Veteran BBC correspondent Gavin Esler speaks out on the disaster that is Brexit. It's time for the truth-tellers to come off the fence.

Some people in the UK will be old enough to remember Gavin Esler as a young reporter in Belfast during the darkest, early years of the IRA terrorist campaign in the 1970s. The BBC in those days made the huge mistake of attributing equal value to reports on "both sides" of the conflict - a strategy that had the impact of massively strengthening the narrative and marginal influence of the terrorists. This strategy of "false equivocation" had the result of giving equal airtime to terrorist lies and propaganda as it did to the state and ordinary citizens trying to deal with the conflagration. Many thought of the BBC as actually being players in the conflict and encouraging - by default - the violence.

In those days Esler went along with those instructions - they were the BBC's official MO. But with Brexit? In this article he argue there are no longer two sides to the argument - at least two sides of equal value. The Brexiters are basically lying bastards and fantasists. You only have to look at them and their backgrounds to see that their leading spokespersons are viewing Brexit as an opportunity to mine the value of the country and create a new elite of "Neocon-lite" economic radicals who will massively exploit the stupidity and ignorance of the working classes who also voted for Brexit.

Sooner of later the inherent, and unresolvable, giant fracture at the heart of the Brexit voters will come home to roost. Half of them are Tory half-wits and "Little-Englanders" who want the "wogs out" and to keep the golf-clubs white; the other half are workers who think that the EU was a drain on the health service and national resources and believed the scare mongering and blatant lies of people like Borat Johnson. These two sides - the toffs and the working classes - are natural political enemies and if they ever get their Brexit (which I don't think they will) one side will be big losers to the other. The "toffs" are ready to take the country down rather than concede defeat here. I've even heard it said that it may well take 50 years to recover from Brexit...but (wait for it..).."It will be worth it !" Well, for the rich who can ride out the storm..... but for the rest? No way.

If Brexit ever happens, there will be a violent counter-revolution before long.

Bottom line: there aren't two sides to this story. States of Mind has already covered this in other areas, but the fact is, opinions are not facts and all the Brexiteers have are opinions that are disconnected from reality. Gavin Esler is giving up trying to be balanced in his reporting.... and good for him. He just wants to tell the truth.

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Brexit simply reinforces the weakness of democracy. Votes based on unhinged opinions count as much as votes based on facts - and are easier to find.

Abolishing separation of church and state. How the Trump supporting Christian right is changing American democracy.

This article in the New York Times is about the Reverend Jim Domen - a gay who was "cured" and became a family man through his faith - and who is now leading a movement designed to use Christianity to change the law in the 50 states. It is essentially a movement to turn the US into a theocracy. As the article says... "Mr. Domen’s efforts seem to be bearing fruit. “We’ve believed a lie for so long that the church and the state should be separated,” said Pastor Elias Loera of Fresno’s Christian Temple Assemblies of God in a Church United promotional video. “In my awakening tour experience,” he noted, “We had a different perspective of, ‘Hey, guys, we’re supposed to be involved in this process.’”

The destruction of key parts of the constitution is already in effect and democracy is being seriously undermined by the nature of Trump administration's appointments. This is actually pure Bannonism (after Steve Bannon: permanent drunk, temporary Trump strategist and part-time far right Catholic). As the article in the New York Times says, Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor, was ecstatic when joining a meeting of Christians. “One-eighth of the U.S. Circuit Court judiciary right now is a Donald Trump appointee nominee,” she said, “and we’ve only been here for 16 months.” What she means is, they are right-wing Christian appointees.

It goes on to say, "At an evening conference event at the Museum of the Bible, Barry Loudermilk, a Republican representative from Georgia, emphasized the biblical character of the Trump administration. “How many of you know that we have a church service every Wednesday night right over here in the Capitol building?” he said. “We have dozens of Bible studies that happen throughout the week. We have ministers that do nothing but walk the halls of the office buildings and drop in and pray with members.” Presumably, any similarity between Raqqa under the Islamic State and Washington under Trump is purely coincidental.

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A deliberate movement to try and change the US into a theocracy.

Borisa Johnson: the dumb blonde who fucked 70 million people on 23 June 2016.

This article from the New York Times - written by Jenni Russell of the London Times spells out the mess that the moron Johnson has left the country in. It doesn't need any comment from States of Mind.

As the article states:  "Britain is in this mess principally because the Brexiteers — led largely by Mr. Johnson — sold the country a series of lies in the lead up to the June 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union. They did so because neither Mr. Johnson nor his fellow leader of the Leave campaign, Michael Gove, intended, wanted or expected to win"...."Because Mr. Johnson and Mr. Gove were confident that the Leave campaign was a hopeless cause, they were free to make ridiculous claims that they had no expectation of ever having to fulfil."

And following his resignation as Foreign Secretary...."Mr. Johnson seems to believe that this is his last chance to become prime minister: After his resignation this week, he hopes to be reborn as a rebel who will lead the party. But more likely is that he will once again create political chaos without delivering what he wants. 

Two years ago, the side effect of Mr. Johnson’s ambitious maneuvering was to split the country and risk the prosperity and security of all Britons for decades. Now, just as a fragile basis for negotiation emerges, his selfish drive for vindication, attention and admiration threatens that, too. It is petrifying that the deliberate deceptions and wild ego of one man can so mislead a nation. (Americans know all about that.)"

Indeed they do. Indeed they do.

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The most loathed blonde in Europe.

Trump to meet lover Borat in London. US embassy in London warns Americans to keep a low profile during Trump visit...

Absolutely hilarious !! This is what the much vaunted "Special Relationship" now boils down to ! This is the kind of warning embassies make to nationals visiting conflict zones or countries run by dodgy despotic dictators (not even the UK qualifies as that yet). The fact is, Trump has made Americans everywhere more ashamed to be American... but even more importantly, more inclined to think they should be looking over their shoulders when they travel abroad (they should already be well practiced in that manoeuvre in the US when there's a police officer about).

Still, when States of Mind learned today that Trump praised Borat Johnson and is looking forward to meeting him in London we had to laugh. Two complete nincompoops trying to out-blonde each other, both have big tits and ass and are more than 50 kilos overweight, both with wives who detest them, and both preening narcissists who will bring their own hand-mirrors to the meeting. No doubt both will also speak the same time.

If I were an American, I'd keep a low profile too.

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Answer: because Trump is trashing your brand, your flag, your values and reputation.... and your security.

Borat Johnson throws his toys out of the pram and Brunetti speaks out ! Relief washes over Europe but is short lived. Trump is on his way to save him.

The eloquent Brunetti is in a reflective mood and responds to a Trump supporter who, on hearing of Borat Johnson's resignation, suggested a greater threat lay in wait for the country. The fact is, for the UK, there are no winners with Brexit, in or out.

“He was a soft-in-the-head option. But you dream on, pal. There is no incipient populist revolution in Britain. Cromwell was 360 years ago and the Gordon Riots were put down by dragoons with muskets. Oswald Mosley was reviled by most Britons. The closest we’re going to get to total loony tunes is Corbyn and perhaps a few pseudo-Marxist municipalities.

The Brexit mob are piss and wind. They haven’t contributed a single meritworthy idea to this squaring of the circle they have insisted on, which in the Remainers Boris called ‘cakeism’ but applies equally to the Leavers, who are trying to be ‘out-but-in’, with all the benefits and none of the obligations. If they want out-but-in, the stark reality is that there is only obligation, with fewer benefits, and no power to moderate the former and expand the latter. It has to be just-plain-out. Anyone who persists in believing that just-plain-out, a hard Brexit, won’t be hugely damaging to the British economy is living in an ideological bubble and playing to a particular gallery that is, in reality, a dangerously hungry minority in Britain - a minority of pirates, robber barons, exploiters, devil-take-the-hindmosters.

Resisting them IS about power politics and power economics - and you can rail against it all you will, and call it all the names you call it, but it doesn’t change the fact that if the no-deal scenario comes to pass, the people who will hurt most will be below the median income in the United Kingdom or what’s left of it after Scotland and Ireland head for the door. And THAT is where intimations of instability find some traction; not in revolution but in other indices of wear and stress in the social fabric - more crime, more drugs, more food banks, more dole queues, more inner city decline. One way and another, getting half-pregnant here isn’t an option. Brexit ends with in or out. ‘Out’ is chaotic and painful. ‘In’ will be painful too and disappointing for many, and a constant thorn in the government’s side. It will need a lot of bloodymindedness too - because the PM Britain will need then is the one that goes back to the EU with, not a cap in his (or her) hand, but a half-brick with the following words stamped on its six sides: REFORM, ACCOUNTABILITY, FISCAL CONTROL, TRANSPARENCY, IMMIGRATION CONTROL, SOVEREIGNTY.”



Please Sir, can we have our ball back? UK Foreign Minister refuses to play ball.

Brunetti Speaks Out ! What price, what role, for civility in the Trump-era? Re-visiting the Red Hen incident ...

This piece by the brilliante Brunetti should be read alongside the States of Mind piece (read here) written last week on the same topic. The States of Mind position is that you can't compromise with people who don't want to compromise, whose objective it is to trample democratic and humanitarian values: that's how we lose. Our task is to change and convert them back to democratic values - not throw these values away in order to strengthen the enemy. Brunetti delivers an insightful and more nuanced position. Fraternity includes civility but that doesn't mean rolling over.....

Brunetti speaks..." Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, hey? What’s a restaurateur to do when a racist in tooth and claw comes in and sits down in your establishment - as happened twice in a week last month at the height of the storm over Donald Trump’s imprisonment of immigrant children - one time at the Covina Mexicana in Washington DC and then at the Red Hen in Virginia.

First, Kirstjen Nielsen, the Homeland Security Secretary, was heckled and booed by protestors at the Mexicana. Then Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the President’s press secretary and daughter, too, of that seething conservative presidential wannabe Mike Huckabee, was asked to leave the Red Hen - all this some months after a baker’s refusal on religious grounds to make a gay couple’s wedding cake was upheld as lawful by a federal court. 

Well, the US commentariat erupted in, well, commentary. What was more important, civility or free speech, politeness or protest? 

I take a pragmatic line on these things. I mean, who gives a fuck? Do what you like. No one can force you to bake a cake for gay people. No one can force you, inside your own establishment, to serve people whose politics you despise. I’m a libertarian in this respect. But I also despise bigotry. So I wouldn’t be giving my custom to that baker again. But nor would I appreciate being asked to leave a restaurant because of my wet-left political views. 

Okay, the issue was the separating of children from their illegal immigrant parents and detaining them en masse, sleeping behind wire in warehouses, on the floor, covered by - what? Tin foil? I get that. Heinous. 

But there are various ways in which we have to judge how to behave in the febrile atmospherics of the Trump administration, or in Brexiting Britain, or in Matteo Salvini’s ‘round up the Roma’ Rome. Indeed, when in Rome, what is a good Roman to do? There are a few questions to be asked here and some of them are merely practical because eating your principles makes for thin gruel.

Let’s be tame for a moment. Is a private restaurant a place for public dissent and protest? I suppose that’s up to the owner to decide. But either think fast, or think it out beforehand. The Mexicana episode came out okay because Ms Nielsen did the smart thing and, after standing her ground long enough to demonstrate a respectable defiance, she walked. The restaurateur didn’t have to get into a Mexican stand-off or reverse the result of the Alamo. 

Red Hen was a bit more speckled. Ms Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave. Which she did, not making a fuss. And for five minutes back there, the restaurateur must have felt like she was upholding the dignity of her refusenik chef and getting behind the issue de jour in a very right-on kinda way. Must have felt good. 

But perhaps this moral triumph for the Red Hen was simply pyrrhic; the place hasn’t reopened in almost two weeks and one wonders whether it ever will again. The place is being boycotted by the right and there are never going to be enough people on the left to sustain its business, and anyway, wouldn’t they soon be turning it all veggie and and whatever? Who wants to go to a restaurant for its politics? Great evening. We ate lentils and discoursed on Mao’s little red book. Meanwhile, the chef at the Red Hen is out of work, as are the waiters, the manager, and the owners have just ploughed their investment into the dirt. Just feels wasteful. The dogs have barked, and the caravan has moved on, and the man by the roadside is left empty handed. 

I would say this to a restaurateur: if someone produces a camera in anger, order everybody out. Your establishment is yours to decide what happens in there and protest is not on the menu for diners. If they want to stick it to each other, fascists and bleeding hearts alike, take it out on the street. It’s like the. West. NO SHOOTING IN THE SALOON!!

What I’m saying is, be careful about standing up on your hind legs when other people’s livelihoods are at stake. Trump’s administration is vile and its worst damage has been to the quality of public debate, and the moral succour it gives to America’s worst instincts, its ugly underbelly of white supremacism and xenophobia. But we’re only going to beat it back by understanding, reinterpreting and readjusting the value base of America’s founding values. I loved Ayn Rand as a writer and loved her books, but not her ideology, her worship of brutalist individualism, her hatred of the state. It is her philosophy that has gripped America by the throat; there is no such thing as fraternity in her weltanschauung, just extreme liberty, and to hell with equality, let the devil take the hindmost. In a country of 350 million people, big as it is, closing in on itself is simply is not going to work. It’s not Ayn Rand America has to rediscover, it’s the Roosevelts. Teddy for screwing the robber barons, Franklin for putting America back to work. Even, God help me, LBJ and his Great Society. 

Il Dottorre has spoken here of liberty, equality and fraternity. Yes, the first two live in constantly shifting, uneasy disequilibrium. But it’s fraternity, itself immeasurable, that we are losing, not just in America but everywhere in the West, the oxygen that gives our democracies the air they breathe, and contains the hope of something kinder. So - Red Hen, Mexicana, the baker’s shop - wherever it is, whatever the moment, pause in it - and think: will what we do that adds to the sumum bonum, that goes high when they go low, and lives beyond the headline? What will we add that has civility? Because we have to kill Trumpism with civility."



Being civil doesn't  mean we need to give the uncivil right an easy ride...

The Red Hen. Compromise is essential to a healthy democracy. But you can't compromise with those who are in the process of breaking democracy itself.

This opinion piece from the New York Times writer, Michelle Goldberg, is quite brilliant (I also recommend, if you can, looking at the readers' comments). It spells out the factors and issues at stake surrounding the refusal of a small restaurant in Virginia to serve White House Press Secretary - and inveterate liar - the self-proclaimed "Very Christian" - Sarah Huckabee-Sanders. Goldberg puts it down, not to a breakdown in civility, but a breakdown in democracy itself.

She points out the inherent asymmetry of the right-left "war" in the US. The right have all the guns, do all the talking and fantasising about killing, shooting, scalping and destroying liberals. They are the obnoxious bigots, the bully-boys who threaten and insult. She reckons that the left show none of these serious pathological traits. No one on the left is urging their followers to beat-up opposing demonstrators - as they are on the right. The right ignores reason and spews bigotry, prejudice, falsehoods and hatred while liberals want to argue, convince and compromise when necessary.

The right takes what it can and gives nothing. And this has been so apparent since G.W.Bush stole the 2000 election. Even though his victory at the ballot box was a forgery (aided by a partisan Supreme Court decision) his regime came into power (driven mostly by the Darth Vader role played by Dick Cheney) in a wholly uncompromising way. From Day 1 there was no respect shown for the aims and desires of the slighted Democrat voter, no attempt to build consensus or compromise. Obama did try to reverse this when his turn came but, by the time he got into power, it was a complete waste of time. Every time he held out the hand of compromise - or kindness - the Republicans and Christian conservatives bit it - and worse, the scum that comprise the far-right - the Breitbarts and Alt-Right - (and in The Netherlands, Geen Stijl) simply went to war to radicalise the right and demonise (often quite literally) Obama and liberalism and everything he tried to do. (see also the States of Mind feature link to the abuse of Obama on US TV).

Democracy is broken when there is no shared middle, no centre to create the glue and ballast that nurture and protect the soft values of fraternity, compromise and respect for the other. Reason has no role left to play. The right wing authoritarian (RWA) mindset is prevalent in much of America and the fact is, it's no more amenable to, or suitable for, democratic thinking than is radical Islam. These are the racist and paranoid people who kill abortion doctors, refuse to serve gay couples, who think Obama was a Muslim, adore guns and the transparently hysterical fakery of televangelist preachers. It used to be that they couldn't spot a fake if they tried. Now, they couldn't care less since fakery is what put them into, and can keep them, in power. They are, to use an old Anglo Saxon term, absolute fuckers. And Europe's next in line for a taste of this.

Goldberg argues that, "Liberals are reverting to cultural power against the right because it's the only power they have left." I'm not so sure. But there's no denying that electoral districts are being rigged and gerrymandered in favour of the right. The counting and voting mechanisms used by (privatised) voting machines are not transparent; the electoral register is subject to abuse and many Republican politicians are refusing to meet with their concerned liberal electorate. The article concludes that "there’s an abusive sort of victim blaming in demanding that progressives single-handedly uphold civility, lest the right become even more uncivil in response." We should never be inhibited. We cannot compromise on democratic values.. and showing them the door is one way of doing that.

We can always try to be civil when we ask them to leave......

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Would you like to be seated beside someone who justifies the caging the children by quoting the Bible?

US is assessing whether or not to withdraw its 35,000 troops from Germany.

The "non-imperial" (it's a relative term) forces of the US military are present in more than 150 countries, including an astonishing 34 bases in Germany alone. That's quite a presence. But this is about Trump's frustration with NATO and anger at Angela Merkel. According to the Washington Post, ...."The redeployment scenarios under study include a large-scale return of U.S. troops stationed in Germany to the United States and a full or partial move of U.S. troops in Germany to Poland — a NATO ally that has met the alliance’s defence spending targets and whose leadership is more in tune with Trump (i.e.: leaning towards fascism). But we should also ask, how would this change suit the Russians? 

The article continues...."Last week, White House frustration was on display in a contentious meeting in Washington between Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. Von der Leyen said German budget projections called for increasing defense spending to 1.5 percent of the country’s GDP by 2024. The White House was disappointed with Germany’s efforts, according to officials. Well, no surprise there then. Bolton is a leading Fuckwit and all round nasty piece of work. Don't believe a word he says....

Anyway, it's another straw in the wind of the decline of trans-Atlantic relations and the re-evaluation of the world order that the Ignoramus-Rex Trump is performing. We all know the saying from Karl Marx: "History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." But if you're Trump, and don't know any history, you are doomed to misunderstand everything... and see it all as novel. And with Bolton leading your negotiations you are never, ever, going to find a better world. The man is one-trick dog who bites before he looks.

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John Bolton - if he isn't a dog, he's an ass.

"Il Douche" Trump says Germans are turning against their leaders. Falsely claims crime is on the rise. More proof of his attacks on EU.

Taliban Trump (with apologies to the Taliban) has followed the US ambassadors to the Netherlands and Germany by undermining the efforts of their erstwhile allies in government - and playing to the agenda of the far right. What a moron. This is a moron whose policies involve separating at least 2,000 immigrant children from their parents - and having his lackeys justify it with Talibanesque references from the Bible. Is there no end to the Trump administration's ignorance and lies? The White House has said they are merely enforcing an immigration law .... when there is no such law. From fake news to fake laws.

Further, Trump has tweeted that German crime is on the rise when the official statistics show that crime in the country is the lowest for more than 25 years - since 1992. Not only that, the crime rate in 2017 was more than 5% lower than the previous year. 

One thing we can rely on these days is for the US ambassadors to European countries and the president to lie through their teeth. And, demonstrably, they are all idiots to boot.

As for the ambassadors? Yankees go home.

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Weirdo. There is nothing to be said about this alien that would do justice to its threat to peace and goodwill on Earth.

Facebook labelled "a threat to democracy" by CEO of New York Times.

Facebook has decided to classify and label anything they think of as political. At the end of the day, this is about (a) Facebook having too much power and (b) not being competent to make the right decisions. Even when they do try to do the right thing, they can never get it right..... and it's not just about borderline political stories .. but stories which are totally misunderstood by the search algorithms used by Facebook.

As the Guardian article states: "The friction over its implementation (to provide transparency in cases of political advertising) highlights a key tension within Facebook and all tech companies when it comes to dealing with cultural concepts. Should companies just rely far more heavily on human judgment or should they leave it to algorithms?"

"Robots, algorithms, computers and maths are amazingly potent in their capacity to sort unique objects: faces, places, images and text can be searched and identified quickly at great scale. But things which are not unique, or which carry with them inherent ambiguity – such as culture, politics, humanity even – are unsuited to evaluation by any kind of artificial intelligence application."

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Facebook: too much power to censor, classify and influence.

Hungarian "Rock Opera" to focus on national grievances from the 1920s - and grow anti-liberal sentiment

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing for incipient fascists - and they love nothing more than narratives of victimhood to galvanise their "little people". This article from the Guardian reports on a new Hungarian rock-opera based on peace treaty signed in 1920 that divided Hungary after WW1. The so-called “Trianon trauma” is one of the building blocks for the nationalism of Viktor Orbán’s government. Po-face Orban, who recently won a third term as prime minister, has used a strong sense of historical victimhood to drive an ultra-right wing agenda and is deliberately refusing to abide by key conditions on human rights of the EU.

The world has changed irreparably since WW1 - the borders of many countries have been re-drawn - some have disappeared - and life goes on. One thing that is clear is that the generation who may have suffered from the signing of the Trianon treaty no longer exists. Why are people being encouraged to imagine the alleged suffering of others? Radicalisation often has nothing to do with reality, and much more to do with imagined wrongs. Just ask the Irish about Cromwell in the 17th Century ... or the Sunnis about the creation of Shia Islam in the 7th Century ...

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Orban flying the flag for every national grievance he can resurrect

Breaking democracy in US: The obnoxious Koch brothers: billionaires working against public transport and transit projects.

This long investigative article in the New York Times identifies two banal and pernicious democracy-breakers in the US - the moronic Koch brothers - and how they use their money to sway voters. One of their activist movements - named, as ever, in Orwellian terms -- "Americans for Prosperity" - is working to advance conservative causes at the expense of the public interest. As the article says: "At the heart of their effort is a network of activists who use a sophisticated data service built by the Kochs, called i360, that helps them identify and rally voters who are inclined to their worldview. It is a particularly powerful version of the technologies used by major political parties."  Yuch...

It goes on... "Public transit, Americans for Prosperity says, goes against the liberties that Americans hold dear. “If someone has the freedom to go where they want, do what they want,” Ms. Venable said, “they’re not going to choose public transit.” The Kochs’ opposition to transit spending stems from their longstanding free-market, libertarian philosophy. It also dovetails with their financial interests, which benefit from automobiles and highways......"One of the mainstay companies of Koch Industries, the Kochs’ conglomerate, is a major producer of gasoline and asphalt, and also makes seatbelts, tires and other automotive parts. Even as Americans for Prosperity opposes public investment in transit, it supports spending tax money on highways and roads." And there you have the real story.

These billionaire jack-booted imbeciles (and they can crush and abuse those who try to stand up to them) are breaking democratic values by hijacking and abusing the democratic process. This action - and others like it - is a perfect example of what it means for democracy to have an auto-immune disease. Once again the values underpinning fraternity, community and the public interest, become the whipping boy of indoctrinated and radicalised voters, voting against their real long-term interests. “Everything we do is very scientific, very data-based, very numbers-based,” said Mr. Chougule, the Americans for Prosperity policy director. “We are able to see who are the people that are most likely to engage on this issue, who are the people most aligned with us that we need to get out, and who are the people whose minds we can change.”

The fact is, they're employed by big business to destroy a sense of community and fraternity that is already in danger of being totally eroded. As one poll in Nashville showed - before the Koch's got going - two-thirds of voters supported paying higher taxes to pay for a new transit system. Don't ask...

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Tweedledee and Tweedledumb - the Koch brothers. Sinister and still pulling the strings.

Newspaper cartoonist fired in US for making fun of Trump. What happened to the "Land of the Free?"

This story appearing in the New York Times is worth reading - written by the cartoonist himself, much of it is tongue-in-cheek. But it exposes an uncomfortable truth about the US press and media today. And it shines the spotlight once again on the political affiliations of media owners. That's really not funny. Things are definitely changing under Trump.

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Censorship, pure and simple.

Dutch not so worried about fake news. Most people trust the press and media. Should they?

Not sure what to make of this: only 3 in 10 Dutch people question the integrity of the press in the Netherlands with only 11% saying they have no trust in the media - the lowest of any of the 37 countries surveyed. No one thinks it's a good thing to disrespect national news carriers, but what's happened to healthy Dutch scepticism? And worse, these already low figures are falling as support for right wing populism in the country is growing. Today's other story on the States of Mind site cites criticism of German television by the respected German culture council who accuse TV editors of promoting the cause of the far-right through talk shows endlessly discussing subjects at the top of the right-wing AfD party's agenda. It would seem extraordinary if nothing like this happened also in The Netherlands.

Well, fake news - lies, distortion of facts, false statistics, deliberately misleading accounts and so on - is one thing. But, just like everywhere else, popular elements of the Dutch press can misrepresent and distort reality by creating imbalance through obsessive targeting, selective accounts, sensationalism and outright bitching. This is something that's very much alive and well in important parts of the Netherlands press and media (although, it has to be said, nowhere near as bad as some of the reptiles in, for example, the UK or the US).

Let's assume there really is no deliberate fake news... but there doesn't have to be for press reports to be partial, biased, insulting, polarising and dangerous. The real question is, are the editors of the more populist leaning elements of the Dutch press and media deliberately trying to be unbalanced? Of course. Do they quote time-tried-and-tested pet commentators and predictable favourites rather than people who would challenge with a more complete picture or disagree with them? Of course. Do they employ misogynist, racist, hysterical fuck-wit columists who bully, launch cowardly personal attacks and abuse from a position of deep ignorance? Every day - and I can name more than a few. Do they try to sensationalise or convince that some issues are more grave or whimsical than they really are? Absolutely. This is what the popular press is about - everywhere. Selling newspapers through making everyday events seem unusual, frightening, threatening or scandalous. The problem for democratic values is that institutional unfairness in reporting and investigating is just as pernicious as fake news.

The worst element is the right-wing populist website/Blog "Geen Stijl" written by weak, privileged,  hysterical, racist and sexist bullies. "Geen Stijl" means "No Style" and is well-named. Amongst other things, it targets citizens and newspapers and intimidates journalists who write fair-minded articles they disagree with. Its agenda is basically nativist, white nationalist - and of course strongly Islamophobic and anti-immigrant. It is both anti-democratic and polarising - and worst of all, inhibiting through intimidation. Mainstream journalists seem reluctant or afraid to tackle them - and investigate their blatant falsehoods - head-on for fear of being publicly ridiculed (often portrayed sporting a Photoshopped "Hitler moustache") - and they have the largest readership of any media outlet in the Netherlands. Even government ministers pull back from criticising its aggressive tone and explicit falsehoods. Geen Stijl is a perfect example of how the "freedom-fascists" are using their rights to intimidate and destroy the values of "fraternity", tolerance and pluralism.

Some senior journalists in the mainstream press believe that the political positioning of their newspapers is changing - for the worse. Maybe these papers are changing in line with their readership's shift towards more populist positions - but if so, we are really in trouble. The question is one of chicken and egg but it's clear that some of the worst elements of the Dutch press and media (see also "The War Within Democracy" in the counter-radicalisation section of this blog) are radicalising their readers through a constant drip-feed of the same apparent problems and issues - and of course, the readership, like the frog in the pot, is unaware of anything serious going on.

The Netherlands, deservedly, has a powerful and proud tradition of journalism and the printed press. Reading newspapers, thankfully, is still a national pastime and pleasure. And the best of Dutch journalism is probably the best in the world. But they need to remember that the future of liberal democracy itself depends a great deal on how they come through the next 5 years. They are clearly in a position of trust and they need to call-out anti-democratic forces and politicians who claim to be defending democracy. 

And the readership? For goodness sake, be more sceptical. It costs nothing. And your country's future as a liberal democracy depends on it.

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Dutch press; the best is very good, the worst is just as bad as everywhere else.

Mohamed Salah, Egyptian footballer, is a huge star in Britain and around the Arab world. He is also a unifying force for good.

In late April, Mohamed Salah entered legendary status in Britain, scoring 32 goals for Liverpool FC to break the English Premier League’s single-season scoring record. In doing so, he edged out soccer royalty, Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored 31 goals during the 2007-2008 season for Manchester United.

Salah is about to step onto the world stage as, for the first time in 28 years, Egypt has qualified for the World Cup. He was badly injured in a disgusting foul (cynically executed by Real Madrid captain Segio Ramos) during the recent UEFA Champions League final in Kiev and had to leave the field after just 30 minutes. At the time he was thought to be doubtful for the World Cup finals and there was an outbreak of national mourning in Egypt. Once he had left the pitch in Kiev, the dynamic of the match changed to give Real Madrid the advantage.

From The Guardian: - "In Britain, Salah is an emerging phenomenon. In Egypt, his progress has been watched and charted for years. It’s difficult to overemphasise his popularity – his face is everywhere. Every coffee shop has a Salah poster. Murals featuring him alongside other icons of Egyptian culture, such as singer Umm Kulthum and novelist Naguib Mahfouz, have appeared around the capital. He beams out from billboards, selling everything from chocolate bars to soft drinks, mobile-phone tariffs and bank accounts. Such is the power of the Mo Salah brand, that when he lent his name to a government-sponsored anti-drugs campaign, they reported a 400% increase in calls to their hotline."

And from The Washington Post: - "Liverpool fans dubbed Salah “the King of Egypt” and created new chants for Salah, including one that declared “If he scores another few, I'll become a Muslim too.” In post-Brexit Britain, torn by contentious immigration debates, here was an Egyptian, an observant Muslim who prostrated himself after goals, embraced by the Liverpool faithful in the global religion known worldwide as football, bridging cultural gaps while lighting up scoreboards."

The World Cup needs his remarkable talent. And his character. He is good for the world.

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Stunning talent and unifying force for good.

Franco's Spain: A new film reminding us what a recent European fascist dictatorship looks like

A new film, The Silence of Others, chronicles the fight for justice as well as the search for the stolen children and the 100,000 bodies still thought to lie in unmarked civil war graves in Spain. Despite the brutalisation of its civilians under the dictatorship of the fascist Franco regime they see forgetfulness as the greatest problem in Spain today.

As the article says....."At the heart of the film is the contradiction summed up by one of the lawyers in the case, the late human rights specialist Carlos Slepoy: “When someone is murdered it is clear: the courts must prosecute the criminal. “Yet when we talk about genocide, or crimes against humanity, it’s not so clear. Instead, people start looking for arguments – ‘it was a long time ago’, ‘it’s better to forget’, ‘we must turn the page’.”

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Franco. The repulsive dictator who ruled Spain with an iron fist - and the helping hand of the Catholic church.

Soros - under massive attack from the political troglodytes - needs to do much better.


George Soros is a force for good and democratic principles. The billionaire's "Open Society Foundation" is today under attack from many of the illiberal forces in the US and Europe that seek to re-establish elected "dictatorships". Leaders such as Hungary's Viktor Orban and others are directly and explicitly targeting him as the enemy of the anti-democratic visions they have for their countries.

Soros is trying to do many good things but he is often mistaken in his approach. Like most "Americans" he is too focused on process rather than values and states of mind. Their thinking is governed by the system. (This incidentally was the problem with the US approach to introducing democracy to Iraq; without the embedded democratic mindsets and values, the democratic process is reduced to institutionalising collective prejudices and fears). This means Soros is focusing on influencing processes such as Public Prosecutor appointments, voter registration, voting patterns, turnout, re-districting and so on when the problem is that the policies he is fighting for are not seen as fundamental to democracy (which they are) but as partisan. In other words, he's approaching the problem as if he can "beat the system" on the day of the election and that's an entirely different issue from communicating and embedding democratic values.

For what it's worth, States of Mind believes that - for now - his approach is like trying to hold back the tide - displacing right-wing ideologues who hold divisive and polarising policies means that they will do everything to find a way to use the system to come back at you at the next election. It's an un-winnable see-saw war. The real problem is a lack of shared values. Democratic values depend more on mindsets and social cohesion than on exploiting processes.

Soros sees that, in his words, "Trump is willing to destroy the world." An 87 year old Holocaust survivor, he shows no signs of backing down in the face of considerable intimidation. He's seen it all before and is under no illusions how serious the situation is. Democracy still needs him.

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“Everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong.”





“The bigger the danger, the bigger the threat, the more I feel engaged to confront it,”


Israel in uproar as Argentine cancels world cup warm-up match in Jerusalem.

Israels are more than perplexed by the cancellation of the event and the story behind the story is the interesting story here. Hardline Israeli "headline seeking" sports minister Miri Regev has been accused of politicising the sporting event by moving it from Haifa to Jerusalem and seeking photo-ops with Messi. As the article says, "Opposition leader Isaac Herzog called the snub a “spectacular own goal” by Regev that delivered victory to boycotters of the Jewish State. Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay called for a police investigation into Regev’s “corrupt conduct.”" Regev, in turn, stated that "terrorist threats" had been made against Messi and his family - but did not offer any evidence to support this claim. The cancellation is seen as a victory for the BDS movement.

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Israeli sports minister Regev accused of trying to use Lionel Messi for photo-ops

Russian diplomat: Macron now perceived by Putin as "leader of the Western World"

This article from Sylvie Kauffman, the editorial director of Le Monde, appears in the New York Times. "Leader of the Western world." Sounds good. But when you look at the competition today it's hardly surprising that a relative political novice like Macron already stands out. 

The overwhelming sense in Europe (and Canada) is one of humiliation by the idiot president of the (dis)United States of America where rudeness has acquired the status of virtue. A break between the US and Europe has been long in the making - since at least 9/11 and the ignorant foolishness and unrealistic demands of Bush administration (anyone remember "freedom fries"?). Even under Obama, the cracks were there for all to see. Under Trump, there is no more excuse for Europeans being in denial or even for trying for appeasement (which Merkel seems, ironically, to prefer). The problem is that Europe too is wildly disunited, some countries looking East and others looking West. It needs to pull together if it is to stand a chance of fighting its corner. "At the annual conference of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Paris last week, George Soros warned of “an existential danger” for Europe and insisted that Europe “must reinvent itself.”" And win or lose, Macron is the only viable new leader for this project. We wish him luck.

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Go for it !!