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If the Polar Vortex is due to Global Warming, Why are U.S. Cold Waves Decreasing?

By Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D. | Watts Up With That? | January 31, 2019

It’s much easier to devise and promote a climate change theory than it is to falsify it. Falsification requires a lot of data over a long period of time, something we don’t usually have in climate research.

The “polar vortex” is the deep cyclonic flow around a cold air mass generally covering the Arctic, Canada, and Northern Asia during winter. It is irregularly shaped, following the far-northern land masses, unlike it’s stratospheric cousin, which is often quite symmetric and centered on the North and South Poles.

For as long as we have had weather records (extending back into the 1800s), lobes of cold air rotating generally from west to east around the polar vortex sometimes extend down into the U.S. causing wild winter weather and general unpleasantness.

We used to call this process “weather”. Now it’s called “climate change”.

When these cold air outbreaks continued to menace the United States even as global warming has caused global average temperatures to creep upward, an explanation had to be found. After all, snow was supposed to be a thing of the past by now.

Enter the theory that decreasing wintertime sea ice cover in the Arctic (down about 15% over the last 40 years) has tended to displace the polar vortex in the general direction of southern Canuckistan and Yankeeland.

In other words, as the theory goes, global warming sometimes causes colder winters. This is what makes global warming theory so marvelously adaptable — it can explain anything.

In the wake of the current cold wave, John Christy skated into my office this morning with a plot of U.S. winter cold waves since the late 1800s. He grouped the results by region, and examined cold waves lasting a minimum of 2 days at a station, and 5 days at a station. The results were basically the same.

As can be seen in the plot below, there is no evidence in the data supporting the claim that decreasing Arctic sea ice in recent decades is causing more frequent displacement of cold winter air masses into the eastern U.S., at least through the winter of 2017-18:

The trend is markedly downward in the most recent 40 years (since 1979) which is the earliest we have reliable measurements of Arctic sea ice from satellite microwave radiometers (my specialty).

Now, I suppose that Arctic sea ice decline could have some influence. But weather is immensely complex. Cause and effect is often difficult to ascertain.

At a minimum we should demand good observational support for any specific claim. In this case I would say that the connection between Eastern U.S. cold waves and Arctic sea ice is speculative, at best.

Just like most theories of climate change.

February 2, 2019 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Maduro proposes early parliamentary elections in Venezuela

RT | February 2, 2019

Venezuelan President Niсolas Maduro has called for early elections to the National Assembly – a legislative body dominated by the opposition and led by Juan Guaido who declared himself interim leader last week.

Maduro’s statement comes as thousands are rallying in the streets of Caracas both in support of and against his government.

Guaido’s coup received immediate support from the US and its allies in Latin America and Europe while Russia, Mexico, China and other countries urged not to interfere into the domestic situation in the country. The political turmoil comes as Venezuela’s economy has been plummeting due to low oil prices, sanctions and mismanagement leaving most of its population in poverty.

The regular parliamentary elections were expected to be held in Venezuela in 2020. However, Maduro said that the body needs to be “re-legitimized” as he addressed a large crowd of his supporters during a rally in Caracas.

The president said that he would consult the Venezuelan Constituent Assembly – a body elected in 2017 to draft the new constitution – on the issue. If the assembly backs the proposal the vote will be scheduled for some time this year. Earlier, Venezuela’s Supreme Court declared all acts of the National Assembly, headed by Guaido, as null and void.

Meanwhile, Venezuela continues to witness both pro and anti-government rallies. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of the Venezuelan capital on Saturday to join a pro-government demonstration to celebrate 20 years since the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, launched the Bolivarian revolution.

A sea of people can be seen flooding a kilometers-long stretch of Bolivar Avenue in downtown Caracas to listen to Maduro’s speech. Crowds were waving Venezuela’s national flags and holding placards with portraits of Chavez.

Tens of thousands of people also gathered in the eastern part of the capital for a rally organized by the opposition. The national flag-waving crowds also occupied a long stretch in the city as they came to listen to Guaido.

In his speech, Maduro hailed the determination and “deep loyalty” of the people as demonstrated over the last 20 years, and called on Guaido-led opposition to engage in a dialog.

The president appealed to the reason of the opposition politicians and said he is ready to meet them “the day they want.” He also said economics and “national peace” would be the focus of the conversation.

The opposition leader’s statements were more belligerent, however. He declared that the upcoming month would become a “breaking point” in the opposition’s struggle for power and called for new massive protests on February 12. He also claimed that 90 percent of Venezuelans “want change” and “no one here fears a civil war.”

February 2, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties | | 1 Comment

Spain company rejects Israel tender for Jerusalem railway

MEMO – February 2, 2019

A Spanish company announced yesterday that it had rejected an Israeli tender to build part of the Jerusalem railway, which will cut deep into occupied territory.

Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF or Construction and Other Railway Services) announced that it “refuses to build a section of the railway in Jerusalem because [it] included Palestinian land that will be confiscated, in violation of the resolutions of international legitimacy,” Al-Wattan Voice reported.

The company’s workers also rejected its participation in the project on the same grounds. Representatives of the workers said that the problem lies in the fact that the railway will pass through Palestinian lands to serve illegal settlements in East Jerusalem.

“Any project in any city around the world, especially Jerusalem, must respect human rights and international legitimacy in its implementation,” CAF stressed.

CAF added: “The General Assembly of the United Nations and the International Court of Justice [ICJ], through various resolutions, have said that they are against the occupation of land through which will pass the section of the railway.”

Read also:

Israel advances Jerusalem cable car plan

February 2, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

Jerusalem Archbishop: ‘Everything Palestinian is targeted by Israel’s occupation’

Archbishop of Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox Church, Atallah Hanna, seen during a protest in the West bank city of Hebron, January 22, 2015 [Muhesen Amren / ApaImages]
MEMO | February 2, 2019

The Palestinian Archbishop of Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox Church, Atallah Hanna, said yesterday that “everything Palestinian in Jerusalem is targeted by the Israeli occupation”.

During a meeting with a delegation from Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders, MSF), Hanna explained the dangers threatening Palestinians’ existence and identity in the Holy City, Al-Wattan Voice reported.

“Everything is in danger in Jerusalem,” Hanna said, adding: “The Islamic and Christian holy sites and endowments are targeted in order to change our city, hide its identity and marginalize our Arabic and Palestinian existence.”

Hanna added that “recently, the Israeli occupation cancelled a planned celebration on the 50th anniversary of establishing Al-Maqased Hospital,” noting that the Israeli occupation had cancelled many other Palestinian events planned to take place in Jerusalem.

The Archbishop said that Palestinians “are living under severe torture and harsh persecution,” pointing to Israel’s closure of Palestinian institutions in the city. “It seems that they wanted us to give up Jerusalem and submit to their polices, measures and practices,” he added.

Hanna continued: “Jerusalem is for us and will remain for us. We will never give up our rights in Jerusalem and we will defend it against Israeli oppression.”

Addressing the MSF staff, he said: “We want you to know closely the suffering of the Palestinians and the oppression inflicted by the Israeli occupation on them in Jerusalem. We want our message to reach all the people around the world as we want more friends for the Palestinians.”

Read also:

Israeli forces detain secretary of Fatah in Jerusalem

14 Palestinians homeless as Israel forces 2 Jerusalem homes to be torn down

February 2, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Forty years that changed Iran’s history

(Ayatollah Khomeini waves to followers from the balcony of his headquarters in Tehran, Feb 2, 1979, on second day of return from exile.)
By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | February 2, 2019

The annual event known as the Ten Days of Dawn marking the political celebration of the Islamic Revolution in Iran on February 11 has begun. This year’s anniversary is a special occasion – the revolution completes 40 years. It becomes a defining moment.

Forty years ago, these ten days shook not only the Middle East but the Muslim world. The Islamic Revolution in Iran was a milestone for political Islam. It underscored that Islam and democracy are compatible. Iran’s electoral politics may have unique Iranian characteristics, which is only natural and far from unusual for other practitioners of democracy such as India or Brazil, for instance, but there can be no two opinions that Iran’s elected governments have acquired representative character and their legitimacy is not in doubt.

Basically, what irks many of Iran’s neighbours is also this compelling political reality of the empowerment of the people, which they themselves lack – be it Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Egypt or Jordan. They are nervous that their own people chaffing under authoritarian rule might get wrong ideas from Iran.

Several cross currents went into the alchemy of Iran’s Islamic Revolution ranging from Persian nationalists to the Communist Tudeh Party, and from Grand Ayotallah Sayyid Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari (who was at odds with Imam Khomeini’s interpretation of the concept of Vilayat al-faqih or ‘Leadership of Jurists’ and espoused that the clergy ought to serve society and remain aloof from politics) to the charismatic ideologue of ‘Red Shi’ism’ Dr. Ali Shariati (who argued that religion in its pure form is concerned with social justice and salvation of the masses and should dispense with idolatrous rituals and established clergy – an entire current of non-Marxian socialism.) That explains the large social base of the Iranian revolution and its capacity to withstand relentless assaults by the US and its allies to undermine the established regime of the Vilayat al-faqih.

The Ten Days of Dawn is an occasion to read again the classic 1978 essay chronicling the upheaval leading to the Iranian revolution authored by the French philosopher Michel Foucault, What Are the Iranians Dreaming About? Foucault concluded his essay like this:

One bears on Iran and its peculiar destiny. At the dawn of history, Persia invented the state and conferred its models on Islam. Its administrators staffed the caliphate. But from this same Islam, it derived a religion that gave to its people infinite resources to resist state power. In this will for an “Islamic government,” should one see a reconciliation, a contradiction, or the threshold of something new?

The other question concerns this little corner of the earth whose land, both above and below the surface, has strategic importance at a global level. For the people who inhabit this land, what is the point of searching, even at the cost of their own lives, for this thing whose possibility we have forgotten since the Renaissance and the great crisis of Christianity, a political spirituality. I can already hear the French laughing, but I know that they are wrong.

“Political spirituality” – that is what gives a particular coloration to the Iranian revolution and makes it virtually impossible to repeat anywhere outside Iran.

The festivities of the Ten Days of Dawn began on February 1, which was the day Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned home from France after 14 years in exile to be the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They conclude on February 11, which dates back to the collapse of the Shah’s regime following clashes between some army units and revolutionaries triggered by nationwide protests.

The chartered Air France plane, which brought Khomeini from Paris was half empty so that it could carry extra fuel lest Shah didn’t allow the aircraft to land in Tehran. Khomeini’s allies in Tehran feared for his life. A 50000-strong police force deployed in Tehran on that day but it lost control in no time as swirling crowds overwhelmed the Shah’s security henchmen. An estimated 5 million people had lined the streets of Tehran to witness Khomeini’s homecoming. Read here a poignant BBC dispatch from Tehran on that historic day.

When the history of the decline of US influence in the Middle East gets written, the starting point has to be the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The US could never get over the “loss” of Iran as its key regional ally. An effective regional strategy became difficult to sustain. The consequent inability to let go of Iran accounted for much of the tensions in the Middle East politics in the past four decades. And, inevitably, the US kept losing ground while the Islamic regime in Iran gained in stature and influence as a permanent factor in the political life of the Middle East.

Suffice to say, it won’t be an exaggeration to estimate that the Iranian revolution has proved to be the nemesis of the Western political, economic, cultural domination of the Muslim Middle East. Having said that, it will be erroneous to estimate that the Islamic regime in Iran is locked in a mortal conflict with the West. Far from it. Iran is an ambitious regional power and it factors in that access to Western technology and capital is of crucial importance. Equally, the leadership is acutely conscious that for the preservation of the social base of the Islamic regime, economic development is critical, which again means trade and investment from the West. Iran’s middle class is heavily orientated toward ‘Westernism’.

The bottom line is that much as this may sound a paradox, the reality is that integration into the West is a core objective of the regime’s policies. Europe understands the complexity of Iran’s motivations. Interestingly, the European Union announced on January 31 (on the eve of the anniversary of Khomeini’s return from exile to Tehran) the creation of the so-called Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) as a channel for trade exchanges with Iran circumventing the US sanctions.

Tehran is delighted. Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif promptly tweeted, “Iran welcomes #INSTEX—a long overdue 1st step—in E3 implementation of May 2018 commitments to save JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) by ensuring dividends for Iranians after US’ illegal reimposition of sanctions. We remain ready for constructive engagement with Europe on equal footing & with mutual respect.”

The heart of the matter is that the fortieth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution would have been an occasion to bury the hostility between the US and Iran if only the Trump administration had the sense of history and political foresight to comprehend that Iran can be a factor for regional stability. President Trump did not have to look beyond Iran for an effective partner to bring to a closure the “endless wars” in the Middle East.

February 2, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

US Treasury to Foreigners: No More Venezuelan Oil Transactions

teleSUR | February 2, 2019

The United States Treasury Department announced Friday that non-U.S. companies that buy Venezuelan oil through the U.S. financial system or U.S. commodity brokers, will not be allowed to carry out any purchase after April 28.

“Transactions to purchase petroleum and petroleum products from PDVSA or any entity in which PDVSA owns, directly or indirectly… and that involve U.S. persons or any other U.S. nexus… must be wound down by April 28, 2019,” the U.S. Treasury states in a note, adding that “U.S. person employees and contractors of non-U.S. companies located in a country other the U.S. or Venezuela are authorized to engage in certain maintenance or wind-down transactions with PDVSA, or any entity in which PDVSA owns, directly or indirectly… through Mar. 29, 2019.”

The U.S. Treasury release follows the U.S. sanctions imposed, on Jan. 27, on the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). As a consequence, Venezuela’s oil revenues obtained from sales to the U.S. market will be confiscated de facto.

Since most of the international oil trade is done in dollars, the United States is able to continue economic warfare against Venezuela, a country whose income comes mainly from oil exports.

Before President Donald Trump’s measures were put in place against Venezuela, the U.S. was the destination of 40% of Venezuela’s oil exports.

The sanctions affect some US$7 billion in PDVSA assets and will cause other US$11 billion in losses for the Venezuelan company throughout the next year.

February 2, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , | 3 Comments

Why the War on Conspiracy Theories Is Bad Public Policy

By Kevin Barrett • Unz Review • February 1, 2019

A Review of Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas by Cass Sunstein (based on an earlier paper co-authored with Adrian Vermeule); In Defense of Troublemakers: The Power of Dissent in Life and Business by Charlan Nemeth; and Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them, edited by Joseph E. Uscinski

On January 25 2018 YouTube unleashed the latest salvo in the war on conspiracy theories, saying “we’ll begin reducing recommendations of borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways—such as videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the earth is flat, or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11.”

At first glance that sounds reasonable. Nobody wants YouTube or anyone else to recommend bad information. And almost everyone agrees that phony miracle cures, flat earthism, and blatantly false claims about 9/11 and other historical events are undesirable.

But if we stop and seriously consider those words, we notice a couple of problems. First, the word “recommend” is not just misleading but mendacious. YouTube obviously doesn’t really recommend anything. When it says it does, it is lying.

When you watch YouTube videos, the YouTube search engine algorithm displays links to other videos that you are likely to be interested in. These obviously do not constitute “recommendations” by YouTube itself, which exercises no editorial oversight over content posted by users. (Or at least it didn’t until it joined the war on conspiracy theories.)

The second and larger problem is that while there may be near-universal agreement among reasonable people that flat-earthism is wrong, there is only modest agreement regarding which health approaches constitute “phony miracle cures” and which do not. Far less is there any agreement on “claims about 9/11 and other historical events.” (Thus far the only real attempt to forge an informed consensus about 9/11 is the 9/11 Consensus Panel’s study—but it seems unlikely that YouTube will be using the Consensus Panel to determine which videos to “recommend”!)

YouTube’s policy shift is the latest symptom of a larger movement by Western elites to—as Obama’s Information Czar Cass Sunstein put it—“disable the purveyors of conspiracy theories.” Sunstein and co-author Adrian Vermeule’s 2008 paper “Conspiracy Theories,” critiqued by David Ray Griffin in 2010 and developed into a 2016 book, represents a panicked reaction to the success of the 9/11 truth movement. (By 2006, 36% of Americans thought it likely that 9/11 was an inside job designed to launch wars in the Middle East, according to a Scripps poll.)

Sunstein and Vermuele begin their abstract:

Many millions of people hold (sic) conspiracy theories; they believe that powerful people have worked together in order to withhold the truth about some important practice or some terrible event. A recent example is the belief, widespread in some parts of the world, that the attacks of 9/11 were carried out not by Al Qaeda, but by Israel or the United States. Those who subscribe to conspiracy theories may create serious risks, including risks of violence, and the existence of such theories raises significant challenges for policy and law.

Sunstein argues that conspiracy theories (i.e. the 9/11 truth movement) are so dangerous that some day they may have to be banned by law. While awaiting that day, or perhaps in preparation for it, the government should “disable the purveyors of conspiracy theories” through various techniques including “cognitive infiltration” of 9/11 truth groups. Such “cognitive infiltration,” Sunstein writes, could have various aims including the promotion of “beneficial cognitive diversity” within the truth movement.

What sort of “cognitive diversity” would Cass Sunstein consider “beneficial”? Perhaps 9/11 truth groups that had been “cognitively infiltrated” by spooks posing as flat-earthers would harbor that sort of “beneficial” diversity? That would explain the plethora of expensive, high-production-values flat earth videos that have been blasted at the 9/11 truth community since 2008.

Why does Sunstein think “conspiracy theories” are so dangerous they need to be suppressed by government infiltrators, and perhaps eventually outlawed—which would necessitate revoking the First Amendment? Obviously conspiracism must present some extraordinary threat. So what might that threat be? Oddly, he never explains. Instead he briefly mentions, in vapidly nebulous terms, about “serious risks including the risk of violence.” But he presents no serious evidence that 9/11 truth causes violence. Nor does he explain what the other “serious risks” could possibly be.

Why did such highly accomplished academicians as Sunstein and Vermuele produce such an unhinged, incoherent, poorly-supported screed? How could Harvard and the University of Chicago publish such nonsense? Why would it be deemed worthy of development into a book? Why did the authors identify an alleged problem, present no evidence that it even is a problem, yet advocate outrageously illegal and unconstitutional government action to solve the non-problem?

The too-obvious answer, of course, is that they must realize that 9/11 was in fact a US-Israeli false flag operation. The 9/11 truth movement, in that case, would be a threat not because it is wrong, but because it is right. To the extent that Americans know or suspect the truth, the US government will undoubtedly find it harder to pursue various “national security” objectives. Ergo, 9/11 “conspiracy theories” are a threat to national security, and extreme measures are required to combat them. But since we can’t just burn the First Amendment overnight, we must instead take a gradual and covert “boil the frog” approach, featuring plenty of cointelpro-style infiltration and misdirection. “Cognitive infiltration” of internet platforms to stop the conspiracy contagion would also fit the bill.

It is quite possible, perhaps even likely, that Sunstein and Vermeule are indeed well-informed and Machievellian. But it is also conceivable that they are, at least when it comes to 9/11 and “conspiracy theories,” as muddle-headed as they appear. Their irrational panic could be an example of the bad thinking that emerges from groups that reflexively reject dissent. (Another, larger example of this kind of bad thinking comes to mind: America’s disastrous post-9/11 policies.)

The counterintuitive truth is that embracing and carefully listening to radical dissenters is in fact good policy, whether you are a government, a corporation, or any other kind of group. Ignoring or suppressing dissent produces muddled, superficial thinking and bad decisions. Surprisingly, this turns out to be the case even when the dissenters are wrong.

Scientific evidence for the value of dissent is beautifully summarized in Charlan Nemeth’s In Defense of Troublemakers: The Power of Dissent in Life and Business (Basic Books, 2018). Nemeth, a psychology professor at UC-Berkeley, summarizes decades of research on group dynamics showing that groups that feature passionate, radical dissent deliberate better, reach better conclusions, and take better actions than those that do not—even when the dissenter is wrong.

Nemeth begins with a case where dissent would likely have saved lives: the crash of United Airlines Flight 173 in December, 1978. As the plane neared its Portland destination, the possibility of a problem with the landing gear arose. The captain focused on trying to determine the condition of the landing gear as the plane circled the airport. Typical air crew group dynamics, in which the whole crew defers to the captain, led to a groupthink bubble in which nobody spoke up as the needle on the fuel gauge approached “E.” Had the crew included even one natural “troublemaker”—the kind of aviator who joins Pilots for 9/11 truth—there almost certainly would have been more divergent thinking. Someone would have spoken up about the fuel issue, and a tragic crash would have been averted.

Since 9/11, American decision-making elites have entered the same kind of bubble and engaged in the same kind of groupthink. For them, no serious dissent on such issues as what really happened on 9/11, and whether a “war on terror” makes sense, is permitted. The predictable result has been bad thinking and worse decisions. From the vantage point of Sunstein and Vermeule, deep inside the bubble, the potentially bubble-popping, consensus-shredding threat of 9/11 truth must appear radically destabilizing. To even consider the possibility that the 9/11 truthers are right might set off a stampede of critical reflection that would radically undermine the entire set of policies pursued for the past 17 years. This prospect may so terrify Sunstein and Vermeule that it paralyzes their ability to think. Talk about “crippled epistemology”!

Do Sunstein and Vermeule really think their program for suppressing “conspiracy theories” will be beneficial? Do YouTube’s decision-makers really believe that tweaking their algorithms to support the official story will protect us from bad information? If so, they are all doubly wrong. First, they are wrong in their unexamined assumption that 9/11 truth and “conspiracy theories” in general are “blatantly false.” No honest person with critical thinking skills who weighs the merits of the best work on both sides of the question can possibly avoid the realization that the 9/11 truth movement is right. The same is true regarding the serial assassinations of America’s best leaders during the 1960s. Many other “conspiracy theories,” perhaps the majority of the best-known ones, are also likely true, as readers of Ron Unz’s American Pravda series are discovering.

Second, and less obviously, those who would suppress conspiracy theories are wrong even in their belief that suppressing false conspiracy theories is good public policy. As Nemeth shows, social science is unambiguous in its finding that any group featuring at least one passionate, radical dissenter will deliberate better, reach sounder conclusions, and act more effectively than it would have without the dissenter. This holds even if the dissenter is wrong—even wildly wrong.

The overabundance of slick, hypnotic flat earth videos, if they are indeed weaponized cointelpro strikes against the truth movement, may be unfortunate. But the existence of the occasional flat earther may be more beneficial than harmful. The findings summarized by Nemeth suggest that a science study group with one flat earther among the students would probably learn geography and astronomy better than they would have without the madly passionate dissenter.

We could at least partially solve the real problem—bad groupthink—through promoting genuinely beneficial cognitive diversity. YouTube algorithms should indeed be tweaked to puncture the groupthink bubbles that emerge based on user preferences. Someone who watches lots of 9/11 truther videos should indeed be exposed to dissent, in the form of the best arguments on the other side of the issue—not that there are any very good ones, as I have discovered after spending 15 years searching for them!

But the same goes for those who watch videos that explicitly or implicitly accept the official story. Anyone who watches more than a few pro-official-story videos (and this would include almost all mainstream coverage of anything related to 9/11 and the “war on terror”) should get YouTube “suggestions” for such videos as September 11: The New Pearl Harbor, 9/11 Mysteries, and the work of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. Exposure to even those “truthers” who are more passionate than critical or well-informed would benefit people who believe the official story, according to Nemeth’s research, by stimulating them to deliberate more thoughtfully and to question facile assumptions.

The same goes for other issues and perspectives. Fox News viewers should get “suggestions” for good material, especially passionate dissent, from the left side of the political spectrum. MSNBC viewers should get “suggestions” for good material from the right. Both groups should get “suggestions” to look at genuinely independent, alternative media brimming with passionate dissidents—outlets like the Unz Review!

Unfortunately things are moving in the opposite direction. YouTube’s effort to make “conspiracy videos” invisible is being pushed by powerful lobbies, especially the Zionist lobby, which seems dedicated to singlehandedly destroying the Western tradition of freedom of expression.

Nemeth and colleagues’ findings that “conspiracy theories” and other forms of passionate dissent are not just beneficial, but in fact an invaluable resource, are apparently unknown to the anti-conspiracy-theory cottage industry that has metastasized in the bowels of the Western academy. The brand-new bible of the academic anti-conspiracy-theory industry is Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them (Oxford University Press, 2019).

Editor Joseph Uscinski’s introduction begins by listing alleged dangers of conspiracism: “In democracies, conspiracy theories can drive majorities to make horrible decisions backed by the use of legitimate force. Conspiracy beliefs can conversely encourage abstention. Those who believe the system is rigged will be less willing to take part in it. Conspiracy theories form the basis for some people’s medical decisions; this can be dangerous not only for them but for others as well. For a select few believers, conspiracy theories are instructions to use violence.”

Uscinski is certainly right that conspiracy theories can incite “horrible decisions” to use “legitimate force” and “violence.” Every major American foreign war since 1846 has been sold to the public by an official theory, backed by a frenetic media campaign, of a foreign conspiracy to attack the United States. And all of these Official Conspiracy Theories (OCTs)—including the theory that Mexico conspired to invade the United States in 1846, that Spain conspired to sink the USS Maine in 1898, that Germany conspired with Mexico to invade the United States in 1917, that Japan conspired unbeknownst to peace-seeking US leaders to attack Pearl Harbor in 1941, that North Vietnam conspired to attack the US Navy in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, and that 19 Arabs backed by Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and everybody else Israel doesn’t like conspired to attack the US in 2001—were false or deceptive.

Well over 100 million people have been killed in the violence unleashed by these and other Official Conspiracy Theories. Had the passionate dissenters been heeded, and the truths they told about who really conspires to create war-trigger public relations stunts been understood, none of those hundred-million-plus murders need have happened.

Though Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them generally pathologizes the conspiracy theories of dissidents while ignoring the vastly more harmful theories of official propagandists, its 31 essays include several that question that outlook. In “What We Mean When We Say ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Jesse Walker, books editor of Reason Magazine, exposes the bias that permeates the field, pointing out that many official conspiracy theories, including several about Osama Bin Laden and 9/11-anthrax, were at least as ludicrously false and delusional as anything believed by marginalized dissidents.

In “Media Marginalization of Racial Minorities: ‘Conspiracy Theorists’ in U.S. Ghettos and on the ‘Arab Street’” Martin Orr and Gina Husting go one step further: “The epithet ‘conspiracy theorist’ is used to tarnish those who challenge authority and power. Often, it is tinged with racial undertones: it is used to demean whole groups of people in the news and to silence, stigmatize, or belittle foreign and minority voices.” (p.82) Unfortunately, though Orr and Husting devote a whole section of their article to “Conspiracy Theories in the Muslim World” and defend Muslim conspiracists against the likes of Thomas Friedman, they never squarely face the fact that the reason roughly 80% of Muslims believe 9/11 was an inside job is because the preponderance of evidence supports that interpretation.

Another relatively sensible essay is M R.X. Dentith’s “Conspiracy Theories and Philosophy,” which ably deconstructs the most basic fallacy permeating the whole field of conspiracy theory research: the a priori assumption that a “conspiracy theory” must be false or at least dubious: “If certain scholars (i.e. the majority represented in this book! –KB) want to make a special case for conspiracy theories, then it is reasonable for the rest of us to ask whether we are playing fair with our terminology, or whether we have baked into our definitions the answers to our research programs.” (p.104). Unfortunately, a few pages later editor Joseph Uscinski sticks his fingers in his ears and plays deaf and dumb, claiming that “the establishment is right far more often than conspiracy theories, largely because their methods are reliable. When conspiracy theorists are right, it is by chance.” He adds that conspiracy theories will inevitably “occasionally lead to disaster” (whatever that means). (p.110).

I hope Uscinski finds the time to read Nemeth’s In Defense of Troublemakers and consider the evidence that passionate dissent is helpful, not harmful. And I hope he will look into the issues Ron Unz addresses in his American Pravda series.

Then again, if he does, he may find himself among those of us exiled from the academy and publishing in The Unz Review.

February 2, 2019 Posted by | Book Review, Civil Liberties, Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Film Review, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular, Video | | 2 Comments

Putin meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov and Defence Minister Shoigu on INF Treaty

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.
The Kremlin, Moscow | February 2, 2019

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, please provide an update on the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, and the disarmament dossier in general. What is going on in terms of limitation of offensive arms?

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: Mr President,

Regarding the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, as you know, it has been in force since 1988. It had an indefinite term. According to the information at our disposal, the United States has been violating the Treaty since 1999, when it started testing combat unmanned aerial vehicles that have the same characteristics as land-based cruise missiles banned by the Treaty.

The United States went on to use ballistic target missiles for testing their missile defence system, and in 2014 they began the deployment in their missile defence system positioning areas in Europe of Mk 41 vertical launching systems. These launchers are fully suitable as they are for Tomahawk intermediate-range attack missiles.

Vladimir Putin: And this is an outright violation of the Treaty.

Sergei Lavrov: This is an outright violation of the Treaty. Launchers of this kind have already been deployed in Romania, and preparations are underway to deploy them in Poland, as well as Japan.

Another matter of concern for us is that only recently, just a year ago, the United States in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review set the task of developing low-yield nuclear weapons, and it is probable that intermediate-range missiles will serve as a means of delivery for these weapons. It was also announced only recently that this provision of the US nuclear doctrine is beginning to materialise with missiles of this kind entering production.

In October 2018, the United States officially declared its intention to withdraw from the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles. We did everything we could to save the Treaty considering its importance in terms of sustaining strategic stability in Europe, as well as globally. The last attempt of this kind was undertaken on January 15, when the US finally agreed to our request for holding consultations in Geneva.

In coordination with the Defence Ministry, we proposed unprecedented transparency measures that went far beyond our obligations under the INF Treaty in order to persuade the US that Russia was not in violation of this essential instrument. However, the US torpedoed these proposals. Instead, the US presented yet another ultimatum. It is obvious that we cannot accept it since it contradicts the INF Treaty in both letter and spirit.

The US announced that it was suspending its participation in the INF Treaty, launched the official withdrawal from it, and said that it will no longer consider itself restricted by the INF Treaty. As far as we can see, this means that the US will make missiles in addition to engaging in research and development activities that have already been factored into the current budget.

There is no doubt that these developments make things worse overall in the sphere of nuclear disarmament and strategic stability. It all started with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, when the US decided to withdraw from it in 2002, as you know all too well. This was done despite numerous initiatives by the Russian Federation at the UN General Assembly to save the ABM Treaty. The UN General Assembly passed a number of resolutions supporting the ABM Treaty. However, this did not stop the United States from withdrawing from it.

As a partial replacement for the ABM Treaty, the US and Russia signed a joint declaration that same year, 2002, on new strategic relations with a promise to settle all issues related to the so-called third positioning area of the missile-defence system being deployed in Europe at the time. The declaration provided for holding consultations as a way to reach common ground. This did not happen due to the unwillingness of the United States to take up Russia’s concerns in earnest.

In 2007, we made another gesture of good will at your instructions by coming forward with an initiative that consisted of working together to resolve the problems related to US missile defence system’s third positioning area in Europe. Once again, the US backed out of this proposal.

However, at the Russia-NATO Summit in Lisbon in 2010, we once again called for Russia, the US and Europe to work together on a continental missile-defence system. This call was not heeded. Nevertheless, two years later, in 2012, at the NATO Summit in Chicago it was NATO that called for dialogue with Russia on missile defence. However, all this good will boiled down to the US insisting that we simply come to terms with their missile defence approach, despite all the obvious risks and threats to our security posed by this approach.

Let me remind you that in 2013 Russia once again called on the US Department of State to open consultations, and came forward with concrete proposals. There was no reply. And in 2014, the United States brought the dialogue on missile defence to a halt and declared the intention to deploy its positioning areas in Europe and Asia, while also strengthening other systems, including in Alaska and on the east coast.

With Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Talking about other essential international security and strategic stability instruments, the approach adopted by the United States to performing its commitments under the universal Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons has been a matter of concern for Russia. In fact, despite numerous reminders on our part, the United States commits serious violations of the Treaty in its actions within NATO. The Treaty commits nuclear powers to refrain from transferring the corresponding nuclear technologies.

Despite these provisions, NATO engages in so-called joint nuclear missions whereby the United States together with five NATO countries where US nuclear weapons are deployed conduct nuclear weapons drills with countries that are not part of the five nuclear-weapons states. This is a direct violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Another treaty that had a special role in removing the threat of nuclear war, or, to be more precise, whose preparation was a source of hope for addressing these threats, was the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty [CTBT]. The United States did not ratify it even though doing so was among Barack Obama’s campaign promises when he ran for president.

Right now, this instrument is completely off the radar, since the United States has lost all interest in any consultations on joining this Treaty. Being a party to the CTBT and acting in good faith, Russia holds special events at the UN General Assembly every year in order to promote the Treaty and mobilise public opinion in favour of its entry into force, which requires the United States to join it, among other things.

Apart from the INF Treaty, there is the Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty [START] that remains in force. It is also essential for preserving at least some measure of strategic stability and global parity. It is also under threat, since its effective functioning has come into question after the recent move by the United States to remove from accountability under the treaty 56 submarine based Trident launchers and 41 heavy bombers by declaring them converted into nun-nuclear.

This is possible under the treaty, but the other party has the right to make sure that once converted these weapons cannot be reconverted back into nuclear arsenals.

Vladimir Putin: An inspection has to be carried out.

Sergei Lavrov: Yes, an inspection. And there have to be technical means to persuade us that these systems cannot be reconverted and returned into the nuclear arsenal.

We have been holding talks since 2015 to make sure that the United States complies with its obligations on this matter. So far, there have been no results. The technical solutions we have been offered so far cannot persuade us that more than 1,200 warheads, which is an enormous amount, cannot be returned to the nuclear arsenal. Unfortunately, repeated proposals by Russia to launch talks on extending the Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty beyond 2021, when its first term is set to expire, have fallen on deaf ears in the United States. All we hear is that the decision on the New START has yet to be taken.

All in all, the situation is quite alarming. Let me reiterate that the decision taken by the United States on the INF Treaty is of course a matter of serious concern for the entire world, especially for Europe. Nevertheless, the Europeans followed in the footsteps of the United States with all NATO members speaking out in explicit support of the position adopted by the United States to refrain from any discussions on mutual concerns. All we hear are groundless ultimatums requiring us to take unilateral measures without any evidence to support unfounded accusations.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Mr Shoigu, what is the Defence Ministry’s view on the current situation? And what do you propose in this regard?

With Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu: Mr President, it is obvious to us, despite the murky language that we hear, that apart from openly conducting research and development on the production of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, there have been actual violations of the INF Treaty, and this has been going on for several years. To put it simply, the United States has started producing missiles of this kind.

In this connection, we have the following proposals regarding retaliatory measures.

First, we propose launching in the coming months research and development, as well as development and engineering with a view to creating land-based modifications of the sea-based Kalibr launching systems.

Second, we propose launching research and development, followed by development and engineering to create land-based launchers for hypersonic intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles.

We ask you to support these proposals.

Vladimir Putin: I agree. This is what we will do. Our response will be symmetrical. Our US partners announced that they are suspending their participation in the INF Treaty, and we are suspending it too. They said that they are engaged in research, development and design work, and we will do the same.

I agree with the Defence Ministry’s proposals to create a land-based version of the Kalibr launchers and work on a new project to develop a land-based hypersonic intermediate-range missile.

At the same time, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we must not and will not let ourselves be drawn into an expensive arms race. I wanted to ask you, would it be possible to finance these initiatives using the existing budget allocations to the Defence Ministry for 2019 and the following years?

Sergei Shoigu: Mr President, we closely studied this matter, and will propose adjustments to the 2019 budget in order to be able to carry out these initiatives within the limits set by the state armaments programme and the defence procurement orders for 2019 without going over budget.

Vladimir Putin: This should not entail any increases in the Defence Ministry’s budget.

Sergei Shoigu: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: Good.

In this connection, there is one more thing I wanted to ask you. Every six months we hold meetings in Sochi to discuss the implementation of the state defence order with the commanders of the Armed Forces and the defence sector representatives.

Starting this year, I propose modifying this format. I want to see how efforts to deploy our systems are progressing. This refers to the Kinzhal hypersonic air-launched ballistic missile, the Peresvet combat laser weapon, which has already been delivered to the army, and the Avangard system, which is now in serial production, having completed the test phase. I want to see how the production of the Sarmat missile is advancing alongside preparations for placing it on combat duty.

Several days ago, you reported to me on the completion of a key stage in testing the Poseidon multipurpose strategic unmanned underwater vehicle. We have to look at how these efforts are advancing.

We are aware of the plans by some countries to deploy weapons in outer space. I want to hear a report on how this threat can be neutralised.

There is another important topic I wanted to raise with both the Foreign Ministry and the Defence Ministry.

For many years, we have been calling on numerous occasions for holding meaningful disarmament talks on almost all aspects of this matter. In recent years, we have seen that our partners have not been supportive of our initiatives. On the contrary, they always find pretexts to further dismantle the existing international security architecture.

In this connection, I would like to highlight the following considerations, and I expect the Foreign Ministry and the Defence Ministry to use them as guidance. All our proposals in this area remain on the table just as before. We are open to negotiations. At the same time, I ask both ministries not to initiate talks on these matters in the future. I suggest that we wait until our partners are ready to engage in equal and meaningful dialogue on this subject that is essential for us, as well as for our partners and the entire world.

Another important consideration I would like to share with the senior officials of both ministries. We proceed from the premise that Russia will not deploy intermediate-range or shorter-range weapons, if we develop weapons of this kind, neither in Europe nor anywhere else until US weapons of this kind are deployed to the corresponding regions of the world.

I ask the Foreign Ministry and the Defence Ministry to closely monitor developments and promptly submit proposals on ways to respond.

February 2, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Russia Suspends INF Deal With US, Putin Directs Ministers Not to Start New Talks

RT | February 2, 2019

President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is halting its participation in the Cold War-era INF nuclear agreement after Washington’s decision to suspend it. Russia will develop missiles previously forbidden under its terms.

“Ours will be a mirror response. Our US partners say that they are ceasing their participation in the treaty, and we are doing the same,” the Russian president said in Moscow on Saturday in reference to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

“They say that they are doing research and testing [on new weapons] and we will do the same thing,” Putin said during a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

The Russian leader emphasized that while Moscow’s offers on modernizing the 1987 treaty and making it more transparent “are still on the table,” no more talks should be initiated with the Americans to try and save it.

“Let’s wait until our partners mature sufficiently to hold a level, meaningful conversation on this topic, which is extremely important for us, them, and the entire world,” Putin said.

In December, the Trump administration threatened to quit the agreement, which limits nuclear and conventional land-launched missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500km within 60 days, unless Russia stopped allegedly violating it with its 9M729 missile, which Washington claims exceeds the permitted range.

Moscow denied that it had broken the treaty, and offered additional mutual inspections during failed talks in Geneva last month. On February 1, Washington officially confirmed that the bilateral agreement signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan will be suspended for 180 days. Washington also signaled intentions to entirely withdraw from it afterwards.

‘US directly violated INF’

During the meeting in front on the cameras on Saturday, Lavrov insisted that Moscow “attempted to do everything we could to rescue the treaty.” This included “unprecedented steps going far beyond our obligations,” he said, accusing Washington of systematically undermining the INF Treaty at least since the late 1990s.

In particular, Washington started “testing drones that matched the characteristics” of ground-based cruise missiles banned in the treaty.

Later, the US “installed MK 41 launching systems for the defense shield in Europe that can be used to fire mid-range Tomahawk cruise missiles without any modification.”

“This is a direct a violation of the INF,” Putin interjected.

“Such launchers have already been completed in Romania, more are scheduled to be put into service in Poland and Japan,” Lavrov said.

Shoigu went further, saying that despite vague formulations the US has barely concealed that it is “not just conducting research on short and medium-range missiles.”

To put it simply, the US has already begun producing these rockets.

Putin said the collapse of the INF is not a one-off, but marks a deliberate policy by Washington that could imperil the landmark New START treaty, which expires in 2021.

“Over many years, we have repeatedly suggested staging new disarmament talks, on all types of weapons. Over the last few years, we have seen our initiatives not supported. On the contrary, pretexts are constantly sought to demolish the existing system of international security,” President Putin said.

February 2, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

Goodbye ‘Freedom and Democracy’ – Hello ‘Rules-based International Order’

By Paul Carline | OffGuardian | February 2, 2019

The banner and the clarion call of western countries, and their own asserted legitimation – especially when they are engaging in illegal wars and coups – used to be “freedom and democracy”: the precious gift they were generously and selflessly offering to a backward world – or one allegedly in the ‘chains’ of Socialism/Communism. There was “Radio Free Europe”, for example, pushing out western liberal propaganda, primarily against the countries of the former Soviet Union.

The Washington-based “Freedom House” organisation, which claims to be independent, has around 150 staff members in Washington and in ‘field offices’ around the world. Its President is Michael J. Abramowitz, who before joining Freedom House in 2017, was director of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Levine Institute for Holocaust Education. Before that, he was National Editor and then White House correspondent for the Washington Post. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former fellow at the German Marshall Fund and the Hoover Institution. He is also a board member of the National Security Archive. The Board of Trustees is chaired by Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush and co-author of the USA Patriot Act.

Since 1972, Freedom House, whose website sports a warm endorsement by none other than Francis Fukuyama, has produced an annual “Freedom in the World” global map (above), which divides the world into countries which are either “free”, “partly free”, or “not free”. The allegedly “free” countries are coloured green, the “partly free” ones a kind of muddy yellow, and the “not free” ones blue.

Its analysis of “freedom” covers “the electoral process, political pluralism and participation, the functioning of government, freedom of expression and belief, rights of association and organization, the rule of law, and personal autonomy and individual rights”. The word ‘democracy’ is not used in the ratings system, nor is it defined anywhere, but the 2018 analysis is headlined “Democracy in Crisis”.

According to Freedom House, in 2018 45% of the world (by country) or 39% (by population) was “free”, 30% (country) or 24% (population) was “partly free”, and 25%/37% “not free”. Countries are rated on a percentage points system. Sweden, which last year joined in the NATO ‘war games’ – despite not being a NATO member – is given a full 100 points, Canada 99, Uruguay 98, both Chile and the UK 94, France a completely undeserved 90, the USA 86 and Israel an unreal 79. By contrast, China scores 14, Iran 17, and Russia a mere 20, while Tibet and Syria are granted only 1 point each (no bias there). Almost incredibly, Ukraine scores 62 – allowing it to be rated as “partly free”! Very oddly, the FAQ section is available in only two languages – English and Ukrainian!

I suspect that the statement by Freedom House’s President, Michael J. Abramowitz, to the effect that: “A quarter-century ago, at the end of the Cold War, it appeared that totalitarianism had at last been vanquished and liberal democracy had won the great ideological battle of the 20th century”, must induce wry smiles – if not outright anger – in many Off-Guardian readers. Abramowitz predictably refers to “the rise of populist leaders who appeal to anti-immigrant sentiment and give short shrift to fundamental civil and political liberties” and describes “newcomer Emmanuel Macron” as a “centrist” who “handily” (interesting choice of words!) won the French presidency.

Depressingly predictable is his comment on China and Russia, which he labels “the world’s leading autocracies” and which he asserts “have seized the opportunity not only to step up internal repression but also to export their malign influence to other countries, which are increasingly copying their behaviour and adopting their disdain for democracy” (emphasis added; no mention of the massive ‘disdain for democracy’ in the USA, UK, and numerous members of the EU).

According to Abramowitz, “Democratic governments allow people to help set the rules to which all must adhere, and have a say in the direction of their lives and work!” If that were true, there would be lots of direct democracy in all those “free” countries. It’s true that there is some ‘direct democracy’, e.g. popular initiatives and referendums, in a few states of the USA and in a few European countries – with Switzerland far and away the best example, followed by Germany at the regional and local levels, thanks to the efforts over decades of its leading pro-democracy organisation “Mehr Demokratie”, which has been trying to have direct democratic rights established also at the national level, which would really allow the people to “help set the rules”. Germany’s “Basic Law” (it doesn’t have a proper constitution for reasons which I cannot go into here but which will be known to many) actually states: “All power derives from the people” (Article 20) and “State power is exercised by the people in elections and referendums” (emphasis added) – but successive governments have refused to enact the laws that would allow state-level referendums, presumably because they fear the “people power” that is the literal meaning of ‘democracy’.

Given subsequent developments, Kofi Annan’s 2001 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech now strikes a sour note:

“The obstacles to democracy have little to do with culture or religion, and much more to do with the desire of those in power to maintain their position at any cost. This is neither w new phenomenon nor one confined to any particular part of the world. People of all cultures value their freedom of choice and feel the need to have a say in the decisions affecting their lives”

In the 2002 UNDP World Development Report, Annan re-affirmed the true nature of democracy in these words:

“True democratization means more than elections. People’s dignity requires that they be free – and able – to participate in the formation and stewardship of the rules and institutions that govern them”.

According to Abramovitch’s definition, and that of Kofi Annan, there is zero genuine democracy in the U.K. (a purely representative system – especially one still using an outdated and wholly disreputable FPTP system, with rare referendums arranged by the government, which sets the question – is not a legitimate form of democracy).

We may also ask, in parenthesis as it were, who – if not the electorates – is “helping to set the rules”, for example in Europe specifically. As of July 2017, there were 11,327 registered lobby organisations in the EU, employing some 82,096 people – the equivalent of 50,326 full-time personnel – of which nearly 7,000 have access to the Parliament. In Germany there are around eight lobbyists – representing ‘outside’ interests – for every member of the national parliament – and the lobby registers are voluntary. Only seven countries (France, Ireland, Lithuania, Austria, Poland, Slovenia and the UK) have passed any laws on lobbying.

What is extremely interesting and telling is the general absence of references to ‘freedom and democracy’ by our so-called ‘leaders’. Those words have been replaced in the political lexicon by the now clearly favoured expression “the rules-based international order” – which doesn’t have quite the same ring, or the same connotations, as “freedom and democracy”.

One is forced to ask: whose order? whose rules? If Abramowitz is correct, and since we are privileged enough to live in a country which, if we are to believe its FH rating, is little short of perfect, we the people must have been involved in setting those rules. We should at least have been told what they mean! For example, what does ‘international’ mean in this context? It suggests a global compact – but when it is used it specifically excludes certain countries and regimes which we are led to believe are not part of, or indeed are allegedly trying to undermine, this new ‘order’.

Although the word ‘international’ is often taken to be a synonym for ‘global’ or ‘universal’, its literal meaning is ‘between nations’. The UN has of course long promulgated and endorsed all kinds of ‘universal’ rules (the ICC rules on aggression for instance) – many of which are routinely flouted by the countries which most loudly lay claim to being ‘democracies’ and loyal observers of the “rules-based international order”.

But we are now seeing a new type of literally ‘inter-national’ agreements being made in Europe, often merely between two governments at a time (with no democratic endorsement by either parliaments or people) and where the suspicion is that this is a new way of hiding from the general public what is really going on in Europe – specifically the step-by-step implementation of the “United States of Europe” project which dates from at least 1946.

There seems to be an undue haste to complete the creation of a unified military establishment that would not be answerable to the individual nation states which are contributing their forces (and infrastructure!) and which would also appear to include a much closer working relationship between military and police forces. Does the urgency have to do with the level of chaos in Europe and the threat – now materialised in the form of the “Yellow Vest” protests – of widespread civil unrest and potentially public revolt?

So Prime Minister Theresa May can pretend to the public that the ‘Brexit’ approved by a majority of voters will take place i.e. that Britain will “come out of” the EU, while at the same time, and largely in secret or behind closed doors in completely undemocratic meetings, the government is committing the entire UK military establishment, step by step, to the new ‘unified European defence establishment’. The UK enters into a special relationship with France (and thereby with the EU). France and Germany have just signed a new treaty – the Aachen Treaty – so does the UK automatically acquire the special relationship with Germany? And will this “two-step” approach eventually link all willing states (one could imagine Hungary, perhaps Italy and Greece also, not being so willing) in the ‘new European order’?

In struggling to understand the “rules-based international order” I found this definition by the RAND Corporation very helpful:

Since 1945, the United States has pursued its global interests through creating and maintaining international economic institutions, bilateral and regional security organizations, and liberal political norms; these ordering mechanisms are often collectively referred to as the international order.

In recent years, rising powers have begun to challenge aspects of this order. This report is part of a project, titled “Building a Sustainable International Order,” that aims to understand the existing international order, assess current challenges to the order, and recommend future US policies with respect to the order.

This report is the first of those and reflects the project team’s attempt to understand the existing international order, including how US decision makers have described and used the order in conducting foreign policy, as well as how academics have assessed the mechanisms by which the order affects state behaviour.

When discussing policy responses to a fraying international order, the first challenge is to understand what we mean by the term. Order has various meanings in the context of international politics, and specific orders can take many forms.1 For the purposes of this project, we conceive of order as the body of rules, norms, and institutions that govern relations among the key players in the international environment. An order is a stable, structured pattern of relationships among states that involves some combination of parts, including emergent norms, rulemaking institutions, and international political organizations or regimes, among others.

– RAND Corporation 2016, Understanding the Current International Order

This more recent observation was both insightful and amusing:

“The rules-based international order is being challenged, quite surprisingly, not by the usual suspects, but by its main architect and guarantor, the US,” Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said as the summit meeting got underway in Quebec’s picturesque resort town of La Malbaie on the banks of the St. Lawrence River.

The trans-Atlantic rift manifested itself in a behind-the-scenes debate about the wording of the traditional summit communiqué. The American side objected to including the phrase “rules-based international order,” even though it is boilerplate for such statements, according to two people briefed on the deliberations. The Europeans and Canadians were pushing back, but it remained unclear whether the Trump administration would ultimately sign the statement or be left on its own.

– NYT June 8, 2018 Michael D. Shear

So the ‘rules-based international order’ is, in reality, the expression of America’s “global interests”. Other parties – such as British and other governments – may be allowed to put on the mask of the Eagle, whilst claiming to be on the side of justice, truth, human rights … and yes, democracy. And since it’s a US construct, the US and its allies can feel free to ‘make it up as they go along’.

February 2, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment