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They sabotaged Jimmy Carter, too
I said Friday the best way to understand Donald Trump's relationship with Vladimir Putin is to think of the former as the leader of a totally made-up confederacy and the latter as the leader in a totally made-up presidency, who are together in league against the real America.
Trump’s confederacy of the mind and spirit is what I call Realamerica, not to be confused with the real America. Realamericans live there according to God's law, which puts white Christian men on top of society. In Realamerica, the US Constitution was handed down by God, and the real America should stay the same as it was at its founding. The goal of Realamericans is the domination or sabotage of the real America in which their makebelieve confederacy exists.
For Putin, the best way of winning the war in Ukraine is for a Trump victory in 2024. For Trump, the best way to win the presidency of the real America, and therefore escape criminal accountability, is to keep partnering with Putin in an attempted repeat of the 2016 election. I called this pact the Russo-Realamerican alliance. A hostile foreign government hopes to destabilize the real America from the inside, for the purpose of destabilizing European democracies, and the leader of an imaginary confederacy inside that real country wants to help.
READ MORE: Former Jimmy Carter official tears apart 'sham' argument against Supreme Court code of conduct
Since Friday, two things have occurred to underscore my thesis. One, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest on charges of war crimes related to his country’s invasion of democratic Ukraine. Two, Trump said Sunday he expected to be arrested in connection with a hush-money investigation involving Stormy Daniels. Trump called for mass "protests," as he did on J6.
Not only do these men hold illegitimate power. Not only do they use that illegitimate power to attack, erode and undermine legitimate national governments, like the one in Ukraine and like the one here in the real America. They are outside generally accepted boundaries of the law. They are inauthentic. They are lawless. They are criminal.
Yet we face the prospect of another Trump candidacy. You’d think the Republicans, as rah rah as they are, would have a problem with a candidate openly in league with a hostile foreign government. You'd think they'd reject Trump as the 2024 nominee. But all things being equal, though he may be indicted for crimes committed in New York state, Donald Trump will likely win the Republican nomination.
I put it like this, because for mostpeople, it's difficult to understand how a former president could ever side with Vladimir Putin, who has gone to war with a fellow democratic state (Ukraine) and who threatens the long-enlightened project of the European Union.
READ MORE: Robert Reich: Jimmy Carter and the end of democratic capitalism
By thinking of Donald Trump as the leader of a makebelieve confederacy, which exhibits nearly all the same attributes of the former Confederate States of America, we overcome the disbelief that’s associated with a former president siding with the enemy.
Trump was illegitimate then, as the president of a real country (America). He's illegitimate now, as the president of a fake country (Realamerica). In neither does Trump ask for the consent of the government for the purpose of governing in their name. In both, he, like Putin, expects loyalty to him above all, even the rule of law.
There’s another reason why I say this confederacy of the mind and spirit is a "nation" inside a real nation – so that normal people can see the United States is not a united nation, never has been, and the United States, in a very real sense, is as fictional as Trump’s confederacy of the mind and spirit. The United States did not emerge organically. They were imagined into being. The difference is that the confederacy is illegal and unmade, the union is legal and made.
The difference is mostpeople chose the latter over the former.
Somepeople, which is to say the inhabitants of Realamerica, will never accept the real America. It would be the end for them if they did. To them, truth, justice, equality and liberty for everyone means robbing them of the same. As long as the real America plays by the rules of Realamerica, all is well. But if the real America does not obey, then Realamericans are free to take the law into their own hands. They are free to sabotage, even destroy, what they cannot control.
Most of us believe that the possibility of the indictment of a former president would be the exception to the rule. But what is the rule when Realamericans reserve the right to commit treason when the real America (that is, a democratic majority) denies their right to rule? What is an exception when for somepeople treason is optional?
The Times reported over the weekend that Jimmy Carter's reelection campaign was sabotaged by a group of Texas Republicans. Carter struggled, right up to Election Day, with a crisis involving American hostages in Iran. These Realamericans, as I'd call them, went to Iran to say that a Republican president would offer them a better deal. The hostages were released, but only after Ronald Reagan's victory.
The Times report has one source, a witness to the conspiracy, whose story was corroborated by others not involved. Whether the trip made the difference for Carter is hard to say. That the trip happened at all, however, illustrates my point – that there exists an imaginary "nation" inside this real nation. Its inhabitants are dedicated to the cause of domination and control. If they can't control, they destroy.
It’s God's law.
Which happens to be whatever Realamericans say.
READ MORE: Jimmy Carter warns US democracy 'teeters on the brink'
Astronomers on Monday warned that the light pollution created by the soaring number of satellites orbiting Earth poses an "unprecedented global threat to nature."
The number of satellites in low Earth orbit have more than doubled since 2019, when US company SpaceX launched the first "mega-constellation," which comprise thousands of satellites.
An armada of new internet constellations are planned to launch soon, adding thousands more satellites to the already congested area fewer than 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) above Earth.
Each new satellite increases the risk that it will smash into another object orbiting Earth, creating yet more debris.
This can create a chain reaction in which cascading collisions create ever smaller fragments of debris, further adding to the cloud of "space junk" reflecting light back to Earth.
In a series of papers published in the journal Nature Astronomy, astronomers warned that this increasing light pollution threatens the future of their profession.
In one paper, researchers said that for the first time they had measured how much a brighter night sky would financially and scientifically affect the work of a major observatory.
Modeling suggested that for the Vera Rubin Observatory, a giant telescope currently under construction in Chile, the darkest part of the night sky will become 7.5 percent brighter over the next decade.
That would reduce the number of stars the observatory is able to see by around 7.5 percent, study co-author John Barentine told AFP.
That would add nearly a year to the observatory's survey, costing around $21.8 million, said Barentine of Dark Sky Consulting, a firm based in the US state of Arizona.
He added that there is another cost of a brighter sky that impossible to calculate: the celestial events that humanity will never get to observe.
And the increase in light pollution could be even worse than thought.
Another Nature study used extensive modeling to suggest that current measurements of light pollution are significantly underestimating the phenomenon.
- 'Stop this attack' -
The brightening of the night sky will not just affect professional astronomers and major observatories, the researchers warned.
Aparna Venkatesan, an astronomer at the University of San Francisco, said it also threatened "our ancient relationship with the night sky".
"Space is our shared heritage and ancestor -- connecting us through science, storytelling, art, origin stories and cultural traditions -- and it is now at risk," she said in a Nature comment piece.
A group of astronomers from Spain, Portugal and Italy called for scientists to "stop this attack" on the natural night.
"The loss of the natural aspect of a pristine night sky for all the world, even on the summit of K2 or on the shore of Lake Titicaca or on Easter Island is an unprecedented global threat to nature and cultural heritage," the astronomers said in a Nature comment piece.
"If not stopped, this craziness will become worse and worse."
The astronomers called for drastically limiting mega-constellations, adding that "we must not reject the possibility of banning them.""
They said that it was "naive to hope that the skyrocketing space economy will limit itself, if not forced to do so," given the economic interests at stake.
© 2023 AFP
Scientists make 'disturbing' find on remote island: plastic rocks
There are few places on Earth as isolated as Trindade island, a volcanic outcrop a three- to four-day boat trip off the coast of Brazil.
So geologist Fernanda Avelar Santos was startled to find an unsettling sign of human impact on the otherwise untouched landscape: rocks formed from the glut of plastic pollution floating in the ocean.
Santos first found the plastic rocks in 2019, when she traveled to the island to research her doctoral thesis on a completely different topic -- landslides, erosion and other "geological risks."
She was working near a protected nature reserve known as Turtle Beach, the world's largest breeding ground for the endangered green turtle, when she came across a large outcrop of the peculiar-looking blue-green rocks.
Intrigued, she took some back to her lab after her two-month expedition.
Analyzing them, she and her team identified the specimens as a new kind of geological formation, merging the materials and processes the Earth has used to form rocks for billions of years with a new ingredient: plastic trash.
"We concluded that human beings are now acting as a geological agent, influencing processes that were previously completely natural, like rock formation," she told AFP.
"It fits in with the idea of the Anthropocene, which scientists are talking about a lot these days: the geological era of human beings influencing the planet's natural processes. This type of rock-like plastic will be preserved in the geological record and mark the Anthropocene."
The finding left her "disturbed" and "upset," said Santos, a professor at the Federal University of Parana, in southern Brazil.
She describes Trindade as "like paradise": a beautiful tropical island whose remoteness has made it a refuge for all sorts of species -- sea birds, fish found only there, nearly extinct crabs, the green turtle.
The only human presence on the South Atlantic island is a small Brazilian military base and a scientific research center.
"It's marvelous," she said.
"So it was all the more horrifying to find something like this -- and on one of the most ecologically important beaches."
She returned to the island late last year to collect more specimens and dig deeper into the phenomenon.
Continuing her research, she found similar rock-like plastic formations had previously been reported in places including Hawaii, Britain, Italy and Japan since 2014.
But Trindade island is the remotest place on the planet they have been found so far, she said.
She fears that as the rocks erode, they will leach microplastics into the environment and further contaminate the island's food chain.
She and her team's study, published in September in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, classified the new kind of "rocks" found worldwide into several types: "plastiglomerates," similar to sedimentary rocks; "pyroplastics," similar to clastic rocks; and a previously unidentified type, "plastistones," similar to igneous rocks formed by lava flow.
"Marine pollution is provoking a paradigm shift for concepts of rock and sedimentary deposit formations," her team wrote.
"Human interventions are now so pervasive that one has to question what is truly natural."
The main ingredient in the rocks Santos discovered was remnants of fishing nets, they found.
But ocean currents have also swept an abundance of bottles, household waste and other plastic trash from around the world to the island, she said.
Santos said she plans to make the topic her main research focus.
Trindade "is the most pristine place I've ever seen," she said.
"Seeing how vulnerable it is to the trash contaminating our oceans shows how pervasive the problem is worldwide."
© 2023 AFP