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Russia-gate Jumps the Shark

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | October 10, 2017

A key distinction between propaganda and journalism is that manipulative propaganda relies on exaggeration and deceit while honest journalism provides context and perspective. But what happens when the major news outlets of the world’s superpower become simply conveyor belts for warmongering propaganda?

That is a question that the American people now face as The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and virtually the entire mainstream media hype ridiculously minor allegations about Russia’s “meddling” in American politics into front-page hysteria.

For instance, on Tuesday, the major news outlets were filled with the latest lurid chapter of Russia-gate, how Google, the Internet’s dominant search engine, had detected suspected “Russia-linked” accounts that bought several thousand dollars worth of ads.

The Washington Post ran this item as front-page news entitled “Google finds links to Russian disinformation in its services,” with the excited lede paragraph declaring: “Russian operatives bought ads across several of Google’s services without the company’s knowledge, the latest evidence that their campaign to influence U.S. voters was as sprawling as it was sophisticated in deploying the technology industry’s most powerful tools.”

Wow! That sounds serious. However, if you read deeply enough into the story, you discover that the facts are a wee bit less dramatic. The Post tells us:

“Google’s internal investigation found $4,700 of search ads and display ads that the company believes are Russian-connected, and found $53,000 of ads with political content that were purchased from Russian Internet providers, building addresses or with Russian currency, people familiar with the investigation said. …

“One Russian-linked account spent $7,000 on ads to promote a documentary called ‘You’ve Been Trumped,’ a film about Donald Trump’s efforts to build a golf course in Scotland along an environmentally sensitive coastline, these people said. Another spent $30,000 on ads questioning whether President Obama needed to resign. Another bought ads to promote political merchandise for Obama.”

A journalist – rather than a propagandist – would immediately follow these figures with some context, i.e., that Google’s net digital ad sales revenue is about $70 billion annually. In other words, these tiny ad buys – with some alleged connection to Russia, a nation of 144 million people and not all Vladimir Putin’s “operatives” – are infinitesimal when put into any rational perspective.

A Dangerous Hysteria

But rationality is not what the Post and other U.S. mainstream news outlets are engaged in here. They are acting as propagandists determined to whip up a dangerous hysteria about being at “war” with nuclear-armed Russia and to delegitimize Trump’s election last year.

Photos by Gage Skidmore and derivative by Krassotkin

It doesn’t seem to matter that the facts don’t fit the desired narrative. First of all, none of this content, detected by Google, is “disinformation” as the Post claims, unless you consider a critical documentary about Trump’s Scottish golf course to be “disinformation,” or for that matter criticism and/or support for President Obama.

And, by the way, how does any of this material reveal a Russian plot to put Trump in the White House and to ensure Hillary Clinton’s defeat, which was the original Russia-gate narrative? Now, we’re being told that any Internet ads bought by Russians or maybe even by Americans living in Russia are part of some nefarious Kremlin plot even if the content is an anti-Trump documentary or some ads for or against President Obama, but nothing attacking Hillary Clinton.

This surely does not seem like evidence of a “sophisticated” campaign to influence U.S. politics, as the Post tells us; it is either an indication of a totally incoherent campaign or no campaign at all, just some random ads taken out by people in Russia possibly to increase clicks on a Web site or to sell some merchandise or to express their own opinions.

And, if you think that this latest Post story is an anomaly – that maybe some editor was having a bad day and just forgot to include the requisite perspective and balance – you’d be wrong.

The same journalistic failures have appeared in similar articles about Facebook and Twitter, which like Google didn’t detect any Russian  operation until put under intense pressure by influential members of Congress and then “found” a tiny number of “Russia-linked” accounts.

At Facebook, after two searches found nothing – and after a personal visit from Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a key legislator on the high-tech industry – the social media company turned up $100,000 in “Russia-linked” ads spread out over three years (compared to its annual revenue of $27 billion). Facebook also reported that only 44 percent of the ads appeared before the 2016 election.

Facing similar pressures from key members of Congress, Twitter identified 201 “Russia-linked” accounts (out of Twitter’s 328 million monthly users).

Tiny Pebbles

However, rather than include the comparative numbers which would show how nutty Russia-gate has become, the U.S. mainstream media systematically avoids any reference to how tiny the “Russia-linked” pebbles are when compared to the size of the very large lake into which they were allegedly tossed.

The mainstream Russia-gate narrative also keeps running up against other inconveniently contrary facts that then have to be explained away by the “responsible media.” For instance, The New York Times discovered that one of the “Russia-linked” Facebook groups was devoted to photos of “adorable puppies.” That left the “newspaper of record” musing about how nefarious the Russians must be to cloak their sinister operations behind puppies. [See Consortiumnews.com’sThe Mystery of the Russia-gate Puppies.”]

The alternative explanation, of course, is unthinkable at least within the confines of “acceptable thought”; the alternative being that there might be no sinister Kremlin campaign to poison American politics or to install Trump in the White House, that what we are witnessing is a mainstream stampede similar to what preceded the Iraq War in 2003.

In the run-up to that disastrous invasion, every tidbit of suspicion about Saddam Hussein hiding WMD was trumpeted loudly across the front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major U.S. news outlets. The handful of dissenters who questioned the groupthink were ignored or dismissed as “Saddam apologists”; most were essentially banned from the public square.

Another similarity is that in both cases the U.S. government was injecting large sums of money that helped finance the pro-war propaganda. In the Iraq case, Congress funded the Iraqi National Congress, which helped generate false WMD claims that were then accepted credulously by the U.S. mainstream media.

In the Russia-gate case, Congress has authorized tens of millions of dollars to combat alleged Russian “propaganda and disinformation,” a sum that is creating a feeding frenzy among “scholars” and other “experts” to produce reports that support the anti-Russia narrative. [See Consortiumnews.com’sThe Slimy Business of Russia-gate.”]

Of course, the big difference between Iraq in 2003 and Russia in 2017 is that as catastrophic as the Iraq invasion was, it pales against the potential for thermo-nuclear war that could lie at the end of this latest hysteria.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

October 10, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

The Cardiff Bay Tidal Lagoon – can it power 1.3 million Welsh homes?

By Roger Andrews | Energy Matters | October 10, 2017

“Cardiff Tidal Lagoon is now being developed as the first full-scale lagoon in our programme. With a potential installed capacity of around 3GW, this project could provide enough green, clean home-grown power for every home in Wales.” Mark Shorrock, Chief Executive, Tidal Lagoon Power.

In this post we investigate this claim. The results, as usual, are predictable.

The Cardiff Bay tidal project sneaked in under my radar. In fact I didn’t even know about it until I came across the article recently featured in Blowout Week 196. It has yet to get the go-ahead from the government (and may never get it), but planning is obviously well along, with the project reportedly in its “twelfth design iteration”. In addition, a lengthy environmental impact scoping report has been completed and the project has just received approval to connect to the national grid. According to the schedule the project will generate its first power in 2022.

And Cardiff Bay is big. It will have a nominal capacity of around 3GW – the official number is 3.24GW – and is estimated to cost around £8 billion. Production will be approximately 5.5TWh per year (giving a capacity factor of around 20%). The lagoon covers 70 sq km and is enclosed by a sea wall 20.5 kilometers long. In short, it’s Swansea Bay times ten. Figure 1 shows the project layout. The lagoon takes up half the width of the Bristol Channel:

Figure 1: Cardiff Bay lagoon showing sea wall location and turbine inlets/outlets (red). From Tidal Power’s environmental scoping report

I’m not going into technical details here because these have already been dissected by Euan Mearns and myself in previous posts on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project here and here. Instead I will concentrate on Mr. Shorrock’s claim that the project could “power … every home in Wales.”

The thing to remember about tidal power is that while it’s 100% predictable it’s also non-dispatchable, meaning that we can predict exactly when we won’t be able to dispatch it. And the reason it’s non-dispatchable is that the tide in the UK comes in and goes out twice a day and the lagoon generates power when the tide is ebbing or flowing, but no power at all when the tide turns. The result is four daily power spikes, separated by periods of zero generation, that bear no relation to fluctuations in demand. Figure 1 shows broadly what these spikes will look like. (No values are given on the Y-scale because the plot is purely illustrative. Values will come shortly):

Figure 2: Illustrative plot of daily tidal lagoon generation.

Another problem is the large difference in generation between spring and neap tides. Figure 3 shows Cardiff tide heights for October 2017. As discussed in the Swansea Bay post generation is a function of somewhere between the square and cube of the tide range, and as a result the Cardiff lagoon, were it in operation, would generate roughly ten times as much electricity per day during the spring tides around the 8th and 21st as it would during the neap tides around the 1st, 15th and 29th:

Figure 3: Cardiff tides, October 2017, data from Cardiff BSAC

Now we will turn to Welsh homes. According to the Census Bureau there are 1.3 million of them, and according to Energy UK the average UK household consumed 3,938 kWh of electricity in 2015, the last year for which I can find data. Assuming that Welsh households are average consumers then 1.3 million of them will consume 1.3 million times 3,938 kWh = 5.07Twh/year. This is less than the 5.5TWh Cardiff Bay is expected to generate. So far so good.

Now let us further assume that Cardiff Bay goes ahead and that its generation is evenly spread out between the 1.3 million Welsh households. Each household consumes 3,938kWh/year, representing an average load throughout the year of 0.45kW. But what does the household’s daily load curve look like? For want of better information I’ve assumed it’s the same as the total UK load curve, and after appropriate scaling I came up with the three load curves shown in Figure 4:

Figure 4: Daily load curves for the average Welsh household. Based on a graphic from energymag

Then I divided Cardiff tidal lagoon generation by 1.3 million households and superimposed it on the Figure 4 curves. The results for neap tides and spring tides are shown in Figures 5 and 6:

Figure 5: Comparison of Cardiff lagoon tidal generation (blue) with daily load curves for the average Welsh household, neap tides

Figure 5: Comparison of Cardiff lagoon tidal generation (blue) with daily load curves for the average Welsh household, spring tides. Tidal generation tops out around 2.3kW

What’s a Welsh homeowner to do about this? He or she has two options. Either fill a boxcar with storage batteries or believe Mr. Charles Hendry’s reassurance that National Grid can somehow smooth out these wild fluctuations:

There is an inevitable question about how the system could accommodate very significant volumes of power generation from tidal lagoons that may be predictable but not necessarily when demand is greatest. National Grid have been reassuring in their evidence to us that such power could be accommodated and managed, and as we move towards ‘smarter’ ways of managing energy demand, consumers will be more able to use power more cheaply when it is most plentiful.

Better get your washing done quickly, Mrs. Davies.

October 10, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 1 Comment

Power Corrupts: A Culture of Compliance Breeds Despots and Predators

By John W. Whitehead | Rutherford Institute | October 10, 2017

“All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible.”― Frank Herbert

Power corrupts.

Worse, as 19th-century historian Lord Acton concluded, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about a politician, an entertainment mogul, a corporate CEO or a police officer: give any one person (or government agency) too much power and allow him or her or it to believe that they are entitled, untouchable and will not be held accountable for their actions, and those powers will eventually be abused.

We’re seeing this dynamic play out every day in communities across America.

A cop shoots an unarmed citizen for no credible reason and gets away with it. A president employs executive orders to sidestep the Constitution and gets away with it. A government agency spies on its citizens’ communications and gets away with it. An entertainment mogul sexually harasses aspiring actresses and gets away with it. The U.S. military bombs a civilian hospital and a school and gets away with it.

Abuse of power—and the ambition-fueled hypocrisy and deliberate disregard for misconduct that make those abuses possible—works the same whether you’re talking about sexual harassment, government corruption, or the rule of law.

For instance, 20 years ago, I took up a sexual harassment lawsuit on behalf of a young woman—a state employee—who claimed that her boss, a politically powerful man, had arranged for her to meet him in a hotel room, where he then allegedly dropped his pants, propositioned her and invited her to perform oral sex on him.

Despite the fact that this man had a well-known reputation for womanizing and this woman was merely one in a long line of women who had accused the man of groping, propositioning, and pressuring them for sexual favors in the workplace, she was denounced as white trash and subjected to a massive smear campaign by the man’s wife, friends and colleagues (including the leading women’s rights organizations of the day), while he was given lucrative book deals and paid lavish sums for speaking engagements.

William Jefferson Clinton eventually agreed to settle the case and pay Paula Jones $850,000.

Here we are 20 years later and not much has changed.

We’re still shocked by sexual harassment in the workplace, the victims of these sexual predators are still being harassed and smeared, and those who stand to gain the most by overlooking wrongdoing (all across the political spectrum) are still turning a blind eye to misconduct when it’s politically expedient to do so.

This time, it’s Hollywood producer Harvey Weinsteinlongtime Clinton associate and a powerhouse when it comes to raising money for Democrats—who is being accused of decades of sexual assaults, aggressively sexual overtures and harassment.

I won’t go into the nauseating details here. You can read them for yourself at the New York Times and the New Yorker.

Suffice it to say that it’s the same old story all over again: man rises to power, man abuses power abominably, man intimidates and threatens anyone who challenges him with retaliation or worse, and man gets away with it because of a culture of compliance in which no one speaks up because they don’t want to lose their job or their money or their place among the elite.

From what I’ve read, this was Hollywood’s worst-kept secret.

In other words, everyone who was anyone knew about it. They were either complicit in allowing the abuses to take place, turning a blind eye to them, or helping to cover them up.

It’s not just happening in Hollywood, however.

And it’s not just sexual predators that we have to worry about.

For every Harvey Weinstein (or Roger Ailes or Bill Cosby or Donald Trump) who eventually gets called out for his sexual misbehavior, there are hundreds—thousands—of others in the American police state who are getting away with murder—in many cases, literally—simply because they can.

The cop who shoots the unarmed citizen first and asks questions later might get put on paid leave for a while or take a job with another police department, but that’s just a slap on the wrist. The shootings and SWAT team raids and excessive use of force will continue, because the police unions and the politicians and the courts won’t do a thing to stop it. Case in point: The Justice Department will no longer attempt to police the police when it comes to official misconduct. Instead, it plans to give police agencies more money and authority to “fight” crime.

The war hawks who are making a profit by waging endless wars abroad, killing innocent civilians in hospitals and schools, and turning the American homeland into a domestic battlefield will continue to do so because neither the president nor the politicians will dare to challenge the military industrial complex. Case in point: Rather than scaling back on America’s endless wars, President Trump—like his predecessors—has continued to expand America’s military empire and its attempts to police the globe.

The National Security Agency that carries out warrantless surveillance on Americans’ internet and phone communications will continue to do so, because the government doesn’t want to relinquish any of its ill-gotten powers. Case in point: The USA Liberty Act, proposed as a way to “fix” all that’s wrong with domestic surveillance, will instead legitimize the government’s snooping powers.

Unless something changes in the way we deal with these ongoing, egregious abuses of power, the predators of the police state will continue to wreak havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives.

Police officers will continue to shoot and kill unarmed citizens. Government agents—including local police—will continue to dress and act like soldiers on a battlefield.

Bloated government agencies will continue to fleece taxpayers while eroding our liberties. Government technicians will continue to spy on our emails and phone calls. Government contractors will continue to make a killing by waging endless wars abroad.

And powerful men (and women) will continue to abuse the powers of their office by treating those around them as underlings and second-class citizens who are unworthy of dignity and respect and undeserving of the legal rights and protections that should be afforded to all Americans.

As Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at the at the University of California, Berkeley, observed in the Harvard Business Review, “While people usually gain power through traits and actions that advance the interests of others, such as empathy, collaboration, openness, fairness, and sharing; when they start to feel powerful or enjoy a position of privilege, those qualities begin to fade. The powerful are more likely than other people to engage in rude, selfish, and unethical behavior.”

After conducting a series of experiments into the phenomenon of how power corrupts, Keltner concluded: “Just the random assignment of power, and all kinds of mischief ensues, and people will become impulsive. They eat more resources than is their fair share. They take more money. People become more unethical. They think unethical behavior is okay if they engage in it. People are more likely to stereotype. They’re more likely to stop attending to other people carefully.”

Power corrupts.

And absolute power corrupts absolutely.

However, it takes a culture of entitlement and a nation of compliant, willfully ignorant, politically divided citizens to provide the foundations of tyranny.

As researchers Joris Lammers and Adam Galinsky found, those in power not only tend to abuse that power but they also feel entitled to abuse it: “People with power that they think is justified break rules not only because they can get away with it, but also because they feel at some intuitive level that they are entitled to take what they want.”

That sense of entitlement and immunity from charges of wrongdoing dovetails with Richard Nixon’s belief that “when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

For too long now, America has played politics with its principles and allowed the president and his colleagues to act in violation of the rule of law.

“We the people” are paying the price for it now.

Americans have allowed Congress, the White House and the Judiciary to wreak havoc with our freedoms. They have tolerated an oligarchy in which a powerful, elite group of wealthy donors is calling the shots. They have paid homage to patriotism while allowing the military industrial complex to spread death and destruction abroad. And they have turned a blind eye to all manner of wrongdoing when it was politically expedient.

This culture of compliance must stop.

The empowerment of petty tyrants and political gods must end.

For starters, let’s go back to the basics: the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Let’s recommit to abiding by the rule of law.

Here’s what the rule of law means in a nutshell: it means that everyone is treated the same under the law, everyone is held equally accountable to abiding by the law, and no one is given a free pass based on their politics, their connections, their wealth, their status or any other bright line test used to confer special treatment on the elite.

Let’s demand scrutiny and transparency at all levels of government, which in turn will lead to accountability.

We need to stop being victimized by these predators.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, I’m not just talking about the political predators in office, but the ones who are running the show behind the scenes—the shadow government—comprised of unelected government bureaucrats whose powers are unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and beyond the reach of the law.

There is no way to erase the scars left by the government’s greed for money and power, its disregard for human life, its corruption and graft, its pollution of the environment, its reliance on excessive force in order to ensure compliance, its covert activities, its illegal surveillance, and its blatant disdain for the rule of law.

“We the people”—men and women alike— have been victims of the police state for so long that not many Americans even remember what it is to be truly free anymore. Worse, few want to shoulder the responsibility that goes along with maintaining freedom.

Still, we must try.


ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at http://www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

October 10, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

US offers $12 mln bounty on two Hezbollah leaders, cites ‘homeland’ threat

RT | October 10, 2017

The US has offered a total of $12 million in rewards for the capture of two senior Hezbollah officials, saying the Iranian-backed group is plotting attacks inside the US. The announcement comes as Washington mulls canceling the Iran nuclear deal.

A $7 million bounty applies to Talal Hamiyah, head of Hezbollah’s external operations. Another $5 million is being offered for Fuad Shukr, the group’s senior military official, accused of masterminding the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 US Marines.

Hezbollah is “focused on US interests, including here in the homeland,” National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas J. Rasmussen told reporters at the State Department Tuesday.

While he declined to comment on any specific, credible or imminent threats, Rasmussen said the US intelligence community continues to see “activity on behalf of Hezbollah here inside the homeland.”

“It’s our assessment that Hezbollah is determined to give itself a potential homeland option as a critical component of its terrorism playbook,” he added.

The FBI arrested two Hezbollah operatives in June, one in New York and another in Michigan, said Counterterrorism Coordinator Nathan A. Sales.

Asked whether this would affect Washington’s financial support to the government of Lebanon, which includes several Hezbollah members, Sales replied that it will not. He added that the US does not recognize any distinctions within the group.

“Hezbollah has no political wing. It is a single organization, a terrorist organization, and it is rotten to its core,” Sales said, pointing to Iran as the group’s chief sponsor.

The State Department designated Hezbollah – or Hizballah, as the US government spells it – as a foreign terrorist organization in October 8, 1997. In February this year, the US offered a $5 million bounty for Mohammed Ali Hamadei, a Hezbollah member who allegedly took part in the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in which US sailor Robert Stethem was killed.

Although the bounties were officially announced Tuesday, news of their existence was reported Monday by the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv. … Full article

October 10, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Israel Markets ‘Essentially Failing’ Iron Dome Missile Defense System to US Army

Sputnik – 10.10.2017

The Iron Dome, the missile defense system innovated by Israel, is currently being showcased to US army chiefs, in the hope military top brass purchase the structure – despite previous expert analysis suggesting the system is “essentially failing” and intercepts perhaps five percent of the rockets fired at Tel Aviv.

Israel’s missile defense system, the Iron Dome, has gone on display in Washington, DC at a three-day Association of the US Army (AUSA) meeting, a showcase of the latest radar technology and operational launchers.

The summit, which opened October 9, connects the US Army to a wide range of industry products and services, offered by international suppliers.

​Designed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aircraft Industries, the rocket interceptor is said to have attracted the attention of the US Department of Defense on the basis the US does not possess a similar unmanned system capable of shooting down incoming rockets, planes, helicopters and drones. Military chiefs have expressed a wish to construct a similar protective measure for forces stationed in Eastern Europe.

The Iron Dome system is designed to hit rockets traveling with interceptors six inches wide and 10 feet long, using sensors and real-time guidance systems to zero in on the rockets. When an interceptor gets close to an incoming rocket, a proximity fuse triggers the interceptor to detonate, spraying out metal rods intended to strike and detonate the rockets’ warheads, neutralizing their ability to maim and destroy.

Collaboration

The AUSA meeting is attended by high-ranking government officials, who will inspect the system first-hand at the head office of US dense giant Raytheon, which collaborated with its Israeli counterparts in its design, development and production.

The new system was part of a collaborative manufacturing agreement, signed on the condition Israel would receive substantial financial assistance for the system, while Raytheon would be tasked with manufacturing 50 percent of its components on American soil.

Cooperation with Raytheon is pivotal to selling the Iron Dome to the US Army, which rarely acquires weapons systems directly from foreign companies unless products are developed in conjunction with US firms. Nonetheless, the Israeli company is competing with other weapons-manufacturing giants, including Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

Trial Runs

In 2016, the US successfully conducted tests with the Iron Dome, which intercepted a drone using a missile nicknamed the “Tamir” — and on September 4, a new series of US tests began in New Mexico, using a variety of missile defense systems, including the Iron Dome, to provide cover for soldiers in drills and exercises.

It has been claimed by Israeli officials the system’s roll-out has been a success, registering 1,500 interceptions of various types of rockets fired at the country, with a direct hit rate of 90 percent.

If the US does adopt the technology, it will be the only other country in the world to maintain such a structure.

In 2014, Theodore A. Postol, a professor of science, technology, and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), may have provided the answer.

After studying a variety of publicly available data, Professor Postol argued the Iron Dome’s intercept rate, defined as destruction of a rocket’s warhead, was “perhaps as low as five percent but could well be lower.”

​He moreover foresaw “significant insurance claims” arising in areas successfully defended by Iron Dome, as a successful intercept can at rare best destroy explosive warheads carried by artillery rockets, not pieces of debris from the artillery rocket itself, which will fall whether or not an artillery rocket has been intercepted. The Israelis, he noted, had not provided “any evidence of a reduction in ground damage” that would necessarily accompany the “amazing success rates” claimed for Iron Dome.

Professor Postol’s conclusion was stark — the Israeli government was “not telling the truth about” the Dome to its own population, or the US, which “provided the Israeli government with the bulk of the funding needed” to design and build the “much-heralded but apparently ineffective” rocket-defense system.

Postol’s conclusions were broadly confirmed by Richard Lloyd, a weapons expert formerly employed by Raytheon, who said interceptions “certainly [did] not” detonate rockets’ warheads, so the system was “essentially failing.”

October 10, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , | 3 Comments

The Tragic Failure of Ken Burns Vietnam

By Christopher Koch | Medium | September 28, 2017

There is so much to love about this series. The uncompromising scenes of combat, the voices of both Americans and Vietnamese, the historical context, the exposure of the utter incompetence of our military leaders, the terrific music that is frequently exactly where it should be, the slowly revealed powerful still images and Peter Coyote’s wonderful narrative voice. Its tragic failure is its inability to hold anyone responsible for their actions.

Burns and Novick tell us that the war was begun “in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and …” whatever the current threat. That’s probably true of most wars. However, as we used to teach our children, you have to be accountable for your actions. If you kill someone speeding the wrong way down a one way street you’ll get charged with manslaughter even if you’re rushing someone to the hospital.

It’s the lack of accountability, the failure to prosecute those who lied to get us into the war, who encouraged battlefield tactics that resulted in the massacre of women and children, who authorized the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets, who drenched Vietnam in chemical poisons that will cause birth defects and death for generations.

In order to maintain this central lie, Burns and Novick must establish a false balance between good and evil on both sides. Every time the United States is shown doing something bad, Burns and Novick show us how the Vietnamese also did bad things. In one absurd example, Coyote intones something like, “we called them ‘Dinks,’ ‘Gooks,’ ‘Mamasans;’ they called us ‘invaders’ and ‘imperialists.’” The GI terms are dehumanizing, but the Vietnamese terms are accurate. People who cross 3,000 miles of ocean to attack a country that has done them no harm, are accurately called ‘invaders.’ I suppose you could argue about the ‘imperialist’ charge.

Vietnamese soldiers killed some 58,000 Americans and wounded a couple of hundred thousand more. Burns and Novick put the number of Vietnamese we killed at 3 million, but most experts say it was more like 4 million and Vietnam says its 6 million, with more people continuing to die from unexploded ordinance and Agent Orange. We destroyed 60% of their villages, sprayed 21 million gallons of lethal poisons, imposed free fire zones (a euphemism for genocide) on 75% of South Vietnam. They attacked US military bases in their country and never killed an American on American soil. There are no equivalences here.

Burns and Novick do a good job of explaining that the United States worked with Ho Chi Minh during World War II and that Ho hoped to get our support after the war. They do not mention that having friendly relations with Communist countries was a successful strategy we used with Yugoslavia, because although it was Communist, Yugoslavia was also independent and a thorn in the Soviet Union’s side. Any minimal understanding of Vietnam’s history would have identified Vietnam’s fiercely independent streak. Intelligent leaders (anyone with half a brain) would have adopted the Yugoslav strategy in Vietnam.

This brings us to another central problem of the Burns and Novick series, Leslie Gelb’s smiling recollection (he looks so smug) that nobody knew anything about Vietnam and didn’t for several years. In fact, throughout the series, many people say “we should have known better.” Is ignorance really a good excuse for launching a brutal war and the war crimes that followed? Unmentioned is how easy it was to gather information on Vietnam. French historians and journalists had studied every aspect of the country and its culture during and after their defeat in the French Indo China war. Much of this material had been translated into English. That’s how I figured out in 1965 that we were going to lose the war in Vietnam.

Burns and Novick fail to mention my trip to North Vietnam in 1965 nor any of the other trips to North Vietnam by members of the American peace movement such as Tom Hayden, Staughton Lynd and Herbert Aptheker who went in January 1966 and members of Women’s Strike for Peace who went later. They only show us Jane Fonda’s trip in 1972, when she broadcast to US troops asking them to stop the bombing and was photographed sitting on an anti-aircraft gun. No one else who went to North Vietnam did either of these things.

Our earlier trips to North Vietnam were important, because we were the only Americans to witness the destruction being rained down on North Vietnam. Burns’ documentary shows lots of aerial shots of bombs and napalm going off (Mussolini’s son called them rosebuds blooming in the desert when he attack Ethiopia) but very few shots of the bomb’s effects on the ground in North Vietnam. We hear talk of precision bombing, but those of us who traveled to North Vietnam observed hospitals, schools, churches, markets, and working class neighborhoods utterly destroyed. And this was ten years before the war ended!

The Burns’ documentary doesn’t show us the makeshift hospitals with children and old people without arms and legs or suffering from horrendous burns, all victims of American bombing attacks. The documentary focuses our compassion on the American pilots who dropped the bombs.

In fact, the only heroes in Ken Burns’ Vietnam are American GI’s. Almost everyone else is their enemy: the Vietnamese they fought, the officers whose absurd strategy sent them to their deaths, and the American peace movement that struggled to end the war and bring them home. Burns and Novick portray the peace movement in the worst possible terms. In at least three places, they have moving sound bites about how returning soldiers were spit on or in other ways disrespected. It’s a false memory, at least in any general sense. They couldn’t find any visual support, no signs about baby killers, because it didn’t happen, or happened extremely rarely.

To me, this is the central flaw of Burns and Novick’s film, their failure to deal truthfully and equally with the peace movement. Six million Americans took part in the anti-war effort (only 2.7 million Americans served as soldiers). Everyone I knew in the peace movement honored the veterans and wanted justice for them. They studied books, took part in teach-ins, and watched newsreels. But Burns and Novick, with a couple of notable exceptions, characterize the peace movement as uninformed, chaotic, disrespectful, self absorbed and violent. At one point, they intercut 1969 pictures of kids at Woodstock wallowing in great music with soldiers fighting in Vietnam. What was that supposed to mean?

The kids who refused to go (many out of righteous opposition), who fled into exile in Canada or Sweden, or who, like boxer Muhammad Ali lost his right to fight for three years, or the Fort Hood 3 who went to prison, or the professors and journalists who lost their jobs, the protestors beaten by riled up construction workers, Martin Luther King who went public with his opposition in 1967, the priests who raided draft offices and burned their records, Alice Hertz and two other Americans who burned themselves to death in honor of the Buddhist monks who did the same in South Vietnam protesting our puppet regime — these are not worth profiling, all tinged by the same brush, they are the bad guys who disrespected our troops and went violent. What a wonderful authoritarian message that gives to viewers. Don’t protest an evil war or your country’s war crimes.

The only heroes in Burns and Novick’s Vietnam are American servicemen and I am thrilled to see them finally recognized for what they went through. We have moving back stories of their homes, their motives for joining, their families waiting for them.

None of the six million participants in the American peace movement gets similar treatment. The same is true, incidentally, of the Vietnamese. While the sound bites are great, there are no Vietnamese back stories either.

Without the peace movement, there is no moral center to this series. The lack of accountability is fatal. That an American general can watch from a helicopter the massacre at Mai Lai (as the films tells us) and suffer no consequences is sickening. If military courts had aggressively prosecuted violators of human rights, or even if we only had held detailed and accurate reconciliations where the truth came out, there would have been a chance that our reckless invasions of Iraq with its policy of torture and the invasion of Afghanistan would not have followed so easily. When people are held accountable for their actions, perpetrators of questionable violent acts think twice.

Last week on NPR an American general in Afghanistan announced that we are not trying to occupy territory in Afghanistan, we are simply trying to kill terrorists. Here, again, is the same rationale of the body count that led to disaster in Vietnam. We are reliving the Vietnam War because no one was ever really held responsible for its horrors.

The moral center of the Vietnam War was held by those who opposed it. Several people I’ve talked to say the series is depressing. I had the same feeling of despair at the end. Burns and Novick suggest Vietnam’s a tragedy. It’s not. In tragedy a powerful human makes a terrible mistake and suffers the consequences. No one suffered any consequences for Vietnam. Burns and Novick assure us that even if people did wrong, they didn’t mean to. America is still the shining city on the hill and we can do no wrong.

Christopher Koch, in 1965, became the first American reporter to visit North Vietnam.

October 10, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 9 Comments

Trump is sinking in the quicksand of West Asia

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | October 10, 2017

An amazing week is unfolding in West Asian politics. It began with three dramatic developments on Monday – Turkish troops crossing the border into Syria’s Idlib province; announcement in Moscow on agreement to sell the S-400 missile defence system to Saudi Arabia; and, the freeze on visas by the US and Turkey for each other’s nationals. And the week promises to be climactic in the US-Iranian relations.

On Monday Iranian Foreign Ministry warned that any move by the Trump administration to impose sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps will be a “strategic mistake” and Tehran’s response will be “firm, decisive and crushing”. It echoed a warning by the head of the IRGC, General Mohammad Ali Jafari that if the US designated his organization as terrorist, Iran will regard the US forces anywhere as the allies of the Islamic State and target them. Indeed, the weekend is slated to witness the refusal by US President Donald Trump to meet the October 15 deadline for endorsing Washington’s participation in the Iran nuclear deal. The common thread that runs through all these developments is the US’ standing in West Asia vis-a-vis the three most important regional states — Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Syria: The Turkish military operation in Idlib is directed against the al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front. The operation stems from the Astana process where Russia, Turkey and Iran have worked out the establishment of a ‘de-escalation zone’ in Idlib. The US is the odd man out looking in. The backdrop is provided by the upswing in Turkish-Russian relations and the recent Turkish-Iranian rapprochement. Turkey and Iran have common interest to counter the US-Israeli encouragement to Kurdish separatism. Clearly, the Turkish-Iranian rapprochement is having positive fallout on the Syrian situation.

Saudi-Russian ties: The announcement in Moscow on Monday regarding the sale of the S-400 missile defence system to Saudi Arabia signifies a tectonic shift in the Middle East politics. Saudi Arabia has been a ‘pivotal state’ in the US’ Middle East strategies since the mid-forties. It is now embarking on a ‘non-aligned’ foreign policy. The visit by King Salman to Russia last week, Aramco’s dealings with Rosneft and Gazprom, OPEC-Russia agreement to cut oil production – these suggest that the US-Saudi axis is steadily dissolving. Interestingly, Tehran is calmly viewing the Saudi-Russian rapprochement. These trends put a dagger at the heart of the entire US strategy in the Gulf, which had historically fostered a ‘bloc mentality’ among the Sunni states by fuelling their tensions vis-à-vis Iran.

Sensing that Saudi Arabia and Russia might clinch a deal over the S-400 missile defence system, Washington hurriedly announced last Friday that it proposed to accede to the pending request from Riyadh for purchase of the rival THAAD missile system. (Due to Israeli pressure Washington was dragging its feet on the $15 billion deal.) A keen tussle is developing and its outcome will be a litmus test of the US’ capacity to influence Saudi decision-making.

Turkish-American spat: Last week Turkish security nabbed a local employee of the US Consulate in Istanbul for alleged links with the Islamist preacher Fetullah Gulen who is living in the US and whom the Turks suspect as having been involved in the US-backed coup attempt last July against Erdogan. Washington went ballistic. From all appearances, Turkish intelligence may have nabbed a key accomplice of the CIA who had acted as go-between during the failed coup attempt last year. The statement by the US ambassador in Ankara, here, betrays nervousness. Woven into this is Washington’s support of Kurdish separatist groups, which Erdogan sees as the ‘hidden agenda’ of Americans to destabilize Turkey. The Turkish-American relations are in serious difficulty.

Iran nuclear deal: Trump is about to announce this weekend that Iran is not in compliance with the July 2015 nuclear deal. If that happens, US lawmakers have a 60-day window to decide whether to re-impose sanctions against Iran. The Israeli lobby is active on the Capitol Hill. To be sure, pressure will mount on Tehran to respond and retaliate somehow. There is an influential section of opinion within the Iranian establishment that never trusted the US intentions. Clearly, the door is closing on a gestation process over confidence-building that might have incrementally led to a US-Iranian normalization. (Read an insightful opinion piece in the New York Times by Wendy R. Sherman, a former Undersecretary of State for political affairs, who was the US’ lead negotiator for the Iran nuclear agreement – Trump Is Going to Make a Huge Mistake on the Iran Deal.)

All in all, the US is running out of friends and allies in West Asia – with the solitary exception of Israel. Its traditional Cold War-era NATO ally Turkey is turning unfriendly; Iran is preparing to confront the US; GCC is in turmoil but the US is watching helplessly; and, most important, Saudis are exploring the seamless potentials of a non-aligned foreign policy. Trump’s record in West Asia is proving dismal.

October 10, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Former Israeli Intel Chief Calls on Trump Not to Quit Nuclear Deal with Iran

Sputnik – October 10, 2017

The US President is facing an October 15 deadline to certify that Iran is complying with its terms under “the P5+1” nuclear deal. A senior US administration official said that the US leader is expected to quit the pact. Former Israeli intel chief Amos Yadlin, however, called on Trump to wait for better timing, which would create more pressure.

On Monday, former Israeli Defense Forces military chief Amos Yadlin, who is also the head of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), co-authored an essay with his INSS fellow and former National Security Council official Avner Golov, urging the US President against leaving the agreement.

Among the arguments provided by the authors was that any US steps at the moment “would lack European backing, let alone backing from Russia and China,” who are also parties to the deal.

The former military intelligence chief explained that first the US “must get its allies lined up for new UN resolutions against Iranian ballistic missile testing,” the Jerusalem Post quotes him as saying. “However, as the expiration date on the deal’s restrictions get closer, these countries will naturally become more worried about Iran trying to break out with a nuclear weapon and will be more ready to confront it,” the authors suggested.

“Instead of trying to end the Iran nuclear deal now, the US should pressure Iran with the threat of leaving the deal at a more strategic moment,” the authors concluded.

They also referred to a range of top US defense officials who oppose quitting the deal now, although they would support tougher inspections of Iran’s military nuclear sites and restrictions on Iran’s testing of advanced uranium centrifuges.

Ultimately, they say, “any decision by Trump to decertify the deal should be used by the US Congress and the West to raise pressure on Iran for a later battle, but not to leave the deal now and free Iran to go nuclear while blaming the US.”

Last week, a senior US administration official said that President Trump is expected to announce that he will decertify the landmark deal, more properly called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was signed in 2015 between Tehran, the five Security Council powers and Germany. The US leader had previously called the deal “an embarrassment” and “the worst deal ever negotiated.”

SEE ALSO:

Lavrov Calls Reports of Trump’s Plans to Withdraw From Iran Nuclear Deal Rumors

October 10, 2017 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Sputnik and RT Under Investigation

Is it news or propaganda? And what about the First Amendment?

Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • October 10, 2017

Somehow everything keeps coming back around to Russia. In one of its recent initiatives, the Justice Department (DOJ) appears to be attacking the First Amendment as part of the apparent bipartisan program to make Vladimir Putin the fall guy for everything that goes wrong in Washington. In the past month, the DOJ has revealed that the FBI is investigating Russian owned news outlets Sputnik News and RT International and has sent letters to the latter demanding that one of its business affiliates register as a foreign agent by October 17th. The apparent line of inquiry that the Bureau is pursuing is that both are agencies of the Russian government and that both have been spreading disinformation that is intended to discredit the United States government and its institutions. This alleged action would make them, in the DOJ view, a propaganda arm of a foreign government rather than a news service. It also makes them subject to Department of the Treasury oversight under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938.

Sputnik, which is owned by a Russian government media group headed by Putin consigliere Dimitri Kiselyov, has been under investigation due to the accusations made by a fired broadcaster named Andrew Feinberg. Feinberg, the former Sputnik White House correspondent, reportedly took with him a thumb drive containing some thousands of internal business files when he left his office. He has been interviewed by the FBI, has turned over his documents, and has claimed that much of the direction over what the network covered came from Moscow.

RT America, more television oriented than Sputnik, operates through two business entities: RTTV America and RTTV Studios. The Department of Justice has refused to identify which of the businesses has been targeted by a letter calling for registration under FARA, but it is believed to be RTTV America, which provides both operational support of the broadcasting as well as the production facilities. Both companies are actually owned by Russian-American businessman Alex Yazlovsky, though the funding for them presumably comes from the Russian government.

I have noticed very little pushback in the U.S. mainstream and alternative media regarding the Department of Justice moves, presumably because there is a broad consensus that the Russians have been interfering in our “democracy” and have had it coming. If that assumption on my part is correct, the silence over the issue reflects a certain naïvete while also constituting a near perfect example of a pervasive tunnel vision that obscures the significant collateral damage that might be forthcoming.

News organizations are normally considered to be exempt from the requirements of FARA. The Department of Justice action against the two Russian major media outlets is unprecedented insofar as I could determine. Even Qatar owned al-Jazeera, which was so vilified during the early stages of the Afghan War that it had its Kabul offices bombed by the U.S., did not have to register under FARA, was permitted to operate freely, and was even allowed to buy a television channel license for its American operations.

The DOJ is in effect saying that RT and Sputnik are nothing more than propaganda organs and do not qualify as journalism. I would have to disagree if one goes by the standards of contemporary journalism in the United States. America’s self-described “newspapers of record” the New York Times and the Washington Post pretend that they have a lock on stories that are “true.” The Post has adopted the slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness” while the Times proclaims “The truth is more important now than ever,” but anyone who has read either paper regularly for the past year knows perfectly well that they have been as often as not leading propaganda organs for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, pushing a particular agenda and denigrating Donald Trump. They differ little from the admittedly biased television news reporting provided by Fox News and MSNBC.

What exactly did the Russians do? According to last January’s report signed off on by the FBI, CIA and NSA, which may have motivated the DOJ to take action, RT and Sputnik “consistently cast President-elect Trump as the target of unfair coverage from traditional U.S. media outlets that they claimed were subservient to a corrupt political establishment.” Well, they certainly got that one right and did better in their reporting of what was going on among the American public than either the Washington Post or New York Times.

Regarding Sputnik, Feinberg claimed inter alia that he was “pushed” to ask questions at White House press briefings suggesting that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad was not responsible for some of the chemical attacks that had taken place. One wonders at Feinberg’s reluctance as Sputnik and RT were not the only ones expressing skepticism over the claims of Syrian involvement, which have been widely debunked. And why is expressing a credible alternative view on an event in Syria even regarded as propaganda damaging to the American public?

There is a difficult to distinguish line between FARA restricted “trying to influence opinion” using what is regarded a fake news and propaganda and legitimate journalism reporting stories where the “facts” have been challenged. Even real journalists choose to cover stories selectively, inevitably producing a certain narrative for the viewer, listener or reader. All news services do that to a greater or lesser extent.

I have considerable personal experience of RT in particular and, to a lesser extent, with Sputnik. I also know many others who have been interviewed by one or both. No one who has done so has ever been coached or urged to follow a particular line or support a specific position insofar as I know. Nor do I know anyone who has actually been paid to appear. Most of us who are interviewed are appreciative of the fact that we are allowed to air views that are essentially banned on the mainstream media to include critique of maladroit policies in places like Syria and Afghanistan and biting critiques of the war on terror.

Sputnik, in my opinion, does, however, lean heavily towards stories that are critical of the United States and its policies, while RT has a global reach and is much more balanced in what it covers. For sure, it too criticizes U.S. policies and is protective of the Russian government, but it does not substantially differ from other national news services that I have had done interviews for. I find as much uniquely generated negative reporting about the U.S. (usually linked to violence or guns) on BBC World News, France24 and Deutsche Welle as I do on RT International. To describe it as part of an “influence campaign” driven by a “state-run propaganda machine” has a kernel of truth but it is nevertheless a bit of a stretch since one could make the same claims about any government financed news service, including Voice of America. Governments only get into broadcasting to promote their points of view, not to inform the public.

There is a serious problem in the threats to use FARA as it could advance the ongoing erosion of freedom of the press in the United States by establishing the precedent that a foreign news services that is critical of the U.S. will no longer be tolerated. It is also hypocritical in that countries like Israel that interfere regularly in American politics are exempt from FARA registration because no one dares to take such a step, while Russia is fair game.

Going after news outlets also invites retaliation against U.S. media operating in Russia and, eventually, elsewhere. Currently Western media reports from Russia pretty much without being censored or pressured to avoid certain stories. I would note a recent series that appeared on CBS featuring the repulsive Stephen Colbert spending a week in Russia which mercilessly lampooned both the country and its government. No one arrested him or made him stop filming. No one claimed that he was trying to undermine the Russian government or discredit the country’s institutions, even though that is precisely what he was doing.

And then there is the issue of the “threat” posed by news media outlets like RT and Sputnik. Even combined the two services have limited access to the U.S. market, with a 2014 study suggesting that they have only 2.8 million actual weekly viewers. RT did not make the cut and is not included on the list of 100 most popular television channels in the U.S. and it has far less market penetration than other foreign news services like the BBC. It can be found on only a limited number of cable networks in a few, mostly urban areas. It does better in Europe, but its profile in the U.S. market is miniscule. As even bad news is good news in terms of selling a product, it probably did receive higher ratings when the intelligence agency report slamming it came out on it in January. Everyone probably wanted to learn what RT was all about.

So it seems to me that the United States’ moves against RT and Sputnik are little more than lashing out at a problem that is not really a problem in a bid to again promote the Russian “threat” to explain the ongoing dysfunction that prevails in America’s democratic process. One keeps reading or hearing how the American government has “indisputable” proof of Moscow’s intentions to subvert democracy in the U.S. as well as in Europe but the actual evidence is still elusive. Will Russiagate end with a bang or a whimper? No one seems to know.

October 10, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment