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TBR News April 16, 2018

Apr 16 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. April 16, 2018:” ‘The possibility that stolen smallpox cultures may already be in the hands of rogue states or terrorist organizations also remains an important subject of international concern.’

This sentence is taken from a scientific report on thefts of veroila or smallpox virus from laboratories.

It is well-known, though forbidden of discussion in public, that this virus was stolen from a Munich, Germany, labratory by a person or persons unknown.

It was not the Russians, who now are blamed for everything from ingrown toenails to scarcoptic mange in poodles, who have their own smallpox virus.

It is interesting to note that that this theft is a subject one will no longer find on Google.

The German authorities firmly believe the theft was based on inside information and that the theft participants can not have exceeded more than two or three.

More than that and the knowledge would long ago have emerged.

It is also firmly believed, in intelligence agencies outside the United States,that in the event of some specific event, such as the destruction by Israeli fanatics of the Dome of the Mosque in order to build a new Jewish temple on the site, could well trigger a release of this virus.

With an emotional and thoroughly irrational American president in office and one that appears to be catering to radical Israeli desires, such a profanation of a holy Muslim site would appear to be a very distinct possibility.If the Israelis trust Trump, they would be in serious error indeed.”


Table of Contents

  • Syria and the Revolt of the ‘Deplorables’
  • Playing with Nuclear Matches
  • Fox’s Hannity revealed as mystery client of Trump’s personal lawyer
  • Secrecy News
  • Gassing is bad, but OK for some: US complicity in past chemical attacks
  • Disaster At Bari
  • Is inequality good or bad for the economy?
  • Summary of Eric Hoffer’s, The True Believer
  • UK satellite makes HD colour movies of Earth



Syria and the Revolt of the ‘Deplorables’

Trump bombs his base

April 16, 2018

by Justin Raimondo


Surely there has never been a presidential peroration as filled with contradictions – not to mention regrettable rhetoric – as President Donald J. Trump’s speech to the nation explaining why he backtracked on his campaign promise to get us out of Syria. Particularly striking was this bit of doubletalk:

“To Iran and to Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?

“The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep. No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants and murderous dictators.”

This was being said even as the Saudis, our close allies, were bombing civilians in Yemen – with our active assistance – and blockading the country into one of the worst famines on record. Ah yes, “the friends they keep” – wasn’t that Trump and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin, the bloodthirsty tyrant who tortured his victims in an “anti-corruption” campaign and is being hailed by our media as a brave “reformer”? Here is the Prince posing with Jeff Bezos, owner of the warmongering Washington Post and Trump’s archenemy. In the swamp, however, there’s only so much room, and the creatures slither around each other out of necessity.

Our “friends” the Saudis, who assisted Mohammed Atta and his fellow hijackers – the majority of them Saudis – when they rammed a plane into the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon. Does Trump really want to be judged by the friends he keeps?

Trump’s speechwriter had the nerve to invoke World War I as the point in history where atrocities involving poison gas were outlawed: this is nonsense. As recently as the Iran-Iraq war, our then-ally Saddam Hussein used poison gas, killing thousands, while the United States looked on approvingly. Agent Orange was used by US forces in the Vietnam war, to horrific effect.

Furthermore, the invocation of the Great War brings to mind the shameless British propaganda that lured us into a conflict that we should never have entered: those Belgian babies impaled on bayonets were one of the earliest examples of what Trump likes to call “fake news.” This time around the same sort of crude war propaganda – spread by the British government and its media allies, as well as the Saudis and the Israelis – blanketed the American media landscape in the run up to Trump’s folly. Perfidious Albion strikes again!

The reality is that there’s no credible evidence Bashar al-Assad’s forces dropped poison gas – an improbable “mixture” of chlorine and sarin – by helicopter no less. The “allies” make assertions but they offer no proof. It’s the sloppiest propaganda campaign since the last time Syria’s Islamist rebels used faked videos of alleged Assadist atrocities to lure us into their civil war. A child wouldn’t be fooled by it: however, it’s not surprising that they succeeded with Trump, since he’s operating on a much lower mental-emotional level than your average adolescent. Not that he’s stupid: it’s just that he craves the adulation of the media, which he pretends to hate and yet caters to incessantly – and certainly he was rewarded, at least momentarily, in that regard.

Yet the thrill will be brief. It won’t be long – indeed it’s already happening – before the NeverTrumpers who are hailing him as “presidential” will be demanding more “action” to finally take out Assad and install their favored Islamist head-choppers in power. And then no doubt we’ll see yet another alleged “gas attack” by the Assad forces, complete with videos of choking children and women – no men ever seem to be victims of these phony attacks – and New York Times editorials demanding full-scale “humanitarian” intervention.

It never ends. And that’s a lesson many of Trump’s supporters in the media are beginning to learn. The night before the attack Tucker Carlson spoke for the “deplorables” with a remarkable opening monologue that challenged the War Party on every level

He was joined by Laura Ingraham, the next day, as missiles flew: her takedown of the comic-opera warmonger Sebastian Gorka, recently kicked out of the White House, is one of those memorable moments that will live on the internet forever.

Trumpist radio host Michael Savage denounced the attack: “He bombed his base,” said Savage.

Savage is quite correct: the Trump base didn’t vote for this. The key states Trump won and that gave him the margin of victory were won due to his anti-interventionist campaign rhetoric. Now they see that this was a fraud and they are bound to desert him in droves as their daughters and sons are sent to Syria to fight for – what? An Islamist state? Good media reviews from the New York Times for a childishly insecure President?

While the left hails the Trumpist turn toward “humanitarian intervention,” the right is increasingly “isolationist,” i.e., committed to a policy of minding our own damned business and solving our many problems right here at home. This is the opening I’ve been talking about for many years, the great switching of polarities that occurs every 40 years or so: and now it is upon us, brought about by an accidental figure – Trump – who nevertheless unleashed forces he neither understands nor controls.

Those forces – a populist movement that has rallied to the banner of “America First” – are a mass movement that rejects the Empire and longs to restore our old republic. They reject neoconservatism and the old leadership of the GOP, which is interventionist to its rotten core, which is why they put Trump in the White House. Now they must learn from his betrayal – and our job, here at Antiwar.com, is to teach them that lesson.

That’s why all the sectarians who flew into a rage when I pointed out Trump’s value to the anti-interventionist movement were dead wrong and are still wrong. As I put it in this space months ago:

“Yes, the Trump administration will take many actions that contradict the promise of their victory: that is already occurring. And we are covering that in these pages, without regard for partisan considerations: and yet it is necessary to step back and see the larger picture, looking past the journalistic details of the day-to-day news cycle. In short, it is necessary to take the long view and try to see what the ideological victory that was won this past November augurs for the future.

“If we look past Trump and his administration and scout out what the road ahead looks like, the view is encouraging: the obstacles that loomed large in the past – the neoconservative hegemony in the GOP, the war hysteria that dominated the country post-9/11, the public’s largely unquestioning acceptance of what the “mainstream” media reported – have been swept away. What’s more, a global rebellion against regnant elites is threatening the status quo. All the elements that make for the restoration of our old republic are in place, including a growing mass movement in this country that rejects the old internationalist dogma.

“Ideas rule the world: not politicians, not parties, not range-of-the-moment fluctuations in public opinion. This isn’t about Trump, the politician, or the journalistic trivia of the moment: we are engaged in a battle of ideas – and, slowly but surely, we are winning.”

The “deplorables” had to go through this betrayal before they could begin to understand the real nature of US foreign policy – and the fact that the War Party is their greatest enemy. The virtue-signaling Beltway “libertarians,” who are even now jumping on the anti-Russian cold war bandwagon – and refusing to challenge the evidence-free claims of the US government and its British allies – are clueless as usual. They don’t care to dirty their pristine hands by joining with the Trump voters of flyover country: they’re concerned exclusively with impressing their Washington cronies with how “woke” they are – not at all like those Ron Paul-loving hillbillies!

The Beltway quasi-libertarians never cared about building a grassroots movement: they just wanted to build a box-like monstrosity of a glass-and-steel headquarters in order to impress their donors and the Washington Post. It’s a monument to their towering self-regard.

I’ll never forget during the first Gulf War, meeting – in secret – with Bill Niskanen, a top official of the Cato Institute. We had to meet in secret since I was – and still am – considered persona non grata by those preening worthies. How, he asked me, can we build a movement to oppose the coming war? When I told him we had to ally with and recruit from a growing “isolationist” movement on the right, mentioning Pat Buchanan as a prominent example, he drew back in horror. “Pat Buchanan?!” he said. “Why we can’t have anything to do with him!”

This history is why I’m not at all surprised that those who invoke Niskanen’s name today have totally rejected libertarianism, and have joined with the War Party in rejecting the traditional libertarian opposition to foreign wars, endorsing globalism, and joining hands with the CIA, the FBI, and the NeverTrumpers. And very often being a renegade invites certain rewards, and that is certainly the case with the Niskanenites. Follow the money.

Non-interventionist foreign policy is the first thing defectors from the liberty movement throw overboard in their journey to join the Washington “mainstream.” As they merge with the political class, they acquire the social as well as the political-ideological orientation of their new allies, in this case contempt for those “deplorable” Trump voters and media figures who are in open rebellion against globalism.

This isn’t just about politics – it’s about culture. It’s Middle America versus the deracinated decadents who inhabit the Beltway.

I know what side I’m on. Do you?


Playing with Nuclear Matches

April 14, 2018

by Eric Margolis

The Unz Review

Behind President Donald Trump’s bluster and threats over Syria, powerful forces are pushing the US towards war with Russia and Syria: the neocons and the military industrial complex.

For a candidate who once proposed a normal relationship with Russia, just peace in the Mideast, and an end to America’s foreign wars Donald Trump is now hurtling towards a full-scale war with Russia and a new disaster in the Mideast. Not since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis has the danger of nuclear war seemed to close.

While Trump fulminates about the alleged use of toxic gas in Syria, US B-1 and B-52 heavy bombers are flattening villages in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

The bloodbath in Syria was ignited in 2011 by the US, Saudi Arabia and their allies in an effort to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who was failing to accept US tutelage and too friendly with Iran. By my count, this was the third attempt by Washington to overthrow a Syrian government since 1948.

Believe very little of what we are told about Syria. Trump threatens to again attack Syria because it is alleged to have used chlorine gas on anti-government defenders and civilians in the Ghouta enclave near Damascus. This may be true – or a fabrication.

Much of our information on Syria comes from ‘false flag’ outfits set up by western intelligence like the ‘White Helmets’ and ‘Syrian Observatory,’ Britain’s once independent BBC, now a major organ for government information warfare, and the majority of US government ‘guided’ mainstream media hankering for a Mideast war.

Interestingly, the reliable Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz just reported that Ronald Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, donated $1.1 million to a rabid American anti-Muslim group during the 2016 elections.

Lauder was joined by Robert Mercer, another leading far right Muslim-hater and Trump supporter. Such religious/racial hatred will likely blow up in their faces one day when the anti-Muslim far right turns on Jewish Americans.

Israel’s government plans to fragment Syria, just as was done with Iraq. This would eliminate the only remaining credible Arab state opposing Israel’s domination of the region and, equally important, allow Israel to begin expropriating chunks of Syria, notably water sources and pipeline routes.

Britain is trying to show the old lion still has some teeth. France used to be colonial ruler of today’s Syria and wants to reassert its influence there.

The timing for Israel is ideal. Trump may have been a Trojan Horse for US neocons. He has named ardently pro-Israel figures to senior posts: the loathsome Nikki Haley to the UN; the well-known ‘crazy’ from Bush days, John Bolton, as National Security Advisor; the notorious torturer madame, Gina Haspel, as new CIA chief and so on and nominated tea-party Mike Pompeo from darkest Kansas as Secretary of State of all people. The State Dept. has been quietly purged of ‘Arabist’ experts who understood the Mideast. The Christian fundamentalist machine that provided Trump his support base is running white hot promoting modern-day Crusader passions and hatred of Muslims. Nice bedfellows for Ron Lauder.

With this potent neocon amen chorus now singing at high volume, Trump, who evaded military service during the Vietnam War (when this writer was in US uniform), now thinks he can bully Russia into crying uncle and backing down in Syria, leaving it to the US and Israel.

He has misread President Vladimir Putin who is hard as steel but also very clever and deft. Trump is violating the most important rule of US diplomacy: never, ever get into a confrontation with a nuclear-armed power. Russia, which lost 30 million dead in World War II will not be lightly bullied into retreat. The Russians know if they back down over Syria, the US will then proceed to its ultimate objective, dismantling the Russian Federation and turning it into a client state. This almost happened under the drunken Yeltsin and is why Putin came to power.

Let’s hope Gen. Jim Mattis and the US military will deter Trump from more war-mongering. Trump is a child playing with nuclear matches. Putin may even help Trump find a way out of this game of nuclear chicken, as he did with President Obama. That is, provided the neocons clustered around him don’t manage to trigger a war with Russia.


Fox’s Hannity revealed as mystery client of Trump’s personal lawyer

April 16, 2018

by Brendan Pierson, Karen Freifeld and Jonathan Stempel


NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer was forced on Monday to reveal in a New York federal court that Fox News personality Sean Hannity, one of Trump’s most ardent defenders, was also on his client list.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s fiercely loyal and pugnacious lawyer, disclosed Hannity’s name through one of his own lawyers at the order of the judge. Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump, watched from the public gallery.

Daniels, in a separate civil case, is fighting a 2016 non-disclosure agreement arranged by Cohen in which she got $130,000 to stop her from discussing her claim she had sex with Trump a decade prior, something Trump has denied.

Hannity, 56, said on Monday that he had never paid for Cohen’s services or been represented by him, but had sought confidential legal advice from him. The conservative host often uses his weeknight broadcast on Fox News to defend the president against what he sees as biased attacks by the media. Sometimes Trump praises Hannity in return.

Cohen was in court to ask the judge to limit the ability of federal prosecutors to review documents seized from his offices and home last week as part of a criminal investigation, which stems in part from a probe into possible collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.

The Russia investigation has frustrated the White House as it has spread to enfold some of Trump’s closest confidantes.

Judge Kimba Wood spent more than 2-1/2 hours listening to arguments by Cohen’s lawyers, prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan and a lawyer representing Trump in the hearing. She is expected to rule later.

She ordered prosecutors to give Cohen’s lawyers a copy of the seized materials before the next hearing.

The unexpected naming of Hannity made him the latest outsized media personality to be drawn into the investigation’s cast of unlikely supporting characters.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was another. As she arrived at the courthouse dressed in a lavender suit, photographers knocked over barricades as they scrambled to get pictures.

Daniels sat with her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who told reporters they were there to help ensure protection for the integrity of the seized documents, some of which they believe pertain to the Daniels agreement.

Cohen, dressed in a dark suit, at times looked tense, folding and clasping his hands in front of him.


Cohen has argued that some of the documents and data seized from him under a warrant are protected by attorney-client privilege or otherwise unconnected to the investigation. But Judge Wood said she would still need the names of those other clients, and rejected his efforts to mask the identity of Hannity, a client Cohen had said wanted to avoid publicity.

“I understand if he doesn’t want his name out there, but that’s not enough under the law,” Wood said, before ordering the name disclosed.

Stephen Ryan, a lawyer for Cohen, drew gasps and laughter from the public gallery when he named Hannity as the client.

After his identity was revealed, Hannity said on his syndicated radio show that he and Cohen “have occasionally had brief discussions about legal questions about which I wanted his input and his perspective.”

He assumed those discussions were covered by attorney-client privilege, he said on the show, which Fox says reaches more than 13 million listeners. In a later post on Twitter, he said the advice “dealt almost exclusively about real estate.”

Legal advice can be considered privileged even if given by a lawyer for free.

Hannity told his viewers on April 9 that the raid on Cohen was an effort by federal investigators to wrongly impeach the president. He never mentioned his association with Cohen during the broadcast.

Cohen has asked the court to give his own lawyers the first look at the seized materials so they can identify documents that are protected by attorney-client privilege.

Failing that, they want the court to appoint an independent official known as a special master, a role typically filled by a lawyer, to go through the records and decide what prosecutors can see.

But prosecutors want the documents to be reviewed for attorney-client privilege by a “taint team” of lawyers within their own office, who would be walled off from the main prosecution team.

“I have faith in the Southern District U.S. Attorney’s Office that their integrity is unimpeachable,” making a taint team “a viable option,” Judge Wood said.

But she also said that to help ensure fairness and the perception of fairness, “a special master might have some role here.”

After the hearing, Cohen left without comment.

Daniels, in contrast, stepped up to the bank of microphones set up on the sidewalk, telling reporters that Cohen had thought he was above the law.

“My attorney and I are committed that everyone finds out the truth and the facts of what happened, and I will not rest until that happens,” she said.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson, Karen Freifeld and Jonathan Stempel in New York, Writing by Jonathan Allen, Editing by Susan Thomas and Rosalba O’Brien


Secrecy News

From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2018, Issue No. 27

April 16, 2018


In just the last few weeks and months, U.S. military officials imposed new restrictions on media interviews and base visits, at least temporarily; they blocked (but later permitted) publication of current data on the extent of insurgent control of Afghanistan; and they classified previously unclassified information concerning future flight tests of ballistic missile defense systems

“We’ve seen multiple instances in the past year where the [military] services have sought to be more guarded in their transparency and accessibility to the media,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. “Part of that’s understandable, but I think transparency is needed now more than ever.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis said in response that he didn’t exactly disagree.

“I want more engagement with the media, [but] I want you to give your name, I don’t want to read that somebody spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak,” Mattis said.

“I have yet to tell anyone they’re not authorized to speak. So if they’re not willing to say they know about the issue and give their name that would concern me. If they’re giving background, they should just be a defense official giving background information authorized to give it.”

“What I don’t want is pre-decisional information, or classified information or any information about upcoming military movements or operations, which is the normal lose lips sink ships kind of restriction.”

“Pre-decisional, we do not close the president’s decision making maneuver space by saying things before the president has made a decision. But otherwise, I want more engagement with the military, and I don’t want to see an increase in opaqueness about what we’re doing.”

“We’re already remote enough from the American people by our size and by our continued focus overseas. We need to be more engaged here at home,” Secretary Mattis said.

Part of that is understandable, as Rep. Gallagher said. But it does not correspond to, or justify, the way that DoD conducts itself in practice, which has certainly produced “an increase in opaqueness.”

Last week, for example, DoD published its regular quarterly report for December 2017 on the number of US troops deployed abroad — but now with the number of troops in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan deleted. See Pentagon strips Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria troop numbers from web by Tara Copp, Military Times, April 9. (Previously disclosed numbers in prior quarterly reports were also deleted but then reposted last week.)

Citing the new secrecy, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) said “I’m very concerned about that. I think that there’s no combat advantage to obfuscating the number of U.S. service members that were in these countries three months ago. And, furthermore, the American public has a right to know. Do you intend to restore that information to the website?,” she asked Secretary Mattis at last week’s hearing.

“I’ll certainly look at it,” he replied. “I share your conviction that the American people should know everything that doesn’t give the enemy an advantage.”


The 2019 budget request for U.S. Special Operations Command — $13.6 billion — is 10% higher than the 2018 level and is the largest budget request ever submitted by US SOCOM.

U.S. special operations forces, which are currently deployed in 90 countries, have more than doubled in size from 33,000 personnel in 2001 to around 70,000 personnel in early 2018. Next year’s budget, if approved, would make them larger still.

For a newly updated overview from the Congressional Research Service, see U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress, April 13, 2018.

Other recent CRS reports that have not otherwise been made publicly available include the following.

Federal Election Commission: Membership and Policymaking Quorum, In Brief, April 12, 2018

Regulatory Reform 10 Years After the Financial Crisis: Systemic Risk Regulation of Non-Bank Financial Institutions, April 12, 2018

Abortion At or Over 20 Weeks’ Gestation: Frequently Asked Questions, April 11, 2018Millennium Challenge Corporation, updated April 12, 2018

Latin America and the Caribbean: Fact Sheet on Leaders and Elections, updated April 11, 2018

Softwood Lumber Imports From Canada: Current Issues, updated April 12, 2018

Yemen: Civil War and Regional Intervention, updated April 12, 2018


Gassing is bad, but OK for some: US complicity in past chemical attacks

April 16, 2018

by F. Michael Maloof, former Pentagon security analyst.


US hypocrisy over its self-righteous military attack on Syria over a recent alleged use of not-yet-verified chemical weapons in Douma raises the question: Is gassing bad, but OK for some countries?

The reason for asking is the rush to judgment by the United States, Britain and France to bomb selected military locations in Syria, which these countries claim research and develop, manufacture and store chemical weapons.

Yet, the United States and some of its Western allies, including Great Britain, have a history of being complicit in a country’s – namely Iraq’s – use of chemical weapons if it suited their national interest.

So, where’s the outrage? The silence is deafening.

“The shameless, outrageous, covert military support which the United States – and Britain – gave to Saddam for more than a decade remains the one terrible story which our presidents and prime ministers do not want the world to remember,”  said Robert Fisk, correspondent for The Independent based in Beirut.

In the most recent alleged chemical attack on Douma, there was an automatic assertion by Western countries that the Syrian government did it, stepping over a red-line by gassing its own people. While the US-led coalition attacks were limited for now, Israel and Saudi Arabia have a highly vested interest in pushing for the ouster of Assad and halting Iran’s growing influence from Tehran in the Mediterranean. Their hope was that the US and its Western allies would do both, raising further questions as to whether the Douma attack was instigated by other regional players, knowing what US President Donald Trump’s reaction had been to a chemical attack in Syria last year.

A year ago this month, the US had launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at a military base which was thought to be the location from which a Syrian aircraft was said to have taken off to bomb civilians in the town of Khan Shaykhun in the Idlib Governorate of Syria. However, there was no effort to allow inspectors to gather evidence before the US launched its attack.

A year later, we see the same scenario, with Trump ordering the latest bombing just as investigators from the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons were arriving in Syria to determine whether a chemical weapon was even used.

As for motive, the Syrian government had just reached an agreement with Jaysh al-Islam, a jihadist Salafist group associated with Al-Qaeda, to leave Douma in the East Gouta section just outside of Damascus. It would allow the Assad government to reclaim the area after years of control by the JAI.

While the JAI claimed that the government had used chlorine gas on civilians in Douma, the jihadist Salafist group admits to using chlorine gas against the Kurds in Aleppo in 2016.

For the US to act before any evidence could be gathered strongly suggests an effort to cover up evidence that might point fingers to the West.

Once again, a parallel can be made with the West trying to hide the truth. Once Saddam Hussein was put to death, Fisk said the secret of US and British complicity in Hussein’s use of chemical weapons during the eight-year Iran-Iraq that began in September 1980 supposedly died with him.

“We’ve shut him up,” said Fisk. “The moment Saddam’s hooded executioner pulled the level of the trapdoor in Baghdad yester morning, Washington’s secrets were safe… And now Saddam, who knew the full extent of that Western support – given to him while he was perpetrating some of the worst atrocities since the Second World War – is dead.

“…. Many in Washington and London must have sighed with relief that the old man had been silenced forever,” Fisk added.And other self-righteous Western countries that now condemn Assad without proof of chemical-weapons use, were similarly complicit. Fisk points to a German arms dealer whom he had met, who had direct contacts “between Washington and Baghdad – at America’s request.”

The arms dealer told Fisk that he was invited to go to the Pentagon, where he was handed US satellite photographs of the Iranian front lines. Fisk’s source then took the photos and maps of Iranian troop placements back to Baghdad via Frankfurt, flying from there on Iraqi Airways to the Iraqi capital. “The Iraqis were very, very grateful,” Fisk said.

Iraq then used chemical weapons on the Iranians for the first time on January 13, 1981 out of concern that the Iranians were gaining a military advantage. He said the Iraqis for the first time had used a combination of nerve gas which would paralyze the victims’ bodies, followed up with mustard gas and Sarin to “drown them in their own lungs. That’s why they spat blood.”

The Pentagon apparently was aware of Hussein’s use of these chemical weapons. Lt. Col. Rick Francona, who was with the Defense Intelligence Agency at the time, provided members of the Iraqi general staff with detailed information on Iranian deployments, tactical planning and bomb-damage assessments. Francona “reported back to Washington that the Iraqis had used chemical weapons to achieve their victory in recapturing the Fao peninsula from the Iranians.”

In an interview with Foreign Policy, Francona said that the Iraqis didn’t have to tell Washington officials that they were using nerve gas. “They didn’t have to,” Francona said. “We already knew.”

Then documents from the Central Intelligence Agency that were declassified revealed that the US knew of Iraqi’s chemical weapons attacks. The declassified materials, which were in the National Archives, revealed details on the depth of US knowledge of how and when Iraq employed the deadly chemical weapons.

“They are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched,” according to Foreign Policy.

High-level CIA officials also knew of the location of Iraqi chemical weapons assembly plants for mustard gas. Much of the manufacturing equipment for Hussein’s regime to make chemical weapons came predominantly from Western European countries, including Italy – the same countries who now condemn Assad for the alleged use of chemical weapons without any proof.

However, Hussein wasn’t content with using chemical weapons just on the Iranians. In 1987 and 1988, he decided to use them on the Kurds, who live in northern Iraq. The most egregious chemical weapons attack occurred in March 1988 in the Kurdish village of Halabja, killing some 6,800 Kurds, mostly civilians.

Even though President George W. Bush referred to Hussein’s gassing of his own people as a justification for regime change, captured Iraqi secret police documents and declassified US government documents, as well as interviews with former US officials, reveal that the US was fully aware. At the time, Hussein blamed Iran for gassing the Kurds, but the US knew differently, with the State Department instructing its diplomats to say that Iran was partly to blame.

At the time of the chemical attack on civilians in Halabja, there was no reaction from the US or the UK or other countries on the attack. Brian K. Price, a military veteran, said that “there was no reaction by the US and the UK and other countries because the US calculated the coordinates for all of Saddam Hussein’s sarin attacks, including the ones in Halabja.”

In pointing a finger at Assad and claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin was complicit in a chemical weapons attack in Douma, the US needs to atone for its own complicity in what it did by giving material assistance to Hussein for his use of chemical weapons. The US should have allowed for an impartial investigation prior to launching a military attack on Syria.

However, launching a military attack before the investigation strongly suggests that such evidence once again could point to Western complicity in Douma, given the US backing of the Jaysh al-Islam militant group associated with Al-Qaeda and the vital interests of other countries in the region. For now, however, we have confirmation of US complicity and assistance in Hussein’s chemical warfare effort not only against Iran but also against innocent Iraqi citizens.


Disaster At Bari

It was the most devastating enemy surprise attack since Pearl Harbor—but what mysterious affliction were people dying of two days later?

October 1971

by Glenn Infield

American Heritage Volume 22,Issue 6

The port of Bari, Italy, was crowded on the afternoon of December 2, 1943, when Captain Otto Heitmann returned to his ship, the  John Bascom , with the two thousand dollars he had drawn from the U.S. Army Finance Section to pay his crew. Bari was a pleasant, peaceful city on the heel of the peninsula, little changed by the war except that in 1943 American and British military personnel crowded Victor Emmanuel Street and Corso Cavour instead of the Germans, who had been forced to flee northward. Usually Heitmann enjoyed the time he had to spend at this port on the Adriatic Sea while his Liberty Ship was unloaded, but he was nervous this December day. There were too many ships in the harbor. Without even lifting his binoculars to his eyes he could see the  Joseph Wheeler, Hadley F. Brown, Pumper, Aroostook, John L. Motley, Samuel J. Tilden , and  Devon Coast , all jammed in the main section of the harbor or along the east jetty. He had been told there were at least twenty-nine ships at Bari waiting for aviation fuel, bombs, ammunition, hospital equipment, and other military supplies to be unloaded. The  John Harvey , a Liberty Ship captained by his acquaintance Elwin P. Knowles, was anchored at pier 29. Heitmann idly wondered what she was carrying, unaware that the secret cargo aboard the  John Harvey had already set the stage for tragedy at Bari.


Heitmann stared skyward in the direction his second officer, William Rudolph, was pointing. There, high in the sky where the last rays of the sun glinted on its wings, was a lone plane crossing directly over the crowded harbor.

High above Bari harbor in the plane, Oberleutnant Werner Hahn counted the Allied ships in port and knew the time had come. The Luftwaffe reconnaissance pilot banked his plane northward and hurried back toward his home base to report.

While Heitmann was standing on the deck of his ship in the harbor watching the plane high above him, General James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle was busy in his Fifteenth Air Force headquarters building along the waterfront. The man who had become famous as leader of the raid on Tokyo in 1942 was struggling with the multitude of problems involved with a new organization. All day long he had heard C-47’s flying in men and supplies for his air force, and the sound of one more aircraft didn’t interest him. What did interest him was getting the B-17’s and B-24’s at the Foggia airfield complex, seventy miles to the north, into operation as soon as feasible. The possibility of a German air raid on Bari was out of the question. Hadn’t British Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham, commanding officer of the British air forces in the area, assured everyone that very afternoon that the Luftwaffe did not have the resources to attack the city or the harbor? “I would regard it as a personal affront and insult if the Luftwaffe should attempt any significant action in this area,” Coningham had stated. So even when the lights were turned on along the harbor for the unloading that would continue through the night—positive proof that the British, who controlled the harbor, “knew” it was secure from enemy attack—Doolittle wasn’t apprehensive.

As the lights were turned on at Bari harbor, 105 Ju-88 bombers led by Oberleutnant Gustav Teuber swung west far out over the Adriatic Sea and headed straight for Bari. Teuber’s estimated time of arrival over the harbor was 7:30  P.M.

In the city many of the inhabitants were hurrying toward the Chiesa San Domenico opera house on Victor Emmanuel Street. The evening concerts were a part of Italian culture and were held regardless of which nation controlled the country. The fishermen and their families who lived in the old section of the city near the waterfront, however, seldom could afford the concerts. The younger members usually went to Bambino Stadium to watch the Americans play baseball or football. The older inhabitants often went to Mass in the Basilica of San Nicola, the church built to honor St. Nicholas, better known in many parts of the world as Santa Claus. The sick and disabled stayed at home among the narrow, winding streets bordered by one—and two-storied houses jammed close together. Old Bari had few escape routes from it … and those who lived there would soon need them all.

Fifty miles east of Bari, Oberleutnant Teuber looked at his watch. It was 7:15  P.M. He could not yet see the glow of the harbor through the cockpit window of his Ju-88, but he knew they were getting close to their target—the Allied ships in Bari harbor. He gently nosed his plane down to wave-top level, and the other aircraft followed. They were now below the radar defenses of the city.

As the German bombers roared in, ten minutes later, Teuber saw the ships lined up in Bari harbor and gasped. It was unbelievable. He did not have time to count them, but there were targets everywhere he looked. Selecting one of the ships, he called to his bombardier: “Prepare to drop bombs!” The ship he had selected was the  John Harvey .

The first bomb explosions were off target and hit in the city, but as Captain Heitmann watched aboard the  John Bascom , Teuber and his fellow pilots discovered their error and began “walking” the bombs out into the water toward the ships. Yard by yard the bombs came closer, working their way up the line of moored ships one by one. The  Joseph Wheeler took a direct hit and burst into flames; moments later the  John L. Motley , anchored next to Heitmann’s ship, took a bomb on its number-five hatch, and the deck cargo caught fire. It was too late to move the  John Bascom . Suddenly a string of explosions ripped the ship from fore to aft, and Heitmann was lifted completely off his feet and slammed hard against the wheel-house door. The door broke off its hinges, and both the captain and the door hit the deck.

At pier 29 a small fire had started on board the  John Harvey .

General Doolittle was leafing through a report on his desk when his office suddenly became much brighter. Before he could get to his feet, the windows on the side of the office facing the harbor shattered, and the glass flew across the room, narrowly missing him. Hurrying to the opening where the glass had been a minute before, Doolittle looked out at the harbor. One look was enough. His men, his supplies, his equipment for the Fifteenth Air Force were gone.

The citizens of Bari, unaccustomed to air attacks, were confused and frightened. Those who were in the opera house were unharmed, but many were panic-stricken. In the old city, people hurried from the Basilica of San Nicola where they had been attending Mass when the first explosions sounded. They had just reached the street when another stick of bombs hit nearby. Hundreds were now racing through the old section of Bari, trying to escape the narrow streets where flames made it nearly impossible to breathe. Their immediate concern was to get away, even if it meant drawing closer to the burning ships in the harbor. They dashed wildly, running into each other, knocking children to the street in their headlong rush to what they thought was safety. Many of them reached the edge of the harbor moments before the flames on the  John Harvey reached the cargo the ship was carrying.

The explosion of the  John Harvey shook the entire harbor. Clouds of smoke, tinted every color of the rainbow, shot thousands of feet into the air. Meteoric sheets of metal rocketed in all directions, carrying incendiary torches to other ships and setting off a series of explosions that made the harbor a holocaust. Jimmy Doolittle, still standing by the shattered window of his office, was staggered by the terrific blast. Huddled on the east jetty, Heitmann and other survivors from the ships in the harbor were bathed in the bright light momentarily and then bombarded by debris, oil, and dirty water. The inhabitants of old Bari who had rushed to the harbor to escape the flames within the walls of the ancient section were gathered along the shore when the  John Harvey exploded. There was no time to run, no time to hide, no time for anything. One moment they were rejoicing in their good fortune in escaping from the flames of the old city; the next they were struck by the unbearable concussion of the blast. Some were blown upward, their broken bodies flying twenty-five to thirty feet high. Some were hurtled straight back the way they had come.

A short time after the  John Harvey exploded, Deck Cadet James L. Cahill, a member of the ship’s crew who had been on shore leave, reached dockside. He looked around wildly.

“She’s gone!” he exclaimed. “The  John Harvey is gone!”

A British major standing nearby looked at the distressed crewman. “A pity. What did she carry?”

“Ammunition, I think.” Cahill’s face clouded. “And … and …”


“I don’t know. Nobody knew. It was a big secret.”

The “secret” to which the deck cadet referred became vital within twenty-four hours at the various hospitals in the Bari area where the hundreds of victims were taken. At the Three New Zealand General Hospital, the Ninety-eight British General Hospital, and the American Twenty-six General Hospital, the horde of incoming patients filled all available beds, and many were placed in vacant rooms that were still not equipped for use. The nurses and doctors were overwhelmed but did their best to treat the victims for their injuries and the obvious shock most of them had suffered. At least they could be wrapped in blankets. Unfortunately, many of the survivors were still in their dirty wet clothes the next day when a striking variation from the normal symptons of shock was noticed by the medical personnel. Nearly all the patients had eye troubles. Weeping became very marked and was associated with spasms of the eyelids and a morbid fear of light. Many of the survivors complained that they were blind.

Other puzzling factors were the pulse and blood pressure readings of the patients supposedly in shock or suffering from immersion and exposure. The pulse beat was barely evident, and blood pressure was extremely low; yet the patients did not appear to be in what doctors call clinical shock. There was no worried or anxious expression or restlessness, no shallow breathing, and the heart action was only a moderately rapid 110–120.

On the morning following the German air raid, skin lesions were noticed on many of the survivors. The coloration of the lesion area was most striking: bronze, reddish brown, or tan on some victims, red on others. The distribution of the burns was varied, but a certain pattern began to emerge. It seemed to depend upon the degree of exposure to the slimy waters of the harbor. Those who had been completely immersed were burned all over, but those who had gotten only their feet or arms in the water were burned nowhere else. Survivors who had been splashed by the water had lesions where the water hit them. And those who had washed the slime from the harbor waters off their bodies and put on clean clothes had no burns at all.

The doctors and nurses did everything they could think of for the victims, but none of the normal treatments for burns or shock or exposure aided the survivors. They would improve temporarily, take a sudden turn for the worse, and then abruptly die for no apparent reason. By the end of the second day after the Bari attack it was clear that outside help was needed: the mysterious deaths among both military and civilian casualties were increasing.

Allied Force Headquarters in Algiers, under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, was aware of the disastrous air strike made by the Luftwaffe at Bari. However, it wasn’t until General Fred Blesse, deputy surgeon for Allied Force Headquarters, received a “red light” call from Italy that anyone outside the Bari area was alerted to the mysterious malady that was causing so many deaths. He immediately dispatched Lieutenant Colonel Stewart F. Alexander to Italy to investigate.

Alexander, a graduate of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, had served as medical officer with General George S. Patton, Jr., had been one of the few medical officers present at the Casablanca conference, had later joined the staff of General Mark W. Clark, and had finally moved to Algiers and the Allied Force Headquarters after having been selected by Eisenhower for his staff. Alexander had also worked at the Medical Research Division of the Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, before going overseas. The knowledge gained there would be invaluable at Bari.

On reaching Bari, Alexander immediately toured the area military hospitals, consulting with the medical staffs and examining the casualties. As he stepped into the first hospital, he turned to the British officer accompanying him and asked one question: “What is that odor? Garlic?”

“No, it’s from the patients. ,W& haven’t had time to disinfect the wards since their arrival from the harbor.”

Alexander remembered the long hours of research at Edgewood Arsenal: the same odor had permeated his laboratory there. Yet he couldn’t believe that the odor in the hospital came from the same source. Surely not.

As he examined the small blisters on the patients, however, Alexander saw more evidence that fitted in with the strange odor. The fluid accumulations of the blisters in the superficial layers of the skin were diffused, and in many cases it was difficult to determine where the edges of the blisters were located. He checked x rays taken of the victims and discovered that very few of the patients with the mysterious symptoms had suffered blast damage to their lungs, yet they had lower-respiratory-tract symptoms. He watched one patient, who appeared to be in marked shock but was remarkably clear mentally, tell a nurse he was feeling much better—and then die seconds later without any indication of distress at the time of death. Alexander was now convinced that his initial theory was correct.

“I feel that these men may have been exposed to mustard in some manner,” he explained to the shocked hospital officials. “Do you have any idea of how this might have occurred?”

Those who heard Alexander’s statement that December day were stunned. After their initial reaction, however, they remembered a statement Franklin Delano Roosevelt had made in August, 1943, after he had been alarmed by reports of the imminent use of chemical agents by the Axis. In part the statement said: “As President of the United States … I want to make clear beyond all doubt … [that] any use of poison gas by any Axis power … will immediately be followed by the fullest retaliation …”

Was it possible that poison gas had been aboard one of the bombed Liberty Ships, brought to Italy for stockpiling in case it was needed? Alexander was determined to find out. If he was to save any of the victims still alive, he  had to find out, and fast. The British port authorities, when questioned, either did not know at that time or would not disclose for security reasons whether any of the ships carried poison gas. Alexander finally persuaded them to sketch the location of as many ships as they could recall, hoping that by correlating the deaths in the hospitals with the ship positions, he could narrow down his investigation to one or two of the Liberty vessels. He also alerted the military dock units to watch for any sign of chemical containers, had samples of the slimy harbor water analyzed, and ordered autopsies on the victims. His efforts paid off with dramatic suddenness when he received a telephone call from a British officer at the dock.

“We have just recovered a bomb casing from the floor of the harbor. It definitely contained mustard.”

Shortly afterward, the bomb casing was identified as an American-type M47A1 hundred-pound bomb. The sketch of the anchored ships indicated that most deaths occurred near ship No. 1, which was identified as the American merchant ship  John Harvey . Finally—and reluctantly—the British port officials admitted that the manifest of the  John Harvey listed a hundred tons of mustard bombs, intended for storage in Italy in case they were required for retaliation after an Axis poison-gas attack. It was obvious that when the ship exploded, the mustard in the bombs was released. Part of it mixed with the oily water of the harbor, part of it with the smoke clouds drifting toward the city.

There were 617 recorded mustard-gas casualties among the military and merchant-marine personnel at Bari on the night of December 2, 1943, and eighty-four victims died. The full count will never be known, nor will the number of civilians who died from the mustard ever be learned. When it is considered that of the 70,752 men hospitalized for poison gas in World War I, only 2 per cent died, the disaster at Bari is put in its true proportion. Seventeen ships were totally destroyed by the German bombers, and eight others were damaged—the worst shipping disaster suffered by the Allies during World War n with the exception of the Pearl Harbor attack.

The Bari mustard tragedy was kept secret long after the end of World War II and is little known even today. It had far-reaching consequences, however. One lesson learned was the absolute necessity that those involved with the shipping of chemical agents should notify the proper officials immediately in case of a mishap or danger of a mishap. Very few of the mustard casualties need have died if their exposure to the poison gas had been known immediately. If the warning had been given at once, not only would the casualties have been treated differently, but many of the rescue personnel, crew members of the ships not sunk, and hospital personnel would not have suffered chemical burns as they did.

In addition, the action of the British officials made the situation worse. The British controlled the port, and they were extremely reluctant to admit that any Allied ship carried poison gas. Even when Alexander had proved beyond a doubt that the casualties were suffering from mustard exposure, Prime Minister Winston Churchill refused to permit any British medical reports to mention the mustard. The official reports, except for one or two preliminary reports issued before his ruling, stated that the burns should be listed as “ NYD ”—“not yet diagnosed.” This restriction prevented medical staffs in many of the outlying hospitals, where a large number of patients were taken, from knowing the victims’ true condition until too late, causing many unnecessary deaths.

Bari was the only major poison-gas incident of World War II. The tragedy was and is a grim reminder that all nations have secret stores of chemical agents ready for use against each other if the need arises. The victims of Bari, those who died and those who lived, learned the horrors of chemical warfare. Even in an age when the nuclear bomb is the ultimate in weapons, poison gas is still a fearful threat. Let the user beware.


Is inequality good or bad for the economy?

The gap between the rich and the poor has been widening in most countries. Economists are analyzing the potential consequences, among them pundits at the IMF which is holding its spring meeting in Washington this week.

April 16, 2018

by Andreas Becker


Economists don’t have a reputation for being compassionate. They focus on numbers, not human fortune. Most have no problem with wealth or income inequality. Quite the contrary: People work harder if they want to move up. Redistribution of wealth and social programs are costly and dampen motivation, the argument goes.

But for some years now, there have been signs of a change of heart. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), not exactly known for leftist leanings, is now warning that inequality is hurting growth. The OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, agrees.

Hurting growth

“When income inequality rises, economic growth falls,” writes Federico Cingano in his study for the OECD. Researchers at the IMF came to similar conclusions: “If the income share of the top 20 percent (the rich) increases, then GDP growth actually declines over the medium term.”

For OECD countries, the loss in growth had amounted to a whopping 8.5 percent of GDP over the last 25 years, the study found. For Germany, Berlin-based research institute DIW calculated a yearly loss of €40 billion ($49.5 billion), in a study commissioned by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which is affiliated to the Social Democratic Party.

The findings pleased those in favor of redistribution of wealth, welfare programs and higher taxes for the rich. Finally, it seemed, there was scientific proof that the fight against inequality was a worthy cause — not just for moral or political, but also financial reasons.

Too good to be true

“If that was true, all rational people would have to be in favor of redistribution of wealth,” Holger Stichnoth tells DW. He’s the head of distribution studies at the Center for European Economic Research (ZEW) in Mannheim. “But this is too good to be true.”

Stichnoth says the studies failed to prove a causal relationship between inequality and lower growth. Other economists had similar qualms, criticized the studies’ methodology and use of data, and came up with different results.

“It’s still unclear whether the link [between inequality and growth] is positive, negative or not there at all,” says Stichnoth.

“That’s the dilemma of the social sciences,” he adds. “It’s just very hard to prove a causal relationship.”

Researchers at the IMF recently published new findings, trying to determine the exact point where inequality starts to hurt growth. The debate is not over yet.

Growing inequality

Economists do agree on some points, though. For example that low-income families are able to invest less in education, thus reducing their chances to find well-paying jobs.

There’s also no contesting the fact that income inequality is on the rise. The IMF calls this “the defining challenge of our time.” According to the OECD, “the gap between rich and poor is at its highest level in 30 years” in most of its 35 member countries.

“Income inequality has increased in nearly all world regions in recent decades,” says the World Inequality Report 2018. Exceptions are few and far between: the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and Brazil. Here, “inequality remained relatively stable, at extremely high levels.”

So, does it all boil down to the old adage that the rich get richer while the poor stay poor? Not quite, argues distribution analyst Holger Stichnoth. “Some countries which used to be very poor have caught up massively in the last 30 years.”

While inequality within China or India is huge, the gap between these countries and Europe or the US is narrower than it used to be. Viewed this way, global inequality has been reduced.

Less inequality

One way to measure that is the Gini index. In theory, a Gini of zero means that everybody has exactly the same income, and a Gini of 100 that one person gets it all. The global Gini index has now dropped to 65, a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics showed, thanks to fast-paced economic development in many mostly Asian countries. The researchers expect the Gini to drop further and reach 61 by 2035.

But even then, the global Gini would be far higher than it is today within individual countries like Germany(29), the US (39), or China (47). The world as a whole, it seems, is more unjust than nation states.

Looking for protection

The lower half of the world’s population has seen their incomes rise significantly in the past decades. “But this is little consolation for those who do not benefit from this development,” said Stichnoth. This includes Europeans and Americanswith low or middle incomes. Viewed globally, they might be considered rich, but their incomes have stagnated, according to the World Inequality Report, or even shrunk, according to other studies.

High but falling global inequality, and a widening gap between rich and poor within countries — all of these trends might help explain the rise in populism, nationalism and protectionism in many places today.

“Citizens can lose confidence in institutions, eroding social cohesion and confidence in the future,” the IMF study said.

Empty coffers

It’s unclear if governments can reverse this trend, because they often lack the resources.

“Nearly all countries” have privatized large parts of publicly-held assets over the past decades.

“Countries have become rich but governments have become poor,” the World Inequality Report concludes. “This limits the ability of governments to tackle inequality.”


Summary of Eric Hoffer’s, The True Believer

September 4, 2017


“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents … Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.” ~ Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements

(This article was reprinted in the online magazine of the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, October 19, 2017.)

Eric Hoffer (1898 – 1983) was an American moral and social philosopher who worked for more than twenty years as longshoremen in San Francisco. The author of ten books, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983. His first book, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951), is a work in social psychology which discusses the psychological causes of fanaticism. It is widely considered a classic.


The first lines of Hoffer’s book clearly state its purpose:

This book deals with some peculiarities common to all mass movements, be they religious movements, social revolutions or nationalist movements. It does not maintain that all movements are identical, but that they share certain essential characteristics which give them a family likeness.

All mass movements generate in their adherents a readiness to die and a proclivity for united action; all of them, irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance; all of them are capable of releasing a powerful flow of activity in certain departments of life; all of them demand blind faith and single-hearted allegiance …

The assumption that mass movements have many traits in common does not imply that all movements are equally beneficent or poisonous. The book passes no judgments, and expresses no preferences. It merely tries to explain… (pp. xi-xiii)

Part 1 – The Appeal of Mass Movements

Hoffer says that mass movements begin when discontented, frustrated, powerless people lose faith in existing institutions and demand change. Feeling hopeless, such people participate in movements that allow them to become part of a larger collective. They become true believers in a mass movement that “appeals not to those intent on bolstering and advancing a cherished self, but to those who crave to be rid of an unwanted self because it can satisfy the passion for self-renunciation.” (p. 12)

Put another way, Hoffer says: “Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the loss of faith in ourselves.” (p. 14) Leaders inspire these movements, but the seeds of mass movements must already exist for the leaders to be successful. And while mass movements typically blend nationalist, political and religious ideas, they all compete for angry and/or marginalized people.

Part 2 – The Potential Converts

The destitute are not usually converts to mass movements; they are too busy trying to survive to become engaged. But what Hoffer calls the “new poor,” those who previously had wealth or status but who believe they have now lost it, are potential converts. Such people are resentful and blame others for their problems.

Mass movements also attract the partially assimilated—those who feel alienated from mainstream culture. Others include misfits, outcasts, adolescents, and sinners, as well as the ambitious, selfish, impotent and bored. What all converts all share is the feeling that their lives are meaningless and worthless.

A rising mass movement attracts and holds a following not by its doctrine and promises but by the refuge it offers from the anxieties, barrenness, and meaninglessness of an individual existence. It cures the poignantly frustrated not by conferring on them an absolute truth or remedying the difficulties and abuses which made their lives miserable, but by freeing them from their ineffectual selves—and it does this by enfolding and absorbing them into a closely knit and exultant corporate whole. (p. 41)

Hoffer emphasizes that creative people—those who experience creative flow—aren’t usually attracted to mass movements. Creativity provides inner joy which both acts as an antidote to the frustrations with external hardships. Creativity also relieves boredom, a major cause of mass movements:

There is perhaps no more reliable indicator of a society’s ripeness for a mass movement than the prevalence of unrelieved boredom. In almost all the descriptions of the periods preceding the rise of mass movements there is reference to vast ennui; and in their earliest stages mass movements are more likely to find sympathizers and support among the bored than among the exploited and oppressed. To a deliberate fomenter of mass upheavals, the report that people are bored still should be at least as encouraging as that they are suffering from intolerable economic or political abuses. (pp. 51-52)

Part 3 – United Action and Self-Sacrifice

Mass movements demand of their followers a “total surrender of a distinct self.” (p. 117) Thus a follower identifies as “a member of a certain tribe or family.” (p. 62) Furthermore, mass movements denigrate and “loathe the present.” (p. 74) By regarding the modern world as worthless, the movement inspires a battle against it.

What surprises one, when listening to the frustrated as the decry the present and all its works, is the enormous joy they derive from doing so. Such delight cannot come from the mere venting of a grievance. There must be something more—and there is. By expiating upon the incurable baseness and vileness of the times, the frustrated soften their feeling of failure and isolation … (p. 75)

Mass movements also promote faith over reason and serve as “fact-proof screens between the faithful and the realities of the world. (p. 79)

The effectiveness of a doctrine does not come from its meaning but from its certitude … presented as the embodiment of the one and only truth. If a doctrine is not unintelligible, it has to be vague; and if neither unintelligible nor vague, it has to be unverifiable. One has to get to heaven or the distant future to determine the truth of an effective doctrine … simple words are made pregnant with meaning and made to look like symbols in a secret message. There is thus an illiterate air about the most literate true believer. (pp. 80-81).

So believers ignore truths that contradict their fervent beliefs, but this hides the fact that,

The fanatic is perpetually incomplete and insecure. He cannot generate self-assurance out of his individual sources … but finds it only by clinging passionately to whatever support he happens to embrace. The passionate attachment is the essence of his blind devotion and religiosity, and he sees in it the sources of all virtue and strength … He sacrifices his life to prove his worth … The fanatic cannot be weaned away from his cause by an appeal to reason or his moral sense. He fears compromise and cannot be persuaded to qualify the certitude and righteousness of his holy cause. (p. 85).

Thus the doctrines of the mass movement must not be questioned—they are regarded with certitude—and they are spread through “persuasion, coercion, and proselytization.” Persuasion works best on those already sympathetic to the doctrines, but it must be vague enough to allow “the frustrated to … hear the echo of their own musings in … impassioned double talk.” (p. 106)  Hoffer quotes Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels: “a sharp sword must always stand behind propaganda if it is to be really effective.” (p. 106) The urge to proselytize comes not from a deeply held belief in the truth of doctrine but from an urge of the fanatic to “strengthen his own faith by converting others.” (p. 110)

Moreover, mass movements need an object of hate which unifies believers, and “the ideal devil is a foreigner.” (p. 93) Mass movements need a devil. But in reality, the “hatred of a true believer is actually a disguised self-loathing …” and “the fanatic is perpetually incomplete and insecure.” (p. 85) Through their fanatical action and personal sacrifice, the fanatic tries to give their life meaning.

Part 4 – Beginning and End

Hoffer states that three personality types typically lead mass movements: “men of words”, “fanatics”, and “practical men of action.” In the beginning: “men of words” lead the movements. (Regarding the radical positions of the Republicans and Trumpism in the USA think of the late William F. Buckley.) Men of words try to “discredit the prevailing creeds” and creates a “hunger for faith” which is then fed by “doctrines and slogans of the new faith.” (p. 140) Slowly followers emerge.

Then fanatics take over. (In the USA think of the Koch brothers, Murdoch, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, etc.) Fanatics don’t find solace in literature, philosophy or art. Instead, they are characterized by viciousness, the urge to destroy, and the perpetual struggle for power. But after mass movements transform the social order, the insecurity of their followers is not ameliorated. At this point, the “practical men of action” take over and try to lead the new order by further controlling their followers.

In the end mass movements that succeed often bring about a social order worse than the previous one. (This was one of Will Durant’s findings in The Lessons of History.) As Hoffer puts it near the end of his work: “All mass movements … irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred, and intolerance.” (p. 141)

UK satellite makes HD colour movies of Earth

April 16, 2018

by Jonathan Amos Science correspondent

BBC News

A British spacecraft is now routinely making movies of the Earth’s surface.

Carbonite-2 was built by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) in Guildford and launched in January.

It is the forerunner of a network of spacecraft that will be sent up in the years ahead to be operated by Earth-i, an analytics firm also of Guildford.

Carbonite’s short clips are the first high-definition, full-colour videos to be delivered from orbit by a commercial satellite on a regular basis.

The sequences have a resolution of one metre, which means the movement of cars, lorries, boats and planes is easily discerned.

To mark the end of the satellite’s commissioning phase, SSTL has released a number of videos that have been prepared with Earth-i.

These include views of Dubai Airport, Buenos Aires, Puerto Antofagasta, Rio de Janeiro, Diego Garcia and Mumbai Airport.

Andrew Cawthorne, the director of Earth observation at SSTL, told BBC News: “We’ve made now coming up to 500 videos. We have an automated chain, which we had to fine-tune during commissioning, but now the files come down off the spacecraft and pop out a few minutes later.

“The way this satellite works is that it has to point at a target and hold its gaze, even though it’s flying overhead at several km per second. The longest video we’ve made so far is 60 seconds, and I think the accuracy of the pointing speaks for itself.”

Earth observation has long made use of great swathes of still imagery, and at much higher resolution than Carbonite can provide. But video brings some additional capabilities.

For example, seeing movement within a scene helps with interpretation.

If there are transient clouds crossing the target, having video increases the chances of getting a clear view.

Analytics experts can also use the multiple frames in the sequence to make 3D models of the ground, or to “stack” those frames, one on top of the other, to synthesise a more resolved image, down to 60cm in Carbonite’s case.

The satellite was designed by SSTL to be small (100kg), low cost and quick to assemble. To that end, it incorporates the sorts of components one would normally find in high-volume consumer electronics.

This puts Carbonite-2 at the centre of the emerging trend that is dubbed “new space”.

A growing number of start-ups, many with their roots in the IT sector, are exploiting the cheaper technologies to challenge “old” practices in the established space sector.

One key innovation they are promoting is high-repeat imagery. That is, acquiring views of the same scene several times a day. This makes detecting “change”, and the causes of change, in an Earth scene much more straightforward.

But achieving this requires flying a whole train of satellites, and Earth-i plans to loft at least 15 Carbonites into a constellation it will call Vivid-i.

The first five of these platforms have been contracted from SSTL and should be ready for launch at the end of 2019.

“[Carbonite-2] is delivering the world’s first commercially available colour video from space. This is a big thing for the UK,” said Richard Blain, CEO of Earth-i.

“People might say, ‘well, so what?’ But this is a new paradigm in space data. One very simple, easy-to-understand example: if you take a still image of a wind farm, you can’t tell if the blades are turning. If you take a video, you will know not only which turbines are turning but how fast. At that point, you can start to calculate outputs, and that kind of information is of interest to energy traders.”

Many of the new-space constellations that are coming online are American.

Earth-i will be a prominent European challenger, as will Iceye, a Finnish start-up that launched the first of its network of radar imagers on the very same rocket that orbited Carbonite-2.

Space officials on this side of the Atlantic are keen to help these companies mature and grow their markets.

Josef Aschbacher is the director of Earth observation at the European Space Agency. He told BBC News: “Earth-i don’t need us to build their satellites; they have their own supplier in SSTL for that. But Esa can help them get their data well understood, calibrated and ‘certified’ as being of good quality, and then introduce them into a large market.

“Esa has access to a lot of users of Earth observation data [within the European Union’s Copernicus Earth observation user community], and many of them will be interested in the movies because they’re an added new type of information.”

Another major potential customer for future Vivid-i products is the British military.

It is now working with Carbonite-2’s still and moving pictures to assess how they could be best used by the armed forces.

The MoD has a future vision of video being beamed directly into the cockpit of fighter jets, to help improve the situational awareness of UK pilots.

Air Vice Marshal “Rocky” Rochelle, Chief of Staff (Capability) for the Royal Air Force, said: “I’m delighted to see how Carbonite-2 has progressed through commissioning; the images and video captures have been of high quality and will be of great utility to defence.

“We are excited to see what this capability demonstrator will teach us about how we can use small satellites, as a single platform and as a future constellation.”



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