In news from Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he will temporarily halt construction work at the site of a proposed U.S. military base on the island of Okinawa. This announcement is the latest in a decades-long battle between Japan’s central government and the residents of Okinawa, the majority of whom oppose the new base. Okinawa already houses about 26,000 U.S. troops. On Friday, Prime Minister Abe said he decided to halt construction work and resume talks because the central government and the Okinawa region were locked in a stalemate.
Donald Trump has reportedly reversed his position on ordering the military to use torture against America’s enemies and to target family members of suspected terrorists, policies he has advocated while on the campaign trail.
The switch, indicated in a statement to the Wall Street Journal on Friday in which Trump said he understood that the US “is bound by laws and treaties”, came two days after prominent Republican national security and military figures published an open letter on the subject.
The letter stated “we are united in our opposition to a Donald Trump presidency” and adding that the authors were “obligated to state our core objections clearly”.
Those core objections included the statement that “[Trump’s] embrace of the expansive use of torture is inexcusable”.
The open letter also pointed to the question of whether the military would or could follow potential extra-legal orders made by a hypothetical President Trump without going through the secret process they use now to deem such actions legal.
Turkish authorities have seized control of the country’s largest newspaper in a widening crackdown against supporters of the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, an influential foe of the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Police fired teargas and water cannons on Friday to disperse a few thousand supporters who gathered outside the offices of the Zaman newspaper and chanted: “Free press cannot be silenced.”
Rights groups and European officials criticised the confiscation of Zaman and its sister publication, the English-language Today’s Zaman, which occurred on the eve of a summit between Turkey and the European Union and as concerns mount that the Turkish government is stifling critical media.
Beyond the fat and cholesterol, they’re also one of the leading sources of methane — a planet-warming greenhouse gas with 25 times the punch of carbon dioxide on a 100-year time scale. And those emissions are expected to go up planet-wide as developing countries urbanize and get richer, putting a Western-style diet within the reach of billions more people.
In the United States alone, what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) euphemistically calls “enteric fermentation” — the belches and farts of livestock, mostly cattle — is the second-biggest source of US methane emissions. Those emissions added up to the equivalent of 648 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2014. Their manure added another 60 million, according to an EPA report released last week.
And when you total up the effect of all the feed, fertilizer, and fuel involved in modern farming, that quarter-pound cheeseburger ends up having the same carbon footprint as a nearly seven-mile (11-kilometer) drive, said Dawn Undurraga, a nutritionist with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group.
The political and media establishments in the U.S. — which have jointly wrought so much destruction, decay, and decadence — recently decided to unite against Donald Trump. Their central claim is that the real estate mogul and longtime NBC reality TV star advocates morally reprehensible positions that are far outside the bounds of decency; relatedly, they argue, he is so personally repellent that his empowerment would degrade both the country and the presidency.
In some instances, their claim is plausible: There is at least genuine embarrassment if not revulsion even among America’s political class over Trump’s proposed mass deportation of 11 million human beings, banning of all Muslims from entering the country, and new laws to enable him to more easily sue (and thus destroy) media outlets that “falsely” criticize him. And his signature personality brew of deep-seated insecurities, vindictive narcissism, channeling of the darkest impulses, and gaudy, petty boasting is indeed uniquely grotesque.
But in many cases, probably most, the flamboyant denunciations of Trump by establishment figures make no sense except as self-aggrandizing pretense, because those condemning him have long tolerated if not outright advocated very similar ideas, albeit with less rhetorical candor. Trump is self-evidently a toxic authoritarian demagogue advocating morally monstrous positions, but in most cases where elite outrage is being vented, he is merely a natural extension of the mainstream rhetorical and policy framework that has been laid, not some radical departure from it. He’s their id. What establishment mavens most resent is not what Trump is, does, or says, but what he reflects: the unmistakable, undeniable signs of late-stage imperial collapse, along with the resentments and hatreds they have long deliberately and self-servingly stoked but which are now raging out of their control.
Two of the most recent, widely discussed anti-Trump outrage rituals — one from Wednesday and the other from last night’s Fox News debate — demonstrate the sham at the heart of the establishment display of horror. This week, American political and media figures from across the spectrum stood and applauded a tawdry cast of neocons and other assorted warmongers who are responsible for grave war crimes, torture, kidnappings, due process-free indefinite imprisonment, and the worst political crime of this generation: the attack on and destruction of Iraq.
These five dozen or so extremists (calling themselves “members of the Republican national security community”) were the toast of the town because they published an “open letter” denouncing Trump on the ground that his “own statements lead us to conclude that as president, he would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe, and which would diminish our standing in the world.” This was one of their examples:
His embrace of the expansive use of torture is inexcusable.
Most decent human beings, by definition, would express this sentiment without including the qualifying word “expansive.” Even Ronald Reagan, whom virtually all the signatories claim to idolize, advocated for and signed a treaty in 1988 that stated that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever … may be invoked as a justification of torture” and that “each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offenses under its criminal law.” The taboo is on “all acts of torture,” not its “expansive use” — whatever that means.
But the group signing this anti-Trump letter can’t pretend to find an embrace of torture itself to be “inexcusable” because most of them implemented torture policies while in government or vocally advocated for them. So instead, they invoke the Goldilocks Theory of Torture: We believe in torture up to exactly the right point, while Trump is disgraceful because he wants to go beyond that; he believes in “the expansive use of torture.” The same dynamic drove yesterday’s widely cheered speech by Mitt Romney, where the two-time failed GOP candidate denounced Trump for advocating torture while literally ignoring his own clear pro-torture viewpoints.
Here we see the elite class agreeing to pretend that Trump is advocating views that are inherently disqualifying when — thanks to those doing the denouncing — those views are actually quite mainstream, even popular, among both the American political class and its population. Torture was the official American policy for years. It went way beyond waterboarding. One Republican president ordered it and his Democratic successor immunized it from all forms of accountability, ensuring that not a single official would be prosecuted for authorizing even the most extreme techniques, ones that killed people — or even allowed to be sued by their victims.