The Problem of Racism is Not Black and White

The Problem of Racism is Not Black and White
by Sam Husseini
[From the January/February 1998 issue of Poverty & Race]

In what was billed as one of President Clinton's most important speeches, he urged us to "begin" a dialogue on race relations. Clinton spoke of "the problem of race." There is no such thing — except for racists. There is the problem of racism, a word Clinton managed to use only once during his  speech.

President Barr

Barr is Cheney 2.0. He is CIA from way back. His father was OSS. His father hired Jeffrey Epstein to be a math teacher at the Dalton School. Barr was Attorney General when Bush I gave Christmas eve pardons to Elliott Abrams and others after Bush I was voted out of office in 1992.

Barr was brought into the Trump administration about the same time as Elliott Abrams. He basically declared that based on his reading of the Mueller report that there was no obstruction of justice. So Barr basically got to decide if Trump stays or goes. Trump has been serving at Barr's pleasure.

Recent interviews on the origins of the pandemic, misreporting, and the threat of biowarfare

Was just interviewed by the thoughtful Pat Thomas of the Organic Consumers Association

Earlier this month, I was interviewed by John Kirby and Libby Handros of "Perspectives on the Pandemic." Under a tight deadline, they did a great job of pulling together some visuals as well. Transcript attached (which I've not double checked as yet.) Unfortunately, some of their content is getting purged and my interview seems to be shadow banned

 

Averting our Gaze from Biowarfare: Pandemics and Self-fulfilling Prophecies

by Sam Husseini

Those bastards in their white lab coats
Who experiment with mountain goats
Should leave the universe alone
It's not their business, not their home
-- John Prine, "Lonesome Friends of Science"

People who are dismissing the possibility that the pandemic might have come from a lab -- either accidentally from a Wuhan lab or them being effectively framed, as we saw with the 2001 anthrax attacks -- are basically risking the future of humanity because they don't want to have an uncomfortable discussion.

On Feb. 11, I asked Anne Schuchat, the CDC's Principal Deputy Director, at the National Press Club if it were a "complete coincidence" that the outbreak of the novel coronavirus happened in Wuhan, a center of China's declared biowarfare/biodefence capacity. I didn't get a satisfactory answer. In fact, at the end it was remarkably evasive. She wouldn't answer my followup question about whether the claimed "zoonotic origin" precluded the outbreak from being caused pathogens from nature that then could be accidentally leaked from the labs.  

But such simple facts are not being given to the public. Take "Democracy Now," the ostensible flagship broadcast of progressive thought. A search on "Democracy Now" shows that the first time the program mentioned "Wuhan" and "lab" or "laboratory" was on April 6 -- to credit "the Wuhan lab that identified the coronavirus that causes COVID-19." Mainstream outlets at least reported the existence of the lab to their audiences in a somewhat timely manner, even if they distorted the information. 

And skew the info they did. 

Forbes (3/17/20) published the piece "No, COVID-19 Coronavirus Was Not Bioengineered. Here’s The Research That Debunks That Idea," which depends on a misreading of a strange and misleading Nature Medicine article to dismiss the notion that it came out of a lab. The Forbes senior contributor on health, Bruce Y. Lee writes: "it’s a lot easier to leak a pocket of air though your butt than a virus from a BSL-4 facility." Apparently this was supposed to be reassuring. 

Similarly CNN (4/6/20) mocked the notion of a lab leak when re-assessing the source of the pandemic, describing one possibility being that: "It leaked -- like a genie out of a bottle -- from a lab in an accident."

But even a cursory look at the record shows that these labs, where ever they exist, have a lot of accidents -- just from 2019, the New York Times (8/5/19) reported: "Deadly Germ Research Is Shut Down at Army Lab Over Safety Concerns" regarding Fort Detrick in Maryland: "Problems with disposal of dangerous materials led the government to suspend research at the military’s leading biodefense center." (The local paper, the Frederick News-Post has provided some coverage, including publishing letters by local activist Barry Kissin who has focused on the issue.)

USA Today had a reporter on this beat, Alison Young, but she left the paper. A sampling of her work: 

Contrary to claims, the pandemic may have come from a lab — and regardless, it exposes the threat of biowarfare arms race

[Originally published in Salon.]
By Sam Husseini

There is no scientific finding that the novel coronavirus was bioengineered, but its origins are not entirely clear. Deadly pathogens discovered in the wild can be studied in secret in labs — and sometimes made more dangerous. That possibility, and other plausible scenarios, have been incorrectly dismissed in remarks by some scientists and government officials, and in the coverage of most major media outlets.

Regardless of the source of this pandemic, there is considerable documentation that a global biological arms race going on outside of public view could produce even more deadly pandemics in the future.

While much of the media and political establishment have minimized the threat from such lab work, some hawks on the American right like Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., have singled out Chinese biodefense researchers as uniquely dangerous. 

But there is every indication that U.S. lab work is every bit as threatening as that in Chinese labs. American labs also operate in secret, and are also known to be accident-prone.

The current dynamics of the biological arms race have been driven by U.S. government decisions that extend back decades. In December 2009, Reuters reported that the Obama administration was refusing even to negotiate the possible monitoring of biological weapons.

Much of the left in the U.S. now appears unwilling to scrutinize the origin of the pandemic — or the wider issue of biowarfare — perhaps because portions of the anti-Chinese right have been so vocal in making unfounded allegations. 

Governments that participate in such biological weapon research generally distinguish between "biowarfare" and "biodefense," as if to paint such "defense" programs as necessary. But this is rhetorical sleight-of-hand; the two concepts are largely indistinguishable. 

"Biodefense" implies tacit biowarfare, breeding more dangerous pathogens for the alleged purpose of finding a way to fight them. While this work appears to have succeeded in creating deadly and infectious agents, including deadlier flu strains, such "defense" research is impotent in its ability to defend us from this pandemic. 

The legal scholar who drafted the main U.S. law on the subject, Francis Boyle, warned in his 2005 book "Biowarfare and Terrorism" that an "illegal biological arms race with potentially catastrophic consequences" was underway, largely driven by the U.S. government.

For years, many scientists have raised concerns regarding bioweapons/biodefense lab work, and specifically about the fact that huge increases in funding have taken place since 9/11. This was especially true after the anthrax-by-mail attacks that killed five people in the weeks after 9/11, which the FBI ultimately blamed on a U.S. government biodefense scientist. A 2013 study found that biodefense funding since 2001 had totaled at least $78 billion, and more has surely been spent since then. This has led to a proliferation of laboratories, scientists and new organisms, effectively setting off a biological arms race. 

Following the Ebola outbreak in west Africa in 2014, the U.S. government paused funding for what are known as "gain-of-function" research on certain organisms. This work actually seeks to make deadly pathogens deadlier, in some cases making pathogens airborne that previously were not. With little notice outside the field, the pause on such research was lifted in late 2017.

During this pause, exceptions for funding were made for dangerous gain-of-function lab work. This included work jointly done by U.S. scientists from the University of North Carolina, Harvard and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. This work — which had funding from USAID and EcoHealth Alliance not originally acknowledged — was published in 2015 in Nature Medicine

A different Nature Medicine article about the origin of the current pandemic, authored by five scientists and published on March 17, has been touted by major media outlet and some officials — including current National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins — as definitively disproving a lab origin for the novel coronavirus. That journal article, titled "The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2," stated unequivocally: "Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus." This is a subtly misleading sentence. While the scientists state that there is no known laboratory "signature" in the SARS-Cov-2 RNA, their argument fails to take account of other lab methods that could have created coronavirus mutations without leaving such a signature.

Questioning the CDC: Is it a Complete Coincidence That China's Only BSL4 Is in Wuhan? -- Audio and Video

I asked about the origins of the outbreak at a news conference with a Center for Disease Control representative at the now shuttered National Press Club on Feb. 11. I asked if it was a complete coincidence that the pandemic started in Wuhan, which seems a hub of Chinese biowarfare capacity -- with the only declared BSL4 (biosafety level 4 laboratory, which deals with the most deadly pathogens) while the bat caves (in Yunnan province) some have cited as the relevant source of bats are over 1,000 miles from Wuhan. I noted that controversial gain-of-function lab work results in more deadly pathogens (like making them airborne), and that major labs, including in the U.S., have had accidents. The CDC's Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat replied that based on the information she has seen, the virus was of "zoonotic origin." She also stated regarding gain-of-function lab work that it's important to "protect researchers and their laboratory workers as well as the community around them and that we use science for the benefit of people." 

I followed up, asking if an alleged natural origin didn't preclude it coming out of a lab, since a lab could have acquired a bat virus and been working on it. Schuchat replied to the assembled journalists that "it is very common for rumors to emerge that can take on life of their own," but didn't answer the question. She noted that in the 2014 Ebola outbreak, some pointed to nearby labs as the possible cause, claiming this "was a key rumor that had to be overcome in order to help control the outbreak." And she reiterated: "So based on everything that I know right now, I can tell you the circumstances of the origin really look like animals to human. But your, your question, I heard." 

But there's no rumor. It’s a fact: Labs work with dangerous pathogens. U.S. and China have such dual use biowarfare/biodefense programs. China has major facilities at Wuhan. There are leaks from labs. (See Preventing a Biological Arms Race, MIT Press, 1990, edited by Susan Wright -- see (partial) review in Journal of International Law (10/92).)

Notice of event is here. Full video here and my questioning begins at 41:41. Audio attached, my question begins at 6:10 on the audio. Full article to come. Transcript: 

Husseini: Obviously the main concern is how to stop the virus and deaths and so on. But I think that we should look into the origins of this. Is it the CDCs contention that there's absolutely no relation to the BSL4 lab in Wuhan? It's my understanding this is the only place in China with a BSL4 lab. We in the United States have I think two dozen or so and there have been problems and incidents. Some of them have been shut down out of concerns of leakage of potential pathogens. And it's an ethical struggle in the United States about gain of function research. That is, research that actually attempts to make pathogens more lethal. China is a very opaque society [with a] totalitarian regime. We have no idea, or I don't know, you tell me: Do you have any idea of what kind of research could potentially be done? I'm not contending that this was intentional in any way. I'm just asking is it a complete coincidence that this outbreak happened in the one city in China with a BSL4 lab and shouldn't we be having at least some of the discussion about the ethics of some of the research that happens here? Thank you.

Schuchat: Thank you for those comments. Based on everything that I know about what is going on with this outbreak and the research that's being conducted, well as the genomic sequences that have been posted and the comparison with animals strains, the pattern that we're seeing is quite consistent with emergence from animal to human acquisition and adaptability or mutations that permit the virus to be easily spread between people. There's some emerging research about, you know, the virus itself is related to bat viruses, that's what the SARS virus and the MERS virus. But there was an intriguing report about pangolin sequencing -- an animal that is apparently a large part of the wildlife trade around the world, with 99 percent similarity. But what our scientists tell us is you actually need more like 99.9 percent similarity for us to understand origin. The animal origins and the circumstances of the emergence of this virus are really important to understand and it's one of the key questions that the global community wants to look into.

Schuchat: In terms of the question about gain of function research and laboratory issues. Very important for us as a scientific community to have practices that protect researchers and their laboratory workers as well as the community around them and that we use science for the benefit of people. So I am closely involved in this response and everything that I've seen so far is very consistent with the animal to human spread that we've seen other zoonotic origin. 

Husseini: May I follow up on that -- just -- I mean, the two things don't necessarily preclude each other. That is, the Chinese lab could well have acquired the bat [virus]. It's one or two thousand miles away -- the caves where the bats are [from] that are allegedly the cause. So wouldn't -- the two things aren't mutually exclusive, are they?

Schuchat: Yeah, let me leave a comment. Information is critical and having the very best information available to those who -- to everyone, to be able to protect themselves, their families, their communities is essential. In the midst of new infections, it is very common for rumors to emerge that can take on life of their own. So as you mentioned, a laboratory in the center of what else is happening in that province -- I'm reminded of concerns we heard when I was in Sierra Leone in 2014 with the Ebola response. There was a concern that there was a hemorrhagic virus research center in Sierra Leone, and maybe that's where the virus had come from. It was a key rumor that had to be overcome in order to help control the outbreak. So based on everything that I know right now, I can tell you the circumstances of the origin really look like animals to human. But your, your question, I heard.

Sanders Suspends: What Happened? What Now?

Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk commented just as Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign: "Bernie made a number of mistakes that I highlighted and broke down in detail. No excuses. Having said that, you're out of your fucking mind if you think I'll forget or look past 'bloody monday', aka the day Obama got Pete & Amy to drop & endorse Biden. Saving his campaign."

In fact, the "Bloody Monday" move -- when Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar both endorsed Biden just after his South Carolina win and just before "Super Tuesday" -- might be the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the DNC or other establishment forces molded the campaign to producer this outcome. 

Consider:

* Kamala Harris and Cory Booker pulled out of the race before South Carolina, paving the way for Biden's win there. Jim Clyburn of course endorsed Biden just before South Carolina. Tragically, Jesse Jackson only endorsed Sanders after. 

* Warren split the progressive ranks throughout and ultimately refused to endorse Sanders. 

* Even the choices of the candidates was useful to stopping Sanders. Pete Buttigieg was from Indiana and the net effect of his campaign was to deny Sanders a clear win in not-so-far-away Iowa. Amy Klobuchar was from Minnesota and so the net effect of her campaign was to throw that state to Biden so that Biden won something substantial outside of the south on Super Tuesday, making his rise appear national and therefore plausibly inevitable. 

* Ostensibly antiwar candidate Tulsi Gabbard throughout refused to meaningfully criticize the war addicted Biden -- even when she had a clear shot to do so during the debates on his Iraq war lies. Meanwhile, Sanders just kept saying Biden voted for the Iraq war while Sanders didn't. Sanders never meaningfully made the case that Biden played key role in making the Iraq invasion happen and never really tore into his lies

* Mike Gravel -- who might have really tore into Biden -- was excluded from the debate stage throughout. 

* Julián Castro was marginalized shortly after he attacked Biden. 

  * Bloomberg coming in had the net effect of Warren going after him -- for things she could well have gone after Biden about but didn't. His demise effectively gave the base a sense of weird relief that Biden is the nominee: "Well, at least we didn't get stuck with Billionaire Bloomberg".

You couldn't have planned it better for Biden if you tried. And lots of forces -- from the DNC to the establishment media did try in thousands of ways.
 
Additionally, the entire "Ukrainegate" obsession -- contrary to a slew of deluded progressive commentators at the time -- built up Biden as the anti-Trump. Trump was trying to attack him, so he must be the one Trump is afraid of was the obvious logic. That was the net effect of the entire media focus on that including the ultimate impeachment (remember impeachment?). 

Indeed, in this incredibly vicious cycle, just as many Republicans likely turned to Trump because they felt they needed a corrupt celebrity to stop Hillary Clinton, many Democrats likely turned to Biden for similar reasons this year.

And at a societal level, the pandemic struck chords of fear in people's collective psychology. It was like the Y2K story. As January 1, 2000 approached, people were filled with dread and fear, so that what should have been a time for great hope was a time for just hoping to get by. Like now. The pandemic pushed many people to turn to the familiar, to something that they associate with not being a disaster. (This is the opposite of what happened in 1900 -- that period was apparently greeted with great embrace.)
 
Then there's Sanders' own role, his incapacity -- or more likely, his unwillingness -- to mount sharper attacks on Biden, of shedding his imperial presumptions and more deeply taking on the foreign policy establishment. Sanders' ultimate legacy may be what the late great Bruce Dixon called "Sheepdogging." 

So, now what?

As I outlined last month:

There are two obvious responses:

Burn it Down: The impulsive thing to do would be to want to burn down the Democratic Party. It’s possible that the establishment of the Democratic Party would be OK with this — they seem to fear a President Sanders more than the fear another term of Trump. So, people would stay home or vote for a third party or independent candidate who openly states that they have virtually no chance of winning.

Cave In: Others might insist that no matter how badly the Democratic Party establishment treats its voters, they need to get in line come November and vote for whoever the nominee is. This is euphemistically referred to as “hold your nose and voting.” People have done this for decades and it’s typically resulted in the corporate wing of the Democratic Party becoming more and more powerful.

The first of these will be disastrous because it will help Trump.

The second will be disastrous because it effectively surrenders control of the Democratic Party to the corporate wing, probably for the foreseeable future.

But there is a third choice: The VotePact strategy.

With the VotePact strategy,  in the general election, disenchanted Democratics team up with a disenchanted Republicans. They pair up: spouses and friends and coworkers and neighbors and debating partners and ex-facebook friends. Instead of the two of them voting for candidates they don’t want, they pair up and vote for the third party or independent candidate of their choice.

Given the pandemic, all bets may be off. Things could slide into disaster -- or a great new world could be born. One could almost envision the rise of the Stay-At-Home party. People can talk to their loved ones in a way they never have. And they may embrace their neighbors -- even if it is at ten feet -- as the never have before. Zoom could be filled with hopes and dreams and a path might be found to get there. We might be driven by fear and shallow hate and sectarian thinking -- or we might decide to come together as a country and as a world as we never have before. 

VotePact takes work. But it's a path out of the duopoly and toward freedom. Given the tumult before us, it is actually a rather moderate proposal, drawing us to a sane center, away from the disastrous paths of both Biden, which gave birth to Trump -- and Trump himself.