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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The problem with white people

For many years a pet peeve of mine has been the use of the terms "whitelist" and "blacklist" in the IT industry. FYI, a whitelist is a list of IP addresses that should definitely be allowed access and a blacklist is a list of IP addresses that should definitely be blocked. Since these terms are used in building Internet firewall rules, I have to use them all the time in my day job as a Linux Systems Administrator but I always felt they had a racist connotation. There are many other words and phrases that have been accused of carrying a racist connotation. Michael Coard asks in an essay "Are You - or Your Language - Racist or Not Racist?" and lists these examples:
Blackball, black-hearted, blackmail, blacklist, black market, black ops, black sheep, black hat/white hat, white lie- Need I say more?
We could also add white knight, white wedding, whitewash, a white paper and white collar to the list of phrases where "white" is used to express positive values such as courage, innocence, cleanliness, authority or position. On the other hand "black" is used to convey negative values, often related to death or bad things like the black death, black plague, black comedy and black day. I have long regarded these and numerous other phrases, like angel food cake and devil's food cake, as examples of racist symbolism bleeding over into other areas. Now I realize that I have been wrong all along about this and that it is entirely natural and logical that "white" should take on certain positive connotations and "black" certain negative connotations that are primordial and have nothing to do with race.

In order to understand why certain attributes fall organically to "black" and "white", we first must talk about color. So let's review some basic facts about light, and how it is perceived by the human eye. Visible light is electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is detectable by the human eye. The wavelength, which is the inverse of frequency, determines the color we see the light as. Here are some familiar colors and their specs:

color

Wavelength interval

Frequency interval

Red

~ 700–635 nm

~ 430–480 THz

Orange

~ 635–590 nm

~ 480–510 THz

Yellow

~ 590–560 nm

~ 510–540 THz

Green

~ 560–520 nm

~ 540–580 THz

The seven colors of the rainbow are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet and their wavelengths range from 780 nanometers to 390 nanometers. What we call white isn't one of the colors of the rainbow, in fact white is not a primary color at all, white is an illusion.

Both "white" and "black" as well as the grey areas between them are called achromatic colors, literally, colors without color. What Wikipedia says about "white" is useful to our discussion, I will be relying on Wikipedia quite a bit to establish the basises for my argument:
An incoming light to the human eye that stimulates all its three types of color sensitive cone cells in nearly equal amounts results in white. White is one of the most common colors in nature, the color of sunlight, snow, milk, chalk, limestone and other common minerals. In many cultures white represents or signifies purity, innocence, and light, and is the symbolic opposite of black, or darkness. According to surveys in Europe and the United States, white is the color most often associated with perfection, the good, honesty, cleanliness, the beginning, the new, neutrality, and exactitude.[2]

In ancient Egypt and ancient Rome, priestesses wore white as a symbol of purity, and Romans wore a white toga as a symbol of citizenship. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance a white unicorn symbolized chastity, and a white lamb sacrifice and purity; the widows of kings dressed in white rather than black as the color of mourning.
Please note that all the above examples of positive associations with the meta-color white existed long before any people started calling themselves "white," as we shall see. It was only with the 17th century enslavement of Africans, the land grabs from people with darker colored skin, and growing capitalist assault on the natural world, that a group of Europeans who had more advanced methods of domination at their disposal (for reasons that are beyond the scope of this essay),  sought to use their lighter skin color (itself a result of a need to produce vitamin D under conditions of less sunlight), to embellish all that they were doing with the symbol of purity and righteousness that had long been associated with the meta-color white, by proclaiming themselves to be "white" even though they clearly were not white. But I get ahead of myself. First let us return to the basics of human sight.

The radiation that reaches us from the sun, and other sources that mimic it, contain light from all the colors in the visible spectrum. When it is reflected by a surface that scatters it and reflects it in the same ratio as it is received from the sun, we perceived the object as white. We can see the colors that make up sunlight in the rainbow because the water droplets between the sun and the observer refract the light differently according to wavelength and allow us to glimpse its constituent parts.


As this blowup makes clear, there are no white pixels in a color screen, all the colors displayed by the monitor are generated by pixels of three primary colors, red, green and blue. When they are all turned on, we see the screen as white. When they are all turned off, we see the screen as black.

This perception of the combined colors as white has some important results for human vision. Since water is clear or colorless, like many other substances in the natural world, it appears white when it takes on a structure that defuses or scatters the light that hits it, such as in snow or clouds. This dynamic also accounts for the white color of pure sugar or salt, diamonds and all sorts of foams and crystals. In many of these cases, whiteness can correctly be taken as an indication of purity or lack of contamination. Of course all this has nothing to do with race or even the human social condition. It is the result of the human perception of the working out of certain natural laws, but it does impart a certain sense of purity or goodness to the meta-color white.

Black is not a real color either. Black is simply the absence of light of any color. Your screen doesn't have any black pixels either. To represent black, all the pixels are left off. Black also has some negative connotations given to it by the natural world. In most of its states, pure carbon reflects no light and appears black to the human eye. This means things damaged or killed by fire appear black. Outside the body, dried blood appears black, as does blood in the feces, never a good sign.  Many other death products of carbon based man fades to black.

Fade to black is used in films to end a scene as the night ends the day and so mimics a pattern familiar to us. It's no accident that we used the same word "day" to symbolize both a single rotation of the Earth in front of the Sun, and to symbolize that roughly half of the rotation in which we face the Sun, that part which isn't night. Also given our focus on daylight activity, it's also quite natural that sunlight and white come to symbolize beginning or birth and darkness or black come to represent ending or death.

Probably most important in shaping our primordial attitude towards white and black is this difference between day and night and the fact that, compared to many other animals, humans just don't see very well at night. Wikipedia simply says:
Humans have poor night vision compared to many animals.
We lack many of the structures, like a reflective coating behind the retina, that allow those that would hunt us to see much better at night than we do. What we lose in night vision is more than made up for by having eyes that are sensitive to colors. Most animals can't see colors.

Because of our poor night vision, humans are not nocturnal hunters or gatherers. We feel safest during the day. Night has always been the period of greatest danger, a time when we retreat to whatever security and shelter we can manage to await the rising sun and our next day's activities. These are all natural conditions of human existence that pre-date and have nothing to do with race that have irrevocably imparted to the meta-color white certains positive attributes as a symbol for sunlight and the meta-color black certain negative attributes because it symbolizes the darkness.

As we enter the make-or-break period for this experiment called humanity, it is important to remember it has been a very long time in the making, so some of these associations are not only prehistoric, they are pre-human. Scientific American published a special issue on human evolution, January 2009. Using the latest research in that field, it traced our first hominid ancestors back to the Sahelanthropus tchadensis that lived in Chad more than 7 million years ago. Some scientists count 23 separate hominid species on the road to us, and as close as 50,000 years ago, there were still four distinct hominids vying for the top prize, H. neanderthalensis, H. erectus, H. floresiensis, and us, H. sapiens, whose oldest known fossils were found in Omo, Ethiopia. All these were far from our Primate origins, all had big brains, could walk upright, and use tools, but Scientific American reports that Homo Sapiens were:
The only hominid to colonize every continent and the first to systematically use symbols.
So it may well be the case that it wasn't simply our big brains, ability to walk upright, and use tools that made us the Primates that went on to dominate the planet. Most probably it has been our ability to use symbols to organize and act upon our world that sets us apart from all the species that came before us.

Now that we have established the importance of symbols in organizing our world, and identified some of the organic reasons "white" and "black" are such powerful symbols, we are now ready to examine the history of how one part of humanity became "white," while others, by implication, became "black."

The history of "white" people.


Our official history would have us believe that white people are responsible for many of the early developments and civilizations. They will tell you that white people created the great ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, white people circumnavigated the globe and discovered the New World. This is fake history. Aristotle, Caesar and Jesus weren't white, neither was Columbus or Magellan. None of these people would have described themselves as white people. They saw themselves as representing regions or nations we now think of as Greece, Italy, Palestine, Portugal, or Spain and, to be sure, they knew they had a lighter complexion than many they met in their travels, but that didn't make them white people because that category hadn't crystallized as a category of people variously distinguished by skin color and origin. Modern racism had yet to be invented.  Christopher Columbus wasn't even an Italian in his day, he was a proud citizen of the Republic of Genoa. The category of "white people" came alive only in the 17th century with the adoption of racial slavery. Since then all these Europeans have been posthumously awarded the title of "white person." According to Wikipedia, the Ancient Greeks weren't white:
Classicist James Dee states "the Greeks do not describe themselves as "white people"—or as anything else because they had no regular word in their color vocabulary for themselves."[3] People's skin color did not carry useful meaning; what mattered is where they lived.[4]
From Wikipedia, we learn that the concept of a white race is a surprisingly recent one:
The contemporary usage of "white people" or a "white race" as a large group of (mainly European) populations contrasting with "black", American Indian, "colored" or non-white originated in the 17th century.
Obviously, light skinned people had inhabited parts of Europe for a long time before that, so it's no accident that the "white race" was invented just when these Europeans were first embarking on their imperial mission. The Wikipedia entry for "White People" gives us a brief history:
The term "white race" or "white people" entered the major European languages in the later 17th century, originating with the racialization of slavery at the time, in the context of the Atlantic slave trade[11] and the enslavement of native peoples in the Spanish Empire.[12] It has repeatedly been ascribed to strains of blood, ancestry, and physical traits, and was eventually made into a subject of scientific research, which culminated in scientific racism, which was later widely repudiated by the scientific community. According to historian Irene Silverblatt, "Race thinking … made social categories into racial truths."[12] Bruce David Baum, citing the work of Ruth Frankenberg, states, "the history of modern racist domination has been bound up with the history of how European peoples defined themselves (and sometimes some other peoples) as members of a superior 'white race'."[13] Alastair Bonnett argues that 'white identity', as it is presently conceived, is an American project, reflecting American interpretations of race and history.[14]
The thoroughgoing links of the concept of a "white race" to imperialism are revealed as much by where it was invented as by when it was invented. It was invented where slavery was being implemented. Back to Wikipedia:
In the British colonies in North America and the Caribbean, the designation English or Christian was initially used in contrast to Native Americans or Africans. Early appearances of white race or white people in the Oxford English Dictionary begin in the seventeenth century.[3] Historian Winthrop Jordan reports that, "throughout the [thirteen] colonies the terms Christian, free, English, and white were … employed indiscriminately" in the seventeenth century as proxies for one another.[22] In 1680, Morgan Godwyn "found it necessary to explain" to English readers that "in Barbados, 'white' was 'the general name for Europeans.'"[23] Several historians report a shift towards greater use of white as a legal category alongside a hardening of restrictions on free or Christian blacks.[24] White remained a more familiar term in the American colonies than in Britain well into the 1700s, according to historian Theodore Allen.[23]
The terms "white people" and "white race" were used first in the colonies and only later in Europe and the rest of the world, so it can truly be said that Europeans came to the Americas and sent "white people" back. Again, from Wikipedia
Before the Industrial Revolutions in Europe whiteness may have been associated with social status. Aristocrats may have had less exposure to the sun and therefore a pale complexion may have been associated with status and wealth.[141] This may be the origin of "blue blood" as a description of royalty, the skin being so lightly pigmented that the blueness of the veins could be clearly seen.[142] The change in the meaning of white that occurred in the colonies (see above) to distinguish Europeans from non-Europeans did not apply to 'home' countries (England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales). Whiteness therefore retained a meaning associated with social status.
The "white race" was first created on the backs of African slaves and went on to firmly establish itself as a fake category on the strength and growth of western imperialism, but being an opportunistic rather than scientific classification, it hasn't always been clear just who is "white." Again from Wikipedia:
By the 18th century, white had become well established as a racial term. According to John Tehranian, among those not considered white at some points in American history have been: the Germans, Greeks, white Hispanics, Arabs, Iranians, Afghans, Irish, Italians, Jews, Slavs and Spaniards.[155] Still today the relationship between some ethnic groups and whiteness remains complex. In particular, some Jewish and Arab individuals both self-identify and are considered as part of the White American racial category, but others with the same ancestry feel they are not white nor are they perceived as white by American society.[156][157][158]
The meaning of "black people" has also been variable with time and place, generally with "white people" doing the defining. Wikipedia had this to say about "black people:"
Different societies apply differing criteria regarding who is classified as "black", and these social constructs have also changed over time. In a number of countries, societal variables affect classification as much as skin color, and the social criteria for "blackness" vary. For example, in North America the term black people is not necessarily an indicator of skin color or ethnic origin, but is instead a socially based racial classification related to being African American, with a family history mainly associated with institutionalized slavery. In the United Kingdom, "black" was historically equivalent with "person of color", a general term for non-European peoples. In South Africa and Latin America, mixed-race people are generally not classified as "black". In other regions such as Australasia, settlers applied the term "black" or it was used by local populations with different histories and ancestral backgrounds.
There are also extremely important and very deep psychological forces that are put to work in the efforts by one group of people to dominate another when the color card is played as it has been by Caucasians. I have not really touched on these, but they may be the most powerful way this illusion of whiteness binds Caucasians to a continuing pattern of racism, world domination, and destruction. Joel Kovel, in his White Racism: A Psychohistory, 1970, goes into great detail. It is a must read on this subject. From p.232:
Racism abstracts the color of the living body into non-colors of extreme value, black and white. Within this organization black represents the shade of evil, the devil's aspect, night, separation, loneliness, sin, dirt, excrement, the inside of the body; and white represents the mark of good, the token of innocence, purity, cleanliness, spirituality, virtue, hope.
From this we can see that the very terms "white race" and "white people" have inherently racist content. Therefore racism can never be completely defeated before the use of these terms is abandoned.

From here we can proceed to some preliminary definitions and conclusions:

White supremacy is then, at its core, the false belief by Caucasian people of European descent that they are "white" - meaning they share in the natural attributes of "white" like "pure", "good", "ideal", "the standard", "righteous" - that they, owing to lower level of melanins in their skin, share in these symbolic meanings of "white" that others don't, making them the chosen ones.

While the skin color differences between the European colonizers and the people of the South may have provided the original impetus for the "white" and "black" categorization, the adoption of the symbolism of "white" by Europeans at the beginning of the imperialist period has been used not only as a sign of their righteousness in dominating and raping the thereby newly created "non-white" people, it has been used as a sign of their righteousness in dominating and raping the entire planet. Therefore we can conclude that the problems inherent in a group of people being called "white" is not merely a race problem. It would be a problem even if there were no other races.This attitude of Whiteness has been invoked not just against the "black people of the Earth" but against the Earth itself.

White chauvinism therefore is the practice of white supremacy, not just towards the excluded peoples, but towards the entire excluded natural world. It underlines and legitimizes the operations of capitalism not just in exploiting "people of color," but in ruthlessly exploiting the resources of the Earth as well.

Racism is the application of white chauvinism to people.

White nationalism is the derivative belief that white people constitute a nation. This actually brings the mythology around full circle since the original object of the creation of the "white race" was to forge a number of European nationalities into a new trans-national grouping better suited to imperialism.

Also note, This is not a "rose by any other name" type of situation. The positive symbolism of "white" is primordial and immutable, so the contradiction cannot be resolved by pretending it doesn't unfairly award that positive symbolism to a people based on skin color. It can only be resolved by depreciating the label "white" as applied to any group of people.

Executive Summary: The use of the word "white" to describe a specific ethnic or racial group is itself racist and must be abolished to end racism and save the planet. White Power is unhealthy for children and other living things.

More, later,

Clay Claiborne

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Hacking DNC emails didn't impact US election, releasing them did

When I'm not on vacation, I decided to take a couple weeks before Trump takes over, I work as an IT professional, so you don't have to tell me that there is a lot of hacking going on. I have to deal with it every week. Much of it comes from China and Russia, most of it is for commercial advantage, some of it serves other purposes, including military advantage. The "take" is generally not for publication. Although the results of these hacks do change our world, they rarely do so by being made public.

Lately there has been a lot of discussion over who hacked Democratic Party files and whether it affected the US election. While waiting for the balls to drop, the controversy over charges that Russia was behind the hacks has become one of the top news stories. I don't understand this and I am hoping my readers can clue me in because, it seems to me that it wasn't the hacking of the emails that helped beat Hillary Clinton, it was their release to the media that did the damage.
Donald Trump thinks the hacks may have been done by a 14 year old teen sitting on a 400lb. bed. Others see a massive effort more characteristic of a state actor and many think that state actor was Russia. The hacking (or leaking) of the DNC emails was a criminal act no matter who did it, but it wouldn't have amounted to a hill of beans had they not been made public, and we know who made them public.
It was the publication of the stolen emails, not the stealing of them, that affected the US election, and both the DNC emails and the Podesta emails were released by Wikileaks. There is no controversy about that.

In defense of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange argues that WikiLeaks long ago established itself as a place whistleblowers could send material for anonymous distribution to the media and that they were simply instruments carrying out their mission. He would probably also argue that if the one-sided exposures had a one-sided effect on the election that was not his fault, because had that 14 year old also hacked the RNC emails, Wikileaks would have published them to. Donald Trump has his own explanation of why the releases were so one-sided:

I scream bupkes. We may never know who really did the hacks but we already know who controlled the timing of their publication. That was Wikileaks and it is controlled by one man - Julian Assange. More than any other factor, it is the timing of the releases that reveals the nefarious purpose, which was to help elect Donald Trump.
An examination of the original DNC hack indicates it was done before the primaries in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota, yet it was held by Wikileaks until 48 hrs before that start of the Democratic Convention. I wrote about this at the time in Timing is everything - Why were WikiLeaks DNC emails released now?, 31 July 2016. Had the emails been released soon after the hack, Wikileaks would have truly been serving democracy and the release would have helped Bernie Sanders. Instead he timed the release to be too late to help Bernie. He timed the release so that it could only help Trump, after the Dems had already settled on Hillary.
The same critique should be made about the way Wikileaks released the Podesta Emails. Democracy and the public interests would have best been served by all being released as soon as possible so that the lot of them could be evaluated as a whole. That is the way WikiLeaks has handled other releases. Instead this time we were subjected to a daily drip-drip-drip of revelations throughout the election cycle (but not since) designed to help Trump win. Julian Assange argues "We publish as fast as our resources will allow and as fast as the public can absorb it." Since personal information, including email addresses and credit card information of third parties was not redacted from these emails, a complaint widely expressed by privacy advocates, we are more interested in Julian Assange's claim that he releases the information "as fast as the public can absorb it." What's up with that? How does he make that determination? Why did the drip-drip-drip of Podesta Emails suddenly dry up after the election? This was the last of 36 releases, the day after the election. None since. Coincidence?
Wikileaks followers have waited in vain for #PodestaEmails37 ever since:
If Wikileaks was not publishing this material for partisan political purposes but simply because it believes in "the public’s right to be informed" and found the material to be "of political, diplomatic, historical or ethical importance," why did their publication end with the election? I believe Julian Assange when he said "WikiLeaks publications are not an attempt to get Jill Stein elected." I think even he knows there are limits to his power, however I do think they were an effort to defeat Hillary Clinton, and in that they succeeded.  As to motives, I won't speculate, but one Russian hacker thinks maybe the Deal Artist made one with Julian:

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Friday, January 6, 2017

Glenn Greenwald runs off at the mouth about Breitbart without ever mentioning racism

Breitbart News has been the leading organ for the white nationalist movement that took over the Republican Party and put Donald Trump in the White House, and Steve Bannon, the Breitbart editor and chief who made it the center of the alt-Right movement, is now the White House Chief Strategist. Glenn Greenwald has received a lot of criticism recently for an interview it published last month. In the interview, Greenwald was full of praise for Breitbart, but made no specific criticisms other than to say it publishes a lot to "vehemently disagree with and sometimes find repellant," even though it's famous for headlines like:

'Hoist it high and proud: The Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage'
'Bill Kristol: Republican spoiler, renegade Jew'
'Political Correctness Protects Muslim Rape Culture'
EXCLUSIVE–New Black Panther Leader: Blacks Need to Migrate to Five Southern States, Form ‘Country Within a Country'
VIDEO: Black Lives Matter Mob Chases, Beats Man Wearing Trump Hat
Black Lives Matter Supporters Celebrate Baton Rouge Police Shootings On Twitter
Rush: Black Lives Matter Is ‘A Terrorist Group,’ ‘Quickly Becoming a Terrorist Group Committing Hate Crimes’

What Glenn Greenwald doesn't seem to get is why only praising Breitbart and not criticising it will be seen by many as supportive of the alt-Right, just as he doesn't understand why The Intercept's pre-election policy of focusing all its fire against Hillary Clinton helped put Donald Trump in the Oval Office. Today Democracy Now gave him an opportunity to defend himself on the Breitbart charge:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, you mentioned Breitbart News, Glenn Greenwald. One of the pieces of evidence that people cite for your alleged sympathy with Breitbart is a part of an interview that you gave recently to Lee Stranahan last month in which you said, "Breitbart is actually a fascinating case. And I do think right-wing media has had a lot more success in pioneering ways to challenge establishment authority [than] left-wing media has." You went on to say that it’s, quote, "very impressive in terms of the impact they’ve been able to have." That is, Breitbart media has been able to have. And now, of course, the head of Breitbart media has been named by Trump as his chief strategist. So, could you respond to that and explain what you meant?
Even the bit Nermeen Shaikh quoted from Glenn Greewald's Breitbart interview is revealing. Does Greenwald really think that both right-wing media and left-wing media are equally trying to "challenge establishment authority"? News Flash Glenn: Right-wing media is actually about supporting US imperialism [established authority], even while appearing to oppose it. Hence, one of the reasons right wing media has been more "successful" is that they are really supporting the established order. Glenn, notice how the stock market has responded to its being "overthrown" by the Trump victory? Glenn, you should also note that right-wing media usually resorts to demagoguery and lies, whereas truth telling can be at once more difficult and less appealing. Or is it that you have so long confused the fake Left with what the Left should be that you see The Intercept as the fake Left equivalent of Breitbart News? He responded on DN:
GLENN GREENWALD: Sure. That Breitbart has had a huge impact on American politics is something that no honest person could possibly dispute. Their traffic alone has quadrupled, or even more, just in the past six to nine months. They became the go-to place for the part of the Republican Party that ended up dominant, that ended up electing—nominating and then electing a candidate who the entire political establishment thought had no chance of ever winning. They gave voice to a huge part of the Republican Party that had been completely and systematically excluded from all of the Republican mainstream venues, like National Review and Weekly Standard. The impact that they have had is immense. And to deny that is just delusional.
Notice Greenwald is very vague who has been systematically excluded from the Republican mainstream before and why. Since he is shy about calling them what they are, fascists and white supremacists, this is a problem for him. He calls them a "part of the Republican Party" but many on both sides of that line would dispute him. Trump himself has supported both capitalist parties, and while white nationalists have been most at home with the Republicans these days, that hasn't always been the case, and certainly they don't see themselves as just a downtrodden part of the Republican Party. Greenwald sounds like he thinks Breitbart News is performing a service by giving voice to the oppressed within the GOP. He continues:
But even worse is to suggest that acknowledging the impact that they have somehow makes you an admirer of them. In that very same interview, I told them directly to their face that the content that they’re producing is repellent. That was the word I used. I said that I have all kinds of terrible things to say about Breitbart reporters and about Breitbart’s content. All of the work I’ve done over the past decade—the sort of primary issue on which I’ve worked has been a defense of the civil liberties of Muslims—is completely antithetical to everything that Breitbart believes in. So, to take a comment that I made which is observably and undeniably true, which is that the impact that they’ve had on the political process is extraordinary and impressive, and convert that into me saying that I somehow like Breitbart or am a sympathizer with Breitbart or an admirer or supporter of Breitbart is just dishonesty in the extreme. And it’s obvious for anybody minimally literate that that’s the case.
The fact is that racism, meaning white supremacy, isn't just an aspect of Breitbart, it is at the core of what has allowed Breitbart and the alt-Right to grow in power to the point where their people are about to enter the White House, and the closest Glenn Greenwald can come to acknowledging that is to say they are antithetical to the civil rights of Muslims? He does them a great kindness in this critique.

Later in the show Nermeen Shaikh talked about a piece Greenwald wrote in response a Guardian article with the headline "Julian Assange gives guarded praise of Trump and blasts Clinton in interview." Disputing that view, she said:
Assange’s precise words in the interview are worth citing at length. When asked about his response to Trump’s election, he said in the interview, quote, "Hillary Clinton’s election would have been a consolidation of power in the existing ruling class of the United States. Donald Trump is not a D.C. insider, he is part of the wealthy ruling elite of the United States, and he is gathering around him a spectrum of other rich people and several idiosyncratic personalities. They do not by themselves form an existing structure, so it is a weak structure which is displacing and destabilizing the pre-existing central power network within D.C. It is a new patronage structure which will evolve rapidly, but at the moment its looseness means there are opportunities for change in the United States: change for the worse and change for the better," end-quote.
News Flash Julian: The existing ruling class of the United States wasn't waiting for the election of Hillary Clinton to consolidate power. It did that long ago.

More to the point: Notice how Julian Assange has nothing to say about racism in his appraisal of Donald Trump? Apparently his promises to build a wall, ban Muslims, expel immigrants, or institute a national stop and frisk program aren't a problem, or even consideration, for him. Donald Trump, known long to be a racist by his black employees, is appointing known white supremacists, people like Jeff Sessions, to the highest positions in his administration and Julian Assange excuses them as "idiosyncratic personalities"! This is a kindness indeed.

Julian Assange, Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald and Jill Stein all suffer from the same affliction. They just don't get that ignoring white supremacy, especially in the current climate, means supporting white supremacy. They are all bad news for the Left.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Democracy Now should expose Dylann Roof's 1488 ties to Trump White House


Today Democracy Now did a segment with the NAACP President on Dylann Roof's Lack of Regret for Massacre. In her setup for the piece, Amy Goodman said:
This week Dylann Roof faces a possible death sentence for murdering nine black worshipers at the Emanuel AME Church in June of 2015. As Roof acted as his own attorney in a brief opening statement during the sentencing phase of his trial, he offered no apology and no explanation for his massacre, telling jurors he was psychologically fit to stand trial. In the prosecutor’s opening statement, they quoted excerpts of a racist manifesto written by Roof while he was held in a Charleston jail, in which he wrote, "I would like to make it crystal clear I do not regret what I did. ... I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed." We get response from Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, who is also a civil rights lawyer and a minister.
You know what the flag means but do you know why the 88 on his shirt is even uglier?
Cornell William Brooks said that while they opposed the death penalty, they wanted to see the racist killer punished. He continued:
We’re also concerned about the racial animus, the sanitized, homogenized, alt-right atmosphere in the country that is giving rise to this kind of sentiment and driving violent crimes. We’ve seen this around the country. We’ve seen it in the FBI hate crimes statistics. We’ve certainly seen it in the numbers reported out by the Anti-Defamation League. And so, as chilling and as concerning and as alarming as the sentencing phase of the trial of Dylann Roof is, we should be chilled and concerned and alarmed about the state of America, because Dylann Roof may seem like an abhorrent aberration, but we’re concerned that that kind of behavior can be normalized because of the racial animus in the country, the xenophobic attitudes in the country, the homophobic attitudes in the country. The point being here is, we cannot separate the tone and tenor of the last campaign from what’s going on in Charleston even as we speak. And so, the NAACP is standing in firm opposition to both the atmosphere that gave rise to Dylann Roof’s crimes, even as we call for his prosecution and punishment. And so, make no mistake: This is not about the trial of one individual; it’s about the state of America more broadly.
This got a little closer to the heart of the matter because it is important to understand that Dylann Roof sees himself as in the vanguard of an extreme wing of the alt-Right movement that calls for making the United States an all white country and is willing to use mass murder to make that happen. They are known by the symbol 1488. Amy Goodman should have pointed out that the "88" on Roof's shirt in one of the pictures she used, is alt-Right code for "Heil Hitler", the eighth letter of the alphabet, H, twice. Progressives must learn to recognize these these codes and fight their meaning, not pass over them in silence. Roof may be portrayed as a lone bigoted nut, but he sees himself as part of a white supremacist movement that calls for the extermination of black people and now has a foothold in the White House.

In Why Green Party's @DrJillStein should drop her presidential bid, I blogged about this symbol and the connection it revealed between Dylann Roof and Steve Bannon, months before one was a convicted murderer and other, the president's chief strategist:

Stephen Bannon is Trump's new campaign chairman. He is also the current chairman of Breitbart News. Ben Shapiro was the editor-at-large of Breitbart News for four years, and he said "Under Bannon's leadership, Breibart openly embraced the white supremacist Alt-Right." Breitbart News has become central command for the politely named Alt-Right movement.

Dylann Roof was part of the 1488 movement
The most extreme elements of this alternative right are the 1488ers, the numbers stand for the 14 words in the Nazi slogan "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children," and the 8th letter of the alphabet twice to signify "Heil Hitler."  According to the Anti-Defamation League "the numbers form a general endorsement of white supremacy and its beliefs. As such, they are ubiquitous within the white supremacist movement - as graffiti, in graphics and tattoos, even in screen names and e-mail addresses, such as aryanprincess1488@hate.net. Some white supremacists will even price racist merchandise, such as t-shirts or compact discs, for $14.88."  1488 showed up in Dylann Roof's manifesto too, and he was suppose to be a lone, unconnected, racist killer. Now that you know what to look for, you will start to notice it.

But most mainstream Alt-Right supporters aren't that extreme, according to Allum Bokhari, a reporter for Breitbart, "They want to build their homogeneous communities, sure — but they don’t want to commit any pogroms along the way. Indeed, they would prefer non-violent solutions...The bulk of their demands, after all, are not so audacious: they want their own communities, populated by their own people, and governed by their own values."

In point of fact, even if it can't be shown that Dylann Roof had any membership in white supremacist organizations or direct ties to the likes of Steve Bannon, shouldn't he be treated the same as an ISIS terrorist lonewolf self-radicalized over the Internet? The 1488 he displays in his photos and writings are his pledge of allegiance. They are like the black jihadist flags of the Islamic terrorists if you know their meaning.

Amy Goodman didn't mention any of this before the election, when it could have made a big difference. Instead, she helped Donald Trump get elected by focusing all her fire on Hillary Clinton as the greater evil and promoting Jill Stein as the progressive alternative that ultimately would go on to take just enough progressive votes from Hillary Clinton to put Donald Trump in the White House. Now that these open white supremacists hold state power in the United States she has a duty not to paper over their uglier connections.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Fake History: In 1967 Colonel Gaddafi inherited one of the poorest nations in Africa

Fake news has been much in the news lately. The goal of fake news, of course, is to obscure real news. So the slogan of the fake news promoters might well be "Make News History!" and speaking of history, I thought I'd start the New Year out by blogging about something that is even older than fake news - fake history.

Take for example the fake Left meme on a work in progress, the Libyan Revolution, tt typically begins with this statement: "In 1967 Colonel Gaddafi inherited one of the poorest nations in Africa." This sentence can be found repeated verbatim thousand of times across the Internet:
With this as its starting point, the counter-revolutionary narrative, popular with both the alt-Right and the fake Left, goes on to tell us how Colonel Gaddafi turned Libya into "Africa’s Wealthiest Democracy" before it was turned into a "Terrorist Haven" by "US Intervention." Of the ~30,000 Libyans that died in the struggle to overthrow his 40 year dictatorship, Muammar Gaddafi is the one most mourned by the Western Left. Other than him and his crew, Libyans play bit parts in the fake Left's narrative on Libya. The National Transitional Council  and the thuwar (revolutionaries) were seen as proxies or pawns of the real bad guys of what they labeled "NATO's War on Libya", Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Libya could be ruled by a colonel who outranked his generals because truth telling was not Gaddafi's style, and yet these "truth seekers" on the fake Left used figures reported by the Colonel's government to prove its people were so well off under his rule they couldn't possibly want to revolt on their own. In their copy-paste telling of Libyan history, Muammar Gaddafi was the great brother-leader who transformed Africa's poorest country into its richest. This is far more dramatic than the truth, which is that Muammar took over the richest country in Africa and he robbed it.

I didn't check all 2,840 of the above search results but I did check quite a few and none that I did check cited a source for the claim that in 1967 Libya was one of the poorest nations in Africa. Not being inclined to accept that claim at face value,  I went looking for verification. How does one search for economic data on Libya in 1967? The first useful thing I found was the United Nation's World Economic Survey 1967.

This survey is focused on development and according to it, far from being one of the poorest countries in Africa, Libya was listed as one of the comers.  For example, in discussing economic growth in the period between 1955 and 1965 it says:
As with every other variable, the average subsumes a considerable range of performance, from declines in such countries as Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Colombia and Singapore, to gains of over 10 per cent a year in China (Taiwan), Iran, Israel, Jordan, Liberia, Libya and the Republic of Korea. 
And a table titled, Table 4. Developing countries: distribution according to average annual rate of growth in real gross domestic product, 1955-1965, puts Libya at the top of the list. It ranked above Israel, Kuwait, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia, which were also in the 6% or over column. The Democratic Republic of Congo was at the very bottom of the list, below Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria, Cameroon, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. The Congo even ranked below Haiti, so perhaps it deserves the dubious title the fake Left is trying to award to pre-Gaddafi Libya in their efforts to prettify a fascist, (again). Another table Libya tops in this 1967 survey is Table 13. Developing countries: rates of increase in per capita production and in school enrolment ratio. With a per capita 1955-1965 GDP growth of 16.7% before Gaddafi came to power, it beat Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Taiwan which rounded out the top 5, and again, sadly, Congo was at the very bottom of the list with a -2.3% decline.

The UN report gave me a clue, but it dealt only with developing countries and is anything but simple to interpret, still it does makes it look like Libya wasn't really one of the poorest countries in Africa. What I found next was more to the point. Classora is a knowledge based website that allows you to create ranking reports based on big data sets like this Ranking of Countries with Highest Per Capita Income (1967) based on World Bank data:


Since this is a ranking of all countries, it is expected that the United States would be at the top, followed by the usual suspects. What is surprising, if we learn our history from fake Left sources, is that in 1967 Libya ranked 26th, just after Japan and ahead of any other African nation, including South Africa, which came in at 35th in per capita income.


The real history is that after high quality oil was discovered there in the mid-1950's, Libya was on a roll. By 1967, it was producing one third of the oil entering the Western European market and by the time Gaddafi took over it was already the fourth largest oil producer in the world. The Petroleum Law of 1955, passed under King Idris I initially imposed a 50% tax on oil concession profits. This was revised upwards in 1961 and 1965. This law stayed in place until 2007 and insured that the Libyan state would have a very strong revenue stream well before Gaddafi was in a position to plunder it.

Rare footage of Libya before Gaddafi


The UN report cited above also documents improvements in infrastructure and education that showed how these revenues were benefiting the whole nation long before Gaddafi's sons learned how to spend millions on parties in Europe.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi with Carmen Electra at the Opera Ball in Vienna in 2006
This was the Libya that Muammar Gaddafi conquered in 1969, far from "one of the poorest nations in Africa."  This is generally the starting point for the fake Left's defense of Gaddafi and it is a lie. It is inevitably followed by more lies about how great life was under Gaddafi. Mohammed A. Soussi, who now lives in Benghazi, wrote this in response to a the Quora question "What was life like in Libya under Muammar al-Gaddafi?"
Since I was fortunate enough to escape the wrath and misery of the former Libyan leader's regime, I was unqualified to answer the question about life under that dictatorship. However, with the scant response, it occurred to me that I could offer the following approximate translation of a Facebook post published on November 30th by a fellow Libyan who had endured Mr. Gaddafi's rule, and who clearly didn't enjoy it:

The translated post of Mr. S.S., who was opposed to Mr. Gaddafi's regime that lasted for 42 years from 1969 to 2011- in response to some published regrets for the "good old days:"

"While it's true that our current situation [in Libya] doesn't appeal to anyone, but please don't let us feel like we used to be blessed and living in comfort, as well as enjoying the good life for 42 years [under the late Mr. Gaddafi], and in which 42 years we had to do:

- without any good infrastructure, that with the slightest rain resulted in street flooding; without even a decent airport; when a Libyan falls sick, he [or she] would travel abroad for treatment; with neither good healthcare, nor respectable education; when overnight private property is outlawed and people snatching the properties of others, creating social unrest [and friction]; with 30 y.o. Libyan single men, and older, are unable to afford marriage; with youth unemployment rate only knowable to God; with Mr. Gaddafi financing the majority of the world's terrorist groups at our expense; seeking self-glory in Africa, while his people are downtrodden; speaking of bread, only God knew Libya's poverty rate, with many unable to afford their daily bread; with Gaddafi destroying the Army and creating instead militias to protect him and his sons, and those were who supported him, whereas the honorable soldiers abandoned him [during the revolution of February 17th 2011]; without the establishment of any state institutions; a rich country with a small population, and yet they didn't see any progress [or benefits, relative to the country's revenue from oil exports]; no one knows about us [the Libyan people], but the whole world knows about him from his foolishness and criminality; Gaddafi was oppressing his people and caused them a multitude of tragedies (like the children AIDS crisis; the embassy incident; the doomed Flight 92; the international sanctions and travel bans for several years; street hangings; etc...); He continued to lie to us for 42 years; He could have made us the best nation in the world; He would suddenly declare that we should only eat fava beans, because meats are only fit for animals; I'm sure that I have forgotten other issues that afflicted us for 42 years.

Like I had said at the outset, the current situation [in post-Gaddafi Libya] is frustrating and hurtful, and this is not what the revolution was all about, but don't make it sound like in his days we had it good, and all life's niceties were in abundance; or to deny that we were hurting in his regime, and we couldn't even blur one letter of protest, since you well know what would happen to anyone who did speak out. In summary, for 42 years, Gaddafi had allowed us to enjoy a splendid and dignified life, without any needs, and we just self-destructed and decided to deprive ourselves of those bountiful goods and blessings that engulfed us????"
On this same forum others repeated the fake Left boilerplate on Libya's Gaddafi until  one anonymous writer posted this very insightful explanation about why answers to the question differed so greatly.
It depends on who you ask. There’s three types who always answer:
  1. The person outside Libya but benefited from Gadaffi. Gadaffi supported poor Muslims around the world by building mosques and schools where other nations like Saudi Arabia ignored them. There are schools and mosques in Sri Lanka and the Philippines built by him. Others like people in Sub Saharan Africa and other fractions around the world got direct funds from him and/or military training in Libya. This was heavily criticized because the groups he supported were known to be criminal gangs and warlords in their respective countries. Anyway, these people will say he was a saviour, a god, a great man who came to deliver them from western oppression. These usually go on the internet with copy and paste articles of all the false propaganda about Gadaffi.

  2. As in any country in the world there will always be people who directly benefit from whichever government is in power. This is a universal thing. These Libyans miss the good old days of being under the rule of Gadaffi and supported him. If your life was nice of course you’re going to miss it and support whoever made your life good.

  3. The third is the ordinary Libyan citizen. Libya was a hell hole under Gadaffi. People weren’t free, they couldn’t object to anything Gadaffi did otherwise they would have been killed. While he did develop the country, King Idres was really the one who started to build Libya from barren Desert. Gadaffi was insane; he had a personality cult like that of North Korea. His green book was full of nonsense. Those copy and paste articles about free education, healthcare etc are all false. If Gadaffi was such a great leader why would his people rebel against him? Libya wasn’t this great paradise people made it out to be. Simple food and goods was hard to get. Only Palestinians got government grants and that wasn’t much hence not many Palestinians migrated to Libya. Health care might be free but it was horrible; lack of doctors, equipment etc Libyans had to go to secretly go to other countries to get treatment. Education was free but it was really awful. The amount of money Libya had it didn’t reach down to the average person. Gadaffi lived a grandeur life; all his kids were spoil rich brats. He even paid Juventus millions to allow his son to play on their team but then was kicked out cause he was such an awful player.
The only place he belonged was a mental institution.
Just for reference, these were the poorest nations in Africa in 1967, countries like Rwanda, that had a per capita GDP in 1967 that was 1/23rd what it was in Libya that year:


Brain Fart!! I've been so focused on overturning the notion that the Libya Gaddafi took over was broke down and poor, that I have completely ignored the ugly assumption made by these friends of Gaddafi [meaning all 2,840 cut & pasters] by their choice of the word "inherited" to describe Gaddafi's takeover of the Libyan state. Not only does it imply that he had a certain entitlement to dictatorship, it justifies it with a practise that raises serious social justice concerns even in the sphere in which it's generally applied.

and BTW   -     HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!