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[l] at 9/25/20 11:00am

Trump looks at the reporter and an opaque gaze of confusion and vulnerability takes over his face as he mutters that he didn’t know Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the U.S. Supreme Court’s iconic feminist, had passed away. Many of us were left wondering if anyone is actually advising The Donald on anything. Shouldn’t the U.S. president have smart people around him keeping him informed of current affairs? Or world affairs?

This is not the first time that Trump has been blind-sided by a seismic news event. But it gives us a reminder that if he had any advisers on policy when he took office, that we now have a president in the Oval Office who believes he has learnt the ropes and doesn’t listen to anyone in the White House, doesn’t read memos and whose only contact with the outside world is via Fox news.

Trump has, single-handedly destroyed relations with China, empowered the North Korean leader, brought much more war in a troubled Middle East which he has succeeded in dividing further, brought relations with Europe to an all-time low and has made America a Goon Show on the world stage – so much so that even old allies are refusing to share intel with a man whose startling obsession with his own re-election surpasses everything else.

The Trump period is marked by satire or black humour. And yet it is real. Is it not The Truman Show nor The Onion.

But as we put down another completely nuts news report of Trump claiming that he wanted to have Assad assassinated – ho ho ho – (which he blamed on General Mattis), we are lad to ask ourselves, now that he has built a team of sycophants in ill-fitting suits, is he doing foreign policy completely alone? Do we have a rogue president in the White House who is literally making up foreign policy on the whim, based on ignorance, his own foibles and insecurity and his naked, arch objective of being re-elected?

The stultifying logic of Trump is enough to make the gorillas on his own personal TV channel vote for Biden. He doesn’t even understand his own baloney and is not vexed when others don’t either. His obsession, is simply to be on television every day. If he has to put on a clown’s outfit, juggle oranges or just talk like a child on subjects he knows nothing about, so be it.

But his sanctions on Iran and the strategy of late beggars belief and leads me to wonder if Steven Bannon, a vagabond who was struggling to make the headlines this year until his own arrest for illegality relating to a wall funding program, put him in them, is advising Trump through a conduit.

Confiscating four Iranian tankers on their way to supply Venezuela is exactly what Steve Bannon would advise Trump to do, knowing full well that this is a policy which can only lead to war with Iran. Bannon, who interviewed me about the Middle East for his own radio talk show in the summer of 2016 days after the attempted coup in Turkey, is charismatic, clever and certainly a maverick who journalists love to talk to. But one thing he is not is an expert, by any stretch of the imagination, on the Middle East. In fact, I doubt if he could find most of these countries which Trump’s policies throw a spotlight on, on a map of the Middle East.

But drawing Iran into a war, which the U.S. can say to their call-centre journalists in DC was a war “which Iran started” when Iran retaliates and blocks shipping – or confiscates tankers – in the Straits of Hormuz, is exactly what Bannon would advise. You can just see the headlines in U.S. press talking about “Iran’s unprovoked attacks” and how the U.S. “has to defend its allies in the region” etc etc.

The lunacy of Trump’s piracy in international waters where these Iranian oil tankers were confiscated, is that Trump is playing a double bluff with the Iranians, which he believes he can win. Pumped up with confidence after he saw no immediate retaliation for the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, he thinks that Iran will not dare take on the might of the U.S. military in the one shipping lane in the world where it has a good chance of causing havoc and making the headlines completely dwarf all news coverage leading up to the climax of the presidential elections.

The only question about this is when it will happen, rather than if. Hardliners in Iran have already made it clear that they will not tolerate four more years of U.S. sanctions and the theft and absolute disregard for international law which Trump has sanction when he took the Iranian ships – is a point of no return. What is remarkable is that he believes that such a gambit will pay off. He believes that he can win both the actual war with Iran and also the media one back home when Biden’s press herd of left-wing commentators and analysts push the knife in deep.

Trump believes the payback will compensate for that and that he has a stronger chance of remaining in office, than winning the presidency without a war with Iran. This can be the only explanation for the bellicose reaction, which some might consider to be a suicide pill.

Even Trump’s own sycophants and their parody news websites are getting worried. One recently tweeted entirely malicious and fabricated claims about Biden using a teleprompter during an interview (when in fact he was looking at a monitor of people who were asking him questions), such is the level of concern about Trump not returning.

He must believe that a war with Iran is a vote winner. And he believes that he can defeat the present regime in Iran. This rancorous, misguided policy which holds the American people to hostage and threatens to seriously hit the U.S. economy – and threaten world peace – will be a defining moment though in both his presidency and no doubt a large part of a movie or book which Steven Bannon is no doubt writing as you read this article. Part of that story, in real life, will no doubt be a presidential pardon for Bannon’s fraud case. Bannon, we should not forget, more or less invented Trumpism and this latest Iran bluff is straight out of the text book. It is “auto-trump”.

The only way that America can come out a winner in this cavernous strategy is on the big screen, directed by Oliver Stone, called simply ‘Trump’. Bannon, a sort of dishevelled revenant hack who many of us wrote off when his efforts in Italy to create a pan-European far-right movement didn’t quite come off, will have his day, perhaps not in the White House, but in Hollywood, certainly. We are only waiting now. Will Iran strike before the final votes of the election, or in the coming weeks, after if Trump wins? The capture of the four Iranian vessels in August was a declaration of war, which even the hardest of all hardliners in Iran can no longer ignore or work around.

Bannon is back.

[Category: Americas, Middle East, World, Bannon, Donald Trump, Iran]

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[l] at 9/25/20 10:00am

The next time you see a mainstream-media talking-head fawn over Woodward, just remember that if they had any backbone, any moral core, they would be fawning over Assange instead.

Lee CAMP

The completely fair super awesome trial of Julian Assange continues in the U.K. as I write this. It’s a beautiful blend of the works of Kafka, Stalin and Joseph Heller.

Seeing as Julian is kept in a glass container in the courtroom, like a captured cockroach, maybe Kafka wins the day.

The court clearly must keep Julian in that giant Tic-Tac container because he’s undoubtedly as dangerous as Hannibal Lecter. If he weren’t in there, no one would know when he might lurch forward and PUBLISH SOMETHING THAT’S TOTALLY TRUE!

 

(Antonio Marín Segovia, Flickr)

What they’re deciding in this trial is whether Assange should be extradited to the United States, or “kidnapped” as the kids call it these days.

If he is lovingly black-bagged by our government, they have promised he will face 175 years in prison if convicted by another super rad show trial presided over by an American government puppet judge. (A puppet judge is just like a real judge but they’ve got the government so far up their backside they can taste the Cheetos.)

Countless excitable activists out there say this persecution of Julian Assange is unheard of. They’re acting like no journalist has ever been prosecuted under the Espionage Act. They’re acting like it’s unprecedented for the U.S. to go after a journalist who’s not even a U.S. citizen and has never operated his organization from the U.S. They’re acting like it’s ridiculous to add on new superseding indictments days before the trial begins.

But all the people saying that are… um… correct. Yeah, they nailed it. (Sorry for the buildup – I thought that paragraph would come out differently.)

Two Journalists

Right now, one journalist, Julian Assange, is on trial while being held in a maximum security prison in London. Another journalist, Bob Woodward, is in a very different situation. The liberal Establishment is preparing to chisel his likeness out of a small boulder and display it next to the Lincoln Memorial. They love him because he got President Donald Trump to do interviews wherein Trump, as always, sounds like a lying buffoon. Among other things the president admits he knew Covid-19 was “deadly stuff” back in at least February, but played it down anyway.

But this is nothing new. Every time Bob Woodward puts out a book, the mainstream media fan-girls all over him. Myriad kings and queens of televised logorrhea describe him as a “veteran reporter,” a “famed reporter,” or “synonymous with investigative journalism!”

So what’s the difference between liberal-hero journalist Bob Woodward and dastardly evil villain cannibal-pedophile Julian Assange (who Hillary Clinton famously said we should drone bomb)?

Well, Julian is on trial for obtaining and disclosing classified information from the U.S. government. Liberal superhero Bob Woodward would never do such a thing like that! …Oh, that’s right. He actually said in his own online journalism class — “I have rarely found a significant story where there isn’t a document. …Often you can’t get it because it’s classified but… it’s there, and if you can get somebody to assist you, it will indeed help you with your story. …The hardest documents [to get] are intelligence documents. …And I’ve had them and printed them.”

Hmm, so the icon of investigative journalism actually brags about printing classified information. Well, maybe the difference between Assange (currently being fed to the lions) and Woodward (currently being lionized) is that Assange supposedly pressured people into giving him classified information whereas Woodward would never do that. For Bob the information just arrives at his door unsolicited.

…Oh, wait a second. On video Woodward recently said, “Documents rarely just arrive in the mail out of the blue. …You have to go to human beings and say, ‘Will you give it to me?’ You say, ‘Come on, let’s talk. Let’s, uh, not be chickenshit about this.’”

Soooo, the guy that has the entire mainstream media licking his shoes has been involved in obtaining and publishing classified information, and in fact pressuring sources into supplying him those documents? Wow. Bob Woodward and Julian Assange are exactly the same except Assange has actually not been proven to have pressured sources into giving him documents.

And there’s one other difference between the Almighty Bob Woodward and the so-called servant of Lucifer, Julian Assange.

Nothing WikiLeaks has ever published has been proven false. Not one sentence. Whereas, the outlets Woodward works with like The Washington Post and The New York Times publish false information all the time.

They said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; they said Kim Jung-Un killed his girlfriend while she was still alive; they published 16 anti-Bernie Sanders stories in the span of 16 hours while trying to sink his candidacy. They said China imprisoned millions of Uighurs based on extrapolating from the accounts of EIGHT PEOPLE! They are utter garbage when compared to the unassailable record of WikiLeaks. But when needed, legacy media like The Washington Post and The New York Times bend over for the national security state. That’s the real difference.

Julian Assange actually stood up to the U.S. and U.K. empires by publishing their war crimes. Woodward hasn’t really done that since President Richard Nixon was in office. Most big-time American journalists back down to the State Department when push comes to shove. Those who don’t — like Seymour Hersh, Robert Scheer, Chris Hedges and a few others — are never allowed in the pages of the mainstream media again.

The next time you see a mainstream media talking-head fawn over Bob Woodward, just remember that if they had any backbone, any moral core, they would be fawning over Julian Assange instead.

(The jaw-dropping video clips of Bob Woodward were discovered and put together by Matt Orfalea. You can watch his work here.)

consortiumnews.com

[Category: Editor's Choice, Bob Woodward, Journalism, Julian Assange, Mass Media]

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[l] at 9/25/20 9:00am

About twenty years ago The Atlantic published a piece by Jeffrey Tayler named “Russia is finished” subtitled “The unstoppable descent of a once great power into social catastrophe and strategic irrelevance.” Not a very successful prediction was it? But what he did was fashionable at the time – he described what was happening in Russia in the nineties and made a straight-line projection from there. His error was assuming the continuation of the straight line – and he made the error because he thought Russia was only “Zaire With Permafrost”.

My purpose in this essay is to apply the points that the author made about Russia twenty years ago to the United States of America today and adopt a simple straight-line projection based on a corresponding view of American history. This is not so much because I think that America really is finished – after all, as Adam Smith observed, there is a great deal of ruin in a nation, and America has seen hard times before – but in order to illustrate the perilous position America is in today. As the author of the Atlantic piece must now understand, straight-line predictions are always risky because – as happened in Russia – other forces can appear to change the “unstoppable descent”. But a straight-line prediction from the American situation as of the autumn of 2020 does point to an “unstoppable descent” into “social catastrophe and strategic irrelevance”.

In my opinion, Tayler’s principal error, which constrained his estimation of what was possible, was his overarching view of Russia as a brutal, dysfunctional, backwards dictatorship.

The hostility that Russians feel toward their government comes not from some innate lack of civic duty but from the terror, violence, and deceit that have since the late Middle Ages characterized the way in which their rulers have treated them…

Byzantium was moribund, its religion having suffocated the intellectual traditions of the Hellenes.

Mongol khans, with all their pomp and cruelty, became the figures on which many Russian rulers would model themselves…

Muscovite czars, Ivan the Terrible foremost among them, destroyed all institutions that could rival their power, turning the nobility into servants, enslaving the peasants to the nobility, and employing Orthodoxy as their official ideology—for Orthodoxy proclaimed the czar God’s chosen representative on earth…

Russia, isolated and infused with a messianic sense of its own superiority over the West, suffered the predations of rulers bent on building a strong state…

Taking full advantage of Russia’s absolutist traditions, Joseph Stalin followed in the footsteps of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great and set about strengthening the state, enacting programs of industrialization and agricultural collectivization: he enslaved vast segments of his population to build industries, mine the earth, and gather crops…

Can only expect more of the same from a country with that past.

This is what might be called the Richard Pipes take on Russia. Let us consider what would be predicted for the future of America if we were to take the Howard Zinn point of view. That is to say, an America based on slave labor, the extermination of native peoples, exploitation of the poor by the rich under cover of an attractive but hollow ideology, predatory behavior in its neighborhood backed by merciless warfare wherever it doesn’t get its way. You could expect only more of the same.

Now the Pipes and Zinn views are not false, but they are partial. Russia is not nothing but a brutal dysfunctional dictatorship, it has its Father Zosimas too. Neither is America just a brutal, dysfunctional plutocracy, it has its spiritual values too. But, just as Tayler took a Pipes view of Russia, we will in what follows take a Zinn view of America. And just as Russia’s future turned out to be much better than Tayler/Pipes foresaw, let us hope that America’s future is better also. We will take the points Tayler makes about Russia, apply them to America and project the future from that point through Zinn’s perspective and see what we get.

  • Russian oligarchs.

the oligarchs rose to prominence not by building railroads and industries but by exploiting antiquated pricing systems, disorganized legal codes, and—most important—Soviet-era connections with the government.

The three richest men in America today – owning, it is said, as much as half the population – did not gain their wealth by railroads or industries; one runs a mail order store, one a software company and one is a speculator. The Forbes 400 are worth more than almost two-thirds of the country and COVID has made them even richer while, for the others, unemployment skyrockets. Not surprisingly, a 2014 study found that these plutocrats dominate the so-called democracy. “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose.” All rather Zinnish, isn’t it? Difficult to see that trend ending by itself.

  • Russian contempt for politicians.

When Russians talk of their politicians, they frequently speak of “thieves,” “bandits,” and “swindlers”…

A recent Pew poll on American attitudes to their government shows similar disgust

Even larger majorities say the country is not performing well when it comes to the government being open and transparent (69% say this does not describe the country well), the tone of political debate being respectful (72%), people agreeing on basic facts even if they disagree politically (72%), elected officials facing serious consequences for misconduct (73%) and that campaign contributions do not lead to greater political influence (also 73%).

  • Russian military failure.

One of the most spectacular elements of the Soviet Union’s collapse has been Russia’s fall from military superpower No. 2 to a country whose army can be neutralized by bands of irregulars fighting with little more than the weapons on their backs.

No need to belabor this point – two decades in Afghanistan says it all.

  • Squandering wealth on weaponry.

Putin would do well to recall that high defense spending helped to bring about the demise of the Soviet Union.

Enough said – more, more and still more.

  • Russian population decline.

Over the past decade Russia’s population has been shrinking by almost a million a year, owing to a plummeting birth rate and a rising number of deaths from alcoholism and violence. Predictions are astonishingly grave: the country could lose a third of its population (now 146 million) by the middle of the century. This does not factor in new scourges—tuberculosis and HIV, in particular, which have been spreading exponentially since 1998.

America’s birthrate is now falling and deaths from opioid overdoses and suicides are rising.

Taking Tayler’s points one after another and comparing Russia with America today, we see it’s not Russia that’s looking bad in 2020.

  • Oligarchs are losing power in Russia but gaining it in America.
  • Confidence in government is rising in Russia but falling in America.
  • Russia’ military achievements are rising while America’s are falling.
  • Russia’s military expenditure is falling but America’s keeps rising.
  • Russian population is stabilizing while America’s is starting to fall.

And we haven’t been nearly as negative about America’s future as we could have been. With the talk about ignoring the results of November’s elections, how close are we to civil war? Is there really a possibility of a coup d’état? There’s certainly talk of it. There already is a considerable amount of street violence in America now, how much worse will it get? What will the final effects of COVID be? Certainly not an increase in confidence about the American can-do spirit or competence. How many people unemployed by COVID will ever work again? How big can the budget deficit get before it all bursts? Can the US ever get its manufacturing dominance back? What happens to the “American Dream” as most people get poorer while a few become ludicrously rich – here’s a RAND study to put a number on the four-decade trend – trillions and trillions.

Tayler was extremely wrong in his estimation of Putin as many others were, seeing nothing but KGB.

Putin the Terrible… Putin had the security connections to protect them once Yeltsin left office… Putin needs pliant and adoring media to ensure an absolutist rule… Putin supported the reinstatement of a slightly modified version of Stalin’s national anthem… Putin has put forward plans that will only worsen his country’s plight,

But the Putin team changed the trajectory – again “Zaire with permafrost” blocked his mind. Would he expect that Biden/Harris will turn things around in America? (He doesn’t seem to think much of Trump.)

And how did this come to pass? Adams foresaw it – America brought the monsters home.

Russia by contrast is a model of stability, efficiency and prosperity. With a much better future too.

[Category: Americas, World, Capitalism, Crisis, Poverty, Russia, United States]

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[l] at 9/25/20 8:00am

Medea BENJAMIN, Nicolas J. S. DAVIES

If the Democrats manage to push Joe Biden over the finish line in November’s election, he will find himself presiding over a decadent, declining empire. He will either continue the policies that have led the American empire to decadence and decline, or seize the moment to move our nation into a new phase: a transition to a peaceful and sustainable post-imperial future.

The foreign policy team Biden assembles will be key, including his choice for Secretary of Defense. But Biden’s rumored favorite, Michele Flournoy, is not the gal for this historic moment. Yes, she would break the glass ceiling as the first female Secretary of Defense, but, as one of the architects of our endless wars and record military budgets, she would only help to steer the American empire farther down its current path of lost wars, corrupt militarism and terminal decline.

In 1976, General John Glubb, the retired British commander of Jordan’s Arab Legion, wrote a little booklet titled The Fate of Empires. Glubb observed how each of the world’s empires evolved through six stages, which he called: the Age of Pioneers; the Age of Conquests; the Age of Commerce; the Age of Affluence; the Age of Intellect; and the Age of Decadence and Decline. Despite enormous differences in technology, politics and culture between empires and eras, from the Assyrians (859-612 B.C.) to the British (1700-1950 C.E.), the whole process in each and every case took about 250 years.

Americans can count the years from 1776, and few of us would deny that the American empire is in its Age of Decadence and Decline, riven by the very traits that Glubb identified for this stage, including systemic, normalized corruption, internal political hatreds, and a fascination with celebrity for its own sake.

The decline of an empire is rarely peaceful, but it does not always involve the invasion, destruction or collapse of the imperial heartland, as long as its leaders eventually face up to reality and manage the transition wisely. So it is tragic that the 2020 presidential election offers us a choice between two major party candidates uniquely unqualified to manage America’s post-imperial transition, both making vain promises to restore mythical versions of America’s past, instead of drawing up serious plans for a peaceful, sustainable and broadly prosperous post-imperial future.

Trump and his “Make America Great Again” represent the epitome of imperial hubris, while Biden pushes the time-worn idea that America should be “back at the head of the table” internationally, as if America’s neocolonial empire was still in its prime. With enough pressure from the public, Biden might be persuaded to start cutting the imperial military budget to invest in our real needs, from Medicare For All to a Green New Deal. But that’s unlikely if he picks Michele Flournoy, a die-hard militarist who has played instrumental roles in America’s failed wars and catastrophic imperial adventures since the 1990s.

Let’s look at her record:

As Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy under President Clinton, Flournoy was the principal author of the May 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which laid the ideological foundation for the endless wars that followed. Under “Defense Strategy,” the QDR effectively announced that the United States would no longer be bound by the UN Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of military force. It declared that, “when the interests at stake are vital, …we should do whatever it takes to defend them, including, when necessary, the unilateral use of military power.”

The QDR defined U.S. vital interests to include “preventing the emergence of a hostile regional coalition” anywhere on Earth and “ensuring uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources.” By framing the unilateral and illegal use of military force all over the world as “defending vital interests,” the QDR presented what international law defines as aggression, the “supreme international crime” according to the judges at Nuremberg, as a form of “defense.”

Flournoy’s career has been marked by the unethical spinning of revolving doors between the Pentagon, consulting firms helping businesses procure Pentagon contracts, and military-industrial think tanks like the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), which she co-founded in 2007.

In 2009, she joined the Obama administration as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, where she helped engineer political and humanitarian disasters in Libya and Syria and a new escalation of the endless war in Afghanistan before resigning in 2012. From 2013-2016, she joined Boston Consulting, trading on her Pentagon connections to boost the firm’s military contracts from $1.6 million in 2013 to $32 million in 2016. By 2017, Flourney herself was raking in $452,000 a year.

In 2017, Flournoy and Obama’s Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken founded their own corporate consulting business, WestExec Advisors, where Flournoy continued to cash in on her contacts by helping companies successfully navigate the complex bureaucracy of winning enormous Pentagon contracts.

She obviously has no compunction about enriching herself off of taxpayer money, but what about her actual foreign policy positions? Given that her jobs in the Clinton and Obama administrations were behind-the-scenes strategy and policy positions, she is not widely blamed for specific military disasters.

But the articles, papers and reports that Flournoy and CNAS have published for two decades reveal that she suffers from the same chronic malady as the rest of the Washington foreign policy “blob.” She pays lip service to diplomacy and multilateralism, but when she has to recommend a policy for a specific problem, she consistently supports the uses of military force that she set out to politically legitimize in the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). When the chips are down, she is one more military-industrial hammer-banger to whom every problem looks like a nail waiting to be whacked by a trillion-dollar, high-tech hammer.

In June 2002, as Bush and his gang threatened aggression against Iraq, Flournoy told the Washington Post that the United States would “need to strike preemptively before a crisis erupts to destroy an adversary’s weapons stockpile” before it “could erect defenses to protect those weapons, or simply disperse them.” When Bush unveiled his official “doctrine of preemption” a few months later, Senator Edward Kennedy wisely condemned it as “unilateralism run amok” and “a call for 21st century American imperialism that no other country can or should accept.”

In 2003, as the ugly reality of “preemptive war” plunged Iraq into intractable violence and chaos, Flournoy and a team of Democratic hawks co-authored a paper titled “Progressive Internationalism” to define a “smarter and better” brand of militarism for the Democratic Party for the 2004 election. While portrayed as a path between the neo-imperial right and the non-interventionist left, it asserted that “Democrats will maintain the world’s most capable and technologically advanced military, and we will not flinch from using it to defend our interests anywhere in the world.”

In January 2005, as the violence and chaos of the hostile military occupation of Iraq spun farther out of control, Flournoy signed onto a letter from the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) asking Congress to “increase substantially the size of the active duty Army and Marine Corps (by) at least 25,000 troops each year over the next several years.”  In 2007, Flournoy supported keeping a “residual force” of 60,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and in 2008, she co-authored a paper proposing a policy of “Conditional Engagement” in Iraq, which Brian Katulis at the Center for American Progress dubbed “an excuse to stay in Iraq” that “poses as an exit strategy.”

As Obama’s Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, she was a hawkish voice for escalation in Afghanistan and war on Libya. She resigned in February 2012, leaving others to clean up the mess. In February 2013, when Obama brought in Chuck Hagel as a relatively dovish reformer to replace Leon Panetta as Defense Secretary, right-wing figures opposed to his planned reforms, including Paul Wolfowitz and William Kristol, backed Flournoy as a hawkish alternative.

In 2016, Flournoy was tipped as Hillary Clinton’s choice for Secretary of Defense, and she co-authored a CNAS report titled “Expanding American Power” with a team of hawks that included former Cheney aide Eric Edelman, PNAC co-founder Robert Kagan and Bush’s National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. The report was seen as a view of how Clinton’s foreign policy would differ from Obama’s, with calls for higher military spending, arms shipments to Ukraine, renewed military threats against Iran, more aggressive military action in Syria and Iraq, and further increases to domestic oil and gas production—all of which Trump has adopted.

In 2019, four years into the catastrophic war in Yemen when Congress was trying to stop US participation and halt weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, Flournoy argued against a weapons ban.

Flournoy’s hawkish views are particularly worrisome when it comes to China. In June 2020, she wrote an article in Foreign Affairs in which she spun an absurd argument that an even more aggressive U.S. military presence in the seas and skies around China would make war less rather than more likely by intimidating China into limiting its military presence in its own backyard. Her article simply recycles the tired old device of framing every U.S. military action as “deterrence” and every enemy action as “aggression.”

Flournoy claims that “Washington has not delivered on its promised ‘pivot’ to Asia,” and that U.S. troop levels in the region remain similar to what they were a decade ago. But this obscures the fact that U.S. troops in East Asia have increased by 9,600 since 2010, from 96,000 to 105,600. Total U.S. troop deployments abroad have shrunk from 450,000 to 224,000 during this time, so the proportion of U.S. overseas forces allocated to East Asia has in fact increased from 21% to 47%.

Flournoy also neglects to mention that Trump has already increased the number of U.S. troops in East Asia by over 23,000 since 2016. So, just as she did in 2004, 2008 and 2016, Flournoy is simply repackaging neoconservative and Republican policies to sell to the Democrats, to ensure that a new Democratic president keeps the United States wedded to war, militarism and endless profits for the military-industrial complex.

So it is no surprise that Flournoy’s solution to what she presents as a growing threat from China is to invest in a new generation of weapons, including hypersonic and long-range precision missiles and more high-tech unmanned systems. She even suggests that the U.S. goal in this budget-busting arms race could be to invent, produce and deploy currently non-existent weapons to sink China’s entire navy and civilian merchant fleet (a flagrant war crime) in the first 72 hours of a war.

This is only one part of Flournoy’s larger plan for transforming the U.S. military through trillion-dollar long-term investments in new weapons technology, building on Trump’s already huge increase in Pentagon R & D spending.

In a September 10th interview with the Stars and Stripes military website, Joe Biden appeared to have already swallowed heavy doses of Flournoy’s Kool-Aid to wash down Trump’s Cold War. Biden said he does not foresee major reductions in the military budget “as the military refocuses its attention to potential threats from ‘near-peer’ powers such as China and Russia.”

Biden added, “I’ve met with a number of my advisors and some have suggested in certain areas the (military) budget is going to have to be increased.” We would remind Biden that he hired these unnamed advisors to advise him, not to predetermine the decisions of a candidate who still has to convince the American public he is the leader we need at this difficult time in our history.

Picking Michelle Flournoy to lead the Pentagon would be a tragic indication that Biden is truly hell-bent on squandering America’s future on a debilitating arms race with China and Russia and a futile, potentially catastrophic bid to resurrect America’s declining imperial power.

With our economy–and our lives–devastated by a pandemic, with climate chaos and nuclear war threatening the future of human life on this planet, we are in desperate need of real leaders to navigate and guide America through a difficult transition to a peaceful, prosperous post-imperial future. Michele Flournoy is not one of them.

counterpunch.org

[Category: Editor's Choice, Joe Biden, Pentagon, United States]

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[l] at 9/25/20 7:33am

The United Nations was formed after the worldwide defeat of fascism and at the birth of a Cold War. Seventy-five years later those pernicious currents are resurgent. It seems incredible that within living memory, geopolitics have apparently circled back to such destructive and potentially catastrophic dynamics.

Maybe “circling back” is the wrong expression. Maybe the world just never left the ashes of fascism and World War II fully behind. The supposed death of fascism and birth of Cold War are not separate events. They are interrelated, merely different manifestations of the same pathology.

The 75th annual UN general assembly convened this week at its New York headquarters under ominous circumstances. For the first time in the history of the world body, delegates were largely absent due to the coronavirus pandemic which has ravaged most of the globe’s 193 nations. World leaders addressed the forum via remote video teleconferencing from their own countries rather than taking to the podium in New York.

Antonio Guterres, the ninth UN secretary-general, opened the session with an urgent appeal for the United States and China to avoid an escalating Cold War. He warned that at a time of pandemic threatening global poverty, famine and rising death toll, the world cannot afford a titanic confrontation between the two largest national economies.

Among the world leaders to address the international forum were U.S. President Donald Trump, China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. (Recorded addresses can be viewed here, here and here.) While Xi and Putin delivered speeches that were internationalist in spirit and commensurate tone, emphasizing solidarity, cooperation and peace, Trump went on a rant that was brimming with rancor, recrimination, militarism and nationalistic hubris.

Completely ignoring appeals to avoid a Cold War, the American president delved into chilling provocations against China, accusing the latter of unleashing a pandemic on the world, which he sneeringly referred to as the “China virus” and “plague”. As his administration has repeatedly done over recent months, Trump demanded the world hold China to account. Washington has fomented a new Cold War with China much like the former decades-long standoff between the U.S. and the old Soviet Union. The politicization of the coronavirus pandemic by the Trump administration is merely a proxy for a wider geopolitical confrontation that the U.S. is pursuing against China, which stems from a perceived decline in American global power.

This reckless polarization of geopolitics by Washington is undermining international security and greatly increasing the danger of a new world war, one that would doubtless escalate into a nuclear conflagration. What the Trump administration is doing is tantamount to criminal pyromania. Yet there is plenty of reason to believe that an alternative American administration would do the same albeit perhaps with a different political agenda or style. For U.S. global power seems inherently programmed for militarism and belligerence. These nefarious manifestations are a corollary of American presumptions of being an “exceptional” global power that is predicated on hegemony over the entire planet.

Presidents Xi and Putin reminded the world in their respective addresses that the UN was formed after the historic defeat of international fascism. The newly formed world body in 1945 was supposed to supersede the defunct League of Nations which failed to prevent World War II. In the UN Charter were enshrined the principles of respect for nations’ sovereignty and non-aggression.

A fair observer would note that the Chinese and Russian leaders both embodied a contemporary expression of the founding vision of the UN. Xi and Putin each urged the nations of the world to work together with mutual partnership and respect to ensure peace and progress for the betterment of humanity. Xi in particular emphasized the need for cooperation to overcome the coronavirus pandemic. While Putin underscored in his address the need to reduce weapons of mass destruction.

By contrast, Trump’s address was bereft of magnanimity and compassion. See this commentary by one of our columnists. His was a tirade full of antagonism towards China driven by cynical and groundless accusations, as well as bristling with American militarism and hubris. It was an extraordinary display of naked aggression starkly repudiating the principles of the UN Charter and the historic founding purpose of the world body.

It seems astounding that on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the UN, a world leader could deliver such a profane address which was not just tone deaf to the occasion but which actually promulgated the antithesis of its founding principles.

One has to say that in too many ways the UN has failed to live up to its lofty principles over its 75-year history. That, however, is no reason to abandon its commitments and aspirations. Presidents Xi and Putin, among other world leaders, are right to remain loyal to the foundational objectives of the UN.

Nevertheless, the harsh truth is that the UN has failed abysmally in maintaining international security and world peace over the past seven decades. Countless wars have raged during that three-quarters of a century with tens of millions of lives lost, and whole countries destroyed.

By clear culpability, the United States has been the main purveyor of these wars carried out under false and grotesque pretenses, such as “defending democracy” or “protecting human rights”. Virtually in every instance, national sovereignty and the principle of non-aggression were violated by Washington, and on too many occasions the UN was ineffectual in preventing wars by compelling the U.S. to abide by the UN Charter. The U.S. and its Western allies instigated the Cold War immediately after World War II as a means to counter the Soviet Union. Today, the U.S. is repeating that same objective of polarizing the world with a new Cold War against China.

If there is a dark sense of déjà vu it is because the criminality of American imperialism has never been held to account. The self-righteous bombast of Trump and past American leaders is in actuality a perverse inversion of reality. Their pretensions of nobility and virtue are a cover for the kind of lawlessness that was supposed to have been defeated in World War II. Trump is but an unvarnished version of the same kind of American war criminality that has been extant – though better disguised – over the past 75 years.

There is something quite fitting about Trump not being capable of delivering a proper UN speech this week. That incapability is intrinsic to American power.

Thankfully that power is in terminal decline and the rest of the world will eventually overcome the aberration. Perhaps over the next 75 years, the UN vision might actually be fulfilled. But if that is to happen, American capitalist-imperialist power as it exists must be supplanted to conform at last with democratic, lawful principles and the UN Charter.

Fascism, it seems, wasn’t fully defeated in World War II despite the enormous, heroic sacrifice of millions. It just lived to fight another day. Time to finally end it.

[Category: Editorial, Security, War and Conflict, China, Cold War, Russia, UN, United States, World War II]

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[l] at 9/24/20 2:00pm

As ye sow, so shall ye reap, is another, Biblical way of expressing the common American adage from the title. The recent passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg seems to have provoked more jubilation and color revolution scheming against President Trump than heartfelt bereavement. In a country rent asunder that, incidentally, has also authored the color revolution playbook for wrecking other countries – that is hardly surprising.

The normal procedure, following long-standing practice, would be for the President to nominate a candidate to fill the Supreme Court vacancy and for the Senate to hold hearings following which it would vote to confirm or reject the nominee. But nothing is any longer simple or routine in this annus horribilis that has gripped America. The nine-member Supreme Court is as divided along partisan and ideological lines as the American body politic. If the outcome of the November Presidential and congressional election is disputed, as the powerful forces which are behind the current upheavals promise that it will be, the person installed to replace Ginsburg may tip the balance in the evenly split Supreme Court.

What happens next and at what pace the replacement process will be conducted, whose candidate will ultimately fill the vacancy in the Supreme Court and when, before or after the November election, are matters of vital political interest for both sides in America’s current internecine battles. There is already a precedent, fresh in everyone’s memory. In the closely contested 2000 Presidential election, it was the Supreme Court which by a tight 5-to-4 vote effectively selected the winner.

The Constitution of the United States is oddly reticent on the precise scope of the Supreme Court’s responsibilities. In fact, it was only in 1803, some time after the Constitution’s adoption that the cardinal principle of judicial review, defining the fundamental role of the Supreme Court in America’s system of government, was promulgated in the landmark Marbury v. Madison case. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Marshall argued that the Constitution is the “supreme law of the land” and that the Supreme Court has the final say over the interpretation of the Constitution. From then on, all legal controversies of federal significance were to be resolved exclusively by the Supreme Court of the United States.

The laconic Constitution does not even prescribe how many Supreme Court justices there should be, a matter ultimately left for Congress to decide. That oddity implies that Congress is also empowered to change the number of justices. In the present politically impassioned atmosphere that means that depending on who controls it after November it can also expand the court’s composition and “pack” it in conformity with the majority’s ideological agenda. Something of the sort had already been done on President Roosevelt’s watch, though it was in an incomparably more civilized and normal America, hence far less destructive to the delicate equilibrium of the country’s constitutional system than a similar manoeuvre would assuredly be today.

The political stakes are therefore much higher than may meet the eye. Any disputes or legal controversies arising from the November elections will have to be settled by the Supreme Court. Since justices with professional integrity are a thing of the past, everybody knows that their political biases, including those of Ginsburg’s replacement, will decisively determine the outcome.

Ginsburg herself, an acknowledged, highly ideological legal radical, must have been aware of the upheaval her passing would provoke. She is said to have expressed the dying wish that President Trump should not be allowed to appoint her successor.

All players are aware of what is potentially at stake, which is not just who gets to be the next President if the November color revolution attempt follows the Sharp/Soros manual, but just as importantly how major social issues, including legislation, will be treated by the Supreme Court.

Accordingly, President Trump has already asserted that he will nominate his candidate for the vacancy “without delay”. He is understandably keen to have his sympathizer on the Court should the legitimacy of his re-election be vigorously contested. Most likely he will use the political ruse of “recess appointment” to fill the vacancy while Congress is on holiday, it being understood that the nominee later would still have to undergo the confirmation process in the Senate. There is an Eisenhower precedent for that. But he (or she) would still be able to vote in the meantime, and the President in his campaign could also argue to his supporters that in November they better get out and vote for him and his party if they wish to have a friendly Supreme Court.

The other side are, of course, just as adamant that this should not be allowed to happen. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, has threatened to reinitiate impeachment proceeding (grounds unspecified) should Trump dare to exercise his Constitutional prerogative to name a new associate justice on a schedule convenient to his own political purposes, adding rather militantly that her party are prepared to ‘use every arrow in our quiver’ to block Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

Unsurprisingly, the cruder lot of Mrs. Pelosi’s camp followers must have taken the “arrow and quiver” metaphor to heart quite literally. For the first time in memory, a high ranking politician in the United States, in this case Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, is being physically threatened with punishment by angry mobs should he put Trump’s Supreme Court nominee on the Senate agenda for a vote. Ominously, McConnell’s home address has been posted online with the obvious intention of intimidating him with a BLM, Antifa, or who knows what other sort of ‘turba divina’ should he fail to get the message of what the street expects from him and act accordingly.

I contend that the aforementioned little noticed detail speaks volumes about the degradation of American politics and vindicates the title of this analysis. In the Ukraine after the 2014 coup, mob unapproved public figures were harassed, lynched, spray-painted and dumped in garbage containers. In Bolivia last year, as the Washington-engineered coup to overthrow President Evo Morales was unfolding, public officials loyal to the government were similarly beaten and humiliated. So now finally these ghastly political manners, like a boomerang, are returning to their point of origin.

[Category: Americas, Society, World, Justice, US Supreme Court]

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[l] at 9/24/20 12:48pm

Russia does everything that any normal sovereign power should do. The problem is that Washington doesn’t want any competition for their global monopoly on power.  Watch the video and read more in the article by Brian Cloughley.

[Category: Elections, Mass Media, Propaganda, Russia, United States]

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[l] at 9/24/20 12:35pm

Steven HILL

The future of work is here, ushered in by a global pandemic. But is it turning employment into a Worker’s Paradise of working at home? Or more of a Big Brother panopticon?

Disturbing increases in the use of digital surveillance technologies by employers to monitor their remote workers are raising alarm bells. With the number of remote workers surging as a result of the pandemic—42 percent of U.S. workers are now doing their jobs from their kitchens, living rooms, and home offices—a number of employers have begun requiring their workers to download spying software to their laptops and smartphones. The goal is for businesses to monitor what their remote employees do all day, to track job performance and productivity, and to reduce so-called “cyber-slacking.”

Business software products from Hubstaff, which tracks a worker’s mouse movements, keyboard strokes, webpages visited, email, file transfers and applications used, are surging in sales. So are sales for TSheets, which workers download to their smartphones so that employers can track their location. Another product, called Time Doctor, “downloads videos of employees’ screens” and uses “a computer’s webcam to take a picture of the employee every 10 minutes,” NPR reports. One employee told NPR, “If you’re idle for a few minutes, if you go to the bathroom or… [to the kitchen], a pop-up will come up and it’ll say, ‘You have 60 seconds to start working again or we’re going to pause your time.’”

Another system, InterGuard, can be secretly installed on workers’ computers. The Washington Post reports that it “creates a minute-by-minute timeline of every app and website they view, categorizing each as ‘productive’ or ‘unproductive’ and ranking workers by their ‘productivity score.’” Other employers are using a lower-tech approach, requiring workers to stay logged in to a teleconference service like Zoom all day so they can be continually watched.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, one surveillance company, Awareness Technologies, says it has seen its sales triple. Executives at Hubstaff and Teramind also say demand for their companies’ monitoring products has tripled. One website showing “Employee Monitoring Software in the USA” lists nearly 70 companies with products for sale.

Outdated Laws Keep It Legal

Despite this surge in online surveillance activity, currently, it is a legal practice in the United States. Individual state laws vary over whether companies must inform workers that they’re using tracking software, but in reality, “When you’re on your office computer, you have no privacy at all,” says Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute. “Anything and everything you do is probably monitored by your boss.”

Current laws are vastly outdated, as they are based on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, when the primary form of electronic communication was the telephone. That was a distant time when desktop computers were first becoming popular, and smartphones were not yet a glint in Steve Jobs’ eye.

And now, in response to the coronavirus outbreak, companies such as Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Salesforce have developed intrusive applications that enable companies to continuously track the health status of their employees. Often they include a system for tracking contacts between employees within an office, and a mobile app for collecting information about their health status. A number of large U.S. employers, including AmazonWalmart, Home Depot and Starbucks, are taking the temperatures of their employees before they are allowed to work. Certainly, employers have a legitimate need to collect the necessary data to safeguard their workplaces, especially in response to a pandemic. But what is the appropriate level of “health intrusion”? How voluntary is the participation of workers, and who gets to decide?

The reality of this constant Big Brother digital spying in people’s homes is that dozens of remote workers are starting to complain that they feel burned out by this pressure. A recent Fishbowl survey of major companies’ employees found that three-quarters of those polled were opposed to using “an app or device that allows their company to trace their contacts with colleagues.” Yet many fear they will be branded as a troublemaker or lose their job if they speak out. And since remote workers hardly see each other—and increasingly may not even know many of their coworkers—these factors will make labor organizing and collective worker empowerment increasingly challenging.

U.S. labor unions have been slow to advocate for updating these outdated laws. One union, the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America, has been working to blunt the worst of the abuses. Labor-friendly media have been missing this story as well. Not only should unions advocate to update the laws and limit digital spying, but why not also demand that home-based workers be compensated by employers for use of their house, utilities and the internet? And that the employer remains responsible to provide equipment and a safe workplace, even in the home?

Remote Workforce GrowthThe New Normal?

As the number of remote workers rises, concerns are growing among labor advocates that this is quickly becoming the “new normal.” One survey by Gartner, Inc. found that 74 percent of companies intend to keep some proportion of their workforce on permanent remote status, with nearly a quarter of respondents saying they will move at least 20 percent of their on-site employees to permanent remote status. Google/Alphabet recently announced it will keep its 200,000 full-time and contract employees home until at least July 2021, and half of Facebook employees will work from home over the next decade. Hub International, a global insurance brokerage, has shifted 90 percent of its 12,000 employees to remote status. “Teleperformance, the world’s largest call-center company, estimates that around 150,000 of its employees [nearly half its global workforce] will not return to a physical worksite,” according to Social Europe.

Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom says:

“A recent separate survey of firms from the Survey of Business Uncertainty that I run with the Atlanta Federal Reserve and the University of Chicago indicated that the share of working days spent at home is expected to increase fourfold from pre-COVID levels, from 5 percent to 20 percent.

“Of the dozens of firms I have talked to, the typical plan is that employees will work from home one to three days a week, and come into the office the rest of the time.

But not all at-home workers are created equal. Bloom continues:

“Taken together, this is generating a time bomb for inequality. Our results show that more educated, higher-earning employees are far more likely to work from home—so they are continuing to get paid, develop their skills and advance their careers. At the same time, those unable to work from home—either because of the nature of their jobs, or because they lack suitable space or internet connections—are being left behind. They face bleak prospects if their skills and work experience erode during an extended shutdown and beyond.”

The future of work has become more uncertain than ever. In this “brave new world,” labor unions and advocates must ensure that the pandemic is not misused by businesses as an excuse to worsen conditions for employees who work out of the office. It is easy to imagine how the lines between ‘remote’ work and ‘platform’ work could blur, leading to more ‘Uberization’ as work devolves into ‘independent’ contracts, bogus self-employment and ‘pay-by-project’ arrangements that can be easily outsourced to remote (and lower-cost) destinations.

Worker advocates must push for a strong and modern legal data protection framework. And that should include an effective enforcement system against privacy abuse that disincentivizes illegal spying behavior. Remote work should not become a downward slide toward a Big Brother panopticon that penetrates into society ever more deeply, including into our homes.

Economy for All via counterpunch.org

[Category: Editor's Choice, Big Tech, Crisis, Pandemic, Society, Spying]

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[l] at 9/24/20 12:20pm

How fitting on the 75th anniversary of establishing the United Nations after the defeat of fascism and the birth of multilateralism, we should revisit that fateful watershed through the contemporary words of current world leaders. Either we go forward cooperatively and peacefully, or we descend into barbarism – again.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin were among world leaders who addressed the United Nations’ general assembly this week marking the 75th anniversary of the organization’s founding. On display were two visions: one regressive and reactionary delivered by Trump; the other promoting a world based on peaceful partnership.

All of the speeches were presented via teleconference due to the coronavirus pandemic preventing a full assembly in New York. But of the three leaders, it was Trump who sounded remote and estranged. His address was tone deaf to the occasion. Seventy-five years after the end of World War II – the most horrific conflagration in history – and the defeat of fascism, Trump sounded historically illiterate, boorish and, to use a vulgar expression, completely up his own ass. The United Nations was founded out of the ashes of that war with a death toll of at least 70 million – nearly half of which was suffered by the Soviet Union. The new world body was based on the premise of never allowing a repeat of the horror through common acceptance of the principles of respect for the sovereignty of nations, common humanity and rejection of aggression. The UN Charter no less.

What Trump delivered was an abomination of UN principles. His rant was bristling with aggression towards China based on spurious allegations about the coronavirus pandemic, blaming Beijing for “unleashing a plague” on the rest of the world. Ominously, as in previous statements over recent months, Trump demanded that China be held accountable for the disease. Apart from antagonizing China, the American president also exulted in presumed U.S. military power.  After decades of waging illegal wars across the Middle East and elsewhere – costing millions of lives – Trump incongruously claimed  Washington was bringing peace to the region through a series of belated dubious “deals” between Arab monarchial regimes and Israel.

In short, it was the usual hubris of American exceptionalism, other wise known as nationalistic supremacy, and the militaristic doctrine of “might is right”. We’ve heard all this self-righteous, delusional bombast before from U.S. leaders. The only thing perhaps in Trump’s favor was the brevity and unvarnished way he put it rather than all the florid rhetorical camouflage of, say, an Obama, which paints U.S. imperialism as some kind of benign force for humanity. Trump spares us the bother of unpacking the lies and pretensions of virtue that most American leaders indulge in. What we get with Trump is the essential raw American power of jingoism and aggression.

By total contrast, both China’s President Xi and Russia’s President Putin, who both spoke after Trump, delivered speeches that were fitting the occasion. Significantly, both reminded the world that the UN was founded out of the historic “anti-fascist war”. They reiterated the principles of peaceful partnership, non-aggression, respect for sovereignty and the need for the world to work cooperatively in a spirit of mutual multilateralism.

There was no ranting nor recrimination, no bragging about military prowess, nor profane “prayers to God” about not having to use “our advanced weapons” as Trump had done in what can only be understood as a menacing threat to the rest of the world to accept American “peace” down the barrel of a gun.

On the urgent matter of the coronavirus pandemic, both Xi and Putin appealed for global cooperation to defeat a common enemy of humanity. The Russian leader offered to make available the recently innovated Sputnik V vaccine to the rest of the world “free of commercial charge”. The UN chief Antonio Guterres acknowledged thanks to Putin for the Russian offer, the world’s first vaccine developed against coronavirus.

Back to Trump, it was a diatribe charged with belligerence and the usual American presumption of unilateralism. There was no humanity in Trump’s words, just nasty narcissism and presumed American right for retribution against others whom it deems adversaries. (When have American leaders ever not deemed others as adversaries?)

Safe to say, if the founders of the United Nations had witnessed the speeches delivered this week they would have recognized the fraternal visions articulated by Xi and Putin. They would have recognized the expressed hope in common human progress, and would have appreciated the pragmatic principles outlined.

Safe to say, too, the founders of the UN would have recognized Trump’s speech and would have recoiled in horror at such a demagogic tirade. For the kind of toxic, hyper-nationalistic, militaristic, bellicose politics espoused by Trump are of the same despicable category which the world thought it had defeated when establishing the United Nations. Fascism.

[Category: Security, War and Conflict, China, Diplomacy, Imperialism, Russia, UN, United States]

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[l] at 9/24/20 11:34am

Caitlin JOHNSTONE

The Washington Post, whose sole owner is a CIA contractor, has published yet another anonymously sourced CIA press release disguised as a news report which just so happens to facilitate longstanding CIA foreign policy.

In an article titled “Secret CIA assessment: Putin ‘probably directing’ influence operation to denigrate Biden”, WaPo’s virulent neoconservative war pig Josh Rogin describes what was told to him by unnamed sources about the contents of a “secret” CIA document which alleges that Vladimir Putin is “probably” overseeing an interference operation in America’s presidential election.

True to form, at no point does WaPo follow standard journalistic protocol and disclose its blatant financial conflict of interest with the CIA when promoting an unproven CIA narrative which happens to serve the consent-manufacturing agendas of the CIA for its new cold war with Russia.

And somehow in our crazy, propaganda-addled society, this is accepted as “news”.

.⁦@joshrogin⁩: “Secret CIA assessment: Putin ‘probably directing’ influence operation to denigrate Biden” – The Washington Post https://t.co/1zxPpjfxzS

— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) September 22, 2020

The CIA has had a hard-on for the collapse of the Russian Federation for many years, and preventing the rise of another multipolar world at all cost has been an open agenda of US imperialism since the fall of the Soviet Union. Indeed it is clear that the escalations we’ve been watching unfold against Russia were in fact planned well in advance of 2016, and it is only by propaganda narratives like this one that consent has been manufactured for a new cold war which imperils the life of every organism on this planet.

There is no excuse for a prominent news outlet publishing a CIA press release disguised as news in facilitation of these CIA agendas. It is still more inexcusable to merely publish anonymous assertions about the contents of that CIA press release. It is especially inexcusable to publish anonymous assertions about a CIA press release which merely says that something is “probably” happening, meaning those making the claim don’t even know.

None of this stopped The Washington Post from publishing this propaganda piece on behalf of the CIA. None of it stopped this story from being widely shared by prominent voices on social media and repeated by major news outlets like CNNThe New York Times, and NBC. And none of it stopped all the usual liberal influencers from taking the claims and exaggerating the certainty:

America is so screwed up right now that the CIA has determined that Putin is directing efforts to interfere in the 2020 election against Biden, and a collective shoulder-shrug is all we can muster. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) September 22, 2020

The CIA-to-pundit pipeline, wherein intelligence agencies “leak” information that is picked up by news agencies and then wildly exaggerated by popular influencers, has always been an important part of manufacturing establishment Russia hysteria. We saw it recently when the now completely debunked claim that Russia paid bounties on US troops to Taliban-linked fighters in Afghanistan first surfaced; unverified anonymous intelligence claims were published by mass media news outlets, then by the time it got to spinmeisters like Rachel Maddow it was being treated not as an unconfirmed analysis but as an established fact:

pic.twitter.com/4v98nToJqP https://t.co/IKpj7uBblq

— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) September 14, 2020

If you’ve ever wondered how rank-and-file members of the public can be so certain of completely unproven intelligence claims, the CIA-to-pundit pipeline is a big part of it. The most influential voices who political partisans actually hear things from are often a few clicks removed from the news report they’re talking about, and by the time it gets to them it’s being waved around like a rock-solid truth when at the beginning it was just presented as a tenuous speculation (the original aforementioned WaPo report appeared on the opinion page).

The CIA has a well-documented history of infiltrating and manipulating the mass media for propaganda purposes, and to this day the largest supplier of leaked information from the Central Intelligence Agency to the news media is the CIA itself. They have a whole process for leaking information to reporters they like (with an internal form that asks whether the information is Accurate, Partially Accurate, or Inaccurate), as was highlighted in a recent court case which found that the CIA can even leak documents to select journalists while refusing to release them to others via Freedom of Information Act requests.

While we’re not saying that the #CIA deliberately leaks inaccurate information to the press, we will that there’s a specific form they have to fill out when they do so. https://t.co/9C7z9xC0WP #FOIA pic.twitter.com/SFube47v1V

— MuckRock (@MuckRock) February 19, 2018

lying, torturingpropagandizingdrug traffickingassassinatingcoup-stagingwarmongeringpsychopathic spook agency with an extensive history of deceit and depravity that selectively gives information to news reporters with whom it has a good relationship is never doing so for noble reasons. It is doing so for the same rapacious power-grabbing reasons it does all the other evil things it does.

The way mainstream media has become split along increasingly hostile ideological lines means that all the manipulators need to do to advance a given narrative is set it up to make one side look bad and then share it with a news outlet from the other side. The way media is set up to masturbate people’s confirmation bias instead of report objective facts will then cause the narrative to go viral throughout that partisan faction, regardless of how true or false it might be.

US Intelligence: If Trump Wins Russia Did It, If Biden Wins It Was China And Iran

“Lastly, the dumbest thing about believing foreign nations are interfering in American democracy is believing America has any democracy to interfere with.”https://t.co/1BatXPtUut

— Caitlin Johnstone ⏳ (@caitoz) August 8, 2020

The coming US election and its aftermath is looking like it will be even more insane and hysterical than the last one, and the enmity and outrage it creates will give manipulators every opportunity to slide favorable narratives into the slipstream of people’s hot-headed abandonment of their own critical faculties.

And indeed they are clearly prepared to do exactly that. An ODNI press release last month which was uncritically passed along by the most prominent US media outlets reported that China and Iran are trying to help Biden win the November election while Russia is trying to help Trump. So no matter which way these things go the US intelligence cartel will be able to surf its own consent-manufacturing foreign policy agendas upon the tide of outrage which ensues.

The propaganda machine is only getting louder and more aggressive. We’re being prepped for something.

medium.com

[Category: Editor's Choice, CIA, Joe Biden, Mass Media, Propaganda, Russia, United States]

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[l] at 9/24/20 11:20am

The media being focused on an upcoming election, coronavirus, fires on the West Coast and burgeoning BLM and Antifa unrest, it is perhaps no surprise that some stories are not exactly making it through to the evening news. Last week an important vote in the United Nations General Assembly went heavily against the United States. It was regarding a non-binding resolution that sought to suspend all economic sanctions worldwide while the coronavirus cases continue to increase. It called for “intensified international cooperation and solidarity to contain, mitigate and overcome the pandemic and its consequences.” It was a humanitarian gesture to help overwhelmed governments and health care systems cope with the pandemic by having a free hand to import food and medicines.

The final tally was 169 to 2, with only Israel and the United States voting against. Both governments apparently viewed the U.N. resolution as problematical because they fully support the unilateral economic warfare that they have been waging to bring about regime change in countries like Iran, Syria and Venezuela. Sanctions imposed on those countries are designed to punish the people more than the governments in the expectation that there will be an uprising to bring about regime change. This, of course, has never actually happened as a consequence of sanctions and all that is really delivered is suffering. When they cast their ballots, some delegates at the U.N. might even have been recalling former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s claim that the death of 500,000 Iraqi children due to U.S. imposed sanctions had been “worth it.”

Clearly, a huge majority of the world’s governments, to include the closest U.S. allies, no longer buy the American big lie when it claims to be the leader of the free world, a promoter of liberal democracy and a force for good.  The vote prompted one observer, John Whitbeck, a former international lawyer based in Paris, to comment how “On almost every significant issue facing mankind and the planet, it is Israel and the United States against mankind and the planet.”

The United Nations was not the only venue where the U.S. was able to demonstrate what kind of nation it has become. Estimates of how many civilians have been killed directly or indirectly as a consequence of the so-called Global War on Terror initiated by George W. Bush are in the millions, with roughly 4 million being frequently cited. Nearly all of the dead have been Muslims. Now there is a new estimate of the number of civilians that have fled their homes as a result of the worldwide conflict initiated by Washington and its dwindling number of allies since 2001. The estimate comes from Brown University’s “Costs of War Project,” which has issued a report Creating Refugees: Displacement Caused by the United States Post-9/11 Wars that seeks to quantify those who have “fled their homes in the eight most violent wars the U.S. military has launched or participated in since 2001.”

The project tracks the number of refugees, asylum seekers applying for refugee status, and internally displaced people or persons (IDPs) in the countries that America and its allies have most targeted since 9/11: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya and Syria. All are predominantly Muslim countries with the sole exception of the Philippines, which has a large Muslim minority.

The estimate suggests that between 37 and 59 million civilians have become displaced, with an extremely sharp increase occurring in the past year when the total was calculated to be 21 million. The largest number of those displaced were from Iraq, where fighting against Islamic State has been intermittent, estimated at 9.2 million. Syria, which has seen fighting between the government and various foreign supported insurgencies, had the second-highest number of displacements at 7.1 million. Afghanistan, which has seen a resurgent Taliban, was third having an estimated 5.3 million people displaced.

The authors of the report observe that even the lower figure of 37 million is “almost as large as the population of Canada” and “more than those displaced by any other war or disaster since at least the start of the 20th century with the sole exception of World War II.” And it is also important to note what is not included in the study. The report has excluded sub-Saharan Africa as well as several Arab nations generally considered to be U.S. allies. These constitute “the millions more who have been displaced by other post-9/11 conflicts where U.S. forces have been involved in ‘counterterror’ activities in more limited yet significant ways, including in: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Niger, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia.”

Yemen should be added to that list given U.S. military materiel assistance that has enabled the Saudi Arabian bombing attacks on that country, also producing a wave of refugees. There are also reports that the White House is becoming concerned over the situation in Yemen as pressure is growing to initiate an international investigation of the Saudi war crimes in that civilian infrastructure targets to include hospitals and schools are being deliberately targeted.

And even the United States Congress has begun to notice that something bad is taking place as there is growing concern that both the Saudi and U.S. governments might be charged with war crimes over the civilian deaths. Reports are now suggesting that as early as 2016, when Barack Obama was still president, the State Department’s legal office concluded that “top American officials could be charged with war crimes for approving bomb sales to the Saudis and their partners” that have killed more than 125,000 including at least 13,400 targeted civilians.

That conclusion preceded the steps undertaken by the Donald Trump White House to make arms sales to the Saudis and their allies in the United Arab Emirates central to his foreign policy, a program that has become an integral part of the promotion of the “Deal of the Century” Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. Given that, current senior State Department officials have repressed the assessment made in 2016 and have also “gone to great lengths” to conceal the legal office finding. A State Department inspector general investigation earlier this year considered the Department’s failure to address the legal risks of selling offensive weapons to the Saudis, but the details were hidden by placing them in a classified part of the public report released in August, heavily redacted so that even Congressmen with high level access could not see them.

Democrats in Congress, which had previously blocked some arms sales in the conflict, are looking into the Saudi connection because it can do damage to Trump, but it would be far better if they were to look at what the United States and Israel have been up to more generally speaking. The U.S. benefits from the fact that even though international judges and tribunals are increasingly embracing the concept of holding Americans accountable for war crimes since the start of the GWOT, U.S. refusal to cooperate has been daunting. Last March, when the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague authorized its chief prosecutor to open an investigation into U.S. crimes in Afghanistan the White House reacted by imposing sanctions on the chief prosecutor and his staff lawyer. And Washington has also warned that any tribunal going after Israel will face the wrath of the United States.

Nevertheless, when you are on the losing side on a vote in a respected international body by 169 to 2 someone in Washington should at least be smart enough to discern that something is very, very wrong. But I wouldn’t count on anyone named Trump or Biden to work that out.

[Category: Security, War and Conflict, Human Rights, Middle East, Migration, United States, War]

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[l] at 9/23/20 11:13am

Republicans have double standards when it comes to “Socialism” they are apt to point out the poverty of nations like Venezuela and Cuba but neglect to mention that it was the West who put them under further sanctions. Watch the video and read more in the article by Tim Kirby.

[Category: China, Cuba, Propaganda, Socialism, United States, Venezuela]

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[l] at 9/23/20 11:00am

For all of the bad things that have happened in 2020 don’t for a second believe that 2021 won’t be infinitely worse. It has been clear to me for months that the fight for the White House is one for the ages.

While every election is ‘the most important one ever’ in the minds of the politicos who see the other side for what it is, an existential threat to their power, this election is, I feel, finally one worth that moniker. But, that said, nearly every election truly is one where voters are presented a Hobson’s Choice where there is no real difference between the standard bearers of both major parties.

And the animating principle of these people is the accumulation of raw power, nothing more. Power, as a concept in modern political theory, is purely an outgrowth of Marxian thinking, defining everything that happens in our lives in terms of it. There are no win/wins in this worldview, only those who benefit and those who are exploited.

Basic concepts of comparative advantage and individual talents as expressed in free trade between sovereign actors are not only nullified by this doctrine but actively disparaged and denigrated through the language of envy and the rhetoric of victimization.

With the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg the day has come for the existent power structure where they have to reveal the final truth of their naked need to maintain their power.

Because replacing Ginsburg has been the most pressing concern for Democrats, Regime Republicans and their globalist backers in The Davos Crowd since the day Donald Trump was elected.

Now that she is dead a knock-down, drag-out, war without end commences in Washington D.C.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is already talking about impeaching Trump if he dares to try and push through a replacement for Ginsburg. She’s already famously termed Congressional Republicans, “enemies of the state.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut has all but threatened the American people with open-ended violence if they re-elect Trump.

I take this as a direct threat to the public. https://t.co/klNfOMzOPf

— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) September 19, 2020

Scott Adams is not wrong here for calling Blumenthal to the carpet on this. Blumenthal is just saying what the Democrats have actually been doing for four years, trying to hang Trump for just being President. Blumenthal, like so many in Washington, are suffused with a Marxian lust for power and an abject and debilitating fear of losing it.

Fear of the loss of power, of all kinds, is the most powerful motivator of terrible, if not outright, tyrannical behavior. We’re all capable of it. You, me, a Senator, the cable guy or, yes, a Supreme Court justice.

Blumenthal knows that Ginsburg’s replacement will be the end of their power, the apotheosis of a four-generation long march through the institutions in the U.S. that has undermined basic societal structures. He knows re-electing Trump will ensure the Supreme Court will be made up of judges that tilt towards a constructionist view of the Constitution as a limited set of powers rather than an expansive one.

Every election, the Democrats have, quite cynically, pushed women farther and farther into insanity over an issue which the Supreme Court should have never ruled on in the first place, abortion. And fear over this right to murder your unborn child has corrupted women to the point that now it’s an irrational fear of a loss of control over something that would just devolve to the states or local communities, as it should.

All of this said and I don’t mean to speak ill of the dead when I say this but Ginsburg was a tyrant.

So is John Roberts. So was Antonin Scalia, Oliver Wendell Holmes and every other Supreme Court just that followed him. These are people, regardless of how they see themselves, their motivations or records as jurists, who wield the kind of power over the lives of billions that no person should possibly have.

By definition, that makes them tyrants. Some better than others on certain issues, but never forget they are tyrants, but who are, magically, supposed to be above politics.

And yet, the political calculus of who controls the Supreme Court of the world’s most powerful nation is always on the table. The elevation of the Supreme Court to the final arbiter of law in the U.S. is itself a power it was never intended to have with state Supreme Courts having as much, if not more, power than the SCOTUS.

But, again, in the long march through all the institutions by those in thrall to the siren’s song of power and its ruthless application, that issued has de facto been settled since Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox.

In their minds, the wrong person cannot control the access to the court, in this case Trump. They know he’s in line to make more appointments to the court should he win a second term.

The fear that a little bit of liberty or respect for the dignity of human sovereignty would make its way into the Supreme Court leaves the leadership of both parties saturated with fear.

Because, ultimately, these philosopher tyrants who occupy the Supreme Court are there to give the illusion of impartiality and justice, not to actually defend those high-minded concepts which have no real place in practical politics and the struggle sessions for power.

What is clear now that Ginsburg is gone is that if these power mad lose their fight over this seat and the direction of the court for the next two generations then they will dilute the court’s power just like they are actively diluting the legitimacy of local law enforcement through the subversion of local governments.

The openly Marxist rhetoric to justify the looting and burning by BLM/antifa activists while harassing their victims in and around their homes was done to lay the groundwork for a larger protest in the event of Trump winning.

And now the stage has been set for their last stand. Trump will be blocked from restoring order to the court by arm-twisting the three fake Republicans in the Senate – Mitt Romney (RINO-UT), Lisa Murkowski (RINO-AK) and Susan Collins (RINO-ME) – into voting down any appointment.

If there was ever to call in the markers on these three folks it is now. A presumably divided court will uphold ballot harvesting decisions by state Supreme Courts in Pennsylvania and Michigan, presumably to grant even more power to those who count the votes there to make sure the final tally comports with their desired reality.

They were supremely successful with this in 2018, flipping a number of seats after election night, to ensure not only a strong Democratic majority but that the most important allies of President Trump were removed.

Washington always collapses to protect itself from threats of the people having a real say over their future. And, like it or not and for all his faults (which are legion), Donald Trump is the people’s standard bearer against them.

They have gone all-in on this strategy. Men like George Soros have spent billions in support of this push for the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset. They aren’t going to allow such a little thing like the passing of a supreme court justice at the wrong time deter them from their goal.

You don’t need to have a dog’s keen nose to smell the fear and desperation that clings to these people, however. It is palpable in their behavior, their rhetoric and their over-reaction to everything Trump does or might do.

And their act is tiresome. The American people have fear porn fatigue. It’s showing up in the polls and its showing up in their hysterics. Regardless of how the election turns out, there will be no rest from the violence unleashed and the violence yet to come when millions of Americans come to the uncomfortable conclusion that they will never hold power again in their lifetimes.

[Category: Americas, Security, World, Justice, United States, US Supreme Court]

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[l] at 9/23/20 10:00am

Caitlin JOHNSTONE

Last week Politico published a major exclusive report that the “Iranian government is weighing an assassination attempt against the American ambassador to South Africa” in retaliation for the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani earlier this year, citing (you guessed it) anonymous government officials.

The claim was nonsensical on its face; the idea that Iran would see the assassination of some random ambassador to an irrelevant country as a proportionate response to the killing of its wildly beloved top military commander would only make sense to someone with a very US-centric worldview who knows nothing about Iran. On top of that, the South African government published a statement that “the information provided is not sufficient to sustain the allegation that there is a credible threat against the United States Ambassador to South Africa”.

The flimsy nature of this allegation was of course not enough to prevent bombastic Twitter threats from America’s manchild-in-chief that this nonexistent assassination plot “will be met with an attack on Iran that will be 1,000 times greater in magnitude!” if carried out.

According to press reports, Iran may be planning an assassination, or other attack, against the United States in retaliation for the killing of terrorist leader Soleimani, which was carried out for his planning a future attack, murdering U.S. Troops, and the death & suffering…

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2020

It also wasn’t enough to prevent the Politico article’s co-author, Natasha Bertrand, from falsely claiming that The New York Times had “confirmed” her reporting.

“The NYT has confirmed Nahal Toosi and my reporting about Iran,” Bertrand tweeted today with a link to a new Times article, quoting the excerpt “Lana Marks, the American ambassador to South Africa and a political supporter of Trump, was a potential target of an Iranian attack…Politico earlier reported that Ms. Marks was a target.”

The New York Times has in fact not confirmed Bertrand and Toosi’s reporting, and Bertrand omits a very significant portion of text from her excerpt. Here is the quote in full, bold mine:

Lana Marks, the American ambassador to South Africa and a political supporter of Mr. Trump, was a potential target of an Iranian attack, according to national security officials. But some briefed on the intelligence said Iran has not decided to directly target any American official, and other current and former officials accused the Trump administration of overstating the threat. Politico earlier reported that Ms. Marks was a target.

Awful lot of important information hiding in that ellipsis of yours, Ms Bertrand.

The NYT has confirmed @nahaltoosi and my reporting about Iran.

“Lana Marks, the American ambassador to South Africa and a political supporter of Trump, was a potential target of an Iranian attack…Politico earlier reported that Ms. Marks was a target.” https://t.co/VMqqgOpypr

— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) September 20, 2020

So NYT had in fact merely spoken to unnamed officials (probably some of the same ones) and found there to be misgivings about the claim Bertrand had promoted, and then Bertrand deceptively omitted text which contradicted the claim she was making that her report had been “confirmed”.

It should surprise no one that Bertrand would abuse the trust of her followers in such a phenomenally sleazy way. As Antiwar’s Dave DeCamp explained after the Politico report was discredited by the South African government, Bertrand “built her career on hyping the Steele Dossier, now-discredited document that made unverified claims about the Russian government and the Trump campaign in 2016.”

But Bertrand’s slimy manipulation is also to be expected because she knows she can get away with it. The word “confirmed” has been misused and abused to such a spectacular extent in mainstream news reporting of late that it doesn’t actually mean anything anymore when they say it.

When a news reporter announces that they have independently confirmed another outlet’s reporting, the reader imagines that they have done actual investigative journalism, traveled to the places about which the claims are being made, done deep digging and looked at the evidence with their own two eyes and found that the claim is true. In practice, all it often means is that they spoke to the same sources the other reporter spoke to and are in fact just confirming that the source did indeed make a given assertion. The reader assumes they’re confirming the source’s claim is true, but all they’re actually confirming is that the first reporter didn’t just make up the claim they’re uncritically parroting.

Take when the anonymously sourced story about Russia paying bounties to Taliban-linked fighters in Afghanistan for killing occupying coalition forces was first reported by The New York Times. We now know this story was completely baseless, but when it first broke there were a bunch of mass media reporters buzzing around claiming to have “confirmed” one another’s stories on the matter.

EXCLUSIVE: A Russian spy unit secretly offered bounties to militants in Afghanistan for killing American troops, U.S. intelligence officials found. Trump and White House have known for months, but not authorized any response.
w/ @EricSchmittNYT @mschwirtzhttps://t.co/o5NKTRDE8h

— Charlie Savage (@charlie_savage) June 26, 2020

“The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have confirmed our reporting,” the NYT story’s co-author Charlie Savage tweeted after the story broke.

“We have confirmed the New York Times’ scoop: A Russian military spy unit offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to attack coalition forces in Afghanistan,” tweeted The Washington Post‘s John Hudson.

“We matched The New York Times’ great reporting on how US intel has assessed that Russians paid Taliban to target US, coalition forces in Afg which is a pretty stunning development,” tweeted Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold.

All three of these men were lying.

John Hudson’s claim that the Washington Post article he co-authored “confirmed the New York Times’ scoop” twice used the words “if confirmed” with regard to his central claim, saying “Russian involvement in operations targeting Americans, if confirmed,” and “The attempt to stoke violence against Americans, if confirmed“. This is of course an acknowledgement that these things had not, in fact, been confirmed.

The Wall Street Journal article co-authored by Gordon Lubold cited only anonymous “people”, who we have no reason to believe are different people than NYT’s sources, repeating the same unsubstantiated assertions about an intelligence report. The article cited no evidence that Lubold’s “stunning development” actually occurred beyond “people familiar with the report said” and “a person familiar with it said“.

The fact that both Hudson and Lubold were lying about having confirmed the New York Times‘ reporting means that Savage was also lying when he said they did. When they said the report has been “confirmed”, what they really meant was that it had been agreed upon. All the three of them actually did was use their profoundly influential outlets to uncritically parrot something nameless spooks wanted the public to believe, which is the same as just publishing a CIA press release free of charge. It is unprincipled stenography for opaque and unaccountable intelligence agencies, and it is odious.

Journalism’s New Propaganda Tool: Using “Confirmed” to Mean its Oppositehttps://t.co/e0u0NE6fNG

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) September 5, 2020

Earlier this month The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald published an article titled “Journalism’s New Propaganda Tool: Using ‘Confirmed’ to Mean Its Opposite”, about an anonymously sourced claim by The Atlantic that Trump had said disparaging things about US troops. An excerpt:

Other media outlets — including Associated Press and Fox News — now claim that they did exactly that: “confirmed” the Atlantic story. But if one looks at what they actually did, at what this “confirmation” consists of, it is the opposite of what that word would mean, or should mean, in any minimally responsible sense. AP, for instance, merely claims that “a senior Defense Department official with firsthand knowledge of events and a senior U.S. Marine Corps officer who was told about Trump’s comments confirmed some of the remarks to The Associated Press,” while Fox merely said “a former senior Trump administration official who was in France traveling with the president in November 2018 did confirm other details surrounding that trip.”

Greenwald also documents how in 2017 CNN falsely reported that Donald Trump Jr had received an encryption key to WikiLeaks which let him preview the 2016 DNC leaks ten days before they were published, which we shortly thereafter learned was actually due to nobody involved in the story bothering to read the date on the email correctly. The whole entire story, in reality, was that Trump had merely received an email about an already published WikiLeaks drop.

Greenwald writes the following:

Very shortly after CNN unveiled its false story, MSNBC’s intelligence community spokesman Ken Dilanian went on air and breathlessly announced that he had obtained independent confirmation that the CNN story was true. In a video segment I cannot recommend highly enough, Dilanian was introduced by an incredibly excited Hallie Jackson — who urged Dilanian to “tell us what we’ve just now learned,” adding, “I know you and some of our colleagues have confirmed some of this information: What’s up?” Dilanian then proceeded to explain what he had learned:

“That’s right, Hallie. Two sources with direct knowledge of this are telling us that congressional investigators have obtained an email from a man named ‘Mike Erickson’ — obviously they don’t know if that’s his real name — offering Donald Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. access to WikiLeaks documents. … It goes to the heart of the collusion question. … One of the big questions is: Did [Trump Jr.] call the FBI?”

How could that happen? How could MSNBC purport to confirm a false story from CNN? Shortly after, CBS News also purported to have “confirmed” the same false story: that Trump Jr. received advanced access to the WikiLeaks documents. It’s one thing for a news outlet to make a mistake in reporting by, for instance, misreporting the date of an email and thus getting the story completely wrong. But how is it possible that multiple other outlets could “confirm” the same false report?

That’s three mainstream outlets — CNN, MSNBC, and CBS, all claiming to have independently “confirmed” a story that would have been recognized as false if even one person in any of those outlets had done the tiniest bare minimum of independent investigation into the claim that its source was making, namely looking with their eyeballs at the actual information they were being presented with.

They didn’t, because that’s the state of the mass media today. That is its culture. That, in answer to Greenwald’s question above, is how this could happen: the western mass media are nothing but a bunch of lackeys mindlessly regurgitating incendiary narratives by those in power in their rapacious search for ratings.

.@natashabertrand claims NYT has “confirmed” her “reporting” on an Iranian plot by distorting what NYT actually says.

She omits “national security officials”, who are just repeating to NYT what they told her. And she omits rest of graf, in which other officials doubt the story! pic.twitter.com/ys89nW9AMh

— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) September 20, 2020

Natasha Bertrand is acutely aware of this, which is why she feels comfortable falsely telling the world that her absurd reporting has been “confirmed”.

So now you know. Whenever you see the mass media saying an important claim has been “confirmed”, just ignore them. They have no respect for that word, and it has lost all meaning among their ranks. The western media class does not exist to tell you the truth about the world, it exists to distort your understanding of the world for the advantage of the powerful.

medium.com

[Category: Editor's Choice, Iran, Mass Media, Propaganda]

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[l] at 9/23/20 9:00am

The Pentagon’s new military report on China released on September 1st has demonstrated that the outdated and deadly Cold War mentality which has wrought such destruction upon the world since the end of WWII has not only become more deeply embedded into the psyche of dominant foreign policy officials in the Pentagon, it demonstrated that the current American establishment is totally unfit to survive in today’s nuclear age. In our nuclear age, Hobbesian laws of the jungle will only result in mass extermination. If we are to survive beyond the coming decade, it is high time that a higher moral paradigm befitting of human dignity becomes hegemonic.

If one wishes to play the role of Alice and join the tea party which these Pentagon Mad Hatters are hosting, one would be expected to believe that the belligerent aggressor in the Pacific theater is not the America which has spread its military tentacles around China’s backyard since Obama’s Asia Pivot that was announced in 2012, but rather China itself. The authors of the Pentagon report assert that it is China who is interested in expansionism, overthrowing the “rule of law”, conquering the weak of the Pacific and overtaking the U.S. as a globally hegemonic power, both militarily and with their Belt and Road Initiative, which the Washington Consensus has labelled a debt trap.

More recently, Pompeo has sent Undersecretary of State Keith Krach to Taiwan to belligerently organize bilateral free trade deals and several military deals worth $7 billion which the current basket-case leadership of Taiwan is all too happy to oblige.

One of the best psychological assessments of this report came from former Marine Corps intelligence officer Scott Ritter who made the point that the Pentagon authors suffer deeply from a disorder which Freud called “projection” (attributing your own neurotic obsessions onto others). In his RT op ed Ritter states:

“By projecting its own failed global ambitions onto China, the Department of Defense is failing to address the real reasons behind China’s military expansion.”

In this regard, the practices of debt trap diplomacy that the Euranglosphere has engaged in for decades since WWII—at the helm of the IMF and World Bank—have been projected onto China. What is ignored in this assessment is the simple fact that debt slavery has provably increased among all recipients of western conditionality-laced loans for decades, with NO actual industrial development or genuine infrastructure that could empower those nations to repay those loans, China has done the opposite. Every nation which has accepted China’s help along the New Silk Road with its African and South American extensions has benefited immeasurably with local manufacturing, finance, and cultural upshifts that have never been permitted by those western technocrats running the levers of credit for decades.

The September 1st Pentagon report tries to prove its claims by referring to China’s ambitions to double their nuclear deterrent arsenal from its current 215 to 430 by 2030 but completely ignores the fact that America itself owns over 3800 nuclear warheads (with an additional 2000 in storage) and has stated repeatedly its willingness to use them.

Why does China think it needs to upgrade this arsenal?

According to the Pentagon, it is because the Chinese have global military ambitions to replace the USA.

The reality is that China is merely responsive to the obvious containment/full spectrum dominance agenda which the USA has unleashed in recent years. These operations feature war games throughout the Pacific and THAAD missile systems in South Korea which can easily be transformed into a first strike infrastructure which many game theorists believe can take out China’s ability to respond to a future attack. The none-existence of foreign Chinese military bases outside of China (except for one sole base in Djibouti) is totally ignored as is the existence of over 800 U.S. military bases spread across the globe, with an abundance clustered around the perimeters of Russia and China.

Celebrating the 75th anniversary of Japan’s surrender, Philip Davidson (head of the U.S. Indo Pacific Command) echoed the Pentagon report saying: “An emboldened Communist Party of China seeks to change the world to one in which Chinese national power is more important than international law”.

Davidson echoed the words of Mark Esper who had earlier announced the report on August 26 saying “China’s global ambitions include establishing a security presence at strategic access points, such as its base in Africa, to enhance its ability to project power globally and across all domains. Clearly, China seeks to undermine the free and open order itself, which impacts every nation supporting and benefiting from this system.”

In response to this supposed undermining of “the free and open order”, Esper brags that America is “modernizing our forces so we can deter, compete and, if necessary, fight and win across all domains: air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace.”

While China is certainly trying to improve its military capabilities in the face of western aggression, Esper brags that the USA is supporting the “rule of law” by providing F35 aircraft to Japan, Seahawk helicopters to India and F-16 jets and Abrams tanks to Taiwan under a $160 billion military investment program in the Indo Pacific!

$400 million are being spent to create an anti-China military infrastructure throughout the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Singapore has signed a treaty to extend U.S. military presence for another 15 years and Australia… well don’t get me started on Australia.

While the list of aggressive militaristic policies goes on (and I am not even including the anti-Russian military programs that have come to a head with this past week’s B-52 flyover NATO countries) the fact is that these neocons are dragging the world ever closer to nuclear war with the Bulletin for Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock now registering at 100 seconds to midnight.

But there is another way to go.

An infinitely saner policy orientation has been announced loudly by the joint leadership of Russia and China who have made their anti-war commitments crystal clear for anyone wishing to use their minds in the west.

First off, let’s take a look at the powerful message celebrating the end of WWII sent by Xi Jinping to Putin on September 3rd saying that “all [the] international community should join China and Russia to advance the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, so as to allow future generations to enjoy a world featuring lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity”. Xi continued “the Chinese and Russian peoples fought side by side and forged an unbreakable great friendship with blood, laying a solid foundation for the high level development of bilateral relations”

Putin in turn responded to Xi saying “World War II, which was the largest tragedy in human history, claimed tens of millions of lives. The Soviet Union and China bore the brunt of the struggle against Nazism and militarism and sustained the biggest losses in the fight to defeat the Nazi aggressors”. Putin stated that the “ties of friendship and mutual assistance which grew stronger between the two nations during the war, are now promoting the dynamic development of Russian-Chinese relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction”.

Extending this highly Confucian/Christian principle of coexistence and cooperation to the USA, Chinese Ambassador to Washington Cui Tiankai stated on September 3rd that the USA and China needs “to recapture the spirit of cooperation from WWII… At that time, China and the USA fought shoulder to shoulder during WWII leaving an indelible mark in the shared history of our two countries”.

By invoking this forgotten historical dynamic that once animated world policy, Ambassador Cui demonstrated a profound understanding of both history and future problem solving needed to avoid a global tragedy. Most people get confused thinking history is merely about the past, but the true statesman recognizes that history is actually about the future… not merely because we might best “avoid repeating past mistakes” as some Santayana-followers assume, but rather because understanding the past (and the outcomes that SHOULD HAVE BEEN if not for the artificial abortions of potential) allows us to re-discover characteristics about ourselves, our nations and our cultures which we in our corrupted states of being have forgotten. The awareness of these dormant noble characteristics that once fueled great moments in the past, allows a citizenry and its elected leaders to rally around moral principles that their nation once embodied under saner times.

None other than the great Machiavelli expressed this principle clearly in his third book on Livy when he noted that a corrupt republic or religious institution has only one chance to avoid collapse after it has travelled on the road of corruption for too long… renovation via a rediscovery of its original principles:

“It is a truth clearer than light that, without such renovation, these bodies cannot continue to exist; and the means of renewing them is to bring them back to their original principles. For, as all religious republics and monarchies must have within themselves some goodness, by means of which they obtain their first growth and reputation, and as in the process of time this goodness becomes corrupted, it will of necessity destroy the body unless something intervenes to bring it back to its normal condition. Thus, the doctors of medicine say, in speaking of the human body, that “every day some ill humors gather which must be cured.”

Ambassador Cui expresses this insight beautifully when he says: “looking back at history for a right perspective of the future. Just as President Abraham Lincoln said ‘the best way to predict the future is to create it’. At this moment, China and the U.S. need to recapture the spirit of cooperation from WWII and join hands to confront our common enemies in the new era… lets work together to realize the vision enshrined in the UN Charter: ‘To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”

One can cynically balk at the words of Ambassador Cui, or even Xi and Putin, all three of whom have made their offers of cooperation known to the west on many occasions and all three of whom have expressed their awareness of the better angels of America’s forgotten nature, which was expressed by the exemplary leadership of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.

While the USA itself is threatened with civil war, anarchy, martial law and total economic collapse internally, it is vital that President Trump tap into the better angels of America’s nature by firing Pompeo, and warmly embracing Putin’s offers for a P5 emergency summit before the clock strikes midnight.

The author of this paper had the privilege of hosting a recent seminar on the history of U.S.-Russian friendship from the 1780 League of Armed Neutrality that helped America win its war for independence, to Lincoln’s alliance with Czar Alexander II which saved the Union from dissolution and FDR’s strategic alliance with Russia and China which saved the world from the City of London’s Frankenstein monster. The content of this seminar is accessible here.

[Category: Americas, Asia-Pacific, Security, War and Conflict, World, China, Cold War, Pentagon, United States]

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[l] at 9/23/20 8:00am

John KIRIAKOU

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is in a state of chaos.  Leadership changes, Covid-19, and criminal activity on the part of BOP officers and staff members has plunged the Justice Department’s largest and best-funded bureau into a scandal that, while it has not made the mainstream media, has harmed thousands of prisoners.

[The issue was raised last week in the hearing of Julian Assange in London as the state of mental health care for prisoners, cited in a BOP report, came up in witness testimony in the defense’s argument against sending Assange to the U.S. to face time in a U.S. prison.]

Michael Carvajal, director of Federal Bureau Of Prisons. (BoP)

Since Donald Trump became president, the BOP has seen five different directors.  The current director, Michael Carvajal, replaced Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, who also was BOP director under President George H. W. Bush.  Sawyer replaced Hugh Hurwitz, who was fired after Jeffrey Epstein died in prison, apparently by suicide. Hurwitz had replaced Mark Inch, who “resigned abruptly” after only a few months on the job in 2018.  Hurwitz had succeeded President Barack Obama’s last BOP director, Charles E. Samuels, Jr.

It’s not unusual for senior government bureaucrats to come and go.  It is unusual, though, for there to be a parade of bureaucrats who just can’t seem to leave the place in better shape than they found it.  In just the past year, the BOP has found itself mired in trouble and controversy that seems to get worse and worse.

Covid-19

First, Covid-19 has ravaged the federal prison system.  Literally every prison is affected, and visits have been canceled since March.  But that hasn’t stopped prison guards, staff members, contractors, and delivery people from bringing Covid-19 into the system.  As of Sept. 15, there were 125,730 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the federal prison system, resulting in 1,066 deaths.  That is an infection rate four times the national average.

Covid-19 did not hit the BOP out of the blue.  Its leaders saw it coming just like everybody else did.  But they failed to prepare for it.

Protest event in Columbus, Ohio, April 24, 2020, calling for 20,000 early prison releases. (Becker1999, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The New York Times reported in June that at the time, San Quentin, a state prison which also houses federal prisoners, had no Covid-19 cases until infected prisoners from a prison in northern California were transferred there.  Just two weeks later, 2,050 prisoners at San Quentin had tested positive for Covid-19 and 12 were dead.  Prison administrators never explained their actions.

The bad planning also hindered California’s firefighting efforts.  Every year during fire season, minimum-security federal prison camps in the state virtually empty so that prison volunteers can fight the state’s wildfires for $10 a day.

But this year, according to Prison Legal News magazine, 12 of the 43 minimum security prisons in California were on lockdown because of the Covid-19 outbreak.  Consequently, only 30 of the normal 77 prisoner-staffed wildfire crews were available to fight the fires.

Prison inmates clear a fire line near Santa Barbara, California, Dec. 11, 2017. (U.S. Air Force, Brian Ferguson)

Alec Arapahoe

Violence also continues to be a problem in the BOP.

Alec Arapahoe, a Native American, was 21 when he arrived at the BOP’s medium-security Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) in Florence, Colorado. He tried to hide his homosexuality, but another Native American prisoner, William Mexican, a gang member, had already heard that Arapahoe was gay.

Mexican attacked Arapahoe, extorted money from him, accused him of being gay and threatened to rape him. Eventually, the Native Americans at the prison met on the recreation yard and, after a disagreement that neared violence, a faction led by Mexican “voted Arapahoe off the yard” due to his sexual orientation. That meant Arapahoe had to leave the prison immediately or be beaten.

Arapahoe asked his stepmother to call the prison and intervene to help him seek protective custody status. She did, and he was placed in the Segregated Housing Unit at USP Florence, a maximum-security facility adjacent to the prison.

Staff who investigated the protective custody request found a video recording of the meeting on the yard and interviewed Mexican, who said there would be trouble for Arapahoe if he returned. They nonetheless filed a report stating they could find no evidence to support Arapahoe’s claim that he was in danger.

Mexican was later transferred to the USP and, because a staff member only looked at his paperwork, not Arapahoe’s, he was placed in a cell with Arapahoe.

USP Florence. (U.S. Department of Justice, Wikimedia Commons)

Arapahoe told the guards who escorted Mexican to his cell that he was nervous about having Mexican celling with him, but Mexican assured them there would be no problems and they left.

Over the course of the next three days, Mexican repeatedly assaulted Arapahoe, forced him to perform oral sex and anally raped him. Arapahoe repeatedly stationed himself in front of the cell’s video camera, often covered in blood, and hit the cell’s distress button, but no one came to investigate.

Mexican forced Arapahoe to face the back wall when food was delivered, so staff could not see his injuries. Finally, Mexican left the cell to go to recreation and, as soon as the cell door closed, Arapahoe told the escorting guards he was in danger. He was moved to another cell and a medical examination yielded evidence of the sexual assaults.

An internal BOP investigation found that staff had failed to conduct cell checks every 30 minutes, as required by regulations, and had falsified documentation to show they had performed the rounds on time. The investigation sustained allegations of “inattention to duty,” “failure to follow policy” and “falsification of documents” against 26 employees.  Arapahoe won $750,000 in a lawsuit against the BOP.

Earlier this year, a federal judge in New York awarded $273,246.88 to a prisoner who alleged that a guard beat him brutally and lied about the incident.

Morgan Greenburger

Sing Sing Correctional Facility guard tower in 2014. (Peter Greenberg, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Morgan Greenburger, a mentally ill prisoner, told a guard at a New York’s Sing Sing Correctional Facility that he had eaten a toothbrush and he asked to be taken to the medical unit.  He was placed on “special watch,” where he was supposed to be under constant supervision so as not to hurt himself again.

Greenburger then asked guard Phillip Roundtree for a bottle so that he could urinate.  Roundtree told him to wait 15 minutes.  Greenburger asked again 15 minutes later, and Roundtree responded, “You sure you want it?”  He then placed the bottle just inside Greenburger’s cell.

When Greenburger reached down to pick it up, Roundtree began pummeling him with a baton on the back, arms, head, and shoulders so hard that the baton splintered into pieces.  Two hours later, other guards took Greenburger to a hospital, where he received five staples to close the wound on his head.

Greenburger was charged with “initiating an assault” and “refusing a direct order.”  He was given 50 days in solitary confinement.  Nearly a year later, after Greenburger was released from solitary, the verdict was reversed and he filed his federal action.

I could go on for another 10,000 words detailing violence against prisoners in federal prisons.  The vast majority of incidents go unreported.  And it’s a daily occurrence.

I wish I had a solution; I suppose the only one is in the courts.  The problems within the BOP are too deep to address here.

There has to be wholesale change at the top.  There has to be real congressional oversight.  There has to be a president willing to go out on a limb to demand and effect change.

We don’t have any of those things right now.  And I would guess that the situation will get far worse before it gets any better.

consortiumnews.com

[Category: Editor's Choice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Human Rights, United States]

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[l] at 9/23/20 7:00am

Secular Millenarianism – the belief that some transformative catharsis in history has the power to expunge the crimes and follies of the past – has a long and bloody history. The notion originally owes to religion. Theories of human ‘Progress’ as an upward-trending, linear continuum, inevitably leading to ‘a better human end’, though clothed today as technological ‘miracles’, were never empirical hypotheses. They were always concocted myths, answering to a human need for meaning, yet manipulated ruthlessly in the interests of power.

But what are such myths doing in a modern U.S. Presidential election? Quite odd. Suddenly, American politics now (by and large), eschews detailed policies, and defines itself, rather, as a Manichean struggle between the forces of light and of darkness; of freedom versus despotism; of justice versus oppression and cruelty.

The election is no longer ‘politics’, but is configured more as a ‘crusade’ against cosmic evil – a devil, or demiurge. Stranger still, the two sides seem to mirror each other in these intense passions.

“In article after article, liberal intellectuals and activists have been talking for months about how Trump could steal the election or refuse to leave the White House even if he loses. But if the Right dares to point out that Democrats are actually changing the rules of the electoral process and actually speaking publicly about refusing to concede even if they lose, well, this only proves that the Right is going to steal the election and refuse to concede if they lose!” (from an article, Stop the Coup!)

What is going on?

What seems almost certain is that the election will be irretrievably contested either by one, or both major parties. A major constitutional crisis lies ahead, and then what? This is the abyss into which we daren’t not look.

A part of ‘Blue’ Millenarianism does reflect something substantive: a shift in how Americans (and many Europeans) conceive the world. But in another way, this Manicheanism is cynical political manipulation: laying the groundwork for the narrative that Trump will lose. He will lose in the popular vote (even if he gains a majority in the Electoral College), and will then refuse to leave office – in flagrant disregard for the (so-called) public ‘verdict’. The U.S. constitution, however, is plain. The candidate who wins 270 votes in the Electoral College is President.

The Democrats’ and ‘never-Trumper’ Republicans have released a 22-page report, The Transition Integrity Project, an exercise in war-gaming a contested election. The outcome of each TIP scenario results in mass mobilisation and political impasse, which the authors argue can and should lead to the removal of Trump.

The point here is that the TIP blueprint, is perversely portrayed as no coup. On the contrary, it is fore-staged as a heroic effort to save the country – to save Democracy from Despotism. Cynical it may be, but that does not make it any less effective.

Anne Applebaum’s new book, Twilight of Democracy, offers some important pointers about the roots to this Manichean ‘dark versus light’ narrative. She is a prominent U.S. journalist and the wife of Radek Sikorski, a senior Polish politician. Ron Dreher summarises thus: “She begins her book by talking about a New Year’s Eve party at their Polish country home at the turn of the millennium. Poland had been free from communism for about a decade. Everyone was giddy. But now, half the people at the party – aren’t talking to the other half”.

In Applebaum’s view, that key anti-communist consensus has been fractured into classically liberal internationalists like her — pro-globalism, pro-liberal social values, pro-immigration — and, on the other side of the schism, nationalist populists, like supporters of Poland’s Law & Justice Party, Hungary’s Fidesz – and Donald Trump. That is to say: the middle ground is empty, and has migrated either to wokeness, or to the new-Right.

Her conclusion is that the U.S. is not heading into a left-wing, soft-totalitarianism (wokeness), but rather into right-wing authoritarianism. (Authoritarianism here, is defined as a strong national leader, exercising something approaching a monopoly of power, whereas totalitarianism is not just authoritarianism, but extends to require an ideological ‘hold’ in which ‘all’ are required to ‘live’ the ideology – in every facet of their thinking, and in daily conduct.)

Here we get to the root of it: Applebaum presents a world where everything has become inverted: Conservativism is no longer conservative. And Radicals are no longer radical, but rather seek ‘to conserve’ what exists. She writes: “The new Right does not want to conserve or to preserve what exists at all … It has broken with the old-fashioned, Burkean small-c conservatism that is suspicious of rapid change in all its forms. Although they hate the phrase, the new right is more Bolshevik than Burkean: these are men and women who want to overthrow, bypass, or undermine existing institutions, to destroy what exists”.

Trump thus becomes the dangerous radical revolutionary wanting to pull down everything ‘good’, which Applebaum defines as secular, liberal, capitalist, and globalist. People on the ‘new Right’, she says, think of the institutions that exist (the American-shaped global order), as a threat to their particular traditions and sovereignty – and therefore are intent to disrupt both those institutions, and the global order, per se. Thus taking America to the type of despotism that used to characterise East European regimes.

Ivan Krastev has written that Applebaum’s “much-praised history books about the Soviet Gulag and the establishment of the communist regimes in Central Europe were her historical introduction to ‘The Inevitability of 1989’. For her, the end of the Cold War was not a geopolitical story: It was a moral story, a verdict pronounced by History herself. She tends to see the post-Cold War world as an epic struggle between democracy and authoritarianism, between freedom and oppression”.

“It was Marx who believed that communism was inevitable because History – a force with godlike powers of determination – required it. Well, the Democrats’ Millenarianism now precisely lies with the shared belief that humanity is on a “Grand March” upward toward ‘Progress’. It goes on and on, obstacles notwithstanding, for obstacles there must be, if the March is to be the Grand March”.

And if progress is ‘inevitable’, and the Democratic Party is leading society’s Grand March to conserve the future, as it were, the ‘March’ becomes a struggle precisely against those reactionary forces standing against the future – and History, too. As for those who oppose or disrupt The March: “How necessary—indeed, how noble—it is of the Party to bulldoze these stumbling blocks on the Grand March, and make straight and smooth the road to tomorrow”.

The mirror-image to Applebaum’s account is that many American conservatives exactly do see an increasingly illiberal Left – and she has this correct – as antagonist to those early U.S. traditions and ethos that they believe made America once great – and which they would wish to see restored again.

Pro-Trumpers however, see the plan to forcibly remove President Trump clearly (even were he to win a majority in the College). The TIP is explicit: “We assess with a high degree of likelihood that November’s elections will be marked by a chaotic legal and political landscape. We also assess that President Trump is likely to contest the result by both legal and extra-legal means, in an attempt to hold onto power”.

The TIP scenarios, Professor Mike Vlahos foresees, inevitably will be portrayed as that of ‘saving democracy’ – from Trump – and from the ‘aberration’ of an Electoral College that could award Trump the Presidency, even as he loses the popular vote (an outcome that occurred in 2016, too). Vlahos thus foresees the possibility of the Electoral College (and even the Constitution itself) being cast as ‘the enemy’, standing in the way of democracy – the latter to be saved to great public acclaim, through the removal of an ‘illegitimate’ President.

The purpose behind the Manicheanist dualism therefore, becomes clear: The U.S. election is to be imagined as the epic struggle between the forces of democracy and despotism. It is in this sense that Applebaum is a classic ‘1989er’, Krastev writes: She was shaped by the Cold War without ever really experiencing it: “For the ’89ers, the Cold War was what the anti-fascist resistance was for the West’s student revolutionaries of the 1960s, the ’68ers – a time of inspiring heroism and moral clarity. It was precisely this mindset that made many ’89ers first to detect the danger coming from Vladimir Putin’s Russia, but also Poland’s Law & Justice Party, Hungary’s Fidesz – and Donald Trump”.

What is going on here is, of course, classic ‘colour revolution’ management of mass psychology – albeit perpetrated from within the U.S., against its own incumbent President. What the TIP represents is the laying down of the narrative mosaic: It proposes nothing abrupt. The Electoral College simply is incrementally ‘moved along’ from the ‘in need of reform’ category, to the ‘obstacle to democracy’ that “should be dumped” category (see here, for example).

TIP is all about massaging public perceptions about Trump’s likely election mis-behaviour, Vlahos relates (as a historian, and former War College professor), so as to slide the notion of the need to remove him under a soothing mantle of legality and acceptability.

The project also permits people a period of time to put behind them the shock of what is about to unfold: providing them with time and space to embrace this ‘new world’ – and, for them to come to see that the world they were inhabiting has become unbearable and unacceptable. (i.e. Classic myth-making instrumentalised for political ends.)

All this is being orchestrated so that people will be able to move smoothly through and be prepared for the violence and turmoil – of that which is to come.

And what is to come? Massive demonstrations (in the millions, that are already being prepared) to give the impression that all of America is against the President, thus posing the question to the U.S. military: ‘On whose side, are you: Democracy or Despotism?’ The TIP outlines clearly: “A show of numbers in the streets – and actions in the streets – may be decisive factors in determining what the public perceives as a just and legitimate outcome”. Or, in other words, events will conspire to suggest to people and to the military command, the only ‘correct’ answer.

Will it work? It just might. Only a clear win in the popular vote might be a spanner in the works, but that seems a stretch. Will the senior military balk? Debateable.

[Category: Americas, Society, World, Anne Applebaum, Democracy, Protests, United States]

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[l] at 9/22/20 2:00pm

Is the ‘Trump regime’ about to get a taste of the color revolution tactics that America has employed in the past against “illiberal” foreign governments that refused to toe the neoliberal globalist line? It’s looking highly likely.

Despite great efforts by the mainstream media to play it down, an increasing number of Americans are being subjected to a level of aggression, intimidation and street violence that the authorities seem unable or unwilling to control. This is no accident.

Since 2016, a series of actions by the political left indicate that the chaos unfolding on the streets of America is no grassroots movement on behalf of ‘social justice,’ but rather a carefully coordinated plan to oust Trump in the event the Democrats fail to get Biden into office. Indeed, for the orchestrators of this coup, what happens on Nov. 4 is of far more relevance that what happens on Election Day.

The first sign of trouble came in 2016, when none other than George Soros began spending a king’s ransom in local judicial elections. As the Daily Signal noted, “[r]adical social justice activists will serve as the top prosecutors for three major Washington, D.C., suburbs—including the two wealthiest counties in the U.S.—after George Soros’ political action committee poured $2.1 million into ordinarily sleepy local races.”

Only a crazed conspiracy theorist, like Newt Gingrich, apparently, would see any connection between Soros supporting radical prosecutors, and his other pet project of supporting ‘social justice’ groups, like Black Lives Matter and Antifa, who occasionally find themselves in need of a sympathetic justice system. And if local courts somehow fail to catch and release the hoodlums, Hollywood has shown a disturbing willingness to write out the bail checks. The only thing the looters and ‘peaceful protesters’ need now is a government mandate that requires masks be worn in public to protect their identities, and for property owners to understand they will be prosecuted for demonstrating their 2nd Amendment rights.

In celebration of whatever the fuck maga night is, I am committed to donating $100,000 to the bail outs of protestors across the country.

— chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) May 30, 2020

Now that the radicals have their institutional support structure all in place, a strange yet not wholly unexpected thing is happening. Although police brutality has been occurring in the United States long Trump became president, and it effects both whites and blacks, the ‘peaceful protesters’ are venting their outrage primarily against Republicans, which the left has come to associate with ‘white supremacists’ and ‘fascism.’ This demonization of the right, which the mainstream media is happy to accentuate so long Trump is at the helm, gives left-wing groups the bare amount of legitimacy they need to carry out their activities.

By way of example, consider the way members of Black Lives Matter aggressively taunted Republicans as they attempted to leave the Republican National Convention where Trump accepted the nomination for the presidential election. As Senator Rand Paul and his wife Michele walked down the sidewalk, a frenzied mob could be heard shouting, “say her name!” in reference to Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was shot to death by police at her home in March during a botched raid. Apparently it did not matter to the rabble, or they never knew, that Paul was responsible for filing legislation to prohibit police officers from using no-knock warrants like the one that led to the fatal shooting of Ms. Taylor.

Just got attacked by an angry mob of over 100, one block away from the White House. Thank you to @DCPoliceDept for literally saving our lives from a crazed mob.

— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) August 28, 2020

Another strange coincidence for the coincidence theorists is that a number of Democrats have been calling for exactly the sort of harassment against Trump supporters that is now unfolding across the nation. In June, Maxine Waters, for example, incited her followers to “create a crowd, and you push back on them.” More recently, Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice president nominee, said in an interview with Stephen Colbert, “They [the protesters] are not going to stop before Election Day in November, and they’re not going to stop after Election Day…They’re not going to let up, and they should not, and we should not.”

Reading such comments almost forces one to conclude that the Democrats, at least the radical progressive wing of the Democratic Party, have no illusions about Biden’s real chances for beating Trump. After all, if victory looked certain there would be no need for the threats. In other words, what the Democrats are most concerned about are not the actual results of the election, which have a very high chance of being unfavorable, but rather the reaction to the results. On this point, appearances are everything. Thus the mainstream media, in cahoots with left-leaning polling agencies and colleges, have conditioned Liberals – in the very same way they did in 2016 with their hugely inaccurate polls – to believe that Biden simply cannot lose. It doesn’t require a degree in the theory of revolutions to predict how those BLM/Antifa protesters, many of whom were too young to vote in 2016, are going to react to the news of four more years of a ‘white supremacist in chief.’ Not calmly and rationally, that’s for sure. After all, we are talking about an entire generation that has graduated from Woke U. with a Marxist major in ‘American Imperialism’ and a minor in ‘Mass Destruction’.

Did you know:

According to a Princeton study, 91% of riots in America since the end of May were linked to BLM inc.

That means 9 out of 10 riots were propped up by the Democrat Party’s fundraising system, ActBlue

When will Joe Biden disavow Domestic Terrorism from his base?

— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) September 18, 2020

Here is where the stage has been rigged for a full-blown ‘color revolution’ erupting on or shortly after November 3rd. If anyone needs more proof, consider Hillary Clinton’s telling comment that “Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances” because he will win if “we don’t give an inch.” In other words, the election has nothing to do with counting votes, or even mail-in ballots, but rather which side, according to the rationale of Hillary Clinton, has the greater staying power.

As witnessed in faraway places where the U.S. State Department prepared the groundwork for regime change operations against governments and leaders they did not like, as in Ukraine, for example, and more recently in Belarus, it will take no effort whatsoever for the puppet masters to mobilize ‘social justice groups’ like BLM and Antifa to come out in massive protest against the results of November’s contest. And since we are talking about a homegrown operation, there is no need for NGOs working secretly behind the scenes to rally the locals into action; the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer was all that was required to mobilize the media and the young radicals of the left against ‘systemic racism,’ which is just another way of saying ‘white supremacy,’ which is just another way of saying ‘Donald Trump.’

Have America’s regime-change vultures come home to roost? Unfortunately, such a grim prospect is looking more likely with each passing day as Nov. 3rd promises to be a presidential election without precedent in U.S. history. That is the day when the American Revolution may go full circle.

[Category: Americas, Society, World, Color Revolution, Protests, Regime Change, United States]

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[l] at 9/22/20 1:20pm

Patrick COCKBURN

Twenty years ago, a novelist went to see his publisher to discuss his proposal to write a dystopian novel set in Britain in 2020 when newspaper columnists have taken power and are running the country.

These opinion-makers, sometimes called the Commentariat, had for years been expressing outrage at the failings of the government and everyone else. Now they had a chance to show what they could do to put things right.

The novelist would probably not have mentioned the name of Boris Johnson, with his florid denunciations of EU tyranny or Michael Gove, with his historic hostility to the Good Friday Agreement as a surrender to the IRA, but these were the kind of people he was talking about.

“The book will be darkly comic as we see these self-confident pundits crash into reality,” explained the novelist. “Of course, to make the narrative more exciting I will have to dream up some sort of existential crisis menacing Britain to which they will respond with serial incompetence. It will be as if Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau had blundered into the dystopian world of Orwell’s 1984.”

The publisher cautiously replied that there was always a market for books predicting future calamities, but to be convincing it would have to reflect or satirise some feasible version of the future. “As for those irritating columnists, aren’t you taking them a bit too seriously?” he asked. “After all, fogies, young and old, have always been with us, claiming that the country is going to the dogs and pointing the finger of blame at Brussels, immigrants or the Labour Party. Remember Enoch Powell and his rivers of blood.”

It was at present, he added, a moment when most readers might feel that the nastier type of change seen in the 20th century had come to an end. Look at how well a mildly reformist Tony Blair and his New Labour were doing, he concluded.

The novelist sensed that his big idea was not going down as well as he had hoped. He suggested broadening the theme of the book by imagining a government run by former journalists and PR specialists, all experts in dominating the news headlines. But they would suffer from the chronic weakness of their trades which is to confuse words with deeds, think in terms of short-term headlines and not long-term policies, and blame others when anything went wrong.

“But isn’t that a warmed-up version of the old jibe against politicians that they have never actually run anything before taking office?” objected the publisher. “Yes, you’re right,” replied the novelist, “but politicians with a background in newspaper punditry are the worst of all because they have become too used to expressing simple-minded views on complex problems about which they know too little. They confidently say what should be done one week and say the exact opposite the next, in the correct belief that few of their readers will notice the U-turns.” He went on to say that the commentariat tends to be ignorant of the mechanisms of government and, were they ever to gain power, would be baffled when they pulled a lever or pressed a button and nothing much happens.”

The novelist could have gone on about the weaknesses of journalists in power but he saw that it was a lost cause and his book synopsis was heading for the wastepaper basket. He thought briefly, before dismissing the idea, of making a last-minute offer to shift the novel’s action from Britain to America and talk about the growing and malign influence of the commentators on Fox News and elsewhere.

In later years, the publisher did not regret turning down the book, but he did feel after 9/11, the Afghan, Iraq and Libyan wars, and the financial crash of 2008, that a disastrous future was becoming more imaginable. Liberal democracies espousing free market capitalism that had once seemed to be the wave of the future were withering as old autocracies became stronger and more brutal, and right-wing populist nationalist regimes popped up everywhere.

Brexit in 2016 was Britain’s contribution to this new trend, which would certainly not have happened without the right-wing press dripping poison into its readers’ minds about immigration and the EU as the source of their troubles. Yet demagogic influence by the media in Britain is not exactly a new phenomenon. It was, after all, almost a century ago that the Conservative party leader Stanley Baldwin made his devastating attack on newspaper proprietors for wanting “power and power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot throughout the age”.

It was obvious from the beginning that Boris Johnson’s government ticked all the boxes that the imaginary novelist and publisher in my fable had discussed 20 years earlier. Led by prominent members of the commentariat, they shared all its weaknesses, brusque and dismissive of the views of others and on constant patriotic overdrive with Britain always “world-beating” or potentially so. Such boosterism is harmless enough until it leads to serious miscalculation about the balance of power between Britain and other nations – in which case disaster swiftly follows.

None of this might have mattered much if Britain had not been on the verge of the worst crisis in its history since 1940-1941. This was not leaving the EU. Remainers said that Brexit would mean the ruin of the country, but then, as someone remarked, “a country has a great deal of ruin in it”. Brexit might not be quite the catastrophe that its opponents predicted, but the real mortal danger turned out to be the Brexiteers themselves, with their chronically poor judgement, dismal organising skills, vainly trying to stem an unprecedented  health, social and economic calamity.

Johnson turns out to be the epitome of the commentariat who, by training and experience, are peculiarly ill-equipped to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. He overpromises and underdelivers on everything from the world-beating test and trace system, that has just seized up, to the proposed “moonshot” to test everybody in the country by Christmas.

There is a terrifying sense of inexperienced amateurs at work so the government is repeatedly caught by surprise by predictable – and widely predicted – events. The sight of Baroness Harding of Winscombe, in charge of the testing and tracing on which the fate of the nation supposedly depends, claiming that nobody she knew had foreseen a sudden surge in coronavirus sends a chilling message about the common sense and competence of the Johnson government.

As for Johnson himself, he would have been in his element writing columns about the current crisis: one week he could be demanding a total lockdown to suppress the virus and the next he could be saying that it was time to open up the economy and establish herd immunity. On this and every other issue, he would be having his cake and eating it. Meanwhile, we are getting an all too real idea of what dystopian Britain would look like.

counterpunch.org

[Category: Editor's Choice, Boris Johnson, Crisis, United Kingdom]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/22/20 12:47pm

Joe Biden seems to think that the key to victory in November is to stop making sense.

Examples abound, but the latest concerns the Middle East. On Sept. 13, the Democratic candidate published a 970-word CNN essay attacking Donald Trump for abandoning the 2015 Iran nuclear accord. A few days later, he issued a statement praising Trump for making peace between Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. If elected, he promised that he’d “build on these steps, challenge other nations to keep pace, and work to leverage these growing ties into progress toward a two-state solution and a more stable, peaceful region.”

Biden thus favors peace between and among Israel, the Arab gulf states, Iran, and whoever else might come along as well. But there’s a problem. The 2015 nuclear deal was supposed to normalize relations by ending sanctions and allowing Iran to re-enter the global market. But the Trump accord does the opposite by enlisting the Gulf states in a war pact whose purpose is to isolate the Islamic republic and surround it with a string of hostile states.

So Biden favors isolating Iran and not isolating it at the same time. What next – a ringing statement that war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength?

The last time Democrats tried driving with one foot on the gas pedal and the other on the brake was in early 2015, and the results were disastrous. This is back when the handwriting was on the wall that a nuclear deal with Iran was approaching and the gulf petro-states – the Saudis, the UAE, the Bahraini royal family, and the rest – were besides themselves with dismay. After all, they thought they enjoyed a special relationship with the U.S., their protector, arms supplier, and long-term customer, yet here was Barack Obama suggesting, as he would later put it, that they “share the neighborhood” with their arch-foe. Their feelings were hurt, and so the U.S. felt it had no choice but to patch things up.

What did it do? The answer is that it presented Saudi Arabia with a consolation prize in the form of a green light to go on the offensive on two fronts. In Syria, Washington looked the other way as the kingdom shipped hundreds of U.S.-made TOW missiles to Al Qaeda and other rebel groups, weapons that Al Qaeda – yes, the same Al Qaeda that toppled the Twin Towers on 9/11 – then used them with devastating effectiveness against Syrian government tanks and trucks in the northwest province of Idlib.

Simultaneously, it gave the go-ahead for an air war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Why would the Saudis support one rebel group while attacking another? Because Al Qaeda is Wahhabist, the only brand of Sunni Islam the Al-Saud tolerate in their kingdom, while the Houthis are Shi’ite, which is to say Sunni Islam’s age-old rival. Not only did the Obama administration greenlight war, in other words, but it greenlit a form of sectarian warfare that is particularly primitive and cruel.

But the kingdom was upset, you see, and so an anonymous Defense Department official told the New York Times that it was “important that the Saudis know that we have an arm around their shoulder.”

Uncle Sam thus gave it a hug. Half a decade later, the results are in. Idlib is still under the control of an Al Qaeda successor known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and home to some 1.5 million refugees, while Yemen is “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world” according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres. A war that was supposed to be quick and clean and over in a matter of weeks has turned into an endless quagmire, with more than 12,000 civilians killed as a result of the fighting so far and at least 85,000 children under the age of five dead from malnutrition.

Rather than peace, the JCPOA thus brought war and boundless human suffering. It’s almost funny to go back and read some of the expert opinion justifying U.S. actions at the time. Tamara Cofman Wittes, currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Biden supporter to boot, admitted to the New York Times back in 2015 that Obama administration policy was a puzzle, but added that “whether that puzzle reflects the lack of a coherent policy on the administration side or whether that puzzle simply reflects the complexity of the power struggles on the ground in the region — well, both are probably true.” Added Barbara Bodine, a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen: “I would be more concerned if we had some sort of overly rigid policy. It is messy. It is contradictory. That’s foreign policy.”

Ordinary people might think that incoherence is something to be avoided, but experts know better. They assume that the Middle East is such a mess that the U.S. is allowed to be messy as it wants in return. So the messiness deepened, and thousands died as a consequence.

Now Biden wants us to give the old foreign-policy incoherence another go by putting the old Obama screw-up back in its place. But Biden-style incoherence will work not better than the current Trumpian nonsense. The United States is using the Middle East as its own private playground, and millions of people are paying a deadly price.

[Category: Americas, Middle East, World, Diplomacy, Iran, JCPOA, Joe Biden]

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[l] at 9/22/20 11:55am

Ron PAUL

It is dangerous to reveal the truth about the illegal and immoral things our government does with our money and in our name, and the war on journalists who dare reveal such truths is very much a bipartisan affair. Just ask Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who was relentlessly pursued first by the Obama Administration and now by the Trump Administration for the “crime” of reporting on the crimes perpetrated by the United States government.

Assange is now literally fighting for his life, as he tries to avoid being extradited to the United States where he faces 175 years in prison for violating the “Espionage Act.” While it makes no sense to be prosecuted as a traitor to a country of which you are not a citizen, the idea that journalists who do their job and expose criminality in high places are treated like traitors is deeply dangerous in a free society.

To get around the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press, Assange’s tormentors simply claim that he is not a journalist. Then-CIA director Mike Pompeo declared that Wikileaks was a “hostile intelligence service” aided by Russia. Ironically, that’s pretty much what the Democrats say about Assange.

Earlier this month, a US Federal appeals court judge ruled that the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records was illegal. That bulk collection program, born out of the anti-American PATRIOT Act, was first revealed to us by whistleblower Edward Snowden just over seven years ago.

That is why whistleblowers and those who publish their information are so important. Were it not for Snowden and Assange, we would never know about this government criminality. And if we never know about government malfeasance it can never be found to be criminal in the first place. That is convenient for governments, but it is also a recipe for tyranny.

While we might expect the US media to aggressively come to the aid of a fellow journalist being persecuted by the government for doing his job, the opposite is happening. As journalist Glen Greenwald wrote last week, the US mainstream media is completely ignoring the Assange extradition trial.

Why would they do such a thing? Partisan politics. Journalists – with a few important exceptions like Greenwald himself – are no longer interested in digging and reporting the truth. These days they believe they have a “higher calling.”

As Greenwald puts it, “If you start from the premise that Trump is a fascist dictator who has brought Nazi tyranny to the US, then it isn’t that irrational to believe that anyone who helped empower Trump (which is how they see Assange) deserves to be imprisoned, hence the lack of concern about it.”

That may seem like a good idea to these journalists in the short term, but for journalism itself to become an extension of government power rather than a check on that power would be deeply harmful.

We cannot have a self-governing society as was intended for our Republic if the government, with the complicity of the mainstream media, decides that there are things we are not allowed to know about it. President Trump should end the US government’s war on Assange…and on all whistleblowers and their publishers.

ronpaulinstitute.org

[Category: Editor's Choice, Journalism, Julian Assange, Propaganda, Wikileaks]

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