Category Archives: Race

John Oliver on America’s mentally ill

Plus a qualification. . .

The very concept of mental illness remains a fraught subject for discourse, both for those to whom the term is applied and for those making the application.

Historically, stigmatizing labels have often been used to punish, banish, and even kill and used to incite mob violence. Just as a weed is a plant out of place, to quote my favorite college prof, so many of today’s mentally ill may be people who would fit comfortably into now-vanished societal niches where they wouldn’t be considered other than normal. And in the inverse conditions, men and women who once were considered sexual deviants and now joining the societal mainstream and are courted by advertisers.

Consider a mental illness diagnosis reported by the New York Times:

In 1851, Dr. Samuel A. Cartwright, a Louisiana surgeon and psychologist, filed a report in the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal on diseases prevalent among the South’s black population. Among the various maladies Dr. Cartwright described was “drapetomania” or “the disease causing slaves to run away.”

Though a serious mental illness, drapetomania, wrote Dr. Cartwright, was happily quite treatable: “The cause, in the most of cases, that induces the negro to run away from service, is as much a disease of the mind as any other species of mental alienation, and much more curable. With the advantages of proper medical advice, strictly followed, this troublesome practice that many negroes have of running away can be almost entirely prevented.”

Coined from Greek roots for runaway slave and madness, drapetomonia wasn’t the good doctor’s only neologism. Atlanta social worker and mental health historian Vanessa Jackson quotes from another of his“scientific” diagnoses:

Dr. Cartwright also diagnosed Dysaethesia Aethiopica, or “hebetude of the mind and obtuse sensibility of the body-a disease peculiar to Negroes called by overseers-Rascality. “ Dysethesia Aethiopica differed from other species of mental disease since physical signs and lesions accompanied it. The ever-resourceful Dr. Cartwright determined that whipping could also cure this disorder. Of course, one wonders if the whipping were not the cause of the “lesions” that confirmed the diagnosis. Not surprisingly, Dr. Cartwright was a leading thinker in the pro-slavery movement. Dr. Cartwright, in his article “Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race, “ chided his anti-slavery colleagues by noting “The northern physicians and people have noticed the symptoms, but not the disease from which they spring. They ignorantly attribute the symptoms to the debasing influence of slavery on the mind without considering that those who have never been in slavery, or their fathers before them, are the most afflicted, and the latest from the slave-holding south the least. The disease is the natural offspring of Negro liberty-the liberty to be idle, to wallow in filth, and to indulge in improper food and drinks. “

And what did the good doctor use as evidence for the validity of his diagnoses?

To ascertain the true method of governing negroes, so as to cure and prevent the disease under consideration, we must go back to the Pentateuch, and learn the true meaning of the untranslated term that represents the negro race. In the name there given to that race, is locked up the true art of governing negroes in such a manner that they cannot run away. The correct translation of that term declares the Creator’s will in regard to the negro; it declares him to be the submissive knee-bender.

But there, almost certainly, some who are genuinely afflicted beyond the realm of mere external circumstances, those whose thoughts and emotions march to different drummers.

With that by way of preface, the latest from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mental Health

Program note:

John Oliver explains how our national system of treating mental health works, or more often than not, how it doesn’t.

She’s back: Abby Martin lands a Telesur show

A hearty welcome back to the East San Francisco Bay Area’s own Abby Martin, a passionate video journalist and artist whose RT America series Breaking the Set provided incisive alternative takes on critical issues of the day from September, 2012 to February 2015.

We were saddened by her departure from RT, and welcome the arrival her new show every Friday on Telesur English.

In this edition of The Empire Files, she interviews former New York Times Mideast Bureau Chief Chris Hedges on the power of the media and its spinners in the furtherance of American imperial dreams and the internalization of imperial control in the United States itself:

Abby Martin & Chris Hedges: War, Propaganda & the Enemy Within

Program notes:

Abby Martin interviews Chris Hedges on American myths, war and revolt. Hedges explains the ‘folly of Empire,’ the dangers posed by right-wing extremism and the urgent need for a new system.

Chris Hedges is a former New York Times journalist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. He is the author of several books including his most recent, “Wages of Rebellion: the Moral Imperative of Revolt.” He publishes a weekly column on and is the host of Days of Revolt, airing every Monday night on teleSUR english.

teleSUR’s The Empire Files airs every Friday night at 10:00 EST / 7:00 PST. Watch live here:

FOLLOW @EmpireFiles & @AbbyMartin

American law enforcement, Ferguson style

From the scathing Justice Department investigation [PDF] of racism in the Ferguson, Missouri, police, justice, and governance system, examples of idiocy committed to digital form:

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 11.21

InSecurityWatch: Bigots, hackable Hillary, war

From the Independent, some things never change:

Netanyahu speech: Far-right blogger calls for Black Congressional Caucus Democrats boycotting speech to be hanged

A far right-wing radio host has sparked a race row, after she called on Democrat politicians, including members of the Black Congressional Caucus, to be hanged if they boycotted a controversial speech by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress today.

More than four dozen House and Senate Democrats said in advance they would not attend the event in a highly unusual move given historically close ties between the two allies.

Andrea Shea King, a member of the populist Tea Party movement, said in her weekly talk-radio show: “I would like to think that these guys [Congressmen boycotting the speech] could pay with their lives, hanging from a noose in front of the US Capitol Building.”

BBC News covers a spooky plea deal:

Ex-CIA chief in federal charge plea

David Petraeus, a former CIA director and four-star general, has reached a plea deal with the US Justice Department in which he will admit to mishandling classified materials.

It ends a long investigation into whether he provided secret information to his mistress. He resigned from his post at the CIA in 2012, after it emerged he was having an affair with his biographer.

A Justice Department statement said a plea agreement had been filed. The deal means that Mr Petraeus will plead guilty to one count of unauthorised removal and retention of classified material, but could avoid an embarrassing trial.

From the Intercept, the business of justice as usual:

Petraeus Plea Deal Reveals Two-Tier Justice System for Leaks

David Petraeus, the former Army general and CIA director, admitted today that he gave highly-classified journals to his onetime mistress and that he lied to the FBI about it. But he only has to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor that will not involve a jail sentence thanks to a deal with federal prosecutors. The deal is yet another example of a senior official treated leniently for the sorts of violations that lower-level officials are punished severely for.

According to the plea deal, Petraeus, while leading American forces in Afghanistan, maintained eight notebooks that he filled with highly-sensitive information about the identities of covert officers, military strategy, intelligence capabilities and his discussions with senior government officials, including President Obama. Rather than handing over these “Black Books,” as the plea agreement calls them, to the Department of Defense when he retired from the military in 2011 to head the CIA, Petraeus retained them at his home and lent them, for several days, to Paula Broadwell, his authorized biographer and mistress.

In October 2012, FBI agents interviewed Petraeus as part of an investigation into his affair with Broadwell — Petraeus would resign from the CIA the next month — and Petraeus told them he had not shared classified material with Broadwell. The plea deal notes that “these statements were false” and that Petraeus “then and there knew that he previously shared the Black Books with his biographer.” Lying to FBI agents is a federal crime for which people have received sentences of months or more than a year in jail.

Reuters covers a return contemplated:

Fugitive ex-U.S. spy Snowden in talks on returning home: lawyer

A Russian lawyer for Edward Snowden said on Tuesday the fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor who leaked details of the government’s mass surveillance programs was working with American and German lawyers to return home.

Anatoly Kucherena, who has links to the Kremlin, was speaking at a news conference to present a book he has written about his client. Moscow granted Snowden asylum in 2013, straining already tense ties with Washington.

“I won’t keep it secret that he… wants to return back home. And we are doing everything possible now to solve this issue. There is a group of U.S. lawyers, there is also a group of German lawyers and I’m dealing with it on the Russian side.”

The United States wants Snowden to stand trial for leaking extensive secrets of electronic surveillance programs by the National Security Agency (NSA). Russia has repeatedly refused to extradite him.

From Nextgov, Hillary insecurity:

Were Clinton’s Personal Emails an Open Door to Hackers?

Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email account during her time as secretary of state is raising alarm over how secure her communications were from hackers and foreign governments interested in prying into private files of the nation’s top diplomat.

Clinton, who is expected to be the Democratic front-runner for president in 2016, exclusively relied on a personal account to conduct official business during her four-year stint running the State Department, The New York Times first reported late Monday.

“The focus here really needs to be on the information-security piece,” said Chris Soghoian, principal technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s irresponsible to use a private email account when you are the head of an agency that is going to be targeted by foreign intelligence services.”

From the National Journal, Hillary hucksterism:

Clinton Emails Raise Red Flags for Keystone Review, Greens Say

  • Revelations that Clinton used private email at State erode trust among key environmental allies

Major environmental organizations are sounding the alarm over revelations that Hillary Clinton used a personal email account to conduct official business during her tenure as secretary of State, pointing to disputes about her review of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Green groups Friends of the Earth and warn that the private correspondence could have been used to cover up a conflict of interest during Clinton’s review of the controversial pipeline. And Clinton’s penchant for private email, first reported by The New York Times on Monday, is all but guaranteed to deepen distrust between the likely 2016 Democratic front-runner and her presumed allies in the environmental movement.

“This is deeply concerning,” said Ben Schreiber, the climate and energy program director for Friends of the Earth. “The total lack of transparency is a real red flag for us and adds to other concerns that we have about Clinton’s ties to the oil industry.”

From the ACLU Blog of Rights, mum’s the word:

Feds Refuse to Release Documents on “Zero-Day” Security Exploits

Federal agencies served with a Freedom of Information Act request are refusing to release documents related to their purchase, use and disclosure of zero-day exploits, keeping the American public in the dark about a practice that leaves the Internet and its users less secure.

Zero-day exploits are special software programs that take advantage of security vulnerabilities in software that are unknown to the software’s manufacturer. These exploits are frequently used by intelligence agencies and the military as well as, we suspect, by federal law enforcement agencies. But they can be used by any hackers, whether they work for the U.S. government, a foreign government, a criminal group, or anyone else. Zero-day vulnerabilities and the tools that exploit them are extremely powerful, because there is very little that potential targets can do to protect themselves.

But the effectiveness of such exploits depends on their secrecy—if the companies that make the affected software are told about the flaws, they will issue software updates to fix them. Governments thus have a strong incentive to keep information about the exploits they have developed or purchased secret from both the public and the companies who create the software we all use.

On February 5, we received a response from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to a Freedom of Information Act request we filed for the disclosure of guidance or directives related to the government’s policies for the purchase, discovery, disclosure and exploitation of zero-days. The ODNI claimed that these records are classified under Executive Order 13526, Section 1.4(c), which states that information can be considered for classification if its disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause damage to national security issues pertaining to “intelligence activities (including covert action), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology.” This response is consistent with the Obama administration’s refusal to make public most information related to its surveillance and cybersecurity policies.

From Threatpost, not reassuring:

Government Report Critical of FAA Security Controls

Federal Aviation Administration has been put on notice that its information security controls are not up to par and that a risk-based program must be implemented from the ground up in order to assure the safety of its networks and passengers in the sky.

A scathing Government Accounting Office (GAO) report released earlier this year hammered the FAA about vulnerabilities on the networks used to support communication between the ground and aircraft and monitoring systems for air traffic control that make up the national airspace system (NAS).

The GAO contends that the FAA has ignored mandates and procedures as outlined by NIST and FISMA guidelines, and has not established a governance structure in order to align security decisions with its overall mission. More specifically, the GAO said the FAA has not established specific security roles and responsibilities for the NAS, or updated its information security strategic plan in order to line it up with the FAA’s reliance on computer networks.

From the Guardian, a Berlin/London spooky rift:

British refusal to cooperate with spy inquiry causes row in Germany

  1. Committee under pressure to censor disclosures about UK activity after Downing Street threatens to break off intelligence-sharing with Berlin

Downing Street and the German chancellery are embroiled in a worsening dispute over intelligence-sharing and the covert counter-terrorism campaign because of conflicts arising from the surveillance scandals surrounding the US National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ.

According to German newspaper reports citing government and intelligence officials in Berlin, the Bundestag’s inquiry into the NSA controversy is being jeopardised by Britain’s refusal to cooperate and its threats to break off all intelligence-sharing with Berlin should the committee reveal any UK secrets.

The weekly magazine Focus reported last month that a national security aide to David Cameron had written to Peter Altmaier, Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, refusing all requests for help in the inquiry and warning that Britain would cease supplying terrorism-related intelligence to the Germans unless Berlin yielded.

It emerged during the NSA revelations that the Americans had hacked into Merkel’s mobile phone, generating outrage in Germany and feeding growing anti-American sentiment.

From Techdirt, so that’s why your calls are dropping:

In Unsealed Document, FBI Admits Stingray Devices Will Disrupt Phone Service

  • from the making-Stingray-omelets-required-breaking-a-few-communications dept

A small crack in the FBI’s Stingray secrecy has appeared. A 2012 pen register application obtained by the ACLU was previously sealed, but a motion to dismiss the evidence obtained by the device forced it out into the open. Kim Zetter at Wired notes that the application contains a rare admission that Stingray use disrupts cellphone service.

[I]n the newly uncovered document (.pdf)—a warrant application requesting approval to use a stingray—FBI Special Agent Michael A. Scimeca disclosed the disruptive capability to a judge.

“Because of the way, the Mobile Equipment sometimes operates,” Scimeca wrote in his application, “its use has the potential to intermittently disrupt cellular service to a small fraction of Sprint’s wireless customers within its immediate vicinity. Any potential service disruption will be brief and minimized by reasonably limiting the scope and duration of the use of the Mobile Equipment.”

Hacking songs British tabloid style, via the Independent:

Mirror hacking trial: Staff ‘sung Ying Tong song’ as they hacked Yentob’s phone

The “industrial scale” phone hacking conducted by journalists at Mirror Group Newspapers went “right to the top” of the organisation, the High Court has heard.

Senior journalists at Trinity Mirror’s three national titles presided over a culture that made hacking at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World “look like a cottage industry”, the first civil trial related to voicemail hacking was told.

Phone hacking was so endemic that one senior journalist even suggested that an Enigma-style code-breaking machine should be developed that would automatically “crack” protected voicemail pin-numbers, to make listening to messages even easier.

After the jump, Ukraine demands a Crimean return, Russia and Egypt hold naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean, imams lose visas for Dutch speeches, a  Gaddafi kin’s European 9/11/ warning, the Turkish president’s high tech food tasters, a Mossad report debunks Netanyahu’s Iranian claims, straight from the plot of a 1983 James Bond thriller to the phone in your pocket, allegations of overzealous federal monitoring of corporate cybersecurity, your hardwired-for-self-subervison tech?, casting an iCloud over iPhone security, an American military satellite explodes, and on to the ISIS front with Iran engaged and the battle for Tikrit bogs down, Iran eyes a Japanese nuclear reactor buy, then on to the Boko Haram front with a beheading video and Cameroon vows a prolonged Boko Haram fights as the country’s own youth sign up, Pakistan welcomes a prolonged U.S. Afghan stay, a Chinese admiral welcomes tension with the U.S., and Beijing documents Japanese militarism for a World War II reminder, Shinzo Abe mulls his own World War II declaration, a Japanese minesweeping mission assertedwhile Abe faces a donor conflict of interest allegation, plus U.S. police chiefs financially tied to a body cam maker. . .
Continue reading

GOP Racism: They just can’t help themselves

No sooner did former Reagan policy adviser Dinesh D’Souza label Barack Obama a ghetto “boy” who just couldn’t help himself than the New York Republican Party treated members to a graphic laden with all manner of intolerant bile, with the target being New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio, a white liberal Democrat married to an African American woman.

Parodying those ubiquitous ads for an S&M flick now scoring big at the box office, the mayor is transformed into a cross-dresser dominated by a black man, the Rev. Al Sharpton.

At once the mayor is denigrated for treating an African American as his superior [a thought chilling to the hearts of racists], but he’s also implicitly labeled as either homosexual or transgender, both wholly unnatural in the eyes of most folks in the Grand Old Party:

BLOG Racism

Gothamist reports the GOP defensive line:

The state GOP defended its decision to mockingly compare the slap-and-tickle romance in “50 Shades” to the close working relationship between de Blasio and Sharpton.

“The parallels between the heroine of America’s hottest movie and New York’s mayor are striking: both have completely ceded control over their situation to outside forces, and the results are difficult to watch,” said spokesman David Laska.

Another New York Republican crosses the same line

Then there’s another prominent GOPer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who, Politico reports, told fellow Republicans:

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said during the dinner at the 21 Club, a former Prohibition-era speakeasy in midtown Manhattan. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

In other words, as D’Souza spouted, “You can take the boy out of the ghetto. . .”

Giuliani went way over the top in his denunciation, going from the hyperbolic to the outright absurd:

“What country has left so many young men and women dead abroad to save other countries without taking land? This is not the colonial empire that somehow he has in his hand. I’ve never felt that from him. I felt that from [George] W. [Bush]. I felt that from [Bill] Clinton. I felt that from every American president, including ones I disagreed with, including [Jimmy] Carter. I don’t feel that from President Obama.”

That argument would ring rather false in the Philippines, a country the U.S. effectively annexed for most of the first half of the 20th Century, and it would probably ring false in Iraq, too, as well as other nations where the U.S. has helped overthrow elected democratic governments [think Chile] and installed puppet regimes to ensure the continued flow of natural resources to the U.S.

And while the U.S. sometimes didn’t leave boots on the ground [though often they did, renamed “military advisers,” Washington did fund and armed their military forces and secret police, trained their officers, and provided endless intelligence of their potential opponents.

May Rudy and his fellow GOP mossbacks oughta put a LifeLock on their lips and keyboards.

Racism ain’t pretty, not matter how hard your try to obscure it.

A Reagan policy advisor flies the racist flag

As in calling an African American adult male a ghetto “boy.”

Dinesh D’Souza, for policy adviser to President Reagan and a convicted campaign funding fraudster, remains a darling of the Republican party.

He’s also an exemplar of the rotten racism embodied in the policies and practices of the party’s rotten neoliberal core, as witnessed in an infamous Tweet he vomited out today:

BLOG Dinesh

Really classy, Dinesh. One would hope the more reasonable Republicans [if any still exist] would be the ones cowering in embarrassment.

But thanks are due, for rarely is the racism implicit in neoliberalism made so delightfully explicit.

Everything you wanted to know about Uber

What Walmart is to shopping, Uber is to transport — a ruthless money machine stripping workers of their rights as it offloads both personal and corporate responsibility onto their backs — through that wonderful pretense of the “independent contractor” — and stiffing taxpayers with the costs of the inevitable disasters.

More than that, Uber is destroying yet another bastion of organized labor, that ultimate desideratum of neoliberalism, which resents any force, whether exerted by government or the workers who actually make the money that their financial overlords lay claim to by virtue of their social Darwinian pretensions to natural superiority.

But, damn, it sure is clever, ain’t it?

And what a name, an almost mocking allusion to the Nietzschean pretensions of the pseudolibertarians of Silicon Valley!

Dollars for the Ubermensch, peanuts — and liability — for the serfs.

So with that by way of context, here’s a fascinating Laura Flanders interview of Bhairavi Desai, a New York cabbie who is spearheading the fight to retain worker rights and dignity.

Oh, and Uber has just hired a key Obama staffer. But what else is new, right?

From GRITtv’s Laura Flanders Show via teleSUR English:

The Laura Flanders Show: Bhairavi Desai

Program notes:

The US media has been breathlessly reporting the spin about Uber, the new $40 billion dollar car service. This episode explores the other side, with Bhairavi Desai, co-founder and Director of the Taxi Workers Alliance.

The show also features an interview with 98-year-old civil rights activist Esther Cooper Jackson, co-founders of Freedomways magazine.