"We've applied a very big stress to the natural system over the last couple of decades," says Andrew Edwards, a microbiologist at Imperial College London.
Antibiotics are some of the most commonly prescribed medications on the planet. While there's no doubt antibiotics can be life-saving, they're also commonly misprescribed for minor ailments and illnesses that don't respond to antibiotics, explains Edwards. In the United States alone, an estimated one in three antibiotic prescriptions isn't necessary, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Then there's the use of antibiotics in farm animals. Some poultry and other livestock receive antibiotics in their feed. Low doses of antibiotics help them grow bigger on less food, cutting the cost of production. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration report last year found that sales of medically important antibiotics for use in farm animals in the United States rose 26 percent between 2009 and 2015.
Bacteria are really good at improvising their way out of trouble -- it's how they've survived on the planet for 3 billion years, explains Gerry Wright, a microbiologist at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. "Each time we use an antibiotic, it creates the opportunity for that adapt-or-die dichotomy," he says. Because bacteria are so bountiful, and they reproduce so quickly, it doesn't take long for some to develop mutations that confer resistance and then, in the presence of the antibiotics, to dominate populations.
All of this use has resulted in an increase of antibiotic resistance genes in non-disease causing bacteria found in the environment. A 2010 study from the Netherlands reported that genes conferring resistance to some tetracyclines, a class of antibiotics, were 15 times greater in soil bacteria by 2008 than the 1970s.
Doctors discovered resistance to penicillin soon after the drug was introduced, but antibiotic resistance wasn't initially appreciated as a problem, because new antibiotics were being discovered at a quick pace throughout the 1950s and 1960s (what some call the golden age of antibiotics). However, the problem soon became obvious as the rate of discovery of new antibiotics began to slow through the second half of the twentieth century, Edwards explains.
ID'ing Environmental Reservoirs
Finding resistance genes to medically important drugs in bacteria from a manure pit or a ball field isn't the same as finding them in disease-causing bacteria in the hospital. Each day we're bathed in a sea of microbes, and most don't make us sick.
But bacteria can swap DNA. Some bacteria send packets of DNA into their environment. Others pick up and incorporate those packets into their own genetic material. It's called horizontal gene transfer, and it's what many bacteria do instead of sex to spread their genes.
A benign soil-dwelling microbe could theoretically lend its antibiotic resistance genes to a human pathogen in this way. Researchers have long suspected that disease-causing microorganisms could dip into environmental pools of antibiotic resistance, but experts weren't sure whether this was actually happening at any meaningful rate.
In 2012, Dantas and colleagues showed for the first time that it was. They found soil microbes that shared a set of antibiotic resistance genes with human pathogens. Exchange of resistance genes between soil and clinic established soil as a key player in the network of pathogenic resistance, explains Dantas, though their research did not show the direction of the transfer -- whether the genes moved from soil to pathogen or pathogen to soil.
Morten Sommer, a professor of biosustainability at the Technical University of Denmark, now is trying to understand which environmental reservoirs pose the most risk to human medicine.
"We want to know how and where that transfer to human pathogens is most likely to occur so we might be able to prevent the spread of resistance genes out of those environments," says Sommer. He doesn't have the answers yet, but he's probing the antibiotic resistomes of soil, farm animals, wastewater treatment facilities and even the "good" bacteria of the human gut.
Finding a Solution
Armed with a greater knowledge of the antibiotic resistome, scientists can devise new ways to counteract resistance to the drugs we already have and the antibiotics of the future.
Historically, humans have taken a reactive approach to antibiotic resistance -- waiting to act until some superbug shows up in the clinic. Dantas and others now are taking a proactive approach. In May, Dantas along with several other Washington University researchers discovered a group of compounds produced by bacteria that could block resistance to tetracyclines by "gunking up" the cellular machinery some bacteria use to make the drugs ineffective. They're now exploring whether these resistance-blocking compounds could be given together with existing antibiotics to help preserve their efficacy.
It's just one example. Other researchers are using the resistome to come up with new combinations of antibiotics that could help slow the spread of multi-drug resistance, where bacteria are resistant to more than one antibiotic. In the antibiotic discovery pipeline, some new compounds make better candidates than others, but researchers often can't weed out the duds until resistance shows up in the testing phase -- a time-consuming and costly process. Understanding the likelihood of a rare genetic swap from one environment to another may help scientists save time and resources by predicting earlier which new compounds may be more or less susceptible to widespread resistance.
Dantas is hopeful about the possibilities, though none of it really matters if we don't curtail our current antibiotic use, he points out. Antibiotic resistance is a fact of nature. It's not going away unless bacteria go away (in which case we'd be gone too). There are steps we can take to stay ahead of it or even slow it, but "we have to protect the armamentarium if we want that shot," he says.  View Ensia homepage
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

LINDSEY KONKEL

Lindsey Konkel is a New Jersey-based freelance journalist. She writes about science, health and the environment. Her work has appeared at print and online publications, including Newsweek, National Geographic News and Environmental Health Perspectives. 

The Tempest of American Power


The Tempest of American Power


In Shakespeare’s late masterpiece, The Tempest, Antonio proposes murdering Alonso, the King of Naples, and seizing the throne. He remarks that he and his co-conspirator, Alonso’s son Sebastian, had been,
…cast again 
(And by that destiny) to perform an act 
Wherof what’s past is prologue; what’s to come,
In yours and my discharge.
(The Tempest 2.1.251-54)
That what is past is prologue is akin to saying that preceding events have set the stage or created the context for what is about to happen. The same idea aired by Antonio among his fellow conspirators in The Tempest is a surprisingly apt analogue for the imperial state, where the electoral options on offer are either imperialism or imperialism. Thus a Democratic administration is followed by a Republican administration and little changes in the deep, abiding imperial mission of the American empire. We discover that what Bush did was prologue for Obama’s presidency, and Obama’s for Trump’s. Despite the theatricality of the last year, and the disputed election of a risible carnival barker to the highest seat in the land, the march of the imperial corporate state moves ahead relatively unimpeded, building on the legacies of past leaders.
Yes, President Trump has occasionally delivered stirring glimpses of sanity during his turbulent tenure. He canceled the regime-change goal of the Syrian strategy. He canceled the CIA program to arm and train terrorists in Syria. He negotiated ceasefires with Vladimir Putin in Syria. These are positive steps and reflect the kind of anti-conflict mentality some people supported him for. And yet, he appears to have instructed or permitted the military to shift its focus to Iran and North Korea and Venezuela, and dangerously escalate the hostile overtures toward these nations. Sanctions are levied. Lindsay Graham has tabled the destruction of North Korea. John McCain has called for further arming Ukrainian fascists. Steve Mnuchin appeared waving a sheaf of sanctions aimed at “dictator” Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela. Congress is conflating anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism with a new anti-BDS bill. Israel is removing one illegal settlement housing 40 settler-occupier families and replacing it with a 2000-unit settlement. The UN condemns it with its customary edgeless complaints. The UNSC falls silent. In other words, most everything on the foreign policy front is business as usual.
Business As Usual: Syria
Look at what is happening in Syria. An all-new Kurdistan will be carved out of northern Syria. It will be led by a puppet regime that permits American military bases, indeed some eight bases have already been established in north Syria. This has been the plan all along. It was even recommended in the Yinon Plan from 1982, a Zionist blueprint for controlling the Middle East, and which has either informed or confirmed Washington’s divide-destroy-and-rule strategy ever since. Obama sent special forces into northern Syria to ensure the Kurdish YPG and so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) would capture Raqqa before the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) did. John Kerry begged Moscow not to bomb al-Qaeda for similar reasons. The overarching objective: a not-so-Salafist principality on the edge of Syria and Iraq capable of a) weakening the secular Syrian state, b) running interference between Hezbollah and Iran, and c) launching destabilization activities and ultimately color revolutions in Iran and perhaps Russia beyond it.
The Kurds, of course, have been steadily romanticized as the perennially persecuted minority in the crucible of Middle East conflict. And now Washington has co-opted their desire for a state to insert itself into the vortex of Sunni-Shia confrontation. The YPG are supposedly the armed version of the PKK, the Kurdish organization in Turkey that is relentlessly at odds with Ankara. But the State Department considers the PKK a terrorist organization, and the YPG have been behaving like terrorists in northern Syria, to put it mildly, terrorizing Christians and seizing Arab territory to include in their blessed vision of holy Kurdistan. Not unlike the Zionist takeover of Palestine.
This was all predicated on the fine work of Barack Obama, who green lighted CIA and Pentagon plans to arm terrorists (euphemistically called ‘moderate rebels’), called for regime change in Damascus, injected special forces into the Syrian fire to guide the Islamist mercenaries, dropped tens of thousands of bombs across Syria and Iraq, and backed Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Britain, and other allies in various coordinated forms of destabilization.
Business As Usual: Venezuela
Look what’s happening in Venezuela. The economic chaos and street violence in Venezuela hasn’t been caused by President Nicolas Maduro. Washington has dumped millions of dollars into the cesspool coffers of so-called opposition groups which, frustrated at the ballot box for most of this century, and being hostile to democracy in the first place (their 2002 and 2015 coup attempts both failed), have turned to violent insurgency to topple the popular Maduro government. The opposition have burned down one government building, bombed another. They have twice bombed federal police units. They have murdered Chavistas and lit them on fire. They have done everything in their power to provoke an authoritarian response from the government–anything that will further delegitimize the government, and generate a pretext for intervention. Both Mexico and Colombia have been recruited to help undermine Caracas, adding their own deeply dysfunctional signatures to a gruesome imperial intervention. Despite this, Donald Trump’s brooding Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, formerly Driller-in-Chief for Exxon, added someblathering nonsense to the fire, mumbling gravely about Maduro either leaving or “returning to the constitution.” An aide declared the OAS was a “coalition partner,” even though that organization’s charter prohibits interference of the kind the West is anxious to enact. Not to be outdone, CIA Chief Mike Pompeu contributed some seething drivel about being “hopeful there can be a transition in Venezuela” and his efforts in Mexico City and Bogota to co-opt those nations to back regime change.
Prevaricating think tanks like the Brookings Institute publish delusive arguments for using the Organization of American States to pressure Maduro out, then sweep in with a neoliberal loan package, which would doubtless contain all of the economic conditionalities desired by imperial finance, including increased foreign direct investment, heightened ownership caps for foreign capital, privatization of national assets at distressed prices with no consultation of the population. This last being a form of “accumulation by dispossession” that David Harvey calls a signal feature of neoliberal capitalism. All of the chaos, Brookings says, has been caused by Maduro and “his blind obsession for unlimited power.”
Is there support Washington’s argument that Maduro is a power-mad tyrant? It largely depends on what you think of the following actions: After the opposition took control of the National Assembly (NA) in 2015, a Maduro-leaning Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) removed three lawmakers on charges of voting irregularities, crucially preventing the opposition from assuming a supermajority. In 2016, the National Electoral Council (CNE) canceled a recall referendum against Nicolas Maduro after hundreds of thousands of signatures calling for the referendum were declared invalid by the CNE. In 2017, the TSJ later took over legislative powers from the NA (later restored) after NA refused to remove three assemblymen from Amazonas said the TSJ to have been fraudulently elected (vote-buying). Yet these representatives had been confirmed by the CNE, supposedly giving them parliamentary immunity. Maduro then called a Constituent Assembly vote by decree, rather than by referendum, as his predecessor Hugo Chavez had. The opposition boycotted the Constituent Assembly vote, ensuring those elected were mostly government supporters. The first act of the Constituent Assembly was to banish the Attorney General, who openly challenged Maduro.
In fact, whether Maduro hews to the constitution or not is little more than a sideshow for Washington. His actions must either be hysterically decried beneath the label of dictatorship, or obfuscated to justify the label of dictatorship. He’s a dictator no matter what he does. The West wants to unseat Maduro before the Venezuelan Constituent Assembly codifies social gains into the constitution. Maduro is the inheritor of a Bolivarian revolution that transformedthe nation under Hugo Chavez. Doubled economic growth. Doubled the caloric intake. Dramatically lowered severe poverty. Lowered unemployment. Reduced child malnutrition. Erased illiteracy. Drove grade school and higher education enrollment and graduation. Lifted incomes. And on and on. Even the World Bank concedes it. This frightens the crusty beltway puppet-masters because they forever fear the dread domino effect, when a successful social model spreads throughout the region. Thus Maduro must go.
The hostility toward Venezuela is also predicated on Barack Obama’s absurd declaration in 2015 that Venezuela is a grave threat to America’s national security. Obama’s view was built on George W. Bush’s efforts to overthrow Hugo Chavez in the early part of the century. Both men lavishly funded the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) established by Ronald Reagan as a Trojan Horse by which to covertly interfere in other countries.
Colonization and Causes
These are essentially class wars. Elite pit their pliant minions against the masses and their fledgling representative governments. And these class wars amount to little more than colonization by other means. We’re aren’t in a post-colonial era; colonization has just changed. The U.S. learned from British imperialism and has evolved its own arsenal of lighter-footprint templates for conquering the lands, leaders, and resources of target nations. There is tremendous continuity here, a kind of accretionary dynamic. Although straightforward wars of aggression are always ‘on the table,’ Washington sees the use of debt leverage, sanctions, NGO infiltration, opposition funding and electoral interference, drone assassinations, arming, training, and guiding proxy armies, and considerable air support as its preferred tactical suite for conquest and control. This keeps the ostensible footprint small and the plausible deniability large.
Colonization continues for two central reasons: the first reason is that there is bipartisan consensus for it–because both parties represent elite wealth, not ecumenical majorities. Popular opinion is not represented in Washington. George W. Bush perverted the political capital accrued from 9/11 to destroy half the Middle East, and it was Barack Obama who ensured we remained immersed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama who got the United States into Syria as well as Libya. One country is now a swamp of terrorist factionalism, the other a fractured state about to be partitioned. Likewise, the aggressive Republican action against Venezuela has received bipartisan support all along. Democrats and Republicans share objectives. They merely differ on tactics. Republicans still prefer boots on the ground and planting American flags in foreign soil. Very dramatic, old school, film-reel kind of imperialism. Democrats prefer covert action, the kind of shifty schemes engineered by Zbigniew Brzezinski that tend to destabilize through proxies, have the advantage of plausible deniability, and yet produce both chaos and blowback. Not that chaos is an unwanted result; it could be argued that it is our preference. Each administration builds on the work of the previous administration, regardless of the insignia on its lapel. For all in power, it is empire at all costs. That’s the bipartisan consensus.
The second reason colonization continues is because corporate media obscures it. The continued colonization of the planet is enabled by the colonization of the American mind. This is the ‘war before the war’ referenced by George Creel when he explained how he helped the Wilson administration turn Americans into a frothing mass hell-bent on sundering Hun conquests. The public must be conditioned to support the imperial project. The MSM functions as a rationalizing front organization for imperialism.
To this end, Democrat and Republican are relentlessly held up as examples of the wide spectrum of popular opinion we enjoy, rather than the narrow ideology a single war party. Their differences are proclaimed. We are led to believe that not only are we daily witness to a throaty, demotic debate on the issues of the day, but that the perspectives aired reflect the opinions of the average American. But they don’t (page 570 in particular). There’s nothing mainstream about the ‘mainstream’ media. The so-called mainstream expresses a fringe viewpoint. It relentlessly repeats the marginal POV of the one percent, the corporate profiteers for whom war is a boon and a blessing. This is how all propaganda functions–an obscure perspective is popularized through the capture of media channels. Not only are the viewsobscure, but they are consistently extreme. Only by co-opting massive communications firepower to make the case, as it were, can the ruling class convince the masses of a viewpoint that would never gain traction on its own merits.
The ‘mainstream’ stenographers write in calm, bloodless prose, the better to assure their readers that they are levelheaded, not fantasists who back one imperial usurpation after another. Their columns are tranquilizers that normalize the extremism of both the elite worldview and the imperial behavior of its foot soldiers. Then, when the true popular voice springs into the square to denounce the lies, he or she appears to onlookers as the real extremist, merely by virtue of his anger. And this is why Orwellian constructs blossom like an unkempt jungle in the mediascape. Democracy is tyranny. Voting is oppression. Marginal is mainstream.
And past is prologue, since what we have done before merely sets the stage for what we will do. The templates established by Carter and Brzezinski are taken up by Obama and Rice. Soros-funded schemes applied in Eastern Europe migrate to the tip of South America. There may be nothing new under the sun, but what’s new is the sun under which old things are given new life. Yesterday, Afghanistan. Today, Syria. Yesterday, Poland. Today, Venezuela. The final irony is perhaps that for those in the dystopian worlds of capital exploitation that lay beyond our borders, the opposite is often true–their future will not resemble their past. For many in Syria and Venezuela and Iraq and Libya, they may find themselves repeating an epigram scribbled on a wall in the war-torn Syrian town of Homs, “We were dreaming of the future, we’re now dreaming of the past.”
More articles by:
Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire: Unmasking American Imperialism. He lives in New York City and can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

Democrats Want More Interventions

Gabbard and Lee Join the War Party
House Democrats Gabbard and Lee are Democrats, and Democrats are one wing of the War Party.

by Danny BAR contributor Haiphong

The Democrats’ two leading congressional dissidents have finally surrendered, now that the party has “taken the lead in the project of endless war.” U.S. imperialism demands unanimous support from its servants in Congress.

Barbara Lee and Tulsi Gabbard Side with War Party on Sanctions

by BAR contributor Danny Haiphong

“The same set of conditions that drove Donald Trump's rise to the presidency are linked to Barbara Lee and Tulsi Gabbard's right-wing turn.”
The House recently voted to enforce sanctions against Russia, Iran, and the DPRK. Congress included an unprecedented provision in the bill to restrict the President from amending the sanctions without approval from Congress. Despite vocal opposition, the Trump Administration was forced to sign the bill in the face of near unanimous support. All three in Congress who voted against the sanctions were Republicans. Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul were the only Senators to vote down the bill. Also missing from the opposition’s short list was Democratic Party representatives Barbara Lee and Tulsi Gabbard. 
Lee and Gabbard's absence from Washington's minuscule opposition to sanctions is significant because both representatives have a record of using their vote to curtail US war designs. Lee was the only elected official to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan  in 2001. She opposed the invasion of Iraq  two years later. One of the few Black Congressional Caucus members with a consistent track record against foreign intervention, Lee also opposed President Barack Obama's violation of the War Powers Act  when he led the NATO invasion of Libya in 2011.  
“Both political parties in Washington have been fully committed to global annihilation in service of Wall Street profits.”
Representative Gabbard developed her own track record against US meddling abroad when she vocally opposed US support for "rebels" in Syria beginning in 2013. In December of 2016, she went a step further by presenting a bill to the House called the Stop Arming Terrorists Act.  This act would have effectively ended all aid to US-backed "rebels." US-backed “rebels” in Syria have long been verified as nothing more than jihadist terrorists  seeking to destabilize the region at the behest of the US, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Jordan, and NATO (to name a few). The Act received little support from Congress, but did receive co-sponsorship from none other than Representative Barbara Lee.
Lee and Gabbard have always been small fish in the War Party's big pond. Both political parties in Washington have been fully committed to global annihilation in service of Wall Street profits for decades. Indeed, a recent Pentagon study on military strategy in a "post primacy world" admitted that the never ending quest for US hegemony abroad is based on conditions of imperial desperation. The study concluded that the US "clings to significant political, economic, and military leverage" but laments that such leverage is "increasingly exhibiting less reach, durability, and endurance." In other words, US military domination is an indispensable yet unstable component of profit accumulation for the rich, and few politicians are willing to lose their donors over the issue.
“US-backed ‘rebels’ in Syria have long been verified as nothing more than jihadist terrorists seeking to destabilize the region at the behest of the US, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Jordan, and NATO.”
The same study labels the "economic nationalism" of the current Administration as a stress on US hegemony. However, Trump's so-called "populism" is not the cause of US imperialism’s woes. It is a product of them. The same set of conditions that drove Donald Trump's rise to the presidency are linked to Barbara Lee and Tulsi Gabbard's right-wing turn. US imperialism is in crisis and cannot allow any insurgent politicians into the War Party, let alone insurgent positions.
Gabbard and Lee appear to have succumbed to the pressure of the War Party. Now led by the Democrats, The War Party must fulfill the wishes of its capitalist masters or die. It immediately saw the Trump Administration as ideologically and politically unfit to contain the rising powers to the East. Trump's electoral victory added insult to injury to the War Party’s constant escalations toward nuclear annihilation. This prompted the ruling class to further unite the Democratic and Republican Parties toward a confrontation with China and Russia. And it has been the Democratic Party that has taken the lead in the project of endless war.
The US bill to extend sanctions against Iran, Russia, and the DPRK is but another extension of this project. Sanctions are internationally recognized as tools of war. Sanctions are meant to starve a nation into submission. Sanctions commit mass murder through the forced restriction of medical supplies, food, and other items of basic necessity. Sanctions killed over 500,000 children in Iraq and have sent untold numbers more to an early death wherever they have been enforced.
“US military domination is an indispensable yet unstable component of profit accumulation for the rich.”
The US sees sanctions as the most fail-safe method to regain the ground lost to Russia and China in the post-Obama era. The Obama Administration's eight years of rule failed to weaken the influence of its Russian and Chinese competitors.  President Obama never once hesitated to authorize bloody imperialist proxy wars meant to wrestle back US control over large regions of the world looking in other directions for development. He did so with the utmost of arrogance. However, the results of his efforts offered little to be arrogant about.  Libya, Syria, and the Ukraine were thrown into chaos. Millions died from Obama era proxy wars, drone wars, and sanctions regimes. 
Uncontrolled chaos in the Eurasian region has only weakened US imperialism’s sphere of influence. Syria is a case in point. The Syrian Arab Army has made the most significant gains in the last year after spending over six years fighting tens of thousands of foreign-sponsored terrorists invading the country. These gains, such as the liberation of Aleppo, were made in part because of the heroism of the Syrian people. However, the Trump Administration's decision to end the CIA's supposedly covert aid to terrorists  was also heavily influenced by the weakened state of the US empire.
“Tulsi Gabbard and Barbara Lee have cosigned the US empire's desperate attempt to destroy independent nations by way of starvation.”
A more fragile, vulnerable US empire is cause for celebration. But the dangers of US empire do not evaporate just because the system is in crisis. Tulsi Gabbard and Barbara Lee have cosigned the US empire's desperate attempt to destroy independent nations by way of starvation. They, like the entire ruling class, should be held to account for their actions. Real demands on power must be brought to bear. Black people, oppressed people, and working people generally need a common program that opposes war and fights for an end to gentrification, police brutality, mass incarceration, and poverty wages. Neither corporate party has any interest in hearing these demands, let alone fulfilling them. That means the power of the people is the only solution to the crisis before us. It is well past the time that a discussion takes place among "movement" activists, leftists, and organizers on how to strengthen the power of the people. This conversation is just as absent in the era of Trump as it was in the era of Obama.
Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reachedatwakeupriseup1990@gmail.com

White Backlash


The Clintons, Trump and White Backlash

Photo by Veni | CC BY 2.0
In the mid-1980s Klan leader, White nationalist and one-term Representative from Louisiana David Duke traded in his KKK garb for a business suit and a corporate haircut in order to merge his version of White nationalism with then resurgent capitalism. Neoliberalism links a malleable conception of freedom as what those with social power want to circular social apologetics. And the capitalist / Thatcherite assertion that the individual is the fundamental social unit revivifies White nationalism by erasing history.
Another way of putting this is that neoliberalism has long been a subtext of White nationalism. If social outcomes reflect individual capabilities, goes the theory, then group social failures result from aggregated individual failures— from some ‘defect’ that characterizes individuals as members of that group. This is the theoretical basis of ‘scientific racism.’ Likewise, Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s ‘culture of illegitimacy’ erased three centuries of race-based social repression to frame the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow as Black moral failures.
The charitable explanation is that this sort of ‘rational’ racism is prescriptive— an effort to right existing circumstances, rather than descriptive as misstatement of actual social history. However, the temporal sleight-of-hand of historical erasure comes straight from capitalist theory. By the early 1990s Bill and Hillary Clinton were using this temporal flattening to conflate the neoliberal theory that markets create a society where individual capacities and effort are rewarded with their programs that exacerbated existing social divisions through class warfare.
Graph: ‘participation rates’ are the percentages of given populations that are employed. With the caution that demographic differences explain some of the variability, the persistence of a lower Black Participation rate regardless of which political party is in power demonstrates the emotive (content-free) quality of party differentiation when it comes to race. In other words, the Democrat’s ‘opportunity society’ looks like Reagan’s / Trump’s ‘White backlash’ when it comes to institutional outcomes. The greater variability of the Black Participation Rate is cyclical, a sign of the relative vulnerability of Black employment. Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve.
Of current relevance is the effort to explain Donald Trump’s election in terms of ‘White backlash.’ Both the Clintons and Barack Obama made a small number of rich people much richer while making working class and poor people poorer. From starting positions characterized by unresolved institutional racism— race-based social disadvantage, the Democrats’ economic policies rewarded and punished people by these starting positions and not by capacities and effort. The Democrats ‘meritocracy’ is in this way tautological, a low-budget restatement of Voltaire’s ‘best of all possible worlds.’
For displaced Democrats the theory of White backlash has obvious appeal— barely employed, barely educated hicks get their revenge for eight years of America’s first Black president passing virtuous and inclusive policies. Questions like why a number of Americans sufficient to elect Mr. Trump are barely educated and barely employed eight years into a Democrat administration and economic ‘recovery’ are left for the communists. (The bourgeois and the rich vote— they elected Mr. Trump). And in fact, recent research supports the contention that millions of workers were forced to exit labor ‘markets’ during Mr. Obama’s tenure due to a lack of jobs.
This isn’t to dismiss the theory of backlash entirely. Amongst the 16% of the population that voted for Mr. Trump ((eligible voters / population) X 27% eligible who voted Trump), some fair portion may well be ideologically committed racists. Furthermore, American history is full of political opportunists periodically exacerbating racial tensions to divide working people and the poor and distract attention away from capitalist predations. The problem for Democrats with charging dim jackass Trump with racial opportunism is that the Clintons mastered that game some twenty years ago.
Graph: capital, a remarkably sore subject in economics despite its place at the theoretical core of capitalism, is well described as control over social resources— in particular, productive resources. The neoliberal epoch has placed most wealth, and with it control over social resources, in a small number of overwhelmingly White hands. The difference between average and median wealth is a measure of this concentration. Through deregulation, financialization, globalization and the concentration of corporate power in the executive suites, Bill Clinton helped build this system of wealth concentration. Through bailouts of Wall Street Barack Obama restored it to power. As the graph suggests, ‘opportunity’ is a non sequitur when a few connected White people own all of the resources. Source: Economic Policy Institute.
The oft-uttered contention that the Clintons are mere racial opportunists while Mr. Trump is a real racist ignores that the Clintons pushed some of the most destructively racist legislation in American history. The argument that they (the Clintons) shouldn’t be held to account for legislation they supported undermines the base precept of legal liability used to write it. In other words, the Clinton apologia appears to be that they shouldn’t be held to account but the several million poor Blacks imprisoned under legislation they supported should have been. And there is no hyperbole in linking the language, structure and intent of the 1994 Crime Bill to Nazi Law through precedents in Jim Crow.
Finally, the ‘backlash’ thesis proceeds from the premise that there was something worthy of backlash against. There was celebration around the globe when Barack Obama was elected in 2008. And Republicans did spend the next eight years proclaiming that his neoliberal (state-capitalist) policies were ‘socialist.’ But the debased state of American political discourse hardly makes this so. The more descriptively accurate term for a politician who bails out Wall Street, passes a ‘market-based’ health insurance sales scheme, pushes high-capitalist trade agreements and works to cut social spending is ‘Republican.’
None of this is to give dim tool Trump a pass for fanning the flames of hatred and intolerance. It is to argue that the premise of difference, and therefore that there is refuge in the Democrat Party, is based on ignorance, wishful thinking and delusion. As vile as Mr. Trump is, the governing ideology of the national Democrats’ (paging Antonio Gramsci) revivifies White nationalism through reifying starting positions of asymmetrical economic power (graph above). Race and class repression have grown in lockstep with resurgent capitalism supported most effectively by national Democrats.
Ultimately neoliberalism is for those hearty souls who took Margaret Thatcher’s (and Ayn Rand’s) brain-farts seriously. From Hillary Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street, she appears to have confused prescriptive with descriptive in the sense laid out above— she believed the educated fools in $3,000 suits who had just killed the global economy were capable of running the world because they still had jobs. This is the very same ‘creative class’ that Barack Obama bailed out Wall Street to save. It also fits Donald Trump’s preference for ‘winners’ over people otherwise able to do a job.
The difference between living in a flawed capitalist democracy and a relentlessly oppressive totalitarian shithole depends more the social space that one occupies than pre-modern social apologetics. The tautological conception of merit favored by national Democrats implies that Blacks suffer from institutional racism because of some deficiency inherent to Blackness. The American ruling class favors this tautology because it legitimates the concentration of wealth and power under the illusion of merit. Neoliberalism, the governing ethos of Washington, links three centuries of White nationalism to capitalism through this circular social apologetics.
Last, a new article in The Nation gives substantive backing to the long held contention that the ‘Russian hacking’ story is complete and utter bullshit. As Julian Assange and others contemporaneously argued, DNC emails were gotten through a leak— through an inside job, and not through a hack by malevolent outsiders. A quick bet is that this will ultimately do for national Democrats what the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ fraud did for the Bushies and the New York Times. The larger question is why grift-o-crats use short-con fabrications when they will still be in full view when the con falls apart? To save the suspense, these are enthusiastically not-gifted people. So much for a meritocracy.
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Rob Urie is an artist and political economist. His book Zen Economics is published by CounterPunch Books.