MS-13 gang used California farm town as a base for crime | Yahoo News

More than two dozen MS-13 gang members and affiliates were arrested and charged following a monthslong murder and drug trafficking investigation centered on a rural California farm city that the gang turned into a base for its operations, U.S. and state prosecutors said Friday.

MS-13 took advantage of limited resources in the city of Mendota and used it and other areas of Fresno County to “conduct their crimes, to hide out from crimes that they committed in other jurisdictions and to prepare to commit crimes in states as far away as New York,” Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said at a news conference in Fresno with state and federal officials.

Mendota has a population of roughly 11,000 people and lies 35 miles (60 kilometers) west of Fresno in California’s agriculturally rich Central Valley. Nearly the entire population is Hispanic, with many immigrants from El Salvador.

MS-13 is linked to more than 12 murders in Mendota and western Fresno County over the past two years, said McGregor Scott, the U.S. attorney in Sacramento. The federal charges announced Friday include allegations that two MS-13 gang members kidnapped and murdered a Fresno County man in December.

Scott said the investigation — dubbed “Blue Inferno” — uncovered evidence tying the gang to at least 30 murders and assaults in Mendota, Los Angles, Las Vegas, New York City and Houston. The evidence has prompted additional prosecutions in other cities, he said.

“This is a good day,” he said. “An extremely violent street gang which has terrorized western Fresno County has been completely dismantled and several murders and violent crimes across the nation have been resolved in a resounding way,” he said.

MS-13, or La Mara Salvatrucha, was formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s by refugees from El Salvador and is linked to many slayings in certain parts of the U.S. In California, the gang has clashed with rival Nortenos gang members. It also targets its own members for violating gang rules.

Nortenos are a street gang connected to the Nuestra Familia, a prison gang that originally formed in the California state prison system in the 1960s, according to federal prosecutors.

President Donald Trump has singled out the MS-13 gang as a threat to the U.S. and blames weak border enforcement for the group’s crimes. But many gang members were born in the U.S.

Source: Yahoo News

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Dinesh D’Souza reveals the big lie about Charlottesville | Western Journal

So the white nationalists are once again coming to Charlottesville. Get ready not only for some bombastic theatrics, but also for a replay of the progressive media’s Charlottesville narrative: Hey, look at those racists in MAGA hats! This proves that, whatever the history of Democratic Party bigotry, racism today is in the Trump column. Bigotry now is on the right.

But this narrative is a lie. First of all, no one has ever conducted a valid empirical survey of neo-Nazis or Ku Klux Klansmen to prove they voted for Trump. This is why the media needs visual images that seem to confirm an unproven thesis. In the aftermath of the initial Charlottesville, I was struck by a solitary white supremacist in a MAGA hat being interviewed by more than a dozen reporters. This one guy — otherwise culturally and politically impotent — was portrayed as visual proof that white nationalism is a malevolent Trump phenomenon.

In my new book, Death of a Nation, I examined the lives of the leading white nationalists in America today. Virtually without exception, they are on the left. Let’s start with Jason Kessler, organizer of last year’s Charlottesville rally. The Southern Poverty Law Center looked into his background and was astounded to discover that he had been an Obama supporter and active in the left-wing Occupy Wall Street movement.

What could be more interesting than to examine why an Obama supporter could become a white supremacist? Or how an Occupy activist transitioned into a defender of the white cause? Yet the progressive media went dead silent on this one. Only one local Charlottesville newspaper, The Daily Progress, bothered to dig into this, noting that Kessler’s previous tweets, his neighbors and several of his friends “attest that he held strong liberal convictions.”

Laura Kleiner is a Democratic activist who dated Kessler for several months in 2013. According to the article, “She said Kessler was very dedicated to his liberal principles, and that he was a strict vegetarian, abstained from alcohol and drugs, embraced friends of different ethnicities, and was an atheist.” Kleiner added of Kessler, “He broke up with me and a lot of it was because I was not liberal enough. I am a very progressive Democrat, but he didn’t like that I’m a Christian.”

I mentioned Kessler’s leftist background on social media and he lashed out angrily by releasing a video denouncing me. The video itself is rambling, incoherent and laced with obscenities. The most interesting thing about it is that Kessler attacks me as a rich, brown-skinned guy who only stands up for big business and special interests. In other words, notwithstanding his disavowal of my portrait of him, Kessler sounds just like the left-wing racist I made him out to be.

Andrew Anglin is the co-editor of the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer. In March 2007, Anglin posted about Donald Trump, attaching a video clip from a roast of former New York mayor Rudy Guiliani. Giuliani appears in the video in drag, and Trump rams his face into Giuliani’s chest. It was all apparently in fun. Even so, Anglin describes them both as “fags” and writes that Giuliani is clearly involved in a “twisted homosexual transvestite affair with Donald Trump.”

Anglin visited Southeast Asia in 2010-2011 where he became a rainforest activist, dated Filipina women, and railed on his podcast against Christian missionaries. “You see the way white people — and it is white people — went around the whole world and f***ed everybody. I think the white race should be bred out.” This was a sentiment he routinely expressed.

Lisa Turner, women’s coordinator of a white nationalist group called the World Church of the Creator — which is interestingly enough an atheist organization — insists that the greatest problem in the world is Christianity. “The philosophy behind Christianity,” she says, “is utterly poisonous. Turn the other cheek, love your enemy—these kinds of ideas have put a guilt trip on the white race. The biggest enemies we have out there are the Christian churches.” Doesn’t sound very much like Trump to me.

Finally, there is Richard Spencer, the poster boy of white supremacy, who is so controversial that when he showed up to speak in Florida the governor declared a state of emergency. Spencer is unfailingly portrayed in the mainstream media as a right-winger. To check this out, I interviewed Spencer for my new movie Death of a Nation. The film is now out nationwide, and when the audiences hear Spencer describe his convictions in his own words, they gasp out loud.

Why? Because it becomes clear that Spencer is no conservative; in fact, he is firmly on the left. He flatly rejects the idea that “all men are created equal.” He insists that rights don’t come from God; they come from the centralized state. He rejects the Reagan agenda of individual liberty and free market capitalism, embracing the concept of an expanded welfare state including nationalized health care. He doesn’t think Reagan was a great president, naming as his favorites a series of Democratic presidents including Democratic Party founder Andrew Jackson. At one point he breaks down and confesses he’s a progressive.

What really blows away the audience is not merely Spencer’s left-wing politics, but the full realization that we have all been victims of a bogus narrative. Some white nationalists collaborate in this narrative, because it brings fame and notoriety to their otherwise powerless group. In exchange they provide the mainstream media with an ideological script extremely useful to the left. But the script is fake, because in reality conservatives and white nationalists are not only in different camps, they are in opposed camps.

Source: Dinesh D’Souza

The liberal media only cares about GMOs when they involve wildlife, not human children | Pesticides News/Natural News


There’s a wild conspiracy theory being perpetuated by the Trump-hating mainstream media right now that claims the president is reversing an Obama-era ban on the use of pesticides and GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) in national wildlife refuges. But an in-depth Natural Newsinvestigation has revealed that this claim is just more fake news, as Obama never actually banned either of these poisons from nationally-owned land.

In fact, a 2014 memo issued by Obama about the types of chemicals and agricultural inputs that are allowed on federal land is almost identical to the one recently issued by Trump – meaning there’s been virtually no change in the policy for at least the past four years. But this isn’t what the liberal media is now reporting as it tries to claim that Trump is “destroying the environment” – which is just the latest psy-op to rile up the public against the president.

All during the Obama years, Natural News was at the forefront of reporting on such issues, seeing as how monitoring GMOs and chemical pesticides and herbicides is our forte. If you go back in our archives and search for these topics, you’ll see that Obama was hardly a friend of the environment, nor was he at all concerned about damaging toxins and fake food crops invading federal land.

Because it was Obama engaging in this sleight-of-hand – remember, it was Obama who lied on the campaign trail about banning the very same GMOs that he ultimately allowed in wildlife refuges – the mainstream media was nowhere to be found in condemning him. But now that Trump is basically affirming this Obama-era policy with no changes, the liberal liars would have us all believe that Trump “hates the environment” and is “destroying the planet.”

“The latest assault comes from a wave of extremely deceptive, misleading stories that now claim the Trump administration has reversed an Obama-era regulatory decision that banned the use of neonics and GMOs on national wildlife refuge lands,” says Mike Adams, the Health Ranger.

“They claim the memo completely reverses the Obama-era pesticide ban. But a factual reading of the two memos (one from 2014, one from 2018) shows this interpretation to be highly inaccurate, if not deliberately deceptive.”

You can read the two memos side by side and see for yourself the deception by visiting this link.

The fake media harms us all

What’s stunningly hypocritical about those criticizing the president over the fake news it made up about him is that it’s suddenly popular to oppose the deadly chemical poisons that independent media outlets like Natural News have been warning about for years. We’ve faced plenty of criticism, mockery, and abuse for simply warning about the dangers of GMOs and crop chemicals, both of which are harming children by the millions, not to mention the environment.

However, now that Trump is at the helm continuing this status quo, liberal news outlets are going nuts pretending like they care about these same issues – the exception being that they only seem to care about the wildlife refuges, and not about children. It’s just another sick ploy by these psychopaths to target Trump when, in fact, they couldn’t care less about either planet or children.

While we’re in full agreement that Trump needs to stop this chemical assault on our planet and our children, the truth of the matter is that nothing has changed under his presidency, despite what the fake media is claiming. GMOs and crop chemicals are still being used just as they always were, and still need to be fought against, regardless of who the sitting president might be.

Source: Pesticides News/Natural News

Scientists warn of toxic chemical cocktail sprayed on food | GM Watch


As the number of chemicals applied to vegetables sold in supermarkets goes up 17-fold, experts say pesticides must be phased out of food production. Report by Claire Robinson

The number of chemicals applied to vegetables sold in supermarkets has increased by up to 17-fold over 40 years, according to data presented at a conference organized by the Epidemiology and Public Health Section of the Royal Society of Medicine in London on 20 November, which I attended on behalf of GMWatch.

Just as disturbing as the data on our escalating exposure to toxic pesticide mixtures was the evidence presented at the conference that the regulatory system for pesticides is failing.

Scientists explained that while the system tests the single active ingredients in pesticides, it fails to test the many accompanying chemicals (adjuvants) used in pesticide formulations to enhance the effectiveness of the active ingredients. It also fails to test the combined effects of the formulations of chemicals used in commercial pesticides, let alone the cocktail effect of being exposed to multiple pesticides, as most farmers, rural residents and consumers are.

Indeed, as one scientist pointed out, there are simply too many potential combinations of chemicals to test and regulate. Nor, we heard, does the regulatory system test low, realistic doses of these chemicals that may give rise to endocrine (hormone) disruption, which can in turn lead to serious illnesses that are increasing in the population.

Because of these facts, there is simply no way of ensuring the safe use of pesticides in agriculture.

Chemical cocktails increasing

Figures released for the first time at the conference showed that the number of toxic chemicals applied to onions, leeks, wheat and potatoes has been steadily increasing since the 1960s.

This is despite industry data showing that the volume of pesticides applied to supermarket vegetables has halved since the 1990s.

The number of pesticides applied to onions and leeks has risen 17-fold from 1.8 in 1966 to 32.6 in 2015, the data showed.

In 1974, fewer than two chemicals were applied to the average wheat crop, but this rose more than 10-fold to 20.7 in 2014. Potatoes are now sprayed with five times more chemicals than in 1975, with the number rising from 5.3 to 30.8 in 2014.

The figures were compiled by the data firm Fera Science and were only made public after the Soil Association, which certifies organic food in the UK, paid for them to be released. While Fera did not measure actual residues present in the produce, the fact that so many pesticides were applied to the growing crops suggests that at least some residues would be found if they were looked for.

Anne_Marie_Vinggaard

The conference followed the publication of an article in the journal Science by Prof Ian Boyd, chief scientific advisor to the UK government’s department of agriculture (DEFRA). Prof Boyd wrote that the assumption by regulators around the world that it is safe to use pesticides at industrial scales across landscapes is false.

Scientist Prof Anne Marie Vinggaard of the National Food Institute in Denmark warned that chemicals that have no effect in isolation can have a pronounced toxic effect when found in mixtures. In real life we are exposed not to one chemical at a time but to mixtures. In addition, commercial pesticide formulations, many of which are endocrine disruptors, are themselves mixtures of active ingredients and adjuvants. “We are exposed to a lot of chemicals acting together,” said Prof Vinggaard. “We must take account of this cocktail effect.”

But pesticide regulations fail to do so.

Carlo Leifert

Pesticides linked to low sperm quality

Prof Carlo Leifert, director of the Centre for Organics Research at Southern Cross University in Australia, cited research showing higher sperm counts and density in men working for the Danish organic farming association and a separate US study showing that high levels of dietary pesticide exposure were linked to low sperm quality in men.

Prof Leifert’s presentation came soon after the publication of a study implicating pesticide-treated foods in fertility problems in women. In the study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Harvard researchers followed 325 women at an infertility clinic and found that women who regularly ate pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables had lower success rates getting pregnant with IVF, while women who ate organic food had reduced risk of pregnancy loss and increased fertility.

Eat organic to minimize exposure

Dr Michael Antoniou

Dr Michael Antoniou, head of the Gene Expression and Therapy Group at King’s College London, told the Royal Society of Medicine conference that the adjuvants in commercial pesticide formulations can be toxic in their own right and in some cases more toxic than the declared active ingredients. Yet only the active ingredients are tested and assessed for long-term health effects in the regulatory process.

Dr Antoniou also said that research on hormone-disrupting chemicals, including pesticides, shows that very low realistic doses can be more toxic than higher doses. As pesticides are not tested for low dose effects for regulatory purposes, these effects can be missed by regulatory agencies, leading to a situation in which the public can be exposed to hormone-disrupting levels of these chemicals. This is a matter of concern because hormone disruption is implicated in a large number of diseases that are becoming increasingly widespread, such as hormone-related cancers, obesity, and diabetes.

Dr Antoniou said that regulators around the world have been slow to keep up with the scientific knowledge of harm from low doses of endocrine disrupting chemicals. These effects are not controversial in the scientific community and yet the EU has still not decided how to define endocrine disruptive chemicals, let alone how to regulate them.

Dr Antoniou described his research showing that long term exposure to very low doses of Roundup herbicide far below regulatory permitted levels caused non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in rats. NAFLD has now reached epidemic proportions in the US and Europe, with around 25% of the population suffering from it.

Dr Antoniou told the audience, which included doctors who treat chemically damaged people, “As a precaution, you should minimise your exposure to pesticides. The only way to guarantee that is by eating organically.”

Industry perspectives

Sarah Mukherjee

Occasions like this are often interesting from the point of view of finding out the industry line on the scientific and public relations challenges it is facing, and this event was no exception. One such line was offered by Sarah Mukherjee, CEO of the Crop Protection Association (CPA). Mukherjee is a former BBC journalist who began her presentation by stating that she had no scientific background. Her presentation consisted of emotive stories of her deprived childhood, with the implication that organic food is a luxury that only the affluent can afford and that pesticides were needed to ensure an affordable food supply for all. She did not address any of the scientific points presented by the earlier speakers. In fact, she was not present for those sessions and only arrived later in the day.

The tone and content of her presentation did not sit well with the detailed information on the proven effects of low-dose pesticides provided by the scientist speakers in the morning sessions. It was remarkable for its failure to offer any evidence at all to back up Mukherjee’s premise that we are better off with pesticides.

Glyphosate and cancer

Mukherjee’s closest brush with science was an attempt to exonerate glyphosate herbicides from suspicion of carcinogenicity by quoting the latest updated findings from the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) in the US. These found no link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. Mukherjee used these findings as a stick to beat IARC, the World Health Organization cancer agency that upset the pesticide industry by concluding that glyphosate was a probable carcinogen.

But what Mukherjee failed to mention was that the study update did find a link between glyphosate and another type of cancer, acute myeloid leukemia (AML) – a link that the researchers said should be followed up with further research. She also did not mention a fact pointed out by the scientist Dr Jennifer Sass – that while the link did not reach statistical significance at the 95% confidence level (a 95% certainty that the findings are not by chance but point to a real effect of glyphosate), at the 90% confidence level it would have been significant. As Sass commented, “With a deadly form of cancer like AML, pesticide applicators, farmers, and other highly exposed people may want to take protective measures, even if studies are only 90% confident in the link to AML cancer.”

Mukherjee also failed to mention that IARC took the AHS’s “no effect” finding from glyphosate into consideration in its assessment of glyphosate, since previous findings from the AHS that were already published at the time of IARC’s review had also found no effect. Other epidemiological studies did find a link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This contradictory evidence is why IARC said there was only “limited” proof of a glyphosate link with cancer from epidemiological studies. However, it classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen on the basis of “sufficient” evidence in controlled laboratory studies on animals. These types of study, unlike epidemiological studies, demonstrate a causal link and are therefore a far stronger form of evidence.

I was not the only audience member to conclude that Mukherjee was seriously out of her depth among a speaker line-up of heavyweight scientists, addressing an audience of scientists, medics, and experts from relevant fields. One scientist told me he was shocked that the CPA chose to send Mukherjee as its representative to such an event: “Couldn’t they find a scientist who was willing to take this on?”

Is organic food elitist?

Mukherjee’s “organic food is elitist” meme did not play well with me. I speak as someone who at one point in my life lived in a partnership in which neither of us had any income or savings and we had to survive off very meagre state benefits. Yet we ate organic 100% of the time. We did it by cooking fresh food from scratch each day (it didn’t take much time), buying via farm box delivery schemes rather than from supermarkets, eating mostly vegetarian, and – obviously – not spending money on luxuries.

On our occasional forays to the supermarket to buy loo rolls and cleaning fluids, we were gobsmacked at the large amounts of money being spent on the weekly shop by families with trolleys full of processed food. Even without getting into discussions about the “externalized” costs of eating pesticide-contaminated food, such as getting sick, we simply could not afford that type of food. So who exactly were the elite in this situation? Certainly not us. This is just one example among many of Mukherjee’s irrational and frankly insulting approach to the vital topic of food security.

Dr Chris Hartfield

Speakers in support of pesticide safety

The other people speaking in support of the safety and benefits of pesticides were Dr Chris Hartfield of the National Farmers Union (NFU) and Dave Bench of the UK government’s Health and Safety Executive.

Mr Bench described the regulatory system for pesticides, which he portrayed as robust and as balancing the risks of pesticides against the benefits to society.

Dr Hartfield showed a long list of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques, in which pesticides are only sprayed as a last resort as and when absolutely necessary. He said that 16,820 farmers in the UK are using these techniques on 4.4 million hectares of land.

Dave BenchHowever, members of the audience were skeptical of this claim. Guy Watson, an organic farmer from Riverford Farm in Devon, said that his conventional farmer neighbour laid out his spraying schedule well in advance of the growing season and that all the pesticides were sprayed in accord with the schedule, whether they were needed or not. He suspected that farmers’ practice of IPM was confined to a paper exercise that was not borne out by the reality in the fields.

Mr Watson’s skepticism about UK farmers’ use of IPM was amply supported by the data presented at the conference showing the increasing numbers of pesticides sprayed on our food.

Some members of the audience who suffered repeated exposures to pesticide spraying because they lived near treated fields agreed that a cavalier attitude to the use of pesticides seemed to be the norm among conventional farmers.

Georgina Downs of the UK Pesticides Campaign, which represents rural residents affected by pesticides sprayed in their localities, commented after the conference: “There was the usual gross misinformation stated by the CPA and the NFU – most importantly their insistence that there is a rigorous regulatory system in place for pesticides. There simply is not, and this lie cannot continue to be peddled.

“The conventional chemical farming system has been an untested, unregulated, and unlawful experiment with human health and the environment that has caused untold damage.”

Is farming without pesticides possible?

Agro-industry lobbyists would have us believe that farmers cannot manage without pesticides. What is more, they claim that even organic farmers regularly spray a vast array of pesticides permitted under organic standards. But this picture is far from the reality. Most organic farmers do not spray because they take other measures to protect their crops, such as rotating crops to prevent attacks from over-wintering pests, using barrier methods against pests, cultivating hedges and plants to attract insects and animals that eat pests, and planting cover crops to suppress weeds.

Peter Melchett

This was confirmed by the final speaker at the conference, Peter Melchett, who has been an organic farmer for 19 years and a conventional farmer before that. He said that since converting to organic he has only had to spray a single field once. The one lapse was due to his mistake in planting two related crops in the same field two years running. A pest over-wintered in the field, only to emerge the following year to devour the new crop. Mr Melchett said he never repeated his mistake – and has never had to spray again.

Take-home message

The take-home message from the non-industry speakers at the conference was that the regulatory system for pesticides has failed and cannot be reformed in a way that renders these chemicals safe. As we’ve seen, the system does not test the adjuvants, or the commercial pesticide formulations, or the chemical cocktails to which we are exposed. Neither does it test low, realistic doses that may give rise to endocrine disruption. Therefore pesticides must be eradicated from food production and farming must be entirely converted to proven-successful organic and agroecological practices.

Source: GM Watch

Toxic Exposure: Chemicals Are in Our Water, Food, Air and Furniture | UC San Francisco


When her kids were young, Tracey Woodruff, PhD, MPH, knew more than most people about environmental toxics. After all, she was a senior scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But even she never dreamed, as she rocked her children to sleep at night, that the plastic baby bottles she used to feed them contained toxic chemicals that could leach into the warm milk.

Back then, in the late 1990s, it wasn’t widely known that the chemicals used in plastic sippy cups and baby bottles can potentially disrupt child development by interfering with the hormone system. That, in turn, could alter the functionality of their reproductive systems or increase their risk of disease later in their lives.

“When I had babies, I did many of the things we now tell people not to do,” says Woodruff, who for the past decade has been the director of UC San Francisco’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE). Also a professor in the University’s Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, she earned her doctorate in 1991 from a joint UCSF-Berkeley program in bioengineering and then completed a postgraduate fellowship at UCSF.

Woodruff’s children have since grown into physically healthy teenagers, but many children are not as lucky. Unregulated chemicals are increasing in use and are prevalent in products Americans use every day. Woodruff is concerned by the concurrent rise in many health conditions, like certain cancers or childhood diseases, and the fact that the environment is likely to play a role in those conditions. What motivates her is the belief that we need to know more about these toxics so we can reduce our exposure to the worst of them and protect ourselves and our children from their harmful effects. (Woodruff points out that the word “toxics” as a noun means any poisonous substances, from either chemical or biological sources, whereas “toxins” are poisons only from biological sources, either plant or animal.)

The PRHE is dedicated to identifying, measuring and preventing exposure to environmental contaminants that affect human reproduction and development. Its work weaves together science, medicine, policy and advocacy.

For example, research over the past 10 years by UCSF scientists and others has showed that bisphenol A (BPA) – an industrial chemical used since the 1950s to harden plastics in baby bottles, toys and other products – is found in the blood of those exposed to items made with BPA and that it can harm the endocrine systems of fetuses and infants. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) outlawed BPA in baby products in 2012, and some manufacturers developed BPA-free products. But now scientists believe the chemicals that replaced BPA may be just as harmful.

Furthermore, BPA is only one in a long, long list of chemicals we encounter every day in our homes, schools, workplaces and communities. And scientists have barely scratched the surface of understanding them. Of the thousands and thousands of chemicals registered with the EPA for use by industry, the agency has regulated only a few.

“In the last 50 years, we have seen a dramatic increase in chemical production in the United States,” Woodruff explains. Concurrently, there’s been an increase in the incidence of conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, childhood cancers, diabetes and obesity. “It’s not just genetic drift,” Woodruff maintains.

And we’re all at risk from increasing chemical exposure. The water we run from our taps, the lotion we smear on our skin, the shampoo we rub in our hair, even the dust in our houses is full of synthetic chemicals.

Preventing Exposure in Babies

PRHE experts do more than just measure such trends. They also collaborate with clinical scientists and obstetricians at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG), so their findings directly benefit pregnant patients. “We partner with the clinical scientists,” explains Woodruff, “because they look at treatments for disease, and environment might be a missing factor in the cause and prevention of disease.”

The water we run from our taps, the lotion we smear on our skin, the shampoo we rub in our hair, even the dust in our houses is full of synthetic chemicals.

Though environmental toxics affect us all, there’s a reason PRHE focuses on pregnant women and children, Woodruff adds. Exposure to even tiny amounts of toxic substances during critical developmental stages can have outsize effects. So exposure to toxics is especially detrimental to fetuses, infants and young children, as well as preteens and teenagers.

“If you prevent the problem at the beginning, you get a lifetime of benefits,” says Woodruff.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began measuring human exposure to chemicals in 1976. These so-called “biomonitoring” studies found a range of toxics in subjects’ blood and urine – substances like DDT, BPA, air pollutants, pesticides, dioxins and phthalates. Phthalates, for example, are a class of chemicals known to be endocrine disruptors but widely used as softeners in plastics and as lubricants in personal-care products. Biomonitoring has determined that women of reproductive age evidence higher levels of phthalates than the population at large. One reason, says Woodruff, is that young women use more products like perfume, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner.

Woodruff herself recently led a study in which UCSF researchers collected blood samples from pregnant women at ZSFG. After the women delivered their babies, the researchers collected umbilical cord blood samples – and discovered that almost 80 percent of the chemicals detected in the maternal blood samples had passed through the placenta to the cord blood. It was the most extensive look yet at how the chemicals that pregnant women are exposed to also appear in their babies’ cord blood (and followed an earlier study by Woodruff that marked the first time anyone had counted the number of chemicals in the blood of pregnant women). Published in the Nov. 1, 2016, print edition of Environmental Science and Technology, the study also found that many chemicals were absorbed at greater levels by the fetuses than by the pregnant women.

Now, Woodruff is hard at work on a new grant from the federal Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program. It aims to correlate children’s exposure to toxics with their developmental outcomes from birth to age four.

The good news is that the work done by Woodruff and her team shows a clear impact. Following bans (some permanent and some temporary) on certain phthalates, for example, UCSF researchers measured declines in the urinary concentrations of the permanently banned types in a representative sample of the U.S. population.

Crusader for a Healthy Environment

Woodruff speaks at the Stand Up For Science Teach-InWoodruff’s degree is in engineering, and she notes that in the 1980s, when she was in school, a lot of engineers went into the defense industry. “People talk about joining the military to serve their country,” Woodruff says. “I also wanted to do something positive for society, and I felt joining the EPA was the best way to serve my country.”

She spent 13 years at the federal agency, as a scientist and policy advisor, studying the effects of air pollution on children’s health. The topic interested her, she says, “because children are vulnerable and can’t speak for themselves.” Her analysis of data collected under the Clean Air Act, for example, found that air pollution is linked to infant mortality. She also determined that pregnant African American women had higher exposure to air pollution and more adverse pregnancy outcomes than the population at large.

Nearly 25 years later, her work at UCSF is motivated by the same sense of advocacy and zeal. She joined the PRHE in 2007, shortly after its founding by Linda Giudice, MD, PhD. “What we do,” she says, “is bring the best scientific tools from the varied fields at UCSF to bear on uncovering and better understanding the links between the environment and health and translate that science into prevention by improving public policy.”

While Woodruff has many influential scientific publications to her name, she’s also a sought-after guest for radio interviews and talk shows. She even appeared in a popular 2013 documentary, The Human Experiment, narrated by Sean Penn. In response to questions from the public, she tries to strike a practical note. “You don’t want to freak people out,” she says. “At the same time, people assume if they can buy it, it’s safe. That is just not the case.”

In her own home in Oakland, Woodruff has made slow changes over time. “I got rid of carpet. … The padding can contain toxic chemicals. I waited to buy a couch … too long according to my family,” she laughs. (Couches without flame-retardants didn’t become available in California until after the state changed its flammability standard in 2014, making it possible to sell couches that are flammability-safe but are made without flame-retardant chemicals.) “I still have a couch that probably has flame-retardants, but I am just ignoring it. We eat mostly organic to reduce pesticide exposure. Less is more in personal-care products,” she adds.

Does she make her own shampoo?

“Oh, my God, no,” she answers. “Who has the time? This should not be a burden to people. Systems should be in place so that we can be free of the burden. This is why we need the EPA, and this is where policy comes in.”

Policies for the People

“It’s important for people to realize there are things you can do to lower your exposure to toxic chemicals, but some things you can’t do.”

For example, Woodruff explains, Americans would have had a hard time limiting their exposure to lead before leaded gasoline became illegal in 1996 (though the phaseout started in the mid-1970s). Until then, no amount of personal awareness could protect someone from lead – it was in the air that everyone breathed.

We do not always consider EPA a public health agency, but it is.

Tracy Woodruff, PhD, MPH

Director of UCSF’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE)

She offers another example specific to the PRHE’s efforts. “When California outlawed flame retardants,” she says, “we saw levels decrease by about two-thirds in the blood of pregnant patients at ZSFG. Through these studies, we can evaluate the effectiveness of public policy. It’s clear that when the government acts to reduce exposures to toxic chemicals … we see a positive change. We do not always consider EPA a public health agency, but it is.”

Woodruff and her colleagues also have been working over the last several years to help strengthen the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. It was well recognized that the law was flawed and allowed thousands of chemicals to be used in the marketplace without testing for safety, she explains. When bipartisan calls to strengthen the law led Congress to amend it in 2016, PRHE experts partnered with obstetricians and gynecologists to provide scientific evidence about the need for improved standards, deadlines and transparency. As rules for the amended TSCA are rolled out over the next two years, “we’ll be right in there to promote the use of science for the public’s health,” says Woodruff.

She’s also bringing environmental toxics to the attention of her UCSF colleagues in other disciplines. “One of the reasons we love being at UCSF is we can learn from people who are doing completely different things,” she says. For example, she is working with researchers who study the placenta, since her 2016 study showed that environmental toxics permeate the placenta. And with developmental biologist Diana Laird, PhD, an associate professor in the Center for Reproductive Sciences, Woodruff is co-leading the Environmental Health Initiative (EHI). The EHI’s goal is to involve researchers from throughout UCSF – from the biological, population and translation sciences – in solving and preventing the environmental burden of disease, starting with ensuring healthy pregnancies.

“The EHI will link faculty across the campus, to add an environmental component to their work,” Woodruff says. “We have already hosted several networking events and symposia with the Research Development Office toward our goal of ‘norming’ the environment within the research community. We want people to be saying, ‘We need to address the environmental consequences to fully solve health issues.’”

“This is about prevention,” she concludes. “People talk about nutrition and social competencies of health. There’s another thing, which is the physical environment. The missing ingredient is toxics in the environment.”

Source: UC San Francisco

The Deep State Goes to War With President-Elect, Using Unverified Claims, as Democrats Cheer| The Intercept

IN JANUARY 1961, Dwight Eisenhower delivered his farewell address after serving two terms as U.S. president; the five-star general chose to warn Americans of this specific threat to democracy: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” That warning was issued prior to the decadelong escalation of the Vietnam War, three more decades of Cold War mania, and the post-9/11 era, all of which radically expanded that unelected faction’s power even further.

This is the faction that is now engaged in open warfare against the duly elected and already widely disliked president-elect, Donald Trump. They are using classic Cold War dirty tactics and the defining ingredients of what has until recently been denounced as “Fake News.”

Their most valuable instrument is the U.S. media, much of which reflexively reveres, serves, believes, and sides with hidden intelligence officials. And Democrats, still reeling from their unexpected and traumatic election loss, as well as a systemic collapse of their party, seemingly divorced further and further from reason with each passing day, are willing — eager — to embrace any claim, cheer any tactic, align with any villain, regardless of how unsupported, tawdry, and damaging those behaviors might be.

The serious dangers posed by a Trump presidency are numerous and manifest. There is a wide array of legitimate and effective tactics for combating those threats: from bipartisan congressional coalitions and constitutional legal challenges to citizen uprisings and sustained and aggressive civil disobedience. All of those strategies have periodically proven themselves effective in times of political crisis or authoritarian overreach.

But cheering for the CIA and its shadowy allies to unilaterally subvert the U.S. election and impose its own policy dictates on the elected president is both warped and self-destructive. Empowering the very entities that have produced the most shameful atrocities and systemic deceit over the last six decades is desperation of the worst kind. Demanding that evidence-free, anonymous assertions be instantly venerated as Truth — despite emanating from the very precincts designed to propagandize and lie — is an assault on journalism, democracy, and basic human rationality. And casually branding domestic adversaries who refuse to go along as traitors and disloyal foreign operatives is morally bankrupt and certain to backfire on those doing it.

Beyond all that, there is no bigger favor that Trump opponents can do for him than attacking him with such lowly, shabby, obvious shams, recruiting large media outlets to lead the way. When it comes time to expose actual Trump corruption and criminality, who is going to believe the people and institutions who have demonstrated they are willing to endorse any assertions no matter how factually baseless, who deploy any journalistic tactic no matter how unreliable and removed from basic means of ensuring accuracy?

All of these toxic ingredients were on full display yesterday as the Deep State unleashed its tawdriest and most aggressive assault yet on Trump: vesting credibility in and then causing the public disclosure of a completely unvetted and unverified document, compiled by a paid, anonymous operative while he was working for both GOP and Democratic opponents of Trump, accusing Trump of a wide range of crimes, corrupt acts, and salacious private conduct. The reaction to all of this illustrates that while the Trump presidency poses grave dangers, so, too, do those who are increasingly unhinged in their flailing, slapdash, and destructive attempts to undermine it.

FOR MONTHS, THE CIA, with unprecedented clarity, overtly threw its weight behind Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and sought to defeat Donald Trump. In August, former acting CIA Director Michael Morell announced his endorsement of Clinton in the New York Times and claimed that “Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” The CIA and NSA director under George W. Bush, Gen. Michael Hayden, also endorsed Clinton and went to the Washington Post to warn, in the week before the election, that “Donald Trump really does sound a lot like Vladimir Putin,” adding that Trump is “the useful fool, some naif, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”

It is not hard to understand why the CIA preferred Clinton over Trump. Clinton was critical of Obama for restraining the CIA’s proxy war in Syria and was eager to expand that war, while Trump denounced it. Clinton clearly wanted a harder line than Obama took against the CIA’s long-standing foes in Moscow, while Trump wanted improved relations and greater cooperation. In general, Clinton defended and intended to extend the decadeslong international military order on which the CIA and Pentagon’s preeminence depends, while Trump — through a still-uncertain mix of instability and extremist conviction — posed a threat to it.

Whatever one’s views are on those debates, it is the democratic framework — the presidential election, the confirmation process, congressional leaders, judicial proceedings, citizen activism and protest, civil disobedience — that should determine how they are resolved. All of those policy disputes were debated out in the open; the public heard them; and Trump won. Nobody should crave the rule of Deep State overlords.

Yet craving Deep State rule is exactly what prominent Democratic operatives and media figures are doing. Any doubt about that is now dispelled. Just last week, Chuck Schumer issued a warning to Trump, telling Rachel Maddow that Trump was being “really dumb” by challenging the unelected intelligence community because of all the ways they possess to destroy those who dare to stand up to them:

And last night, many Democrats openly embraced and celebrated what was, so plainly, an attempt by the Deep State to sabotage an elected official who had defied it: ironically, its own form of blackmail.

BACK IN OCTOBER, a political operative and former employee of the British intelligence agency MI6 was being paid by Democrats to dig up dirt on Trump (before that, he was paid by anti-Trump Republicans). He tried to convince countless media outlets to publish a long memo he had written filled with explosive accusations about Trump’s treason, business corruption, and sexual escapades, with the overarching theme that Trump was in servitude to Moscow because they were blackmailing and bribing him.

Despite how many had it, no media outlets published it. That was because these were anonymous claims unaccompanied by any evidence at all, and even in this more permissive new media environment, nobody was willing to be journalistically associated with it. As the New York Times’ Executive Editor Dean Baquet put it last night, he would not publish these “totally unsubstantiated” allegations because “we, like others, investigated the allegations and haven’t corroborated them, and we felt we’re not in the business of publishing things we can’t stand by.”

The closest this operative got to success was convincing Mother Jones’s David Corn to publish an October 31 article reporting that “a former senior intelligence officer for a Western country” claims that “he provided the [FBI] with memos, based on his recent interactions with Russian sources, contending the Russian government has for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump.”

But because this was just an anonymous claim unaccompanied by any evidence or any specifics (which Corn withheld), it made very little impact. All of that changed yesterday. Why?

What changed was the intelligence community’s resolution to cause this all to become public and to be viewed as credible. In December, John McCain provided a copy of this report to the FBI and demanded they take it seriously.

At some point last week, the chiefs of the intelligence agencies decided to declare that this ex-British intelligence operative was “credible” enough that his allegations warranted briefing both Trump and Obama about them, thus stamping some sort of vague, indirect, and deniable official approval on these accusations. Someone — by all appearances, numerous officials — then went to CNN to tell the network they had done this, causing CNN to go on air and, in the gravest of tones, announce the “Breaking News” that “the nation’s top intelligence officials” briefed Obama and Trump that Russia had compiled information that “compromised President-elect Trump.”

CNN refused to specify what these allegations were on the ground that it could not “verify” them. But with this document in the hands of multiple media outlets, it was only a matter of time — a small amount of time — before someone would step up and publish the whole thing. BuzzFeed quickly obliged, airing all of the unvetted, anonymous claims about Trump.

Its editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, published a memo explaining that decision, saying that — although there was “serious reason to doubt the allegations” — BuzzFeed in general “errs on the side of publication” and “Americans can make up their own minds about the allegations.” Publishing this document predictably produced massive traffic (and thus profit) for the site, with millions of people viewing the article and presumably reading the “dossier.”

One can certainly object to BuzzFeed’s decision and, as the New York Times noted this morning, many journalists are doing so. It’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario where it’s justifiable for a news outlet to publish a totally anonymous, unverified, unvetted document filled with scurrilous and inflammatory allegations about which its own editor-in-chief says there “is serious reason to doubt the allegations,” on the ground that they want to leave it to the public to decide whether to believe it.

But even if one believes there is no such case where that is justified, yesterday’s circumstances presented the most compelling scenario possible for doing this. Once CNN strongly hinted at these allegations, it left it to the public imagination to conjure up the dirt Russia allegedly had to blackmail and control Trump. By publishing these accusations, BuzzFeed ended that speculation. More importantly, it allowed everyone to see how dubious this document is, one the CIA and CNN had elevated into some sort of grave national security threat.

ALMOST IMMEDIATELY AFTER it was published, the farcical nature of the “dossier” manifested. Not only was its author anonymous, but he was paid by Democrats (and, before that, by Trump’s GOP adversaries) to dig up dirt on Trump. Worse, he himself cited no evidence of any kind but instead relied on a string of other anonymous people in Russia he claims told him these things. Worse still, the document was filled with amateur errors.

While many of the claims are inherently unverified, some can be confirmed. One such claim — that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen secretly traveled to Prague in August to meet with Russian officials — was strongly denied by Cohen, who insisted he had never been to Prague in his life (Prague is the same place that foreign intelligence officials claimed, in 2001, was the site of a nonexistent meeting between Iraqi officials and 9/11 hijackers, which contributed to 70 percent of Americans believing, as late as the fall of 2003, that Saddam personally planned the 9/11 attack). This morning, the Wall Street Journal reported that “the FBI has found no evidence that [Cohen] traveled to the Czech Republic.”

None of this stopped Democratic operatives and prominent media figures from treating these totally unverified and unvetted allegations as grave revelations. From Vox’s Zack Beauchamp:

BuzzFeed’s Borzou Daragahi posted a long series of tweets discussing the profound consequences of these revelations, only occasionally remembering to insert the rather important journalistic caveat “if true” in his meditations:

Meanwhile, liberal commentator Rebecca Solnit declared this to be a “smoking gun” that proves Trump’s “treason,” while Daily Kos’s Markos Moulitsas sounded the same theme:

While some Democrats sounded notes of caution — party loyalist Josh Marshall commendably urged: “I would say in reviewing raw, extremely raw ‘intel,’ people shld retain their skepticism even if they rightly think Trump is the worst” — the overwhelming reaction was the same as all the other instances where the CIA and its allies released unverified claims about Trump and Russia: instant embrace of the evidence-free assertions as Truth, combined with proclamations that they demonstrated Trump’s status as a traitor (with anyone expressing skepticism designated a Kremlin agent or stooge).

THERE IS A real danger here that this maneuver could harshly backfire, to the great benefit of Trump and to the great detriment of those who want to oppose him. If any of the significant claims in this “dossier” turn out to be provably false — such as Cohen’s trip to Prague — many people will conclude, with Trump’s encouragement, that large media outlets (CNN and BuzzFeed) and anti-Trump factions inside the government (CIA) are deploying “Fake News” to destroy him. In the eyes of many people, that will forever discredit — render impotent — future journalistic exposés that are based on actual, corroborated wrongdoing.

Beyond that, the threat posed by submitting ourselves to the CIA and empowering it to reign supreme outside of the democratic process is — as Eisenhower warned — an even more severe danger. The threat of being ruled by unaccountable and unelected entities is self-evident and grave. That’s especially true when the entity behind which so many are rallying is one with a long and deliberate history of lying, propaganda, war crimes, torture, and the worst atrocities imaginable.

All of the claims about Russia’s interference in U.S. elections and ties to Trump should be fully investigated by a credible body, and the evidence publicly disclosed to the fullest extent possible. As my colleague Sam Biddle argued last week after disclosure of the farcical intelligence community report on Russian hacking — one that even Putin’s foes mocked as a bad joke — the utter lack of evidence for these allegations means “we need an independent, resolute inquiry.” But until then, assertions that are unaccompanied by evidence and disseminated anonymously should be treated with the utmost skepticism — not lavished with convenience-driven gullibility.

Most important of all, the legitimate and effective tactics for opposing Trump are being utterly drowned by these irrational, desperate, ad hoc crusades that have no cogent strategy and make his opponents appear increasingly devoid of reason and gravity. Right now, Trump’s opponents are behaving as media critic Adam Johnson described: as ideological jellyfish, floating around aimlessly and lost, desperately latching on to whatever barge randomly passes by.

There are solutions to Trump. They involve reasoned strategizing and patient focus on issues people actually care about. Whatever those solutions are, venerating the intelligence community, begging for its intervention, and equating its dark and dirty assertions as Truth are most certainly not among them. Doing that cannot possibly achieve any good and is already doing much harm.

George Washington’s Farewell Warning: Partisanship would lead to the “ruins of public liberty,” our first president said. He was more right than he knew. | POLITICO Magazine

washington

By John Avlon

When Barack Obama takes to the lectern to deliver his farewell address in Chicago on Tuesday, he’ll likely have a few things to say about a political climate that has grown viciously polarized over the past 8 years and culminated in a bruising, insult-driven campaign in 2016. If he does call out the destructive effects of hyper-partisanship on our democracy, he will be following in the footsteps of the first farewell address, by George Washington, printed in the American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796.

Washington warned of the dangers of political factions to democratic republics throughout history. His aversion to partisanship reflected the fact that just a few decades earlier, in 1746, political parties had driven England to civil war. This first farewell address, from our only truly independent president, hearkens back to an age when distrust of political divisions was perhaps higher than it is now—and offers a solution to what ails us today.

“I was no party man myself,” Washington wrote Thomas Jefferson,“and the first wish of my heart was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them.” As our first and only independent president, Washington’s independence was a function not only of his pioneering place in American history but also of political principles he developed over a lifetime.

To Washington, moderation was a source of strength. He viewed its essential judiciousness as a guiding principle of good government, rooted in ancient wisdom as well as Enlightenment-era liberalism. Much could be achieved “by prudence, much by conciliation, and much by firmness.” A stable, civil society depends on resisting intolerant extremes. The Constitution did not mention political parties, and during the debate over ratification, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton praised the Constitution’s “spirit of moderation” in contrast to the “intolerant spirit” of “those who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy.”

Washington was nonpartisan but he was not neutral. He was decisive after consulting differing opinions. “He seeks information from all quarters, and judges more independently than any man I ever knew,” attested Vice President John Adams.

Washington understood the danger of demagogues in a democracy. He was a passionate advocate of moderation as a means of calming partisan passions and creating problem-solving coalitions. Adams also believed that “without the great political virtues of humility, patience, and moderation … every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey.”

And it was a source of personal pain for Washington to see his Cabinet degenerate into exaggerated suspicions and vicious slanders during his presidency. Most frustrating was to watch his motives twisted and attacked for partisan gain by “infamous scribblers” in the newspapers. Even in the days after winning independence from Britain, Washington warned of the dangerous interplay between extremes. “There is a natural and necessary progression from the extreme of anarchy to the extreme of tyranny,” he wrote in his Circular Letter to the States, and “arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.” As liberty in France turned to anarchy and then tyranny during his administration, it confirmed his deepest instincts.

As a young man, Washington devoured the popular early-eighteenth century essays of Joseph Addison in the Spectator of London. Addison was the author of his favorite play, Cato, and while reflecting on the sources of England’s bloody civil war in the 1640s, he had written an influential essay on “the Malice of Parties.” It’s worth quoting at length: “There cannot a greater judgment befall a country than a dreadful spirit of division as rends a government into two distinct people, and makes them greater strangers, and more averse to one another, than if they were actually two different nations. The effects of such a division are pernicious to the last degree, not only with regard to those advantages which they give the common enemy, but to those private evils which they produce in the heart of almost every particular person. This influence is very fatal both to men’s morals and their understandings; it sinks the virtue of a nation, and not only so, but destroys even common sense. A furious party spirit, when it rages in its full violence, exerts itself in civil war and bloodshed; and when it is under its greatest restraints, naturally breaks out in falsehood, detraction, calumny, and a partial administration of justice. In a word, it fills a nation with spleen and rancor, and extinguishes all the seeds of good nature, compassion and humanity.”

Addison was not the only wise voice warning the revolutionary generation against the danger of hyper-partisanship. The English poet Alexander Pope declared that party spirit “is but the madness of many for the gain of a few.” The early 18th-century British opposition leader Henry St. John, 1st Viscount of Bolingbroke, described parties as “a political evil.” Informed by experience in both journalism and politics, Bolingbroke wrote that “a man who has not seen the inside of parties, nor had opportunities to examine nearly their secret motives, can hardly conceive how little share principle of any sort, though principle of some sort or other be always pretended, has in the determination of their conduct.”

The founding fathers’ suspicion of faction was rooted in the classical tradition that celebrated the virtue of moderation—and the subsequent independence of thought and action that moderation can create. “According to the classical doctrine, membership in a political party inevitably involved defending the indefensible vices of one’s allies and attempting to dominate one’s fellow citizens in order to satisfy a narrow self-interest,” wrote historian Carl J. Richard in The Founders and the Classics in 1994. “In the eighteenth century the greatest compliment one man could pay another was to call him ‘disinterested.’ To be disinterested was to place justice above all considerations, including one’s own interests and those of one’s family, friends and political allies.”

Throughout his career in Virginia’s House of Burgesses and as president of the Constitutional Convention, Washington took labors to remain in the role of moderate. In his twenties, while serving in the Virginia legislature, when the House of Burgesses was divided between moderates and militants in their resistance to the British royals, Washington played a pivotal role by bridging the divides with personal diplomacy, dining with leaders of the different factions.

During the war, there was no political will to raise revenue to pay the soldiers. Washington’s frustration with the weak and fractured Congress helped form his belief that a strong central government led by an honest, energetic executive was essential to a successful democracy.

Amid “the want of harmony in our councils—the declining zeal of the people,” Washington wrote his friend Gouverneur Morris, “it is well worth the ambition of a patriot statesman at this juncture to endeavor to pacify party differences—to give fresh vigor to the springs of government—to inspire the people with confidence.”

Washington’s call for a “patriot statesman” echoed Bolingbroke’s call for a “Patriot King” in a widely read 1749 pamphlet that articulated an antidote to the corruption and fanaticism of parties that led to England’s civil war. For Bolingbroke, the ideal was a benign monarch who could “defeat the designs, and break the spirit of faction” in a parliamentary democracy, toward the goal of delivering “true principles of government independent of all.” Washington’s substitution of “statesman” for “king” reframed the concept for an American audience. The ideal of a strong leader who operated beyond partisanship retained its attractiveness.

When Washington became president, he intended to establish a government above faction and special interests. “No local prejudices or attachments; no separate views, nor party animosities,” he promised in his first inaugural address, “will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests.”

Washington did not want or expect unanimity of opinion in his Cabinet, perhaps reflecting the idea that in a place where everyone thinks alike, no one is thinking very much. He was aware of his limits on specific issues—especially law and finance. A competition of ideas and opinions was something to be celebrated, as he made clear in a letter to the governor of North Carolina two months after taking the oath of office: “A difference of opinion on political points is not to be imputed to freemen as a fault, since it is to be presumed that they are all actuated by an equally laudable and sacred regard for the liberties of their country.”

But as Washington preached an enlightened self-interest consistent with classical liberalism, dissension grew in his Cabinet ranks, as political divisions hardened and suspicions drove onetime allies apart. He was always aware that these fault lines could rupture the fragile federal government.

“My greatest fear has been that the nation would not be sufficiently cool and moderate in making arrangements for the security of that liberty,” he wrote after nine months in office. “If we mean to support the liberty and independence which it has cost us so much blood and treasure to establish,” he wrote to Rhode Island governor Arthur Fenner, “we must drive far away the demon of party spirit and local reproach.”

In the spring of 1796, when he picked back up the first draft of his farewell address, which Washington had asked Madison to draft in his first term, Washington added new language explaining to the public that given the “considerable changes … both at home and abroad, I shall ask your indulgence while I express with more lively sensibility the following most ardent wishes of my heart.”

The next line in the draft drove right to the rise of faction: “That party disputes among all the friends and lovers of their country may subside, or, as the wisdom of Providence hath ordained that men, on the same subjects, shall not always think alike, that charity and benevolence, when they happen to differ, may so far shed their benign influence as to banish those invectives which proceed from illiberal prejudices and jealousy.”

In a line he deleted from the final draft, Washington went even further, warning that in a large republic, a military coup was unlikely to undermine democracy, even if backed by the wealthy and powerful. The base of the country was too broad. “In such republics,” he said, “it is safe to assert that the conflicts of popular factions are the chief, if not the only, inlets of usurpation and tyranny.”

Washington acknowledged that the spirit of party “unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments.” But he understood partisans’ perspective, stating plainly, “there is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true.”

Beyond those wise limits, Washington warned, rampant factions were a “fatal tendency” in democracies. The thin history of republics up to that point showed that partisan factions led by “cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men” distorted democracies by pursuing narrow agendas at the expense of the national interest. Washington identified regional parties based on “geographical discriminations” as a particular danger, because they undermined national unity in pursuit of power. “Designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views” by misrepresenting the “opinions and aims” of people from other states and regions. “You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations,” Washington warned. “They tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.”

But the greatest danger could spring from the chaos of a dysfunctional democracy, compounded by relentless party warfare, which, Washington warned, would erode faith in the effectiveness of self-governance and open the door to a demagogue with authoritarian ambitions. “The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

Washington’s remedy was modest but comprehensive: Partisanship could not be removed from democracy, but it could be constrained by vigilant citizens and the sober-minded separation of powers. “The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it,” Washington wrote. Doubling down for emphasis, he added that “there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it.”

For Washington, this wise balance was the prime pillar of our political liberty. By devoting so much of his farewell address to warning about the dangers of hyper-partisanship, Washington penned a manifesto for moderation, a guide for future leaders and citizens who would try to walk the line between the extremes, focused on the never-ending task of forming a more perfect union.

Now, in 2017, after an eight-year presidency that promised to bridge our divides but confronted the political reality of polarization and the election of a successor whose victory has highlighted the deep divisions in America, Washington’s vision for vigorous citizens checking the rise of extreme partisanship is striking in its relevance. We need to heed Washington’s warning.

Source: POLITICO Magazine