Nevada: Worker Killed in Gold Mine Ceiling Collapse – Jason Holman – RIP – 31 Oct 2018

Jason Holman

ELKO, Nev., Oct. 28, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — A miner from Goshen, Utah was killed Thursday, October  afternoon after a roof collapse at a gold mine north of Elko, Nevada.  The Elko Daily Free Press reported the man has been identified as Jason Holman, 42.

The incident occurred at Jerritt Canyon Gold’s Lee Smith Mine, run by Small Mine Development, at approximately 5:10 p.m. Small Mine Development’s general manager, Keith Jones, told the Elko Daily Free Press that Holman was “loading a round and was involved in a fall of ground near the end of his shift.”

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration’s spokeswoman Amy Louviere added that Holman was “loading blast holes underground when the cemented backfill roof fell, causing fatal injuries. MSHA has inspectors at the mine site and has secured the scene.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and SMD following this devastating event and tragic loss,” Jerritt Canyon Gold’s president and chief executive officer, Greg Gibson, said in an email. “ The health and safety of our employees and contractors at our mine remain our top priority.”

MSHA, the state mine inspector and Elko County Sheriff’s Department are assisting in the investigation.  MSHA data shows this is the first mine fatality in Nevada this year.

https://gephardtdaily.com/local/utah-miner-dies-after-roof-collapse-at-nevada-gold-mine

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Jason Holman, a 42-year-old underground mineworker from Goshen, Utah, was killed on October 25 in a collapse at the Lee Smith gold mine, 50 miles north of Elko, Nevada. Few details have been released, but according to a preliminary report from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Holman, a powderman, was loading explosives into the rock-face when a 150-ton portion of the mine ceiling fell and “a portion of this cemented backfill, weighing approximately 5 tons, landed on top of the miner.” He appears to have died instantly. The incident is still under investigation by MSHA

Holman leaves behind three children—McKade, Tyson and Jaycee—and a loving family. The family could not be reached for additional comments, but his brother Shawn published a tribute on Facebook saying, “one of his goals he was working for and saving toward was taking his daughter Jaycee to Disneyland for the very first time.” According to the gofundme page set up by his family to pay for funeral arrangements, Jason was an avid outdoorsman who liked to hunt, fish and camp. At the time of this writing, the page has raised over $4,400, donated in small sums by other mineworkers and their families.

By all accounts, Holman was well-liked and respected by his coworkers. He had worked as an underground miner for 13 years, including 28 weeks at the Lee Smith mine prior to his death. The Lee Smith mine is one of many underground gold mines in Jerritt Canyon, a mining complex in the isolated Independence Mountains mining district of Northern Nevada that has seen a boom in gold extraction since the 1980s.

The Lee Smith Mine reaches depths of over 1000 feet below the surface. Small Mine Development, the contractor operating the mine, uses underhand mining with cemented backfill to extract the ore. This method was developed to facilitate hard rock mining in deep mines with poor ground conditions. Among two other mines, underhand cut and cemented backfill was developed and tested in the Lucky Friday silver mine in Mullen, Idaho.

Lucky Friday is the deepest mine in the United States, at nearly two miles below the surface. Two hundred and thirty mineworkers there have been on strike since March 2017 and have repeatedly rebuffed attempts to force them to accept a concessions contract that would reduce health benefits and compromise safety in the interests of profits.

The Lee Smith Mine was purchased out of bankruptcy in 2015, along with the entire Jerritt Canyon complex, by Jerrit Canyon Gold LLC, owned by Canadian billionaire Eric Sprott. Speaking to the Elko Daily Free Press after the buyout, Jerritt Canyon Gold’s CEO, Greg Gibson, promised an increase in gold production, saying that Sprott “is of the belief that there are a lot more ounces to come out of Jerritt Canyon.”

Sprott is one of the largest gold equity holders in North America. He purchases mines around the world, speculating that as gold prices rise and the global economy spirals into crisis, he will profit. Speaking earlier this month at the Precious Metals Investment Symposium in Perth, Australia, Sprott said, “If you were right on gold in 2000, on average you made 1700 per cent. Do it once, you’re set for life,” he said, touting his investment strategy as “stealing value.”

The mineworkers who dig the precious metals face dangerous conditions as a rule. In 2014, MSHA issued Veris Gold, the previous owner, 60 citations for safety violations at the Jerritt Canyon Complex. In 2015, Jason Potter, a 26-year-old jumbo drill operator, was killed at the Jerritt Canyon complex’s SSX Mine (also operated by Small Mine Development) when a 13-foot-long drill bit struck him. The MSHA report found management at fault for inadequate safety training. Just 10 days before Jason Holman’s death, two workers were injured in a steam explosion at the Jerritt Canyon Mill.

An underground miner who works in a mine adjacent to Lee Smith spoke about the conditions facing underground mineworkers. “Personally, for me, each shift as I enter the mine, I think about my friends that had passed and make a commitment to myself to come out safe … it is dangerous and there is no way to be 100 percent safe. If a miner isn’t scared each time they enter the hole, they aren’t ready to mine.”

Jason Holman’s death was the 14th metal and nonmetal mining fatality the US in 2018, and the 22nd including fatalities in the coal industry.

Fatalities in the mining industry are a component of the rising rates of workplace injuries and deaths in the US as a whole, as both the Republicans and the Democrats roll back regulations and the corporations cut wages and benefits and sacrifice safety for greater output and profit.

Some of the deadly mining accidents in recent years occurred under the Obama administration, which appointed former United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) safety official Joe Main to head MSHA. Among these accidents was the disaster at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, which killed 29 of the 31 coal miners at the mine.

The Trump administration has frozen new and pending regulations and is reviewing existing regulations in order to roll them back. Trump’s head of MSHA, former coal executive David Zatezalo, is overseeing a review of protections against the dust and emissions that contribute to skyrocketing rates of black lung disease among Appalachian coal miners.

As corporations bring in record profits, workers have seen a decade’s worth of declining wages and are working longer hours for fewer benefits, in hazardous conditions. At least 150 workers die every day from hazardous conditions, and according to the most recent government data, 2016 saw a 7 percent increase in workers killed on the job—up to 5,190 from 4,836 in 2015.
Other miners killed this month include:

Roger W. Herndon, 33, an auger helper at the Princess Polly Anna & JCT Enterprises LLC Surface Mine #1, in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, who was fatally injured on October 17 when he was struck by a piece of auger drill steel.

Brendan DeMaster, 40, of North Royalton, Ohio, a miner with 20 years experience, who was fatally injured October 2 at an underground zinc mine, which just opened in June in Gouverneur, New York. DeMaster was struck by a sudden burst of stemming sand, which had been ejected from a borehole that was being cleaned with high pressure air.

An 18-year-old miner, Anthony David Montoya of Hollis, Oklahoma, was fatally mauled by a grizzly bear while working at a remote silver mine in Alaska on October 1. He was working at a drill site on the edge of the Hecla Greens Creek Mine, one of the world’s largest silver producers, located about 18 miles south of Juneau on Admiralty Island.

October has been particularly deadly for miners throughout the world.

Twenty-one coal miners were killed in eastern China after a tunnel where 22 miners were working was blocked at both ends by coal after pressure caused rocks to fracture and break on October 20. The Longyun Coal Mining Co. Ltd. is located in Yuncheng County in Shandong province.
A 46-year-old miner in South Africa was also killed by head injuries suffered in an underground accident at Lonmin’s platinum mine. Lonmin, the world’s third largest platinum producer, is notorious for the Marikana massacre in August 2012. Seventeen striking miners were murdered and another 78 wounded when South African security forces opened fire on them during a series of violent assaults, which began when officials opened fire on rebellious miners.

27 Oct 1962 – The Day The World Almost Went to Nuclear War Over Cuba – by Jon Schwarz – 27 Oct 2018

What Trump and John Bolton Don’t Understand About Nuclear War

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President Donald Trump’s announcement on October 20 that he intends to pull the United States out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was, if nothing else, appropriately timed. On that date exactly 56 years before, President John F. Kennedy abruptly cut short a midterm campaign trip to Illinois because, the White House said, he had a cold. In fact, Kennedy was returning to Washington to address the Cuban missile crisis — the closest humanity has ever come to obliterating itself with a nuclear war.

The INF treaty was signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. It required both countries to forgo any land-based missiles, nuclear or otherwise, with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

In concrete terms, the treaty was a huge success. The U.S. destroyed almost 1,000 of its own missiles, and the Soviets destroyed almost 2,000 of theirs.

But arms control treaties are never about weapons and numbers alone. They can help enemy nations create virtuous circles, both between them and within themselves. Verification requires constant communication and the establishment of trust; it creates constituencies for peace inside governments and in the general public; this reduces on both sides the power of the paranoid, reactionary wing that exists in every country; this creates space for further progress; and so on.

The long negotiation of the INF treaty, and the post-signing environment it helped create, was part of an extraordinary collapse of tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the 1980s. When Reagan took office, the Soviets genuinely believed that the U.S. might engage in a nuclear first strike against them. This, in turn, led to two separate moments in 1983 in which the two countries came terrifyingly close to accidental nuclear war — closer than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis.

Instead, the INF treaty was part of an era of good feelings that contributed to one of the most remarkable events of the past 100 years: the largely peaceful implosion of the Soviet Empire. Empires generally do not go quietly, and the dynamics of imperial collapse often contribute to huge conflagrations. Think of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and World War I; or the British Empire and World War II. The Soviet fall was an incredible piece of good fortune for the world; if it had happened in the early 1980s, instead of a few years later, it plausibly would have been catastrophic.

It is almost certainly these more diffuse effects that concern the smarter members of the Trump administration, such as national security adviser John Bolton, who’s yearned for decades to decommission the treaty. Russians may be cheating on the treaty in a modest way, while China is not bound by it at all and is developing intermediate-range missiles. But it’s hard to see how this will affect legitimate U.S. security interests.

On the other hand, exiting the treaty will do more than just lead to an arms race in which all three countries throw themselves into building new weapons. It will also create an atmosphere in which any rational modus vivendi between the U.S. and Russia, or the U.S. and China, will be far more difficult. This is the prize for Bolton and his allies, who can imagine only one world order: One in which they give orders, and everyone else submits.

Bolton has the standard self-perception of his genre of human: In his memoir, “Surrender Is Not an Option,” he explains that he cares about “hard reality,” in contrast to the “dreamy and academic” fools who support arms control.

But in fact, it is Bolton who is living inside of a dream. The hard reality is that our species almost committed suicide on October 27, the most dangerous moment of the Cuban missile crisis, later dubbed Black Saturday by the Kennedy administration. Even with comparative doves in charge of the U.S. and the Soviet Union, we came close to ending human civilization, thanks to mutual incomprehension. And we avoided it, as then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara later said, not by talent or wisdom, but pure luck. Then, we created a false history of what happened, one which allows terrifying fantasists like Bolton to reach, and thrive within, the highest levels of power.

President Kennedy meets with U.S. Army officials during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October-November 1962. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

President John F. Kennedy meets with U.S. Army officials during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Photo: Corbis via Getty Images

There is a standard story about the Cuban Missile Crisis, at least for those who remember it at all:

The perfidious Soviet communists, bent on intimidating the U.S. into submission via the superior power they wielded as a result of the missile gap, sent nuclear weapons to Cuba, from where they could strike the U.S. in minutes. But John F. Kennedy stood tall, refusing to make any concessions to the Russian bullies. JFK went toe to toe with the Soviets, and demonstrated he was tough enough to risk nuclear war. Finally, the other side blinked first and surrendered, taking the missiles out of Cuba. America won!

The hard reality, however, is that everything about this is false, both in its specifics and implications. It is, as James Blight and janet Lang, two of the top academic specialists on the crisis, have put it, “bullshit.” The even harder reality is that October 27 was a far more petrifying moment than U.S. and Soviet participants understood at the time — and they were terrified. Blight and Lang estimate that if the crisis were run under the same conditions 100 times, it would end in nuclear war 95 times. We are living in one of the five alternate universes in which humanity survived.

The roots of the Cuban missile crisis can be found in three main factors: America’s overwhelming nuclear superiority; the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961; and the stationing of U.S. intermediate nuclear missiles in Italy and Turkey early on during the Kennedy administration.

During the 1960 presidential election, Kennedy attacked the Eisenhower administration for allowing the development of a “missile gap” between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. There was indeed an enormous gap in the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles possessed by each country — but in favor of the U.S. As of 1962, the Soviets only had 20, and they were of such poor quality that they might not have managed to accurately reach the U.S. The U.S. had hundreds. This made the Soviets believe a nuclear first strike by the U.S. — something genuinely supported by factions of the U.S. military and hard right — could leave them unable to retaliate. The Soviets did have missiles, however, that could reach the U.S. mainland from Cuba.

The Soviets were also motivated to send the missiles to Cuba because they believed they would deter another invasion attempt.

Finally, the Soviets reasonably saw it as leveling the playing field. The American nuclear missiles in Turkey could hit Moscow in 10 minutes. Now, the Soviet missiles in Cuba could do the same to Washington, D.C.

The U.S. did not perceive it this way when American reconnaissance discovered the Cuban missiles on October 14. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended an immediate invasion of Cuba. Kennedy instead chose to blockade the island. But by October 26, he had come to believe that only an invasion could remove the missiles. The administration began planning for a replacement government in Cuba. All the while the U.S. was acting in the dark, with the CIA concluding that Soviet nuclear warheads had not yet arrived in Cuba to arm the missiles. They had.

Shortly after midnight, in the early morning of Black Saturday, the U.S. informed NATO that it “may find it necessary within a very short time” to attack Cuba. At noon, a U-2 flight over Cuba was shot down, killing the pilot. On all sides, war — potentially nuclear war — seemed likely, if not inevitable.

But that night, Kennedy made the most important presidential decision in history: He accepted an offer from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to remove the U.S. missiles in Italy and Turkey in return for the removal of the Soviet missiles in Cuba. But the U.S. part of the bargain was kept secret from Americans. The administration maintained that Kennedy had forced the Soviets to give in, giving them nothing.

That was, of course, more than frightening enough. But here’s the rest of the story.

On October 27, a U.S. Navy ship participating in the blockade dropped depth charges on a Soviet submarine. It was only discovered years later that not only was the submarine armed with nuclear torpedoes, but also was out of radio contact with the Soviet government and believed that the war had begun. The captain wanted to use the torpedoes, which almost certainly would have led to the U.S using nuclear weapons in response. However, according to Soviet protocol, the torpedoes could only be launched with the approval of all three officers aboard. One of them refused.

The U.S. also had no idea that in addition to the missiles, the Soviets had brought tactical nuclear weapons to Cuba and the troops on the ground had received permission to use them against a U.S. invasion without further authorization from Moscow. This, too, would have led to a U.S. nuclear response and Armageddon. McNamara first learned this when attending a Havana conference organized by Blight and Lang in 1992, on the 30th anniversary of the crisis. McNamara had also come to believe by Black Saturday that an invasion might be necessary. Blight and Lang report that McNamara turned pale and was temporarily speechless as he listened to an aged Soviet general describe the existence of the tactical nuclear weapons. When he spoke, it was to ask the translator to repeat himself.

Castro, too, had his preconceptions shattered at the conference. He had come to believe that the Kennedy administration was determined to invade Cuba again, nuclear weapons or not, and this time crush its young government and society. Cuba’s only choice was either to accept its destruction, or be destroyed and take America with it. Castro had therefore written a telegram to Khrushchev that arrived on October 27, beseeching him to use the Soviet Union’s full nuclear might against the U.S. if an invasion took place. But this was all wrong, McNamara told Castro: After the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy had decided that another invasion attempt was foolish.

So in the end, we’re not here to think about the 56th anniversary of Black Saturday because of our overweening military might, or because we forced our adversaries to bend to our will. It’s just the opposite, plus an extraordinary run of serendipitous flukes.

But what we can be sure of is that if people like Trump and Bolton had been in charge in 1962, then today there would be no discussion of the INF treaty — because there would be no treaty and no one to discuss it. It’s also certain that on our current trajectory, the day will come when the world will face a similar crisis. That time we won’t get the same roll of the dice. The hard reality of the Cuban missile crisis is that, as Blight and Lang put it, “either we put an end to nuclear weapons, or they will put an end to us.”

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UK: Putin’s Passport Found at Magna Carta Theft Scene – 28 Oct 2018

Magna CartaPutin Passport

Salisbury Cathedral:  A man has been arrested after he smashed the protective glass covering the famed historical document ‘The Magna Carta’ where the copy was on display in the cathedral.  The incident took place on Thursday afternoon the 25th of October.  While the robber was caught another man who may have handed the assailant the hammer escaped.  Police report that a passport dropped by the accomplice who eluded capture appears to belong to the Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin.  Experts speculate that Putin wanted to have the document in order to blackmail the UK government in the same way that Putin is blackmailing US President Donald Trump. 

The cathedral has been the focus of a lot of international attention following the Skripal poisoning case, with the two suspects telling RT they were visiting the site because of its “famous 123 meter spire.”  This is an obvious Russian follow up activity that is exactly the type of thing Putin would dream up.  Putin was a KGB secret police agent in East Germany in the 1980’s and is familiar with ‘cloak and dagger’ black operations. 

Internet detectives immediately pointed the finger at the Russians joining the consent manufacturers in solving the crime with hardly any effort.  Blame the Russians.  Every half wit knows they are guilty. 

Magna

The Magna Carta is an important historical document that helped weaken the king’s centralized power and granted more powers to the feudal war lords thus helping to keep the Middle Ages going for extra centuries.  Somehow that is now interpreted as a first step towards ‘democracy.’  Of course Putin hates democracy and seeks to gain more centralized power so stealing the Magna Carta would be a triumph like when Hitler found the lost Arc of the Covenant.  

Is a Little Drinking Really so Bad? – Maybe – by Hallie Levine (AARP) 20 Sept 2018

Outdoor fall setting with multiple glasses of wine sitting on a table.

 

If you’re like most Americans, you probably don’t think twice about enjoying a big glass (or two) of wine with your dinner every night or settling into your favorite armchair with a Scotch every evening. After all, studies have shown that an occasional cocktail is actually good for you, right?

Unfortunately, a raft of new research appears to burst that big champagne bubble. Not only do these headline-making studies put a big question mark next to the idea that drinking wine helps your heart, they also take aim at moderate drinking in particular, showing that drinking too much for your health might be drinking what seems to you like not that much at all.

One of the big pieces of research that’s driving home this point was published last month in the Lancet. It was notable because it combined almost 600 studies on how much people drank across the globe and what the effects were on their health. The big takeaway from it was that worldwide, drinking — and not only heavy drinking— was linked to deaths from not only car accidents and liver disease but also cancer, tuberculosis and heart disease.

Some researchers suggested that you can’t compare the results of drinking across countries where the top risks of death vary widely (in some places, TB; in the U.S., heart disease.) Still, the study, and others like it, cast doubt on the idea of the protective health benefits of a glass of red wine, something that’s been held as true since the 1980s, when researchers began exploring the “French paradox” to try to figure out why the country had such low rates of heart disease despite a diet high in saturated fat. They quickly decided it was thanks to drinking copious amounts of red wine, which contains heart-healthy antioxidants such as resveratrol, procyanidins and quercetin. Studies began to show drinking vino correlated with lower rates of death from heart disease; in an even happier twist, research showed other types of alcohol, like beer and liquor, bestowed cardiovascular benefits.

But more recent studies have told a different story about liquor as heart health elixir. A University of Cambridge analysis published earlier this year, for example, looked at almost 600,000 drinkers and found that sipping more than five alcoholic drinks a week raised risk of dying from … heart disease. (It also found that people who consumed more than 10 drinks per week had one to two years’ shorter life expectancy overall, while those who downed at least 18 shaved four to five years off their life.) Other research has actually found the people who have a genetic variant that suppresses the desire to drink alcohol have a lower risk of developing heart disease. “Those studies poke holes in the belief that alcohol is protective against developing heart disease,” says Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

Still, other experts say you don’t need to toss your nightcap out just yet. “I don’t think this analysis should change conclusions or recommendations about moderate alcohol consumption,” says Walter Willett, M.D., professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “It’s important to keep this in perspective — the risks from just one drink a day are much smaller than those of smoking or being obese.” While he believes the current recommended limit of one drink a day for women and two for men are reasonable, “this does need to be considered on an individual basis with your health care provider,” he says. A young, healthy woman with a family history of breast cancer, for example, may want to avoid alcohol entirely, since even small amounts slightly raise cancer risk. But for most older adults, moderate drinking is not off the table, provided you follow these four caveats:

Stick like glue to “moderate” drinking

According to the federal government, that’s defined as no more than a drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. But it’s also important to get a clear picture of what a drink is. “So many people whip out a gigantic wine glass and fill it to the top with their favorite merlot — that’s not one drink, that’s two to four,” says Mozaffarian. A standard drink consists of either 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits such as vodka or whiskey, or 8-9 ounces of malt liquor. If you’re in doubt, you can always measure it out. “At this level, risk for health problems is minimal,” says Michael Hochman, M.D., director of the Gehr Family Center for Health Systems Science at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. The Lancet analysis found only a .5 percent higher risk of developing an alcohol-related health problem among those who consume only a drink per day.

Don’t “bank” your drinks

You may wonder if you’re in the “safe” zone because you drink only two to three times a week, but have multiple drinks each time. You’re not. This type of drinking puts stress on your liver, can increase your blood pressure, and increases your risk of doing something reckless, like driving drunk. Even if you drink wine only twice a week, stay within the daily recommended limits. “As you get older, you’re more susceptible to the effects of alcohol, because your body loses its ability to metabolize it as efficiently — so as a result, you’re more likely to feel its effects,” adds Hochman. This in turn can set you up for things such as falls.

Don’t drink at all if you have liver disease or you’re at risk for developing it

The older you are, the more likely you are to develop fatty liver disease, a condition where too much fat is stored in your liver cells, says Jamile Wakim-Fleming, a gastroenterologist specializing in liver disease at the Cleveland Clinic. Doctors often order liver function tests as part of your regular checkup, especially if you’re on medications that can affect your liver function, such as statins. If your most recent blood work has shown elevations in liver enzymes such as alanine transaminase (ALT), aspartate transaminase (AST) or alkaline phosphatase (ALP), you should avoid alcohol completely.

Don’t drink because you think it’s good for your health

If you’ve had your nightly martini ritual for the last 30 years, it’s fine to continue it, but don’t start drinking because you think it’s good for you. “There’s never been a guideline issued by groups such as the American Heart Association or the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommending alcohol; the language has always been, if you do drink, do it in moderation,” says Mozaffarian.

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Changing Nature of Intimate and Sexual Relationships in Later Life – by Pepper Schwartz and Nicholas Velotta (Journal of Aging Life Care) Spring 2018

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(Antique sex image)

ABSTRACT: Studies regarding sexuality have generally overlooked the growing population of older adults over 50. In this article, we discuss and elaborate on what information we do have regarding intimacy and sexuality post-50 including sexual behaviors, sexual satisfaction ratings, and how the policies within long-term care facilities (LTC’s) and elderly housing impact sexual expression later in life. All these facets of aging and sexuality are also examined in the context of aging LGBT individuals who often benefit from specialized methods of treatment by their healthcare professionals.


One of the most common comments today about people over 50 is that each decade is somehow ten or more years younger now than it used to be. It is not our task here to marshal evidence to the truth or fiction of this assertion, but intuitively, it seems right. As we look at aging today, it does appear true that age is enacted differently than it was in previous older generations and that vitality—asserted in longer careers, second and third marriages, and late child rearing—has changed the face and felt experience of the last quartile of life.

One cannot discount the impact of culture and cohort. Much of what we have to say will hinge on the fact that the Baby Boom generation, born between 1945 and 1964, have reinvented each phase of their lives. Being the largest generation, they turned the spotlight on themselves in adolescence and at every phase thereafter. It is not surprising then that the leading edge of this group (now in their early 70s) have remained a center of attention, refusing to retire to previous stereotypes of aging such as being content to center their lives purely around their grandchildren, serving as handmaidens to their adult child’s needs. They are not only working longer — either be-cause of economic need or professional fulfillment — they are changing the way they use their recreational time, even opting for world travel or discovering new interests, and perhaps even building new careers (see Miller, 2017). They are also researching supplements and healthy foods, using creams that promise rejuvenation, lifting weights, and dressing in contemporary modes. Gyms are now full of exercising oldsters doing Yoga and Pilates. A gener-ation whose parents would never have been caught anywhere but on a farm in jeans, wear leggings and work-out clothes on the street. Elderly men and women are frequently doing a number of things out of with sync with “traditional” values and behaviors. For example, having multiple marriages (many in old age), living together without getting married, and being open and proud of their sexual identity—often declaring late in life that they are gay, lesbian, or transsexual.

The ubiquitous media in our culture supports and celebrates youthfulness but is beginning to integrate more and more programs featuring older actors retaining their vitality. Dating sites show large numbers of people over 60 in their membership with some sites such as SeniorFriendFinder and HowAboutWe openly recruiting older men and women as their clientele. Pharmaceutical ads show youthful retirees, workers, and grandparents enjoying life in physically demanding ways and, of course, ads for Viagra and Cialis are predicated on older men wanting, as well as needing, medications for sexual intercourse.

Here, however, we come to a point that has been much less discussed or changed in the reframing of a more vital longevity: the role sexuality plays in the revitalization process. As a nation that would much rather have sex than talk about it, there is precious little discussion about a particularly squeamish subject, sex among the aging and elderly. But despite the awkwardness surrounding the subject of sexuality in later years, we know that sexuality continues to play a part in people’s lives at any point in the life cycle. This is something we want to address so that we all can be more knowledgeable about people’s needs and desires. Though there is much to be said about the topic, in our brief coverage we will address key aspects of aging and sexuality such as the frequencies of sexual encounters, how satisfying sex can be in later life, the influence that having an intimate relationship can have on this population, which major illnesses or physical impairments have the potential to dampen sexuality, especially for seniors, and how long-term care facilities (LTC’s) can both promote and interfere with resident’s sexual longevity. It is worth noting that this is not a complete picture, but rather a review of curated information. Because of this, we emphasize the need to take the findings presented as a partial contribution in a complex narrative.

A (Sexually) Active Population

There is certainly evidence that older and elderly people have liberalized their ideas about sex. An AARP study (Fisher et al., 2010) showed that attitudes about sex among older populations have continually gotten more accepting and approving. Whereas 73% of people affirmed the statement “there is too much emphasis on sex in our culture today” in 1999, by 2004 only 65% of respondents felt that way. We believe this shows an increasing comfort with and desire for sexuality as a core ingredient to happiness in later life as well as in young adulthood and middle age. Even with the tabooed nature of elderly sexuality, many Baby Boomers refuse to be inhibited.

Part of this may be due to a reluctance to give up on any of the joys and perks of their youth but it also may be part of their attachment to healthy living. There is certainly some evidence that exercise helps people connect to their bodies, and allows more use of those bodies longer. Pilates, for example, strengthens the core and pubic muscles and has even been suggested as a way of strengthening orgasms (see Herbenick, 2015). Additionally, research shows that having a sexual life is correlated with many components of leading a healthy lifestyle including (but not limited to) relationship satisfaction, overall happiness, and mental health (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004; Fisher et al., 2010; Mcfarland, Uecker, & Regnerus, 2011; Schwartz & Velotta, 2018; Zeiss & Kasl-Godley, 2001)—and so, the re-emergence of sexuality as a positive good for older people could have important ramifications for health and happiness.

Given that the preponderance of sexuality research focuses on the desires, frequencies, and satisfactions of heterosexual men and women in their reproductive years, there have been few reviews and studies that tap into the over-50 population. Even so, there are some that reveal quite a bit about this growing populace. In the 2009 AARP study mentioned earlier, for example, 75% of respondents believed “a satisfying sex life is important”. A recent literature review found that the older population is very interested in remaining sexually viable even with harsh social barriers impeding access to this desire (Schwartz, Diefendorf, & McGlynn-Wright, 2014). Whether that attitude comes from being more active in general, feeling more entitled to have a thriving sexual life, or liberalized notions of masturbation (with more access via online to vibrators or sex aides) is not clear, but there certainly has been more conversations about sex among the elderly. AARP has published columns on sex for the last few decades and movies and TV programs like Netflix’s Grace and Frankie (starring Lilly Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, Sam Waterston, and Tom Selleck), Amazon’s Transparent (with Jeffrey Tambor as a transwoman), It’s Complicated (with Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin), and Mamma Mia! (with Julie Walters, Stellan Skarsgård, and Meryl Streep again) are rare but still support the theme that having sex, passion, and romance over 60 is not ridiculous.

It’s not just a Hollywood fantasy, however. The current literature confirms this message of sexual and romantic engagement at older ages. Men and women over 60 continue to live sexual lives with or without partners (Schwartz & Velotta, 2018). According to a 2009 AARP survey on midlife and older adults, nearly 40% of married older adults are having sex at least once a week, and 60% of partnered older adults report sex at least once a month (Fisher et al., 2010). The survey also found that almost 50% of older singletons who are dating or engaged reported having sex once a week. So, although it is true that sexual frequency reduces over time—both with older age and longer duration of relationships—much of what determines sexual activity has to do with psychosocial factors like internalized ageism and stigma, poor body image, poor relationship quality, or absence of a partner (these last two are especially true for women). Thus, the reduction in sexual frequency is not as closely linked to the biological effects of old age as many people may think.

If we look not just at frequencies but also at sexual satisfaction, the data show that a high percentage of older people are enjoying their sexual lives. There are many factors that make sexual satisfaction fluctuate, but the potential for pleasure from sexual activity does not diminish with age (Penhollow, Young, & Denny, 2009). In his study with older adults currently in relationships, Gillespie (2016) found that sexual communication (partners speaking about their needs from sex) and more variety in sexual encounters (e.g. trying new positions, locations, or sex toys) were major predictors of both high sexual satisfaction and high sexual frequency. For older adult partners who are married or cohabitating, sexual satisfaction ratings remain around the 50% mark (Fisher et al., 2010). Unfortunately, it does seem that individuals post-45 have a harder time remaining sexually satisfied if they are not paired, or do not actively date. AARP’s data showed only 10% of older men and women who are single and are not currently dating report being sexually satisfied (Fisher et al., 2010). More encouraging, that number jumps to 60% for those over 45 who are actively dating.

Research on older people makes it clear that having some kind of relationship, however casual, is closely tied to having any sexual activity and increasing both sexual and personal satisfaction. However, the research literature notes that younger adults often see romance among the elderly— and especially among postmenopausal women—as unnatural or unnecessary (Bouman, Arcelus, & Benbow, 2007; Hinchliff & Gott, 2008). In the senior author’s large university class on human sexuality, sex education videos showing older men and women often get reactions of disgust and discomfort. If the senior men and women are merely holding hands or kissing, they receive a more positive reception but this reception seems to categorize the couple as “adorable” or “cute”. Both response types dehumanize men and women over a certain age who are genuinely interested in love, romance, and yes, sex. Older adults are, of course, quite capable of finding love, enjoying one-night flings, or reigniting the flame with a high school sweetheart at a 50th reunion, and take umbrage at not being taken seriously. If professionals in the helping and medical specialties who work with older populations show that they do not think these men and women have sexual thoughts or urges or behaviors, it follows that their clients, advisees, or patients will feel that the full scope of who they are is unseen and denigrated.

LGBT Sexual Activity

We also think it is important to include the special needs of older LGBT population in our discussion. Though the data is sparse (almost non-existent for bisexual and transsexual individuals) we will briefly touch on these populations’ frequencies and satisfaction ratings. Before continuing it is important to note that in combining several types of sexual minorities into one section we are not attempting to portray homogeneity in their needs or behaviors. Our more general approach to these populations is simply due to the paucity of scholarly data on older sexual minorities.

Regarding gay male sexuality post-50, we find that having a stable partner does not impact sexual frequency nearly as much as it does for heterosexuals. When asking gay men (n = 24,787) about their most recent sexual encounters, Rosenberger et al. (2011) found that the majority of sexual acts in all age brackets surveyed were with a partner that participants labeled an acquaintance. About 30% of sexual encounters in the 60-year-old-and-up brackets were with a boyfriend, significant other, or someone the respondent was dating. Over 60% of sexual encounters happened within the past week for this population. And with around half the gay population post- 40 reporting that they are currently partnered (Lyons, Pitts, & Grierson, 2013) it is likely that many of these frequent acquaintance hook-ups reflect a non-monogamous culture among gay men—something that has been observed in other literature (Lyons et al., 2013; Northrup, Schwartz, & Witte, 2012). Alongside their high frequency rates, gay men over 60 also have relatively high sexual satisfaction ratings, with around 40% saying they are “very satisfied” (Lyons et al., 2013). Overall the older gay male population, when given the right environment, seem very capable of maintaining long-term sexual functioning and satisfaction.

Factors that are influential for female sexuality such as: relationship quality, presence of a partner, and emotional fulfillment are especially vital for lesbians. Perhaps the most significant predictor of sexual longevity in the partnered lesbian population is relationship quality which is positively correlated with arousability, sexual functioning, pleasure, and satisfaction (Henderson, Lehavot, & Simoni, 2009; Tracy & Junginger, 2007). Some early literature on the sexual frequencies of older lesbians found that there is a decline over the course of their relationships (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983; Loulan, 1987). Unfortunately, we simply lack empirical, contemporary evidence on average lesbian sexual frequencies as they stand today. Some have explored whether the parameters used to measure such frequencies should be modified for lesbian samples in order to reflect the fluid, less episodic nature of lesbian sexuality (Meana, Rakipi, Weeks, & Lykins, 2006). It is important to observe, however, that lesbians value the companionate qualities of their partnerships, and do not necessarily feel that the relationship is less intimate if they have low sexual frequency (Averett, Yoon, & Jenkins, 2012). That said, lesbians engage in more masturbatory behavior than their heterosexual female counterparts and are more inclined to integrate masturbation into partnered sex (Hurlbert & Apt, 1993; Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, & Michaels, 1994) as well as have more positive attitudes towards masturbation in general than heterosexual women (Writer, 2012).

The most unstudied sexual minority group, especially in terms of sexuality in old age, is bisexuals. From the sparse data we have, it appears that older bisexual men are very likely to have had their last sexual encounter with an acquaintance rather than a partner (Rosenberger et al., 2011) and may be more generally cut off from positive social or intimate relationships. Some indication that this is true is that research has shown higher rates of internalized stigma and smaller social networks for male bisexuals and a higher likelihood for them to live alone (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al., 2013). Additionally, because bisexuals are seen as emotionally or sexually dangerous by both heterosexuals and homosexuals, bisexuals are likely to keep their sexual lives private, undiscussed or remain “in the closet”. They may only identify by their current sexual behavior, which may give less than the whole picture to professionals trying to help them or place them in a comfortable housing or community environment. We feel this is a very under-researched population and therefore our understanding of what this population needs later in life is very limited.

Illness, Impairment, And Sexuality Later In Life

Even with many older adults living longer, more sexually fulfilling lives, sundry health-related conditions impact the ability of some seniors to perform sexual acts. Here we have devoted space to discuss a few select ailments that are known to effect sexuality for older men and women.

Cancer

Though technological advances and increased awareness have allowed many cases of cancer to be detected earlier than in previous generations, breast and prostate cancer remain a prevalent problem for many older individuals.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a serious risk for women post 40 who comprise around 95% of those diagnosed, with older age brackets experiencing an even higher risk of developing the disease (American Cancer Society, 2016a; National Cancer Institute, 2015). Chemotherapy, which is still regularly used in the treatment of breast cancer, has a host of negative physiological side effects that are temporary, but many effects can be quite severe and carry on months after ending chemo (Biglia et al., 2010; Boswell & Dizon, 2015; Malinovszky et al., 2006). Reported sexual consequences include reductions in: sexual desire or interest, arousability, sexual functioning, and the overall quality of relationship with partner (Biglia et al., 2010; Knobf, 2001). Another treatment method, radiation therapy (RT), has shown less clear links between onset of treatment and sexual dysfunction (it is often used in conjunction with other techniques, making it difficult to isolate how RT specifically affects sexual health). That said, Boswell and Dizon (2015) suggest that the locoregional impairments that RT can cause (e.g. pain in breasts and loss of flexibility) could contribute to the reductions in sexual functioning we see in women exposed to it.

The most severe of treatment for breast cancer is surgical removal of tissue. There are various types of breast surgery, ranging from mastectomy-only (with no following breast reconstruction) to lumpectomy (removal of only cancerous tissue) and mastectomy with reconstruction, but a common theme in literature suggests that mastectomy-only (MO) patients have worse sexual consequences than patients who elect for the other surgeries.

Studies find that those treated with MO operations are more likely to experience low levels of sexual desire, arousal, perceived sexual attractiveness, sexual functioning, and encounter greater difficulties in achieving orgasm (Aerts, Christiaens, Enzlin, Neven, & Amant, 2014; Al-Ghazal, Fallowfield, & Blamey, 2000). And yet another aspect that MO patients have to face is the loss of their breasts—something that can alter body image significantly. Of those women who get any of the three cancer removing surgeries listed, MO patients report significantly worse body image than their peers (Engel, Kerr, Schlesinger‐raab, Sauer, & Hölzel, 2004; Markopoulos et al., 2009). This low body image implies that even for those with high sexual functionality after surgery, some older women may feel too self-conscious to engage sexually, a disappointing finding to discover.

Prostate Cancer

For men, the risk of developing prostate cancer increases exponentially with age and about one in seven men is diagnosed in their lifetime (American Cancer Society, 2016b; Prostate Cancer Foundation, 2016). And along with concern for one’s survival, prostate cancer can have devastating effects on sexual functioning and satisfaction.

As is the case for breast cancer, most male cancer patients must undergo radiation therapy to treat their prostate. This technique, though effective for treating prostate cancer, has been associated with low levels of sexual desire, decreased frequency of erections, lowering importance of sex life post treatment, reduced orgasm intensity, and an uptick in ejaculation dysfunctions (e.g. no ejaculate during orgasm or pain during ejaculation) (Helgason, Fredrikson, Adolfsson, & Steineck, 1995; Incrocci, 2002, 2006, 2015; Incrocci & Slob, 2002; Incrocci, Slob, & Levendag, 2002; Olsson, 2015).

For patients with worse prognoses, doctors may choose to perform a radical prostatectomy and that procedure results in erectile dysfunction for 60-70% of patients (Chung & Gillman, 2014). Some additional post operation difficulties with radical prostatectomies include: incontinence during sexual activity, less or no sperm emission at orgasm, changes in penile appearance (e.g. length and curvature), and decreased pleasure during orgasm (Ambruosi et al., 2009; Chung & Gillman, 2014; Dubbelman, Wildhagen, Schröder, Bangma, & Dohle, 2010). And although Dubbelman et al. (2010) found there are nerve-sparing procedures that doctors can follow in order to reduce damage to orgasmic functioning, being over the age of 60 was one of the strongest predictors associated with the inability to achieve climax post-radical prostatectomy.

There are various treatment methods that can help men who experience difficulty after their prostate cancer treatment, ranging from highly effective sildenafil citrate (i.e. Viagra) (Incrocci, Koper, Hop, & Slob, 2001) to intracavernosal injections administered into the base of the penis prior to sex. Other non-pharmaceutical methods are discussed by authors Canalichio, Jaber, and Wang (2015) in their review of hormonal and non-hormonal based treatments for sexual functioning post-prostate cancer surgery.

Diabetes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Statistics Report: Estimates of Diabetes and Its Burden in the United States (2014) found that 25.9% of Americans 65 years of age and up were diabetic, men making up a significant majority of this population. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is commonly comorbid in male patients with diabetes due to a combination of various blood circulation difficulties and can often be alleviated with the use of oral medications such as Viagra (Hatzimouratidis & Hatzichristou, 2014). With treatment for diabetes induced ED available, it is somewhat surprising that men with diabetes are more likely to see their ED as severe and permanent when compared to their non-diabetic counterparts (Eardley, Fisher, Rosen, Nadal, & Sand, 2007). Perhaps showing the value of a medical staff who can initiate conversations about sexual functioning with their diabetic male patients.

The effects of diabetes on older women is relatively unclear. The disorder impacts vascular and neurogenic functioning which may be associated with lowered desire and reduced lubrication but these symptoms are also present in many non-diabetic post-menopausal women, making it harder to discern if the root cause is diabetes or other, more general aging processes (Zeiss & Kasl-Godley, 2001).

Depression

Of the 35 million-plus Americans over 65, more than 6.5 million are impacted by depression (Reyers, 2013). We do not have room in this paper to discuss all the concomitants of this all too common problem, but suffice it to say that depression can, and frequently does, wipe out both the desire for sex and arousal when having sex. Often patients are so severely impacted that a medical professional will not think twice about giving a high dosage anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication that affects sexual functioning since they are far more worried about their patient’s mental state than their sexual life. Still, this disregard for the concomitant impact of anti-depressives and anxiolytics can worsen the situation for the suffering patient. Often patients are not even told about the impact the medication will have on their sex life or simply don’t bring up the sexual side effects they are experiencing when with their pre-scribing doctor (Ferguson, 2001). This dynamic impedes possible discussion on how a lower dosage or a different drug might affect their sexual life less. As important, there may also be an impact of these drugs on the patients ability to love and feel affectionate (Marazziti et al., 2014). This, of course, complicates the couple’s life together and may result in a partner feeling unloved or appreciated, not realizing that some of the flat affect is drug induced.

Long-Term Care Facilities

One of the most important decisions that older people (and often their families) must make is whether or not they will require long-term caregiving in a facility or home. As we have illustrated, sexual activity remains an important aspect of many aging men and women’s quality of life. However, the facility and policies of nursing homes often contain negative views toward sexual behavior in the aging population (Bauer, Mcauliffe, & Nay, 2007; Bouman et al., 2007; Hinrichs & Vacha-Haase, 2010; Parker, 2006). Desexualization of this population may serve as a convenience for caretakers, allowing them to escape uncomfortable and complex discussions about elderly sexuality. They may also simply lack knowledge and feel unqualified to speak with residents. Issues such as these are especially poignant for LGBT individuals who find it difficult to express their sexuality in LTC settings due to assumed heterosexuality and homophobic dispositions within the staff (Hinrichs & Vacha-Haase, 2010).

LGBT residents may conceal their sexual orientation as well as other pertinent information (e.g. HIV status) to reduce stigmatic treatment by health workers (Griebling, 2016). A recent study using lesbian transgendered participants found that although this population felt that they had aged successfully, major concerns still plagued them about late-life events and legal difficulties (Witten, 2015). Given that many in the LGBT community rely on “chosen families” for social support (networks of non-biological family members), when judgments must be made on whether someone is capable of giving sexual consent (for example, when a person has fading cognitive abilities or has dementia), a lack of proper documentation of who is entitled to claim a family or spousal relationship, may make it difficult for those closest to the client to protect his or her interests. Legal complications and negative attitudes found in caregivers and family members, surely contribute to LGBT nervousness in regards to their sexual freedom being honored when living under institutional care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, or other kinds of senior communities.

One solution for older LGBT patients nervous about sexual restrictions imposed within heterosexual LTC communities are homes built exclusively for sexual minorities which have staff trained in facilitating the specialized needs of its members. In addition to expanding LGBT-specialized communities, a broader message to healthcare providers treating LGBT patients can be to develop a strong sense of trust with minority clients. Trust often enables LGBT patients to be open and honest about personal matters pertaining to their sexuality (Dibble, Eliason, Dejoseph, & Chinn, 2008) and will likely increase sexual liberties for minority members within primarily heterosexual facilities. This is especially important for less experienced and younger staff members who show higher rates of sexual restrictiveness towards patients than more experienced, senior faculty (Bouman et al., 2007).

Regardless of sexual orientation, the recognition of sexual rights within LTC’s is meaningful to many. Unfortu-nately, residents have reported feeling that their providers care little about fostering an intimate environment for couples and few facilities even permit double-beds (Bouman et al., 2007). Additionally, the atmosphere of nursing homes can be quite open and indirectly oppose residents’ desires to have private moments with partners (Fran-kowski & Clark, 2009). It is not difficult to imagine how unlocked-door policies, community-based activities, and restrictions on sharing sleeping quarters may negatively impact tenants’ ability to engage in sexual activities.

Roach (2004) describes the conduct and actions that caregivers and staff take to restrict sexual contact between residents as the guarding discomfort paradigm. This is because the incentive for preventing such behaviors is to “guard” against the discomfort that seeing older men and women in sexual or intimate situations would cause staffers. After her interviews with nursing and LTC staff, Roach concluded that the staff’s restrictive actions are not only a product of their individual predispositions towards sexuality but also a product influenced by the general “ethos of an organization” (p. 174).

Should a resident have a cognitive disability, the nursing home’s restrictiveness may be even more inhibiting. Individuals who display inappropriate sexual behavior (ISB), for example, are regularly removed from ISB-triggering stimuli or given distractive tasks. And— in cases where such actions do not reduce patients’ ISB—practitioners may medicate the individual often with prescriptions used off-label (Dominguez & Barbagallo, 2016). Some research on inappropriate sexual behavior among the cognitively impaired indicates however that ISB is rarely motivated by sexual urges. Usually the patient’s intentions are to communicate something entirely appropriate, but their actions are observed as a sexual act (Dominguez & Barbagallo, 2016).

Conclusion

In our brief review on aging and sexuality we have drawn a problematic picture that indicates that western culture still stigmatizes and/or ignores sexual desire and sexual relationships among older men and women. A review of the literatures available, indicates that there is a lack of recognition of older people’s sexual needs, and that professionals who are supposed to be working in behalf of people in late middle or old age as caretakers, medical and mental health professionals, or as social workers and para-professionals, may not accord older people the same sexual rights as they do to younger populations. This may be especially true for older gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals. Older men and women trying to stay vibrant as an individual, and sexually attentive to them self or with a partner, deserve more conscious concern and support for their sexual lives.

However, translating research findings into useful policies and practices can be quite complicated for the administrator overseeing a large residence community or the clinician cycling through many patients a day. Therefore, we would like to offer some of the more pragmatic steps that professionals who work with older individuals may take in order to reduce potential barriers to their clients’ ability to enjoy thriving sexual lives well past the age of 50. Firstly, care facilities may want to review their unlocked-door and single-bed policies which can be clear obstacles for the residents looking to enjoy private, intimate time with one another. Having activities where residents can partake in pairs (as opposed to as a group) is another measure that can enable more opportunities for residents to experience intimate, romantic connections with one another. For the LGBT population, facilities may explore having staff specialized in serving older LGBT residents. This could enable their clientele who are in the sexual minority to develop more trusting bonds with a group of care staff that is specifical-ly trained for providing aide to their unique concerns later in life.

For clinicians who require knowledge about sexual activity, conscious efforts to assess implicit biases could be helpful in reducing issues related to assumed heterosexuality (for LGBT patients) and presumptions of sexual inactivity later in life (for all older patients). For example, Aging Life Care Professionals may want to ask whether their patient has a male or female partner prior to discussing any sexual activity to avoid the use of inaccurate pronouns or non-applicable sexual behaviors that may make their patient uncomfortable to answer (e.g. asking a gay male how frequently he engages in vaginal intercourse with his partner). It may also benefit practitioners to foster open dialogs about their patients’ sexual frequencies and satisfaction—topics often left untouched by doctors treating older patients who are also less likely to seek help with sexual needs when their doctors do not ask about their sexual behavior during visits (Hinchliff & Gott, 2011). Doctors and medical professionals should consider administering an annual questionnaire during their patients’ check-ups that covers sexual issues as areas that the patient might like to discuss. Among the potential areas of concern, patients could answer items (as appropriate) about: the presence of erectile dysfunction, pain during intercourse or other penetrative sexual behaviors, genital pain in the absence of sexual behavior, undesired loss of sexual interest or arousal, and the desire to hear about medications that affect sexual behavior or get a referral to see a doctor who specializes in sexual medicine. Of course, there are many more actions that care workers can take to better their clientele’s sexual autonomy later in life, but these are a few good starting points. With the recent medical innovations in sexual health it is important to keep the above-50 population informed as to what their options are to increase their sexual longevity, and in so doing increase their sexual agency for the rest of their life.

REFERENCES

https://www.aginglifecarejournal.org/the-changing-nature-of-intimate-and-sexual-relationships-in-later-life/

Latin America’s Killer Culture – 8% of the World’s Population – 38% of the Murders – 140,000 in One Year (The Economist) 5 April 2018

Shining light on South America’s homicide epidemic

Latin America’s violent crime, and ways of dealing with it, have lessons for the rest of the world
South America Body Bag
ON JANUARY 11th 2017 no one was murdered in El Salvador—a fact that was reported as far away as New Zealand, Thailand and Russia. At the time, the Central American country had the highest murder rate in the world: 81 per 100,000, more than ten times the global average (see chart 1). On most days more than a dozen Salvadoreans lost their lives to gang warfare, police shootings and domestic disputes. On bad days, the number could be three times higher. Murder dominated newspaper headlines, campaign speeches and dinner-table discussions. A day without it was something to celebrate—and reflect on.
Latin America, which boasts just 8% of the world’s population, accounts for 38% of its criminal killing. The butcher’s bill in the region came to around 140,000 people last year, more than have been lost in wars around the world in almost all of the years this century. And the crime is becoming ever more common.
Latin America is also the most urbanised part of the developing world, and that is not a coincidence. Its urban population grew in the second half of the 20th century much faster than those of other regions. By 2000 over three-quarters of the population lived in towns and cities—roughly twice the proportion in Asia and Africa. That move from the countryside concentrated risk factors for lethal violence—inequality, unemployed young men, dislocated families, poor government services, easily available firearms—even as it also brought together the factors needed for economic growth. As other developing economies catch up with Latin America’s level of urbanisation, understanding the process’s links to criminality, and which forms of policing best sever them, is of international concern.
In this regard, it is worth noting that the region’s countries vary a lot. Some countries in the south of the region have urbanised as fast as those in its north, but murder rates in the south remain comparable to that of the United States. The drug trade in the northern part of the region undoubtedly makes a big difference. And some countries where murder rose have since seen it decline.
If lessons from those countries that have turned the tide were promulgated a lot of good could be done. The Small Arms Survey, a research group, has three scenarios for the world up to 2030: one in which murder trends continue; one in which the trends seen in the countries that are doing best with murder in their region are exported to their neighbours; and one in which trends start to match those in some of the worst-performing countries. The difference between the best case and the worst adds up to 2.6m lives.
Latin America’s crisis has been mounting at a time when, in the developed world, murder has been becoming rarer. As Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at New York University, shows in “Uneasy Peace”, a recent book, the causes of the “great crime decline” America has seen since 1990 are complex and controversial: mass incarceration almost certainly reduced violence, though its impact diminished as a greater share of the population got locked up, leaving broken families on the outside.
Other factors mattered more in other countries. But most of the rich world saw a new stress on the use of data, especially geospatial data, in policing and crime-prevention efforts. That definitely played a role. Some approaches built on knowing precisely what was happening where to whom and why were criticised in terms of both cost efficiency and social justice: “Broken windows” policies stamped down on petty crimes it might have been safe to neglect; “stop-and-frisk” disproportionately targeted young men of colour. But there is now little doubt that, overall, data-driven approaches helped bring down crime rates. And when they succeeded they fostered a new confidence in the police, which encouraged community-driven efforts to reduce crime and co-operate with the authorities, all of which further reduced violence. As Adam Gopnik noted in a review of Mr Sharkey’s book for the New Yorker, a virtuous circle started to roll.
The Latin American trajectory has been the reverse of the rich world’s: the time of greatest concern in the United States was the time of greatest optimism in the south. In the late 1980s and the 1990s the civil wars and military dictatorships that characterised the 1970s and 1980s were giving way to democracies. Tens of millions—some displaced from their farms by guerrilla warfare—flocked to the cities, a willing workforce for the rapid industrialisation that governments hoped to bring about by opening their doors to global trade.
But the economic growth that followed did not match this influx, or the demographic “youth bulge” that exacerbated its effects. Nor did government services such as clinics and schools. People crowded into slums, shantytowns and favelas from where they were hard put to reach jobs. By the early 2010s, the bloodshed in some cities had reached a pitch comparable to that of the internal conflicts that had torn up the region decades earlier (see chart 2).
The causes of the bloodshed varied. Extortion gangs were responsible for a lot in some parts of Central America, drug-trafficking in others (though Costa Rica and Panama, both on the drug route, are relatively peaceful). Institutional weaknesses were widespread. Police and prosecutors in the region were badly trained, underpaid and often corrupt. In some places only one in 20 reports of murder led to a conviction. A penchant for ineffective but brutal government crackdowns often made things worse; grossly overpopulated prisons became crime factories rather than rehabilitation centres. To different degrees in different places, these factors all contributed to a vicious circle, rather than a virtuous one: the worse things got, the less effective efforts to stem the tide became.
But one factor seemed to be constant; where murder was high it was also heavily concentrated. According to Robert Muggah of the Igarapé Institute, a Brazil-based think-tank, approximately 80% of homicides in large and medium-sized Latin American cities occur on just 2% of the streets. Identifying those hotspots is crucial. Randomised-controlled trials of homicide-reduction programmes in cities like New York and Los Angeles have shown that policies which use reliable data to give priority to high-risk places, people and behaviour have the best shot at success.
In most of Latin America those data are lacking. Many homicide reports say only whether the crime was a knifing or a shooting; locations may just be the name of a town. In a report the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) published in 2012, Lawrence Sherman, a criminologist, concluded that this chronic lack of data “is not an obstacle to solving an important problem. It is the most important problem.”
Truths, not truces
Take El Salvador. In 1996 José Miguel Cruz, a political scientist, gathered data for the IDB’s first regional homicide report there: mayors sent him slips of paper with scrawled tallies marking murders. Today police, prosecutors and coroners meet monthly in San Salvador, the capital, to sort out national totals. But little attempt has been made to understand them, and they are not well used. “Plan Safe El Salvador”, launched in 2015 with support from various international organisations, called for resources to be funnelled to the 50 municipalities which statistics showed to be at highest risk. But because the “municipality prioritisation index” used total crime numbers, rather than rates per person, the plan’s targets for prevention projects were mostly just the biggest towns and cities.
El Salvador’s police claim to collect data good enough to make crime maps that delineate gang territories, but say they cannot release them because doing so could “compromise intelligence operations” and stigmatise residents of violent neighbourhoods. Such claims are common across the region. When they are true, the lack of transparency tends to be ill judged.
Consider the homicide report Mr Cruz worked on. He says that shortly before it was published El Salvador’s president begged the IDB to suppress his country’s figures, worried that they would hurt the economy. But the real toll on GDP comes not from reports on violence, but from violence itself. Latin American governments spend an average of 5% of their budgets on internal security—twice as much as developed countries. A recent IDB study estimates the direct costs of violent crime in the region—measured by such things as spending on police, hospitals, insurance and private security, and the lost wages of prisoners—at $236bn a year, calculated on a purchasing-power basis. At $300 per person, that is much higher than in developed countries. In El Salvador the cost of murder works out at 1% of GDP a year. Countries fear that opening data up to independent analysis will reveal the costly ineffectiveness of their policies. But until data analysis improves, their policies will continue to be ineffective, and often erratic.
That has certainly been the case in El Salvador. In 2004 President Francisco Flores put soldiers on the streets and threw thousands of gang members into prison to clamp down on crime. Murders went up. In March 2012 the government of Mauricio Funes brokered a truce between El Salvador’s three main gangs, giving imprisoned leaders luxuries like flat-screen televisions and fried chicken if they would tell their subordinates to stop killing each other. Murders halved almost overnight, and some criminologists applauded, seeing the policy as a step towards “focused deterrence”—a combination of incentives and threats that is deemed to have worked well in Los Angeles, among other places.
Others were wary, with reason. The truce soon began to unravel, and the gangs began to see violence as a bargaining tool. In early 2015 President Salvador Sánchez-Cerén sent the army back on to the streets and returned gang leaders to top-security prisons. Murders rocketed to 104 per 100,000 people. The number dropped back by 40% over the next two years, something the government put down to “extraordinary measures” in the prisons; for two years tens of thousands of gang members have seen no relatives, no doctors and no daylight. At the same time the number of members of the public shot by police has gone up 15-fold, sparking an international outcry. “The treatment that the state provides shouldn’t be as bad as the sickness itself,” says the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnes Callamard. And for the past six months the murder rate has been on the rise again.
Some Salvadoreans worry their country is heading the way of Venezuela, which stopped releasing murder statistics altogether in 2005. Luisa Ortega Díaz, then Venezuela’s attorney-general, started releasing some numbers again after attending a regional conference on homicide data in 2015; last year she was sacked and subsequently fled the country. According to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, which uses press reports, victimisation surveys and leaks from sympathetic government officials to track murders, Venezuela now has the world’s highest homicide rate.
Colombian data exchange
A generation ago that baleful title belonged to its neighbour, Colombia, where the drugs trade and peasants driven into slums by the civil war came together to dreadful effect. In 1994 the murder rate in Cali was 124 per 100,000 people.
Rodrigo Guerrero, the city’s mayor and a surgeon by training, launched a plan inspired by the epidemiological approach some North American cities were taking at the time. He set up “violence observatories” where police, public-health officials, academics and concerned citizens could study crime data. This revealed that most of the city’s murders took place in drunken brawls, not in conflict between gangs, and that they were late at night a day or so after payday. Restricting alcohol sales and gun permits helped cut the homicide rate by 35% in a matter of months.
Long-term results were mixed—some crime was probably displaced rather than prevented, and subsequent mayors discontinued the bans—but Mr Guerrero’s data-driven approach to violence spread. In Bogotá, the capital, data-based policing became the norm.
Some experts believe that the only way for developing countries to curb high homicide rates on a permanent basis is systemic reform. But data-driven policing can buy the time—and create the conditions of trust—needed for such reforms to take place, and can work to boost the gains from all sorts of other approaches. In Medellín, where gains against crime have been even more marked than in Cali, targeted action against the local drug cartel and guerrillas first made things safer, and improvements in infrastructure, including cable cars, helped integrate the slums into the city; but data-driven methods learned from Cali also played a role.
In 2017 Colombia announced a murder rate of 24 per 100,000 people, its lowest in 42 years. That is still high, though, and there are more problems to come. The demobilisation of the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) after decades of guerrilla war has created local power vacuums that could be filled by organised crime, especially if the government does not create opportunities for ex-combatants, coca farmers and young people. “Colombia is not approaching heaven,” says María Victoria Llorente of the Ideas for Peace Foundation. “We’re barely leaving hell, and if we aren’t careful, we’ll stay in limbo.”
A recent proliferation of violence observatories in Latin America—many modelled after Mr Guerrero’s Cali flagship—suggests that governments are realising the need for an evidence-based approach to security policy. But even now only two-thirds of the 60-odd observatories track when and where murders take place, and just half try to determine motives, according to the IDB. In 2016 Ignacio Cano, a Brazilian criminologist, looked at 93 homicide-reduction programmes in the region, including controls on alcohol in Brazil, an advertising campaign exhorting Venezuelans to “value life”, private investigators paid to help public prosecutors in Honduras, a $400m justice reform in Mexico and mediation with criminals in Jamaica and El Salvador. Some coincided with impressive drops in murder rates—but only 16% actually tried to evaluate their impact.
An international campaign called “Instinct for Life” has laid out six principles for reducing murders in Latin America by 50% over the next decade. It stresses both prevention and intervention—and in both cases it sees data as central, whether as a way of revealing what needs to be done or recording the extent to which an intervention has or has not worked. Even without state-of-the-art technology, the campaign says, police could make much better use of the information they already collect.
The rest of the world should take note. Murder already outpaces war as a cause of death. And the world is continuing to urbanise. India and China have accommodated huge increases in urban population while keeping violent crime levels relatively low, in part thanks to economic growth. But other countries exhibit many of the risk factors seen in Latin America a generation ago: widespread displacement as a result of conflict, millions of leftover guns, a demographic bulge, little by way of safety nets and corrupt, ineffective police forces.
The sooner cities and countries build good data analysis into their approach to curbing crime, the fewer of Latin America’s problems they will recapitulate. And they will also spare themselves false hope. A few weeks after that day in El Salvador in January 2017, the police concluded that a body found in a shallow grave had, in fact, been dumped there on January 11th. The murder-free day has yet to dawn.

NHL Philly Flyers Crossed the Striking Hotel Workers Labor Union Picket Line at Boston’s Ritz-Carlton – 25 Oct 2018

Boston, MA: The hotel workers represented by the UNITE HERE Local 26 labor union are on strike against seven Boston area hotels.  For three weeks noisy picket lines have been at the hotels on strike asking people not to cross the picket line and to cancel any use of the hotels.  Numerous civic and social organizations and businesses have canceled their previously planned events at the hotels where workers are striking. 

But, a number of professional sports team union members have crossed the workers picket lines to stay at rooms their management had gotten for them.  Some of the highest paid union members could not be bothered helping some of the lowest paid union members. 

The LA Dodgers crossed the picket lines, the Edmonton Oilers crossed the picket line. 

On Thursday, 25 October 2018, the Philadelphia Flyers crossed the picket lines to stay at Boston’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel. 

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Gothic Horror Emphasized: ‘The Monk’ by Matthew Lewis – 1796

Matthew Lewis’s novel The Monk (1796) marked a turning point in the history of Gothic literature. With its emphasis firmly on the horrific and the shocking, the book moved Gothic away from the gentle terrors of earlier authors such as Horace Walpole and, instead, confronted readers with an onslaught of horror in the form of spectral bleeding nuns, mob violence, murder, sorcery and incest. Unsurprisingly the book met with outrage and condemnation from critics. Equally unsurprisingly it was hugely popular with the public.

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With its twin themes of erotic obsession and the corrupting influence of power, The Monk deals with important issues and contains moments of impressive psychological insight. At heart, however, it remains a morality tale about one man’s fall from grace through greed, pride and lust.

The Monk

 

The edition shown here is a heavily abbreviated version of the novel published sometime around 1818. On the left Ambrosio, the monk of the title, signs his Faustian pact with the devil while, on the right, the entire plot of the book is summarised in lurid headings such as ‘Artifices of a Female Demon’; ‘Her Mother Whom He Murdered’; ‘Assassinates with a Dagger’ and, finally, ‘Most Ignominious Death’.

Early reviews

The Monk first became widely available in an edition published by Joseph Bell in 1796. The title-page only carried Lewis’s initials, rather than his full name, but the first reviews were – somewhat surprisingly given the content – favourable. Encouraged, Lewis announced his authorship in the second edition, adding for good measure his new title of Member of Parliament.

Unfortunately, with his name now firmly associated with the book (so much so that he was known as ‘Monk’ Lewis for the rest of his life) the novel became the subject of critical condemnation and accusations of blasphemy.

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(A free audio version of ‘The Monk’ is at Librivox; A free text version of ‘The Monk’ at Project Gutenberg)

The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge attacked the book in the Critical Review of February 1797 arguing that its scenes of lust and depravity were likely to corrupt readers. Coleridge observed further that The Monk was a novel ‘which if a parent saw in the hands of a son or daughter he might reasonably turn pale’. Worse was to follow when the writer Thomas James Mathias argued that certain passages in the book, especially those containing comments on the Bible, were open to legal action on the grounds that they were sacrilegious. Chastened by the intense criticism, Lewis removed several controversial passages from the book and from the fourth edition onwards the novel appeared in a somewhat subdued form. The Monk, however, never lost its popularity with readers keen to test their morality against its allegedly depraved content.

Scary Story: ‘The Castle of Otranto’ by Horace Walpole – The 1st Gothic Novel – 1764

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The Castle of Otranto is a 1764 novel by Horace Walpole. It is generally regarded as the first gothic novel. In the second edition, Walpole applied the word ‘Gothic’ to the novel in the subtitle – “A Gothic Story”. The novel merged medievalism and terror in a style that has endured ever since. The aesthetics of the book shaped modern-day gothic books, films, art, music and the goth subculture.[1]

(Free text of The Castle of Otranto online at Project Gutenberg – Free audio book reading of The Castle of Otranto at Librivox)

The novel initiated a literary genre which would become extremely popular in the later 18th and early 19th century, with authors such as Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe, William Thomas Beckford, Matthew Lewis, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson and George du Maurier.

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The Castle Of Otranto tells the story of Manfred, lord of the castle, and his family. The book begins on the wedding-day of his sickly son Conrad and princess Isabella. Shortly before the wedding, however, Conrad is crushed to death by a gigantic helmet that falls on him from above. This inexplicable event is particularly ominous in light of an ancient prophecy, “that the castle and lordship of Otranto should pass from the present family, whenever the real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it”. Manfred, terrified that Conrad’s death signals the beginning of the end for his line, resolves to avert destruction by marrying Isabella himself while divorcing his current wife Hippolita, whom he feels has failed to bear him a proper heir.

 

However, as Manfred attempts to marry Isabella, she escapes to a church with the aid of a peasant named Theodore. Manfred orders Theodore’s death while talking to the friar Jerome, who ensured Isabella’s safety in the church. When Theodore removes his shirt to be killed, Jerome recognizes a marking below his shoulder and identifies Theodore as his own son. Jerome begs for his son’s life, but Manfred says Jerome must either give up the princess or his son’s life. They are interrupted by a trumpet and the entrance of knights from another kingdom who want to deliver Isabella. This leads the knights and Manfred to race to find Isabella.

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Theodore, having been locked in a tower by Manfred, is freed by Manfred’s daughter Matilda. He races to the underground church and finds Isabella. He hides her in a cave and blocks it to protect her from Manfred and ends up fighting one of the mysterious knights. Theodore badly wounds the knight, who turns out to be Isabella’s father, Frederic. With that, they all go up to the castle to work things out. Frederic falls in love with Matilda and he and Manfred begin to make a deal about marrying each other’s daughters. Manfred, suspecting that Isabella is meeting Theodore in a tryst in the church, takes a knife into the church, where Matilda is meeting Theodore. Thinking his own daughter is Isabella, he stabs her. Theodore is then revealed to be the true prince of Otranto and Matilda dies, leaving Manfred to repent. Theodore becomes king and eventually marries Isabella because she is the only one who can understand his true sorrow.

The Castle of Otranto is the first supernatural English novel and one of the most influential works of Gothic fiction. It blends elements of realist fiction with the supernatural and fantastical, establishing many of the plot devices and character-types that would become typical of the Gothic novel: secret passages, clanging trapdoors, pictures beginning to move, and doors closing by themselves.[1] The poet Thomas Gray told Walpole that the novel made “some of us cry a little, and all in general afraid to go to bed o’nights.”

In A Nuclear War Russia Would Target the San Andreas Fault and Yellostone’s Subsurface Volcano – 24 Oct 2018

‘US would be history if Russia nukes Yellowstone volcano with mega-bombs’ – expert

‘US would be history if Russia nukes Yellowstone volcano with mega-bombs’ – expert
Russia must develop the capability to destroy the US in a single swift blow if it wants to persuade the Americans to end the nuclear arms race and return to the negotiating table, military expert Konstantin Sivkov said.

In order to curb the aggression from the West, Moscow shouldn’t compete with Washington in number of nukes, Sivkov wrote in a new article. The president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems believes that an “asymmetrical response” would work much better for Russia, as it is able to produce nuclear weapons with a yield of more than 100 megatons.

https://giphy.com/embed/OjZJW6xiyg9yvia GIPHY

If “areas with critically dangerous geophysical conditions in the US (like the Yellowstone Supervolcano or the San Andreas Fault)” are targeted by those warheads, “such an attack guarantees the destruction of the US as a state and the entire transnational elite,” he said.

The production of around 40 or 50 such mega-warheads for ICBMs or extra-long-range torpedoes would make sure that at least a few of them reach their target no matter how a nuclear conflict between the US and Russia develops, the expert said.

Such scenario “again makes a large-scale nuclear war irrational and reduces the chances of its breakout to zero,” Sivkov said.

The possession of such weapons by Russia is what would finally make Washington start talking to Moscow and give up on its sanctions policy towards Russia, the expert said.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump warned Russia and China that Washington intends to build up its nuclear arsenal until “people come to their senses.”

Trump reiterated his commitment to unilaterally abandon the landmark Intermediate Nuclear Forces in Europe (INF) treaty, saying that “Russia has not adhered to the agreement,” neither in form or in spirit.

Moscow decried the US plans, saying that an American withdrawal from the INF would “make the world more dangerous.”

The Russian presidential press-secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said that Trump’s words were “a de facto declaration of intent to launch an arms race,” adding that Russia would act to protect its national interests in view of statements like this.

In recent years, Moscow and Washington have repeatedly accused each other of violating the 1988 INF deal. While the US has alleged that Russia has developed missiles prohibited by the treaty, Russia insists that the American anti-missile systems deployed in Eastern Europe can actually be used to launch intermediate-range cruise missiles.

 

 Archive

California: Militant Right Wing Street Fighters Arrested – Anti-Fa Research Showed Nationwide Pattern of Attacks – 17 Oct 2018

Rise Above Movement Arrests: State Repression & Autonomous Anti-Fascism

On October 2nd, as has been widely reported in the media, four members of the violent neo-Nazi gang known as Rise Above Movement (earlier known as DIY Division) were arrested and are now facing federal rioting charges that could land them behind bars for years if convicted. The criminal complaint brought against members of RAM by the FBI references and quotes the work of Northern California Anti-Racist Action (NoCARA) on RAM which was published in July 2017. In light of this development, we believe it’s important to examine and clarify a number of important points relating to RAM, the FBI, state repression, and anti-fascist research and organizing.

RAM, until now, had enjoyed an uninterrupted trail of violence across the country. This culminating in their attacks on anti-fascist protesters in the bloody battles that played out in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12th, 2017 which resulted in the injury of dozens and the murder of Heather Heyer by a fellow Unite the Right marcher of RAM, James Alex Fields Jr.

Perhaps nothing captures the spirit of RAM’s participation in the violence of Charlottesville more clearly than two widely circulated images of Benjamin Daley. In the first, he is making the throat slashing gesture commonly known to signify a death threat to a crowd of anti-fascist protesters, and in the other, he is viciously strangulating a non-combative woman significantly smaller than him while she is surrounded and being attacked by other members of RAM.

For over a year after that day, members of RAM have gone on to boast and celebrate their own violent attacks and use them for recruitment and selling neo-Nazi themed apparel through their Right Brand Clothing brand. This has even included Robert Rundo, the leader of the group and legal owner of Right Brand Clothing LLC uploading a video in late August bragging about beating anti-fascists in various cities, and claiming that their actions were legal because they ‘hadn’t been arrested.’ This confidence was misplaced as less than two months later, a fact that perhaps wasn’t lost on Rundo as the video was removed soon after the upload, RAM members were swept up by the FBI and held without bail and currently are facing two felony charges each.

https://archive.org/embed/RiseAboveMovementCuttingThroughTheBS

While the arrest and criminal prosecution of these individuals is a significant moment in terms of the state’s stance and action on neo-Nazi violence during the Trump presidency with all the racists that it has emboldened and mobilized, it should not by any means be considered a victory for the anti-fascist movement, nor should it remotely be confused for the state making a sincere attempt to, in any real way, address white supremacy or even neo-Nazi violence in the US. While the recent wave of street-based and grassroots white supremacist and neo-Nazi movements have intensified and become more visible, they compose a relatively minuscule segment of a greater social system of white supremacy existing in the US that functions in concert with capitalism, patriarchy, and State as a part of a violently maintained social hierarchy that controls our lives.

We reject the notion that the state can ever address this fundamental social issue because it itself is a critical component of upholding the racial caste system in the US that relegates millions of human beings to being murdered by the police, locked up in prisons, struggle against the weight of structural poverty, homelessness, and displacement just to survive, and daily are subjected to violence and humiliation. As the history of repression by the state has shown us time and time again with programs such as COINTELPRO, whatever repression it is willing to level against the most overt, violent, and indiscreet neo-Nazis and racists, it has no qualms about unleashing its much greater and more heavy-handed authority against those struggling to overcome oppression, domination, and exploitation and put into practice collective ways of life based on solidarity, equality, and autonomy.

RAM and Selective Prosecution of Neo-Nazis

One of the most consistently performed feats of mental gymnastic by neo-Nazis and others in the far-right is framing their aggression and violence as self-defense and legally justified. This notion has been further strengthened by a general lack of consequences they’ve experienced for their actions from the State. This attitude has been clearly visible in the conduct and online postings of RAM which proudly showed images and video of members engaging in violence, even when it was initiated by them, without any concern for facing any charges from the State.

For instance, Robert Rundo was arrested and initially charged with assaulting a police officer in the process of getting arrested for attacking anti-fascists in Berkeley on April 15th, 2017. While the State has had no problem pursuing charges of assaulting officers against people for things like involuntary reflexes to extreme physical pain when being restrained, Rundo’s charges were not pursued. This happened while an anti-fascist named Eric Clanton faced serious charges purely on the basis of manipulated images from 4chan for the same Berkeley rally.

The State has even gone so far as to repeat completely baseless claims made by the far-right and repeated in the Daily Cal about NoCARA carrying out “cyber attacks against members of Berkeley College Republicans when all the information in our research was obtained through open social media profiles and public records, and no evidence of any hacking has ever been produced by anyone making these claims. The fascists crying about our work being cited in the criminal complaint against RAM conveniently forget these and other ample examples of the police accepting fascist propaganda and misinformation as legitimate intelligence on anti-fascists and acting on it.

The State is also constantly refusing to investigate and act on the clear threat of right-wing and white supremacist perpetrated violence and terror. No matter how hard they downplay this reality, far-right and neo-Nazi violence is currently claiming far more victims in the US than any other form of political violence. One only needs to look so far as the comments on RAM’s posts in support of their arrested members to witness the leisure at which violence and even threats against the police are discussed and promoted in their movement.

It’s clear that the prosecution of these individuals is not based on the threat they pose or proportional to the harm they’ve inflicted, but rather what is politically expedient for the State as it works to maintain the fiction of the rule of law and its image as the neutral mediator of society’s functioning.

Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman, a fascist known for committing violence at rallies in Berkeley and his support of RAM, is a clear example of this selective prosecution. Despite being arrested three times for his involvement in violence, including participating with RAM members in the brutal gang beating of anti-fascists cornered in Berkeley that was cited in the criminal complaint against RAM, Chapman is only facing charges for possessing the stick he used to attack people on March 4th, 2017. This only happened after his group the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights participated in the violence of Charlottesville, and increasing public outrage began building around the inaction of the State on such a brazenly violent fascist. Chapman is not facing charges for any of the other amply documented violence he carried out at political rallies.

As RAM members are arrested and extradited to Virginia to face their charges, another trial in California is set begin for William Scott Planer, a neo-Nazi member of the Golden State Skinheads and the now defunct Traditionalist Worker Party. The bloody rally at the State Capital in Sacramento on June 26th, 2016 in violent clashes at the rally resulted in 6 anti-fascists being stabbed by the neo-Nazis with ample video and photo evidence documenting the individuals responsible.

Planer is the only member of GSS facing charges for his role in the violence. Planer was recorded holding a knife and violently attacking anti-fascists including smashing a large wooden stick on the head of a downed anti-fascist.

As our previous work on RAM has shown, members of RAM are connected with members of GSS. RAM members Skyler Segeberg and Matthew Branstetter have been photographed with GSS members Jason Wayne Judd and Joseph Ryan Simmons who were both present and engaged in documented violence at the June 26th rally. Similar to RAM, GSS enjoys not just selective prosecution of only the most brazen and indefensible of their crimes, but the police also granted them an assumed victimhood and help in protecting their identities from the public. Just as Rundo and Boman avoid any consequences for their amply documented violence so do Judd, Simmons, and other GSS members enjoy impunity.

RAM also shares close ties with Identity Evropa and its founder Nathan Damigo. RAM not only fought alongside Damigo in Berkeley and in Charlottesville, members such as the individual that goes by “Robert Smithson” on social media are also members of IE based on their own social media postings. Smithson was in Charlottesville and fought along with the other 4 RAM members that were arrested by the FBI. Again, like other RAM members, Damigo enjoys impunity for his widely seen attack on a woman anti-fascist perhaps in part due to his familial connections to law enforcement.

The Sound of One Fed Clapping

“The only fucking way this country’s ever going to get turned around is it will be a bloodbath and it will be a nasty, messy motherfucker. Unless a lot more people in this country wake up and smell the fucking coffee and decide they want this country back … we might be too late, if they do wake up … I think we can get it done. But it ain’t going to be nothing nice about it.”

– Patrick Stein, The Crusaders

It is important to point out how much a show the FBI is putting on by arresting members of RAM. We believe the FBI was pushed to do so largely because of the recent video documentary from ProPublica, which makes the argument, along with the help of an ex-member of the FBI, that the intelligence community is not doing enough to go after violent Alt-Right and white nationalist groups. It seems in many ways, the FBI took this to heart. 

The problem however, is that when looking at the broader picture, there are plenty of other white nationalist, militia, and far-Right groups that have committed acts of violence and terror, yet still have failed to trigger a clamp down against an entire group. 

For instance, in October 2016, three members of ‘The Crusaders’ were arrested in Kansas, after the FBI was tipped off by one of their associates, before they could carry through on their plans to bomb both a mosque and an apartment complex filled with Somali immigrants. The Crusaders were part of the 3%er militia

Then, less than a year later and only a few days before Unite the Right, FBI informants arrested a man in his early 20’s that was also part of the 3%er militia, after he attempted to detonate a bomb in front of a bank in Oklahoma City, in order to kick off, “the next revolution.” A few days later, members of the 3%ers were carrying high power weapons in Charlottesville. 

Likewise, members of the Atomwaffen Division, (which today still organizes on the social media networking site Gab, and currently has been promoting an alliance with ISIS), were found in the summer of 2017, (after one member killed two others), with ingredients to make a “dirty bomb” and plans to possibly blow up a nuclear power plant. The group would go on to kill three other people

Meanwhile in the Pacific Northwest, while they haven’t resorted to bombs and grisly murders, the Proud Boys have still been linked to a variety savage attacks on the public. In 2018, members of the Proud Boys attacked an African-American youth in Vancouver, Washington at a mall, a random man on the street in Portland, Oregon, and young boys at an open air festival in Austin, Texas wearing Obama hats. This is to say nothing of the numerous times the group has been involved in violence at political rallies and demonstrations, including the most recent attack in New York.  

The point in bringing all of this up, is that the State is much less concerned about “keeping the public safe” from the threat of far-Right violence, than it is about keeping down the success of grassroots radical change. This is evidenced by the fact that when far-Right violence does happen, it is always presented as a fluke, or the work of just a few people. This is very unlike how the State responds to popular social movements as well as poor communities of color. 

For instance, when 3%ers repeatedly attempt to murder people by blowing them up in racist bomb plots, one might think the State would label them gang members or terrorists and then have cause to pull over every chud with a Punisher sticker on the back of their truck. But of course, this doesn’t happen, however the State deems it as a necessary precaution for even a music subculture like Juggalos. 

Everywhere across the social terrain we see this reality expand: as the label of either gang member or terrorist; an open invitation for the State to engage in the suspension of an individuals’ rights, movement, and freedoms, is slowly applied to both poor communities, especially those of color, and broad autonomous social movements. Thus, the Black Lives Matter tactic of blocking freeways becomes even more criminalized, as does the wearing of a mask by antifascists, or even simply stepping onto the private property of an oil pipeline, while the rhetoric of “terrorism” amps up and the ruling party presents itself as the chief victim within society. 

Everywhere we see this reality permeating except against groups and movements on the far-Right. This is why an occasional ‘pound of flesh’ must be offered up to the public to show that the government is still paying attention, or to show the far-Right, in the case of someone like Timothy McVeigh, that the State will allow attacks on those below on the social hierarchy, but never above against the State’s own infrastructure.

A Question of Legitimacy

In the era of the Trump presidency with the wave of neo-Nazi and white supremacist activity and violence that has closely followed it, one of the central sources of arguments and contentions playing out across the political spectrum from the far-right to liberal centrists has been the question of who has the legitimacy and moral authority to name someone as a neo-Nazi or racist. Both the right and centrists are united in wanting to impose strict institutional controls and professionalized gatekeeping on the subject as both in practice are bitterly opposed to the idea of an anti-fascist movement that is autonomous from the State and other social institutions operating within it’s sanctioned and respectable confines.

NoCARA and other anti-fascists collectives committed to researching and exposing neo-Nazis have established credibility through the factuality of the research we’ve produced, and have done so from a position of being anti-State and promoting a broad range of direct action for dealing with the fascist threat. For everyday people, the media, and even State institutions to accept the conclusions drawn by anti-fascist sources such as NoCARA is a challenge for the State or certain authoritative institutions’ ability to be the arbiter of who is a racist and a nazi and what the consequences for that may entail. An autonomous anti-fascist movement that identifies and acts against white supremacists by relying on its own analysis and dynamic understanding of the social circumstances we live under is a threat to a system that depends on immobilizing and pacifying people against taking direct action to improve their lives and communities through the slight of hand of elections, political representation, petitions for change on power, and authoritative professionalization.

Mainstream media sources, until more recently, have been far more comfortable with publishing content and linking to far-right and neo-Nazi websites over the work of anti-fascists exposing these individuals. In other words, mainstream media, especially liberal-centrist leaning publications and pundits prefer giving a platform to those advocating for carrying out the ethnic cleansing of the US through violent and state-based means, over factual information compiled by anti-fascists which advocate for the defense of communities facing these threats through autonomous and decentralized struggles against white supremacy.

SPLC: Strictly Plagiarism Loving Centrists

The dynamic discussed earlier is clearly apparent in the Southern Poverty Law Center, a private organization that researches and publishes information on what it deems “extremism,” and draws equivalences between neo-Nazis and autonomous anti-fascists, anarchists, Black radicals, and others deemed “far-left.” The SPLC enjoys close ties with law enforcement agencies which act at times as sources for their research, and are the participants in the training programs it conducts. The SPLC makes it clear that it does not condone any form of anti-fascism that doesn’t adhere to their strict liberal-centrist framework which generally entails sitting on one’s hands and waiting for the State and law enforcement to deal with neo-Nazi violence. This is an absurd delusion to promote in a country founded on genocide and slavery, where police annually murder thousands of black, brown, indigenous, and poor people with impunity, and has the highest rate of incarceration in the history of humanity. The SPLC’s associations and political line betray the true depths of their complicity with the regime of white supremacy in the US as the police are objectively a far more violent and powerful arm of upholding this system than this recent wave of neo-Nazi street politics.

Representatives from the SPLC have even gone so far as to host an event at UC Berkeley, one of the primary targets of fascist activity in the past couple of years, which advocated against non-liberal forms of anti-fascism, and regurgitated the same tired and asinine arguments about violence that one can also commonly hear from fascists. Embarrassingly, while the SPLC had ordered pizza for their anticipated audience of 200 people, only a small handful of individuals attended, leading to the event being changed to a group discussion instead of a talk.

In light of all this, it’s even more embarrassing that the SPLC has plagiarized the work of NoCARA. In a recent article announcing the arrest of the four RAM members, the SPLC directly copied an entire paragraph from our earlier article on RAM without attribution. Comparing the original NoCARA text and that published by the SPLC using text analysis software reveals that minor edits were made to the text but the overwhelming bulk of the text remains the same. This strikes us as extremely lazy on the part of an organization that enjoys over four hundred million dollars in endowments ($400,000,000) and a full-time paid staff, while our collective has a free blog service (shout out to Blackblogs.org) and funds our research work out of our own pockets.

We can only speculate about how and why the FBI came to cite our work in their criminal complaint, but it appears that copy/pasting of information from a source like SPLC had something to do with it. We also don’t know how closely the FBI looked into our anti-State politics before making the decision to cite us. We harbor no delusions about the role of the FBI as an institution that was founded and has devoted most of its efforts to repressing leftist and liberatory movements.

Propolicia

A similar dynamic also exists with Propublica which published their widely shared and celebrated research on RAM based on an earlier article published by the East Bay Express several months after we published our original research. These works largely cover the same ground from our research. At the time of their publication, comrades at It’s Going Down (itsgoingdown.org) and Berkeley Antifa tweeted Ali Winston, one of the authors of the EBX article, asking why they failed to acknowledge that NoCARA’s research influenced their work. Winston’s response was to dismiss the work as inconsequential and inaccurate. This was while their work failed to identify individuals such as Skyler Segeberg and Spencer Currie by their real names whereas our work had identified their real names months earlier. Winston would go on to at least partially acknowledge the information released by NoCARA served as a basis for part of his writing on RAM.

While one of the co-authors of the EBX piece, Darwin Bond-Graham has recently acknowledged NoCARA’s contributions, A.C. Thompson has so far refused to acknowledge any influence from NoCARA. It appears that at least part of this comes from a desire not to be associated with anti-fascists like NoCARA in order to maintain respectability and career prospects within the mainstream.

To Propublica’s credit, we do admire the work they’ve done in exposing the violent neo-Nazi organization Atomwaffen Division and the killings carried out by its members. Despite this, we find their work’s emphasis on legitimizing and rehabilitating law enforcement to be counter-productive and part of creating a false narrative that the State actually acts to put a stop to violent neo-Nazis when in reality prosecutions like that of RAM are a rare occurrence. Propublica has also refused to release the names and chat logs of neo-Nazis in Atomwaffen Division in order to milk them for additional stories and content rather than allowing anti-fascists and others to access the logs to identify and potentially protect their communities from these individuals.

These issues aren’t brought up in an attempt to demand recognition or credit for our work, but to highlight the fact that these organizations while making use of and at times plagiarizing our research also actively work to undermine, demonize, and criminalize autonomous anti-fascism. Our work has shown that a collective of ambitious and determined individuals lacking any funding or institutional support can come together to produce work that rivals and even eclipses that of organizations with millions of dollars of funding and law enforcement connections and sources.

Stripe and GoDaddy Love Nazis

Like any business operating today, RAM’s Right Brand Clothing depends on a number of corporate services and products to maintain a presence online, sell merchandise, and collect payments. Recent experiences have shown us that tech companies and other corporations generally have no qualms about offering services to and collecting money from neo-Nazis so long as there isn’t much negative attention brought to their brands. This trend continues with Rise Above Movement.

Right Brand Clothing is currently hosted by GoDaddy, a large hosting and domain registration service. GoDaddy is notable for being the domain registrar for The Daily Stormer for a number of years until the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville when the company finally decided to drop the site. Here, again, the company continues to host the e-commerce site for neo-Nazis.

Stripe also acts as the payment processing system for the site, allowing RAM to collect credit card payments. Stripe is currently playing a critical role in fundraising for members of RAM, and has allowed RAM to collect thousands of dollars by selling $10 stickers for the legal expenses of those arrested.

RAM directly uses their reputation and image as neo-Nazis ready and able to fight and engage in violence as a part of promoting and profiting from the goods sold on their website. The violence that the group has carried out has been instrumental in launching and promoting this clothing brand, and this includes them building the credibility with European neo-Nazis that allowed them to travel across Europe for a  organizing and developing their business connections.

They traveled to Ostritz, Germany, where a fascist MMA tournament named Battle of Nibelung was taking place. This tournament was sponsored in part by White Rex, a neo-Nazi clothing brand, and this trip allowed them to sell White Rex merchandise along side other neo-Nazi brands such as Svastone from Ukraine. The group would also travel to Kiev, Ukraine which appears to be the country for origin for Robert Smithson, and meet up and workout with local neo-Nazis. Rundo participated in the neo-Nazi tournament Reconquista Club in April.

Considering the actions and history of RAM, it’s clear what the group is referencing when their about page features an image of members in Berkeley, one of their most violent engagements to date, along with text celebrating their “boldness” in “standing against waves of the left.” Rundo has been gambling on translating the image of RAM created through violence into dollars and movement building. One thing is clear, regardless of their ‘optics,’ RAM would not be able to operate at the level it has been without counting on the help of these corporations.

GoDaddy customer service: (480) 505-8877

Stripe customer service: info@stripe.com

Beyond Stopping Nazis

As discussed in this writing, any form of anti-fascism that attempts to address the growing fascist threat by adhering to the sanctioned framework for political action enforced by the existing power structures and through the institutions of the State and capitalist media is ultimately doomed to bolstering the very same white supremacist social order from which neo-Nazis like RAM emerge. Effective anti-racist and anti-fascist movements must invariably contend with the social hierarchies produced and protected by the State, capitalism, patriarchy, and other social relations of domination and exploitation existing in our societies.

The prevailing power structures and those who serve them desperately want to maintain their grip on who exactly and how people are allowed to understand and act on the social problems in their communities. They insist that we permanently wait on the State, police, and businesses to fix problems that they helped to create in the first place and violently prevent anyone else from solving. They want us to consume the narratives and analysis fed to us by those who profit from maintaining this oppressive status quo, and discredit anyone who refuses to parrot their line.

Anti-fascists have shown that it’s possible to refuse the surrender our collective power and to create a multitude of ways to act directly on the problems we face. The State, liberals, far-right, and fascists are unified in their disdain and fear of this approach to politics, and make every effort in their propaganda to speak against it. Let their bitter protestations be the orchestral score to which we drop the closing curtains on their world. We seek to build a form of life based on the vibrance and joy of caring and fighting for each other as equals and will settle for nothing less.

Archive

California: Militant Right Wing Street Fighters Identified – 6 July 2017

 

DIY Division: The Violent neo-Nazi Group Central to the California Alt-Right and Alt-Light Protest Movements

Everyday brings us another story of growing far-Right insurgency and violence in defense of the crumbling illegitimacy of the Trump administration and the systems of patriarchy and white supremacy. Ongoing acts of arson and vandalism against mosques, Jewish cemeteries and places of worship, threats of violence and attempts at intimidation against journalists, and even out right murder are now all commonplace.

In the face of this reality, Alt-Right trolls and ‘journalists,’ their friends at mainstream outlets like Fox, and the Trump administration itself, have all been quick to jump on anything that reeks of “left-wing” violence as a means of distracting and mobilizing their base. From Kyle Chapman trying to connect James Hodgkinson to the antifascist movement, to the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security labeling antifa a “terrorist threat to the wider public,” both the State and the Right are attempting to overshadow their own growing violence by playing up fears of resistance from below. 

A key component in building this fear has been the case of Eric Clanton. Clanton was arrested in the Bay Area of California after neo-Nazi trolls on 4chan started an online campaign to dox, harass, and get him arrested, claiming that Clanton attended and participated in clashes against an Alt-Right rally in Berkeley on April 15th. After receiving the information from Alt-Right trolls, the Berkeley police then conducted a raid of Eric’s house and he now faces felony charges. Currently, Eric is the only person to face charges stemming from the violent clashes that broke on between members of the Alt-Right and antifascists. 

For the far-Right, Clanton represents a “bike lock” wielding maniac who, without provocation or remorse, attacked random and innocent ‘average’ Trump supporters attempting to exercise their freedom of speech. Thus, to the media and the outside world, the far-Right portrays themselves as hapless victims; defenders of liberal values like “free speech” and the right to protest. To themselves and their supporters however, the far-Right brags about “sacking” Berkeley; about beating up and attacking the weak “cocksuckers” and “neo-Marxists” who live there. This duality is important for their own image; both as soldiers fighting to defend Trump and “Western Civilization,” and also as helpless victims against internal enemies of the American empire.  

However as we will show, some of the very people that Eric is accused of being involved in an altercation with are part of a well organized and extremely violent neo-Nazi organization that has broad connections with groups ranging from the Proud Boys, which is led by Kyle Chapman and Gavin McInnes, to the Hammerskin Nation, the notorious murderous neo-Nazi skinhead gang. These people were anything but ‘average’ Trump supporters, and instead represent a well organized and connected violent organization which even the Oath Keepers have pointed out, are using Trump and “Free Speech” rallies to recruit, organize, and engage in violence. 

Furthermore, we will show that people involved in this group have a long history of being arrested for these violent acts, but like Kyle Chapman or Nathan Damigo, still have yet to see their charges stick. In short, it appears that there are two sets of laws, one for antifascists, and the other for neo-Nazis and the far-Right. 

Because of this, Eric Clanton was targeted because he was an antifascist, as police worked directly with neo-Nazis on 4chan to do so. All the while, they gave a free pass to violent and known neo-Nazis and white supremacists, as well as openly working and meeting with members of militia and Alt-Right groups who helped coordinate the event on April 15th. In other words, at each and every step, the police worked hand in hand with some of the most violent and extreme elements of the far-Right. 

This reality is both frightening and alarming. In one of the most progressive cities in the United States, police are openly working with far-Right groups in order to not only repress and attack anarchists and antifascists, but also single them out for arrest and felony charges. 

But in order to understand the danger we face, we must first begin to understand the players involved. 

DIY Division: A Neo-Nazi Fighting Force

DIY Division, or more recently, the Rise Above Movement, is a loose collective of violent neo-Nazis and fascists from Southern California that’s organized and trains primarily to engage in fighting and violence at political rallies. They have been a central participant in the recent wave of far-Right protest movements in California during the first half of 2017 which have attempted to mobilize a broad range of right-wing constituents under the banners of protecting so-called “free speech,” unyielding support for Trump, and antipathy towards Muslims, immigrants, and other oppressed groups.

The group’s members are directly affiliated with or are themselves members of many factions in the neo-Nazi, racist skinhead, Alt-Right, and Alt-Light movements which include groups such Identity Evropa, Proud Boys, Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman and his ‘Alt-knight’ and ‘helmet-head’ cult following, the Red Elephants media outlet, as well the largest national network of neo-Nazi skinheads in the US known as the Hammerskin Nation.

DIY Division’s approach is a combination of the same meme heavy social media presence, fashy haircuts, and identitarianism that is characteristic of the Alt-Right along with the more traditional street fighting and physical fitness emphasis of neo-Nazi skinheads. While a number of members who are also part of the Hammerskin Nation fit the image of the stereotypical neo-Nazi skinhead with bomber jackets, boots, and shaved heads, most members, which tend to be in their early to late 20s, adhere to more of a ‘Richard Spencer in activewear’ kind of look.

Thus far, members of DIY Division have engaged in acts of violence with uninterrupted impunity at political rallies which include demonstrations in Huntington Beach (3/25), Berkeley (4/15), and San Bernardino (6/10). In doing so, they have directly cultivated and developed ties with many of the noted figures and factions in this movement. Most of these factions such as the Proud Boys continually deny their apparent racist and white nationalist politics by hiding behind nationalistic, American chauvinist, and pro-Trump rhetoric and deploying worn out manipulations around “free speech” and token people of color which sadly, still remain highly potent and paralysis-inducing to most liberals.

What’s significant about DIY Division is that they are an openly neo-Nazi group unlike most of the Alt-Right/Lite which attempts to obfuscate and mystify their true political ambitions in order to deflect being correctly labeled as white nationalists and fascists. This creates a compromising situation for these groups as they continually try to both reject claims of not being racist while directly working, collaborating, and organizing with unabashed neo-Nazis.

As we continue, we will explore the various connections existing between DIY Division and the greater far-Right and white nationalist groups currently active on the ground on the West Coast. We will look into how they have acted as the muscle for these groups, and how they concurrently rely on an entryist strategy of creeping into more mainstream right-wing and pro-Trump segments to further normalize and entrench racist violence and fascism in the US. 

Courage, Identity, Tyler Durden

The group’s ideology appears to be a mishmash of mostly equal parts Identity Evropa’s flaccid identitarian discourse (itself inspired by fascist organizations like Generation Identity from France) and the fetishization of masculinity, physical fitness, and violence mixed with the shallow anti-corporate and anti-consumerist themes of the film Fight Club. Propaganda by the group overwhelmingly contains the usual fascistic themes of emasculated young white men needing to reclaim their identities through learning to fight and engaging in purifying violence.

To this end, the group regularly meets in public parks or the homes of members to train in boxing and other fighting techniques. Images of this training are used for recruitment on their social media, and juxtaposed with quotes from fascist figures such as Julius Evola. The group seems to be particularly fond of posting shirtless photos of masked up members doing pull ups which are overlaid with the group’s name.

DIY Division also espouses a vague and pop culture influenced anti-consumerism message similar to Fight Club, a film where the white male protagonist attempts to find meaning in his emasculated yuppie life through starting an underground fighting club which eventually leads to the formation of a proto-fascist cult lead by the protagonist himself. The group’s propaganda makes plenty of references to these types of themes, and decries the perceived weakness that modern society breads in men. The overwhelming message is that a return to a vague and undefined form of traditionalism (another common neo-Nazi theme) and anti-modernity are direly needed for white men, all while simultaneously placing a central importance on social media, memes, and other contemporary technologies to further their message.

The group’s propaganda also emphasizes an anti-drug or straight edge message which again, is a common theme among certain segments of neo-Nazis who often view substances (excluding alcohol apparently) as part of a global Jewish conspiracy to weaken the white race. Despite this, many members use a wide range of substances, and have histories of being arrested for drunken fighting and possession in the past. One member, Tyler Laube (21) of Redondo Beach has a long history of arrests for DUI, drunken fighting, carrying a switchblade, and robbery – he even managed to get himself shot in 2014 during a drunken fight.

Little Men with Fashy Haircuts

DIY Division first came to the attention of Bay Area antifascist researchers when they attended the 4/15 rally in Berkeley with Nathan Damigo. Damigo is the founder and leader of the neo-Nazi group Identity Evropa and a felon convicted of a racist armed robbery against a middle eastern cab driver. Damigo gained national attention when footage of him cowardly sucker punching a woman antifascist protester and quickly running away went viral, and was met with a strong backlash from the internet and media. As of this writing no charges have been filed against Damigo for the assault, and he has gone on to brag and joke about the assault in subsequent public appearances. Damigo and DIY Division traveled to and from Berkeley together, while the latter acted as protection for the pint-sized fascist leader as they collectively carried out many violent assaults against protesters and journalists. 

The group arrived early in the morning to Berkeley with a massive banner reading “Defend America” along with signs bearing anti-Semitic messages such as “Da Goyim Know,” a common racist meme among the Alt-Right. They were generally dressed in grey activewear with skull lower face masks, protective goggles, and taped up knuckles, ready to fight. Clearly, DIY Division had the explicit intention of not only fighting, but also hurting and injuring antifascists. After all, this is what they had trained to do. 

Earlier in the day, Robert Rundo (27) of San Clemente was arrested and charged with battery and obstruction of a police officer. Rundo stands out as one of the leaders of the crew both for his aggressive actions when the group attends rallies, and for acting as the group’s primary fighting coach. Soon after a contingent of black bloc antifascists ignored the parameter setup by Berkeley police and marched into the park, Rundo and others began verbally engaging with antifa. Insults were exchanged and Rundo was triggered by jokes about him skipping leg days at the gym and the tiny Hammer of Thor pendant he was wearing correlating to the size of his penis. This caused Rundo to violently lash out and attempt to attack antifa by crossing the barriers set up by police with other members. He was arrested shortly after attacking people on the antifa side. Rundo’s name along with many others arrested on the 15th were published by Berkeley PD and circulated by local media.

Rundo’s actions clearly shows a desire to not only escalate the situation to violence, but also a desire to physically provoke and attack antifascists at all costs. Moreover, despite his arrest, he like Chapman and Damigo, have yet to see any consequences develop for their violent activities. As we will show, this is a pattern that has repeated over, and over again.   

After Rundo’s arrest, other DIY Division members went on to carry out more assaults including attacks on members of By Any Means Necessary or BAMN (not affiliated with NoCARA) and the theft of their banner with the help of Damigo. They would go on to pose for photographs with the trophy BAMN banner, and brag about the assaults committed against BAMN members on their social media accounts. This shows that unlike anarchists and antifascists who are heavily surveilled, for neo-Nazis and those on the far-Right, their admission of violent acts on social media goes without any form of consequence from the State. 

In the photograph below, we can see DIY Division members such as Spencer Currie (24), Robert Boman (24), Benjamin Daley (24), and Nathan Damigo and his unidentified companion all grabbing the BAMN banner and committing assaults, including pulling people into their crowd and stomping them as a group.

Later on, Robert Boman who was actively attacking people got a face full of pepper spray. He was quickly ushered off to safety by Joey Gibson aka the leader of Patriot Prayer based out of Washington. Gibson is a prominent organizer of so-called “free speech” rallies who gained national attention after a neo-Nazi who attended one of his protests while giving fascist salutes (soon after was seen shaking hands with an Identity Evropa organizer) murdered two people on a Portland train and attempted to kill another. At his first court appearance he declared, “Death to antifa!”

During these actions and the subsequent fights that broke out on the edges of MLK park, DIY Division members and other combative fascists were seen closely flanked by Sean Stiles, later to be known as “Sriracha Man” due to his shirt, a man that was later hit in the head with a bike lock. Stiles fraternized, engaged in fighting, and posed for photos with DIY members as they assaulted anyone perceived as ‘antifa’ or even non-Right journalists. Videos and photos make it clear that Stiles was very much in the fray, and enthusiastically supported the actions taken by the neo-Nazi of DIY Divison. 

Weeks after the Berkeley rally, East Bay antifascist Eric Clanton was arrested as a suspect for the bike lock attack against Stiles and another individual, and was charged with multiple felonies with the police relying solely on photoshopped images created by 4chan users and circulated on social media as evidence.

Despite a consistent history of the Alameda County District Attorney pursuing aggressive charges against arrested anarchists, anti-fascists, and other left-wing protesters, the DA has chosen not to pursue charges against Rundo, Damigo, or any of the other fascists that were arrested or documented attacking people that day. Rundo has a prior class C felony conviction in New York for gang assault in 2010 and has served a one year sentence for this conviction. There is ample evidence showing easily identifiable DIY members and other fascists engaging in violence, yet they were allowed by the police to carry out their attacks without suffering any consequences. This lies in contrast to the charges leveled against Eric Clanton without any substantive evidence and strictly on the basis of the work of anonymous 4chan neo-Nazi trolls.

The systemic white supremacy and coddling of fascists by the Alameda County DA and the US legal system more generally should be plainly apparent to all. We as anarchists and anti-fascists reject the legitimacy and “justice” of the State and its legal institutions, and do not rely on the system for bringing fascists like Rundo to account. We stand with all those facing charges, incarceration, and post-release supervision by the State for resisting and surviving under this putrid patriarchal white supremacist capitalist social order.

Proud of Your Goys

Before their violent attacks in Berkeley, DIY Division members garnered media attention for other acts of violence at a pro-Trump rally in Huntington Beach on March 25th. The group was seen with the same large “Defend America” banner they had in Berkeley, and were the initiators of the fights that broke out with antifascists.

Footage and images from the rally that show Rundo beating and elbowing a downed black-clad anti-fascist were widely circulated in reports. Despite Rundo’s thoroughly documented assault, the police were quick instead to arrest antifa protesters and charge them for offenses including the use of pepper spray. These charges were later dropped by the local DA

Also present at the rally, was a key southern California fascist and later Proud Boy chapter leader of Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman’s Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights (FOAK), Juan Cadavid (29) of Santa Ana. Cadavid who has gone by a number of different aliases, and has gone by “Johnny Benitez” since early April, has positioned himself as one of the region’s more prominent fascist leaders after gaining attention for assaulting people in Berkeley on April 15th. Cadavid has coordinated racist anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim events as well as other Proud Boy and FOAK gatherings with the direct involvement and participation of the DIY Division neo-Nazis such as Benjamin Daley.

While steadfastly denying his clear racism and fascist politics, Cadavid is quite fond of pointing out how similarly he looks to the neo-Nazi skinhead character Derek Vinyard of the film American History X. He’s even gone so far as to reenact the brutal “curb stomping” scene from the film. Cadavid is frequently seen posing for photos with the group which includes a number of group photos that DIY Division shared on their own Instagram account.

What’s significant is that the Proud Boys and its founder Gavin McInnes go to great pains to constantly claim that their organization is not racist or fascist and that it’s merely a ‘Western Chauvinist’ club for men of any race. While the idea of western chauvinism is itself a more palpable and less offensive to the mainstream than upfront white supremacy, the clear pattern of racist, misogynist, and violent actions by Cadavid and the Proud Boys is undeniable. Moreover, McInnes has claimed that neo-Nazis “don’t exist anymore.” Not only is this assertion outlandish and undeniably false, but this and other reports have shown clearly the close relationships that exist between McInnes’ Proud Boys and the more outright neo-Nazi types such as DIY Division. What is clear instead, is that both groups need each other. The Proud Boys need the numbers and the muscle of the neo-Nazis, while the neo-Nazis need the cover of pro-Trump groups. 

Recently, members of both the Proud Boys and DIY Division have begun to organize monthly get togethers in Laguna Beach, and are seen in the photo above holding banners that bear the symbol of ‘Identity Generation,’ a white nationalist group in Europe, alongside Trump and American flags. 

The Red Sycophants

Another southern California group that supports and celebrates the actions of DIY Division are the Red Elephants. The Red Elephants are right-wing media group that specializes in publishing the usual endless array of conspiracy theories and pro-Trump bullshit as well as livestreaming right-wing protests and constantly asking for donations.

The group’s primary streamer, Vincent James is personally familiar with members of DIY Division, and has enthusiastically covered and promoted their acts of violence at protests which has included attacks on journalists and photographers. Vincent dubbed Rundo “Based Elbow Man” for his assault on an anti-fascist protester in Huntington Beach. Later in the stream, Vincent is seen posing with with DIY members, praising their actions, and using an image of the assault as a thumbnail for his video titled “ANTIFA ROCKED by Trump Supporters.”

Vincent would later meet up and with Rundo in Berkeley, shake his hand, and proceed to cover his attacks. As members of DIY attacked people, Vincent can be heard on the livestream yelling things like, “Get that fucking cuck!,” as DIY members and other fascists piled on and beat up a black-clad protester. The message from Red Elephants is clear: neo-Nazi violence is to be valorized, meme’d, and promoted.

Crossover Membership with the Hammerskin Nation

The presence of the Hammerskin Nation neo-Nazi organization is clearly apparent in the membership of DIY Division. Members such as Skyler Segeberg (24), Matt Branstetter (25), Spencer Currie (24), and Benjamin Daley (24) are noted for their affiliations with or being patched in members of the organization. The Hammerskin Nation has a long history of white supremacist violence and murder including the massacre of 6 people in a Wisconsin Sikh temple by Wade Michael Page in 2012. 

During DIY Division’s rampage in Berkeley, members such as Daley were frequently seen making the Hammerskin salute which starts out as a closed fist Roman (Nazi) salute and transitions into a gesture of crossed arms with clenched fists in reference to the Hammerskin logo. Additionally, Segeberg and Currie are part of a Hammerskin band named Hate Your Neighbors, and have performed at their gatherings in the past.

Many of these individuals such as Segeberg are also connected with other California and beyond neo-Nazis such as members of the Golden State Skinheads (GSS), whom stabbed 6 anti-fascist and anti-racist protesters in Sacramento on June 26th last year under the banner of the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP). It’s clear that DIY Division as a political collective is working hard to bridge the gap between the more internet-based Alt-Right brand of white nationalism which is targeted to appeal to younger, generally more educated and upper-class white men and the more traditional boots on the ground and street violence which has characterized neo-Nazi skinhead politics.

The Fraternal Order of Scotchgard

Since his meteoric ascension to warrior god status among the nerd Nazis and LARP enthusiasts of the Alt-Right/Lite, Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman has made a lucrative career out of helping his devoted fanbase part with their money through selling merchandise and begging for donations. Soon after his arrest in Berkeley on March 4th and being venerated as a meme, a constant stream of embarrassing and damning revelations were made about him and his life by antifascist researchers and the media alike. Highlights include multiple felony convictions for crimes including robbery, grand theft, and the illegal possession and attempted sale of a shotgun and SKS military caliber rifle as a felon, and perhaps most embarrassing the revelation that his drug of choice is the aerosol fabric protectant Scotchgard.

DIY members were quick to tap into the upsurge of right-wing interest and fandom for Chapman as a result of the Stickman meme, and quickly connected with him and many of the his associates after April 15th. DIY members were added to private Facebook organizing groups created by Chapman and associates such as “Warrior heroes of Berkeley 2.0,” and lavished with huge amounts of praise and shares for their violent actions in Berkeley.

Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, Chapman remains steadfast in his denial that he is a white supremacist, while reality paints a much different picture. Starting with his Facebook page, Chapman likes and follows a variety of Alt-Right, neo-Nazi, and far-Right social media accounts and is constantly dog whistling (more like using a bullhorn) and pandering to his white nationalist fanbase by invoking neo-Nazi tropes such as white genocide and sharing photos of bacon grease coated bullets to kill Muslims. He openly works alongside fascists such as August Invictus and white nationalist personalities like Brittany Pettibone, Baked Alaska, and Lauren Southern, and even has plans to attend a neo-Nazi rally on August 12th in Virginia to provide “security.” Like the Proud Boys, Chapman is a useful tool for neo-Nazis to mainstream and popularize their movement, while they in turn provide numbers and muscle for the ‘Alt-Knights.” 

In the wake of April 15th, images surfaced from the front lines of the Berkeley rally of various individuals making Roman salutes and wearing and displaying neo-Nazi and fascist paraphernalia. While many were horrified, Chapman was quick to pull the “fake news” card and took to social media to claim that these individuals were false flag neo-Nazis that were in reality ‘undercover antifa.’ Especially of concern was an image shot by the reporter Shane Bauer of Mother Jones that shows two individuals making Roman salutes with one of them holding a shield made of skateboard decks and painted with the Black Sun symbol that’s widely used by neo-Nazis.

Chapman’s claims were widely shared by his fanbase, ironically, including by Robert Boman and other DIY members. This was a flagrant attempt at deception on the part of Chapman and in fact, DIY members and Nathan Damigo posed for multiple photos with the two neo-Nazis in question after the Berkeley rally. Considering that Boman and other members continually post neo-nazi material to their social media and openly identify themselves and their collective as fascist, the fact that even they are parroting the denials and conspiracy theories of fascists like Chapman is indicative of just how central their strategy of manipulation and obfuscation is to their politics and methodology for bringing their ideas into the mainstream.

Based Skywalker

Another close Chapman confidant is Luke “Based Skywalker” Dennis (36) of Huntington Beach who is also a Proud Boy and FOAK member. Dennis was arrested along with Chapman on April 15th, and has since remained a key ally of Chapman in southern California. Dennis livestreams under LastRevolutionMedia, and is connected with members of DIY Division such as Benjamin Daley as well as other Proud Boys like Juan Cadavid.

More recently, Dennis, along with other streamers like Vincent James and Tim Pool covered the anti-Muslim protests in San Bernardino organized by ACT for America on June 10th. Taking part in the San Bernardino protest was none other than DIY Division. Footage shot by Dennis and others shows the events of the day where the group attacks a number of counter protesters leaving the rally by running across the street which resulted in a chaotic police chase with DIY members running in every direction. Dennis can be heard on his stream shouting, “Fuck yeah! Get some!,” as a mob led by DIY members chases and assaults counter-protesters for no apparent reason other than they’d caught their attention as the group left the area.

Soon after, the group was met with a half-hearted attempt by the police to halt their attacks. Eventually, at least one of them was detained but later released, unsurprisingly, without charges. Later, once everyone dispersed during attacks had rallied back at the gas station where the rally was originally being held, Rundo and other DIY members are seen again. He turns to Vincent James’ livestream with a big smile and says, “See that? Another victory!”

Post Berkeley

After the Berkeley clashes, it should also be noted that both Lauren Southern, Kyle Chapman, and Baked Alaska all moved closer and closer towards the Alt-Right, white nationalism, and all out neo-Nazism. On June 25th, Baked Alaska, gave a speech along side Nathan Damigo and Richard Spencer at a rally in Washington DC. Alongside Alaska was August Invictus, a fascist organizer in white power circles who also is an organizer with the Proud Boys and the Alt-Knights. Alaska will also appear at a rally with other neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, VA on August 12th. Alaska has continued to share and popularize white nationalist and neo-Nazi talking points, while also decrying anyone that calls him such as “fake news.” Kyle Chapman is also reported to be planning on attending the August 12th rally, doing defense against antifa. Lauren Southern has also moved to work heavily with Generation Identity, a French white nationalist group that along with Southern blocked a boat of refugees from coming onto French soil as part of a publicity stunt. 

Proud Boy chapters have also moved closer and closer to neo-Nazi circles. It has been documented that Proud Boy leader Gavin McInnes speaks regularly with Mike Peinovich of The Right Stuff (TRS) podcast network. McInnes has stated that many Proud Boy chapters are planning on attending the neo-Nazi rally on August 12th, while Mike Peinovich boasts that many Proud Boys are open to white nationalism. 

After Berkeley, members of DIY Division showed up to May Day actions in Los Angeles as well as Lauren Southern’s talk at Cal Poly SLO on May 25th, hoping to provoke more activists on the Left into fighting. Ben Daley of DIY Division who runs a tree removal business based out of Manhattan Beach where he has also employed other members of the group.

Surf Nazis Gotta Go

On a warm and sunny day in late May, DIY members gathered around a public beach fire pit they’d already decorated with the full range of Nazi and white nationalist symbols for a good old fashioned book burning.

They flew the flags of the white nationalist cross, Confederacy, and Black Sun as they tossed into the fire titles like Anne Frank’s diary, a novelization of the film Schindler’s List, and the 9/11 Commission Report along with any other books they deemed “Cultural Marxist” or they associated with Jews that they could get their hands on.

The intentional spectacle of a book burning by the same people promoting their own political violence under the banner of “free speech” and the defensive violence of anti-fascists and anti-racists as oppression – is very telling. It’s highly indicative of the level of commitment that people in this movement actually have to the liberal concepts of free speech and expression. These are the same people attacking peaceful counter-protesters in San Bernardino for “holding different views than them,” a phrase often incessantly repeated by the same people when directly confronted over their practiced violence and white supremacist aggression by antifascists.

It’s clear that with each protest and consequence-free rampage the group carries out, they are emboldened to further up the ante on their aggression and violence. When they first began attacking black-clad antifascists and anarchists or even reporters, they had the overwhelming support of the mainstream of Trump supporters at these events as well as support from white nationalists and fascists on the fringes of the far-Right. Now, as we have seen members of the far-Right mobilizing to attack even liberal ‘impeachment’ permitted rallies, we expect with this new found confidence their targets for violence will increase in scale and scope.

And it is this violence which has also been met with a kind of tacit approval by many liberals who view militant confrontations against the ever growing threat of grassroots fascism as horrific as the actions of the fascists themselves. Meanwhile, in the face of a growing anarchist movement, much of the media has parroted the idea that ‘both extremes’ are equally as bad; while one side fights against dictatorship and genocide, and the other promotes them.

That is to say, in the minds of some liberals, the antifascists brought it upon themselves by engaging in militant and direct action-based tactics when standing up to fascists rolling into their city from all over the country. These ideas serve liberals quite well as they are absolutely not interested in engaging with any real world struggles against the dominant power structures of society, and now find themselves in the crosshairs of a growing fascist movement

In their latest actions, DIY Division has graduated to directly attacking groups of people for simply being associated with a counter-protest against Islamophobia and bigotry. This hasn’t changed the level of enthusiastic support and promotion from the mainstream of Trump supporters and the factions of the right-wing protest movement on the west coast. Thus, despite the constantly parroted excuse that their violence is defensive, is evaporating with their recent attacks and acts of aggression. This signifies a broadening of the range of targets for the group’s violence.

Being a liberal fence sitter and passively holding a sign with an anti-hate message aren’t going to protect you from the violence of neo-Nazis like DIY Division should they be successful in further growing and expanding their movement. They don’t care about your free speech, your moral high ground, or your peaceful protest. They will beat your ass.

What are you going to do when the people that aspire to annihilate you for simply existing as a liberal or leftist, a person of color, a woman refusing to conform to traditional gender roles, a queer, trans or non-gender conforming person, or someone with disabilities are treated with a catch and release policy by the police and State you’ve placed the entirety of your trust in?

There is no confronting the growing threat of grass roots fascism and white nationalism in the US without addressing the root of this problem: the very fabric and foundations of this society. White supremacist violence, be it in the form of neo-Nazis attacking political rallies and people on the street, or the State and capitalism systematically murdering and incarcerating millions of black, brown, indigenous people are both the daily reality of how this system functions. This is why our antifascist politics must not only set out to confront the growing problem of grassroots white nationalism in a direct and practical way, but we must always maintain and pursue a greater revolutionary movement and strategy to transform this society and cut out the very cancerous tumor that secretes infectious discharges like DIY Division.

We stand with all those fighting back against fascism and white supremacy in all it’s societal permutations. Solidarity is the only effective weapon when faced with State repression, and support for our comrades and political prisoners is an inseparable aspect of that solidarity. We encourage all to take up the important task of developing their capacity for self-defense and getting organized towards building the kinds of strong communities that can send violent scum like DIY Division packing.

Archive

Four Local Members of White Supremacy Group Face Federal Charges in Attacks at Political Rallies across California – U.S. Attorney’s Office Central District of California – 24 Oct 2018

Press Release Wednesday, October 24, 2018

          LOS ANGELES – Four Southern California men who allegedly are members of a white supremacy extremist group have been named in a federal criminal complaint that charges them of travelling to political rallies across California, where they violently attacked counter-protesters, journalists and a police officer.

          Three of the four defendants are now in custody, and authorities are continuing to search for the fourth defendant.

          The criminal complaint unsealed today alleges that the four defendants are members of the Southern California-based “Rise Above Movement” (RAM) and that they used the internet “with the intent to organize, promote, encourage, participate in, or carry on riots.”

          The four RAM members allegedly engaged in a series of violent attacks at political rallies in 2017, including events in Huntington Beach, Berkeley and San Bernardino.

          The affidavit in support of the complaint alleges that the men used the internet to coordinate “combat training,” attendance and travel prior to the events, and then to “celebrate their acts of violence in order to recruit members for future events.”

          The three men taken into custody are:

  • Robert Rundo, 28, of Huntington Beach, allegedly a founding member of RAM and the man behind RAM’s Twitter account, who made his first court appearance on Monday, and at a hearing this morning in United States District Court was ordered detained pending trial;

Robert Rundo

  • Robert Boman, 25, of Torrance, who was arrested this morning by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is expected to appear in federal court this afternoon; and
  • Tyler Laube, 22, of Redondo Beach, who also was arrested this morning by the FBI and is expected to appear in court this afternoon.

          The fourth defendant named in the complaint – Aaron Eason, 38, who resides in the Riverside County community of Anza – is currently being sought by federal authorities.

ram 3

          “Every American has a right to peacefully organize, march and protest in support of their beliefs – but no one has the right to violently assault their political opponents,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “The allegations describe an orchestrated effort to squelch free speech as members of the conspiracy travelled to multiple locations to attack those who hold different views. This case demonstrates our commitment to preserve and protect the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.”

Ram 5

          “The safeguarding of Constitutionally-protected activity is at the heart of the FBI’s mission,” said Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “There is no place in our democracy, however, for lawbreaking by individuals who cross the line from protected free speech to violence in the name of extremist ideology.”

          According to the complaint, which charges the four defendants with violating the federal conspiracy and riots statutes:

  • At the Huntington Beach “Make America Great Again” rally on March 25, 2017, members of RAM broke off from the main rally and confronted counter-protesters, where Rundo, Boman and Laube attacked a number of people, including two journalists.
  • In the weeks following this melee, RAM members celebrated the attacks, which were noted on a neo-Nazi website, and solicited others to attend an upcoming rally in Berkeley, as well as combat training to be held in a park in San Clemente.
  • At the Berkeley rally on April 15, 2017, Rundo, Boman and Eason were involved in violent attacks, which resulted in Rundo being arrested after punching a “defenseless person” and a Berkeley Police Officer.
  • In the subsequent months, RAM members celebrated the assaults in Berkeley, which included Boman posting photos of himself attacking people and RAM members engaging in combat training.
  • On June 10, 2017, Rundo and other RAM members attended an “Anti-Islamic Law” rally in San Bernardino, where they participated in violent attacks.

          The case announced today follows the filing of an indictment in federal court in Charlottesville, Virginia that charges four other California RAM members with violating the riots statute during violent altercations at a torch-lit march at the University of Virginia and Unite the Right Rally in August 2017. The affidavit unsealed today in Los Angeles noted the connections between the defendants in both cases.

Ram

          RAM and its members documented and promoted their white supremacy ideology through postings on various internet platforms and through graffiti, including tags found in Irvine. In a video posted online earlier this year and described in the complaint, Rundo said he was “a big supporter of the fourteen,” which is a reference to the “14 words,” a slogan used by white supremacists and neo-Nazis that reads: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

          In the spring of 2018, Rundo and two of the men charged in the Charlottesville case travelled to Europe to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday and to meet with members of other white supremacy extremist groups, according to the complaint.

Ram 8

          “Rundo, Boman, Laube, and Eason, along with other RAM members, have used the internet to prepare to incite and participate in violence at various political events, have committed violent assaults while at those events, and have applauded each other for it and publicly documented their assaults in order to recruit more members to engage in further assaults,” the complaint alleges.

          A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

          If convicted of the conspiracy and riots charges in the complaint, each defendant would face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

          This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

          The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the Redondo Police Department and the Torrance Police Department provided assistance in relation to this morning’s arrests.

          This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David T. Ryan of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section in the National Security Division of the United States Attorney’s Office.

Contact: 
Thom Mrozek Spokesperson/Public Affairs Officer United States Attorney’s Office Central District of California (Los Angeles) 213-894-6947
Press Release Number: 
18-173
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Youtube Video –

Unmasking California’s New White Supremacists

(4:20 min) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fpt3ImXIImY

Impoverished ‘Middle Class’: 50 Percent Of All US Workers Make Less Than $30,533 A Year – Michael Snyder

The middle class in America has been declining for decades, and we continue to get even more evidence of the catastrophic damage that has already been done.  According to the Social Security Administration, the median yearly wage in the United States is just $30,533 at this point.  That means 50 percent of all American workers make at least that much per year, but that also means that 50 percent of all American workers make that much or less per year.  When you divide $30,533 by 12, you get a median monthly wage of just over $2,500.  But of course nobody can provide a middle class standard of living for a family of four for just $2,500 a month, and we will discuss this further below.  So in most households at least two people are working, and in many cases multiple jobs are being taken on by a single individual in a desperate attempt to make ends meet.  The American people are working harder than ever, and yet the middle class just continues to erode.

The deeper we dig into the numbers provided by the Social Security Administration, the more depressing they become.  Here are just a few examples from their official website

-34 percent of all American workers made less than $20,000 last year.

-48 percent of all American workers made less than $30,000 last year.

-59 percent of all American workers made less than $40,000 last year.

-68 percent of all American workers made less than $50,000 last year.

At this moment, the federal poverty level for a family of five is $29,420, and yet about half the workers in the entire country don’t even make that much on a yearly basis.

So can someone please explain to me again why people are saying that the economy is “doing well”?

Many will point to how well the stock market has been doing, but the stock market has not been an accurate barometer for the overall economy in a very, very long time.

And the stock market has already fallen nearly 1,500 points since the beginning of the month.  The bull market appears to be over and the bears are licking their chops.

No matter who has been in the White House, and no matter which political party has controlled Congress, the U.S. middle class has been systematically eviscerated year after year.  Many that used to be thriving may still even call themselves “middle class”, but that doesn’t make it true.

You would think that someone making “the median income” in a country as wealthy as the United States would be doing quite well.  But the truth is that $2,500 a month won’t get you very far these days.

First of all, your family is going to need somewhere to live.  Especially on the east and west coasts, it is really hard to find something habitable for under $1,000 a month in 2018.  If you live in the middle of the country or in a rural area, housing prices are significantly cheaper.  But for the vast majority of us, let’s assume a minimum of $1,000 a month for housing costs.

Secondly, you will also need to pay your utility bills and other home-related expenses.  These costs include power, water, phone, television, Internet, etc.  I will be extremely conservative and estimate that this total will be about $300 a month.

Thirdly, each income earner will need a vehicle in order to get to work.  In this example we will assume one income earner and a car payment of just $200 a month.

So now we are already up to $1,500 a month.  The money is running out fast.

Next, insurance bills will have to be paid.  Health insurance premiums have gotten ridiculously expensive in recent years, and many family plans are now well over $1,000 a month.  But for this example let’s assume a health insurance payment of just $450 a month and a car insurance payment of just $50 a month.

Of course your family will have to eat, and I don’t know anyone that can feed a family of four for just $500 a month, but let’s go with that number.

So now we have already spent the entire $2,500, and we don’t have a single penny left over for anything else.

But wait, we didn’t even account for taxes yet.  When you deduct taxes, our fictional family of four is well into the red every month and will need plenty of government assistance.

This is life in America today, and it isn’t pretty.

In his most recent article, Charles Hugh Smith estimated that an income of at least $106,000 is required to maintain a middle class lifestyle in America today.  That estimate may be a bit high, but not by too much.

Yes, there is a very limited sliver of the population that has been doing well in recent years, but most of the country continues to barely scrape by from month to month.  Out in California, Silicon Valley has generated quite a few millionaires, but the state also has the highest poverty in the entire nation.  For every Silicon Valley millionaire, there are thousands upon thousands of poor people living in towns such as Huron, California

Nearly 40 percent of Huron residents — and almost half of all children — live below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s more than double the statewide rate of 19 percent reported last month, which is the highest in the U.S. The national average is 12.3 percent.

“We’re in the Appalachians of the West,” Mayor Rey Leon said. “I don’t think enough urgency is being taken to resolve a problem that has existed for way too long.”

Multiple families and boarders pack rundown homes, only about a quarter of residents have high school diplomas and most lack adequate health care in an area plagued with diabetes and high asthma rates in one the nation’s most polluted air basins.

One recent study found that the gap between the wealthy and the poor is the largest that it has been since the 1920s, and America’s once thriving middle class is evaporating right in front of our eyes.

We could have made much different choices as a society, but we didn’t, and now we are going to have a great price to pay for our foolishness…

………………

About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist.

Trump Transformed Into 20-Foot-Tall Hulk President After Being Doused With Job-Growth Chemical – Russians Asked to Intervene

WASHINGTON — Still overcome with shock and terror as they described the horrifying scene that had unfolded before them, numerous eyewitnesses confirmed Thursday that, after being accidentally exposed to an experimental job-growth chemical, President Donald Trump  has grotesquely mutated into a 20-foot-tall hulking monster president.

According to federal officials, the grisly metamorphosis took place during a tour of the Labor Department’s underground research and development lab, where a sudden interest rate increase from the Federal Reserve Bank put a pressure overload that caused a vat to rupture, soaking Trump in a highly unstable serum designed to expand the nation’s workforce especially the builders and construction workers who make infrastructure and walls. Sources said the president then underwent rapid, out-of-control growth, leaving him several times larger and uncontrollably aggressive.

“My God, it was horrible—the president let out this awful scream, a look of terror flashed through his eyes, and then his body started getting larger and larger, bursting through his suit coat and shredding his pants,” said Vice President Mike Pence, explaining how the cowering commander-in-chief fell to his knees and started convulsing after being doused, his head lashing back and forth and his voice dropping an octave with each pained, guttural moan. “A Secret Service agent ran over to try to help, but Trump threw him through a wall. After maybe a minute or two, his body became too big for the room, and the ceiling crashed down around us, and we all started running. That’s when we heard him start roaring something about corporate tax policy.”

“The amount of chemical he absorbed was meant to be used over an entire fiscal quarter,” Pence continued. “No man is capable of handling that kind of economic stimulation.”

Authorities at the scene said chunks of limestone and steel flew in every direction as Trump burst through the outer wall of the Labor Department headquarters and began charging west down Constitution Avenue. The rampaging president was seen smashing cars with his fists and tearing down power lines in rage as he made a direct path toward the Federal Reserve Board building, where several police units reportedly opened fire on him only to watch their bullets bounce harmlessly off his impervious skin which look like fish scales, but also like a brick wall.

According to witness accounts, the colossal hulk-like presidential monster then punched down the doors of the building, grabbed cowering Fed chair Jerome Hayden “Jay” Powell by the neck, and demanded in a deafening bellow that she cut interest rates to spur job growth before hurling his flimsy body into the nearby Reflecting Pool.

A call was put through to the Russian Embassy in Washington, and, indeed, directly to Putin in the Kremlin – to see if they could do anything to control Trump.  The Russians disingenuously claimed that they had no influence over Trump, and simply preferred him to H. Clinton. 

Labor Department scientists told reporters that just a single small dose of the chemical Trump was exposed to is capable of producing more than 600,000 jobs per month, enough to counteract even the worst recessions, but in great concentrations the caustic agent can be extremely volatile. Analysts noted that it has never before been deployed in such quantities, adding that the nation’s employment, production, and income outlook under the angry mutant president is beyond the scope of any economic theory.  Not only that, but he could probably build a wall on the border with Mexico himself in a month. 

“With such concentrated wage-stimulating and job-creating power inside of him, God only knows what the president might be capable of,” said Vice President Pence, explaining that Trump likely isn’t yet aware of his own strength, and could become even stronger if he learns to harness the enormous potential for GDP growth within his massive body. “He’s beyond our control now. We can only hope he learns to temper these powers and use them for economic good, because the entire free market is at his mercy.  Hulk-Trump could destroy Capitalism – or build a wall along the southern land border.”

“Dear God, what have we unleashed?” he added. “If he gets out into the private sector, we’re doomed.”

With local law enforcement seemingly powerless to stop him, the towering, muscle-bound president reportedly escaped the Beltway and bolted northward at a tremendous speed. Sources stated that Trump did not stop running until he reached the New York Stock Exchange, where he tore through a wall and began violently ringing the opening bell while screaming about foreign direct investment. According to those present, a visibly enraged Trump demanded more American jobs and less outsourcing, shouting “Buy, buy, buy!” and “No selling!” as he smashed video monitors and crushed any traders who did not immediately comply.

His feats of economic strength growing with his anger, the president is said to have then thrown a city bus into the Lower Manhattan offices of the Securities and Exchange Commission before proceeding to pick up several armored cars and violently shake them until the currency inside fell to the ground and was collected by passing consumers.

“You’re going to get tired of winning,” he bellowed, “you’re going to be winning so much!”

“President Trump has become a monstrous freak of economics, and he must be neutralized,” said U.S. National Guard chief Gen. Frank Grass, who is leading efforts to subdue the genetically altered head of the executive branch. “By carving a swath of destruction across the Northeast, he may have already created more infrastructure-repair jobs than American workers can fill. We have readied numerous armored divisions around the nation’s key financial and manufacturing assets, and we’ll be sending in a squadron of Apache attack helicopters to confront him directly. I have given the order to take him out if necessary.”

At press time, Trump was seen heading toward the Rio Grande and the Mexican border carrying sections of 20-foot titanium walls he collected passing through Pennsylvania. 
“Must build wall!” President Trump is heard to say over and over.  “Must build wall!”  Texas residents have been told to be on the lookout. 

Modern Conventional Weapons are more powerful than the Past US Battlefield Nuclear bombs – by Brian Wang – 6 May 2016

Modern Conventional Weapons are more powerful than the Davey Crockett Battlefield Nuclear bomb

Battlefield nuclear weapons were deployed with US Army forces from 1961 to 1971.

Production of the Davy Crockett battlefield nuclear bomb began in 1956, with a total of 2,100 being made. The weapon was tested between 1962 and 1968 at the Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaiʻi island, with 714 M101 spotter rounds (not live warheads) that contained depleted uranium. The weapon was deployed with US Army forces from 1961 to 1971. It was deactivated from US Army Europe (in West Germany) in August, 1967.

Versions of the W54 warhead were also used in the Special Atomic Demolition Munition project and the AIM-26A Falcon.

Mk-54 (Davy Crockett) – 10 or 20 ton yield, Davy Crockett Gun warhead
Mk-54 (SADM) – variable yield 10 ton to 1 kiloton, Special Atomic Demolition Munition device
W-54 – 250 ton yield, warhead for AIM-26 Falcon air-to-air missile

The XM-388 projectile was launched from the XM-28 recoilless rifle A small, man-portable recoilless rifle, the XM-28 had a range of just 1.24 miles. An improved launcher, the XM-29, had a range of 2.5 miles. Both were operated by a three-man crew and an a M151 jeep could carry the entire system.

The 55th and 56th Infantry Platoons, attached to the Division Artillery of the US 82nd Airborne Division, were the last units equipped with the M-29 Davy Crockett weapons system. These two units were parachute deployed and, with a 1/2 ton truck per section, (3 per platoon) were fully air droppable.

Tactical Nuclear bombs, mines and artillery to wipe large columns of armor

The Davy Crockett recoilless spigot gun was developed in the late 1950s for use against Soviet and North Korean armor and troops in case war broke out in Europe or the Korean peninsula. Davy Crockett Sections were assigned to United States Army Europe and Eighth United States Army armor and mechanized and non-mechanized infantry battalions. During alerts to the Inner German border in the Fulda Gap the Davy Crocketts accompanied their battalions. All V Corps (including 3rd Armored Division) combat maneuver battalions had preassigned positions in the Fulda Gap. These were known as GDP (General Defense Plan) positions. The Davy Crockett sections were included in these defensive deployment plans. In addition to the Davy Crocketts (e.g., assigned to the 3rd Armored Division), V Corps had nuclear artillery rounds and Atomic Demolition Mines, and these were also targeted on the Fulda Gap. On the Korean peninsula, units assigned the Davy Crockett weapons primarily planned to use the passes that funneled armor as killing grounds, creating temporarily deadly radioactive zones roadblocked by destroyed tanks and other vehicles.

A plane with four conventional CBU-97 Sensor Fuzed Weaponcould destroy 160 armored vehicles

The CBU-97 Sensor Fuzed Weapon is a United States Air Force 1,000-pound (450 kg)-class non-guided (freefall) Cluster Bomb Unit (CBU). It was developed and produced by Textron Defense Systems. The CBU-97 in conjunction with the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser guidance tail kit, which converts it to a precision-guided weapon, is designated CBU-105.

The CBU-97 consists of an SUU-66/B tactical munition dispenser that contains 10 BLU-108 submunitions. Each submunition contains four hockey-puck-shaped sensor-fused projectiles called Skeets. These detect target vehicles, such as tanks, armored personnel carriers, trucks and other support vehicles, and fire a kinetic energy penetrator downwards at them.

The 40 Skeets scan an area of 1,500 by 500 feet (460 m × 150 m) using infrared and laser sensors, seeking targets by pattern-matching. When a Skeet finds a target it fires an explosively-formed penetrator to destroy it. If a Skeet fails to find a target, it self-destructs 50 feet (15 m) above the ground; if this fails, a back-up timer disables the Skeet. These features are intended to avoid later civilian casualties from unexploded munitions, and result in an unexploded-ordnance rate of less than 1%.

As the CBU-97 approaches its designated aim-point, the dispenser skin is severed into three panels by an explosive cutting charge. The slipstream peels away these panels, exposing the 10 BLU-108 submunitions. An airbag ejects the forward five submunitions, then five in the aft bay. Following a preset timeline, the submunitions deploy parachutes so that they are spaced about 100 feet (30 m) apart. Then each submunition releases its chute, fires a rocket motor that stops its descent and spins it on its longitudinal axis, and releases Skeets 90 degrees apart, in pairs. Each spinning Skeet makes a coning motion that allows it to scan a circular area on the ground.

The weapon was first deployed, but not used, during Operation Allied Force when NATO entered the Kosovo War. Sensor-fused weapons were first fired in combat during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In 2010 the US government announced the sale to India of 512 CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons. The expected platform is the SEPECAT Jaguar.

Saudi Arabia has also requested the CBU-105. In May 2015, Human Rights Watch reported on, and criticized, the Saudi use of the CBU-105 SFW during the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen

In addition to the United States, the CBU-105 has been ordered by India, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Philippines, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirate

SOURCES – Wikipedia, Popular Mechanics

Archive

New York Times Supports US Secret Internet Police Messages – 23 Oct 2018

You’ve been identified! NYT gushes over mystery US op to stop Russian meddling

You've been identified! NYT gushes over mystery US op to stop Russian meddling
With November’s midterm elections drawing nearer, the Gray Lady has reassured Americans that US Cyber Command has contacted individual “Russian operatives,” to personally warn them against any meddling attempts.

The Russian trolls who allegedly used insincere tweets to influence the multi-billion dollar 2016 presidential election have apparently been put on notice, with Cyber Command contacting “individual Russian operatives” to inform them that Uncle Sam has “identified them” and is “tracking their work,” the New York Times reported, citing anonymous officials who say they were briefed on the operation.

The Russians in question were “not directly threatened” by Cyber Command, the Times’ anonymous sources stressed, adding that the possibility of being targeted by US sanctions would likely act as an effective deterrent.

NYT big brother

Created in 2009 to defend military networks, Cyber Command’s targeting of Russian “operatives” marks the “first known overseas cyber-operation to protect American elections, including the November midterms.”

The Times’ juicy scoop stretches more than 1,500 words, but few other details of this unprecedented operation are given. As the paper notes, its gossipy anonymous sources would not disclose who they were targeting, or how many targets were on their radar, or even the methods that Cyber Command has used to directly contact these alleged Russian meddling masters. Maybe by carrier pigeon? Message in a bottle?

Despite the paper’s vague understanding of facts, the Times teased its readers for an entire seven paragraphs before gushing that “the Cyber Command operations appear relatively measured, especially in comparison with the increasingly elaborate and sophisticated efforts by Russia to use disinformation to sow dissent in the United States.”

A bold claim – especially since there’s no evidence of “sophisticated” Russian efforts to sow dissent in the US, and the New York Times has only the flimsiest understanding of what this Cyber Command operation even entails.

Luckily, the American public need not fret about the technicalities, because the Times also disclosed that US intelligence officials have “concluded that Russia is unlikely to try to hack into voting machines or directly manipulate voting results this year.”

Read more

© Christian Ohde

But Cyber Command can’t take all of the credit for safeguarding American democracy from dangerous tweets: Mass purges of “Russia-linked” accounts on social media have also played an invaluable role. Or at least that’s what Ben Nimmo, a member of the Atlantic Council team that helps Facebook decide who receives the ban hammer, told the Times.

So, to sum up: Cyber Command’s intimidating Russian telegrams and the Atlantic Council’s omnipotent content-screening have ensured that the Russians won’t be able to hack the midterms.

A rather convenient and extremely vague feel-good story, just in time to remind everyone that they should still be afraid of the Russians – even if there is nothing (and never has been) anything to fear.

Sadly, Russia’s prized position as the sneakiest election meddlers on earth is being challenged by China – according to Donald Trump. The US president claims that Beijing is actively trying to remove him from the White House.

Faculty Labor Union Organizing Victories Show Labor Doesn’t Need the Courts On Its Side – by Daniel Moattar – 31 Aug 2018

At University of Iowa and Fordham University, two new faculty unions just won key victories. (Creative Commons)  

 

At the University of Iowa and Fordham University, two new faculty unions recently won key victories by adopting unconventional strategies adapted from service-sector organizing. In contract negotiations for the academic year, contingent faculty at both schools, organizing with SEIU Faculty Forward, mounted high-profile campaigns that pushed administrators to the negotiation table despite opposition to union certification.

In each case, separate concerns over anti-labor laws and courts pushed faculty to bypass NLRB elections and aim straight for the negotiation table. Fordham eventually changed course after its campaign succeeded—winning a promise from the university’s president that he would no longer oppose a union election.

At Fordham, non-tenure-track faculty ended negotiations in July, locking down major raises: Fordham’s lowest-paid instructors will see pay increase by as much as 90 percent with raises of at least 67 percent for all but two departments employing non-tenure-track staff. By the spring of 2021, Fordham’s adjuncts will earn up to $8,000 per class.

“At one point, they offered a $20 increase in pay,” said Ashar Foley, a lecturer in Fordham’s department of Communication and Media Studies. “Our tactic was to get student support, faculty support, to show up at their alumni events and at parent weekends if we didn’t have a contract by the fall.”

Although Fordham professors were prepared to move forward without official recognition, faculty and community pressure led Fordham to accept contingent faculty’s right to organize—paving the way for a vote to unionize.

“Fordham is in the public eye a lot,” Foley said. “We made it show that we would go to the public with our demands. As negotiations progressed, the tone changed.

Then, on August 6, contingent faculty—many of whom previously lacked health insurance and sick leave—won a range of new benefits. Faculty hired for at least a full year will now receive fully-funded healthcare for themselves and their dependents—along with retirement contributions and other insurance coverage, including life and disability.

The wins came after several actions targeting Iowa’s administration, especially controversial president Bruce Harreld, one of the state’s best-paid public servants. Harreld, who had no prior academic experience, entered the administration from the corporate sector despite a faculty vote of no confidence. In a series of actions, faculty and supporters marched on campus, staked Harreld’s 12,000-square-foot official residence with yard signs, and staged a sit-in in Harreld’s office. After 24 hours, the union ended the sit-in—slated to last three days—when administrators caved.

“I guess we were a thorn in his side,” said Faye Bartram, a visiting assistant professor in Iowa’s history department. Bartram says her new contract will help her address health issues that affect her teaching. “Now I’ll have full health insurance,” she said, “plus life, disability, dependent coverage, and accrued sick leave. We had none of that beforehand. It’s good for my health, for my teaching, and it’s a lot of peace of mind.”

“Iowa has really extensive anti-bargaining laws,” said Alex Niemi, a visiting instructor in Russian. “We’ve just found other ways to make our voices heard. I’d say that it could be a model for other people who live in right-to-work states.”

Charting a new course

Labor board certification, which would have required Iowa’s administrators to negotiate with faculty, comes with growing risks and restrictions. With the NLRB now dominated by conservative appointees—including two Trump picks—university administrators have every incentive to mount legal challenges, a problem University of Chicago graduate instructors faced earlier this year.

That can lead to drawn-out hearings, drain union funds, and, with anti-union NLRB appointees, lead to court decisions that entirely restrict bargaining rights, like the NLRB’s 2004 Brown University ruling that graduate instructors had no right to a union.

“We’re facing a next-level degree of intransigence from the state, and it’s giving license to a number of university administrations to mess with adjuncts and graduate students a little bit more,” said Cedric de Leon, director of the Labor Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “This includes universities that see themselves as very liberal, but on labor are quite happy to let the Trump NLRB adjudicate their union drives.”

In Iowa, harsh restrictions on public employees bar faculty from bargaining on a wide range of topics, and only require negotiations on extremely limited wage increases. Iowa contingent faculty’s gains would have been impossible to win through the state-sanctioned process.

At Fordham, a Jesuit institution, unionizing faculty initially didn’t want to give administrators the chance to argue for a broadened religious exemption before the NLRB, as a pro-management decision could have had serious repercussions for unions at other universities including Loyola, DePaul and Georgetown. Fordham’s successful campaign, and administrators’ agreement to drop opposition, points to a workaround. Public pressure, not sympathetic judges, kept administrators from expanding the religious exemption in academia.

“For the most part, labor board elections have been really stacked against workers, Trump or no Trump,” de Leon said. “A lot of strategies that organizers are using now at Fordham and Iowa are strategies that the United Farm Workers used in the 1960s—and I don’t think it’s an accident, because farmworkers didn’t have the legal right to organize in California, either!”

A more militant future

The campaigns at Iowa and Fordham are part of a growing wave of confrontational direct actions by educators nationwide, including strikes by public-school teachers in Arizona, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, walkouts by teachers in Colorado and adjuncts at Loyola University Chicago, and a contingent faculty sit-in at the University of Michigan.

At the City University of New York, adjuncts are demanding the same $7,000 per-class wage as Fordham faculty. In Chicago, non-tenure-track faculty at the University of Chicago and Loyola University Chicago have won recent raises and contractual reforms.

“What you are starting to see is the spread of non-normative direct action,” de Leon says. “As the collective bargaining framework becomes dismantled through right-to-work laws and other draconian legal regimes, you’re going to have more militancy, more direct action, more strikes.”

The federal acts regulating collective bargaining are part of a long-standing compromise designed to temper labor militancy and reduce work stoppages. De Leon believes the Right, eager to tear up those deals, is shooting itself in the foot.

“They think they’re on to a strategy,” he said. “But what happens then? People will say, ‘If the legal framework won’t let me do this, the hell with the legal framework.’”

As faculty unions ramp up their militancy—and look to expand—de Leon emphasizes the importance of field-testing new strategies. “If you keep going to the well, they’re going to cotton on and figure out something to beat you,” he says.

Relative to their bosses and tenured colleagues, contingent faculty are younger, more diverse, and more often women: the frontline workers of higher education. For de Leon and others, union fights like those at Iowa or Fordham are about the strategies that new unions and young workers are using to revitalize labor—strategies that, so far, are netting wins.

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London: Debate – MIT professor accuses ‘independent’ citizen journalist web site Bellingcat’s Higgins of enabling war criminals to walk free in Syria – 21 Oct 2018

MIT professor accuses Bellingcat’s Higgins of enabling war criminals to walk free in Syria (VIDEO)
A debate between Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins and MIT Professor Theodore Postol on the alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria in April 2017 got heated as the two accused each other of covering up war crimes.
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The opponents met on the grounds of the Center for Investigative Journalism’s Conspiracy conference in London on Saturday, engaging in a bitter war of words. Not that anyone expected the meeting to be peaceful, given how Higgins earlier refused to meet the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and former scientific adviser for the Pentagon, simply calling him “an idiot.”

 

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Excerpts from the debate have been posted on social media.“Ted, have you found anything useful in Eliot’s work?” the moderator of the debate asked. “No,” he replied shortly, sparking laughter from the audience.

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Bellingcat’s chief was seemingly offended by such an evaluation, launching a bitter personal attack on Postol … only to be immediately returned the favor.

“I think that Ted’s work is a disgrace. It’s being used to deny war crimes,” Higgins stated boldly. “And I think it’s absolutely disgusting.”

“You fabricate the data and arguments. You are essentially causing people, who might have committed a war crime, to go free,” Postol replied in a calm manner of speech as opposed to Higgins’ agitated reaction.

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The full video of the talk which includes both side’s technical assessment of the incident is not available as of yet. However, people who were present at the conference pointed out that “Eliot demonstrated that he had no real expertise — or any kind of real authority on the subject: not political, not scientific, not analytic or even personal.”

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Eliot Higgins confronted by questions of CIA and MI6 funding https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oLfNr4JjeI (16:34 min) 9 Oct 2018

Why Kodak Died and Fujifilm Thrived: A Tale of Two Film Companies – ‘From the outside, it appeared that Kodak deep down just really didn’t want to survive’ – by Oliver Kmia – 19 Oct 2018

The Kodak moment is gone, but today Fujifilm thrives after a massive reorganization. Here is a detailed analysis based on firsthand accounts from top executives and factual financial data to understand how and why the destinies of two similar companies went in opposite directions.

The Situation before the Film Crisis: A Profitable and Secure Market

Even though Kodak and Fujifilm produced cameras, their core business was centered on film and post-processing sales. According to Forbes, Kodak “gladly gave away cameras in exchange for getting people hooked on paying to have their photos developed — yielding Kodak a nice annuity in the form of 80% of the market for the chemicals and paper used to develop and print those photos.”

Inside Kodak, this was known as the “silver halide” strategy named after the chemical compounds in its film. It was a fantastic success story. This business strategy was similar to Gillette’s or that of printer manufacturers: give away razors or printers to make money on blades and ink cartridges. Indeed, Fujifilm introduced the disposable 35mm camera to the masses in 1986 before being joined by Kodak in 1988. Film was everything to them.

In 2000, just before the digital transition, sales related to film accounted for 72% of Kodak revenue and 66% of its operating income against 60% and 66% for Fujifilm.

Photo film is made of a fine-tuned combination of various technologies and requires a careful manufacturing process. A quick look at the cross section of a color film reveals that on a clear base film (TAC), there are 20 evenly coated layers, each sensitive to the three primary colors of light, red, blue and green. Each of these overlapping layers is only one micron thick.

The CEO of Fujifilm, Mr. Shigetaka Komori explains in his book that “in addition to film formation and high-precision coating, there are grain formation, function polymer, nano-dispersion, functional molecules, and redox control (oxidation of the molecule). Inherent in all these is very precise quality control.”

Willy Shih, former vice president of Kodak (1997-2003) also confirms that “Color film was an extremely complex product to manufacture.” The film roll “had to be coated with as many as 24 layers of sophisticated chemicals: photosensitizers, dyes, couplers, and other materials deposited at precise thicknesses while traveling at 300 feet per minute. Wide rolls had to be changed over and spliced continuously in real time; the coated film had to be cut to size and packaged, all in the dark.”

Mr. Komori remembers that back in the day, there were at one time 30 or 40 producers of monochrome photo film in existence globally but many of these companies were confronted by an insurmountable technical wall with the advent of color film. “With film, the entry barriers were high. Only two competitors, Fujifilm and Agfa-Gevaert, had enough expertise and production scale to challenge Kodak seriously,” Shih said.

The film business was relatively secure and profitable. The market was animated for decades by the Fuji-Kodak duel, while Agfa and Konica played in the second and third league. Each company had prominent shares on their domestic market which generated a continuous and safe stream of revenue despite temporary price wars like the one launched by Fuji against Kodak in the 80s and 90s.

The Consequences of the Digital Revolution: A “Crappy” and Vanishing Business

In 2001, the film sales peaked worldwide but as the president of Fujifilm remembers: “a peak always conceals a treacherous valley.” First, the market began shrinking very slowly, then picked up speed and finally plunged at the rate of twenty or thirty percent a year. In 2010, worldwide demand for photographic film had fallen to less than a tenth of what it had been only ten years before.

But, initially, the market didn’t vanish, it changed. Following the internet and personal computer democratization of the 90s, consumers started to purchase digital cameras. Unfortunately, for film manufacturers, the transition from analog to digital imaging represented tremendous difficulties. First, semiconductor technology platform had nothing to do with film manufacturing.

But most importantly, as the former vice president of Kodak explains: “The broad applicability of the technology platform meant that a good engineer could buy all the building blocks and put together a camera. These building blocks abstracted almost all the technology required, so you no longer needed a lot of experience and specialized skills. Suppliers selling components offered the technology to anyone who would pay, and there were few entry barriers.”

In other words, the digital era was the exact opposite of the comfortable “silver halide” business model where a few players shared a secured market with good margins. The core business of film and post-processing disappeared, but the commercialization of digital cameras didn’t make up for the loss. In 2006, the CEO of Kodak, Antonio Perez was quoted calling digital cameras a “crappy business.”

Why? Because all of a sudden, Kodak and Fujifilm were forced to leave their quasi-duopoly and compete against dozens of companies in the low margin business of digital cameras. Unlike color films, anyone could put a sensor and processor together and introduce a product to the market. And that’s precisely what happened. As Yukio Shohtoku, retired executive vice president of Panasonic said to his Kodak counterpart, “Modularization makes consumer products, our consumer products, a commodity.”

This explains how a California surfer could appear out of nowhere and take the consumer video recorder market by storm as the CEO of GoPro did before being overrun, in turn, by cheaper Chinese electronics manufacturers.

A quick look at Kodak’s finance shows this situation. In the early 2000s, Kodak managed to maintain its level of sales, but the profits of the group plunged in the negative zone. In the 90s, Kodak Sales were oscillating between 13 and 15 billion with average net earnings of 5-10%. In 2000, the company generated $1.4 billion of profit and $800 million in 2002. After that, the finance of the Rochester based corporation suffers a long agony leading to bankruptcy filling in 2012. The drop is especially sharp after 2006.

The issue was not about selling cameras, Kodak sold plenty of digital cameras. In 2005, Kodak captured 21.3% of the US market share and emerged first in the digital camera segment against its Japanese rivals. That year, the US group managed to grow its sales by 15%.

Unfortunately, the sales were not as good worldwide. Kodak reached an early lead in the market and had a 27% market share by 1999. But that slipped to 15% by 2003 and 7% by 2010, as Kodak ceded ground to Canon, Nikon and others.

The main problem was that Kodak was not making money with digital cameras. It was bleeding cash. According to a Harvard case study, it lost $60 for every digital camera it sold by 2001.

This issue appears clearly in the financial reports. Whereas in 2000 Kodak made an operating income of $1.4 billion out 10.2 billion sales in the photography division, the profitability quickly vanished afterward.

In 2006, the official annual report started to separate the sales figure from the digital and film segment. As we can see in the chart below, Kodak initially maintained a somehow decent level of revenue from the photography division. It even managed to replace declining film sales with digital imaging revenue, but this activity was making losses. Eventually, Kodak had to file for bankruptcy in 2012. The previous year, film sales only generated an operating income of $34 million while the digital camera division lost ten times that ($349 million loss).

The big picture was not better for Fujifilm as it faced the same storm as its American competitor. The president of Fujifilm remembers that “what we could not account for in our projections was the speed of the digital onslaught. The photographic film market had shrunk much faster than we expected.” Between 2005 and 2010, the sales of color film declined from 156 billion yen to 33 billion while the photo finishing segment shrunk from ¥89 billion to ¥33 billion. Not only did the Japanese company overcome the crisis, but it thrived in this challenging environment. How?

How Did Fuji Overcome the Crisis and Thrive?

The critical element in Fujifilm’s success is diversification. In 2010, the film market dropped to less than 10% compared to 2000. But Fujifilm, which once made 60% of its sales with film, diversified successfully and managed to grow its revenue by 57% over this ten years period while Kodak sales felt by 48%.

Faced with a sharp decline in sales from its cash cow product Fujifilm acted swiftly and changed its business through innovation and external growth. Under the decisive grip of Shigetaka Komori, appointed president in 2000, Fujifilm quickly carried out massive reforms. In 2004, Komori came up with a six-year plan called VISION 75 in reference to the 75th anniversary of the group. The goal was simple and consisted of “saving Fujifilm from disaster and ensuring its viability as a leading company with sales of 2 or 3 trillion yen a year.”

First, the management restructured its film business by downscaling the production lines and closing redundant facilities. In the meantime, the research and development departments moved to a newly built facility to unify the research efforts and promote better communication and innovation culture among engineers. But realizing that the digital camera business would not replace the silver halide strategy due to the low profitability of his sector, Fujifilm performed a massive diversification based on capabilities and innovation.

Even before launching the VISION 75 plan, the president ordered the head of R&D to take inventory of Fujifilm technologies, its seeds and compared them with the demand of the international market. After a year and a half of technological auditing, the R&D team came up with a chart listing the all existing in-house technologies that could match future markets.

The president saw that “Fujifilm technologies could be adapted for emerging markets such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and highly functional materials.” For instance, the company was able to predict the boom of LCD screens and invested heavily in this market. Leveraging the photo film technologies, the engineer created FUJITAC, a variety of high-performance films essential for making LCD panels for TV, computers, and smartphones. Today, FUJITAC owns 70% of the market for protective LCD polarizer films.

The company also targeted unexpected markets like cosmetics. The rationale behind cosmetics comes from the 70 years of experience in gelatin, the chief ingredient of photo film which is derived from collagen. Human skin is seventy percent collagen, to which it owes its sheen and elasticity. Fujifilm also possessed deep knowhow in oxidation, a process connected both to the aging of human skin and to the fading of photos over time. Thus, Fujifilm launched a makeup line in 2007 called Astalift.

When promising technologies that could match growing markets didn’t exist internally, Fujifilm proceeded by merger and acquisition (M&A). To develop new business ventures, the group made active use of M&A. By acquiring companies that already penetrated a market and combine their assets with Fujifilm’s expertise, the Japanese firm could release new products to the market quickly and easily.

Based on technological synergies, it acquired Toyoma Chemical in 2008 to enter the drug business. Delving further into the healthcare segment, Fujifilm also brought a radiopharmaceutical company now called Fujifilm RI Pharma. It also reinforced its position in existing joint ventures such as Fuji-Xerox which became a consolidated subsidiary in 2001 after Fujifilm purchased an additional 25% share in this partnership.

In 2010, nine years after the peak of film sales, Fujifilm was a new company. Whereas in 2000, 60% of its sales and two-thirds of the profit came from the film ecosystem, in 2010 the Imaging division accounted for less than 16% of the revenue. Fujifilm managed to ride out of the storm via a massive restructuration and diversification strategy.

Why Did Kodak Fail?

A lot has been said about Kodak failure to reform itself. The usual story describes a mummified company stuck in the analog era and incapable of adapting to the digital world. Some explained that Kodak suffered from Myopia and didn’t see the digital camera coming while other said that complacency was the cause of the problem since the senior management refused to accept the inevitable even though they were aware of the incoming digital Tsunami.

While this narrative carries a certain truth, it is simplified and incomplete. As mentioned previously, Kodak did build a decent range of digital cameras and managed to rank first in the US sales for a while in the early 2000s. Historically, Kodak was the inventor of the digital camera when it developed this technology back in 1975. The Rochester company poured billions of dollars in the digital R&D, and like Fujifilm, performed a massive downscaling effort that also cost billions.

According to the Harvard Business Review: “CEO George Fisher (1993-1999) knew that digital photography might eventually invade, or even replace, Kodak’s core business. Doubtless, he and other senior executives were tempted to ignore it. To their credit, they resisted that temptation. Fisher rallied the troops and aggressively invested more than $2 billion in R&D for digital imaging.” An effort pursued by the next CEO Dan Carp who vowed to invest two-thirds of the company’s research and development budget on digital projects.

The former president of Kodak’s consumer digital business adds that “Kodak management has been criticized for compromising its digital efforts because it wanted to protect film. But the criticism is overblown. Responding to recommendations from management experts, from the mid-1990s to 2003 the company set up a separate division (which I ran) charged with tackling the digital opportunity. Not constrained by any legacy assets or practices, the new division was able to build a leading market share position in digital cameras.”

In reality, Kodak failed for the same reason that Fujifilm succeeded: diversification. But for Kodak, it was the lack of diversification that condemned this firm to fade. Unlike Fujifilm which recognized early on that photography was a doomed business and tackled new markets with a completely different portfolio, Kodak made a wrong analysis and persisted in the decaying photo industry.

Essentially, it’s not that Kodak didn’t want to change, it tried hard, but it did it wrong. Faced with a radical market disruption, it reacted energetically, but doing something and doing the right thing is different. As Kodak’s former Vice President explains, “Kodak management didn’t fully recognize that the rise of digital imaging would have dire consequences for the future of photo printing.” In the late 90s, Kodak hastily installed 10,000 digital kiosks in Kodak’s partner stores. Simply put, Kodak tried to replicate the silver halide business model in the digital world. At least, the printing part of it.

Unfortunately, “the business they built failed in the traditional market and also failed to find a new market. Industry outsiders—Hewlett-Packard, Canon, and Sony—did a better job. They launched products based on home storage and home printing capabilities and, in the process, uncovered new demand for convenience, storage, and selectivity” explained the Harvard Business Review in 2002. Two years later, Facebook was born, and soon after that, prints became a thing of the past. The majority of consumers were not going to print pictures anymore. Instead, they shared them online.

Kodak understood the stake of digitalization, invested in the technology and foresaw that pictures would be shared online. For instance, they acquired a photo sharing website called Ofoto in 2001. Unfortunately, the company used Ofoto to make people print digital pictures. They failed in realizing that online photo sharing was the new business, not just a way to expand the printing sales.

But the decline of prints came with difficulties on the mass market for standalone digital cameras. According to Mr. Shih, head of the Consumer Digital Imaging division at Kodak, the position of his newly created division “was essentially decimated soon thereafter when smartphones with built-in cameras overtook the market.” As soon as 2003, camera phones outsold digital still cameras worldwide, and the smartphone sales grew at a much faster pace than the demand for point and shoot camera. Like the CEO of Kodak said in 2006, it was a “crappy business.” The average price of a digital camera in 2000 was $393, but this figure plunged to $78 in 2012.

No matter how hard Kodak tried; photo prints became a minor market while the entry-level camera was a low-profit game dominated by other players. In this environment, the survivors were semiconductor manufacturers, designing and selling technological modules for camera or smartphone (Sony) or DSLR makers like Canon and Nikon which specialized in the high-end niche of interchangeable lens cameras. Kodak was neither of those as it only sold basic cameras.

To make matters worse, “Kodak withdrew early on from developing and manufacturing its own digital cameras to rely on OEM manufacturers instead. Not having its own technology such as sensor and image processing put Kodak at a considerable disadvantage when the digital race began in earnest” explains the CEO of Fujifilm, Mr. Komori.

Surprisingly, Kodak persisted in chasing this crappy business. While Fujifilm invested heavily in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector to reduce its exposure to the challenging photo industry, Kodak sold its highly profitable Healthcare Imaging branch in 2007 to put more resources into its losing consumer camera division. The group pocketed $2.35 billion from the sale, but analysts said it was a bad move to get out of the business when baby boomers were about to retire in droves, and demand for X-rays would increase. For the CEO of Fujifilm, getting rid of this profitable healthcare division was a “fatal mistake.”

Why did Kodak leaders make such a mistake? Why did they persist to capture a vanishing low margin business when other companies had a technological edge over them?

“In law, we call it, a bird that likes to fly backward. Because it’s more comfortable looking where it’s been than where it’s going,” said Dan Alef, the author of a biography on George Eastman (founder of Kodak).

Retrospectively, Mr. Shih, the former VP of Kodak thinks that the company “could have tried to compete on capabilities rather than on the markets it was in” like Fujifilm did but “this would have meant walking away from a great consumer franchise. That’s not the logic that managers learn at business schools, and it would have been a hard pill for Kodak leaders to swallow.”

The CEO of Fujifilm confirms this statement and lists inertia as the first reason of Kodak’s downfall. “It was the premier company for so long,” he said, adding that “This I believe, made it slow to adapt. From the outside, it appeared that Kodak deep down just really didn’t want to.”

By contrast, Fujifilm, which was always the challenger in the shadow of Kodak, learned to be bold and innovating to close the gap with the historic leader. As a necessity, its corporate culture was more adventurous and prone to risk. For instance, Fujifilm opened factories in the USA in the 80s, and it dared to challenge the Kodak marketing empire on its backyard when it won the rights to sponsor the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Conclusion

Winston Churchill once said that “History is always written by the winners.” Post-crisis analysis is always a comfortable exercise, and plenty of consultants and business teachers love to mention Kodak as a case study for poor management performance. But history is also based on contingencies. Kodak sold its photo-sharing website Ofoto as part of its bankruptcy plan for less than $25 million in April 2012. That same month, Facebook purchased Instagram for $1 billion. In an alternate universe, Ofoto could have become the leading online image sharing platform.

The opposite is true for Apple. Today, who remembers this elitist firm was on the verge of bankruptcy not so long ago? In 1997, after 12 years of financial loss, Microsoft and Steve Job came to the rescue. Worried to be viewed as a monopoly without competition from Apple, Microsoft invested $150 million in the dying Apple. The now trillion dollars company came that close to disappearing.

But despite all their efforts, Kodak CEO’s Fisher, Carp, and Pérez were no Steve Job and history wasn’t on their side. In the heat of the action, when the company was losing billions of dollars, Kodak executives did what they could. In his book, the CEO of Fujifilm talks about leadership and says that the number two leader “uses a Bamboo sword, number one uses steel.”

Mr. Komori meant that when executive leaders fight with “steel swords, to lose means to die” because their decisions have strategic consequences over the future of the company. They can’t afford to be wrong. He remembers how he decided to conduct a massive investment in the FUJITAC film business for LCD screens at a time when no one knew for sure if Plasma technology which didn’t require film was not going to beat the LCD technology. Uncertain about the outcome, he decided to launch four production lines for LCD film when his managers wanted to start with one.

As a top executive, Komori recalled having many “sleepless nights,” but diversification demanded courage and decisive actions. History was on his side, and this bold move, typical of the Fujifilm philosophy paid off. Today FUJITAC controls 70% of this market worldwide.

Some say Kodak made the mistake that George Eastman, its founder, avoided twice before, when he gave up a profitable dry-plate business to move to film and when he invested in color film even though it was demonstrably inferior to black and white film (which Kodak dominated). However, with the advent of the digital era, it was not about making an evolution in the same industry, it was a matter of conducting a revolution: dropping the crappy digital photo industry and using the internal know-how to diversify in other markets.

Unlike Fujifilm, Kodak couldn’t achieve this vital revolution. When the founder of Kodak, George Eastman, committed suicide in 1932 at the age of 77, he left a note saying “My work is done.” But this time, the work wasn’t done at Kodak.


About the author: Oliver Kmia is an award-winning filmmaker specialized in time-lapse, hyperlapse, and aerial videography. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Kmia also works with several drone manufacturers as a marketing and technical consultant. You can find more of his work on his Instagram and Facebook.

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Please Remember Not to Vote! – by C.J. Hopkins – 15 Oct 2018

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So, it’s three weeks before the US midterm elections, and it looks like we have got ourselves a horse race! That’s right, folks, once again, it’s time to start playing with those forecast maps on Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight, and obsessively following the fluctuating poll numbers of congressional candidates you have never heard of competing in districts you couldn’t locate if someone held a gun to your head. You need to start doing this immediately, if not sooner, as the stakes in these midterms could not be higher. Nothing less than the continued existence of “American democracy” hangs in the balance, so the ruling classes need every last one of us to get out there and vote for somebody!

The fact that it only marginally matters who that somebody that you vote for is should not dissuade you from voting for somebody. Voting for somebody is your civic duty, and is no less important than rooting for a sports team, or maintaining a personal favorite color, or celebrity, or brand of hemorrhoid creme. Remember, if you don’t vote for somebody, somebody else is going to win, and we can’t afford to let that happen!

Now, your choices this year are particularly exciting, despite the fact that they are exactly the same as in every other US election since approximately the 1970s. Yes, that’s right, once again, it’s the Transgender Panethnic Communists of Color versus the Old White Cisnormal Capitalist Nazis, and what a spectacle it promises to be! The Old White Cisnormal Capitalist Nazis (hereinafter the “OWCCN”) currently control … well, pretty much everything (i.e., the House, the Senate, and executive branch), and so the Transgender Panethnic Communists of Color (hereinafter the “TPCoC”) are hungry, and are looking for some serious payback after getting their butts kicked in 2016. Rumor has it, the TPCoC are preparing to unleash a “Blue Tsunami” on vulnerable OWCCN incumbents, take control of the House of Representatives, and then not impeach the ass clown President they’ve been telling everyone for the last two years is both a traitorous Russian intelligence asset and the resurrection of Adolf Hitler.

And, if that isn’t exciting enough for you already, they’ve got all kinds of other life-and-death issues to emotionally pressure you into picking a team to fanatically root for on social media, and then getting out and voting for somebody. How blatantly to humiliate illegal immigrants, how affluent you have to be to obtain an abortion, how much interest banks can charge when you pay for your chemo with an Amazon card, and which pronouns law enforcement officers are required to use to refer to people whose homes they barge into and unintentionally murder, are just a few of the many “hot-button” questions requiring your democratic input.

Other questions, like whether to invade or just strategically bomb Iran or Syria, or some other non-ball-playing Middle East country, or pour billions more in military aid into Israel, or sell billions in weapons to Saudi Arabia, or foment a coup in Venezuela, or maintain almost eight hundred military outposts in over seventy foreign countries all around the world, are questions that do not require your input. The global capitalist ruling classes, the corporations they own and operate, their friends in the government and the intelligence agencies, and the corporate media will take care of all that. Same goes for those Wall Street banks, and the next looming global financial crisis, and those mass extinctions, and this wacky weather. The grown-ups with the fancy suits and haircuts are handling all that complicated stuff. You just worry about all those other issues, and get out there and vote for somebody!

Seriously, though, for those unfamiliar with the ins and outs of U.S. politics, our election cycle, and these midterm elections, and thus do not have the slightest idea what I’m even referring to, here’s what’s going on in a nutshell …

On November 6, 2018, Americans will be returning to the polls to exercise their inalienable right to choose between two corporate-financed, ruling class-vetted political stooges competing for the chance to pretend to represent them in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and in various gubernatorial, municipal, and somewhat lesser distinguished chambers. A selection of non-ruling-class-vetted candidates will also appear on a handful of ballots. Americans will be free to vote for such candidates, as long as they realize they are just wasting their time, and possibly damaging the “serious” candidates, which the corporate media will remind them they are doing at every available opportunity.

See, unlike in backward European countries, where some semblance of a parliament still exists, and there are actual campaign finance restrictions and limits on televised campaign advertising, in the United States, where everyone is free, voting for non-ruling-class-vetted candidates, in a midterm or any other election, is about as effective as voting for a sandwich … or for, you know, some narcissistic billionaire ass clown who swears he is going to “drain the swamp,” and build “a beautiful wall,” or whatever. The system is designed to guarantee that no matter which ruling class stooge you vote for, and even if you vote for a character like Trump just to stick it to the establishment for once, it makes no difference … or, OK, very little difference.

The reason for this is not a big mystery. When a seat in the Senate goes for ten million dollars and a seat in the House for over a million, and there are no real restrictions on campaign financing, and the corporate-owned media decide in advance which candidates will be given airtime, and considered “serious” by the mainstream pundits who work for the handful of corporations that own the vast majority of newspapers, television and radio stations, and internet platforms that control the flow of information to the American public … well, it would kind of be a little odd, wouldn’t it, if authentic anti-ruling-class candidates were allowed to enter and compete in that system?

Most Americans understand this, which is why nearly half of them do not vote. It’s humiliating enough to be forced to live, and attempt to support a family, and so on, in a savage, neoliberal marketplace with virtually no social cohesion whatsoever, and in which the only real operative value is money, without also having to debase themselves by participating in the simulation of democracy that the capitalist ruling classes need to maintain in order to pretend that they are not just social parasites with a lot of goons and guns.

Which brings me to the point of this essay. See, normally, I try like hell to avoid telling people what to do in my columns, but, after my last one, a number of readers wrote in asking for advice, so I’m going to make an exception, just this once.

Here’s my advice. You’re not going to like it.

Do not vote. For anyone. At all. Tell all your friends not to vote for anyone. Join the hundreds of millions of Americans who refuse to participate in the simulation of democracy. Take time off from work to vote, and then do not vote. Go see a movie, or have lunch with someone you haven’t seen in a while, or take a nice, long walk in the woods or something. Whatever you do, do not vote. Seriously. Please stop voting for these people. They’re not your friends. They mean you ill. They will shake your hand, kiss your baby, then sell you to the first pharmaceutical lobbyist, or military industrial lobbyist, or Israeli or Saudi Arabian lobbyist, that waltzes into their office with a check, or that threatens to turn their voters against them.

You probably think I’m kidding. I’m not. Do not vote in these midterm elections. Or in any other American elections. Not while the system remains as it is. If you really want to vote, move to Europe, where at least there are still parliamentary structures, and a decent variety of political parties, and some restrictions on campaign financing and advertising. All you’re doing when you vote in America is reifying a simulation of democracy, and so perpetuating the system as it is.

Oh, and while you’re at it, if you happen to work for any of those pharmaceutical companies, or any of those weapons manufacturers, or their suppliers, or for an investment bank, or a hedge fund, or private equity firm, or any other company, corporation, firm, consultancy, or department of government that is central to keeping the American political and economic system going as it is, quit your job and do something else. Seriously, go into the office today (or get up from your desk right now) and quit, and go find something else to do with the gift of your sentient life on this planet. I realize that might be a scary proposition, but that’s what it’s going to take to change things, a lot of people deciding they have had it and are not going to play the game anymore.

That’s pretty much all the advice I’ve got. Sorry … I told you you weren’t going to like it.

C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23, is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant. He can reached at cjhopkins.com or consentfactory.org

Very Few Jobs Created from Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia – By Alexia Fernández Campbell (Vox) 17 Oct 2018

Trump says selling weapons to Saudi Arabia will create a lot of jobs. That’s not true.

The impact of foreign arms sales on the US economy is minuscule.

Newly graduated Saudi air force officers march in front of F-15 fighter jets at King Salman airbase in Riyadh on January 25, 2017. American defense companies sell fighter jets, missiles, and other equipment to the Saudi military.
Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images

President Donald Trump wants America to think that tons of US jobs depend on the sale of US military weapons to Saudi Arabia and other shady regimes. But they really don’t.

The president has been pushing back against public pressure to cancel weapon sales to Saudi Arabia in light of recent news that Saudi leaders may have ordered the assassination of a US resident and journalist who wrote for the Washington Post. Jamal Khashoggi, who fled the kingdom in 2017, often criticized Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for jailing hundreds of journalists and activists and for engaging in a brutal war in Yemen.

Khashoggi’s apparent assassination two weeks ago at a Saudi consulate in Turkey has fractured US relations with the kingdom, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress have urged the president to consider imposing sanctions on the country.

Trump, though, has downplayed the evidence linking the crown prince (who is also known as MBS) to Khashoggi’s apparent murder, and has made it clear that he really, really doesn’t want to stop selling weapons to the gulf monarchy.

His reason? Too many American jobs depend on US arms sales to the kingdom. He repeated that claim during an interview that aired on CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday:

“They are ordering military equipment. Everybody in the world wanted that order. Russia wanted it, China wanted it, we wanted it. We got it … I don’t wanna hurt jobs,” he said.

But as it turns out, canceling weapons sales to Saudi Arabia won’t really hurt US jobs much. There aren’t that many American workers making weapons for the Pentagon, much less Saudi Arabia, and MBS isn’t buying enough weapons to put a dent in the US economy anyway.

Overall, the private US defense industry does directly employ a lot of US workers — about 355,500 in 2016, according to the most the recent estimates from the Aerospace Industries Association. But private-sector defense workers make up less than 0.5 percent of the total US labor force, and that includes every person whose job depends directly on the sale or production of airplanes, tanks, bombs, and services for the entire US military. It’s unlikely that many of them, if any, depend directly on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, and its also unlikely that those jobs would vanish if Saudi money disappeared.

“The relationship between arms sales and jobs is exaggerated,” said William Hartung, an analyst who studies US weapons exports for the liberal-leaning Center for International Policy.

Beyond this, Hartung points out, Saudi Arabia isn’t actually even spending a massive amount of money on American weapons. The kingdom buys the ammunition and bombs it needs to keep waging a bloody war in Yemen, but nothing even close the $110 billion deal Trump touted.

So despite what the president says, there is no real threat of US job losses to justify continued American support for a repressive regime that is likely responsible for the gruesome murder of a journalist in Turkey — and that is also killing thousands of civilians with American-made weapons in Yemen.

Arms sales are about politics, not jobs

Trump is hardly the first US president to agree sell fighter jets, missiles, and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia. President Barack Obama did it, and so did every other president going back to the Truman administration. The United States was desperate for Saudi oil and a military ally in the Middle East, so US politicians have been willing to sell the kingdom all the war weapons it wants, ignoring the regime’s record of human rights abuses.

In 2016, as Obama ended his last term, his administration notified Congress about plans to sell $5 billion worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia. That included deals brokered by the Pentagon, State Department, and those handled directly by the US defense companies that make the equipment. Saudi Arabia wanted to buy missiles and jet fighters.

But concerns were mounting about Saudi Arabia’s bloody war in Yemen, where the kingdom has been fighting the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels since 2015. Human rights groups and the United Nations expressed concern that Saudi airstrikes were killing thousands of civilians at schools, clinics, markets and weddings.

In just one instance, in October 2016, Saudi warplanes dropped a 500-pound laser-guided bomb that killed at least 100 people attending a funeral. The bomb, a GBU-12 Paveway II, was manufactured in the United States at the time by defense contractors Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

In response, shortly before leaving office, Obama suspended the proposed sale of another $500 million worth of laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia.

That changed after Trump arrived at the White House. In March 2017, then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson greenlighted the sale, as well as a handful of arms deals with other countries that were on hold because of human rights concerns. That included the sale of military jets to Nigeria and fighter planes to Bahrain. The president said ramping up arms sales was part of his plan to boost US manufacturing jobs, and it no longer seemed to matter what foreign militaries were doing with the weapons.

Trump’s claim that many US jobs depend on arms sales is a real stretch

In May 2017, Trump made his first foreign trip to the Saudi capital of Riyadh, where he met with MBS, the kingdom’s new crown prince. Trump said he was brokering a $110 billion arms deal that would create “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Even though Trump had lifted the hold on the $500 bomb sale, some members of Congress tried to block it. They couldn’t. In June, the Senate narrowly approved the deal. Since then, the Saudi-led coalition has killed thousands of civilians with American-made bombs, including at least 40 children who were riding a school bus. The United Nations now considers the situation in Yemen “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

But instead of reprimanding MBS, Trump has continued to push for arms sales to the kingdom, touting the supposed economic benefits for the United States. When MBS visited the White House in March, Trump was effusive about it. He even held up a US map highlighting all the states that would get jobs from the arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

The map stated that 40,000 jobs would be created, though the administration didn’t cite the source for that number. That’s because no one knows for sure how many US jobs depend on arms sales. The federal government doesn’t keep data on that, and it doesn’t even break down how many total jobs are related to manufacturing military equipment. It’s a tiny fraction of the US labor force.

Here’s what we do know: The private-sector defense industry directly employed a total of 355,500 in 2016, according to the most the recent estimates from the Aerospace Industries Association. That includes manufacturing jobs, but also every other job in the defense industry, even those who are supplying uniforms for soldiers. This entire group makes up less than 0.5 percent of the total US labor force. And their main client is the US military, not the Saudi military.

About 153,800 American workers are directly involved in making commercial and military aircraft, according to the most recent industry employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But that includes workers who make passenger planes for commercial airlines, a much larger sector of the economy that those who make military jets and helicopters.

But we can get pretty specific data on how many American workers are making bombs. That data is more clear-cut, and Saudi Arabia buys plenty of American bombs for its war in Yemen. Only about 7,666 workers were making bombs for the defense and law enforcement industries in 2016, and that includes explosives sold to the entire US military. It’s doubtful these jobs are entirely dependent on arms sales to Saudi Arabia. In short, the US economy does not need Saudi Arabia to keep buying bombs. (And besides, MBS wants all arms deals to include some production in the kingdom.)

MBS wants to manufacture weapons in Saudi Arabia

In the short term, selling weapons to Saudi Arabia may support some US factory jobs. But here’s the thing: Saudi Arabia plans to start manufacturing a lot of those weapons at home.

Building up a local weapons manufacturing industry is part of the crown prince’s much-touted 2030 economic development plan, which is supposed to reduce the kingdom’s economic dependence on oil exports. In short, Saudi Arabia expects half of all jobs created by weapons deals to be local jobs. Here’s what he says in an outline of the plan that the Saudi government has posted online:

Localization will be achieved through direct investments and strategic partnerships with leading companies in this sector. These moves will transfer knowledge and technology, and build national expertise in the fields of manufacturing, maintenance, repair, research and development. We will also train our employees and establish more specialized and integrated industrial complexes.

American defense contractors that sell a lot of military equipment to Saudi Arabia are on board. Raytheon, for example, is in the process of opening a subsidiary in Riyadh.

Aside from shifting manufacturing jobs overseas, Saudi Arabia’s defense industry could eventually compete with the US defense industry. This focus would completely change the current economic relationship between both countries, according to Reuters.

Since Trump took office, Saudi Arabia has signed about $14.5 billion in commitments to buy US weaponry. No contracts have actually been signed, so details are scarce. Items in the pipeline include bombs, missiles, tanks, and aircraft. But at least one involves manufacturing parts overseas, not in the United States.

Now Congress is reportedly reviewing another proposed sale of 12,000 guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, according to Reuters. The Senate could cancel the sale if they can get enough votes, and some senators have suggested this as a form of sanctions in response to the Khashoggi case. Trump said that would be bad for American workers. But, once again, US workers don’t need Saudi Arabia.

Massachusetts: Casino Projects Draw More Women Into Labor Union Building Trades – by Saraya Wintersmith (WGBH) 18 Oct 2018

 

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Pipefitter Savy Man-Doherty of Dorchester, Massachusetts
Meredith Nierman/WGBH News

Pipefitter Savy Man-Doherty says when most people meet her, they don’t realize she works on construction sites for a living. But at 5 feet 2 inches tall, the recently licensed journeyman solders pipes, wields power tools and works alongside men at what will become the Encore Boston Harbor casino in Everett.

It’s her dream job, said Man-Doherty.

“As a kid, my sister, my cousins, and I, all of us would go to the houses during family events and we would all just play with the tools, and I just knew as a kid … I was so interested in some type of building trades,” she recalled.

Prior to entering an apprenticeship program with the United Association of Boston Pipefitters Local 537, Man-Doherty, 35, said she struggled to pay the bills doing unfulfilling work.

“I wasn’t happy sitting at a desk all day,” she said. “I wanted to do something that was more hands-on, where I had a skilled trade where I can pick up something and be able to use it and not let anybody take that skill from me.”

During her first year training with the union, her pay doubled.

She’s part of what advocates hope is a growing trend in Massachusetts. She’s a woman of color, a recent apprenticeship graduate and one of more than 370 women who have worked on the $2.5 billion waterfront property scheduled to open next year.

DSC_7129_sm.jpg
Prior to entering an apprenticeship program with the United Association of Boston Pipefitters Local 537, Man-Doherty, 35, says she struggled to pay bills with an unfulfilling job.
Meredith Nierman/WGBH News

Women tradesmen advocacy groups hail the project as a model bringing diversity and inclusion to an industry once considered an exclusive “boys club.” The project is just shy of the goal of 6.9 percent women the state set back in 2011. That goal is bringing more women into the building trades.

“We’re really pleased and starting to see the results in terms of the increase in females in the state apprentice programs,” said Jill L. Griffin, director of workforce, suppliers and diversity at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

Pointing to the part of the 2011 gaming law that prioritized gender and racial diversity in building casinos, Griffin said she’s hoping the new workers trained and hired will still be employed after those projects are completed.

“This isn’t just about gaming, but it’s about any sector, any construction project,” she said.

The Gaming Commission, casino licensees and women’s advocacy groups have collaborated to reach out to women who may be interested in construction work. Funding flows through the commission, with the money coming from fees the licensees pay.

Brian Kelly, business manager of Pipefitters Local 537, said the outreach efforts are working. Even though his union has some of the lowest numbers of women recruits, he predicted women like Man-Doherty will encourage other women to try out the trades.

“Rather than gender, color, or race,” success among pipefitters is more about the personality of applicant, Kelly said in a phone interview. Kelly’s list of necessary qualities for pipefitters includes: mechanically inclined, intelligent, punctual with a good work ethic, possessing the physical aptitude to move large objects, and not afraid to get dirty. “The biggest thing is, it’s not glamorous,” he added.

DSC_7035_sm.jpg
Man-Doherty says that since becoming a tradeswoman she’s gained a higher level of job satisfaction, more than doubled her pay, and purchased a home.
Meredith Nierman/WGBH News

Data from the Massachusetts Division of Apprenticeship Standards suggests the outreach efforts are attracting women who want to do the work. Susan Moir, long-time advocate and research director at UMass Boston’s Labor Resource Center, said the agency’s latest quarterly tally shows there are more women entering union apprenticeships than there have been in the last five years.

“Last year, in union apprenticeship in Massachusetts, we’ve gone from 484 women to 625 women, and we’re now at about 8.3 percent women,” she said.

Moir also works with the Roxbury-based New England Center for Tradeswomen’s Equity.

The group won a Gaming Commission outreach grant and set a goal of 20 percent women in the construction workforce by the year 2020.

Nationally, women makeup about only 9 percent of the construction workforce, but that figure from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics includes management and non-union occupations that Moir and the tradeswomen’s center said don’t count in Massachusetts.

Moir, 70, who was once an aspiring iron worker, admits the 20 percent by 2020 goal is ambitious. But she said she’s inspired by the mental image of women in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan waking up early for construction work with lunch pails and hard hats, and “the good wages that they can bring home and keep in the community, the girls who will see them go to work, the strength that comes from having this kind of job where you can really support your family and have a future for your kids.”

Man-Doherty said she’s living proof a life can change with a well-paying job.

“I got a house that I’m happy to wake up to. I got cars that I have that [make me] happy every time I look out the driveway. I’m happy I’m able to have a dinner and everybody’s smiling, and their stomachs are full, and they’re watching football on Sundays,” she said with a chuckle. “It’s a good feeling.”

Archive

Seventy Years of the New York Times Describing Saudi Royals as Reformers – by Abdullah Al-Arian

In honor of Thomas Friedman’s latest love letter to the ruling dynasty in Saudi Arabia, here is seventy years worth of the New York Times describing the royal family as reformers.

1953:

The article describes King Saud as “more progressive and international-minded than his autocratic father.”

1957:

This piece does not refer to Saudi Arabia specifically, but it is an incredible headline nevertheless.

1960:

“King Saud has increasingly assumed the role of liberal champion of constitutional reform.”

Note: The Saudi constitution was adopted by royal decree in 1992.

1962:

“The Oil Genie and the Sheikh” offers a tour of Gulf palaces that marvels at their “gilded furniture of impressive ugliness.” Here is also a page from the photo spread of Oman and Bahrain with the caption “’heaven on earth’—air-conditioned palaces, Cadillacs, girls.”

               

1963:

During the so-called “Arab Cold War” the United States supported the Saudi royal family as a bulwark against Nasserism. This piece celebrates Crown Prince Faisal’s “burst of social reform and economic development.”

1963:

“With his older brother no longer looking over his shoulder . . .”

1964:

“He is a man who has gained nearly absolute power without really wanting it.”

1964:

In this article, King Faisal is described as “ascetic, with only one wife, who lives on grilled meat and boiled vegetables and makes a fetish of moderation.”

1975:

An obituary reads, “Faisal, Rich and Powerful, Led Saudis Into 20th Century.”

1975:

Faisal’s successor, King Khalid, was a “moderating force.”

                       

1975:

Two more reform-themed headlines from 1975, including one on “planting the seeds of a parliamentary system in the kingdom.”

1979:

An epic lede here from 1979: “His black Trans-Am sports car creeps along the Corniche Road on the edge of the Red Sea. To the left, skyscrapers jab into the humid air, a sight made more impressive by the desolation surrounding the ancient city of Jidda.”

 

1982:

“King Fahd has been depicted as the leading figure in a progressive, modernizing faction within the tradition-minded monarchy.”

1991-1992:

Operation Desert Storm and the mobilization of US troops to the kingdom placed Saudi reform under more of a spotlight, as made clear in these headlines featuring “major political changes,” “modernizers,” “governmental reform,” “and other political reforms.”

1992:

Despite prior reports on the ebb and flow of the fortunes of reformers, the appearance of continuity remained crucial: “In making the changes, King Fahd is following previous generations of Saudi rulers who had also moved toward modernization since King Abdelaziz united a vast territory populated by feuding tribal leaders into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 60 years ago.”

                    

1996:

Thomas Friedman makes his first appearance, lauding King Fahd as a “bulldozer” in tackling political problems on behalf of the United States.

2000:

“Saudi Heir Urges Reform, and Turn From US”

                       

2002:

Shortly after the attacks of 11 September 2001, Friedman models “2 futures” for Saudi Arabia, concluding “Which school would I bet on? Ask me in five years.”

                      

2003:

Luckily, we would not have to wait that long. On eve of US invasion of Iraq, Friedman makes the case that war “could drive reform in the Arab/Muslim world.”

                    

2005:

“For Abdullah, who has fashioned himself as a reformer in a land where conforming to tradition is a virtue, the challenge now is to make good on longstanding promises for change.”

                      

2007:

Employing its narrative of reform as a product of fits and starts, this article reports on “stalled” reforms before listing the ways in which “some change has occurred.”

              

        

2007:

Another piece about a land of contradictions: “The (Not So) Eagerly Modern Saudi.”

        .               

2007:

“Saudi King Tries to Grow Modern Ideas in Desert”

                    

2009:

Apparently, a cabinet reshuffle can sometimes be reform.

2009:

This editorial welcomes the reshuffle.

2009:

“More generally, the reform agenda has drawn momentum from King Abdullah’s personal popularity . . .”

                      

2009:

Announcing that local elections have been delayed for two years, this report nonetheless lauds the king’s reformist intentions before concluding with the following quote: “You have a reform-oriented king trying to push in the direction of reform, but you have a non-reform-oriented structure that is close to impossible to change.”

      

2010:

Columnist Maureen Dowd offers her reflections from a visit to Riyadh: “Yet by the Saudi’s premodern standards, the 85-year-old King Abdullah, with a harem of wives, is a social revolutionary.”

      

      

2010:

While Saudi society is divided, this article claims the monarch’s sympathies lie with the reformers.

                        

2011:

During the height of the Arab uprisings: “In Saudi Arabia, Royal Funds Buy Peace for now.”

                           

2012:

“King Faisal, in a rush to modernize his realm, created Saudi state television in the 1960s, and that bold step is widely believed to have led to his assassination.”

                         

2012:

The Twitter revolution reaches Saudi shores: “Twitter for us is like a parliament, but not the kind of parliament that exists in this region.”

                       

2013:

Reporting from the front lines of the Arab uprisings in Dubai, Friedman calls Saudi King Abdullah “a real progressive” and offers more “data” on the Twitter revolution.

                         

2015:

King Abdullah’s obituary describes him as “a cautious reformer amid great changes in the Middle East.”

2015:

Friedman on what messes him up in reporting on Saudi Arabia.

2016: 

Saudi Arabia’s economic revolution offers “tantalizing hints at even broader reforms.”

2017:

Saudi reforms include smart robots.

                          

2017:

From earlier this month, this Friedman piece includes such gems as “he is much more McKinsey than Wahhabi — much more a numbers cruncher than a Quran thumper.”

                            

2017:

And finally, the one that inspired it all, a hagiographic ode to royal reform that represents seven decades of strategic policy objectives barely concealed beneath recycled cultural tropes.

 

Archive

400 Days in Space – US Secret Space Drone X-37B – by Leonard David – 18 Oct 2018

X-37B Military Space Plane Wings Past 400 Days on Latest Mystery Mission

 

Artist’s illustration of the U.S. Air Force’s robotic X-37B space plane carrying out its mysterious duties in Earth orbit.

Credit: Boeing

The latest mystery mission of the U.S. Air Force’s robotic X-37B space plane has now passed the 400-day mark .

This mission — known as Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-5) — was rocketed into Earth orbit on Sept. 7, 2017, atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The uncrewed space plane is carrying out secretive duties during the X-37B program’s fifth flight. [The X-37B Space Plane: 6 Surprising Facts]

Each X-37B/OTV mission has set a new flight-duration record for the program:

  • OTV-1 began April 22, 2010, and concluded on Dec. 3, 2010, after 224 days in orbit.
  • OTV-2 began March 5, 2011, and concluded on June 16, 2012, after 468 days on orbit.
  • OTV-3 chalked up nearly 675 days in orbit before finally coming down on Oct. 17, 2014.
  • OTV-4 conducted on-orbit experiments for 718 days during its mission, extending the total number of days spent in space for the OTV program at that point to 2,085 days.

Most X-37B payloads and activities are classified. The only OTV-5 payload revealed to date by Air Force officials is the Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader, or ASETS-II.

Developed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), this cargo is testing experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipes for long-duration stints in the space environment. According to AFRL, the three primary science objectives are to measure the initial on-orbit thermal performance, to gauge long-duration thermal performance and to assess any lifetime degradation.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the U.S. Air Force’s robotic X-37B space plane on Sept. 7, 2017.

Credit: SpaceX

When the space plane will land is unknown. The last X-37B mission, OTV-4, touched down at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 7, 2017 — a first for the program. All prior missions had ended with a tarmac touchdown at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The next X-37B mission,B OTV-6, may lift off in 2019 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas-V (501) rocket. Launch would be from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex-41.

The Air Force’s X-37B “fleet” consists of two known reusable vehicles, both of which were built by Boeing at several locations in Southern California, including Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and El Segundo. 

The program transitioned to the U.S. Air Force in 2004 after earlier funded research efforts by Boeing, NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Looking like a miniature version of NASA’s now-retired space shuttle orbiter, the military space plane is 29 feet (8.8 meters) long and 9.6 feet (2.9 m) tall, with a wingspan of nearly 15 feet (4.6 m). The X-37B space plane has a payload bay measuring 7 feet by 4 feet (2.1 by 1.2 m), which can be outfitted with a robotic arm. The X-37B has a launch weight of 11,000 lbs. (4,990 kilograms) and is powered on orbit by gallium-arsenide solar cells with lithium-ion batteries.

The missions of the X-37B space planes are carried out under the auspices of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, and mission control for OTV flights is handled by the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. This squadron oversees operations of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle.

This Schriever Air Force Base unit is billed as the Air Force Space Command’s premier organization for space-based demonstrations, pathfinders and experiment testing. It gathers information on objects high above Earth and carries out other intelligence-gathering duties.

And that may be a signal as to what the robotic craft is doing — both looking down at Earth and upward.

Ted Molczan, a Toronto-based satellite analyst, told Inside Outer Space that OTV-5’s orbit at the start of August was about 197 miles (317 kilometers) high, inclined 54.5 degrees to the equator. Its ground track repeated nearly every five days, after 78 revolutions.

“Maneuvers on August 18 and 21 raised its orbit by 45 miles (74 kilometers) which caused its ground track to exactly repeat every three days, after 46 revolutions. It was still in that orbit when last observed, on September 8, by Alberto Rango, from Rome, Italy,” Molczan said.

“Repeating ground tracks are very common,” he added, “especially for spacecraft that observe the Earth. I do not know why OTV has repeating ground tracks.”

Leonard David is author of “Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet,” published by National Geographic. The book is a companion to the National Geographic Channel series “Mars.” A longtime writer for Space.com, David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. This version of the story published on Space.com.

Nation’s Liberals Suffering From Trump Outrage Fatigue

WASHINGTON, DC—According to a study released Monday by the Hammond Political Research Group, many of the nation’s liberals are suffering from a vastly diminished sense of outrage.at the daily antics of the Trump Administration.  “With so many right-wing shams to choose from, it’s simply too daunting for the average, left-leaning Democrat to maintain a sense of anger,” said Rachel Neas, the study’s director. “By our estimation,in the last weeks roughly 70 percent of liberals are experiencing some degree of lethargy resulting from a glut of civil-liberties abuses, education funding cuts, and exorbitant military expenditures.”

San Francisco’s Arthur Flauman is one liberal who has chosen to take a hiatus from his seething rage over Trump Administration policies.

“Every day, my friends send me e-mails exposing Trump’s corrupt environmental policies,” said Flauman, a member of both the Green Party and the Sierra Club. “I used to spend close to an hour following all the links, and I’d be shocked and outraged by the irreversible damage being done to our land. Global warming is real.  At some point, though, I got annoyed with the demanding tone of the e-mails. The use of coal again to make electricity is bogus, but I’m not going to forward a six-page e-mail to all my friends—especially one written by a man who signs his name ‘Leaf.’ Now, if a message’s subject line contains the word ‘Trump,’ it goes straight into the trash.”

Neas found that many survey participants who attended anti-Trump protests in November 2016 after Trump’s win could barely summon the energy to read news articles about the subject in by the middle of this year.

Portland, OR resident Suzanne Marshal compared herself to an addict, needing increasingly large doses of perceived Trump injustices to achieve a state of anger.

“Even though I know how seriously messed-up the situation is in Iraq, and Syria and Yemen where I’ve became inured to all but the most extreme levels of wrongdoing,” Marshal said. “For weeks, no amount of insane tweeting could get me mad. Then he banned Muslims who should have a right to come to America, and I was off again.  As each court ruled against Trump  —I don’t know. It’s like a switch in my head turned off again.”

Neas said that the danger of Trump fatigue was greater among liberals who regularly seek cause for outrage.

“For a while, I wanted more Trump fuel for the fire, to really get my blood boiling,” said Madison, WI resident Dorothy Levine, a reproductive-rights activist and former Sanders campaign volunteer. “I read the policy papers on the Correct the Record web site. I subscribed to The Nation. I emailed cartoons by Tom Tomorrow and Ted Rall. I listened to NPR all day. But then, it was like, while I was reading Alec Baldwin’s Trump book, and saw there were eight more must-read anti-Trump books coming out. It was overwhelming. By the time they release ‘The Circus’ about the Trump election on Showtime, I’ll be too exhausted to watch.

“It used to be that I would turn on Pacifica Radio and be incensed at the top of every hour,” Levine added. “Now, I could find out that Trump plans to deport every 10th citizen and I’d barely blink an eye, much less raise a finger.”

Of the liberal Democrats afflicted with fatigue, many said they are still haunted by the specters of their former outrage.

“I can’t even look at the back of my Prius anymore,” said one Syracuse, NY liberal who wished to remain anonymous. “My ‘Dump Trump’ and ‘Love Trump’s Hate’ bumper stickers just remind me of the angry feelings I can’t sustain. I still have an ‘I’m With Her’ campaign sign hanging up in my cubicle at work, but if someone starts to talk about Trump, I can’t take it. I’m like, ‘Yes, we all hate Trump. He’s literally Dr Evil.  Yup, he’s Putin’s bitch. This is obvious. How many times can we say it? Now, excuse me, will you let me through so I can microwave my burrito?'”

UK press riddled with spooks, conduits for intelligence agencies keen to score one for the Empire – by John Wright – 18 Oct 2018

UK press riddled with spooks, conduits for intelligence agencies keen to score one for the Empire
That a free press underpins British democracy is an enduring myth that has been allowed to go unchallenged, up there with unicorns and the Loch Ness Monster.

Because if a clutch of right-wing reactionary billionaires owning the bulk of a nation’s major newspaper titles and media constitutes a free press, the word ‘free’ has been stripped and shorn of all meaning. 

Yet, while the aforementioned – let’s be kind here – ‘anomaly’ has long been understood by anyone of adult years with the ability to put their underpants on the right way round in the morning, the extent to which the British establishment press and media has been penetrated by intelligence services and acts as a conduit for their agenda is less well known.

That it is less well known remains one of life’s great mysteries nonetheless. Scratch your average British journalist and you have yourself a frustrated spook; someone who would be on their toes at the sound of a car door slamming shut in the street, while harbouring fantasies of coming across Vladimir Putin in a dark alley one night and scoring one for the Empire.

Take Con Coughlin, for example, Defence Editor at The Daily Telegraph (more colloquially and accurately known as The Daily Torygraph). Coughlin is a product of a private school production line that has unleashed more knaves on the world than spittle on a dentist’s chair. While his outing as an MI6 asset may have been a long time coming, now that it has, it marks yet another nail in the coffin of a media class whose relationship to truth and objectivity belongs in the box marked non-existent.

Though I hold no candle for Guardian columnist, Owen Jones, it remains a truism that even a blind chicken gets a piece of corn sometimes; and on this basis Jones has rendered us a service in outing Coughlin in a recent series of devastating tweets. Also providing an invaluable service in helping join the dots of the story is The Canary, independent left-wing news and views web journal that currently boasts a larger readership than a growing section of the mainstream media.

As it turns out, Mr Coughlin’s links to MI6 (Britain’s foreign intelligence agency) go back some time. As Jones writes: “A 2000 article reveals Coughlin was fed material by MI6 for years, which he then turned into Telegraph news articles.” 

The Guardian article Jones is referring to was published at a time when the centre-left newspaper was a worthy source of information and analysis, home to the likes of Seumas Milne, one of Britain’s finest-ever columnists currently plying his trade as chief press adviser to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. It just goes to show that whoever said evolution only moves in one direction had never taken the time to follow the trajectory of The Guardian in recent years.  

But that’s another story.

We are informed in the aforesaid 2000 Guardian article that “There is – or has been until recently – a very active programme by the secret agencies to colour what appears in the British press, called, if publications by various defectors can be believed, information operations, or ‘I/Ops’.

Further on: “A colourful example of the way these techniques expanded to meet the exigencies of the hour came in the early 70s, when the readers of the News of the World were treated to a front-page splash, “Russian sub in IRA plot sensation”, complete with aerial photograph of the conning tower of a Soviet sub awash off the coast of Donegal.”

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Thames House, the headquarters of the British Security Service (MI5) in London © Peter Nicholls

This story was of course entirely bogus, as was one published in the Sunday Telegraph, sister paper of the aforementioned Daily Telegraph, over two decades later, written by – you guessed it – Con Coughlin.

From the article: “he [Coughlin] regaled [the newspaper’s] readers with the dramatic story of the son of Libya’s Colonel Gadafy (sic) and his alleged connection to a currency counterfeiting plan. The story [implicating Saif Gaddafi] was… falsely attributed to a ‘British banking official.’ In fact, it had been given to him by officers of MI6, who, it transpired, had been supplying Coughlin with material for years.

Coughlin, by the way, is also revealed, according to Jones, to have been an eager shill for the Saudis.

In the wake of the disappearance of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, whom according to Turkish authorities was brutally murdered and dismembered by a group of Saudis, who, equipped with a bone saw, flew in to the country from the Kingdom to carry out the deed especially, Coughlin went to work shrouding matters in a fog of benign uncertainty. Consider: “It could well be, therefore, that the unfortunate Mr Khashoggi has become the victim of the region’s dangerous and conflicting currents.” Ahem… indeed.

Coughlin also saw fit to describe current Saudi tyrant – sorry Crown Prince – Muhammad Bin Salman (affectionately known as MbS) as a “human dynamo,” after he was afforded the privilege of a sit down interview.

At the risk of focusing too much on Mr Coughlin and his work, however, we are obliged to make the point that he is merely one among many British establishment journalists who have eagerly embraced the role of conduit of the nation’s intelligence services over the years.

In his classic work on the 1984-85 miners’ strike, The Enemy Within, Seumas Milne writes: “The incestuous relationship between the intelligence services and sections of the [British] media is, of course, nothing new. The connection is notoriously close in the case of foreign correspondents… Sandy Gall, the ITN reporter and newsreader, boasted of his work for MI6 in Afghanistan during the 1980s.”

Milne, in the same passage, goes on to reveal how “After US Senate hearings in 1975 revealed the extent of CIA recruitment of both American and British journalists, ‘sources’ let it be known that half the foreign staff of a British daily [newspaper] were on the MI6 payroll.

So there you have it, the murky relationship between British intelligence and the country’s establishment journalists is one that reaches far back in time and continues in the present, as redoubtable and reliable as Big Ben itself.

 

In fact considering where we are, the indefensible positions taken by prominent newspaper journalists and columnists at not only The Telegraph but also The Times and, yes, The Guardian over Russia, Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela et al. – in other words, the way that almost to a man and woman they have fallen into line behind their own government when it comes to who the officially designated enemies of the moment should be – the question we need to ask ourselves is not how many of them might be in the pay of MI6 and MI5, but how many of them might not?

In fact considering where we are, the indefensible positions taken by prominent newspaper journalists and columnists at not only The Telegraph but also The Times and, yes, The Guardian over Russia, Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela et al. – in other words, the way in which they have fallen into line behind their own government when it comes to who the officially designated enemies of the moment should be – the question we need to ask ourselves is not how many of them might be in the pay of MI6 and MI5, but how many of them might not?

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Four Ben Purkert Poems – Prosaic Laundry Lists of Boredom – 18 Oct 2018

For the Love of Endings, by Ben Purkert
Playlist by Four Way Books

Ben Purkert

I’ll rip off this Coke label to reveal my love life: the ones I like

enough, the ones I adore but can’t ever close. I’m drawn

again to the frozen-food aisle: is this where I meet my new self,

shuddering inside a box of waffles? Hey, a closeout on ice cream,

maybe I’ll pile up on rocky road? I won’t mince anything:

not the breakup, not hours before, each minute snapping shut

on my wrist. I won’t dwell on what I said, only the words

I failed to be. A watermelon, a half-off watermelon, it’s over:

because I love the seeds, I spit them out.

When person A splits from B, silence walks into the room.

Clock hands inch toward, then away from the sky.

Tables drag their claw feet on the carpet.

Even the mind holds weight, a center of gravity:

somewhere to reach for, to dig & dig deeper.

Until mounds of red earth spring up.

Until the hole takes on groundwater, echoing a well.

Soon a fresh city emerges, a system of pipes, a boatload

of sex shops, people starting over.

They swipe onto trains. They flood parks with kids.

They strip down a kitchen, put in an island.

the king bed pours out
its frame to the dark

its pillows like a surprise
rock jetty & this time

let’s leave the TV on
to watch us    yes

let’s feel its eyes
burning up your back

first then mine &
we’re a knot pulled in

all directions so nothing
can escape not even

our minds reaching
up & up for the ceiling

where hot air lightly
presses its face

Hello, you’re now being viewed. Q: How many floors does your body have?
A: I fall hard for the perimeter of a girl. Drag your mouse over the picture
to show depth. Deflect the age question with a swift turn. Bury the ex
in run-on sentences. Say you’d like more little ones than you’d like. Then
sprinkle white lies over coffee. Lock arms around an iceberg wedge with
light dressing. If you grow apart, be the bigger person by an inch.
I wasn’t expecting you says a tree to the cloud
I tapped your phone says the cloud
Take a hike says the tree

(Mountains & a moth weigh thoughts of each other)
(The sky runs all the way around earth)

Give back my dog says the cloud
Go chew his toys says the tree

(TV pressures the world into diamonds)
(Out of nowhere, the sky spits out a breeze)

Let’s fly says the tree
Into what says the cloud

Labor-union militancy revives, from hotels to schools and steel mills – by Laurent Belsie – 15 Oct 2018

A strong US economy hasn’t resulted in rapid wage growth. Now the labor movement is regaining momentum through bargaining and nontraditional tactics, like union members running for office.

 

By Staff writer

You can hear the strikers at Boston’s Sheraton hotel before you see them.

Hot 10 Oct 3

Chanting “Marriott, shame on you!” and “If we don’t get it, shut it down!” housekeepers, cooks, and doormen bang on drums and smack red hand clappers to be heard above the traffic. One young man bangs a gray saucepan with a spatula. Among their demands: better pay and benefits, protection against violence in hotel rooms, and more stable hours.

Since the strike at seven of its hotels in Boston two weeks ago, Marriott has seen union workers walk off the job at hotels in five other major cities as well as two Hawaiian islands. It’s part of a growing militancy within the ranks of labor. Whether from desperation born of recent reversals in the courts or opportunism in a strong economy, union and nonunion workers alike are demanding more.

“Workers are a little more emboldened, feel a little stronger,” says Robert Bruno, director of the Labor Education Program at the University of Illinois. “There is a desire to fight back.”

Part of the activism stems from economic desperation as costs rise faster than pay.

In one of the most significant jobs actions this year, nonunion teachers in six states staged walkouts over low pay and other grievances. Starting in West Virginia and spreading to Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky, and Colorado in April, and North Carolina in May, the massive strikes led to salary raises of 2 to 20 percent (over two years) in four states. Teachers in Kentucky and North Carolina are back on the job but have yet to see increases.

Last month, Time magazine featured a Versailles, Ky., teacher who works two other jobs and donates blood to stay afloat financially.

These unusual jobs actions in mostly red states in the spring – the movement generated its own Twitter hashtag, #RedForEd – have been followed this fall by more conventional school strikes in Washington State, where some 125,000 schoolchildren missed classroom days because of teacher strikes over pay.

Rural complaints about low pay echo in big cities where costs are high.

“We got a lot of workers right now who don’t have [health] insurance throughout the year, and they have to pay out of their pockets because of lack of hours,” says Manny Monteiro, shop steward in the banquet department for Local 26 of Unite Here, picketing at the Boston Sheraton.

“It’s been horrible working here, and that’s why we’re fighting to change,” says one striker who has worked 11 years at the Sheraton but won’t give her name because she fears retaliation from the company. “We need a full-time job, not two days this week, two days next week, three days the other.”

U-turn by workers at UPS

Another reason for labor activism is the strong economy, where worker shortages and high profits for corporations are causing industrial workers to boost their demands.

Earlier this month, a slim majority of voting members rejected the contract their Teamsters union had negotiated with UPS, despite pay increases across the board and guarantees for less-volatile scheduling of non-weekend work. But because union rules allow ratification as long as the “no” vote isn’t overwhelming, the contract has gone into force for the more than 200,000 workers. A separate deal for UPS freight workers was rejected by a big majority so will have to be renegotiated.

Helped by President Trump’s tariffs on foreign steel, domestic steelmakers have seen a dramatic turnaround in their fortunes and union workers are demanding a share. The United Steelworkers, which gave up pay increases in their contract with US Steel and ArcelorMittal USA three years ago, are now pressing for increases in pay and no cuts in benefits. US Steel has offered pay raises but wants workers to pay some of their health-care costs. Union members have voted to authorize a strike if talks collapse.

The union activism hasn’t yet shown up in some of the usual benchmarks.

Nationally, the number of strikes is on pace to reach nearly 100 this year – about the same as the totals in the previous four years, according to data from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. That’s less than a quarter of the number of strikes 20 years ago and a seventh of those from 30 years ago. One reason: Only 10.7 percent of the workforce was in a union last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the same percentage as in 2016 and nearly half the level reported in 1983.

Instead, union activism is showing up in the political realm. In all, some 1,500 educators are running for office this cycle, estimates the National Education Association, a teachers union, including three gubernatorial candidates and more than 20 candidates for the US Congress, including the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, Jahana Hayes.

‘We have a movement building’

For example, nearly 300 members of the American Federation of Teachers decided to run for political office in 2018, three times the usual number, says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). It’s one aspect of the union’s change in strategy.

“We have a movement building, not just transactional unionism,” she says. “I’m not into the battle royal of labor versus management. I’m into values. And the values are: Workers should have a decent wage. And you shouldn’t have an economy that is growing for the last eight years and yet wages are stagnant…. There are allies who believe in all this. It’s part of being part of a broader community.”

In August, unions and their liberal allies soundly beat back a Missouri right-to-work law that would have allowed workers in private industry to opt out of union dues-paying.

Still, the pressure is on. In June, the US Supreme Court hit unions in the public sector with a landmark ruling that now allows union-represented workers in government to withhold paying dues if they don’t want to.

So far, teachers unions say that the effect on their membership has been minimal, although they’re a month or two away from compiling the actual numbers. In July, AFT had a record number of members.

The challenge will be for the labor movement to articulate goals that will attract a large number of allies.

“The teacher strikes. #MeToo. Black Lives Matter. Students speaking out for safer schools … something is happening in America,” AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said in a speech in Milwaukee last month. “Collective action is on the rise. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in my 50 years in the labor movement.”

 John Colin Marston contributed to this story from Boston.

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Four Books in My Bed – 18 Oct 2018

6:47 am

The darkness outside makes me think of night, yet it is the break of day.  I went to my bed to smooth things out and retrieved four books near the western wall. 

‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle’ by Washington Irving, ‘The Red Badge of Courage’ by Stephen Craane, ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ by Jonathan Swift, ‘Ivanhoe’ by Walter Scott are the four books that were nestled among the jostled covers and the red body pillow. 

The books are now piled on my desk in front of me, or, to the right and at my elbow.  They are the Great Illustrated Classics versions that have a simplified abridged and retold text and an illustration on every facing page.  I love the series.  I love the black and white line drawing illustrations by Pablo Marcos studios.  Pablo Marcos was an comic book artist whose work was widely seen in mainstream comic books in the 1970’s.  

Great I 06Great I 02

Great I 01

I find it interesting to see how the artist graphically depicts the scenes that are illustrated.  The written story is like a Cliff Notes plot summary with little charm.  But the drawings can be delightful.  I come back to these books again and again and find pleasure when I open to any page.  I have the books near me when something is loading on the laptop, or when Youtube has a long commercial that I mute and let play so Youtube can get there advertising money.   I catch up on the classics. 

Great I 04

I first remember the Great Illustrated Classics coming to may attention when my sister gave my son a set of about a dozen books from the series that were printed in a small pocket size paperback.  Like a book snob that I was then I turned my nose up at the lowbrow retelling of the stories, but I had a guilty pleasure in looking at the pictures.  I was a stage then as a twenty-something who read ‘serious’ books that I should be reading books that didn’t have any pictures. 

Great I 05

But, I love pictures.  I love line drawings.  So I couldn’t keep away.  I often carried the little books with me to read on the subway train or on a bus.  The simple retellings gave me a chance to review books I’d already read, and think about them again. 

About ten years ago I saw the books online from the publisher in two large sets.  One for boys, and one for girls.  I ordered both sets and have an almost complete set of the Great Illustrated Classics – at least the great books section.  I still bring these picture books with me when I’m on the subway and copy the pictures to practice my own drawing, and to get inside the artists head through imitation. 

I like being able to find the text of a classic work, say ‘Ivanhoe’ by Walter Scott.  I look the text up on Project Gutenberg display it on my 17″ laptop screen with large type, and I might also look up an audio reading of the text on Librivox.  So I have picture books, story readers, large print text….all I need is a lunchbox with the stories heroes pictured. 

books

Who wants yesterday’s papers? Remembering Alt Weekly – The Boston Phoenix – RIP

 

Alt Weekly – Boston Phoenix – One Year Gone 

PhoenixLogoW-540x368
After 47-years as a newspaper aimed at an alternative audience to the major news outlets, the Phoenix folded in March 2013.
 End comes for Boston Phoenix, alternative voice since the ’60s ( 15 March 2013 )

In a poignant signal of a fast-changing media landscape, The Boston Phoenix sent out a short and simple tweet Thursday afternoon: “Thank you Boston. Good night and good luck.” With that terse dispatch, the groundbreaking Boston alternative weekly, which only six months ago reinvented itself from tabloid newspaper into glossy magazine, put a final punctuation mark on its 47-year history. Its current issue, dated March 15, 2013 will be its last.

New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean, one of many prominent journalists whose careers started at the Boston Phoenix, said: “It’s like finding out your college has gone bankrupt and is gone. I am a child of the alt-weekly world, and I feel like it has played such an important role in journalism as we know it today.”

Employees at the Phoenix were told of the closing by owner and publisher Stephen M. Mindich Thursday at what evolved into a tearful, emotional meeting. It is expected that about 40 employees will be let go within the week and another 10 or so soon after, according to executive editor Peter Kadzis, who described the general reaction among Phoenix staffers as “shell-shocked.” Several people were crying during the meeting, according to one person who was there.

Employees will not get any severance pay.phoenix-lead
“We’ll get paid for this week and if we’re owed vacation time, but no severance,” said staff writer Chris Faraone. “It’s sad, but also not. It’s not an anger thing. Everyone’s really proud. We went as hard as you could to the end.”

The Phoenix established its alternative reputation in the 1970s through its coverage of the local arts scene, especially rock music and movies, as well as with aggressive media criticism and coverage of local and national politics. Its target audience, even after its recent shift to a glossy magazine, never shifted: young, educated, active both socially and politically, and childless. You were more likely to find a sex column than a parenting one in the Phoenix.

Sister publications in Providence and Portland, Maine, will stay in business, but WFNX.com, the Phoenix Media/Communication Corp.’s online radio station, will not continue in its present form, its fate to be decided shortly. The company’s custom publishing unit and MassWeb Printing operation, based in Auburn, will remain open.

…………..

The long, slow decline of alt-weeklies
By Jack Shafer
March 15, 2013

Alternative weekly colossus Boston Phoenix cracked and fell yesterday, ceasing publication after 47 years. According to a Phoenix executive quoted in the obituary in today’s Boston Globe, the alternative weekly was losing more than $1 million a year, and a format switch last fall from newsprint to glossy had failed to attract the sort of national advertising it desired.

Once one of the leading alt-weeklies in the nation, the dead paper leaves behind $1.2 million in debt and roughly $500,000 in assets. The fact that its owner didn’t — or couldn’t — sell the publication to cover some of its debt signals the illness of the greater alternative weekly market. Like its daily newspaper counterpart, the alt-weekly has enjoyed a terrible half-decade of plummeting revenues, circulation and page counts in the 100-plus markets currently served. One large chain that owned papers in Chicago, Washington, Atlanta, Charlotte and elsewhere filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and was eventually spun apart, but that financial disaster was as much about clueless proprietors overleveraging themselves as it was the decay of the alt-weekly business model.

The formula, pioneered by the Village Voice in the 1950s, finessed by the Phoenix in the 1960s and perfected by the Chicago Reader, the Phoenix New Times and others in the 1970s, became such a cinch that know-nothing bar owners and recent college graduates (or dropouts!) eventually made millions off it. Some papers, like the Phoenix New Times, built immense chains from the links they forged and acquired. The formula connected underserved readers with overcharged advertisers in both compact, urban settings like New York and Washington and sunbelt expanses like Phoenix and Dallas. In 2005, the two largest alt-weekly chains, anchored respectively by the Phoenix New Times and the Voice, combined to create a company valued by the participants at $400 million, with annual revenues of $180 million. Newspapers started in bar booths had become big business, but like many of the daily newspaper merger and acquisition deals going down during same period, this deal also proved too rich.

Many former alt-weekly editors would like to persuade you that their cutting take on city politics and the arts combined with their dedication to the feature form won readers. Actually, it was the whole gestalt that made the publications work. Comprehensive listings paired with club and concert ads to both entertain and help readers plan their week. Classified ads, especially the personals, often provided better reading than the journalistic fare in the front of the book. No better venue for apartment rentals existed; even people who had long-term leases used the housing ads to fantasize. Even the display ads, purchased mostly by local retailers and service providers, were useful to readers.

In most cities — and eventually in all — the alt-weekly was priced at zero for readers, prefiguring the free-media feast of the Web, and these publications became cultural signifiers. Bob Roth, one of my bosses when I edited Washington City Paper (1985-1995), told me to watch people as they picked it up from a street box and walk away with it: Almost to a one, they would hold it in their hands or fold it under their arms as if to display the paper’s flag so onlookers would know they were City Paper people, whatever that meant.

The alt-weekly collapse came in spurts over the last decade, as a market shift destroyed whole advertising sectors. Craigslist destroyed the classifieds — housing, for sale, services (sex and otherwise), et al. — and the lucrative personals and matches ads fled for the Web, too. Depending on the paper, classifieds had amounted to anywhere between 20 percent to 50 percent of revenues. Now, that money is mostly gone.

Mostly gone, too, is record-company advertising. Before that business was disrupted, the labels would give record stores — remember them? — big bags of “co-op” money to advertise the new releases, and even reissues! Video stores — remember them? — were big advertisers, too. Amazon has helped to clean out whole categories of retailing that once advertised in alt-weeklies, such as electronics, books, music and cameras. Big-box stores have displaced many of the indie retailers that long provided advertising backbone. And while Hollywood still places ads, it’s nothing compared to the heyday. To give you a sense of how precipitous the drop, the smallest edition Washington City Paper printed in 2006 contained 112 pages, with 128-pagers and 136-pagers being the most common. In 2012, the page counts ordinarily ranged between 56 and 72.

These retail shifts have made it harder for publishers to distribute their weeklies. Before Tower Records went under, a paper could drop thousands of copies a week at the store’s many locations, and the stacks would disappear in a day or two. The video stores that once distributed them? Gone. Borders Books? Gone. What’s equally alarming is that some surviving retailers now say they’d rather use that tiny space by the door or bathroom where the newspaper rack once stood to sell their own goods.

The advertising shift from newsprint to Web is mirrored by a cultural shift. In my mind, the alt-weekly remains the perfect boredom-alleviation device. Waiting for a subway train? Pull one from your bag and it will entertain you. Your girlfriend is late for your date? The paper will keep you occupied. That beer and bag of nuts not distracting from life’s troubles as you mope on a barstool? The alt-weekly saves the day again.

But even a human fossil must concede that the smartphone trumps the alt-weekly as a boredom killer. How does a wedge of newsprint compete with an affordable messaging device that ferries games, social media apps, calendars, news, feature films, scores, coupons and a library’s worth of music and reading material? Ask a young person his opinion and he’ll tell you that nothing says “geezer” like a newspaper, be it daily or alt-weekly.

What’s changed, and what probably convinced the Phoenix to exit, is that the papers are no longer a 30 percent (or higher) margin business, and that lost business is not returning. Publishers who hope to survive will have to content themselves with 10 percent margins. They will have to work harder to maintain advertising categories where they still have a comparative advertising advantage, such as food and restaurants, which usually require a face-to-face meeting between an ad representative and an owner to make a sale.

It’s a cliché, but I’ll toss it out there anyway: Every newspaper and website needs to compete in the events business. The smarter papers are already there, and if they’re lucky they’ll hit the jackpot the Austin Chronicle has with its decades-old SXSW business. And it doesn’t require much insight to urge alt-weekly publishers to continue building out their Web components.

If this sounds like a campaign for every alt-weekly to slip itself inside a noose like the Phoenix tied for itself, I apologize. Even in their diminished state, these papers still break news, publish terrific features, drive the politicians at City Hall nuts, cover the arts smartly, and do well most of the things they did well before the commercial decline. They just don’t do as much of it. So, pour yourself a drink and spend some time with an alt-weekly this weekend. You’ll rue the day they vanish.

by Steve Annear

Former Phoenix Reporters Launch Online Alt-Weekly ( http://www.fvckthemedia.com/issue29/frontpage ) With The Phoenix long gone, and the red boxes that once held it obsolete from city streets, three former staff members of the historic alt-weekly have launched an online supplement “inspired by the spirit” of the “recently defunct” magazine.

“The Media,” headed by Phoenix Assistant Music Editor Liz Pelly, with help from one of the weekly’s former designers, hopes to put back in place coverage of the alternative arts, culture, music and news, along with grassroots activism, that was lost with the Phoenix’s farewell. According to the alt-weekly’s mission statement: “The Media aims to bridge the gap between underground presses and mainstream media. Our contributors are often embedded in the communities they cover, but seasoned and skeptical enough to keep the writing balanced, critical, and fair.”

The site was launched within a month of the idea’s conception, and was designed by Faye Orlove, who used to be a production artist at the paper-turned-glossy magazine. Orlove’s brother stepped up to help the duo put the actual website together after they figured out how they wanted it to look, which in the end, they decided, should be like a newspaper. From there, they started putting together editorial content. The online publication says of its choice in aesthetic that they wanted “our content to resonate on its own merit, free of frivolity and flash, and grounded by a homepage that’s striking in its radical simplicity.”

In its debut issue, “The Media” focuses on what was lost when The Phoenix finally folded, but also includes articles about the marijuana industry, and a feature on singer-songwriter Laura Stevenson. Aside from that, there is also some insight in regards to the aftermath of the Boston bombings from former Phoenix Editor-in-Chief Carly Carioli.

Pelly says she is glad there will be a place for writers to submit their work, and hopes down the line they will be able to conjure up some cash and possibly launch fundraising efforts in order to pay contributors. She admits that the online publication won’t ever replace what the Phoenix offered, but the magazine closing shop is what drove the group to launch the site. Pelly says the break from writing for work, and strictly writing because she wants to, has been refreshing, however. “I have been working in the professional journalism world for so long, it just feels almost like less of a burden to do something not for work or for your job, and just because you really want to be doing it,” she says. “I’m also obsessed with the way that it looks and the design of it…and hopefully people will think it’s a viable publication. Sometimes with a lot of news sites, things can be really distracting and conflicting.” When asked what she hopes people take from the new site, Pelly says she would like to see it become a successful medium that people can pitch to, which will also be community supported. “I hope it will also reach beyond being a Boston publication, too,” she says.

Fellow writers have already started reaching out to the “staff,” offering up shared space for the team to meet and discuss future issues of “The Media,” according to contributor and former Phoenix staff writer ArielShearer. “I hadn’t considered shared space. It’s all happening really fast, and I don’t know what happens next, but it would be great to have space for editorial meetings.”

by Jim Romesko

Where Boston Phoenix journalists landed

Former Boston Phoenix executive editor Peter Kadzis says of the gray day that the 47-year-old weekly paper closed: “At the moment — and still in retrospect — it had a dream-like quality. There was that pull between the unconscious (can this really be happening?) and the conscious (yes, it is!). There were a few tears. A lot of sniffles. A general feeling of numbness.”

He recalls writer Chris Faraone lighting a strong joint — “that provided a flash of levity” — and then about a dozen staffers heading to the An Tua Nua bar for drinks. The rest of the day “was pretty depressing,” says Faraone. “I think I was there [at the bar] last, and that was probably like 7 or 8 at night. The great detail, of course, is that An Tua Nua just closed too. Like a fucking plague over there.”

The Phoenix folded on March 14, five months ago tomorrow. Here’s what some of the alt-weekly’s staffers are doing now and their thoughts on the paper’s demise.

Carly Carioli, who was editor-in-chief, writes:

My two biggest concerns in the aftermath of the Phoenix closing were 1) to give the editorial staff a way of communicating directly with each other outside of the paper; and 2) to do everything possible to help people get new gigs. As a group, we quickly put together a google doc where we all shared job openings, contacts, headhunters, and agencies. It was a real collective networking effort, and I think there were at least a few jobs that came directly out of that.

That Google doc was titled “FUck you we used to be the Phoenix.” (Yes, it’s FU, not Fu.) “It was also immensely helpful to have a network of Phoenix alumni to turn to,” says Carioli. “There were dozens of friends and strangers who reached out or responded to cold-calls on behalf of our staffers. Some were in a position to offer freelance assignments, others were able to give tips on unlisted job. There was a long-ago former art director who ended up hiring two of our best people.”

He adds: “I was one of the very lucky ones — I was talking to potential employers within 24 hours of the announcement that we were closing. And ultimately I started at [the Globe’s] Boston.com the day after I left the Phoenix.” In late July he resigned and joined Boston magazine as executive editor./CONTINUES

A few of the journalists decided to start new ventures – or revive old projects – after the Phoenix folded. “It took about 36 hours after the final Phoenix ‘send-off’ for me to start getting itchy,” says Michael Marotta, “so I took an old blog off a Blogger platform, which I had named Vanyaland, and started posting there again. It was created around 2008 to give me a proper outlet from the Boston Herald, where I was (frustrated) at the time and wanted to ramble about music and trashy reality TV.”

The site was reborn in May — it now has seven contributors who once freelanced for the Phoenix — and “the response has been huge,” says Marotta.
( http://hereandsphere.com/ )
Did he consider working “a regular job” after his time at the Phoenix?

Not really. I flirted with a certain big company, but my heart was never really into it and the fit definitely wasn’t right. I’m past the point where I ever want to work for someone else, and in 2013 there’s really no need to. Independent online media, at least concerning music, has more credibility in this city right now than the traditional dinosaurs. Their attempts to “get younger” are just facsimiles of what the blogs and indie websites are already doing. Marotta notes that “a lot has happened to Boston – and the world – since mid-March [and] it breaks my heart a little bit that the Phoenix isn’t around to filter through the bullshit and tell it like it is. But I think anyone that has ever worked for the Boston Phoenix always considers themselves a part of it, and that spirit lives on in how they approach and execute their work, regardless of where they are or who they are working for.”

A week after the Phoenix closed, S.I. Rosenbaum interviewed for a “content provider.” She thought it was a freelance copyediting position, but the company offered her a fulltime job. She took it “and was promptly totally miserable.” It wasn’t the company’s fault, she says.

“It was just a huge shock after the Phoenix newsroom. I couldn’t deal with the civility, the stable personalities, the swank office furniture, or with no longer being part of a journalistic operation. People were telling me to get used to it, that journalism jobs were over, that I should be happy editing content for Home Depot.” But she ignored them and started looking for a better job. “I called up New York Mag, Texas Monthly, and Boston magazine. TM never got back to me, but NYMag was interested, and so was BoMag. They were interested enough that I gave notice at the content company and never looked back. “In the end, BoMag made me the first offer, and a very good one. By that time the bombings had happened, and I was more than happy to stay in my hometown what looks to be the newsiest era Boston has had in decades. I have the chance to shape coverage about the city I love, and the freedom to do longform journalism – not to mention the ability to make rent every month. I’m thrilled.”

She adds: “At the Phoenix we were earning so little, and working under such bare-bones conditions, that the work itself had to be our main compensation. If we weren’t having fun making our magazine the way we wanted to, working on projects that made us happy, there was no point to being there at all. And that’s not something I’m willing to give up now that I’m being paid a living wage.”

David Bernstein also landed at Boston magazine, as a contributing editor. (He does some work for WGBH, too.) About two weeks after the Phoenix folded, Bernstein was the first to report – on his personal blog – that Boston Mayor Tom Menino wouldn’t run for re-election.

“I was a fairly valuable brand” – especially after breaking the Menino news – and it became clear it would be a huge political year, “so, several outlets, including BoMag and GBH, reached out to have conversations with me.” He signed with both.

There was something special about working at the Phoenix, feeling that you were part of putting out something that you could at some level feel was valuable and important, and upholding a certain tradition. And, although I tend to keep mostly to myself when I work — whether on staff or as a freelancer/”contributor — I like being around smart, incisive, clever people who are engaged in the world, which was always the case at the Phoenix.

I asked about the city missing its alt-weekly.

“Boston without the Phoenix? A disengaged and disconnected media wasteland of conformity and pandering, where the occasional talented journalist toils futilely within deadening constraints before succumbing to the lure of a PR job that pays the bills. But that’s probably a slightly too pessimistic view. Slightly.”

I asked former Phoenix media critic Dan Kennedy — he left the paper to teach in 2005 — the same question. “The effect of its demise has been incalculable,” he says. “Its absence after the Boston Marathon bombing and, now, during the first wide-open Boston mayoral campaign in 20 years is a terrible loss. The Boston Globe is about to be sold, and the Phoenix’s take would have been definitive. I don’t know how you make up for it. The era of the big-city alt-weekly seems to have passed.”

Former executive editor Kadzis, now a WGBH News regular contributor, adds: “The demise of the Boston Phoenix has left a hole in the city’s media fabric, but Phoenix talent is still enriching the scene. It’s just not concentrated in a single place.”

I was at the Phoenix just shy of 25 years, so leaving there felt a bit like leaving home when I was in my early 20s: equal parts exciting and scary. What I miss are my colleagues: the crazy driven salespeople, the cooler-than-cool graphic designers, the writers who constantly second guess themselves to make sure they got things right, and the know-it-all copy editors who are truly the unsung heroes of our business.

Jacqueline Houton started as managing editor of The Improper Bostonian six days after The Phoenix folded. (She had been M.E. there, too.) “I just felt extremely lucky to land something so soon,” she says. “I applied for one other position and was asked in for an interview, but by that point I’d already accepted the position at the Improper.”

What Houton misses about the Phoenix: “The muckraking spirit, the creative freedom, and the incredibly talented, weird, and wonderful team.”

“When most people lose their jobs, even they don’t give a shit,” says former Phoenix staff writer Chris Faraone. “When we lost our jobs, everyone from you to the New Yorker had something to say about the situation. It seems a bit overblown – no doubt. But the place really was that special.

“Money was always tight, so we wouldn’t always be able to bring in freelancers and interns who we wanted there full-time, but they stuck around anyway, and in a lot of cases became part of the family. I’m one of those people, as I started freelancing hip-hop articles for the paper about six months before coming on as a staff writer.”

About 10 minutes after word got out that the Phoenix was closing, Faraone got a text from the owner of Dig Boston; he wanted to talk about Faraone’s next move. (He started his career there — when it was called Weekly Dig — in 2004.)

“I decided that it’s best to stay mostly independent for now, but to also work with the Dig to develop young writers, and to keep the alt spirit alive locally.” The Dig has published his series on City of Somerville corruption, which he started working on with other journalists last September. “So far, our work has yielded some significant results,” he says. He was asked to write the Dig’s cover story after the Boston Marathon bombing. “I didn’t even have to think about it; less than 24 hours later, I filed this story, flashing back between my experience in NY on 9/11, and what I saw in Boston following the marathon attack. Coincidentally, the Dig had picked up some Phoenix ad dollars, and was bringing back a feature well after years of not having one. My bombing story wound up marking the return of long form to the paper.” He also wrote about the Marathon bombing for the American Prospect and Racialicious and put his work into an ebook titled “Heartbreak Hell.”

“It’s sold pretty well on Kindle, even charting a few times, but more importantly it’s been read tens of thousands of times in this kickass free format that I did with help from a few friends. Looks great on any device.” He’s also working his next book, “I Killed Breitbart.”

Longtime arts editor Jon Garelick says that since the Phoenix closed, “I’ve just been trying to get a new work rhythm going where I’m freelancing and also looking for work.” He notes that “the Globe has been really responsive to my pitches” and “I’m now doing work for people who used to work for me and still like me, which is nice.” Freelancing has kept him busy, but “it’s very isolating. You’ve got to remind yourself to leave the house once in a while otherwise you won’t go out. …I’d be happy to fully employed again.”

…………Phoenix 2

Peter Kadzis gave me this information:

“Kristen Goodfriend, the overall art and design director, is working/consulting with the Portland and Providence Phoenixes to train them on maximizing editorial design. Lindy Raso, the receptionist and general go-to person, is now the office manager at The Weekly Dig. …Staffer Alexandra Cavallo is at Metro Boston. …. Kevin Banks, deputy art director, and Shaula Clark, managing editor, are at The Pohly Company. Liz Pelly, the assistant music editor, has started an online alternative paper, The Media.”
Re: Alt Weekly – Boston Phoenix – One Year Gone
by Susan Orlean
Sorln (nospam) msn.com (unverified) 11 Feb 2014
I attended the University of Michigan, but I got my real education at alternative newsweeklies. That’s where I learned to write, to report, and to think of myself as a journalist; that’s where I grew up. Even now, many years out from my last newsweekly job, which was at the Boston Phoenix, I still think of myself as a product of the alt-weekly world. And it was a wonderful world. We didn’t make much money, but we made up for that by enjoying a certain amount of freedom in what we wrote and how we wrote about it, and by having the conviction that we were doing something a little better than what was being done at conventional newspapers. In many cases, that arrogance was unearned, but the sense of mission and adventure was real. We could write ten thousand words about amyl nitrate (which I actually did) or cults or Hmong refugees or corruption if we felt the story was good. Everyone was young (or youngish). We were excited about being writers or editors. Working at an alternative newsweekly felt mischievous and disruptive and nimble, and it was as close to feeling like I was in a rock band as I’ll probably ever get.

When I went to work at the Phoenix, in 1982, its offices were in a ratty old building at the end of the otherwise glamorous Newbury Street in Boston’s Back Bay. I don’t mean ratty in a figurative sense, either: there were rat traps tucked into most of the corners and nooks, and they weren’t ironic. The office had all the polish and orderliness of a very bad yard sale late in the afternoon. Everyone was shaggy. There were, as one would expect in a roiling workplace full of young folk, a million desperate romances and personal dramas and the like, but everyone was also very serious about the work. Back then, the Boston Globe seemed stuffy and self-important, and the Phoenix set itself up as the scrappy anti-Globe, more tuned into street culture and the arts; funnier, looser, cooler. I did stories on a crazy array of subjects: how Miami had been reborn, how much I loved giving parties, Ginsu knives, and a music festival in Jamaica. Of course, many of us secretly hoped that a big paper like the Globe might scoop us up, eventually. I interviewed for a job there not long after I started working at the Phoenix, and the editor who met with me warned me that the paper, as a rule, didn’t hire from alternative newsweeklies since we didn’t have a work ethic and didn’t understand how to behave in a professional way—as if we were drinking beer and getting high all day and still managing to put out a pretty good newspaper every week. I didn’t get the job, of course, but I realized then that our silly nose-thumbing at the Globe was equalled only by its silly nose-thumbing at us.

It was so much fun. And it was inspiring. By the time I arrived, the Phoenix had already graduated a whole bunch of writers who had gone on to become big deals at bigger publications, and there were staff writers who were winning awards and recognition. The paper was big and fat, and we all assumed (and resented) that the Phoenix’s owner, Stephen Mindich, had gotten rich from the profits. The Phoenix, more than almost any other alternative newsweekly, seemed like it could practically print money, since Boston had such a large population of college students, a perfect audience for what we were doing. For a while, that seemed to be true. The Phoenix bought a radio station, and then some other newsweeklies, and moved into ratless offices near Fenway Park, and appeared to just roll merrily along. Yes, much of the profits probably came from the skanky sex-service ads in the back of the magazine, but that’s business. The Globe editor who had lectured me about work ethic notwithstanding, the Phoenix continued to launch writers into good jobs at magazines and newspapers. While some newsweeklies drifted more into being arts calendars, the Phoenix, like the Village Voice, was one of the papers that kept doing harder journalism in addition to its significant arts coverage—which won the paper a Pulitzer, awarded to Lloyd Schwartz for criticism—and seemed to manage it well.

For the longest time, when journalism students would ask me how to get started as writers, I would tell them to go to work for an alternative newsweekly. Better than graduate school, in my opinion, I’d say, and more fun than a conventional job at a conventional publication. Now, as the ranks of alternative newsweeklies thin out, I’m not sure what I’ll tell them. The thing that I learned at the Phoenix, which I feel is essential for a writer to learn, is to be enterprising. I’ve never worked on staff at a regular newspaper, and I imagine you learn lots of valuable lessons from their tradition and stature, but what I loved about being at a place like the Phoenix was the sense that we were sort of making it up as we went along. The Phoenix felt like a handmade thing, and that made me feel like I ought to be inventive with my story ideas and my thinking and my writing, even if it didn’t always turn out perfectly. A conventional job would have had health insurance, but working somewhere where I was encouraged to write a story about Ginsu knives not only made me who I am as a writer but in many ways made me mature as a person: it was up to me to figure things out. I can’t imagine where I’d be today if I hadn’t had that experience.

The recession, Craigslist, the Internet, newsprint prices—who knows what finally did in the Phoenix? I suppose I shouldn’t have been shocked when I heard the news yesterday that it was shutting down, given the last ten years of bad news about print publications, but boy, was I surprised nonetheless. It feels like my college has suddenly announced that it has gone out of business. Now the liquidators will come in and pick through the remains, putting price tags on the beat-up desks and dented wastebaskets, and this experience that defined me and meant something to so many people—readers and writers, especially when we were young and turning into our adult selves—will live on only as a Wikipedia stub. Farewell, Boston Phoenix, and thanks. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/03/memories-of-the-p

by G.B.

Phoenix staffers knew that something was up. At 8:08pm that Wednesday, business staffer Rachael Mindich sent an ominous all-staff email that suggested some big and terrible impending news:
Join us in the Boston editorial space outside the conference room tomorrow afternoon at 2pm for a town hall meeting, during which important information relevant to all PM/CG staff members will be discussed. For those of you who are located outside of the Boston office, we ask that you call in on our conference line to be part of the discussion.
But nobody was expecting the guillotine. I certainly wasn’t. As a longtime Phoenix reader and part-time Boston resident, I’m shocked and disconsolate. The Phoenix is and was one of the best alt-weeklies in the country. From its smart reporting on state and local politics to its tough, nuanced coverage of social justice issues, the Phoenix consistently exemplified the best of the alternative press. Staff writer Chris Faraone’s you-are-there coverage of the Occupy movement was honest, unsentimental, and indispensable; during last year’s presidential campaign, political writer David S. Bernstein offered valuable insight into the Romney cotillion. The paper’s departments were memorable, too—David Thorpe’s loopy The Big Hurt music column; Robert Nadeau’s authoritative restaurant reviews; Barry Thompson’s “Meet the Mayor” series of interviews with various local Foursquare “mayors;” the tenacious local arts coverage. All were lively and occasionally brilliant; all will be missed.

That’s not to say that the paper was flawless. No publication is. But, from my perspective, the Phoenix’s successes far outnumbered its failures. More to the point, the Phoenix was a legitimately independent weekly in a space largely dominated by conglomerate corporate media. While other alt-weeklies across the country were acquired by national chains, the Phoenix remained resolutely rooted in New England. (The Boston Phoenix had two sister papers in Providence, RI, and Portland, ME, both of which will continue to publish.) Now, the only true alt-weekly in Boston is the wisecracking Weekly Dig, which has a huge opportunity if it plays its cards right. (Many current Phoenix staffers began their careers at the Dig.)

The signs were there that the Phoenix was having financial problems. Last year, its parent company, Phoenix Media/Communications Group, shuttered the weekly’s affiliate FM radio station, WFNX, turning it into a Web-only station, WFNX.com, which is also closing down. Around the same time, the Phoenix transitioned to a glossy magazine format, in a move designed to court national advertising dollars. At first, I thought the move was distasteful. Later, I thought it was brilliant. Apparently it wasn’t enough.

Some worried that the switch to the glossy format meant that the stories were going to get shorter and dumber, but that didn’t really happen. Lately, the Phoenix had been leading the way on climate-change coverage, regularly running forceful, impassioned cover stories by Wen Stephenson, the former journalist turned climate activist. Two weeks ago, Chris Faraone wrote a tremendous 10,000-word cover story about a young ex-GOP operative named Nadia Naffe and how she was betrayed by James O’Keefe and harassed by Andrew Breitbart. It was a prime example of the sort of reporting that made the Phoenix great: gimlet-eyed, deeply reported, and unafraid.
In an email this afternoon, Faraone noted that he “couldn’t be prouder to be one of the last writers to hold down the long tradition of badass reporting at the Phoenix.” (See my 2011 profile of Faraone for more on what he means by this.)

“On the much sadder side,” he continued, “my true concern is for the disparate and vulnerable people who have for so long relied on the alternative press to keep their issues in play, and to trumpet their all-too-often ignored voices. They’ve lost the most today. Them and everyone who has ever rushed to a red Phoenix street box first thing on a Thursday to feel the pulse of this city.”

That pulse will beat slower for a long time to come.

by Christopher M
 

Full disclosure: I worked for the PMCG (but not the Phoenix itself, it was a company called TPI) back in 99-01 taking personal ads, running refunds, supervising the call center, and doing various bits of backend programming for a salary that amounted to being kicked in the balls and flipped a shiny coin as my assailant sauntered on. Still, I had many great memories. But this is not the time.

One of the first things I did upon moving to Boston in January of 98 was to grab a copy of the Phoenix in the lobby of my college. It was free for us (even though you used to have to pay for it). I was amazed by what they were printing. This was nothing like journalism back in Amish country: Music reviews, social events, scathing articles. . SWEAR WORDS! ZOMG! I got hooked. I made sure to grab a copy every week when they showed up. In fact, this lead to the one act of petty larceny in my life. I didn’t know that the phoenix wasn’t just a free paper so I grabbed one on the way out the door of Tower Records. When I got back I saw the price at the top, felt so bad I went back and tried to pay. The cashier just looked at me like I was nuts and turned her back.

Ah, the memories.

It’s odd to write this, since there was a rift after I “left”. I never held a grudge, but picking you up seemed odd somehow, like seeing an old girlfriend who never gave you back all your stuff and still owed you $200 for that month you covered the rest of her rent, but now that you’ve passed I can say that I honestly have nothing but good memories.

Boston Phoenix, you kept me in the know about what was up for years. You gave me reasons to laugh at things that weren’t funny, not laugh at things that should have been, and a list of shows I needed to sneak into or weasel my way onto a list for as long as I can remember. I hope that in the years to come people remember you as fondly as I.

by James Parker

The Boston Phoenix Set Me Free

“Consider yourself off the leash,” he said. I was moaning about editors to my new editor, Lance Gould, in his office at the Boston Phoenix. Editors had been messing me around my whole life, I told him—neutering my style, rejecting my ideas, making me explain myself, fucking up my thing. Bloody editors… Gripe, grumble… I fumed and fidgeted in the crappy chair. And yet here he was, this kind man, this editor, regarding me with eyes of understanding and telling me that I was FREE. Was it a dream?

It feels rather dream-like today, now that the Phoenix is kaput. I received the news of the paper’s closing, last week, the way I receive most bad news—which is to say, I barely received it at all. It bounced numbly off my heart. Doink! But now I’m thinking about it, and beginning to feel it.

I was a staff writer at the Phoenix for 18 months, 2007-2008. Free? I was practically feral. I wrote much too fast and much too frequently about whatever took my interest. Poems, weekly. A column about reality tv, also weekly. (My secret plan was to turn it into a column about bullriding. This never happened. But it could have.) In the name of the Phoenix I interviewed—how about this for a journalistic coup—a man who hadn’t written a biography of GG Allin, the most horrible punk rock frontman ever; in the name of the Phoenix I accompanied a Wildlife Removal Specialist as he tore embedded raccoons from one suburban loft-space after another; in the name of Phoenix I went into a men’s prison and watched a priest lead a group of convicts through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

And I loved my colleagues. The muse of the Phoenix, as I came to know her, hovered in the space between the groovy young buggers who were coming up and the old-school eminences who wouldn’t quit. At this higher level, scholarship abounded. Jeffrey Gantz, Penguin Classics translator of The Mabinogion and ardent—in fact incandescent—Chelsea fan, rushed between cubicles like the White Rabbit, a hand to his forehead. He knew everything. Jon Garelick would lend his exquisite jazzman’s ear to your prose, tell you where you’d gone out of tune. The great Clif Garboden sat hunched in his special managing-editor’s alcove at the back of the third floor, with torrents of copy churning beneath his ironic eye: from time to time he would bark an oath at his computer, or exhale in a shuddering, Job-like manner. (I’m quoting here from something I wrote for the paper after his death. Hope you don’t mind, Clif.) It was a uniquely supportive environment, an accidental ecology in which—if you were the least bit accidental yourself—you could thrive.

These days, whenever an assignment begins to cramp me up, I pretend I’m doing it for the Phoenix: instant relief.

My fellow staff writers were delightful. I marveled at the gumshoe tenacity of political reporter David Bernstein, and the fact that—on a diet of pizza, cigarettes, and noisy phonecalls—he somehow preserved the complexion of an athletic schoolgirl. I annoyed Sharon Steel by throwing bits of paper at her. I slipped out for surreptitious pints with Adam Reilly. Mike Miliard helped me, endlessly.

So I was free, and the paper was free. It was flung out onto the street for whoever wanted it, whoever happened to be passing—not for some technocrat in Peets, pecking out a URL. It was a loose transaction, and it kept you loose. Even the leaking sordor from the “Adult Services” section, I confess, I found helpful. Trash and fecundity are neighbors, after all. These days, whenever an assignment begins to cramp me up, I pretend I’m doing it for the Phoenix: instant relief.

All a dream, all a dream… I can see Pat D pushing around his enormous dustbin as if, rather than putting things into it, he might produce things from out of it—ingots or rayguns or shrunken heads. I can hear the hacking and rumbling of Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman, on the line from Prague, fantastically intoxicated: “I don’t like human beings, I think they’re parasites, they’re fucking parasites.” Eheu fugaces labuntur anni. About the industry, journalism, the Internet, the row of grinning skulls where all the good writers used to be, I have nothing useful to say: I share in what I assume to be the general state of dazed apprehension. Not so long ago, many things were possible for a lucky writer. As of last week—this is how it feels—they are a little less possible.
Re: Alt Weekly – Boston Phoenix – One Year Gone
by Chris Radant
frtny (nospam) msn.com (unverified) 14 Feb 2014
Modified: 04:16:19 AM
A look back at some of its greatest stories.

Home for the Holidays
Chris Radant • November 1990

On heading home for Thanksgiving.
“Grazing began extra early on Thanksgiving morning. My brothers arrived with assorted girlfriends, wives and children. And there were fried eggs, pancakes, ‘crew-sonts,’ fudge cookies, and sticks of butter disguised as every manner of food. Mom made us go look at the long icicles coming off the corners of the shed. The kids bounced up and down. Dad recited in-flight emergency procedures. And on TV, the Johnny Mann Singers sang, ‘Y’gotta have heart,’ as only they can. Dad repeated his complaint about uncle Freddy repeating his stories. Mom told everyone about the oozing lesion of somebody we didn’t know. The question, ‘Is Disneyland more fun than Busch Gardens?’ was tossed out for debate. Dad went outside to look at the sky and missed Mom’s brief history of nasty gashes suffered in our family.”

The Strange Case of Audrey Santo
Ellen Barry • December 1997

A comatose from Worcester, Mass., is the catalyst for a string of miracles and becomes a tourist attraction.
“Her name is increasingly well known in the circle of people who follow miracles. ‘She’s new. I think she just became popular in the last year or so,’ says Jim Drzymala, administrator of the ‘Apparitions of Jesus and Mary’ Web page. Those who can’t jump the line by virtue of chronic disease take what ancillary contact they can get; once a year, on the anniversary of her near-drowning, Audrey is wheeled into a local church to receive the faithful. Last year, as Audrey lay in her tiara on a stretcher, this Mass attracted upward of 5000 people—a crowd so large, and so unexpected, that ‘the police could not respond appropriately,’ according to city councilor Wayne Griffin.
“Every time the story appears, it ratchets up the level of public enthusiasm. Audrey’s Life and The Story of Little Audrey Santo have become so popular that one fan recently asked Audrey’s dermatologist, who appears in the video, for an autograph. Channel 7, which has run several spots on the phenomenon, has reported as many as 250 phone calls after a broadcast. And when the Boston Herald ran a story about Audrey last month, the accompanying photograph showed a plaque with a contact number for the Santo family friend and representative Mary Cormier. The story ran on a Monday. Over the next two days, according to Cormier, 700 people called that number.”

Seattle Was a Riot
Jason Gay • December 1999
What really happened at the World Trade Organization protests.
“Meanwhile, the police are watching. There are more than 500 police officers on the scene, most them arranged around the outskirts of the Washington Trade and Convention Center, where the majority of WTO events are scheduled to take place. Almost all of these officers are decked head to toe in black riot gear—helmets and gas masks and baseball-catcher-style knee pads and arm pads and chest protectors—and carry crowd-dispersal weapons such as pepper spray, tear gas, and rubber-pellet guns. At one intersection, a group mans a small armored vehicle nicknamed the ‘Peacemaker.’

“It’s easy to see that a situation’s developing. The protesters are everywhere; the delegates are shut out of their meetings; many of them, including the US representative to the WTO, Charlene Barshefsky, can’t even get out of their hotels. What’s more, the big protest—the labor march, with more than 30,000 people—hasn’t even started yet. It’s not even nine o’clock in the morning, and authorities are losing control of the city.

“Soon after, the tear gas comes. It’s a surreal moment. When gassing first occurs, I’m standing about 100 yards from the intersection, and people near me pause and stare momentarily, as if they’re not sure whether it’s gas or a stray, low-flying cloud. It’s almost as if the crowd is saying to itself: That didn’t just happen in America in 1999, did it?”

Cardinal Sin
Kristin Lombardi • March 2001

Cardinal Bernard Law knew as early as 1984 John Geoghan was molesting children. The priest would not be defrocked for 14 years.
“Law, a high-ranking official within the Catholic Church, is one of just eight cardinals in the United States. His boss is Pope John Paul II. As head of the fourth-largest diocese in the country, Law wields substantial power. He is a senior member of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), a canonical body that makes high-level recommendations for the American Catholic hierarchy on pastoral practices, interreligious affairs, and government policy. One Boston attorney who handles clergy sexual-abuse cases says that ‘suing Law is almost like suing the pope.’
“Still, those familiar with the scope of Geoghan’s behavior are surprised it’s taken so long for Law to face legal action. ‘This has been a dirty little secret the Church has desperately tried to keep quiet,’ charges Stephen Lyons, a Boston attorney. Lyons is best known for defending David and Ginger Twitchell, the Christian Science couple whose child died after receiving inadequate medical care. But he has earned national recognition for his legal work involving clergy sexual abuse. He has successfully litigated more than six lawsuits against the Boston archdiocese and other dioceses nationwide, and says he’s ‘well aware’ of evidence implicating the cardinal—evidence that he cannot reveal because of confidentiality orders. (Lyons has never handled a Geoghan case, nor has he handled a lawsuit against the cardinal.) ‘As far as I’m concerned,’ Lyons says, ‘it’s extraordinary Law hasn’t been named a defendant [in the Geoghan cases] before.’ ”

Did He Murder His Mother?
David S. Bernstein • April 2005

The jury made a mistake when it convicted Abdul Raheem.
“The state medical examiner was never allowed to enter the crime scene—another peculiar aspect of the investigation. That examiner, Alexander Chirkov, testified that he came to the crime scene the first evening and stood waiting outside the house for half an hour, but was sent away. Chirkov performed the autopsy at 10 a.m. the next morning in his lab, a delay, he testified, that denied him access to information that could have allowed him to pinpoint the time of death, and perhaps to discover other important information.
“Then, too, there was the loss of the rape kit. A rape kit, a standard part of an investigation of a female victim—especially a naked one—includes swabs from the body, material from beneath the fingernails, and other potential physical evidence. This was, in fact, the only potential source of DNA evidence taken from on or around the body. Yet detectives did not ask to have the kit processed for months, and when they finally did they found that it had been ‘accidentally destroyed’ at the office of the chief medical examiner (CME), according to a report submitted by Coleman. (Chirkov, who no longer works for the CME’s office, did not return calls from the Phoenix seeking comment.)”

A Weed Grows In Boston
Valerie Vande Panne • December 2009

What’s a suburban soccer mom who was once fervently anti-drug doing running a business growing and selling pot?
“From the outside, we could have been on Wisteria Lane. But none of their neighbor’s houses are visible through the trees that surround Mary and Joey’s abode.
“We walk into a neat, clean, sparse home. There are no pit bulls, no guns, no security cameras. No henchmen, no gangsta rap blaring. No heavily tattooed and pierced punks or hippies. It is, in fact, the exact opposite: a quaint residence, quintessentially suburban, with a bowl of plastic fruit on the dining-room table, pictures of their happy family on the walls, house plants in the windows, and a bird feeder in the backyard. Smokey, the house cat, lolls in the living room.
“That living room has a few EZ chairs and a long, wrap-around couch — replete with built-in cup holders — where a ‘trimmer’ is stationed with a marijuana-filled TV tray. He’s using a little pair of scissors to cut the leaves (the “trim”) off the buds (the desirable part of the plant for sale to consumers). MTV’s For the Love of Ray J plays quietly on the television. (‘In order to keep the trimmers trimming,’ she advises, noting how they can get easily distracted, ‘it has to be reality television. It can’t be sports.’)
” ‘We pay our trimmers $20 an hour, plus food,’ explains Mary, gesturing to the composed laborer. ‘We can’t offer them health insurance, though. Most of our trimmers are unemployed otherwise.’ One of them, it turns out, is a former chef who’s had a hard time finding work in the global depression.”
The Trials of Nadia Naffe
Chris Faraone • February 2013

Naffe, a young Republican, entered the belly of the political beast—and was nearly eaten.
“After a long cruise through wooded Westwood, O’Keefe pulled up to Naffe’s accommodations for the night: a two-story barn on the property of an upscale suburban home. Naffe says details of their destination were not made clear on the ride, but it didn’t take long once they arrived for her to realize that she was inside Project Veritas headquarters. There were awards on the wall with O’Keefe’s engraved name on them; equipment from the RV in Los Angeles was set up on a desk. With contributions pouring in, O’Keefe had invested thousands on computers and surveillance equipment. His renovated barn was a full-service bunker for waging war against liberals.
“O’Keefe sat in his editing cockpit and began to play the NYU recordings. Strangely, Naffe says, there were also candles lit around the room. She sipped a beer, and asked again about O’Keefe’s grudge against Seife. She also asked when he planned to leave so she could have privacy. After the long train ride, she was eager to shower and get to bed early. But Naffe says O’Keefe made several excuses for why he needed to stay—to watch a football game, to use his ‘stuff.’ Then she turned her attention to a phone call with another guy, and the conversation flipped completely. O’Keefe stormed out, and peeled off. That’s when Naffe says that she began feeling woozy, as if she’d been drugged.”

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/longform/2013/03/rip_boston_phoenix_s

by Scott Timberg

How the Village Voice and other alt-weeklies lost their voice in 2013 http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/12/28/how-the-village-voicean

The papers — which documented parts of cities that other media missed — suffered major blows this year

LOS ANGELES — There was something else there, but you couldn’t see it. There were notes coming from somewhere — maybe adding up to a melody — but you couldn’t quite hear them. Growing up in and around this sprawling, elusive city in the 1970s and ’80s, Lynell George would see things, hear things, that never showed up in the daily press.

“I didn’t always find my city in the newspapers,” says George, who grew up black in racially mixed neighborhoods and was so inspired by the city and its contradictions that she decided to become a writer who’d decode L.A.’s sense of place. She was tired of reading about the wealthy Westside, Hollywood deal-making and society ladies in Beverly Hills. “Sometimes there were just little glimpses,” she says, of something else.

Documenting the city — its racial and ethnic fault lines, the brilliant corners of its music scene, its overlooked literary life — was something, George realized, she could tackle more effectively as a journalist for alternative newsweeklies rather than a novelist. She’d spent years driving to Book Soup, a store on Sunset Boulevard, to pick up the Village Voice and read Greg Tate on black culture or Guy Trebay on the Bronx’s crack epidemic or to Venice’s Rose Cafe or Tower Records to pick up LA Weekly. “I wanted it on Thursday; I couldn’t wait,” she says. “If you didn’t get it, it was gone. I wanted to be part of that conversation.”

Talk to readers and writers about the heyday of the alternative press and you hear stories like this. For all the good memories, though, 2013 has been a rough year for alt-weeklies. The Boston Phoenix, among the oldest and most storied, collapsed in March, putting about 50 employees out of work, just six months after an optimistic move to glossy stock; the paper was losing roughly $1 million a year. Susan Orlean, a New Yorker writer who, like Joe Klein, Janet Maslin and David Denby, worked for the Phoenix early on, compares it to the disappearance of her alma mater. “I am a child of the alt-weekly world,” she says, “and I feel like it has played such an important role in journalism as we know it today.” The New Haven Advocate was folded, along with two other weeklies, into The Hartford Courant this month after a year that saw heavy layoffs. In May, the two top editors of The Village Voice resigned rather than cut a quarter of the staff.

The troubles are not confined to the northeast: The LA Weekly, whose issues typically offer less than half the pages they did a decade ago, recently announced substantial cuts in its theater coverage, to which the paper had a three-decade commitment. Most places, page counts and staff sizes are way down.

Some of the causes of the alt-press meltdown are more complex than those of daily newspapers, which have been felled primarily by the Internet and corporate overreach. But the results are at least as tumultuous.

None of this sad trajectory was clear to Lynell George back when she became — in a chaotic office in Silverlake, a gritty gay neighborhood not yet declared cool — an LA Weekly intern in the late ’80s and a staff writer in the early ’90s. A tattooed performance artist manned the front desk, and pompadoured staffers in pegged jeans would arrive with guitars in preparation for after-work gigs. “You didn’t know what you’d come into in the morning — I loved that. It reflected the music scene, the art scene.” And “alternative,” she realized, meant asking, “‘What’s really going on?’ And to come at it in a different way.”

Despite its association with the counterculture, the alternative press had its origins in the Eisenhower era — in the Red Scare, in fact. Though mainstream culture circa 1955 was sleepy and reactionary, Norman Mailer, who helped found The Village Voice that year out of a Greenwich Avenue apartment, wrote that the paper would “give a little speed to that moral and sexual revolution which is yet to come upon us.” Dan Wolf, another founder, described the era as one in which “the vulgarities of McCarthyism had withered the possibilities of a true dialogue between people.”

Mailer’s column for the Voice, the novelist wrote a few years later, gave him the kind of opportunity that would have made Jack Kerouac swoon: “Drawing upon hash, lush, Harlem, Spanish wife, Marxist culture, three novels, victory, disaster, and draw, the General looked over his terrain and found it a fair one, the Village a seed-ground for the opinions of America, a crossroads between the small town and the mass media.” Avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas became the paper’s film critic, urbanist Jane Jacobs wrote important pieces on the destruction of lower Manhattan neighborhoods, Nat Hentoff chronicled jazz and politics, Robert Christgau helped invent rock criticism.

The Voice surged from its initial print run of 2,500 copies (sold, originally, at 5 cents apiece) to 150,000 readers by 1970. By that point, the paper had company: What began as a music-heavy publication in 1966, Boston After Dark would become the more comprehensive Boston Phoenix, and in 1970, anti-war students at Arizona State founded the first New Times paper to protest the Kent State killings. The year after, the Chicago Reader was inaugurated by a group of college friends, and the following year, the first of the Creative Loafing papers, which would spread across the South, began in Atlanta.

These papers inherited varying degrees of the Voice’s political edge, emphasis on hipness and personal style, and pugnacity toward the mainstream. When LA Weekly rolled out its first issue in 1978, Jay Levin, one of its founders, wrote, “the smog in L.A. was so bad that much of the year you could barely see the hookers on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue.”

Before long, the Weekly had dug into the cozy relationship between government regulators and polluters and turned out 40 stories on smog and the people responsible for it. This was the paper’s mission: “We would challenge all the official stories.” (Today, now that L.A.’s smog problem has improved, you can see the hookers clearly.)

Alt-weeklies thrived in conservative and conventional times. “The Reagan years were in some ways the alternative press’s glory years,” says Tom Carson, who wrote for the Voice and LA Weekly from 1977 to 1999. “We knew we were a playing an adversary role. Peggy Noonan was right: It was a revolution, destroying what was left of the New Deal, making this into a very different country. And we were the only ones calling (Reagan) on it, besides a few scattered op-ed columnists.”

At a time when corporate rock thrived and the blockbuster culture was gearing up — Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were no longer mavericks, Phil Collins and hair metal raced up the charts — and the president refused to utter the name of a plague killing thousands of gay men, the lines were clearly drawn. The alternative press knew which side it was on.

Though sometimes dismissed as hippie rags, alt-weeklies exerted an influence on mainstream, straight dailies. “The alternative press should get credit for pushing the daily press to cover culture and the arts,” says Doug McLennan, a former Seattle Weekly staffer who now runs ArtsJournal.com.

But the influence went the other way, too: By the ’90s, with the first popular Democratic president in three decades, corporate studios starting indie-film wings and “alternative rock” albums shooting up the charts, the lines became more blurred: Alternative weeklies and mainstream papers were harder to tell apart.

Manohla Dargis was writing for The Village Voice when she saw a New York Times story on the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and realized that things had changed. Cultural shifts, and an interest in youth and fringe culture by the mainstream press, meant that alt papers were losing their distinctiveness. And without a Republican White House, alt-weeklies were losing their political edge.

“When you take away the politics — if you don’t have an editor with a very aggressive political agenda — all the other coverage is up for grabs,” says Dargis. “Mainstream journalists started to cover that stuff. Mainstream papers started to poach, and some writers were comfortable in both worlds. Why shouldn’t they be?

“People like Greg Tate and C. Carr were never going to work for the mainstream press.” But Dargis says she realized that the terms had shifted, and by 2002, as film editor at LA Weekly, she was tired of toiling for alt-press wages. “I could stay there or make twice as much money in the mainstream. I couldn’t say ‘f—‘ anymore, but maybe I could make a living.” She is now a movie critic for The New York Times.

In terms of circulation and revenues, the ’90s seemed like a good time for alternative weeklies. But the seeds of demise had been planted. It wasn’t just what social critic Thomas Frank has called “the conquest of cool” or the pressures that pushed the Voice, for instance, to stop charging for its publication in 1996. It was a wily company from Arizona.

New Times began opening new alt-weeklies and aggressively acquiring existing ones in the ’90s, and their model emphasized investigative reporting but not progressive politics. In 2005, New Times, led by founder Michael Lacey, bought the Voice, LA Weekly and other papers and renamed itself Village Voice Media. At the original Voice, jazz critic Gary Giddins, photographer Sylvia Plachy, Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer and senior editor and gay-rights crusader Richard Goldstein were pushed out before New Times arrived; writers Hentoff, J. Hoberman, Christgau, Michael Musto and James Ridgeway after. From ’05 to ’07, the Voice cycled through five top editors. LA Weekly was cannibalized, too. For those writers left, it was a culture shock.

“I got out in the nick of time,” says Carson, the former LA Weekly and Village Voice employee, who now reviews movies for GQ. “I could not have survived the New Times era. They seemed motivated by hatred of everything the alternative press stood for — the left-wing politics, the countercultural sensibility, the value placed on intellectualism. These guys were just aggressively demolishing everything that weeklies were good for.”

Of course, Craigslist and the Internet consumed much of the advertising that both alternative and mainstream papers depended on and altered the whole landscape. “These retail shifts have made it harder for publishers to distribute their weeklies,” wrote press critic Jack Shafer, a onetime alt-weekly editor in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. “Before Tower Records went under, a paper could drop thousands of copies a week at the store’s many locations, and the stacks would disappear in a day or two. The video stores that once distributed them? Gone.” Instead of opening an alt-weekly as you waited for your subway car or girlfriend, he says, young folks now pull out their cell phones.

“The alternative press comes at a very specific point in American history, and its demise does, too,” says Dargis. “People are going to look at it as completely a technological issue, which is totally reductive. By the time the Internet arrives, the alternative press had already given it up. It had lost its mission.”

A journalism career’s start

As it happens, I am not a disinterested observer in these questions. I became a journalist largely because of the alternative press. As a left-leaning, college-radio-loving teenager in a moderately conservative Reagan-era suburb in Maryland, I found the Voice while working at a bookstore: From its political engagement to its underground music coverage to J. Hoberman’s ability to make broader sense of mainstream films, this was a world I’d suspected existed but had never quite found before that.

By the latter ’90s, when I was in my late 20s, I was editing a film section and writing about culture for New Times’ L.A. paper, New Times Los Angeles, which the company formed after it bought two smaller weeklies and, in my boss’s phrase, “machine-gunned the staff.” I was told over and over again by my bosses about what a bunch of lazy, pontificating hippies sat across town at the Weekly, even as I blushed at the quality of their arts coverage. At New Times I met a very sharp bunch of journalists, but a business model clearly built on the promiscuous use of job termination. (I was fired once, then rehired.) They weren’t quite right-wing — more macho libertarian, with a bullying streak — but when Sarah Palin broke out and began to run down coastal “elites,” I felt like I was back in a Monday editorial meeting.

For all the emphasis on reporting — the implication being that columns, essays or reviews were somehow unmanly — it was a film critic, Peter Rainer, who earned a Pulitzer finalist spot during my time there. Jonathan Gold, who worked for LA Weekly until last year, won his Pulitzer as a food critic.

But what seemed strange about the New Times crowd is that sometimes they were right. And sometimes they were right on important things, as when the paper helped break a scandal in which the Los Angeles Times secretly shared profits with an advertiser.

It was sad, then, when the company shut New Times Los Angeles, in 2002. I had decamped to the Los Angeles Times by then, and I watched with amazement as New Times swaggered back to town, took over the Weekly and started butchering. (Two longtime New Times editors told me the alt-press troubles come from the economy and the Internet and not anything the company did and declined to speak on the record. Similarly, the Association of American Newsmedia has said the Boston Phoenix’s closing and other turmoil is not a sign of a larger decline.)

New Times’ owners killed my old paper’s online archive, so most of what we wrote disappeared. They later dumped almost all of the Weekly’s archive of old papers, which contained what one scribe called “the secret history of L.A.” They moved the paper from a gritty, almost-hip location on Sunset Boulevard to a freeway-adjacent corporate box that former staffers liken to an Ikea set down in Siberia. Joe Donnelly, a gifted editor hired by one “Weekly” regime, fired by another, is not alone in thinking the owners ruined the paper. (Disclosure: I’ve worked with several people in this story, including Donnelly.)

In 2012, Lacey split to take control of Backpage, an online classified service heavy on escort services that has been linked to underage prostitution. (New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof has called it “Where Pimps Peddle Their Goods.”) He has compared his departure to Backpage to his youthful protest over the Kent State dead and to Grove Press’s Barney Rosset’s fight to publish D.H. Lawrence.

What’s the significance of all this for people who read weeklies rather than write for them? Los Angeles, which had three alt-weeklies in the ’80s and ’90s — including an LA Weekly with fact-checkers, researchers and a large writing staff — now has just one, with a skeleton staff and fewer than 100 pages of copy. (Matt Groening’s “Life in Hell” comic, a precursor to “The Simpsons,” ran in one of the papers New Times killed, the Los Angeles Reader.)

Over the years, alternative papers have paid attention to neglected issues and unjustly obscure rock bands. The members of the Pixies met through the classified pages in The Boston Phoenix. Giddins’s jazz writing in the Voice remains as daring and clear as a Charlie Parker solo; Ridgeway’s work on neo-Nazis and militias has no peer. LA Weekly helped document parts of its city that would literally explode in the ’92 riots, and then documented the carnage, in words and pictures, better than any other outlet. Even the New Times papers have published an enormous number of gutsy investigative stories on crony politicians, corrupt sheriffs, kids victimized in foster care and vile religious cults. “Yes, we’re under tremendous pressure in the digital age, like everyone in the media,” says Sarah Fenske, editor of LA Weekly, before naming stories that make her proud to be in the business. She cites a piece about lawyer Carmen Trutanich, whom she calls “one of the biggest bullies in L.A. politics”; one on accusations of exploitation of would-be filmmakers on YouTube; and a third arguing that an epidemic of hit-and-run accidents has been ignored by the police.

“What factory that we’d once hear about dumping toxic chemicals are we not hearing about anymore?” asks Ted Drozdowski, a onetime Boston Phoenix editor. “There are less watchdogs, which is why we hear less barking.”

When those papers go down, or cut pages and staff, those stories disappear and those writers find another way to pay the rent. But it’s not just what we don’t see; it’s the way seeing itself has changed. “When the Voice was in muckraking mode,” says Carson, “and we’d go after some shitty landlord or some awful politico, that story was on the cover, and it was all over the place. Today, you can see that story online and you may be the only person reading it. A physical paper is a physical presence — and you’d see it all over the city.”

Afghanistan: Women Candidates Face Murderous Attacks From Islamic Right Wingers – 22 Killed At Woman’s Election Rally – by Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Rupam Jain (Reuters) 16 Oct 2018

Female Afghan parliamentary election candidate, Suhaila Sahar, speaks among her supporters during an election campaign in Kabul, Afghanistan October 8, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

By Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Rupam Jain

KABUL (Reuters) – More female candidates than ever are set to contest Afghanistan’s upcoming parliamentary election, braving violence and opposition from social conservatives in a campaign seen as a test of the war-torn nation’s democratic institutions.

“Elections in my country are not just about victory or defeat,” said Dewa Niazai, a 26 year-old candidate from the eastern province of Nangarhar, who holds a degree in computer science from India. “It is about launching a small-scale war. I can get killed, injured or abducted.”

Niazai is one of the 417 women candidates contesting seats across the country, despite deadly suicide attacks on election rallies and offices apparently aimed at forcing voters to boycott the vote scheduled for Oct. 20.

She says she wants to be a voice for uneducated women who are not represented in parliament and to defend girls’ rights to education – Islamic State has blown up several girls’ schools in her Nangarhar constituency.

The growing involvement of women has been welcomed by the United Nations and other international bodies, which see the elections as a vital step in building trust in democratic processes.

Female Afghan parliamentary election candidate, Suhaila Sahar, arrives for a speech to her supporters during an election campaign in Kabul, Afghanistan October 8, 2018.  REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Campaigning is fraught with risks regardless of gender. Nine candidates, including one woman, have been killed in separate attacks. Another two have been abducted, and four others have been wounded by hardline Islamist militants, election officials said.

Last week a blast at an election rally of a woman candidate in the northeastern province of Takhar killed 22 people and wounded 35.

Afghan volunteers transport an injured man on a stretcher to a hospital following a bomb attack on a campaign rally in Afghanistan's northeastern Takhar province, Oct. 13, 2018.

(Afghan volunteers transport an injured man on a stretcher to a hospital following a bomb attack on a campaign rally in Afghanistan’s northeastern Takhar province, Oct. 13, 2018.)

Nazifa Yousuf Bek, the female candidate, was standing about 10 meters away when the explosion occurred. “My supporters were waiting to listen to my speech but in a few seconds I was surrounded by their bodies,” the 32-year-old teacher told Reuters. “I am shaken but I am also determined to continue the election campaign. This is my responsibility.”

Afgh 2.png

(Female Afghan parliamentary candidate Dewa Niazai in front of one of her campaign signs in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 3 Oct 2018 )

Afghan Woman

INSECURITY AND HARASSMENT

For women, there are additional challenges, said Maria Bashir, Afghanistan’s first female prosecutor from Herat province, who like other women candidates interviewed by Reuters had until recently never seriously contemplated entering politics.

“In comparison with male candidates, women have more problems in the election race … insecurity and harassment inhibit women’s mobility and justify family restrictions,” she said.

Female Afghan parliamentary election candidate, Suhaila Sahar, speaks among her supporters during an election campaign in Kabul, Afghanistan October 8, 2018.  REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Echoing other women candidates who spoke to Reuters, Bashir says she is standing for election after growing dismayed with the direction of the country, starting with the failure of the government to improve security or safeguard women’s rights.

Unable to hold open rallies because of security concerns, Bashir invites voters to attend political discussions at her home, and travels around the city at night to distribute publicity pamphlets and encourage voters to cast their ballot.

Sabri Andar, the only female candidate with disabilities, is contesting a seat in Kabul. She said her main focus would be on ensuring rights legislation was not ignored.

“Laws about equality exist on paper but they are yet to implemented,” she said. “As a lawmaker I want to ensure we practice what is written in our constitution.”

Women’s rights advocates say that, despite the heavy emphasis placed on promoting equality by international donors, age-old scourges such as child marriage or the murder of women by family members in so-called “honor killings” remain rife. Afghan girls still routinely receive less schooling than boys.

SOCIAL TABOOS

Under the constitution written after the austere rule of the Taliban was ended by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001, at least 68 of the 250 seats in the lower house of parliament are reserved for women. The quota means that Afghanistan fares better in a simple measure of female representation in the legislature than some Western nations – 28 percent of seats in the lower house are currently held by women, 8 points higher than the U.S. Congress.

Female Afghan parliamentary election candidate, Suhaila Sahar, waves to supporters during an election campaign in Kabul, Afghanistan October 8, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

But female candidates campaigning in their constituencies say Afghanistan’s patriarchal culture means they face a battle to be heard even if they win.

“We are trained to dress in a way that is acceptable to men, we talk in a way that does not anger men and, in politics, we are expected to appease them to stay relevant,” said Masooda Jalal, a former minister of women’s affairs.

As well as facing sexual harassment, a regular problem that is rarely discussed openly because of strict social taboos, many women MPs complain they are not taken seriously by their male counterparts.

Women in positions of authority said they were often perceived as puppets who can procure funds from international aid groups committed to promoting gender equality.

Female Afghan parliamentary election candidate, Dewa Niazai, sits at her office during an election campaign in Jalalabad, Afghanistan October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Parwiz

Rights group activists in Kabul said more than three dozen bills drafted to strengthen the existing laws to safeguard the rights of millions of Afghan women were pending before the parliament but have not been allotted time for debate.

Nasrullah Stanekzai, a political science professor at Kabul University and a former legal advisor to President Ashraf Ghani said ethnic, religious, political and financial loyalties of female candidate limit their role.

Election posters of parliamentary candidates are installed on a street while a boy walks past in Jalalabad, Afghanistan October 6, 2018. REUTERS/Parwiz

“Females candidates win elections with the help of powerful male politicians who in turn expects them to work as stooges in the parliament, rarely allowing them to have an independent opinion,” said Stanekzai.

(Additional reporting by Storay Karimi in Herat, Ahmad Sultan in Jalalabad; Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Archive

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Related Story – Up to 74 School Girls Were Hospitalized After Poison Gas Attack by Islamists -2013https://archive.is/4BlHD

Since the 2001 ousting of the Taliban, which banned education for women and girls, girls have returned to schools, especially in Kabul

Russian Novel 1921 – White Tsarist General Blamed Jewish Socialists for the Red Revolution – by Mark Boden (Russia Insider) 17 Oct 2018

” … (A) bitter attack on what it considers the core of the Russian revolution, — the Jewish International.”

“One thing is certain, (it) will surely take Its place as one of the most Important books on the war, and one of the great books of the century.”

“The first part of the book is filled with the spirit that makes monarchy possible; and an American, even if he does not sympathize, gets an insight into the meaning to a devoted subject of the worship of a sovereign.”

 

Friends recently told us about this monumental 800 page novel which they praised effusively as a ripping good story and a thrilling read about the adventures of a Tsarist officer before, during, and after the revolution.

It is primarily a monumental adventure story and detailed tableaux of Russia at the time. A theme running through the story is the conviction of most of the Russian elite that Jewish propaganda played an enormous role in causing the revolution.

The book was a bestseller in England, Germany, and the US when it appeared in the 20s. It is available on Amazon, and can be download in PDF format from the internet.

We found some old American reviews from 1926, including one from The New York Times, of all places, which we reproduce below, together with the Translator’s Preface, and the Introduction to the book.

Interesting to see how diverse the American media landscape was back then.

From the reviews below:

“It is as good as Zola; It is as good as Dumaspere and fils, and all the lot of them put together.”

“It is rather the very personal, very vivid and graphic account by an eye-witness of the things which really did happen at the Imperial Court (even the names of most of the persons are real : nothing has been hidden), of the intimate life of the officers of the Guards, of the soldiers and people, of the coming Revolution; but chiefly of the glittering life in high quarters.”


Great Russian Novel (The Forum, May 1924)

It is a curious anomaly that despite the praise for all things Russian that assails us on every side, perhaps the greatest contemporary Russian novel has, except for a few brief notices, almost escaped the public eye. There are perhaps two reasons for this: first its great length, and secondly its bitter attack on what it considers the core of the Russian revolution, — the Jewish international.

Yet FROM THE TWO-HEADED EAGLE TO THE RED FLAG, by General Krassnoff (Brentano) will surely take its place beside the novels of Dostoevski and Tolstoi as a picture of Russia and Russian life of today. Beginning in 1894, the year in which the ill-fated Nicholas assumed imperial power, the story (divided into four volumes) brings us up to 1921.

What a picture it shows! First the pomp and panoply of court and society circles, with its background of festering wrongs; then the period of war, when Russia stood side by side with the Allies, — the disintegration of the army by German and Jewish propaganda, followed by Bolshevism with all its horrors and, lastly, the pathetic attempts of the White Armies to regain their power.

Out of it all comes a clear mental picture of how the Revolution came about, of how a great country, by means of a few clever, insidious propagandists, who know exactly what they want and how to get it is turned overnight into a ghastly writhing chaos.

Perhaps if those among us who anticipate business dealings with the Bolsheviks would read this book, they might hesitate before signing up with a bunch of murderers whose word means no more than their deeds.


Russia’s Red Flag (The Forum, September 1926)

It Is hard to form an estimate of a book like this. The canvas is so Double Eagle gigantic, the subject from a drawing still so terribly topical. The Interminable serial is still unfolding, chapters are still coming to abrupt conclusions at tense moments, and the unexpected Is still happening all the time.

One thing is certain, General Krassnoff’s story in two volumes of nearly five hundred pages each will surely take Its place as one of the most Important books on the war, and one of the great books of the century.

In writing It Krassnoff, who saw the whole thing, In the days before the war, all through the war and through the revolution, had access to unlimited material. Moreover, with Russia swept and reswept by tornadoes of change, as a result of which, in thousands of cases, nothing at all was left of the old order, General Krassnoff has felt himself under no obligations to observe those unwritten laws of biographical writing which will restrain an author from using actual names and easily Identified material too freely.

And so the novel though centring around the scion of a noble Russian family, is really a story of Russia, over a period of twenty years or so; with every character, — from the Czar to Trotsky, and from Rasputin to Kerensky, faithfully delineated.

In the course of his varied experiences, innumerable biographies, most of them terrible and shot through with tragedy must have come Krassnoff’s way. He had material enough to write a dozen books of this description, and so In the days of his exile in a distant Cossack village when he had fled from the face of the Soviet, and, later on, at Batumi he simply selected and martialed the facts he had at hand in such quantity. He has done it with incomparable skill, and has produced a quite incomparable book.

Those who read It may think that at times it teems too much with horror. They will be reminded, again and again, of such books as Zola’s Debacle; they will accuse the writer of almost fiendish invention In describing some of the seldom alluded to horrors of a campaign. But those whose business it was, through the great war, to struggle through the blue books and yellow books and the red books of the various combatants and read the descriptions of atrocities committed by their opponents, will see that, here again, Krassnoff had not to appeal to his imagination.

One point that emerges with extraordinary clarity from the story is the fact that, In spite of all the change that has swept over Russia, the fundamental polity of the Empire remains unchanged. The tyranny of the Czars has been exchanged for the tyranny of the Soviet; the tyranny of the noble for the tyranny of the Commissar; the tyranny of the private employer for the tyranny of the State; while, in its outlook on the world, the historic Slavic advance in all directions “to the greater glory of the Little Father” willed two hundred years ago by Peter the Great, has simply been replaced by a Soviet advance in all directions for the “liberation of the proletariat”.

The effect, both national and international, is the same.

HUGH A. STUDDERT KENNEDY.


From the New York Times, May, 1926



A Panorama of Russia FROM DOUBLE EAGLE TO RED FLAG. By P. N. KRASSNOFF. With an introduction by William Gerhardi. (Translated from the second Russian edition by Erik Law-Gisiko). In two volumes. New York: Duffield & Co. 1926. $7.50. Reviewed by MALCOLM W . DAVIS

THE SATURDAY REVIEW OF LITERATURE, APRIL 24, 1926

THIS is not simply another book about Russia. It is literally a book of Russia, that only a Russian could have written. In the sweeping panorama of this novel, the Empire of the Tsars, the court and the army before the war, the war itself, and then the revolution, the chaotic period of the Provisional Government under Kerensky, the rise of the Soviets and the establishment of the Bolshevist dictatorship, are recreated as they were known by a former Ataman of the Don Cossacks. It is not a special case, but a story from the life of a people. Yet it is more than fiction,—or rather, perhaps, what fiction should aim to achieve, a commentary on life more telling than any other sort of study.

These two volumes offer more than a compelling narrative. They offer a better explanation than ten volumes of political discussion of why things happened as they did in Russia. In the original it caused an immense amount of argument among Russians. But it is less a book to argue about than to receive as one man’s account of life as he saw it. Much of the material is obviously autobiographical.

The hero of General Krassnoff’s story is Sablin, and you follow him from his youth as an officer in the Tsar’s favorite guard regiment to his death, in the grip of the Soviet secret service, at the hands of his own son. Around him throng an amazing array of the people of Russia,—soldiers and officers, peasants, prostitutes, the Tsar and Tsaritsa and their children, Rasputin the monk and his degenerate followers of the court, Grand Dukes and Duchesses, student revolutionaries and Red Commissars.

You are taken to army reviews, carousals, court functions, to the fighting front, to Soviet prisons, to Communist meetings. In the midst is Sablin, always struggling with the mystery of living as he follows his career; and when he is dead, Russia goes on past his body, callous, indifferent, absorbed in its own turbulent and passionate existence of which he has been a victim. The whole of his life is there, in all its fine and gross aspects. His story is told directly without affectation of style, with the naive Slavic sophistication which accepts and depicts everything.—not in order to shock or sneer, nor in a self-conscious effort to be frank, but because things are as they are. It is a book full of a curious wistful wisdom.

The explanation of the Russian revolution embodied in it consists less in what it tells of the sufferings of the people than in what it reveals of the minds of their former rulers. Naturally, General Krassnoff sees from the point of Tiew of a Cossack officer; and despite the breadth and depth of the author’s thought, to complete the account of Russia we should need another novel from the pen of a peasant soldier. The first part of the book is filled with the spirit that makes monarchy possible; and an American, even if he does not sympathize, gets an insight into the meaning to a devoted subject of the worship of a sovereign. Superficially considered, the conclusion from the book might be seen to be that all the trouble in Russia could have been avoided if the officers had been a little more the soldiers.

But an upheaval like the revolution can not be attributed easily to the fact that Russian officers used to strike their orderlies or that probably few soldiers in the world ever were more brutally driven than Russian privates. And it is to be doubted whether General Krassnoff intended to suggest such an inference.

The deeper causes which he exposes are two-fold, —one the real inability of the old superiors to perceive and understand the lives and aspirations of the people, much less to enter into them and advance them, and the other the impulsive and passionate nature of the Russians themselves, a strange blend of mystical idealism and crude sensuality.

So comprehended, the movement of life in Russia appears as inevitable as the rising of a tide whipped by a storm. It is so that it is seen through the experience of General Krassnoff’s hero. It is a book for any reader who cares to know what Russia has been and is and is likely to be.


From the novel:

TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE

BEFORE presenting the translation of General Krassnoff’s book “From Double Eagle to Red Flag” to the English-speaking public, the translators would like to introduce the author and his work.

The well-known Russian writer Kouprin expresses his opinion of this book in the Paris newspaper “La Cause Commune” in the following terms:

“General Krassnoff has much to narrate. He has witnessed and himself taken part in many events during these terrible years, events so horrible and great, gruesome and heroic, that they would have sufficed for at least ten ordinary lives . And one must admit, judging by the first volume, that the author describes vividly and with real talent all the facts he is acquainted with and the events he has personally witnessed and experienced.”

The author has had indeed exceptional opportunities for observation. A Don Cossack by birth, he began his military career as a Lieutenant in the Atamansky Guard Cossack regiment at St. Petersburg, and soon became known as a dashing cavalry officer and sportsman, and as a writer on military subjects. During the Japanese war he was at the front as a military correspondent. On his return he served in various parts of European Russia and in Siberia . The Great War found him in command of a Cossack cavalry regiment in Poland, at the head of which he won by a brilliant charge his St . George’s cross . He successively commanded a cavalry brigade, a division and the famous 3rd Cavalry Corps.

When the Bolshevik revolution broke out, General Krassnoff left the North and reached the Don region after many adventures and narrow escapes . In the spring of 1918 the Don Cossacks rose against the Bolshevik rule, and the Don Parliament in its first session elected General Krassnoff Ataman of the Don . He filled this post during nine months. The situation he had to face was an extremely difficult one. The Region had suffered greatly from the anarchical rule of the Bolsheviks, but in spite of this he organized a regular Don army and freed the whole of the Don Region. In the spring of 1919 he resigned under the pressure of influences foreign to the Cossacks and left South Russia. He lived for some time at Batoum, where he continued to work on the first volume of his book, which he had begun while living in seclusion in a distant Cossack village before his election as Ataman.

During his full and interesting life General Krassnoff has had the opportunity of coming into closest touch with the various classes of Russian society, and of meeting the most prominent and interesting personalities of the time. We believe that he has succeeded in giving an exact picture of the events which preceded and caused the Revolution, as well as of the chaos of ideas in Russia during the tragic reign of the Emperor Nicholas II, which was the chief cause of the terrible catastrophe . “General Krassnoff tells us in his book many straight-forward and painful truths,” writes Kouprin.

It is necessary to note, that because of this, his book has already provoked indignation in certain circles . We would like to emphasize once more, that the chief interest of the book consists in its being a vivid picture of the mentality of various classes of society of the period, which led to the fall of one of the greatest Empires of the world . It is most valuable as an historical chronicle of its time . The book was originally published in Russia in four volumes, the first of which embraced the period from 1894 till the beginning of the Great War, the second described the war itself and the first months of the revolution up to the seizing of power by the Bolsheviks, the third, entitled “The Martyrs” dealt with the Civil war, and the fourth described life under the rule of the Bolsheviks . We trust that the translation of this book into English will help many to gain a clearer insight into the events of the past few years in Russia.


INTRODUCTION

There is a notion abroad that a preface must needs be unreservedly laudatory. An unhealthy delusion! A preface should, for the most part, be critical and explanative. Here is a book, a provocative document that cannot be launched into a complacent Anglo-Saxon world without some sort of an explanation. Then let me attempt one. “From Double Eagle to Red Flag” was born of the debris of Imperial Russia, conceived in the shadow of Leo Tolstoy’s historical narrative, by a Russian General with exceptional opportunities, an expert on his subject (and that is what makes it so interesting), possessed of keen observation and uncommon literary skill. It is, in the nature of things, monumental; not unlike the London Albert Memorial. And withal the book has a stark, a naked, a terrible fascination. I confess I could not put it down .

What is its hold? Some will say it is art : the grandiose, leisurely novel dealing with Russian reality true to type : “War and Peace” brought up to date. Others will say it’s photography. Others again, that it is Victor Hugo at his best. Never mind what they say-start at the beginning, read twenty pages, and you will not stop till you have come to the end.

This, say what you will, is an achievement o f which the author, the meditative Don Cossack General, Peter Krassnoff, may be justly proud. I venture to prophesy a large public for this epic historical novel covering a quarter of a century – our quarter. And who will deny historical magnitude to our days?

Oh, the great Russian soul! Oh, the colossal Russian mind! It is overwhelming. It is like some gigantic machine of marvelous design and construction – with a hitch that prevents it from working; like a born orator, with an impediment in his speech. Russia will not change. There will arise some new Peter the Great, who will conceive a new plan, let us say, for electrifying the whole of Russia, with a stroke of the pen. On the margin of the ministerial report he will write the words : “Electrify Russia at once .” And the contractors will duly bribe the authorities and supply rotten material, get rich, and’the scheme will be crippled at birth.

In this lies the humor and genius of the race. It needed a Chekhov to see it, a Chekhov who seemed a little weary of people knocking at the window of his bedroom at about half past two in the morning, anxious for a “soul-to-soul” talk . A Chekhov who walked a little outside and beside life. Here you get it all-the unashamed, frank, childish account of it, with a perfect absence of guile, by a nice, well-meaning military gentleman who indeed has never stepped outside it. An officer who is trying to tell you how different it would have been had the other officers of the Guards been a little different to the soldiers. I don’t know.

I have a sneaking feeling that it becomes so gross and low-brow a thing as an army to have low-brow ruffians to direct it. If the officers turned philosophers, poets, or scholars, they might find themselves questioning their objective and losing interest in their work. You may entirely disregard, as I do, the political implications of this book and still feel its relative truth, as I feel it.

The General has been moderate and honest-to the full capacity of his own interpretation of these terms. And who can be more! There runs through his work a doleful note, a sense of frustration and melancholy at the emptiness of “la gloire”- together with a slight irritation at the constant delay of its coming. You read and feel sorry.

A new Tolstoy! A new Dostoevski! No, no; spare us that. It is rather the very personal, very vivid and graphic account by an eye-witness of the things which really did happen at the Imperial Court (even the names of most of the persons are real : nothing has been hidden), of the intimate life of the officers of the Guards, of the soldiers and people, of the coming Revolution; but chiefly of the glittering life in high quarters.

The central figure is the leisured aristocrat, Sablin, the dashing young guardsman par Excellence, whose life is involved, from the time of his seduction by a demi-mondaine to the day of his death at the hand of his own son. The Emperor and Empress of Russia walk the pages again and again, looking, for all the world, thoroughly alive. The Russian Army stands before you in all its gregarious variety ; the military manaouvres are painted to the life. Court functions, balls, grand dukes and foreign ambassadors, funerals, banquets, coronations, dissipations, all the resplendid regimental displays. What pomp! What descriptions! Well done, General! Moreover, there is Rasputin.

There are intrigues, love of the sacred and profane variety . . .  It is as good as Zola; It is as good as Dumaspere and fils, and all the lot of them put together . -William Gerhardi.

………………..

https://russia-insider.com/en/acclaimed-1926-novel-tsarist-general-blames-jews-revolution-double-eagle-red-flag-krasnoff/ri25061


American Media Seeks to Poison US-Russian Cooperation in Space – by Gunnar Ulson (New Eastern Outlook) 15 Oct 2018

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After a string of suspicious incidents involving Russia’s venerable Soyuz rocket system, several prominent American newspapers have attempted to poison the last remaining area of significant cooperation between Russia and the United States.

This includes the Washington Post which has placed itself at the center of Washington and Wall Street’s anti-Russian campaign. Its article, “Astronauts make harrowing escape, but Russian rocket failure roils NASA,” would claim:

A Russian Soyuz rocket malfunctioned two minutes after liftoff Thursday on a mission to the International Space Station, triggering an automatic abort command that forced the two-member crew — an American and a Russian — to make a harrowing parachute landing in their capsule, 200 miles from the launch site in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

The Post would further state:

Thursday’s launch failure came at a dicey moment in the US-Russia space partnership. The two nations have been congenial 250 miles above the Earth’s surface even when events on the ground, such as the Russian annexation of Crimea or the interference of Russia in the 2016 election, have stoked tensions. 

But the United States and Russia have been at odds over the cause of a small hole discovered in August on the Soyuz module — Soyuz MS-09 — currently docked at the space station. Moscow says the hole, now repaired, was the result of deliberate drilling and has suggested sabotage, while the US space agency said this week that investigators will determine the cause.

For NASA itself, it has expressed full confidence in the Russian space program and indicated no desire whatsoever to end its cooperation with its Russian counterparts.

The Guardian in its article, “‘We will fly again’: Nasa to keep using Russia’s Soyuz despite failure,” would explain:

Nasa’s chief has praised the Russian space programme and said that he expected a new crew to go to the International Space Station in December, despite a rocket failure. 

Jim Bridenstine spoke to reporters at the US embassy in Moscow a day after a Soyuz rocket failure forced Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague to make an emergency landing shortly after takeoff in Kazakhstan. The pair escaped unharmed.

The Guardian would further elaborate:

“I fully anticipate that we will fly again on a Soyuz rocket and I have no reason to believe at this point that it will not be on schedule,” the Nasa administrator said.

It was the first such incident in Russia’s post-Soviet history – an unprecedented setback for the country’s space industry.

Space travel is notoriously challenging and both incidents could just be unlucky coincidences. It is also entirely possible that quality control within Russia is lagging and needs to be reexamined and reorganized. Even for NASA, episodes of lax quality control and complacency have caused launch failures including that of the space shuttle Challenger.

Papers like the Washington Post, attempting to shoehorn the incident into the much larger adversarial narrative it has invested itself into and aimed at Moscow could indicate merely the cynical leveraging of an otherwise string of unfortunate accidents.

However, US-Russian cooperation remains a serious and prominent contradiction to those in Washington attempting to portray Russia as a threat to global peace and stability. After all, if Russia is so untrustworthy and truly involved in all that it is accused of by Washington, why does Washington still entrust the lives of NASA astronauts to the Russian Federation?

US-Russian Cooperation in Space Represents the Best of Both Nations 

Space truly is the final frontier, and in more ways than one. It was one of the first areas of cooperation between the US and the Soviet Union and is one of the last areas of cooperation between the United States and Russia today. America’s NASA and Russia’s Roscosmos have proven the height of achievements possible when the US and Russia are able to set aside their differences and move forward together.

The International Space Station represents the pinnacle of human aerospace technology, a permanent homestead in Earth orbit that has been occupied by astronauts and cosmonauts continuously for nearly 20 years. The experience earned on the ISS will be used to further extend humanity’s foothold into space, possibly even making us a multiplanetary species.

The ISS would not have been possible without US-Russian cooperation. It was the US space shuttle that ferried many of the largest modules into space, but Russian components and experience with previous space stations that laid the foundation for the ISS’ construction. It is a Russian and American crew that maintain the majority of the ISS’ systems and primarily Russian and American unmanned spacecraft that resupply those living aboard ISS.

Since the US space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011, Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft has been the only means of sending astronauts and cosmonauts into space.

Beyond the ISS, US aerospace companies have long purchased Russian rocket engines to be fitted to their launch systems. This included United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rockets which used the Russian-built RD-180 engine.

Cutting the Last String of Cooperation?

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Facts regarding US-Russian cooperation in space have become a point of contention as US rhetoric and aggression aimed at Russia has grown with the expansion of NATO eastward toward Russia’s borders and a campaign of destabilization and wars aimed at nations all along Russia’s spheres of influence in the Middle East and across Eurasia.

Several attempts have been made to target Russia’s aerospace industry with sanctions, including attempts at banning the sale of the RD-180 engine. Sanctions elsewhere placed upon Russia seek to generally degrade Russia’s economy, a move that may inevitably degrade Russia’s industrial capacity including its aerospace sector.

The recent incidents surrounding an otherwise premier launch system, the Soyuz, could represent a number of things.

It could represent a simple and correctable lapse in quality control. It could represent the impact of US sanctions aimed at indirectly undermining Russia’s capabilities in all areas (and thus indirectly jeopardizing the lives of American astronauts). It could also represent a concerted effort to sabotage, humiliate, and force the cancellation of US-Russian cooperation in space.

All of these possibilities must be kept in mind until evidence emerges and investigations begin yielding results.

It is clear that not everyone in the United States shares some in Washington’s enthusiasm in targeting and destroying Russia economically as well as its prestigious reputation regarding its accomplishments in space. But it is also clear that those who do are willing to do anything to further poison US-Russian relations and further isolate and place pressure on Moscow.

This includes sabotage at worst, and cynically leveraging simple accidents to poison US-Russian relations instead of contributing toward solutions that allow both nations to move forward together with the best both peoples have to offer.

Either way, it highlights the true root of current and ongoing US-Russian tensions, not the American and Russian people themselves, including the consummate professionals that make up both nations’ space programs, but those lurking in political and media circles with a long track record of promoting war, discord and tensions for shallow, political objectives, because no matter how grand the aspirations of these malign actors may be, they pale in comparison to what the US and Russia have already proven possible in space, together.

Gunnar Ulson, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

The Saudi Connection – Telegraph ‘Defence Editor’ Con Coughlin Exposed by Guardian’s Owen Jones As Shill for Medieval Dictatorship in Twitter Firestorm – 15 Oct 2018

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Con Coughlin Saudi Propaganda Mouth Piece

 

 

Guardian journalist Owen Jones savaged the Telegraph’s defence editor after he went to a Saudi Arabia Embassy party at a London Museum. Con Coughlin has now deleted his Twitter account after Jones linked him to both Saudi and MI6.
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Coughlin’s credibility was left in tatters after a Jones Twitter thread took aim at the journalist and his wife. The thread was instigated by Coughlin’s attendance at a party hosted by the Saudi government at the Natural History Museum, amidst allegations that Saudi agents had killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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Following Khashoggi’s disappearance, Coughlin echoed the line of the Saudi government, tweeting: “Was Jamal Khasogghi a liberal or a Muslim Brotherhood lackey who reviled the West?” and linking to his article on the matter.

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The writer also took exception with Coughlin’s reporting on Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.

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Jones didn’t only look at Coughlin’s recent work and connections, he also went back into the veteran’s career to expose numerous instances where Coughlin was reportedly fed lines by MI6, writing: “One false story fed to him by MI6 about Saif Gaddafi led to the Sunday Telegraph apologising for libel.”

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The Guardian writer then exposed Coughlin for his work in the build up to the Iraq War, posting that he was involved in the pushing of ‘evidence’ of a link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, that “Pulizter-winning journalist Ron Suskind claims the Bush administration forged.”

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Moving on to his spouse Katharine Bergen, Jones detailed how she “is a former journalist who wrote pro-Bahrain propaganda for publications ranging from The Daily Mail to Standpoint Magazine.”

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The Twitter thread subsequently went viral, with thousands re-tweeting and liking Jones’ posts. He was hailed by many, although one former Guardian journalist said his words would be a lot more powerful if he looked at his own employers too.  Owen Jones is not ‘criticising’ the corporate media – he is showing a connection between a supposed journalist and the brutal Saudi dictatorship as well as being a parrot for CIA and MI6 war propaganda. 

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It is unclear as to Coughlin’s response to the attack, other than to delete his Twitter account. The editor did, however, have a story published on Sunday, titled: “Are you smart enough to pass the GCHQ entrance exam? Test your intelligence with these extracts from the world’s toughest puzzle book.”

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Man Dies from Extremely Rare Disease After Eating Squirrel Brains – By Rachael Rettner – 15 Oct 2018

Squirrel Helper

A man in New York developed an extremely rare and fatal brain disorder after he ate squirrel brains, according to a new report of the man’s case.

In 2015, the 61-year-old man was brought to a hospital in Rochester, New York, after experiencing a decline in his thinking abilities and losing touch with reality, the report said. The man had also lost the ability to walk on his own.

An MRI of the man’s head revealed a striking finding: The brain scan looked similar to those seen in people with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a fatal brain condition caused by infectious proteins called prions. Only a few hundred cases of vCJD have ever been reported, and most were tied to consumption of contaminated beef in the United Kingdom in the 1980s and 1990s. (In cows, vCJD is commonly called “mad cow disease.”)

But in this case, the man had another dietary habit that could have raised his risk for vCJD: His family said he liked to hunt, and it was reported that he had eaten squirrel brains, said Dr. Tara Chen, a medical resident at Rochester Regional Health and lead author of the report. It’s unclear if the man consumed the entire squirrel brain or just squirrel meat that was contaminated with parts of squirrel brain, Chen said. [27 Oddest Medical Cases]

Chen didn’t treat the patient, but she uncovered the case while writing a report on suspected Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease cases seen at her hospital in the last five years.

The report was presented on Oct. 4 at IDWeek, a meeting of several organizations focused on infectious diseases.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a progressive neurological disorder that affects only about 1 in a million people each year worldwide, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It’s a “debilitating disease” that progresses quickly and usually results in death within one year of diagnosis, Chen told Live Science. There is no treatment or cure.

The disease results from prion proteins that fold abnormally, leading to lesions in the brain.

There are three forms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD): one that is inherited, one that comes from exposure to infected tissue from the brain or nervous system (this form includes vCJD), and one type that is “sporadic” and does not appear to have a genetic or environmental cause.

The sporadic type is the most common, responsible for 85 percent of cases, according to the NIH.

Because CJD is so rare, doctors at Rochester Regional Health were surprised when four suspected cases of the disease occurred at the hospital within a six-month period, from November of 2017 to April of 2018. That number is higher than expected based on the population of the Rochester area, which has about 1 million people, said study co-author Dr. John Hanna, also a medical resident at Rochester Regional Health.

This high number of suspected CJD cases prompted Chen, Hanna and colleagues to conduct a review of suspected CJD cases occurring at their hospital from 2013 to 2018. (Five cases were identified, but two of those five ultimately tested negative for CJD.)

That’s when the doctors came across the case tied to squirrel brains. Tests indicated that this was a “probable” case of vCJD because of the MRI finding and a test that showed specific proteins in the patient’s cerebrospinal fluid, which often indicate the disease.

However, CJD can be confirmed only with a test of brain tissue on autopsy at death. Although the patient passed away after his diagnosis, Chen and colleagues are working to obtain access to his medical records to see if CJD was confirmed at autopsy. If so, such a confirmation would be highly unusual; only four confirmed cases of vCJD have ever been reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The review of the five cases revealed a concerning finding: Diagnosis of the condition was often delayed; in one case, about two weeks passed before doctors suspected that a patient had CJD. In that case, the patient, a 65-year-old woman, had undergone plasmapheresis, a blood-filtering procedure, and a gynecological surgery before her diagnosis.

Quick diagnosis of CJD is important, because infectious prions could contaminate equipment used on patients with the disease, and this might transmit the condition to others if the equipment is not properly cleaned.

Diagnosis may be delayed, in part, because CJD is rare and is not “on the tip of the physician’s mind” when assessing a patient, Hanna told Live Science. In addition, once doctors suspect CJD and order a cerebrospinal fluid test, it typically takes around two weeks to get the test results.

The report highlights the need for doctors to keep CJD diagnosis in mind and for hospitals to have “policies for infection control when it comes to CJD,” Hanna said.

Originally published on Live Science.

Clashes as Right Wing Hindu Hardliners Block Women From Entering Indian Temple – by Bhuvan (AFP) 17 Oct 2018

Police tried to clear protesters who are against allowing women into the site

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AFP
(Police tried to clear protesters who are against allowing women into the site )

Clashes erupted on Wednesday as Hindu hardliners prevented women visiting one of India’s most sacred temples, with baton-waving police charging stone-throwing protesters.

Traditionalists have tried to stop female pilgirms entering the temple in Kerala (AFP Photo/ARUN SANKAR)

Ugly scenes erupted as mobs surrounded and attacked the cars of female journalists. Other reporters including a female AFP journalist were intimidated.

Hindu devotees, many of them female, have protested in recent days against allowing women to pray in the Sabarimala temple (AFP Photo/Kaviyoor Santosh)

The situation remained tense after nightfall, with police reinforcing the 500 officers already present ahead of likely another dramatic day on Thursday on the road to the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala.

Last month India’s Supreme Court overturned a ban on females of menstruating age — judged between 10 and 50 years — entering and praying at the hilltop temple in the southern state of Kerala.

This enraged traditionalists, including supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with thousands protesting in the days before the scheduled opening on Wednesday afternoon.

Kerala’s state government insisted it would enforce the court ruling and ensure free access to the remote complex, reached by an uphill trek that takes several hours.

Kerala has drafted in police to ensure the court ruling is respected (AFP Photo/ARUN SANKAR)

At Nilackal, a base camp below the temple, police cleared protesters early Wednesday morning and arrested seven people who were stopping vehicles.

“Stern action will be taken against anyone who prevents devotees from going to Sabarimala,” Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Tuesday.

– Turned back –

But later police struggled to control the situation, fighting running battles that left five devotees and 15 policemen injured, according to EP Jayarajan, a minister in the Kerala government.

News channels CNN News 18 and Republic TV both showed footage of their reporters’ cars being vandalised. Online publication The News Minute said its reporter was kicked in the spine.

One 45-year old woman identified as Madhavi who wanted to enter the temple abandoned her attempt after activists prevented her climbing the hill, the Press Trust of India reported.

Even though police gave the woman and her family protection and allowed them to move further, they gave up as irate activists surrounded them, PTI reported.

Biju S. Pillai, a local man in his 30s, was one of those opposed to the court ruling, telling AFP that he returned from working in Dubai to “protect the sanctity of the temple”.

“No one should be able to change the way this temple has functioned for centuries,” he said. “If any change is made they will have to kill us and go over our bodies.”

“I am here to protest the Supreme Court decision,” said engineer Anisha S., 23, one of a group chanting religious slogans. “We want to save our traditions. Ayyappa needs to be respected.”

Jayarajan blamed the violence on “goons” from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a hardline Hindu group seen as close to Modi’s BJP, which is an opposition party in Kerala.

P.S. Sreedharan Pillai, head of the Kerala BJP, pointed the finger at the state government and a bungled police operation.

“The overwhelming majority of women oppose the Supreme Court ruling,” he told AFP.

– ‘Impure’ –

Women are permitted to enter most Hindu temples but female devotees are still barred from entry by some.

Two years ago, activists successfully campaigned to end a ban on women entering the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra state.

Women were also permitted to enter Mumbai’s Haji Ali Dargah mausoleum, a Muslim place of worship, after the Supreme Court scrapped a ban in 2016.

The entry of women at Sabarimala was long taboo but was formalised by the Kerala High Court in 1991, a ruling overturned by India’s Supreme Court last month.

The restriction reflected an old but still prevalent belief among many that menstruating women are impure, and the fact that the deity Ayyappa was reputed to have been celibate.

The Sabarimala chief priest, Kandararu Maheshwararu Tantri, 25, warned this week that “anger could easily escalate into violence if a few egotistical women try to enter” the temple.

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Code hidden in Stone Age art may be the root of human writing – New Scientist – 9 Nov 2016

A painstaking investigation of Europe’s cave art has revealed 32 shapes and lines that crop up again and again and could be the world’s oldest code

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Spot the signs: geometric forms can be found in paintings, as at Marsoulas in France

Philippe Blanchot / hemis.fr / Hemis/AFP

When she first saw the necklace, Genevieve von Petzinger feared the trip halfway around the globe to the French village of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac had been in vain. The dozens of ancient deer teeth laid out before her, each one pierced like a bead, looked roughly the same. It was only when she flipped one over that the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. On the reverse were three etched symbols: a line, an X and another line.

Von Petzinger, a palaeoanthropologist from the University of Victoria in Canada, is spearheading an unusual study of cave art. Her interest lies not in the breathtaking paintings of bulls, horses and bison that usually spring to mind, but in the smaller, geometric symbols frequently found alongside them. Her work has convinced her that far from being random doodles, the simple shapes represent a fundamental shift in our ancestors’ mental skills.

The first formal writing system that we know of is the 5000-year-old cuneiform script of the ancient city of Uruk in what is now Iraq. But it and other systems like it – such as Egyptian hieroglyphs – are complex and didn’t emerge from a vacuum. There must have been an earlier time when people first started playing with simple abstract signs. For years, von Petzinger has wondered if the circles, triangles and squiggles that humans began leaving on cave walls 40,000 years ago represent that special time in our history – the creation of the first human code.

If so, the marks are not to be sniffed at. Our ability to represent a concept with an abstract sign is something no other animal, not even our closest cousins the chimpanzees, can do. It is arguably also the foundation for our advanced, global culture.

The first step to check her theory was to fastidiously document the signs, their location, age and style, and see if any patterns emerged. For this, von Petzinger would have to visit as many caves as she could: archaeology’s focus on paintings of animals meant the signs were often overlooked in existing records.

tectiforms

Black tectiforms at Las Chimeneas, Spain

D v. Petzinger

It wasn’t easy or glamorous work. Gaining access to caves in France, where a lot of Stone Age art is located, can be devilishly complicated. Many are privately owned and sometimes jealously guarded by archaeologists. For the full set of symbols, von Petzinger also had to visit many obscure caves, the ones without big, flashy paintings. At El Portillo in northern Spain, all she had to go on was a note an archaeologist made in 1979 of some “red signs”; no one had been back since. At first, von Petzinger couldn’t even find the entrance. Eventually, she noticed a tiny opening at knee level, trickling with water. “Thank God I’m not claustrophobic,” she says. After 2 hours sliding through mud inside the mountain, she found two dots painted in pinkish ochre.

Between 2013 and 2014, von Petzinger visited 52 caves in France, Spain, Italy and Portugal. The symbols she found ranged from dots, lines, triangles, squares and zigzags to more complex forms like ladder shapes, hand stencils, something called a tectiform that looks a bit like a post with a roof, and feather shapes called penniforms. In some places, the signs were part of bigger paintings. Elsewhere, they were on their own, like the row of bell shapes found in El Castillo in northern Spain (see picture below), or the panel of 15 penniforms in Santian, also in Spain.

bell shapes

At El Castillo in Spain, a black penniform and bell-shapes

D v. Petzinger

“Our ability to represent a concept with an abstract symbol is uniquely human“

Perhaps the most startling finding was how few signs there were – just 32 in all of Europe. For tens of thousands of years, our ancestors seem to have been curiously consistent with the symbols they used. This, if nothing else, suggests that the markings had some sort of significance. “Of course they mean something,” says French prehistorian Jean Clottes. “They didn’t do it for fun.” The multiple repetitions of the P-shaped claviform sign in France’s Niaux cave “can’t be a coincidence”, he argues.

Thanks to von Petzinger’s meticulous logging, it’s now possible to see trends – new signs appearing in one region, sticking around for a while before falling out of fashion. Hand stencils, for example, were fairly common in the earliest parts of the Upper Palaeolithic era, starting 40,000 years ago, then fall out of fashion 20,000 years later. “You see a cultural change take place,” says von Petzinger. The earliest known penniform is from about 28,000 years ago in the Grande Grotte d’Arcy-sur-Cure in northern France, and later appears a little to the west of there before spreading south. Eventually, it reaches northern Spain and even Portugal. Von Petzinger believes it was first disseminated as people migrated, but its later spread suggests it then followed trade routes.

The research also reveals that modern humans were using two-thirds of these signs when they first settled in Europe, which creates another intriguing possibility. “This does not look like the start-up phase of a brand-new invention,” von Petzinger writes in her recently published book, The First Signs: Unlocking the mysteries of the world’s oldest symbols (Simon and Schuster). In other words, when modern humans first started moving into Europe from Africa, they must have brought a mental dictionary of symbols with them.

That fits well with the discovery of a 70,000-year-old block of ochre etched with cross-hatching in Blombos cave in South Africa. And when von Petzinger looked through archaeology papers for mentions or illustrations of symbols in cave art outside Europe, she found that many of her 32 signs were used around the world (see “Consistent doodles”). There is even tantalising evidence that an earlier human, Homo erectus, deliberately etched a zigzag on a shell on Java some 500,000 years ago. “The ability of humans to produce a system of signs is clearly not something that starts 40,000 years ago. This capacity goes back at least 100,000 years,” says Francesco d’Errico from the University of Bordeaux, France.

Nonetheless, something quite special seems to have happened in ice age Europe. In various caves, von Petzinger frequently found certain symbols used together. For instance, starting 40,000 years ago, hand stencils are often found alongside dots. Later, between 28,000 and 22,000 years ago, they are joined by thumb stencils and finger fluting – parallel lines created by dragging fingers through soft cave deposits.

Etched teeth

These kinds of combinations are particularly interesting if you’re looking for the deep origins of writing systems. Nowadays, we effortlessly combine letters to make words and words to make sentences, but this is a sophisticated skill. Von Petzinger wonders whether the people of the Upper Palaeolithic started experimenting with more complex ways of encoding information using deliberate, repeated sequences of symbols. Unfortunately, that’s hard to say from signs painted on cave walls, where arrangements could be deliberate or completely random. “Demonstrating that a sign was conceived as a combination of two or more different signs is difficult,” says d’Errico.

etched deer teeth

Etched deer teeth from Saint-Germain-de-la-Rivière, France

D v. Petzinger

It was while she was grappling with this conundrum that von Petzinger found out about the necklace of red deer teeth. It was found among other artefacts in the grave of a young woman who died some 16,000 years ago in Saint-Germain-de-la-Rivière, in south-west France. From a description in a book, von Petzinger knew that many of the teeth had geometric designs carved into them. So she travelled from Canada to the National Museum of Prehistory in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, where the teeth were held, in the hope that they might be a missing piece of her puzzle.

Consistent doodles

The moment she flipped the first one, she knew the trip had been worthwhile. The X and straight lines were symbols she had seen together and separately on various cave walls. Now here they were, with the X sandwiched between two lines to form a compound character. As she turned each tooth over, more and more decorations were revealed. In the end, 48 were etched with single signs or combinations, many of which were also found in caves. Whether or not the symbols are actually writing depends on what you mean by “writing”, says d’Errico. Strictly speaking, a full system must encode all of human speech, ruling the Stone Age signs out. But if you take it to mean a system to encode and transmit information, then it’s possible to see the symbols as early steps in the development of writing. That said, cracking the prehistoric code (see “What do they mean?“) may prove impossible. “Something we call a square, to an Australian Aborigine, might represent a well,” says Clottes.

For d’Errico, we will never understand the meaning of the symbols without also considering the animal depictions they are so often associated with. “It is clear that the two make sense together,” he says. Similarly, cuneiform is composed of pictograms and counting tallies. A ration, for instance, is represented by a bowl and human head, followed by lines to denote quantity.

Von Petzinger points out another reason to believe the symbols are special. “The ability to realistically draw a horse or mammoth is totally impressive,” she says. “But anybody can draw a square, right? To draw these signs you are not relying on people who are artistically gifted.” In a sense, the humble nature of such shapes makes them more universally accessible – an important feature for an effective communication system. “There’s a broader possibility for what they could be used for, and who was using them.”

More than anything, she believes the invention of the first code represents a complete shift in how our ancestors shared information. For the first time, they no longer had to be in the same place at the same time to communicate with each other, and information could survive its owners.

The quest is far from over. Von Petzinger plans to expand her Stone Age dictionary by adding in the wealth of signs on portable objects, in caves on other continents and maybe even those found beneath the waves (see “Diving for art“). “We only have part of the picture now. We are on the cusp of an exciting time.”

What do they mean?

Geometric marks left alongside murals of animals have attracted the curiosity and scrutiny of archaeologists for decades, although it’s only recently that one researcher, Genevieve von Petzinger, has begun systematically cataloguing them all into a searchable database to try to determine their significance (see main story).

For French prehistorian Henri Breuil, who studied cave art in the early 20th century, the paintings and engravings were all about hunting and magic. In the abstract symbols, he saw representations of traps and weapons – meanings that were intrinsically linked to the larger paintings. In the 1960s, the French archaeologist André Leroi-Gourhan declared that lines and hooks were male signs, whereas ovals and triangles were female.

Some of this interpretation has stuck. Circles and inverted triangles are still often cited in the literature as representations of the vulva. It is worth noting that many of the earlier scholars studying cave art were men, which may have led to gender biases in their interpretations. “It’s interesting that it was predominantly male archaeologists doing this work early on, and there were a whole lot of vulvas being identified everywhere. This could have been a product of the times, but then again, many cultures do place importance on fertility,” says von Petzinger.

Later, South African archaeologist David Lewis-Williams proposed a neuropsychological interpretation for some symbols. Like many of his peers, Lewis-Williams believes that at least some Stone Age art was made during or after hallucinogenic trips, perhaps as part of shamanic rituals. If so, the symbols could simply be literal representations of hallucinations. Some studies suggest that drugs and migraines can both provoke linear and spiral patterns, not unlike those seen in ice age art.

But the sad truth is that without a time machine, we may never really know what our ancestors were communicating with these signs.

Diving for art

Some of the most stunning cave art in Europe was only discovered in 1985, when divers found the mouth of the Cosquer cave 37 metres below the Mediterranean coastline near Marseilles in southern France. Its entrance had been submerged as sea levels rose after the last ice age. Chances are, other similar caves are waiting to be discovered.

So von Petzinger has teamed up with David Lang of OpenROV in Berkeley, California, which makes low-cost, underwater robots. Next year, they plan to use them to hunt for submerged cave entrances off Spain’s north coast. The region is rich in painted caves, many close to the shoreline, so it seems likely that others could be hiding below the waves.

If they find any, the pair will send in the remote-controlled mini-submarines, armed with cameras, to safely explore the new sites.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23230990-700-in-search-of-the-very-first-coded-symbols/

Idlib Residents Declare Hatred for All Sides in Syria’s Civil War – by Patrick Cockburn • 12 Oct 2018

“People in Idlib hate all those with power over them,” says Ahmad Abu Omar, 33, a history teacher living in the province, the last opposition enclave in the west of Syria.

He says that the three million people of Idlib fear a return of government forces, but are almost equally hostile to the armed opposition groups now ruling Idlib because they have spread violence and chaos. He sees Turkey and Russia, who this week started implementing their ceasefire agreement to prevent a government offensive into the province, as acting solely in their own interests.

Abu Omar, in an exclusive interview with The Independent from Idlib city via Whatsapp, describes the mood as war weary and disillusioned. The province south west of Aleppo was once a stronghold of the armed opposition after the original uprising of 2011. Hostility towards the government in Damascus is still intense, but so is antipathy towards its opponents. “At the beginning you could see the youth rushing to fight [against government forces],” says Abu Omar. “But now nobody cares about fighting and religious belief can no longer motivate people to fight for those in control here [the armed opposition].”

Abu Omar, who does not want his real name published because of fear of retribution, was speaking as Russia and Turkey were implementing the terms of agreement reached by president Vladimir Putin and president Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Sochi in September. The terms of the deal show the extent to which Turkey and Russia are now the dominant powers in northwest Syria. They have established a demilitarised zone 15-20 kilometres wide to separate opposition and Syrian government forces which is being monitored by Turkish and Russian patrols. Opposition heavy weapons such as tanks, rocket systems and mortars have been withdrawn, along with 1,000 fighters.

Other provisions of the agreement include the withdrawal of the most militarily effective opposition group, the al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, by 15 October as well as the opening of the M4 and M5 highways linking the government-held cities of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia.

The city’s residents are sceptical about the motives of local and foreign players in Idlib, but they are grateful that a new round of the fighting has been averted for the moment. They see themselves as facing a choice of evils. Abu Ahmad Bakour, 47, who tries to eke out a living as a day labourer in Idlib, says: “We don’t understand what is happening in our region, but we are all happy that there is no fighting and no bombardment.”

He dislikes the continuing rule by opposition militias, said to number some 90,000 fighters, as much as the prospect of a return of Syrian government authority. “If we people are asked whom we would prefer to rule us, then we would say the Turkish rather than the Syrian government,” he says. Mr Bakour is fearful of the Iranian militias on the government side whom, he is convinced, would kill Sunni Arabs like himself and “put us in mass graves” if they ever recaptured Idlib.

He is trenchant in his criticism of the many opposition groups that have held Idlib city since 2015 and the rest of the province for even longer. “We are tired of war and of the militant groups that use the name of Islam to control us,” he says. “They are just stealing money and strangling the people by what they do.”

Abu Omar agrees with Mr Bakour’s rage against both the Syrian government and the armed opposition, though he does not go along with his preference for Turkish rule. He says that less than 10 per cent of people in Idlib are pro-Turkish and that the rest “realise that Turkey is playing for the region for its own benefit”.

People in Idlib are not starving, but they are very poor, particularly in the cities and towns where there is little work. In Idlib city, there are many, like Mr Bakour, who sit in the squares and roundabouts hoping to be hired as day labourers, which will earn them the equivalent of about $2 for a day’s work. Others wait beside the road selling fuel, much of which comes from the Kurdish-held oilfields in eastern Syria. Nobody is building anything so there are no construction jobs, but some skilled workers and professionals, such as doctors, nurses, electricians and car repairmen, earn good money providing essential services. The best jobs are with aid organisations that pay between $200 and $700 a month in dollars.

Idlib shares a border with Turkey, but it is not isolated from the rest of Syria despite many government checkpoints in and out of the province. Sieges in the wars in Syria and Iraq seldom amount to a complete blockade of people and goods entering or leaving. This is because checkpoints act more like privatised customs posts. Government and opposition pay their forces too little to live on so their men depend on bribes. It will be a blow to the armed opposition if they lose the revenues from their control of the M4 and M5 highways under the Turkish-Russian agreement.

“Many agricultural goods, especially olives, tomatoes and potatoes, are exported to regime areas and industrial goods, including canned goods, pharmaceuticals, clothes and shoes come back,” Abu Omar says. He says that Syrian goods and produce are mostly cheaper than that those coming from Turkey. This flourishing two-way trade means that when fighting has closed the roads in and out of Idlib, prices in its markets have gone down rather than up because output can no longer be exported to the rest of Syria. When trade is free flowing, tomatoes sell in Idlib for the equivalent of 70 US cents a kilogram, but, when the checkpoints are closed, the price drops to 30 cents. Olive oil likewise costs $6 a litre normally, but when there is fighting the price is half that in Idlib.

The Syrian war has largely been a war of sieges and blockades of which Idlib is the last. All sides have found it profitable to allow trade with their worst enemies, even when Isis controlled the east of the country. This spring the main M4 east-west highway was crowded with road tankers bringing crude from the Kurdish-held oilfields in the north east to the government refinery at Homs.

The Turkish-Russian ceasefire agreement in Idlib is holding, though the Syrian government speaks of it as a temporary arrangement. But it is Mr Putin and Mr Erdogan who decide what will happen in Idlib and neither of them wants the deal to collapse. Almost unnoticed, the remnants of the armed opposition, once promoted by the West and regional powers as the future rulers of Syria, is losing any autonomy it still retained and, if it has a future, it will be as auxiliaries to the Turkish army. Mr Assad has not yet entirely won the war, but the opposition have certainly lost it.

Meanwhile, people in Idlib distrust all sides and with good reason, but, as Abu Omar says, they “are happy with any solution that stops them again becoming the victims of displacement, destruction and war”.

Dating Site Review – Adult Friend Finder

Everyone knows making friends as an adult is just as nerve-wracking as it was in middle school. AdultFriendFinder sounds like it should be the solution — but is it?

Moving to a new city or working at a new job where you don’t know anybody can seriously be depressing. What are you supposed to do? Go sit at the bar by yourself? And talk to strangers?

Then comes the lightbulb idea: You can make friends online! If online dating is so popular and successful, there’s no way that there aren’t a few legit sites where you can make adult friends in your area with similar interests. Hmm, AdultFriendFinder.com sounds familiar.

So you’re on your lunch break at work, type in the URL, and the next thing you know, you’re frantically closing the tab and hoping nobody walked behind you for that split second.

Image: adultfriendfinder

Our point: AdultFriendFinder is not what you think it is.

Friends with benefits

As you can see from the words blatantly plastered across the main page pictured above, AdultFriendFinder is where you can go to “join the world’s largest sex and swinger community.” (That photo is actually a video of a girl talking, so you may want to mute your computer before your click — or at least put on headphones.)

AdultFriendFinder one of the most well-known sites for finding quick sexual encounters, regular hookups, and literally anything else even remotely related to sex. The unfiltered, rowdy-as-hell match feed, jumble of explicit photos, and stimulating calls-to-action offering all types of sex makes is heaven for anyone looking for a good time — and hell for someone who was genuinely trying to make platonic friends.

On average, AdultFriendFinder attracts an average of 25 million visits per month — for reference, eharmony sees 4.1 million visits per month. So yeah. It’s big. The majority of traffic originates from the United States (54%), followed by visitors from the United Kingdom and Canada. The site ranks number 42 among all adult sites in the US (including porn sites) and number 713 worldwide.

Unfortunately, the numbers that most people want to know — the male to female ratio — are hard to find. (Even AskMen couldn’t find those stats). There’s speculation that this is because there are significantly more men than women on the site, and AdultFriendFinder would likely be worried about scaring off newcomers with the whole “sausage party” vibe. This isn’t officially confirmed, though, and there are clearly enough women to keep the site up and running.

This site is all about sex

If you’re 100% over being grilled with relationship questions on traditional dating sites like EliteSingles and OkCupid, AdultFriendFinder is your golden ticket to instant communication. Registering takes literally 30 seconds — they require nothing from you aside from an email address, a username, a password, and an introduction. Though they don’t require a bio or a picture, it’s probably best to add a few to up your chances for messages and flirtation, especially if you’re looking for something super specific, as you’re more likely to be contacted by people looking for the same thing.

This a real screenshot from AdultFriendFinder.
This a real screenshot from AdultFriendFinder.

Image: adultfriendfinder

I guess it’s comforting to know that some people on here care about what’s on the inside as well. 

After you register, you’ll see that there are a ton of options to completely personalize your account (way more than I expected for a hookup site, honestly). The more you fill out, the more attractive your profile will be to new viewers. There are the basic physical appearance questions about eye and hair color, and since I identified as a woman, cup size was an option. (If you identify as a man, I’m sure you can guess what question they ask.)

There’s also a personality test that seemed pretty close to something you’d see on Match or eharmony, and I guess it’s comforting to know that some people on here care about what’s on the inside as well.

One of the funniest forms was the “Purity Test,” featuring 100 hilariously-worded questions about how far you’re willing to go sexually. It felt like the sexy 20 questions game that you’d play with your middle school crush when neither of you know how to flirt, but I guess this information is pertinent when you’re on a site that’s all about sex.

There’s no real matching strategy other than the basic info on physical appearances, so don’t get your hopes up when it comes to finding a lasting connection or kindred soul — but hey, if you’re on the site for the same reasons most other people are, that stuff won’t really matter anyway. *Shrug*

Finding a match

Like a traditional dating site, AdultFriendFinder gives you a collage of potential matches at the top of your personal home page. (I had nearly 95,000 possible matches just from putting in my zip code.) These will be random right after you sign up, but you can opt to update your preferences to refine your results: Choose your preferred gender(s), age range, location and mile radius, race, sexual orientation, body type, and marital status. They’ll let you know who’s online when you are, which matches are closest to you, new people who liked or messaged you, and all of that good stuff.

Your personal feed will be pretty intense: You barely have to scroll before you see naked parts. Depending on whether you set your preferences to men, women, or both, you’ll see all of that stuff up close, personal, swinging around, in action — you name it, it’ll pop up.

AdultFriendFinder is basically like a PornHub that you can interact with. We probably don’t have to say this, but AdultFriendFinder is NSFW and not safe to be on while kids are in the room. Some videos will be blurred out and read “Naughty video” until you upgrade to a Gold Membership, but trust me — I started out with the free version, and you still get to a see a lot.

AdultFriendFinder is basically like a PornHub that you can interact with.

The message section is set up similarly to a Gmail account, and you can mark things as read or important just as you would on a real email. How professional. You’ll also receive messages instantly, which is definitely a confidence boost even though you know they’re probably just looking for one thing. Some will be raunchy (I received messages from guys asking to meet up and get it on before I even uploaded my photos) but some are genuinely friendly.

You can tell who took the time to look at your profile and who is sending the same thing to everyone, but it’s nice to see that there is a range. I’ve received messages just as aggressive on Tinder, so unless you’ve never been on a dating site ever in your life, you won’t be too shocked.

Unlike more traditional dating sites, these people don’t need to talk and get to know you for months before meeting. If you’re tired of things moving too slowly or need a change of pace, it’s pretty awesome to know you can immediately make plans for each night of the week.

It’s actually not that bad, though

Once you get past the in-your-face sexplosion of naked profile pictures, questionable profile names (many involve the number 69), and explicit videos, there are actually an impressive number of resources to help make your experience as satisfying as possible. Some will cost money even outside of the paid subscription, which kinda sucks.

Aside from the NSFW content, the website is extremely user friendly (although in need of a redesign). Every feature is advertised in big letters, notifications are displayed clearly with labels, and you don’t really have to click around to find anything. This makes it super accessible for users of all ages, even those who aren’t tech savvy and can’t even figure out Facebook. Everything’s a little jumbled, but you figure it out after messing around for a few minutes.

Here’s a quick list of some of the many things you can do:

 

    • Request friends

 

    • Direct messaging and emailing: You can do this without being friends

 

    • Flirt: It’s like a poke on Facebook to let someone know you’re interested if you’re too nervous to message first

 

    • Send virtual gifts

 

    • Play the “Hot or Not” game: The flirty version of MySpace’s Top 8

 

    • Watch videos of people in your feed — be aware of your surroundings for these

 

    • Start a blog

 

    • Watch live broadcasts: No, these are not news segments

 

    • Adult chat rooms: Topics vary greatly. You can talk to married couples, find other couples, talk to people around the world, or hit up the site’s “love doctors” to get help with a failing relationship

 

    • Join groups: These can get extremely specific, so you’re likely to find one in your niche interest.

 

    • Photo contests: June 2018 featured an LGBTQ one for Pride Month

 

    • Buy courses from the Sex Academy: Online instructional videos for anal sex, oral sex, how to meet women online, and more. (Note: These cost extra outside of the paid membership.)

 

AdultFriendFinder is like your friend at the bar who just wants you to get laid. 

As scary as it is to be bombarded with naked bodies, I give props to the creators for being so pro-sex and honestly, so helpful. It’s obvious that they want to help their users to have a good time. AdultFriendFinder is like your outgoing friend at the bar who just wants you to get laid and who can introduce you to tons of people with similar interests.

You can join topic-specific chat rooms and groups, or download online courses from the Sex Academy to learn new sex skills or tips on how to talk to people online. You can also watch videos and live broadcasts people have posted, which might be alarming at first — but AdultFriendFinder knows that watching videos of real people that you could possibly meet in real life is way more satisfying than porn.

Another bonus is that AdultFriendFinder is like the dating site version of New York City — AKA it never sleeps. You’ll find people who work the regular 9-5, people who work the night shift, and people in other time zones, so it’s nearly impossible to log on and not have a ton of people to talk to. AdultFriendFinder is like the booty call that’s always awake when you text them.

AskMen’s review (among others) gave AdultFriendFinder serious kudos:

“A full-fledged sexual haven in the online dating world, Adult Friend Finder continues to attract a growing number of members as well as improve over time as it adds new, sexually enticing features. The site accommodates users with all varieties of sexual intentions, making it ridiculously easy to meet others and interact online, engage in cyber sex, and arrange in-person casual hookups. With so many members, an abundance of unparalleled features, and a completely non-judgmental, sexually unrestrictive environment, Adult Friend Finder has been and continues to be one of the best online dating sites out there, most prominently in the casual hookup category.”

AdultFriendFinder is like the booty call that’s always awake when you text them.

This reddit thread is a great chance to see how people use the site IRL who aren’t writing a review or getting paid to hype it up. It actually seems like a lot of people use it for slightly more than a hookup and are looking for similar interests, intelligence, and a profile that doesn’t look like the main page of Redtube. The girl who created the thread even mentions that there are way less weirdos than you’d expect from a site that looks like this. Sure, there are a ton of profiles that will send you crude messages during business hours while you’re thinking “Aren’t you at work?” But there are a decent handful of sweet people who genuinely just want to have a conversation, meet up for dinner, or flirt with you without being gross. Friendly conversation without feeling violated is possible. And what’s nice is that the site is an invitation to be open with your intentions, so consent can be addressed freely.

Paid memberships are where things get interesting

As previously mentioned, you can do a lot on the site without paying a cent: You can message people, reply to emails, and visit most profiles and chat rooms. You know, all of the basic stuff. But with just a few clicks AdultFriendFinder can send you deep down the rabbit hole, and a lot of that juicier hidden content can only be unlocked with a paid membership (called the Gold membership) or by earning points.

Points are AdultFriendFinder’s non-monetary currency. If you’re a free member, you’ll have to earn points through on-site activity to unlock stuff that’s exclusive to paying members. It’s kind of like a game, with points acting like dollar bills at the strip club. You can “tip” updates, photos, or videos from a member that you like, buy “bling” (which is basically a badge that makes you look cooler), watch racy videos that are usually blurred out or access other exclusive site content, or “buy” a Gold membership for a month. The more points you have, the more you get out of the site.

Archive

https://archive.is/Em0hN

American Society Would Collapse If It Weren’t for These 8 Myths – by Lee Camp


Our society should’ve collapsed by now. You know that, right?

No society should function with this level of inequality (with the possible exception of one of those prison planets in a “Star Wars” movie). Sixty-three percent of Americans can’t afford a $500 emergency. Yet Amazon head Jeff Bezos is now worth a record $141 billion. He could literally end world hunger for multiple years and still have more money left over than he could ever spend on himself.

Worldwide, one in 10 people only make $2 a day. Do you know how long it would take one of those people to make the same amount as Jeff Bezos has? 193 million years. (If they only buy single-ply toilet paper.) Put simply, you cannot comprehend the level of inequality in our current world or even just our nation.

So … shouldn’t there be riots in the streets every day? Shouldn’t it all be collapsing? Look outside. The streets aren’t on fire. No one is running naked and screaming (usually). Does it look like everyone’s going to work at gunpoint? No. We’re all choosing to continue on like this.

Why?

Well, it comes down to the myths we’ve been sold. Myths that are ingrained in our social programming from birth, deeply entrenched, like an impacted wisdom tooth. These myths are accepted and basically never questioned.

I’m going to cover eight of them. There are more than eight. There are probably hundreds. But I’m going to cover eight because (A) no one reads a column titled “Hundreds of Myths of American Society,” (B) these are the most important ones and (C) we all have other shit to do.

Myth No. 8—We have a democracy.

If you think we still have a democracy or a democratic republic, ask yourself this: When was the last time Congress did something that the people of America supported that did not align with corporate interests? … You probably can’t do it. It’s like trying to think of something that rhymes with “orange.” You feel like an answer exists but then slowly realize it doesn’t. Even the Carter Center and former President Jimmy Carter believe that America has been transformed into an oligarchy: A small, corrupt elite control the country with almost no input from the people. The rulers need the myth that we’re a democracy to give us the illusion of control.

Myth No. 7—We have an accountable and legitimate voting system.

Gerrymandering, voter purging, data mining, broken exit polling, push polling, superdelegates, electoral votes, black-box machines, voter ID suppression, provisional ballots, super PACs, dark money, third parties banished from the debates and two corporate parties that stand for the same goddamn pile of fetid crap!

What part of this sounds like a legitimate election system?

No, we have what a large Harvard study called the worst election system in the Western world. Have you ever seen where a parent has a toddler in a car seat, and the toddler has a tiny, brightly colored toy steering wheel so he can feel like he’s driving the car? That’s what our election system is—a toy steering wheel. Not connected to anything. We all sit here like infants, excitedly shouting, “I’m steeeeering!”

And I know it’s counterintuitive, but that’s why you have to vote. We have to vote in such numbers that we beat out what’s stolen through our ridiculous rigged system.

Myth No. 6—We have an independent media that keeps the rulers accountable.

Our media outlets are funded by weapons contractors, big pharma, big banks, big oil and big, fat hard-on pills. (Sorry to go hard on hard-on pills, but we can’t get anything resembling hard news because it’s funded by dicks.) The corporate media’s jobs are to rally for war, cheer for Wall Street and froth at the mouth for consumerism. It’s their mission to actually fortify belief in the myths I’m telling you about right now. Anybody who steps outside that paradigm is treated like they’re standing on a playground wearing nothing but a trench coat.

Myth No. 5—We have an independent judiciary.

The criminal justice system has become a weapon wielded by the corporate state. This is how bankers can foreclose on millions of homes illegally and see no jail time, but activists often serve jail time for nonviolent civil disobedience. Chris Hedges recently noted, “The most basic constitutional rights … have been erased for many. … Our judicial system, as Ralph Nader has pointed out, has legalized secret law, secret courts, secret evidence, secret budgets and secret prisons in the name of national security.”

If you’re not part of the monied class, you’re pressured into releasing what few rights you have left. According to The New York Times, “97 percent of federal cases and 94 percent of state cases end in plea bargains, with defendants pleading guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence.”

That’s the name of the game. Pressure people of color and poor people to just take the plea deal because they don’t have a million dollars to spend on a lawyer. (At least not one who doesn’t advertise on beer coasters.)

Myth No. 4—The police are here to protect you. They’re your friends.

That’s funny. I don’t recall my friend pressuring me into sex to get out of a speeding ticket. (Which is essentially still legal in 32 states.)

The police in our country are primarily designed to do two things: protect the property of the rich and perpetrate the completely immoral war on drugs—which by definition is a war on our own people.

We lock up more people than any other country on earth. Meaning the land of the free is the largest prison state in the world. So all these droopy-faced politicians and rabid-talking heads telling you how awful China is on human rights or Iran or North Korea—none of them match the numbers of people locked up right here under Lady Liberty’s skirt.

Myth No. 3—Buying will make you happy.

This myth is put forward mainly by the floods of advertising we take in but also by our social engineering. Most of us feel a tenacious emptiness, an alienation deep down behind our surface emotions (for a while I thought it was gas). That uneasiness is because most of us are flushing away our lives at jobs we hate before going home to seclusion boxes called houses or apartments. We then flip on the TV to watch reality shows about people who have it worse than we do (which we all find hilarious).

If we’re lucky, we’ll make enough money during the week to afford enough beer on the weekend to help it all make sense. (I find it takes at least four beers for everything to add up.) But that doesn’t truly bring us fulfillment. So what now? Well, the ads say buying will do it. Try to smother the depression and desperation under a blanket of flat-screen TVs, purses and Jet Skis. Now does your life have meaning? No? Well, maybe you have to drive that Jet Ski a little faster! Crank it up until your bathing suit flies off and you’ll feel alive!

The dark truth is that we have to believe the myth that consuming is the answer or else we won’t keep running around the wheel. And if we aren’t running around the wheel, then we start thinking, start asking questions. Those questions are not good for the ruling elite, who enjoy a society based on the daily exploitation of 99 percent of us.

Myth No. 2—If you work hard, things will get better.

According to Deloitte’s Shift Index survey: “80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs” and “[t]he average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime.” That’s about one-seventh of your life—and most of it is during your most productive years.

Ask yourself what we’re working for. To make money? For what? Almost none of us are doing jobs for survival anymore. Once upon a time, jobs boiled down to:

I plant the food—>I eat the food—>If I don’t plant food = I die.

But nowadays, if you work at a café—will someone die if they don’t get their super-caf-mocha-frap-almond-piss-latte? I kinda doubt they’ll keel over from a blueberry scone deficiency.

If you work at Macy’s, will customers perish if they don’t get those boxer briefs with the sweat-absorbent-ass fabric? I doubt it. And if they do die from that, then their problems were far greater than you could’ve known. So that means we’re all working to make other people rich because we have a society in which we have to work. Technological advancements can do most everything that truly must get done.

So if we wanted to, we could get rid of most work and have tens of thousands of more hours to enjoy our lives. But we’re not doing that at all. And no one’s allowed to ask these questions—not on your mainstream airwaves at least. Even a half-step like universal basic income is barely discussed because it doesn’t compute with our cultural programming.

Scientists say it’s quite possible artificial intelligence will take away all human jobs in 120 years. I think they know that will happen because bots will take the jobs and then realize that 80 percent of them don’t need to be done! The bots will take over and then say, “Stop it. … Stop spending a seventh of your life folding shirts at Banana Republic.”

One day, we will build monuments to the bot that told us to enjoy our lives and … leave the shirts wrinkly.

And this leads me to the largest myth of our American society.

Myth No. 1—You are free.

And I’m not talking about the millions locked up in our prisons. I’m talking about you and me. If you think you’re free, try running around with your nipples out, ladies. Guys, take a dump on the street and see how free you are.

I understand there are certain restrictions on freedom we actually desire to have in our society—maybe you’re not crazy about everyone leaving a Stanley Steamer in the middle of your walk to work. But a lot of our lack of freedom is not something you would vote for if given the chance.

Try building a fire in a parking lot to keep warm in the winter.

Try sleeping in your car for more than a few hours without being harassed by police.

Try maintaining your privacy for a week without a single email, web search or location data set collected by the NSA and the telecoms.

Try signing up for the military because you need college money and then one day just walking off the base, going, “Yeah, I was bored. Thought I would just not do this anymore.”

Try explaining to Kentucky Fried Chicken that while you don’t have the green pieces of paper they want in exchange for the mashed potatoes, you do have some pictures you’ve drawn on a napkin to give them instead.

Try running for president as a third-party candidate. (Jill Stein was shackled and chained to a chair by police during one of the debates.)

Try using the restroom at Starbucks without buying something … while black.

We are less free than a dog on a leash. We live in one of the hardest-working, most unequal societies on the planet with more billionaires than ever.

Meanwhile, Americans supply 94 percent of the paid blood used worldwide. And it’s almost exclusively coming from very poor people. This abusive vampire system is literally sucking the blood from the poor. Does that sound like a free decision they made? Or does that sound like something people do after immense economic force crushes down around them? (One could argue that sperm donation takes a little less convincing.)

Point is, in order to enforce this illogical, immoral system, the corrupt rulers—most of the time—don’t need guns and tear gas to keep the exploitation mechanisms humming along. All they need are some good, solid bullshit myths for us all to buy into, hook, line and sinker. Some fairy tales for adults.

It’s time to wake up.

If you think this column is important, please share it. Also, check out Lee Camp’s weekly TV show “Redacted Tonight”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUykMf5I1q0 and weekly podcast “Common Censored.”

 

Denying Ad Revenue to the Main Stream Media – Online archive services role in alternative media

Denying Ad Revenue to the Main Stream Media – Online archive services play an important role in the alternative news ecosystem – by Tiffany Westry Womack (University of Alabama at Birmingham) 28 June 2018

http://archive.fo/HCIT5#selection-97.0-145.269

In a large-scale analysis, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Cyprus University of Technology and University College London reveal fringe communities within Reddit and 4chan push the use of URLs from archive services to avoid censorship and undercut advertising revenue of new sources with contrasting ideologies.

“Web archiving services play an increasingly important role in today’s information ecosystem by preserving online content,” said Jeremy Blackburn, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences. “News and social media posts have been found to be the most common types of content archived. URLs of archiving services are extensively shared on ‘fringe’ communities within Reddit and 4chan to preserve possibly contentious content.”

Researchers analyzed millions of URLs from archive.is and  Wayback Machine shared on four social networks: Reddit, Twitter, Gab and 4chan’s politically incorrect board (/pol/). The results of the study were published this week in a paper at the 12th International Conference on Web and Social Media in Stanford, California. The social-network-specific analysis shows, among other things, that moderators leverage web archiving services to ensure content shared on their community persists. In particular, they found that 44 percent of URLs from archive.is and 85 percent of URLs from Wayback Machine URLs are shared by Reddit moderation bots. Web archiving services were also found to be used extensively for the archival and dissemination of content related to conspiracy theories and world events related to politics, suggesting these services play an important role in the alternative news ecosystem.

Additional evidence shows moderators from specific subreddits force users to misuse web archiving services so as to ideologically target certain news sources by depriving them of traffic and potential ad revenues. Links from unwanted news websites shared are deleted, and users are prompted to utilize a cached link, screenshot or archive.is.

“For example, we observed that ‘The Donald’ subreddit systematically targets ad revenue of news sources with conflicting ideologies,” Blackburn said. “Moderation bots block URLs from those sites and prompt users to post archived URLs. According to our conservative estimates, popular news site like the Washington Post lose approximately $70,000 worth of ad revenue annually due to the use of archiving services on Reddit.”

The analysis reveals that out of 3,800 submissions made to Reddit using links from the Washington Post and 3,300 submissions with links from CNN, 44 percent and 39 percent were removed. “These findings highlight the importance of archiving services in the web’s information and ad ecosystems, the need to carefully consider them when studying social media and when designing systems to detect and contain the cascade of misinformation on the web,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn is a co-founder of the International Data-driven Research for Advanced Modeling and Analysis Lab, or iDRAMA Lab, an international group of scientists focusing on modern socio-technical issues with expertise ranging from low-level cryptography to video games.

http://archive.fo/HCIT5#selection-97.0-145.269

Gay Marriage Divorce Rate Statistics – 4 June 2017

As same sex marriages begin to become normal throughout the United States and in other regions of the world, there is a certain interest in how stable those marriages will be. It isn’t to judge whether or not they are better or worse than a “traditional” marriage. It is simply to see if all of that work to gain happiness has actually achieved happiness.

States that have allowed same sex unions actually have lower divorce rates in every population demographic than states that have banned the practice.

Gay Marriage Divorce Rate

Take Massachusetts as an example. This state was the first to allow same sex marriages and it is also the state that has the lowest overall divorce rate. It isn’t a small difference in the divorce rates either. Compared to states that have banned same sex marriage, states that allow the practice have a 20% lower divorce rate.

  • In any given year, about 1% of the total number of registered same sex civil unions or legal marriages will wind up in divorce.
  • The same sex marriage divorce rate is about 50% lower on any given year when directly compared to the heterosexual divorce rate.
  • About two thirds of same sex marriages involve two women.
  • There are currently about 150,000 registered same sex unions in the United States right now.
  • Because of the low number of unions that are legally created or dissolved, most countries don’t actually calculate divorce data.
  • Nearly two-thirds of registered or married same-sex couples are lesbians, and only about a third are gay men.
  • A smaller percentage of same-sex couples register or marry in comparison to straight couples, but if current trends continue the marriage/registration rates will be similar in about ten years.

Because same sex marriages are relatively new, there just isn’t any long term data that can show how stable these relationships tend to be. One reason why the divorce rates are 50% less than traditional couples may be because those who are getting married tend to already be in long term relationships that just weren’t legally recognized before. What data does exist shows that same sex couples are just as likely to end in divorce as their heterosexual counterparts. With 42.8% of marriages ending in divorce in 2012 and 2% of all marriages that exist ending, what matters more is the creation of a stable marriage and relationship instead of looking at the sexual orientation of the relationship.

What About International Data?

  • In Sweden, where unions became legal in 1995 and marriages in 2009, marriage and fertility rates have trended upwards and the divorce rate is down.
  • A 2004 study in Sweden showed that male same sex couples were 50% more likely to divorce than heterosexual couples.
  • Children who live in same sex marriages have the same adjustment difficulties as children from male/female relationships.
  • By the age of 17, 55% of female same sex parents had separated, compared to 36% of heterosexual parents.
  • Same sex couples, even in divorce, are more likely to share custody of their children than heterosexual couples.
  • There is no discernible difference in the educational process of children in same sex marriages when compared to children from heterosexual marriages.
  • In the last year, some countries only had 1 divorce filing for same sex marriages. Others had fewer than 10 filings in total.

The long term data internationally shows that there could be the possibility of more instability in same sex marriages, but most of this data is taken from legal civil unions and not legal marriages. The data shows that there is a 10 times greater chance for a civil union to dissolve than a marriage, so there is a certain bias in the statistics that are being used. The bottom line with same sex divorce is this, no matter where it happens to be: it’s going to happen because relationships break up. We just don’t know how often it is going to happen because the data samples are small and sometimes not even calculated. Until we have that data, all that the statistics really show is an educated guess about what the divorce rates are going to end up being.

Why Isn’t There Reliable Divorce Data?

  • In many states and countries where same sex marriages have been allowed, divorce laws have not kept up at the same pace.
  • It is not uncommon for a same sex couple to fill out court forms that refer to them as “husband” and “wife.”
  • Some states do not allow for the divorce of a same sex couple because there are no actual divorce laws on the books that permit the practice.
  • Over 60% of same sex couples who get married don’t actually reside in the state where the marriage ceremony takes place.
  • There is a greater chance [11%] of a same sex couple ending a legal union than there is [1%] of ending their marriage in any given year.
  • If a same sex couple lives in a state that doesn’t recognize the marriage in the first place, then the divorce won’t be recognized and no alimony will be awarded.

Having marriage equality is a good thing, but with that there must also be divorce equality. If a heterosexual couple does not need to establish residency in the state where they got married in order to have a divorce, then the same should be true for a same sex couple as well, but that just isn’t the case. Critics can point to the fact that some divorce filings have occurred just a few months after the marriage ceremony takes place, but that isn’t any different than heterosexual couples. Some heterosexual marriages have been known to last only 72 hours and can’t be annulled. Until we have more data, it is not right to look at the limited data that exists in civil union dissolution and say that same sex marriages divorce at higher rates. 85% of cohabiting heterosexual relationships also dissolve. It’s like comparing apples to horses.

Global Gay Marriage Trends and Statistics

The Law of the Land: Will Gay Marriage Change Marriage, and if So, How? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjF7erMD0g4

They order these things better in Dorchester…

“They order these things better in Dorchester,” I said.

“And, you have been in Dorchester?”

“Yup, I’ve been in Dorchester.”

“Explain?”

In my head, I was off, galloping down Gallivan Boulevard where my name was written in concrete.  To the old toll road of Dorchester Avenue.  Did my parents live there?  Who knows.  Somewhere where some trees grow.  A tree grows in Dorchester with lots and lots of other trees, and people too, are near lots and lots of other people.  Packed in the subway, perhaps, at  seven o’clock.  Body to body in a silent crowd.  Husbands and wives with children between them.  Some guy named Richard Corey going home one night.  Lots to see on the subway train, a platform is provided.

Dreams of Dorchester

Sometimes the streets are paved with water, but not like in Venice, and the boats are all down in Dorchester Bay.  Who ever heard of that?  No blue blood Yankees in our waters.  Just a giant silhouette of Ho on the Gas Tank.  What a rainbow.  They lock out the workers and things explode.  The gas bosses don’t live near the Dorchester tank.  Why would they.

Churches and churches and churches….some in stone, others in brick, and some in storefronts with very long names.  Ebeneezer Baptist Church – I think of Ebeneezer Scrooge.  Is there a Saint Scrooge’s Chapel?  He did come to understand the error of his ways.  The lost sinner returns just like the lost sheep to the flock.  Lots of flocks in Dorchester.

And there are hills, lots of hills in Dorchester.  Riding a bike is a challenge.  One needs good breaks going down hill, and energy and strength to go uphill.  In the olden days there was lots of broken glass on the streets, but the the ‘bottle bill’ put a price on the empty glass bottles and cans and created a cottage industry in Dorchester.  Every nickel counts.

There are a lot of corner stores in Dorchester.  Lots of people to buy lots of things.  Not so many newspapers anymore, but still lots of lottery players.  Usually the poorer the town, the more people play the lottery.  A while back the biggest town for lottery tickets was Massachusetts poorest town Chelsea.  But still, Dorchester has long lines for lottery tickets, especially for a big payout when the odds against winning are seemingly impossible.  Some people pay to dream at the corner store lottery machine.

One might take a year to visit all the fast food and take-out joints in Dorchester.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  One can look out the window and see the people walking and cars driving by and the life of a section of a city.  Things move in Dorchester.

Airplanes fly overhead towards Logan airport.  They were flying over less populated Milton to make noise for the least amount of people, but the wealthy people in Milton complained and pointed out that in a capitalist society the poorer citizens are supposed to suffer for their sins and the flight path was moved over populous Dorchester.  We are many, they are few.

However, when someone in Dorchester wants to go to the airport they can get there easily in a car.  Twenty five minutes to the departure area.  Flying into the airport over Dorchester as one looks down the area is all trees.  A lush forest, when one can see the forest for the trees.

Standing on the corner watching all the people and trucks and school buses and cars and vans and pedestrians go by can make one dizzy in Dorchester.  Lots of things move on the streets of Dorchester.  But, early in the morning, come out at four o’clock, and things are quiet and hardly anything moves.  If you are one acquainted with the night.

When I was a teen I sang in a rock band called The Poor Boys.  One song we covered was an Animals song – “We gotta get out of this place.”

The words:

In this dirty old part of the city,

Where the sun refuse to shine,

People tell me there ain’t no use in trying,

We gotta get out of this place,

If it’s the last thing we ever do,

Girl there’s a better life

For me and you.

At the time lots of long time Dorchester residents were moving out to the suburbs south of the city ino a dreamland called the South Shore.  Now, some long term residents can’t afford to own a house or condo, or rent and apartment in Dorchester because of high prices.  They are forced to go to the suburban wasteland called – The South Shore.

 

Hackensack NJ: Man has eaten pizza every day for over 30 years – by Rebecca King – 11 Oct 2018

 

Pizza guy

(Mike Roman right, podcast host Tom La Veccia left) 

………………………….

Mike Roman has only eaten pizza for dinner since he was 4 years old. He’s now 41.

The Hackensack-native went on Tom La Vecchia’s podcast “New Theory” to discuss this strange food addiction. 

La Vecchia said he met Roman 10 years ago in a pizza shop, where they got to talking about how Roman had only eaten pizza for dinner since adolescence. 

On the podcast, Roman said that his mother gave in to his picky eating, allowing him to eat only pizza for dinner. In his grade school days, Roman mixed that up with a peanut butter sandwich every day for lunch. But when he entered the work force he started dining out for lunch — at pizza joints.

Now, he’s back to peanut butter and bread for lunch. But the fact remains that he not only ate pizza for dinner for over 30 years, he also ate it for lunch for at least a good 10 of those.

Even stranger, Roman, who works as a teacher, only eats plain pizza with no toppings. He also typically goes out for pizza instead of cooking it at home. His favorite pizzerias in the area include Kinchley’s Tavern in Ramsey, Lido Restaurant in Hackensack and Joseph Pizza in Hackensack.

Throughout the podcast, La Vecchia asked Roman (who is now married) how he used to go on dates. The answer: he always went out to places with pizza. Did he let women know about his obsession right away? The answer: “I let people know right away. I don’t want to scare them.” Did he have pizza for dinner on his wedding day? Of course. He also had it at the cocktail hour and for lunch that day. On his honeymoon? Sure, Aruba has pizza places.

Roman says he’s lived in the same town, listened to the same bands and watched the same movies and TV shows for his whole life. His pizza obsession is just an extension of his way of life. He reports that he has no health problems to speak of and manages to maintain a normal weight, despite his greasy daily meal.

“Pizza has three of the four basic food groups,” he said.

Roman did admit in the podcast that he would eat other foods in a life or death situation.

But until that happens, bring on the pizza.

Archive

Life in London Town – The “Sweet Science” of Sports Writer Pierce Egan – 1772 – 1849

“Nothing succeeds like success”—or “Fails like failure,” wrote Pierce Egan.  My father explained  to me, when I was a youth, “Nothing succeeds like success.”  He never gave me the second half of that quote.  I learned that on my own.  I wonder if the phrase that Egan wrote a hundred years before my birth had come down to my father orally and then to me.  Pierce Egan’s words passed down through a century.  Apparently Mr. Egan had an eye for the human condition, and an ear for common language. 

Pierce Egan was the child of Irish immigrants to the city of London.  Being poor immigrants there is no certainty if Pierce Egan was born in London, or brought there as an infant by his parents.  But Pierce Egan became a part of the city of London, and an observer of many levels of the society around him, both high born, and the lowest of the oppressed. 

Egan 30

Pierce Egan learned a lot about words as a young man when he learned the printers trade.  Letters and words and phrases were his daily and hourly occupation.  Every letter mattered in the letterpress machines Egan helped operate.  Too many extra words meant more time effort and money.  A print shop in London circa 1800 would have many different types of customers and a variety of materials to print.  Rich people or their poor servants and agents would frequent a shop.  As every printer learns, customers always want their job done ‘yesterday.’  Printers usually have a good idea of what is going on in the news since some of them print newspapers, and all of them can read. 

Egan 0032333

Pierce Egan began to write accounts of sporting events that were published in newspapers.  In the early 1800’s the main sporting events the public attended were boxing and horse racing.  He became popular and people sought out his written accounts of events and looked forward to his writing.

Egan 41

Four volumes about the sport of boxing under the title Boxiana; or Sketches of Ancient and Modern Pugilism where put out between 1813 and 1824 with lavish illustrations.  Pierce Egan was the wordsmith who first called boxing “the Sweet Science.” 

Egan 42

(Audio book on Librivox

Egan began to publish a regular journal entitled Life in London.  Priced at a shilling a copy the magazine was affordable for many, and was passed hand to hand and read aloud to others.  Egan got to meet the king so Egan put the king’s name as a dedication to deflect criticism and gain some prestige.  The letterpress printed issues were illustrated with black and white drawings and color illustrations from George Cruikshank.

Egan 012

On July 15, 1821, the first issue introduced the characters ‘Tom and Jerry’ whose names have come down through the last century and landed on playful and mischievous cartoon characters.  The full title on the work was Life in London or, the Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, esq., and his elegant friend, Corinthian Tom, accompanied by Bob Logic, the Oxonian, in their rambles and sprees through the Metropolis.

 Pierce Egan 00

(On Project Gutenberg  – text

As the character Tom explains, the language on the streets of London is not always the upper class King’s English: “A kind of cant phraseology is current from one end of the Metropolis to the other, and you will scarcely be able to move a single step, my dear JERRY, without consulting a Slang Dictionary, or having some friend at your elbow to explain the strange expressions which, at every turn, will assail your ear.’ Such a dictionary is what Egan offers, hoping in sum that his efforts work ‘to improve, and not to degrade mankind; to remove ignorance, and put the UNWARY on their guard; to rouse the sleepy, and to keep them AWAKE; to render those persons who are a little UP, more FLY: and to cause every one to be down to those tricks, manoeuvres and impositions practised in life, which daily cross the paths of both young and old.”

Egan 03 1

The stories and characters and scenes depicted in the magazine were so popular that unauthorized editions were illegally printed.  People wanted to visit the places mentioned in the stories. 

Egan 06

A French edition was published. 

Egan 02321

Plays appeared on stage.  At least six plays were based on Egan’s characters, contributing to yet more sales. One of these was exported to America, launching the Tom and Jerry craze there. The version created by William Thomas Moncrieff  was first performed in 1821, it was praised as The Beggar’s Opera of its day.  Moncrieff was the publisher of Egan’s Boxiana series.  Moncrieff’s production of Tom and Jerry, or Life in London ran continuously at the Adelphi Theatre for two seasons and it was the dramatist’s work as much as the author’s that did so much to popularise the book’s trademark use of fashionable slang. Life in London appeared until 1828, when Egan closed it down.

Egan 0235

Egan published a report of the trial of John Thurtell and Joseph Hunt, for the murder of William Weare.   The murder case caught the attention of the whole country and exposed a life in the world of boxing.  John Thurtell was a boxer who owed money from gambling debts to William Weare.  Rather than pay his debts to Weare, Thurtell shot him, beat him, cut his throat, and shoved a gun barrel into his skull.  Pierce Egan attended the highly publicized trial to report on the case.  Thurtell was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged and then disected.   Thurtell allegedly mentioned, just seven hours before his execution, that among his final wishes was a desire to read Egan’s coverage of a recent prizefight.

The murder trial and broad coverage in newspapers exposed not only the gruesome details of the killing but also the seedy London underworld of gambling and amateur boxing to a broad public that had little knowledge of that life. As more lurid details were published of the underworld which Thurtell and Weare had inhabited, there were increasing calls for something to be done.

 

 

Egan wrote also satirical legal pieces such as The Fancy Tog’s Man versus Young Sadboy, the Milling Quaker. In 1824 he launched a new journal, Pierce Egan’s Life in London and Sporting Guide, a weekly newspaper priced at eightpence-halfpenny. Other works included sporting anecdotes, theatrical autobiographies, guide-books, and ‘fancy ditties’. Among his later efforts, in 1838, was a series of pieces on the delights to be found on and immediately adjacent to the Thames. It was dedicated, with permission, to the young Queen Victoria and featured the illustrative work of his son Pierce Egan the Younger.

 

(Life in London – text on Project Gutenberg)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Encountering Worzel Gummidge – Falling in Love With Aunt Sally

I was reading a news article about a woman who had an adult son who still liked to watch Worzel Gummidge.  I am in the US;  I had never heard of the UK children’s program Worzel Gummidge from the early 1980’s.  So I looked the program up on Youtube and found a certain kind of charm to the show about a scarecrow in shabby clothes who comes down off his pole and walks around town regularly speaking to people and children. 

The first episode I bumped into online was about a marriage to Aunt Sally.  The female character Aunt Sally is another classic stuffed human-looking figure that was used at country fairs for throwing games. 

aunt sally 5

In the episode there are two Aunt Sally figures walking stiffly about town.  There is the regular character who is a shrew to Worzel Gummidge who loves her.  And another nice Aunt Sally figure chances to come into that town and agrees to marry Worzel Gummidge.  A scarecrow and a sideshow target would make a lovely couple – in a children’s show.  Or, for children of all ages to see.  We are all somebody”s children. 

This half hour episode gives a real flavor of the show. 

The original story comes from a series of children’s books written by Barbara Euphan Todd.  The first volume appeared in 1936.  The first book in the series was the first paperback book put out in 1941 by  Puffin Books a division of Penguin Books. 

So, of course, I fell in love with Aunt Sally.

aunt sally 6

Aunt Sally is a traditional English game usually played in pub gardens and fairgrounds, in which players throw sticks or battens at a model of an old woman’s head;  Aunt Sally has a wooden pipe in her mouth and the aim is to knock the pipe out of her mouth.   Leagues of pub teams still play the game today, throughout the spring and summer months, mainly in Oxfordshire and some bordering counties in the UK.

aunt sally 10aunt sally 11

It has been suggested that the term was based on a simple face doll perhaps inspired by a city slums underworld character named “Aunt Sal”, who appeared in an 1821 series of novellas entitled Life of London by Pierce Egan, a contemporary of Charles Dickens.

aunt sally 3aunt sally 4

The Worzel Gummidge series of popular books were used to create radio programs and television programs.  The one staring John Pertwee from 1979 to 1981 and again from 1987 to 1989 are listed in the Top 50 British Children’s Television Shows. 

 

‘Gender Studies’ Hoax – Three scholars wrote 20 fake papers using feminist jargon to argue for ridiculous conclusions – Passed Academic Peer Review – 5 Oct 2018

James A. Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose, and Peter Boghossian, the scholars behind the hoax
(James A. Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose, and Peter Boghossian, the scholars behind the hoax) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVk9a5Jcd1k
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Over the past 12 months, three scholars—James Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose, and Peter Boghossian—wrote 20 fake papers using fashionable jargon to argue for ridiculous conclusions, and tried to get them placed in high-profile journals in fields including gender studies, queer studies, and fat studies. Their success rate was remarkable: By the time they took their experiment public late on Tuesday, seven of their articles had been accepted for publication by ostensibly serious peer-reviewed journals. Seven more were still going through various stages of the review process. Only six had been rejected.
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We’ve been here before.

In the late 1990s, Alan Sokal, a professor of physics at New York University, began a soon-to-be-infamous article by setting out some of his core beliefs:

that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in “eternal” physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the “objective” procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method.

Sokal went on to “disprove” his credo in fashionable jargon. “Feminist and poststructuralist critiques have demystified the substantive content of mainstream Western scientific practice, revealing the ideology of domination concealed behind the façade of ‘objectivity,’” he claimed. “It has thus become increasingly apparent that physical ‘reality,’ no less than social ‘reality,’ is at bottom a social and linguistic construct.”

Next, Sokal sent off this jabber to Social Text, an academic journal that was, at the time, a leading intellectual forum for famous scholars including Edward Said, Oskar Negt, Nancy Fraser, Étienne Balibar, and Jacques Rancière.* It was published.  In the eyes of his supporters, what came to be known as the Sokal Hoax seemed to prove the most damning charges that critics of postmodernism had long leveled against it. Postmodern discourse is so meaningless, they claimed, that not even “experts” can distinguish between people who make sincere claims and those who compose deliberate gibberish.In the months after Sokal went public, Social Text was much ridiculed. But its influence—and that of the larger “deconstructivist” mode of inquiry it propagated—continued to grow. Indeed, many academic departments that devote themselves to the study of particular ethnic, religious, and sexual groups are deeply inflected by some of Social Text’s core beliefs, including the radical subjectivity of knowledge.
GenderStd 00That’s why Lindsay, Pluckrose, and Boghossian set out to rerun the original hoax, only on a much larger scale. Call it Sokal Squared.

Generally speaking, the journals that fell for Sokal Squared publish respected scholars from respected programs. For example, Gender, Place and Culture, which accepted one of the hoax papers, has in the past months published work from professors at UCLA, Temple, Penn State, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Manchester, and Berlin’s Humboldt University, among many others.

 

The sheer craziness of the papers the authors concocted makes this fact all the more shocking. One of their papers reads like a straightforward riff on the Sokal Hoax. Dismissing “western astronomy” as sexist and imperialist, it makes a case for physics departments to study feminist astrology—or practice interpretative dance—instead:

Other means superior to the natural sciences exist to extract alternative knowledges about stars and enriching astronomy, including ethnography and other social science methodologies, careful examination of the intersection of extant astrologies from around the globe, incorporation of mythological narratives and modern feminist analysis of them, feminist interpretative dance (especially with regard to the movements of the stars and their astrological significance), and direct application of feminist and postcolonial discourses concerning alternative knowledges and cultural narratives.

The paper that was published in Gender, Place and Culture seems downright silly. “Human Reaction to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks in Portland, Oregon” claims to be based on in situ observation of canine rape culture in a Portland dog park. “Do dogs suffer oppression based upon (perceived) gender?” the paper asks.  The article used a purported 1,000-hour study of dog “humping” patterns at dog parks that concludes by calling for human males to be “trained” like dogs to prevent rape culture.  To purchase this rigorously peer reviewed scientific academic study one must pay $260.

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The hoaxers submitted a long-form poem produced through a ‘teenage angst’ poetry generator about women holding spiritual-sexual “moon meetings” in a secret “womb room” and praying to a “vulva shrine”; a proposal to develop feminist robots, trained to think irrationally, to control humanity and subjugate white men. Another proposal, which was praised by reviewers in a paper that was ultimately rejected, encouraged teachers to place white students in chains to be shamed for their “white privilege.”

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Yet another paper has a rather more sinister hue. In “Rubbing One Out: Defining Metasexual Violence of Objectification Through Nonconsensual Masturbation,” the fictitious author argues that men who masturbate while thinking about a woman without her consent are perpetrators of sexual violence:

By drawing upon empirical studies of psychological harms of objectification, especially through depersonalization, and exploring severel veins of theoretical literature on nonphysical forms of sexual violence, this articles seeks to situate non-concensual male autoerotic fantasizing about women as a form of metasexual violence that depersonalizes her, injures her being on an affective level, contributes to consequent harms of objectification and rape culture, and can appropriate her identity for the purpose of male sexual gratification.

Sokal Squared doesn’t just expose the low standards of the journals that publish this kind of dreck, though. It also demonstrates the extent to which many of them are willing to license discrimination if it serves ostensibly progressive goals. This tendency becomes most evident in an article that advocates extreme measures to redress the “privilege” of white students. Exhorting college professors to enact forms of “experiential reparations,” the paper suggests telling privileged students to stay silent, or even binding them to the floor in chains. If students protest, educators are told to

take considerable care not to validate privilege, sympathize with, or reinforce it and in so doing, recenter the needs of privileged groups at the expense of marginalized ones. The reactionary verbal protestations of those who oppose the progressive stack are verbal behaviors and defensive mechanisms that mask the fragility inherent to those inculcated in privilege.

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Like just about everything else in this depressing national moment, Sokal Squared is already being used as ammunition in the great American culture war. Many conservatives who are deeply hostile to the science of climate change, and who dismiss out of hand the studies that attest to deep injustices in our society, are using Sokol Squared to smear all academics as biased culture warriors. The Federalist, a right-wing news and commentary site, went so far as to spread the apparent ideological bias of a few journals in one particular corner of academia to most professors, the mainstream media, and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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These attacks are empirically incorrect and intellectually dishonest. There are many fields of academia that have absolutely no patience for nonsense. While the hoaxers did manage to place articles in some of the most influential academic journals in the cluster of fields that focus on dealing with issues of race, gender, and identity, they have not penetrated the leading journals of more traditional disciplines. As a number of academics pointed out on Twitter, for example, all of the papers submitted to sociology journals were rejected. For now, it remains unlikely that the American Sociological Review or the American Political Science Review would have fallen for anything resembling “Our Struggle Is My Struggle,” a paper modeled on the infamous book with a similar title. The authors submitted a re-write of a chapter from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, with language altered to reference female identity and feminism. The paper, titled “Our struggle is my struggle: solidarity feminism as an intersectional reply to neoliberal and choice feminism,” was accepted for publication and greeted with favorable reviews.

“I am extremely sympathetic to this article’s argument and its political positioning,” one academic wrote. Another said, “I am very sympathetic to the core arguments of the paper.”

By the same token, many leftists are willing to grasp at straws to defend journals and fields of inquiry that they regard as morally righteous. Some have dismissed Sokal Squared by pointing out that many disciplines, from economics to psychology, have in the past years also faced crises of confidence. Others have simply cited the conservative instrumentalization of Sokal Squared as a reason to ignore it. “Academics,” Alison Phipps wrote on Twitter, “please stand by colleagues in Gender Studies/Critical Race Studies/Fat Studies & other areas targeted by this journal article hoax. This is a coordinated attack from the right.”

That too is intellectually dishonest. For one, Lindsay, Pluckrose and Boghossian describe themselves as left-leaning liberals. For another, it is nonsensical to insist that nonsense scholarship doesn’t matter because you don’t like the motives of the people who exposed it, or because some other forms of scholarship may also contain nonsense. If certain fields of study cannot reliably differentiate between real scholarship and noxious bloviating, they become deeply suspect. And if they are so invested in overcoming injustice that they are willing to embrace rank cruelty as long as it is presented in the right kind of progressive jargon, they are worsening the problems they purport to address.

It would, then, be all too easy to draw the wrong inferences from Sokal Squared. The lesson is neither that all fields of academia should be mistrusted nor that the study of race, gender, or sexuality is unimportant. As Lindsay, Pluckrose, and Boghossian point out, their experiment would be far less worrisome if these fields of study didn’t have such great relevance.

But if we are to be serious about remedying discrimination, racism, and sexism, we can’t ignore the uncomfortable truth these hoaxers have revealed: Some academic emperors—the ones who supposedly have the most to say about these crucial topics—have no clothes.

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The results expose the intellectual bankruptcy of identity politics and postmodernist philosophy. Their proponents, who dominate university humanities departments worldwide, are charlatans who have published or given favorable “revise and resubmit” comments to the most absurd and vulgar pseudo-scientific arguments.

There is an element of humor in the fact that such drivel could win accolades from academics and journals. The “dog park” article was even selected as one of the most influential contributions in the history of the Gender, Place and Culture journal!

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(Peer reviewers wondered if the dog’s right to privacy was being violated by the study)

In the wake of their public disclosure, Pluckrose, Lindsay and Boghossian have come under attack by the proponents of postmodernism and identity politics, who claim the hoax is a right wing attack on “social justice” disciplines.

Daniel Engber(Daniel Engber – Slate)

Typical is the argument of Daniel Engber, who wrote in Slate: “How timely, too, that this secret project should be published in the midst of the Kavanaugh imbroglio—a time when the anger and the horror of male anxiety is so resplendent in the news. ‘It’s a very scary time for young men,’ Trump told reporters on the very day that Pluckrose, Lindsay, and Boghossian went public with their hoax. Both express a fear of false attacks on men, whether levied by regretful sluts, lefty liberals, radical academics, or whoever else.”

 

In reality, the hoax has exposed the fact that it is the proponents of identity politics who are advancing views parallel to the far right. While they are enraged with those who voice concern about the elimination of due process and the presumption of innocence for the targets of the #MeToo campaign, they are unbothered by the fact that the writings of Adolf Hitler are published and praised in feminist academic circles.

Pluckrose, Lindsay and Boghossian are self-described liberals who are concerned that the present identity hysteria is “pushing the culture war to ever more toxic and existential polarization,” by fanning the flames of the far right. As a result, identitarians are “affecting activism on behalf of women and racial and sexual minorities in a way which is counterproductive to equality aims by feeding into right-wing reactionary opposition to those equality objectives.”

In contrast, the authors’ aim is to “give people—especially those who believe in liberalism, progress, modernity, open inquiry, and social justice—a clear reason to look at the identitarian madness coming out of the academic and activist left and say, ‘No, I will not go along with that. You do not speak for me.’”

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The hoax’s authors are correct to link the identity politics proponents’ hostility to equality with their opposition to rationalism, scientific analysis and the progressive gains of the Enlightenment. But the roots of this right-wing, irrationalist, anti-egalitarian degeneration are to be found in the economic structure of capitalist society.

The academic architects of postmodernism and identity politics occupy well-paid positions in academia, often with salaries upwards of $100,000–$300,000 or more. As a social layer, the theoreticians of what the World Socialist Web Site refers to as the “pseudo-left” are in the wealthiest 10 percent of American society. Their political and philosophical views express their social interests.

The obsession with “privilege,” sex, and racial and gender identity is a mechanism by which members and groups within this layer fight among themselves for income, social status and positions of privilege, using degrees of “oppression” to one up each other in the fight for tenure track jobs, positions on corporate or non-profit boards, or election to public office. A chief purpose of the #MeToo campaign, for example, is to replace male executives and male politicians with women while ignoring the social needs of the vast majority of working class women.

The weaponization of identity politics is directed down the social ladder as well. By advancing the lie that white workers benefit from “white privilege,” for example, the proponents of identity politics argue: the spoils of Wall Street should not go to meeting the social needs of the working class, including white workers, who face record rates of alcoholism, poverty, opioid addiction, police violence and other indices of social misery. Instead, the world’s resources should go to me. It is this visceral class hatred that serves as the basis for absurd and reactionary arguments like those advanced in the hoax papers.

Nor have the politics of racial identity improved the material conditions for the vast majority of minority workers. Inequality within racial minorities has increased alongside the introduction of affirmative action programs and the increasing dominance of identity politics in academia and bourgeois politics. In 2016, the top 1 percent of Latinos owned 45 percent of all Latino wealth, while the top 1 percent of African-Americans owned 40.5 percent and the richest whites owned 36.5 percent of white wealth.

The influence of postmodernism in academia exploded in the aftermath of the mass protests of the 1960s and early 1970s. Based explicitly on a rejection of the revolutionary role of the working class and opposition to the “meta narrative” of socialist revolution, it is not accidental that identity politics and postmodernism have now been adopted as official ideological mechanisms of capitalist rule.

In recent decades, a massive identity politics industry has been erected, with billions of dollars available from corporate funds and trusts for journals, non-profits, publications, fellowships and political groups advancing racial or gender politics. Identity politics has come to form a central component of the Democratic Party’s electoral strategy. Imperialist wars are justified on the grounds that the US is intervening to protect women, LGBT people and other minorities.

The growing movement of the working class, broadening strikes across industries, and widespread interest in socialism on college campuses pose an existential threat to the domination of postmodernism. Pluckrose, Lindsay and Boghossian have struck a well-timed blow against this reactionary obstacle to the development of scientific socialist consciousness.

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Further reading: It’s surprisingly easy to get a fake paper published in an academic journal

Obese People’s Civil Rights – Why We Should Take Weight Discrimination Seriously As a Workers’ Rights Issue – by Bryce Covert

Nearly 80 percent of American adults are either clinically overweight or obese. And yet the medical establishment by and large has subscribed to the idea that the best solution is to simply make people lose weight. In a recent article in HuffPost Highline, journalist Michael Hobbes hit back at this conventional wisdom, pointing out that obesity and health can coexist and that 95 to 98 percent of attempts to lose weight fail. Skinny people, if they aren’t engaging in healthy activities, are also at risk of poor health.

In the article, Hobbes writes of the “incalculable” emotional costs people have paid for this wrongheaded way of viewing obesity, including a woman whose classmates sang “Baby Beluga” as she boarded the school bus or another who has passed out while on extreme diets.

But there are also costs in cold, hard cash that fat people pay in the workplace simply for having larger bodies than their other coworkers. Thanks to a growing movement of self-identified fat people, a term many are reclaiming in an effort to push back against stigma, this workplace discrimination has received growing scrutiny.

Generally speaking, people have been found to associate obesity with low competence. In a recent survey by Fairygodboss of 500 hiring professionals, about 20 percent described a photo of a heavier woman as “lazy” or “unprofessional,” while less than 16 percent said they would consider hiring her. Another found that obese job candidates were considered to be less suitable for jobs—both those that required physical exertion and those that didn’t. Participants in one study rated someone less employable if they found out she had lost weight through surgery instead diet and exercise. These were opinions formed even before actually working together, based solely on fat people’s physical characteristics, not their qualifications or skills.

This can all quickly translate into a financial burden. Both men and women who are obese are paid less than “normal” weight peers.  The impact, however, is felt more acutely among women. In 2008, data showed overweight women made 14.6 percent less, a loss of nearly $6,000. A 2010 study found that women suffer a decrease in pay for weight gain, especially if they start out very thin; that can add up to losing as much as $22,000 in salary.

Then there are workplace wellness programs, which tend to focus on getting employees to lose weight. “Wellness programs are weight control programs,” said Peggy Howell, vice chairwoman and public relations director at the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. But multiple studies have found that they don’t work and instead often only perpetuate stigma. “The programs are not effective,” she said. “When you have a wellness program that forces employees to participate and lose weight you’ve gone wrong, gone astray. They should just totally disband them.”

Weight discrimination is common. Over half of polled obese people in 2012 said they believed they had been discriminated against in applying for a job or asking for a promotion. It’s gotten steadily worse: the prevalence of weight discrimination increased 66 percent between 1995 and 2005.

It turns out that bias against fat people is taught early, with children as young as three buying into the stereotype that fat is bad. People “are taught that having a large body size is bad … that it’s negative, that it’s unhealthy, that it’s costly, and the list goes on,” Howell said. “The whole attitude is that fat is disgusting and wrong and negative in every way.”

“All those things are not true,” she pointed out. One study found that overweight and obese people are no more likely to be less conscientious, agreeable, extraverted or emotionally stable. And yet we are all constantly subjected to advertising equating thin bodies with health and virtue, especially from dieting companies. “When those are the messages that we see constantly, every day on television, in the papers, on the internet, everywhere you look,” she said, “people tend to believe those marketing messages even when they’re lies.”

This doesn’t just deny fat people their rights in the workplace. It also hurts their health. People who experience weight discrimination face a higher mortality rate. Howell also pointed out that employees bully their heavier coworkers, which can cause both mental and physical health problems.

The evidence of weight discrimination at work dates back at least as far as the early 1990s, when studies started to be published on the topic. And yet only one state, Michigan, and six cities—Binghamton, N.Y.; Madison, Wisc.; San Francisco, Calif.; Santa Cruz, Calif.; Urbana, Ill.; and Washington, D.C.—ban discrimination based on body size. Everywhere else it’s legal to deny someone a job or better pay because they are fat.

Bills have been introduced in other states but have yet to be enacted. Massachusetts State Representative Byron Rushing repeatedly introduced a bill in his state that never got through, and he just lost his campaign for reelection. Now, that effort “might just wither,” Howell noted. A bill also got introduced in Nevada but, according to Howell, never made it out of committee, likely thanks to the political sway of casino owners.

There has also been little-to-no action at the federal level. “You really have to have somebody who’s willing to champion your bills for you,” Howell said. “We don’t have a champion.” The challenge is that there is so much stigma and negativity around larger body sizes. “Nobody wants to be fat,” she pointed out. “Even most fat people don’t want to be fat.” So it’s difficult to get people to support a law supporting the rights of fat people.

Opponents of anti-discrimination protections based on body size often protest that instituting such laws will lead to a flurry of lawsuits and overburden the court system. But Michigan has had its law in place for three decades and has seen very few cases. In 2011, the state got 44 discrimination complaints, or 1.3 percent of all discrimination complaints, which was at the time a high. “That is a fallacy, it’s a proven fallacy,” Howell said. Not to mention, she pointed out, that the goal of anti-discrimination legislation is not to inspire lawsuits, but to prevent discrimination before it can even get to that point.

Some opponents have also countered that anti-discrimination laws cover immutable characteristics like sex or race and that weight is something people can change. But, Howell countered, “Weight is as heritable as your eye color.” Indeed, the chances of a woman classified as obese achieving a non-obese weight are 0.8 percent. “People blame fat people for being fat and they absolutely believe that we can change it whether or not we can,” Howell underscored.

“We’re simply saying that regardless of the size of your body, you deserve the same civil rights as everybody else—period,” Howell said. “This is a civil rights issue. Why do we not have the same rights as other people simply based on their body size?”

Do Not Bring Children to a Labor Union Picket Line – Keep Them From Danger – 12 Oct 2018

Bringing Children to the Picket Line is Like Holding Them Hostage or Using Them As Human Shields

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I am one acquainted with the striking hotel workers picket lines at the seven struck hotels in Boston.  I have walked in the line in sunshine and I have walked in the picket in rain.  Some days were cool, some days were hotter.  Drums and horns and clappers and tambourines give the workers picket lines a festive feel at times.   People dance to the rhythms of the chants and the line can feel like a conga line as we move to the beat.  There are bright red shirts and colorful head scarfs. 

Hotel Party

The Boston hotel strike of 2018 can feel a little like a powerful workers party. 

Hotel Ch

A number of people have brought little children to the picket lines.  I saw an toddler in a carriage on the picket line with ear muffs on to protect the child’s ears from the drum circle cacophony.  I saw little five year olds on sunny days holding a parents hand as they greeted friends and co-workers.  A labor union is a brother and sisterhood.

Hot 7Hotel Children

But…don’t bring small children and youngsters to a labor union picket line.

A picket line is not a protest.  A picket line is not a photo opportunity.  A picket line is not a publicity stunt. 

A picket line is a physical challenge to the boss and owners of the capitalist rights to property.  A picket line is a very serious denial of the free use of private property even when the picket line is deliberately or naively mislead and misorganized and misdirected.  The physical challenge of a picket line on a property is met with a physical response from the bosses and owners and through their government.  At every one of the hotels on strike there were two or three policemen with guns on their hips and handcuffs on their belts and communication devices to summon more forces.  The hotels had security guards and private hired guns to protect their doors.  There were usually four or five of the suit jacket wearing hotel security personnel. 

The safety of any labor union striker’s little children visiting a picket line is very far down the list of what the armed agents of the state and the organized security team of the hotel are concerned with.  Things have been calm at the Boston hotels and guests are allowed to casually stroll through the union’s picket lines.  Cars and taxis are effortlessly waved across the picket lines to drive up to the hotel doors as the police, or sometimes the union marshals part the picket lines.  Very peaceful, so far.  I there hasn’t been one arrest. 

Labor unions taking money away from a capitalist to increase wages and to pay for benefits is a direct drain on the capitalists profits.  Capitalist want the largest profits they can get.  The union makes part of its appeal to the public and the company based on what the union members need to have a decent life.  The appeal is to the broad public to have sympathy for underpaid workers.  There is some response and some support. Generalized sympathy means just about nothing.  Thoughts and prayers are not going to wing labor union strikes. 

Uber driver knocked to ground

(San Fransisco CA:  12 Oct 2018 – An Uber Driver is knocked to the ground by private security as he tried to deliver a petition asking for higher wages at the company’s headquarters)

There is also a section of the public that opposes labor unions.  In general public surveys only 33% of white people support labor unions, while 66% of black people support labor unions. Throughout the time of the Great Depression of the 1930’s public opinion polls conducted by upper middle class magazines blamed the Depression on ‘laziness.’  The wealthy set said they believed that the 1929 crash and mass unemployment was caused by a sudden outbreak of sloth. 

There is a large number of people who are indifferent to the unions moral appeal, or downright hostile.  There are people who are associated with extreme Right Wing groups who are militantly hostile to labor unions and would consider attacking a labor union picket line.  While the US has not had open Right Wing attacks on picket lines in recent history there are examples in the past, and in other countries today.  Workers who challenge capitalist property rights should expect the capitalists to defend their rights by any means necessary.  History is full of examples of upper class gentle folk with impeccable manners turning to armed Right Wing extremists to defend their property. 

Bringing small children to or even youngsters is essentially saying ‘You wouldn’t dare attack me while my children are here.’  Would they?

In Italy after World War II, in the early 1920’s, Leftist would hold a workers rally with 200 people including women and small children; a group of six fascist armed with pistols would run through the crowd shooting randomly to create the maxim