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The Saker
A bird's eye view of the vineyard

offsite link Moveable Feast Cafe 2021/01/23 ? Open Thread Sat Jan 23, 2021 09:00 | Herb Swanson
2021/01/23 09:00:02Welcome to the ‘Moveable Feast Cafe’. The ‘Moveable Feast’ is an open thread where readers can post wide ranging observations, articles, rants, off topic and have animate discussions of

offsite link Why Donald Trump Had to Go Fri Jan 22, 2021 17:58 | amarynth
By Peter Koenig for the Saker Blog There is an agenda. A huge agenda. It is a Globalist agenda that is in the process of inflicting gigantic harm to humanity.

offsite link Iran And Israel Are Gearing Up For A War Fri Jan 22, 2021 15:47 | amarynth
South Front The Greater Middle East has been gearing up for a new war. The Iranian parliament announced that it is preparing a draft resolution on a ?defense and security

offsite link The Defense of Mr. Trump Thu Jan 21, 2021 22:37 | amarynth
By Sushi for the Saker Blog The header picture shows the rotunda dome of the People’s House as first seen by me in a video captured on 1/6. I had

offsite link The Making of US Empire at the dawning of its end Thu Jan 21, 2021 16:07 | amarynth
by Pepe Escobar posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times As the Exceptional Empire gets ready to brave a destructive ? and self-destructive ? new cycle, with dire,

The Saker >>

Public Inquiry
Interested in maladministration. Estd. 2005

offsite link Mainstream media: Failing to speak truth to power

offsite link David Quinn’s selective tolerance Anthony

offsite link A Woulfe in judges clothing Anthony

offsite link Sarah McInerney and political impartiality Anthony

offsite link Did RTE journalists collude against Sinn Fein? Anthony

Public Inquiry >>

Human Rights in Ireland
A Blog About Human Rights

offsite link Poor Living Conditions for Migrants in Southern Italy Mon Jan 18, 2021 10:14 | Human Rights

offsite link Right to Water Mon Aug 03, 2020 19:13 | Human Rights

offsite link Human Rights Fri Mar 20, 2020 16:33 | Human Rights

offsite link Turkish President Calls On Greece To Comply With Human Rights on Syrian Refugee Issues Wed Mar 04, 2020 17:58 | Human Rights

offsite link US Holds China To Account For Human Rights Violations Sun Oct 13, 2019 19:12 | Human Rights

Human Rights in Ireland >>

Spirit of Contradiction

offsite link The Party and the Ballot Box Sun Jul 14, 2019 22:24 | Gavin Mendel-Gleason

offsite link On The Decline and Fall of The American Empire and Socialism Sat Jan 26, 2019 01:52 | S. Duncan

offsite link What is Dogmatism and Why Does It Matter? Wed Mar 21, 2018 08:10 | Sylvia Smith

offsite link The Case of Comrade Dallas Mon Mar 19, 2018 19:44 | Sylvia Smith

offsite link Review: Do Religions Evolve? Mon Aug 14, 2017 19:54 | Dara McHugh

Spirit of Contradiction >>

Monica Showalter - Sat Jan 23, 2021 09:00

For all the talk about basement-campaigning Joe Biden winning the election freely and fairly, from the press calling any questioning of election results "baseless" with zero detail to Biden himself crowing that the courts have taken his side, the perception of electoral fraud among the public continues to linger.

According to John Solomon's JustTheNews:

Less than half of U.S. voters say that concerns and allegations of voter fraud were given appropriate attention by the courts and Congress, according to a new Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen.

Just 49% of respondents said such concerns received a "fair hearing" before the courts and Congress, while 38% said the concerns were "swept under the rug."

That goes against Joe Biden's taunting insistence that every court in America, in response to election challenges, all took his side, meaning proof that Biden won the election fairly.  Actually, lots of courts didn't even take the cases or look at the facts.  The Supreme Court didn't want overturning the election to be on it, so rather than trying to find a way to legally wrangle some reason to not, the justices punted, claiming that the state of Texas had no standing.  Among the blue cities and states, the courts were often partisan outfits, which put the Trump side on the outs.  What's more, Democrat governors and election boards obstructed any inquiries about election irregularities even further.  They shut the door and refused to take questions, something they do even to this day.

Yet the kind of fraud that went on was the kind that people understand and can describe to each other.  That's toxic, because it's not about matters few understand.

Voters know about people who got multiple ballots in the new junk mail–style election, and some probably sent them, or maybe just took pictures to share with their friends.  They know about the huge string of witness testimonies that recounted a large number of unexplained irregularities.  Can someone explain what the suitcases full of ballots wheeled out from beneath vote-counters' desks after Republican observers had been ordered to depart meant?  The participants in that have reportedly lawyered up and aren't talking.  How about the reports of uncreased ballots, meaning they were never mailed at all, just filled in, by someone in haste?  Or the votes that came in late at night, all with just one box checked, for Biden?  Does that sound like maybe someone "found" some ballots?  Why can't these questions be addressed?  Meanwhile, Latino voters in particular nodded knowingly when the news came out of vote-counting stopped in the middle of the night (to see how many votes were needed first) and then resumed with huge spikes for a particular candidate.  They know all about this because they saw it back home.

What of the destroyed election ballots, or the failures to match signatures, or the problem of tainted and legitimate ballots, without their envelopes, all mixed in and impossible to sort out?  Voters know that those issues have never been addressed.  They also know about the phony water main break in Georgia that somehow stopped the counting, before the direction of the counting eventually switched.  Anyone want to ask questions about the phony water break?  To do so is to be called a nut.  Voters know about the truck-drivers who testified under oath that they had been commanded to transport ballots from one state to another, to ensure they were counted twice.  Any explanations to that?  So many irregularities, so many questions, yet not a single good answer.

We're not to ask.

Most Americans with these questions would willingly accept Biden as president were some of these questions to be credibly answered.  But they aren't.  And all inquiries, in the press and among the Democrats, especially Joe Biden, are said to be "baseless" or conspiracy theories.  In short, anyone asking is being told to shut up.

So the questions linger, and the distrust grows.  Republicans are now branded rioters, even though few actually rioted on Jan. 6.  The rally they were at was to support electoral integrity, and the Democrats have used the bad incident to smear and repress all of the original inquiry that brought the people together as "riots."

That's why we are seeing these Rasmussen numbers.  And as Robert Zimmerman notes (hat tip: Instapundit), the effects of that stolen election have far reaching consequences:  It could be seen, for one, in the very sparsely attended inauguration of Joe Biden.

Source: American Thinker

For all the talk about basement-campaigning Joe Biden winning the election freely and fairly, from the press calling any questioning of election results "baseless" with zero detail to Biden himself crowing that the courts have taken his side, the perception of electoral fraud among the public continues to linger.

According to John Solomon's JustTheNews:

Less than half of U.S. voters say that concerns and allegations of voter fraud were given appropriate attention by the courts and Congress, according to a new Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen.

Just 49% of respondents said such concerns received a "fair hearing" before the courts and Congress, while 38% said the concerns were "swept under the rug."

That goes against Joe Biden's taunting insistence that every court in America, in response to election challenges, all took his side, meaning proof that Biden won the election fairly.  Actually, lots of courts didn't even take the cases or look at the facts.  The Supreme Court didn't want overturning the election to be on it, so rather than trying to find a way to legally wrangle some reason to not, the justices punted, claiming that the state of Texas had no standing.  Among the blue cities and states, the courts were often partisan outfits, which put the Trump side on the outs.  What's more, Democrat governors and election boards obstructed any inquiries about election irregularities even further.  They shut the door and refused to take questions, something they do even to this day.

Yet the kind of fraud that went on was the kind that people understand and can describe to each other.  That's toxic, because it's not about matters few understand.

Voters know about people who got multiple ballots in the new junk mail–style election, and some probably sent them, or maybe just took pictures to share with their friends.  They know about the huge string of witness testimonies that recounted a large number of unexplained irregularities.  Can someone explain what the suitcases full of ballots wheeled out from beneath vote-counters' desks after Republican observers had been ordered to depart meant?  The participants in that have reportedly lawyered up and aren't talking.  How about the reports of uncreased ballots, meaning they were never mailed at all, just filled in, by someone in haste?  Or the votes that came in late at night, all with just one box checked, for Biden?  Does that sound like maybe someone "found" some ballots?  Why can't these questions be addressed?  Meanwhile, Latino voters in particular nodded knowingly when the news came out of vote-counting stopped in the middle of the night (to see how many votes were needed first) and then resumed with huge spikes for a particular candidate.  They know all about this because they saw it back home.

What of the destroyed election ballots, or the failures to match signatures, or the problem of tainted and legitimate ballots, without their envelopes, all mixed in and impossible to sort out?  Voters know that those issues have never been addressed.  They also know about the phony water main break in Georgia that somehow stopped the counting, before the direction of the counting eventually switched.  Anyone want to ask questions about the phony water break?  To do so is to be called a nut.  Voters know about the truck-drivers who testified under oath that they had been commanded to transport ballots from one state to another, to ensure they were counted twice.  Any explanations to that?  So many irregularities, so many questions, yet not a single good answer.

We're not to ask.

Most Americans with these questions would willingly accept Biden as president were some of these questions to be credibly answered.  But they aren't.  And all inquiries, in the press and among the Democrats, especially Joe Biden, are said to be "baseless" or conspiracy theories.  In short, anyone asking is being told to shut up.

So the questions linger, and the distrust grows.  Republicans are now branded rioters, even though few actually rioted on Jan. 6.  The rally they were at was to support electoral integrity, and the Democrats have used the bad incident to smear and repress all of the original inquiry that brought the people together as "riots."

That's why we are seeing these Rasmussen numbers.  And as Robert Zimmerman notes (hat tip: Instapundit), the effects of that stolen election have far reaching consequences:  It could be seen, for one, in the very sparsely attended inauguration of Joe Biden.

Source: American Thinker

Jordan Davidson - Sat Jan 23, 2021 07:20

President Joe Biden asked Americans to wear masks for at least 100 days, but he thinks he is exempt because of his inauguration celebrations.

Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday, mandating the use of masks on all federal property.

“Wearing masks isn’t a partisan issue — it’s a patriotic act that can save countless lives. That’s why I signed an executive order today issuing a mask mandate on federal property. It’s time to mask up, America,” he wrote on Twitter.

Despite his recent mask order, the new president and his family were spotted parading around the Lincoln Memorial without face coverings during Wednesday evening’s inauguration celebrations.

When asked on Thursday why Biden so clearly violated his most recent executive order concerning face coverings, press secretary Jen Psaki said the president’s “historic day” should be viewed as an exception to the rule.

“He was celebrating an evening of a historic day in our country,” Psaki said.

When pressed further on the issue, Psaki merely shrugged off the reporter’s concerns about political hypocrisy and said the administration has “bigger things to worry about.”

“Yesterday was a historic moment in our history. He was inaugurated as president of the United States. He was surrounded by his family. We take a number of precautions, but I think we have bigger issues to worry about,” she concluded, despite previously noting that Biden signed the mask mandate as “a way to send a message to the American public about the importance of wearing masks and how it can save tens of thousands of lives.”

Biden joins the ranks of other government officials and politicians such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and many others who have violated their own lockdown orders, mask mandates, and COVID-19 virtual signaling to live their lives normally while telling their constituents to stay home and cover their faces.

Source: The Federalist

President Joe Biden asked Americans to wear masks for at least 100 days, but he thinks he is exempt because of his inauguration celebrations.

Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday, mandating the use of masks on all federal property.

“Wearing masks isn’t a partisan issue — it’s a patriotic act that can save countless lives. That’s why I signed an executive order today issuing a mask mandate on federal property. It’s time to mask up, America,” he wrote on Twitter.

Despite his recent mask order, the new president and his family were spotted parading around the Lincoln Memorial without face coverings during Wednesday evening’s inauguration celebrations.

When asked on Thursday why Biden so clearly violated his most recent executive order concerning face coverings, press secretary Jen Psaki said the president’s “historic day” should be viewed as an exception to the rule.

“He was celebrating an evening of a historic day in our country,” Psaki said.

When pressed further on the issue, Psaki merely shrugged off the reporter’s concerns about political hypocrisy and said the administration has “bigger things to worry about.”

“Yesterday was a historic moment in our history. He was inaugurated as president of the United States. He was surrounded by his family. We take a number of precautions, but I think we have bigger issues to worry about,” she concluded, despite previously noting that Biden signed the mask mandate as “a way to send a message to the American public about the importance of wearing masks and how it can save tens of thousands of lives.”

Biden joins the ranks of other government officials and politicians such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and many others who have violated their own lockdown orders, mask mandates, and COVID-19 virtual signaling to live their lives normally while telling their constituents to stay home and cover their faces.

Source: The Federalist

Don Thompson - Sat Jan 23, 2021 00:07

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has from the start said his coronavirus policy decisions would be driven by data shared with the public to provide maximum transparency.

But with the state starting to emerge from its worst surge, his administration won't disclose key information that will help determine when his latest stay-at-home order is lifted.

State officials said they rely on a very complex set of measurements that would confuse and potentially mislead the public if they were made public.

After Newsom, a Democrat, imposed the nation's first statewide shutdown in March, his administration developed reopening plans that included benchmarks for virus data such as per capita infection rates that counties needed to meet to relax restrictions.

It released data models state officials used to project whether infections, hospitalizations and deaths are likely to rise or fall.

As cases surged after Thanksgiving, Newsom tore up his playbook. Rather than a county-by-county approach, he created five regions and established a single measurement — ICU capacity — as the determination for whether a region was placed under a stay-at-home order.

In short order, four regions — about 98% of the state's population — were under the restrictions after their capacity fell below the 15% threshold. A map updated daily tracks each region's capacity.

At the start of last week, the four regions appeared unlikely to have the stay-at-home order lifted soon because capacity was well below 15%. But within a day, the state announced it was lifting the order for the 13-county Greater Sacramento region.

Suddenly, outdoor dining andzc worship services were OK again, hair and nail salons and other businesses could reopen, and retailers could allow more shoppers inside.

Local officials and businesses were caught off guard. It's a mystery how the state made the decision or how and when it will lift the most serious restrictions on the bulk of the population because the data is not being shared.

“It was a good surprise, but we just didn’t see it coming,” said California Restaurant Association president and CEO Jot Condie. “We just don’t know what happens behind the curtain. It’s created logistical difficulties for the industry,” which scrambled to rehire staff and order food.

Public health officials relied on a complex formula to project that while the region’s intensive care capacity was below 10%, it would climb above 15% within four weeks. On Thursday, it was at 8%, roughly the same as when the order was lifted.

“What happened to the 15%? What was that all about?” asked Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist and infectious-diseases control expert at University of California, San Francisco. "I was surprised. I assume they know something I don’t know.”

State officials projected four weeks of ICU capacity using a combination of models to estimate infections.

“At the moment the projections are not being shared publicly,” Department of Public Health spokeswoman Ali Bay said in an email.

California Health and Human Services Agency spokeswoman Kate Folmar said officials are committed to transparency, providing twice-weekly updates on whether certain regions can relax restrictions. But she said projected ICU capacity is based on multiple variables including available beds and staffing that change regularly.

“These fluid, on-the-ground conditions cannot be boiled down to a single data point — and to do so would mislead and create greater uncertainty for Californians," she said in a statement.

Condie's association won in court last month after a judge ordered Los Angeles County to provide data supporting its restaurant dining closure order. No data existed, the county acknowledged.

“They’re making projections and decisions that have great consequence to people’s lives," Condie said of state health officials. “It’s a public agency, so it’s just curious why they wouldn’t share the data, especially with the local health officers. They need advance warning as well.”

San Bernardino County spokesman David Wert said officials there aren't aware of the secret models. “If they do exist, the county would find them helpful,” he said.

Adding to the complexity, the state uses a weighted percentage to determine ICU capacity. COVID-19 patients tend to need longer care, penalizing regions like Southern California that have a higher proportion.

So when the state says Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions have 0% ICU capacity, it means the bulk of patients in the ICUs are COVID-19 patients, not that there are no ICU beds, Rutherford said.

Dr. Lee Riley, chairman of the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health infectious disease division, said he would base reopening decisions on current coronavirus cases rather than ICU projections, partially because most people who are hospitalized never require intensive care.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly this week cited slowing hospital and skilled nursing home admissions and lower positivity and transmission rates as “rays of hope” for overburdened hospitals.

Yet the data model that he has repeatedly pointed to as key to planning among an array on the state's website still shows hospitalizations bumping up over the next month, though projections flatten more each day.

The model is based on historical infection data that follows a pattern where about 12% of those with the virus get hospitalized and 12% of them end up in the ICU. The model's projections do not account for changes in conditions, such as more vaccinations or a lifted stay-at-home order.

Computer models must take into account so many factors that they may be valuable only on a much smaller scale, experts said, perhaps to allow local officials to spot outbreaks or target vaccination campaigns.

“It doesn’t make sense to talk about projections for the whole state,” Riley said. The computer model Ghaly has been citing seems to be accurate ”only afterwards, like Monday morning football ... so I don’t take the modeling that seriously.”

While the San Francisco Bay Area seems to be improving, for instance, Riley expects holiday-related cases to continue plaguing hard-hit Southern California for at least a couple more weeks and keep ICU space extremely tight.

Yet the state's public model shows a roughly 30% decline in Southern California ICU patients over the next month even as hospitalizations flatten and deaths climb. The model shows a smaller but still significant decline in the equally hard-hit San Joaquin Valley.

“My reading of the tea leaves," Rutherford said, “is that we’re at the very cusp of entering a period of falling case numbers.”

Source: Associated Press

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has from the start said his coronavirus policy decisions would be driven by data shared with the public to provide maximum transparency.

But with the state starting to emerge from its worst surge, his administration won't disclose key information that will help determine when his latest stay-at-home order is lifted.

State officials said they rely on a very complex set of measurements that would confuse and potentially mislead the public if they were made public.

After Newsom, a Democrat, imposed the nation's first statewide shutdown in March, his administration developed reopening plans that included benchmarks for virus data such as per capita infection rates that counties needed to meet to relax restrictions.

It released data models state officials used to project whether infections, hospitalizations and deaths are likely to rise or fall.

As cases surged after Thanksgiving, Newsom tore up his playbook. Rather than a county-by-county approach, he created five regions and established a single measurement — ICU capacity — as the determination for whether a region was placed under a stay-at-home order.

In short order, four regions — about 98% of the state's population — were under the restrictions after their capacity fell below the 15% threshold. A map updated daily tracks each region's capacity.

At the start of last week, the four regions appeared unlikely to have the stay-at-home order lifted soon because capacity was well below 15%. But within a day, the state announced it was lifting the order for the 13-county Greater Sacramento region.

Suddenly, outdoor dining andzc worship services were OK again, hair and nail salons and other businesses could reopen, and retailers could allow more shoppers inside.

Local officials and businesses were caught off guard. It's a mystery how the state made the decision or how and when it will lift the most serious restrictions on the bulk of the population because the data is not being shared.

“It was a good surprise, but we just didn’t see it coming,” said California Restaurant Association president and CEO Jot Condie. “We just don’t know what happens behind the curtain. It’s created logistical difficulties for the industry,” which scrambled to rehire staff and order food.

Public health officials relied on a complex formula to project that while the region’s intensive care capacity was below 10%, it would climb above 15% within four weeks. On Thursday, it was at 8%, roughly the same as when the order was lifted.

“What happened to the 15%? What was that all about?” asked Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist and infectious-diseases control expert at University of California, San Francisco. "I was surprised. I assume they know something I don’t know.”

State officials projected four weeks of ICU capacity using a combination of models to estimate infections.

“At the moment the projections are not being shared publicly,” Department of Public Health spokeswoman Ali Bay said in an email.

California Health and Human Services Agency spokeswoman Kate Folmar said officials are committed to transparency, providing twice-weekly updates on whether certain regions can relax restrictions. But she said projected ICU capacity is based on multiple variables including available beds and staffing that change regularly.

“These fluid, on-the-ground conditions cannot be boiled down to a single data point — and to do so would mislead and create greater uncertainty for Californians," she said in a statement.

Condie's association won in court last month after a judge ordered Los Angeles County to provide data supporting its restaurant dining closure order. No data existed, the county acknowledged.

“They’re making projections and decisions that have great consequence to people’s lives," Condie said of state health officials. “It’s a public agency, so it’s just curious why they wouldn’t share the data, especially with the local health officers. They need advance warning as well.”

San Bernardino County spokesman David Wert said officials there aren't aware of the secret models. “If they do exist, the county would find them helpful,” he said.

Adding to the complexity, the state uses a weighted percentage to determine ICU capacity. COVID-19 patients tend to need longer care, penalizing regions like Southern California that have a higher proportion.

So when the state says Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions have 0% ICU capacity, it means the bulk of patients in the ICUs are COVID-19 patients, not that there are no ICU beds, Rutherford said.

Dr. Lee Riley, chairman of the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health infectious disease division, said he would base reopening decisions on current coronavirus cases rather than ICU projections, partially because most people who are hospitalized never require intensive care.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly this week cited slowing hospital and skilled nursing home admissions and lower positivity and transmission rates as “rays of hope” for overburdened hospitals.

Yet the data model that he has repeatedly pointed to as key to planning among an array on the state's website still shows hospitalizations bumping up over the next month, though projections flatten more each day.

The model is based on historical infection data that follows a pattern where about 12% of those with the virus get hospitalized and 12% of them end up in the ICU. The model's projections do not account for changes in conditions, such as more vaccinations or a lifted stay-at-home order.

Computer models must take into account so many factors that they may be valuable only on a much smaller scale, experts said, perhaps to allow local officials to spot outbreaks or target vaccination campaigns.

“It doesn’t make sense to talk about projections for the whole state,” Riley said. The computer model Ghaly has been citing seems to be accurate ”only afterwards, like Monday morning football ... so I don’t take the modeling that seriously.”

While the San Francisco Bay Area seems to be improving, for instance, Riley expects holiday-related cases to continue plaguing hard-hit Southern California for at least a couple more weeks and keep ICU space extremely tight.

Yet the state's public model shows a roughly 30% decline in Southern California ICU patients over the next month even as hospitalizations flatten and deaths climb. The model shows a smaller but still significant decline in the equally hard-hit San Joaquin Valley.

“My reading of the tea leaves," Rutherford said, “is that we’re at the very cusp of entering a period of falling case numbers.”

Source: Associated Press

Tom O’Connor - Fri Jan 22, 2021 12:15

Biden has yet to set out a clear strategy for Syria, but his campaign has sought to distance itself from Trump's approach.

"The Trump administration has repeatedly fallen short on U.S. policy in Syria," the president's official foreign policy statement says. "Biden would recommit to standing with civil society and pro-democracy partners on the ground. He will ensure the U.S. is leading the global coalition to defeat ISIS and use what leverage we have in the region to help shape a political settlement to give more Syrians a voice."

Though Biden remained critical of the Syrian government, he appealed to all sides of the conflict, and vowed to restart humanitarian efforts paused under Trump.

"Biden would press all actors to pursue political solutions, protect vulnerable Syrians, facilitate the work of non-governmental organizations, and help mobilize other countries to support Syria's reconstruction," the statement said. "He would recommit the United States to lead on humanitarian issues."

Biden's choice for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who served as Obama's deputy national security adviser, also acknowledged last year that the Obama administration's Syria approach had "failed" as it was unsuccessful in preventing the conflict from spiraling out of control, leading to widespread loss of life and displacement.

Blinken was confronted with these remarks and past decisions on foreign policy in Syria during a confirmation hearing Tuesday.

"We, and I, certainly, have an obligation to determine from everything we've done, advocated, to take into account the results and to inform how we think about these problems going forward," Blinken said, adding that he's "done a lot of hard thinking" about past approaches to issues like Syria.

"I am proud of the fact that I have spent all of my career during the times I've been in government for the better part of 25 years working to advance our diplomacy," Blinken said, "to do everything we possibly can to make sure that diplomacy is the first answer, not the last answer, and that war and conflict is a last resort."

Trump administration officials entered into a behind-the-scenes dialogue with Damascus over the fate of missing U.S. nationals Austin Tice and Majd Kamalmaz, as Newsweek reported in October. In exchange for cooperation on the issue, Syrian officials demanded the withdrawal of U.S. troops from a southwest desert garrison in the rebel-held region of Al-Tanf and sanctions relief.

Conflict is not Syria's only major concern.

The country is beset by a worsening economic crisis exacerbated by financial woes in neighboring Lebanon and the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the region and world. During Wednesday's remarks, Jaafari lambasted the U.S. and its allies for maintaining strict sanctions against Syria.

"The United States and the European Union continue to impose more coercive measures on Syria and other countries," ignoring the calls of the United Nations to put an end to these measures," Jaafari said, emphasizing that "the coercive economic measures imposed on Syria hinder the purchase of medicines and humanitarian needs and the provision of food baskets to those who deserve it."

Source: Newsweek

Biden has yet to set out a clear strategy for Syria, but his campaign has sought to distance itself from Trump's approach.

"The Trump administration has repeatedly fallen short on U.S. policy in Syria," the president's official foreign policy statement says. "Biden would recommit to standing with civil society and pro-democracy partners on the ground. He will ensure the U.S. is leading the global coalition to defeat ISIS and use what leverage we have in the region to help shape a political settlement to give more Syrians a voice."

Though Biden remained critical of the Syrian government, he appealed to all sides of the conflict, and vowed to restart humanitarian efforts paused under Trump.

"Biden would press all actors to pursue political solutions, protect vulnerable Syrians, facilitate the work of non-governmental organizations, and help mobilize other countries to support Syria's reconstruction," the statement said. "He would recommit the United States to lead on humanitarian issues."

Biden's choice for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who served as Obama's deputy national security adviser, also acknowledged last year that the Obama administration's Syria approach had "failed" as it was unsuccessful in preventing the conflict from spiraling out of control, leading to widespread loss of life and displacement.

Blinken was confronted with these remarks and past decisions on foreign policy in Syria during a confirmation hearing Tuesday.

"We, and I, certainly, have an obligation to determine from everything we've done, advocated, to take into account the results and to inform how we think about these problems going forward," Blinken said, adding that he's "done a lot of hard thinking" about past approaches to issues like Syria.

"I am proud of the fact that I have spent all of my career during the times I've been in government for the better part of 25 years working to advance our diplomacy," Blinken said, "to do everything we possibly can to make sure that diplomacy is the first answer, not the last answer, and that war and conflict is a last resort."

Trump administration officials entered into a behind-the-scenes dialogue with Damascus over the fate of missing U.S. nationals Austin Tice and Majd Kamalmaz, as Newsweek reported in October. In exchange for cooperation on the issue, Syrian officials demanded the withdrawal of U.S. troops from a southwest desert garrison in the rebel-held region of Al-Tanf and sanctions relief.

Conflict is not Syria's only major concern.

The country is beset by a worsening economic crisis exacerbated by financial woes in neighboring Lebanon and the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the region and world. During Wednesday's remarks, Jaafari lambasted the U.S. and its allies for maintaining strict sanctions against Syria.

"The United States and the European Union continue to impose more coercive measures on Syria and other countries," ignoring the calls of the United Nations to put an end to these measures," Jaafari said, emphasizing that "the coercive economic measures imposed on Syria hinder the purchase of medicines and humanitarian needs and the provision of food baskets to those who deserve it."

Source: Newsweek

The Babylon Bee - Fri Jan 22, 2021 11:15

After a week in which four corporations demonstrated their ability to crush all dissenting voices and silence the most powerful human on the planet, liberals of the nation remain unsure why conservatives seem so worried.

“We’ve heard this song and dance before,” said local liberal Janet Bobinski.  “They whine and whine about us systematically eliminating their voices and ruining their livelihoods, blah blah blah. This whole time, they have always been free to create their own little conservative media, university, whatever they want - just so long as it’s not on this planet. There’s no room on Earth for free speech and whatnot, but there’s a whole galaxy out there.”

Liberals pointed out that they have always made accommodations for the knuckle-dragging idiots around them.  Republican actors could always get work in God’s Not Dead 7: God Levels Up, originally shot on iPhone but now being re-filmed on Android.  Journalists who believed in reporting actual news were free to leave for Fox News, get plastic surgery, become cult leaders, get fired, and start a podcast. Those in the business world who declined to accept the woke gospel could always grow potatoes in their backyard for survival. Conservative professors could still get jobs as lifeguards at the university’s lazy river, and conservative students could go be carpenters or whatever it is that uneducated people do.

“Yes, we’ve finally taken complete control over all the levers of power and can literally silence anyone we want,” crowed Bobinski, taking another bite of parfait.  “It’s true, conservatives and their backward thinking that guided America to freedom and prosperity no longer have any place in any public sphere. But they can always go make their own media, movies, universities, whatever they want. They just can’t use any of the taxes they paid us, products made by any corporation, the internet, or say anything out loud, lest we sue them into oblivion.”

At publishing time, Elon Musk had responded to the liberal proposal, "Challenge accepted."

Source: The Babylon Bee

After a week in which four corporations demonstrated their ability to crush all dissenting voices and silence the most powerful human on the planet, liberals of the nation remain unsure why conservatives seem so worried.

“We’ve heard this song and dance before,” said local liberal Janet Bobinski.  “They whine and whine about us systematically eliminating their voices and ruining their livelihoods, blah blah blah. This whole time, they have always been free to create their own little conservative media, university, whatever they want - just so long as it’s not on this planet. There’s no room on Earth for free speech and whatnot, but there’s a whole galaxy out there.”

Liberals pointed out that they have always made accommodations for the knuckle-dragging idiots around them.  Republican actors could always get work in God’s Not Dead 7: God Levels Up, originally shot on iPhone but now being re-filmed on Android.  Journalists who believed in reporting actual news were free to leave for Fox News, get plastic surgery, become cult leaders, get fired, and start a podcast. Those in the business world who declined to accept the woke gospel could always grow potatoes in their backyard for survival. Conservative professors could still get jobs as lifeguards at the university’s lazy river, and conservative students could go be carpenters or whatever it is that uneducated people do.

“Yes, we’ve finally taken complete control over all the levers of power and can literally silence anyone we want,” crowed Bobinski, taking another bite of parfait.  “It’s true, conservatives and their backward thinking that guided America to freedom and prosperity no longer have any place in any public sphere. But they can always go make their own media, movies, universities, whatever they want. They just can’t use any of the taxes they paid us, products made by any corporation, the internet, or say anything out loud, lest we sue them into oblivion.”

At publishing time, Elon Musk had responded to the liberal proposal, "Challenge accepted."

Source: The Babylon Bee

Norman Lewis - Fri Jan 22, 2021 09:10

Death was unavoidable in 2020. The grim statistical body-count dominated the media, including social media, day and night. Death overshadowed life.

That death generated by the coronavirus pandemic has monopolised our attention was inevitable in one respect. All societies have to deal with the reality of death as part of normal life. But the expert diktats, supposedly made in the name of avoiding death, took over our lives, redefining what it means to be human in the 21st century.

The fact that death tolls rather than recovery rates have dominated the media expresses our view of life itself. Tragically, there have been 1.8million Covid-19 deaths globally so far (we will leave the debate about the real number of people who died ‘from’ rather than ‘with’ Covid for another time). But over 60 million people have recovered from the illness. [The real number was 750 million by October, over a billion by now.] These recoveries are surely something to note, if not to celebrate.

Yet, even in the face of the increased success in treating the disease – especially with the deployment of vaccines, which will banish Covid to the dustbin of history – our society remains fixated on the dying, on the tragedy of the end of life, not on life’s renewal or our victory over adversity.

This ghoulish obsession expresses a deep antipathy to the Enlightenment view of human beings as problem-solvers. It recasts life as nothing more than the inevitable and relentless race towards the cliff-edge. Centuries of mankind understanding death as something not to fear, but as the ultimate spur to understand, invent and control nature, have now been reversed. Death once forced mankind to aspire towards control. Now it demands passivity, supplication and deference to fate. Death, which ends human agency, has gained agency over mankind.

In the past, it was common for people to die from infectious diseases. These could strike anyone at any time and carry people off in a matter of days. But in the modern world, where the major infectious diseases have been beaten by science and technologically advanced medical breakthroughs, the predominant form of death is that of old age.

The paradox of the coronavirus is that despite the cause of death being pre-modern (through an infectious disease), it has reinforced the predominance of the modern experience of death – it is, after all, still largely the elderly who are tragically most affected. Nevertheless, the pandemic has forced everyone, no matter how vulnerable, to live under the shadow of death.

The eminent sociologist, Tony Walter, in his brilliant studies on the revival of death, argues that societies come to terms with death by reducing the social importance of those who die. In modern society, where most who die are elderly, old people are treated in a cavalier fashion. It’s not unlike the relative indifference our ancestors showed to children. In societies where infant mortality was common, infants did not receive full funeral rites. Baptism, or some other rite of passage, was needed to mark their entry to human status. Social birth followed physical birth. But in modern society, where prospective parents assume that their children will live, social birth coincides with physical birth or even precedes it for some.

Walter suggests that when it comes to the elderly, their physical death is more often than not preceded by social death. This is what has given rise to the fashionable argument by the euthanasia lobby that social and physical death should coincide. In the hands of today’s experts, this has become the unconscious assumption of managing death in the pandemic. We are all now regarded as akin to the vulnerable elderly whose social death will inevitably precede physical death. Bringing about our social deaths – locking us down, preventing us from having any contact with others – has become the prerequisite for managing death itself.

As Walter argues, in the modern world we are all left to construct our own meaning around death – or are simply ‘left unprepared when the moment comes’. The family, the traditional private retreat for self-repair and personal freedom, where much of this meaning was sought, has been transformed over many years. Today, the family and other social ties have been supplanted by experts – by doctors and therapists – who have invaded the private sphere with the authority of yesterday’s priests, admonishing us about what to eat, how to make love, how to die and how to grieve. As individuals have been cut off from the public sphere and are increasingly isolated, dependence on the experts has increased.

The new expert-led approach to managing death has had such a profound impact on life in 2020. We have little defence. Fear and its daily reinforcement have given the experts the tools to finetune our emotions and our waking experience, and most importantly, to limit our aspirations.

We are expected to act and behave like those waiting to die. Lockdowns are in essence a demand that we go to sleep, that we succumb and drift to the ultimate passivity of physical death. Appetite, ambition and desire give way to apathy, inclination to disinclination, interest to disinterest, engagement to disengagement, freedom to unfreedom, wonder to indifference.

What has become normal is in fact abnormal. We have been told to sleep while the experts stay awake, looking out for us. Their engagement has required our disengagement. Instead of being vigilant, we have been told to trust ‘The Science’.

2020 has been the year of the living dead. The tyranny of expertise has anaesthetised society. 2021 must be the year we wake up again. We need to stand up and declare that we are people with things to do and accomplish before we die.

Source: Spiked

Death was unavoidable in 2020. The grim statistical body-count dominated the media, including social media, day and night. Death overshadowed life.

That death generated by the coronavirus pandemic has monopolised our attention was inevitable in one respect. All societies have to deal with the reality of death as part of normal life. But the expert diktats, supposedly made in the name of avoiding death, took over our lives, redefining what it means to be human in the 21st century.

The fact that death tolls rather than recovery rates have dominated the media expresses our view of life itself. Tragically, there have been 1.8million Covid-19 deaths globally so far (we will leave the debate about the real number of people who died ‘from’ rather than ‘with’ Covid for another time). But over 60 million people have recovered from the illness. [The real number was 750 million by October, over a billion by now.] These recoveries are surely something to note, if not to celebrate.

Yet, even in the face of the increased success in treating the disease – especially with the deployment of vaccines, which will banish Covid to the dustbin of history – our society remains fixated on the dying, on the tragedy of the end of life, not on life’s renewal or our victory over adversity.

This ghoulish obsession expresses a deep antipathy to the Enlightenment view of human beings as problem-solvers. It recasts life as nothing more than the inevitable and relentless race towards the cliff-edge. Centuries of mankind understanding death as something not to fear, but as the ultimate spur to understand, invent and control nature, have now been reversed. Death once forced mankind to aspire towards control. Now it demands passivity, supplication and deference to fate. Death, which ends human agency, has gained agency over mankind.

In the past, it was common for people to die from infectious diseases. These could strike anyone at any time and carry people off in a matter of days. But in the modern world, where the major infectious diseases have been beaten by science and technologically advanced medical breakthroughs, the predominant form of death is that of old age.

The paradox of the coronavirus is that despite the cause of death being pre-modern (through an infectious disease), it has reinforced the predominance of the modern experience of death – it is, after all, still largely the elderly who are tragically most affected. Nevertheless, the pandemic has forced everyone, no matter how vulnerable, to live under the shadow of death.

The eminent sociologist, Tony Walter, in his brilliant studies on the revival of death, argues that societies come to terms with death by reducing the social importance of those who die. In modern society, where most who die are elderly, old people are treated in a cavalier fashion. It’s not unlike the relative indifference our ancestors showed to children. In societies where infant mortality was common, infants did not receive full funeral rites. Baptism, or some other rite of passage, was needed to mark their entry to human status. Social birth followed physical birth. But in modern society, where prospective parents assume that their children will live, social birth coincides with physical birth or even precedes it for some.

Walter suggests that when it comes to the elderly, their physical death is more often than not preceded by social death. This is what has given rise to the fashionable argument by the euthanasia lobby that social and physical death should coincide. In the hands of today’s experts, this has become the unconscious assumption of managing death in the pandemic. We are all now regarded as akin to the vulnerable elderly whose social death will inevitably precede physical death. Bringing about our social deaths – locking us down, preventing us from having any contact with others – has become the prerequisite for managing death itself.

As Walter argues, in the modern world we are all left to construct our own meaning around death – or are simply ‘left unprepared when the moment comes’. The family, the traditional private retreat for self-repair and personal freedom, where much of this meaning was sought, has been transformed over many years. Today, the family and other social ties have been supplanted by experts – by doctors and therapists – who have invaded the private sphere with the authority of yesterday’s priests, admonishing us about what to eat, how to make love, how to die and how to grieve. As individuals have been cut off from the public sphere and are increasingly isolated, dependence on the experts has increased.

The new expert-led approach to managing death has had such a profound impact on life in 2020. We have little defence. Fear and its daily reinforcement have given the experts the tools to finetune our emotions and our waking experience, and most importantly, to limit our aspirations.

We are expected to act and behave like those waiting to die. Lockdowns are in essence a demand that we go to sleep, that we succumb and drift to the ultimate passivity of physical death. Appetite, ambition and desire give way to apathy, inclination to disinclination, interest to disinterest, engagement to disengagement, freedom to unfreedom, wonder to indifference.

What has become normal is in fact abnormal. We have been told to sleep while the experts stay awake, looking out for us. Their engagement has required our disengagement. Instead of being vigilant, we have been told to trust ‘The Science’.

2020 has been the year of the living dead. The tyranny of expertise has anaesthetised society. 2021 must be the year we wake up again. We need to stand up and declare that we are people with things to do and accomplish before we die.

Source: Spiked

Sarah Volpenhein - Fri Jan 22, 2021 08:15

Employees at a Janesville nursing home risk losing their job if they do not take the COVID-19 vaccine, a policy that has caused outrage among many staff members.

Officials at Rock Haven, a Rock County-owned facility, issued a memo in December telling employees that the vaccine was "a requirement for all staff" and that employees who failed to get the vaccine would be laid off. A copy of the memo was obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel through an open records request.

According to the memo, a laid-off employee will not be eligible to return to work until they complete the two-dose vaccine regimen.

Rock Haven officials have taken a hard line on vaccination, employees say, despite some employees' concerns about unknown long-term effects or worries about their pregnancy or their fertility.

Michelle Lynch, a secretary at Rock Haven, said employees should not be forced to get the vaccine.

"We have staff that are having side-effects from it, and they're being told, 'Too bad,' " she said.

In letters to Rock County supervisors, two employees said they suffered high fevers and other side-effects from getting the vaccine on Jan. 5, the first day the nursing home conducted vaccinations. One of them wrote that the side-effects were so bad she had to go to the doctor and was advised not to get the second shot of the vaccine.

Terra Anderson said she lost her job as a registered nurse when she didn't report to receive the vaccine on Jan. 5. She was worried about unknown long-term effects of the vaccine.

She later got a letter dated Jan. 6 telling her that she had been laid off for her "inability to meet the essential functions of your job; failure to complete the Covid-19 vaccine as scheduled," according to a copy of the letter provided by Anderson.

The letter said she could return to her job at Rock Haven if there was a change in circumstances and instructed her to provide any updated medical information.

"I don't understand why we are the only ones who made it mandatory," she said.

Anderson said when she lost her job, she lost her health insurance. But she is fortunate, she said, to have a significant other with a decent-paying job.

As the vaccine rolls out, questions have arisen about whether employers can, or should, require employees to be vaccinated. Generally speaking, legal experts say, they can, but so far few cases have emerged where employers — public or private — have done so.

Nursing homes have been the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 1,500 nursing home residents in Wisconsin have died with COVID-19, according to data reported to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services through Jan. 3, the latest available.

That's around 30% of all COVID-19 deaths in Wisconsin. Most of those 1,500 deaths occurred in the last three months, when COVID-19 cases and deaths skyrocketed in nursing homes.

Rock Haven has reported 13 positive cases in residents since May, with the last positive case reported in October, according to the CMS data. Two Rock Haven residents have died from COVID-19, according to the data.

There are a little over 90 residents, according to the latest data.

Forty staff members have tested positive for the virus since May, including some recently, according to the data.

Officials at CVS and Walgreens, the two main pharmacy chains conducting vaccinations at long-term care facilities across the country, have said that long-term care employees have been much more reluctant than residents to get the vaccine.

Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, which represents long-term care facilities, estimated that, overall, around 50% of long-term care staff are getting the vaccine during the first vaccine visit.

"We're having a real challenge with staff," he said during a web briefing Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. "There's a lot of misinformation out there. There are rampant rumors spreading on social media that the vaccine can cause fertility problems, which has caused concerns among many of the young women that work in our facilities."

But he said that mandating the vaccine is not necessarily the answer.

"I don't know what the right answer is. I know that we have to get the acceptance rate among staff much higher than it's been," he said. "I'm way more of a carrot than a stick person. I've been encouraging providers to offer incentives and awards and bonuses to people who get the vaccine as opposed to punishments if they don't."

He said few long-term care providers nationwide have mandated the vaccine for their staff, in part because of concerns over staffing shortages.

Betty Halverson, who works in housekeeping at Rock Haven, said she didn't feel comfortable getting the vaccine, but that she did anyway because she isn't ready to retire.

"I'm 64. ... Who's going to hire me?" she said. "I had to get the shot because I couldn't afford to take a layoff."

It's unclear exactly how many people have been laid off at Rock Haven for declining the vaccine. Neither the nursing home's interim administrator, nor Rock County Administrator Josh Smith, returned messages Friday seeking an interview.

The Gazette in Janesville quoted Smith as saying three or four Rock Haven employees had been laid off after declining the vaccine.

Lynch, the Rock Haven secretary, said five or six employees lost their jobs.

There are about 200 employees at Rock Haven, she said, including not only nurses and aides, but also maintenance, housekeeping and administration.

In the letters to county supervisors, some employees voiced concern that the mandate would hurt staffing levels and ultimately jeopardize resident care. They worry more people will be laid off when the next round of employees is scheduled to receive their first dose of the vaccine on Feb. 2.

Some county supervisors were surprised to find out Thursday about the mandate. At a Thursday board meeting, the Rock County clerk read aloud several letters from employees objecting to the mandate.

County Supervisor Wayne Gustina said he thought the vaccine requirement was "totally wrong."

"It should be left up to the individual," he said. "They’re stepping way out of bounds, way out of line on this."

County Supervisor Kathy Schulz asked about exemptions, saying they should be considered for those employees getting seriously ill.

The issue will be on the next meeting’s agenda on Jan. 28, Gustina said.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Employees at a Janesville nursing home risk losing their job if they do not take the COVID-19 vaccine, a policy that has caused outrage among many staff members.

Officials at Rock Haven, a Rock County-owned facility, issued a memo in December telling employees that the vaccine was "a requirement for all staff" and that employees who failed to get the vaccine would be laid off. A copy of the memo was obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel through an open records request.

According to the memo, a laid-off employee will not be eligible to return to work until they complete the two-dose vaccine regimen.

Rock Haven officials have taken a hard line on vaccination, employees say, despite some employees' concerns about unknown long-term effects or worries about their pregnancy or their fertility.

Michelle Lynch, a secretary at Rock Haven, said employees should not be forced to get the vaccine.

"We have staff that are having side-effects from it, and they're being told, 'Too bad,' " she said.

In letters to Rock County supervisors, two employees said they suffered high fevers and other side-effects from getting the vaccine on Jan. 5, the first day the nursing home conducted vaccinations. One of them wrote that the side-effects were so bad she had to go to the doctor and was advised not to get the second shot of the vaccine.

Terra Anderson said she lost her job as a registered nurse when she didn't report to receive the vaccine on Jan. 5. She was worried about unknown long-term effects of the vaccine.

She later got a letter dated Jan. 6 telling her that she had been laid off for her "inability to meet the essential functions of your job; failure to complete the Covid-19 vaccine as scheduled," according to a copy of the letter provided by Anderson.

The letter said she could return to her job at Rock Haven if there was a change in circumstances and instructed her to provide any updated medical information.

"I don't understand why we are the only ones who made it mandatory," she said.

Anderson said when she lost her job, she lost her health insurance. But she is fortunate, she said, to have a significant other with a decent-paying job.

As the vaccine rolls out, questions have arisen about whether employers can, or should, require employees to be vaccinated. Generally speaking, legal experts say, they can, but so far few cases have emerged where employers — public or private — have done so.

Nursing homes have been the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 1,500 nursing home residents in Wisconsin have died with COVID-19, according to data reported to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services through Jan. 3, the latest available.

That's around 30% of all COVID-19 deaths in Wisconsin. Most of those 1,500 deaths occurred in the last three months, when COVID-19 cases and deaths skyrocketed in nursing homes.

Rock Haven has reported 13 positive cases in residents since May, with the last positive case reported in October, according to the CMS data. Two Rock Haven residents have died from COVID-19, according to the data.

There are a little over 90 residents, according to the latest data.

Forty staff members have tested positive for the virus since May, including some recently, according to the data.

Officials at CVS and Walgreens, the two main pharmacy chains conducting vaccinations at long-term care facilities across the country, have said that long-term care employees have been much more reluctant than residents to get the vaccine.

Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, which represents long-term care facilities, estimated that, overall, around 50% of long-term care staff are getting the vaccine during the first vaccine visit.

"We're having a real challenge with staff," he said during a web briefing Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. "There's a lot of misinformation out there. There are rampant rumors spreading on social media that the vaccine can cause fertility problems, which has caused concerns among many of the young women that work in our facilities."

But he said that mandating the vaccine is not necessarily the answer.

"I don't know what the right answer is. I know that we have to get the acceptance rate among staff much higher than it's been," he said. "I'm way more of a carrot than a stick person. I've been encouraging providers to offer incentives and awards and bonuses to people who get the vaccine as opposed to punishments if they don't."

He said few long-term care providers nationwide have mandated the vaccine for their staff, in part because of concerns over staffing shortages.

Betty Halverson, who works in housekeeping at Rock Haven, said she didn't feel comfortable getting the vaccine, but that she did anyway because she isn't ready to retire.

"I'm 64. ... Who's going to hire me?" she said. "I had to get the shot because I couldn't afford to take a layoff."

It's unclear exactly how many people have been laid off at Rock Haven for declining the vaccine. Neither the nursing home's interim administrator, nor Rock County Administrator Josh Smith, returned messages Friday seeking an interview.

The Gazette in Janesville quoted Smith as saying three or four Rock Haven employees had been laid off after declining the vaccine.

Lynch, the Rock Haven secretary, said five or six employees lost their jobs.

There are about 200 employees at Rock Haven, she said, including not only nurses and aides, but also maintenance, housekeeping and administration.

In the letters to county supervisors, some employees voiced concern that the mandate would hurt staffing levels and ultimately jeopardize resident care. They worry more people will be laid off when the next round of employees is scheduled to receive their first dose of the vaccine on Feb. 2.

Some county supervisors were surprised to find out Thursday about the mandate. At a Thursday board meeting, the Rock County clerk read aloud several letters from employees objecting to the mandate.

County Supervisor Wayne Gustina said he thought the vaccine requirement was "totally wrong."

"It should be left up to the individual," he said. "They’re stepping way out of bounds, way out of line on this."

County Supervisor Kathy Schulz asked about exemptions, saying they should be considered for those employees getting seriously ill.

The issue will be on the next meeting’s agenda on Jan. 28, Gustina said.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Glenn Greenwald - Fri Jan 22, 2021 07:04

The last two weeks have ushered in a wave of new domestic police powers and rhetoric in the name of fighting “terrorism” that are carbon copies of many of the worst excesses of the first War on Terror that began nearly twenty years ago. This trend shows no sign of receding as we move farther from the January 6 Capitol riot. The opposite is true: it is intensifying.

We have witnessed an orgy of censorship from Silicon Valley monopolies with calls for far more aggressive speech policing, a visibly militarized Washington, D.C. featuring a non-ironically named “Green Zone,” vows from the incoming president and his key allies for a new anti-domestic terrorism bill, and frequent accusations of “sedition,” “treason,” and “terrorism” against members of Congress and citizens. This is all driven by a radical expansion of the meaning of “incitement to violence.” It is accompanied by viral-on-social-media pleas that one work with the FBI to turn in one’s fellow citizens (See Something, Say Something!) and demands for a new system of domestic surveillance.

Underlying all of this are immediate insinuations that anyone questioning any of this must, by virtue of these doubts, harbor sympathy for the Terrorists and their neo-Nazi, white supremacist ideology. Liberals have spent so many years now in a tight alliance with neocons and the CIA that they are making the 2002 version of John Ashcroft look like the President of the (old-school) ACLU.

The more honest proponents of this new domestic War on Terror are explicitly admitting that they want to model it on the first one. A New York Times reporter noted on Monday that a “former intelligence official on PBS NewsHour” said “that the US should think about a ‘9/11 Commission’ for domestic extremism and consider applying some of the lessons from the fight against Al Qaeda here at home.” More amazingly, Gen. Stanley McChrystal — for years head of Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq and the commander of the war in Afghanistan — explicitly compared that war to this new one, speaking to Yahoo News:

I did see a similar dynamic in the evolution of al-Qaida in Iraq, where a whole generation of angry Arab youth with very poor prospects followed a powerful leader who promised to take them back in time to a better place, and he led them to embrace an ideology that justified their violence. This is now happening in America….I think we’re much further along in this radicalization process, and facing a much deeper problem as a country, than most Americans realize.”

Anyone who, despite all this, still harbors lingering doubts that the Capitol riot is and will be the neoliberal 9/11, and that a new War on Terror is being implemented in its name, need only watch the two short video clips below, which will clear their doubts for good. It is like being catapulted by an unholy time machine back to Paul Wolfowitz’s 2002 messaging lab.

The first video, flagged by Tom Elliott, is from Monday morning’s Morning Joe program on MSNBC (the show that arguably did more to help Donald Trump become the GOP nominee than any other). It features Jeremy Bash — one of the seemingly countless employees of TV news networks who previously worked in Obama’s CIA and Pentagon — demanding that, in response to the Capitol riot, “we reset our entire intelligence approach,” including “look[ing] at greater surveillance of them,” adding: “the FBI is going to have to run confidential sources.” See if you detect any differences between what CIA operatives and neocons were saying in 2002 when demanding the Patriot Act and greater FBI and NSA surveillance and what this CIA-official-turned-NBC-News-analyst is saying here:

The second video features the amazing declaration from former Facebook security official Alex Stamos, talking to the very concerned CNN host Brian Stelter, about the need for social media companies to use the same tactics against U.S. citizens that they used to remove ISIS from the internet — “in collaboration with law enforcement” — and that those tactics should be directly aimed at what he calls extremist “conservative influencers.”

“Press freedoms are being abused by these actors,” the former Facebook executive proclaimed. Stamos noted how generous he and his comrades have been up until now: “We have given a lot of leeway — both in the traditional media and in social media — to people with a very broad range of views.” But no more. Now is the time to “get us all back in the same consensual reality.”

In a moment of unintended candor, Stamos noted the real problem: “there are people on YouTube, for example, that have a larger audience than people on daytime CNN” — and it’s time for CNN and other mainstream outlets to seize the monopoly on information dissemination to which they are divinely entitled by taking away the platforms of those whom people actually want to watch and listen to:

(If still not convinced, and if you can endure it, you can also watch MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski literally screaming that one needed remedy to the Capitol riot is that the Biden administration must “shutdown” Facebook. Shutdown Facebook).

Calls for a War on Terror sequel — a domestic version complete with surveillance and censorship — are not confined to ratings-deprived cable hosts and ghouls from the security state. The Wall Street Journal reports that “Mr. Biden has said he plans to make a priority of passing a law against domestic terrorism, and he has been urged to create a White House post overseeing the fight against ideologically inspired violent extremists and increasing funding to combat them.”

Meanwhile, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) — not just one of the most dishonest members of Congress but also one of the most militaristic and authoritarian — has had a bill proposed since 2019 to simply amend the existing foreign anti-terrorism bill to allow the U.S. Government to invoke exactly the same powers at home against “domestic terrorists.”

Why would such new terrorism laws be needed in a country that already imprisons more of its citizens than any other country in the world as the result of a very aggressive set of criminal laws? What acts should be criminalized by new “domestic terrorism” laws that are not already deemed criminal? They never say, almost certainly because — just as was true of the first set of new War on Terror laws — their real aim is to criminalize that which should not be criminalized: speech, association, protests, opposition to the new ruling coalition.

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) flanked by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) (R) and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), speaks at a press conference on Capitol Hill (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

The answer to this question — what needs to be criminalized that is not already a crime? — scarcely seems to matter. Media and political elites have placed as many Americans as they can — and it is a lot — into full-blown fear and panic mode, and when that happens, people are willing to acquiesce to anything claimed necessary to stop that threat, as the first War on Terror, still going strong twenty years later, decisively proved.


An entire book could — and probably should — be written on why all of this is so concerning. For the moment, two points are vital to emphasize.

First, much of the alarmism and fear-mongering is being driven by a deliberate distortion of what it means for speech to “incite violence.” The bastardizing of this phrase was the basis for President Trump’s rushed impeachment last week. It is also what is driving calls for dozens of members of Congress to be expelled and even prosecuted on “sedition” charges for having objected to the Electoral College certification, and is also at the heart of the spate of censorship actions already undertaken and further repressive measures being urged.

This phrase — “inciting violence” — was also what drove many of the worst War on Terror abuses. I spent years reporting on how numerous young American Muslims were prosecuted under new, draconian anti-terrorism laws for uploading anti-U.S.-foreign-policy YouTube videos or giving rousing anti-American speeches deemed to “incite violence” and thus provide “material support” to terrorist groups — the exact theory which Rep. Schiff is seeking to import into the new domestic War on Terror.

It is vital to ask what it means for speech to constitute “incitement to violence” to the point that it can be banned or criminalized. The expression of any political viewpoint, especially one passionately expressed, has the potential to “incite” someone else to get so riled up that they engage in violence.

If you rail against the threats to free speech posed by Silicon Valley monopolies, someone hearing you may get so filled with rage that they decide to bomb an Amazon warehouse or a Facebook office. If you write a blistering screed accusing pro-life activists of endangering the lives of women by forcing them back into unsafe back-alley abortions, or if you argue that abortion is murder, you may very well inspire someone to engage in violence against a pro-life group or an abortion clinic. If you start a protest movement to object to the injustice of Wall Street bailouts — whether you call it “Occupy Wall Street” or the Tea Party — you may cause someone to go hunt down Goldman Sachs or Citibank executives who they believe are destroying the economic future of millions of people.

If you claim that George W. Bush stole the 2000 and/or 2004 elections — as many Democrats, including members of Congress, did — you may inspire civic unrest or violence against Bush and his supporters. The same is true if you claim the 2016 or 2020 elections were fraudulent or illegitimate. If you rage against the racist brutality of the police, people may go burn down buildings in protest — or murder randomly selected police officers whom they have become convinced are agents of a racist genocidal state.

The Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer and hard-core Democratic partisan, James Hodgkinson, who went to a softball field in June, 2017 to murder Republican Congress members — and almost succeeded in fatally shooting Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) — had spent months listening to radical Sanders supporters and participating in Facebook groups with names like “Terminate the Republican Party” and “Trump is a Traitor.”

Hodgkinson had heard over and over that Republicans were not merely misguided but were “traitors” and grave threats to the Republic. As CNN reported, “his favorite television shows were listed as ‘Real Time with Bill Maher;’ ‘The Rachel Maddow Show;’ ‘Democracy Now!’ and other left-leaning programs.” All of the political rhetoric to which he was exposed — from the pro-Sanders Facebook groups, MSNBC and left-leaning shows — undoubtedly played a major role in triggering his violent assault and decision to murder pro-Trump Republican Congress members.

Despite the potential of all of those views to motivate others to commit violence in their name — potential that has sometimes been realized — none of the people expressing those views, no matter how passionately, can be validly characterized as “inciting violence” either legally or ethically. That is because all of that speech is protected, legitimate speech. None of it advocates violence. None of it urges others to commit violence in its name. The fact that it may “inspire” or “motivate” some mentally unwell person or a genuine fanatic to commit violence does not make the person espousing those views and engaging in that non-violent speech guilty of “inciting violence” in any meaningful sense.

To illustrate this point, I have often cited the crucial and brilliantly reasoned Supreme Court free speech ruling in Claiborne v. NAACP. In the 1960s and 1970s, the State of Mississippi tried to hold local NAACP leaders liable on the ground that their fiery speeches urging a boycott of white-owned stores “incited” their followers to burn down stores and violently attack patrons who did not honor the protest. The state’s argument was that the NAACP leaders knew that they were metaphorically pouring gasoline on a fire with their inflammatory rhetoric to rile up and angry crowds.

But the Supreme Court rejected that argument, explaining that free speech will die if people are held responsible not for their own violent acts but for those committed by others who heard them speak and were motivated to commit crimes in the name of that cause (emphasis added):

Civil liability may not be imposed merely because an individual belonged to a group, some members of which committed acts of violence. . . .

[A]ny such theory fails for the simple reason that there is no evidence — apart from the speeches themselves -- that [the NAACP leader sued by the State] authorized, ratified, or directly threatened acts of violence. . . . . To impose liability without a finding that the NAACP authorized — either actually or apparently — or ratified unlawful conduct would impermissibly burden the rights of political association that are protected by the First Amendment. . . .

While the State legitimately may impose damages for the consequences of violent conduct, it may not award compensation for the consequences of nonviolent, protected activity. Only those losses proximately caused by unlawful conduct may be recovered.

The First Amendment similarly restricts the ability of the State to impose liability on an individual solely because of his association with another.

The Claiborne court relied upon the iconic First Amendment ruling in Brandenburg v. Ohiowhich overturned the criminal conviction of a KKK leader who had publicly advocated the possibility of violence against politicians. Even explicitly advocating the need or justifiability of violence for political ends is protected speech, ruled the court. They carved out a very narrow exception: “where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action” — meaning someone is explicitly urging an already assembled mob to specific violence with the expectation that they will do so more or less immediately (such as standing outside someone’s home and telling the gathered mob: it’s time to burn it down).

It goes without saying that First Amendment jurisprudence on “incitement” governs what a state can do when punishing or restricting speech, not what a Congress can do in impeaching a president or expelling its own members, and certainly not social media companies seeking to ban people from their platforms.

But that does not make these principles of how to understand “incitement to violence” irrelevant when applied to other contexts. Indeed, the central reasoning of these cases is vital to preserve everywhere: that if speech is classified as “incitement to violence” despite not explicitly advocating violence, it will sweep up any political speech which those wielding this term wish it to encompass. No political speech will be safe from this term when interpreted and applied so broadly and carelessly.

And that is directly relevant to the second point. Continuing to process Washington debates of this sort primarily through the prism of “Democrat v. Republican” or even “left v. right” is a sure ticket to the destruction of core rights. There are times when powers of repression and censorship are aimed more at the left and times when they are aimed more at the right, but it is neither inherently a left-wing nor a right-wing tactic. It is a ruling class tactic, and it will be deployed against anyone perceived to be a dissident to ruling class interests and orthodoxies no matter where on the ideological spectrum they reside.

The last several months of politician-and-journalist-demanded Silicon Valley censorship has targeted the right, but prior to that and simultaneously it has often targeted those perceived as on the left. The government has frequently declared right-wing domestic groups “terrorists,” while in the 1960s and 1970s it was left-wing groups devoted to anti-war activism which bore that designation. In 2011, British police designated the London version of Occupy Wall Street a “terrorist” group. In the 1980s, the African National Congress was so designated. “Terrorism” is an amorphous term that was created, and will always be used, to outlaw formidable dissent no matter its source or ideology.

If you identify as a conservative and continue to believe that your prime enemies are ordinary leftists, or you identify as a leftist and believe your prime enemies are Republican citizens, you will fall perfectly into the trap set for you. Namely, you will ignore your real enemies, the ones who actually wield power at your expense: ruling class elites, who really do not care about “right v. left” and most definitely do not care about “Republican v. Democrat” — as evidenced by the fact that they fund both parties — but instead care only about one thing: stability, or preservation of the prevailing neoliberal order.

Unlike so many ordinary citizens addicted to trivial partisan warfare, these ruling class elites know who their real enemies are: anyone who steps outside the limits and rules of the game they have crafted and who seeks to disrupt the system that preserves their prerogatives and status. The one who put this best was probably Barack Obama when he was president, when he observed — correctly — that the perceived warfare between establishment Democratic and Republican elites was mostly theater, and on the question of what they actually believe, they’re both “fighting inside the 40 yard line” together:

A standard Goldman Sachs banker or Silicon Valley executive has far more in common, and is far more comfortable, with Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan than they do with the ordinary American citizen. Except when it means a mildly disruptive presence — like Trump — they barely care whether Democrats or Republicans rule various organs of government, or whether people who call themselves “liberals” or “conservatives” ascend to power. Some left-wing members of Congress, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) have said they oppose a new domestic terrorism law, but Democrats will have no trouble forming a majority by partnering with their neocon GOP allies like Liz Cheney to get it done, as they did earlier this year to stop the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Germany.

Neoliberalism and imperialism do not care about the pseudo-fights between the two parties or the cable TV bickering of the day. They do not like the far left or the far right. They do not like extremism of any kind. They do not support Communism and they do not support neo-Nazism or some fascist revolution. They care only about one thing: disempowering and crushing anyone who dissents from and threatens their hegemony. They care about stopping dissidents. All the weapons they build and institutions they assemble — the FBI, the DOJ, the CIA, the NSA, oligarchical power — exist for that sole and exclusive purpose, to fortify their power by rewarding those who accede to their pieties and crushing those who do not.

No matter your views on the threat posed by international Islamic radicalism, huge excesses were committed in the name of stopping it — or, more accurately, the fears it generated were exploited to empower and entrench existing financial and political elites. The Authorization to Use Military Force — responsible for twenty-years-and-counting of war — was approved by the House three days after the 9/11 attack with just one dissenting vote. The Patriot Act — which radically expanded government surveillance powers — was enacted a mere six weeks after that attack, based on the promise that it would be temporary and “sunset” in four years. Like the wars spawned by 9/11, it is still in full force, virtually never debated any longer and predictably expanded far beyond how it was originally depicted.

The first War on Terror ended up being wielded primarily on foreign soil but it has increasingly been imported onto domestic soil against Americans. This New War on Terror — one that is domestic in name from the start and carries the explicit purpose of fighting “extremists” and “domestic terrorists” among American citizens on U.S. soil — presents the whole slew of historically familiar dangers when governments, exploiting media-generated fear and dangers, arm themselves with the power to control information, debate, opinion, activism and protests.

That a new War on Terror is coming is not a question of speculation and it is not in doubt. Those who now wield power are saying it explicitly. The only thing that is in doubt is how much opposition they will encounter from those who value basic civic rights more than the fears of one another being deliberately cultivated within us.

Source: Substack

The last two weeks have ushered in a wave of new domestic police powers and rhetoric in the name of fighting “terrorism” that are carbon copies of many of the worst excesses of the first War on Terror that began nearly twenty years ago. This trend shows no sign of receding as we move farther from the January 6 Capitol riot. The opposite is true: it is intensifying.

We have witnessed an orgy of censorship from Silicon Valley monopolies with calls for far more aggressive speech policing, a visibly militarized Washington, D.C. featuring a non-ironically named “Green Zone,” vows from the incoming president and his key allies for a new anti-domestic terrorism bill, and frequent accusations of “sedition,” “treason,” and “terrorism” against members of Congress and citizens. This is all driven by a radical expansion of the meaning of “incitement to violence.” It is accompanied by viral-on-social-media pleas that one work with the FBI to turn in one’s fellow citizens (See Something, Say Something!) and demands for a new system of domestic surveillance.

Underlying all of this are immediate insinuations that anyone questioning any of this must, by virtue of these doubts, harbor sympathy for the Terrorists and their neo-Nazi, white supremacist ideology. Liberals have spent so many years now in a tight alliance with neocons and the CIA that they are making the 2002 version of John Ashcroft look like the President of the (old-school) ACLU.

The more honest proponents of this new domestic War on Terror are explicitly admitting that they want to model it on the first one. A New York Times reporter noted on Monday that a “former intelligence official on PBS NewsHour” said “that the US should think about a ‘9/11 Commission’ for domestic extremism and consider applying some of the lessons from the fight against Al Qaeda here at home.” More amazingly, Gen. Stanley McChrystal — for years head of Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq and the commander of the war in Afghanistan — explicitly compared that war to this new one, speaking to Yahoo News:

I did see a similar dynamic in the evolution of al-Qaida in Iraq, where a whole generation of angry Arab youth with very poor prospects followed a powerful leader who promised to take them back in time to a better place, and he led them to embrace an ideology that justified their violence. This is now happening in America….I think we’re much further along in this radicalization process, and facing a much deeper problem as a country, than most Americans realize.”

Anyone who, despite all this, still harbors lingering doubts that the Capitol riot is and will be the neoliberal 9/11, and that a new War on Terror is being implemented in its name, need only watch the two short video clips below, which will clear their doubts for good. It is like being catapulted by an unholy time machine back to Paul Wolfowitz’s 2002 messaging lab.

The first video, flagged by Tom Elliott, is from Monday morning’s Morning Joe program on MSNBC (the show that arguably did more to help Donald Trump become the GOP nominee than any other). It features Jeremy Bash — one of the seemingly countless employees of TV news networks who previously worked in Obama’s CIA and Pentagon — demanding that, in response to the Capitol riot, “we reset our entire intelligence approach,” including “look[ing] at greater surveillance of them,” adding: “the FBI is going to have to run confidential sources.” See if you detect any differences between what CIA operatives and neocons were saying in 2002 when demanding the Patriot Act and greater FBI and NSA surveillance and what this CIA-official-turned-NBC-News-analyst is saying here:

The second video features the amazing declaration from former Facebook security official Alex Stamos, talking to the very concerned CNN host Brian Stelter, about the need for social media companies to use the same tactics against U.S. citizens that they used to remove ISIS from the internet — “in collaboration with law enforcement” — and that those tactics should be directly aimed at what he calls extremist “conservative influencers.”

“Press freedoms are being abused by these actors,” the former Facebook executive proclaimed. Stamos noted how generous he and his comrades have been up until now: “We have given a lot of leeway — both in the traditional media and in social media — to people with a very broad range of views.” But no more. Now is the time to “get us all back in the same consensual reality.”

In a moment of unintended candor, Stamos noted the real problem: “there are people on YouTube, for example, that have a larger audience than people on daytime CNN” — and it’s time for CNN and other mainstream outlets to seize the monopoly on information dissemination to which they are divinely entitled by taking away the platforms of those whom people actually want to watch and listen to:

(If still not convinced, and if you can endure it, you can also watch MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski literally screaming that one needed remedy to the Capitol riot is that the Biden administration must “shutdown” Facebook. Shutdown Facebook).

Calls for a War on Terror sequel — a domestic version complete with surveillance and censorship — are not confined to ratings-deprived cable hosts and ghouls from the security state. The Wall Street Journal reports that “Mr. Biden has said he plans to make a priority of passing a law against domestic terrorism, and he has been urged to create a White House post overseeing the fight against ideologically inspired violent extremists and increasing funding to combat them.”

Meanwhile, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) — not just one of the most dishonest members of Congress but also one of the most militaristic and authoritarian — has had a bill proposed since 2019 to simply amend the existing foreign anti-terrorism bill to allow the U.S. Government to invoke exactly the same powers at home against “domestic terrorists.”

Why would such new terrorism laws be needed in a country that already imprisons more of its citizens than any other country in the world as the result of a very aggressive set of criminal laws? What acts should be criminalized by new “domestic terrorism” laws that are not already deemed criminal? They never say, almost certainly because — just as was true of the first set of new War on Terror laws — their real aim is to criminalize that which should not be criminalized: speech, association, protests, opposition to the new ruling coalition.

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) flanked by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) (R) and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), speaks at a press conference on Capitol Hill (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

The answer to this question — what needs to be criminalized that is not already a crime? — scarcely seems to matter. Media and political elites have placed as many Americans as they can — and it is a lot — into full-blown fear and panic mode, and when that happens, people are willing to acquiesce to anything claimed necessary to stop that threat, as the first War on Terror, still going strong twenty years later, decisively proved.


An entire book could — and probably should — be written on why all of this is so concerning. For the moment, two points are vital to emphasize.

First, much of the alarmism and fear-mongering is being driven by a deliberate distortion of what it means for speech to “incite violence.” The bastardizing of this phrase was the basis for President Trump’s rushed impeachment last week. It is also what is driving calls for dozens of members of Congress to be expelled and even prosecuted on “sedition” charges for having objected to the Electoral College certification, and is also at the heart of the spate of censorship actions already undertaken and further repressive measures being urged.

This phrase — “inciting violence” — was also what drove many of the worst War on Terror abuses. I spent years reporting on how numerous young American Muslims were prosecuted under new, draconian anti-terrorism laws for uploading anti-U.S.-foreign-policy YouTube videos or giving rousing anti-American speeches deemed to “incite violence” and thus provide “material support” to terrorist groups — the exact theory which Rep. Schiff is seeking to import into the new domestic War on Terror.

It is vital to ask what it means for speech to constitute “incitement to violence” to the point that it can be banned or criminalized. The expression of any political viewpoint, especially one passionately expressed, has the potential to “incite” someone else to get so riled up that they engage in violence.

If you rail against the threats to free speech posed by Silicon Valley monopolies, someone hearing you may get so filled with rage that they decide to bomb an Amazon warehouse or a Facebook office. If you write a blistering screed accusing pro-life activists of endangering the lives of women by forcing them back into unsafe back-alley abortions, or if you argue that abortion is murder, you may very well inspire someone to engage in violence against a pro-life group or an abortion clinic. If you start a protest movement to object to the injustice of Wall Street bailouts — whether you call it “Occupy Wall Street” or the Tea Party — you may cause someone to go hunt down Goldman Sachs or Citibank executives who they believe are destroying the economic future of millions of people.

If you claim that George W. Bush stole the 2000 and/or 2004 elections — as many Democrats, including members of Congress, did — you may inspire civic unrest or violence against Bush and his supporters. The same is true if you claim the 2016 or 2020 elections were fraudulent or illegitimate. If you rage against the racist brutality of the police, people may go burn down buildings in protest — or murder randomly selected police officers whom they have become convinced are agents of a racist genocidal state.

The Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer and hard-core Democratic partisan, James Hodgkinson, who went to a softball field in June, 2017 to murder Republican Congress members — and almost succeeded in fatally shooting Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) — had spent months listening to radical Sanders supporters and participating in Facebook groups with names like “Terminate the Republican Party” and “Trump is a Traitor.”

Hodgkinson had heard over and over that Republicans were not merely misguided but were “traitors” and grave threats to the Republic. As CNN reported, “his favorite television shows were listed as ‘Real Time with Bill Maher;’ ‘The Rachel Maddow Show;’ ‘Democracy Now!’ and other left-leaning programs.” All of the political rhetoric to which he was exposed — from the pro-Sanders Facebook groups, MSNBC and left-leaning shows — undoubtedly played a major role in triggering his violent assault and decision to murder pro-Trump Republican Congress members.

Despite the potential of all of those views to motivate others to commit violence in their name — potential that has sometimes been realized — none of the people expressing those views, no matter how passionately, can be validly characterized as “inciting violence” either legally or ethically. That is because all of that speech is protected, legitimate speech. None of it advocates violence. None of it urges others to commit violence in its name. The fact that it may “inspire” or “motivate” some mentally unwell person or a genuine fanatic to commit violence does not make the person espousing those views and engaging in that non-violent speech guilty of “inciting violence” in any meaningful sense.

To illustrate this point, I have often cited the crucial and brilliantly reasoned Supreme Court free speech ruling in Claiborne v. NAACP. In the 1960s and 1970s, the State of Mississippi tried to hold local NAACP leaders liable on the ground that their fiery speeches urging a boycott of white-owned stores “incited” their followers to burn down stores and violently attack patrons who did not honor the protest. The state’s argument was that the NAACP leaders knew that they were metaphorically pouring gasoline on a fire with their inflammatory rhetoric to rile up and angry crowds.

But the Supreme Court rejected that argument, explaining that free speech will die if people are held responsible not for their own violent acts but for those committed by others who heard them speak and were motivated to commit crimes in the name of that cause (emphasis added):

Civil liability may not be imposed merely because an individual belonged to a group, some members of which committed acts of violence. . . .

[A]ny such theory fails for the simple reason that there is no evidence — apart from the speeches themselves -- that [the NAACP leader sued by the State] authorized, ratified, or directly threatened acts of violence. . . . . To impose liability without a finding that the NAACP authorized — either actually or apparently — or ratified unlawful conduct would impermissibly burden the rights of political association that are protected by the First Amendment. . . .

While the State legitimately may impose damages for the consequences of violent conduct, it may not award compensation for the consequences of nonviolent, protected activity. Only those losses proximately caused by unlawful conduct may be recovered.

The First Amendment similarly restricts the ability of the State to impose liability on an individual solely because of his association with another.

The Claiborne court relied upon the iconic First Amendment ruling in Brandenburg v. Ohiowhich overturned the criminal conviction of a KKK leader who had publicly advocated the possibility of violence against politicians. Even explicitly advocating the need or justifiability of violence for political ends is protected speech, ruled the court. They carved out a very narrow exception: “where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action” — meaning someone is explicitly urging an already assembled mob to specific violence with the expectation that they will do so more or less immediately (such as standing outside someone’s home and telling the gathered mob: it’s time to burn it down).

It goes without saying that First Amendment jurisprudence on “incitement” governs what a state can do when punishing or restricting speech, not what a Congress can do in impeaching a president or expelling its own members, and certainly not social media companies seeking to ban people from their platforms.

But that does not make these principles of how to understand “incitement to violence” irrelevant when applied to other contexts. Indeed, the central reasoning of these cases is vital to preserve everywhere: that if speech is classified as “incitement to violence” despite not explicitly advocating violence, it will sweep up any political speech which those wielding this term wish it to encompass. No political speech will be safe from this term when interpreted and applied so broadly and carelessly.

And that is directly relevant to the second point. Continuing to process Washington debates of this sort primarily through the prism of “Democrat v. Republican” or even “left v. right” is a sure ticket to the destruction of core rights. There are times when powers of repression and censorship are aimed more at the left and times when they are aimed more at the right, but it is neither inherently a left-wing nor a right-wing tactic. It is a ruling class tactic, and it will be deployed against anyone perceived to be a dissident to ruling class interests and orthodoxies no matter where on the ideological spectrum they reside.

The last several months of politician-and-journalist-demanded Silicon Valley censorship has targeted the right, but prior to that and simultaneously it has often targeted those perceived as on the left. The government has frequently declared right-wing domestic groups “terrorists,” while in the 1960s and 1970s it was left-wing groups devoted to anti-war activism which bore that designation. In 2011, British police designated the London version of Occupy Wall Street a “terrorist” group. In the 1980s, the African National Congress was so designated. “Terrorism” is an amorphous term that was created, and will always be used, to outlaw formidable dissent no matter its source or ideology.

If you identify as a conservative and continue to believe that your prime enemies are ordinary leftists, or you identify as a leftist and believe your prime enemies are Republican citizens, you will fall perfectly into the trap set for you. Namely, you will ignore your real enemies, the ones who actually wield power at your expense: ruling class elites, who really do not care about “right v. left” and most definitely do not care about “Republican v. Democrat” — as evidenced by the fact that they fund both parties — but instead care only about one thing: stability, or preservation of the prevailing neoliberal order.

Unlike so many ordinary citizens addicted to trivial partisan warfare, these ruling class elites know who their real enemies are: anyone who steps outside the limits and rules of the game they have crafted and who seeks to disrupt the system that preserves their prerogatives and status. The one who put this best was probably Barack Obama when he was president, when he observed — correctly — that the perceived warfare between establishment Democratic and Republican elites was mostly theater, and on the question of what they actually believe, they’re both “fighting inside the 40 yard line” together:

A standard Goldman Sachs banker or Silicon Valley executive has far more in common, and is far more comfortable, with Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan than they do with the ordinary American citizen. Except when it means a mildly disruptive presence — like Trump — they barely care whether Democrats or Republicans rule various organs of government, or whether people who call themselves “liberals” or “conservatives” ascend to power. Some left-wing members of Congress, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) have said they oppose a new domestic terrorism law, but Democrats will have no trouble forming a majority by partnering with their neocon GOP allies like Liz Cheney to get it done, as they did earlier this year to stop the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Germany.

Neoliberalism and imperialism do not care about the pseudo-fights between the two parties or the cable TV bickering of the day. They do not like the far left or the far right. They do not like extremism of any kind. They do not support Communism and they do not support neo-Nazism or some fascist revolution. They care only about one thing: disempowering and crushing anyone who dissents from and threatens their hegemony. They care about stopping dissidents. All the weapons they build and institutions they assemble — the FBI, the DOJ, the CIA, the NSA, oligarchical power — exist for that sole and exclusive purpose, to fortify their power by rewarding those who accede to their pieties and crushing those who do not.

No matter your views on the threat posed by international Islamic radicalism, huge excesses were committed in the name of stopping it — or, more accurately, the fears it generated were exploited to empower and entrench existing financial and political elites. The Authorization to Use Military Force — responsible for twenty-years-and-counting of war — was approved by the House three days after the 9/11 attack with just one dissenting vote. The Patriot Act — which radically expanded government surveillance powers — was enacted a mere six weeks after that attack, based on the promise that it would be temporary and “sunset” in four years. Like the wars spawned by 9/11, it is still in full force, virtually never debated any longer and predictably expanded far beyond how it was originally depicted.

The first War on Terror ended up being wielded primarily on foreign soil but it has increasingly been imported onto domestic soil against Americans. This New War on Terror — one that is domestic in name from the start and carries the explicit purpose of fighting “extremists” and “domestic terrorists” among American citizens on U.S. soil — presents the whole slew of historically familiar dangers when governments, exploiting media-generated fear and dangers, arm themselves with the power to control information, debate, opinion, activism and protests.

That a new War on Terror is coming is not a question of speculation and it is not in doubt. Those who now wield power are saying it explicitly. The only thing that is in doubt is how much opposition they will encounter from those who value basic civic rights more than the fears of one another being deliberately cultivated within us.

Source: Substack

Joel Abbott - Thu Jan 21, 2021 18:12

South Dakota is dealing with a rapid influx of people looking to see each other's faces, worship, earn a living, spend time with loved ones, and do all the other things that make human life, well, human.

A survey by United Van Lines this month ranked the state fourth in the nation as a destination for people moving across state lines. That's pretty significant considering that South Dakota ranks 47th in states by population.

Other states that people moved to were those like Tennessee, Florida, and Arizona, while people were fleeing states like New Jersey, California, New York, and Illinois.

I wonder why that could possibly be?

The survey closely resembles a similar report from U-Haul this month, showing people flocking away from lockdowns and regulations and toward places where they can be free. It turns out, people have a penchant for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

 

Realtors in South Dakota – where Gov. Kristi Noem has refused to implement lockdowns in favor of trusting citizens with their own health – have confirmed that the housing market is booming.

"We had a strong market to start the 2020 year," said Lori Barnett of VIP Properties in Rapid City. "However, after COVID-19 hit and cities and states across the country began to implement massive shutdowns, people in those areas started looking to less restrictive states. Gov. Kristi Noem has certainly taken the laissez faire approach in dealing with COVID-19, which has definitely drawn attention to our state and our area in particular. People tend to be searching for a place to have more autonomy, be less populated, great outdoor recreation, and not having a state income tax is definitely a plus."

Local media has reported on this strange phenomenon, which experts tell us was called "Liberty" by people who lived long ago.

"Black Hills area realtors and builders say there's an influx of people who are relocating permanently or buying land in the region — and the trend isn't expected to slow anytime soon," said the Rapid City Journal. "Newcomers from California, Washington, New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Texas, Michigan, Colorado and Virginia along with Minnesota, North Dakota and Wyoming are leading the trend of relocating to South Dakota."

There's also the fact that Leftist leaders have been warning their citizens of a "dark winter" and lamenting how horrible and evil and corrupt America is, while Kristi Noem has said controversial things like this:

 

Ahead of South Dakota in the United Van Lines survey was Idaho, South Carolina, and Oregon [All three are much larger in population terms]. I assume most who moved to the later were freedom-loving Americans looking to support the bid for eastern Oregon to split from the socialist coastland of Portland and join the great state of Idaho.

Remember, the last ones in California and New York have to turn off the lights!

Source: Not the Bee

South Dakota is dealing with a rapid influx of people looking to see each other's faces, worship, earn a living, spend time with loved ones, and do all the other things that make human life, well, human.

A survey by United Van Lines this month ranked the state fourth in the nation as a destination for people moving across state lines. That's pretty significant considering that South Dakota ranks 47th in states by population.

Other states that people moved to were those like Tennessee, Florida, and Arizona, while people were fleeing states like New Jersey, California, New York, and Illinois.

I wonder why that could possibly be?

The survey closely resembles a similar report from U-Haul this month, showing people flocking away from lockdowns and regulations and toward places where they can be free. It turns out, people have a penchant for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

 

Realtors in South Dakota – where Gov. Kristi Noem has refused to implement lockdowns in favor of trusting citizens with their own health – have confirmed that the housing market is booming.

"We had a strong market to start the 2020 year," said Lori Barnett of VIP Properties in Rapid City. "However, after COVID-19 hit and cities and states across the country began to implement massive shutdowns, people in those areas started looking to less restrictive states. Gov. Kristi Noem has certainly taken the laissez faire approach in dealing with COVID-19, which has definitely drawn attention to our state and our area in particular. People tend to be searching for a place to have more autonomy, be less populated, great outdoor recreation, and not having a state income tax is definitely a plus."

Local media has reported on this strange phenomenon, which experts tell us was called "Liberty" by people who lived long ago.

"Black Hills area realtors and builders say there's an influx of people who are relocating permanently or buying land in the region — and the trend isn't expected to slow anytime soon," said the Rapid City Journal. "Newcomers from California, Washington, New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Texas, Michigan, Colorado and Virginia along with Minnesota, North Dakota and Wyoming are leading the trend of relocating to South Dakota."

There's also the fact that Leftist leaders have been warning their citizens of a "dark winter" and lamenting how horrible and evil and corrupt America is, while Kristi Noem has said controversial things like this:

 

Ahead of South Dakota in the United Van Lines survey was Idaho, South Carolina, and Oregon [All three are much larger in population terms]. I assume most who moved to the later were freedom-loving Americans looking to support the bid for eastern Oregon to split from the socialist coastland of Portland and join the great state of Idaho.

Remember, the last ones in California and New York have to turn off the lights!

Source: Not the Bee

Ethan Yang - Thu Jan 21, 2021 17:24

It should be common knowledge by now that younger people are significantly less likely to die of Covid-19 than the elderly. However, a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research notes some significant increases in excess deaths among working-age individuals. Excess deaths are the number of deaths exceeding the expected number in a given year. If there are excess deaths that means something unusual has happened, such as a pandemic or a drastic change to social life: such as lockdowns. The study notes,

“From March onward, excess deaths are approximately 250,000 of which about 17,000 appear to be a COVID undercount and 30,000 non-COVID. Deaths of despair (drug overdose, suicide, alcohol) in 2017 and 2018 are good predictors of the demographic groups with NCEDs in 2020. The NCEDs are disproportionately experienced by men aged 15-55, including men aged 15-25. Local data on opioid overdoses further support the hypothesis that the pandemic and recession were associated with a 10 to 60 percent increase in deaths of despair above already high pre-pandemic levels.”

Of course, the elephant in the room is that over 250,000 excess deaths have been attributed to Covid-19 with 30,000 attributed to non-Covid causes. The debate about whether recorded Covid deaths should be lower or higher, and whether lockdowns have done anything to help with that number will be saved for another day. The purpose of this article is to focus on the fact that younger people have been dying at higher rates than usual and it is likely that lockdowns are one of the main drivers of that trend.

The Facts

The author of the study, Casey Mulligan, writes the following about how some people felt towards the idea that lockdowns would lead to more deaths of despair such as suicides and drug overdoses:

“Some have worried that “the cure is worse than the disease.” Economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton mocked this as a “pet theory about the fatal dangers of quarantine.” They concluded in the summer of 2020 that “a wave of deaths of despair is highly unlikely.”

However, by examining CDC data Mulligan points out that there have been around 30,000 excess deaths that are completely unrelated to Covid-19. Elderly individuals have seen a decrease in non-Covid-related excess deaths and bear the large share of Covid deaths. This would make sense because Covid-19 is more deadly to elderly people, so if excess deaths are up then Covid-19 would be the explanatory variable. This also creates a question about comorbidities and relabeling the cause of death, but again a conversation for another day.

The interesting point is that excess deaths for working-age people has also been increasing but Covid-19 is not the only reason. If Covid isn’t killing younger people then the only other major explanation would be deaths of despair. Deaths caused by suicides and drug abuse due to the life-crushing effects of lockdowns. When you force the entire country into social isolation and upend people’s lives, people tend to get emotionally distraught. That’s why younger people are dying at higher rates than usual. To be fair the author writes,

“Presumably social isolation is part of the mechanism that turns a pandemic into a wave of deaths of despair. However, the results in this paper do not say how much, if any, comes from government stay-at-home orders versus various actions individual households and private businesses have taken to encourage social distancing.”

Provided above are two graphs featured in the study. Figure 1 demonstrates the death statistics for elderly individuals on a 40-week timeline for 2020. As noted before, Covid-19 has been the main reported cause of excess deaths among the elderly in 2020. Figure 3 shows the 40-week timeline for excess deaths among men aged 15-54, which have seen a disproportionate share of deaths of despair compared to women. As demonstrated by the blue line, Non-Covid excess deaths exceeded Covid deaths. These would more than likely be attributed to deaths of despair as social isolation and economic devastation take their toll on the able-bodied.

Mulligan writes

“A total of about 14,000 NCEDs (Non Covid Excess Deaths) are shown in Figure 3 together with 12,000 COVID deaths. The time patterns are similar for sub-age groups, except that the youngest groups have few COVID deaths. 2,300 of the 14,000 NCEDs are for ages 15-24, and 2,000 for ages 25-34… official COVID deaths are only 240 and 1,100, respectively.”

In particular, there were 2,300 excess deaths amongst those aged 15-24 that were due to Non-Covid related causes, again likely deaths of despair caused by social isolation. However, only 240 excess deaths amongst those 15-24 could be in any way related to Covid-19. Again this is discounting the possibility of miscategorization and comorbidities. This is why many people are calling for a strategy of allowing the young and healthy to live their lives while taking steps to protect the vulnerable.

Opioids

To further the study’s point about deaths of despair the author was able to provide opioid overdose statistics from San Diego, California, and Cook County, Illinois.

Figure 5 depicts the data from Cook County, Illinois and San Diego, California. It clearly shows that recorded opioid deaths are noticeably higher in 2020 than in previous years and the increase is more sudden. It also follows the timeline of lockdowns. Furthermore, the CDC reported that,

“Over 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period.”

The author notes that synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which are far more potent than non-synthetic opioids, are driving this increase in deaths. She speculates that fentanyl has become more prevalent because lockdowns have made it more difficult to acquire the milder forms of opioids.

Key Takeaways

There is no denying that 2020 has seen a wave of excess deaths. Part of that is undeniably due to Covid-19 which is dangerous to the elderly and relatively mild for younger populations. However, the increase in excess deaths amongst working-age individuals by the tens of thousands shows that there is another killer out there. Deaths of despair due in large part to social isolation. Regardless of whether they think lockdowns work, policymakers must be cognizant of the fact shutting down society also leads to excess deaths. Whether it’s from the government policies themselves or the willful compliance of society enforcing the soft despotism of popular hysteria, social isolation is taking its toll on the lives of many.

Source: AIER

It should be common knowledge by now that younger people are significantly less likely to die of Covid-19 than the elderly. However, a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research notes some significant increases in excess deaths among working-age individuals. Excess deaths are the number of deaths exceeding the expected number in a given year. If there are excess deaths that means something unusual has happened, such as a pandemic or a drastic change to social life: such as lockdowns. The study notes,

“From March onward, excess deaths are approximately 250,000 of which about 17,000 appear to be a COVID undercount and 30,000 non-COVID. Deaths of despair (drug overdose, suicide, alcohol) in 2017 and 2018 are good predictors of the demographic groups with NCEDs in 2020. The NCEDs are disproportionately experienced by men aged 15-55, including men aged 15-25. Local data on opioid overdoses further support the hypothesis that the pandemic and recession were associated with a 10 to 60 percent increase in deaths of despair above already high pre-pandemic levels.”

Of course, the elephant in the room is that over 250,000 excess deaths have been attributed to Covid-19 with 30,000 attributed to non-Covid causes. The debate about whether recorded Covid deaths should be lower or higher, and whether lockdowns have done anything to help with that number will be saved for another day. The purpose of this article is to focus on the fact that younger people have been dying at higher rates than usual and it is likely that lockdowns are one of the main drivers of that trend.

The Facts

The author of the study, Casey Mulligan, writes the following about how some people felt towards the idea that lockdowns would lead to more deaths of despair such as suicides and drug overdoses:

“Some have worried that “the cure is worse than the disease.” Economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton mocked this as a “pet theory about the fatal dangers of quarantine.” They concluded in the summer of 2020 that “a wave of deaths of despair is highly unlikely.”

However, by examining CDC data Mulligan points out that there have been around 30,000 excess deaths that are completely unrelated to Covid-19. Elderly individuals have seen a decrease in non-Covid-related excess deaths and bear the large share of Covid deaths. This would make sense because Covid-19 is more deadly to elderly people, so if excess deaths are up then Covid-19 would be the explanatory variable. This also creates a question about comorbidities and relabeling the cause of death, but again a conversation for another day.

The interesting point is that excess deaths for working-age people has also been increasing but Covid-19 is not the only reason. If Covid isn’t killing younger people then the only other major explanation would be deaths of despair. Deaths caused by suicides and drug abuse due to the life-crushing effects of lockdowns. When you force the entire country into social isolation and upend people’s lives, people tend to get emotionally distraught. That’s why younger people are dying at higher rates than usual. To be fair the author writes,

“Presumably social isolation is part of the mechanism that turns a pandemic into a wave of deaths of despair. However, the results in this paper do not say how much, if any, comes from government stay-at-home orders versus various actions individual households and private businesses have taken to encourage social distancing.”

Provided above are two graphs featured in the study. Figure 1 demonstrates the death statistics for elderly individuals on a 40-week timeline for 2020. As noted before, Covid-19 has been the main reported cause of excess deaths among the elderly in 2020. Figure 3 shows the 40-week timeline for excess deaths among men aged 15-54, which have seen a disproportionate share of deaths of despair compared to women. As demonstrated by the blue line, Non-Covid excess deaths exceeded Covid deaths. These would more than likely be attributed to deaths of despair as social isolation and economic devastation take their toll on the able-bodied.

Mulligan writes

“A total of about 14,000 NCEDs (Non Covid Excess Deaths) are shown in Figure 3 together with 12,000 COVID deaths. The time patterns are similar for sub-age groups, except that the youngest groups have few COVID deaths. 2,300 of the 14,000 NCEDs are for ages 15-24, and 2,000 for ages 25-34… official COVID deaths are only 240 and 1,100, respectively.”

In particular, there were 2,300 excess deaths amongst those aged 15-24 that were due to Non-Covid related causes, again likely deaths of despair caused by social isolation. However, only 240 excess deaths amongst those 15-24 could be in any way related to Covid-19. Again this is discounting the possibility of miscategorization and comorbidities. This is why many people are calling for a strategy of allowing the young and healthy to live their lives while taking steps to protect the vulnerable.

Opioids

To further the study’s point about deaths of despair the author was able to provide opioid overdose statistics from San Diego, California, and Cook County, Illinois.

Figure 5 depicts the data from Cook County, Illinois and San Diego, California. It clearly shows that recorded opioid deaths are noticeably higher in 2020 than in previous years and the increase is more sudden. It also follows the timeline of lockdowns. Furthermore, the CDC reported that,

“Over 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period.”

The author notes that synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which are far more potent than non-synthetic opioids, are driving this increase in deaths. She speculates that fentanyl has become more prevalent because lockdowns have made it more difficult to acquire the milder forms of opioids.

Key Takeaways

There is no denying that 2020 has seen a wave of excess deaths. Part of that is undeniably due to Covid-19 which is dangerous to the elderly and relatively mild for younger populations. However, the increase in excess deaths amongst working-age individuals by the tens of thousands shows that there is another killer out there. Deaths of despair due in large part to social isolation. Regardless of whether they think lockdowns work, policymakers must be cognizant of the fact shutting down society also leads to excess deaths. Whether it’s from the government policies themselves or the willful compliance of society enforcing the soft despotism of popular hysteria, social isolation is taking its toll on the lives of many.

Source: AIER

Anti-Empire >>

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