Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.
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The privilege of beholding the corals of Belize, the second largest reef system on earth, is a complete marvel that can never be taken for granted. The school of nine squid in perfect alignment that stared at us like transparent sentinels ,the green barracuda that floated as if in suspended animation, looking for prey. Those moments of utter awe were soul transformative not only for a child, but also for parents nurturing a young human to the ultimate reason to exist on this earth, to care for life.
Over the next few years, a battle was waged between environmentalists and those who saw dollars in the form of oil extraction in the reef. Thankfully on December 1, 2015, right after the Cop21 Paris Climate Accord, Belize made the tremendous decision to ban drilling outright -- and is working hard to restore coral. The same cannot be said for many other fragile parts of the world particularly the warming Arctic, where Russia has a near stranglehold of more than half the Arctic Ocean.
Sea weed from the Great Sargassum Atlantic Belt has started to wreak havoc on many of the beaches of the Caribbean, including Florida, over the last decade, often to the great annoyance of visitors. Christopher Columbus observed them over 500 years ago, Vast mats of these brown macroalgae growths, sometimes six feet tall, first starting polluting its waters in 2011 and have not only affected tourists but also turtles who could not lay their eggs in the sand. Stripping oxygen from the water and killing fish, these blooms of seaweed have been exacerbated by nitrogen pollution from industrial runoff from as far away as the Amazon, and even dust particles that contain phosphorus, iron, and nitrogen from the Sahara that have helped fertilize plankton growth.
While humanity has been pouring pollutants and plastic into the overheated oceans for decades, the newest industrial craze of undersea mining is the last human activity the oceans need if they are going to survive.
Is there really such as thing as sustainable seabed mining? The Deep Sea Mining Summit that just occurred in London may not question the manic rush for deep sea gold mining and other such operations. Under discussion is not the present health of the oceans, or their future .There will be assurances and promises and arguments that the technicians have a plan to make doubly sure little will be harmed. Those assurances have never worked. We are at an inflection point in time, where our civilization either does an about face in terms of pollution and the subjugation of the oceans -- or they die. By 2060, the fisheries of the world will have collapsed. It is perhaps no coincidence that England, the very country that started the Industrial Revolution, hosted The Deep Sea Mining Summit.
Scientists who have seen what has happened to the Barrier Reef, are crying. The bleaching events there have been devastating. The Chinese fishing fleets, of which there are 400 vessels, have been sent to the waters near the Galapagos and have pillaged the seas near the mythic islands. A true Darwinian nightmare.The list of horrors we have unleashed on the oceans is endless. Witness the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Witness Fukushima and what radioactive elements have done to sea life in the Pacific .
As of 2021 there had been no commercial deep sea mining. But deep sea extraction of polymetallic nodules is considered by some to be the salvation of the electric car industry and other industries that run civilization. Some proclaim these resources could mitigate global warming . The chief executive of Florida’s Ocean Minerals says,” We desperately need substantial amounts of manganese, nickel, cobalt, and copper to build electric cars and power plants.” Is mining the ocean floor and potentially ravaging it the answer to our overheated planet? Helen Scales ,a marine biologist, sees the mining of the oceans as devastating : “ Mining means destruction and in this case it means the destruction of an ecosystem about which we know pathetically little.”
The HMS Challenger in 1872 was the first to discover these metal nodules in its round the world voyage.The nodules form around an object like a rock at the rate of one centimeter every million years. One zone of salvation or destruction -- however one looks at the argument -- is located between Mexico and Hawaii. Known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, it is four million square kilometers of seabed that will be explored, extracted, and very possibly exploited beyond recognition . At stake are six time more cobalt and three times more nickel than found anywhere on land. The question is what will be left of the remarkable sea floor and its life forms, most of which we know so very little about.
Twenty contracts have already been awarded to the International Seabed Authority by the UN, which is quite ironic considering the UN is supposed to be helping humanity avoid conflict . Some vessels will be able to collect 400 tons of nodules per hour, 100,000 tons in two weeks. Sediment plumes will disrupt and pollute ecosystems many miles away. Acidification of the sea bed from toxic metals will be largely unavoidable. Most pernicious of all, the biological pump which draws carbon from the atmosphere will also be adversely affected.
Marine biologists are sounding the alarm and with very good reason.Species of all kinds from sponges, to corals and worms and tiny creatures called tartigrades will be inevitably sacrificed, though many are new to science. Scales warns in her book The Brilliant Abyss that many creatures will quite simply be obliterated and lost forever before they are even known to science. The scale of the operations and size of the extractive machines used may well overwhelm near pristine environments for all time.
Pippa Howard, director at Fauna & Flora International warns, “The conclusions we have come to after extensive study could hardly be more troubling. From methane release to disruption of the ocean’s life-support systems and the destruction of unstudied ecosystems, the risks of deep sea mining are numerous and potentially disastrous.”
The oceans have already been stressed beyond recognition and denuded of so many species. The immune system of Earth's oceans is on life support . By 2100, half of all marine species may disappear. Some of the priceless eco-systems like the Barrier Reef are scarcely holding on to dear life. We may well be beyond our depths with respect to deep sea mining. We need an international moratorium now while we still have the oceans beating the original life pulse of the world.
The great prophetic writer Loren Eiseley divined truths unmatched in our time, revelations that science is only coming to understand very late in the game. “ Can it be, one inevitably wonders, that man is so linked to a prehensile, grasping hand giving him power over his environment- that he is unable to comprehend the intellectual life of a highly endowed creature from another domain such as the sea? “ On the eve of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China, humanity has to make the right decisions. This is the last decade in which we can come to our senses. The plundering of the seas, cannot be allowed to match what we have done to the land. Or we will drown.
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The saturation of the ranks of our police forces with far-right extremists is one of the harsh realities of American life that bubbled up during the police brutality protests of 2020 and was laid bare by the January 6 insurrection. The presence of these extremists not only is a serious security and enforcement threat—particularly when it comes to dealing with far-right violence—but has created a toxic breach between our communities and the people they hire to protect and serve them. Too often, as in Portland, the resulting police culture has bred a hostility to their communities that expresses itself in biased enforcement and a stubborn unaccountability.
Much of this originates in police training, which are the foundations of cop culture. And a recent Reuters investigative report has found that police training in America is riddled with extremists: Their survey of police training firms—35 in all—that provide training to American police authorities found five of them employ (and in some cases, are operated by) men whose politics are unmistakably of the far-right extremist variety. And these five people alone are responsible for training hundreds of American cops every year.
The most striking of these five extremist trainers is a former cop from Travis County, Texas, named Richard Whitehead, who moved to Post Falls, Idaho, several years ago and set up shop as a police trainer. He has, over the past four years, given 85 training sessions to at least 560 police officers and other public safety workers in 12 states. He also has advised officers to ignore COVID-19 health restrictions and claimed: “We are on the brink of a civil war.”
Like most of these extremist trainers, Whitehead subscribes to the so-called “constitutional sheriff” model of law enforcement—he in fact ran for Kootenai County sheriff in 2020 as a “constitutional” officer, finishing third out of four candidates in the GOP primary—which claims that county sheriffs are the supreme law of the land, empowered to overrule and ignore state and federal laws, as well as to determine what is and is not “constitutional.” None of its tenets have ever been upheld in a court of law.
Nonetheless, it’s a powerful movement that has been spreading, particularly in rural America, for well over a decade, led by a far-right “constitutionalist” named Richard Mack and his outfit, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA). A number of rural sheriffs have won election claiming to be “constitutional,” and inevitably, their regimes have produced dysfunctional far-right fiefdoms and disrupted communities.
Just as important, these “constitutionalists” form much of the backbone of the far-right “Patriot” movement that formed the core of the attack on the Capitol on January 6, and continues to animate and organize the anti-democratic insurgency the right has undertaken in the ensuing year and a half. Despite wrapping themselves in red, white, and blue bunting and claiming fealty to the Constitution, they are part of a profoundly seditionist movement whose entire reason for being is to dismantle American democratic institutions.
Whitehead has quite a track record on social media as a pro-Trump “warrior,” as the Reuters report details, including calling for the public executions of government officials he sees as disloyal to Trump. Moreover, he repeats the same kind of far-right messaging in his training sessions with police officers: At one of them, according to a complaint lodged against him, he called the COVID-19 pandemic “a joke” and health measures unconstitutional. He also showed students an image of a police car with an LGBTQ flag on the side, and then asked the class: “What’s next? We have to have a Muslim flag to satisfy the goat fuckers?”
In his course materials, he at one time included a slide ridiculing transgender people: “Suspect is a gender-fluid assigned-male-at-birth wearing non-gender-specific clothing born Caucasian but identifies as a mountain panda.” Whitehead told Reuters that he just wanted to push back against pressure for police to adopt left-wing views.
His defense was typical for a “constitutionalist”: In a statement responding to the Reuters piece, Whitehead doesn’t deny any of its reportage, but complains:
What does it say about the state of our nation when believing in it’s [sic] Constitution has you deemed an extremist?
Like the other trainers, Whitehead insists that his reactionary politics are not extremist, a refrain that has become common as the identities of police officers who are members of groups associated with the Jan. 6 insurrection like the Oath Keepers are exposed. Interest in these groups among police officers, in fact, increased after the attack on the Capitol. And their well-established sympathy with extremist groups like the Proud Boys before the insurrection played a major role in the dynamic that created the riot.
Reuters reporters Julia Harte and Alexandra Ulmer detail similar extremist beliefs animating Whitehead and four other trainers as well:
The five trainers have aired views including the belief in a vote-rigging conspiracy to unseat Trump in the 2020 election. One trainer attended Trump’s January 6, 2021, rally at the U.S. Capitol that devolved into a riot, injuring more than 100 police officers. Two of the trainers have falsely asserted that prominent Democrats including President Joe Biden are pedophiles, a core tenet of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Four have endorsed or posted records of their past interactions with far-right extremist figures, including prominent “constitutional sheriff” leader David Clarke Jr. and Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs, who is being prosecuted for his involvement in the Capitol riots.
The other four trainers featured in the report work in locations around the U.S.:
- Darrell Schenck, who teaches firearms classes to officers, is based in Kansas. He believes Democrats are pedophiles, the 2020 election was illegitimate (“election fraud is the real pandemic”) and has described the Jan. 6 reportage as “fake news.”
- Tim Kennedy, a Texas-based military veteran, travels widely to provide his “Sheepdog Response” training for officers, specializing in martial arts, sharpshooting, and strength-building. On social media, he has promoted the “Boogaloo” civil-war movement, and has posted screen texts of his conversations with Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs, currently awaiting trial for conspiracy related to his role in leading the mob on Jan. 6, and said he would name Bigg his Interior secretary in an imaginary presidency.
- Ryan Morris, whose Pennsylvania-based Tripwire Operations Group provides police training around the region, spouts similar rhetoric, calling the 2020 election a socialist plot to seize the government: “You have just witnessed a coup, the overthrow of the US free election system, the end of our constitutional republic, and the merge of capitalism into the slide toward socialism,” read a Facebook post that Morris shared about a month after the 2020 election. Notably, a number of Tripwire employers were “employed” at the Jan. 6 insurrection, though Morris declined to say who hired them or how they were employed.
- Adam Davis, a contractor for New Jersey-based Street Cop Training, lectures police agencies nationwide and spoke at an industry trade conference hosted by the company—one of the largest private training operations—in October. On social media, he called Joe Biden as a “puppet and a pedophile,” and smeared racial-bias protesters as “pawns” in a “scheme to destroy this nation.”
All of these trainers insisted that their politics were perfectly mainstream, and that moreover they kept their personal views out of their training sessions. Davis described his political views as “middle of the road.” Morris claimed that his social media posts were about attracting clients: “It’s all marketing,” he said. “We put it out there to all different realms, hoping to spark some kind of conversation … and then we generate classes out of that.”
Police training has come under closer examination in no small part because of the deluge of biased-policing incidents of recent years, culminating in the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. In particular, organizations that encourage police to adopt a “warrior mindset” that engenders hostility with their respective communities, in no small part because of their excessive reliance on aggressive tactics and violent street arrests.
Ozzie Knezovich, the sheriff of Spokane County, Washington, has wrestled with such training in the past: His department hosted a “Killology” police training session in recent years that drew broad condemnation, including a rebuke from the Spokane City Council. Nonetheless, the company that offers that training continue to enjoy support from a variety of police departments that hire them, including police in Missoula, Montana.
Knezovich’s department, as Reuters reported, also used Whitehead as a trainer. When Reuters queried him, however, Knezovich told them he was shocked his deputies had been trained by an instructor from “the lunatic fringe.”
He vowed to end the practice: “I’ll be having a conversation with my training unit to take somebody off the list,” the sheriff said.
In a 2019 academic paper titled “KKK in the PD: White Supremacist Police and What to Do About It,” associate Georgetown Law professor Vida Johnson found that police departments across the country exhibited evidence of white supremacist ideology, citing “scandals in over 100 different police departments, in over 40 different states, in which individual police officers have sent overtly racist emails, texts or made racist comments via social media.”
She observed to the Los Angeles Times that it should be a cause for concern when officers become followers of such conspiracy theories as QAnon, or the claim that COVID-19 is a hoax, or theories that Trump’s reelection was fraudulently stolen from him.
“People who can’t separate fact from fiction probably shouldn’t be the ones enforcing laws with guns,” Johnson said.
Johnson has a roadmap for rooting extremists out of police departments: stricter and more diligent hiring practices, social media checks that could reveal extremist beliefs or organizational membership, periodic background checkups for all police veterans, and a review apparatus that is fully independent.
“They’re supposed to be protecting and serving us,” Johnson told Mother Jones. “But unfortunately it seems like a lot of departments see themselves at odds with or even at war with the rest of the community. That’s a culture within policing that needs to change.”
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.
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