Let’s consider the evidence that Trump is a traitor

trump-cia-speechedited

None dare call it treason:

Has Trump’s entire team been compromised by Putin? If so, everyone who continues to support him is complicit 

On Monday evening, national security adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign after supposedly losing the “trust” of President Donald Trump by failing to adequately and fully explain his phone conversations with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election.

As The New York Times explained on Wednesday, FBI agents apparently concluded that Flynn had not been “entirely forthcoming” in describing a phone call he had with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. That set in motion “a chain of events that cost Mr. Flynn his job and thrust Mr. Trump’s fledgling administration into a fresh crisis.”

As the Times report elaborated, Trump “took his time” deciding what to do about Flynn’s dishonesty and was none too eager to fire him.

But other aides [such as other than press secretary Sean Spicer] privately said that Mr. Trump, while annoyed at Mr. Flynn, might not have pushed him out had the situation not attracted such attention from the news media. Instead, according to three people close to Mr. Trump, the president made the decision to cast aside Mr. Flynn in a flash, the catalyst being a news alert of a coming article about the matter.

“Yeah, it’s time,” Mr. Trump told one of his advisers.

Flynn is not alone. Other Trump operatives are also under investigation by the FBI for potentially illegal contact with senior Russian intelligence operatives.

This information is not new. The New York Times and other American news media outlets were aware of reports about Russian tampering in the 2016 election as well as an ongoing federal investigation of Trump, his advisers and other representatives. Instead of sharing this information with the American people during the election campaign, the Times and other publications chose to exercise “restraint” and “caution.” Decades of bullying by the right-wing media and movement conservatives would pay great dividends.

Afraid of showing any so-called liberal bias, the corporate news media demonstrated little restraint in its obsessive reporting about the nonstory that was Hillary Clinton’s emails. This, in conjunction with other factors, almost certainly cost her the election.

In all, the Republican Party and its voters have abandoned their Cold War bona fides and their (somewhat exaggerated) reputation as die-hard enemies of Russia and the former Soviet Union. To borrow from the language of spy craft, it would seem that they have been “flipped” by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Despite mounting evidence suggesting that Trump’s administration has been compromised by Russia, his public continues to back him. The Republican Party and its leadership have largely chosen to support Trump in a type of political suicide mission because they see him as an opportunity to force their agenda on the American people and reverse or undo by the social progress made by the New Deal, the civil rights movement, feminism, the LGBT movement and other forces of progressive change.

In the midst of these not so new “revelations” about Michael Flynn and other members of Trump’s inner circle, the news media is now fixated on the Nixonian question: “What did the president know and when did he know it?” This question ought to not be treated like a mystery. The answer should be readily apparent because it is a direct reflection of Trump’s political and personal values.

Trump has repeatedly shown that he is a fascist authoritarian who admires political strongmen and autocrats such as Putin. In keeping with that leadership style, Trump has surrounded himself with family members and other advisers so as to insulate himself from criticism — and also to neuter any political rivals. In violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, Trump is also using the office of the presidency to personally enrich himself, his family members and other members of his inner circle, such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Donald Trump also has a longtime pattern of open admiration for gangsters and organized crime.

In sum, Trump’s presidency has many of the traits of a criminal enterprise and a financial shakedown operation, masquerading as a democratically elected government.

Flynn resigned because he got caught, not because of what he did. White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed this with his statement during Tuesday’s press briefing that Flynn did “nothing wrong or inappropriate.” In response to this most recent scandal, Trump and his surrogates are now trying to focus on “the leaks,” rather than the potential crimes that may have been committed. Like most political strongmen, Trump values secrecy and loyalty above all else. Those things must be maintained at all costs, even if that means that a given member of the ruling cabal might occasionally have to fall on his or her own sword.

Based on the increasing evidence of communication between his inner circle and Russian operatives, it appears plausible that Trump either actively knew about Flynn’s actions (and perhaps even directed them) or chose to look away while actively benefiting from them. Either choice should disqualify him from the presidency.

In an earlier essay for Salon, I argued that for a variety of reasons that Trump can be considered a traitor to the United States. By that standard, his voters and other supporters who do not denounce him are also traitors, and any Republican officials who continue to back Trump are traitors as well. Recent revelations about Flynn and the still unknown extent of contact between other Trump advisers and Russian agents serve to only reinforce the truth of my earlier claim.

Republicans and other conservatives behave as though they have a monopoly on patriotism and exclusive claims to being “real Americans.” Now is the time for them to test that commitment. Do Republicans and other conservatives love power more than their country? I fear I know the answer. I ask the question in the hope that I am wrong.

None dare call it treason: As the Flynn scandal widens, let’s consider the evidence that Trump is a traitor

Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

“Bowling Green massacre”: Kellyanne Conway, Rand Paul fabricate attack to defend Muslim ban

Conway complained to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that the media covered up a terror attack that never happened

"Bowling Green massacre": Kellyanne Conway, Rand Paul fabricate attack to defend Muslim ban
(Credit: MSNBC)
This story has been corrected since it was originally published.

Kellanne Conway appears to be dabbling with “alternative facts” again.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that aired on Thursday night, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager and now an adviser in his administration, referenced the “Bowling Green massacre” when justifying the president’s controversial executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries and suspending the United States’ Syrian refugee resettlement program.

“I bet it’s brand new information to people that President Obama had a 6-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. It didn’t get covered.”

While Matthews did not press Conway on her Bowling Green massacre claim in the interview, so much of her statement is untrue that essentially the only accurate part is that there were no media reports fitting her description.

First of all, Obama didn’t stop the Iraqi refugee program.

The Obama administration imposed additional background checks on Iraqi refugees in 2011 but did not stop or ban Iraqi refugees from resettling in the U.S.

As for Conway’s complaints that the “Bowling Green massacre” didn’t get covered, it didn’t get covered because it didn’t happen.

Conway may have been referring to two Iraqi men living in Bowling Green, Kentucky who were indicted in 2011 for using improvised explosive devices against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and also for attempting to send weapons and money to Al-Qaeda in Iraq for the purpose of killing U.S. soldiers. Both are serving life sentences. Neither the money nor the weapons ever reached foreign shores, the Associated Press reported, because they were intercepted by an FBI investigation into the two men’s activities. As Vox notes:

During the investigation, the FBI found something worrying: fingerprints from Alwan on a roadside bomb in Iraq. This suggested there was a very specific flaw in America’s refugee screening process: Databases of fingerprints from Iraqi militants were not well-integrated into the broader State Department–run refugee admissions process. As a result, the Obama administration initiated a new review of all roughly 57,000 Iraqi refugees who had been recently admitted into the United States.

Neither man was linked to attacks or planned attacks within the United States.

Those incidents received a fair amount of media coverage, but public interest was limited since there was never even a plot to massacre people in Kentucky. The local newspaper – the Bowling Green Daily News – noted that the case received extensive coverage.

We couldn’t cover the Bowling Green Massacre because it didn’t happen, but this newspaper has written close to 100 stories about that case.

But despite the best reporting efforts of his local paper, even one of Kentucky’s Republican senators echoed Conway’s wholly inaccurate account.In a separate interview with MSNBC, Paul referred to “the attempted bombing in Bowling Green, where I live.”

Contrary to what both the senator and Conway appear to be pushing by spreading the myth of a terror attack in Bowling Green, attempted or a massacre, analysis by the Cato Institute of terrorist attacks on US soil between 1975 and 2015 found that foreign nationals from the seven countries targeted by Trump’s travel ban – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia – have killed no Americans.

Conway’s conspicuous “massacre” comment comes less than two weeks after she defended false assertions about the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd as “alternative facts.”

“You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving — Sean Spicer, our press secretary — gave alternative facts,” Conway told NBC’s Chuck Todd while discussing Spicer’s claim that the Jan. 20 crowd was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.”

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon’s Deputy Politics Editor and biggest Golden State Warriors fan in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

The explosion of Native American hip-hop

Fighting the power and speaking for the earth: 

From the reservations to the big cities, a new generation of Native American hip-hop performers emerges

Fighting the power and speaking for the earth: The explosion of Native American hip-hop
Still from Supaman’s video “Why” (Credit: Supaman)

“I see 20/20 … they pimp us for money. Revising our story, they’re televising … Hey Diane Sawyer, I am a warrior, give me your camera and send me your lawyer,” raps Frank Waln, a young Sicangu Lakota hip-hop artist from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. His 2011 track “Oil 4 Blood” continues on a political bent, referring to war-mongering politicians who seek mineral wealth but “want the earth dead.”

Waln’s politically charged subject matter is fairly representative of a whole new generation of Native hip-hop performers. But Waln is not just your typical “angry young man” from a reservation. A recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, he attended Columbia College in Chicago, originally intending to become a doctor. He wasn’t always as focused in his life.

“When I was a kid, music was a sanctuary for me. I was very insecure,” says Waln, who started playing piano at age 7.”Part of that was growing up in a rodeo cowboy family, and we had to just ‘cowboy up.’ We were Native Americans in survival mode with a history of genocide.”

His first solo album, called “Tokiya,” will drop later this year. In the meantime, Waln is releasing a new track entitled “7″ this week, on Indigenous People’s Day. (That’s the holiday celebrated by many Natives and supporters of Native rights instead of Columbus Day.) “7” is a reference to the Seventh Generation philosophy originating in the Iroquois Confederacy that all Native people strive to live by. “The theme of violence towards Native people is in the new album, like pipelines being built on our land,” Waln says.

A particular focus of many native hip-hop artists’ music today is environmental damage. “Back when I wrote ‘Oil 4 Blood’ in 2011, it was born of frustration,” Waln says. “The government was trying to build the Keystone pipeline on our Rosebud Reservation.” He’s excited about the recent wave of activism around the pipeline issue: “It’s really dope what’s going on in North Dakota – those kids on the rez ran to DC!”

Native hip-hop, especially when it comes from the reservations, has a unique flavor, blending hip-hop with Native culture. Sound and style differs between regions. There are seven reservations in South Dakota, and the sound is different from each. “We are all pioneers,” says Waln. “For the longest time, we never got looks from mainstream media, so even this article is an example of Native messaging getting a closer look.”

Supaman, born Christian Parrish Takes the Gun, is an Apsáalooke Native American from the Crow Nation Reservation near Billings, Montana. In 2014, he was Artist of the Week on MTV, and he’s unique. He rhymes about some of the same issues better-known African-American rappers do, but there is an added element of reservation life. His parents were alcoholics, and he was a foster child until he went to live with his grandfather. Reservation life provided too much idle time and too much poverty, and no good came of it. He was involved with crime and drugs. Takes the Gun says hip-hop – in its more negative aspects – influenced him to play the part of a gangster.

But in his early 20s, Takes the Gun realized this was not the way he wanted to live – and concluded that his music sent the wrong message to his fellow Native young people. So he changed course. After a record deal with a Seattle label saw him leaving his wife and child behind and living a rapper’s lifestyle, Supaman found religion and returned home to Montana, embracing his ancestral traditions and cultural mores. Today, he’s an educator and performer, and one of the best-known Native hip-hop acts.

“’Rapper’s Delight’ was one of the first songs I heard,” he recalls. “I liked the drums, the percussion; I like all kinds of drums. If I’m producing, I have to have the right kind of drums.” Supaman performs in full tribal regalia, a personal approach that other artists don’t typically use. He says he knew this gambit would get audiences talking, and makes clear he is using his tribal dress not as a costume, but toward education.

“We would be invited into schools to educate kids, sharing music, culture and hip-hop,” he says, “and we realized wearing regalia was a great tool to reach the person who was watching and show [we’re] proud of who we are. It also told other Natives they should be proud, too.” The dance Supaman does when he performs is also unusual, contemporary form of powwow culture dance called men’s fancy dancing that originated in Oklahoma. “It’s good to have all these elements to speak to audiences,” he says, adding elements both Native and non-Native audiences probably haven’t seen before.

Reached on the plane on his way to perform and speak at Harry Belafonte’s Many Rivers to Cross festival in Atlanta, Supaman says he makes music to address issues of social injustice. He’ll be singing with artists like Dave Matthews and T.I., and speaking about core social-justice issues, he said. “Most of the artists are about that theme, and positivity. I’ll be talking about the Dakota Access Pipeline and Sacred Stone Camp, which I had the opportunity to visit for a few days recently. The unity of people coming together; people from all over the world, standing up for simple things — clean water. The little guys, the regular people fighting against oil companies. That was inspiring.”

Tall Paul, an Ojibway M.C., hails from Minneapolis. He says his life’s purpose is to spread messages of peace. He grew up listening to hip-hop from all regions, initially making music for fun. In 2009 he dedicated himself fully to the art form. He says that his goal is to make people shed tears of joy and pain, and to share a common experience.

Molly McGlennen, an Ojibway poet, is an associate professor of English and Native American Studies at Vassar College. She says there is a direct link between the Native oral storytelling tradition and the storytelling of hip-hop as a form of expression — and ultimately a form of resistance. “I’m interested in Tall Paul, because he’s using the Ojibway language and English to convey the experience of Ojibway people in Minneapolis,” she says. “The issues that he speaks to resonate with Ojibway people, but at the same time, he’s also speaking to broader indigenous issues of class and race and struggle,” she says. “Because he’s speaking to so many layers of society, indigenous and non-indigenous, he’s an example of the forms of indigenous storytelling. He’s a powerful voice in the contemporary scene right now. He’s fabulous.”

Throughout Frank Waln’s new album, he talks about politics and politicians. “I don’t believe in U.S. politics,” he says. It’s all driven by money and capitalism. Honestly, as a Native person, I can see how there are people who don’t want to participate in the system. It’s parasitic, built on exploitation of human beings, stolen land and labor.” Waln recently scored a short message film called “Miranda and Shonta,” about harmony with animals in nature; the backdrop is the Sacred Stone camp at the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Supaman’s forthcoming album “Illuminatives” speaks to many political concerns that go beyond Native issues, including the pipeline and immigration. He sees a need for “bringing the south-of-the-border Native people up here, and connecting more with other indigenous people.”

Supaman is a voice strongly in favor of unity of all peoples, as are most Native hip-hop and rap artists. “I think that it has always been the case with artists that I know,” he says. “They have used their platform to bring awareness of issues important to Native people. I just finished a tour of a bunch of junior high schools in Colorado; they have no idea bout Native Americans. I’m about bringing light to the darkness and times that we live in. I want to let people know that there is always light and hope at the end of the tunnel.”

Waln is excited that music and political action hand in hand seem to be enabling positive social change in his lifetime. “I am so happy to see it,” he says. “Native young people fostering change and being the source of worldwide movements. I never thought I would see that.”

Alli Joseph is a writer/producer and family historian; a Native New Yorker, she is a member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation.

Lawyer Says He Has Fool-Proof Method for Dealing With DUI Checkpoints

CIVIL LIBERTIES
Warren Redlich says keep your windows up and remain silent when stopped.

A Florida criminal defense attorney has gone to war against DUI checkpoints, saying the compulsory traffic stops by police violate state laws and civil rights.

Attorney Warren Redlich, a former Libertarian candidate for New York governor, says drivers are not required to roll down their windows at checkpoints to talk to police. Redlich says drivers open themselves up to problems when the police have direct access to them.

Redlich posted a YouTube video on New Year’s Day, which has received nearly 2.4 million views. It has spawned several copycat videos by supporters who have filmed police officers after they were stopped at checkpoints in various states.

In the video, Redlich identifies a DUI checkpoint run by the Florida Highway Patrol and Levy County Sheriff’s department and drives to it. Attached to the door is a flyer that Redlich says spells out his rights: I WILL REMAIN SILENT/I WANT MY LAWYER/NO SEARCHES, it begins. The flyer also contains his valid registration and insurance information along with a clear pocket for his driver’s license.

Redlich says it is important not to open the window, because then the police can say they smell alcohol or drugs. He also says it’s important to remain silent, because otherwise the police can claim your speech is slurred. Even if you’re innocent, Redlich says, it makes it more difficult for an attorney to mount a defense at a trial.

“I’ve seen innocent people who plead guilty because they couldn’t fight or afford an attorney,” Redlich told a Florida ABC News affiliate.

The YouTube video shows three drivers who approach police checkpoints. When the first driver approaches the checkpoint with the doors locked and the windows rolled up, the police examine his flyer quizzically before letting him go. The second and third drivers are also allowed to proceed.

Redlich cautions that the Fair DUI flyer and the procedures used by the drivers are specific to Florida laws. He has published custom flyers and information for other 10 other states on his site Fair DUI. Redlich also published a book by the same in 2013.

“This is not about helping drunks,” says Redlich. “This is about helping innocent people. If some drunk person along the way gets help because of this, I’m perfectly okay with that. I’m a criminal defense attorney.”

Redlich says following his directions, being patient and remaining silent are important, so the flyers probably wouldn’t help impaired drivers.

See Redlich’s video:

Cliff Weathers is a senior editor at AlterNet, covering environmental and consumer issues. He is a former deputy editor at Consumer Reports. His work has also appeared in Salon, Car and Driver, Playboy, Raw Story and Detroit Monthly among other publications. Follow him on Twitter @cliffweathers and on his Facebook page.

 

http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/method-dealing-dui-checkpoints?akid=12795.265072.hilghC&rd=1&src=newsletter1031899&t=15

Turns out “Friends” treated fat people as punch lines and kind of had a homophobia problem

“Chandler’s treatment of his gay father is appalling”: Everything critics realized while watching “Friends” in 2015

VIDEO

"Chandler's treatment of his gay father is appalling": Everything critics realized while watching "Friends" in 2015

“Friends” hit Netflix for the first time in 2015, and while it’s certainly not the first time people have had the opportunity to rewatch the show since it went off the air in 2004, it has provided a handy excuse for people to ruminate belatedly on the show’s impact — and for crazy super-fans to binge-watch all 10 seasons, obviously — and perhaps learn something new about the gang in the process. And they did! Some revelations were goofy, some light, and others pretty damning. Here’s what the Internet dug up about our favorite sitcom when viewed in the cold harsh light of 2015:

Chandler is the worst, and he’s also pretty homophobic.

As Ruth Graham wrote in Slate: “Chandler’s treatment of his gay father, a Vegas drag queen played by Kathleen Turner, is especially appalling, and it’s not clear the show knows it. It’s one thing for Chandler to recall being embarrassed as a kid, but he is actively resentful and mocking of his loving, involved father right up until his own wedding (to which his father is initially not invited!)… his continuing discomfort now reads as jarringly out of place for a supposedly hip New York thirtysomething — let alone a supposedly good person, period…. When it comes to women, Chandler turns out to be just as retrograde as Joey, but his lust comes with an undercurrent of the kind of bitter desperation that I now recognize as not only gross, but potentially menacing.”

Although, this, of course, is not the first time the show’s homophobia has been addressed:

Refinery29, meanwhile, delved into the issues with the show’s use of “Fat Monica” as a punchline.

“In the show’s storyline, Monica loses weight in college after overhearing Chandler make fun of her size. Shamed into thinness, Fat Monica becomes just Monica — desirable and (finally) human. Monica is many things: funny, uptight, loving, competitive. Fat Monica is just fat… and always hungry. I was grateful for Fat Monica as a kid. She was proof I could overcome my disgusting plumpness and be seen as lovable, too. True, I would always bear the shame of my inflated past, just like Monica did, but I was willing to live with that if it meant I’d be a person instead of a punchline.”



The Globe and Mail’s John Doyle, meanwhile, asked if nostalgia for “Friends” is all about white privilege.

“The issues of race and ‘white privilege’ make some Americans deeply uncomfortable. Maybe, at a time when mainstream U.S. TV is finally airing shows with ensemble casts that look like the ensemble that is America, and after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, and after the shooting and rioting in Ferguson, Mo., and all the attendant questions raised, there’s an instinctive need on the part of some to return to the bubble of white-bread America that is epitomized by ‘Friends.’”

Yet while some griped about the show’s retrograde identity politics, others were able to find a feminist message.

Refinery29 picked out 21 of “Friends’” most surprising feminist moments. Meanwhile, Bustle listed the nine most feminist things about “Friends,” such as:

“When Rachel got pregnant, she turned down marriage proposals from both Joey and Ross. Being married and having a family don’t necessarily have to be connected, and Rachel was the hottest single mom on network television, and everyone respected (and applauded) her decision.”

In an interesting morsel of critical theory, Maggie Wheeler — aka Janice —  suggests her character is a stand-in for the viewer. As she tells EW:

“This crazy girl who is not particularly self-aware who still gets to be at the party. This interloper, this outsider managed to find her way into this little community of friends, and I think that was a vehicle for a lot of viewers who were sitting around in front of their televisions going, ‘Well, how do I hang out with those people?’”

There were also some novel discoveries on a more micro level — like the fact that the Friends intro without music is super creepy:

Perhaps the biggest revelation of all: Some geniuses at Bustle discovered the answer to the age-old question — How was the gang always able to get a seat at Central Perk?

While, as part of their comprehensive friends countdown — which is full of gems —Vulture reminded us that “Friends” actually invented the term “friend zone.” 

There was much discussion about why the Netflix episodes were shorter than the DVD episodes.

Turns out that, back in 2012, co-executive producer and director Kevin S. Brightexplained that the DVDs had a few minutes of extra footage: “The deleted footage was, frankly, added specifically for one home video release,” he said. “If fans are particularly interested in additional footage, those versions are still available. But for this, we wanted something that we, the creators, felt represented the show as we always wanted it to be remembered, which is the original NBC broadcast versions, which have never before been released as that, combined with fantastic new picture and sound, a new documentary and other new features.”

Still, just remember, no matter how these revelations may make you see “Friends” in a new light, it’s still okay to love the show (albeit with a grain of salt”).

As Vulture’s Margaret Lyons wrote in her “Stay Tuned” TV advice column, in response to a reader expressing discomfort with the show’s homophobia: “You can still love ‘Friends,’ but why would you want to love it like you did before? Love it the way you see it now, with the things you know now and the values you have now. I love ‘Friends,’ but I do not love its body or queer politics. Those things can be true at the same time.”

President Obama’s perfect example of D.C.’s warmongering con

“That’s how we roll”:

In a swaggering “60 Minutes” interview, the president shows how Washington defends its thirst for endless war VIDEO

"That's how we roll": President Obama's perfect example of D.C.'s warmongering con
President Barack Obama (Credit: Screen shot, CBS “60 Minutes”)

Among the many things that make the United States such an exceptional nation, its relative unwillingness to spend money on programs to better its citizens’ lives is especially notable. Ditto its utterly unrivaled enthusiasm for spending its money on programs to make it easier to end other citizens’ lives. But while it’s true that Americans work more for less, it’s also true that no other country’s political class is quite so festooned with top-of-the-line killing machines, or so unencumbered when it comes to deploying those killing machines wherever and whenever they please.

Assuming you’re not a defense contractor lobbyist or lifetime bureaucratic warrior in the Pentagon, it doesn’t sound like too good a deal for the vast majority of America’s 300-million-plus population. But as President Obama showed during Sunday night’s new interview with Steve Kroft for “60 Minutes,” there’s a tried and true way that U.S. leadership manages to square that circle: By telling Americans that the globe is in many ways like a big university — one where the United States is the undisputed big man on campus.

http://www.cbsnews.com/common/video/cbsnews_video.swf



“It looks like once again we are leading the operation,” Kroft complained to the president, noting that despite Obama’s efforts to build a broad coalition for his war against ISIS, the United States found itself still in the role of first among equals when it came to shouldering the campaign’s burden. It was a pointed question to deliver to a president who was ushered into office in part on a promise to wield America’s military more wisely, more judiciously and with more of a mind on the problems unresolved at home.

Still, President Obama, that one-time candidate of change, had a quick and direct answer: “Steve, that’s always the case. That’s always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation; we have capacity no one else has; our military is the best in the history of the world.

“When trouble comes up anywhere in the world,” Obama continued, “they don’t call Beijing, they don’t call Moscow — they call us.”

Having reduced geopolitics to the level of “Ghostbusters” (because when there’s sectarian killing born from a centuries-long ethnic and cultural conflict in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call?) Obama continued, “When there’s a typhoon in the Philippines, take a look at who’s helping the Philippines deal with that situation. When there’s an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who’s leading the charge, making sure Haiti can rebuild.”

Obama then laid down the hammer, delivering the sound bite one imagines White House message mavens thought was terrifically badass when they came up with it during the waning hours of an all-night planning session some recent, godforsaken morning: “That’s how we roll,” the president of the United States said. “That’s what makes us America.” (“Bring ‘em on!” was already taken.)

So if in years ahead — perhaps during a time when the debate has shifted from whether to send troops back to Iraq to how many troops we should send; or perhaps during the next time when a temporary economic downturn persuades the most serious people in Washington that the welfare state is a luxury the United States cannot afford — you find yourself wondering why the debate in Washington is always between less welfare and more war now or less welfare and more war later, remember what Barack Obama told you.

That’s how we roll. Because we’re America.

Elias Isquith is staff writer at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith, and email him at eisquith@salon.com.

“Alive Inside”: Music may be the best medicine for dementia

A heartbreaking new film explores the breakthrough that can help severely disabled seniors: It’s called the iPod VIDEO

"Alive Inside": Music may be the best medicine for dementia

One physician who works with the elderly tells Michael Rossato-Bennett’s camera, in the documentary “Alive Inside,” that he can write prescriptions for $1,000 a month in medications for older people under his care, without anyone in the healthcare bureaucracy batting an eye. Somebody will pay for it (ultimately that somebody is you and me, I suppose) even though the powerful pharmaceutical cocktails served up in nursing homes do little or nothing for people with dementia, except keep them docile and manageable. But if he wants to give those older folks $40 iPods loaded up with music they remember – which both research and empirical evidence suggest will improve their lives immensely — well, you can hardly imagine the dense fog of bureaucratic hostility that descends upon the whole enterprise.

“Alive Inside” is straightforward advocacy cinema, but it won the audience award at Sundance this year because it will completely slay you, and it has the greatest advantages any such movie can have: Its cause is easy to understand, and requires no massive social change or investment. Furthermore, once you see the electrifying evidence, it becomes nearly impossible to oppose. This isn’t fracking or climate change or drones; I see no possible way for conservatives to turn the question of music therapy for senior citizens into some kind of sinister left-wing plot. (“Next up on Fox News: Will Elton John turn our seniors gay?”) All the same, social worker Dan Cohen’s crusade to bring music into nursing homes could be the leading edge of a monumental change in the way we approach the care and treatment of older people, especially the 5 million or so Americans living with dementia disorders.

You may already have seen a clip from “Alive Inside,” which became a YouTube hit not long ago: An African-American man in his 90s named Henry, who spends his waking hours in a semi-dormant state, curled inward like a fetus with his eyes closed, is given an iPod loaded with the gospel music he grew up with. The effect seems almost impossible and literally miraculous: Within seconds his eyes are open, he’s singing and humming along, and he’s fully present in the room, talking to the people around him. It turns out Henry prefers the scat-singing of Cab Calloway to gospel, and a brief Calloway imitation leads him into memories of a job delivering groceries on his bicycle, sometime in the 1930s.



Of course Henry is still an elderly and infirm person who is near the end of his life. But the key word in that sentence is “person”; we become startlingly and heartbreakingly aware that an entire person’s life experience is still in there, locked inside Henry’s dementia and isolation and overmedication. As Oliver Sacks put it, drawing on a word from the King James Bible, Henry has been “quickened,” or returned to life, without the intervention of supernatural forces. It’s not like there’s just one such moment of tear-jerking revelation in “Alive Inside.” There might be a dozen. I’m telling you, one of those little pocket packs of tissue is not gonna cut it. Bring the box.

There’s the apologetic old lady who claims to remember nothing about her girlhood, until Louis Armstrong singing “When the Saints Go Marching In” brings back a flood of specific memories. (Her mom was religious, and Armstrong’s profane music was taboo. She had to sneak off to someone else’s house to hear his records.) There’s the woman with multiple psychiatric disorders and a late-stage cancer diagnosis, who ditches the wheelchair and the walker and starts salsa dancing. There’s the Army veteran who lost all his hair in the Los Alamos A-bomb test and has difficulty recognizing a picture of his younger self, abruptly busting out his striking baritone to sing along with big-band numbers. “It makes me feel like I got a girl,” he says. “I’m gonna hold her tight.” There’s the sweet, angular lady in late middle age, a boomer grandma who can’t reliably find the elevator in her building, or tell the up button from the down, boogieing around the room to the Beach Boys’ “I Get Around,” as if transformed into someone 20 years younger. The music cannot get away from her, she says, as so much else has done.

There’s a bit of hard science in “Alive Inside” (supplied by Sacks in fascinating detail) and also the beginnings of an immensely important social and cultural debate about the tragic failures of our elder-care system and how the Western world will deal with its rapidly aging population. As Sacks makes clear, music is a cultural invention that appears to access areas of the brain that evolved for other reasons, and those areas remain relatively unaffected by the cognitive decline that goes with Alzheimer’s and other dementia disorders. While the “quickening” effect observed in someone like Henry is not well understood, it appears that stimulating those undamaged areas of the brain with beloved and familiar signals – and what will we ever love more than the hit songs of our youth? — can unlock other things at least temporarily, including memory, verbal ability, and emotion. Sacks doesn’t address this, but the effects appear physical as well: Everyone we see in the film becomes visibly more active, even the man with late-stage multiple sclerosis and the semi-comatose woman who never speaks.

Dementia is a genuine medical phenomenon, as anyone who has spent time around older people can attest, and one that’s likely to exert growing psychic and economic stress on our society as the population of people over 65 continues to grow. But you can’t help wondering whether our social practice of isolating so many old people in anonymous, characterless facilities that are entirely separated from the rhythms of ordinary social life has made the problem considerably worse. As one physician observes in the film, the modern-day Medicare-funded nursing home is like a toxic combination of the poorhouse and the hospital, and the social stigma attached to those places is as strong as the smell of disinfectant and overcooked Salisbury steak. Our culture is devoted to the glamour of youth and the consumption power of adulthood; we want to think about old age as little as possible, even though many of us will live one-quarter to one-third of our lives as senior citizens.

Rossato-Bennett keeps the focus of “Alive Inside” on Dan Cohen’s iPod crusade (run through a nonprofit called Music & Memory), which is simple, effective and has achievable goals. The two of them tread more lightly on the bigger philosophical questions, but those are definitely here. Restoring Schubert or Motown to people with dementia or severe disabilities can be a life-changing moment, but it’s also something of a metaphor, and the lives that really need changing are our own. Instead of treating older people as a medical and financial problem to be managed and contained, could we have a society that valued, nurtured and revered them, as most societies did before the coming of industrial modernism? Oh, and if you’re planning to visit me in 30 or 40 years, with whatever invisible gadget then exists, please take note: No matter how far gone I am, you’ll get me back with “Some Girls,” Roxy Music’s “Siren” and Otto Klemperer’s 1964 recording of “The Magic Flute.”

“Alive Inside” opens this week at the Sunshine Cinema in New York. It opens July 25 in Huntington, N.Y., Toronto and Washington; Aug. 1 in Asbury Park, N.J., Boston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia; Aug. 8 in Chicago, Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., Palm Springs, Calif., San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Calif., and Vancouver, Canada; Aug. 15 in Denver, Minneapolis and Phoenix; and Aug. 22 in Atlanta, Dallas, Harrisburg, Pa., Portland, Ore., Santa Fe, N.M., Seattle and Spokane, Wash., with more cities and home video to follow.

http://www.salon.com/2014/07/15/alive_inside_music_may_be_the_best_medicine_for_dementia/?source=newsletter