Angela Davis is latest Black target of Israel lobby

February 12th, 2019


Angela Davi
s PHOTO/Columbia GSAPP)

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute has canceled its annual gala at which iconic Black scholar and activist Angela Davis was to receive a prestigious human rights award.

Randall Woodfin, the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, expressed his “dismay” at the decision, which he said came “after protests from our local Jewish community and some of its allies.”

“The reactive decision of the BCRI did not create an opportunity for necessary consensus dialogue,” Woodfin added.

Davis is the latest prominent Black intellectual and outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights to be targeted by the Israel lobby.

Roy S. Johnson, a columnist for several Alabama newspapers, revealed Monday that those demanding the cancellation were “primarily – though not exclusively – from the city’s Jewish leadership, according to a source familiar with a decision that transpired quickly, and stunningly, in a span of just a few days.”

Last month, Southern Jewish Life, a communal publication serving southern states, ran an article criticizing the BCRI for honoring Davis, claiming that she is “an outspoken voice in the boycott-Israel movement, and advocates extensively on college campuses for the isolation of the Jewish state, saying Israel engages in ethnic cleansing and is connected to police violence against African Americans in the United States.”

While there is vocal and growing opposition to Israel’s policies among American Jews at large, the leaders of established Jewish communal groups, including the Birmingham Jewish Federation, tend to be strongly pro-Israel.

The Birmingham Jewish Federation was reportedly among the groups that pressured BCRI.

Support for Palestinians

Others who pressured BCRI to ditch Davis reportedly included General Charles Krulak, a retired Marine commander and former president of Birmingham-Southern College.

Angela Davis, a Birmingham native, has long been an outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights and an advocate of the BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – movement to hold Israel accountable for its violations and crimes against Palestinians.

Davis has also stood up for Rasmea Odeh, the Palestinian activist and torture survivor deported from the US in 2017 following a conviction for immigration fraud.

Adam Milstein, a major financier of anti-Palestinian groups, took note of the BCRI’s decision on Twitter:

The Birmingham (AL) Civil Rights Institute canceled its Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award for #AngelaDavis after protests from local #Jewish community and concerned Americans. #BCRI concluded she unfortunately does not meet all of the award’s criteria— Adam Milstein (@AdamMilstein) January 7, 2019

Milstein was named in a censored Al Jazeera documentary about the Israel lobby leaked by The Electronic Intifada in November, as a founder and financier of the anti-Palestinian smear website Canary Mission.

That same film, The Lobby–USA, also identified how Israel and its agents are targeting and attempting to co-opt Black leaders and activists in order to disrupt growing Black identification and solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.

Affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute was founded in 1992 to commemorate the city’s role in the struggle against institutionalized American racism.

In a statement Saturday, BCRI noted that in September its board “selected Angela Davis to receive the prestigious Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award at its annual gala in February 2019.”

The associated gala event, scheduled for February 16th at Haven has been cancelled. Ticket purchasers will received a full refund.— BCRI (@bhamcivilrights) January 5, 2019

“In late December, supporters and other concerned individuals and organizations, both inside and outside of our local community, began to make requests that we reconsider our decision,” BCRI added, without naming or further characterizing the groups or their objections.

“Upon closer examination of Ms. Davis’ statements and public record, we concluded that she unfortunately does not meet all of the criteria on which the award is based,” BCRI stated.

“Therefore, on 4 January, BCRI’s Board voted to rescind its invitation to Ms. Davis to honor her with the Shuttlesworth Award.”

Targeting Black voices

Davis is the second high-profile Black intellectual to be targeted by pro-Israel lobby pressure in recent weeks.

In November, Marc Lamont Hill was dismissed from his role as a CNN political commentator following an Israel lobby campaign of lies and smears misrepresenting a speech he made at the United Nations in support of Palestinian rights and BDS.

Temple University also faced pressure from the Zionist Organization of America to dismiss Hill as a professor – a step it has not taken amid warnings that this would violate Hill’s First Amendment rights.

Hill called BCRI’s decision to withdraw its award from Davis “shameful.”

This is shameful. I stand with my dear sister and friend Angela Davis.— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) January 7, 2019

Hill is one of many people expressing consternation at BCRI’s decision to disinvite Davis who is widely recognized as a groundbreaking Black radical theorist, prison abolitionist and anti-racism activist who throughout her life has faced institutional pressure and persecution for her stances.

Very disappointing that Birmingham Civil Rights Institute decided to rescind its decision to honor Angela Davis. Calling to boycott Israel for violating int’l law and human rights is not only a constitutionally protected right, but also the right thing to do. #IStandWithAngela— Jamil Dakwar (@jdakwar) January 6, 2019

To argue that Angela Davis is unworthy of a civil rights award is beyond shameful. And to dance around the fact that it’s due to her outspoken support of Palestinian rights makes it outrageous.— JewishVoiceForPeace (@jvplive) January 7, 2019

.@bhamcivilrights is rescinding its decision to honor Angela Davis for calling to boycott Israel for violating human rights while @TheKingCenter is honoring warmonger, #MLK holiday opponent and anti-civil rights proponent @SenJohnMcCain.

This is disgraceful.#IStandWithAngela— Bishop Talbert Swan (@TalbertSwan) January 7, 2019

Alabama columnist Roy S. Johnson also condemned the decision as an insult to the memory of Fred Shuttlesworth, the preacher and leader in the struggle against segregation for whom the BCRI award is named.

Shuttlesworth, Johnson wrote, “would not have bowed to anyone trying to dissuade him from honoring someone who fought the same fight – even if they fought with a different fervor, even if they were decidedly more revolutionary.”

But by disinviting Davis, Johnson added, “one of our most venerable cultural institutions, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, did just that – it crumbled.”

Intifada for more

The ABCs of Jacobin

February 12th, 2019


Bhaskar Sunkara
. PHOTO/Matthew David Roberts.

Every successful magazine, like every successful revolution, condenses an atmosphere. The atmosphere may be political or it may be cultural. It may be a matter of taste or a question of style. Very often it is generational.

If your youth was anything like mine, you grew up reading what your parents kept around the house, and for a time you unthinkingly shaped yourself to the sensibilities of those publications. And then one day you looked up and saw that the world you knew, the world you were living in, was unrecognizable in the pages you were reading. Maybe you discovered that the jokes weren’t that funny anymore, or never were. Maybe you realized that you couldn’t care less about the people they thought were important, couldn’t imagine why they didn’t spend more pages on the artists, celebrities, and athletes you knew were a hundred times more interesting. Maybe you found yourself no longer convinced by their arguments. Maybe they just seemed old.

New magazines begin here: with the sure knowledge that something is missing, that the existing options aren’t cutting it. And it is for this reason, I suspect, that the founders of successful magazines tend to emerge from a fairly narrow demographic band. Francis Underwood was 32 years old when he persuaded Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and a few others to help him start The Atlantic Monthly in 1857. Harold Ross and his wife, the pioneering journalist Jane Grant, were the same age when they founded The New Yorker in 1925. Henry Luce and Briton Hadden were 24 and 25, respectively, when they started Time. Hugh Hefner was 27 when he started Playboy, as was John H. Johnson when he started Ebony. Gloria Steinem was 37 when she and several other women produced the first issue of Ms. as an insert in New York, which had launched as an independent magazine when Milton Glaser was 38 and Clay Felker was a relatively ancient 42. Dave Eggers was 28 when he started McSweeney’s, and he was 33 when McSweeney’s spawned The Believer, whose founding editors—Vendela Vida, Heidi Julavits, and Ed Park—were 31, 34, and 33.

When Bhaskar Sunkara decided to start Jacobin—the socialist quarterly that has proved itself the most successful American ideological magazine to launch in the past decade—he was just 21. To start a magazine that young, even one that survived for more than a handful of issues, was hardly unprecedented. Jann Wenner was the same age when he founded Rolling Stone. But whereas Wenner had a once-in-a-century cultural renaissance to help him on his way, Sunkara started Jacobin under a doubly vexed sign: in 2010, when Jacobin got its start, the only surer bets than the impossibility of a Donald Trump presidency were that print media was in a death spiral and American socialism was a permanent fossil. And yet, since then, Jacobin has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations, not least Sunkara’s. The print magazine, with a circulation of 40,000, now stands at the center of an expanding enterprise that includes a book imprint, podcasts, an academic journal called Catalyst, and a website with over a million monthly visitors. Last fall, Jacobin adopted an elder sibling, in the form of Tribune, a leftist British magazine founded in 1937, and in November it launched its first foreign-language edition, in Italy.

Columbia Journalism Review for more

President Trump’s losing strategy: Embracing Brazil and confronting China

February 12th, 2019


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends a meeting with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia, Brazil, on January 2, 2019.
PHOTO/Marcos Correa/Reuters/Business Insider

The US embraces a regime doomed to failure and threatens the world’s most dynamic economy. President Trump has lauded Brazil’s newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro and promises to promote close economic, political, social and cultural ties. In contrast the Trump regime is committed to dismantling China’s growth model, imposing harsh and pervasive sanctions, and promoting the division and fragmentation of greater China.
Washington’s choice of allies and enemies is based on a narrow conception of short-term advantage and strategic losses.
In this paper we will discuss the reasons why the US-Brazilian relation fits in with Washington’s pursuit for global domination and why Washington fears the dynamic growth and challenge of an independent and competitive China.

Brazil in Search of a Patron
Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro from day one, has announced a program to reverse nearly a century of state directed economic growth. He has announced the privatization of the entire public sector, including the strategic finance, banking, minerals, infrastructure, transport, energy and manufacturing activities. Moreover, the sellout has prioritized the centrality of foreign multi-national corporations.  Previous authoritarian civilian and military regimes protected nationalized firms as part of tripartite alliances which included foreign, state and domestic private enterprises.
In contrast to previous elected civilian regimes which strove – not always successfully – to increase pensions, wages and living standards and recognized labor legislation, President Bolsonaro has promised to fire thousands of public sector employees, reduce pensions and increase retirement age while lowering salaries and wages in order to increase profits and lower costs to capitalists.
President Bolsonaro promises to reverse land reform, expel, arrest and assault peasant households in order to re-instate landlords and encourage foreign investors in their place. The deforestation of the Amazon and its handover to cattle barons and land speculators will include the seizure of millions of acres of indigenous land.
In foreign policy, the new Brazilian regime pledges to follow US policy on every strategic issue: Brazil supports Trump’s economic attacks on China, embraces Israel’s land grabs in the Middle East, (including moving its capital to Jerusalem), back US plots to boycott and policies to overthrow the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. For the first time, Brazil has offered the Pentagon military bases, and military forces in any and all forthcoming invasions or wars.
The US celebration of President Bolsonaro’s gratuitous handovers of resources and wealth and surrender of sovereignty is celebrated in the pages of the Financial Times, the Washington Post and the New York Times who predict a period of growth, investment and recovery – if the regime has the ‘courage’ to impose its sellout.
As has occurred in numerous recent experiences with right wing neo-liberal regime changes in Argentina, Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador,  financial page journalists and experts have allowed their ideological dogma to blind them to the eventual pitfalls and crises.
The Bolsonaro regime’s economic policies ignore the fact that they depend on agro-mineral exports to China and compete with US exports. Brazilian  ago-business elites will resent the switch of trading partners.They will oppose, defeat and undermine Bolsonaro’s anti-China campaign if he dares to persists.
Foreign investors will takeover public enterprises but are not likely to expand production given the sharp reduction of employment, salaries and wages, as the consumer market declines.
Banks may make loans but demand high interest rates for high ‘risks’ especially as the government will face increased social opposition from trade unions and social movements, and greater violence from the militarization of society.
Bolsonaro lacks a majority in Congress who depend on the electoral support of millions of public employees, wage and salaried workers, pensioners, and gender and racial minorities. Congressional alliance will be difficult without corruption and compromises. Bolsonaro’s cabinet includes several key ministers who are under investigation for fraud and money laundering. His anti-corruption rhetoric will evaporate in the face of judicial investigations and exposés.
Brazil is unlikely to provide any meaningful military forces for regional or international US military adventures. The military agreements with the US will carry little weight in the face of deep domestic turmoil.
Bolsanaro’s neo-liberal policies will deepen inequalities especially among the fifty million who have recently risen out of poverty. The US embrace of Brazil will enrich Wall Street who will take the money and run, leaving the US facing the ire and rejection of their failed ally.
The US Confronts China     
Unlike Brazil, China is not prepared to submit to economic plunder and to surrender its sovereignty. China is following its own long-term strategy which focuses on developing the most advanced sectors of the economy – including cutting edge electronics and communication technology.
Chinese researchers already produce more patents and referred scientific articles than the US. They graduate more engineers, advanced researchers and innovative scientists than the US based on high levels of state funding. China with an investment rate of over 44% in 2017, far surpasses the US. China has advanced, from low to high value added exports including electrical cars at competitive prices. For example, Chinese cell phones are out competing Apple in both price and quality.
China has opened its economy to US multi-national corporations in exchange for access to advanced technology, what Washington dubs as ‘forced’ seizures.

Axis of Logic for more

How long can Nepal blame others for its woes?

February 11th, 2019


A person displaced due to earthquake in Nepal is seen eating his meal on August 13, 2015. Photo/Getty Images/Duck Duck Go

“Every family has someone outside.” Conversations about Nepal’sdysfunctional economy invariably lead to its four million citizens, mainly young men, working abroad. (Some say they number seven million– either way, a sizable slice in a population of 28 million.)

Those workers are migrants to Arab Gulf States, Malaysia and India. Their remittances, supporting millions of families at home, form the unhealthy backbone of Nepal’s economy.

One hardly gets beyond the alarming statistic when a culprit is identified –“The Arabs”. Maybe a suppressed guilt is behind Nepalis’ litany of hardships which “Arabs” and by implication Muslims inflict on their four million compatriots. “Look how Nepali workers are mistreated!” “Someone should protect them.” “Hundreds arrive home in boxes!” “No human rights there.”

With no check on exaggerations and misinformation, prejudice continues unabated.

There’s abundant sympathy for exploited countrymen, while any suggestion that conditions within Nepal could be responsible for the exodus is absent. Don’t overseas remittances actually help workers’ families? There’s no acknowledgment of the benefits of employment, anywhere. Consider how many businesses, from rental properties to food services, are sustained by families receiving remittances. Kathmandu has hundreds of low cost private schools enrolling children of overseas workers seeking a better chance for the next generation. Where are the anecdotes of returned workers investing what they’ve saved to lift themselves out of an otherwise hopeless cycle of poverty?

All we hear are stale, decades-old, stories of “Arab exploitation”, stories that help conceal Nepal’s failure towards its citizens. Let’s be honest: workers look overseas for redress because of hopeless conditions at home.

Is it time for me to speak up? Having worked in Nepal for so long, I am viewed as a Tibetan-speaking American ‘friend’, not Arab or Muslim. Taking up the matter, finally, is not about defending Arabs or Islam; it’s about questioning this nation’s policies that allow prejudice against Arab people to distract from its responsibilities. As a ‘friend’, I call on Nepal to admit some liability for its hapless citizens. This country refuses to address fundamental structural problems, its neglect of industry, its shoddy public schools that even poor families are abandoning, its lack of agricultural support programs, its avoidable reliance on foreign aid.

Much of what we read about Arab state policies is indefensible. Their excesses are embarrassing for many like me who share Arab heritage and faith. Visiting homes in the Middle East, I myself feel embarrassed seeing how some overseas employees are treated (however mild and however much in common with domestic workers’ treatment in USA).

How can anyone defend workers toiling in extreme weather conditions without proper rest, food, medical attention or protection from harm? How can one not demand action against abusive employers?

CounterPunch for more

India’s great wall of equality

February 11th, 2019


While gender inequality is nothing new for India, the unabashed and vehement misogyny displayed in response to a Supreme Court decision to allow women into a temple in Kerala state is notable. In this context, displays of unity and commitment to equality are not just uplifting, but also vitally important to India’s future.

Last year was a watershed for gender relations. The #MeToo movement rocked establishments around the world, forcing even powerful men to face public scrutiny for their behavior toward women. But, despite a patriarchal backlash, the movement shows no signs of abating: on January 1, in the Indian state of Kerala, an estimated five million women formed a human chain – or “women’s wall” – stretching nearly 400 miles across the length of the state, to demonstrate their commitment to the fight for gender equality.

One cannot overstate the symbolic power of the women’s wall, which included more than one-third of Kerala state’s entire female population over the age of six – about two million more people that even its organizers had anticipated. The event had the backing of the state government, but it owes its success to the engagement of a variety of groups and organizations, not to mention the individual women who participated.

Those women came from all strata of society. There were doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, nuns, domestic workers, agricultural laborers, wage workers, and homemakers. There were Hindus, Muslims, and Christians. There were mothers holding babies, young girls, and elderly women who could barely stand, resting on others for support. In many areas, there were also chains of the women’s male allies, standing across the road from them in solidarity.

The women’s wall snaked through towns and cities, along highways and village roads, all the way from Kasaragod in the north to Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital, in the south. In some stretches, there were so many women that they formed three or four columns. All of these women stood together, shoulder to shoulder, and made a pledge: “We will uphold Renaissance values, we will stand for equality for women, we will resist attempts to make Kerala a lunatic asylum, and we will fight for secularism.”3

The “renaissance values” to which the women referred are those of Indian social reformers from the early twentieth century, who were committed to upholding secularism, ending gender discrimination, and eliminating casteism. The “lunatic asylum” refers to a statement made in 1892 by the Hindu revivalist monk Vivekananda, who called Kerala a “madhouse” of caste-based discrimination.

Given the issue that triggered the women’s wall in the first place, it is an apt reference. Beyond serving as a condemnation of patriarchy in Kerala (and India more broadly), the women’s wall was intended as a sharp rebuke to opponents of a recent decision by India’s Supreme Court to permit women enter a much-revered temple to the god Ayyappa (Vishnu) on a hill in Sabarimala.

Women between menarche and menopause were previously barred from the temple, supposedly to uphold tradition, based on the deeply antiquated belief that menstruating women were “impure.” But keeping women out of the Sabarimala temple is not actually traditional at all: women of all ages regularly entered the establishment until 1991, when a court decision banned them.

This blatantly sexist prohibition amounted, the Supreme Court ruled, to a violation of the basic principles of India’s constitution. And it has much in common with the appalling “untouchability” system, whereby low-caste people have been blocked from entering temples, as well as from, say, drinking from the same water source as those of the upper castes.

Yet the Supreme Court’s decision has triggered widespread protests. Both of India’s big national parties – the Bharatiya Janata Party, which controls the national government, and the Congress party – have cynically exploited this backlash, and have been accused of orchestrating violence and aggression by agitators demanding that Kerala’s government refrain from implementing the Court’s ruling.

Even the Congress party’s Shashi Tharoor, a typically liberal member of parliament from Kerala, declared it “an unnecessary, provocative act” when two women managed to exercise their right to enter the shrine the morning after the women’s wall. As for the temple priest, he closed the site briefly after their visit to carry out a “purification ritual.”

Of course, gender inequality is pervasive across India. The country ranks low in most measures of women’s empowerment, including formal labor-force participation, assets owned, and nutrition. Violence against women is rampant. In Kerala, despite high female literacy rates and strong human-development indicators, relatively few women participate in paid work.

Even so, the unabashed and vehement misogyny displayed in response to the Supreme Court decision stands out. That is why displays of unity and commitment to equality like the women’s wall are not just uplifting, but also vitally important to India’s future.

After a challenging year, the women’s wall stands as a potent symbol of possibility. Women will, the event made clear, lead the struggle for their own emancipation – thereby liberating all of society.

Project Syndicate for more

NBC and MSNBC blamed Russia for using “sophisticated microwaves” to cause “brain injuries” in U.S. “diplomats” in Cuba. The culprits were likely crickets.

February 11th, 2019

NBC News and MSNBC specialize in repeating and disseminating what U.S intelligence officials tell them to say and then calling that servitude “reporting.” Those two networks really are the all-but-official outlets for CIA messaging. And this status has led their brightest on-air stars to broadcast a series of extremely consequential stories that turned out to be humiliatingly wrong.

This stenographic and highly jingoistic practice of mindlessly reciting the whispered claims of anonymous “intelligence officials” is what notoriously led the New York Times and other leading U.S. media outlets to deceive the country into believing Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz’s fairy tales about Iraqi WMDs and Jeffrey Goldberg’s tales about Saddam’s alliance with Al Qaeda.

But while many of those outlets apologized for that behavior and vowed to avoid it in the future, NBC and MSNBC have committed themselves to it with greater vigor than ever, as evidenced by the increasing prominence of their national security reporter Ken Dilanian, whose entire career has been defined by repeating what the CIA tells him to say – and has thus been plagued by one embarrassing false story after the next.

On Friday, veteran national security reporter William Arkin announced his departure from those networks, blasting them as stenographic servants of the security state agencies and pro-war propaganda. Noting that ex-generals and CIA officials dominate the NBC/MSNBC airwaves, Arkin wrote: “in many ways NBC just began emulating the national security state itself – busy and profitable,” adding: “the national security leaders and generals we have are allowed to do their thing unmolested.”

We now have what might be the most vivid, reckless and dangerous illustration yet of how NBC and MSNBC functions. If their behavior weren’t so journalistically shameful and destructive, this would be darkly humorous.

Last September – on the symbolically meaningful date of September 11 – NBC and MSNBC breathlessly trumpeted what they regarded as a major exclusive scoop: that Russia is “the main suspect” in what the network called “mysterious attacks” that led to “brain injuries” in U.S. personnel in Cuba.” They put CIA loyalist Ken Dilanian on the air to explain – based, needless to say, on the script given to him by intelligence officials who, as always, are shielded from accountability by them with anonymity – that “sophisticated microwaves or another type of electromagnetic weapon were likely used on the U.S. government workers” and that it was Russia which likely engineered the attack. Watch their dramatic scoop in all of its glory

It would be impossible to parody that. Permit me to highlight my favorite line from Dilanian: “The other interesting thing that we’re reporting here is that one of the technologies used to injure these American spies and diplomats was some kind of microwave weapon, that is so sophisticated, that the Americans don’t even fully understand it.” Yes: those poor American CIA officials who are such innocent naifs that they are not even aware of the latest developments in villainous technological weaponry.

Throughout the day, MSNBC hyped its exciting scoop about the mysterious attack on the U.S. “diplomats” (peace-seeking “diplomats” in Cuba presumably do things like create fake Twitter networks to lure young Cubans into receiving U.S propaganda encouraging them to destabilize their own country).

One six-minute segment led by Andrea Mitchell – who began the report by announcing that “intelligence officials now believe that Russia is the leading suspect, and it was no accident.” – featured Bush/Cheney Deputy National Security Adviser Juan Zarate (who now, needless to say, works for NBC News as an “analyst”) along with reporter Josh Lederman, who said Russia’s guilt is “now more than just a theory. They’re the main suspect.” And, he said, Russia’s guilt is “backed up by” interceptions of Russians’ communications.

Intercept for more

Weekend Edition

February 8th, 2019

Pelosi’s dangerous clappings her supporters ignored

February 8th, 2019


President Donald Trump (left) shaking hands with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
on February 5, 2019 right before Trump’s State of the Union speech. On Pelosi’s right is Vice President Mike Pence VIDEO/NBC News/Duck Duck Go

Trump presented the 2019 State of the Union

majority of the people in the Union are feeling stagnant

they work a lot but decent life eludes them

Trump’s own union, that is his financial empire, is doing good

Trump began with a message of unity

then axed that unity with his demand for a wall

this is how he operates, nothing new

his call for oneness had a paragraph:

“But we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution — and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good.”

Nancy Pelosi rose and clapped (at 12:20 in the video)

that clapping got lots of interpretations

most said Pelosi was ridiculing the divider talking of cooperation

Pelosi has become a hero to many Democrats and Trump haters

her daughter Christine Pelosi said:

“She knows. And she knows that you know. And frankly she’s disappointed that you thought this would work. But here’s a clap. #youtriedit”

the tragedy is that most supporters/followers support/follow blindly

Pelosi’s supporters/followers didn’t talk about her clapping at 1:01:20

Trump was talking about Venezuela

(the country with the most proven oil reserves)

he said his government recognizes Juan Guaido as the president

(Trump assured his support to Guaido during a phone call)

whereas the actual president is Nicolas Maduro

European countries were forced by the US to accept Guaido

illegitimate Guaido is thinking of asking the US to intervene militarily

in September 2018, Trump had threatened Maduro:

All options are on the table, every one.”

On January 28, 2019, NSC head John Bolton reminded of “all options

in simple English: US will invade/destroy/kill if Guaido is not accepted

Pelosi was clapping at Trump’s threats

Pelosi’s supporters/followers didn’t talk about her clapping at 1:03:50

Trump proudly announced his mis-acheivement

i.e., recognizing the disputed Jerusalem as the Israeli capital

also opening the US embassy in that city

the US governments have never been very humane to the Palestinians

yet the US governments every now and then showed some empathy

but was not strong enough to counter the Israel Lobby controlled Congress

Pelosi clapped Trump’s transfer of US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

Pelosi’s supporters/followers didn’t talk about her clapping at 1:02:58

Trump declared that the US “will never be a socialist country”

the United States has never been a true democracy

nor has the US been a full socialist country for all its citizens

it has always been a total socialist country for the extremely rich class

congressional members are bribed to enact laws favorable to that class

which also are beneficial to the corrupt congresspersons

the US government works to enact laws advantageous to the very wealthy

such as copyrights, patents, etc.

corrupt queen Pelosi clapped at Trump’s opposition to socialism

yes, Pelosi’s clapping was meek on Jerusalem, Venezuela, and Socialism

she knows many of her new party colleagues opposes business as usual

youngest congressperson AOC has attacked the Congress corruption

in clear/simple language she explains corruption in 5 minutes

everyone must watch the video, especially the self-proclaimed “patriots”

(AOC’s own party members are planning her downfall)

one example of corrupt queen Pelosi

in 2008, Pelosi and her husband made $100,000 in just two days

they bought stocks in a 2008 Visa IPO to reap that profit

their net worth is $196 million

author Paul Street has an apt description for this corrupt queen:

“[Pelosi is] a poster child for the disease of corporate plutocracy.”

B. R. Gowani can be reached at

Why Robot Brains Need Symbols

February 8th, 2019


We’ll need both deep learning and symbol manipulation to build AI.

Nowadays, the words “artificial intelligence” seem to be on practically everyone’s lips, from Elon Musk to Henry Kissinger. At least a dozen countries have mounted major AI initiatives, and companies like Google and Facebook are locked in a massive battle for talent. Since 2012, virtually all the attention has been on one technique in particular, known as deep learning, a statistical technique that uses sets of of simplified “neurons” to approximate the dynamics inherent in large, complex collections of data. Deep learning has powered advances in everything from speech recognition and computer chess to automatically tagging your photos. To some people, it probably seems like “superintelligence”—machines vastly more intelligent than people—are just around the corner.

The truth is, they are not. Getting a machine to recognize the syllables in your sentence is not the same as it getting to understand the meaning of your sentences. A system like Alexa can understand a simple request like “turn on the lights,” but it’s a long way from holding a meaningful conversation. Similarly, robots can vacuum your floor, but the AI that powers them remains weak, and they are a long way from being clever enough (and reliable enough) to watch your kids. There are lots of things that people can do that machines still can’t.

I tried to take a step back, to explain why deep learning might not be enough, and where we ought to look to take AI to the next level.

And lots of controversy about what we should do next. I should know: For the last three decades, since I started graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying with the inspiring cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, I have been embroiled in on-again, off-again debate about the nature of the human mind, and the best way to build AI. I have taken the sometimes unpopular position that techniques like deep learning (and predecessors that were around back then) aren’t enough to capture the richness of the human mind.

That on-again off-again debate flared up in an unexpectedly big way last week, leading to a huge Tweetstorm that brought in a host of luminaries, ranging from Yann LeCun, a founder of deep learning and current Chief AI Scientist at Facebook, to (briefly) Jeff Dean, who runs AI at Google, and Judea Pearl, a Turing Award winner at the University of California, Los Angeles.

When 140 characters no longer seemed like enough, I tried to take a step back, to explain why deep learning might not be enough, and where we perhaps ought to look for another idea that might combine with deep learning to take AI to the next level. The following is a slight adaptation of my personal perspective on what the debate is all about.

Nautilus for more

Tax the rich, then tax them some more

February 8th, 2019


Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has suggested bringing back a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent for the ultrarich. PHOTO/Don Emmert via Getty Images

If you close your eyes and listen, sometimes you can hear the Overton Window creaking open a little at a time, a gasp of glass against swollen wood.

Thanks to daring freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a few helpful wonks who’ve run the numbers and made the historical parallels, the idea of taxing the rich at much higher rates has burst into the political sphere with renewed vigor this week. Ocasio-Cortez suggested a 70 percent marginal tax rate on the very wealthy to fund America’s desperately needed priorities, emphatically including drastic changes to face the realities of climate change, and the Overton Window eased up an inch to accommodate this hot new draft of change.

The Overton Window is a term that describes the range of ideas acceptable within public discourse; it’s not a literal window, despite the abuse of metaphor by political columnists like myself. But as a resident of New York City, one of the most dramatically wealth-stratified urban areas in the nation, I think about windows a lot.

I think about the high, light-filled windows in the new Hudson Yards development project, for which New York’s taxpayers footed a $5.6 billion subsidy bill, and whose 4,000 apartments will cater to a moneyed international set that views New York real estate as a valuable place to park excess cash.

If you close your eyes and listen, sometimes you can hear the Overton Window creaking open a little at a time, a gasp of glass against swollen wood.

I think about other luxe windows in my city, glowing with gentle yellows for the residential pied-à-terres of the rich, and fluorescent for the offices where unimaginable streams of wealth get traded in countless microtransactions of astonishing complexity.

I think of my own modest windows, a new locus of panic as I start a hand-to-mouth life as a freelance writer, stressing monthly about the rent. I think about the boarded-up windows in my neighborhood, where signs posted on trees advertising quick home-buying for cash attest to the hunger to clear out longtime residents, making way for sterile new condos.

I think about the metaphor of “broken windows,” a discredited social theory that served as a pretext for Rudy Giuliani to torment and criminalize the city’s poor. Advanced in the 1980s, the theory advocated for cracking down militantly on misdemeanors, from turnstile jumping to panhandling, which would supposedly lead to a drop in serious crimes. Just as broken windows on a street indicated the presence of more serious social disorder, minor crimes could predict the occurrence of major ones. The NYPD’s adoption of “broken windows” policing in the 1990s resulted in a ferocious crackdown on minor crimes, and a vast increase in the number of incarcerated people in New York. It was “broken windows” we had to thank for the openly racist police policy known as “stop and frisk,” which saw black and Hispanic city residents harassed by police at ludicrously disproportionate rates.

I think of the lack of windows in the city’s social-benefits offices and the hourslong waits those in search of food stamps or modest housing subsidies endure. I think of those who want more than anything to seal the January cold out behind glass, but who sleep rough, under cardboard and cloth or in the city’s bursting homeless shelters ? more in recent years than at any point since the Great Depression.

And I think about how Americans view the poor. As sinners who’ve strayed and must be punished with drug tests and work requirements and random inspections and punitive amounts of paperwork ? as if the sting of constant worry that poverty brings must be supplemented by government goading and state-sanctioned shaming. The current administration is deeply enthusiastic about this sort of humiliation; it is making an end-run around Congress to impose draconian, complex work requirements for food stamps. Government-imposed hunger is a sadist’s punishment, but it fits a deeply American contempt for poverty and those who suffer it; we quarantine and punish them as if lack of funds is a communicable disease borne of vice.

I think about how we view the rich, so often born into the aeries of luxury, as inherently deserving of their station. They’re coddled by their birth and by our tax code. They’re buoyed by our admiration: They’re “makers” and “doers” and winners of philanthropy awards, because they have enough money ? parked in ways such that it swells and effloresces into yet more money ? that they can throw their pocket change at the rest of us and be feted for it. We clap and call them “job creators,” even when the only jobs involved are for lawyers and the kind of accountants who know the differential tax-sheltering benefits between the Cayman Islands and Cyprus.

I think about how we view the rich, so often born into the aeries of luxury, as inherently deserving of their station. They’re coddled by their birth and by our tax code. They’re buoyed by our admiration.

Even the ones who accrued vast wealth in their lifetimes are given every opportunity to squirrel it away and multiply it. In California, when wildfires raged, the rich were able buy their way out, hiring private firefighters to keep their compounds safe. And we passed a $2 trillion tax cut whose benefits accrue straight to their already swollen coffers.

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