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Mattis to North Korea: Stop actions that could lead to 'destruction of its people'

Washington (CNN)US Defense Secretary James Mattis issued a dramatic ultimatum to North Korea on Wednesday to "cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and destruction of its people" -- strong words that come just one day after President Donald Trump warned that the US could unleash "fire and fury" on Pyongyang.

"The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons," Mattis said in a written statement, adding that the "regime's actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates."

Mattis has consistently said that he prefers to resolve issues over North Korea's missile and nuclear programs through diplomacy -- noting military action could yield catastrophic consequences.

On Wednesday, Mattis called on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to cooperate with the international community.

"Kim Jong Un should take heed of the United Nations Security Council's unified voice, and statements from governments the world over, who agree the DPRK poses a threat to global security and stability," he said.

The threat from North Korea's nuclear and missile programs has been a top foreign policy priority for Trump since taking office in January, but the dangers posed by North Korea have taken center stage since the country test-fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month.

The latest crisis intensified when reports emerged this week that US intelligence sources believed North Korea had developed the ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead to fit top of a missile. Those reports appeared to prompt Trump's tirade from Bedminster Tuesday.
"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen," Trump said on Tuesday.

Hours after Trump spoke, and apparently in response to military exercises by the US earlier in the week, Pyongyang warned that it would carry out pre-emptive military strikes against the US, including the Pacific territory of Guam.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to allay fears of a military confrontation earlier on Wednesday -- defending Trump's comments but telling reporters there was no sign that the threat level from North Korea had changed and that Americans should "sleep well at night."

Tillerson has maintained that the US is open to dialogue with North Korea, if it promises to abandon its development of nuclear weapons. But that precondition has been a non-starter for Pyongyang.

But the US military has flexed its muscles by conducting joint military drills with Japan and South Korea and conducting show-of-force operations.

And Mattis clearly reminded Pyongyang of that military strength on Wednesday.
"While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed, and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth," Mattis said.
"The United States and our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from attack," he added.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Wednesday that the administration is working in concert with US allies to carry out a "pressure campaign" against North Korea.
"The United States is on the same page, whether it's the White House, the State Department, we're speaking with one voice," Nauert said.

"We've talked about our pressure campaign ... that's backed by many other nations," she added. "That campaign is working, it is ratcheting up the pressure every day."

*Courtesy CNN (2017)
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False Equivalence and Finger Pointing

Most liberals stood by for a generation while conservatives polarized politics and vilified the left. We generally took the high ground, and the result was a drastic shift to the right in media and popular consciousness.

With the rise of the alt-right and Trump era politics, more liberals started to stand up, speak out, engage, protest, and fight back. The highly-calculated and bullshit response from the right was to say that liberals were being divisive, obstructionist, and extremist. And far too many people believe it.

Whatever liberals do to respond, we are attacked and blamed. We correct a lie with a fact, and we are shouted down as “libtards” or told we are the liars despite the facts. We try to propose a political compromise and are met with “our way or no way”. We get angry, and we are either “snowflakes” or being “divisive”. We stand up against discrimination, and we are told we are politically correct “fascists” who are destroying freedom.

This is not an accident. It is the effect of an intense and long-term effort by right-wing strategists to discredit any views that disagree with their policies.

Republicans have retrospectively painted Obama as an extremist who would not work with them. When Obama took office, we wanted to have a “Team of Rivals” like Lincoln, and tried to fill his cabinet with both liberals and conservatives. Republicans refused the effort at bipartisanship, and responded by trying to block every legislation that Obama proposed. That isn’t my opinion, it is what Mitch McConnel said they were doing. Nine years later, they still are obsessing on defeating Obamacare rather than trying to do something effective.

Conservative think tanks, Fox News, sites like Breitbart, and the Republican party have turned political divides into tribalism so severe that people are attacking liberals and immigrants based upon political propaganda.

The propaganda of this nonsense is so pervasive that even moderates have adopted it. Speak out against Trump’s lies and the vile things the Republican are doing to our country, and moderates will call you divisive. I continually hear that “the left is as bad as the right”.

We have allowed these lies to become dominant specifically by not speaking out, and when we do, not speaking out effectively. We allow the right to categorize protests of neo-Nazis as “the left trying to destroy free speech”. We allowed the religious right to market themselves as “a silent majority” when in fact, they are a loud and grotesque minority who show very little in the way of “values” beyond backing any politician that is against gay rights and abortion.

Liberals themselves adopt right wing pejoratives for other liberals, calling them “SJWs” and “Feminazis”. In doing so, we are giving the right-wing labels credibility. Instead of providing intelligent criticism of liberals who we feel are phony or too extreme, we throw in with Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and use their propagandistic insults on other liberals.

It is all nonsense. It is propaganda.

Calling out a lie is not the same as lying.

Being angry over injustice is not the same as being unjust.

Fighting against white supremacists and neo-Nazis who want to discriminate and hurt people is not the same as being a shitbag white supremacist.

Black Lives Matter protesting police violence is not “endangering police lives” more than inaction is endangering innocent civilian lives.

Liberal and mainstream media generally fact check sources. Conservative media distributes known lies.

Rachel Maddow is left-slanted and can border on punditry, but she does not spew a fraction of the lies and hatred that Sean Hannity spews in one day.

Republicans wasted years going after Bill Clinton for lying about his sex life, but care nothing about multiple Trump allies caught lying about communications with a hostile foreign power.

Being angry about a healthcare bill that would kill 25,000 Americans per year to give a tax cut to the rich is not the same as being angry because you are not allowed to discriminate against gay people.

We liberals still stand by our values. Fiscal conservatives support policies that will increase our debt. Christian conservatives are supporting un-Christian policies from amoral people like Trump.

This issue has grown past standing for liberal ideals. The right is attacking the foundations of democracy – courts, media, education, the right to protest, privacy, checks and balances, freedom and equality, and the right to vote. It is about democracy and freedom. It is about building a future for our country instead of allowing want to be oligarchs to steal our wealth. It is about saving people’s lives.

In the end, it is also about fixing the divisiveness and all being Americans together again, but we can’t do that by letting the right shame us or terrorize us into silence.

Extremists are very manipulative. They play victim, and they vilify their enemies. What is happening in the free world today is the product of right-wing extremists manipulating people’s anger and fears to the point that honest political debate is almost dead. That is intentional. The political agenda people like the Koch’s and Mercer’s are spending billions of dollars to promote is indefensible – it hurts 99.9% of us, it is undemocratic, and it is Unamerican. They only way they can achieve their goals is to muddy political definitions and conversation enough to hide in plain sight.

Liberals need to quit apologizing for ourselves. If we don’t speak out and act politically, right-wing think tanks will continue to control our national conversation about politics. When we speak out and put up a fight politically, they will label us and attack us. To hell with them. We have no choice but to speak out.


I wrote this piece shortly before the events in Charlottesville. The reaction to Charlottesville is a littered with examples of what this article is talking about:

  • Trump's initial reaction to Charlottesville was to condemn violence "on many sides" and avoid mentioning white supremacists or neo-fascists. Only the right-wing extremists killed an innocent woman. Only the right-wing extremists ran people over with a speeding car. Only the right-wing extremists stood as a group over a man, pummeling him with pipes until he was nearly dead.
  • Liberal media took to shaming the white supremacists with facts. Conservative media took to shaming a murder victim with lies and slut-shaming
  • And let's just stop bullshitting about who we are talking about here. Nazis are, well, Nazis. They honor a man that murdered millions of innocent people. They propose, at best, kicking millions of people out of their homes and jobs - based upon race, orientation, and religion - in order to build a "white state". At worst (and more commonly), they support the same sort of violence and genocide executed by Hitler. They are inciting violence. They are selling widespread and abject hatred. There is no popular equivalent on the left. Socialists do not want to murder people. Neither does antifa. Neither do anarchists. Whatever issues one may take with a left-wing group, it is not the remotely similar.

Social media is full of people trying to justify the actions of neo-fascists by comparing the Nazis and white supremacists to the anti-racists, antifa, and anarchists. How low have you sunk when you are an apologist for actual Nazis?! How can this even be a conversation we need to have? Nazis are just bad, like eating drain cleaner is bad. Nazis, by definition, should be stopped. Anything else is a lie.

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It's like kids arguing on a playground, with nuclear weapons...

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump issued an extraordinary ultimatum to North Korea on Tuesday warning Pyongyang not to make any more threats against the United States or they will "face fire and fury like the world has never seen," during a photo op at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen... he has been very threatening beyond a normal state. They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before," he said.

Trump's harsh words come as US intelligence analysts have assessed that North Korea has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead, according to multiple sources familiar with the analysis of North Korea's missile and nuclear program.

It is not believed that the capability has been tested, according to the sources.
This is not a consensus view from the entire intelligence community, one US official said. The Washington Post, which was first to publish details, reported that it was the analysis of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The US official familiar with the analysis of North Korea's missile and nuclear program says, in reference to North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un's boasts about the program, "we have to take him at his word and we need to be prepared to deal with it."
This official said the 'assessment" is continuing to be refined and updated as more intelligence is collected.

The officials all note that the evidence shows North Korea is making progress and the question is more about when not if North Korea is capable of launching a nuclear capable missile.

Referring to Kim Jong Un, the official said this report needs to be taken seriously as "we've seen him moving forward" on the program with no indication he is turning back.
US military commanders have long planned on the assumption that North Korea has a warhead.

In 2014, then-commander of US Forces Korea Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti said he believed that they had the capability to miniaturize a warhead.

"I believe they have the capability to have miniaturized a device at this point, and they have the technology to potentially actually deliver what they say they have," Scaparrotti said at the time.

The Washington Post first reported details of the assessment on Tuesday just hours after North Korea threatened 'physical action' in response to punitive sanctions unanimously passed by the United Nations Security Council over the weekend.

CNN has previously reported that US intelligence estimates Pyongyang may have the capacity to deliver a nuclear weapon to the US mainland by early next year and its missile program showed significant progress during two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July.

"Assuming everything is true, including that intelligence assessment both existing and everything being accurate, there are still important unknowns," Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, noting that questions still linger about whether a possible North Korean warhead could survive re-entry from the earth's upper atmosphere.

However, Zeldin also said that reporting of the development "increases the urgency of the time sensitivity" of efforts being taken by the US and its international partners to address

Earlier on Tuesday, President Trump was quick to highlight his administration's success in leading the UN Security Council to unanimously pass sanctions on North Korea.

"After many years of failure,countries are coming together to finally address the dangers posed by North Korea. We must be tough & decisive!" Trump wrote in a tweet on Tuesday morning.

But reports that North Korea has taken another big step forward in realizing its nuclear ambitions will likely only escalate an already tense situation after the latest chapter of rhetorical chest-thumping.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called newly approved sanctions on North Korea "a gut punch" and warned of possible military action should the regime continue its aggressive actions.

Those military options include launching a "preventative war" against North Korea, according to White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

"If they had nuclear weapons that can threaten the United States, it's intolerable from the President's perspective. Of course, we have to provide all options to do that, and that includes a military option," McMaster said in an interview with MSNBC on Saturday.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Pyongyang "will, under no circumstances, put the nukes and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table," and would "teach the US a severe lesson" if it used military force against North Korea.

North Korea was estimated to have between 13 and 30 nuclear weapons at the end of 2016, according to the Institute for Science and International Security -- noting that North Korea keeps secret the number of nuclear weapons that it has built, and there is little, if any, reliable public information about this value.

*Article courtesy of CNN (2017)
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Congress to Legalize Deadly Force for Traffic Stops

Congressional Republicans have proposed The Fair Policing Act, officially legalizing the use of deadly force by police in any traffic stop and setting expectations for citizen behavior after being pulled over. Republican leaders explain, “We are not supporting police violence. We are simply realigning our laws to be in sync with accepted police practices and existing court rulings.”

One Congressman, speaking anonymously, explained the intent of the legislation:

“We currently have a bramble of state and local laws and standards for police traffic stops, but because the Graham versus Conner makes lethal force legal if an officer ‘fears for his life’, lethal force is effectively legal.”

“What we are doing here is protecting both police and motorists by resolving the confusion. Many people falsely assume there is no reason they would be shot, beaten or killed at a traffic stop. That is simply not true. This legislation protects citizens by setting clear expectations, as it will protect municipalities from protests and lawsuits based on false expectations of the police.”

“The law will set rigid standards for the behavior of police and citizens at traffic stops. Police are to exit the vehicle with their weapons drawn and target the vehicle. Citizens are to slowly open their vehicle doors, keep their hands in view, slowly crawl onto the ground, and interlock their hands behind their heads. Failure to comply allows police to use lethal or non-lethal measures, as they see fit, to immediately secure the situation.”

“Driver’s education will be modified to train citizens how to exit their vehicle and safely assume the position. A small federal tax on traffic violations will be used for ad campaigns to teach other drivers and passengers the new standard”.

“I want to be very clear, the idea here is to teach people that it doesn’t matter if you are old, disabled, angry, confused, sick, pregnant, under the illusion you have civil rights at a traffic stop, or wounded by a previous encounter with the police – you get on the ground and assume the position, or you will be shot.”

“This law will save many lives.”

“The law also puts a very clear expectation on police to control the situation, with clear penalties for violating standards. If, when the people in the vehicle have exited and are on the ground, the police are still afraid or feel they cannot control the situation, it is at that point that they should fire tasers, release police dogs, empty their clips into the citizens, or handcuff and then beat them while saying ‘stop resisting’. We do not want more confusing physical conflicts. The police should resolve the situation immediately.”

The bill has garnered controversy, and strong resistance among Democratic politicians, although Nancy Pelosi has failed to issue a clear statement regarding the law.

Republican Senator Rand Paul has stated that although the bill is concerning for its impact on state’s rights, but that he is “all for reducing confusing regulations affecting our police officers”.

Attorney general Jess Sessions says he likes the intent of the bill, but he worries that the bill “discriminates against white people by setting the same harsh standards for white motorists as used for other motorists, which is simply not fair.”

President Trump praised the legislation as “Landmark. Tremendous. This will restore peace and freedom to American communities.”

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Free Science from Religious and Political Attacks

Anti-Science - Turning People Against Facts for Ideology and Profit

American culture has become increasingly anti-science. Much of this comes from Christian conservatives who reject science because it “disagrees” with the Bible, and much also comes from climate change deniers; but the anti-science rhetoric has worked its way deeply into the broader American psyche, leading to doubt and rejection of science in unrelated areas.

There has always been push back against science, and there have been waves of outright rejection of science, but in the modern era, the growth anti-science culture in America is unique in developed countries. Our allies, competitors, and potential enemies are not waiting around for the U.S. to get over this; they are pushing forward in science and technology. Meanwhile, our anti-science mindset is impacting our education, public health, the environment, and the economy.

The anti-vaccine movement is a notable example. The movement began with a fake and discredited article, and the science is solid on vaccines not leading to autism, and yet people across the pollical spectrum have rejected vaccines to the that long-defeated and dangerous diseases are reappearing in America.

Science can be wrong, but science isn’t just another ideology. It is a process based upon facts, research, and empirical evidence. It is peer reviewed, and unlike religion or other ideologies, it self-corrects. Science is the foundation of our technology and generally our best our only hope to solve many of the world’s problems – from medical issues to fighting world hunger to dwindling resources.

America has been a leader in technology and innovation – we owe that to science, freedom, and opportunity – all things currently under attack in today’s America.

We are undermining education in technology and science. The anti-science rhetoric discourages kids from pursuing science education, while religious politicians are more concerned with pushing creationism into science text books than updating the books with recent science. There is enormous economic and environmental opportunity on alternative energy, but Trump is redirecting the U.S. back to the dying coal industry.

Attacking science and fighting valid scientific results is not new. The lead industry paid for fake science to keep lead in paint and gasoline for decades after it was shown that lead can lead to brain damage and death. The cigarette industry paid for fake science to cast doubt on the clear fact that smoking causes cancer and heart disease. But between religious fanatics going after evolution and the oil industry attacking climate change science, we have reached a critical mass of anti-science propaganda that is permeating our whole culture.

I believe that attacks upon “educated elites”, undermining our education system, anti-science, and the intentional assaults upon facts, truth and the media are all tied together in a cultural push to keep our citizens divided, uninformed, and distracted from real problems. Weakening the attacks on science will help defend the value of knowledge and facts in general. Fighting off the attacks against science may be one of the most important things we can do for the future of this country. So, what do we do?

First, we liberals and people of science must stop attacking the idea of faith. It is easy to look at the religious attacks on science, religious wars, and discrimination justified by religion and want to reject religion completely. It is easy to want to call the faith-based arguments, “stupid”. But that instantly kills a necessary discussion, and it makes people resistant to ideas we present.

Religion is not going away. The Soviet Union spent over seventy years trying to crush religion, and as soon as the Soviet state ended, religion reappeared. Now, the Orthodox Church is effectively the state religion of Russia. Similarly, people of science have hoped that reason would, in time, pull people away from the problems that come with religion; it hasn’t in any way that matters in the short term.

One thing we need to do is to become more politically involved locally. The religious-right is highly motivated and have been very effective at infiltrating school boards and city councils to push religion, revisionist history, and anti-science into our schools. We need to be as motivated and be there to provide opposing views and stop this grass roots attack upon education and truth.

Another thing we need to do is to calmly and intelligently provide facts – every chance we get. And we need to make more opportunities to present the facts. We need to fact check ourselves, lest we get pulled into a anti-fact movements such as the anti-vaccine movement. When we misrepresent scientific facts, we invite opponents to discredit all people speaking out for science.

We need to be able to respectfully and intelligently challenge anti-science arguments in simple terms.

Regarding climate change, we need to keep it simple. Anyone who has sat in a car in the sun can see that the greenhouse effect is real, and it is very basic science that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. There are dozens of real world examples of the earth getting hotter: from melting polar ice to collapsing Antarctic sheets to plants migrating north to rising sea levels

Regarding creationism, we need to challenge the idea that the Bible is perfectly factual. We need reasonable religious people to stand up for science versus Biblical literalism as well.

Disclaimer: the arguments below all assume accepting that the Bible is the word of God and that God exists. I am not trying to argue for either assumption, but we will get nowhere arguing with religious people “that God doesn’t exist”, and we don’t need to. My arguments below are suggested as discussions that can be had that my help reduce the inclination of some religious people to attack science. I have had some success challenging people of faith to read the Bible and question what modern people are telling them about it.

The Bible can be “perfect”, “true,” and “The Word of God” without each word being factually and literally true. The Bible does claim to be the Word of God, and it claims to be true. Nowhere does it say that every word in the Bible needs to be taken literally. The evangelical belief in Biblical literalism is the root of conflict with science, but that is dogma that does not come directly from the Bible.

The Bible says that the Earth was created in seven days, and implies the Earth is only six-thousand years old. That can be “true” and not literally mean six-thousand-years in modern terms. The most obvious answer is that the story is allegory, but many people of faith will not accept that. Perhaps God’s “days” are not our days, but human epochs. Perhaps God manipulates time when creating things, and billions of years of physical aging occurred one day. Perhaps the truth God told the people writing the Bible was simplified for their primitive knowledge. How would they be expected to understand billions of years, dinosaurs, and microbes?

The Bible says the world is flat. It neglects to mention that when God created Earth, He apparently created billions of other stars and planets, some of which also may have life. He neglected to mention Neanderthal and other hominids. He neglected to mention dinosaurs. He neglected to mention asteroids striking Earth and nearly annihilating all life. He neglected to mention the Yellowstone caldera erupting and nearly annihilating all life. He neglected to mention bacteria and viruses. How useful would it have been for the early Hebrews to know about pathogens? Think of the lives that would have been saved with simple hygiene.

The point is: clearly the Bible omits things that exist and matter. The best interpretation for someone who thinks the Bible is all true is that God only explained to early humans the things they were capable of understanding. A less popular but similarly valid interpretation is that the flawed humans who passed on God’s word failed to pass on things that they could not see and understand. There is no reconciling the Bible with fact without these interpretations. The choices left are that the Bible is sometimes wrong or false, or that massive amounts of factual evidence are false – not just science, but basic facts – such as the fossil record or the Earth being a ball of rock that orbits the sun.

The Bible is not even self-consistent. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 give conflicting versions of the story, and Genesis 2 is clearly written from a vastly more misogynistic perspective. The four Gospels also vary slightly in their telling of Jesus’ story. Clearly there is either human imperfection in the documentation of God’s word, or God wants there to be inconsistencies that must be interpreted. In either case, these inconsistencies themselves eliminate any argument that every word in the Bible is precise; and therefore, that religion must conflict with science on Biblical “facts”.

I think most of the Christians who are rabidly arguing against science because of religion have not read the Bible much. Challenging blind-followers to read the Bible and reconcile it with fact is possibly the best weapon we for the fight to defend science and fact.

Lastly, there are the manipulators. I fully believe the rank and file people attacking science have been convinced that science is wrong and it is hurting faith or business; but these people are being manipulated and used by people who have goals. They are being used by people who sow anger and divisiveness for power, influence, and gain. With climate change, these people are those who can profit from another generation of unrestrained fossil fuel use. With creationism, it is pastors and politicians who whip their followers into a frenzy. These people need to be challenged. Unfortunately, I don’t have any better suggestions than aggressively and intelligently presenting the truth.

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Extra Military Hardware? Paint it Black and Give it to the Police!

The Militarization of The Police

The Department of Defense has donated thousands of bayonets to police departments. One of the most popular police training courses in the country was started by a man who refers to himself as a “Professor of Killology” and encourages physical and gun violence. SWAT teams are now used to break in the doors to search the homes of non-violent possible drug offenders. The active militarization of our police force and the rash of unnecessary police violence against, and killing of, innocent people are directly linked.

Maybe a White Life Will Matter

Maybe a White Life Will Matter

Average Americans haven’t been able to get behind the Black Lives Matter movement, no matter how many innocent black men have died unnecessarily at the hands of the police. Maybe, Justine Damond’s tragic killing by Minneapolis police will finally get the reaction so many others have deserved. But let’s remember first that Justine was a human being, like Philando Castile and Tamir Rice. She and her family deserve justice. Hopefully, fighting for that justice will help prevent other deaths, but let’s not lose our own humanity in the process.

Blood on Your Hands: Police Violence

Unnecessary killing and violence by police is costing lives – not just civilian lives, but police lives. At the same time, it is making it harder for police to do their jobs and making the public too afraid to call the police to stop crime. This isn’t just a “black problem”. And if you support the police, quit being part of the problem and support a solution before the situation gets dramatically worse, because it will.

Pence without Wife for Chaparone

What Happens When Mike Pence Isn't Chaperoned by His Wife

I used to be bothered by the idea that Pence can't go to lunch with a woman unless he is escorted by his wife. Such standards create business and political situations where men have advantages over women in dealing with him. But I take it back. Pence touched NASA equipment directly below a big "do not touch" sign. The man literally cannot stop himself from touching things, even when clearly not given consent. It is best he is not alone with women, or pretty much anything else.