Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Getting Real With the US Foreign Policy Establishment Realists

By Michael Averko | Strategic Culture Foundation | August 21, 2019

On Russia-related matters, the more sane among us can perhaps be forgiven for becoming sedated by the kind of absurdities regularly spewed by some high profile individuals. The realist wing of the US foreign policy establishment has at times held back in rebuking this reality. We all have our biases, with the ideal to nevertheless be reasonably fair and balanced – a point which leads to a detailed critical overview of some trends among US foreign policy establishment realists.

The realist leaning National Interest, exhibits a different choice of words, relative to actions taken by the Russian and US governments. At that venue, George Beebe’s August 12 piece How Trump Can Avoid War With Russia,” states: “Reducing Russian cyber aggression will require agreeing on rules to govern US as well as Russian involvement in the affairs of other states. Punishing Moscow’s transgressions must be complemented by rewards for good behavior, or we will simply reinforce perverse incentives for Russia to defy American policies, deepen security cooperation with China, and subvert NATO and the EU.”

In comparison, Beebe is tame in his prose dealing with post-Soviet US actions (in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and Syria), which within reason can be considered as unnecessarily aggressive and deserving of condemnation. The aforementioned “Russian cyber aggression“, is something continuously brought up with a lack of conclusive evidence. Beebe’s use of “punishing” versus “rewards” towards Russia is along the lines of treating a child.

Dmitri Simes’ August 8 National Interest article Delusions About Russia,” begins with “Russia is a dangerous adversary.” Neocons and neolibs will find little, if any disagreement with his opening comment. In conjunction with that thought, the second sentence in Simes’ piece is somewhat contradictory in saying “But treating it as an outright enemy could result in a self-fulfilling prophecy, triggering mortal threats to its neighbors which otherwise might not be in the cards.”

Enemy (whether outright or otherwise) is a synonym of adversary. In the post-Soviet era, Russia and America haven’t fought each other. With that in mind, the use of enemy and adversary is in line with tabloid sensationalist inaccuracies, as opposed to a realist seeking a more balanced overview. (The National Interest has had its tabloid moments, like Michael Peck’s April 3, 2016 article How Poland Saved the World From Russia,” which I took some pleasure in answering.)

Putting aside the attempt to accommodate neolib and neocon biases, here’s an alternative to Simes’ opening salvo: “Russia could be a dangerous adversary. This can unnecessarily occur by incessantly disregarding legitimate Russian concerns.” Thereafter, a litany of fact based examples can be provided.

Categorizing Russia as a “formidable geopolitical rival” to America (and vice versa) arguably serves as a better characterization than “dangerous adversary”. In line with a pragmatic approach, this suggestion is in sync with the foreign policy realist, who second guesses the extent to which these two countries should be at odds with each other.

From a non-establishment realist perspective seeking improved US-Russian ties, the rest of Simes’ piece is for the most part agreeable. Not too long ago, the US based mass media journalist Natasha Bertrand (who the Johnson’s Russia List promoted blogger “Yalensis” has called a “whore”) suggested in so many words that Simes might be, or is, a Kremlin flack. It’s that kind of mass media portrayal which might compel Simes to express himself in the beginning of his article at issue. (Bertrand has ties to MSNBC, Politico and The Atlantic.)

Regardless of whether that’s the case, there’s a basis for the US foreign policy establishment to broaden itself with other sources. BTW, Simes has been at the forefront in having the likes of the Atlantic Council’s John Herbst and former Obama administration official Charles Kupchan, appear on Russian national television, where he co-hosts a show on Channel 1. Comparatively speaking, the major US TV news networks don’t (in overall terms) do a better job in getting diverse views on issues concerning US-Russian relations.

This very point leads to the matter of projection. A US mass media elite saying that Russian media is restricted comes to mind. Projecting some negative US behavior to Russia relates to the suspect claim that the Russian government is looking to promote racial division in the US. That demonic image of the Kremlin was spun by NBC’s Richard Engel this past May. A couple of months later on NBC, US Democratic Party presidential candidate Kamala Harris, flippantly presented this claim as fact, minus any conclusive proof.

Upon further review, Engel’s “proof” includes a subtle acknowledgement of lacking conclusive evidence – an underhanded way of covering his butt if the claim gets completely demolished. Russia is by no means a monolithic country. As is true with many, if not most other nations, individual Russians can pursue agendas on their own, without the approval of the Russian government. The US comedian Dave Chappelle aptly noted that Russia isn’t responsible for bigoted instances in the US. In Russia, the US and elsewhere, there’ve been features on intolerance in the US, with some of that coverage being inaccurate.

Regarding a foreign government seeking to sow ethnic discord in another country, consider the comments of the US State Department’s George Kent at a one-sided Capitol Hill discussion on Crimea, hosted this past March by the Atlantic Council, US Institute of Peace and Ukrainian Embassy. At about the 45 minute mark of this taped event, Kent pointedly said that “Crimea is Ukrainian” in the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar languages – never minding the majority ethnic Russian population in Crimea and the fact that Russian is the most preferred language there. In addition, Kent made no mention that the majority of Crimea’s ethnic Ukrainian population support Crimea’s reunification with Russia.

Kent’s suggestive advocacy to pit non-Russians in Crimea opposed to Russia/Russians was propagandistically presented by Nick Schifrin in an Al Jazeera segment around the time of Crimea’s reunification with Russia in 2014 – something I had previously noted. Upon being reunited with Russia, Crimea has been spared the level of nationalist violence that has existed in some other parts of the former Ukrainian SSR. Within Crimea, there’s no noticeable call to leave Russia and rejoin Ukraine.

Over the years, Doug Bandow has expressed views which generally put him in the realist wing of the US foreign policy establishment. His comments on Crimea further highlight some of the limits within US foreign policy establishment realist circles. Bandow’s August 30, 2018 National Interest article and August 1, 2019 American Conservative piece, advocates an internationally supervised referendum in Crimea.

It’s crystal clear that a well over 2/3 majority in Crimea support their area being reunited with Russia. It’s a high point of hypocrisy to dwell on Crimea having another referendum, while not advocating a referendum for Kosovo. Such an inconsistency jives with the anti-Russian biases regularly presented in US mass media without much of a rebuttal.

On the subject of Russia and Ukraine, I’m reminded of a September 5, 2014 PBS NewsHour segment, where noted foreign policy realist John Mearsheimer said: “The Russians have made it very clear that they’re not going to tolerate a situation where Ukraine forms an alliance with NATO, the principle reason that Russia is now in Ukraine and trying to wreck Ukraine.

And let’s be clear here. Why Russia is trying to wreck Ukraine, is because Russia doesn’t want Ukraine to become part of the West. It doesn’t want it to be integrated into NATO or the EU. And if we follow the prescriptions that Bill and I know Mike favors as well, what we are going to end up doing is further antagonizing Putin. He is going to play more hardball. And the end result is that Ukraine is going to be wrecked as a country, and we’re going to have terrible relations between Russia and the West, which is not in Russia’s interest and not in our interest.”

At a University of Chicago event, Mearsheimer also singles out Russia as seeking to “wreck” Ukraine. He doesn’t use that word to characterize Western actions. Hence, his usage comes across as disproportionate and puzzling. (Offhand, I don’t recall Mearsheimer using a word like “wreck” to describe US actions in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya.) When compared to Russia, Mearsheimer has said that he finds more fault with the Western stances taken on Ukraine.

All of the following highlighted points have been agreeably acknowledged by Mearsheimer:

– A good deal of Ukraine’s problems pertain to some internal dynamics in Ukraine, which don’t specifically involve Russia or the West.

– The leading Western governments took a casual approach to the overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych, shortly after he signed an internationally brokered power sharing arrangement with his main opponents.

– Following Yanukovych’s overthrow, there were a series of increased anti-Russian acts in Ukraine.

– Russia (prior to Yanukovych being overthrown) was if anything more open than the leading Western nations to a jointly negotiated Russian-Ukrainian and Western agreement on how Ukraine’s economy should develop.

– Forget about Russia for a moment. Like it or not, there’re pro-Russian elements in Ukraine who’ve opposed some key aspects of the Euromaidan. The overwhelming majority of the Donbass situated rebels are from the territory of the former Ukrainian SSR. For its part, the Russian government can’t be seen as being too oblivious to the concerns of Russian speaking pro-Russians just outside Russia’s border.

I’ll add that it’s ultimately not in Russia’s interest to have on its border, a relatively large country like Ukraine, with considerable socioeconomic problems. Such a scenario can lead to a negative spillover effect. On the other hand, there’re anti-Russian elements who (whether they admit to it) seek to make propaganda points out of increased tensions with Russia. A good number of these folks reside safely beyond Russia and Ukraine.

August 21, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

NPR Mocks Cancer Survivor in Drumbeat of Syria Propaganda

Asma al-Assad, First Lady of Syria (from released Syrian Presidency Facebook page)
By Rick Sterling | Dissident Voice | August 20, 2019

It may be a new low in propaganda. National Public Radio (NPR) used the news that Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad had overcome breast cancer to mock her and continue the information war against Syria. They interviewed a Human Rights Watch staffer named Lama Fakih who is an American from Michigan now based in Beirut.

Do you believe Ms. Fakih in Beirut or do you believe people who live in Syria who say we are being lied to? Lilly Martin is such a person. Although she is American from Fresno California, Lilly has lived in Syria for nearly 25 years. She is married to a Syrian and has two Syrian sons. Dr. Nabil Antaki is another such person. He is a medical doctor in Aleppo, fluent in English and French as well as his native Arabic.

While NPR snorts about Asma al-Assad “sporting a chic blonde pixie cut”, Lilly Martin points out that she was recently bald while fighting for her life.

While Ms. Fakir in Beirut says that there is “quite a lot of anger” because Asma al-Assad has conquered cancer, Dr. Antaki says that Syrians are happy at the news. Asma al-Assad is First Lady, mother to three children, and known for her compassion. Lilly Martin says that even while she battled cancer Mrs. al-Assad continued her charitable work.

While Ms. Fakih says that the “Assad government has been systematically targeting medical facilities and medical personnel”, Dr. Antaki, who has remained in Aleppo throughought the conflict, says this is not true. While there are many western accusations that the Syrian government attacks hospitals, the evidence is remarkably thin. One of the most highly publicized cases was regarding “Al Quds Hospital” in east Aleppo. In April 2016 there was a media blitz about this hospital having been destroyed by the Syrian Army. Following  the departure of the “rebels”, it was discovered that “Al Quds Hospital” was an unmarked portion of an apartment building, that it had NOT been bombed and was the LEAST damaged building in the area. It was determined that the nearby Nusra (Al Qaeda) headquarters and ammunition depot was the Syrian army target. Accusations that “Al Quds Hospital” was bombed were false. It was a media stunt.

Ms. Fakih says that “Syrians have not been able to benefit from medical care in Syria since the beginning of the uprising in 2012”. Lilly Martin simply says “This is factually untrue. The Syrian system of national hospitals, free services to the public, are in every area of Syria and have run continuously throughout the war.” Dr. Antaki is an example; he is one of THOUSANDS of doctors working at HUNDREDS of hospitals throughout Syria. But you would never know it from NPR or Ms. Fakih.

It is true that there have been disruption and damage to many hospitals, as demonstrated in this jihadi assault on Al Kindi Hospital. These are the “rebels” supported by Ms. Fakih and Human Rights Watch. They effectively supported them in east Aleppo until they were expelled from the city. Now Ms. Fakih and HRW are supporting the “rebels” in their last redoubt in Idlib. There are countless videos demonstrating the cruelty and fanaticism of the “rebels”. For example, the aftermath of the above assault on Kindi Hospital and the execution of the Syrian soldiers who defended the hospital. Those who are cheerleading for the “rebels” and trying to prevent the Syrians reclaiming Idlib should look at the execution video to see what they are supporting.

The West has provided weapons and other support to the “rebels”. In parallel, there has been a campaign to whitewash the “rebels” and demonize the Syrian government. On top of this, the USA has imposed crushing sanctions on Syria which make it difficult or impossible to get critical medicines and replacement parts for western medical equipment. Dr. Antaki says it took him 1.5 years to obtain a replacement part for a Japanese medical instrument. I had my own experience with the draconian and inhumane sanctions. It took one year and endless hassle to send hearing aid batteries to help a deaf child in Syria.

This is one among hundreds of Syria “regime change” propaganda pieces broadcast on NPR. Behind a facade of authority and objectivity, there is bias and misinformation along with crocodile tears. As Lilly Martin says, “While the Syrian government medical system has tried to meet all the needs of Syrian civilians during 8 years of armed conflict, still there are numerous cases where the needs were not met and Syrians have suffered, and that blame must be shouldered by every person who held a gun against Syria and their foreign supporters who have succeeded in bringing the Syrian people into the depths of destruction and despair.”

As to Asma al-Assad and her integrity, it is best to listen and judge for yourself. At about 5:30 of the interview she speaks of the families of 100 thousand Syrian martyrs who died defending their country. “On a personal level, I am humbled by their determination, by their resilience, and by their love of Syria. They are my biggest source of strength and hope for the future.”

The sneers, misinformation, unverified accusations and de facto defense of Nusra/Al Qaeda by NPR and Lama Fakih stand in stark contrast.

Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist who grew up in Canada but currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. He can be reached at rsterling1@gmail.com.

August 20, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 3 Comments

Sarin in Syria: chemistry, and cui bono?

By Philip Roddis – steel city scribblings – August 17, 2019

The exchange below took place a few days ago, below the line of an OffGuardian piece on the corruption of the UN’s Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as shown in its handling of last year’s Douma incident.

Louis Proyect is one of many on the marxist left I think dead wrong on Syria – see my post from last year on Workers’ Power. He professes bafflement that marxists could defend evil Assad.

Me, I’m baffled that any marxist could buy, on such negligible evidential basis, the demonising of a third world leader who stands in the way of imperialist powers with multiple motives (oil pipeline, privatisation, Golan theft, hurting Iran and Russia) for crushing Ba’athism – and with a record as long as your arm of lying at every turn as to the why of it.

I’m even more baffled that anyone could take seriously a man who describes Vanessa Beeley – one of the most high profile reporters to challenge official NewSpeak on Assad – as “too ugly to fuck”.

Classy.

Moving on, Proyect claims – I’ve heard the Guardian’s George Monbiot do the same – that sarin is hard to manufacture; certainly beyond the capacity of Islamist groups working to bring down Assad. Since neither Proyect not Monbiot are experts, I’ll turn to those who are.

Let none accuse me of cherry picking. This piece, from Wired two years ago, is vehemently of the view that Assad does have sarin, and does use it.

[Sarin] is not especially hard to produce, in terms of both resources and expertise. “A competent chemist could make it, and possibly very quickly, in a matter of days,” says John Gilbert, a senior science fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, who spent much of his Air Force career assessing countries’ WMD capabilities. Producing sarin doesn’t require any kind of massive facility; a roughly 200 square foot room would do.

Author Brian Barrett, eager to make the case that Damascus could have rebuilt sarin stockpiles after the OPCW oversaw their destruction in 2014, inadvertently blows Proyect’s and Monbiot’s argument clean out of the water!

We should also note the Tokyo subway attack of March 20, 1995. Perps? Aum Shinrikyo, a bunch of doomsday wingnuts originating as a yoga and meditation group devoted to a mishmash of deities with Hinduism’s Shiva – the destroyer – in overall charge and channelling through head wacko Shoko Asahara. Says wiki:

Tsuchiya [a member] had established a small laboratory in Kamikuishiki in 1992. After initial research (at Tsukuba University, where he had studied chemistry) he suggested to Hideo Murai – a senior Aum advisor who had tasked him with researching chemical weapons, out of fear the cult would soon be attacked with them – that the most cost-effective substance to synthesise would be sarin.

He was ordered to produce a small amount – within a month, the necessary equipment had been ordered and installed, and 10-20g of sarin produced via synthetic procedures derived from the five-step DHMP process as originally described by IG Farben in 1938, and as used by the Allies after World War II.

Murai then ordered Tsuchiya to produce 70 tons. When Tsuchiya protested that this was not feasible in a research laboratory, a chemical plant was ordered to be built alongside the biological production facility in the Fujigamine district of Kamikuishiki, to be labelled Satyan-7 (‘Truth’). The equipment and substantial chemicals were purchased using shell companies under Hasegawa Chemical, already owned by Aum. At the same time, in 1993, cult members travelled to Australia, bringing generators, tools, protective equipment (including gas masks and respirators), and chemicals to make sarin.

Are we seriously to suppose that ‘moderate Islamists’ operating in Syria with barely hidden aid from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and – not least through the likes of White Helmets – the West are less resourceful than this bunch of millennial crazies?

It amazes me, perhaps because I still deem them deluded but sincere, that so many fail to see that on Syria, and much besides, we are being lied to on a monumental scale and will continue to be lied to until we wake up and demand the truth.

Scribbler for some sixty years, and for fifteen a photographer too, Philip Roddis began blogging in the early noughties by inflicting film reviews on an unsuspecting public. Soon he was doing the same with illustrated writings on wanderings in Asia and Africa. He writes “to help me think, and because I like to be read”, and finds photography’s problem solving aspects “a break from those of writing, as well as an aid to writing and to reflective travel”.

August 18, 2019 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , | 1 Comment

Guardian Attacks Epstein “Conspiracy Theories”

The mainstream narrative is shaping up – a story of suicide, neglect and tragic victims

By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | August 14, 2019

In two different opinion pieces The Guardian has made its position on the alleged death of Jeffrey Epstein clear – he “probably” committed suicide.

The first, titled Epstein conspiracy theories are farfetched – but can you blame people?, takes the position that although “conspiracy theories” about Epstein’s apparent suicide are “understandable”, there’s no evidence to support them.

Rather, the author endorses the slowly coalescing official narrative. Namely that of complete, systemic incompetence:

The official explanation for Epstein’s death comes down to rank incompetence. And it’s probably true.

A short-sighted attitude to take, which totally ignores a cardinal rule when dealing with state agencies: They will only admit to incompetence if the truth is worse.

The author also attempts to undermine the “conspiracy theories” by pointing out that Epstein was a potential threat to important figures on both sides of the political divide:

Online, conspiracy theories now abound. Observers suggest Epstein was killed by one of the men who may have been implicated in his crimes – maybe Bill Clinton, according to the fringe right, or maybe Donald Trump, according to the fringe left.

An argument rather akin to saying “he can’t possibly have been murdered, because there were too many people who wanted him dead. There are SO MANY plausible suspects, that the only reasonable explanation is that…none of them did it.”

(Also, note the word “fringe”, a manipulative use of language designed to discredit an idea without engaging with it rationally)

However, this article – although laced through with traditional mainstream rhetoric about “conspiracy theories” – at least leaves them room to exist. The Guardian’s other Epstein piece is rather less understanding:

Epstein’s death is a victory for misogyny: it denies accusers the justice they deserve

Blares the headline (further evidence that very few people at the Guardian seem to know what “misogyny” really means), before continuing by taking aim at conspiracy theories several times in the text.

Firstly, in an almost word-for-word quote from the previous column:

Commentators on the right speculated that he had been murdered by powerful liberals; those on the left speculated that he had been murdered by powerful conservatives. These theories were not responses to evidence, of which there is little

And then later claiming conspiracy theories not only “factually wrong” (something no one can know at this stage)…

The speculations may well be factually wrong – criminal justice experts have pointed out that inmate suicides are common, and that those detained in federal jails often face startling neglect

… but also attempting to Mrs Lovejoy the public by claiming “conspiracy theories” are actually harmful:

the positing of these conspiracy theories is unhelpful, distracting from the important injustice that has been done to Epstein’s victims.

Declaring seeking the truth to be somehow unfair to the victims is a classic trope, deployed most famously against 9/11 Truthers, but common after many such incidents.

There’s also this sentence…

The conspiracy theorists also risk undermining efforts to bring Epstein’s co-conspirators to account: their suggestions that the financier was killed to cover up the rapes and assaults of powerful men who would rather he be shut up could lend suspicion to anyone pointing out the breadth of his alleged pedophilia ring, giving those who want continued investigations of men such as Dershowitz, Pritzker and Dubin the aura of a maniac in a tinfoil hat.

Which, I’ll be honest, I simply don’t understand.

I think she’s arguing that “conspiracy theorists” talking about “conspiracy theories” might discredit the very real possibility there was an actual conspiracy.

If that’s what she means – because I honestly do not understand the words – well, that’s obviously just crazy. You can’t argue we shouldn’t talk about conspiracy theories, just in case there’s a conspiracy fact.

That’s the attitude of a person so brainwashed by the idea that “conspiracy theorist = crazy person” that they can no longer think in a straight line. Total cognitive dissonance.

The articles are different in tone, but they are united in purpose, and they each hit the same three key points:

  1. Epstein “probably” killed himself. After all, inmates commit suicide all the time.
  2. Conspiracy theories might look reasonable, but they are factually incorrect and morally harmful.
  3. The real tragedy here is the poor victims who will go unavenged. We should all focus on that, not investigating the potential murder.

All this serves to demonstrate – for about the millionth time – the entire purpose of outrage culture and identity politics. Fear of being offensive used to control a conversation and dictate narrative: Don’t talk about Epstein being murdered, don’t even think about it. If you do, you’re a misogynist.

Kit Knightly is co-editor of OffGuardian. The Guardian banned him from commenting. Twice. He used to write for fun, but now he’s forced to out of a near-permanent sense of outrage.

August 14, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | 2 Comments

Russian Blast Points to Danger of New Nuclear Arms Race

By Jeremy Kuzmarov | CounterPunch | August 14, 2019

On Thursday August 8th, an explosion at the Nenoksa Missile test site in northern Russia during testing of a new type of nuclear propelled cruise missile resulted in the death of at least seven people, including scientists and was followed by a spike in radiation in the atmosphere.

Analysts in Washington and Europe are of the belief that the explosion may offer a glimpse of technological weaknesses in Russia’s new arms program.

The deeper concern, however, should be of the perilous consequences of the new Cold War and arms race that is developing between the United States and Russia.

In February, the Trump administration pulled out of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), an arms control treaty considered to be among the most successful in history by former U.S. ambassador to Russia John Huntsman, which banned land-based ballistic missilescruise missiles, and missile launchers with ranges of 500–1500 kilometers.

The United States accused Russia of violating the treaty, though did not wait for this accusation to be verified by international inspectors.

Russia previously accused the United States of violating the treaty through its adoption of drone warfare, and by stationing missile launchers in Deveselu Romania.

This summer, the Trump administration has given indications that it will not ratify the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which is set to expire in 2021.

Signed by the Obama administration as part of its “reset policy” with Russia in 2010, the New START treaty limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 and number of deployed and non-deployed inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments to 800.

On Friday, August 9, The New York Times ran an op-ed piece by columnist Brett Stephens entitled “The U.S. Needs More Nukes,” which mimicked the position of Trump’s National Security Council advisor John Bolton, a serial arms control killer.

Stephens wrote that “the problem with arms control treaties is that the bad guys cheat, the good guys don’t, and the world often finds out too late.” And now Russia, he says, is cheating again, although Stephens does not present any evidence in his article that would confirm this.

According to Stephens, U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan set the standard for effective government policy by responding to the Soviet Union’s deployment of the SS-20, a medium-range nuclear missile that threatened military installations in Western Europe in the late 1970s by deploying hundreds of intermediate-range Pershing II and cruise missiles to Europe.

Stephens in turn believes that the Trump administration and its successor should respond to Russian and Chinese provocations today through similar arms buildups and deployments.

Besides painting a Manichean view of the world as divided between good and evil, one of the major problems with Stephens’ article is that he fails to provide adequate historical context to validate his main argument.

In the case of Cold War I, the Soviet Union only embarked on a large scale arms buildup after the United States had developed a massive nuclear stockpile of 22,229 warheads (or 10,948 megatons of TNT) by the early 1960s, which dwarfed that of the Soviet Union who felt they had to catch up.

Stephens similarly presents Russia and China as bad actors menacing the United States today, when the United States has at least 15 times more overseas military bases, and spends more on the military than Russia and China combined along with at least six other major countries.

A new mobilization is now urgently needed in favor of arms control which can be modeled on the nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s.

General Lee Butler, commander of U.S. nuclear forces in the 1990s, issued a mea culpa upon his retirement in which he rebuked the “grotesquely destructive war plans” and “terror induced anesthesia which suspended rational thought, made nuclear war thinkable and grossly excessive arsenals possible during the Cold War.” Butler added that “mankind escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of diplomatic skill, blind luck and divine intervention, probably the latter in greater proportion.”

Whether the same luck will prevail in the 2nd Cold War is not worth leaving to chance.

Jeremy Kuzmarov is the author of The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce (Monthly Review Press, 2018). 

August 14, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

The Curious Case of the Missing Professor Mifsud

By Johanna Ross | August 13, 2019

In The Times newspaper on July 30th, appeared a short and succinct article, easily missed were it not for its intriguing headline: ‘Missing academic Joseph Mifsud at heart of Mueller investigation’. The academic in question, one may or may not have heard of, depending on the extent to which one is reliant on mainstream media for keeping abreast of the news. But anyone attempting to keep up with the complex and murky world of the Mueller investigation, may be familiar with the name of this mysterious and elusive figure.

For it is none other than Professor Mifsud, affiliated with both the Universities of Stirling and East Anglia in the UK, that was identified by the FBI as being the source of the information that Russia had ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton. And intriguingly, the same Professor Mifsud who disappeared in October 2017 and has been missing ever since.

It was in April 2016 that Mifsud, who was qualified in education but somehow managed to find his way into the world of international diplomacy (becoming director of the London Academy of Diplomacy in 2012), reportedly met George Papadopoulos, foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, where he is said to have told him that the Russian government had ‘dirt on Hillary Clinton’. This information was then allegedly passed by Papadopoulos to the Australian High Commissioner in London, before being repeated to US authorities; that effectively Papdopoulos had known about the DNC hack prior to it being carried out. In short, Mifsud was the key to the whole ‘Russiagate’ scandal.

At the beginning of the Mueller investigation, Mifsud was widely portrayed as a Russian spy in the Western media. He is described in the Mueller report as having ‘connections to Russia’ and ‘having maintained Russian contacts’ as if that was somehow conclusive proof he was working for the Russians. Former FBI director James Comey also wrote in an opinion column in the Washington Post in May this year where he stated bluntly that Mifsud was a ‘Russian agent’. However as the Mueller investigation has trundled on and been exposed for being nothing more than a performance along the lines of Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’, the argument being put forward by the Republicans that Mifsud is a Western intelligence operative is looking more plausible.

When Rep. Jim Jordan (R, Ohio) questioned Robert Mueller why it was that Mifsud was reported to have lied three times to the FBI but was never indicted, Mueller replied simply that “I can’t get into internal deliberations with regard to who or who would not be charged.” Jordan responded in disbelief: ‘The guy who launches everything, the guy who puts this whole story in motion, you can’t charge him.  I think that’s amazing.” Jordan then asked Mueller if Mifsud was Western or Russian intelligence, to which Mueller replied “Can’t get into that.” As Devin Nunes, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee said during his opening remarks, Mifsud “is widely portrayed as a Russian agent, but seems to have far more connections with Western governments, including our own FBI and our own State Department, than with Russia.”

Meanwhile, all interviews carried out with Mifsud before his disappearance deny the claim that he discussed Russian government ‘dirt on Hillary Clinton’ with George Paradopoulos. According to Robert Mueller’s report, in an interview with the FBI in February 2017, Mifsud “denied that he had advance knowledge that Russia was in possession of emails damaging to candidate Clinton, stating that he and Papadopoulos had discussed cybersecurity and hacking as a larger issue and that Papadopoulos must have misunderstood their conversation.”

Whether Papadopoulos misunderstood or not, we will probably never know. But the idea of Misfud being an agent for the West is gaining traction with Republicans. Why is it that when so many people were indicted for providing false statements, but not Mifsud? If Mifsud was indeed a Russian agent, and had numerous contacts within western governments, why is it that they don’t seem in the least concerned by the fact they could have been compromised by him? And as Lee Smith has pointed out, writing for RealClearInvestigations, Mifsud has closer ties to western governments and institutions than to Russia, including the CIA, FBI and British secret service. Indeed, during his time in London and Rome he was reportedly involved in training diplomats, police officers and intelligence operatives.

Perhaps the main thing we can take away from this chapter in the fiction that is Russiagate, is the fact that these questions are not being posed by journalists. Hardly anyone in the western mainstream media seems prepared to question the narrative presented by the Democratic lobby that Mifsud was a Russian spy, complicit in a Putin-sponsored attempt to influence the US election. As Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at  George Washington University has written: “The most credible point about Mifsud is that his relative anonymity in news coverage reflects a broader problem that there is a consistent effort to preserve a narrative that the Russians interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump.”

And yet without any Russian actors featuring in this tale, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Democrats to keep pushing this narrative of Russian involvement. Mifsud has been vital so far, and his disappearance only emphasises further how important a protagonist he is in the Russiagate hoax. If he were to go on record as saying he worked for the FBI not the Russians, it would bury the collusion theory forever. So let’s not expect him to surface any time soon…

August 13, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | 2 Comments

Seth Rich’s Ghost Haunts the Courts

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | August 12, 2019

As if it weren’t enough of a downer for Russiagate true believers that no Trump-Russia collusion was found, federal judges are now demanding proof that Russia hacked into the DNC in the first place.

It is shaping up to be a significant challenge to the main premise of the shaky syllogism that ends with “Russia did it.”

If you’re new to this website, grab onto something, as the following may come as something of a shock. Not only has there never been any credible evidence to support the claim of Russian cyber interference, there has always been a simple alternative explanation that involves no “hacking” at all — by Russia or anyone else.

As most Consortium News habitués are aware, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (which includes two former NSA technical directors), working with independent forensic investigators, concluded two years ago that what “everyone knows to be Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee” actually involved an insider with physical access to DNC computers copying the emails onto an external storage device — such as a thumb drive. In other words, it was a leak, not a hack.

VIPS based its conclusion on the principles of physics applied to metadata and other empirical information susceptible of forensic analysis.

But if a leak, not a hack, who was the DNC insider-leaker? In the absence of hard evidence, VIPS refuses “best-guess”-type “assessments” — the kind favored by the “handpicked analysts” who drafted the evidence-impoverished, so-called Intelligence Community Assessment of Jan. 6, 2017.

Conspiracy Theorists

Simply letting the name “Seth Rich” pass your lips can condemn you to the leper colony built by the Washington Establishment for “conspiracy theorists,” (the term regularly applied to someone determined to seek tangible evidence, and who is open to alternatives to “Russia-did-it.”)

Rich was a young DNC employee who was murdered on a street in Washington, DC, on July 10, 2016. Many, including me, suspect that Rich played some role in the leaking of DNC emails to WikiLeaks. There is considerable circumstantial evidence that this may have been the case. Those who voice such suspicions, however, are, ipso facto, branded “conspiracy theorists.”

That epithet has a sordid history in the annals of U.S. intelligence. Legendary CIA Director Alan Dulles used the “brand-them-conspiracy-theorists” ploy following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy when many objected — understandably — to letting him pretty much run the Warren Commission, even though the CIA was suspected of having played a role in the murder. The “conspiracy theorist” tactic worked like a charm then, and now. Well, up until just now.

Rich Hovers Above the Courts

U.S. Courts apply far tougher standards to evidence than do the intelligence community and the pundits who loll around lazily, feeding from the intelligence PR trough. This (hardly surprising) reality was underscored when a Dallas financial adviser named Ed Butowsky sued National Public Radio and others for defaming him about the role he played in controversial stories relating to Rich. On August 7, NPR suffered a setback, when U.S. District Court Judge Amos Mazzant affirmed a lower court decision to allow Butowsky’s defamation lawsuit to proceed.

Judge Mazzant ruled that NPR had stated as “verifiable statements of fact” information that could not be verified, and that the plaintiff had been, in effect, accused of being engaged in wrongdoing without persuasive sourcing language.

Imagine! — “persuasive sourcing” required to separate fact from opinion and axes to grind! An interesting precedent to apply to the ins and outs of Russiagate. In the courts, at least, this is now beginning to happen. And NPR and others in similarly vulnerable positions are scurrying around for allies.?? The day after Judge Mazzant’s decision, NPR enlisted help from discredited Yahoo! News pundit Michael Isikoff (author, with David Corn, of the fiction-posing-as-fact novel Russian Roulette). NPR gave Isikoff 37 minutes on its popular Fresh Air program to spin his yarn about how the Seth Rich story got started. You guessed it; the Russians started it. No, we are not making this up.

It is far from clear that Isikoff can be much help to NPR in the libel case against it. Isikoff’s own writings on Russiagate are notably lacking in “verifiable statements of fact” — information that cannot be verified. Watch, for example, his recent interview with Consortium News Editor Joe Lauria on CN Live!

Isikoff admitted to Lauria that he never saw the classified Russian intelligence document reportedly indicating that three days after Rich’s murder the Russian SVR foreign intelligence service planted a story about Rich having been the leaker and was killed for it. This Russian intelligence “bulletin,” as Isikoff called it, was supposedly placed on a bizarre website that Isikoff admitted was an unlikely place for Russia to spread disinformation. He acknowledged that he only took the word of the former prosecutor in the Rich case about the existence of this classified Russian document.

In any case, The Washington Post, had already debunked Isikoff’s claim (which later in his article he switched to being only “purported”) by pointing out that Americans had already tweeted the theory of Rich’s murder days before the alleged Russian intervention.

Persuasive Sourcing’ & Discovery??

Butowsky’s libel lawsuit can now proceed to discovery, which will include demands for documents and depositions that are likely to shed light on whatever role Rich may have played in leaking to WikiLeaks. If the government obstructs or tries to slow-roll the case, we shall have to wait and see, for example, if the court will acquiesce to the familiar government objection that information regarding Rich’s murder must be withheld as a state secret? Hmmm. What would that tell us?

During discovery in a separate court case, the government was unable to produce a final forensic report on the “hacking” of the Democratic National Committee. The DNC-hired cyber firm, CrowdStrike, failed to complete such a report, and that was apparently okay with then FBI Director James Comey, who did not require one.

The incomplete, redacted, draft, second-hand “forensics” that Comey settled for from CrowdStrike does not qualify as credible evidence — much less “persuasive sourcing” to support the claim that the Russians “hacked” into the DNC. Moreover, CrowdStrike has a dubious reputation for professionalism and a well known anti-Russia bias.

The thorny question of “persuasive sourcing,” came up even more starkly on July 1, when federal Judge Dabney Friedrich ordered Robert Mueller to stop pretending he had proof that the Russian government was behind the Internet Research Agency’s supposed attempt to interfere via social media in the 2016 election. Middle school-level arithmetic can prove the case that the IRA’s use of social media to support Trump is ludicrous on its face.

Russia-gate Rubble

As journalist Patrick Lawrence put it recently: “Three years after the narrative we call Russiagate was framed and incessantly promoted, it crumbles into rubble as we speak.” Falling syllogism! Step nimbly to one side.

The “conspiracy theorist” epithet is not likely to much longer block attention to the role, if any, played by Rich — the more so since some players who say they were directly involved with Rich are coming forward.

In a long interview with Lauria a few months ago in New Zealand aired this month on CN Live!, Kim Dotcom provided a wealth of detail, based on what he described as first-hand knowledge, regarding how Democratic National Committee documents were leaked to WikiLeaks in 2016.

The major takeaway: the evidence presented by Dotcom about Seth Rich can be verified or disproven if President Trump summons the courage to order the director of NSA to dig out the relevant data, including the conversations Dotcom says he had with Rich and Rich may have had with WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange. Dotcom said he put Rich in touch with a middleman to transfer the DNC files to WikiLeaks. Sadly, Trump has flinched more than once rather than confront the Deep State — and this time there are a bunch of very well connected, senior Deep State practitioners who could face prosecution.

Another sign that Rich’s story is likely to draw new focus is the virulent character assassination indulged in by former investigative journalist James Risen.

Not Risen to the Challenge

On August 5, in an interview on The Hill’s “Rising,” Risen chose to call former NSA Technical Director Bill Binney — you guessed it — a “conspiracy theorist” on Russia-gate, with no demurral, much less pushback, from the hosts.

The having-done-good-work-in-the-past-and-now-not-so-much Risen can be considered a paradigm for what has happened to so many Kool-Aid drinking journalists. Jim’s transition from investigative journalist to stenographer is, nonetheless unsettling. Contributing causes? It appears that the traditional sources within the intelligence agencies, whom Risen was able to cultivate discreetly in the past, are too fearful now to even talk to him, lest they get caught by one or two of the myriad surveillance systems in play.

Those at the top of the relevant agencies, however, are only too happy to provide grist. Journalists have to make a living, after all. Topic A, of course, is Russian “interference” in the 2016 election. And, of course, “There can be little doubt” the Russians did it.

“Big Jim” Risen, as he is known, jumped on the bandwagon as soon as he joined The Intercept, with a fulsome article on February 17, 2018 titled Is Donald Trump a Traitor?” Here’s an excerpt:

“The evidence that Russia intervened in the election to help Trump win is already compelling, and it grows stronger by the day.

“There can be little doubt now that Russian intelligence officials were behind an effort to hack the DNC’s computers and steal emails and other information from aides to Hillary Clinton as a means of damaging her presidential campaign. … Russian intelligence also used fake social media accounts and other tools to create a global echo chamber both for stories about the emails and for anti-Clinton lies dressed up to look like news.

“To their disgrace, editors and reporters at American news organizations greatly enhanced the Russian echo chamber, eagerly writing stories about Clinton and the Democratic Party based on the emails, while showing almost no interest during the presidential campaign in exactly how those emails came to be disclosed and distributed.” (sic)

Poor Jim. He shows himself just as susceptible as virtually all of his fellow corporate journalists to the epidemic-scale HWHW virus (Hillary Would Have Won) that set in during Nov. 2016 and for which the truth seems to be no cure. From his perch at The Intercept, Risen will continue to try to shape the issues. Russiagaters major ally, of course, is the corporate media which has most Americans pretty much under their thumb.

Incidentally, neither The New York Times, The Washington Post, nor The Wall Street Journal has printed or posted a word about Judge Mazzant’s ruling on the Butowsky suit.

Mark Twain is said to have warned, “How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and [how] hard it is to undo that work again!” After three years of “Russia-Russia-Russia” in the corporate — and even in some “progressive” — media, this conditioning will not be easy to reverse.

Here’s how one astute observer with a sense of humor described the situation last week, in a comment under one of my recent pieces on Consortium News :

“… One can write the most thought-out and well documented academic-like essays, articles and reports and the true believers in Russiagate will dismiss it all with a mere flick of their wrist. The mockery and scorn directed towards those of us who knew the score from day one won’t relent. They could die and go to heaven and ask god what really happened during the 2016 election. God would reply to them in no uncertain terms that Putin and the Russians had absolutely nothing to do with anything in ‘16, and they’d all throw up their hands and say, ‘aha! So, God’s in on this too!’ It’s the great lie that won’t die.”

I’m not so sure. It is likely to be a while though before this is over.


Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. Ray was a CIA analyst for 27 years; in retirement he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

August 13, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , | Leave a comment

Greenland’s ‘Record Temperature’ denied – the data was wrong

Greenland’s all-time record temperature wasn’t a record at all, and it never got above freezing there.

By Anthony Watts | Watts Up With That? | August 12, 2019

First, the wailing from news media:

NYT : https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/02/climate/european-heatwave-climate-change.html

WAPO : https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2016/06/10/greenland-witnessed-its-highest-june-temperature-ever-recorded-on-thursday/

Climate Progress : https://thinkprogress.org/greenland-hits-record-75-f-sets-melt-record-as-globe-aims-at-hottest-year-e34e534e533e/

Polar Portal : http://polarportal.dk/en/news/news/record-high-temperature-for-june-in-greenland/


Now from the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), via the news website The Local, the cooler reality:

Danish climate body wrongly reported Greenland heat record

The Danish Meteorological Institute, which has a key role in monitoring Greenland’s climate, last week reported a shocking August temperature of between 2.7C and 4.7C at the Summit weather station, which is located 3,202m above sea level at the the centre of the Greenland ice sheet, generating a spate of global headlines.

But on Wednesday it posted a tweet saying that a closer look had shown that monitoring equipment had been giving erroneous results.

“Was there record-level warmth on the inland ice on Friday?” it said. “No! A quality check has confirmed our suspicion that the measurement was too high.”

By combining measurements with observations from other weather stations, the DMI has now estimated that the temperature was closer to -2C.

The record temperature ever recorded at Summit is 2.2C, which was reached in both 2012 and 2017. But -2C is still unusual at the station.

Shoot out the headlines first, ask questions later.

August 12, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | 1 Comment

Sneering at “Conspiracy Theories” is a Lazy Substitute for Seeking the Truth

By Thomas L. Knapp – Garrison Center – August 12, 2019

On the morning of August 10, a wealthy sex crimes defendant  was reportedly found dead in his cell at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center.

“New York City’s chief medical examiner,” the New York Times reported on August 11, “is confident Jeffrey Epstein died by hanging himself in the jail cell where he was being held without bail on sex-trafficking charges, but is awaiting more information before releasing her determination …”

That same day, the Times published an op-ed by Charlie Warzel complaining that “[e]ven on an internet bursting at the seams with conspiracy theories and hyperpartisanship, Saturday marked a new chapter in our post-truth, ‘choose your own reality’ crisis story.”

After three years of continuously beating the drum for its own  now-discredited conspiracy theory —  that the President of the United States conspired with Vladimir Putin’s regime to rig the 2016 presidential election — the Times doesn’t have much standing to whine about, or sneer at, “conspiracy theories and hyperpartisanship.”

Is Jeffrey Epstein really dead? If so, did he kill himself or was he murdered? If he was murdered, whodunit and why?

Those are legitimate questions. Calling everyone who asks them, or proposes possible answers to them, a “conspiracy theorist” isn’t an argument, it’s intellectual laziness.

Yes, some theories fit the available evidence better than others. And yes, some theories just sound crazy. If someone says a UFO beamed Epstein up, or that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump posed as corrections officers and personally strangled him, I suggest setting those claims aside absent very strong evidence.

But there are plenty of good  reasons to question the “official account.”

Yes, prisoners have committed suicide at federal jails and prisons. But prisoners have also escaped from, and been killed at, such facilities. In fact, notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger was murdered in a federal prison just last year.

Given Epstein’s wealth and power, the wealth and power of persons accused of serious crimes in recently unsealed court documents, the claim of one of his prosecutors that Epstein “belonged to” the US intelligence community, the well-established inability of the federal government to secure its facilities or prevent criminal activity inside those facilities (including the corruption of its own personnel), the equally well-established unreliability of claims made by government agencies and officials in general, and the already flowing stream of admissions that the Metropolitan Correctional Center’s procedures weren’t followed where Jeffrey Epstein was concerned, the question is not why “conspiracy theories” are circulating — it’s why on earth they WOULDN’T be.

No, I’m not saying that Epstein is alive and living it up in “witness protection,” or that he was murdered by a hit team on behalf of one of his “Lolita Express” cronies. I just don’t know. Neither, probably, do you. Nor do those screaming “conspiracy theory!” at every musing contrary to the suicide theory.

Maybe we’ll find out the truth someday. Maybe we won’t. Pretending we already have, and shouting down those who suggest we haven’t, isn’t a method of seeking knowledge. It’s a method of avoiding knowledge.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).

August 12, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

Moscow Mitch, Secret Russian Subs… and Russophobia Derangement

By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture Foundation | August 11, 2019

Arch Republican Senator Mitch McConnell is being taunted by major US media outlets and at political rallies as a “Russian asset”. Meanwhile, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reports on “super-secret” Russian submarines which are “operating unseen” in British territorial waters.

The collapse in rational thinking among American and British political mainstream circles is highlighted by the rampant Russophobia. Such thinking is delusional, paranoid and ultimately horrifying at a time of heightened international tensions between nuclear superpowers.

First, let’s deal with the farcical furore over Senator McConnell being labelled a Russian asset. The Senate majority leader has been dubbed by US news channel MSNBC and the Washington Post as “Moscow Mitch” and “doing Putin’s bidding”. The monikers followed McConnell’s blocking of legislation aimed at tightening security of electoral systems ostensibly to prevent “foreign meddling”.

It’s not clear why McConnell objected to the proposed legislation. It seems he doesn’t agree with extra federal controls over state-level electoral systems. Also, he claims that hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent upgrading electoral systems, and therefore additional expenditure is not warranted. He is a fiscal hawk after all.

Nonetheless, it is a preposterous leave of senses when paranoid Russophobia in US politics and media are inferring that McConnell’s opposition to the proposed electoral legislation is “evidence” that he is a Russian agent, by allegedly enabling Russian hacking into US elections.

At a recent political event in his home state of Kentucky, McConnell was heckled and booed by Democrat supporters chanting “Moscow Mitch, Moscow Mitch!” The protesters were wearing T-shirts and brandishing placards with images of McConnell donning a Cossack hat with Soviet-era hammer and sickles.

Understandably, the 77-year-old senator has been aghast over the political attacks. He called it “modern-day McCarthyism” harking back to the Cold War years of Red Baiting. He even said it was worse than the past McCarthyism. And he has a point there.

McConnell’s exasperation is borne out of the complete irrational vacuousness of the accusations. The six-time elected lawmaker is the longest-serving Republican senator. He is a grandee of the traditionally rightwing party, with an “impeccable” record of being hawkish towards Russia and President Vladimir Putin.

How anyone can construe that good ole boy McConnell is a Russian stooge is too absurd for words. What the accusations do betray is the total derangement and politically illiterate condition of mainstream American political and media culture.

As Princeton Professor Stephen Cohen remarked in a recent interview Russophobia and paranoia over alleged interference in US politics has become a permanent mindset among too many American politicians, pundits, military-intelligence agencies and Democrat supporters. Cohen rightly deplores how the whole baseless narrative of “Russia-gate” continues with a life of its own, having not been finally made redundant after the two-year Mueller probe spectacularly failed to provide any substantive details or evidence.

Still, however, former FBI chief Robert Mueller in recent hearings before Congress was permitted to reiterate hollow accusations that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential elections and, he asserted, Moscow will do so again in the 2020 elections. This is simply doctrinal thinking which is, in turn, accepted as “fact” that Russia’s President Putin ordered an “interference campaign” to subvert American democracy. (Moscow has always vehemently rejected that.)

That’s why when someone as antipathetic towards Russia as Senate leader Mitch McConnell exercises relative sanity by rejecting the alleged need for more electoral security systems to “prevent foreign meddling” he is then assailed with hysterical accusations of being a “Russian asset”. The utter irrationality is self-reinforcing because of unhinged delusions about Russian malignancy. No evidence is required. It’s “true” because “we believe it is true”.

McConnell has hit back at his detractors by calling them “leftwing hacks” and “communists”. He made that conclusion by referring to the Democrats’ policy of seeking to expand free healthcare for American citizens. He proudly called himself the “Grim Reaper” who would protect America from a “socialist agenda”.

This inane back and forth demonstrates how dumbed down American political culture is. Increasingly bitter partisan accusations and slander are flying around based on no facts, no evidence, no reason, nor any intelligent understanding about policy, history or political philosophy.

But, lamentably, at bottom the crazed political discourse relies on an embedded Russophobia. Russia is viewed as evil and malicious, by both sides of the political coin. Rather than addressing inherent problems in American society, the discourse finds a common false explanation – blame it on Russia or association with presumed communism. The Cold War nihilism of American politics and propaganda has never stopped. It’s just become more delusional and divorced from any semblance of reality. In this context, the modern-day Russophobia is perhaps more dangerous because of its irrationality and evidence-free doctrinal thinking.

Which brings us to the “super-secret” Russian submarines that are stalking Britain, according to the Daily Telegraph. The so-called report (more accurately, psy-ops piece) is a must-read for exposing the delusional anti-Russia paranoia that the British political class have in common with the Americans.

“A new breed of super quiet Russian submarines are feared [sic] to be operating unseen [sic] in British territorial waters, according to military sources [sic],” the Telegraph claimed.

The sources were, as usual, anonymous, betraying that the Telegraph was being used, as it often is, as a conduit for British intelligence propaganda.

Not one scrap of evidence was presented to substantiate these “fears” of “unseen” Russian submarines. Supposedly, the “unseen” vessels are “proof” of how dastardly and stealthy those damn Russians are. The point of the article was to deliver a public message for more military spending on Britain’s Royal Navy.

What makes it possible for the Daily Telegraph to publish such bogeyman rubbish is the systematic inculcation of Russophobia among many, but not all, Britons.

As with its American counterpart, British political culture has become degenerate and depraved. It is the equivalent of medieval sorcery and “magical thinking”. Standards of proof, reason and due process have been abandoned. It’s like a regression to pre-Enlightenment times. The fact that the US and Britain possess nuclear arsenals aimed at Russia makes the deranged thinking of their political class a truly frightening prospect for the entire world.

August 11, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | 1 Comment

Why Would the Democrats Want to be “Tough” on Trade, as Opposed to Smart on Trade?

By Dean Baker | Beat the Press | August 11, 2019

The New York Times has created an absurd dilemma for Democrats, “how to be tougher on trade than Trump.” This framing of the trade issue is utterly bizarre and bears no resemblance to reality.

While Trump has often framed the trade issue as China, Mexico, and other trading partners gaining at the expense of the United States because of “stupid” trade negotiators, this has little to do with trade policy over the last three decades. The United States negotiated trade deals to benefit U.S. corporations. The point of deals like NAFTA was to facilitate outsourcing, so U.S. corporations could take advantage of lower cost labor in Mexico.

The same was true with admitting China to the W.T.O.. This both allowed U.S. corporations to move operations to China and also made it possible for retailers like Walmart to set up low-cost supply chains to undercut their competitors. The job loss and trade deficits that resulted from these deals were not accidental outcomes, they were the point of these deals.

U.S. negotiators have also made longer and stronger patent and related protections (which are 180 degrees at odds with “free trade”) central components of recent trade deals. While these provisions mean larger profits for drug companies and the software and entertainment industries, they do not help ordinary workers. In fact, by forcing our trading partners to pay more money for the products from these sectors, they leave them with less money for other exports.

Anyhow, given the reality of our trade policy over the last three decades it is hard to know what being “tough on trade” means. In the Trumpian universe (and apparently at the NYT ) this could make sense, but not in the real world. The question is whether our trade policy is designed to help ordinary workers or to increase corporate profits, “tough” is beside the point.

August 11, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

8chan: The Latest Fearporn Drive

Guardian in Hysterics Over Threat of Homeless, Anonymous Shitposters

By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | August 9, 2019

The Problem

8chan may have been shut down, but that doesn’t mean we’re safe.

You see, all the people that used 8chan before it was shut down are still out there. They might be on Twitter. They might be on Facebook. They might be ordering coffee at a Starbucks. They might be plotting some sort of far-right apocalypse. They might just be talking about movies on reddit. There’s no way of knowing.

We should all be terribly worried.

At least, according to The Guardian, who headline today:

8chan: ex-users of far-right site flock to new homes across internet

First off, of course, 8chan was not a “far-right site”, it was a site with some “far-right” people on it.

There are hundreds of boards on 8chan, with thousands upon thousands of different posters. Boards could be created by anyone to discuss anything.

The vast majority were dedicated to perfectly ordinary topics. Video games, fashion, cars, movies. There were many much more specific, fetishy, niche and weird… but not “far-right”. The site didn’t have an ideology except “free speech”.

The general shifting of “free speech” from something we all take for granted to being described as a “far-right agenda” is one of the most worrying trends in modern politics.

The article is actually funny, not least for the total lack of web literacy on display:

Former members of 8chan have scattered across the internet after the far-right site was shut down over the weekend

This is simply ridiculous to anyone who knows anything about the nature of 8chan et al. There are no “members”. That, indeed, is the whole entire point of the place. It is anonymous and temporary. No usernames, no registration, no “membership”.

The press has a long history of simply not being able to grasp the way the internet works (as in the famous “Who is this 4chan?” CNN interview or Fox’s “internet hate machine” piece), but this is such basic ignorance of the topic at hand that I almost can’t believe it’s genuine.

Indeed, it might not be. It might be that portraying “8chan” as some sort of organized community plays into the media’s need to generate fear. This generates, “the problem”, which sets us up for…

The Reaction

Having established that 8chan’s “far-right” “members” are out there in the ether, being terrifying, the article needs to get some feedback on what that means.

To do this they go to two “consultants”:

  • Joan Donovan, who runs the Technology and Social Change (TaSC) Research Project
  • Ben Decker the CEO of “Memetic Consultancy” (sic. It’s actually “Memetica”).

They are portrayed as two essentially different voices, as if we’re getting a spectrum of opinion. But the most cursory check on Donovan and Decker shows they are both research fellows at the Shorenstein Institute of the Kennedy School of Government. They aren’t separate. At all.

(NOTE: In fact, Memetica, Shorenstein, and other NGOs currently talking up the need for internet censorship are a ripe subject for a full-on exposé, and will be in the near future)

Not at all surprisingly, being research fellows for the same institute at the same university, Decker and Donovan absolutely agree on pretty much everything.

Primarily, that shutting down 8chan was a really good idea, but won’t – on its own – solve the “far-right” problem.

Apparently, all the people that posted on 8chan will NOT flee the internet forever, but will now just go and post somewhere else. Why anyone would need two Harvard-trained academics to tell them this, I don’t know.

Where will they go?

Well, other scary places of course. Like the “far-right forum” Gab, or back to 4chan or reddit. Some of them will be “absorbed” by the social media giants (meaning they will post on Twitter and Facebook), and some will post in discussions on encrypted message services like Telegram and Discord.

For some reason, Gab is a real bugbear for centrists, being regularly attacked simply for existing. Its one claim to infamy is that the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter apparently had a Gab account…this, apparently, makes it a far-right social network.

Niche and independent networks are always attacked by-association in this way. The Dayton shooter and “MAGABomber” both had twitter accounts, and the Christ Church attack was live-streamed on Facebook…but they are not shut down.

The Solution

Having established that shutting down 8chan was brilliant, but more is needed, our two NGO representatives set out what else needs to be done:

One way to prevent 8chan users from migrating to alternative social media spaces like YouTube and Facebook would be to build a moat around the platforms to prevent inbound links from these sites,”

This is total, complete nonsense. 8chan is gone, so “preventing inbound links” from it is now moot. Secondly, users don’t click from 8chan to YouTube, or Facebook or whatever. That’s not how the internet works. This would never control users crossposting, or prevent people having different accounts on different platforms or anything like that.

All this would do is prevent people from linking to sources. It stops the flow of information, not users. If Ben is really a “social media consultant”, he knows that. He’s just dishonestly suggesting censorship on totally spurious grounds.

There is an inherent value in deplatforming the site as a whole and making it harder to be accessed because the nature of these communities makes it difficult to inoculate the spread of this toxicity.”

Just “deplatform” websites “as a whole” if they are “toxic”. That’s the solution. Who decides what’s “toxic”?

Well, obviously the government does. Duh.

That’s just the start though. Whilst these Harvard academics give us the problem a reaction and just a hint of “solution”, elsewhere on the Guardian we are presented with a full, detailed (final?) solution.

Julia Ebner – another researcher for yet another creepy-sounding NGO the “Institute for Strategic Dialogue” – headlines:

How do we beat 8chan and other far-right sites? The same way we beat Isis

Essentially, as CJ Hopkins has written, this is just a rebranding of the War on Terror for a modern age. More like a remake, actually, to use Hollywood parlance. The same themes, the same characters. New dialogue. Different casting.

Bellingcat got in on this one too, hosting an article claiming:

Until law enforcement, and the media, treat these shooters as part of a terrorist movement no less organized, or deadly, than ISIS or Al Qaeda, the violence will continue.

(NOTE: The ISIS comparison is more than apt. Now would be a good time to remember just how phony and manipulated the ISIS narrative was. Catte did excellent work on this.)

Julia writes that what we need is:

a stronger international response to condemn political rhetoric that belittles, legitimises or even endorses the dangerous concepts and conspiracy theories of far-right extremists.

Translation – Governments cooperating to suppress free speech. “Conspiracy theories” can, and will, mean absolutely anything they want it to mean. The DNC fixing the primaries for Clinton, for example. Or the Skripals being poisoned by MI6. Press bias against Corbyn. Criticism of Israel, or even mentioning the “Labour Friends of Israel”. These can all be defined as “conspiracy theories”.

On top of this Julia wants:

an international definition of terrorism that is ideologically agnostic and includes not only traditional jihadi organisations but also loose far-right networks.

Translation – An international definition of terrorism that is loose enough to be deployed against anybody for anything.

“Terrorism” will become even more absurdly vague than it is now. These “loose far-right networks” will mean “anybody who posts on Gab”, or “anyone who thinks 9/11 was an inside job”. Joining certain Facebook groups, visiting certain websites (there was actually a meme about this one). Watching RT. She says “loose”, and she means it.

It will shock you how “loose” these networks are. You’re probably in one, right now, just for reading this article. Welcome to our “loose network of far-right extremists”.

Most importantly Julia thinks…

… governments will need to look beyond the big tech platforms and introduce legal frameworks that tackle the ongoing migration of extremists to the smaller alt-tech sites.

Translation – Banning certain opinions from the big platforms that cooperate with the state is not enough. We then need to move against the smaller, independent platforms that – unlike Google, Facebook and Twitter – refuse to toe the party line.

Censor Twitter, and shutdown any platform – like Gab or Parler – that attempts to fill the “free speech” market niche. The state machine will love that, because it gives it control of narrative and information flow, while the social media giants will love it because it essentially writes their monopoly into law. That’s a massive win-win.

In that sense it coincides perfectly with the famous Mussolini definition of fascism – “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power”

The establishment is signalling intent here – the way they always do when these opportunities are either presented to them, or created by them. Harness that fear, sense the opening, and drive the push through.

It’s all rather like that old joke – “Q: What do you call 1000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A: A good start.”

Q: What do you call one website shut down for allowing free speech?

A: Just the beginning.

Kit Knightly is co-editor of OffGuardian. The Guardian banned him from commenting. Twice. He used to write for fun, but now he’s forced to out of a near-permanent sense of outrage.

August 9, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | 1 Comment