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Jane Mayer, the New Yorker, and the Art of the Big Russia Lie

David Remnick’s New Yorker, where Masha Gessen is always welcome, is Exhibit A in the Jewish media’s relentless lying about and demonizing of Russia, Putin, and Russiagate.

By Philip Giraldi | Russia Insider | March 15, 2018

The latest salvo in the Russiagate saga is a 15,000 word New Yorker article entitled “Christopher Steele the man behind the Trump dossier: how the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia” by veteran journalist Jane Mayer. The premise of the piece is clear from the tediously long title, namely that the Steele dossier, which implicated Donald Trump and his associates in a number of high crimes and misdemeanors, is basically accurate in exposing an existential threat posed to our nation by Russia. How does it come to that conclusion? By citing sources that it does not identify whose credibility is alleged to be unimpeachable as well as by including testimony from Steele friends and supporters.

In other words, the Mayer piece is an elaboration of the same “trust me” narrative that has driven the hounding of Russia and Trump from day one. Inevitably, the Trump haters both from the left and the right have jumped on the Mayer piece as confirmation of their own presumptions regarding what has allegedly occurred, when, in reality, Trump might just be more right than wrong when he claims that he has been the victim of a conspiracy by the Establishment to discredit and remove him.

Mayer is a progressive and a long-time critic of Donald Trump. She has written a book denouncing “the Koch brothers’ deep influence on American politics” and co-authored another book with Jill Abramson, formerly Executive Editor of the New York TimesAbramson reportedly carries a small plastic replica of Barack Obama in her purse which she can take out “to take comfort” whenever she is confronted by Donald Trump’s America. Mayer’s New Yorker bio-blurb describes her as a journalist who covers national security, together with politics and culture.

The problem with the type of neo-journalism as practiced by Mayer is that it first comes to a conclusion and then selects the necessary “facts” to support that narrative. When the government does that sort of thing to support, one might suggest, a war against Iraq or even hypothetically speaking Iran, it is called cherry picking. After the facts have been cherry picked they are “stovepiped” up to the policy maker, avoiding along the way any analysts who might demur regarding the product’s veracity. In journalistic terms, the equivalent would perhaps be sending the garbage up directly to a friendly editor, avoiding any fact check.

Mayer tries to take the high road by asserting that the Republicans are “trying to take down the intelligence community.” It is an odd assertion coming from her as she has written a book called “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals,” a development which was pretty much implemented by the intelligence community working hand-in-hand with Congress and the White House. But she is not the first liberal who has now become a friend of CIA, the FBI and the NSA as a response to the greater threat allegedly posed by Donald Trump.A Steele friend describes the man as a virtual Second Coming of Jesus, for whom “fairness, integrity and truth… trump any ideology.” Former head of MI-6 and Steele boss Sir John Dearlove, who once reported how the intelligence on Iraq had been “sexed-up” and “fixed around the policy” to make the false case for war, describes Steele as “superb.” Other commentary from former American CIA officers is similar in nature. Former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin, who himself was involved in lying to support America’s journey into Iraq, similarly sees Steele as honest and credible in his claims, while a former CIA Station Chief in Moscow is called upon to cast aspersions on the “Russian character” that impels them to engage in lies and deception.

My review of the Mayer rebuttal of criticism of Steele revealed a number of instances where she comes to certain conclusions without presenting any real supporting evidence or accepts “proof” that is essentially hearsay because it supports her overall narrative. She asserts that Russia and WikiLeaks were working together on the release of the Democratic National Committee/Hillary Clinton emails without providing any substantiation whatsoever. She surely came to that judgement based on something she was told, but by whom and when?

Another major blooper in the Mayer story relates to how one unnamed “senior Russian official” reported that the Kremlin had blocked the appointment of Mitt Romney, a noted critic of Russia, as secretary of state. How exactly that was implemented is not clear from the Steele reporting and there has been no other independent confirmation of the allegation, but Mayer finds it credible, asserting that “subsequent events could be said to support it.” What events? one might ask, though the national media did not hesitate and instead reported Mayer’s assertion as if it were itself a credible source in a forty-eight hour news cycle frenzy relating to Romney and Trump.

Steele’s work history also raises some questions. He served in Moscow as a first tour officer for MI-6 under diplomatic cover from 1990 to 1993. Russia was in tumult and Mayer describes how “Boris Yeltsin gained ultimate power, and a moment of democratic promise faded as the KGB -now called the FSB-reasserted its influence, oligarchs snapped up state assets, and nationalist political forces began to emerge.” Not to go into too much detail, but Mayer’s description of Russia at that time is dead wrong. Yeltsin was a drunkard and a tool of American and European intervention and manipulation. He was no agent of “democratic promise” and only grew more corrupt as his time in office continued into the completely manipulated election of 1996, when the IMF and U.S. conspired to get him reelected so the looting, a.k.a. “democratization,” could go on. Mayer goes on to depict in negative terms a “shadowy” former “KGB operative” Vladimir Putin who emerged from the chaos.

Mayer also cites a Steele report of April 2016, a “secret investigation [that] involved a survey of Russian interference in the politics of four members of the European Union,” but she neither produces the report itself or the sources used to put it together. The report allegedly concluded that the “Kremlin’s long-term aim …was to boost extremist groups and politicians at the expense of Europe’s liberal democracies. The more immediate goal was to destroy the E.U…” The precis provided by Mayer is a bit of fantasy, it would seem, and is perhaps a reflection of an unhealthy obsession on the part of Steele, if he actually came to that conclusion. As it stands it is hearsay, possibly provided by Steele himself or a friend to Mayer to defend his reputation.Mayer also reports and calls potentially treasonous Steele’s claims that “Kremlin and Trump were politically colluding in the 2016 campaign…’to sow discord and disunity both with the U.S.’ and within the transatlantic alliance.” And also, “[Trump] and his top associates had repeatedly accepted intelligence from the Kremlin on Hillary Clinton and other political rivals.” As Robert Mueller apparently has not developed any information to support such wild claims, it would be interesting to know why Jane Mayer considers them to be credible.

Sweeping judgements by Mayer also include “[Steele’s] allegation that the Kremlin favored Trump in 2016 and was offering his campaign dirt on Hillary has been borne out. So has his claim that the Kremlin and WikiLeaks were working together…” As noted above, the WikiLeaks/Kremlin allegations have not been demonstrated, nor have the claims about Kremlin provision of information to discredit Hillary, who was doing a find job at the time discrediting herself.

The account of Donald Trump performing “perverted sexual acts” in a Moscow hotel is likewise a good example of what is wrong with the article. Four sources are cited as providing details of what took place, but it is conceded that none of them was actually a witness to it. It would be necessary to learn who the sources were beyond vague descriptions, what their actual access to the information was and what their motives were for coming forward might be. One was allegedly a “top-level Russian intelligence officer,” but the others were hotel employees and a Trump associate who had arranged for the travel.

Finally, from an ex-intelligence officer point of view I have some questions about Steele’s sources in Russia. Who are they? If they were MI-6 sources he would not be able to touch them once he left the service and would face severe sanctions under the Official Secrets Act should he even try to do so. There are in addition claims in the Mayer story that Steele did not pay his sources because it would encourage them to fabricate, an argument that could also be made about Steele who was being paid to produce dirt on Trump. So what was the quid pro quo? Intelligence agents work for money, particularly when dealing with a private security firm, and Steele’s claim, if he truly made it, that he has sources that gave him closely held, highly sensitive information in exchange for an occasional lunch in Mayfair rings hollow.

Jane Mayer’s account of the Steele dossier seems to accept quite a lot on faith. It would be interesting to know the extent to which Steele himself or his proxies were the source of much of what she has written. Until we know more about the actual Russian sources and also about Mayer’s own contacts interviewed for the article, her “man behind the Trump dossier” will continue to be something of a mystery and the entire Russiagate saga assumption that Moscow interfered in the 2016 U.S. election must be regarded as still to be demonstrated.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is http://www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

March 18, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia | , , , | 1 Comment

How to Steele an Election

Christopher Steele’s Other Job: He Ran an Info Op Against the United States

By Peter Van Buren | We Meant Well | February 18, 2108

Christopher Steele did far more than simply provide an opposition research dossier to the Democratic National Committee, his Job One. As a skilled intelligence officer, Steele ran a full-spectrum information operation against the United States, aided either willingly or unwittingly by the FBI. His second job was the more important one: get his information into the most effective hands to influence the United States in the most significant way.

To understand how effective Steele has been in his op, we need to understand he had two jobs. The first was to create the dossier. The second job was to disseminate the dossier. Steele had to get the information into the most effective hands to influence the United States in the most significant way.

Job One: Create the Dossier

Job One was to create the opposition research. “Oppo” is not a neutral gathering of facts, but a search for negative information that can be used against an opponent. The standards — vetting — vary with the intended use. Some info might be published with documents and verification. Some leads discovered might be planted in hopes a journalist will uncover more “on her own,” creating credibility. Some likely near-falsehoods might be handed out to sleazy media in hopes more legit media will cross report — the New York Times might not initially run a story about a sexual dalliance itself, but it will run a story saying “Buzzfeed reports a sexual dalliance involving…”

Oppo research follows no rules; this is not peer-reviewed stuff that has to pass an ethics board. One goes out with bags of money shouting “Anyone got dirt on our opponent? We’re paying, but only for dirt!” You look for people who didn’t like a deal, people with an axe to grind, the jilted ex-wife, not the happy current one. So to say oppo research might be biased is to miss the point.

You’re not required to look too far under a rock that hides something naughty — stop when you’ve got what you came for. It all depends how the information will be deployed. The less sure you are about the veracity of the information you acquire the more you need that info to be inherently palatable; it has to feel right to the intended audience. The old political joke is you need to find a live boy in bed, or a dead girl, to really smear an opponent with a sex scandal. So if you’re going to run with info that supports what the public already sort of believes, the standards are lower.

What Does the Dossier Say?

Turning to Christopher Steele’s dossier, it looks like he read the same espionage textbook as everyone else. So while it would have been a game-changer had Steele found unambiguous evidence of financial transactions between Trump and the Russian government, that would have required real evidence. Steele’s sources claim money changed hands, but never provide him with proof. On dossier (page 20) one source goes as far as to say no documentary evidence exists.

That means instead of the complex financing scams you might expect out of Trump, the big takeaway from the dossier is the pee tape, sources claiming the Russians have video to blackmail Trump at any moment. The thing reaches almost the level of parody, because not only does the dossier claim Trump likes fetish sex, the fetish sex occurred in the context of an anti-Obama act (Trump supposedly for his pleasure employed prostitutes to urinate on a bed Obama once slept in.) As for other sex parties Trump supposedly participated in, the dossier notes all direct witnesses were “silenced.” You couldn’t do better if you made it all up.

In fact, the thing reads very much like what lay people imagine spies come up with. In real intelligence work, documents showing transactions from cash to commercial paper to gold run through a Cayman Islands’ bank are much more effective than dirty video; the latter can be denied, and may or may not even matter to a public already bored by boasts of pussy grabbing and rawdog sex with porn stars. The former will show up in court as part of a racketeering and tax evasion charge that dead solid perfect sends people to jail. Intelligence officers who pay out sources maintain meticulous receipts; you think their own agencies trust them with bags of cash? And in the dark world, prostitutes don’t need to be “silenced.” They have no credibility in most people’s’ minds to begin with, and a trail of bodies just attracts attention. And unlike Steele’s product, real intel reporting is full of qualifiers, maybes, liklies and so forth, not a laundry list of certainties, because you know your own sources have an agenda. The dossier is also short of the kind of verifiable details of specific dates and places you’d expect. It is a collection of unverifiable assertions by second-hand sources, not evidence. Steele is a smart man, an experienced intelligence officer, who knew exactly what he was writing — a dossier that will read true to the rubes.

So it is not surprising to date there has been no public corroboration of anything in the dossier. If significant parts of the dossier could be proven, there would be grounds for impeachment with no further work needed. At least one fact has been disproven –Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, produced his passport to rebut the dossier’s claim that he had secret meetings in Prague with a Russian official.

Job Two: Run the Info Op, Place the Dossier

Steele excelled at turning his dossier into a full-spectrum information operation, what some might call information warfare. This is what separates his work creating the dossier (which a decent journalist with friends in Russia could have done) from his work infiltrating the dossier into the highest reaches of American government and political society. For that, you need a real pro, an intelligence officer with decades of experience running just that kind of op. You want foreign interference in the 2016 election? Let’s take a closer look at Christopher Steele.

Steele’s skill is revealed by the Nunes and Grassley memos, which show he used the same set of information in the dossier to create a collaboration loop, every intelligence officer’s dream — his own planted information used to surreptitiously confirm itself, right up to the point where the target country’s own intelligence service re-purposed it as evidence in the FISA court.

Steele admits he briefed journalists off-the-record starting in summer and autumn 2016. His most significant hit came when journalist Michael Isikoff broke the story of Trump associate Carter Page’s alleged connections to Russia. Isikoff did not cite the dossier or Steele as sources, and in fact denied they were when questioned.

Isikoff’s story didn’t just push negative information about Trump into the public consciousness. It claimed U.S. intel officials were probing ties between a Trump adviser and the Kremlin, adding credibility; the feds themselves felt the info was worthwhile! Better yet for Steele, Isikoff claimed the information came from a “well-placed Western intelligence source,” suggesting it originated from a third-party and was picked up by Western spies instead of being written by one. Steele also placed articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, New Yorker, Mother Jones, and others.

At the same time, Steele’s info reached influential people like John McCain, who could then pick up a newspaper and believe he was seeing the “secret” info from Steele confirmed independently by an experienced journalist. And how did McCain first learn about Steele’s work? At a conference in Canada, via Andrew Wood, former British Ambassador in Moscow. Where was Wood working at the time? Orbis, Christopher Steele’s research firm.

A copy of the dossier even found its way to the State Department, an organization which normally should have been far removed from U.S. election politics. A contact within State passed information from Clinton associates Sidney Blumenthal and Cody Shearer (both men played also active roles behind in the scenes feeding Clinton dubious information on Libya) to and from Steele. The Grassley memo suggests there was a second Steele document, in addition to the dossier, already shared with State and the FBI but not made public.

The Gold Medal: Become the Source of Someone Else’s Investigation

While seeding his dossier in the media and around Washington, Steele was also meeting in secret with the FBI (he claims he did not inform Fusion GPS, his employer), via an FBI counterintelligence handler in Rome. Steele began feeding the FBI in July 2016 with updates into the fall, apparently in the odd guise of simply a deeply concerned, loyal British subject. “This is something of huge significance, way above party politics,” Steele commented as to his motives.

The FBI, in the process of working Steele, would have likely characterized him as a “source,” technically a “extra-territorial confidential human source.” That meant the dossier’s claims appeared to come from the ex-MI6 officer with the good reputation, not second-hand from who knows who in Russia (the FBI emphasized Steele’s reputation when presenting the dossier to the FISC.) Think of it as a kind of money laundering which, like that process, helped muddy the real source of the goods.

The FBI used the Steele dossier to apply for a FISA court surveillance warrant against Carter Page. The FBI also submitted Isikoff’s story as corroborating evidence, without explaining the article and the dossier were effectively one in the same. In intelligence work, this is known as cross-contamination, an amateur error. The FBI however, according to the Nunes memo, did not tell the FISA court the Steele dossier was funded by the Democratic National Committee as commissioned opposition research, nor did they tell the court the Isikoff article presented as collaborating evidence was in fact based on the same dossier.

Steele reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him $50,000 to continue his “research,” though the deal is believed to have fallen through after the dossier became public (though an intelligence community source tells The American Conservative Steele did in fact operate as a fully paid FBI asset.) Along the way the FBI also informed Steele of their separate investigation into Trump staffer George Papadopoulos, a violation of security and a possible tainting of Steele’s research going forward.

Gold Medal Plus: Collaborate Your Own Information

The Nunes memo also showed then-associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr back-channeled additional material from Steele into the DOJ while working with Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and her replacement, Rod Rosenstein. Ohr’s wife Nellie worked for Fusion GPS, the firm that commissioned the dossier, on Steele’s project. Ohr’s wife would be especially valuable in that she would be able to clandestinely supply info to corraborate what Steele told the FBI and, via her husband, know to tailor what she passed to the questions DOJ had. The FBI did not disclose the role of Ohr’s wife, who speaks Russian and has previously done contract work for the CIA, to the FISA court.

Ohr’s wife only began work for Fusion GPS in September/October 2016, as the FBI sought the warrant against Page based on the Steele dossier. Ohr’s wife taking a new job with Fusion GPS at that critical juncture screams of the efforts of an experienced intelligence officer looking to create yet another pipeline inside, essentially his own asset.

Steele’s Success, With a Little Help From His Friends

All talk of Russia aside, it is difficult to find evidence of a foreigner who played a more significant role in the election than Christopher Steele. Steele took a dossier paid for by one party and drove it deep into the United States. Steele’s work formed in part the justification for a FISA warrant to spy on a Trump associate, the end game of which has not yet been written.

Steele maneuvered himself from paid opposition researcher to clandestine source for the FBI. Steele then may have planted the spouse of a senior DOJ employee as a second clandestine source to move more information into DOJ. In the intelligence world, that is as good as it gets; via two seemingly independent channels you are controlling the opponent’s information cycle.

Steele further manipulated the American media to have his information amplified and given credibility. By working simultaneously as both an anonymous and a cited source, he got his same info out as if it was coming from multiple places.

There is informed speculation Steele was more than a source for the FBI, and actually may have been tasked and paid to search for specific information, essentially working as a double agent for the FBI and the DNC. Others have raised questions about Steele’s status as “retired” from British intelligence, as the lines among working for MI6, working at MI6, and working with MI6 are often times largely a matter of semantics. Unless Steele wanted to burn all of his contacts within British intelligence, it is highly unlikely he would insert himself into an American presidential campaign without at least informing his old workmates, if not seeking tacit permission (for the record, Steele’s old boss at MI6 calls the dossier credible; an intelligence community source tells The American Conservative Steele shared all of his information with MI6.) It is unclear if the abrupt January 2017 resignation of Robert Hannigan, the head of Britain’s NSA-like Government Communications Headquarters, is related in any way to Steele’s work becoming public.

As for the performance of the DOJ/FBI, we do not have enough information to judge whether they were incompetent, or simply willing partners to what Steele was up to, using him as a handy pretext to open legal surveillance on someone inside the Trump circle (surveillance on Page may have also monitored Steve Bannon.)

How to Steele an Election

The Washington Post characterized Steele as “struggling to navigate dual obligations — to his private clients, who were paying him to help Clinton win, and to a sense of public duty born of his previous life.” The Washington Post has no idea how intelligence officers work. Their job is to befriend and engage the target to carry out the goals of their employer. When they do it right, the public summation is a line like the Post offered; you never even knew you were being used. In the macho world of intelligence, the process is actually described more crudely, having to do with using enough lubrication so the target didn’t even feel a rough thing pushed up a very sensitive place.

Steele played the FBI while the FBI thought they were playing him. Or the other way around, because everyone was looking the other way. Steele ran a classic info op against the United States, getting himself inside the cycle as a clean source. Robert Mueller should be ashamed of himself if he uses any of Steele’s dossier, or any information obtained via that dossier. That’s where our democracy stands at the moment.

February 19, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“There is no American Deep State…it just looks like there is”

By Kit | OffGuardian | March 21, 2017

Last week the New Yorker, and yesterday Salon magazine, published editorials arguing against the very existence of an “American Deep State”. The arguments presented are very… interesting. Both are, perhaps, classic cases of protesting too much.

Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m convinced.

This article, appearing in the New Yorker on Sunday, sets out to tell its readers that there is no such thing as an American “deep state”, repeatedly rubbishing the very idea whilst – at the same time – making a compelling case for the exact opposite.

To start off the author, David Remnick, relates a very cheery sounding story about a young man’s transformative journey from junior naval officer to hard-hitting journalist. I shall relate it to you in bullet points, for the sake of brevity:

  • In 1970 junior naval officer Bob Woodward, a Yale graduate and member of the Book and Snake secret society, goes to the White House Situation room. At night.
  • Whilst there, he meets a high-up at the FBI named Mark Felt, an intelligence veteran and long-time loyalist to J. Edgar Hoover.
  • For reasons unknown the two men discuss the career prospects of young Mr Woodward. Mr Felt gives Woodward advice about pursuing “only employment that interests him”.
  • Later that year Woodward leaves the navy, and applies for a job at the Washington Post. He doesn’t get it, thanks to a complete lack of any journalistic experience. He spends a year working at a minor local paper instead, before being hired by the WaPo in 1971.
  • Throughout this time Woodward and his FBI friend are in constant contact, Woodward thinking of Felt as a “career counsellor”.
  • Felt confides in Woodward that he sees the Nixon administration as “corrupt, paranoid, and trying to infringe on the independence of the Bureau”.
  • In 1973 Felt, under the alias “Deep Throat”, leaks Woodward information on the Watergate break-in, and – by proxy – brings down the Nixon administration.

How does that story read to you? There are unquestionably overtones of Operation Mockingbird, right?

Well, not according to Remnick. He tells us the meeting was accidental, the friendship natural, the career advice sincere and the leak opportunistic. He asks the rhetorical question:

Was Deep Throat part of the Deep State?”

As if the only logical answer is “no, of course not”, when in truth any answer other than “Yes, almost certainly” shows a level of willful blindness or chronic naivety that probably merits medication. We are expected to believe that a young naval officer, with no previous interest or experience in journalism, takes career advice from a senior FBI agent after one (accidental) meeting, leaves the navy, becomes a reporter, and ultimately acts as a key cog in what amounted to a “soft coup” in the United States. That is patently absurd.

As I said before, what is presented as a case against the existence of an American Deep State, makes a very strong argument for both its existence, and its power.

Next, Remnick provides us with a little history on “Deep States”:

“Deep State” comes from the Turkish derin devlet, a clandestine network, including military and intelligence officers, along with civilian allies, whose mission was to protect the secular order established, in 1923, by the father figure of post-Ottoman Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. It was behind at least four coups, and it surveilled and murdered reporters, dissidents, Communists, Kurds, and Islamists. The Deep State takes a similar form in Pakistan, with its powerful intelligence service, the I.S.I., and in Egypt, where the military establishment is tied to some of the largest business interests in the country.

You see, he’s not arguing that Deep State power structures don’t exist – he willingly admits that they do – it’s just that they don’t have them in America. His argument for this is simple… or at least, it probably would be if he were to make one. What he actually DOES is simply describe how deep states work in other countries, and then leave an ellipsis that’s meant to convey “and of course none of that is true in the USA”, when in fact – again – it does the exact opposite.

What he does is supply us a short checklist of qualities which define a “Deep State”:

  1. Clandestine and secretive
  2. Involving military and intelligence officers
  3. civilians allies
  4. Protecting the status quo
  5. coups
  6. surveillance
  7. assassinations
  8. ties to big business interests

Does that not sound the least bit familiar to anyone else? The first two are givens that need no explanation.

Civilian allies? Well, I would imagine that a planted and/or manipulated journalist would make a good “civilian ally”. Such a person could be used to “leak” information that brings down enemies of the Deep State. Or, indeed, to write clumsy editorials about how the Deep State doesn’t even exist.

Protecting the status quo. The protection of “secular order” in Turkey could easily be translated as the protection of the neo-liberal order in the United States. It is essentially a program of protecting those in power from any kind of change. In fact, the way Remnick writes about this mission, it’s almost as if he is arguing that the noble ends justify ignoble means. That’s an interesting subtext to include.

Coups, surveillance and assassinations. Turkey’s derin devlet was behind only four coups? That’s a busy morning at the CIA. Surveillance? Well, it has suited the MSM of late to pretend they didn’t tell us all about the level of surveillance we operate under every single day. But we all know. Assassinations? Yes, there are a few famous examples, and a few not so famous. Blowing the President’s head off in the middle of a public square probably counts.

Ties to big business? Well Eisenhower admitted that, and warned against it, sixty years ago. Soros Open Society Foundation frequently collaborates with the State Department, as does the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Pentagon’s ties to Boeing and Lockheed Martin are well documented, as is Dick Cheney’s involvement with Halliburton. The list is endless.

As an eight-point definition of a “deep state”, America’s power structures certainly seem to stand as a perfect template.

Now we come to the good part. The part where Remnick is forced to include a lot of information he’d rather pretend wasn’t true, because – if he didn’t mention it – he would open himself up awful lot of correction and/or ridicule… even more so than he does already.

One does not have to be ignorant of the C.I.A.’s abuses—or of history, in general—to reject the idea of an American Deep State. Previous Presidents have felt resistance, or worse, from elements in the federal bureaucracies: Eisenhower warned of the “military-industrial complex”; L.B.J. felt pressure from the Pentagon; Obama’s Syria policy was rebuked by the State Department through its “dissent channel”.

You see, there undoubtedly are powerful secretive intelligence organisations with ties to big business and the military. Yes, you can point to the uncontested public record of literally dozens of crimes – both international and domestic – carried out by these agencies (calling coups and wars “abuses”, is craven apologist language). Yes, it’s perfectly true that many Presidents (from both parties) have faced domestic opposition from these agencies, to their eventual ruin in some cases. Yes, some of those President’s – including Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy – have publicly warned against the influence of these unelected actors and agencies… but – BUT – that doesn’t mean America has a “Deep State. Because:

… to use the term as it is used in Turkey, Pakistan, or Egypt is to assume that all these institutions constitute part of a subterranean web of common and nefarious purpose.

Which begs the response: “And?”

For one thing, David, it’s not to assume that, it’s to reason that… based on evidence (including all the evidence you helpfully supply in your article). It was your self-appointed task to provide a counter-argument to this reading of the evidence…. and you have failed. Miserably.

However, David Remnick is not alone in his ineffectual assertion that “there is no deep state, it just looks like there is”. Further arguments that there are no “secretive military and intelligence collectives” pushing their agendas through “civilian allies”, was published in Salon. It is an editorial on the exact same subject, published on the exact same day, with almost the exact same title.

The author, Ryan Bohl, argues (in apparent seriousness) that deep states are definitely real, that Egypt has one, but that American can’t have one… because America and Egypt are different.

His assertions that America “doesn’t have a deep state”, would probably hold more water if he displayed any kind of understanding of what the term actually means. Instead he has, in truly Orwellian fashion, redefined the phrase in order to present a counter-argument… and even then barely manages to scrape one together.

… a major flaw of the American Deep State theory is that a deep state needs a weak state to survive

I’m not sure where Bohl got this statement from. I suspect he made it up. It means nothing, and is never backed up by any kind of sources, analysis or evidence. It is a baseless factoid, invented to allow the author to use the rhetorical trick of shifting the argument. Having “established” that a Deep State cannot exist within a strong nation, the author no longer has to disprove the deep states existence… but can now focus on proving that America is strong. Unfortunately for him, he is equally bad at this.

What does a weak state look like? For one, it’s horrifically ineffective: not a “I can’t believe they made me wait 45 minutes for my driver’s license when there were only six people in front of me” nuisance, but “I can’t believe I had to spend 2 years, $4000, and know an official at the Ministry of Transport via a relative to get my license”-style corruption. It is a state that fails to provide water, electricity, schools, and roads on a vast scale every single day.

The logic is obviously terrible. His argument that a deep state can only exist within weak and corrupt infrastructure? A completely unjustifiable a priori assumption. One that is never established with any kind of evidence.

… but let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that he’s right – doesn’t America have a failing infrastructure?

Doesn’t America house 20% of all the incarcerated people on the planet? Aren’t many of these people held in corrupt private prisons? Aren’t post-industrial cities falling apart? Didn’t Detroit have no water for weeks at a time? And didn’t Flint have toxic water? Aren’t there roads and bridges crumbling? Didn’t New Orleans flood because of neglected levees? Aren’t their dams crumbling to dust?

Have not Salon themselves published two articles in the last month about the collapsing American infrastructure?

If a state is labeled “weak” on the quality of its infrastructure and development, then any objective observer would have to accept that America is weak. In many cases it is practically a third world nation. But Bohl has a response:

It can seem like the United States has a weak state when you compile the many anecdotes of bad roads, bridges, schools, water supplies, and other creaky public services. But this is misleading: just because you know a lot of stories about a topic doesn’t mean you know anything about its societal scale.

You see, much like the deep state, it might seem like America is falling apart… but it’s not really. Just look at the statistics he cites. Of course, these statistics are “indexes”, with a secret formula entirely invented by America-based NGOs who are almost certainly part of the (entirely fictional) American deep state.

There is also yet another critical argument against an America deep state: the regular transfer of power.

Another flawed argument. The very theory he is arguing against is that the elected officials possess very little power at all, and, as such, power is never transferred. Rather, the puppet is replaced.

What frustrates Trump and his allies is not a conspiracy of a CIA/State Department/journalists/Democrats/Obama/Pentagon cabal, agenda-driven to impose some secret world order upon the United States. Rather, they are encountering the hard edges of America’s geopolitical interests.

You see, it’s not that there is a deep state with an agenda, it’s just that America has concrete, innate “interests” that cannot be threatened by elected officials without encountering massive resistance from the agencies whose job it is to protect these interests.

… it is not in America’s interests to align with Russia any more than it has to, especially under the Putin government. So long as Russia has an independent foreign policy, it will be a threat to both NATO and the American-led world order; only bringing its foreign policy into the American-led alliance system will end that condition.

It is counter to the unquestioned and never-changing “interests” of the USA to have friendly relations with Russia, so naturally if the elected representatives of the people try to improve those relations, then the CIA/State Dept./FBI/the media and other unelected bodies will work together in opposing those plans.

This does not mean America has a deep state.

America having geo-political interests that extend beyond the power of the people’s elected officials is NOT evidence of a “deep state”… because? Well…

As the deep state accusations grow, it would behoove some to visit Egypt, stay a while, and try to get a driver’s license. That is what a place with a deep state truly feels like.

… have you ever tried getting a driver’s license in Cairo?

*

So two…

… wait, did I say two? I meant three four five six seven.

Seven non-members of the non-deep state are so enraged by the idea that people might think the totally fake American deep state might be real, that they accidentally publish seemingly coordinated attacks on the very idea. Under very similar titles. All within the same few days. Citing the same “counter examples” of Egypt and Turkey. All acting with symmetrical umbrage.

That’s almost as unlikely as bumping into a senior FBI agent in the White House by chance, taking his off-hand advice about a career change and then accidentally breaking the story that results in the FBI’s removal of a President they perceived as a threat to their influence, when you think about it.

Never mind. I’m just paranoid. America doesn’t have a deep state.

It just sometimes really looks like it does.

March 21, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Yemeni Genocide Proceeds Apace, Enjoying World’s Silence

US and ISIS join efforts to kill Yemenis
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By William Boardman | Reader Supported News | July 10, 2015

Turns out the United States and the Islamic State, ISIS, are de facto allies of Saudi Arabia and its alliance of dictator states, all bent on exterminating Yemeni Houthis and pretty much any other Yemeni in the neighborhood. This Yemenicide started in earnest in March 2015. After years of US drone strikes proved too slow and ineffective at wiping out people in the poorest country in the Arab world, it was time to expand the arsenal of war crimes. Rarely, in discussions of Yemen, does one hear much about the violations of international law that have reduced the country to its present war-torn and devastated condition.

Failing to acknowledge a foreign policy disaster in Yemen, the Obama administration has chosen instead to trash international law by supporting the criminal, aggressive war that Saudi Arabia’s coalition of police states launched on Yemen on March 26. Now, despite more than three months of Saudi-American terror bombing, the Houthis remain in control of northwest Yemen, their tribal homeland, as well as much of the southeast of Yemen, having overthrown the internationally-installed puppet government, later “elected” without any opponents, of President Abd Rhabbuh Mansur Hadi.

President Obama praised Hadi as his “successful” partner in attacking terrorists, by which Obama meant he was grateful to Hadi for not objecting to the US drone attacks against his own people. Hadi’s legitimacy always depended on foreign puppeteers, and it still does. Having resigned as president, fled the capital, and rescinded his resignation, Hadi fled again, to Saudi Arabia the day before the Saudi blitz began. The official story is that Hadi requested the undeclared Saudi attack on his own country. Hadi remains in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, free to go nowhere while he pretends to head a government-in-exile that is the presently desired fiction of his captor-protectors.

On July 8, from Riyadh, Hadi reportedly proposed a ceasefire in Yemen to start before the month of Ramadan ends July 17. On July 1, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had called for a “humanitarian halt” in combat “until the end of the holy month of Ramadan.” So far, Hadi’s Saudi controllers have used the muslim holy month to rain increased terror on populated areas of Yemen, killing hundreds of civilians and Houthi fighters, with no accurate count available. July 7 saw the highest death toll in Yemen since the Saudi bombing campaign began. This bland-seeming coverage of the carnage by Reuters is riddled by propaganda deceits:

The United Nations has been pushing for a halt to air raids and intensified fighting that began on March 26. More than 3,000 people have been killed since then as the Arab coalition tries stop the Houthis spreading across the country from the north.

The Iran-allied Shi’ite Houthis say they are rebelling against a corrupt government, while local fighters say they are defending their homes from Houthi incursions. Sunni Saudi Arabia says it is bombing the Houthis to protect the Yemeni state.

The Reuters perspective represents the mainstream consensus, which also typically includes some of the same threads of deceit as these:

  • “The UN has been pushing …” No, it hasn’t. The UN as a body has done little to protect the Yemenis, but the Security Council has done less for a country in which civil war has spanned generations. Security Council resolutions are determinedly “evenhanded” in their equal treatment of aggressors and victims. In June 2015, after two months of Saudi bombing, the Security Council expressed its “full support” for an impossibility: “a peaceful, inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led political transition process that meets the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Yemeni people.”
  • “pushing for a halt to air raids …” No, it hasn’t. The air raids are being carried out by the nine UN member states in the Saudi Coalition, including Security Council member Jordan. The US, a permanent Security Council member, has supported the aerial war crime campaign with logistics, in-flight refueling of bombers, intelligence, air-sea rescue, and naval support for the blockade (which is also an act of war).
  • “intensified fighting that began on March 26 …” Intensified fighting began long before March 26. Yemen’s civil war has waxed and waned over several decades. What began March 26 was the war crime nexus of bombing civilian targets by the nine-member Saudi Coalition that includes Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. The Houthi rebellion is more than a decade old and gained intensity in the fall of 2014. The Houthis drove out the Yemeni government and now control the western half of the country, where most of the population lived and most of the bombing takes place.
  • “the Arab coalition tries to stop the Houthis spreading across the country from the north …” Reuters is just wrong on this. The Houthi spread was a fact, and the “Arab coalition” failed in an ill-conceived campaign. Faced with an army advancing on the ground, the “Arab coalition” has not deployed ground troops. Without serious objection from the international community, the “Arab coalition” attacks military forces in another country with which they are not at war, as well as terror-bombing that country’s civilians with US-made cluster bombs.
  • As for spreading “from the north,” that is at best wrong, if not duplicitous. Saudi Arabia has declared the northernmost province of Yemen, Saada, a military zone in which every civilian is a presumed combatant. This is the same bloodthirsty policy that leads the US to count every drone victim as a combatant until proven otherwise. This is the same moral numbness that led the US to establish free fire zones in Viet-Nam, where every living thing was deemed an enemy. This is total war as waged by the powerful, at a distance, against the weak and almost defenseless. This is as bad as any Nazi onslaught of World War II.
  • The absurdity of the Reuters characterization is illustrated by another UN Security Council position in support of a political solution to Yemen’s crisis in accordance with the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative.” The Gulf Cooperation Council is an oxymoron, in that it includes six of the seven Arab states (not Iraq) on the Persian Gulf who allied determinedly NOT to cooperate with the other Persian Gulf state, Iran. Further, the Security Council absurdly supports the “Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative” when five of the six Gulf Council members (not Oman) are busily bombing Yemen in violation of international law.
  • “The Iran-allied Shi’ite Houthis …” There is no evidence of an alliance between Iran and the Houthis, certainly not in any sense equivalent to the overt alliances waging undeclared war on Yemen. The Houthis are Shi’ite muslims, and Iran has almost surely supported them to some extent, but most claims of Iranian involvement in the current fighting are patently over-stated and lack supporting evidence. Reuters here is parroting Arab, American, and Israeli propaganda about the “threat” from Iran.
  • “say they are rebelling against a corrupt government …” Who says? Reuters doesn’t say. This is specious journalism. Yemen has a long history of corrupt government, but perhaps the Hadi government allowing US troops to wage war on Yemeni territory, killing Yemenis at will, raised the corruption bar to a new level.
  • “local fighters say they are defending their homes …” is worse than specious journalism, it’s pretty much a lie since the main opposition to the Houthis comprises forces loyal to Hadi, as well as cohorts of both Al Qaeda and ISIS.
  • “Sunni Saudi Arabia says it is bombing the Houthis to protect the Yemeni state” would be a laugh line were it not such a dark lie. Saudi bombing is destroying the Yemeni state in order to “save” it. The Saudis may be “protecting” the Hadi government, but only in the sense that the Mafia provides protection in a protection racket. The Saudis have longstanding territorial conflicts with the Houthis along the northwest Saudi-Yemeni border. And the Saudis are acting as if they believe their own demonizing propaganda about Iran. Saudi Arabia is more likely bombing the Houthis because they are defenseless and Saudi Arabia doesn’t dare bomb Iran.

Nobody seems to care about Yemen, not even The New Yorker

The widespread, bland disinterest in the unending victimization of Yemenis facing unrelenting, daily crimes against humanity is hardly unique to obtuse observers like Reuters. The New Yorker, which eventually distinguished itself in opposition to the horrors of Vietnam, last published a piece on Yemen on May 1 (according to a site search). That piece conveys the American denial of its own terrorism with a tone of mild distaste suitable to Eustace Tilley, whose monocled default opinion is to blame the victim, as Robin Wright wrote little more than a month after the Saudi-American bombardment began:

The current Houthi rebellion – the seventh – is only the latest. The Houthi clan are Zaydi Muslims, who make up about a third of Yemen’s twenty-six million people. A once powerful people from the rugged northern highlands, they ruled an imamate for a millennium and deeply resented their reduced influence under [former President] Saleh [now a Houthi ally]. Between 2004 and 2010, they fought six other wars against his government….

The quarter-century experiment in uniting Yemen has definitively failed. There is no military solution, and there are unlikely to be any winners out of such a multilayered conflict, whatever the territorial gains….

Last week, the United States dispatched the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Teddy Roosevelt to supplement seven American warships off the Yemen coast. Washington strongly supports a political solution to the conflict in Yemen, but without interested players the risks of unintended consequences increase.

Rhetorically the US may support a “political solution” (to its own liking) and gullible reporters may accept that as some sort of reality. The reality on the ground (and on the water) is that the US supports and participates in endless terror bombing and a naval blockade. That is to say, the US supports and participates in the war crimes that are leading toward mass starvation and human devastation, what the discreet Ban Ki-moon refers to as a humanitarian crisis” or a “catastrophe,” as if there were no agency causing it.

An editorial July 7 in The New York Times takes the same concerned-but-oblivious-to-the-genocidal-actors tone that reinforces the general pretense that no one is responsible:

Yemen has now been added to the United Nations’ list of most severe humanitarian emergencies, along with South Sudan, Syria and Iraq. It is a tragic distinction, highlighting the peril to 80 percent of the country’s 25 million citizens. The international community, including the United States, is not doing enough to push for an immediate cease-fire in the war that is ravaging the country to make it possible to deliver aid.

Yemen, a poor country, was deeply unstable even before a coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States, started bombing the Houthi rebel movement in late March. Last week, Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, declared the situation a “catastrophe.”

Is it possible to commit a long string of war crimes in self-defense?

Having tiptoed up to the edge of US war crimes, the Times retreated. The rest of the editorial comprises little more than helpless hand-wringing, without even hinting at the most effective way to save Yemeni lives: stop the bombing. That means you, “Saudi Arabia … backed by the United States.” Like most of the rest of the world, the Times settled for asking for a reasonable-sounding impossibility, which it then undercut with another wisp of Saudi reality:

What is needed is a permanent political solution that will ensure the Houthis, who have some legitimate grievances and are unlikely to give up, get a significant role in any new government. Negotiations should be started without preconditions. But Saudi Arabia and its allies have appeared intent on forcing the Houthis to surrender, no matter what the cost to civilians and Yemen’s cities and villages.

Well, “Saudi Arabia and its allies” includes the US and others. The Times needs to look in the mirror without flinching. Saudi Arabia and its allies need to stop their bombing.

Ironically, they are not bombing Al Qaeda or ISIS forces in Yemen with anything like the same intensity they’re bombing Yemenis. In fact, Al Qaeda and ISIS are supplementing Saudi-American bombing with their own terror-bombing of Yemenis. For whatever reason, if there is one, the Saudi-American aerial genocide against Yeminis is making most of Yemen a much safer haven for terrorists. Yet this lunatic policy continues without serious opposition apparent anywhere. Who decided that Yemen should be treated as if it were the Haiti of the Arab world?

If any of the umpteen candidates for president of the United States has said anything humane, useful, or even dimly relevant about Yemen, it is hard to find (and I have found nothing). And nowhere have I found any call to establish the appropriate International War Crimes Tribunal to judge the illegality of the multiple, heinous predations of the United States, Saudi Arabia, and their sundry allies, all members in good standing of the world peacekeeping authority.

July 12, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Worst Venezuela Articles of 2013?

Venezuelanalysis | December 20, 2013

This is my worst-five list for articles about Venezuela. I couldn’t help but declare ties for a few of the spots, so the “worst five” list actually has more than five articles. I’ve listed them from most horrible to least.

1)     It’s a three way tie! Two of the three are very recent articles that referred to Venezuela as a dictatorship. An article on Yahoo.com said Venezuela was “military-style dictatorship”. Another one on MSN.com said Hugo Chavez was a “dictator”. Sadly, these may have been honest mistakes – gross ignorance that results from corporate journalists being over exposed to their colleagues’ work which, in turn, leads them to spread even more ignorance among themselves and countless readers.

The third article sharing the worst spot is an editorial in the UK Independent that appeared just after Hugo Chavez died. The “Indy” editors wrote that Chavez “was no run-of-the-mill dictator. His offences were far from the excesses of a Colonel Gaddafi…” A letter I wrote to the Indy about this editorial was initially accepted but then rejected.

2)     Jon Lee Anderson eleven page “slumlord” article in the New Yorker, not only trashed Hugo Chavez’s government but also the majority of Venezuelans who consistently voted Chavista since 1998 as I explained here. Anderson strongly insinuated that a coup (not a free and fair election as actually took place) led to Hugo Chavez first assume office in 1999. As Keane Bhatt pointed out, The New Yorker’s “vaunted fact-checkers somehow permitted the publication” of that falsehood. The article combines disregard for facts with very noticeable amount of class bigotry. I debated awarding it the worst spot but decided that its long-windedness probably mitigated the damage done.

3)     This Economist article, which was thoroughly taken apart by Ryan Mallett-Outtrim, comes in third. My favorite part of Ryan’s demolition is the various TV interviews he points to that feature Henrique Capriles – the opposition leader whom the Economist claimed was “ignored” by a “cowed” media in the months prior to recent municipal elections. This lengthy interview with Capriles was shown on Venevision about a month before those elections. Venevision’s news broadcasts have the highest audience share in Venezuela. Capriles droned on and on unchallenged and uninterrupted.  He also didn’t say a peep about being ignored by broadcasters which was unsurprising. To do so under the circumstances would have looked quite ridiculous.

4)     Arguably, any five randomly chosen AP articles about Venezuela could take up most of the spots on this list. A very partisan op-ed should make some effort to present counterarguments to the views it promotes. AP dispenses with that in news articles where, readers are so often told, reporters have their fabled “objectivity” on display. In this piece I pointed out two recent AP articles that spread the myth of the voiceless opposition and a falsehood about Venezuela’s inflation rate.

5)     Given the incredibly dishonest and incompetent reporting about Venezuela, a spot must be reserved for this LA Times article “Nicolas Maduro Gaffes: Top 5 Worst Blunders Made By Venezuelan President In 2013”. Yes, an article that tells readers about things like President Maduro falling off a bike and mispronouncing some words made international headlines. The LA Times could obviously look at itself and its peers for “blunders”, and ones that actually matter. Just consider the other articles on this list.

December 20, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The New Yorker Should Ignore Jon Lee Anderson and Issue a Correction on Venezuela

By Keane Bhatt | NACLA | April 24, 2013

As a result of many dozens—possibly hundreds—of messages from readers over the past few weeks that criticized The New Yorker’s inaccurate coverage of Venezuela, reporter Jon Lee Anderson issued a response in an online post on April 23. This marks the first time the magazine has publicly addressed its controversial and erroneous labeling of Venezuela as one of the world’s most “socially unequal” countries (I highlighted the error in mid-March). Although Anderson deprives his readers of the opportunity to evaluate his critics’ arguments (he offered no hyperlinks to either of my two articles on the subject, nor to posts by Corey Robin, Jim Naureckas, and others), he is clearly writing in response to those assertions.

To his credit, Anderson unequivocally admits two of his three errors: regarding Venezuela’s homicides, he acknowledges that he falsely wrote “that Venezuela had the highest homicide rate in Latin America. Actually, Honduras has the top rate.” Anderson proceeds to explain why Venezuela’s high homicide rate is nevertheless a grave problem—a position none of his critics, myself included, dispute.

The importance of this error rests instead in its revelation of a media culture under the influence of the consistent demonization of a country deemed an official U.S. enemy. This culture certainly played a role in allowing Anderson’s obvious falsehood to remain uncorrected for five months—five months after I first wrote about it, one month after I directly and publicly confronted Anderson about the error, and even then, days after I wrote another article urging readers to demand a correction.

While The New Yorker has dedicated literally no articles to U.S. ally Honduras since its current leader Porfirio Lobo came to power in repressive, sham elections held under a military dictatorship, Anderson was allowed to assert that Venezuela—a country with half the per capita homicides of Honduras—was Latin America’s leader in murders. One might reasonably suspect that a claim on The New Yorker’s website asserting that the United States had a higher homicide rate than Bolivia (Bolivia’s rate is actually over two times as high), would be retracted more expeditiously.

Anderson’s explanation for his second error—claiming that Chávez came to office through a coup d’etat rather than a free and fair election—further lays bare the corrupting effects of the generalized vilification of Chávez on basic journalistic standards of accuracy.

Anderson writes that despite his gaffe, he obviously knew Chávez “gained the Presidency by winning an election in 1998,” as he had “interviewed Chávez a number of times, travelled with him, and came to know him fairly well.” For Anderson to write such an egregious misstatement, then, and have it pass through what is likely the most rigorous fact-checking process in the industry, exposes a pervasive ideology under which he and his many editors and fact-checkers operate. As Jim Naureckas of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting wrote, “It’s like writing a long profile on Gerald Ford that refers to that time when he was elected president.”

Finally, Anderson offers a desperate attempt to justify his third factual error, stating:

A number of letters I’ve received dispute, out of context, my reference to “the same Venezuela as ever: one of the world’s most oil-rich but socially unequal countries”; several cite an economic statistic known as the Gini coefficient—a measure of income inequality.

Notice that Anderson never tells his readers what Venezuela’s Gini coefficient actually is. According to the United Nations, Venezuela’s Gini, at 0.397, makes it the least unequal country in Latin America and squarely in the middle range of the rest of the world. Only by sidestepping this brutal empirical obstacle can Anderson attempt to lay out his case. He carries on by reposting three paragraphs of his original essay, which in no way mitigate the falsity of his original claim, for “context.” Anderson finally concludes by offering a novel justification for his error:

In terms of some of the components of social inequality, notably income and education, Chávez had some real achievements. (Income is what’s captured by the Gini coefficient, although that statistic has its own limitations, some particular to Venezuela.) But in housing and violence, his record was woefully insufficient. Those social factors are intimately related, to each other and to the question of equality.

A quick recap is in order before unpacking Anderson’s argument. Readers may remember that he first responded to evidence on income inequality by proclaiming, on Twitter, his agnosticism toward empirical data. Next, a senior editor at the magazine justified Anderson’s contention by arguing that Venezuela was one of the most unequal amongst other oil-rich countries—a point I debunked. Now, Anderson has settled on a definition of social inequality that minimizes Venezuela’s high educational and income equality in favor of high homicide rates and unequal housing.

But simply saying that Chávez’s record “was woefully insufficient” on housing and violence does not naturally equate to Venezuela’s standing as a world leader in social inequality. Anderson must rely on comparative international statistics to justify his position, but fails to do so.

While Venezuela’s homicide rate is high by international standards and a significant social ill, this alone does not necessarily make the country more socially unequal than another country with a lower homicide rate. Are Venezuelan homicides more skewed toward low-income residents than those in Costa Rica? Or Haiti? Are Venezuelan murders more targeted at women or ethnic minorities than those in Mexico or Guatemala? And given that the high homicide rate directly affects far fewer than one in a thousand Venezuelans annually, how could this statistic possibly outweigh the effect of massive income-inequality and poverty reductions? If he is solely basing his argument on murder rates, Anderson has no credible explanation as to why Venezuela is one of the world’s most socially unequal countries.

Anderson also doesn’t offer statistics showing that housing is more unequal in Venezuela than anywhere else. That’s because it’s not.

Out of the 91 countries for which the United Nations has available data, Venezuela is 61st in terms of the percentage of its urban population living in slums.  That is to say, two-thirds of the world’s countries with available data have larger percentages of their urban citizens living as slum dwellers. In the Western Hemisphere, this includes Guayana, Honduras, Peru, Anguilla, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Belize, Bolivia, Jamaica, and Haiti.

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click to enlarge

It is also worth mentioning that this data was taken from 2005, when the percentage of Venezuela’s urban population living in poverty and extreme poverty was at 37%. By 2010, according to the United Nations, it had been cut by a quarter, to 28% (p. 43). Furthermore, 2005 predates a massive governmental push in 2011 to build affordable housing. Earlier this year, Venezuela’s Housing Commission chair asserted that “in the years 2011 and 2012, the Bolivarian government together with the people reached the goal of building 350,000 homes.”

It appears, then, that Anderson has discovered a new definition of “social inequality” that has eluded economists and sociologists worldwide—one that systematically downplays Venezuela’s educational and income equality while emphasizing a high frequency of murders and a rate of slum-dwelling that is low by international standards.

While one can applaud Jon Lee Anderson for finally acknowledging the value of social indicators and statistical data, he and his magazine cannot be allowed to define “social inequality” any way they see fit. No social scientist analyzing the available data could argue, like Anderson, that Venezuela is one of the world’s most socially unequal countries. While semantics games may be expedient in avoiding a necessary correction, readers should let The New Yorker’s editor David Remnick (david_remnick@newyorker.com) know that a retraction of Anderson’s claim is long overdue.

Update (4/24): FAIR’s Jim Naureckas also offers sharp criticism of Jon Lee Anderson and his fact-checkers for a transparently inadequate attempt to justify his error regarding Venezuela’s social inequality. Read more, at “Jon Lee Anderson Explains: Because I Said So.”

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UN: “State of Latin American and Caribbean Cities”

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UN: “State of Latin American and Caribbean Cities”

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Keane Bhatt is an activist in Washington, D.C. He has worked in the United States and Latin America on a variety of campaigns related to community development and social justice. His analyses and opinions have appeared in a range of outlets, including NPR, The Nation, The St. Petersburg Times, and CNN En Español. He is the author of the NACLA blog “Manufacturing Contempt,” which critically analyzes the U.S. press and its portrayal of the hemisphere. Connect with his blog on Twitter: @KeaneBhatt

April 26, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Comments Off on The New Yorker Should Ignore Jon Lee Anderson and Issue a Correction on Venezuela

The New Yorker Corrects Two Errors on Venezuela, Refuses a Third

By Keane Bhatt | NACLA | April 8, 2013

Thanks to readers’ responses to The New Yorker following my last post, “On Venezuela, The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson Fails at Arithmetic,” the magazine has amended two errors in two separate articles.

The first correction involves an online piece that Anderson wrote on the eve of Venezuela’s elections in October of last year. As was pointed out almost immediately after Anderson’s entry was published, he had incorrectly claimed that “Venezuela leads Latin America in homicides” in his “The End of Chavez?” (the headline was changed to “Chavez the Survivor” after the late Venezuelan president handily won his reelection).

Actually, it is Honduras that leads Latin America—and indeed the entire world—in per capita homicides: 92 per 100,000 people are killed annually there, while Venezuela’s figure stands at 45.1, according to the most recently available United Nations data. And unlike the Venezuelan government, the Honduran government contributes to this body count by regularly murdering its own civilians through its military and police, both of which receive tens of millions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers. (The New Yorker hasn’t published a single article referring to Honduras’s current post-coup regime, headed by Porfirio Lobo, who came to power in January of 2010.)

Reacting to readers’ complaints, the magazine’s editors issued an addendum to Anderson’s October 7 piece, which reads:

*An earlier version of this post said that Venezuela led Latin America in homicides; globally, it was in fourth place, but third in Latin America (behind Honduras and El Salvador), according to U.N. statistics on intentional homicides for 2010-11.

Another Anderson article—“Slumlord: What has Hugo Chávez wrought in Venezuela?”—also misled the print magazine’s readers by giving the impression that Chávez’s presidential tenure was predicated on a coup d’etat rather than his victories in over a dozen internationally vetted elections. The New Yorker released a correction for the inaccuracy in its April 1 issue, two months after the original piece had been published:

In “Slumlord,” by Jon Lee Anderson (January 28th), Hugo Chávez is described as having been concerned with “preventing a coup like the one that put him in office.” In fact, Chávez’s coup attempt, in 1992, failed; he was elected to office in 1998.

For Jon Lee Anderson’s most recent factual error, unfortunately, The New Yorker has thus far refused to issue a clarification or retraction. One month ago—the day Chávez died—Anderson wrote a third piece, for NewYorker.com, claiming:

What [Chávez] has left is a country that, in some ways, will never be the same, and which, in other ways, is the same Venezuela as ever: one of the world’s most oil-rich but socially unequal countries. . .

As I pointed out in “Anderson Fails at Arithmetic,” this allegation misleads the reader in two ways. Inequality has been reduced enormously under Chávez, using its standard measure, the Gini coefficient. So one can hardly say that in this aspect, Venezuela remains the “same as ever.” Making Anderson’s contention even worse is the fact that Venezuela is the most equal country in Latin America, according to the United Nations. Anderson’s readers come away with exactly the opposite impression.

To The New Yorker’s credit, a senior editor sent me an email regarding my article’s criticisms, and flatly conceded the first two misstatements in Anderson’s pieces. However, the note offered a strained defense of Anderson’s position on inequality, arguing that Anderson’s point was valid, given that his claim supposedly combined Venezuela’s conditions of being both “oil-rich” and “socially unequal” as one assertion.

I pointed out in my response that any reasonable reading of the statement would portray Venezuela as both one of the world’s most oil-rich and one of the world’s most socially unequal countries. And the fact of the matter is that the CIA’s World Factbook ranks the country 68th out of 136 countries with available data on income inequality—that is to say, Venezuela is exactly in the middle, and impossible to construe as among the most unequal.

I also explained that when Anderson was confronted with this evidence on Twitter, the magazine’s principal correspondent on Venezuela expressed extreme skepticism toward publicly available, constantly used, and highly scrutinized data; he instead cited his own “reporting” and “impressions” as the authority for his assertions. Given Anderson’s defiant admission not to even pretend to care about empirical data—after his magazine had already retracted two of his articles’ factual claims—it was incumbent on editors and fact-checkers to uphold The New Yorker’s reputation as a trustworthy and evidence-based journal by addressing the issue immediately.

Lastly, I argued that the awkward formulation of combining “oil-rich” and “socially unequal”—a reading I reject—exposes Anderson’s contention as even further at odds with reality. Included in my email was the following list showing the top 10 most “oil-rich” countries ranked in order of their total crude oil production, according to the International Energy Agency. Each country’s corresponding Gini coefficient from the CIA World Factbook appears in parentheses—the higher the Gini coefficient, the greater the country’s inequality:

1. Saudi Arabia (unavailable)
2. Russia (0.42)
3. United States (0.45)
4. Iran (0.445)
5. China (0.48)
6. Canada (0.32)
7. United Arab Emirates (unavailable)
8. Venezuela (0.39)
9. Mexico (0.517)
10. Nigeria (0.437)

When provided with these arguments and data, The New Yorker’s senior editor fell silent in the face of repeated follow-ups. I received a reply only once: a rejection of my request to publicly post our correspondence. While issuing a correction to Anderson’s third Venezuela article over the past year would have been embarrassing, the continued silence and inaction of the elite intellectual journal is perhaps a greater indictment. Anderson’s error remains unchanged on the liberal magazine’s website, while its senior editor has refused to address the matter in private correspondence or offer a public rationale for leaving Anderson’s claim intact.

When asked to comment on this issue, Branko Milanovic—a lead economist at the World Bank and arguably the world’s foremost expert on global inequality—interpreted Anderson’s quote the standard way: “The article says that Venezuela is one of most ‘socially unequal’ countries,” he wrote by email. But The New Yorker’s “extremely vague formulation,” he added, obscured an important reality: “What we know…is that Venezuela is among two or three most equal Latin American countries measured by income inequality.” According to his own research of inequality throughout the world, Venezuela is likely to be ranked somewhere “around the middle, or perhaps slightly above (these things do change from year to year).”

Prominent macroeconomist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research found The New Yorker’s factual contention and subsequent unresponsiveness astonishing: “This is pretty outrageous,” he wrote by email. “Do they have any data to support their assertion, or is the argument that because they don’t like Chávez they can say anything they want about him?”

Readers can pose such questions to The New Yorker by contacting its editors at www.newyorker.com/contact/contactus, by email at tny.newsdesk@gmail.com, or on Twitter at @tnynewsdesk. Such media activism plays a crucial role in engendering more careful portrayals of countries like Venezuela, which has long been the target of cartoonishly hostile, slanted, and outright false media coverage. Previous demands for accuracy and accountability have already prompted two admissions of error by The New Yorker, and can lead to a third, in spite of the magazine’s obstinacy. More importantly, the magazine now faces a real political cost to publishing sloppy reporting, as well as a powerful deterrent to running reckless news and commentary during a politically significant transitional moment for Venezuela.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Comments Off on The New Yorker Corrects Two Errors on Venezuela, Refuses a Third

On Venezuela, The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson Fails at Arithmetic

By Keane Bhatt | NACLA blog | March 17th 2013

In the face of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s ill health and subsequent death on March 5, the U.S. press—including its most unabashedly liberal wing—jumped at the opportunity to disparage him and his legacy, often on spurious grounds. Jon Lee Anderson of the urbane New Yorker magazine epitomized this tendency.

As the magazine’s corespondent for Venezuela and author of a January piece on the country that stretched to over 10,000 words, Anderson was the subject of withering ridicule. Jim Naureckas of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting wrote that Anderson’s article appeared “almost like a parody of corporate media coverage of an official enemy state.” Economist Mark Weisbrot similarly noted that Anderson wasn’t “letting commonly agreed-upon facts and numbers get in the way” of his plodding diatribe against Chávez’s failures. Those criticisms remain independent from others who have observed his increasingly bizarre Twitter outbursts against critics.

Anderson’s article, “Slumlord: What Has Hugo Chávez Wrought in Venezuela?,” is indeed filled with blatant misrepresentations. The New Yorker’s vaunted fact checkers somehow permitted the publication of the following statement: “Chavez suggested to me that he had embraced the far left as a way of preventing a coup like the one that put him in office.” While it is true that in 1992, Chávez attempted a coup against an administration that had deployed security forces to massacre hundreds, perhaps thousands of civilian protesters, Anderson is misleading his readers. Chávez was “put in office” much later, in 1999, through a free and fair election—not a coup—a fact which he did not see fit to include in his piece. He instead wrote, vaguely, that Chávez “assumed” power in 1999.

In a Spanish-language interview with the BBC on March 9, Anderson also accused the deceased Venezuelan president of having been machista, or sexist, “but in a cultural sense. Women tended to be hosts at parties, for example, not political advisers.” If true, that would be news to Erika Farías, the recently departed head of the Office of the Presidency; Adina Bastidas, Chávez’s vice president from 2000-2002; Cilia Flores, currently the country’s attorney general; Gabriela del Mar Ramírez, currently public defender; Edmée Betancourt, head of the Ministry of Commerce; and scores of others. At present, women direct three of the five branches of the Venezuelan government.

Even more damning is the number of Anderson’s falsehoods exposed through simple arithmetic. For instance, in a NewYorker.com piece published before Venezuela’s elections, he wrote in error that “Venezuela leads Latin America in homicides.” The most recently available United Nations data show that Honduras, with 91.6 killings per 100,000 in 2011, has twice the rate of homicides as Venezuela, which recorded 45.1 in 2010. (El Salvador has 69.2.) When confronted with these facts on Twitter in February, Anderson admitted his mistake publicly, addressing even his editors at The New Yorker, and agreed to offer a correction. Over a month later, however, neither Anderson nor his editors have fixed his invented claim.

In his NewYorker.compostscript” for the death of Hugo Chávez on March 5, he published yet another factual inaccuracy, claiming that Venezuela “is the same Venezuela as ever: one of the world’s most oil-rich but socially unequal countries.” Impressively, in just 16 words, he managed to err on two counts: First, under Chávez, inequality did not stay “the same as ever,” but rather fell enormously. Publicly available UN data confirm that Venezuela’s Gini index, a standard measure of inequality, fell from 49.8 to 39.7 between 1999 and 2011. Secondly, this decline made Venezuela anything but one of the world’s most socially unequal countries; according to the UN, it is now Latin America’s least unequal country. This reduction resulted from governmental priorities which halved poverty and unemployment over the past 10 years, while living standards improved through a healthy 2.5% annual per capita income growth since 2004. These massive reductions in poverty, which even many anti-Chávez editorials have noted, have never been reported by Anderson. Instead, he deceptively points to “extremely high levels of poverty and unemployment” in order to stress “the magnitude of the mess that Venezuela finds itself in.”

Finally, Anderson’s criticisms over Caracas’s slums suffer from flagrant omissions of chronology. He pinpointed the “height of [Caracas’s] allure” in 1983—it was a “boring, pristine, very North American” city, “buzzing along in modernity.” Yes, he admitted, there were “shacks on the hills, but not too many at the time.” “Now,” he says, “the slums are kind of everywhere.” It is “extraordinary” that “la revolución couldn’t tackle this” given that “the slums are still there 14 years later.” Anderson is performing sleight of hand with arithmetic here. He is excluding 16 disastrous years of economic history in which Chávez was never in office: from 1983 through 1998, real per capita income actually fell substantiallyexacerbating poverty and housing insecurity to an unprecedented degree.

In a February panel discussion for the Frontline Club in London, he wondered “how to quantify the improvement in the standard of living in a city or in a place where people are still living in slums.” One way to do it is by looking at UN data, or other publicly available data on income, poverty, employment, and other social indicators that are heavily scrutinized and widely used by social scientists. Another way to do so is by acknowledging critics’ corrections to his false socioeconomic assertions, rather than referring to them on Twitter as “trolls” and “scum.” He should follow their advice, and complement his impressionistic firsthand reporting with empirical evidence.

[For those who would like to see The New Yorker take responsibility for factual errors in Anderson’s reporting, email tny.newsdesk@gmail.com, and tweet to @TNYnewsdeskand @jonleeanderson.]

Keane Bhatt is an activist in Washington, D.C. He has worked in the United States and Latin America on a variety of campaigns related to community development and social justice. He is the author of the NACLA blog “Manufacturing Contempt,” which critically analyzes the U.S. press and its portrayal of the hemisphere. Connect with him on Twitter: @KeaneBhatt

March 17, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Comments Off on On Venezuela, The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson Fails at Arithmetic

New Yorker Magazine Concocts Case for Bombing Syria

By JOHN W. FARLEY | September 12, 2012

In the September 17 issue of The New Yorker, David Makovsky has a piece entitled The Silent Strike: How Israel bombed a Syrian nuclear installation and kept it secret Makovsky tells a tale about how Israel took out a Syrian nuclear threat. There is one slight problem: Makovsky’s tale should have been published as “fiction”.  How do I know? I’ve heard this story before.

It is an unquestioned fact that Israel bombed something in Syria back in September 2007. But what was that something? The Israelis claimed that they bombed a Syrian nuclear reactor, but journalist Laura Rozen shot that story down very convincingly. She interviewed Joseph Cirincione, then director of nuclear policy  with the Center for American Progress, who identified the bombed site as a non-nuclear Syrian military base. It’s where Syria stores their missiles, which they buy from Iran and North Korea. It’s not a nuclear reactor or any kind of nuclear installation at all.  Back in 2008, the mainstream media (AP, Tom Jelton of NPR, ABC News) referred to the “Syrian nuclear reactor” as if it were an established fact, when it was actually malarkey.

Back in 2008, I relied on Laura Rozen’s investigative  reporting  and the detective work of antiwar Libertarian blogger Justin Raimondo to produce a piece, Syrian Nukes: the Phantom Menace, published on CounterPunch.  It’s valuable background reading and a refutation of the Makovsky piece.

What Cirincione told the BBC back in 2007 applies today as well: “This appears to be the work of a small group of officials leaking cherry-picked, unvetted ‘intelligence’ to key reporters in order to promote a preexisting political agenda.”  Cirincione added “If this sounds like the run-up to the war with Iraq, then it should.”

It often pays to ask who the “expert” is and where he is coming from.  So who is David Makovsky? He is a Senior Fellow of Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), which is an offshoot of AIPAC. WINEP is part of the Israel Lobby, but has the public appearance of impartial expertise, compared with the brazen bias of AIPAC. Makovsky was the executive editor of the very hawkish Jerusalem Post for over a decade. Makovsky has co-authored a book on Middle East politics and policy with Dennis Ross, the well-known US diplomat and Israeli shill. Makovsky is very well connected to the Israel Lobby.

With his New Yorker article, Makovsky is building the case for an attack on Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities by Israel and/or the US, by comparing it to a highly fictional account of Israel’s 2007 attack on a (non-nuclear) military base, which Makovsky falsely claims was a Syrian nuclear reactor. Much of the Israeli ruling class (ex-Mossad directors, generals, politicians) is opposed to attacking Iran, as are Israeli Jews as a whole. The opposition is on pragmatic grounds: well-grounded worry about the consequences of (another) open-ended war. To allay these fears (mainly among Americans, more than Israelis), Makovsky serves up a soothing fairy tale: Israel bombed a Syrian nuke in 2007 and everything turned out OK,  so if Israel bombs Iran it will also turn out OK.

Source

September 12, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Comments Off on New Yorker Magazine Concocts Case for Bombing Syria