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President Donald Trump suggested his "very strict" aviation policies were linked to zero commercial passenger jet deaths in 2017 worldwide. In fact, in the United States, there have been no deaths from U.S. commercial airline accidents since 2009 and none from foreign air carriers in the U.S. since 2013.

The post Trump’s Aviation Boast appeared first on FactCheck.org.

By David William Pear / Originally Published by David William Pear at OpEdNew.com

Who defeated the Islamic State In Syria?

Before answering that question. What is the ISIS? Can the public overcome its chronic amnesia and think back to the sudden appearance of ISIS dressed in brand new black uniforms, gleaming white NIKE’s and driving Toyota trunks? They seemed to appear out of nowhere in 2014. ISIS looked as if it were a mirage when it appeared, or more likely a CIA staged scene from Hollywood.

No sooner had ISIS appeared than it went on a head chopping binge that repulsed and frightened the US public. Washington officials, including Secretary of StateJohn Kerry rang the alarm that this hoard of Islamic crazies wanted to invade the US and “kill us all”. A well-compliant mainstream media swallowed Washington’s script and regurgitated it to frighten a US public. The public gave its silent consent for more war really aimed at Bashar al-Assad.

The next question is who created ISIS? ISIS “can trace its roots back to the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian. In 2004, a year after the US-led invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden and formed al-Qaeda in Iraq” [BBC News December 2, 2016 ]. Al-Qaeda in Iraq did not exist until after the US invasion by the Bush-Cheney administration.

The US invasion of Iraq was based on pure unadulterated lies that Saddam Hussein supported al-Qaeda, was involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US and had weapons of mass destruction. Al-Qaeda in Iraq was predictable blowback, resistance against a US illegal invasion. Bush who admitted that he creates his own reality, had hallucinations of a grateful Iraqi people, who had just been bombed back to the Stone Age withShock and Awe, throwing kisses and flowers at the US expeditionary force as liberators.

{iframe width="1000" height="600" }https://www.youtube.com/embed/5mHhJ9PTwK0?rel=0&showinfo=0" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreeq“500,000 dead Iraqi children are worth it“.{/iframe}

Then came the failed Surge in 2007 [The Nation], when the US allied with Sunnis to defeat the remnants of the Iraqi Ba’ath Party, which was an Arab Nationalist Party neither Sunni nor Shia. The cynical sponsoring and siding with radical Islam goes back to the British “Great Game” of the early 1900’s. It was the British double-dealing with both Sunnis and Shias to supplant the Ottoman Empire, and turn Sunni against Shia to divide and conquer Southwest Asia. It is the story of Lawrence of Arabia, Winston Churchill and World War One.

One could then pick up the story after World War Two when the US was opposing Arab anti-colonial nationalism and communism during the Cold War. It was the “Grand Chessboard” strategistZbigniew Brzezinski who convinced Jimmy Carter in 1980’s to back the Islamic radical mujahideen mercenaries and destroy Afghanistan in order to lure the Soviet Union into a Vietnam-type trap. Brzezinski was so proud of his success that he would later rhetorically ask to his shame, which is more important“Some stirred-up Moslems” or winning the Cold War.

If Brzezinski was so clever he would have learned from the British early 1900’s Southwest Asiasuper spy Gertrude Bell. As she would later say, the British Empire encouraging and sponsoring of radical Islam backfired into a big failure. But the US does not know history, even its own history of repeated blunders of encouraging and sponsoring radical Islam against Arab anti-colonial nationalism.

So instead the US enlisted the most radical right-wing fascist regime in the history of the world, the Absolute Monarchy of Saudi Arabia to bankroll Sunnis against Arab nationalism. They gladly funded US regime change projects against secular Arab states. The US flush with cash from the Saudis went about encouraging, training and paying mercenaries from all over Southwest Asia to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Assad did not share the US role as the world leader of capitalist globalization. Instead Assad was using Syria’s wealth for the benefit of the Syrian people, just as Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. ”Assad must go“, chanted Obama, Clinton, Kerry and Saudi Wahhabis. To the US it did not matter how many Syrians, Libyan or Iraqis died. As Madeleine Albright had said,“500,000 dead Iraqi children are worth it“.

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It was the US and its allies the Absolute Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States that created ISIS. Mercenaries from all over the Muslim world were recruited and even supported with their own air force, the United States Airforce. The mainstream media gave the US the cover story the US was backing “well-vetted moderate [‘Jeffersonian democrats’ really] Islamists”. The mainstream media are criminal coconspirators for spreading war propaganda, the Guardian being one of the worst offenders, with a few rareexceptions, such as Trevor Timm’s reporting.

Now with the ringing in of the 2018 New Year, we can expect the US to be patting itself on the back for defeating ISIS in 2017 . The real story is that it was Assad, Russia, Hezbollah and Iran that defeated ISIS (so far). For those without amnesia they may remember back to when Russia released videos of endless convoys of black-market ISIS oil tankers heading into Turkey. ISIS was partially funding itself with stolen oil and enriching black marketeers of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Somehow, the US with all of its technology and thousands of bombing missions in Syria never saw all those tankers. Nor could they find ISIS fighters, so instead they bombed the Syrian army. The US only saw what it wanted to see and what it wanted to bomb. It was not ISIS. Here are the videos of Russian jets taking out ISIS oil tankers:

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Some of the mainstream media grudgingly acknowledges that Russia had a hand in rolling back ISIS. Even then the mainstream media downplays the Russian contribution to a support roll, rather than the primary force. Instead the USmainstream media gives the credit to ” the US and 67 other nations from around the world”. It was, they say the US that “trained, supported and provided air support” to local Syrian rebel good-guys, the mythical democratic moderates, that the US was supporting that defeated ISIS. City after city, and village after village were destroyed by ISIS, US bombing and an invisible US moderate rebel force as it created hundreds of thousands of Syrian casualties and refugees.

According to themainstream media, the Russians stepped in late “to provide air support for the Syrian government”backing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad against rebels threatening his rule, but also targeting some ISIS territory”. Unmentioned is that Russia was legally “invited” by the legitimate government of Syria, while the US and its coalition are committing a war crime of aggression against a fellow member country of the United Nations.

Now we are going to be hearing that one year of Trump did what 8 years of Obama could not do. We are going to behearing more ofhow in just one year “ISIS went from attracting thousands of foreign fighters to its anti-Western cause and plotting devastating terror attacks all over the world, to surrendering en masse”. It was the “US-led bombing campaign and US-backed and trained forces” that defeated ISIS, supposedly.

Yes, after six plus years of the most powerful military force in the history of the world, with the most technologically advanced weapons ever invented, and an annual military budget of $1 Trillion the US finally defeated a rag-tag mercenary paramilitary of about30,000 fighters .

The whole story of the US war on terrorism is an incredible and unbelievable tale of pabulum that Washington and its mainstream repeaters have been feeding to the US public since 9-11. It stinks.

----

David William Pear is a Senior Editor for OpEdNews.com and a Senior Contributing Editor for The Greanville Post. All of his articles and comments are his own, and are not the responsibility of, or speak for the editorial opinion of anyone but himself.

Original Awakening is central to the Zen Way. From one angle, original awakening, from another sunyata, from still another the one, or the great empty. The mystery that is our being. It is the wondrous proclamation that we are all of us connected, and that our true heritage is awakening. There are critiques of original […]

By Daniel Tanuro / Socialist Project.

The Twenty-Third Conference of the Parties Signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate has just concluded in Bonn, Germany. It was an intermediate meeting between COP21 in Paris in 2015 and COP24 in Katowice (Poland) in 2018.

As we know, Paris resulted in a so-called ‘historic’ agreement concerning the level of global warming not to be exceeded at the end of the century (compared to the pre-industrial era): “stay well below 2°C and continue efforts not to exceed 1.5°C.”

Katowice (COP24) will be a more important step than Bonn: the signatory countries will have to say how and to what extent they will raise the level of their ambitions in order to bridge the gap between the greenhouse gas emission reductions at present planned in their national ‘climate plans’ on the one hand, and on the other the reductions that would be necessary overall to achieve the global objectives put down on paper in Paris. Belgium, for its part, does not have a climate plan worthy of the name.

Every year, the United Nations devotes a special report to the challenge of the ‘emissions gap’. According to the 2017 edition (Emissions Gap Report 2017), the gap is “alarmingly large.” That is putting it mildly: the climate plans (or Nationally Determined Contributions, NDCs) of countries represent only one third of the reductions in emissions that would have to be made to stay below a 2°C rise in temperature… and (but the report does not say so) less than a quarter of the reductions that would have to be made to stay below 1.5°C.

Time RunningOut

Young activists send a message to delegates at the COP 23 climate conference in Bonn. [Photo: UNFCCC.]

Now, time is running out and the timetable is becoming tighter. The report says: “If the emissions gap is not filled in 2030, it is extremely unlikely that the target of not exceeding 2°C will be achieved. Even if the current NDCs were fully realized, the carbon budget for 2°C would be 80 per cent used up in 2030. Based on current estimates of the carbon budget, the carbon budget for 1.5°C will already be used up by 2030.”

As a reminder, the ‘carbon budget’ is the amount of carbon that can still be sent into the atmosphere with a probability X of not exceeding a rise of Y°C at the end of the century. The probability of 2°C and 1.5°C carbon budgets mentioned in the Emissions Gap Report is 65 per cent. (As a parenthesis: that’s not much: what do you do if you are told that the plane you are travelling in has a 65 per cent chance of not exploding in flight?)

Let’s go back to the question of deadlines. For the gap to be closed by 2030, measures must be taken by 2020 at the latest – in three years – and they must multiply by three emission reductions in the NDCs. The year 2020 is the first date scheduled in Paris for the adaptation of NDCs to bridge the gap.

To prepare for this crucial negotiation, the governments have planned a process called “facilitative dialogue” that begins in 2018. The UN report on the gap writes in black and white: “The facilitative dialogue and the 2020 revision of the NDCs are the last chance to close the emissions gap in 2030.”

“The last chance to bridge the gap” really does mean the last chance to stay below 2°C of global warming at the end of the century. As a reminder, global warming of 2°C will most likely – and irreversibly – involve an increase in the level of the oceans of about 4.5 metres at equilibrium…

Given the extent of the efforts needed to be in line with the Paris objectives and the extremely short time frame in which these efforts must be decided and effectively implemented, we should be talking not about a gap, but about a precipice.

Bridge theGap?

Is it possible to bridge the gap – and not to fall over the precipice? Once again, the answer to this question is twofold: technically, yes. In the context of capitalist productivism, no.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted in 1990 in Rio, set the goal of not exceeding a “dangerous level” of global warming. It took twenty-five years and twenty-one COPs to decide to quantify this dangerous level: not to exceed 2°C and “continue efforts (sic) not to exceed 1.5°C.”

Given this slowness, it is necessary to be naive or very optimistic to think that two years will be enough now for the governments of the world to agree on the measures to be taken to multiply their efforts by three in order to respect the objective of 2°C, and by four to respect that of 1.5°C (in fact, the one that should absolutely be reached). Twenty-five years after Rio, global emissions continue to rise.

Admittedly, they increase only slightly, (0.9 per cent, 0.2 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively in 2014, 2015 and 2016)… but they increase… whereas they should decrease very strongly and very quickly! It is certainly positive that the United States is very politically isolated on the climate issue, on the one hand, and on the other that some states of the Union (California in the front line) openly challenge Trump and his clique of climate criminals. Nevertheless, the U.S. withdrawal weighs on the negotiations.

This withdrawal will make it even more difficult to bridge the gap. The Nationally Determined Contribution of the U.S. consisted of a promise to reduce emissions by 2 gigatonnes of CO2. These 2 Gt are equivalent to 20 per cent of the very insufficient effort made by the NDCs as a whole. They are therefore to be added to the measures to be taken within three years.

It should also be noted that the U.S. is withdrawing without really withdrawing: present in Bonn, they continued – as under Obama – to put the brakes on the green fund for the climate. As a reminder: $100-billion a year that the developed countries have pledged to make available to the South from 2020, for the adaptation and mitigation of climate change, for which the rich countries are mainly responsible and the poor countries the main victims.

This green fund was decided at COP16 in Cancun in 2010 but the goal of one hundred billion is very far from being reached (to put it mildly). Seizing the occasion, other countries – the European Union in particular – have used the pretext of the U.S. attitude to avoid answering the concrete questions of the countries of the South and NGOs: How much money? When? In what form (donations or loans)?

The truth is that, from COP to COP, world capitalism continues to bring humanity closer to the precipice. Faced with this alarming situation, they try to reassure us by picking out figures on the increasing share of renewable energy in the ‘energy mix’. This increase is indeed very fast, and it will accelerate in the coming years, because the electricity produced by renewables is globally less expensive than the energy produced by burning fossils.

However, these reassuring speeches mislead us, because the indicator to be taken into account is the decrease in emissions, not the rise in the share of renewables. But as long as we do not question growth, therefore the race for profit, the share of renewables can increase at the same time as increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and that’s exactly what has been happening for about fifteen years.

How will capitalism get out of this huge problem? For Trump and the criminal cretins of his kind, the question does not arise: the catastrophe that is coming is either natural or a punishment that God is inflicting on humanity for its depraved mores. Let us pray, my brothers… And in both cases, woe to the poor!

But the others, the spokespersons of capital who do not take refuge in climate-negationism, who know that the threat is real, terrible and that the catastrophe is already in progress, what will they do to try to meet the challenge? What will they do when they realize that it is impossible to bridge the gap because capitalism cannot do without growth? They will join in with the geo-engineering in the hope, all the same, of avoiding tipping over the precipice.

Significantly, for the first time, the UN report on the emissions gap includes a chapter on negative emissions technologies, i.e. technologies that would remove carbon from the atmosphere “just in case” emissions reductions continue to be insufficient to meet 2°C – 1.5°C. It is more and more obvious that the reservation “just in case” is a formula of style to avoid revealing the brutal truth: despite all its technical and scientific means, humanity is heading for disaster because of the race for profit imposed by a minority of the population.

But let us go back to the negative emissions technologies. Some of these technologies are worthy of sorcerers’ apprentices. This is particularly the case for bio-energy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS), in other words the production of electricity by combustion of biomass as a replacement for fossils, with capture of CO2 and geological storage of it.

For BECCS to have a significant climate impact, it would require huge amounts of water (3 per cent of fresh water used for human purposes today) and very large areas devoted to industrial energy crops. Clearly, we must choose between the plague and cholera: either competition with food production, or a terrible destruction of biodiversity (I mean: even more terrible). Or both at the same time.

We are told that other technologies are soft: afforestation, reforestation, soil management conducive to carbon storage, restoration of wetlands, mangroves, etc. That’s right, they are soft in themselves. But experience shows that soft technologies in themselves can have very harsh social effects when they are driven by the pursuit of maximum profit and market expansion. The capitalist logic already shows how indigenous peoples are cut off from the forest in the name of the climate (REDD, REDD+, etc…). This can only be accentuated within the framework of a generalization under capitalist management of ‘soft’ technologies with negative emissions.

It’s theSystem

However, within the capitalist framework, soft technologies will not be enough. They could be sufficient, but they will not be sufficient in this context because they are less interesting from the capitalist point of view than BECCS. In fact, BECCS offers markets to heavy industry and allows capital to perform a dual operation: sell electricity, on the one hand, and on the other be paid by the community to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Interesting in this respect: we learn from a paragraph of the Emissions Gap Report that it is still possible to stay below 2°C of global warming without resorting to bio-energy with carbon capture and sequestration. Why, then, do more than 90 per cent of the transition scenarios developed by scientists rely on the deployment of this technology? Because most scientists who work on scenarios consider that the law of profit is a natural law, as inevitable as the law of gravity.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing to expect from the COP negotiators. Their soothing and self-satisfied discourses are only meant to lull people to sleep. Rescuing the climate in a framework of solidarity depends solely on our ability to fight and, through our struggles, to lay the foundations of an alternative social logic to that of profit. •

This article first published by International Viewpoint.

Daniel Tanuro is a certified agriculturalist and eco-socialist environmentalist, writes for La gauche, (the monthly of the LCR-SAP, Belgian section of the Fourth International).

By Andrew Levine / Counterpunch.

One has to hand it to Donald Trump. Not just any repellent real estate mogul and reality television personality could become an even worse President than George W. Bush.

Bush set never-ending wars in motion effectively breaking the greater Middle East. He is responsible for more murder and mayhem than any president since Richard Nixon. This would include Trump — so far. He was also no slouch when it came to undermining basic rights and liberties.

He helped precipitate the most disastrous economic crisis in eight decades; and, on global warming, along with nuclear war the greatest threat of all to humankind, the best he could do was kick the can down the road.

Nevertheless, Trump is worse.

Moving the Doomsday Clock closer to Midnight is one reason why.

This was a concern with Hillary Clinton too. Not content with wars against enemies that couldn’t fight back, she and her liberal imperialist co-thinkers were itching to antagonize “adversaries” that, as it happened, actually were armed with weapons of mass destruction.

They can’t give up on that either. Watch MSNBC or CNN and see them go at it.

Even so, Trump is a clearer and more present danger – notwithstanding whatever he has going with Russian mobsters, oligarchs and Vladimir Putin. For all her many faults, Clinton’s hand is steady; Trump could end the world “as we know it” (as they say in Clintonese) in a fit of pique.

Another reason why Trump is worse is that there was more freedom from fear under Bush. Everyone who is not insane, long in the tooth, white as snow, and Christian — or, if Jewish, not as ardent an ethnocrat as Sheldon Adelson or Trump’s in-laws, the Kushners – knows this well.

The vast majority of workers of all ages, faiths and hues are coming to realize it too. Hispanics and Muslims have so far born the brunt, along with Blacks whose lives don’t matter to the authorities. But everyone who is not filthy rich or hopelessly benighted is, and surely must feel, less free from fear than before.

To cut taxes for himself and others of his class, Trump had the support of venal Republican legislators in the House and Senate. For all the other ways he has made the world worse, he has had to rely on dunces who make even Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell look good — cartoon-character cabinet secretaries and troglodyte regulators. So little to work with, and yet so much harm! We have to hand it to him for that.

No other American president would have dared badmouth (or bad tweet) the pillars of the national security state to the extent that Trump has. They all believed, quite reasonably, that if they did, their days would be numbered. Yet, with no more wind in his sails than the mindless blowhards at Fox News and Breitbart can provide, the Donald tweets on. For this too, he merits grudging admiration.

At first, the CIA was his main target. Lately, though, with the law closing in on him for high crimes and misdemeanors and for who knows what financial shenanigans, he has ratcheted up attacks on the FBI.

What an odd enemy for a law and order president pushing a reactionary agenda; J. Edgar Hoover must be spinning in his grave. Beyond its role as a national police force, the FBI’s mission has always been to stifle domestic dissent; its targets coming mainly from the left. There are exceptions, of course, but, for the most part, reactionaries have been FBI cheerleaders, not adversaries.

Better them for an enemy, though, than the CIA. The FBI goes after its victims’ livelihoods and does its best to drive them to despair. The CIA kills – often in ways such that no one is the wiser. Even presidents can fall into its crosshairs. If Trump had any sense, he would never have antagonized them. But, of course, he has proven definitively over the past eleven months that he doesn’t even have the sense he was born with.

So far, though, the Donald gets up every morning, in full possession of such faculties as he has, turns on Fox News, and tweets away to his heart’s content. Has he beaten off the assassins? Fidel Castro did, but the Donald is no Fidel. Time will tell.

Trump is widely, deeply, and justifiably despised, but this hardly matters at least in the short run. Because our institutions at the national level are less (small-d) democratic than their counterparts in other countries and, for that matter, in most American states, it is almost impossible to dispatch him in constitutionally prescribed ways.

There is the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, but for that to work, Trump’s cabinet and Vice President would have to declare him unable to serve. And there is impeachment. I wouldn’t hold my breath on either count.

Moreover, Trump’s removal from office would not be an unmixed blessing. In some respects, his successor, Mike Pence, is worse.

Pence is a bona fide reactionary, where Trump is a rank opportunist; and he is a committed theocrat, where, on matters pertaining to the alleged divinity, Trump is just a garden-variety hypocrite. Worst of all, Pence is soporific, not scary. An exhausted citizenry is therefore more likely to acquiesce in his efforts to reverse progress than in Trump’s. This would be especially true if, as happened when Nixon removed himself from the scene, our “long national nightmare” would be considered over.

Not that there isn’t a lot of acquiescence already. With a “resistance” like the one we now have, Trump could declare himself President-for-Life, and stand a good chance of getting away with it.

Must we therefore despair? Maybe not.

Who knows what the CIA, or even the FBI, has in store for the Donald — or what will befall a man who exercises by parking his overweight septuagenarian carcass in a golf cart, and who doesn’t just think and act like a troubled adolescent boy, but also eats like one.

Also, if we are lucky, 2018 could bring charges of criminal activity too egregious even for co-dependent Republicans to ignore. Or Trump could set off a constitutional crisis serious enough to cause Republican “donors” to cut and run.

It is even possible that the dullards who run the Republican Party will come to the conclusion that they would be better off jumping ship and turning to Pence, one of their own, than they would be standing by their man.

More likely than that, Trump could decide that he has had enough, and that he and his family (the part of it he cares about) would be happier if he were to resume his old life. At least then he would be freer than he now is to assault and grope vulnerable women, and to “pal around” with mobsters (as Sarah Palin might say). If he weren’t so blinded by vanity, he would have reached that conclusion long ago.

In short, while there is death – and life – there is at least some hope that events will cause the clear and present danger we now confront to subside. What a relief that would be –even if, in other ways, it leaves us no better off.

Ideally, “we, the people” should rise up and kick the bastard out. But the chances of that are worse than nil. And so, the inevitable “what is to be done?” question comes down to asking how, if at all, the tribulations brought on by Trump’s presidency can be put to good use.

One way would be to expand the “conversation” on the left. A good way to do that would to treat military spending, and the military itself, as the problem it is.

***

Transforming the Democratic Party for the better, turning it into a genuinely progressive and oppositional force, is almost certainly a hopeless task.

Democrats are generally less retrograde than Republicans, but they too do their donors’ bidding and are therefore basically on the same page. They are not about to change their stripes or to get out of the way.

How much better it would be if we could leave that wretched party behind! But this seems hopeless too, notwithstanding the fact that there is a perfectly serviceable alternative at hand. The Green Party has an outstanding program, the Green New Deal, and an outstanding spokesperson, their 2016 presidential candidate, Jill Stein.

If ours were anything like what political philosophers have in mind when they speak of deliberative democracy – if, in other words, political influence were more equally distributed and if our lawmakers took it upon themselves to discover and then to do what is best for the whole community — the Greens would have won out over the duopoly’s neoliberal parties long ago.

But the Greens have been around seemingly forever, and gotten nowhere. They couldn’t even break through into the mainstream in 2000, when they ran Ralph Nader. In 2016, running against two god-awful candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, they did even worse.

Democrats and Republicans have seen to it, over many years, that their duopoly power would be too deeply entrenched to be dislodged. Even so, it would be different if corporate media wouldn’t shut them out so thoroughly. By ignoring them or ridiculing them on the rare occasions when ignoring them is not an option, they render them invisible. When Jill Stein’s name comes up, the response of most Americans is “Jill who?”

Ironically, though, in the past few weeks, Clinton-inspired Democratic Party overreach has cast some publicity Stein’s and the Green Party’s way. In their efforts to blame Russia, not their standard-bearer or themselves, for Trump, they have gone after Stein for attending a dinner sponsored by RT television in Moscow, where she was photographed sitting, along with many others, at a table where Michael Flynn and Vladimir Putin were also seated.

To Democrats, it hardly matters that the Greens, not the Russians, paid her expenses, and that she has been utterly transparent about why she was there. It was to encourage a peace initiative in the Middle East that included a weapons embargo and a freeze on funding to states that were sponsoring terrorism and civil war in Syria.

Neither does it matter that, at the time of her trip, the US and Russia were ostensibly allies in Syria, and RT had yet to be villainized in American media. RT is funded by the Russian government, but compared to MSNBC or CNN or NPR it is a paragon of objectivity and journalistic integrity. Whoever doubts this need only tune in to any of its programs.

The feckless leadership of the Democratic Party could care less. Democrats got a lot of mileage out of blaming Ralph Nader, not themselves or Al Gore, for George W. Bush. As they prepare to quash militant dissidents in their ranks in time for the 2018 midterms, they are itching to do that again with Stein.

Unfortunately, they will probably get away with it; and, to make matters worse, they are far more likely to hold onto their party than their Republican counterparts are likely to hold onto theirs.

Therefore, in the near and middle term, Trumpism, with or without Trump, will continue to haunt and degrade our politics. The likelihood of an electoral way out is only slightly better than that lightening will strike the Donald down.

Even talk of impeachment is wishful thinking. It could happen, but it is more likely that Trump will be done in by the Big Macs and overcooked steaks he stuffs into his capacious gullet than by ballots cast by the roughly two thirds of the electorate that despises him.

But even if we cannot now rid the body politic of Trump and Trumpism, we can do something nearly as useful: we can shatter taboos that stand in the way of developing real alternatives to the maladies afflicting our political scene.

The most debilitating taboo of all is the one that gives the military generally, and the Pentagon budget in particular, a get-out-of-jail-free card that never expires.

Ironically, the Trump-GOP tax scam makes this a lot easier than it would otherwise be. Deep tax cuts for the rich will cause deficits to rise, leading Republicans and many Democrats to call for austerity, the way neoliberals do.

This will make the kind of anti-austerity politics promoted by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren even more appealing than it already is. But it will also make the policies they favor harder to implement. Deficit hawks took one for the Donald last week; they are not about to do it again.

In the Reagan days, rightwing economists would argue that tax cuts would stimulate economic growth to such an extent that budget deficits would disappear. They have been saying much the same ever since; and they have never been right. Now they are saying it again.

The fact is, though, that, even with the rich robbing everyone else blind, there is still money available for financing policy initiatives that actually do people good, and for leaving so-called “entitlements” (like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) undisturbed. It is hiding in plain view — in the Pentagon budget.

***

The conventional wisdom used to be that Social Security is the third rail of American politics; touch it and die. There is still some truth in that contention, though not nearly as much as before Bill Clinton started laying the groundwork for doing a neoliberal number on the New Deal’s finest achievement.

Had he not been distracted by the brouhaha surrounding the exposure of his affair with Monica Lewinsky, he might actually have tried something along those lines.

Clinton was ahead of most Democrats in wanting to undo advances achieved eight decades ago, but, from Day One, there have been Republicans who have yearned to do precisely that. Like Clinton, they don’t so much want to abolish as to privatize. Their watchword seems to be: if you can’t beat them, then help capitalist donors make money off of them.

Trump’s victory in 2016 is a boon to privatizers everywhere. If the Donald comes through with an infrastructure program, as he has said it would, count on it giving his capitalist buddies a license to mint money.

It is the same with Social Security and other entitlement programs. Even before Trump, there was not nearly as much wariness of stepping onto the third rail as there used to be. With Trump (or Pence) in office, Paul Ryan and others of is ilk are salivating at the prospect of bilking it and every other remaining New Deal – Great Society social program for all they are worth.

They are no longer afraid of stepping onto the third rail – not the old one, anyway.

“The old order changeth,” as Alfred Tennyson might say, but familiar ways of thinking die hard and the ambient political culture always exacts its toll. Thus the Pentagon budget is, for all practical purposes, the third rail of American politics now.

The bought and paid for political class has long been on board, but public opinion is a different matter. There was a time, still within living memory, when large swathes of the population identified more with slogans like “fuck the army” than “support the troops.” That sense of things has never quite disappeared.

We can be grateful for that.

The conventional wisdom has it that the anti-war movement in the sixties and seventies disparaged GIs returning home from Vietnam. Were any of them actually spat upon or is this an urban legend? I have no idea. What I can say, though, is that had there been a non-metaphorical way to spit upon the army itself – and the navy, the air force and the marines – there were many who would have eagerly set about the task.

Needless to say, spitting on the army and the other services is not the same as spitting on the people in them. They are victims too.

In the Vietnam era, troops were mostly conscripts – either directly or indirectly because potential draftees enlisted in one or another service to get a better (less onerous) deal.

Formal conscription ended during the Nixon administration. Economic conscription never ended, however; there would be no “volunteer” army without it.

The military nowadays puts its conscripts in harm’s way – for reasons just as indefensible as in the Vietnam era. It also hires mercenaries – partly because they come cheaper, but also because no political or military leader would dare restore the draft.

Technically, all service members now are volunteers, but this is not why, in some circles, not saying “thank you for your service” is considered poor etiquette. That rankling nonsense has more to do with promoting positive attitudes towards the military than with treating soldiers and sailors with respect.

Our leaders are heavily invested in putting on a good public face. They think that a high regard for the military is useful, perhaps even indispensable, for building and maintaining support for something they actually do care about deeply: American world domination.

Most Americans would be better off if the United States was not a global hegemon. Most Americans don’t see it that way, however. We Americans have “exceptionalism” drummed into our heads from the day we are born.

For breaking through that delusion, it would be useful, and perhaps indispensable, if opponents of Trump and Trumpism – and of the Clintonized Democratic Party – would make an issue of the connections between the Trump-GOP tax cuts, the bipartisan Pentagon budget, and the efforts of leading figures in both neoliberal parties to undermine our feeble, but vital, welfare state institutions.

To this end, the first order of business ought to be to expose how nonsensical the idea that our troops are fighting for our freedom or indeed doing anything worthwhile is. This is a hoax, a cruel one.

Our leaders don’t put their troops in harm’s way for “us.” They have them kill and maim, and be killed and maimed, death merchants and Pentagon grandees, and, lately, for Donald Trump.

They don’t even care about “winning.” When George Bush declared a global war on terror, that quaint twentieth century notion went out the window.

It would not be too far-fetched to say that the point now is not to win wars, but only to fight them – and not lose in ways that cannot be denied.

Indeed, we haven’t won a war in decades. The elder Bush’s war against Iraq could be considered a victory, but only because its objectives – getting Iraq out of Kuwait – were limited. A better way to think of it is as the first phase in a decade long war of attrition that took a fresh turn when Bush the younger and his éminence grise, Dick Cheney, contrived a pretext for letting loose all the furies of hell upon the Iraqi people. That war then went on for years. It would even be fair to say that it never really ended and that it effectively continues to this day.

America’s only clear victories since World War II came back in the Reagan-Bush days when the American juggernaut prevailed over the mighty armies of Granada and Panama.

And yet our military fights on, whenever and wherever our leaders are able to use terrorism as an excuse, and the Pentagon spends unimaginable sums – on military hardware that has little to do with the fighting that actually takes place.

Part of the reason why is that our late capitalist economic system is so irrational that a high level of not just wasteful but outright pointless military spending is necessary to keep it going.

A more important reason is the nature of our military itself. On this, see here.

All the money that is squandered, money that could otherwise be put to some useful purpose, hardly makes Americans safer. If anything, just the opposite is the case.

Ultimately, this is an untenable state of affairs that will come to an end, one way or another, some day.

But we cannot get from here to there as long as the current flows, as it were, through the new third rail.

To organize against that is not just to take on Trump and his minions, but Democrats too. On this, as on so much else, they are birds of a feather – a point any resistance movement worthy of the name ignores at its peril.

By James M. Dorsey / Mid-East Soccer.

An Iranian woman disguises herself as a male soccer fan

In supporting recent anti-government protests in Iran, both Iranian hardliners and the US State Department may want to be careful what they wish for. Not only are the protests unlikely to spark the kind of change either of the two adversaries may be hoping for, they also are refusing to stick to the different scripts the Trump administration and opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani read into them.

For Iranian hardliners, the joker in the pack is what US President Donald J. Trump decides in January to do with the 2015 international agreement that put curbs on Iran’s nuclear program. Mr. Trump will have to again choose whether to certify Iranian compliance as well as extend the temporary waiver of US sanctions on Iran. In October, Mr. Trump refused to certify and threatened to pull out of the agreement if Congress failed to address the agreement’s perceived shortcomings.

Members of Congress have been trying to draft legislation that would give Mr. Trump a face-saving way of maintaining the agreement by claiming that Iranian compliance ensures includes acceptance of restrictions on the country’s ballistic missile program and support of regional proxies. It was not clear whether Washington’s deeply polarized politics would allow for a meeting of the minds of Republicans and Democrats. Iranian hardliners would be strengthened if Mr. Trump failed to maintain US adherence to the agreement and would likely see it as a US breach of the accord.

In a statement condemning the arrests of protesters, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauer projected the demonstrations as a bid to change Iranian politics. She urged “all nations to support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption.” In a reflection of a strand of thinking in Washington that is looking for ways change the regime in Iran, Ms. Nauert quoted US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as telling Congress that the Trump administration supports “those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of the government.”

For his part, Mr. Trump tweeted that the “Iranian govt should respect their people's rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching!”

Mr. Trump and Ms. Nauert appeared oblivious to the fact that unlike the 2009 mass protests against alleged fraud in presidential elections, the largest since the 1979 toppling of the Shah that were dubbed a Green revolution and brutally squashed, this month’s demonstrations may have been in part prompted by a hard-line effort to exploit widespread discontent to undermine Mr. Rouhani.

If so, Iranian hardliners may be overestimating their ability to ensure that the protesters in a host of Iranian towns and cities, whose numbers range from several hundred to a few thousand, restrict themselves to taking the government to task on economic policy, particularly price hikes and fraudulent financial schemes that have deprived victims of their savings.

Various of the protests have turned into opposition to the very system hard-liners are seeking to defend by demanding a release of political prisoners and the shouting of slogans some reminiscent of the 2009 demonstrations, like ‘Death to the Dictator,’ ‘Leave Syria Alone, Do Something for Us,’ ‘You Are Using Religion as a Tool, You Have Ruined the People,’ and ‘What a mistake we made, by taking part in the revolution,’ to ‘Reza Shah, Bless Your Soul,’ a reference to the founder of the toppled Pahlavi dynasty.

No doubt, the protests reflect widespread grievances, particularly among the Islamic republic’s working and lower middle classes. Expectations that the benefits of the lifting of crippling international sanctions as part of the nuclear agreement would trickle down have so far been dashed. Many criticized on social media a widely debated new government budget that cut social spending but maintained allocations for religious and revolutionary institutions. Many also objected to a hiking of the exit tax that Iranians pay to travel abroad.

The Iranian economy has since the lifting of sanctions emerged from recession, but businesses still suffer a lack of investment while the official unemployment rate has increased by 1.4 percent to 12.7 percent despite economic growth. The government’s policy of allowing Iran’s currency to devalue has fuelled inflation and driven up prices of basic goods like eggs that recently rose by 40 percent.

Nonetheless, the anti-systemic nature of some of the protesters’ slogans speaks to the fact that popular grievances are not purely economic. Many question the government’s investment of billions of dollars in struggles in places like Syria and Yemen as part of its bid to enhance the Islamic republic’s regional position and compete with Saudi Arabia for regional dominance – a policy supported by the hardliners. They feel that the funds could be better employed to improve the economy.

The first protests in the latest round of demonstrations erupted on Friday in Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city, that is home to conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who was Mr. Rouhani’s main challenger in last May’s presidential election. Mashhad is also home to Mr. Raisi’s father-in-law, Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, a hard-line Friday prayer leader and former prosecutor general and an opponent of Mr. Rouhani’s cautious loosening of strict social mores and encouragement of greater cultural space.

Mr. Alamolhoda charged that the anti-regime slogans came from a small group that was trying to disrupt the protest. The protests erupted almost to the day on the eighth anniversary of the Green Revolution. The latest round built on weeks of smaller protests focused on issues ranging from unpaid wages to bank fraud and embezzlement to environmental issues that appeared to have no connection to any one political group in Iran.

Protesters in Mashhad took to the streets a day after the police chief in the capital Tehran announced that women would no longer be detained or prosecuted for failing to observe strict dress codes imposed immediately after the 1979 revolution. The police chief said violators of the code would receive counselling instead. Younger, more liberal women have long been pushing the envelope on rules that obliged them to cover their hair and wear long, loose garments.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the policy change. Domestic pressure was certainly one driver, but so may have been a desire to compete with Saudi Arabia whose crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has grabbed headlines with lifting social and cultural restrictions with measures like a lifting of the ban on women’s driving and creating an entertainment sector.

Iranian-American poet and journalist Roya Hakakian argued in a recent op-ed that Iranian and Saudi women had benefited from “competition between the two regimes to earn the mantle of the modern moderate Islamic alternative.”

A litmus test of Ms. Hakakian’s assertion may be whether Iran follows Saudi Arabia in lifting a ban on women attending male sporting events. An Iranian sports scholar said in a private exchange with this writer that individual women had slipped into soccer matches in Tehran in recent days dressed up as men. A female protester took off her hijab in one of the recent demonstrations in protest against the dress codes.

The Trump administration’s emphasis on the anti-systemic nature of some of the protests and the hardliners loss of control of demonstrations that they allegedly hoped would focus solely on squeezing Mr. Rouhani takes on added significance with the fate of the nuclear accord hanging in the balance. Hardliners have long opposed the deal because it restricts Iran’s military capability, threatens the vested interests of the Revolutionary Guards and other hardliners, and has not produced expected economic benefits.

The anti-government protests may well constitute a hard-line effort to set the stage for a potential confrontation with the US. If so, protesters have so far not followed the script. The protests, while spreading across the country, have failed to mushroom into truly mass demonstrations and could well turn as much on the hardliners as they target Mr. Rouhani.

By the same token, a US pull-out from the nuclear agreement could fuel increasing nationalist sentiment in Iran that could prove to be a double-edged sword, particularly for Iranian hardliners. Revolutionary Guard media personnel gathered in 2011 to discuss the waning appeal to Iranian youth of the hard-liners’ religious rhetoric and opted for nationalism as a way of bridging the gaps in society that had become evident in the 2009 protests.
“The youngest generation in our country doesn’t understand our religious language anymore. We’re wasting our time with the things we make. They don’t care about it. That’s why so many of them were in the streets protesting against our system,” a Guards captain told the gathering.

If the protests in recent days prove anything, it is that the nationalism fostered by the Guards and other arms of the government could well take off in unintended directions. That may unintentionally serve US policy goals. It could also spark a much harsher crackdown and a solidifying of hard-line power.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the New Books in Middle Eastern Studies podcast. James isthe author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title as well as Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored withDr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa.

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Scott Carey’s concluding monologue from the Incredible Shrinking Man, screenplay and book by Richard Matheson goes: “So close – the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly, I knew they were really the two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet – like the closing […]
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Not long ago a younger colleague, a Zen teacher whom I admire, asked me what I mean when I use that word “awakening.” It has become something of a challenge for me to try and express this thing, or, really, not exactly a “thing,” this moment, this perspective, this stance within this passing […]

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Imaging What A New Diddy Kong Racing Might Look Like

Diddy Kong Racing for the N64 was never able to escape that long shadow cast by Mario Kart. While the game got a remake for the DS, it never got a true successor. And if we’re being honest, it probably never will. Fortunately there’s a fan video to help fill the void left by its eternal absence.

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Foreign governments are granting Trump projects big favors to get what they want from...

President Donald Trump purportedly stepped away from his business interests for the duration of his term as president, but Vanity Fair‘s Tina Nguyen says that foreign governments are granting favors and greasing the wheels for Trump-branded projects around the world.

Anita Kumar at McClatchy reported that the Indonesian government has chosen to build a new road to shorten the drive between the island chain’s main airport and the new Trump golf resort.

In Panama, the national government directly intervened in a lagging sewer project connected to the new Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City. The original contractor tasked with constructing the system went bankrupt, prompting the government to use its own money to construct sewage and water pipes connecting to the resort hotel.

“And in other countries,” Kumar wrote, “governments have donated public land, approved permits and eased environmental regulations for Trump-branded developments, creating a slew of potential conflicts as foreign leaders make investments that can be seen as gifts or attempts to gain access to the American president through his sprawling business empire.”

As Nguyen noted, all of this appears to place Trump squarely in violation of the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits federal officials from accepting gifts or anything that might be constituted as a bribe from foreign governments.

However, she said, “Just weeks after Trump won the election, the Argentinian government suddenly granted a permit for a long-delayed Trump Tower development in Buenos Aires. In September, Trump’s Middle Eastern business partners granted a company partially owned by the Chinese government a contract to build a road to Trump World Golf Club in Dubai, seemingly going against his pledge to not engage in foreign business transactions during his presidency. And, of course, there is the ongoing constitutional crisis that is the Trump International Hotel Washington D.C., which critics claim violates the Emoluments Clause on a regular basis.”

Two lawsuits have been brought against the Trump administration alleging these violations, one of which was dismissed by a judge just before Christmas.

Kumar spoke with Noah Bookbinder of the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), who said, “If you have a foreign government providing a benefit to the Trump company that is going to violate emoluments clause of the Constitution.”

The president is reportedly receiving boons to his projects — which he claims he handed over to the management of his sons, Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump — from the governments of Uruguay, India and the Philippines.

Read the full McClatchy report here.

Mormon leader Thomas Monson dies aged 90

Thomas S Monson, who served in top leadership councils for the Mormon church for 50 years and became its president in 2008, has died. He was 90.

Monson was a church bishop at 22 and in 1963 the Salt Lake City native became the youngest church apostle ever, at 36. He was a counselor for three church presidents before assuming leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Monson died at his home in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, according to church spokesman Eric Hawkins. The next president was not immediately named, but the job is expected to go to next longest-tenured member of the church’s governing Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Russell M Nelson, 93, per church protocol.

Monson’s presidency was marked by his noticeably low profile during a time of intense publicity, including the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of Mormon Mitt Romney. His most public acts were appearances at church conferences and devotionals as well as dedications of church temples.

He will be remembered for continuing the religion’s push to be more transparent about its past; his emphasis on humanitarian work; and lowering the minimum age for missionaries.

He will also be remembered for leading the faith’s involvement in the passage of a gay marriage ban in California in 2008. At his urging, Mormons were vigorous campaign donors and volunteers. That prompted a backlash against the church that included vandalism of church buildings, protest marches and demonstrations outside church temples nationwide.

In subsequent years, the church began utilizing a softer tone on the issue. In 2015, the church backed an anti-discrimination law in Utah that gave unprecedented protections for gay and transgender people while also protecting religious freedoms.

But the religion came under fire again in the fall of 2015 when it banned baptisms for children living with gay parents and instituted a requirement that those children disavow homosexual relationships before being allowed to serve a mission. The changes were designed to avoid putting children in a tug-of-war between their parents and church teachings, leaders said.

Thomas Monson attends a corner stone laying ceremony at the dedication of the Draper Utah Temple in Draper, Utah, in 2009.
Thomas Monson attends a corner stone laying ceremony at the Draper Utah Temple in Draper, Utah, in 2009. Photograph: George Frey/Reuters

The revisions triggered anger, confusion and sadness for a growing faction of LGBTQ-supportive Mormons who were buoyed in recent years by church leaders’ calls for more love and understanding for LGBTQ members.

Monson also continued the church’s push to be more open about some of the most sensitive aspect of the faith’s history and doctrine. A renovated church history museum reopened in 2015 with an exhibit acknowledging the religion’s early polygamous practices, a year after the church published an essay that for the first time chronicled founder Joseph Smith’s plural wives.

Other church essays issued during Monson’s tenure addressed other sensitive topics: sacred undergarments worn by devout members; a past ban on black men in the lay clergy; and the misconception that Mormons are taught they will get their own planet in the afterlife.

The growth and globalization of the religion continued under Monson, with membership swelling to nearly 15.9 million, with more than half outside the US. There were 71,000 church missionaries serving around the world at the end of 2016.

Mormons considered Monson a warm, caring, endearing and approachable leader, said Patrick Mason, associate professor of religion at Claremont Graduate University in California.

He put an emphasis on the humanitarian ethic of Mormons, evidenced by his expansion of the church’s disaster relief programs around the world, said Armand Mauss, a retired professor of sociology and religious studies at Washington State University.

Monson often credited his mother, Gladys Condie Monson, for fostering his compassion. He said that during his childhood in the Depression of the 1930s their house in Salt Lake City was known to hobos riding the railroads as a place to get a meal and a kind word.

“President Monson always seemed more interested in what we do with our religion rather than in what we believe,” Mauss said.

A second world war veteran, Monson served in the navy and spent a year overseas before returning to get a business degree at the University of Utah and a master’s degree in business administration from the church-owned Brigham Young University.

Before being tabbed to join the church’s governing Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Monson worked for the church’s secular businesses, primarily in advertising, printing and publishing including the Deseret Morning News.

He married Frances Beverly Johnson in 1948. The couple had three children, eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Frances died in 2013 at the age of 85.

Monson was an avid fisherman who also raised homing pigeons, specifically, roller pigeons who twirled as they flew. He was known for his love of show tunes, Boy Scouts and the Utah Jazz.

The man expected to take Monson’s seat, the 93-year-old Nelson, has been a church apostle since April 1970. Nelson will choose two new counselors from the Quorum of the Twelve who will join him to form a three-person “presidency” that is the top of the religion’s governing hierarchy. Monson’s two counselors were Henry Eyring and Dieter Uchtdorf. They will go back to being regular members of the Quorum unless they are chosen again.

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How Donald Trump’s war on intelligence is destroying American national security

President Donald Trump’s insecurity over losing the popular vote and the salacious allegations in the Steele Dossier have prompted him to lash out at the intelligence community’s claims that Russia influenced the 2016 election. Now that war against the intelligence community is impacting American national security.

A Wednesday Washington Postreport revealed that the National Security Agency is hemorrhaging staff at an alarming rate. Some of these “highly skilled” staffers have become “disillusioned” with intelligence but the leadership and a reorganization effort under the new administration has sent many to update their resumes.

The work these experts do included monitoring a broad array of subjects including the Islamic State, Russian and North Korean hackers, and analyzing the intentions of foreign governments, and they were responsible for protecting the classified networks that carry such sensitive information. Yet, these staffers saying that they want a higher-paying job in the private sector or more flexible hours.

Since 2015, hundreds of hackers, engineers and data scientists have bailed on the NSA, former officials said. Now it’s reaching a level that national security can be impacted. Of the 17 spy agencies, the NSA is the largest and they’re responsible for collecting the information that goes into the presidential daily briefing that Trump doesn’t understand. Over the first year in office, aides have even been forced to tailor the briefing so it doesn’t include anything about Russian interference in the election so as to not anger Trump.

“Some synonym of the word ‘epidemic’ is the best way to describe it,” said former NSA senior researcher Ellison Anne Williams. She left her job at the NSA in 2016 to start her own data-security firm and took 10 NSA staff with her. “The agency is losing an amazing amount of its strongest technical talent, and to lose your best and brightest staff is a huge hit.”

The agency won’t disclose the number of vacancies over the last year, but it said there is 5.6 percent decrease in staff who specialize in science, technology and math. The NSA isn’t the only place the Trump administration has implemented the right-wing war on science. In Scott Pruitt’s Environmental Protection Agency, scientists became the enemy. Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was told never to say the words “climate change.” Losing the experts means new staff are filling the positions without the experience central to the NSA’s mission collecting huge swaths of data and analyzing it.

Former staff have complained that they felt their mission was marginalized by a restructuring of the agency. Others allege the reorganization was “an enormous distraction.” Some even call the pay structure and promotion program part of the problem. According to former staff, it prioritizes seniority over experience or expertise.

Another former employee alleged that the problems began with former contractor Edward Snowden and the arrest of former contractor Harold T. Martin III in 2016. Accessing data and information became more difficult for those trying to do their jobs. The witch hunt searching for leakers made things worse. An environment with collaboration has turned toward suspicion, a former staffer said.

“It comes down to death by a thousand cuts,” said a former employee, adding that people “tend to quit in packs. One person hits their breaking point, and once they leave, the dominoes start falling.”

NSA spokesman Tommy Groves didn’t discount the reports.

“If the price of security becomes that we drive away the very men and women that generate value in the first place, we now have a self-induced mission kill,” National Security Agency Director Administrator Michael Rogers said in a conference speech.

Trump’s attacks on the 17 intelligence agencies that confirmed the Russian interference couldn’t have made morale any better. After meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump swore that Russia didn’t do it.

“He said he didn’t meddle, he said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times,” Trump told reporters in November. “Every time he sees me he says I didn’t do that, and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.”

Trump has also waged a war with the FBI, calling it “tainted” and alleging it is part of the “deep state” shadow government.

“It is also a possible obstruction of justice, witness intimidation, and it’s obstructing justice by saying to agents, ‘you better not dig too deep, you better not find anything because I will attack you,'” former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks said to MSNBC.

The only way to maintain staff is to tape into the sense of duty “for God and country,” said former threat operations center chief Daniel Ennis. He thinks the agency will recover, because it always has.