Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Is it April 1st yet?

The New Cold War manifests itself in the US mainly as the hysteria around RussiaGate but there are European symptoms too.

A beluga whale found off Norway's coast wearing a special Russian harness was probably trained by the Russian navy, a Norwegian expert says.
Marine biologist Prof Audun Rikardsen said the harness had a GoPro camera holder and a label sourcing it to St Petersburg. A Norwegian fisherman managed to remove it from the whale.
He said a Russian fellow scientist had told him that it was not the sort of kit that Russian scientists would use.
Russia has a naval base in the region.
The tame beluga repeatedly approached Norwegian boats off Ingoya, an Arctic island about 415km (258 miles) from Murmansk, where Russia's Northern Fleet is based. Belugas are native to Arctic waters.

Googling for 'Russian spy whale', it's clear a sizeable portion of the MSM carries this story, seemingly more or less uncritically. Here's a (non-exhaustive) list:

  • BBC
  • dailymail.co.uk
  • Fox News
  • The Daily Telegraph
  • WaPo
  • thesun.co.uk
  • NBC News
  • metro.co.uk
  • livescience.com
  • dailyrecord.co.uk
  • theregister.co.uk
  • insideedition.com
  • usatoday.com
  • Oh no: ANTISHEMETUSM at the NYT!!!

    The NYT, poor thing, has been found lacking in vigour in the fight against "anti-semitism". She published the following political cartoon:

    Limp dicks that they are, experiencing the usual Ziopack pushback, they promptly retracted and issued the apology below.

    All this was extensively published, among others by the 'powerlineblog' where I first learned about this latest flap.

    Scrolling down to below the fold of that blog, the right hand scraper showed this:

    Nuff said, really...

    Oh, and a 'Dominic Green' (who? no, I'm not linking either) at the 'spectator.us' demands that the apology should read like this:

    ‘We ran a blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon. At a time when anti-Jewish violence and incitement is at levels not seen since 1945, we chose to place gutter racism on our pages. We did this because plenty of our editors share the prejudice of this cartoon; if in doubt, look at our unsigned editorials.
    ‘We’re so soaked in this that none of us thought that it might be an error to publish a cartoon with clear precursors in fascist, communist, Arab nationalist and Islamist propaganda [my emph.]. Rather than explain this away in the passive tense, we’re going to name the editors who signed off on this cartoon, and fire them.’

    No less! Powerline called Green's burp 'a biting column'...

    Monday, 29 April 2019

    RIP Boom Bust host Commissioner Bart Chilton

    With great sorrow, we announce that our beloved colleague Bart Chilton has passed away after a sudden illness.
    Our friend Bart brought a unique combination of passion for business and extensive experience in the sphere of finance to his role as host of signature financial show, Boom Bust, elevating the content and profile to a new level, making it one of the most popular programs on RT America.
    His trademark show opening, “Let’s go!” was a perfect expression of his enthusiasm and drive to constantly do more, and learn more.


    "...passed away after a sudden illness." Now why could that have happened to John Bolton? Or Mike Pompeo? Elliot Abrahams? Life's unfair...

    Sunday, 28 April 2019


    Or should that be #MorenoIsBeingAShitAgain?

    CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — An ace Swedish programmer who was an early, ardent supporter of WikiLeaks has been arrested in Ecuador in an alleged plot to blackmail the country’s president over his abandonment of Julian Assange.

    But friends of Ola Bini say the soft-spoken encryption expert is being unfairly targeted for his activism on behalf of digital privacy.

    On Saturday, prosecutors said they intend to charge Bini for hacking-related crimes and had him ordered detained for up to 90 days while they compile evidence.

    The 36-year-old was arrested Thursday at the airport in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito as he prepared to board a flight to Japan. The arrest came just hours after Assange was evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Bini was carrying at least 30 electronic storage devices.

    His lawyers said they have not been notified whether he’s been charged. Authorities said the plot hatched with two unidentified Russian hackers living in Ecuador involved threatening to release compromising documents about President Lenin Moreno as he toughened his stance against the WikiLeaks founder.

    “It’s up to the justice system to determine if he committed a crime,” Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said Friday. “But we can’t allow Ecuador to become a center for piracy and spying. That period in our history is over.”

    Romo said Bini had traveled at least 12 times to meet with Assange at the London embassy. She said he was also in Venezuela earlier this year around the same time as a close aide to Moreno’s ex-mentor turned arch enemy, Rafael Correa. The former president granted Assange asylum in 2012 and has been leading a campaign cheered on by WikiLeaks to expose alleged corruption by Moreno that has included the release of damaging personal documents and photos, including several that showed him eating lobster in bed.

    While the extent of Bini’s relationship with Assange is unclear, the Swede has defended the WikiLeaks founder’s free speech rights in an online blog he’s kept over the years.

    “Any official who has called for Assange to be treated as a terrorist or enemy combatant should be seriously considering stepping down from office,” he wrote in December 2010.

    In the same blog, Bini condemned Amazon for knocking WikiLeaks off its hosting services and credit card companies and PayPal for refusing to process payments to the secret-spilling site. He also described working on a January 2011 panel about WikiLeaks put on by his then-employer, global software firm Thoughtworks, and including Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame.

    An expert on secure communications, Bini arrived in Quito in 2013 after being transferred from Chicago to the Ecuador office of Thoughtworks, which has guiding principles that stress social activism. Around the same time, he started to rethink his online habits and at one point gave up his Gmail account in favor of self-hosted email.

    “I am not a huge fan of having all my electronic life hosted under the auspices of U.S. legislation, especially not in light of recent events,” he wrote in a 2013 post.

    Friends and loved ones describe Bini as a computer geek who felt most at ease solving complex programming problem for days at a time. At the time of his arrest, he was traveling to Japan, his former wife Malin Sandell told The Associated Press, for two weeks of jujitsu training — one of the few hobbies he indulged in outside of his all-consuming work as a code developer.

    His Ecuadorian girlfriend said that she did not recall Bini ever expressing strong support for Assange despite the fact that the WikiLeaks founder has deep ties in Sweden and would have been an obvious topic of conversation in the small Ecuadorian programming circles.

    “Ola is not a hacker, if by that you mean a criminal, but he is someone trying to understand how computers work and protect people’s privacy,” Sofia Ramos said in an interview from Brussels.

    Ramos worked with Bini on a project at the Center for Digital Autonomy for creating a more secure instant-messaging encryption protocol. In its statement Friday, the center said Computerworld had ranked him in 2010 as Sweden’s No. 6 developer.

    The center is a small nonprofit incorporated in Ecuador and Spain dedicated to private, secure and anonymous communication. Its website says it has contributed to well-known projects including Enigmail and the Tor privacy browser.

    In the hours before he went to the airport Thursday, Bini sent a tweet warning of a “witch hunt” by Ecuadorian authorities mopping up after Assange’s forced departure from the embassy. Now his friends say that prophecy appears to have been true.

    “I didn’t realize that knowing somebody is a crime,” said Vijay Prashad, who runs a Marxist publishing house in India and last saw Bini a few months ago in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “He’s the last person who would ever be involved in an attempt to overthrow a government.”


    Saturday, 27 April 2019

    Now the RussiaGaters have a new victim, other than the Truth: Maria Butina

    Gun activist Maria Butina is a victim of selective justice, caught up "in the anti-Russian hysteria," attorney Robert Driscoll told RT, warning that the precedent might backfire on US citizens abroad.

    "I think it's impossible to separate [Butina's case] from the politics," Driscoll said. He added that it was hard to imagine that a citizen of any other country but Russia would get the same treatment in the US for such a minor offense.

    "There's an underlying crime that she's pled guilty to which you can make out under US law. But I think that the notion that this would have been investigated or an arrest would have been made for a typical foreign national who wasn't Russian and wasn't in the current environment in the US... it's almost impossible to believe that."

    The way the Butina case unfolded is a prime example of selective justice, Driscoll believes. Historically, the charges she had faced used to be brought against actual spies, which Butina wasn't – even according to the US prosecutors.

    "None of Maria's activities in the US were illegal in and of themselves. There is no classified information, no politically sensitive information – and everyone seems to forget that she was not paid by the Russian Federation. She was financially supported by Americans while she was here."

    Her case can pave the way for a dangerous precedent for countries "grabbing civilians of other countries as leverage or for other reasons," Driscoll warned.

    "Say, a son or daughter of a US senator or cabinet member went to study somewhere and joined a civil society group or a particular interest group – it would be no different than what Maria Butina did," he said.

    Moar Words!

    Friday, 26 April 2019

    Zut alors: Wikileaques on French arms to Yemen

    French-Made Weapons Reportedly Used in Yemen War, More Arms to Be Delivered

    Reporters accuse the French government of concealing information about the deployment of these weapons - including battle tanks, artillery, helicopters, and fighter jets - against the civilian population.

    Journalists claim to have uncovered the "massive use" of French-made weapons in war-torn Yemen through a leak of secret military documents.

    Radio France and investigative reporters from the NGO Disclose say they have obtained a classified 2018 report about French arms sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both of which form part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi militiamen in Yemen since 2015.

    The paper was allegedly compiled last September by France's military agency DRM and handed over to President Emmanuel Macron and other cabinet-level officials. It apparently contains a list of all French weapons deployed in Yemen by the two Arab monarchies.

    "These include Leclerc battle tanks, long-rod penetrator ammunition, Mirage 2000-9 fighter jets, COBRA counter-battery radar systems, Aravis armoured troop-carrying vehicles, Cougar and Dauphin helicopters, CAESAR truck-mounted howitzers," reads a statement on Disclose's website.

    The journalists went on to claim that some of the French-made weapons are being used in combat operations in Yemen, including in civilian zones. Specifically, two French-made warships — a missile-launching corvette and a warfare frigate — are said to be taking part in the naval blockade of Yemen, as per the report.


    Thursday, 25 April 2019

    So what are "negative approval ratings"?

    Dunno, but Theresa May's got a bad case of it!

    But there's bad news too: the truly awful Andrea Leadsom's high ratings and the rumour that Boris the Clown is leading as candidate for the next Tory leadership.

    Bar chart courtesy of ConservativeHome.com.

    Wednesday, 24 April 2019

    Carter: the US is “the most warlike nation in the history of the world"


    Former President Jimmy Carter told a church congregation this weekend that he had spoken with President Donald Trump about China on Saturday, and said the commander in chief was worried that Beijing had outpaced its global rivals.

    According to Emma Hurt, a reporter for NPR affiliate WABE, Carter spoke of the call during his regular Sunday School lesson at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia.

    Carter, 94, said Trump was worried that “China is getting ahead of us,” and suggested the president was right to be concerned.

    He told the congregation that Trump feared China's growing economic strength. Economic modeling indicated that China would overtake the U.S. as the world’s strongest economy by 2030, and many experts have said that we were already living in what has been dubbed the “Chinese Century.”

    Carter said he did not “really fear that time, but it bothers President Trump and I don’t know why. I’m not criticizing him this morning,” he added, to laughs from fellow churchgoers.

    Carter—who normalized diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing in 1979—suggested that China’s breakneck growth had been facilitated by sensible investment and buoyed by peace.

    “Since 1979, do you know how many times China has been at war with anybody?” Carter asked. “None. And we have stayed at war.” The U.S., he noted, has only enjoyed 16 years of peace in its 242-year history, making the country “the most warlike nation in the history of the world,” Carter said. This is, he said, because of America’s tendency to force other nations to “adopt our American principles.”

    In China, meanwhile, the economic benefits of peace were clear to the eye. “How many miles of high-speed railroad do we have in this country?” he asked. While China has some 18,000 miles of high-speed rail, the U.S. has “wasted, I think, $3 trillion” on military spending. “It’s more than you can imagine. China has not wasted a single penny on war, and that’s why they’re ahead of us. In almost every way.”

    “And I think the difference is if you take $3 trillion and put it in American infrastructure you’d probably have $2 trillion leftover. We’d have high-speed railroad. We’d have bridges that aren’t collapsing, we’d have roads that are maintained properly. Our education system would be as good as that of say South Korea or Hong Kong,” Carter told the congregation.


    Tuesday, 23 April 2019

    The US and Neo-Mercantilism

    The US is imposing further sanctions on Iran, from which the US and her most important Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, will benefit:

    The US has announced it will no longer exempt countries from sanctions that aim to impose a complete oil embargo on Iran.
    Officials said the Trump administration would not renew any of the sanctions waivers granted to a handful of countries, including China, India, Turkey, Japan and South Korea, when those waivers expire on 2 May.
    “Today I am announcing that we will no longer grant any exemptions,” Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said. “We’re going to zero. We will continue to enforce sanctions and monitor compliance. Any nation or entity interacting with Iran should do its diligence and err on the side of caution. The risks are simply not going to be worth the benefits.”
    Neither Pompeo nor senior state department officials would say whether sanctions would be immediately imposed on the affected countries on 3 May, if oil purchases continued.
    Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action (JCPOA), in May 2018 and threatened US sanctions against any international companies that continued to do business with Iran.
    Trump administration officials said the waivers, originally granted to eight countries, were motivated by a desire to avoid a spike in oil prices in a tight market last year. They said the waivers were being allowed to end because there was now greater supply. However, oil prices jumped to a six-month high on Monday.
    “When Trump withdrew from the Iran deal, it sent the US on a course of self-isolation and dwindling options,” Suzanne DiMaggio, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said. “A year later, with no progress to show, he is doubling down.”
    Pompeo said the aim of the sanctions was to convince Iran to act like “a normal country”. Last year, he laid down 12 conditions Tehran would have to fulfil for the sanctions to be lifted, including an end to all uranium enrichment, cutting support to Hizbullah, Hamas , Islamic Jihad, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and withdrawing from Syria.
    The administration’s critics say the real motive of the sanctions is to try to goad Iran into leaving the JCPOA, which imposed strict curbs on its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief, and therefore end US isolation on the issue. The EU and most US allies continue to support the JCPOA.
    “This is clearly one of the administration’s goals,” DiMaggio said. “But the Iranians are savvy enough to know this and at this stage of the game they are not going to be goaded into doing something that is not in their interests.”
    It is unclear whether the US will be able to persuade Iran’s remaining customers to stop buying its oil. Industry analysts have said they expect India to comply after the country’s general elections. The Chinese and Turkish governments have both expressed irritation at being told whose oil they are allowed to buy. Both countries are involved in complex disputes with the US, in which Iranian oil could be a bargaining counter.
    “China has the capacity to ignore the sanctions if it wants to,” Jarrett Blanc, the former state department coordinator for JCPOA implementation, said. “If they want to continue to buy Iranian oil it has ways to structure the transaction in a way it doesn’t matter if the US sanctions it.”


    Monday, 22 April 2019

    Mike Pompeo reveals true motto of CIA: ‘We lied, we cheated, we stole’ (Video)

    Perhaps the most sickening bit is the apparently standing ovation this admission gets from the audience (seemingly entirely made up of psychopaths?)

    From: TheDuran.

    Sunday, 21 April 2019

    BREAKING: Real Actor wins against actor in Landslide Victory

    Is Ukraine blazing a trail?

    KIEV: A comedian with no political experience won a landslide victory in Ukraine's presidential election on Sunday (Apr 21), exit polls showed, dealing a stunning rebuke to the country's political establishment.
    Volodymyr Zelensky, whose only previous political role was playing the president on television, trounced incumbent Petro Poroshenko by taking 73 per cent of the vote, according to exit polls conducted by several think tanks.
    Poroshenko lost to the television star across all regions of the country, including in the west where he traditionally enjoyed strong support.
    It was an extraordinary outcome to a campaign that started as a joke but struck a chord with voters frustrated by poverty, corruption and a five-year war that has claimed some 13,000 lives.
    The 41-year-old star of TV series "Servant of the People" will now take the helm of a country of 45 million people beset by challenges and having run on the vaguest of political platforms.

    Ukrainian elites are now engaged on a massive scrape-egg-from-face operation. European elites should now be afraid too...

    Jonathan Pie for Prime Minister!

    Read more at Clown News.

    Friday, 19 April 2019

    The Great Untaxed

    Welfare benefits for the wealthy

    This April 15 is the true start of another mass redistribution of wealth upwards, this one engineered by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The effects are so large, James S. Henry, a senior advisor to the Tax Justice Network, told me in an interview last month, that the most appropriate analogue is the physical distribution of land rights to railroad barons two hundred years ago.
    The act’s widely reported hallmark is to reduce the amount corporations must contribute to our collective pot by cutting the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. That alone is bad enough.
    Less frequently reported are all the other corporate goodies found in the five-hundred-plus pages of the act, which was rushed through the Republican-dominated Congress with no real debate or public hearings. There’s a provision that allows multinational corporations to continue hiding their collective $2.6 trillion in offshore accounts, as long as they pay a small “repatriation tax” divvied up into even smaller increments over eight years. There’s a 100 percent deduction for any corporate investments that fall in value. There’s a new 20 percent deduction for “pass-through businesses”—businesses that pay no corporate income tax—which, contrary to what Trump would have you believe, aren’t just small businesses, but also hedge funds, law firms, and massive corporations. Bechtel, the $25.9 billion corporation that led construction of the Hoover Dam and made a lot of money “reconstructing” Iraq, is a pass-through business. So are some of the companies in the Trump Organization.
    Those corporate tax cuts are big wet kisses to the wealthiest class. The swells get more love as individuals, too. The top 1 percent earned an average tax cut that equalled 2.6 percent of their income last year, for example, about $48,320 per household, the Institute on Taxation and Economy Policy found. And now a married couple can leave their kids $22 million before the estate tax kicks in, double the previous amount.
    Besides the overriding sense of how unfair it is for rich people to get such handouts, you may not immediately feel the effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. In fact, some low- and middle-income households may even see a little more money because of it, at first. Average households earning between $40,000 and $64,000, for example, could pay $810 less in taxes, according to the ITEP. The poorest households, on average, may see a savings of 0.9 percent of income—$120— about $2.31 per week. Of course, what that means for whether you owe money to the government or get a refund depends on each individual, and refunds in general are down this year, according to the IRS. But either way, those tiny benefits are set to expire in 2025. Most of the cuts for the top dogs are permanent.
    Where you’ll really feel it is in the years to come, when a bridge collapses beneath you during rush hour, or Congress slashes funding to Medicare and Medicaid or cancels food stamp programs, or generally guts spending on everything except the military, because they say they don’t have the money for it. That’s what these tax cuts really do: they give lawmakers a reason for not spending money on the most vulnerable.
    Already Trump’s 2020 budget proposes spending cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Centers for Disease Control, and global AIDS prevention programs, among other things. “What we see now have been decades of cutbacks to welfare argued around the premise that we can’t afford these welfare programs because we don’t have the money for them,” John Christensen, director and chair of the Tax Justice Network, told me in an interview. “We’re going to see inequality in the U.S. rise significantly,” he said. “Welfare services, education services, public health services, have all been cut back. That’s the practical impact. These tax cuts serve no useful purpose. There’s no stimulus. But what it does do is feed into cutbacks to government programs for the elderly, sick, the people without jobs.”

    The Baffler.

    Thursday, 18 April 2019

    Julian Assange awarded 2019 Galizia Prize

    Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, Nestlé whistleblower Yasmine Motarjemi and Football Leaks’ Rui Pinto have been jointly awarded for the second annual GUE/NGL prize for ‘Journalists, Whistleblowers and Defenders of the Right to Information.’ Earlier this year, Courage nominated Julian Assange for the award, based on his contributions to journalism and whistleblower protections, his dire circumstances and need for public support, and what his case means for journalists and whistleblowers around the world.

    Named in honour of the murdered Maltese investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, the three have been honoured for their work in exposing the truth, and for their courage in risking their careers and personal freedom. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire will accept the award on behalf of Julian Assange.

    Per GUE/NGL’s press release:

    Commenting on the award, MEP Stelios Kouloglou (SYRIZA, Greece) said:

    “Two of the three whistleblowers who have won this award are currently in jail.”
    “This underlines the importance of the fight for the protection of whistleblowers – and also the importance of our award´.”
    “No other political group has initiated such an award, and the European Parliament’s promise to set up a similar initiative has never been implemented,” said the Greek MEP.

    For Miguel Urbán (Podemos, Spain), the arrest of Assange underlines just how perilous the situation facing whistleblowers is:

    “We have a very strong list of nominees but also three very deserving winners in Yasmine Montarjemi, Rui Pinto and Julian Assange.”
    “I strongly condemn the expulsion of Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London and his subsequent detention by the British police.”
    “We support the statements made by the United Nations rapporteur related to this case, who had urged against the expulsion of the founder of Wikileaks from the embassy as this would endanger Assange’s life if he is then extradited to the United States. Therefore, our first petition is addressed to the British government so that the extradition will not happen.”

    Defend Wikileaks.

    Wednesday, 17 April 2019

    We're America's Bitches - Assange

    H/T Farmer.

    An Empire's Friend appoints Himself for Life

    Sisi could rule Egypt until 2030 under constitutional changes

    Egypt’s parliament is to vote on a bill of sweeping constitutional changes this week that would increase President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s power and allow him to rule until 2030.
    MPs are expected to overwhelmingly confirm the bill on Tuesday, triggering a referendum. The proposed reforms, which were moved swiftly through committee hearings and parliamentary debates, would grant Sisi control over the judiciary, increase the military’s political power and extend presidential terms to six years.
    The former general, who became president in 2014 after a coup the previous year, was re-elected in 2018 with 97.8% of the vote. His attempt to extend his rule comes as autocrats in neighbouring Sudan and Algeria have fallen to popular protests after decades in power.
    Posters urging Egyptians to vote yes to the proposed changes began appearing across Cairo more than a week ago. “A bright future, a better tomorrow,” declared one poster. “Yes to the constitutional amendments. Yes to stability and development,” extolled another, showing Sisi’s face and a bright red tick within an ornate frame.
    No banners showing dissent were visible on the streets, and members of the country’s fragile opposition said they were prevented from campaigning openly.


    I seem to remember Sisi's democratically elected predecessor, Mohamed Morsi (Muslim Brotherhood, sca-ry!), tried to pull off something similar and ultimately got couped out for it.

    If all this come to pass, we can look forward to rightful cries of indignation from the Empire and her Bitches, no? No.

    Tuesday, 16 April 2019

    Let a Hundred Wikileaks Blossom!

    The panic and fury with which those in power – those who control our digital commons – reacted to Assange, is proof that such activity hits a nerve

    It finally happened – Julian Assange was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy and arrested. It was no surprise: many signs pointed in this direction.

    A week or two ago, Wikileaks predicted the arrest, and the Ecuadorian foreign ministry responded with what we now know were lies. The recent rearrest of Chelsea Manning (largely ignored by the media) was also an element in this game. Her confinement, designed to force her to divulge information about links with Wikileaks, is part of the prosecution that awaits Assange when (if) the US gets hold of him.

    There were also clues in the long, slow well-orchestrated campaign of character assassination which reached the lowest level imaginable a couple of months ago with unverified rumors that the Ecuadorians wanted to get rid of him because of his bad smell and dirty clothes.

    In the first stage of attacks on Assange, his ex-friends and collaborators went public with claims that Wikileaks began well but then it got bogged down with Assange’s political bias (his anti-Hillary obsession, his suspicious ties with Russia…). This was followed by more direct personal defamations: he is paranoiac and arrogant, obsessed by power and control.

    Assange a paranoiac? When you live permanently in an apartment which is bugged from above and below, victim of constant surveillance organised by secret services, who wouldn’t be that? Megalomaniac? When the (now ex-) head of the CIA says your arrest is his priority, does not this imply that you are a “big” threat to some, at least? Behaving like the head of a spy organisation? But Wikileaks IS a spy organisation, although one that serves the people, keeping them informed on what goes on behind the scenes.

    So let’s move to the big question: why now? I think one name explains it all: Cambridge Analytica – a name which stands for all Assange is about, for what he fights against, and describes the link between great private corporations and government agencies.

    Remember how big topic an obsession Russian meddling in the US elections became – now we know it was not Russian hackers (with Assange) who nudged the people towards Trump. Instead they were pushed our own data-processing agencies who joined up with political forces.

    This doesn’t mean that Russia and their allies are innocent: they probably did try influence the outcome in the same way that the US does it in other countries (only in this case, it is called helping democracy). But it means the big bad wolf who distorts our democracy is here, not in the Kremlin – and this is what Assange was claiming all the time.

    But where, exactly, is this big bad wolf? To grasp the whole scope of this control and manipulation, one should move beyond the link between private corporations and political parties (as is the case with Cambridge Analytica), to the interpenetration of data processing companies like Google or Facebook and state security agencies.

    We shouldn't be shocked at China but at ourselves who have accepted the same regulation while believing that we retain out full freedom, and that our media just help us to realise our goals. In China people are fully aware that they are regulated.

    The overall image emerging from it, combined with what we also know about the link between the latest developments in biogenetics (the wiring of the human brain etc.), provides an adequate and terrifying image of new forms of social control which make good old 20th century “totalitarianism” a rather primitive and clumsy machine of control.

    The biggest achievement of the new cognitive-military complex is that direct and obvious oppression is no longer necessary: individuals are much better controlled and “nudged” in the desired direction when they continue to experience themselves as free and autonomous agents of their own life.

    This is another key lesson of Wikileaks: our unfreedom is most dangerous when it is experienced as the very medium of our freedom – what can be more free that the incessant flow of communications which allows every individual to popularise their opinions and form virtual communities of their own free will?

    In our societies, permissiveness and free choice are elevated into a supreme value, and so social control and domination can no longer appear to infringe on a subject’s freedom. It has to appear as (and be sustained by) the very self-experience of individuals as free. What can be more free than our unconstrained surfing on the web? This is how “fascism which smells like democracy” really operates today.

    This is why it is absolutely imperative to keep the digital network out of the control of private capital and state power, and render it totally accessible to public debate. Assange was right in his strangely ignored book When Google Met WikiLeaks (New York: OR Books 2014): to understand how our lives are regulated today, and how this regulation is experienced as our freedom, we have to focus on the shadowy relation between private corporations which control our commons and secret state agencies.

    Now we can see why Assange has to be silenced: after the Cambridge Analytica scandal exploded, all the efforts of those in power has gone into reducing it to a particular “misuse” by some private corporations and political parties – but where is the state itself, the half-invisible apparatuses of the so-called “deep state”?

    Assange characterised himself as the spy of and for the people: he is not spying on the people for those in power, he is spying on those in power for the people. This is why his only assistance will have to come from us, the people. Only our pressure and mobilisation can alleviate his predicament. One often reads how the Soviet secret service not only punished its traitors (even if it took decades to do it), but also fought doggedly to free them when they were caught by the enemy. Assange has no state behind him, just us – so let us do Soviet secret service was doing, let’s fight for him no matter how long it will take!

    Wikileaks is just the beginning, and our motto should be a Maoist one: Let a hundred Wikileaks blossom. The panic and fury with which those in power – those who control our digital commons – reacted to Assange, is proof that such activity hits a nerve.

    There will be many blows below the belt in this fight – our side will be accused of playing into the enemy’s hands (like the campaign against Assange for being in the service of Putin), but we should get used to it and learn to strike back with interest, ruthlessly playing one side against each other in order to bring them all down

    Independent - H/T Farmer.

    Sunday, 14 April 2019

    RussiaGate: Keep on Gaslighting in the Free World

    And so now Julian Assange of Wikileaks has been dragged out of his “sanctuary” in the London embassy of Ecuador for failing to clean his cat’s litter box. Have you ever cleaned a litter box? The way we always did it was to spread some newspaper — say, The New York Times — on the floor, transfer the used cat litter onto it, wrap it into a compact package, and put it in the trash.

    It was interesting to scan the comments of the Times’s stories about the Assange arrest: Times readers almost uniformly presented themselves as a lynch mob out for Assange’s blood. So much for the spirit of liberalism and the old “Gray Lady” who published The Pentagon Papers purloined by Daniel Ellsberg lo so many years ago. Reading between the lines in that once-venerable newspaper — by which I mean gleaning their slant on the news — one surmises that the Times has actually come out against freedom of the press, a curious attitude, but consistent with the neo-Jacobin zeitgeist in “blue” America these days.

    Anyway, how could anyone expect Assange to clean his cat’s litter box when he was unable to go outside his sanctuary to buy a fresh bag of litter, and was denied newspapers this past year, as well as any other contact with the outside world?

    U.S. government prosecutors had better tread lightly in bringing Assange to the sort of justice demanded by readers of The New York Times — which is to say: lock him up in some SuperMax solitary hellhole and throw away the key. The show trial of Julian Assange on U.S. soil, when it comes to pass, may end up being the straw that stirs America’s Mickey Finn as a legitimate republic.

    Symptom of Mass Confusion

    The bloodthirsty hysteria among New York Times readers is a symptom of the mass confusion sown by agencies of the U.S. government itself when its own agents ventured to meddle in the national election of 2016 and then blame it on “the Russians.” As you will learn in the months ahead, it was the Times itself, and other corporate news organizations, who colluded with officers of the FBI, the Department of Justice, the CIA, and the Obama White House to concoct a phony narrative about Trump being in cahoots with Vladimir Putin, thus depriving Hillary Clinton of her “turn” in the White House; and then to join those agencies, and the grotesquely dishonest two-year investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in a cover-your-ass operation to hide their nefarious and criminal acts.

    The USA has a lot of sorting to do and, of course, the new Democratic-led Congress is already trying as hard as possible to prevent that from happening, the latest being their piling on Attorney General William Barr for testifying under oath that he believed the government ran a spying operation on candidate Donald Trump. The existence of FISA warrants establishes that as a fact, as does the million-dollar payment by the CIA and U.S. Defense Department to international man of mystery Stefan Halper, the secret agent (posing as an Oxford professor) commissioned to entrap Trump campaign associate Carter Page. The ugly cascade of truth about that ploy, and many other seditious subterfuges run by U.S. officials, will eventually bury the Jacobin “resistance” under more used cat litter than the Ecuadorian embassy staff could ever dream of.

    The official charges so far against Julian Assange include skipping bail in the U.K. and supposedly attempting to assist the U.S. soldier then known as Bradley Manning to find a password for entering certain U.S. government computer data bases. The U.K. bail matter revolved around Assange’s extradition to Sweden on a bullshit rape charge that was subsequently dropped as having no merit by Swedish authorities.

    The U.S. supposedly reserves the authority to lob additional charges at Assange, though they may face a lengthy extradition battle with his attorneys to lever him out of the U.K. and into U.S. custody. In the meantime, Assange may receive a Nobel Prize as a symbol of a lone conscience standing up against the despotic deceits of the world’s Deep States. Wouldn’t that gum up the works nicely? I’d like to see The New York Times’s front page headline on that story: “Russian Colluder Wins Nobel Prize, Put on Trial in Federal Court.” By then, the United States of America will be so completely gaslighted that it will pulsate in the darkness like a death star about to explode.

    From the delightfully named Clusterfucknation blog.

    Quips a commenter on that piece:

    The NYT has got nothing on the British Tory members of parliament in the house of commons. When prime minister May announced the arrest of Assange, the Tory MPs gave a big cheer and were grinning and laughing. It filled me with disgust, shame and loathing for these vile people who apparently cheer for the execution of children and journalists in Iraq, for that’s what Assange exposed to the world. WAR CRIMES by anyone’s definition. The UK parliament has become a cesspit for deadly bacteria which masquerade as representatives of the people who were stupid enough to vote for them.

    Hear, hear! I suppose those who once ran their own Empire must understand what it is to run by another...

    Finally, Tucker Carlson gets it on RussiaGate and Assange (Jimmy Dore show):

    Folks, we're in bizarre territory here: Fox News is now more truthful than the 'Liberal' MSM powerhouses!

    Saturday, 13 April 2019

    New UK counter-terror laws came into force yesterday – watch those clicks, people. You see, terrorist propag... NOOO! Alexa ignore us!

    File under: 'shit you couldn't make up'.


    Senior British military officers are providing targeting training to Saudi forces, including for cruise missile attacks, despite the kingdom’s airstrikes on neighbouring Yemen provoking an international outcry over civilian casualties.


    New 'counter-terrorismn' legislation was enacted yesterday:

    New laws came into force today that make it an offence in the UK to view terrorist material online just once.

    The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act, which was granted Royal Assent in February, bestows on law enforcement new powers to tackle terrorism.

    The government introduced the measures as part of its efforts to crack down on terrorist activities in the aftermath of attacks in London and Manchester in 2017.

    However, the Act has controversially expanded rules on obtaining information "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism" to cover online content.

    A new clause added into the 2019 Act makes it an offence to "view (or otherwise access) any terrorist material online", which also covers, for instance, streaming content.

    Officer, um, we was just explaining how viewing terrorist content online's an offence...

    Thursday, 11 April 2019

    Meet the US's Poodle: Little Britain...

    Amid much vague, sleep inducing Brexshit talk of 'UK Sovereignty', 'safeguarding our Democracy (The Oldest in History!)', 'independence!' and related bromides, one can't escape the impression that (most) Britons hate being 'dictated' by the EU but don't mind at all that their country is so often f*cked up the kazoo, as long as the f*cking is done by their 'Senior' partner, the USA. Such a 'speshul relashunship'!

    Yes, Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder has been dragged from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to the British court system, undoubtably on 'request' of the US, to face charges of breaking bail conditions. I can hear the delighted crowing by Pompous Mikey and John the Walrus from where I sit.

    Trump himself has gone from "I love Wikileaks" (re. the Hillary emails) to "I know nothing about Wikileaks". Consistency was never a fool's strong suit.

    It'll be 'interesting' to see the US MSM/media whores/Fake News industry reaction to all this.

    Theresa May (PM) and Jeremy Hunt (FS) waffled some pseudo-pieties for the occasion, while in the mean time it has now transpired that UK military officers are giving targeting training to the Saudi military.

    Let’s call Bolton what he is, a War Criminal with Terrorist Ties, not just “Hawkish”

    John Bolton helped lie our country into an illegal war of aggression that killed several hundred thousand Iraqis, wounded over a million, and displaced 4 million from their homes, helped deliver Baghdad into the hands of Iran, and helped create ISIL, which blew up Paris. In a just world, Bolton would be on trial at the Hague for war crimes. Instead, he has been promoted into a position to do to Iran what he did to Iraq.

    He is also in the back pocket of the MEK Iranian terrorist organization, which despite its violent and smelly past has proved so useful to those plotting the apocalyptic destruction of Iran that the Washington elite decided to take it off the list of terrorist organizations in 2012.

    The acceptable political spectrum inside the Beltway in Washington DC is a marvel to behold. Bernie Sanders, a long-serving senator and public servant won 13.2 million popular votes to 16.8 million votes for Hillary Clinton (i.e. he was backed by 43% of one of the two major parties in the country). But Sanders was virtually blacked out from corporate television coverage during his impressive presidential bid, while Jeff Zucker turned CNN over to Trump every night at 7:30 pm throughout the summer and fall of 2016 and just let him talk, or whatever he does, for an hour without even a semblance of journalistic analysis. Supposedly left-leaning MSNBC did the same thing.

    America’s corporations love the fascist side of the spectrum, which is obvious from the way they promoted Trump and Trumpism. Zucker also hired Cory Lewandowski, who was at the time contractually obligated to avoid criticizing Trump, as a CNN commentator. Fascism after all favors big corporations and vilifies and punishes workers and the poor. Under Mussolini, the Italian poor were plunged into much deeper poverty.

    Television news also loves the maniacal side of the spectrum. You seldom see normal people as commentators on cable news, and much of the commentary is polarized and superficial and often simply incorrect on the facts of the matter. Sometimes it is even just a criminal conspiracy. During the Iraq War, the NYT revealed that the Pentagon successfully pressed on CNN a gaggle of former generals, many of them actively making money off of the Iraq War through contracting while they were promoting it on television. They presented an Alice in Wonderland view of the brutal US occupation of that country as a shining success. Tom Fenton, a career television journalist, once wrote a book suggesting that television news is so bad that it is actually a standing risk for US security, since an uninformed or misinformed public cannot play the democratic role of watchdog and is not being alerted to genuine threats. Maybe the maniacs draw eyeballs and increase advertising dollars. Maybe Wall Street doesn’t see people as maniacs as long as they advocate giving billionaires more money.

    The fascination with the far right wing and with the maniacal dovetails in the person of Bolton, now Trump’s National Security Adviser. Jesus said that if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch. The ditch in this case could well be a ruinous war with Iran.

    In a sane society, people like Bolton wouldn’t be allowed on television, much less put in charge of American security.

    Bolton has assiduously tried to do the same thing he did to Iraq to Iran. Big corporations like wars. Wars mean you have to manufacture more shiny children-murdering weapons and bombs, the ultimate in planned obsolescence. No war, and the factories fall silent and the money-counting stops. People called “hawks” in Washington, a euphemism for “murderous maniacs,” often get supported one way or another by the arms industry. Sometimes it is direct and their bank accounts should be examined.

    Iran has never had a nuclear weapons program, and as long as the nuclear deal holds, it has no opportunity to develop them. It has no heavy water reactor. It has a limited number of centrifuges. It destroyed its stockpile of uranium enriched to 19.5% for its medical reactor. It is being actively inspected. No country under active UN arms inspections has ever developed a bomb.

    Bolton wants to bomb Iran so badly that he does not care about these facts. He wanted to bomb Iran himself if he could, sort of like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove. If not he wanted to have the Israelis do it.

    He has a list. He’d like to bomb nuclear-armed North Korea, too.

    The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that keeps that clock showing how many minutes the world is away from a nuclear midnight can put it away. With Bolton’s appointment, it is past midnight.

    Juan Cole in 2018.

    Tuesday, 9 April 2019

    Making America even more Subservient to Israel (MASI)

    ON THE EVE of Israel’s election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took credit for President Donald Trump’s decision to impose sanctions on Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, by designating it a foreign terrorist organization.

    The decision comes on the heels of Trump's moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and green-lighting Israel's annexation of the (Syrian) Golan Heights.

    Trump, who ran on a vague platform of isolationism/America-firstism has done the Zionist regime more favours than the previous three presidents combined. Basically Netanyahu says "jump!" and Trump asks "how high?" The former always saw America as "a thing you can move very easily".

    At this rate however, Donnie will run out of Hanukkah gift ideas...

    Monday, 8 April 2019

    The Road to Russiagate

    Or how the Ne'er Trumpers machine-gunned themselves in the foot...

    The end of the Special Counsel’s investigation into the non-existent conspiracy between Trump and the Russians has created an army of “Mueller Truthers,” demanding additional investigations. But Republicans are also demanding to know more, specifically how the FBI came to look into collusion, and what that tells us about the tension between America’s political and intelligence worlds. In Rudy Giuliani’s words “Why did this ever start in the first place?”

    The primordial ooze for all things Russia began in spring 2016 when the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee, through a company called Fusion GPS, hired former MI6 intelligence agent Christopher Steele to compile a report (“the dossier”) on whatever ties to Russia he could find for Donald Trump.

    Steele’s assignment was not to investigate impartially, but to gather dirt aggressively – opposition research, or oppo. He assembled second and third hand stories, then used anonymous sources and Internet chum to purported reveal Trump people roaming about Europe asking various Russians for help, promising sanctions relief, and trading influence for financial deals. Steele also claimed the existence of a “pee tape,” kompromat Putin used to control Trump.

    Creating the dossier was only half of Steele’s assignment. The real work was to insert the dossier into American media and intelligence organizations to prevent Trump from winning the election. While only a so-so fiction writer, Steele proved to be a master at running his information op against America.

    In July 2016 Steele met with over a dozen reporters to promote his dossier, with little success. It could not be corroborated. Steele succeeded mightily, however, in pushing his information deep into the FBI via three simultaneous channels, including the State Department, and via Senator John McCain, who was pitched by a former British ambassador retired to work now for Christopher Steele’s own firm.

    Hope of the RussiaGaters!

    Now read on! Peter van Buren.

    Sunday, 7 April 2019

    Political correctness isn't a communist plot

    Don't Blame Karl Marx for 'Cultural Marxism'

    The list of developments for which "cultural Marxism" has been blamed includes the following: the LGBT rights movement, especially the legal push to eliminate sodomy laws and legitimize gay marriage; activism for transgender acceptance and recognition; the increase in divorce at the end of the 20th century and a decrease in nuclear family formation; African Americans protesting police abuse; art and music that fails to follow familiar genre conventions; increased depictions of a variety of races, genders, and sexualities in popular media; acceptance of immigrants and the cultural pluralism they bring; a lack of tolerance for nonliberal ideas on college campuses.

    This bill of particulars is not new, especially from conservatives. The twist was to begin dragging Karl Marx into it. Here's how the narrative goes: After the horrific deaths of millions, global communism may have been discredited as a viable economic system, but its proponents want to sneak it perniciously through the back door via cultural decadence. Thus, political correctness is part of a lefty long con to take over America.

    You have to give the conspiratorial right credit for clever rhetorical deck-stacking, at least. How can you approve of sympathetic gay people appearing in yogurt commercials if it's all a commie plot?

    It may be comforting to believe your ideological foes are dupes of manipulative intellectual fiends. But declaring that advocates of multiculturalism, feminism, and gay rights are the pawns of dead Jewish communists is both mistaken as a matter of cultural history and foolish as a way to sell an alternate ideology. You won't win the day by treating people who merely disagree with you as stalking horses for socialist tyranny.

    The Critical Theory Conspiracy

    You might think that a history of cultural Marxism would start with Marx, but the poorly coiffed Prussian has almost nothing to do with this tale of insidious infiltration. Instead, the theory took off in the late 1990s due to speeches, essays, and books by William Lind, then with the Free Congress Foundation, and Patrick Buchanan, the firebrand conservative columnist, TV talking head, and sometime presidential candidate. (The idea, though not the name, was hatched earlier, in a 1992 monograph called "The New Dark Age: The Frankfurt School and Political Correctness." It was written by a disciple of the noted conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche.)

    Lind and Buchanan claimed that various progressive social or legal changes—from sex education in public schools to speech codes on college campuses—are the deliberate result of a program set in motion decades ago by a squad of philosophers, musicologists, psychologists, and incomprehensible brainiacs arising out of a Marxist/Freudian ferment between the world wars in Europe.

    That gang is known as the Frankfurt School, because they launched their Institute for Social Research at Goethe University Frankfurt in the 1920s. Their orbit included such recondite social philosophers as Walter Benjamin, Max Horkheimer, and Theodor Adorno.

    The story goes that these eggheads saw that Marx's predictions about the contradictions in capitalism producing a proletarian revolt were failing to come true. They decided that traditional Western culture was keeping the masses from their revolutionary mission and needed to be annihilated. Religion, the family, traditional sexual mores, belief in objective truth—all had to be overturned. So they launched "critical theory" to demolish the sacred principles that made Western civilization great and pave the way for communist tyranny and an eventual stateless utopia.

    Summing up what the Frankfurt School's clotted and confusing thinkers actually wrote or believed is beyond the capacity of a short essay (or even a long one). Luckily, it is also beside the point for understanding the conspiracy theory of cultural Marxism. Basically, these philosophers believed that knowledge and rationality do not necessarily stand outside history and culture, since everything we know arises from socially embedded perspectives.

    This view indeed left all sorts of institutions and mores up for criticism, but that needn't be inherently a threat to Western liberty. As the popular Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy sums it up, "the task of critical social theory is to evaluate the degree of rationality of any system of social domination in accordance to standards of justice." This isn't in itself an unlibertarian idea, though its practitioners didn't take it to libertarian conclusions.

    Adorno and Horkheimer, for example, hoped to discern the roots of the "authoritarian personality" through a mix of Marxism, Freudianism, and survey data. This attempt to understand disturbing trends in 20th century politics led their followers, aggravatingly, to write off virtually every nonprogressive attitude as "fascist" and to treat political differences as signs of mental defects. But in their analysis of the family, they weren't nearly as dismissive of the value of parents, especially as bulwarks against the totalizing power of the capitalist culture industries they feared and criticized. They blamed modern pop culture for warping the natural moral sense of the masses, much as modern traditionalists do.

    Critical theorists' analysis of the powers of modern electronic media are interpreted by the conspiracy-minded as proof they intended to take those media over for communist goals, but a real Frankfurt Schooler would doubt that such a scheme could work within a capitalist system anyway.

    Who Will Save Us? (Read on and see also below)

    The toxic, antisemitic legacy of 'Cultural Marxism'

    Some Marxists, like the Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci and his intellectual heirs, tried to understand how the class rule they criticized worked through cultural domination. And today, it’s true that on campus and off, many people are directing their ire at the advantages that white males have historically enjoyed. But neither the defense of the workers nor of other disempowered groups was a conspiracy on its own, and never was there a malignant plot to convert the first into the second — which is what “cultural Marxism” implies. Deployed to avoid claims of injustice, the charge functions to whip up agitated frenzy or inspire visions of revenge.

    And while increasingly popular worries about cosmopolitan elites and economic globalization can sometimes transcend the most noxious anti-Semitism, talk of cultural Marxism is inseparable from it. The legend of cultural Marxism recycles old anti-Semitic tropes to give those who feel threatened a scapegoat.

    A number of the conspiracy theorists tracing the origins of “cultural Marxism” assign outsize significance to the Frankfurt School, an interwar German — and mostly Jewish — intellectual collective of left-wing social theorists and philosophers. Many members of the Frankfurt School fled Nazism and came to the United States, which is where they supposedly uploaded the virus of cultural Marxism to America. These zany stories of the Frankfurt School’s role in fomenting political correctness would be entertaining, except that they echo the baseless allegations of tiny cabals ruling the world that fed the right’s paranoid imagination in prior eras.

    The wider discourse around cultural Marxism today resembles nothing so much as a version of the Judeobolshevik myth updated for a new age. In the years after the Russian Revolution, fantasists took advantage of the fact that many of its instigators were Jewish to suggest that people could save time by equating Judaism and communism — and kill off both with one blow. As the historian Paul Hanebrink recounts in an unnerving new study, according to the Judeobolshevik myth, the instigators of communism were the Jews as a whole, not some tiny band of thinkers, conniving as a people to bring communist irreligion and revolution worldwide.

    The results of such beliefs weren’t pretty. According to Professor Hanebrink, many aspects of the Judeobolshevik fantasy survived the Holocaust it helped bring about, just with the role of the Jews implied more euphemistically or replaced by new adversaries. As in Judeobolshevism, cultural Marxism homogenizes vast groups of shadowy enemies and assigns them a secret design to upend society. As in Judeobolshevism, those supposedly under threat are invited to identify themselves with “the Christian West” and surge in self-defense before it is too late.

    The defense of the West in the name of “order” and against “chaos,” which really seems to mean unjustifiable privilege against new claimants, is an old affair posing as new insight. It led to grievous harm in the last century. And though today’s critics of “cultural Marxism” purport to be very learned, they proceed seemingly unaware of the heavy baggage involved in alleging that conspiracies have ruined the land.

    That “cultural Marxism” is a crude slander, referring to something that does not exist, unfortunately does not mean actual people are not being set up to pay the price, as scapegoats to appease a rising sense of anger and anxiety. And for that reason, “cultural Marxism” is not only a sad diversion from framing legitimate grievances but also a dangerous lure in an increasingly unhinged moment.


    Saturday, 6 April 2019

    America Is Not a Democracy

    How the United States lost the faith of its citizens—and what it can do to win them back


    A New England town meeting would seem to be one of the oldest and purest expressions of the American style of government. Yet even in this bastion of deliberation and direct democracy, a nasty suspicion had taken hold: that the levers of power are not controlled by the people.

    It’s a suspicion stoked by the fact that, across a range of issues, public policy does not reflect the preferences of the majority of Americans. If it did, the country would look radically different: Marijuana would be legal and campaign contributions more tightly regulated; paid parental leave would be the law of the land and public colleges free; the minimum wage would be higher and gun control much stricter; abortions would be more accessible in the early stages of pregnancy and illegal in the third trimester.

    The subversion of the people’s preferences in our supposedly democratic system was explored in a 2014 study by the political scientists Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern. Four broad theories have long sought to answer a fundamental question about our government: Who rules? One theory, the one we teach our children in civics classes, holds that the views of average people are decisive. Another theory suggests that mass-based interest groups such as the AARP have the power. A third theory predicts that business groups such as the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America and the National Beer Wholesalers Association carry the day. A fourth theory holds that policy reflects the views of the economic elite.

    Gilens and Page tested those theories by tracking how well the preferences of various groups predicted the way that Congress and the executive branch would act on 1,779 policy issues over a span of two decades. The results were shocking. Economic elites and narrow interest groups were very influential: They succeeded in getting their favored policies adopted about half of the time, and in stopping legislation to which they were opposed nearly all of the time. Mass-based interest groups, meanwhile, had little effect on public policy. As for the views of ordinary citizens, they had virtually no independent effect at all. “When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy,” Gilens and Page wrote.

    Outlets from The Washington Post to Breitbart News cited this explosive finding as evidence of what overeager headline writers called American oligarchy. Subsequent studies critiqued some of the authors’ assumptions and questioned whether the political system is quite as insulated from the views of ordinary people as Gilens and Page found. The most breathless claims made on the basis of their study were clearly exaggerations. Yet their work is another serious indication of a creeping democratic deficit in the land of liberty.

    To some degree, of course, the unresponsiveness of America’s political system is by design. The United States was founded as a republic, not a democracy. As Alexander Hamilton and James Madison made clear in the Federalist Papers, the essence of this republic would consist—their emphasis—“IN THE TOTAL EXCLUSION OF THE PEOPLE, IN THEIR COLLECTIVE CAPACITY, from any share” in the government. Instead, popular views would be translated into public policy through the election of representatives “whose wisdom may,” in Madison’s words, “best discern the true interest of their country.” That this radically curtailed the degree to which the people could directly influence the government was no accident.

    Only over the course of the 19th century did a set of entrepreneurial thinkers begin to dress an ideologically self-conscious republic up in the unaccustomed robes of a democracy. Throughout America, the old social hierarchies were being upended by rapid industrialization, mass immigration, westward expansion, and civil war. Egalitarian sentiment was rising. The idea that the people should rule came to seem appealing and even natural. The same institutions that had once been designed to exclude the people from government were now commended for facilitating government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

    The shifting justification for our political system inspired important reforms. In 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment stipulated that senators had to be elected directly by the people, not by state legislatures. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the vote. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act, drawing on the Fifteenth Amendment, set out to protect the vote of black Americans. The once-peculiar claim that the United States was a democracy slowly came to have some basis in reality.

    That basis is now crumbling, and the people have taken notice. In no small part that’s because the long era during which average Americans grew more wealthy has come to a sputtering stop. People who are asked how well they are doing economically frequently compare their own standard of living with that of their parents. Until recently, this comparison was heartening. At the age of 30, more than nine in 10 Americans born in 1940 were earning more than their parents had at the same stage of their lives. But according to eye-popping research led by the economist Raj Chetty and his co-authors, many Millennials do not share in this age-old American experience of improving fortunes. Among those Americans born in the early 1980s, only half earn more than their parents did at a similar age.

    Americans have never loved their politicians or thought of Washington as a repository of moral virtue. But so long as the system worked for them—so long as they were wealthier than their parents had been and could expect that their kids would be better off than them—people trusted that politicians were ultimately on their side. Not anymore.

    The rise of digital media, meanwhile, has given ordinary Americans, especially younger ones, an instinctive feel for direct democracy. Whether they’re stuffing the electronic ballot boxes of The Voice and Dancing With the Stars, liking a post on Facebook, or up-voting a comment on Reddit, they are seeing what it looks like when their vote makes an immediate difference. Compared with these digital plebiscites, the work of the United States government seems sluggish, outmoded, and shockingly unresponsive.

    As a result, average voters feel more alienated from traditional political institutions than perhaps ever before. When they look at decisions made by politicians, they don’t see their preferences reflected in them. For good reason, they are growing as disenchanted with democracy as the people of Oxford, Massachusetts, did.

    The politician who best intuited this discontent—and most loudly promised to remedy it—is Donald Trump. The claim that he would channel the voice of the people to combat a corrupt and unresponsive elite was at the very core of his candidacy. “I am your voice,” Trump promised as he accepted his party’s nomination at the Republican National Convention. “Today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another,” he proclaimed in his inaugural address, “but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.”

    Donald Trump won the presidency for many reasons, including racial animus, concerns over immigration, and a widening divide between urban and rural areas. But public-opinion data suggest that a deep feeling of powerlessness among voters was also important. I analyzed 2016 data from the American National Election Studies. Those who voted for Trump in the Republican primaries, more than those who supported his competition, said that they “don’t have any say about what the government does,” that “public officials don’t care much what people like me think,” and that “most politicians care only about the interests of the rich and powerful.”

    Trump has no real intention of devolving power back to the people. He’s filled his administration with members of the same elite he disparaged on the campaign trail. His biggest legislative success, the tax bill, has handed gifts to corporations and the donor class. A little more than a year after America rebelled against political elites by electing a self-proclaimed champion of the people, its government is more deeply in the pockets of lobbyists and billionaires than ever before.

    It would be easy to draw the wrong lesson from this: If the American electorate can be duped by a figure like Trump, it can’t be trusted with whatever power it does retain. To avoid further damage to the rule of law and the rights of the most-vulnerable Americans, traditional elites should appropriate even more power for themselves. But that response plays into the populist narrative: The political class dislikes Trump because he threatens to take its power away. It also refuses to recognize that the people have a point.

    America does have a democracy problem. If we want to address the root causes of populism, we need to start by taking an honest accounting of the ways in which power has slipped out of the people’s hands, and think more honestly about the ways in which we can—and cannot—put the people back in control.

    At the height of the mexican–american war, Nicholas Trist traveled to Mexico and negotiated the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the hostilities between the two nations and helped delineate America’s southern border. Two decades later, the U.S. government still hadn’t paid him for his services. Too old and weak to travel to Washington to collect the money himself, Trist hired a prominent lawyer by the name of Linus Child to act on his behalf, promising him 25 percent of his recovered earnings.

    Congress finally appropriated the money to settle its debt. But now it was Trist who refused to pay up, even after his lawyer sued for his share. Though the contract between Trist and Child hardly seems untoward by today’s standards, the Supreme Court refused to uphold it out of fear that it might provide a legal basis for the activities of lobbyists:

    If any of the great corporations of the country were to hire adventurers who make market of themselves in this way, to procure the passage of a general law with a view to the promotion of their private interests, the moral sense of every right-minded man would instinctively denounce the employer and employed as steeped in corruption.

    Extreme as this case may appear, it was far from idiosyncratic. In her book Corruption in America, the legal scholar Zephyr Teachout notes that the institutions of the United States were explicitly designed to counter the myriad ways in which people might seek to sway political decisions for their own personal gain. Many forms of lobbying were banned throughout the 19th century. In Georgia, the state constitution at one time read that “lobbying is declared to be a crime.” In California, it was a felony.

    Over the course of the 20th century, lobbying gradually lost the stench of the illicit. But even once the activity became normalized, businesses remained reluctant to exert their influence. As late as the 1960s, major corporations did not lobby directly on their own behalf. Instead, they relied on collectives such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which had a weaker voice in Washington than labor unions or public-interest groups. “As every business executive knows,” the future Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. complained in 1971, “few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as the American businessman.”

    All of this began to change in the early 1970s. Determined to fight rising wages and stricter labor and environmental standards, which would bring higher costs, CEOs of companies like General Electric and General Motors banded together to expand their power on Capitol Hill. At first, their activities were mostly defensive: The goal was to stop legislation that might harm their interests. But as the political influence of big corporations grew, and their profits soared, a new class of professional lobbyists managed to convince the nation’s CEOs that, in the words of Lee Drutman, the author of the 2015 book The Business of America Is Lobbying, their activity “was not just about keeping the government far away—it could also be about drawing government close.”

    Today, corporations wield immense power in Washington: “For every dollar spent on lobbying by labor unions and public-interest groups,” Drutman shows, “large corporations and their associations now spend $34. Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying, 95 consistently represent business.” (Read about a principal architect of the lobbying industry—Paul Manafort—in our March 2018 cover story.)

    The work of K Street lobbyists, and the violation of our government by big money, has fundamentally transformed the work—and the lives—of the people’s supposed representatives. Steve Israel, a Democratic congressman from Long Island, was a consummate moneyman. Over the course of his 16 years on Capitol Hill, he arranged 1,600 fund-raisers for himself, averaging one every four days. Israel cited fund-raising as one of the main reasons he decided to retire from Congress, in 2016: “I don’t think I can spend another day in another call room making another call begging for money,” he told The New York Times. “I always knew the system was dysfunctional. Now it is beyond broken.”

    A model schedule for freshman members of Congress prepared a few years ago by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee instructs them to spend about four hours every day cold-calling donors for cash. The party encourages so many phone calls because the phone calls work. Total spending on American elections has grown to unprecedented levels. From 2000 to 2012, reported federal campaign spending doubled. It’s no surprise, then, that a majority of Americans now believe Congress to be corrupt, according to a 2015 Gallup poll. As Israel memorably put it to HBO’s John Oliver, the hours he had spent raising money had been “a form of torture—and the real victims of this torture have become the American people, because they believe that they don’t have a voice in this system.”

    But their influence goes far beyond those instances in which legislators knowingly sacrifice their constituents’ interests to stay on the right side of their financial backers. The people we spend time with day in and day out shape our tastes, our assumptions, and our values. The imperative to raise so much money means that members of Congress log more time with donors and lobbyists and less time with their constituents. Often, when faced with a vote on a bill of concern to their well-heeled backers, legislators don’t have to compromise their ideals—because they spend so much of their lives around donors and lobbyists, they have long ago come to share their views.

    The problem goes even deeper than that. In America’s imagined past, members of Congress had a strong sense of place. Democrats might have risen through the ranks of local trade unions or schoolhouses. Republicans might have been local business or community leaders. Members of both parties lived lives intertwined with those of their constituents. But spend some time reading the biographies of your representatives in Congress, and you’ll notice, as I did, that by the time they reach office, many politicians have already been socialized into a cultural, educational, and financial elite that sets them apart from average Americans. While some representatives do have strong roots in their district, for many others the connection is tenuous at best. Even for those members who were born and raised in the part of the country they represent, that place is for many of them not their true home. Educated at expensive colleges, likely on the coasts, they spend their 20s and 30s in the nation’s great metropolitan centers. After stints in law, business, or finance, or on Capitol Hill, they move to the hinterlands out of political ambition. Once they retire from Congress, even if they retain some kind of home in their district, few make it the center of their lives: They seem much more likely than their predecessors to pursue lucrative opportunities in cities such as New York, San Francisco, and, of course, Washington. By just about every metric—from life experience to education to net worth—these politicians are thoroughly disconnected from the rest of the population.

    The massive influence that money yields in Washington is hardly a secret. But another, equally important development has largely gone ignored: More and more issues have simply been taken out of democratic contestation.

    In many policy areas, the job of legislating has been supplanted by so-called independent agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Once they are founded by Congress, these organizations can formulate policy on their own. In fact, they are free from legislative oversight to a remarkable degree, even though they are often charged with settling issues that are not just technically complicated but politically controversial.

    The range of crucial issues that these agencies have taken on testifies to their importance. From banning the use of the insecticide DDT to ensuring the quality of drinking water, for example, the EPA has been a key player in fights about environmental policy for almost 50 years; more recently, it has also made itself central to the American response to climate change, regulating pollutants and proposing limits on carbon-dioxide emissions from new power plants.

    While independent agencies occasionally generate big headlines, they often wield their real power in more obscure policy areas. They are now responsible for the vast majority of new federal regulations. A 2008 article in the California Law Review noted that, during the previous year, Congress had enacted 138 public laws. In the same year, federal agencies had finalized 2,926 rules. Such rules run the gamut from technical stipulations that affect only a few specialized businesses to substantial reforms that have a direct impact on the lives of millions. In October 2017, for example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau passed a rule that would require providers of payday loans to determine whether customers would actually be able to pay them back—potentially saving millions of people from exploitative fees, but also making it more difficult for them to access cash in an emergency.

    The rise of independent agencies such as the EPA is only a small piece of a larger trend in which government has grown less accountable to the people. In the latter half of the 20th century, the Federal Reserve won much greater independence from elected politicians and began to deploy far more powerful monetary tools. Trade treaties, from nafta to more-recent agreements with countries such as Australia, Morocco, and South Korea, have restricted Congress’s ability to set tariffs, subsidize domestic industries, and halt the inflow of certain categories of migrant workers. At one point I planned to count the number of treaties to which the United States is subject; I gave up when I realized that the State Department’s “List of Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States” runs to 551 pages.

    Most of these treaties and agreements offer real benefits or help us confront urgent challenges. Whatever your view of their merit, however, there is no denying that they curtail the power of Congress in ways that also disempower American voters. Trade treaties, for example, can include obscure provisions about “investor–state dispute settlements,” which give international arbitration courts the right to award huge sums of money to corporations if they are harmed by labor or environmental standards—potentially making it riskier for Congress to pass such measures.

    This same tension between popular sovereignty and good governance is also evident in the debates over the power of the nine unelected justices of the Supreme Court. Since the early 1950s, the Supreme Court has ended legal segregation in schools and universities. It has ended and then reintroduced the death penalty. It has legalized abortion. It has limited censorship on television and the radio. It has decriminalized homosexuality and allowed same-sex marriage. It has struck down campaign-finance regulations and gun-control measures. It has determined whether millions of people get health insurance and whether millions of undocumented immigrants need to live in fear of being deported.

    Whether you see judicial review as interpreting the law or usurping the people’s power probably depends on your view of the outcome. The American right has long railed against “activist judges” while the American left, which enjoyed a majority on the Court for a long stretch during the postwar era, has claimed that justices were merely doing their job. Now that the Court has started to lean further right, these views are rapidly reversing. But regardless of your politics, there’s no question that the justices frequently play an outsize role in settling major political conflicts—and that many of their decisions serve to amplify undemocratic elements of the system.

    Take Citizens United. By overturning legislation that restricted campaign spending by corporations and other private groups, the Supreme Court issued a decision that was unpopular at the time and has remained unpopular since. (In a 2015 poll by Bloomberg, 78 percent of respondents disapproved of the ruling.) It also massively amplified the voice of moneyed interest groups, making it easier for the economic elite to override the preferences of the population for years to come.

    Donald trump is the first president in the history of the United States to have served in no public capacity before entering to the White House. He belittles experts, seems to lack the most basic grasp of public policy, and loves to indulge the worst whims of his supporters. In all things, personal and political, Plato’s disdainful description of the “democratic man” fits the 45th president like a glove: Given to “false and braggart words and opinions,” he considers “insolence ‘good breeding,’ license ‘liberty,’ prodigality ‘magnificence,’ and shamelessness ‘manly spirit.’ ”

    It is little wonder, then, that Plato’s haughty complaint about democracy—its primary ill, he claimed, consists in “assigning a kind of equality indiscriminately to equals and unequals alike”—has made a remarkable comeback. As early as 2003, the journalist Fareed Zakaria argued, “There can be such a thing as too much democracy.” In the years since, many scholars have built this case: The political scientist Larry Bartels painstakingly demonstrated just how irrational ordinary voters are; the political philosopher Jason Brennan turned the premise that irrational or partisan voters are terrible decision makers into a book titled Against Democracy; and Parag Khanna, an inveterate defender of globalization, argued for a technocracy in which many decisions are made by “committees of accountable experts.” Writing near the end of the 2016 primary season, when Trump’s ascent to the Republican nomination already looked unstoppable, Andrew Sullivan offered the most forceful distillation of this line of antidemocratic laments: “Democracies end when they are too democratic,” the headline of his essay announced. “And right now, America is a breeding ground for tyranny.”

    The antidemocratic view gets at something real. What makes our political system uniquely legitimate, at least when it functions well, is that it manages to deliver on two key values at once: liberalism (the rule of law) and democracy (the rule of the people). With liberalism now under concerted attack from the Trump administration, which has declared war on independent institutions such as the FBI and has used the president’s pulpit to bully ethnic and religious minorities, it’s perhaps understandable that many thinkers are willing to give up a modicum of democracy to protect the rule of law and the country’s most vulnerable groups.

    If only it were that easy. As we saw in 2016, the feeling that power is slipping out of their hands makes citizens more, not less, likely to entrust their fate to a strongman leader who promises to smash the system. And as the examples of Egypt, Thailand, and other countries have demonstrated again and again, a political elite with less and less backing from the people ultimately has to resort to more and more repressive steps to hold on to its power; in the end, any serious attempt to sacrifice democracy in order to safeguard liberty is likely to culminate in an end to the rule of law as well as the rule of the people.

    The easy alternative is to lean in the other direction, to call for as much direct democracy as possible. The origins of the people’s displacement, the thinking goes, lie in a cynical power grab by financial and political elites. Large corporations and the superrich advocated independent central banks and business-friendly trade treaties to score big windfalls. Politicians, academics, and journalists favor a technocratic mode of governance because they think they know what’s best and don’t want the people to meddle. All of this selfishness is effectively cloaked in a pro-market ideology propagated by think tanks and research outfits that are funded by rich donors. Since the roots of the current situation are straightforwardly sinister, the solutions to it are equally simple: The people need to reclaim their power—and abolish technocratic institutions.

    This antitechnocratic view has currency on both ends of the political spectrum. On the far left, the late political scientist Peter Mair, writing about Europe, lamented the decline in “popular” democracy, which he contrasted with a more top-down “constitutional” democracy. The English sociologist Colin Crouch has argued that even anarchy and violence can serve a useful purpose if they seek to vanquish what he calls “post-democracy.”

    The far right puts more emphasis on nationalism, but otherwise agrees with this basic analysis. In the inaugural issue of the journal American Affairs, the self-styled intellectual home of the Trump movement, its founder Julius Krein decried “the existence of a transpartisan elite,” which sustains a pernicious “managerial consensus.” Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, said his chief political objective was to return power to the people and advocated for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

    Mair and Crouch, Krein and Bannon are right to recognize that the people have less and less hold over the political system, an insight that can point the way to genuine reforms that would make our political system both more democratic and better functioning. One of the reasons well-intentioned politicians are so easily swayed by lobbyists, for example, is that their staffs lack the skills and experience to draft legislation or to understand highly complex policy issues. This could be addressed by boosting the woefully inadequate funding of Congress: If representatives and senators were able to attract—and retain—more knowledgeable and experienced staffers, they might be less tempted to let K Street lobbyists write their bills for them.

    Similarly, the rules that currently govern conflicts of interest are far too weak. There is no reason members of Congress should be allowed to lobby for the companies they were supposed to regulate so soon after they step down from office. It is time to jam the revolving door between politics and industry.

    Real change will also require an ambitious reform of campaign finance. Because of Citizens United, this is going to be extremely difficult. But the Supreme Court has had a change of heart in the past. As evidence that the current system threatens American democracy keeps piling up, the Court might finally recognize that stricter limits on campaign spending are desperately needed.

    For all that the enemies of technocracy get right, though, their view is ultimately as simplistic as the antidemocratic one. The world we now inhabit is extremely complex. We need to monitor hurricanes and inspect power plants, reduce global carbon emissions and contain the spread of nuclear weapons, regulate banks and enforce consumer-safety standards. All of these tasks require a tremendous amount of expertise and a great degree of coordination. It’s unrealistic to think that ordinary voters or even their representatives in Congress might become experts in what makes for a safe power plant, or that the world could find an effective response to climate change without entering cumbersome international agreements. If we simply abolish technocratic institutions, the future for most Americans will look more rather than less dangerous, and less rather than more affluent.

    It is true that to recover its citizens’ loyalty, our democracy needs to curb the power of unelected elites who seek only to pad their influence and line their pockets. But it is also true that to protect its citizens’ lives and promote their prosperity, our democracy needs institutions that are, by their nature, deeply elitist. This, to my mind, is the great dilemma that the United States—and other democracies around the world—will have to resolve if they wish to survive in the coming decades.

    We don’t need to abolish all technocratic institutions or merely save the ones that exist. We need to build a new set of political institutions that are both more responsive to the views and interests of ordinary people, and better able to solve the immense problems that our society will face in the decades to come.

    Writing about the dawn of democracy in his native Italy, the great novelist Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa has Tancredi, a young aristocrat, recognize that he will have to let go of some of his most cherished habits to rescue what is most valuable in the old order: “If everything is to stay the same,” Tancredi says, “everything has to change.” The United States is now at an inflection point of its own. If we rigidly hold on to the status quo, we will lose what is most valuable in the world we know, and find ourselves cast as bit players in the fading age of liberal democracy. Only by embarking on bold and imaginative reform can we recover a democracy worthy of the name.

    The Atlantic