Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 03, 2017

The "Russian Ads" On Facebook Are Just Another Click-Bait Scheme

Congress is investigating 3,000 "suspicious" ads which were run on Facebook. They were claimed to have been bought by "Russia" to influence the U.S.presidential election in favor of Trump.

With more details now known we can conclude that these Facebook ads had nothing to do with the election. The mini-ads were bought to promote click-bait pages and sites. These pages and sites were created and promoted to sell further advertisement. The media though, has still not understood the issue.

On September 6 the NYT asserted:

Providing new evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Facebook disclosed on Wednesday that it had identified more than $100,000 worth of divisive ads on hot-button issues purchased by a shadowy Russian company linked to the Kremlin.
...
The disclosure adds to the evidence of the broad scope of the Russian influence campaign, which American intelligence agencies concluded was designed to damage Hillary Clinton and boost Donald J. Trump during the election.

Like any Congress investigation the current one concerned with Facebook ads is leaking like a sieve. What oozes out makes little sense. If "Russia" aimed to make Congress and U.S. media a laughing stock it has  surely achieved that.

Today the NYT says that the ads were bought by "the Russians" "in disguise" to promote variously themed Facebook pages:

There was “Defend the 2nd,” a Facebook page for gun-rights supporters, festooned with firearms and tough rhetoric. There was a rainbow-hued page for gay rights activists, “LGBT United.” There was even a Facebook group for animal lovers with memes of adorable puppies that spread across the site with the help of paid ads.

No one has explained how these pages are connected to a Russian "influence" campaign. It is unexplained how these are connected to the 2016 election. Both is simply asserted because Facebook said, for unknown reasons, that these ads may have come from some Russian agency. How Facebook has determined that is not known.

With each new detail from the "Russian ads" investigation the framework of "election manipulation" falls further apart:

Late Monday, Facebook said in a post that about 10 million people had seen the ads in question. About 44 percent of the ads were seen before the 2016 election and the rest after, the company said.

The original claim was that "Russia" intended to influence the election in favor of Trump. But why then was the majority of the ads in questions run after November 9? And how would an animal-lovers page with adorable puppies help to achieve Trump's election victory?

More details via the Wall Street Journal:

Roughly 25% of the ads were never shown to anyone. That’s because advertising auctions are designed so that ads reach people based on relevance, and certain ads may not reach anyone as a result.
...
For 50% of the ads, less than $3 was spent; for 99% of the ads, less than $1,000 was spent.

Of the 3,000 ads Facebook originally claimed were "Russian" only 2,200 were ever viewed. Most of the advertisements were mini-ads which, for the price of a coffee, promoted private pages related to hobbies and a wide spectrum of controversial issues. The majority of the ads ran after the election.

All that "adds to the evidence of the broad scope of the Russian influence campaign"? "...designed to damage Hillary Clinton and boost Donald J. Trump during the election"?

No.

But the NYT still finds "experts" who believe in the "Russian influence" nonsense and find the most stupid explanations for their claims:

Clinton Watts, a former F.B.I. agent now at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, said Russia had been entrepreneurial in trying to develop diverse channels of influence. Some, like the dogs page, may have been created without a specific goal and held in reserve for future use.

Puppy pictures for "future use"?

Nonsense.

Lunacy!

The pages described and the ads leading to them are typical click-bait, not part of a political influence op.

The for-profit scheme runs as follows:

Cont. reading: The "Russian Ads" On Facebook Are Just Another Click-Bait Scheme

Posted by b at 02:09 PM | Comments (60)

October 02, 2017

Another Day, Another U.S. Mass Shooting

"Turn down the music. You know uncle Stephen goes berserk when one disturbs his sleep." /snark

One Stephen Paddock rented a room on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel. Over three days, he brought some ten guns into it. The room was chosen to overlook the space of on upcoming open air concert. 

Last night Paddock waited for the concert to start and then fired his automatic weapons into the crowd. At least fifty-eight people died and some 400 were wounded. The murderer later killed himself.

Paddock is portrait as a reclusive, well-off retiree and is thought to be a professional gambler. There is no hint yet of the mans motive. He is white and has a Christian name. Thus, according to U.S. standards, his killing spree was not terrorism.

The state of Nevada allows about anyone to buy and own automatic rifles. With one pull of the trigger one can fire off a full 30 round magazine within a few seconds.  The use of such machine guns leave the victims in an attack like this no time to escape. With a bit of training, a change of magazines takes less than five seconds. The man must have had more than a thousand rounds to cause such a number of casualties.

The statistics paint a horrible picture of gun violence in the U.S. There is now one mass shooting, with more than four victims, per day:

First 9 months of 2017:
-11,572 gun deaths
-23,365 gun injuries
-271 mass shootings
-1,508 unintentional shootings
-2,971 kids/teens shot

The Onion headlined: ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens . It was the fifths time in the last three years that the Onion used the same headline and story. They only switched the photo, the name of the city and the body count.

The gun lobby will again say, "Let's not politicize this tragedy by talking gun control."

Sure, let's wait a few months, at which time there will be another mass shooting.

Every gun massacre is an advertisement for guns. The stocks of gun manufacturers soared today, casino stocks fell.

Posted by b at 01:20 PM | Comments (279)

October 01, 2017

On Catalonia's Referendum

Some people in Catalonia, a rich and culturally distinct area in north-east of Spain, want to secede from the larger country. According to polls (pdf) less than half of the people in the area support the move. The local government prepared for a referendum and called for a local vote.

Polling stations were set up for today. But Spanish laws do not allow for such polls or a separation. Catalonia, like other Spanish regions, already has a good degree of autonomy. If Catalonia were to secede the Basque areas in the north would likely follow. Spain would fall apart. Under Spanish law the referendum is illegal. The central government sent police to prevent the procedure. Street melees ensued.

A lot of mistakes have been made by the central government. It was stubborn in negotiations. It reacted too late to - at least partially - reasonable demands. Its insensitivity only incited resistance to it. But it is also responsible for the country as a whole. The behavior of local government is not much better. It is just as conservative, in its own way, as the government in Madrid.

Catalonia has a GDP per capita of some $33,580/year. For Spain as a whole the GDP per capita is $26,643/year. Many factors account for the difference. Catalonia has an advantages in climate, in the vicinity of the French border, the high attractiveness for tourists with its capital Barcelona and its beaches. It has a well developed industry. But the "rest of Spain" is also, by far, its biggest market.

A richer part of the country does not want to subsidize the poorer ones. But it still wants to profit from them.

In general the splitting off of sub-states from the bigger, established nations weakens both. It is easier for outside forces to manipulated smaller states than larger ones. While the motives in this or that case are understandable, they are also, in my view, shortsighted.

During the Spanish civil war in the 1930s Catalonia and Basque areas were the last Republican strongholds against the winning right-wing Nationalists. That history lives on in today's conflict. No one should wish to repeat it.

Posted by b at 06:16 AM | Comments (129)

The "Russian Influence" Stories Promote Russia's Might - Is Putin Paying For Them?

It was probably premature to write The "Russian Influence" Story Falls Apart:

The story about "Russian influence" was made up by the Democrats to explain Clinton's loss of the election and to avoid looking at her personal responsibility for it. It also helps to push the new cold war narrative and to sell weapons. As no evidence was ever found to support the "Russian influence" campaign, Facebook and others come under pressure to deliver the "evidence" the U.S. intelligence services could not produce. The now resulting story of [Russia is] "sowing chaos" is out of la-la-land.

The last nonsense of the "Russia hacked the election" campaign was a recent letter from the Department of Homeland Security which warned 21 states, a year too late, that their election systems were attacked by something "Russia". So far three of the 21 states have debunked the DHS claim. Wisconsin, California and Texas all say that their election systems were not attacked at all and DHS had to concede as much.

These states also pointed out that the only "attacks" DHS found were port-scans of some non-election systems. Port scans are requests from one server to another to check for the availability of certain services - some computer asking another computer if a web-service or mail-service is available on it. Such requests are not attacks but regular behavior of internet systems. Sometimes email-spammers use port scans to find unsecured email-servers they could potentially abuse. These are like small time thieves checking a parking lot for the one unlocked car with the expensive camera on the front seat.

But the need to build Russia up as the new enemy is still there. How else can Europe be kept down? How else can more money be spend for useless weapon systems?

Thus the campaign has changed from "Russia installed Trump" or "Russia influenced the election" to "Russian influence wants to destroy America". The campaign has also grow more lunatic.

Consider the Republican senator James Lankford who's claims of "Russian influence" have been picked up by the Washington Post, Reuters, NPR and others. They want you to believe that Russia is involved in the NFL protests:

"We watched, even this weekend, the Russians and their troll farms, their Internet folks, start hashtagging out 'take a knee' and also hashtagging out 'boycott the NFL,' " Lankford said at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday.

"They were taking both sides of the argument this past weekend ..."

Surely, taking both sides on an issue which is heavily debated is a trademark of Russian spies. That is at least what the NPR author implies:

Cont. reading: The "Russian Influence" Stories Promote Russia's Might - Is Putin Paying For Them?

Posted by b at 02:52 AM | Comments (75)

September 28, 2017

Storm Hits Foreign American Island - Reveals System's Failure

A new example of how little Americans know about their own country - Washington Post, September 28

Puerto Rico is not a foreign country, at least it isn’t if you live in the United States. It is a U.S. territory, and those on the island who were born in Puerto Rico are American citizens (though, like denizens of the District of Columbia, have no voting rights in Congress).

But a new poll by an outfit called Morning Consult, as reported in the New York Times, found that only 54 percent of Americans know that people born in Puerto Rico are American citizens.

Someone belonging to the 46% of uninformed Americans is headline editor for the print edition of the Washington Post.

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(The print edition headline, ‘Why can’t we get out of here?’ asks stranded American, was changed to ‘Why can’t we get out of here?’ Airports in Puerto Rico, other islands, damaged and slow to recover for its online version.)

Cont. reading: Storm Hits Foreign American Island - Reveals System's Failure

Posted by b at 06:50 PM | Comments (147)

By The Grace Of Israel - The Barzani Clan And Kurdish "Independence"

The Kurdish region in Iraq held a "referendum" about splitting off from Iraq to form an independent state. The referendum was highly irregular and the outcome was assured. That such a referendum was held now had more to do with the beleaguered situation of the illegitimate regional president Barzani than with a genuine opportunity to achieve independence. The referendum was non-binding. It is now onto Barzani to declare independence or to set the issue aside in exchange for, essentially, more money.

We first wrote about the Kurdish problem and Kurdish ambitions in Iraqi back in December 2005(!). The problems of an independent Kurdish region we then pointed out are still the same:

A landlocked Kurdish state of some kind could produce a lot of oil, but how would this oil reach the markets, especially Israel? The neighbors Turkey, Iran and Syria all have Kurdish minorities and have no reason to help a Kurdish state to enrich itself and see that money funneled to their unruly minorities. After [Kurdish] grabbing [of] Kirkuk, the Arab rest of Iraq will also not support pipelines for then Kurdish oil.

Arabs, Turks, and Persians see the Kurds as a recalcitrant nomadic mountain tribe and stooge of Israeli interests.

In the mid 1960s and 70s Israel cooperated with Iran, then a U.S. ally under the Shah, to fight against its Arab enemies - Iraq, Syria and Egypt. As part of the cooperation the Mossad sent Lt. Colonel Tzuri Sagi to develop plans for and build up a Kurdish army to fight Iraqi troops in northern Iraq. Tzuri Sagi was also responsible for the Israeli assassination attempts against Saddam Hussein. His Kurdish cooperation partner was the leader of the Barzani clan, Mullah Mustafa Barzani. The Kurdish army the Israelis created is now known as Peshmerga. The son of Mullah Mustafa Barzani, Masoud Barzani, is now the illegitimate president of the Kurdish region of Iraq.


Lt. Colonel Sagi with Mustafa Barazani. Photo reproduction: Yossi Zeliger - source - bigger

Cont. reading: By The Grace Of Israel - The Barzani Clan And Kurdish "Independence"

Posted by b at 10:22 AM | Comments (129)

September 26, 2017

The "Russian Influence" Story Falls Apart - A New Fairy Tale Is Needed

The Obama White House and some Democratic officials pressed Facebook to find evidence for alleged "Russian interference" in the U.S. election. When Facebook found none, the pressure increased. Facebook went back, again found nothing and political pressure increase further. Congress threatened to investigate. Senator Warner flew to California and demanded the "right" results. Eventually Facebook gave in:

By early August, Facebook had identified more than 3,000 ads addressing social and political issues that ran in the United States between 2015 and 2017 and that appear to have come from accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency.

All hailed Facebook - finally there was something they could build their anti-Russian campaign on.

It is of course idiotic to believe that 3,000 ads for which some $100,000 was spent over two years would somehow effect a U.S. election. In a U.S. presidential election more than $2 billion is spend on advertising. Facebook's ad revenue per year is some $27 billion.

Moreover - as it now turns out these 3,000 advertisements which "appeared" to be "associated" with something "Russian" were not anti-Clinton or pro-Trump but were a mix of pro- and contra ads on various social issues:

The batch of more than 3,000 Russian-bought ads that Facebook is preparing to turn over to Congress shows a deep understanding of social divides in American society, with some ads promoting African American rights groups, including Black Lives Matter, and others suggesting that these same groups pose a rising political threat, say people familiar with the covert influence campaign.

The Russian campaign — taking advantage of Facebook’s ability to send contrary messages to different groups of users based on their political and demographic characteristics — also sought to sow discord among religious groups. Other ads highlighted support for Democrat Hillary Clinton among Muslim women.

(Note again - there is no evidence that any of the ads were "Russian bought" or part of a "Russian campaign". Those are mere assertions by the Washington Post authors.)

As we now learn that these ads were not, as earlier assumed, pro-Trump and anti-Clinton, the narrative has to change. Earlier it was claimed that the alleged Russian aim was to get Trump elected. That no longer holds:

“Their aim was to sow chaos,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “In many ­cases, it was more about voter suppression rather than increasing turnout.”

How pro- and anti-Black Lives Matter ads might have suppressed voter turnout will stay Senator Warner's secret.

Instead of "Russia helped Trump" we now get an even more implausible "Russia wanted to sow discord" narrative. As if Donald Trump's campaign style had not been enough to cause controversies.

The Washington Post has been the major outlet to push the "Russian influence" baloney. It has long left all journalistic standards behind. Today it goes even further. An editorial now claims that Russia interfered in the German elections by pushing the right-wing AfD vote through last minute tweets from some Twitter bots:

Cont. reading: The "Russian Influence" Story Falls Apart - A New Fairy Tale Is Needed

Posted by b at 01:50 PM | Comments (126)

September 25, 2017

Syria - U.S. CentCom Declares War On Russia

Yesterday three high ranking Russian officers were killed in an "ISIS attack" in eastern Syria. It is likely that they were killed by U.S. special forces or insurgents under U.S. special forces control. The incident will be understood as a declaration of war.

The U.S. Central Command in the Middle East wants the oil fields in east-Syria under control of its proxy forces to set up and control a U.S. aligned Kurdish mini-state in the area. The Syrian government, allied with Russia, needs the revenues of the oil fields to rebuild the country.


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Last week the Russians issued sharply worded statements against U.S. coordination with al-Qaeda terrorists in Idleb province and warned of further escalation.

Yesterday the Russian Ministry of Defense accused the U.S. military in east-Syria of direct collaboration with the Islamic State:

US Army special units provide free passage for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) through the battle formations of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists, the ministry said in a statement.

“Facing no resistance of the ISIS militants, the SDF units are advancing along the left shore of the Euphrates towards Deir ez-Zor,” the statement reads.

The newly released images “clearly show that US special ops are stationed at the outposts previously set up by ISIS militants.”

“Despite that the US strongholds being located in the ISIS areas, no screening patrol has been organized at them,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said.

This map marks the currently relevant conflict area - (U.S. proxies - yellow, SAA - red, ISIS - black):


Map by Weekend Warrior - bigger

The accusations are plausible. Large parts of ISIS in Deir Ezzor consist of local tribal forces from eastern Syria. U.S. special envoy Brett McGurk recently met tribal leaders who had earlier pledged allegiance to ISIS. Deals were made. As we wrote:

Cont. reading: Syria - U.S. CentCom Declares War On Russia

Posted by b at 05:22 AM | Comments (175)

September 24, 2017

A German Election Analysis

As your host is German you may want to read his opinion and  analysis of today's federal election results in Germany.

German election results (ARD 6pm exit poll) Update: Preliminary official result:

  • CDU/CSU - 33.0%
  • SPD - 20.5%
  • AfD - 12.6%
  • FDP - 10.7%
  • Left - 9.2%
  • Greens - 8.9%

No great surprise there.

The participation rate slightly increased to 76.2%.

The result is bad for the top-candidates Merkel (CDU) and Schulz (SPD). The CDU lost 9 percentage points compared to the 2013 election, the SPD lost 5. These two parties once held a total of 81% of votes between them. They are now down to 53% of total votes.

Voter migration analysis will show that the CDU loss was caused by Merkel's centrist and socially liberal policies and especially her gigantic immigration ("refugees") mistake. It caused the right-wing CDU voters to go over to the new right-wing party AFD. Other CDU voters (re-)joined the FDP.

Her party will punish Merkel for this catastrophic result. I doubt that she has two or more years left in her position. Her party will shun her and move away from the center and back into its traditional moderate-right corner.

The voters lost by the formerly moderate-left, now also centrist, SPD went over to The Left and the FDP. Many also abstained.

The FDP is back in the game after having been kicked out of parliament is the 2013 elections. The Greens and the Left Party results are mostly unchanged.

Over the last 25 years both of the traditionally big parties, CDU and SPD, had moved from their moderate-right, respectively moderate-left positions towards a "centrist" neo-liberalism. In consequence The Left split off the SPD and now the AFD from the CDU.

The AFD is by no means a "Nazi" party though a few Nazis may hide under its mantle. The voters are mostly traditionalist, staunch conservatives and anti-globalization. They were earlier part of the CDU.

The SPD will not want to enter another government coalition with Merkel, It played Merkel's junior partner over the last eight years and that led to ever increasing voter losses. It nearly killed the party. The mistake of selecting the colorless Schulz as top-candidate will lead to some (necessary) blood loss in the party's leadership. SPD head Gabriel will, like Schulz, have to step back from leadership positions.

Merkel will have difficulties forming a coalition. She will avoid the AFD as her campaign had discriminated that party as "Nazi" (in itself a huge strategic mistake). She will try to build a coalition with the Green and the FDP. It will be enough to rule for a while but is a somewhat unstable configuration.

The new parliament will be more lively than the previous ones under the large CDU-SPD coalition. More parties and a real opposition will create more public discussions.

We will likely have new elections within the next two years.

Posted by b at 01:40 PM | Comments (164)

September 23, 2017

NATO's Fakenews Russia Scare Increases Defense Waste

The military of the Russian Federation is organized in four districts - west, central, east and south. Each year one of the districts will stage a division size maneuver. 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers leave their quarters to move against imaginary adversaries. Their training is complemented by various military and civilian staffs exercises. The active part of the medium-size maneuver takes about a week and includes some live firing.

This year, like in 2009 and 2013, the turn was on the western military district to run its quadrennial exercise. It included, as is usual in the western district, units from and within Russia's ally Belarus. The name of this regular training event is simply "West", Zapad in Russian. Zapad-2017 was publicly announced and foreign military observers were invited to watch it.

NATO and its associated media used the occasion to launch a gigantic fear- and warmongering campaign against the Russian Federation. Over months hundreds of news pieces were weaved around dark murmurs from various NATO officials and "experts". Examples:

The Zapad 2017 maneuvers ended yesterday. They were exactly what Russia and Belarus had announced - a regular, medium-size training event with no special intent or effect.

NATO and its various spokesperson had done what they like to accuse Russia of. They created fakenews about the maneuver based on nothing but hot air:

Zapad-2017 concluded earlier this week, by which time it had seriously fizzled out, in Western media terms at least.
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And the Russians are enjoying a rare last laugh. They point out, with some justification, that their numbers were accurate, there was no dissembling, international borders were respected. All the Russian troops introduced into neighbouring Belarus for the exercise are going home, too. After all the Western accusations that Russia has been waging an information war with the help of “fake news”, who is disseminating “fake news” now, they ask. Is this not further evidence that Western opinion formers are stuck in the rut of Cold War stereotypes? They have a point.

The Western "opinion formers" have, of course, reason to hype everything their selected boogeyman does. That reason is greed. This year nearly all NATO countries increased their military budgets. The U.S. Senate passed a record $700 billion trough for the Pentagon with 89 to 8 votes. The more than 10% budget increase was even higher that what President Trump had requested. It broke all earlier commitments:

The $700 billion is $91 billion beyond the spending caps outlined in the 2011 Budget Control Act, which demanded a "sequestration" of military spending in order to rein in federal costs.

There was no public outrage over this increase. Meanwhile Russia cut its 2018 defense budget by 25.5% down to a total of some $48 billion.

There is obviously little fear in Russia that the U.S. budget increase will effect U.S. military capabilities. The Russians are right. Most of the Pentagon budget goes to waste. The military as well as the politicians know this well. From a recent NYT piece about options against North Korean missiles:

Cont. reading: NATO's Fakenews Russia Scare Increases Defense Waste

Posted by b at 12:39 PM | Comments (70)

September 22, 2017

Syria - Crap Hits Fan As U.S. Proxies Kill Russia's Allies - SEE UPDATE

UPDATE - 5:55PM:

The alleged incident did NOT happen. (At least not the way describe below.)

No SAA soldiers were killed by the U.S. proxy force near Deir Ezzor.

I am sorry for the false alarm and any irritation it might have caused.

      - b


---

Late afternoon today (local time) U.S. hired, equipped and advised Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters killed nine Syrian Arab Army soldiers. The soldiers were in a boat crossing the Euphrates river near Deir Ezzor city.

Two sources independently reported the incident. There is so far no official confirmation. The following assumes that the above indeed happened.

The killers were from a U.S. hired gang of Arab tribal fighters under one Ahmad Abu Khawla. He is well known as a local criminal who had earlier fought for the Islamic State (ISIS). His gang is nominally under the command of the YPK/PKK which is the main U.S. ally in north-eastern Syria. U.S. special forces are in the area as "advisors" to the various SDF groups.

Cont. reading: Syria - Crap Hits Fan As U.S. Proxies Kill Russia's Allies - SEE UPDATE

Posted by b at 04:15 PM | Comments (48)

Open Thread 2017-35

News & views ...

Posted by b at 11:27 AM | Comments (70)

September 21, 2017

Syria - Russia Accusing U.S. Of Attacks, Abduction Attempts, Team-play With Al-Qaeda

The situation in Syria is reaching another critical point. There is an increased possibility of a large scale clash between U.S. and Russian forces. We had warned of such a clash over control of the rich fields east of Deir Ezzor. At least three incidents over the last days point to more significant escalations.

  • On the 17th the U.S. accused Russia of a light air attack on its proxy forces north of Deir Ezzor. Russia denied that it had attacked those forces.
  • On the 18th and 19th large contingents of Russian and Syrian troops crossed the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor in east-Syria. The U.S. Kurdish/Arab proxy force in the area actively tried to hinder that movement.
  • In parallel a large al-Qaeda attack was launched in west-Syria. The Russian forces accuse U.S. intelligence services of having initiated that campaign. (The Syrian-Russian forces defeated the attack.)
  • Today the Russian military accused the U.S. Kurdish proxies near Deir Ezzor of firing artillery on its forces. It threatened massive retaliation.

The most dramatic incident was the al-Qaeda attack in Idleb.

Cont. reading: Syria - Russia Accusing U.S. Of Attacks, Abduction Attempts, Team-play With Al-Qaeda

Posted by b at 08:42 AM | Comments (96)

Samantha Power - Fakes History, Makes False Claims, Warns Of Fake News

While warning of Russian influenced fake news and hacking, Samantha Power, Obama's banshee and ambassador at the UN, spreads fake news about "Russian hacking".

Power starts off by retelling fiction as historic fact:

Soviet agents were instructed to infiltrate party and campaign staffs in the United States in search of embarrassing information to leak to the press, while Soviet propagandists pushed a set of anti-Reagan story lines to the Western media. Ultimately, they failed to influence the election. President Reagan defeated Walter F. Mondale, winning 49 states. Margaret Thatcher, who was similarly targeted, also won re-election in a landslide.

There is no historic evidence of any such Soviet operation. But, as Mark Ames points out (@0:30m), the Samantha Power tale of a Soviet influence campaign against Reagan is the storyline of a 1980 spy thriller by Arnaud de Borchgrave and Robert Moss. Both authors were corrupt rightwingers and known CIA assets. Their bestselling book about nefarious Soviet influence, The Spike, was political fiction.

Power continues with more fake news:

Cont. reading: Samantha Power - Fakes History, Makes False Claims, Warns Of Fake News

Posted by b at 02:27 AM | Comments (34)

September 20, 2017

"The Vietnam War" - Documentary Or Epic Of Fiction?

Arte TV yesterday showed the first parts of The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. It also runs on PBS.

The first three parts of the ten part "documentary" are a whitewash of the motives of the politicians who sold the war to the public. The CIA's and military "deep state" machinations behind them is not investigated but covered up.

A comment in the first episode declares that it was a "civil war" of Vietnamese against Vietnamese. That is ahistoric nonsense. After the defeat of the (U.S. financed) French colonialists in 1954, the leader of the Viet-minh Ho Chi Min was the undisputed hero of all Vietnam. He would have won any election by huge margins. But the Russian (and Chinese) backers of the liberation war against the French did not want to walk the last mile and insisted on negotiations in Geneva. They allowed the partition of the country. It would have been interesting to learn why.

The "documentary" makes it seem as if the south-Vietnamese ruler Ngo Dinh Diem appeared from heaven instead of being installed by the CIA. It put him into his position. It helped to arrange the "election" that gave him a laughable 98.2% of the votes. It financed him. The episode has arch-imperialist Leslie Gelb, who was part of the deep state that created and ran the war, declaring that "we did what Diem said". That is nonsense. Diem was ruthless dictator but he would not have survived a day without U.S. support and protection.

Part two is a undeserved homage of Kennedy and his "brilliant" staff. McNamara is especially lauded. But his bean-counter mind lacked any capacity to judge human behavior and motives. That had catastrophic consequences. The war is depicted as fight for "liberty" and against "communism". Those were Kennedy's sales points but they had little to do with what happened. Kennedy, like Johnson after him, was mostly driven by domestic policy issues. He wanted to reach certain domestic aims. His Vietnam decisions were just a cover against attacks on him for being "weak".

Part three whitewashes the Gulf of Tonkin lie. It is mealymouthed about what really happened, but then speaks of U.S. 2retaliation". The "unprovoked attack" of Vietnamese forces on U.S. ships was fictitious. The Congress' "Tonkin resolution" which escalated the war was prepared by Johnson's staff two month before the "incident" happened. The "Tonkin" show was set up to push it through. A main motive of the escalation was to get Johnson reelected. Like Kennedy he knew that the war was fought against a national liberation movement and unwinnable. But his "response" to the "incident" made him look strong. He won in a landslide.

Altogether I am disappointed by the series. It is well done cinematography, but it lacks historic depths. There is no investigation of the deeper motives for the political decisions within the U.S. government. Instead we get a repetition of the marketing slogans that were used to sell the decisions. The military and CIA machinations, and the drug business in Vietnam it inherited from the French, are left out. The motives and the strategies of the Viet-minh get too little cover, as does the civil life in Vietnam during the war.

Cont. reading: "The Vietnam War" - Documentary Or Epic Of Fiction?

Posted by b at 08:44 AM | Comments (116)

September 19, 2017

"Sovereign Nations" Is Main Theme Of Trump's UN Speech

Today the President of the United States Donald Trump spoke (rush transcript) to the United Nations General Assembly.

The speech's main theme was sovereignty. The word occurs 18(!) times. It emphasized Westphalian principles.

[W]e do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties, to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.

All leaders of countries should always put their countries first, he said, and "the nation state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition."


The Ratification of the Treaty of Münster, 15 May 1648 - bigger

Sovereignty was the core message of his speech. It rhymed well with his somewhat isolationist emphasis of "America first" during his campaign.

The second part of the speech the first by threatened the sovereignty of several countries the U.S. ruling class traditionally dislikes.

This year's "axis of evil" included North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Syria and Cuba:

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary."

Many people will criticize that as an outrageous and irresponsible use of words. It is.

But there is nothing new to it. In fact the U.S., acting on behalf of the UN, totally destroyed Korea in the 1950s. The last U.S. president made the same threat Trump made today:

Cont. reading: "Sovereign Nations" Is Main Theme Of Trump's UN Speech

Posted by b at 01:05 PM | Comments (105)

September 18, 2017

How The Military Defeated Trump's Insurgency

Trump was seen as a presidential candidate who would possibly move towards a less interventionist foreign policy. That hope is gone. The insurgency that brought Trump to the top was defeated by a counter-insurgency campaign waged by the U.S. military. (Historically its first successful one). The military has taken control of the White House process and it is now taking control of its policies.

It is schooling Trump on globalism and its "indispensable" role in it. Trump was insufficiently supportive of their desires and thus had to undergo reeducation:

When briefed on the diplomatic, military and intelligence posts, the new president would often cast doubt on the need for all the resources. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson organized the July 20 session to lay out the case for maintaining far-flung outposts — and to present it, using charts and maps, in a way the businessman-turned-politician would appreciate.

Trump was hauled into a Pentagon basement 'tank' and indoctrinated by the glittering four-star generals he admired since he was a kid:

The session was, in effect, American Power 101 and the student was the man working the levers. It was part of the ongoing education of a president who arrived at the White House with no experience in the military or government and brought with him advisers deeply skeptical of what they labeled the “globalist” worldview. In coordinated efforts and quiet conversations, some of Trump’s aides have worked for months to counter that view, hoping the president can be persuaded to maintain — if not expand — the American footprint and influence abroad.

Trump was sold the establishment policies he originally despised. No alternative view was presented to him.

It is indisputable that the generals are now ruling in Washington DC. They came to power over decades by shaping culture through their sponsorship of Hollywood, by manipulating the media through "embedded" reporting and by forming and maintaining the countries infrastructure through the Army Corps of Engineers. The military, through the NSA as well as through its purchasing power, controls the information flow on the internet. Until recently the military establishment only ruled from behind the scene. The other parts of the power triangle, the corporation executives and the political establishment, were more visible and significant. But during the 2016 election the military bet on Trump and is now, after he unexpectedly won, collecting its price.

Trump's success as the "Not-Hillary" candidate was based on an anti-establishment insurgency. Representatives of that insurgency, Flynn, Bannon and the MAGA voters, drove him through his first months in office. An intense media campaign was launched to counter them and the military took control of the White House. The anti-establishment insurgents were fired. Trump is now reduced to public figure head of a stratocracy - a military junta which nominally follows the rule of law.

Stephen Kinzer describes this as America’s slow-motion military coup:

Cont. reading: How The Military Defeated Trump's Insurgency

Posted by b at 11:20 AM | Comments (80)

September 17, 2017

Syria Summary - Eliminating ISIS' Remains

The last Syria Summary was headlined A New Clash Looms in Syria's East. It stated:

Critical oil fields are north and east of Mayadin. The Omar oil field in the east is the biggest one in all Syria. The U.S. wants these under its control to finance its Kurdish and Arab proxies in north-east Syria. The Syrian government needs the oil to rebuild the country. Should the U.S. supported forces try to annex the area we will likely see a direct conflict between them and the Syrian government forces. Would the U.S. and Russia join that fight?


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Yesterday a first clash of forces occurred. Syrian government and Russian special forces (red) have crossed the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor to reconnaissance the area for their next large operation. A crossing in force towards the north of Euphrates and east of Deir Ezzor is expected during the next few days. The Russian military had informed the U.S. of its area of operation. Despite that, formerly ISIS aligned tribal forces, now paid by the U.S. under the label SDF, tried to extend their areas north of Deir Ezzor (blue). A "warning shot" was delivered to them in form of a small air attack. Several "SDF" were wounded, the U.S. special forces accompanying and commanding them were not harmed.

The Russia military is asking who, really, those forces are:

“Over the past few days, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, Russian control and reconnaissance facilities have not identified a single combat of Islamic State terrorists with armed representatives of any ‘third force.’ Therefore, only representatives of the international coalition can answer the question as to how ‘opposition members’ or ‘military advisers of the international coalition’ managed to get to the IS-held areas in the eastern part of Deir ez-Zor without striking a blow.”

Our last summary noted that these new U.S. proxies Brett McGurk had hired, the 'third force' in the Russian statement, allegedly progressed some 30 kilometers into ISIS country without firing a shot. These forces are evidently ISIS fighters now under a new banner and with U.S. special forces directing them.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - Eliminating ISIS' Remains

Posted by b at 07:58 AM | Comments (106)

September 15, 2017

Afghanistan - U.S. Resolved To Repeat Failures

The U.S. military and political leadership is so devoid of learning capability that it does not fight multiyear long wars. Instead it fights one disconnected campaign after the other on the very same battlefield. Each of these campaigns will repeat the mistakes that previous ones made and will have the same outcome.

Thus we have seen several increases in troop numbers in Afghanistan. Each time such a surge happened under Bush, under Obama and now under Trump, the result was an increase in Taliban activity and success.

We have seen the use of local militia forces fail under Obama when these were called Afghan Local Police. The 20,000 men strong ALP was supposedly "trained" to hold land against the Taliban. But the local police groups turned out to be local gangs who, thanks to their "official" status, could rob, rap and kill people without fear of retaliation. The suppressed population then turned to the Taliban for relief.

The idea to create such a local force was so bad that it is time to repeat it:

The American military has turned to the [idea of a local militia] force as a potential model for how to maintain the Afghan government’s waning control — without too high a cost — in difficult parts of Afghanistan at a time when the Taliban are resurgent.
...
The size of the new force is yet to be finalized, but it could number more than 20,000, according to a senior Afghan official
...
While the senior Afghan official insisted that only the conceptual framework of the force has been agreed to, and that details were still being sorted out, several Western officials said that preparations were already underway to pilot the new force in southern districts of Nangarhar Province.

We can predict with confidence that a year from now those very same districts of Nangarhar province will again staunchly support the Taliban.

In 2001 the CIA and U.S. special forces kicking out the Taliban with the support of northern alliance war-criminals. Arial bombing based on partisan information continued for years. After their defeat the Taliban had given up on ruling the country. They offered to dissolve in exchange for amnesty and an end of the war. But the bombing, often on direction of some local wannabe strongman, continued. Many people not involved with the Taliban or any resistance were killed and maimed. Their communities called out for help. The Taliban revived and came back to fight the invaders.

For a while the indiscriminate, unaccountable bombing seemed to calm down. But the insurgency, once revived, continued. Time then to repeat and expand the scheme - if only under a different logo and in more countries:

The C.I.A. is pushing for expanded powers to carry out covert drone strikes in Afghanistan and other active war zones, a proposal that the White House appears to favor despite the misgivings of some at the Pentagon, according to current and former intelligence and military officials.

More indiscriminate bombing will obviously lead to more resistance and more war.

An argument can be made that the U.S. military and intelligence complex is willfully and systematically creating new enemies in Afghanistan and elsewhere to justify the continuation of its campaigns.

But that argument presume that there is sufficient intellectual capacity in the Pentagon and CIA to develop and follow such a design. Arrogance, bureaucratic inertia and lack of curiosity are the simpler and maybe more likely explanations.

Posted by b at 10:33 AM | Comments (121)

September 13, 2017

Links On And Of Propaganda

(Some bug caught up with me. I am too incapacitated to compose a decent blog post. A few links around the issue of propaganda shall substitute for it.)

Remember the sensational front page news about "Russian doping" during the Sochi Olympics and beyond? Well, here is the outcome of that "scandal":

World Anti-Doping Agency Clears 95 Russian Athletes

The World Anti-Doping Agency, the regulator of drugs in sports that produced mountainous evidence of Russia’s doping scheme, has agreed to clear 95 of the first 96 athletes whose cases have been reviewed, according to an internal report circulated among the organization’s executives in recent days.

The "mountainous evidence" the NYT regurgitated was evidently of a molehill.

Here is another slip in the "dangerous Russia" matrix. NATO expansion, we are now told, was not about Russia at all:

Western arms makers lobbied hard for the expansion of NATO into former Soviet satellite countries after the collapse of Communism. They have since lobbied both new and old NATO member states not to stray outside the alliance for weapons purchases that would cut into their business.

But to sell new weapons to eastern Europe one first has to get rid of its old ones. If possible by Making a Killing:

Since the outbreak of war in Syria, weapons from Central and Eastern Europe have flooded the conflict zone through two distinct pipelines – one sponsored by Saudi Arabia and coordinated by the CIA, and the other funded and directed by the Pentagon.

Related: How Western Capital Colonized Eastern Europe

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The current campaign of Saudi financed jihadis in Myanmar is only the appetizer for a larger attack on Chinese (and Indian) interests. More foot soldiers need to be produced for that by infecting more people with radical Wahhabi propaganda:

Bangladesh approved the construction on its territory of 560 mosques on Wednesday, April 26. The project is financed by the Saudi government to the tune of over a billion dollars.
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[T]he Gulf monarchy has reportedly spent more than 70 billion dollars (about 65 billion euros) since 1979 to finance such projects abroad.

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During the election some unidentified dude on Facebook called for an anti-immigrant rally in Twin Falls, Idaho. Four (4) people claimed they came to the event but no rally took place.

Three (3!) Daily Beast "journalists" were tasked to investigate the issue. They produced a sorry whiff of hot air: Exclusive: Russia Used Facebook Events to Organize Anti-Immigrant Rallies on U.S. Soil

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The New Yorker also wants to put crap into your brain:

Pyongyang is a city of simulated perfection, without litter or graffiti—or, for that matter, anyone in a wheelchair. Its population, of 2.9 million, has been chosen for political reliability and physical health.

Surely, the yearly Disability Days in the DPRK, with performances and sport events, never take place. The new school year ceremony at Pyongyang's Rehabilitation Centre for Children with Disability (vid) is just a fantasy.

On wonders how much the North Korean defector who enlightened the New Yorker was paid for that insight. Propaganda is costly. South Korea recently upped the top rate for North Korean opportunists to $860,000 a piece. The more outrageous their claims are, the higher their income.

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The Global Engagement Center ...

.. is an interagency entity, housed at the State Department. ... It was established pursuant to Executive Order 13721, signed on on March 14, 2016, which states that the Center “shall lead the coordination, integration, and synchronization of Government-wide communications activities directed at foreign audiences abroad in order to counter the messaging and diminish the influence of international terrorist organizations,” such as ISIL.

... of "international terrorist organizations" - hmmm -

... allowed the Global Engagement Center to ask the Pentagon for $40 million, bringing its total 2017 spending to about $80 million. About $60 million of that was to be used to counter Russian influence operations; about $19 million was aimed at ISIS.

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Contrasting the above is some real journalism from the Cincinnati Enquirer: Seven Days of Heroin - This is what an epidemic looks like  - recommended!

Posted by b at 12:07 PM | Comments (118)

September 11, 2017

Syria Summary - A New Clash Looms in Syria's East

When the Islamic State siege on Deir Ezzor was broken by the Syrian Arab Army we asked:

Will the SAA cross the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor to retake the valuable oilfields east of it? Or will it stay south of the river and leave those oil fields to the Kurdish U.S. proxies in the north?

To cross the river is clearly desirable but also potentially contentious.

Since then several convoys of military bridging equipment have been seen on the road to Deir Ezzor. It is now obvious that the SAA will bridge the river (all regular bridges have been destroyed by U.S. bombing during earlier fighting) and send significant forces across. New questions now are: When, where and with what aim?

As soon as the government intent became clear the U.S. pushed its local proxy forces to immediately snatch the ISIS held oilfields. In less than two days they deployed over 30 kilometers deep into the ISIS held areas north of the Euphrates. It is obvious that such progress could not have been made if ISIS had defended itself. I find it likely that a deal has been made between those two sides.

The U.S. diplomat tasked with the job, Brett McGurk, recently met with local tribal dignitaries of the area. Pictures of the meeting were published. Several people pointed out that the very same dignitaries were earlier pictured swearing allegiance to the Islamic State.


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Just like during the "Anbar Awaking" in its war on Iraq the U.S. is bribing the local radicals to temporarily change over to its side. This will help the U.S. to claim that it defeated ISIS. But as soon as the payments stop the very same forces will revert back to their old game.

Originally the U.S. had planned to let ISIS take Deir Ezzor. It had twice attacked Syrian government forces in the area killing more than a hundred of them. This had allowed ISIS to capture large chunks of the government enclave and to disable the airport which was need for resupplies:

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - A New Clash Looms in Syria's East

Posted by b at 12:25 PM | Comments (146)

September 10, 2017

Open Thread 2017-34

News & views ...

Posted by b at 10:55 AM | Comments (165)

September 09, 2017

The Intercept Mistranslates Assad Speech - Smears Syria As Neo-Nazi

There have long been attempts in the anti-Syrian media to claim alignment of the socialist and anti-sectarian Syrian government with western fascist and religious supremacist elements. The latest in this propaganda genre is the just published Intercept piece Why White Nationalists Love Bashar al-Assad.

The Intercept is a rather dubious news outlet founded by Pierre Omidyar, a major owner of the auctioning site eBay and its PayPal banking division. It most recent remarkable moment was its betrayal of a NSA whistle-blower who fatuously had trusted The Intercept to act professionally:

The Intercept published a leaked five page NSA analysis about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Its reporting outed the leaker of the NSA documents. That person, R.L. Winner, has now been arrested and is likely to be jailed for years if not for the rest of her life.

As we noted back in June when the above incident happened:

The Intercept pieces are usually heavily editorialized and tend to have a mainstream "liberal" to libertarian slant. Some are highly partisan anti-Syrian/pro-regime change propaganda. [...] Some of its later prominent hires (Ken Silverstein, Matt Taibbi) soon left and alleged that the place was run in a chaotic atmosphere and with improper and highly politicized editing.

The new Intercept piece published yesterday insinuates that the Syrian government under President Bashar Assad is liked by white supremacists because it somehow is itself fascist. Here is how the outlet announced the piece:


full tweet

The screed, written by one Mariam Elba, has a rather crude thesis. Its core is solely based on a false translation of a speech Bashar Assad held on August 20:

Cont. reading: The Intercept Mistranslates Assad Speech - Smears Syria As Neo-Nazi

Posted by b at 08:13 AM | Comments (83)

September 08, 2017

Michael Brenner - A Lexicon Of Politics

by Michael Brenner

Every sphere of life has its own vocabulary. Surely that is true of the political world. Certain words and phrases repeat themselves with striking frequency. They serve as a sort of shorthand for the cognoscenti who instinctively understand their connotations. They also are handy verbal shortcuts that spare politicos, pundits and media mannequins overly taxing mental effort.

Here is an annotated explication of a few of the most common words of convenience.

TABLE – as in “All Options Are On The Table”

President Trump repeatedly has said that all options are on the table when it comes to responding to the North Korean “threat.” Before, he had said the same about Iran. So did Barack Obama. The Assad government in Syria prompted a similar statement from both. So did ISIS.

That makes for a pretty heavily loaded table. Let’s imagine it. Nuclear weapons are the centerpiece. Probably small, tactical ones so as better to fit the limited space. Surrounded by Tomahawk missiles, stealth bombers, army units and a few Special Forces. Also on the table are economic sanctions; they are considerably lighter. Perhaps a symbolic bag of Persian pistachios, a bolt of Damask cloth, a bowl of rice, and a tin of Beluga caviar for good measure.

“Talking,” too, have been on the table. They are fluffy and weigh next to nothing. President Trump saw fit to remove them on Monday nonetheless. He vehemently declared that “talking is not the answer!” It was placed back on the table by Secretary of Defense General James “Mad Dog” Mattis. They may be hidden behind the floral display. White House Communications Director Hope Hicks did not return our calls asking as to where “talking” had spent the night before being retrieved.

Let’s visualize the scene. We’re in the Situation Room in the depths of the White House. High-tech electronic displays cover the walls. Dominating the room is an elongated table made of brilliantly polished walnut – a sturdy affair able to handle the load placed on it by all those options (and elbows). Around the table sit Trump, National Security Advisor General HC McMaster to his immediate left, Chief of Staff General John Kelly to his immediate right, Mattis, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchen, Jared Kushner, and the Intelligence chiefs: the CIA’s Mike Pompeo, Admiral Michael Rogers Director of the National Security Agency, and General Vincent Stewart from DIA. Medals flash and ribbons shine. The brass alert to any sign that the Orange One might reach for an ICBM – mistaking it for a cigar – and ready to impale his hand to the table with a steak knife. Rex Tillerson is there, too, seated below the SALT.

At each place setting a menu inventories all the options available, and a GPS app pinpoints their location relative to each other.

The President personally had taken ‘talking’ off the table the previous night. The next morning it mysteriously had reappeared – in the form of an English-Korean dictionary. Its discovery sent shivers through the White House – and beyond. After a few tense hours, Mattis stepped forward to declare his responsibility. He did deny rumors that he had used Dennis Rodman as his agent – secreting him into the building at the time of the photo-op with the champion Golden State Warriors in anticipation of just such a clandestine mission.

Whether ‘talking’ will hold its current inconspicuous place, come out of hiding, or disappear in the wee hours of the morning is unpredictable. The table definitely will remain sturdily in place to handle all and any options- at least until the fat lady sings.

BUS – as in “thrown under the bus.”

Cont. reading: Michael Brenner - A Lexicon Of Politics

Posted by b at 09:52 AM | Comments (45)

September 07, 2017

Facebook Blames Russia To Deflect From Fraudulent Ad-Sales

A typically political and business strategy to lessen public attention of an evolving scandal is to launch a diversion campaign. A well designed counter campaign makes sensational claims about an unrelated issue. It is intended to take the media attention away from the real issue. Any decent public relation department will have several "canned" campaigns ready to launch on a moment's notice.

Yesterday a new report proved (again) that Facebook cheats with its advertisement reach data. This explains why advertisements booked on Facebook have much less impact than Facebook claims and the paying customers assume.

Only hours later the company launched a diversion campaign. Its purpose is to keep the media off the real scandal. The diversion claim, presented without evidence, is that a "Russian operation" bought influencing advertisements on Facebook aimed at the U.S. public.

Here is the real scandal that Facebook tries to cover up. Facebook advertisement sales are based on systematically falsified data:

Pivotal Research Group senior analyst Brian Wieser pointed out a large discrepancy between U.S. census data and the potential reach that the social network promises advertisers.

On Tuesday, Wieser issued a note pointing out that Facebook's Adverts Manager tool promises a potential reach of 41 million 18-24 year-olds in the U.S., while recent census data said there only 31 million people living in the U.S. within that age range.

Similar false claims are made by Facebook for other countries and categories:

For advertisers trying to target Facebook users in the U.K., the company promises it could potentially reach 5.8 million 20-24 year-olds, 6.4 million 25-29 year-olds, and 5.2 million 30-34 year olds. When the last census was conducted in 2011, the U.K. only had 4.3 million 20-24 year-olds, 4.3 million 25-29 year-olds, and 4.1 million 30-34 year olds.

The Fortune write up of the Pivotal/Wieser report notes other known "discrepancies" in Facebook metrics:

Cont. reading: Facebook Blames Russia To Deflect From Fraudulent Ad-Sales

Posted by b at 06:14 AM | Comments (47)

September 06, 2017

Politically Uncivilized People

The leaflets distributed by U.S. forces in Parwan province, north of Kabul, on Tuesday depicted a lion, representing the U.S.-led coalition, chasing a dog with a section of the Taliban’s banner, containing a passage from the Koran in Arabic superimposed on its side.
WaPo - Sept 6 2017

The "passage from the Koran" on the Taliban banner is the Shahada, the central creed for every Muslim: "There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God." It is hard to believe that trained U.S. psychological warfare elements distribute such blasphemy out of ignorance and without specific intent.

Here is another such inflammatory statement.

Better a million dead North Koreans than a thousand dead Americans. ... [I]n the real world, the greatest immorality in war is not killing the enemy. The greatest immorality would be for our country to lose.
The moral answer to North Korea... - Ralph Peters, NY Post, Sept 5, 2017

That moral mindset is, unfortunately, widely accepted in U.S. opinion writing and politics. It is independent of party affiliation.

I agree with Vladimir Vladimirovich on this:

As for the American people, America is truly a great nation if the Americans can put up with so many politically uncivilised people.
Vladimir Putin - Sept 5 2017

Posted by b at 02:42 PM | Comments (71)

September 05, 2017

Syria - The Liberation Of Deir Ezzor

The Syrian army just broke the Islamic State siege on the city of Deir Ezzor and its military garrison. The siege had been held up since mid 2014.

In a six month long campaign the SAA moved several hundred kilometers from the outskirts of Aleppo and Palmyra towards Deir Ezzor. Three axes, north, center and south drove the campaign through the semi desert. One axis has now reached the areas held by the besieged troops while the spear tips of the other two are only a few kilometers away.

Syrian TV showed the first joyful contact at the 137 brigades area, 15km from Deir Ezzor city center.


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Only in January the city and its 100,000 inhabitants left was on the verge of falling into the hands of ISIS. A massive U.S. air attack on the most important Syrian military position of Deir Ezzor in September 2016 directly enabled the ISIS move. But surprisingly the garrison, with 4-5,000 soldiers, held out. Supplies were dropped by parachute through a Russian and Syrian air-bridge and the grand operation to liberate the city was planned and prepared.

It has now succeeded. The Syrian government forces were supported by Russian special forces, Iranian contingents, Hizbullah forces and various militia. The Russian air force flew massive interdiction raids in front of the advancing troops. The Russian navy fired cruise missiles against core ISIS hold outs in the area.

Mabruk!

It will take further weeks to eliminate ISIS completely from the parts of the city it holds and areas around it.


Map (August 2017) by Fabrice Balanche - bigger (with legend)

The upcoming question then is how this campaign will proceed. Will the SAA cross the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor to retake the valuable oilfields east of it? Or will it stay south of the river and leave those oil fields to the Kurdish U.S. proxies in the north?

Posted by b at 07:25 AM | Comments (101)

September 04, 2017

The Rohingya Of Myanmar - Pawns In An Anglo-Chinese Proxy War Fought By Saudi Jihadists

[Update Sept 7 - The post below received some criticism which, in my view, missed its major points. See here for a reply. - b]

Media attention is directed to some minor ethnic violence in Myanmar, the former Burma. The story in the "western" press is of Muslim Rohingya unfairly vilified, chased out and killed by  Buddhist mobs and the army in the state of Rakhine near the border to Bangladesh. The "liberal human interventionists" like Human Rights Watch are united with Islamists like Turkey's President Erdogan in loudly lamenting the plight of the Rohingya.

That curious alliance also occurred during the wars on Libya and Syria. It is by now a warning sign. Could there be more behind this than some local conflict in Myanmar? Is someone stocking a fire?

Indeed.

While the ethnic conflict in Rankine state is very old, it has over the last years morphed into an Jihadist guerilla war financed and led from Saudi Arabia. The area is of geo-strategic interest:

Rakhine plays an important part in [the Chinese One Belt One Road Initiative] OBOR, as it is an exit to Indian Ocean and the location of planned billion-dollar Chinese projects—a planned economic zone on Ramree Island, and the Kyaukphyu deep-sea port, which has oil and natural gas pipelines linked with Yunnan Province’s Kunming.

Pipelines from the western coast of Myanmar eastwards to China allow hydrocarbon imports from the Persian Gulf to China while avoiding the bottleneck of the Strait of Malacca and disputed parts of the South China Sea.


via Geostrategic Media - bigger

It is in "Western interest" to hinder China's projects in Myanmar. Inciting Jihad in Rakhine could help to achieve that. There is historic precedence for such a Rohingya - Bamar proxy war in Burma. During World War II British imperial forces incited the Rohingya Muslim in Rakhine to fight the Bamar, the dominant Burmese nationalist Buddhists allied with Japanese imperialists.


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The Rohingya immigrated to the northern parts of Arakan, today's Rakhine state of Myanmar, since the 16th century. A large wave came under British imperial occupation some hundred years ago. Illegal immigration from Bangladesh continued over the last decades. In total about 1.1 million of Muslim Rohingya live in Myanmar. The birthrate of the Rohingya is said to be higher than that of the local Arakanese Buddhists. These feel under pressure in their own land.

Cont. reading: The Rohingya Of Myanmar - Pawns In An Anglo-Chinese Proxy War Fought By Saudi Jihadists

Posted by b at 03:08 PM | Comments (132)

September 03, 2017

The Peanut - North Korea Tests A New Nuke - Continues To Press For Negotiations

Earlier today North Korea published pictures of its leader Kim Jong Un admiring a thermonuclear device or H-bomb. Hours later it tested such a bomb in an underground explosion. The North Korean news agency announced:

Pyongyang, September 3 (KCNA) -- Respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un guided the work for nuclear weaponization on the spot.

He was greeted by senior officials of the Department of Munitions Industry of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and scientists of the Nuclear Weapons Institute before being briefed on the details of nuclear weaponization.
...
He watched an H-bomb to be loaded into new ICBM.

Saying that he felt the pride of indomitably bolstering up the nuclear forces at a great price while seeing the Juche-oriented thermonuclear weapon with super explosive power made by our own efforts and technology, he expressed great satisfaction over the fact that our scientists do anything without fail if the party is determined to do.
...
The H-bomb, the explosive power of which is adjustable from tens kiloton to hundreds kiloton, is a multi-functional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP attack according to strategic goals.


The Peanut - bigger

The Walter Cronkite of North Korean TV, Ri Chun Hee, showed more pictures from the visit (vid) the visit and later announced the nuclear test.

Some analyst nicknamed the new device the Peanut. The bomb type obviously differs from the implosion type Disco Ball of March 2016. The "Junche orientation" component, which presumably guarantees the ideological conformity of the device, seems to be the round white box on the left :-/.

(More seriously: Juche refers to self-sufficiency - i.e. North Korea made the components and built the device by itself.)

A graphic in one of the pictures shows the peanut within the warhead bay of a Hawsong-14 Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile.

An hour after the above release, earth-quake detection monitors in south Asia went off. A seismic event of 6.1 to 6.3 magnitude on the logarithmic momentum magnitude scale was detected in the area of Punggye-ri. Like earlier North Korean nuclear weapon tests in the same area, the event happened exactly on the half hour mark (at 12:00am local time). The magnitude points to a large device with an explosive power between 100 kilotons and 1 megaton TNT equivalent. (All previous North Korean nuclear tests were in the low kiloton range.) Some detection stations found another seismic event of 4.6 magnitude shortly thereafter. If confirmed it was likely caused by a "cave-in" of the sub-terrain test chamber. It will take some time to assess the data and to come to more precise estimates, but the qualitative different size of this test compared to previous ones is undeniable.

Added: A later statement by the North Korean news agency confirmed a successful test of a two-stage thermonuclear device. It claimed that no radiation was released to the atmosphere.

Cont. reading: The Peanut - North Korea Tests A New Nuke - Continues To Press For Negotiations

Posted by b at 03:11 AM | Comments (156)

September 01, 2017

No "Russian Hacking" In Durham Election - NY Times Report Belies Its Headline

The last piece pointed out that the NYT headline "U.N. Peacekeepers in Lebanon Get Stronger Inspection Powers for Hezbollah Arms" was 100% fake news. The UNIFIL U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon were not getting any stronger inspection powers. The relevant UN Security Resolution 2373, which renewed UNIFIL's mandate, had made no such changes. No further inspection powers were authorized.

Today we find another similarly lying headline in the New York Times.

The piece is about minor technical election trouble in a district irrelevant to the presidential election outcome. Contradicting the headline it notes in paragraph five:

There are plenty of other reasons for such breakdowns — local officials blamed human error and software malfunctions — and no clear-cut evidence of digital sabotage has emerged, much less a Russian role in it.

All of the reported troubles are simple computer hiccups that would not have occurred in a more reasonable election system build on paper and pencil balloting. All the computer troubles have various innocent causes. The officials handling these systems deny that any "Russian hacking" was involved. Moreover, there was no chance that these troubles in one district would have effected the general election. There was thereby no motive for anyone to hack these systems:

Despite the disruptions, a record number of votes were cast in Durham, following a pattern there of overwhelming support for Democratic presidential candidates, this time Hillary Clinton.


Screenshot of NYT report

The NYT headline is an outrageous lie. It promotes as causal fact completely unproven interference and troubles for which, as the article notes, plenty of other reason might exist. It is politically irresponsible. Only two out of ten people read beyond the headlines. Even fewer will read down to paragraph five and recognize that the headline lies. All others will have been willfully misled by the editors of the New York Times.

Cont. reading: No "Russian Hacking" In Durham Election - NY Times Report Belies Its Headline

Posted by b at 11:26 PM | Comments (60)

August 31, 2017

Nikki Haley Fails In Amateurish Attempt To Change UNIFIL Mandate

For today's dose of fakenews we trustfully direct you to this New York Times item:

U.N. Peacekeepers in Lebanon Get Stronger Inspection Powers for Hezbollah Arms

The headline is 100% wrong. The U.N. troops in Lebanon (UNIFIL) did not get one iota of stronger inspection powers.

Yesterday the UN Security Council had to decide about the yearly renewal of the mandate of UNIFIL. The current U.S. bitch at the UNSC, Nikki R. Haley, had order from her overlord Benjamin Netanyahoo to press for more control over Hizbullah's weapons in Lebanon.

Last week Haley already clashed with the commanding general of the UNIFIL forces and with the UN Secretary General:

"What I find totally baffling is the view of the UNIFIL commander General Beary," Haley told reporters, accusing him of ignoring Hezbollah's arms dumps.

"He seems to be the only person in south Lebanon who is blind. That's an embarrassing lack of understanding on what's going on around him," she said.

The UN and the Irish government gave full backing to General Beary. The Irish Independent noted:

Ms Haley said there was no shortage of evidence about the large caches of Hezbollah weapons buried in south Lebanon.

However, neither she nor the Israelis have produced any evidence to back up their claims.
...
General Beary said his troops had not come across any major weapons cache in the UNIFIL-controlled area. He said if there was hard evidence of a cache of weapons, his force would assist the Lebanese armed forces (LAF) in removing them.

UNIFIL's mandate is limited:

It is tasked with ensuring that the area between the so-called 'Blue Line' – separating Israel and Lebanon – and the Litani River is free of unauthorized weapons, personnel and assets. It also cooperates with the Lebanese Armed Forces so they can fulfil their security responsibilities.

UNIFIL does not have sovereign or executive rights. It is mostly restricted to reporting and depends on the government of Lebanon for further measures.

Nikki Haley was tasked to change that - and failed:

Cont. reading: Nikki Haley Fails In Amateurish Attempt To Change UNIFIL Mandate

Posted by b at 07:59 AM | Comments (100)

August 30, 2017

After Making Ceasefire Deal With ISIS U.S. Condemns Lebanon For Making Similar One

Last week the Lebanese Army and Hizbullah defeated ISIS in the Lebanese-Syrian border area of Qalamun. A ceasefire was announced and a deal was made. Lebanon received the bodies of its army fighters earlier captured and killed by ISIS. The remaining ISIS fighter and their families would disarm and receive free passage to ISIS held areas in east Syria.

The U.S. has now launched a media campaign against this deal. The Iraqi government has joined in.

As noted in the last Syria Summary here:

In the Qalamun area at the Lebanese border the Lebanese army and Hizbullah attacked the last ISIS enclave along that border. Today the remaining 200 ISIS fighters in the area agreed to lay down arms in exchange for an evacuation towards east-Syria.

The later announced total of evacuees was higher with 308 ISIS fighters and about 500 of their relatives including kids. These are transported in 17 buses and several ambulances across Syria towards the Syrian city of Abu Kamal (Bukamal) at the Iraqi border.

The overall military motive is sound. In the end ISIS will be concentrated and surrounded in the desert along the Syrian-Iraqi border. Removing ISIS outposts throughout the country frees up lots of soldiers for the big fight. Its concentration in one place also allows to concentrate forces to fight it.  Just like al-Qaeda in Idleb governate ISIS will have no way out to leave and can be killed from the air and from the ground.

The U.S. military threatens to bomb the convoy:

Cont. reading: After Making Ceasefire Deal With ISIS U.S. Condemns Lebanon For Making Similar One

Posted by b at 09:55 AM | Comments (60)

August 29, 2017

Houston - Bottling Companies Welcome Flooding

Some rain pours down on south Texas. Media panic ensues. Poor planing and building codes will take their toll.

More severe and more deadly flooding though is happening in Nepal, Bangladesh and India. People in those countries are the most affected by climate change.

But why not make a good business out of events in Houston and elsewhere. Sell the very same stuff that pours down, packed in a material which causes climate change, to the people fleeing its effects.

On offer at Best Buy on Highway 290 in Cypress, TX.

bigger - source

The use, waste and commodification of water is one of the biggest issues "western" societies need to tackle.

Posted by b at 02:44 PM | Comments (120)

August 27, 2017

Syria - Rebel Trained Children Perform "Chemical Attack" (Video)

Here is serious evidence that the so called "Syrian rebels" systematically trained children to play "chemical attack" victims.

The evidence was found by Partisangirl who today tweeted:

Partisangirl 🇸🇾 @Partisangirl 11:20 PM - 27 Aug 2017

DAMNING VIDEO: Terrorists make #Syria-n children rehearse false flag chemical attack. youtu.be/S95bR1s_d0Y

Partisangirl links to a video on her videopage on Youtube. The annotations say:

Published on Aug 27, 2017

The original video was published in September 2013 on this channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_co... . This is a shortened version of that video. It shows children being instructed by terrorists to act like they have been hit with Sarin gas, they convulse, they're eyes blink and they froth at the mouth with fake foam applied to their faces by terrorists. A of children applaud. A man in a Mickey mouse costume tells them it's all fun.

Here is the screenshot of the original Youtube video page of اعلامي ريف دمشق:


bigger

A commentator remarked: "The headline for the video says: 'A children play, the chemical and the world' and that it was part of a children carnival organized by a group of volunteers."

(I have downloaded and saved the original full length (6:23m) video as well as the various screenshots below.)

Cont. reading: Syria - Rebel Trained Children Perform "Chemical Attack" (Video)

Posted by b at 10:24 PM | Comments (106)

Syria Summary - Towards The End Of The Caliphate

This map from the last Syria summary shows the forming of two cauldrons north and north-west of Palmyra. ISIS forces there were enclosed by the Syrian army progressing eastwards on several axes.


Map by Weekend Warrior - bigger

Ten days later the most eastward of those cauldrons has been eliminated.


Map by Islamic World News - bigger

The Syrian army progresses further east and continues to move onto Deir Ezzor on three axes.

ISIS attempted counterattacks towards the supply line to Aleppo and along the Euphrates southeast of Raqqa. Both were defeated within a day or two and the attacking ISIS forces were eliminated. There is clearly a change in the pattern of ISIS deployment. It is now lacking manpower and is giving up in outlining areas. Its counterattacks use swarming tactics and lack the command and force of monolithic military units. In Iraq the army and the popular militia units took just 10 days to liberate the ISIS held city of Tal Afar. Of the estimated 2,000 ISIS forces there only some 200 non-locals had remained. 1,800 had been evacuated towards east-Syria, In the Qalamun area at the Lebanese border the Lebanese army and Hizbullah attacked the last ISIS enclave along that border. Today the remaining 200 ISIS fighters in the area agreed to lay down arms in exchange for an evacuation towards east-Syria.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - Towards The End Of The Caliphate

Posted by b at 09:03 AM | Comments (59)

August 26, 2017

Open Thread 2017-33

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:09 PM | Comments (100)

August 25, 2017

Countdown To War On Venezuela - Step II: Trump Imposes More Sanctions

A month ago we warned of the upcoming war on Venezuela. Such a war could blow up huge in many nations of the region.

The U.S. trained and financed opposition has tried to create violent chaos in the streets but failed to gain traction with the majority of the people. The only support it has inside the country is from the richer bourgeois in the major cities which despises the government's social justice program. Workers and farmers are better off under the social-democratic policies of first Hugo Chavez and now Nicolas Maduro. The coup attempt as step one of a U.S. takeover of Venezuela has failed.

Last month a new constitutional assembly was voted in and it is ready to defend the state. The opposition boycotted the election to the assembly but is now complaining that it has no seats in it. One of the assemblies first moves was to fire the renegade General Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz. She had condemned the government for its resistance to the coup attempts. She now has fled the country together with her husband. The Miami Herald admits that she is on the U.S. payroll:

Ortega, a longtime government insider who became chief prosecutor in 2007, is likely safeguarding some of the administration’s most damning legal secrets. And she’s thought to be working with U.S. law enforcement at a time when Washington is ratcheting up sanctions on Caracas.

Word is that Ortega's husband was blackmailed by the U.S. after he was involved in large illegal transactions.

U.S. President Trump threatened to use military force should the dully elected President Maduro not give up his position. The CIA head Pompeo recently visited countries neighboring Venezuela "trying to help them understand the things they might do". Did he suggest weapon supplies to some proxy forces or an outright invasion?

Today the Trump administration imposed severe sanctions on Venezuela:

The sanctions Trump signed by executive order prohibit financial institutions from providing new money to the government or state oil company PDVSA. It would also restrict PDVSA's U.S. subsidiary, Citgo, from sending dividends back to Venezuela as well as ban trading in two bonds the government recently issued to circumvent its increasing isolation from western financial markets.

Venezuela was prepared for at least some of these sanctions. A few moth ago the Russian oil giant Rosneft acquired a share of PDVSA and at least some oil sales are routed through that company:

Russian oil firm Rosneft has struck deals with several buyers for almost its entire quota of Venezuelan crude for the remainder of the year, traders told Reuters on Wednesday, the first time it has conducted such a large sale of the OPEC member’s oil.
...
Venezuela's oil deliveries to the United States have declined in recent years amid falling production, commercial issues, and sanctions on Venezuelan officials.

The White House statement calls Maduro a "dictator" and his Presidency "illegitimate". Both descriptions are laughable. Maduro was elected in free and fair elections. The former U.S. president Jimmy Carter called the election system in Venezuela the best in the world. The new sanctions will likely increase the support for the current government. 

The White House hinted at further economic measures:

In a call to brief reporters on the measures, the [senior Trump] official said the United States has significant influence over Venezuela's economy but does not want to wield it in an irresponsible manner that could further burden the already-struggling Venezuelan people.

Venezuela will now have some troubling times. But unless the U.S. launches an outright military attack on the country -by proxy of its neighbors, through mercenaries or by itself- the country will easily survive the unjust onslaught.

With 300 billion barrels the proven oil-reserves of Venezuela are the largest of the world. They are the reason why the U.S. wants to subjugate the country. But neither Russia nor China nor anyone else wants to see those reserves under U.S. control.

Posted by b at 02:21 PM | Comments (49)

August 24, 2017

Notes On The Junta, An Unnecessary Land-Corridor And A Regular Russian Maneuver

According to a 1950s political theory The Structure of Power in American Society is mainly build on three elite groups, the high military, the corporation executives and the political directorate. (The "political directorate" can best be described as the bureaucracy, the CIA and their proxies within Congress.)

On election day I noted that only the military had supported The Not-Hillary President. The corporate and executive corners of the triangle had pushed for Hillary Clinton and continued to do so even after Trump had won. (Only recently did the "collusion with Russia" nonsense suddenly die down.) I wrote:

The military will demand its due beyond the three generals now in Trump's cabinet.

That turned out to be right. A military junta is now ruling the United States:

Inside the White House, meanwhile, generals manage Trump’s hour-by-hour interactions and whisper in his ear — and those whispers, as with the decision this week to expand U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, often become policy.

At the core of Trump’s circle is a seasoned trio of generals with experience as battlefield commanders: White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster. The three men have carefully cultivated personal relationships with the president and gained his trust.
...
Kelly, Mattis and McMaster are not the only military figures serving at high levels in the Trump administration. CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke each served in various branches of the military, and Trump recently tapped former Army general Mark S. Inch to lead the Federal Bureau of Prisons. [...] the National Security Council [..] counts two other generals on the senior staff.

With the firing of the renegade Flynn and various other Trump advisors, the Junta has already removed all independent voices in the White House. It is now  attaching more control wires to its "salesperson" marionette:

The new system, laid out in two memos co-authored by [General] Kelly and Porter and distributed to Cabinet members and White House staffers in recent days, is designed to ensure that the president won’t see any external policy documents, internal policy memos, agency reports, and even news articles that haven’t been vetted.

Trump has a weakness for the military since he attended a New York military academy during his youth.

But he does not like to be controlled. I expect him to revolt one day. He will then find that it is too late and that he is actually powerless.

---

The Zionist propaganda is claiming that Iran is taking over Syria and that its sole concern is to create a land-corridor between Iran and Lebanon. The AP is now reporting this myth as if it were fact. The argument the AP writers make is illogical and fails:

The land-route would be the biggest prize yet for Iran in its involvement in Syria's six-year-old civil war. [...] It would facilitate movement of Iranian-backed fighters between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon as well as the flow of weapons to Damascus and Lebanon's Hezbollah, Iran's main proxy group.

That landline would facilitate something that, according to further AP "reporting", has already been achieved without it:

The route is largely being carved out by Iran's allies and proxies, a mix of forces including troops of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hezbollah fighters and Shiite militias on both sides of the border aiming to link up. Iran also has forces of its own Revolutionary Guard directly involved in the campaign on the Syrian side.

So, apparently, Iran needs a land corridor to move weapons and fighters to Syria and Lebanon. To open that currently closed-off land corridor it has moved weapons and fighters to Syria and Lebanon. Somehow that argument is not convincing at all.

---

The usual NATO propaganda outlets are retching up fear over an upcoming Russian maneuver:

Russia is preparing to mount what could be one of its biggest military exercises since the cold war, a display of power that will be watched warily by Nato against a backdrop of east-west tensions.

Western officials and analysts estimate up to 100,000 military personnel and logistical support could participate in the Zapad (West) 17 exercise, which will take place next month in Belarus, Kaliningrad and Russia itself.

It follows a lot of speculation and obvious bullshit. In reality Zaphad is a series of smaller maneuvers taking place over some six month. It includes local police and civil defense agencies which lets the numbers look big. Each year such maneuvers take place in one of the four military districts of Russia. The number of soldiers at the core of the exercise will amount to about a division size force of 13,000-15,000 troops. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is unusual with that maneuver but the NATO propaganda attempts to make it look like an imminent Russian invasion of western Europe.

Posted by b at 10:11 AM | Comments (120)

August 22, 2017

The U.S. Can Not Be Trusted - Case XXXIV: Trump Cheats On China Sanction Deal

During the ramp up to new UN sanctions on North Korea the Trump administration threaten to sanction China if it would not commit to further pressure. Trade measures against China were held back while the discussions about the resolution were ongoing:

An opportunity to hit North Korea with new United Nations sanctions has sidelined President Donald Trump’s bid to punish China for its alleged unfair trade practice.
...
[O]n Thursday afternoon, senior administration aides postponed the announcement [of trade measures against China] at the urging of United Nations and State Department officials, who are in the sensitive final stages of convincing China to sign on to a U.N. resolution that would impose new sanctions on North Korea. U.N. and State Department officials warned that the trade announcement could kill their chances of winning Beijing’s buy-in, according to the officials.

Trump himself implied that he was willing to go for a quid pro quo:

While past presidents have tried at least ostensibly to keep security and economic issues on separate tracks in their dealings with China, Mr. Trump has explicitly linked the two, suggesting he would back off from a trade war against Beijing if it does more to pressure North Korea. “If China helps us, I feel a lot differently toward trade, a lot differently toward trade,” he told reporters...

A deal was made and the UN Resolution 2371 passed. China immediately implemented the relevant measures:

In an unprecedented move against North Korea, China on Monday issued an order to carry out the United Nations sanctions imposed on the rogue regime earlier this month.

China did its part of the deal. It helped pass the UN resolution against North Korea and it immediately implemented it even while that causes a significant loss for Chinese companies which trade with North Korea.

Now Trump is back at sanctioning Chinese (and Russian) companies:

The Trump administration on Tuesday imposed sanctions on 16 mainly Chinese and Russian companies and people for assisting North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs and helping the North make money to support those programs.
...
Among those sanctioned are six Chinese companies, including three coal companies; two Singapore-based companies that sell oil to North Korea and three Russians that work with them; a Russian company that deals in North Korean metals and its Russian director; a construction company based in Namibia; a second Namibia-based company, and its North Korean director, that supplies North Korean workers to build statues overseas to generate income for the North.

These are "secondary sanctions" which block  financial transactions and make it nearly impossible for those companies and people to run an international business. Moreover - China had already banned all coal imports from North Korea. It had sent back North Korean coal ships and instead bought coal from the United States. Now Chinese companies get sanctioned over North Korean coal they no longer buy? Furthermore selling fuel oil to North Korea is explicitly allowed under the new UN sanctions. There is no reason to sanction any company over it.

The Chinese feel cheated:

Reuters World @ReutersWorld - 7:12pm · 22 Aug 2017

JUST IN: China urges U.S. to 'immediately correct its mistake' of sanctioning Chinese firms over North Korea - embassy spokesman

If the Trump administration insist of holding up these sanction China and Russia will obviously become negligent in controlling the sanctions imposed on North Korea. Why should they hold to their side of the deal, at great costs, when the U.S. does not hold up its side?

They will also stop at making any further deals with the Trump administration. It has now proven to be just as lying and cheating as the Obama administration has been. The U.S. can forget about ANY further action or sanctions at the UN.

This as extremely shortsighted and stupid way of handling international relations.

How does the U.S. hope to win anything in the long run when it behaves in such untrustworthy ways?

Posted by b at 02:41 PM | Comments (70)

August 21, 2017

Afghanistan - Trump To Announce Four More One-Year Wars

Updated below
---

This evening Trump will announce a new "path forward" in the occupation of Afghanistan. According to the usual leaks it will be very same path the U.S. has taken for 16 years.

Several thousands soldiers from the U.S. and various NATO countries will (in vane) train the Afghan army. Special Forces and CIA goons will raid this or that family compound on someone's say-so. Bombs will be dropped on whatever is considered a target.

Trump will announce that 1,000 or so troops will be added to the current contingent. About 15,000 foreign troops will be in Afghanistan. About three contractors per each soldier will be additionally deployed.

Trump knows that this "path forward" is nonsense that leads nowhere, that the best option for all foreign troops in Afghanistan is to simply leave:

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 21 Nov 2013

We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let's get out!

But neither the military nor the CIA nor the local Afghan government will let the U.S. leave. Fear mongering is abound: "What happens if Afghanistan becomes a hotbed for international terrorists?" But few if any international terrorist incident in the "west" were ever organized in Afghanistan. In all recent incidents the culprits were locals.

For the military it is all about optics. The generals do not want to concede that they lost another war. The CIA wants to keep is militarized forces and drones which it justifies through its engagement in Afghanistan. The drug production in Afghanistan, which the U.S. never really tried to suppress, is rumored to finance "black" CIA operations just like it did during the Vietnam war and throughout various South American conflicts. The members of the Afghan government all live off U.S. largess. The war in Afghanistan is a racket paid for with the lives of countless Afghans and U.S. taxpayer money.

Now tightly under control of neo-conservative leaning generals Trump had little chance to make a different decision. He had asked his team for alternatives but none were given to him:

The president told McMaster “to go back to the drawing board,” the official said. “But he just kept coming back with the same thing.”

Trump's former strategic advisor Steve Bannon promoted an idea of Eric Prince, a shady provider of international mercenaries. Afghanistan would be given to a private for-profit entity comparable to the Brutish East-India Company. That company, with its own large army, robbed India of all possible valuables and nearly became a state of its own. But Prince and Bannon forgot to tell the end of that company's story. It came down after a large mutiny in India defeated its armed forces and had to be bailed out by the government. The end state of an East India Company like entity in Afghanistan would the same as it is now.

Then there is the fairy tale of the mineral rich Afghanistan. $1 trillion of iron, copper, rare-metals and other nice stuff could be picked out of the ground. But in reality the costs of picking minerals in Afghanistan is, for various reasons, prohibitive.

The Bannon/Prince plan was lunatic but it was at least somewhat different than the never changing ideas of the military:

The Defense Secretary [Mattis] has been using this line in meetings: "Mr. President, we haven't fought a 16-year war so much as we have fought a one-year war, 16 times."

That line has already been used five years ago to describe the war on Afghanistan. (It originally describes the 10 year war in Vietnam.) Mattis did not explain why or how that repetitive one year rhythm would now change.

A "new" part of the plan is to put pressure on Pakistan to stop the financing and supplying of Taliban groups. That is not in Pakistan's interest and is not going to happen. The Trump administration wants to hold back the yearly cash payment to the Pakistani military. This has been tried before and the Pakistani response was to close down the U.S. supply route to Afghanistan. An alternative supply route through Russia had been developed but has now been shut down over U.S. hostilities towards that country. The U.S. can not sustain a deployment in Afghanistan without a sea-land route into the country.

The Afghan army is, like the government, utterly corrupt and filled with people who do not want to engage in fighting. More "training" will not change that. The U.S. proxy government is limited to a few larger cities. It claims to control many districts but its forces are often constricted to central compounds while the Taliban rule the countryside. In total the Taliban and associated local war lords hold more than half of the country and continue to gain support. The alleged ISIS derivative in Afghanistan was originally formed out of Pakistani Taliban by the Afghan National Directorate of Security which is under the control of the CIA:

In Nangarhar, over a year ago, the vanguard of the movement was a group of Pakistani militants who had lived there for years as ‘guests’ of the Afghan government and local people. While initially avoiding attacks on Afghan forces, they made their new allegiances known by attacking the Taleban and taking their territory.

ISIS in Afghanistan, founded as an anti-Taliban force, is just another form of the usual Afghan warlordism.

During 16 years the U.S. failed to set a realistic strategic aim for the occupation of Afghanistan. It still has none. Without political aim the military is deployed in tactical engagements that make no long lasting differences. Any attempts to negotiate some peace in Afghanistan requires extensive engagement with the Taliban, Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran. No one in Washington is willing to commit to that.

Trump's likely decision means that the story of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan will continue throughout the next years exactly as it happened during the last 16 years. The decision, once made, is unlikely to change until the next presidential election. The 16 one-year-wars in Afghanistan will become 20 one-year-wars for no perceivable gain.

The only conceivable event that could change the situation is an incident with a large number of U.S. military casualties. That could lead to a groundswell of anti-war sentiment which could press Congress into legislating an end of the war. But are the Taliban interested in achieving that?

Update (Aug 22 2017):

Trump announced exactly what we predicted above. The military dictated the plan to him just like it did to Obama. Here is the transcript of Trump's speech. It is no different form the one Obama held in 2009: Undefined aims, undefined troop numbers, undefined time limits - bashing Pakistan (which will bash back) and no new idea at all. As long as the U.S. does not pull out the war will continue without any end in sight:

TOLOnews @TOLOnews - 4:43 AM - 22 Aug 2017

Taliban respond to US President #Trump’s announcement, claim to continue fighting “as long as US troops remain in #Afghanistan".

Posted by b at 01:54 PM | Comments (144)

August 20, 2017

Open Thread 2017-32

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:51 PM | Comments (98)

August 19, 2017

Ship Rudderless After Trump Drops Its Pilot

The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Bannon said Friday, shortly after confirming his departure. “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over.”

Bannon was the "Make America Great Again" guy in the White House. The strategist who had the populist ideas that brought the votes for Trump. Jobs, jobs, jobs,  infrastructure investments, immigration limits, taxing globalists were his issue.


Dropping the pilot - Punch 1890

Trump is no young German Emperor and Bannon is no chancellor Bismark. (Both would probably have liked those roles.) But with Bannon leaving, the Trump presidency is losing its chief strategist, the one person which set priorities and could set an alternative course for the ship of state under Trump's command.

The racist Huffington Post headline implies that Bannon prioritized the wrong country.

Cont. reading: Ship Rudderless After Trump Drops Its Pilot

Posted by b at 04:33 AM | Comments (180)

August 18, 2017

Syria Summary - Crossing The Euphrates At Deir Ezzor

The last three weeks in Syria were marked by further consolidation of the Syrian government positions. While this will likely continue, a new front of contention with the U.S. occupation force in north-east Syria is building up over Deir Ezzor city and the oil-rich rural areas east of it.


Map by Weekend Warrior - bigger

Last week the Syrian army liberated Sukhnah east of Palmyra from the Islamic State occupation. The fighting was less severe than anticipated. After nearly surrounding the city and the killing of the local ISIS commander the enemy forces mostly fled towards the Euphrates and Deir Ezzor.

Two large ISIS held pockets are forming in the east-Hama area. The 3,000 square-kilometer western encirclement is by now complete and remaining ISIS forces within the pocket are hunted down by Russian helicopters and Syrian army commandos. This will eliminate any danger for the narrow supply route to Aleppo city. The second pocket will soon close too. Within the next week the Syrian army will have consolidated the whole area. Troops currently concerned with surrounding the pockets will be freed for the push further east towards Deir Ezzor. There will be no more danger of large surprise attacks in the back of advancing forces.

One such attack recently overran a desert outpost and killed 18 fighters from an Iran-supported group on the Syrian government side. These lost units were replaced by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The injection of IRGC units is a new phenomenon. So far IRGC involvement was restricted to commanders of irregular units recruited from Iraq or Afghanistan or as advisors to Syrian army units, While Iran adds forces to the Syrian government side the Lebanese Hizbullah has reportedly reduced its involvement from a peak 20,000 forces to about 5,000. This was possible after several "rebel" held areas in west-Syria and near the Lebanese border were pacified and consolidated. The only area in the western part of Syria with active fighting is now the east-Ghouta enclave to the east of Damascus. A mix of fighters from al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra) and Salafists of the Faylaq Al-Rahman continued to reject ceasefire offers. After increasing losses over the past weeks and a difficult supply situation Faylaq Al-Rahman today gave up its resistance. It is only a question of time until the al-Qaeda elements will also agree to give up their fight and accept offers for an evacuation to Idleb province.

After the total defeat of Ahrar al-Sham Salafist groups Idleb has become the al-Qaeda refuge and stronghold in Syria. Turkey has limited supplies to the area to humanitarian goods and infighting between various local groups and al-Qaeda is causing daily carnage. For now no party - Syria, Turkey or the U.S. and its Kurdish proxies - is interested in the costly venture of liberating the area. It will be left to rot until spring.

Strategically the U.S. has lost the war it waged against Syria. All that is left is to defeat ISIS at Raqqa and to leave. But the imperial U.S. military, the neoconservatives and the liberal interventionists will not be happy with that outcome. They attempt to resist the inevitable.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - Crossing The Euphrates At Deir Ezzor

Posted by b at 02:45 PM | Comments (39)

August 16, 2017

"Grown-ups" Versus "Ideologues"? The Media Narrative of the White House May Be All Wrong

Updated below (Aug 19 2017)

The Democrats and the media love the Pentagon generals in the White House. They are the "grown ups":

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., had words of praise for Donald Trump's new pick for national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster — calling the respected military officer a "certified, card-carrying grown-up,"

According to the main-stream narrative the "grown ups" are opposed by "ideologues" around Trump's senior advisor Steve Bannon. Bannon is even infectious, according to Jeet Heer, as he is Turning Trump Into an Ethno-Nationalist Ideologue. A recent short interview with Bannon dispels that narrative.

Who is really the sane person on, say, North Korea?

The "grown-up" General McMaster, Trump's National Security Advisor, is not one of them. He claims North Korea is not deterrable from doing something insane.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But your predecessor Susan Rice wrote this week that the U.S. could tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea the same way we tolerated nuclear weapons in the Soviet Union far more during the Cold War. Is she right?

MCMASTER: No, she’s not right. And I think the reason she’s not right is that the classical deterrence theory, how does that apply to a regime like the regime in North Korea? A regime that engages in unspeakable brutality against its own people? A regime that poses a continuous threat to the its neighbors in the region and now may pose a threat, direct threat, to the United States with weapons of mass destruction?

McMaster's was spewing nonsense. The same was said about the Soviet Union and China when they became nuclear weapons states. North Korea just became one. Conventional deterrence of both sides has worked with North Korea for decades. Nuclear deterrence with North Korea will work just as well as it did with the Soviet and Chinese communists. If North Korea were really not deterrable the U.S. should have nuked it yesterday to minimize the overall risk and damage. It is the McMaster position that is ideological and not rational or "grown up" at all.

Compare that to Steve Bannon's take on the issue:

“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

It was indeed the Democratic People's Republic of Korea which "got" the United States and stopped the U.S. escalation game. It is wrong to think that North Korea "backed off" in the recent upheaval about a missile test targeted next to Guam. It was the U.S. that pulled back from threatening behavior.

Since the end of May the U.S. military trained extensively for decapitation and "preemptive" strikes on North Korea:

Two senior military officials — and two senior retired officers — told NBC News that key to the plan would be a B-1B heavy bomber attack originating from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
...
Of the 11 B-1 practice runs since the end of May, four have also involved practice bombing at military ranges in South Korea and Australia.

In response to the B-1B flights North Korea published plans to launch a missile salvo next to the U.S. island of Guam from where those planes started. The announcement included a hidden offer to stop the test if the U.S. would refrain from further B-1B flights. A deal was made during secret negotiations. Since then no more B-1B flights took place and North Korea suspended its Guam test plans. McMaster lost and the sane people, including Steve Bannon, won.

But what about Bannon's "ethno-nationalist" ideology? Isn't he responsible for the right-wing nutters of Charlottesville conflict? Isn't he one of them?

He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism—it's losers. It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”

“These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.

Bannon sees China as an economic enemy and wants to escalate an economic conflict with it. He is said to be against the nuclear deal with Iran. The generals in Trump's cabinet are all anti-Iran hawks. As Bannon now turns out to be a realist on North Korea, I am not sure what real position on Iran is.

Domestically Bannon is pulling the Democrats into the very trap I had several times warned against:

“The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

This worked well during the presidential election and might continue to work for Trump. As long as the Democrats do not come up with, and fight for, sane economic polices they will continue to lose elections. The people are not interested in LGBT access to this or that bathroom. They are interested in universal healthcare, in personal and economic security. They are unlikely to get such under Bannon and Trump.  But, unlike the Democrats, the current White House crew at least claim to have plans to achieve it.

Update (Aug 19 2017)

UPI reports:

Strategic assets of the U.S. military, including an aircraft carrier and a nuclear-powered submarine, may not be deployed during the upcoming joint exercises on the Korean peninsula.

South Korean television network SBS reported Friday the United States canceled plans to deploy the strategic assets during the drill set to begin next week, and the move is taking place a week after tensions spiked between Washington and Pyongyang.
...
The exercises known as Ulchi Freedom Guardian came under verbal attack from North Korea this week, when Pyongyang warned of a "second Korean War" should Seoul and Washington go ahead with the drills.

After a week of high tensions, Pyongyang also stated leader Kim Jong Un would "monitor" the United States before taking unprecedented measures against Guam, the location of a key U.S. air force base.

The U.S. not only held back the B-1B flights out of Guam but also scaled back on other strategic assets in its yearly training for a war on North Korea. The investment North Korea made with its nuclear and missile weapons is paying off.

Posted by b at 11:51 PM | Comments (115)

Smashing Statues, Seeding Strife

In the aftermath of competing protests in Charlottesville a wave of dismantling of Confederate statues is on the rise. Overnight Baltimore took down four Confederate statues. One of these honored Confederate soldiers and sailors, another one Confederate women. Elsewhere statues were toppled or defiled.

The Charlottesville conflict itself was about the intent to dismantle a statue of General Robert E. Lee, a commander of the Confederate forces during the American Civil War. The activist part of the political right protested against the take down, the activist part of the political left protested against those protests. According to a number of witnesses quoted in the LA Times sub-groups on both sides came prepared for and readily engaged in violence.

In 2003 a U.S. military tank pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein on Firdos Square in Baghdad. Narrowly shot TV picture made it look as if a group of Iraqis were doing this. But they were mere actors within a U.S. propaganda show. Pulling down the statue demonstrated a lack of respect towards those who had fought under, worked for or somewhat supported Saddam Hussein. It helped to incite the resistance against the U.S. occupation.

The right-wing nutters who, under U.S. direction, forcefully toppled the legitimate government of Ukraine pulled down hundreds of the remaining Lenin statues in the country. Veterans who fought under the Soviets in the second world war took this as a sign of disrespect. Others saw this as an attack on their fond memories of better times and protected them. The forceful erasement of history further split the country:

“It’s not like if you go east they want Lenin but if you go west they want to destroy him,” Mr. Gobert said. “These differences don’t only go through geography, they go through generations, through social criteria and economic criteria, through the urban and the rural.”

Statues standing in cities and places are much more than veneration of one person or group. They are symbols, landmarks and fragments of personal memories:

“One guy said he didn’t really care about Lenin, but the statue was at the center of the village and it was the place he kissed his wife for the first time,” Mr. Gobert said. “When the statue went down it was part of his personal history that went away.”

(People had better sex under socialism. Does not Lenin deserves statues if only for helping that along?)

Robert Lee was a brutal man who fought for racism and slavery. But there are few historic figures without fail. Did not George Washington "own" slaves? Did not Lyndon B. Johnson lie about the Gulf of Tonkin incident and launched an unjust huge war against non-white people under false pretense? At least some people will think of that when they see their statues. Should those also be taken down?

As time passes the meaning of a monument changes. While it may have been erected with a certain ideology or concept in mind, the view on it will change over time:

[The Charlottesville statue] was unveiled by Lee’s great-granddaughter at a ceremony in May 1924. As was the custom on these occasions it was accompanied by a parade and speeches. In the dedication address, Lee was celebrated as a hero, who embodied “the moral greatness of the Old South”, and as a proponent of reconciliation between the two sections. The war itself was remembered as a conflict between “interpretations of our Constitution” and between “ideals of democracy.”

The white racists who came to "protect" the statue in Charlottesville will hardly have done so in the name of reconciliation. Nor will those who had come to violently oppose them. Lee was a racist. Those who came to "defend" the statue were mostly "white supremacy" racists. I am all for protesting against them.

But the issue here is bigger. We must not forget that statues have multiple meanings and messages. Lee was also the man who wrote:

What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.

That Lee was a racist does not mean that his statue should be taken down. The park in Charlottesville, in which the statue stands, was recently renamed from Lee Park into Emancipation Park. It makes sense to keep the statue there to reflect on the contrast between it and the new park name. 

Old monuments and statues must not (only) be seen as glorifications within their time. They are reminders of history. With a bit of education they can become valuable occasions of reflection.

George Orwell wrote in his book 1984: “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” People do not want to be destroyed. They will fight against attempts to do so. Taking down monuments or statues without a very wide consent will split a society. A large part of the U.S. people voted for Trump. One gets the impression that the current wave of statue take downs is seen as well deserved "punishment" for those who voted wrongly - i.e. not for Hillary Clinton. While many Trump voters will dislike statues of Robert Lee, they will understand that dislike the campaign to take them down even more. 

That may be the intend of some people behind the current quarrel. The radicalization on opposing sides may have a purpose. The Trump camp can use it to cover up its plans to further disenfranchise they people. The fake Clintonian "resistance" needs these cultural disputes to cover for its lack of political resistance to Trump's plans.

Anyone who wants to stoke the fires with this issue should be careful what they wish for.

Posted by b at 12:16 PM | Comments (226)

August 14, 2017

Hyping North Korea To Relaunch Reagan's Star Wars?

Since Trump issued "fire and fury" threats against North Korea (the DPRK), sanity has taken over among serious people. The talk of preventive strikes on North Korea within the expert community has largely ended. It was never a seriously possibility. North Korea has many options to retaliate to any strike and all would come with catastrophic damage to South Korea and Japan and thereby to U.S. interests in Asia.

North Korea can be successfully deterred in the same way that all other nuclear weapon states are deterred from using their weapons. Unfortunately the National Security Advisor McMaster has not yet received that message:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But your predecessor Susan Rice wrote this week that the U.S. could tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea the same way we tolerated nuclear weapons in the Soviet Union far more during the Cold War. Is she right?

MCMASTER: No, she’s not right. And I think the reason she’s not right is that the classical deterrence theory, how does that apply to a regime like the regime in North Korea? A regime that engages in unspeakable brutality against its own people? A regime that poses a continuous threat to the its neighbors in the region and now may pose a threat, direct threat, to the United States with weapons of mass destruction? A regime that imprisons and murders anyone who seems to oppose that regime, including members of his own family, using sarin nerve gase (sic) -- gas in a public airport?

Classical deterrence worked against the Soviet Union as well as against Mao's China. (Vice versa it also worked against the United States.) Both were arguably, like North Korea, brutal against internal dissidents, threatening to their neighbors and military opponents of the United States. If they could be deterred than North Korea can also be deterred.

To set the Trump crew straight. China re-issued its guarantee for North Korea's security. The Global Times, a party owned but unofficial mouthpiece, wrote in an editorial:

"China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral," [..].

"If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so."

Any unprovoked war against North Korea would thereby escalate into a war with China and no one is seriously interested in that adventure. The only reasonable course is to negotiate some new level of balance between North Korean and U.S. interests.

The U.S. continues to run large scale maneuver together in South Korea and to fly nuclear capable strategic bombers near the North Korean borders. These actions necessitate that North Korea's military stays in expensive high alert against potential surprises. One aim of North Korea's nuclear armament is to lessen the necessity for such conventional preparedness.

North Korea has offered several times to stop all missile and nuclear testing if the U.S. stops its large maneuvers near its borders. The Trump administration rejected that offer but North Korea increased the pressure with its recent tests.

Last week North Korea again offered to decrease its own actions if the U.S. stops some of its provocations. It announced a possible test of four missiles targeted into the vicinity of the U.S. base on Guam. The strategic U.S. bombers flying near North Korea usually take off from Guam. Few noticed that the announcement was conditional and came with an offer:

Cont. reading: Hyping North Korea To Relaunch Reagan's Star Wars?

Posted by b at 01:51 PM | Comments (90)

August 13, 2017

Charlottesville: What You Wish Upon Others, You Wish Upon Yourself

U.S. "liberals" cuddle fascists and right-wing religious extremists in Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela and elsewhere.

But when similar movements appear on their own streets they are outraged.

The person in the center on the above picture drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville killing one and wounding several.

Politicians and media hail such persons when they appear, often hired by the CIA, to overthrow the government of some foreign country. They condemn the same mindset and actions at home. But glorification of right-wing violence elsewhere hands justification to right-wing groups at home.

Cont. reading: Charlottesville: What You Wish Upon Others, You Wish Upon Yourself

Posted by b at 02:02 PM | Comments (196)

August 12, 2017

Shireen Al-Adeimi - Has The War In Yemen Become A Spectator Sport?

Shireen Al-Adeimi (@shireen818) was born in Aden, south Yemen. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The text below was copied from Shireen Al-Adeimi's Twitter thread published on August 11 2017.


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Has the war in Yemen become a spectator sport?

My thread may be long, but I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it.

The war on Yemen rages, yet, Yemenis' plight is STILL not receiving the attention it deserves - not from the media, nor from politicians. When Yemen's not totally ignored, facts are obscured because confronting our countries' active participation in destroying Yemen is inconvenient. While rich Arab states bombard Yemen with fancy (Western-purchased) weapons and hire mercenaries as ground troops, many are afraid to confront the Saudis and face financial consequences (e.g. the UN) or are themselves implicated and/or profiteering (e.g. the U.S./UK). So United Nations offers "concerns” and UK expresses its desire to "find a political solution" while they fill their pockets at the expense of Yemeni lives. And while citizens are often oblivious to their governments' crimes, many know about #Yemen but are not doing enough with this knowledge.

Has Yemen become a spectator sport? For two and a half years, Yemeni children’s dead or emaciated bodies have been splattered all across our screens. Some shed tears, others donate, few hold politicians accountable, but most just turn away. Is it helplessness or indifference? I can't tell. Yemenis are not knocking on Europe’s door because we are trapped by a land/air/sea blockade. Are we 'out of sight out of mind'? I can’t tell. Someone once told me Yemeni children are not ‘photogenic’ enough to draw emphatic responses. Is racism/discrimination at play? I can’t tell. Or are Yemeni wallets not heavy enough to purchase or at least demand international attention, condemnation, and action? I also can’t tell.

What I can tell is that the world is watching. They watch our kids die of curable diseases like cholera because they have no access clean water. They watch our children die of hunger in a time of immense global wealth because their parents can not afford what little food is available. They watch as our children, women and men are killed by U.S.-supported, Saudi airstrikes that target homes, schools, and hospitals alike. When people are asked to engage with elected officials (even by simply signing a petition like: Save Yemen) only a few engage. Even when we ask for our stories to be shared with wider audiences, we're ignored (I was told that readership on Yemen news is in the tens).

I and other Yemenis not only have our families in mind, but millions who ca not access the most basic of needs: safety, shelter, food, and water. I feel totally and utterly helpless. I struggle with sharing stories of dying Yemeni children when I know that no one will come to their rescue. I cry, from the depths of my soul, for a nation that suffers in silence all the while exemplifying the true meaning of faith and resistance. I mourn the children whose little bodies gave up fighting in the time it took you to read this thread. And I pray for Yemen.

---

Earlier Moon of Alabama coverage of Yemen:

Posted by b at 12:13 PM | Comments (50)

August 11, 2017

Open Thread 2017-31

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:54 PM | Comments (115)

August 10, 2017

NYT - Russia Wants Innovation, But It’s Arresting Its Fraudsters

Russia is BAD we are told on a daily base. It is hacking U.S. elections it is claimed, even when the evidence says it did not do so. The public is only mildly convinced by the anti-Russian propaganda campaign.

The attempt of the borg to reignite a cold war and to vilify Russia is hampered by that fact that Russia is no longer an ideological enemy of the "west". Russia is no longer communist and there are no soviets ruling it. Today's Russia is indeed capitalist and even neo-liberal.

The new way to vilify Russia must then proceed on a different route. "Yes, Russia is capitalist, but it is capitalist in a bad way." Thus we get this NYT headline and story: Russia Wants Innovation, but It’s Arresting Its Innovators:

AKADEMGORODOK, Russia — Dmitri Trubitsyn is a young physicist-entrepreneur with a patriotic reputation, seen in this part of Siberia as an exemplar of the talents, dedication and enterprise that President Vladimir V. Putin has hailed as vital for Russia’s future economic health.

Yet Mr. Trubitsyn faces up to eight years in jail after a recent raid on his home and office here in Akademgorodok, a Soviet-era sanctuary of scientific research that was supposed to showcase how Mr. Putin’s Russia can harness its abundance of talent to create a modern economy.

A court last Thursday extended Mr. Trubitsyn’s house arrest until at least October, which bars him from leaving his apartment or communicating with anyone other than his immediate family.

Noticed how bad Putin is? How very authoritarian his government thugs are? They even arrest an "entrepreneur with a patriotic reputation"!

But why is the man in front of a court?

Mr. Trubitsyn, 36, whose company, Tion, manufactures high-tech air-purification systems for homes and hospitals, is accused of risking the lives of hospital patients, and trying to lift profits, by upgrading the purifiers so they would consume less electricity.

Most important, he is accused of doing this without state regulators certifying the changes.

"Upgrading" something so "it consumes less electricity" is of course good. We all know this.

Ten paragraphs follow to further convince us that the guy is really on the good side and that Putin led Russia is bad, bad, bad.

Only then do we learn what Trubitsyn's company really did:

[Chief technical officer] Amelkin said the company was approached by the regulatory agency and said that it had changed its design and removed a supplementary filtering device that laboratory tests had shown was redundant and wasted electricity. The company then amended its registration documents and thought the matter was over, Mr. Amelkin said.

So here is what really happened. The company produces licensed medical filter equipment. It eliminated one stage of the expensive filters and sold the degraded equipment without telling anyone about the change.

Yes, the modified equipment does "consume less electricity". It does so because it filters less than it is supposed to do. The degraded and cheaper produced medical product was sold without a valid license. Finally some of the companies competitors noticed this and informed the regulators about the dangerous fraud. The "Innovator" CEO of the company was arrested for fraud and will have to go to jail.

That all seems very normal to me and the way product regulation should work. When some German car manufacturers cheated with diesel emission tests their U.S. competitors complained and the regulator put some company officials to jail. That was lauded, even in the NYT, as good regulation. But when Russia does the very same it is defamed as stifling innovation.

Propaganda works. The author of the NYT piece managed to convince his readers. Of the current 29 "Reader recommended" comments 28 are negative towards Russia. Only one commentator, from Vancouver, points out that the system worked as it is supposed to work everywhere. That the company was penalized for a fraudulent product and the responsible manager punished.

One wonders how the author of the piece, and his Russia bashing readers, would feel about insufficiently filtered air when they lie in intensive care.

Posted by b at 03:02 PM | Comments (60)

 
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