Modi's Bank Transaction Tax May Lead To Larger Conflicts
It now turns out that Modis extremism in not confined to the nationalist bend but includes some crazy economic ideas.
Modi decided to demonetize the country from one day to another. Every bank note valued at over US$7 was taken out of circulation. The rather crazy idea behind this is to move all monetary transactions to some electronic money systems and to then tax each and every transaction. All other kind of taxes would be abolished.
Only a lunatic without any knowledge of actual economic issues can support such a move.
The predictable result of the sudden demonetization is a liquidity crunch. There suddenly is only half the amount of money in circulation than before. Bills can not be paid, salaries are withheld, services are unused because their is no money to pay for them. The government wants to move the people to open up bank accounts but the banking infrastructure in India is rudimentary, the systems running are old and the software inadequate to handle the masses. Mobs Lock Up Bankers as Pay Day Turns Pain Day in India is a current Bloomberg headline.
The protests have not reached their climax yet but expect some serious riots in India over the next weeks and months should Modi continue on this path. It will be even worse when, in a second step, the new tax system is introduced.
Taxing all transactions is digressive. The poor will end up up paying more than the rich as all kinds of property taxes and the like will end. Estimates say that the tax rate would have to be 4 to 6% on each monetary transfer to be able to eliminate all other taxes.
Manufacturing, which builds complex products from a number of pre-processed parts and inputs, will end up highly taxed. Each screw in a part that goes into a car will have been taxed when transferred from the steelmaker to the wholesale steel deal to the screw maker to the part manufacturer to the car manufacturer to the consumer. With several percents of taxes on each of these transaction this will end up as a very expensive car. There are products which easily include a dozen such stages or more.
"Sin taxes" on alcohol, gasoline and other socially or environmentally harmful stuff will be missing as regulatory instruments. Custom issues and double taxation agreements with other countries will be highly problematic.
The Indian bureaucracy is not the most capable in the world. The banking infrastructure, especially in the still mostly rural parts of India, is only sparse. It is practically impossible to have such a brutal, large conversion of the whole economy without major breakdowns.
The first real economic trouble will be noted soon. Liquidity crunches are usually followed by sharp drops in productivity and general economic activity. India until recently had a fast growing economy. It is very likely to now go into recession.
Taxes on a currency will lead to a shadow economy where people will used other means to pay, especially for small daily transfers. The new currency will probably be cigarettes or whatever can be bargained. The tax income will therefore likely be lower than estimated as the use of offcial money, then electronic money, in daily life will decline.
Modi was in favor of a transaction tax economy since at least 2013 though it did not play a role in his campaign and policy speeches. The people are unprepared for it and the large bumps that will come with its implementation.
My fear though is that Modi will do the usual nationalist / fascist trick when problems with the economy occur. He is unlikely to give up on his aims. He will rather look for an enemy and accuse it of causing the problems. Divert the peoples attention by a war on - take your choice: Pakistan, China, Muslims in general, any local opposition or whatever. There will always be someone to blame.
So far Modi had a rather successful run as Premier. His tax project may well ruin that. Given his background his solution will likely be to seek a conflict. In a nuclear India with a nuclear arch-enemy Pakistan nearby that is some worrisome perspective.
Trump Is Trying To Divert Us From - What?
Another Trump tweet, another fake scandal:
Donald J. Trump Verified account @realDonaldTrump
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!
That burning flag stuff is no so exiting. The oh so luberal Hillary Clinton tried to punish flag burning too. In 2005, as Senator from New York, she introduced the Flag Protection Act of 2005 to achieve that:
It called for a punishment of one year in jail and a fine of $100,000.
The act was not taken up by Congress. During her recent campaign Clinton strongly condemned the burning of an Israeli flag.
In 2006 a vote for a constitutional amendment to punish flag burning failed in the Senate. The Supreme Court had ruled in 1989 that the burning of the U.S. flag, or any other flag, is free speech covered by the first amendment. It is settled law and there is little to no chance that it will change. The issue is a political gimmick that is used every once a while to set up certain conservative groups against certain free speech defenders.
As such it is a diversion.
More important is that Trump is suggesting a "loss of citizenship" as a punishment. That should really enrage people. Loss of citizenship for using free speech rights?!? If Trump would try to implement that a real revolution would be justified.
But I believe it is, like many other things Trump says, just red meat for the media and his supporters. They will be busy covering this for a full news cycle or even longer.
During his campaign Trump used such gimmicks to divert attention from this or that scandal involving him or his business whenever such threatened to creep up to the top news line. It always worked like a charm. The media fell for each and every new "scandal" he fabricated with a few tweets or lines on the campaign trail. Journalists, "experts" and editors went off to discuss his latest bit while Trump's huge scandals, like his University scam, barely made the headline.
But why is Trump doing this now? Where does he has to divert attention from?
The recounts the Green candidate Stein tries to initiate are not endangering him. Stein collected several million dollars knowing that the legal conditions and time for such recounts do not exist. It is basically a scam to cover her pension.
Trump's cabinet selections are the usual horror troupe of Republican U.S. administrations. There is no real surprise there and no scandal.
So what is Trump trying to cover up here? Is some long-read piece with scandalous details about him and his daughter ready to go to print? Is he doing something else he does not want us to see?
I have been looking around all day and find no answer. Any ideas?
Syria Roundup: Jihadi Fronts Fall Apart - Egypt Enters The Fight
UPDATE of the part describing the east-Aleppo enclave:
The whole north of the Jihadist held part is liberated, some 40+% of the territory. A new map is here. Up to 10,000 civilians fled to the government areas. (This makes a joke out of the UN 250k claim.) The water pump works for all Aleppo are back in the hand of the government. Supply is to resume.
The Syrian army (SAA) and its allies made huge progress in east-Aleppo. There, as seemingly everywhere else, the Jihadi' fronts are breaking down. Disunity in the opposition, in reflection of disunity among their sponsors, disrupts all of their attempts for new initiatives. The largely hidden Russian air campaign behind the "rebel" frontlines diminished their material and personal reserves.
New help for the Syrian alliance will soon come in form of Egyptian forces. With various "rebel" enclaves eliminated by fighting or peace deals more Syrian troops will be freed and become available for new campaigns. Turkey has been told in no uncertain words to pull back from its Syria (and Iraq) plans. With more forces available and under solid Russian (air) protection new SAA initiatives towards Idleb in the north of the country as well as against Raqqa in the east will now become possible.
After breaking the Jihadi front in the north-eastern part of the east-Aleppo cauldron yesterday, the defenses there fell completely apart. The Jihadis had to pull back and the whole norther third of the Jihadi held east-Aleppo is now rapidly falling to the Syrian government forces. The main reason for the defeat of the Jihadis is - tadaaah - the "lack of hospitals":
"The revolutionaries are fighting fiercely but the volume of bombardments and the intensity of the battles, the dead and the wounded, and the lack of hospitals, are all playing a role in the collapse of these frontlines," said an official from Jabha Shamiya, one of the biggest groups fighting against Assad in northern Syria.
The destruction of the last hospital for transsexual cats in Aleppo by a thermobaric barrel nuke must have been the tipping point of the fight. This is, I believe, the first time such a ludicrous propaganda excuse has been given for a total defeat.
In reality the Syrian forces are avoiding casualties and use their overwhelming firepower to clear the way before their infantry proceeds. This demolishes any defense line the "rebels" can set up even before the real fighting starts. Only hardened and very disciplined troops could hold such a line under fire and offer real resistance. The "rebels" can't.
The map, via Electronic Resistance, shows the SAA progress today:
About 1,500 civilians escaped from east-Aleppo towards the SAA. (New reports say 4,000 - this proves that rebels had held these civilians hostage.) All over the U.S./UN propaganda numbers of 200,000, 250,000, 300,000 civilians in east-Aleppo are rapidly proven to be the nonsense (and financial racket) they always were. The recovered areas are almost empty of any civilians. As shown back in mid October the real number of people in in east-Aleppo were likely some 4-5,000 Jihadis (less now), half of them hardcore al-Qaeda, and probably 20,000 civilians, mostly immediate families of the fighters. (It is quite possible that even these guestimates were way too high.)
East of Aleppo city a Turkish move towards Al-Bab was halted by a Syrian airstrike under Russian protection. Erdogan's plans for a Turkish aligned entity including at least Al-Bab, Raqqa and Manbij went up in smoke. Elijah Magnier gives an excellent overview of the interests behind the various moves in the area and the current events there: On the same day, one year apart, Russia gets its revenge and stops Turkey at the gates of al-Bab.
In the south of Syria around Damascus two more small "rebel" enclaves gave up and made peace deals with the government. Fighters who profess to want to die on the battlefield are given a chance to relocate to Idleb where they will later be eliminated (or -more likely - from where they will flee to Europe).
The Jihadi pocket in east Ghouta has been diminished over the last weeks and is down to one empty medium city and a few villages. It will be cleaned up within the coming days. An Jihadi attempt to relieve a Jihadi pocket in west Ghouta failed:
Qalaat Al Mudiq @QalaatAlMudiq - 3:49 AM - 26 Nov 2016
Rebels started a new battle in #Quneitra province aiming to break the siege of W. #Ghouta. Pre-emptive shelling ongoing.
[lots of "progress" and "successes" tweets]
Qalaat Al Mudiq @QalaatAlMudiq - 6:53 AM - 27 Nov 2016
@QalaatAlMudiq Battle stopped after disagrements btwn groups involved to break siege of W. #Ghouta & Khan Ash Sheikh evacuation abt to start
The Egyptian powers that are, mostly in the armed forces, had kicked the Muslim Brotherhood out of the government. The MB had supported the Jihadists in Syria and Libya and were drifting themselves further into a more radical direction. The Egyptian army move had come after the Saudis had urged for such. They had offered huge amounts of economic help for a new government. The MB were seen as a danger to Riyadh. Then the Saudi priorities changed. The Wahhabis suddenly made up with the political Islam ideologues in the MB. Together with the Muslim Brotherhood ruled Turkey and MB supporter Qatar the new Saudi Arabian rulers reinforced a campaign to implement Islamist rule in Libya, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
This changed the situation for Egypt. Turkey and Qatar became enemies as did their proxy forces in Libya. When the Saudis officially asked the Sisi government in Egypt to support the Muslim Brotherhood the end of the alliance was reached. The MB is THE enemy for Egypt, not ever to be allowed in power again anywhere. It also broke with the U.S. who had supported the MB everywhere. Instead friendly relations with Russia were renewed.
Cairo believes that the installation of any kind of Islamist regime in Syria would endanger Egypt. (Israel could easily transfer Jihadis it actively supports in the Syrian Golan heights to the Sinai peninsula.) It also believes that the current Saudi regime will haven fallen apart due to internal fighting by the end of 2017. It therefore now offers serious help to Syria to fight its enemies down.
A few weeks ago a high level Egyptian military delegation came to Syria to discuss their taking part in the campaign under Syrian and Russian command. It is claimed that Egyptian air planes and helicopters relocated to an airport in the Syrian Hama governate. Egypt has a large ground army and open sea access towards Syria. I can and likely will provide serious ground troop elements.
France had build two Mistral-class amphibious assault ship for Russia but, as part of sanctions over Ukraine, was not allowed to deliver them to Russia. They were, in the end, sold to Egypt. There they were equipped with Russian helicopters and electronics. It is rumored that they operate with Russian officers on board.
Each ship can deliver a full battalion, some 400-900 men and all their equipment, to the beach. With both Egyptian ships doing two rounds each from Suez to Latakia a full infantry brigade with all its ground support elements could be delivered to Syria within days. The Russian helicopters on board of the Mistrals would be the supporting air element. The Russian fleet in the eastern Mediterranean would cover the moves.
This would be a fully organized, brigade size military unit able to fight battles on its own in a coherent way. Such a unit is much more valuable that the mostly irregular Shia forces the Iranians hired to help in Syria. Those need logistic and command support from the Syrian army. The Egyptians can, given a task, run on their own. For geopolitical reasons (aka the Suez canal) neither the U.S. nor Turkey would dare to touch them.
There are currently some 4,000 Iraqi and some 4,000 Iran hired Shia forces in Syria. 400 Iranian IRCG officers are there to advise and command those. Hizbullah has send some 2,000 of its special forces Ridwan units. Russia has in addition to its air and air defense elements special forces and command elements on the ground. The Egyptian force with some 4,000 soldiers would not be huge addition but it would be a good united fighting element. The political support which such a unit symbolizes is certainly of equal if not more value.
France, which feverish supports the Jihadis in Syria, would be completely embarrassed by such a move. The whole world would laugh over its sanction move against Russia when the "Egyptian" Mistrals come in support of the Syrian government under Russian command.
If such an Egyptian move happens a Syrian government campaign towards Raqqa is suddenly not only possible but even likely. The Egyptian army has some experience fighting Jihadis in the Sinai. It is not overly shy of taking casualties and it hates the Islamists. It can easily reinforce its own units on the ground with whatever number is needed. If Egypt is serious with this, ISIS in Raqqa is toast and all U.S. plans for a "Salafist principality" in east-Syria and west-Iraq will be in shambles.
With all the above and a president Trump likely to pull back support for the Jihadis in Syria the end of the war is coming into sight. Even if Qatar and others continue their support, as it promises, for the Jihadis those will have no chance against the much better organized alliance around the Syrian government.
The strongly U.S. influenced European Council for Foreign Affairs just put out a new paper on Syria aimed at EU governments: The First Trump Test - European Policy And The Siege Of Aleppo.
The sub-headline reads:
There is no longer any real hope of deposing Assad. Europe must instead work towards an ugly deal that salvages something for the Syrian people.
A better title would have been: How the EU totally screwed up and lost out with its slavish following of U.S. insanity and its opposition to Assad and Russia.
The EU is so disunited and without any foresight and vision that it can not even handle the blackmailing by the wannabe Sultan of Turkey. Blocking all EU credits and support for the Turkish economy would bankrupt Erdogan's government within months. Putin has shown how to handle the dude. How come no one in in Brussels (or Berlin) has learned from that?
A Short History Lesson On Cuba By The New Thinker
The death of Fidel Castro brought public comments of some of the most rightwing nutters living in the U.S. and of some of its best people. Whoever wants to discuss Cuba, its past, present and future, should know some history. Here is a copy of a valuable lesson @The New Thinker aka Ejike gave on Twitter:
Viva Fidel. Your revolutionary courage & your commitment to fighting for the self-determination of the Cuban people will never be forgotten
To truly understand Cuba and in fact the rest of Latin America you need to study the Monroe doctrine in 1823
It's important to note that the US in the early 19th century wasn't strong enough to stop Europe from colonizing Latin America... not yet
That ended in the late 1800s. Look up the Cuban War of Independence where the Cuban people had been whooping the Spanish colonial government
As Cuba was on the verge of liberating itself from Spanish control America intervened in what is shamefully dubbed the Spanish-American war
In 1898 the US intervened in order to "liberate" Cuba frm its humanitarian crisis which was a cover to prevent Cuba frm becoming independent
From 1898 Cuba practically served as an agricultural-colonial plantation for the United States up until Fidel Castro in 1959
In other words, the "Spanish-American war" was really a fight for who got to control Cuba & its resources. America consolidating its empire
I'm not sorry for giving a quick history lesson bc you cannot understand Fidel Castro if you don't understand America as an empire
Fidel Castro with his brilliant use of guerrilla tactics beat the Cuban army over and over again with only a few hundred soldiers
After Fidel Castro overthrew the undemocratic Batista government in 1959, the US in fearing is declining control went berserk!!!
People who talk about Cuba's problems conveniently leave out 58 years of economic blockade, invasion, assassination by the US
Never mind the 630 some assassination attempts made on Fidel Castro the sanctions & absolute terrorism on the Cuban people is reprehensible
The US embargo is literally anything to destroy Cuba's economy. And guess who started this war on Cuba… Your Democratic president JFK
For 9 administrations in a row the US has done everything in its power to destroy Cuba & every time they have failed thanks to Fidel Castro
I don't think there is a country that has been invaded and exposed to more terror by the US in the Western Hemisphere
The literacy rate of Cuba is at 99.8% which is higher than both the US and the UK thanks to Fidel Castro
The infant mortality rate is lower in Cuba than it is in the United States thanks to Fidel Castro
Cuba after being a country in 3rd world conditions now enjoys one of the highest life expectancy's in the world thanks to Fidel Castro
When Nelson Mandela was released one of the first places he went was Havana bc Cuba played one of the biggest roles in ending apartheid
Thanks to Fidel Castro Cuba has the highest ratio of doctors to patients anywhere else in the world in fact Cuba's biggest export is doctors
Thanks to Fidel Castro education in Cuba from kindergarten all the way up to the PhD level is FREE no exceptions
Thanks to Fidel Castro healthcare in Cuba is not a privilege determined by economic status but a human right given to ALL free of charge
Thanks to Fidel Castro, even with the vicious sanctions by the US, Cuba has managed to almost totally eliminate homelessness
To people who want to be critical of Fidel Castro I ask you what would've become of Cuba if the US did not issue its devastating sanctions
The economic strangulation that the US has been engaged in towards Cuba are so SEVERE that they can be considered an act of aggression
The angry Cubans in Florida that you here chastise Fidel Castro are all mysteriously neoliberal capitalists. That should raise red flags
Yes that little socialist island of Cuba has made mistakes but I would've made mistakes too if the US tried to assassinate me over 600 times
Y'all should RT all of these tweets to let everybody know that the US propaganda machine is wrong about Cuba and wrong about Fidel Castro
That Cubans can even provide basic services to its ppl despite being terrorized by the biggest bully in the world 90 miles away...
I love how everybody who is critiquing Fidel Castro sounds just like FOXNews right now. That's great
Trump and Fox News is celebrating the death of Fidel Castro and that still doesn't make people take pause
Every leader who defies US power is deemed a mass murderer and a threat to humanity
Every deficiency in Cuba can seriously be traced back to the economic warfare, subversion, assassination and invasion attempts by the US
Assata Shakur, a courageous revolutionary black woman, was granted political asylum from the US by which country... Cuba
I find it fascinating that the US wants Cuba to know the US is a friend when it still hasn't lifted the embargo
The US embargo has cost Cuba $753.69 billion. Don't forget to mention that when you're talking about the lack of pristine services in Cuba
#FidelCastro overthrew a dictatorship and then was besieged by the strongest military power in the history of the world. Start there
¡Adiós A Fidel Castro!
Rest in Peace
August 13 1926 - November 26 2016
Putin Tutors Euklidean Geometry - Pundits Say "All Greek To Me"
Go read the previous post first, then add this for a bit of additional entertainment.
The guest star at the event was the Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was on stage with a nine year old participant who gave his specialties as "borders, neighboring countries and capitals." Putin asked the candidate "Where do Russia's borders end". The answer was "In the Bering Strait at the border with the U.S." Putin replied: "Russia's border does not end anywhere."
(When the audience then laughed and Putin sensed that it did not immediately get the real meaning of what he said he added: "That was a joke.")
But it was no joke. It was serious science. A whole lot of pundits, "western" reporters and anti-Putin haters now claim that Putin somehow did wrong, showed lust for new, unlimited Russian expansion or announced the fourth World War for the coming new Russian Empire.
A Kremlin spokesperson was not immediately available to explain if the joke referred to Russia’s military efforts to redraw the borders of Moldova, Georgia and most recently Ukraine, or if the president had a different, more figurative meaning in mind.
Ukraine’s Ambassador to Finland, whose country has experienced firsthand Russia’s willingness to alter its borders, tweeted a photo of a ruined country log cabin with the ironic caption ‘Russia’s borders end nowhere.’
ALL THESE WRITERS, THEIR EDITORS, THE PUNDITS AND DIPLOMATS MUST HAVE SLEPT THROUGH BASIC MATH LECTURES, ESPECIALLY IN EUCLIDEAN GEOMETRY OF TWO DIMENSIONS. It is all Greek to them - literally.
The basic definition of a border is:
A part that forms the outer edge of something.
A country, any country, is defined by a limited area (or areas) with an area characterized by an outer edge and a circumferential line known as "a border". Does the circumferential line of, ideally, a circle have a limit? Does it have a beginning or an end? This is exactly what Putin asked the kid.
Putin asked a pupil: "Where do Russia's borders end?" The answer "nowhere" is the (only) mathematically and geographically correct one. The geographic area characterized by a border is limited. The circumferential (border) line is, by mathematical definition, not "limited" in the sense that it has no beginning and no end (it has a length though).
This is basic math which Putin sympathetically lectured to a child in a scientific school competition on public TV. It probably was too much for a tired evening audience. That is not an excuse for professional writers (not) doing their day job. I am sure that, over time, the kid will get it. The "News" journalists though ...
Indeed one can bet on the low level of "western" scientific education, especially of political pundits and news writers, to make an "imperial intent" mountain out of any scientifically correct description of a flyspeck. It is a new subcategory of "fake news" that they expose. It has its roots in basic stupidity.
Mainstream Reporting Foggy While MoA Smeared As "Russian Propaganda" Site
Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey), Nov 24 2016 - Three Turkish soldiers killed in suspected Syrian government air strike
Al Masdar News (Syria), Nov 25 2016 - Syrian Air Force denies bombing Turkish Army in east Aleppo
Avid readers of news sides will ask which of those reports is correct. They may turn to the so-called (hint: it's not) "paper of record", the New York Times and find this Nov 24 report: Syrian Warplanes Kill Turkish Soldiers Fighting in Syria
While that NYT headline claims certainty the text does not. It obediently repeats the Turkish government claim but adds:
Syrian Arab rebel forces fighting with the Turks said they had not received official notification that the Syrian government had launched the strike. One fighter said he had heard that the strike was from the Syrian government but heard later that it had been from the Islamic State. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a network based in Britain that monitors news from Syria, also said that the strike had been by the Islamic State.
An updated version of that report adds:
Some on the ground raised questions about whether the strike was undertaken by Syrian government forces. A network of activists who monitor the skies over Syria said Thursday that its watchers had spotted a Syrian aircraft taking off after 2 a.m. and also a Russian aircraft about the same time as the strike on Turkish forces occurred. It is impossible to know where the planes that were sighted went; they could easily have had another destination, the network said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a network based in Britain that monitors news from Syria, said the strike was by the Islamic State. But the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is not known to have combat aircraft.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) is a sophisticated disinformation outlet of the British foreign intelligence service MI-6. SOHR is on one side very manipulating, i.e. SOHR counts only foreigners, deserters of the Syrian army, ISIS and al-Qaeda fighters on the anti-government side as "rebels killed". Ten-thousands of Syrian civilians who took up arms to become well paid "Syrian rebel" fighters are counted as "civilians" when besieged, killed or wounded. On the other side SOHR provides the most complete and detailed record of the war. It helps its reputation and is the reason why it is a favorite quoted source for "western" news "reporting".
The answer to the reader's question is that both Hurriyet and Al Masdar, are right and the NYT writers are confused by the fog of war and too lazy to do basic research. The devil is, as always, in the details.
On November 23 a Turkish armored military vehicle was attacked near the village Wiqah north of Al-Bab in northern Syria. Some sources claimed a guided missile strike. ISIS related Twitter accounts claimed a suicide attack.
(Note: The above account has now been suspended.)
ISIS later released a picture of the claimed suicide bomber.
The SOHR account of the Turkish vehicle hit, cited by the NYT, obviously refers to this November 23 attack.
The air-attack on the Turkish soldiers north of Al-Bab happened on November 24 at 3:30am local time according to the Turkish army. It was confirmed to journalists by very senior people in Damascus. The Al Masdar News account though, seemingly denying such a strike, includes a very specific non-denial-denial quote:
A high-ranking official from the Syrian Arab Air Force (SAAYF) told Al-Masdar on Thursday night that their fighter jets did not bomb the Turkish Army in east Aleppo.
"No Syrian or Russian aircraft bombed the Turkish Army near Al-Bab on November 23rd - all reports claiming otherwise are lies," the official confirmed to Al-Masdar on Thursday.
The airstrike did not on occur on the 23rd, as "denied" by SAAYF, but on the 24th. The NYT report mixes up two attacks as one, while basic research shows evidence of two very different attacks. The Al Masdar folks do not understand the specificity of the quotes their sources give.
Hurriyet and others have connected the Syrian air-attack to the Turkish attack on a Russian jet exactly one year before. I doubt that this coincident is intended. Al-Bab, held by ISIS and coveted by nearby Turkish, Kurdish and Syrian government forces, is an important target that will be fought over between the various sides for some time to come. The hit was not some symbolic, historic revenge act, nor was it to roast Turkey for Thanksgiving, but a signal to Turkey that Al-Bab is and will stay off limits for its forces.
News accounts of war, be those of casualties, of specific incidents or assume motivations, are always suspect. They are often written with disinformation in mind. Historic accounts are mostly written by the winners of a specific conflict and heavily "colored" from that perspective. Forensic or video proof can be easily forged and should always be taken with many pinches of salt. Only diligent research on all sides of a conflict can uncover what really happened. Only when "reports" from opposite sides agree on numbers or specific incidents on can assume to be near the truth.
As the above news dissecting shows it is quite possible to beat the (lazy) New York Times reporting in correctness and thereby quality.
But when one tries to be diligent and not solely on one side, one can be sure to end up as denounced and hated by at least one if not all sides of a conflict. This website, MoonofAlabama.org, is now listed as "Russian propaganda outlet" by some neoconned, NATO aligned, anonymous "Friendly Neighborhood Propaganda Identification Service" prominently promoted by today's Washington Post. The minions running that censorship list also watch over our "Russian propaganda" Twitter account @MoonofA.
I wholeheartedly recommend to use at least parts of the list that new anonymous censorship entity provides as your new or additional "Favorite Bookmarks" list. It includes illustrious financial anti-fraud sites like Yves Smith's Naked Capitalism, Wikileaks, well informed libertarian sites like Ron Paul and AntiWar.com and leftish old timers like Counterpunch. Of general (non-mainstream) news sites Consortiumnews, run by Robert Parry who revealed the Iran-contra crimes, is included as well as Truthdig and Truth-out.org. Some easy to remove nazi sites have been added to that list to smear the serious ones. A rather stupid "trick" of "guilt by association" for which only the very dumb fall.
I am honored to find this site listed next to the above.
Elijah Magnier On Fake News And Fake Analysts
While I am still knocked out somewhat by a nasty influenza let me recommend Elijah Magnier's most recent piece on the "fake news" and "fake analyst" media:
The wars in Syria and Iraq celebrated the unfortunate end of the “free and independent press” and the rise of the “neo-analysts”. They sit in far-off lands, with no ground knowledge of the war, collecting information and analysing the colourful bin of social networking sites.
They have even the temerity to believe they can dictate to the US administration what measures should be taken, who to support and, as if they had mastered the “art of war”, they even push for a nuclear war with Russia.
According to the US State Department and to the western press, over 90 hospitals were totally destroyed in eastern Aleppo in the last months at the rate of almost one destroyed hospital per day. And every day we hear “the last hospital has been totally destroyed”. The only problem with this figure is the statistic released by the Syrian Ministry of Health stating that “on the entire Syrian territory, there are only 88 hospitals”.
[W]hen jihadists and rebels start a large scale attack against Syrian Army forces and their allies, the media stand by, waiting for results. If the regime begins a military operation hospitals are destroyed and civilians are killed in the first hour of the battle. Rarely do militants die in mainstream media.
“Neo-analysts” and journalists focus also on the role of the “Popular Mobilisation Units” (PMU) by giving them different titles, like the “Shiite crowd”, “sectarian crowd” and “Militia crowd” as if its members came from another world. There are more than 60% of Shiites in Iraq and the rest are Sunnis, secular Kurds, Assyrians, Shabak, Sabea and other minorities. From these same Iraqis are formed the Iraqi army units, counter-terrorism, intelligence, special forces, federal police forces, tribes, and Peshmergan as well as the PMU, which has become an integral part of the security apparatus under the leadership of the Commander in Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces, the Prime Minister.
Those writing about Iraq disregard the fact that the US Army, before and during its invasion to Iraq, committed the most abominable atrocities in that country, starting with the embargo on Iraq to massacres, torture, rape and human rights abuses during the occupation of the country.
On the media:
The notion of a “free unbiased press” is finished and has been replaced by the will of politicians: investigate journalism was replaced by information or disinformation from social media.
It was obvious during the US presidential campaign that the “free press” was sharing “statistics” confirming the absence of any prospect of success of Donald Trump with Hillary Clinton as a winner by 98 to 99%. This indicates that the press was following wishful thinking rather than confirming data and facts, just as they have been doing most of the time with the war in Syria and Iraq.
Elijah has been working as a newspaper journalist for some 30 years. He was war correspondent in the Yugoslavia wars, in Lebanon, in Iraq during the U.S. invasion and in Syria. The above is based on factual knowledge and experience, not on political agendas or paid "analyst" propaganda. One hopes that younger journalists will learn from it.
How White Helmets Videos Are Made
The video below was originally uploaded on November 18 in the channel of the RFSMediaOffice (Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office), a propaganda organization supporting various groups fighting the Syrian state.
It depicts the "Making of" a scene where people in White Helmets outfit "rescue" a man. For some 20 seconds the two "rescuers" and the "victim" are motionless waiting for the command to start a hectic "rescue operation" and, when that starts, adds on the usual background sound of screaming people.
The embed is a copy I made from the original and posted on my account to make sure that it is preserved.
I do not know why the RFS Media Office would upload this. To show that the White Helmets and their videos are fake? Did they not pay their dues? Or was the channel hacked and the upload done by someone else?
The original title "Edge of death | #MannequinChallenge" points to some social media nonsense which The Telegraph describes as:
A viral video craze, it involves people imitating mannequins and freezing for the camera while music plays in the background.
So is this a fake? Or a fake of the fakes the original White Helmets videos are (this one for example)?
Not fake enough yet?
How about this Yahoo News headline: All hospitals in eastern Aleppo out of action after bombardments: officials. Now compare with this tweet by an NPR Middle East correspondent:
Alison Meuse Verified account @AliTahmizian - 2:20 AM - 21 Nov 2016
MSF says four out of eight hospitals in eastern Aleppo city are currently out of service, including the only dedicated pediatric hospital.
All or four out of eight - those numbers don't matter as some journalists evidently to care how fake their stories are. Remember how six pediatricians in east-Aleppo signed an open letter to Obama a few weeks after the "last pediatrician in Aleppo" was killed? No journo cared about that insult to their readers sanity. Who by the way runs that "only dedicated pediatric hospital" in east-Aleppo? Some horse doctor?
Anyway - have fun with this while I keep nursing my not so fake influenza (no video).
Speculation: Trump Promotes NSA Boss Rogers To DNI Because He Leaked The Clinton Emails
If some investigative journos start digging into the issue this story could develop into a really interesting scandal:
The heads of the Pentagon and the nation’s intelligence community have recommended to President Obama that the director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, be removed.
The recommendation, delivered to the White House last month, was made by Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., according to several U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
The news comes as Rogers is being considered by President-Elect Donald Trump to be his nominee for DNI, replacing Clapper as the official who oversees all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. In a move apparently unprecedented for a military officer, Rogers, without notifying superiors, traveled to New York to meet with Trump on Thursday at Trump Tower.
Adm. Michael S. Rogers recently claimed in reference to the hack of the Democratic National Council emails that Wikileaks spreading them is "a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect." He obviously meant Russia.
Compare that with his boss James Clapper who very recently said (again) that the "intelligence agencies don't have good insight on when or how Wikileaks obtained the hacked emails."
Emails of the DNC and of Clinton's consigliere John Podesta were hacked and leaked. Additionally emails from Clinton's private email server were released. All these influenced the election in favor of Trump.
Wikileaks boss Assange says he does not know where the emails come from but he does not think they came from Russia.
Clapper and Carter wanted Rogers fired because he was generally disliked at the NSA, because two big breaches in the most secret Tailored Access Organization occurred on his watch even after the Snowden case and because he blocked, with the help of Senator McCain, plans to split the NSA into a spying and a cyber war unit.
Now let me spin this a bit.
Rogers obviously knew he was on the to-be-fired list and he had good relations with the Republicans.
Now follows some plausible speculation:
Some Rogers trusted dudes at the NSA (or in the Navy cyber arm which Rogers earlier led) hack into the DNC, Podesta emails and the Clinton private email server. An easy job with the tools the NSA provides for its spies. Whoever hacked the emails then pushes what they got to Wikileaks (and DCleaks, another "leak" outlet). Wikileaks publishes what it gets because that is what it usually does. Assange also has various reasons to hate Clinton. She was always very hostile to Wikileaks. She allegedly even mused of killing Assange by a drone strike.
Rogers then accuses Russia of the breach even while the rest of the spying community finds no evidence for such a claim. That is natural to do for a military man who grew up during the cold war and may wish that war (and its budgets) back. It is also a red herring that will never be proven wrong or right unless the original culprit is somehow found.
Next we know - Trump offers Rogers the Clapper job. He would replace the boss that wanted him fired.
Rogers support for the new cold war will also gain him favor with the various weapon industries which will eventually beef up his pension.
Some of the above is speculation. But it would make sense and explain the quite one-sided wave of leaks we saw during this election cycle.
Even if it isn't true it would at least be a good script for a Hollywood movie on the nastiness of the inside fighting in Washington DC.
Let me know how plausible you find the tale.
Open Thread (NOT U.S. Election) 2016-39
News & views not U.S. election related ...
"Fake News" About Trump Continues Unabated
Clinton makes some twenty different issues or person responsible for her loss - everyone and everything except the DNC, her staff or herself. But a campaign that did just enough to get the states it thought it needed and not one bit more was going to lose no matter how much money it would spend. Shunning progressives and implausibly blaming Russia for her own mistakes did not help either. Clinton failed as a politician and presidential candidate. She just isn't good enough in those roles. It is as simple as that. But now another culprit responsible for her loss is rolled out. "Fake news" that somehow was not censored out of social networks.
But "fake news" was and is a daily occurrence even in major media. What were the "Saddam's WMDs" stories if not fake news? The Clinton campaign spread fake news about Sanders. The news about Clinton's email were (mostly) not fake even as she claimed otherwise.
My personal impression is that there was more fake news about Trump than about Clinton. The NYT, like most other mainstream media, was so much off from reality that its publisher now wrote a letter to request that staff "rededicate .. to the fundamental mission of .. journalism". He thereby admits that the NYT had failed as a news organization.
But there is no rededication, neither in the NYT nor elsewhere, that I can see. The fairy tales about and around Trump seem not to stop for a minute. It will be claimed in top headlines that Trump will make John Bolton or Rudy Giuliani Secretary of State, lunatic Frank Gaffney will be his advisor. Trump wants security clearances for his children! Of course hardly any the active promoters of such nonsense will put the official denials of these lies on top of their pages or mention them at all. Poltico today told me that Wall Street is celebrating the Trump win, implying that Clinton would have been much better. Trump received some $5 million in donations from the finance sector, Clinton received $105 million - guess why.
Trump wants to abandon a No-First-Strike policy for U.S. nuclear weapons is one current scare (650 retweets!). That is a policy the U.S. never-ever had. Obama, like Clinton, rejected a NFS policy. How could Trump abandon it?
Trumps wants to register all Muslims? The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System was introduced in 2002 and only applied to visitors and residents from majority Muslim countries. In 2011 the system was phased out because it was "redundant" - some other system currently holds the data of mostly Muslim in the U.S. The no-fly-lists are largely lists of Muslim - even four years old ones. Obama waged drone war in seven countries and bombed five. All were majority Muslim. So what please could Trump actually do to Muslim people that would be worse than what Bush or Obama have done?
Trump is a racist and his voters are white supremacists is a fake news claim that is still rolled out on a daily base. The facts do not support it. If they were true why did he get more votes from blacks and hispanics than Romney or McCain?
Why not take Trump for what he is? A fast talking salesman, born too rich, but politically a centrist who long supported Democrats and who will simply continue the political path Clinton, Bush and Obama created and walked before him. There is some hope that he will be less "globalist", neoconned and belligerent in his foreign policy but that still needs to be proven. On many of his announced policies there will likely be more Democrats in Congress supporting him than Republicans.
The man should be attacked on his politics and policies whenever that is justified. There will plenty such opportunities, especially with his economic and tax plans. Instead we get a daily dose of fake news about Trump this or that and one scare story after the other.
Is it so difficult, or even impossible, for journalists and media to "rededicate" themselves from feverish pro-Clinton and anti-Trump advocates back to (semi-)serious reporting?
That would be bad news for everyone.
Trump Rejects Neocon Turncoats - Russia Launches Aleppo Campaign
Wikipedia: Eliot A. Cohen
... co-founded the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which was a center for prominent neoconservatives. He has been a member of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, a committee of civilians and retired military officers that the U.S. Secretary of Defense may call upon for advice, that was instituted during the administration of President George W. Bush. He was put on the board after acquaintance Richard Perle put forward his name. Cohen has referred to the War on Terrorism as “World War IV”. In the run-up to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, he was a member of Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a group of prominent persons who pressed for an invasion.
Cohen in WaPo May 3 2016:
It’s over. Donald Trump, a man utterly unfit for the position by temperament, values and policy preferences, will be the Republican nominee for president. He will run against Hillary Clinton, who is easily the lesser evil ...
Cohen in the NYT on May 17 2016:
Mr. Trump’s temperament, his proclivity for insult and deceit and his advocacy of unpredictability would make him a presidential disaster — especially in the conduct of foreign policy, where clarity and consistency matter.
Hillary Clinton is far better: She believes in the old consensus and will take tough lines on China and, increasingly, Russia.
Cohen in The American Interest on November 10 2016 (immediately after Trump won):
Trump may be better than we think. He does not have strong principles about much, which means he can shift. He is clearly willing to delegate legislation to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. And even abroad, his instincts incline him to increase U.S. strength—and to push back even against Russia if, as will surely happen, Putin double-crosses him. My guess is that sequester gets rolled back, as do lots of stupid regulations, and experiments in nudging and nagging Americans to behave the way progressives think they should.
Cohen on Twitter November 15 2016
Eliot A Cohen @EliotACohen
After exchange w Trump transition team, changed my recommendation: stay away. They're angry, arrogant, screaming "you LOST!" Will be ugly.
Retweets 3,719 Likes 3,204
5:07 AM - 15 Nov 2016
I find the above very funny. How could that turncoat think he would be greeted by the Trump organization with anything but derision? Cohen believed he and his ilk would be welcome with candies and roses after insulting Trump in all major media? Who is the arrogant one in the above?
Oh, by the way. Here is a headline from October 2013: President Obama to Republicans: I won. Deal with it. I do not remember Cohen, or anyone else, calling that "arrogant".
While the papers are full of (badly) informed rumors about who will get this or that position in a Trump administration let's keep in mind that 90% of such rumors are just self promotions by people like Cohen who shill for the rumored job. That is why I will not write about John Bolton or Rudy Giuliani as coming Secretary of State. Both are possible (unqualified) candidates. But others are just as likely to get that position. We will only know who it is after the official release.
Meanwhile Trump yesterday had a phonecall with the Russian President Putin. They discussed bilateral relations, Syria and fighting terrorism. Today the Russian and Syrian military started the long expected big campaign against the "moderate" al-Qaeda in east-Aleppo city and Idleb governate. Air strikes on east-Aleppo had been held back for 28 days. Today missiles and cruise missiles were launched against fixed targets and dozens of carrier and land launched airplanes attacked Nusra position on the various front and in its rear. Long range bombers flown from Russia joined the campaign. Trump seems to have voiced no objections to this offensive.
The Russian military has upped its air defense in Syria. Additional to the S-400 system around its airport in Latakia seven S-300 systems were deployed as a screen against U.S. cruise missile attacks. These are joined by rehabilitated Syrian S-200 system and Pantsyr S-1 short range systems for point defense. This should be enough to deter any stupid idea the Pentagon hawks, or dumb neocons like Eliot Cohen, might have.
Why Polls Fail
Today I discussed the U.S. election with a friend who studied and practices statistics. I asked about the failure of the polls in this years presidential election. Her explanation: The polls are looking at future events but are biased by the past. The various companies and institutions adjust the polls they do by looking at their past prognoses and the real results of the past event. They then develop correcting factors, measured from the past, and apply it to new polls. If that correcting factor is wrong, possibly because of structural changes in the electorate, then the new polls will be corrected with a wrong factor and thus miss the real results.
Polls predicting the last presidential election were probably off by 3 or 5 points towards the Republican side. The pollsters then corrected the new polls for the Clinton-Trump race in favor of the Democratic side by giving that side an additional 3-5 points. They thereby corrected the new polls by the bias that was poll inherent during the last race.
But structural changes, which we seem to have had during this election, messed up the result. Many people who usually vote for the Democratic ticket did not vote for Clinton. The "not Clinton" progressives, the "bernie bros" and "deplorables" who voted Obama in the last election stayed home, voted for a third party candidate or even for Trump. The pollsters did not anticipate such a deep change. Thus their correction factor was wrong. Thus the Clinton side turned out to be favored in polls but not in the relevant votes.
Real polling, which requires in depth-in person interviews with the participants, does not really happen anymore. It is simply to expensive. Polling today is largely done by telephone with participants selected by some database algorithm. It is skewed by many factors which require many corrections. All these corrections have some biases that do miss structural changes in the underlying population.
The Clinton camp, the media and the pollsters missed what we had anticipated as "not Clinton". A basic setting in a part of the "left" electorate that remember who she is and what she has done and would under no circumstances vote for her. Clinton herself pushed the "bernie bros" and "deplorables" into that camp. This was a structural change that was solely based in the personality of the candidate.
If Sanders would have been the candidate the now wrong poll correction factor in favor of Democrats would likely have been a correct one. The deep antipathy against Hillary Clinton in a decisive part of the electorate was a factor that the pseudo-science of cheap telephone polls could not catch. More expensive in depth interviews of the base population used by a pollster would probably have caught this factor and adjusted appropriately.
There were some twenty to thirty different entities doing polls during this election cycle. Five to ten polling entities, with better budgets and preparations, would probably have led to better prognoses. Some media companies could probably join their poll budgets, split over multiple companies today, to have a common one with a better analysis of its base population.One that would have anticipated "not Hillary".
Unless that happens all polls will have to be read with a lot of doubt. What past bias is captured in these predictions of the future? What are their structural assumptions and are these still correct? What structural change might have happened?
Even then polls and their interpretation will always only capture a part of the story. Often a sound grasp of human and cultural behavior will allow for better prediction as all polls. As my friend the statistician say: "The best prognostic instrument I have even today is my gut."
Nusra On The Run - Trump Induces First Major Policy Change On Syria
The people loyal to the Syrian government are happy with Donald Trump winning the U.S. election:
At the passport counter, a Syrian officer’s face lit up when he saw an American traveler.
“Congratulations on your new president!” he exclaimed, giving an energetic thumbs up. Mr. Trump, he said, would be “good for Syria.”
The first significant step of the new administration comes while Trump is not even in offices. Obama, selfishly concerned with his historic legacy, suddenly makes a 180 degree turn and starts to implement Trump polices. Lets consider the initial position:
Asked about Aleppo in an October debate with Clinton, Trump said it was a humanitarian disaster but the city had "basically" fallen. Clinton, he said, was talking in favor of rebels without knowing who they were.
The rebels fighting Assad in western Syria include nationalists fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner, some of them trained in a CIA-backed program, and jihadists such as the group formerly known as the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.
The Obama administration, through the CIA led by Saudi asset John Brennan, fed weapons, training and billions of dollars to "moderate rebels". These then turned around (vid) and either gave the CIA gifts to al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al Nusra) or joined it themselves. The scheme was no secret at all and Russia as well as Syria pointed this out several times. The Russian foreign Minister Lavrov negotiated with the U.S. Secretary of State Kerry who promised to separate the "moderate rebels" from al-Qaeda. But Kerry never delivered. Instead he falsely accuse Russia of committing atrocities that never happened. The CIA kept the upper hand within the Obama administration and continued its nefarious plans.
That changed the day the president-elect Trump set foot into the White House. While Obama met Trump in the oval office, new policies, prepared beforehand, were launched. The policies were held back until after the election and would likely not have been revealed or implemented if Clinton had won.
The U.S. declared that from now on it will fight against al-Qaeda in Syria:
President Obama has ordered the Pentagon to find and kill the leaders of an al-Qaeda-linked group in Syria that the administration had largely ignored until now and that has been at the vanguard of the fight against the Syrian government, U.S. officials said.
That shift is likely to accelerate once President-elect Donald Trump takes office. ... possibly in direct cooperation with Moscow.
U.S. officials who opposed the decision to go after al-Nusra’s wider leadership warned that the United States would effectively be doing the Assad government's bidding by weakening a group on the front line of the counter-Assad fight.
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and other Pentagon leaders initially resisted the idea of devoting more Pentagon surveillance aircraft and armed drones against al-Nusra.
al-Qaeda hears of Clinton's defeat, haz a sad (illustrative pic)
Ash Carter is, together with John Brennan, the major anti-Russian force in the Obama administration. He is a U.S. weapon industry promoter and the anti-Russia campaign, which helps to sell U.S. weapons to NATO allies in Europe, is largely of his doing. He saw al-Qaeda in Syria as a welcome proxy force against Russia.
But Obama has now shut down that policy. We are not yet sure that this is for good but the above Washington Post account is not the only signal:
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action today to disrupt al-Nusrah Front’s military, recruitment, and financing operations. Specifically, OFAC designated four key al-Nusrah Front leaders – Abdallah Muhammad Bin-Sulayman al-Muhaysini, Jamal Husayn Zayniyah, Abdul Jashari, and Ashraf Ahmad Fari al-Allak – pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.
These designations were taken in coordination with the U.S. Department of State, which today named Jabhat Fath al Sham as an alias of al-Nusrah Front – al-Qa’ida’s affiliate in Syria.
Abdallah Muhammad Bin-Sulayman al-Muhaysini was designated for acting for or on behalf of, and providing support and services to or in support of, al-Nusrah Front.
This is a major change in U.S. policy. Nusra will from now on be on the run not only from Russian and Syrian attacks but also from the intelligence and military capabilities of the United States.
The newly designated Al-Muhaysini, a Saudi cleric, is Nusra's chief ideologue in Syria. Some considered him the new Osama Bin-Laden. Here he is, on the left, arm in arm with chief al-Qaeda in Syria propagandist and "journalist" Hadi Abdullah.
Hadi Abdullah, friend of the designated al-Qaeda terrorist Muhaysini, just received the 2016 Press Freedom Price from the CIA/Soros financed "regime change" influence operation Reporters Without Borders. Might this mean that Hadi Abdullah is himself a CIA assets? He would not be the first such "journalist" in Syria.
Obama, obviously as a direct consequence of the Trump election, now ordered the Pentagon to wage war on al-Qaeda in Syria just as the Russians do. This after five years of nearly unlimited U.S. support for al-Qaeda and its "moderate" Syrian affiliates. It is not yet know what new orders, if any, Obama gave to the CIA. Will the CIA follow these policies or will it (again) try to counter the Pentagon policies in Syria? It is unusual that the WaPo report above about this new direction includes no commenting voice from the CIA. Why is such missing?
Russia and Syria will welcome the new Obama policies should they come to fruit on the ground. Hillary Clinton had planned and announced to widen the conflict in Syria and with Russia and Iran. Obama would surely not have acted against such policies if she had been elected. But with Trump winning and thereby a new policy on the horizon he now changed course to a direction that will provide "continuity" when Trump takes over.
Not only is Trump kicking a black family out of its longtime limewashed home, he also ends U.S. government support for the disenfranchised Jihadis in Syria and elsewhere. This even months before taking office. He really is the menace we have all been warned about.
This interview in today's WSJ confirms that Trump is still in the pro-Syrian/anti-Jihadist camp that is opposed to Obama's original policy:
He said he got a “beautiful” letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding that a phone call between them is scheduled shortly.
Although he wasn’t specific, Mr. Trump suggested a shift away from what he said was the current Obama administration policy of attempting to find moderate Syrian opposition groups to support in the civil war there. “I’ve had an opposite view of many people regarding Syria,” he said.
He suggested a sharper focus on fighting Islamic State, or ISIS, in Syria, rather than on ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS. Russia is now totally aligned with Syria, and now you have Iran, which is becoming powerful, because of us, is aligned with Syria. … Now we’re backing rebels against Syria, and we have no idea who these people are.”
If the U.S. attacks Mr. Assad, Mr. Trump said, “we end up fighting Russia, fighting Syria.”
Next Steps: Clean Up The Democratic Party, Oppose Trump
People have now learned and accepted that Trump is inevitably the new president of the United States. They try to figure out what that means. We do not know, neither does anyone else. A lot of rumors and speculation are circling of who will take up this or that job in a Trump administration. These rumors are mostly created by those who would like that job, or their personal lobbies. They should be ignored.
The mainstream media is barely able to issue a mea culpa for their extreme pro-Clinton campaign and total failure of reporting the real state of the union. It is now looking for obfuscations like claiming no one could have gotten it right. That is a cheap excuse for incompetence.
It is astonishing that THE media outlet that did the most to shine lights on Clinton is ignored in any of the main stream after-election reporting. I am talking of Wikileaks and Julian Assange who did their very best, under high personal risk, to report the truth about Clinton's and the DNC's utter corruption. A big thank you to them!
Clinton in her very late concession speech, found no words for her culpability or that of the campaign she ran. But the loss of the running is her personal failure. The "bernie bros" and "deplorables" thanked her hostility by not showing up to vote. She had 6 million votes less than Obama while Trump got about the same number as Romney! Instead of focusing on Trump's disastrous economic program she ran a warmongering "blame Putin" campaign. Her economic program was tinkering on the margins of the neoliberal status quo. Certainly not what voters in difficult financial situations, and there are a lots of those in today's U.S., needed to hear. There are now attempts to get Clinton pardoned for breaking classification laws and rules with her private email server as well as for her tax cheating, private slush fund "charity", the Clinton Foundation. If the Democrats want to keep at least some appearance of uprightness they should fight all such attempts. Let her pay a very heft penalty for her shenanigans.
The Democratic party apparatus is corrupt and was completely on Clinton's side. It cost the party the presidency as well as the House and any progress in the Senate. I find it very likely that Sanders would have won the primaries if the party apparatus had acted as neutral as it should have. He had a much better chance of beating Trump. With Sanders as candidate in the general election House and Senate seats would have been easier to keep or to win. There is an urgent and thorough cleanup needed in the party from top to bottom. Sanders should be given the lead of the party and be tasked to again win a majority in the House and/or Senate in the 2018 midterm election.
Trumps true program will now come to the fore. A lot of stuff he said during the campaign will soon be forgotten. His economic program is a repeat of Reaganomics with a dose of isolationism in trade. How that is going to work out with the pivot to Asia and countering China is a mystery. His stand against Muslims was fake, as he let the embassies of the Gulf states know early on.
The military will get more money for lots of funny programs. That is nothing new. It just build some $7.5 billion a piece battleships solely for their new, very special guns which now will not be used because their special ammunition is, at $800,000 a shot, too expensive. A total waste of money but at least it paid for some good jobs. (More jobs could have been created with that money in more important, non-military programs.)
Trump will cut taxes for big enterprises and the rich. He will cut social programs. The general budget will go deep into red. In a few years he will have to, just like Reagan, increase taxes to regain some budget balance.
His campaign unleashed a new wave of racism. Racism had not vanished - indeed it was very much in the open during Obama's time. But open hostile incidents against "the other" will probably increase. It will be difficult and take some time to reign it in again.
It will be important to oppose Trump as much as possible. He is a somewhat megalomaniac and he currently has party majorities in both houses. He will have to be taught that not everything he tries is good or even possible. Trump will want a reelection and another four years as president. He can face opposition on the ground, from people who voted for him, if those people can see a plausible alternative. Clintonian tinkering on the edges of the status quo is no such alternative. There needs to be broad stroke economic policy, plausible and explainable, that offers a better world to them. If the Democrats, or a third party, can develop and present such a program there is good chance that the era of Trump will be a short unremarkable chapter in the history books.
First Thoughts On The "Not-Hillary" Election Results
My "not Hillary" hunch for the election was right. That is, I believe, how Trump won. No so much by gaining genuine votes but by taking them from the crappiest candidate the Democrats could send into the race. This was not a "white vote". Trump did better with black (+5) and latino (+2) voters than Romney. Racism does not explain that. Clinton promised more wars. Those who would have to fight them on the ground rejected that position.
The people voted against corruption, against international warmongering, against attacks of the culture of their life and against Zionist and Arab potentate manipulation. In short - they voted against Hillary.
The media with their outright and widespread manipulation and one sided reporting against Trump and for Clinton lost too. People did not believe the partisan crap that fact-checked Trump on every minor issue but hardly reported on the huge, huge scandals and corruption Wikileaks revealed about the Clintons. Fact-checkers ain't a good weapon in a culture war. The people want authenticity - lying is not seen as bad - if it is fairy open and authentic. Clinton is not authentic even when she tells the truth. The polls, but the one of the LA Times, turned out to be systematic manipulation.
The leading politicians in Europe will crap their pants. Nearly all but Putin bet heavily on Clinton. The European media were also strongly pro Clinton, even more so than in the U.S. There was zero reporting about Trump's real political positions and support. Only tiny bits about Clinton's corruption were revealed on the back pages. They always believe what the NYT writes is the essence of U.S. thinking. It is far from it. No one but a few east-coast party goers and the NYT cares about some 16 year old girl, who thinks she is "transsexual" and wants to use a men's public toilet. The average people think that such craziness deserves zero attention if not a hefty kick in the ass. Pro-migration and other political correctness movements in Europe will have a difficult stand now. They can no longer work against the instincts of the people by pointing to the soothing, fake words of an Obama or Clinton.
The Democratic party failed. The outright corruption of the party heads, who pushed Sanders out to move Clinton in by manipulating the primaries, blocked the natural development that went on at the base. They even wanted Trump as a candidate because they though Clinton could easily beat him. They were totally detached from real life. I am sure that post-mortem analysis will show that many, many potential pro-democratic voters were just disgusted and stayed at home or voted for a third party. The establishment of the Republican party were no better. They failed their voters just as much by shunning Trump and working for Clinton. All the neo-cons that flocked to Clinton will now scramble to get back to Trump. They will have little chance.
But the election also created huge new dangers. People around Trump, including his vice-president, are not sane realist but fairly extreme ideologues. Trump himself isn't. He is, in my estimate, fairly pragmatic. The Republicans also won the Senate and House. There is a danger that extreme policies will be implemented with huge and terrible long-term consequences. But remember that Obama had the same chance in his first two years of his Presidency. He never used it. From a progressive view he blew it.
Winning back the House and Senate in two years is a must for anyone with some middle-of-the-road thinking.
I believe that this result is good for Syria and the non-Jihadi and non-Zonist Middle East. Al-Qaeda in Syria will have a sad. Their main supporters leave the stage. The result is likely good for Europe including for Russia. It is bad for economic equality and other important issues in the United States and elsewhere. But would Clinton have been really better on these?
I for one feel mightily eased (with a not-so-small dose of Schadenfreude). The U.S. voters knocked over a chessboard that brought war and misery to many people. We do not know how the new game will look, but I think there is a fair chance now that it, in total, will be somewhat less devastating for the global good.
Syria - Waiting For The Next Moves
We had expected a Syrian Army "Election Campaign", a large size attack on Al Bab or east-Aleppo. That did not happen despite the right "assets" being in place and I have heard no reason yet why it was delayed. The Russian aircraft carrier group, which was expected last Friday along the Syrian coast, will only arrive this evening. It must have intentionally slowed its travel. There has been no single Syrian or Russian airstrike on east-Aleppo in last 21 days. "Rebel" shelling of west-Aleppo has not stopped for a day and caused many casualties. That will now change. One Russia source claims the Russian fleet will engage immediately. NOTAMs, NOtices To Air Men, about imminent operations on Syria's west-coast have been released. The declared areas and times of operation correspond to a campaign, not a single strike.
After some 12 days of fighting, the second large al-Qaeda campaign to break the siege on east-Aleppo by attacking the south western side of west-Aleppo completely failed. While the first round nearly achieved a break through but was then contained the second attack was only a alibi attempt which never made any progress towards its claimed aim. The Syrian army has recaptured the housing project 1070 and will soon have cleaned all other areas that were shortly in the hands of the Jihadis. The loss in material and men for the Jihadis were immense. The Syrian army has finally learned how to defend against suicide vehicle bombs: have adequate weapons ready in the front line to kill them on their approaches. Of nearly 20 such bomb runs only 3 or 4 reached their targets and losses from those were less sever than from earlier bombs. The Jihadis and their "western" media and "expert" proxies seem to have given up on east-Aleppo. There is no sign that another break through attempt will be launched.
The Obama administration has announced a campaign to encircle Raqqa in center-east Syria. It bought help from the Kurdish YPG to achieve that and has thereby excluded a Turkish campaign. The taking of Raqqa is supposed to be left to some Arab troops in cooperation with the Kurds. But those Arab troops do not yet exist and hiring and training has not even begun. The whole announcement of the beginning of a Raqqa campaign was obviously not serious. The Kurds will take a few small towns and the U.S. will temporarily protect them from sever Turkish interference in their areas in Syria. Raqqa will not be attacked before next years spring.
The Turks are now miffed (though silently relieved) that they were not asked to take part in the Raqqa campaign. They have been promised that they may help to "develop a long-term plan for seizing, holding and governing Raqqa". That means exactly nothing. But the Turks never had a real chance to go and take Raqqa. It is too far from their borders and the imponderables are too big.
In the area around Damascus the Ghouta rebel hold out has been split and reduced to small kettles which will be eliminated within a few days. The Syrian capital is safe for now and its people can live a rather normal life without fear of being killed in the next minute by some random grenade. A significant number of troops will become available when all the small rebel areas around the capital are gone. Those can be used in future campaigns. The frontline strength of the Syrian army in critical areas will increase and its maneuver force will become more powerful and efficient.
The momentum in all of west Syria is on the side of the Syrian government. The Jihadists are more and more concentrated in Idleb governate and city. When the surrounded hold outs in its back are eliminated the Syrian army can launch an assault on them. The east is complicate. Deir Ezzor is still surrounded by ISIS and will likely be attacked again soon. Reinforcements for the defenders would be welcome.
The Kurds are playing games and change alliances every now and than. For the time they again bet on the U.S. - a hope that has already been disappointed several times. The U.S. will let them fall as soon as it is convenient. The Kurds will learn again that such a policy does not bear tasteful fruits. There is a common Turkish and Syrian interest in cutting them back to size. In a year from now we may see new surprise alliances in that area.
All the positive developments we have seen especially in west-Syria may be for naught if a new U.S. president decides to throw up the chess board and risk World War III by attacking Syrian and Russian positions. Its about the most stupid thing Washington could do and has thereby a good chance to happen. I hope that the Pentagon will lecture the politicians of the very real consequences such a move would have.
Open Thread (NOT U.S. Election) 2016-38
News & views NOT related to the U.S. election ...
(Use thread below this one for election news & views)
U.S. Election Thread 2016-06
Whatever there is to say about the election ...
Are We To Love Al-Qaeda Or Fear It?
Even as Syria and Russia threatened an all-out assault on the rebel side of Aleppo, saying Friday was the last chance for people there to exit, they had been unable to put down a counteroffensive by a mix of Qaeda-linked and United States-backed insurgent groups.
Three Qaeda-linked suicide bombers attacked a military position with explosive-packed personnel carriers on Thursday, ...
Sources told CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton that U.S. intelligence has alerted joint terrorism task forces that al Qaeda could be planning attacks in three states for Monday.
Instead, they are trying to break the siege, with Qaeda-linked groups and those backed by the United States working together — the opposite of what Russia has demanded.
The source said there has been pressure on al Qaeda and its affiliates AQAP and AQIS (al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent) to regain relevance with its mission.
What is the message the U.S. government is sending with such accounts? Are we to love al-Qaeda or fear it?
Or are we to fall silent in awe of the sheer genius of Obama's strategic planning?
h/t Mark Ames
P.S. That AQ and CIA "rebels" mercenaries are one bunch is, of course, not new. We wrote about Your Moderate Cuddly Homegrown Al-Qaeda since October 2013. What is new is the NYT, the house organ of the U.S. government, now openly reporting it. What is the message in this?
Open Thread 2016-37
News & views NOT related to the U.S. election ...
(For election comments please use the previous thread.)
Reward Clinton's Hawkishness Because Trump's Foreign Policy Is Uncertain?
For me, as a non U.S. person, the major issues of the U.S. presidential elections is always foreign policy. There Trump is not hawkish at all. He has somewhat confused, unlearned blustering positions on foreign policy but is basically a cautious, risk averse businessman. He consistently criticizes the war mongering in Washington DC. Hillary Clinton is a run-of-the-mill warmongering neoconservative compatible with the imperial "mainstream" of the power centers in Washington and elsewhere.
Trump has called up this contrast again and again (as do I). In a speech (vid at 53:20 min) in Grand Rapids Michigan on October 31 he again highlights these points. Some excerpts (taken from this partial transcript part 9, 10):
Hillary led us to disaster in Iraq, in Syria, in Libya. ... Hillary and our failed Washington establishment have spent $6 trillion on wars in the Middle East, and now it’s worse than it’s ever been before.
Had Obama and others gone to the beach, Obama could have gone to the golf course, we would have been in much better shape.
We shouldn’t have gone into the war, and she thinks I’m a hawk. Oh, Donald Trump.
Imagine if some of the money had been spent, $6 trillion in the Middle East, on building new schools and roads and bridges right here in Michigan.
Now Hillary, trapped in her Washington bubble, that’s blind to the lessons, wants to start a shooting war in Syria in conflict with a nuclear armed Russia that could drag us into a World War III.
Okay, folks. She – I’ll tell you what. She will get us into World War III. She will get us into World War III. I will tell you that. She’s incompetent. She will get us into World War III.
The arrogant political class never learns. They keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. They keep telling the same lies. They keep producing the same failed results.
Trump may well be lying when he says he does not seek a conflict with Russia or anyone else. Trump surely lies on other issues. But those are mostly rather obvious lies and some are even a bit comical. He is playing Reagan on economic issues, promising tax cuts that can not be financed (and which Reagan had to take back in the end when he introduced the biggest tax hike ever). On many issues we do not know what Trump is really planning to do (or if he plans at all). But he has never given the impression that he is hawkish or willing to incite a war.
Clinton on the other hand has a proven record of being a proactive hawk. She is willing to go to war and to kill people because the U.S. can.
She is a political animal totally dependent on her sponsors. Economically she is pro-banks, pro-big-business and for further deregulation. A neoliberal. The only "liberal" standpoints she has are on some hyped identity issues relevant only for a very tiny group of people like transgenders. She told her real voters, the people who pay her, that her public standpoint on many issues is different from the one she will pursue. She did not mean that what she will pursue will be less hawkish than her public stand, or that she will be more progressive on economic issues than she openly claims.
Clinton assures us that Trump is Putin's puppet who will start a nuclear World War III with Russia. She doesn't say how that computes. Will Putin order Trump to give him asylum in Washington while Moscow and Washington get nuked?
With Trump the U.S. would get a president who is a pretty unknown factor but, in my judgment, a less dangerous one to the U.S. and the world than Clinton. With her the next useless and deadly wars are practically guaranteed.
When it comes to foreign policy, Trump’s own positions make him the most immoral, poorly informed, and dangerous presidential candidate in recent American history.
If Clinton is elected, there will undoubtedly be troubling foreign-policy positions and actions which must be thoroughly questioned and scrutinized. I just deeply hope that citizens have the opportunity to hold a President Hillary Clinton to account.
The citizens of the United States now have an opportunity to hold Secretary of State Clinton to account for her "We came, we saw, he died" war on Libya and for escalating the war on Syria. The militaristic (and failed) pivot to Asia, the "regime changes" putsches in Honduras and Ukraine and the deterioration of relations with Russia are also to a large part her work. Should the voters reward her for all the death, misery and new dangers she created as Secretary of State by making her President?
Who would I vote for? Not Hillary. Not for Trump either. Some third party candidate - probably Stein of the Green Party. It would be a "useless and wasted" vote in the short term though such votes have some light influence on the programs of the big parties. In the long term the example of voting third parties will hopefully induce more people to do the same. If it becomes a more common, regular thing to do it might over time break the duopoly of today's consensus in Washington. It is a small chance, but possibly a big long-term reward.
The Syrian Army's "Election Campaign" - Al Bab Or East-Aleppo?
The Russian president Putin declared another unilateral ceasefire in east-Aleppo for Friday:
"A decision was made to introduce a 'humanitarian pause' in Aleppo on November 4 from 9:00 am (0600 GMT) to 19:00," the chief of Russia's General Staff Valery Gerasimov said in a statement on Wednesday.
Gerasimov said the decision was approved by Syrian authorities and was meant to "prevent senseless casualties" by allowing civilians and armed combatants to quit rebel-held eastern Aleppo.
Defence ministry Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that Russia had ceased air strikes on eastern Aleppo for 16 days, following criticism over a Russian-backed Syrian government assault that has killed hundreds of civilians and destroyed infrastructure, including hospitals.
This is probably the last ceasefire on offer before al-Qaeda and CIA proxy forces in east-Aleppo are attacked in full force.
These head-chopping "rebels" rejected the Russian offer:
Rebel groups in Aleppo dismissed Russia's latest offer, with one of the groups describing it as a media stunt for "public consumption."
Yasser al-Youssef, a spokesman for the Nour el-Din el-Zinki rebel group, said Russia "is not serious" and its latest initiatives "don't concern us." He added that the Russian leader's comments do not reflect the reality on the ground.
The great "rebel" attack from Idleb in the west on Aleppo to open a corridor to the government besieged "rebel" area in east-Aleppo has failed. Local fighting is still ongoing but the main attack has stopped. Most of the major hardware of the attacking "rebels", tanks and multiple rocket launchers on trucks, have been destroyed by the Syrian and Russian artillery and air forces.
The Syrian Army and Russia have assembled major fresh forces in Aleppo. Syrian special forces are preparing for a big attack and Iran supported groups as well as some Russian units are on the ground. On Friday the Russian aircraft-carrier Kuznetsov will arrive on the Syrian coast. It adds some 30 fighter planes and attack helicopters to the assembled land based air forces. The carrier is accompanied by several destroyers and frigates as well as submarines. These add to the air defenses but can also launch salvos of cruise missiles.
But this whole build up may have a different purpose than an all out attack on east-Aleppo.
North-east-east of Aleppo is Al-Bab, a city held by ISIS (grey) and campaign aim of Turkish (green) as well as Kurdish (yellow) forces. The Kurdish YPG forces (named SDF to disguise them as mixed Kurdish-Arab group) want to connect their areas in northwest-Syria to those in north east-Syria. They need the line from north-Aleppo through Al-Bab to the city of Manbij further east which is already in their hands. They are generally capable and well equipped but their forces are stretched and they lack major artillery and reliable air-support. From the north Turkish proxy "rebel" forces, supported by Turkish artillery from north of the Turkish-Syrian border, have moved south to prevent a Kurdish west-east uniting of their areas and to keep supply lines for ISIS to Turkey open. They are now on the geographic limits of the Turkish artillery support. The Turkish army is reluctant to move its artillery south of the border into Syria. The army is based on conscript forces and the Turkish people would start to make trouble for Erdogan if their drafted sons get killed in Syria. There is also no legal base for an invasion by regular Turkish forces.
The Turkish air force has been supporting the Turkish "rebel" proxies in central Syria. But after it recently bombed and killed about 100 Kurdish fighters northeast of Aleppo the Russian and Syrian air forces have warned it off. Any Turkish plane entering Syrian air space is a legitimate target. The Turks understood the warning and have since stayed out of Syrian airspace.
Turkish supported forces taking Al-Bab could be in preparation of an attack on Aleppo from the east, endangering the Syrian progress in the city. Kurdish forces are known for their notorious unreliability as allies. They change sides for minor bribes or issues. They could probably be trusted to take Al-Bab now without bothering the government forces in Aleppo but that could change any day.
The third possible power to take Al-Bab is the Syrian Arab Army (red on the map). Since it took the Qweiris airbase south of Al-Bab back from ISIS it is only some 10 kilometers away from the city. A second direction of attack could come from the eastern parts of Aleppo. Taking Al-Bab would consolidate the areas between Qweiris and Aleppo and would be a good position to prepare for a later attack on the ISIS "capital" Raqqa southeast of Al-Bab and east of Qweiris. Areas directly north of Al-Bab could be let open for the Kurds to bother with the Turkish supported forces. The Syrian government will not protest when those fight each other.
Starting this weekend we will probably see two Syrian government campaigns. A major bombing campaign against "rebel" positions in east-Aleppo as well as a ground attack by Syrian government forces against Al-Bab. I find this more plausible than an imminent ground attack on "rebels" in east-Aleppo that was not prepared so far by a major campaign from air and artillery forces.
Some big Syrian military "election campaign" will happen in Syria while the U.S. public, government and media are distracted by their election circus. Are the other forces fighting in Syria, the U.S. supported proxies, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Turks prepared for such a new Syrian government campaign? Do they have plausible counter moves in store?
Open Thread 2016-36
News & views ...