Tuesday, 31 December 2019
Saturday, 28 December 2019
Thursday, 26 December 2019
Claims that China has detained millions of Uyghur Muslims are based largely on two studies. A closer look at these papers reveals US government backing, absurdly shoddy methodologies, and a rapture-ready evangelical researcher named Adrian Zenz.
The US House of Representatives passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act on December 3, legislation which calls for the Donald Trump administration to impose sanctions against China over allegations that Beijing has detained millions of Muslim-majority Uyghurs in the western region of Xinjiang.
To drum up support for the sanctions bill, Western governments and media outlets have portrayed the People’s Republic as a human rights violator on par with Nazi Germany. Republican Rep. Chris Smith, for instance, denounced the Chinese government for what he called the “mass internment of millions on a scale not seen since the Holocaust,” in “modern-day concentration camps.”
The claim that China has detained millions of ethnic Uyghurs in its Xinjiang region is repeated with increasing frequency, but little scrutiny is ever applied. Yet a closer look at the figure and how it was obtained reveals a serious deficiency in data.
While this extraordinary claim is treated as unassailable in the West, it is, in fact, based on two highly dubious “studies.”
The first, by the US government-backed Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, formed its estimate by interviewing a grand total of eight people.
The second study relied on flimsy media reports and speculation. It was authored by Adrian Zenz, a far-right fundamentalist Christian who opposes homosexuality and gender equality, supports “scriptural spanking” of children, and believes he is “led by God” on a “mission” against China.
As Washington ratchets up pressure on China, Zenz has been lifted out of obscurity and transformed almost overnight into a go-to pundit on Xinjiang. He has testified before Congress, providing commentary in outlets from the Wall Street Journal to Democracy Now!, and delivering expert quotes in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ recent “China Cables” report. His Twitter bio notes that he is “moving across the Atlantic” from his native Germany.
Before Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal questioned Zenz about his religious “mission,” at a recent event about Xinjiang inside the US Capitol, he had received almost entirely uncritical promotion from Western media.
The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, which first popularized the “millions detained” figure, has also been able to operate without a hint of media scrutiny.
Washington-backed NGO claims millions detained after interviewing eight people
The “millions detained” figure was first popularized by a Washington, DC-based NGO that is backed by the US government, the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD).
In a 2018 report submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – often misrepresented in Western media as a UN-authored report – CHRD “estimate[d] that roughly one million members of ethnic Uyghurs have been sent to ‘re-education’ detention camps and roughly two million have been forced to attend ‘re-education’ programs in Xinjiang.” According to CHRD, this figure was “[b]ased on interviews and limited data.”
While CHRD states that it interviewed dozens of ethnic Uyghurs in the course of its study, their enormous estimate was ultimately based on interviews with exactly eight Uyghur individuals.
Tuesday, 24 December 2019
Gay Jesus Netflix Special Infuriates Christians in Brazil
On December 3, Netflix premiered a Christmas special from the Brazilian comedy troupe Porta dos Fundos (translation: "backdoor") titled The First Temptation of Christ. The 46-minute-long special features a gay Jesus Christ (Gregório Duvivier) introducing his boyfriend, Orlando, (Fábio Porchat) to his family and God (Antônio Tabet) after spending 40 days in the desert.
In the special, Mary and Joseph organized a surprise party for Jesus’ 30th birthday, with the presence of God, who tries to convince Mary to run away with him and abandon Joseph, a carpenter incapable of building even a table. The three wise men arrive at the party with a prostitute as a guest, and offer snacks made of ham—which they try to sell as if it were made of soy.
Orlando, who tries in every way possible to make it clear to Jesus’s family that they are in a relationship, is interrupted each time by Jesus, who is ashamed and seems in doubt about his sexuality—and also has to decide whether or not to take on the role of savior of humanity.
The satirical special has now become a target for religious conservatives, who have organized an online petition with more than 2 million signatures demanding the censorship of the episode, that the comedians be "held responsible for the crime of vilification of the faith," and that Netflix issue a "public retraction, for they have seriously offended Christians.”
Federal Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro—son of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro—tweeted that "we are in favor of freedom of expression, but is it worth attacking the faith of 86% of the population?”
Fundamentalist religious political leaders and opponents of pro-LGBT agendas in the São Paulo Legislative Assembly (Alesp) started gathering signatures to call for the opening of a CPI (Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry) to investigate the comedy group's alleged crime against religious sentiment; they argue in a video that the comedians "take away the spiritual value of the sacred conception and disdain the trajectory of Jesus" and "attack and vilify religions.”
On Tuesday, at the Federal Chamber of Representatives in Brasília, the Science and Technology Commission approved a request to invite a representative of Netflix to provide clarification about the episode. Meanwhile, evangelical leaders are calling for a boycott of Netflix.
In Rio de Janeiro, an obscure Catholic fundamentalist organization filed a lawsuit with the Public Prosecutor's Office demanding censorship of the special episode—a position adopted by the prosecutor, who demanded not only censorship, but also payment of a fine of 2 million reais—corresponding to two cents from each Brazilian who professes Catholicism in the country. (The lawsuit was dismissed today.)
The Bolsonaros and many parliamentarians who have shown dissatisfaction with the special have been criticized for defending lax laws around weapons and preaching hatred against minorities, in particular homosexuals. President Bolsonaro, for instance, recently criticized the Supreme Court for ruling on the criminalization of homophobia, and has declared himself a “proud homophobe” and said he would prefer a “dead son to a gay son.”
Since he took office, Bolsonaro has distributed political positions to evangelical and fundamentalist politicians, such as the Minister of Human Rights, Damares Alves, who has been accused of child abduction by indigenous tribes and once said she saw Jesus in a guava tree. Religious agendas contrary to human rights have been gaining ground all over the country. Several government members have declared themselves to be in a Christian Crusade and fighting "cultural Marxism" in order to defend family values.
On Twitter, actor and Porta dos Fundos member Fábio Porchat responded to criticism by saying, “Guys, you can let me work it out with God, that's fine, you don't have to worry about it. Now you can get angry again with the inequality that destroys our country. But you have to be outraged with equal passion, okay?”
Ironically, the controversy only seems to have helped publicize the special episode,which has now become the most viewed Brazilian production in the history of Netflix—and a new special has already been ordered for 2020.
Sunday, 22 December 2019
Saturday, 21 December 2019
In December 2019, several news reports failed to properly explain to readers the impact of "habitual offender" laws on prison sentences.
In December 2019, an Ames, Iowa, man was given a 16-year prison sentence for burning an LGBT rainbow flag.
The act of setting fire to an LGBT rainbow flag in Ames, Iowa, in June 2019 did ultimately result in Adolfo Martinez receiving a total sentence of 16 years in prison.
Several news articles failed to mention that Martinez' sentence would not have been nearly so long if he had not already been convicted of two previous felonies and treated as an "habitual offender," in keeping with Iowa state law. In that circumstance, his criminal history tripled the maximum available sentence for arson from five years to 15 years.
In December 2019, we received multiple inquiries from readers about news reports that claimed an Iowa man, 30-year-old Adolfo Martinez, had been given a 16-year prison sentence for burning an LGBT rainbow flag.
For example, the right-leaning Western Journal website reported that:
“As leftists are free to torch U.S. flags across the nation, an Iowa man is paying a heavy price for burning a rainbow LGBT pride flag. Adolfo Martinez of Ames was sentenced Wednesday to a whopping 15 years in prison for the hate crime of arson, according to The Associated Press. In addition to spending a decade and a half in prison for burning the LGBT flag, the 30-year-old Martinez also will be serving an additional year for his use of fire and 30 days for harassment.”
For its part, the UK tabloid newspaper the Sun compared Martinez’ punishment to what it claimed was the average sentence in rape convictions in the United States:
“A homophobe who wanted to ‘punish’ gays has been jailed for 16 years for burning a LGBT pride flag — a tougher sentence than for rape. Adolfo Martinez, 30, stole the flag from United Church of Christ in Ames, Iowa, because he hated gay people before burning it outside Dangerous Curves lap dancing club … Martinez was found guilty last month of third-degree arson in violation of individual rights, third-degree harassment, and reckless use of fire. Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds said Martinez was the first person in the county’s history to be convicted of a hate crime. For this he received a hefty 16 year prison sentence which far exceeds the average sentence for rape in the United States, which is about 10 years.”
The website Disrn wrote that: “Martinez’s lengthy sentence stemmed from the state’s successful prosecution of a ‘hate crime.’ The prosecution believed that Martinez had burned the flag due to its LGBT connotations.”
Further reports were published by Metro UK, the LGBT interest website The Advocate, and the pro-life, right-leaning website LifeSiteNews.
The aforementioned news articles told only part of the story of Martinez’ unusually long prison sentence, and none of them mentioned the key factor that resulted in his facing 15 years in prison for third-degree arson: that Martinez had two previous felony convictions, meaning that under Iowa law, he was sentenced as an “habitual offender.” It was this legal provision, triggered by the hate crime charge, that multiplied his prison sentence to 15 years.
If Martinez’ act of arson had not constituted a hate crime, he would have faced a maximum sentence of two years in prison. With the hate crime enhancement, he would ordinarily have faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison. It was only because of his status as a habitual offender, triggered by the hate crime enhancement, that he faced a maximum sentence of 15 years, which the judge imposed.
Crime and Charges
Ames, Iowa, police arrested Martinez in the early hours of June 11, after police said he had caused a disturbance at a local bar and threatened to burn down the establishment, before returning with an LGBT rainbow flag he stole from the Ames United Church of Christ, and setting fire to it outside the bar. Martinez admitted to his crimes in an interview with KCCI, saying he was motivated by an antipathy towards homosexuality and that he had “burned down their pride, plain and simple.”
Despite his on-screen confession, Martinez pleaded not guilty to three charges, the Story County Attorney’s Office told Snopes: Third-degree arson, an aggravated misdemeanor which typically carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison; third-degree harassment, a simple misdemeanor; and reckless use of fire or explosives, a serious misdemeanor that typically carries a maximum prison sentence of one year.
On Nov. 6, a jury in Story County convicted Martinez on all three charges. The County Attorney’s Office confirmed to Snopes that Martinez was given a 30-day prison sentence for the charge of third-degree harassment, and a one-year sentence for reckless use of fire or explosives.
In the normal course of events, a conviction for third-degree arson would yield a maximum sentence of two years in prison. However, because the flag burned by Martinez was an LGBT symbol, and because Martinez himself said this was his motivation for setting fire to it, prosecutors added a hate crime enhancement to the arson charge.
Iowa law requires that certain offenses, if prosecuted as a hate crime, must be “classified and punished as an offense one degree higher than the underlying offense.” Thus, Martinez’s conviction for third-degree arson was elevated from an aggravated misdemeanor to a Class D felony.
In Iowa, a Class D felony is typically subject to a maximum prison sentence of five years. However, Martinez had two previous felonies, details of which were not immediately available. Iowa law designates as an “habitual offender” anyone “convicted of a class ‘C’ or a class ‘D’ felony, who has twice before been convicted of any felony in a court of this or any other state, or of the United States.” Therefore, Martinez was sentenced as an habitual offender.
Iowa law states that the maximum sentence for an habitual offender is 15 years in prison. In this case, prosecutors recommended that maximum sentence, on the basis that they believed Martinez to be “very dangerous” and because of his lack of remorse. Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds told KCCI that Martinez “stated that there was nothing the judge could do to stop him from continuing this behavior, and that he would continue to do this, no matter what.”
On Dec. 18, the judge imposed that maximum sentence, to be served consecutively with the one-year sentence for reckless use of fire and 30-day sentence for third-degree harassment, yielding a total prison sentence of 16 years. Due to his status as an habitual offender, Martinez will not be eligible for parole until he has served a minimum of three years.
It’s true that the action that garnered Martinez a total prison sentence of 16 years was setting fire to an LGBT flag outside a bar in Ames, Iowa, in June 2019. However, this does not account for the length of his prison sentence.
If the object Martinez burned had been a neutral one (for example, a banner or flag bearing the logo of a brand of beer) then his third-degree arson conviction would not have been enhanced as a hate crime, and he would have received a sentence of no more than two years in prison, likely yielding a total sentence of three years, taking into account the one-year sentence he received for reckless use of fire. So it’s true that the fact it was an LGBT rainbow flag, specifically, did cause Martinez’ punishment to be increased. Because the hate crime enhancement converted the arson offense from an aggravated misdemeanor to a Class D felony, it also triggered the habitual offender mechanism.
However, that habitual offender mechanism would not have been triggered if Martinez did not already have two felony convictions. Without that criminal history, Martinez would simply have been given a sentence commensurate with a Class D felony, after the addition of the hate crime enhancement. Instead, because of his own previous convictions, his sentence for third-degree arson was tripled, from five years to 15 years.
The websites mentioned at the beginning of this article served their readers poorly by failing to provide this crucial contextual information and created the false impression that anyone, in any circumstances, was liable to be imprisoned for 16 years for burning an LGBT rainbow flag in the state of Iowa.
Monday, 2 December 2019
Justice blind or blinded by titles? A tale of Prince Andrew and Julian Assange
The grand old Duke of York sleeps tonight on a feather pillow in a royal palace. Julian Assange, the publisher of the century sleeps in the hell of Belmarsh Prison, Britain’s own Guantanamo Bay.
The Duke of York lied about the length duration and nature of his relationship with the presumed deceased child-sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Julian Assange told the truth about the high crimes and misdemeanours of the rich and powerful during times of war and peace.
The FBI need to speak to the Queen’s favorite son, but no power on earth will be deployed to make him testify about what he might have seen, or even have participated in, at the townhouse in Manhattan, a Sodom and Gomorrah of our times.
The same US Justice system has caused the cruel incarceration of Assange and his Kafkaesque entrapment in an extradition saga which may last for years - if he doesn’t die before it is over as no less than 60 doctors have recently warned he may well do.
The US-UK extradition arrangements may be the most unequal treaty ever concluded by Her Majesty’s ministers. In this case the former Blair government Home Secretary David Blunkett, a blind man who could, nonetheless, see exactly what he was doing.
In essence extradition from Britain to the US became virtually on request without the slightest need to show just cause. But not vice versa. It would be easier to pull a camel through the eye of a needle than for Britain to extradite a US citizen to face justice in the UK.
I was a member of the British Parliament at the time this treaty was signed. Not that this mattered a jot or tittle. The Treaty was signed during the Summer Recess when no Parliament was sitting and through the exercise of the Royal Prerogative.
Only when it was already in operation was I even able to oppose the extradition of its first victims - alleged City of London financial fraudsters, as well as a fitted-up “terrorist” London man Babar Ahmad.
Under the old extradition rules neither case could have satisfied the previous requirement to produce prima facia evidence sufficient to persuade a British judge. Under the new Treaty it was easy peasy lemon squeezy. And off they went.
Prince Andrew will face no such ordeal albeit now banished from Royal Circles and effectively reduced to the ranks, his epaulettes ripped off his glittering array of obscure medals turned to scrap metal on his tunic.
Although accused of sexual abuse of a teenager and with an admitted close relationship to the alleged procurer of underage female victims, Ghislaine Maxwell, in whose London home it is alleged one of the sexual encounters took place - the US will never require the Prince to give evidence and the UK will never offer him up.
Assange, who was falsely accused of rape, has spent virtually the last decade locked up in one form or other of incarceration. And faces up to 175 years of prison time, if successfully extradited.
It is a tale of two cities - Buckingham Palace and Belmarsh Maximum Security Prison.
A tale of two individuals - one now a proven liar and one a well attested truth-teller.
A tale of two fates. The Prince who became a moral pauper, the other an impecunious journalist who became a moral giant.
It is a tale of our times.
George Galloway @ RT.
Thursday, 28 November 2019
RT Spanish broadcasts in Bolivia will be terminated starting next week, the country’ leading private TV operator has announced without a prior notice or clear explanation, citing only orders from its administration.
Cotas, a non-governmental operator and the leader in the Bolivian paid television market, sent a notice to RT on Wednesday that the Spanish service would be taken off air on December 2.
“This is a decision taken by the company’s administration, which tasked us with shutting down the channel’s broadcast,” said the statement, without going into any other details.
It’s unclear if the move was the initiative of the company’s management or if there was any pressure from the government in La Paz that came to power after ousting President Evo Morales in a military-backed coup earlier this month.
The new government, led by conservative Senator Jeanine Anez, has been facing large-scale protests by supporters of Morales, whose party still has the parliamentary majority. More than 30 people were killed in clashes with police and the military so far. The government warned politicians from Morales's party, Movement to Socialism, against “disloyalty” to the new authorities - while threatening journalists not to engage in what the new communications minister called “sedition.”
“There’s no freedom of expression nor freedom of press in the country, but there’s prosecution of some leaders, murders, yet there are no culprits found,” former Vice President of Bolivia Álvaro García Linera told RT.
Thursday, 21 November 2019
The country's citizens rose up having been forced into becoming the silent majority, officials in Bolivia are in danger of letting history repeat itself
By Slavoj Zizek (H/T FarmersLetters)
Although I am for over a decade a staunch supporter of Evo Morales, I must admit that, after reading about the confusion after Morales’ disputed electoral victory, I was beset by doubts: did he also succumb to the authoritarian temptation, as it happened to so many radical Leftists in power? However, after a day or two, things became clear.
Brandishing a giant leather-bound bible and declaring herself Bolivia’s interim president, Jeanine Añez, the second-vice president of the country’s Senate, declared: “The Bible has returned to the government palace.” She added: “We want to be a democratic tool of inclusion and unity” – and the transitional cabinet sworn into office did not include a single indigenous person.
This tells it all: although the majority of the population of Bolivia are indigenous or mixed, they were till the rise of Morales de facto excluded from political life, reduced to the silent majority. What happened with Morales was the political awakening of this silent majority which did not fit in the network of capitalist relations.
They were not yet proletarian in the modern sense, they remained locked into their premodern tribal social identities – here is how Alvaro Garcia Linera, Morales’ vice-president, described their lot: “In Bolivia, food was produced by Indigenous farmers, buildings and houses were built by Indigenous workers, streets were cleaned by Indigenous people, and the elite and the middle classes entrusted the care of their children to them. Yet the traditional left seemed oblivious to this and occupied itself only with workers in large-scale industry, paying no attention to their ethnic identity.”
To understand them, we should bring into picture the entire historical weight of their predicament: they are the survivors of perhaps the greatest holocaust in the history of humanity, the obliteration of the indigenous communities by the Spanish and English colonisation of the Americas.
The religious expression of their premodern status is the unique combination of Catholicism and belief in the Pachamama or Mother Earth figure. This is why, although Morales stated that he is a Catholic, in the current Bolivian Constitution (enacted in 2009) the Roman Catholic church lost its official status – its article 4 states: “The State respects and guarantees the freedom of religion and spiritual beliefs, in accordance to every individual’s world view. The State is independent from religion.”
And it is against this affirmation of indigenous culture that Anez’s display of the bible is directed – the message is clear: an open assertion of white religious supremacism, and a no less open attempt to put the silent majority back to their proper subordinate place. From his Mexican exile, Morales already appealed to Pope to intervene, and the Pope’s reaction will tell us a lot. Will Francis react as a true Christian and unambiguously reject the enforced re-Catholisation of Bolivia as what it is, as a political power-play which betrays the emancipatory core of Christianity?
If we leave aside any possible role of lithium in the coup (Bolivia has big reserves of lithium which is needed for batteries in electric cars and it has featured in a number of theories about what brought down Morales), the big question is: why is for over a decade Bolivia such a thorn in the flesh of Western liberal establishment? The reason is a very peculiar one: the surprising fact that the political awakening of premodern tribalism in Bolivia did not result in a new version of the Sendero Luminoso or Khmer Rouge horror show. The reign of Morales was not the usual story of the radical Left in power which screws things up, economically and politically, generating poverty and trying to maintain its power through authoritarian measures. A proof of the non-authoritarian character of the Morales reign is that he didn’t purge army and police of his opponents (which is why they turned against him).
Morales and his followers were, of course, not perfect, they made mistakes, there were conflicts of interests in his movement. However, the overall balance is an outstanding one. Morales not Chavez, he did not have not oil money to quell problems, so his government has to engage in a hard and patient work of solving problems in the poorest country in Latin America. The result was nothing short of a miracle: economy thrived, poverty rate fell, healthcare improved, while all the democratic institutions so dear to liberals continued to function. The Morales government maintained a delicate balance between indigenous forms of communal activity and modern politics, fighting simultaneously for tradition and women rights,
To tell the entire story of the coup – and I am in no doubt it is a coup – in Bolivia, we need a new Assange who will bring out the relevant secret documents. What we can see now is that Morales, Linera and their followers were such a thorn in the flesh of the liberal establishment precisely because they succeeded: for over a decade radical Left was in power and Bolivia did not turn into Cuba or Venezuela. Democratic socialism is possible.
Tuesday, 19 November 2019
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday that the US was softening its position on Israel’s network of settlements in the occupied Palestinain territory, saying it was revoking the notion that settlements are illegal under international law — a notion recognized by the rest of the world as factual and true.
“The Trump administration is reversing the Obama administration’s approach to Israeli settlements,” Pompeo said in his opening remarks at a press conference in Washington, D.C.
Pompeo said that the Trump administration would be departing from the Carter administration’s 1978 legal opinion — which served as the basis for the long-standing U.S. policy on settlements — which states that Israel’s establishment of Jewish-only settlements was “inconsistent with international law.”
Calling Israeli settlements illegal under international law, Pompeo said, “hasn’t worked” and “hasn’t advanced the cause of peace.”
“The hard truth is there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace,” he said.
“The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law,” Pompeo declared, adding that the administration was “expressing no view on the legal status of any individual settlement.”
According to Pompeo, one of the considerations taken by the administration leading up to the decision were the “confirmed the legality of certain settlement activities” by the Israeli legal system — a system that has been widely criticized as serving to uphold the structures of Israel’s occupation rather than one aimed at achieving justice and equality for all.
Once the annexation will be a fait accompli, Israeli law experts will cook up for the WB Palestinians some complicated 'legal' status [by the Israeli Supreme Court] that will probably be allow them to stay but without citizenship or any significant political rights. Mark my words...
Monday, 18 November 2019
Who’s that guy telling the Democratic Party to be conservative about what they wish for from their next president? Wait, isn’t that Barack ‘Yes, we can’ Obama, the media darling that led the country before Trump ‘ruined it all?’
The cold shower poured on Friday by the former US president in front of a room full of wealthy donors in Washington was obviously directed at Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the progressive contenders in the Democratic primary race. The two senators have proposed a number of policies to radically change the way America functions economically and politically – for the benefit of the common people.
According to Obama, Democratic voters don’t really want a candidate that would “completely tear down the system and remake it.”
There are a lot of persuadable voters and there are a lot of Democrats out there who just want to see things make sense. They just don’t want to see crazy stuff. They want to see things a little more fair, they want to see things a little more just. And how we approach that I think will be important.
Yep, the guy who got elected on a message of hope that America could achieve its dreams is now telling it to be rooted in reality. The bold vision that the party nominee should offer to the divided nation should presumably involve a little less bankruptcies over medical bills, a little fewer ICE raids on immigrants and a lot less concerns from the corporate elites about their sustained profits in the foreseeable future. Yes, we can!
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
Friday, 8 November 2019
Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been released from prison where he was serving a 12-year corruption sentence, after a supreme court ruling which delighted his supporters and infuriated followers of the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.
Lula was greeted on Friday by delirious supporters outside the federal police headquarters in the city of Curitiba where he has been imprisoned for 580 days.
Lula was incarcerated in April 2018 after a sentence for corruption and money laundering handed down by the controversial judge Sérgio Moro was upheld by an appeal court.
On Thursday Brazil’s supreme court ruled that defendants could only be imprisoned after all appeals to higher courts had been exhausted, paving the way for Lula and another 5,000 prisoners to be freed.
The decision followed revelations published by the investigative website the Intercept Brasil showing Moro had colluded with prosecutors leading the sweeping graft investigation that imprisoned Lula.
Polls had showed that Lula was leading in last year’s presidential election, but the conviction removed him from the race, giving Bolsonaro a clear run.
Bolsonaro then made Moro his justice minister, heightening the sense of injustice.
Lula presided over an extraordinary period of economic growth and reduction of inequality as president from 2003 to 2010. Even in prison he has cast a long shadow over political debate in Brazil – but his release is only likely to widen political divides here.
“His freedom does not change a divided country,” said Carlos Melo, a professor of political science at Insper, a São Paulo business school. “Let’s see if this stays on social media … The atmosphere is a little tense.”
Earlier on Friday, Bolsonaro’s vice-president, Gen Hamilton Mourão, criticised the decision on Twitter. “Where is the rule of law in Brazil?” he tweeted.
Monday, 4 November 2019
Former Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin acknowledged and praised the "deep state" for any involvement that led to the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
"There is something unique you have to agree that now the impeachment inquiry is underway, sparked by a complaint from someone within the intelligence community, it feeds the president’s concern, an often-used term about a deep state being there to take him out?" moderator Margaret Brennan asked.
"Thank God for the deep state," McLaughlin quipped.
"Everyone here has seen this progression of diplomats and intelligence officers and White House people trooping up to Capitol Hill right now and saying these are doing their duty and responding to a higher call," McLaughlin said. "It doesn't surprise me -- with all of the people who knew what was going on here, it took an intelligence officer to step forward and say something about it, which was the trigger that then unleashed everything else."
"Now why does that happen?" he explained. "I'll tell the American people why that happens. This is the institution in the U.S. government, that with all of its flaws and it makes mistakes, it is institutionally committed to objectivity and telling the truth. It is one of the few institutions in Washington that is not in a chain of command that makes or implements policy. Its
whole job is to speak the truth, it's engraved in marble in the lobby."
[Ed.] Oh John, ROFLOL, it's the way you tell'em!
Saturday, 2 November 2019
“YOUR BROTHER CREATED ISIS,” college student Ivy Ziedrich told a startled Jeb Bush after a town hall meeting in Reno, Nevada, in May 2015. The then-Republican presidential hopeful tried to defend his elder sibling, former President George W. Bush, by blaming the rise of the Islamic State on Barack Obama, “because Americans pulled back” from Iraq in 2011.
It sounds a bit conspiratorial, right? Calling Dubya the creator of ISIS? The reality, however, is that Ziedrich’s accusation wasn’t far off the mark.
Had it not been for Bush’s catastrophic decision to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003, in defiance of international law, the world’s most feared terrorist group would not exist today. ISIS is blowback.
In this week’s episode of my six-part series on blowback, I examine the three ways in which Bush’s misadventure in Mesopotamia helped birth a group that the U.S. now considers to be one of the biggest threats to both U.S. national security and Middle East peace.
First, foreign military occupations tend to radicalize local populations and breed violent insurgencies. Take Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Or Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
In Iraq, the U.S. morphed from heroic liberators into brutal occupiers within a matter of weeks. In Fallujah, which would later become an ISIS stronghold, U.S. troops opened fire on a crowd of peaceful protesters in April 2003, killing and wounding dozens of Iraqis.
The shootings, the torture, the general chaos, all helped drive thousands of Iraqis from the minority Sunni community into the arms of radical groups led by brutal gangsters, such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi’s Al Qaeda in Iraq, formed in 2004 to fight U.S. troops and their local allies, was a precursor organization to … ISIS.
Second, in May 2003, in a criminally stupid and reckless move, the U.S. occupying authorities disbanded the Iraqi army. That’s right: The U.S. made more than half a million well-armed and well-trained Iraqi troops unemployed overnight. No less an authority than Gen. Colin Powell, Bush’s secretary of state and America’s former top soldier, would later describe those jobless soldiers as “prime recruits for insurgency.”
In recent years, many of the top commanders in ISIS have been identified as former senior officers in Saddam Hussein’s army. Coincidence?
Third, the U.S. military detained tens of thousands of Iraqis, many of them noncombatants, at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq, where imprisoned jihadis were able to not only radicalize new recruits in plain sight, but also plan future operations and attacks. “Many of us at Camp Bucca were concerned that instead of just holding detainees, we had created a pressure cooker for extremism,” compound Cmdr. James Skylar Gerrond would later remark.
One former Bucca detainee, incidentally, was none other than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Yes, the self-proclaimed caliph and leader of ISIS who, according to Iraqi terrorism expert Hisham al-Hashimi, “absorbed the jihadist ideology and established himself among the big names” while at Bucca.
To be clear, then, ISIS is blowback from the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. And don’t just take my word for it. Listen to David Kilcullen, a former adviser to both Gen. David Petraeus and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, considered to be one of the world’s leading counter-insurgency experts. “We have to recognize that a lot of the problem is of our own making,” Kilcullen told Channel 4 News in March 2016. “There, undeniably, would be no ISIS if we hadn’t invaded Iraq.”
Mehdi Hasan @ TI
Thursday, 31 October 2019
Despite receiving an overwhelmingly positive response from those who have actually seen it, The Occupation of the American Mind has been repeatedly attacked and misrepresented by right-wing pressure groups and outright ignored by virtually all mainstream media outlets and North American film festivals. To bypass this campaign of misrepresentation and suppression, we’ve decided to make the film available for FREE online so that people can make up their own minds about its analysis of U.S. media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Please watch and share widely!
21 minute version:
45 minute version:
Full length (84 minute) version:
Sunday, 27 October 2019
Here's an excellent article by James Bamford (02/2019 - New Republic) on the ludicrous 'Butina the Russian Spy' case, against the backdrop of Russiagate/the 'New Redscare'. Too long to reproduce here in full, I give you only an excerpt that underlines the role of the Fake News MSM:
Yet the prosecution’s suggestion that Butina traded sex for influence worked very well as a publicity tactic. “Who Is Maria Butina? Accused Russian Spy Allegedly Offered Sex for Power,” read the headline in USA Today. CNN carried the breaking news banner, “The Russian Accused of Using Sex, Lies, and Guns to Infiltrate U.S. Politics.” Within days, a simple Google search using the phrase “Maria Butina” and “sex” produced more than 300,000 hits, and she became the butt of jokes on shows like Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.
“They manipulated the evidence,” was the opinion of a former assistant U.S. attorney familiar with the Washington, D.C., office. It was a place he had spent many years prosecuting cases. “The government is basically calling her a whore in a public filing.... I think it was an attempt to influence media coverage.” He added, “This seems like somebody panicked, they moved too early, now they’re trying to figure out what to do.”
It is also another example of the media marching in formation with the government, as it did in the lead-up to the war in Iraq. “I think journalism skepticism stops at whatever a prosecutor says,” the former assistant U.S. attorney told me. “If you’re supposed to afflict the powerful, the most powerful people to afflict are the people who have the power to put you in jail. But those are the people reporters are so often most credulous about.”
And on Russian retaliation:
Arresting Butina on such grounds set an extremely dangerous precedent. Why couldn’t the Russian government simply return the favor to the United States? Putin, in fact, even seemed to suggest that Butina’s arrest would lead to retribution. “The law of retaliation states, ‘An eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth,’” he said in a news conference on December 20. On December 28, Russian authorities arrested an American citizen, Paul Nicholas Whelan, a former Marine attending a wedding in Moscow, and charged him with espionage. Like Butina, he had visited the country frequently, exhibited an affinity for it, was involved with guns as a licensed dealer—and is probably innocent. Now facing a possible 20-year prison term in Russia, he was likely arrested simply in retaliation for Butina’s arrest and with the idea of a trade.GO read!
Sunday, 20 October 2019
Hillary Clinton slanders Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Green Party candidate Jill Stein as Russian spies
Hillary Clinton, the widely despised former Democratic Party presidential candidate, has slandered two of her political opponents—Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein—as traitors and Russian spies.
The World Socialist Web Site has fundamental political differences with both Ms. Gabbard and Dr. Stein. But Clinton’s claims, made without the slightest effort at factual substantiation, are an attempt to criminalize the anti-war statements of the two candidates as treasonous.
Clinton’s attacks on Gabbard and Stein make clear once again that the Democrats’ assertions of “Russian meddling” in the 2016 election were primarily aimed not at Trump, but at the anti-war and anti-capitalist sentiments that led millions of people to refuse to vote for her in 2016.
They underscore how the Democrats have appropriated the McCarthyite tactics historically associated primarily with the Republican right.
As a central part of their anti-Russia campaign, Clinton and the Democrats promoted the media effort to poison public opinion against journalist Julian Assange by slandering him as a “Russian agent,” preparing the way for the Trump administration to indict him on bogus espionage charges and secure his imprisonment in London under conditions that threaten his life.
At the same time, in the name of countering the supposed menace of Russian “fake news,” the Democrats pressured Google to slash search traffic to left-wing political websites and insisted that Facebook and Twitter delete left-wing accounts with millions of followers.
In a podcast interview published Thursday, Clinton told former Obama adviser David Plouffe, “I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate.” Implicitly but clearly referring to Gabbard, Clinton continued, “She’s the favorite of the Russians.”
“They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her,” Clinton added.
Asked later if the former secretary of state was referring to Gabbard in her comment, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill told CNN, “If the nesting doll fits…”
Clinton then went on to make her strongest assertion yet that Jill Stein was a “Russian asset.”
“That’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not, because she’s also a Russian asset,” Clinton said. “Yes, she’s a Russian asset, I mean, totally. They know they can’t win without a third-party candidate.”
Gabbard replied to Clinton’s slander on Twitter by declaring, “Thank you @HillaryClinton. You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain.”
Gabbard’s performance in this week’s Democratic presidential debate no doubt put her in Clinton’s crosshairs. Gabbard vowed, “As president, I will end these regime-change wars,” and “would make sure that we stop supporting terrorists like Al Qaeda in Syria, who have been the ground force in this ongoing regime-change war.”
Gabbard’s true statement that the United States—with Clinton as secretary of state under Obama—had allied with forces linked to Al Qaeda in the drive to overthrow the Syrian government was passed over in total silence by the rest of the candidates and the CNN and New York Times moderators. It was then blacked out in the post-debate media coverage of the event.
In an earlier debate, Gabbard said the greatest geopolitical danger facing the United States was the threat of nuclear war—another taboo in the broadcast media, which routinely demands that the United States “stand up” to Russia without mentioning what a military confrontation with the nuclear-armed country would look like.
And it gets better [all emph. is mine. Ed.]:
Toward the end of Thursday’s interview, Clinton implicitly called for censorship. She condemned the growth of internet news outlets, which have broadened the number and range of sources of information available to the population.
“I think it’s a lot harder for Americans to know what they’re supposed to believe,” she said. In the 1970s, with only three major national newspapers, “It was a much more controllable environment.”
Jill Stein advocates the reform of capitalism and is an opponent of Marxism. She has stated that she is opposed to “state socialism.” Tulsi Gabbard, a veteran of the Iraq war and major in the Hawaii National Guard, describes herself as a “hawk” in many aspects of US foreign policy.
Nevertheless, it is clear that the statements they have made in opposition to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria correspond to the sentiments of the overwhelming majority of the American people, who see these wars of aggression launched on the basis of lies, which have killed and maimed millions, as a criminal squandering of lives and resources.
Clinton, speaking for a rabidly pro-war faction of the American financial oligarchy and the military-intelligence establishment, sees these sentiments as treasonous and argues for their criminalization.
Her statements make clear once again that the working class has no stake in the struggle between the Trump faction and his opponents in the Democratic Party and intelligence apparatus. Trump, relying on fascistic appeals to his right-wing base, is seeking to turn the United States into a personalist dictatorship. But Clinton’s faction does not oppose his concentration camps for immigrants or his pro-corporate agenda. Rather, it opposes Trump on the grounds that he is “soft” on Russia and insufficiently aggressive in waging America’s wars.
WSWS.org, by Andre Damon.
Sunday, 13 October 2019
The Man Who Knew Too Much
Then the third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star burning like a torch fell from heaven and landed on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter like wormwood oil, and many people died from the bitter waters.
Wormwood is told through Eric Olson, the son of Frank Olson, an American biological warfare scientist and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, who died under mysterious circumstances in 1953.
Nine days after Olson was covertly dosed with LSD by his CIA supervisor as part of Project MKUltra, he plunged to his death from the window of a hotel room in New York City. His death was initially regarded as a suicide, but subsequent investigations have raised questions of a coverup of an alleged murder.
Wormwood is interesting on many levels and not in the least because it references a multitude of CIA projects and operations:
It's now believed that Olson had extensive knowledge of MKULTRA and ARTICHOKE and strongly disagreed with these activities. For this he was murdered and a coverup story involving LSD and depression, resulting in suicide, concocted.
Tuesday, 8 October 2019
Their ransacking of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (video):
The above series of 'horrendous incidents' (as Beijing keeps referring to them) is far from isolated, as anyone with access to global news or internet can verify.
The US, engaged in a trade war and struggle for hegemony with China, and its European vassal states have of course smelled a first class opportunity to land Beijing a bloody uppercut. This is cynically exploited by the 'non-leader leader' Joshua Wong of the student movement, who's been sucking it to American legislators and been given red carpet treatment in DC, to the point some of them have nominated Wong for... the Nobel Peace Prize!
On 1 February 2018, a bipartisan group of US lawmakers, led by Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) Chair US Senator Marco Rubio and co-chair US Representative Chris Smith announced they had nominated Wong, Nathan Law, Alex Chow and the entire Umbrella Movement for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, for "their peaceful efforts to bring political reform and protect the autonomy and freedoms guaranteed Hong Kong in the Sino-British Joint Declaration".
All in the name of 'Freedom', no less...
Sunday, 6 October 2019
The wife of a US diplomat has left the UK after becoming a suspect in an investigation into the death of a motorcyclist involved in a fatal road collision, police said.
Harry Dunn [pictured above], 19, died after his motorbike and a car collided near RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on 27 August.
Northamptonshire police said a 42-year-old American woman who was being treated as a suspect in their investigation had left the UK.
The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said he had called the US ambassador to “express the UK’s disappointment that she had left the country.
“I wish to offer my condolences to the family affected by this tragic incident,” he said.
Supt Sarah Johnson said the suspect had previously told the force she did not intend to “leave the country in the near future”.
Johnson said: “Northamptonshire police followed all of its usual procedures following the incident, including liaising closely with the suspect, who engaged fully with us at the time and had previously confirmed to us that she had no plans to leave the country in the near future.”
She said due process was followed in seeking the necessary paperwork to arrest and interview the suspect, and the force was “exploring all opportunities through diplomatic channels” to ensure the investigation continued. This included working with the Foreign Office to try to resolve the situation.
Johnson said: “Harry Dunn’s family deserve justice and in order to achieve this, a full and thorough investigation, with the assistance of all parties involved, needs to take place.
“Northamptonshire police is committed to ensuring justice for Harry and specially trained officers continue to support the Dunn family in their loss, including keeping them fully informed of all developments.”
Wednesday, 2 October 2019
There has predictably been a plethora of hysterical reactions from the Far Right to the Greta Thunberg phenomenon but few as comically OTT as a piece by Sumantra Maitra in The Federalist. Maitra is a doctoral researcher (really?) and has contributed among other things to The Torygraph.
Lets dig right in:
If nothing else, the last few days should be enough to prove that Western civilization, a product of more than 1,500 years of Judeo-Christian values, is facing its most significant and sustained challenge in centuries from tribalistic paganism, a force that seeks not only to turn back time but essentially to destroy the entire current edifice.
Ah yes, that old chestnut: 1,500 of Xtian on Jewish persecution, culminating in the Holocaust but now we're all friends and 'Israel uber alles'...
That is why members of “Extinction Rebellion” do what they do. Extinction Rebellion is an apocalyptic cult that wants to radically end every thing around you, from your private cars to the burgers you eat and the plastic chairs in your yard. It is a cult that was formed after its founder took psychedelic drugs and prayed for “social change.” Members have blocked D.C. and London intersections, “twerking” the way people in a pre-civilized era would perform a fertility dance to pray to Gaia.
Here he leaves a glaring omission: the Guns, Sumantra, the Guns! Surely they'll come for your guns?
So, there you have it. Sexualized dances, psychedelic hallucinogens, worshiping nature, confessing sins in pagan animism, worshiping purified teen saints, and throwing them up on an altar, bereft of their childhood, to promote a greater cause.
Oo-Kayay, that one can go without comment, methinks.
The reality is, of course, completely different. Much less than destroying the planet, climate change isn’t even a settled science. Conservatives don’t disagree that climate is changing. That is a straw man. Conservatives, however, are opposed to hysteria, have skepticism about the rate of the climate change, and would like to see an actual cost-benefit analysis of the radical changes being demanded.
Re. "climate change isn’t even a settled science", only a non-scientific dork with an upcoming phD in (presumably) the humanities would make demands for 'settled science'. But science is never settled and always in flux. Quantum mechanics isn't 'settled'; it has its dissidents and fringe skeptics. How about the round (spherical) Earth? 'Settled'? With regard to the science of AGC, Sumantra can claim the science isn't 'settled' as long as there's one dissenter standing but that claim is meaningless and useless.
Re. being 'opposed to hysteria' some of them react to it with their own brand of hysteria, like Sumantra's, see e.g. here:
The modern left is a combination of two of the worst impulses in human history. First are the ultra-privileged bourgeoisie, which, having lost their old Judeo-Christian faith, are instinctively attracted to pre-civilized rituals, from overt sexuality to fewer familial ties. Consider Late Roman public orgies, and you get an idea. At the same time, human minds feel a gaping void that still needs to be filled by an alternate faith. It is in that intersection where this occultist, apocalyptic climate paganism comes from. It gives some privileged people a noble purpose.
And here he shows a bit of admiration for good old Uncle Stalin:
For all the Marxists’ faults, the old left at least wanted to conquer nature instead of turning subservient to it. Of course, that went to its own extremes, but one can imagine Joseph Stalin putting all twerking climate fanatics as mentally ill people in a forced labor camp to build railroads in Siberia.
Better to 'conquer nature' and rounding the climate change people up in forced labour camps, eh? (You have to wonder how he'd feel doing the same to climate change deniers?)
Perhaps this sort of 'run to the hills!' reaction to Greta Thunberg is a sign she's doing something right? Basically if it deeply riles mousebrains like Mr (soon Dr) Maitra, I can't object to it.
What's for sure is that Sumantra's 'they're coming to overthrow Western Civilisation' is actually a conspiracy theory, many orders of magnitude sillier than the Troofers'.
Tuesday, 1 October 2019
By Tom Secker and Matthew Alford
Tom Secker and Matthew Alford report on their astonishing findings from trawling through thousands of new US military and intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
The documents reveal for the first time the vast scale of US government control in Hollywood, including the ability to manipulate scripts or even prevent films too critical of the Pentagon from being made — not to mention influencing some of the most popular film franchises in recent years.
This raises new questions not only about the way censorship works in the modern entertainment industry, but also about Hollywood’s little known role as a propaganda machine for the US national security apparatus.
When we first looked at the relationship between politics, film and television at the turn of the 21st century, we accepted the consensus opinion that a small office at the Pentagon had, on request, assisted the production of around 200 movies throughout the history of modern media, with minimal input on the scripts.
How ignorant we were.
More appropriately, how misled we had been.
We have recently acquired 4,000 new pages of documents from the Pentagon and CIA through the Freedom of Information Act. For us, these documents were the final nail in the coffin.
These documents for the first time demonstrate that the US government has worked behind the scenes on over 800 major movies and more than 1,000 TV titles.
The previous best estimate, in a dry academic book way back in 2005, was that the Pentagon had worked on less than 600 films and an unspecified handful of television shows.
The CIA’s role was assumed to be just a dozen or so productions, until very good books by Tricia Jenkins and Simon Willmetts were published in 2016. But even then, they missed or underplayed important cases, including Charlie Wilson’s War and Meet the Parents.
Alongside the massive scale of these operations, our new book National Security Cinema details how US government involvement also includes script rewrites on some of the biggest and most popular films, including James Bond, the Transformers franchise, and movies from the Marvel and DC cinematic universes.
A similar influence is exerted over military-supported TV, which ranges from Hawaii Five-O to America’s Got Talent, Oprah and Jay Leno to Cupcake Wars, along with numerous documentaries by PBS, the History Channel and the BBC.
National Security Cinema also reveals how dozens of films and TV shows have been supported and influenced by the CIA, including the James Bond adventure Thunderball, the Tom Clancy thriller Patriot Games and more recent films, including Meet the Parents and Salt.
The CIA even helped to make an episode of Top Chef that was hosted at Langley, featuring then-CIA director Leon Panetta who was shown as having to skip dessert to attend to vital business. Was this scene real, or was it a dramatic statement for the cameras?
The Military’s Political Censorship of Hollywood
When a writer or producer approaches the Pentagon and asks for access to military assets to help make their film, they have to submit their script to the entertainment liaison offices for vetting. Ultimately, the man with the final say is Phil Strub, the Department of Defense’s (DOD) chief Hollywood liaison.
If there are characters, action or dialogue that the DOD don’t approve of then the film-maker has to make changes to accommodate the military’s demands. If they refuse then the Pentagon packs up its toys and goes home. To obtain full cooperation the producers have to sign contracts — Production Assistance Agreements — which lock them into using a military-approved version of the script.
This can lead to arguments when actors and directors ad lib or improvise outside of this approved screenplay. On set at Edwards Air Force base during the filming of Iron Man, there was an angry confrontation between Strub and director Jon Favreau.
Favreau wanted a military character to say the line, ‘People would kill themselves for the opportunities I have’, but Strub objected. Favreau argued that the line should remain in the film, and according to Strub:
‘He’s getting redder and redder in the face and I’m getting just as annoyed. It was pretty awkward and then he said, angrily, “Well how about they’d walk over hot coals?” I said “fine.” He was so surprised it was that easy.’
In the end, this compromised line did not appear in the finished film.
Friday, 27 September 2019
Tuesday, 24 September 2019
‘Beyond parody’: Call for UK to ban pointed kitchen knives ridiculed online
Church of England bishops are leading a call for the government to take a serious stance on knife crime by banning pointed kitchen knives. The suggestion has been met with some confusion, and a lot of jokes.
Church leaders, with support from police, victims, and psychiatrists, penned an open letter to the government, arguing that domestic knives should be redesigned with rounded tips to reduce the number of life-threatening stabbing injuries. They reportedly argue that pointed blades aren’t even needed in this day and age, given that we have forks to eat with.
The absurdity of banning a common kitchen implement was pointed out by bemused netizens, particularly as the proposal comes after police recently announced that they will no longer post images of seized knives “to help reduce the fear of knives,” and as the Home Office uses takeaway packaging to basically tell people that stabbing is bad.
Wednesday, 18 September 2019
The WikiLeaks founder would have been released from HMP Belmarsh on 22 September, Westminster magistrates court heard on Friday, but he was told he would be kept in jail because of “substantial grounds” for believing he would abscond again.
Assange, 48, who is an Australian citizen, appeared by video-link wearing a loose-fitting T-shirt.
District judge Vanessa Baraitser told him: “You have been produced today because your sentence of imprisonment is about to come to an end. When that happens your remand status changes from a serving prisoner to a person facing extradition.
“Therefore I have given your lawyer an opportunity to make an application for bail on your behalf and she has declined to do so, perhaps not surprisingly in light of your history of absconding in these proceedings.
“In my view I have substantial ground for believing if I release you, you will abscond again.”
Assange was asked if he understood what was happening. He replied: “Not really. I’m sure the lawyers will explain it.”
Another administrative hearing will take place on 11 October and a case management hearing on 21 October, the court heard. The final extradition hearing is expected in February.
Friday, 13 September 2019
He's a Jewish multi-billionaire philanthropist who has given away $32bn. Why does the hard right from America to Australia and from Hungary to Honduras believe George Soros is at the heart of a global conspiracy, asks the BBC's Mike Rudin.
One quiet Monday afternoon last October in leafy upstate New York, a large manila envelope was placed in the mailbox of an exclusive country mansion belonging to multi-billionaire philanthropist George Soros.
The package looked suspicious. The return address was misspelt as "FLORIDS" and the mail had already been delivered earlier that day. The police were called and soon the FBI was on the scene.
Inside the bubble-wrapped envelope was a photograph of Soros, marked with a red "X". Alongside it, a six-inch plastic pipe, a small clock, a battery, wiring and a black powder.
More than a dozen similar packages were sent to the homes of former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other prominent Democrats.
None of the devices exploded. The FBI traced the bombs to a white van covered in pro-Trump and anti-Democrat stickers, parked in a supermarket car park in Florida.
Immediately the right-wing media claimed it was a "false-flag" operation intended to derail President Donald Trump and the Republican campaign, just two weeks before the crucial US mid-term elections.
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs tweeted: "Fake News - Fake Bombs. Who could possibly benefit by so much fakery?" Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh added: "Republicans just don't do this kind of thing."
Soon the internet was awash with allegations that the bomb plot was a hoax organised by Soros himself.
President Trump condemned the "despicable acts", but when a member of the audience at a White House reception shouted "Soros! Lock him up!" the president seemed amused.
Then a 56-year-old Florida man called Cesar Sayoc was arrested.
Conspiracy theories claimed he wasn't actually a Republican. But Luigi Marra, a former work colleague, told me how Sayoc used to deliver pizzas in his van plastered with pro-Trump stickers and argue with customers if they had Democratic posters at their homes.
"Everything for him was a conspiracy theory, everything. George Soros was the one behind everything, he was the one buying the whole Democratic Party, he was the epicentre of what is going wrong in the United States of America."
Sayoc's social media revealed more. On the day the pipe bomb was discovered at George Soros's house, Sayoc reposted a meme claiming, "The world is waking up to the horrors of George Soros."
Sayoc later pleaded guilty to 65 counts, including intent to kill or injure with explosives, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
So how did George Soros come to be regarded by so many as the evil mastermind at the heart of a global conspiracy?
Find out more -
Watch Conspiracy Files: The Billionaire Global Mastermind on BBC Two at 21:00 on Sunday 8 September
Viewers in the UK can catch up later online (BBC iPlayer)
Thursday, 12 September 2019
Uh oh, is Rachel Madcow finally in trouble?
OAN sues Rachel Maddow, MSNBC, Comcast, NBC Universal for $10 million
One America News Network (OAN), a conservative news network for people who think Fox News is too liberal, has filed a $10 million dollar defamation lawsuit against Rachel Maddow, MSNBC and its parent companies Comcast and NBC Universal.
The network claims Maddow defamed them during an episode of her nightly show when she referred to OANN as "paid Russian propaganda."
Maddow was referencing OAN's employment of Kristian Brunovich Rouz as an on-air reporter covering US politics while he is also employed as a reporter for Sputnik, a Kremlin-owned news wire. If Sputnik sounds familiar, that could be because it was found to have been part of Russia's 2016 election interference scheme.
Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Tuesday, 10 September 2019
I could practically kiss DJT:
“I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.” the president wrote on Twitter on September 9, 2019.Meanwhile Netanyahoo's been sighted chewing manically on one end of his laser pointer...
Monday, 9 September 2019
The president of the United States had planned to host the Taliban on U.S. soil, three days before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Can you even begin to imagine the reaction from the right if Barack Obama had made a similar announcement?
To be clear: Inviting the loathsome Taliban to Camp David, of all places, for a personal meeting with the U.S. president, not only in advance of any finalized peace agreement but also on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, was a dumb and offensive idea. However, engaging in negotiations with the Taliban to try and end the Afghan conflict — as the Trump administration has been doing for the past year in Qatar, including nine separate meetings led by the veteran U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad — is neither dumb nor offensive. It’s something that should have been attempted by the George W. Bush administration back in 2002 or 2003.
The war in Afghanistan, remember, has been an utter catastrophe. It may have dropped out of the headlines here in the United States, but it still holds the title for the longest-running conflict in American history. As the Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow has pointed out, the Afghan war has lasted “longer than the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and Korean War combined.”
This forgotten conflict has cost the U.S. taxpayer almost $1 trillion and has resulted in the deaths of more than 2,400 U.S. military personnel — as well as tens of thousands of unnamed, innocent Afghan civilians. “We’re pretty close to the day when we will wake up to the news of a casualty in Afghanistan who was not born on 9/11,” Democrat Pete Buttigieg, who himself was deployed to Afghanistan in 2014, said at the CNN presidential debate in July.
So Trump, prior to becoming president, was right when he declared Afghanistan to be a “mess” and a “total disaster.”
And he was right, upon assuming office, to have authorized peace talks with the Taliban (despite harshly condemning Obama for trying to do the same in 2012). Liberals who piously condemn Trump for trying to do a deal with the Islamist insurgent group need to explain how they plan to end the fighting without trying to do the same. (“At some point,” tweeted political scientist Paul Musgrave on Sunday, “the US will have to reach a deal with the Taliban, accept defeat, go on an all-out rampage, or make it a literal forever war.”)
As for the attempt to deny terrorists a safe haven, if 100,000 US troops couldn’t defeat the Taliban at the height of the Obama-ordered surge in 2011, why should we believe that the current deployment of 14,000 U.S. troops can achieve any kind of victory in 2019 or 2020?
Lest we forget, the Taliban right now controls “nearly half of Afghanistan.” There are at least 240 Al Qaeda fighters on the ground in Afghanistan, according to the U.N. Security Council. Meanwhile, Georgetown University terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman says an ascendant ISIS has invested “a disproportionate amount of attention and resources in Afghanistan,” while the Pentagon says the jihadi group poses a “substantial threat” to the country.
Thursday, 5 September 2019
Wednesday, 4 September 2019
The Cuba Libre Story (German Title: Geheimes Kuba)
Cuba – the island where dreams clash. It was the gateway to the New World, the port of call for the American underworld, a crossroads for drug smuggling.
It has brought us cigars, sugar and rum. And a Socialist Revolution: Cuba stands for schools for everybody, and an eternal struggle for freedom.
Cuba may seem synonymous with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, but its history was shaped by adventurer Christopher Columbus, freedom fighter José Martí, Dictator Fulgenico Batista, Mafia Boss Meyer Lansky and many others.
“The Cuba Libre Story” tells Cuba’s complete history – looking back at 500 years before the Castro Brothers, and ahead at what will come after them.
The series weaves together over 50 exclusive interviews with the most important experts and eyewitnesses of Cuban history – both from within and outside the island with never-before-seen archive footage.
All footage has been newly scanned, digitally restored and re-mastered, from the Spanish-American War of 1898, which was the first war in history ever to be filmed.
We hear from Juan Antonio Rodriguez Menier, former chief of Castro’s secret service and Nikolai Leonov, head of the KGB in Latin America from 1953 onwards (and Vladimir Putin’s former boss and mentor), from Marita Lorenz, Castro’s former lover and Carlos Calvo, Castro’s former bodyguard.
We hear from Cynthia Duncan, granddaughter of Mafia boss Meyer Lansky, Leonardo Padura, Cuba’s most famous novelist and Egon Krenz, East Germany’s last head of state and personal friend of the Castro brothers.
Tuesday, 3 September 2019
On a Mission from God
Back on 31 March 2019 I wrote an essay entitled “God and U.S. Foreign Policy.” The central figure in that essay was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo is a Christian fundamentalist who believes that God is at work when it comes to both sustaining Israeli society as well as the U.S. foreign policies that underpin it. There are other Christian fundamentalists in the Trump White House who agree with Pompeo, significantly Vice President Pence. Both men also appear to believe a really bizarre backstory that predicts that Israel’s success is a prelude to the second coming of Christ and the subsequent end of the world. (Just as an aside, I have to confess that when I was around five or six I was convinced that Godzilla was real and attempting to crawl through my bedroom window at night. I grew out of this quickly.) Folks like Pompeo and Pence seem so attached to their point of view that, as regards Israel, they carry out the duties of their offices as if they were, as the Blues Brothers would put it, “on a mission from God.”
Such Christian fundamentalists have long had allies among Jewish fanatics—those who insist that Palestine is now the “land of Israel” and divinely reserved for Jews only. Here in the U.S., before the Civil Rights movement changed things in the public sphere, we used to have hotels that were restricted to white Christians only. No Jews, African-Americans, Mexicans, Chinese, etc. were allowed in. The Jewish fanatics currently supporting and running Israel are in the process of turning Palestine/Israel into a restricted hotel.
Why some—though certainly not all—Jews, who are members of a group that has long been victimized by racism, would want to support widespread official discrimination in Israel is a psychological conundrum. But major Jewish American politicians certainly do support this unfortunate effort, and as pointed out above, this makes them allies of Pompeo, Pence and others like them. Take for instance Charles “Chuck” Schumer, a Democratic Senator from New York, and the Senate minority leader. Schumer too is on a self-declared mission from God to defend Israel. Here is how he describes it: “You know, my name . . . comes from the word shomer, guardian, watcher. … And I believe Hashem [Orthodox for God] actually gave me that name. One of my roles, very important in the United States senate, is to be a shomer – to be a or the shomer Yisrael. And I will continue to be that with every bone in my body.”
For those readers who might find this declaration a bit baffling, here is a translation: Schumer claims that his name derives from the Hebrew word “shomer” which means “guard.” It also means “watcher” or “observer,” but the senator likes “guardian” perhaps because it has a connotation of alleged historical significance. Anyway, he goes on to claim that God gave him this name and set him the “role” of “guarding” Israel’s interests in the U.S. Senate. It’s a task that he carries out with all his strength and determination.
Much more @ tothepointanalysis.
Friday, 30 August 2019
Today, President Trump and Vice President Pence announced the return of the US Space Command -- a Cold War-era division of the Air Force that's been on a 17-year hiatus. The revival of the US Space Command is meant to "ensure the protection of America's interests in space," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at a news conference Wednesday. But it could be confused with Space Force -- the sixth branch of the military that Trump hopes to create -- or the existing Air Force Space Command, which focuses on Air Force operations in space.
"The dangers to our country constantly evolve, and so must we," Trump said at an event today. "Now, those who wish to harm the United States, who seek to challenge us in the ultimate high ground of space, it's going to be a whole different ballgame."
The revived Space Command was first established by the Air Force in 1985, NPR reports. As the Cold War was heating up, it was meant to coordinate missile defense and surveillance efforts. But by 2002, military focus had shifted to terrorism, and Space Command was merged into the unified Strategic Command. It was refocussed to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
Last year, Trump ordered the Pentagon to separate Space Command from Strategic Command and create a stand-alone entity for "space-related responsibilities." That would include defending American satellites, supporting troops from orbit and planning future space combat. Trump has also called for a space-related sixth branch of the military to be created, but that will require Congressional approval. In the meantime, reviving Space Command could allow the Oval Office to establish leadership structures and coordinate missions, so it will be ready if and when Space Force gets the green light.
Thursday, 29 August 2019
Tuesday, 27 August 2019
Part I—Attacking the Progressive Past
The election of Donald Trump in 2016 and the re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu in 2019 occurred under different circumstances, and yet they are very similar in their results. They both put an authoritarian figure in power through democratic electoral procedures. As well, both of these figures, like so many modern reactionary leaders before them, denigrate the recent past. Why do they do so?
In the case of Donald Trump, the past he despises is the 1960s, with its progressive civil rights legislation. The laws passed at this time pushed the white supremacy model out of the public realm. Trump. in practice, has proven to be a white supremacist and an extreme nationalist. Most of his “core” voting base adheres to these ideas as well. This worldview demands that he undo— through presidential orders and future decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court—the progress toward equalitarianism and a multicultural society symbolized by the election of America’s first African-American president, Barack Obama. Trump also wants to “Make America Great Again” by acting on the basis of national power alone—thus destroying along the way any number of alliances and treaties enshrining human rights and progressive international law.
Of course, these ambitions alone are not exactly why he was elected. Trump’s racist “core” is too small to have elected him by themselves. He was elected because too many Americans did not want to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016—whom they saw as a status quo candidate—and Trump was the GOP alternative. It may well be that a good number of the electorate who voted for Trump had no idea of what sort of person they were supporting. By now they should have no doubt.
In the case of Benjamin Netanyahu, the story is an even odder one. The past that Netanyahu rejects is the one designed after World War II to criminalize behaviors such as the waging of aggressive war, genocide, and apartheid. Some of these behaviors had for centuries threatened European Jews. Netanyahu, and those who voted for him, no longer identify with the suffering of their European ancestors. Israel is now a strong, aggressive, land-hungry power much like 19th century Russia and Germany. Many Israeli Jews are also, like Donald Trump’s core supporters, ethnic racists and supremacists.
Netanyahu’s problem is that the post-World War II international laws and treaties seeking to prevent aggressive nationalism, racism, and the oppression of minorities now stand in the way of Israeli ambitions. So, oddly, the only way Israel can realize its Zionist ambitions while also being seen as a “normal” country—one that is in tune with the international community— is by changing international norms. That is, Isreal now seeks to undermine the progressive international environment that was, in good part, designed to protect the remnants of European Jews. And it would seem, many of those who voted for Netanyahu knew exactly what sort of society they were endorsing.
Trump and Netanyahu both stand against minority members of their societies, and through such postures rally a dangerous core base. They are not alone. The nations of the world are increasingly led by reactionary “thugs in suits,” many of them popularly elected. They are all Pied Pipers leading their populations backward—resurrecting the
pre-progressive “past in present tense.” Their destination is an environment that, historically, we have enough negative experience to want to avoid. Yet we follow these leaders anyway. To paraphrase Shakespeare in Julius Caesar, it is a case of “blind citizens governed by lethal idiots.”
Part II—Multiplying Casualties
Evidence of this rush to the rear can be found in a partial list of the rights being undermined and the individuals being attacked:
A. Attack on a Free Press
— The editor of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, is in prison in the UK after losing his seven-year-long asylum status at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He will now have to fight extradition to the U.S. where he is wanted for posting on the web shocking evidence of shocking American barbarism in Iraq, as well as other embarrassing revelations.
Assange “has been charged for alleged conspiracy with whistleblower Chelsea Manning under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.” The indictment also “describes routine journalistic interactions with sources as evidence of conspiracy.” Thus, “the ability to use an encrypted chat messenger or try to keep a source’s identity anonymous are … portrayed as criminal in nature by the Trump Justice Department.” By the way, that same Justice Department will argue that the nature of the leaked information, revealing the brutal and sometimes criminal behavior of the U.S. military, is irrelevant to the charge against Assange and therefore is inadmissible in court.
The larger problem with this attack on Assange is that his alleged “conspiring” to publish information gathered in this fashion is something reporters and newspaper editors do all the time. It is the essence of foundational investigative journalism, and as such the case against Assange is a threat to freedom of the press.
In the meantime, the Israelis have stepped into the act by falsely asserting that Assange is a longtime “anti-Semite.”
— Chelsea Manning, Assange’s alleged co-conspirator, is also back in jail. She is being held in contempt of a grand jury subpoena seeking to force her to testify about Assange and Wikileaks.
B. Attack on Free Speech
The U.S. Congress, as well as some twenty-seven state legislatures, are attacking freedom of speech by attempting to outlaw the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. House Resolution 246 and Senate Resolution 120, both of which identify criticism of the Israeli state with anti-Semitism (which is the equivalent of mistaking apples for oranges), have now been introduced and, though patently unconstitutional because they undermine the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, may be passed into law any way. This subversive action is being carried out at the urging of American Zionists. The Zionists, in turn, are doing this to defend Israel, an apartheid state and violator of international law. So much for the devotion of legislators to the U.S. Bill of Rights in the face of strong lobbies. The Trump administration has simultaneously decided to refuse a visa for Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement. Mr. Barghouti has been accused by Zionists such as U.S. Congressman Lee Zelden of being “filled w/ anti-Israel & anti-Semitic hatred.” As someone who is personally acquainted with Mr. Barghouti, I can testify that this is absolutely untrue. I can also attest that he, as a victim of Israeli apartheid, has no patience with racists.
It should be pointed out that the tactics used by American and Israeli Zionists not only have a corrupting effect on the U.S. Congress, state legislatures, and the Constitution itself, but also sully Jews in the aggregate and the and the Jewish religion. They do so by insisting that support for the self-aggrandizing, racist political ideology of Zionism is part of the definition of being Jewish.
C. Attack on International Law
The Trump administration has now expressed its disdain for international law by threatening the judges and investigators of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and refusing visas to those associated with the court even when they simply seek to carry out their duties at the United Nations in New York. The United Nations maintains another headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, and ICC business with the UN may now take place there.
Part III—Why Recent Progress is Threatened
How is it that after making such progressive strides, we now see them threatened?
In the U.S. case, part of the answer is that, in the age of the patriarchal nation-state, progressive issues such as multicultural equalitarianism, feminism, gay rights, immigrant rights, and the like are not cultural positions easily sustained. The Civil Rights Movement was successful not just because its leaders formed a strong political coalition, but because their cause proved an important one within the Cold War struggle of the time. In turn, its success did encourage other progressive movements to push their agendas, and the resulting collective social pressure within the U.S. created a smoldering undercurrent of white ethnic resentment. That resentment has now broken out in what is known as a culture war.
This culture war has serious political consequences and reflects a polarized nation. Correspondingly, the number of moderates or centrists who are politically active has shrunk. On the conservative side, this polarization has destroyed the traditional Republican Party and replaced it with a rightwing extremist rump party led by Donald Trump. It is this essentially purged Republican Party that now leads the fight to destroy the progressive domestic achievements of the recent past.
The Democratic Party has so far remained intact. However, that does not necessarily give it political advantage. The party’s leaders have alienated large sections of their once loyal liberal supporters. They continue to direct their political messages to a centrist audience whose numbers are declining. In other words, the party is poorly led and awash in internal dissension. This is a poor position from which to defend, much less further promote, America’s progressive domestic legacy.
The one thing the United States does have going for it is a fairly large number of well-educated citizens who are aware that their country has a constitution and a bill of rights that are integral to the character of the nation. Appeals to these documents provide, at least in theory, the basis for progressive legislation and policies.
When we turn to Israel, we find little or no regard for the country’s “Basic Laws” that stand in for a constitution. Also, despite all the play given to the Holocaust, many Israelis have a real disdain for Jewish behavior relative to that event. Indeed, Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust are often a source of shame for today’s Israelis. This is because, allegedly, they did not put up a sufficient fight against their genocidal persecutors. The fact that the fate of modern European Jewry helped underwrite much of the universal human rights treaties and related international law is not something the majority of Israelis celebrate.
As suggested above, modern Israel’s response to European Jewish history was to become a warrior state. That is what it is at present, and as such it celebrates the sense of superiority that is so often harbored by warriors, and drives their ambitions of conquest and domination.
It would seem that we are in a decisive struggle that will determine the shape of our future. Will it be reactionary or progressive in nature? Organized conservatism has evolved into a reactionary force throughout much of the West, and the hard-fought-for, progressive aspects of our world are in serious danger. The fate of Donald Trump, the U.S.’s ersatz Mussolini, in the 2020 election might be a pivotal moment in this struggle. In the meantime the struggle seems over in Israel—the reactionaries have won.
Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.