Category Archives: Video

Dutch TV profiles a Black Lives Matter founder


Black Lives Matter, perhaps the most significant new American social movement since the Occupy phenomenon, coalesced following the 26 February shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, and the acquittal six months later of his killer, George Zimmerman.

Three community organizers — Opal Tometi of Brooklyn, New, York, Alicia Garza of Oakland, California, and Patrisse Cullors of Los Angeles — gave the movement its name and form.

But it was the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on 9 August 2014 that gave the movement national attention, when organizers headed to Missouri and helped organizer protests that brought the focus of the world’s media to bear.

It was Patrisse Cullors along with another activist who seized the stage from Bernie Sanders during a Town Hall forum in Phoenix in July 2015, drawing yet more attention on the movement.

In this documentary from Dutch public television we get a closer look at Cullors, and the complexity of a figure at the center of the movement. It’s a fascinating story.

From VPRO Backlight:

Black Lives Matter

Program notes:

In 2013 in Sanford, Florida, vigilante George Zimmerman was found not guilty of the murder of 17-year-old African American Trayvon Martin. As a result, the struggle against police violence flared up under the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and turned into one of the biggest grassroots movements in the United States. VPRO Backlight talked to co-founder Patrisse Cullors about the various forms of violence against black citizens, and why resistance is essential.

Director: Nirit Peled
Research: Henneke Hagen

French central bank warns of a global slowdown


Thee global economic is engaged in a slow-moving crash.

When you consider the reasons, it’s inevitable.

While the rich are getting richer , everyone else is stuck or heading down [see our earlier posts].

And the rich are getting richer because their wealth is invested heavily in the  parasitical FIRE sector, the finance, insurance, and real estate markets,

Real economic growth, based on the consumption of goods and services, can’t happen without growth in the wages of the working and middle classes, the driving factors leading to consumption of those tangible goods and broadly used services.

But corporate mergers are producing cuts in pay and benefits, with cash assets stripped away and pocketed by plutocratic plunderers, rather than being shared with those folks whose labors produced all that wealth and could use their enlarged share of the pie to actually grow the economy [and, yes, we’re well aware that endless economic growth is itself problematic in the longer run].

And to buy what goods they can, people are increasingly forced to turn to debt, either through bank loans or credit cards, paying ever-higher rates of interest to the FIREy plutocrats.

And with education being privatized or subjected to reduced state subsidies, ever larger numbers of young people are being forced to take loans to attain educations once taken for granted.

And the FIRE folks get richer again.

And now for the warning, via Agence France Presse:

France’s central bank trimmed its growth forecasts for 2016 and 2017 on Friday, citing a deterioration in the global economy and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

The Bank of France revised its 2016 and 2017 growth forecast down to 1.3 percent, having previously expected growth of 1.4 percent this year and 1.5 percent next year.

It also predicted growth of 1.4 percent in 2018, down from its previous figure of 1.6 percent.

“In 2017 and 2018, the downward revision of our GDP growth projection… is mainly due to the deterioration in the international environment,” it said in a statement.

“The projection is thus particularly affected by less favourable foreign demand prospects.., notably as a result of the impact of Brexit on the UK economy and of its dissemination to the euro area economies.”

Understanding the predatory FIRE sector

For more on the current slowdown and its causes and the predatory nature of the FIRE section, watch this very informative German television interview with University of Missouri-Kansas City economist Michael Hudson, perhaps the most incisive commentator of the modern economic conditions:

Michael Hudson: How Private Debt Makes the Rich Richer

Program notes:

Michael Hudson talks about the causes of inequality in the 21st century

Our author Michael Hudson summarizes some important theses from his book “The Sector – Why Global Finance Is Destroying Us”.
The interview took place on the occasion of the 16th International Literary Festival in Berlin for a symposium titled “Inequality in the 21st Century. Progress, capitalism and global poverty. “ The authors, Angus Deaton, David Graeber and Michael Hudson, presented the most important theses of their current books.

Michael Hudson Bio: Michael Hudson is one of very few economists – globally – who perfectly predicted the 2008 financial crisis.

Michael is President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends (ISLET), a Wall Street Financial Analyst, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and author of Killing the Host (2015), The Bubble and Beyond (2012), Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (1968 & 2003), Trade, Development and Foreign Debt (1992 & 2009) and of The Myth of Aid (1971), amongst many others.

ISLET engages in research regarding domestic and international finance, national income and balance-sheet accounting with regard to real estate, and the economic history of the ancient Near East.

Michael acts as an economic advisor to governments worldwide including Iceland, Latvia and China on finance and tax law.

Forensic criminal science based on very few facts


If you watch American television, you know one thing for certain: The wonks and wizards in the nation’s crime labs employ that latest infallible scientific tools to find and incarcerate serial killers, arsonists, and other doers of dastardly deeds.

Reassuring, no?

Especially if you’re sitting on a jury a deciding on the fate of the man or woman in the dock, a decision that could, perhaps, lead to a lethal injection.

But you would be wrong to place unquestioning faith in those crime lab wizards, for unlike the televised version of forensic science, the realty is a shabby simulacrum of the glib screenwriter’s version.

And while wealthy criminals can afford their own forensic guns for hire, poor defendants relying on cash-strapped public defenders stand little chance of rebutting the men and women in the white coats, adding yet another element of injustice to American criminal jurisprudence.

We witnessed the process first-hand in our years of reporting on the courts.

We offer two dissections of forensic science from two leading legal scholars.

First up, a Young Turks interview with the the dean of the UCLA Law school:

Is Some Forensic Science “Junk” Science? Jennifer Mnookin Interview With Malcolm Fleschner

Program notes:

Malcolm Fleschner of The Young Turks interviews Jennifer Mnookin, Dean of the UCLA School of Law. Malcolm and Dean Mnookin discuss why hopelessly faulty forensic science is going unchallenged in courtrooms across the country and being used to put countless innocent defendants in prison.

Bite marks are bunk, even fingerprints questionable

Another detailed debunking comes from Jessica Gabel Cino, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Law, Georgia State University, writing in the open source academic journal, The Conversation:

Forensic science has become a mainstay of many a TV drama, and it’s just as important in real-life criminal trials. Drawing on biology, chemistry, genetics, medicine and psychology, forensic evidence helps answer questions in the legal system. Often, forensics provides the “smoking gun” that links a perpetrator to the crime and ultimately puts the bad guy in jail.

Shows like “CSI,” “Forensic Files” and “NCIS” cause viewers to be more accepting of forensic evidence. As it’s risen to ubiquitous celebrity status, forensic science has become shrouded in a cloak of infallibility and certainty in the public’s imagination. It seems to provide definitive answers. Forensics feels scientific and impartial as a courtroom weighs a defendant’s possible guilt – looking for proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

But the faith the public and the criminal justice system place in forensic science far outpaces the amount of trust it deserves.

For decades, there have been concerns about how the legal system uses forensic science. A groundbreaking 2009 report from the National Academy of Sciences finally drew the curtain back to reveal that the wizardry of forensics was more art than science. The report assessed forensic science’s methods and developed recommendations to increase validity and reliability among many of its disciplines.

These became the catalyst that finally forced the federal government to devote serious resources and dollars to an effort to more firmly ground forensic disciplines in science. After that, governmental agencies, forensic science committees and even the Department of Defense responded to the call. Research to this end now receives approximately US$13.4 million per year, but the money may not be enough to prevent bad science from finding its way into courtrooms.

This fall, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released its own report on forensic science. It’s a more pronounced acknowledgment that the discipline has serious problems that require urgent attention. Some scientific and legal groups are outraged by or doubtful of its conclusions; others have praised them.

As someone who has taught forensic evidence for a decade and dedicated my legal career to working on cases involving forensic science (both good and bad), I read the report as a call to address foundational issues within forensic disciplines and add oversight to the way forensic science is ultimately employed by the end user: the criminal justice system.

Is any forensic science valid?

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology recognized ongoing efforts to improve forensic science in the wake of the 2009 NAS report. Those efforts focused on policy, best practices and research around forensic science, but, as with any huge undertaking, there were gaps. As PCAST noted, forensic science has a validity problem that is in desperate need of attention.

PCAST focused on what’s colloquially termed “pattern identification evidence” – it requires an examiner to visually compare a crime scene sample to a known sample. PCAST’s big question: Are DNA analysis, bite marks, latent fingerprints, firearms identification and footwear analysis supported by reproducible research, and thus, reliable evidence?

They were looking for two types of validity. According to PCAST, foundational validity means the forensic discipline is based on research and studies that are “repeatable, reproducible, and accurate,” and therefore reliable. The next step is applied validity, meaning the method is “reliably applied in practice.” In other words, for a forensic discipline to produce valid evidence for use in court, there must be (1) reproducible studies on its accuracy and (2) a method used by examiners that is reproducible and accurate.

Among the forensic science they assessed, PCAST found single-sourced DNA analysis to be the only discipline that was valid, both foundationally and as applied. They found DNA mixture evidence – when DNA from more than one person is in a sample, for instance from the victim and the perpetrator, multiple perpetrators or due to contamination – to be only foundationally valid. Same with fingerprint analysis.

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Why comedians are our best Trump news source


American journalism has long been afflicted with the notion of objectivity, and objectivity of a peculiar nature.

We can’t even begin to number the times editors had told us “be sure to get the other wide.”

The notion of “the other side” is inherently flawed, the concept that truth is like a sheet of paper: First you see one side, then turn it over and you see the other side.

Fix news managed to invert the usual standards by offering “the other side of the story,” giving us the first overt American mainstream propaganda outlet of our own lifetime.

But truth isn’t bipolar. It’s multidimensional, and however thoroughly you dig, there’s always more to the story.

Even more significantly, sometimes the story is so absurdly obviously that that any pretense of objectivity lends it a dignity it doesn’t possess.

As in the case of our President-elect.

We offer two examples of the only way news make sense in the Trumpian era.

First up, a segment from Late Night with Seth Meyers:

Donald Trump’s False Claims and Foreign Policy Moves: A Closer Look

Program note:

Seth takes a closer look at Presidential-elect Trump’s willingness to make false claims and his shoot-from-the-hip foreign policy approach.

And then this from Full Frontal with Samantha Bee:

The Big Lie

Program note:

When you’re president, you can tell whatever lies you want. They just let you do it.

As Walter Cronkite, America’s most trusted television newsman of esnl’s early journalism years, used to say:

esnl exclusive: Lost footage of Trump’s early years


Through our long, arduous hours pent hunched over our computer, we have managed to discover long-lost footage of the early year’s of President Pussygrabber’s early years.

Yep, we discovered that before he became the self-proclaimed billionaire entrepreneur, Littlefingers worked as a corporate pitchman, playing the role of Joe Isuzu to hustle for Japan’s Isuzu Motors, back in the days when they sold cars in the U.S. market, an effort since abandoned.

Here are some of his finest works, via Richard Arnold:

Joe Isuzu


Okay, so it’s not really the Trumpster, but you gotta admit the character played by actor David Leisure [a name that really suits him] really, really comes off a lot like the man made president even though he lost the popular vote by a large margin, then made up Joe Isuzu-worthy lie about the reasons why, a lie so idiotic it drew this reaction from CNN’s Alysin Camerota:

blog-cnn

Images, flags, burning desires, and Vietnam


Following up on our previous post about Donald Trump’s to criminalize and deport folks who burn flags as a means of protesting malignant policies of the American government, we are old enough to remember the Vietnam War, the American government’s failed effort to cement a regime in then-South Vietnam that would dance to a tune orchestrated in Washington.

At the start of World War II, Vietnam was part of the French colony of Indochina, and during the war, Japan invaded and seized control of the region, and a powerful guerilla movement spring up under Ho Chi Minh — who was provided with arms and advisors by the Allies.

Nine years after the war’s end, Vietnam was ruled by Emperor Bao Dai, who had grown increasingly unpopular, Ho’s forces, meanwhile had turned against the French, inflicting a disastrous and decisive defeat of a trapped French army at the battle of Dien Bien Phu on 7 May 1954.

As a result, the nation was partitioned at, with the north governed by Ho and his allies, and Bao Dai ruling in the South, with an election to be held in 1956 to decide on reunification and the leadership of a united Vietnam.

But with U.S. back, Ngô Ðình Diêm defeated Bao Dai in a 1954 election in the south, and the U.S. began pouring in military aid while cutting off the north from sorely needed access to resources.

That same year, as the Pentagon Papers noted, “President Eisenhower is widely quoted to the effect that in 1954 as many as 80% of the Vietnamese people would have voted for Ho Chi Minh, as the popular hero of their liberation, in an election against Bao Dai.”

Since neither the U.S. nor the South Vietnamese governed had signed the treaty calling for the elections, the vote was never held [talk about yer foreign interference in an election. . .].

The stage was thus set for war, and events in Vietnam were elevated into a major Cold War confrontation, with the Soviet Union backing Ho and the U.S. backing Diem.

The U.S. spent lavishly supporting Diem’s military, while Soviewt aid to the North was less extensive, although it did include the war’s decisive weapon, tjhe virtually indestructible AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle, a weapon more durable than any then used by the U.S., and still in use among guerilla forces around the world.

The North supported guerilla forces in the south, the famous Viet Cong, and they steadily eroded the Diem military.

Under John F. Kennedy, American military “advisers” were dispatched to the South, quickly assuming combat roles before becoming the dominant force supporting the Diem regime.

But Diem, a member of the country’s small Catholic community, was immensely unpopular among the country’s majority Buddhists, and the first and most dramatic instance of protest involving fire occurred on 11 June 1963, when in protest of Diem’s repression of the country’s Buddhists, a monk named Thích Quang Duc immolated himself at an intersection just a few short blocks from the Presidential Palace in Saigon.

Images of the act prompted a wave of outrage against Diem that swept around the world:

blog-fire-monk

As the war intensified, the draft began to loom larger in the lives of young American men, many of whom could see no valid reason for killing and being killed in a nation many had never heard of before the war flared into a raging conflagration.

One young man who received his draft notice announced he would not servem declaring:

“I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. . .Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

A year later he would declare:

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father.”

And thus Muhammad Ali earned a federal prison sentence, emerging from behind bars to prove himself the greatest pugilist America has ever produced.

Organized protests began to arise [some of which we participated in], and on 15 October 1969, more than two million Americans marched against the war.

One emblematic action of protests throughout the Vietnam war was flag-burning, here illustrated by protesters demonstrating at the 20 January 1969 presidential inaugural of Richard M. Nixon:

blog-fire-flag

Needless to say, the flag-burnings outraged Republicans of the day.

But the most potent and iconic symbol of the war was the result of the American military’s use of fire bombs during the conflict, delivered sometimes by U.S. jets and, in this instance, by American-supplied South Vietnamese fighter-bombers.

It happened on 8 June 1972, when the village of Trang Bang was targeted with napalm bombs because of intelligence suggested that it harbored Viet Cong guerillas.

One of those burned by the napalm was a nine-year-old girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, and the image s of her flight from the devastation captured by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut burned their way into the American conscience, revealing the ruthless strategy employed by the United States to win at all costs:

blog-fire-vn

But a second photo, showing her grandmother carrying the seared corpse of one of her cousins is perhaps ever more devastating:

blog-fire-vn-2

Perhaps no one better captured the hypocrisy of criminalized flag-burning with the burning of human bodies by a detestable weapon of war that did esnl’s favorite alternative press cartoonist of the 1960’s, R. Cobb, in this brilliant 1967 graphic for the Los Angeles Free Press:

blog-fire-cobb

As for the legality of burning the American flag, here’s the bottom line from Texas v. Johnson, the 21 June 1989 Supreme Court ruling that is currently the law of the land:

If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.

We have not recognized an exception to this principle even where our flag has been involved.

But with Republicans in full control of the White House and national legislature and poised to gain control over the Supreme Court, we expect that Trump will get his wish, one way or another.

Finally, back to Vietnam

The Vietnam War taught the American government two important lessons.

First was an end to the draft.

While virtually unreported by the American media, the real reason Richard Nixon realized he had to end the war was the rebellion of U.S. troops along the Demilitarized Zone [DMZ] separating the two halves of Vietnam.

That’s what happens when you draft young men to fight for a cause for which they see no valid reason to sacrifice their own lives.

Ripping unwilling combatants away from their homes, families, and jobs is a sure-fire way to foster resentment and rebellion, nowhere better shown that in Daniel Zeiger’s brilliant 2005 documentary Sir! No Sir!, recorded here from a broadcast on BBC:

Sir! No Sir! A Film About The GI Movement Against The War In Vietnam

America turns to mercenaries, embedded reporters

Since Vietnam, America has fought its war with mercenaries, soldiers recruited often from the nation’s poorest regions, where youths facing bleak prospects at home are drawn to the military by promises of job training, education funds, and a position they are assured will imbue them with self-dignity and respect.

No more unwilling combatants; rather, a military filled with those who see no other alternative than lives filled with misery.

The second lesson the Vietnam war taught Americans military and political elites was that free-roving reporters could capture images and stories threatening to their interests by revealing powerful counter-narratives to the official line.

Hence the evolution of the embedded reporter, carefully contained and controlled.

And by criminalizing flag-burning, Donald Trump would deprive protest movements of one of their most powerful symbolic acts.

And now for something completely different. . .


There’s a month left before New Year’s, but the past 11 months have already been too much for Canadian comedian/singers Flo & Joan [sisters Nicola and Rosie Dempsey] to compose a [NSFW] maledictory valedictory for 2016, a year that’s already earned its placed in the Gregorian Calendar Hall of Shame.

From Flo & Joan:

The 2016 Song

Program note:

Flo & Joan’s 2016 song

DISCLAIMER: We got our facts wrong and it wasn’t a bombing in Nice. We’re sorry for any offence this may have caused.

H/T to Metafilter.