Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 31, 2014

NSA Uses Speech-To-Text Systems To Record (Your?) Phonecalls

Der Spiegel and The Intercept have a new story about the NSA and Turkey based largely on NSA files Edward Snowden acquired. While the NSA is cooperating with Turkey's secret services and helps them to assassinate Kurdish separatists it is also intensely spying on the Turkish leadership.

That is all the way I would have expected.

But there is one detail in the story which, to my best knowledge, reveals a NSA capability that was so far only rumored about:

In January 2012, US officials proposed supporting Turkey in their fight against the PKK with diverse measures, including access to a state-of-the-art speech recognition system that enabled real-time analysis of intercepted conversations. The system can even search for keywords and identify the person speaking if a voice sample of that individual has been stored.

There was always some assumption that the NSA would store not only all the medadata of all phone calls but also the content. Barton Gellman had published about the MYSTIC and RETRO program which back in 2009 allowed phone call storage of all calls in Afghanistan for up to a month. Some people refuted that the NSA could or would do this in more countries or for a longer time arguing that the storage of sound files of the phone calls would require too much data space.

But when the NSA, as is now revealed, uses sophisticated automated speech-to-text systems then it has only to store the text data of phone calls which is at least one magnitude smaller in data size than the sound data.

Every NSA target, potentially ever human being, has now to assume that everything it says or hears on the phone will be recorded and automatically searched by keywords and then marked, categorized and stored forever by some NSA system.

This is, I believe, a whole new dimension of NSA spying that may well change the way people are used to communicate and the intensity in which they are willing to express themselves "in private". "In private" now hardly exists anymore.

Posted by b on August 31, 2014 at 16:21 UTC | Permalink | Comments (33)

August 30, 2014

The WaPo Funny Pages Fear "Secular Extremists"

The Washington Post editorial page reads like a collection of funnies. Sorry ones though.

There you have the wife of the Polish foreign minister preparing for total war with Russia. Yeah, lets roll out the nukes already! The winner of course, with Europe then devastated, would be the U.S. economy. Those radiating bits left of it.

But the idea might be better than asking the Russian oligarchs to assassinate Putin like a former CIA honcho does. Or better than the idea of an air bombing campaign against Novorossiya right next to the Russia's border and its excellent air-defenses.

There really are a lot of crazy people around. Surely the editors of the Washington Post are part of them. Yesterday they wrote this crazy nonsense:

IF ANY international norm can still be called uncontroversial, it is the stricture against cross-border aggression by one sovereign state against another. Certainly any failure to enforce it in one place invites violations elsewhere.

Fair points out that the "uncontroversial norm" the editor want to apply seemed not to be so uncontroversial when those same editors called for the invasion of Iraq and for the bombing of Syria, Libya, Sudan or whatever other state wins their weekly lottery for threatened destruction.

But the best of the recent funnies was surely this one by David Ignatius which certainly will earn him a decent pile of petro-dollars:

For a generation, Americans and Saudis have worried that the kingdom was a potential tinderbox, with Muslim and secular extremists vying to undermine the conservative monarchy.

"Secular extremists" - now there is a real terrorist threat! The biggest threat EVER! What Americans then have ever "worried" about "secular extremists" overthrowing the Wahhabi nutters in Riyadh? Others then the ones paid by them?

Posted by b on August 30, 2014 at 7:58 UTC | Permalink | Comments (71)

August 29, 2014

Ukraine Lost A Battle - West Escalates With More Russia Sanctions

Throughout August the Ukrainian president and cabinet, likely following U.S. "advisers", pushed their army into a big attack on the insurgency held south east areas of the country. But the attack of bad equipped, half trained units ran into problems. Some of them reached their attack targets only to find themselves cut off from any resupply. Without ammunition, gas and food they were locked into place and easy targets for the insurgents artillery.

The attack was stretched too far. The "culmination point in the attack" Clausewitz wrote about was reached and crossed. The negative effects of the attack on its own troops became bigger then the positive effects and the government in Kiev, not recognizing the real situation, still pressed on. It now lost the initiative. The parts of the Ukrainian army not surrounded and caught up surrounded in "cauldrons" retreated to be reorganized.

Some of the "volunteer" territorial battalions are simply going home. There is even a revolt against the defense ministry.

By Aug. 27, the battalion had left the war zone and made its way to the city of Znamyanka in Kirovohrad Oblast. Romanyuk said they were in discussion with the Defense Ministry whether to continue home to their base in Ivano-Frankivsk region, or be sent back to the Anti-Terrorist Operation.

In what is becoming a repeated refrain, the apparent failure of the government to provide its soldiers with even the most basic supplies is undermining both the conduct of the war and the morale of those fighting it.

“They were dumped,” said Romanyuk. “And absolutely all the territorial defense battalions are in this position. So they are in revolt against the Ministry of Defense. No one wants to endure this idiotic command anymore, and this inadequate attitude to soldiers, to the needs of the army and the National Guard.”

The situation is not looking good for the coup government in Kiev. Some of the neo-nazi national guard battalions have even threatened to come to Kiev to "clean the house."

The loss of the battle is also the reason why Ukraine now really, really fast wants to join NATO. That is not going to happen. NATO has a simple rule that countries with internationally disputed areas can not join. Should Ukraine give up on Crimea its move would make sense. But as it can not yet do so the joining request is just helpless yapping. As a little consolidation price the IMF squandered another $1.4 billion by giving it to bancrupt Kiev as a part of a larger loan. Ukraine will probably use that to pay for the T-72 tanks it recently bought from Hungary. Officially the IMF is not allowed to give money to countries at war. That may be the reason why yesterday official talk of an "invasion" by Russia was later toned down to "incursion".

The military battle defeat was the reason why Russia was accused of an invasion even when the OECD observers says (in German) that they have "no objective information" to support such a claim. Such propaganda rushes as yesterday always follow when the shit hits the fan for the "western" side. They are also occasions to introduce new sanction which from the U.S. point of view, have the nice feature of solely hurting both Europe and Russia. The U.S. poodle in No. 10 now wants to kick Russia out of the SWIFT inter-banking systems:

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, known as SWIFT, is one of Russia’s main connections to the international financial system. Prime Minister David Cameron’s government plans to put the topic on the agenda for a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels tomorrow, according to the official, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

“Blocking Russia from the SWIFT system would be a very serious escalation in sanctions against Russia and would most certainly result in equally tough retaliatory actions by Russia,” said Chris Weafer, a senior partner at Moscow-based consulting firm Macro Advisory. “An exclusion from SWIFT would not block major trade deals but would cause problems in cross-border banking and that would disrupt trade flows.”

"Trade flows" in this case are gas supplies from Russia needed in Europe throughout the winter. If the gas bill can not be paid because Russia gets kicked out of SWIFT the spice will not flow. Only the U.K., which does not need Russian gas supplies, could come up with such a lunatic idea.

On the other side it would probably be good for the world in the longer term should Russia be kicked out of SWIFT. The BRICS countries would of course immediately introduce an alternative under their control which would then lead to more preferential trade between them. Such an alternative would make SWIFT no longer indispensable and useless as a tool for "western" sanctions.

Also today the Iranian foreign minister Zarif visited Moscow for talks with Russia. The atmosphere was said to be quite positive. But someone in Washington took this visit as an insult and immediately slapped more sanctions on Iran:

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on more than 25 people and companies it accused of violating sanctions against Iran, including shipping firms, airlines, and six Iranian banks.

Why, in the mid of so far positive talks with Iran about its nuclear program, does the U.S. feel this need to escalate again? Iran and Russia see their national aspirations as just and can therefore not be moved by sanctions. Is that really so hard to understand?

Such sanctions and childish petty acts, like Poland's overflight blockage of a Russian Defense Minister flight, will only create more strife in the world and a stronger urge for many states to distance themselves from the "west" with its seemingly more and more crazy leaders.

Posted by b on August 29, 2014 at 17:01 UTC | Permalink | Comments (140)

ISIS Trained By Whom?

Photos show gruesome Islamic State seizure of base

Dressed in an orange jumpsuit against the backdrop of an arid Syrian landscape, ...

Captives held by Islamic State were waterboarded

At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.

Where, one wonders, did they learn such shit?

Posted by b on August 29, 2014 at 0:18 UTC | Permalink | Comments (100)

August 28, 2014

"Zero Proof" - The "Russian Invasion" Of Ukraine

Updated below

The authors of this NYT piece, Ukraine Reports Russian Invasion on a New Front, are not really convincing when presenting these reports by the Ukrainian government as truthful:

The latest incursion, which Ukraine’s military said included five armored personnel carriers, was at least the third movement of troops and weapons from Russia across the southeast part of the border this week, further blunting the momentum Ukrainian forces have made in weakening the insurgents in their redoubts of Donetsk and Luhansk farther north. Evidence of a possible turn was seen in the panicky retreat of Ukrainian soldiers on Tuesday from a force they said had come over the Russian border.
...
Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military in Kiev, said the Russian armored column entered the town of Amvrosiyivka, south of Donetsk, expanding what Western and Ukrainian officials have described as one of the main fronts in a multipronged counteroffensive directed by Russia.

The "momentum" the Ukrainian troops had was never as big as the Ukrainian government had claimed. A few motorized brigades ran through open territory held by few insurgents and when coming to a halt at their primary target were immediately cut off and surrounded. Their moral is bad, their equipment old, ammunition is low and the entire aim of their campaign is dubious. Now even a few weak counterattacks, the "counteroffensive", have them on the run.

While the piece repeats the Ukrainian claim that Russian material, including ammunition, passed over the border the third picture shows some 20+ wooden boxes of RPGs and the caption says:

"A villager opened a box of rocket-propelled grenades left by the Ukrainian Army in Starobecheve, southeast of Donetsk. Pro-Russia rebels took over the town after the military withdrew."

Obviously the fleeing Ukrainian troops are leaving a lot of goodies behind.

Then there is this:

The separatists have asserted that they are using captured Ukrainian equipment. But American officials say they are confident that the artillery in the Krasnodon area of Ukraine is Russia’s since Ukrainian forces have not penetrated that deeply into that separatist-controlled region. American officials also say the separatists have no experience in using such weaponry.

That bold part is of course utter bullshit. The Donetsk miners and volunteers from Russia all have had regular military service. They surely will be able to handle Grad systems, little evolved from World War II, and other artillery.

The United States has photographs that show the Russian artillery moved into Ukraine, American officials say. One photo dated last Thursday, shown to a New York Times reporter, shows Russian military units moving self-propelled artillery into Ukraine. Another photo, dated Saturday, shows the artillery in firing positions in Ukraine.

"Shown to one NYT reporter" who likely can not differentiate a Grad system from a pipe organ is hardly any proof. Why doesn't the U.S. publish the picture?

On the highway in Novoazovsk on Tuesday, Sgt. Ihor Sharapov, a soldier with the Ukrainian border patrol unit, said he had seen tanks drive across the border, although they were marked with flags of the Donetsk People’s Republic. Others suggested the flags were a ruse.

“I tell you they are Russians, but this is what proof I have,” said Sgt. Aleksei Panko, holding up his thumb and index finger to form a zero.

Zero proof - indeed. I have absolutely no doubt that Russian volunteers are fighting on the insurgency side. I have no doubt that some ammunition is coming from Russia. But judging from pictures of equipment and ammunition the insurgents use nearly all of it seems to be the same Soviet era stuff the Ukrainian army is using. I have yet to see and big updated Russian equipment in their hands. The big Russian invasion the Ukrainian government claims is very unlikely to have happened.

Update

This is a quite amazing "information operation" without doubt of U.S. origin.

Consider: The Ukrainian President talks about Russian affiliated insurgents in east-Ukraine and Reuters and others distribute this as "invasion". After all major news-entities repeated the "invasion" claim and the public damage is done they simply take it back.

Consider this from Tagesschau, the highest rated German TV news show:

Translation:

On #Ukraine there was a translation error by the agency Reuters: According to the correction Poroshenko did not talk of an invasion.

So there was an "invasion", distributed by major news agencies, which then turns out to have been a translation error or an intentional Poroshenko 'screw up'.

Notice that one author of the NYT piece above is Michael Gordon, who, together with Judith Miller, wrote sensational reports about proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The current head of NATO who is promoting war against Russia, Fogh-of-war Rassmussen, said 11 years ago: "Iraq has WMDs. It is not something we think, it is something we know".

These folks and the western news agencies that promoted the WMD in Iraq claims are now claiming a Russian "invasion" in Ukraine only to retract it when the damage is done. Warmongers. All of them.

Posted by b on August 28, 2014 at 11:49 UTC | Permalink | Comments (162)

August 27, 2014

Open Thread 2014-20

(Unexpected travel and busy days - sorry)

News & views ...

(Please refrain from personal attacks on other commentators. Otherwise ...)

Posted by b on August 27, 2014 at 18:30 UTC | Permalink | Comments (205)

August 26, 2014

Quiz: "Not Restricted By Borders"

Who said this?

“We’re actively considering what’s going to be necessary to deal with that threat and we’re not going to be restricted by borders.”

Possible answers:

  1. Dmitryi Olegovich Rogozin, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation with regards to Fascists gangs in Ukraine.
  2. Benjamin J. Rhodes, U.S. deputy national security adviser with regards to Jihadi gangs in Syria.
  3. Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates with regards to Muslim Brotherhood gangs in Libya.

Answer

Posted by b on August 26, 2014 at 14:32 UTC | Permalink | Comments (117)

August 25, 2014

Ukraine: Economy Declines, Merkel Sues For Peace

Recent statistics show that the already decaying Ukrainian economy is further turning towards depression. New money from IMF loans, if granted, will solely go into military costs. The European Union will not bail out Ukraine and Germany, hurt by Russian counter-sanctions, is suing for peace with Russia.

Nulandistan's wheels are falling off and no one one will help to repair it.

According to the Ukrainian government statistics production in July 2014 decrease compared to July 2013 (both ex-Crimea). Mining of coal and lignite was only 71% of its former numbers. Manufacture of coke and refined petroleum products was 84% of its 2013 value. Manufacture of chemicals and chemical products 77% and natural gas production and distribution was 78% of its 2013 number. As the government's fight  against the people in Ukraine's industrial heartland continues these numbers will continue to go down.

Ukraine's standard of living did not, unlike in Russia, significantly increase over the last 20 years. Since the beginning of the year inflation increased to 19% and the Ukrainian central bank had to raise interest rates from 6.5% at the beginning of 2014 to 17.5% now. This to support the value of the Ukrainian currency as the hryvnya has fallen 40% since early 2014. The banking system is coming apart:

The ratio of banks’ non-performing loans will reach 30 percent this year as credit costs rise, Moody’s Investors Service predicted in a May report.
...
Ukraine’s lenders are already in a precarious position, according to the IMF, which estimates that the nation’s biggest 22 banks would require fresh capital of as much as 5 percent of gross domestic product if the hryvnia averages 12.5 per dollar this year.

The Ukraine is now requesting a third and fourth tranche of an IMF loan but the $2.2 billion it expects to receive is about as much as it plans to additionally spend for military operations. Under the conditions of the new IMF loans Ukraine's standard of living will decrease further and poverty will rise.

Some delusional minds in Kiev may hope that the EU will hand them some money. That is not going to happen. EU economies ex Germany are in serious trouble and Germany is not eager to help either:

There is precious little enthusiasm among the German public for bailout of other Eurozone members. The idea that Germany will consent to spending tens of billions of dollars rebuilding Eastern Ukraine is completely and totally divorced from political reality. Can anyone seriously imagine Angela Merkel, whose country recently had its 2014 growth estimate downgraded to a mere 1.5%, going in front of the German public to demand a substantial outlay for Ukrainian infrastructure? It would be political suicide, and Merkel is clearly a clever enough politician to understand this.

The German government had to cut is GDP forecast because of the insecurity the sanction back and forth with Russia introduced into businesses. The issue will clearly hurt her in the polls. That is likely why she is sending peace signals to Russia:

[Merkel] mentioned Ukrainian “decentralisation”, a deal on gas prices, and Ukraine’s “trade relations” with Russia as elements that could bring about an accord [between Ukraine and Russia].
...
"I want to find a way, as many others do, which does not damage Russia. We [Germany] want to have good trade relations with Russia as well. We want reasonable relations with Russia. We are depending on one another and there are so many other conflicts in the world where we should work together, so I hope we can make progress”.

This also from an interview Merkel gave to public German TV yesterday:

A solution must be found to the Ukraine crisis that does not hurt Russia and which the Ukrainian people must choose for themselves, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday.
...
"There must be dialogue. There can only be a political solution. There won't be a military solution to this conflict," she said.
...
On Saturday, her vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel had suggested that establishing a federal Ukraine was the only viable solution to the crisis pitting Kiev against pro-Russian separatists.

Merkel said that if Ukraine opted to rejoin the Eurasian Union with Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, then Europe would not make "a huge conflict" out of it.

Especially the last point is clearly a big step back from the earlier all out "Ukraine is EU" position.

Additionally to the economic side, pressure on Merkel also grows because there is more and more doubt, even in German mainstream media, about the veracity of the Ukrainian propaganda and about the destruction of flight MH17. Why is there is no news about it? Is there a coverup (in German)?

The wheels are coming off in Victoria "Fuck the EU" Nuland's new Ukraine. Her project of capturing Ukraine from Russia while letting the EU pay for it is not going as planned. The likely result of Nuland's coup in Kiev will be a destroyed Ukrainian economy and no winner at all.

Posted by b on August 25, 2014 at 17:30 UTC | Permalink | Comments (151)

August 24, 2014

Open Thread 2014-19

News & views ...

Posted by b on August 24, 2014 at 17:24 UTC | Permalink | Comments (113)

August 23, 2014

The Fishy James Foley Video

What is fishy with the James Foley beheading video?

1. I have not seen it yet.

2. The video was well produced and at least partially staged:

"My experience of these things is when the knife gets close the knees buckle and you become like a rag doll, whereas this guy seemed to sit upright. It could be that that particular knife wasn't the one that killed him, that that was a play-acting thing," the expert told The Times.

After the part where the executioner was shown cutting Foley's head, the video fades.

The next part of the video already showed Foley's decapitated head while he was upturned back. His hands were handcuffed. But his right ankle already had bruises hinting that he had been kneeling on the ground longer than what was shown in the video. And most importantly, a different looking knife lies on the ground, next to Foley's corpse.

"The guy is obviously dead but it may be that particular scene was acted and that was why he is staying stiff," the security expert noted.

3. Unlike other beheading videos this one apparently does not show the actual beheading. It just blends from the first appearance of a slight cut to a decapitated body.

4. Few others have seen the video. It was, on behalf of U.S. officials, aggressively blocked on Youtube and Twitter even deleted accounts that linked to the video. Hundreds of other ISIS videos showing very graphic beheading of Syrians and Iraqis second by second were never censored away like this.

5. Lots of people believe the video and the "death" of James Foley is fake.

The journalist James Foley was a propagandist for the Free Syrian Army. In that he had joined important U.S. politicians. The FSA terrorists were trained by the U.S. and then converted to ISIS which the U.S. now claims to fight. The U.S. is still giving rocket launchers and TOWs to FSA gangs, aka soon-to-be-ISIS followers.

ISIS is the typical cartoon supervillain the U.S. creates whenever it wants to propagandize for more wars. It is the best possible enemy. ISIS allows for ridiculous threat inflation that will probably give Obama new wide-open congressional Authority for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq and probably in Syria and elsewhere.

Those are a lot of miles from a few bloody drops in a somewhat staged video. Staged how much though is an open question.

Posted by b on August 23, 2014 at 16:15 UTC | Permalink | Comments (184)

Poland Wants Bigger Freeride On U.S. Military Force And Money

Anne Applebaum, neocon Washington Post columnist and wife of Poland's Minister of Foreign Affairs, demands a "revitalized NATO":

NATO also needs to become a lot clearer about its goals. Europe has two immediate security issues: the threat from Russia in the east and the threat from Islamic fundamentalism to the south. [...] The basing of troops and equipment needs to be rethought completely: If we were starting from scratch, nobody would put them where they are now. NATO needs to shut down unnecessary commands and legacy bases, and move on.

Move on whereto one might ask and it is clear that Applebaum would love U.S. troops stationed in Poland and the Baltic countries. She also adds this nonsense:

... the United States contributes three-quarters of NATO’s budget ...

That math only works if you attribute the U.S. investment in aircraft carriers in the South China Sea or in  military Golf courses in Hawaii to NATO. Given the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's obviously limited geographic and political function such math is rather stupid.

Another Polish op-ed by one Slawomir Sierakowski in the NYT is more direct in making the point:

Those members who have no NATO bases are simply a gray area of second-class membership. What has become clear is that not all NATO members are equal. First-class members — Britain, Germany, Italy — are those everyone knows would be immediately defended by NATO forces if attacked. Second-class members like Poland and the Baltics would most likely be ravaged for weeks or months before NATO forces made an appearance.

This logic is also revealingly stupid. Polish military forces as well as the Baltic countries' forces are NATO forces. Poland has thereby 120,000 NATO troops stationed within its borders plus some 500,000 NATO reservists. These local NATO troops are in Poland and the Baltics. Would they not defend their countries if those were attacked?

Both Applebaum and Sierakowski do not want "NATO forces" stationed in Poland and elsewhere. They would rather howl at the suggestion of a German tank brigade stationed in Warsaw. What they want is the expensive (for U.S. taxpayers) permanent stationing of United States' military forces. This for rather obvious reasons. With U.S. forces in their backyard they would:

  • get a free ride on U.S. money,
  • have less need to invest in their own forces,
  • achieve more political freedom for aggression against their neighbors because U.S. "tripwire" troops would likely prevent possible blow backs.

For this they would break the NATO treaty with Russia which prohibits permanent foreign NATO military stationing in the former Warsaw Pact states. After the NATO coup in Ukraine Russia would surely regard such a treaty breach as a further act of aggression that requires a forceful response.

If Applebaum and Sierakowski would really fear, as they claim, "Russia's aggression" they therefore would refrain from calling for foreign NATO troops in eastern European countries.

Posted by b on August 23, 2014 at 15:17 UTC | Permalink | Comments (43)

August 22, 2014

Ukraine Accuses Putin Of "Smuggling Humanitarian Aid"

The opening of this statement by the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in a literal sense correct. But the intended accusatory implication is somewhat off:

On August, 22 Russia began smuggling humanitarian aid to Ukraine, ...

Why, one might ask, is there need for humanitarian aid in Ukraine? Why doesn't the government care for its people? And why is it necessary to "smuggle" aid in?

Posted by b on August 22, 2014 at 13:42 UTC | Permalink | Comments (97)

August 21, 2014

Syria: U.S. Intelligence For Syrian Air-Force Bombing

Pepe Escobar writes in ATOL on the IS rampage in Syria and Iraq:

[H]ow convenient that a Briton beheading an American - what a "special relationship" plot twist! - fully sanctions the Return of Iraq Bombing ("for months", in Obama's words); more strikes; more drones; perhaps more boots on the ground; perhaps, in the near future, a Syria extension.

Indeed. But the mission creep, or maybe the planned escalation, was already ongoing before the beheading video of James Foley was published:

Monday, the President again broadened the bombing’s objectives. The airstrikes against ISIS still protect U.S. personnel and serve humanitarian purposes, he said, but now, it seems, those are general goals that ongoing bombing serves. The President also suggested that ISIS is a security threat to the United States. Not for the first time, he said that once the new Iraqi government forms, we will “build up” Iraqi military power against ISIS.

Only the speed of this slide down a slippery slope is surprising.

The U.S. is again fully at war in Iraq. But bombing in Syria, it seems to me, will be left to the Syrian air-force. For some days now it has attacked IS targets in Raqqa with precise ammunition, not with the usual "barrel bombs". Precise weapons need precise intelligence to designate precise targets. Two knowledgeable journalist from the region have suggested that the U.S. is providing such targeting data to the Syrian government. The Angry Arab reports:

The highly able and reliable correspondent of As-Safir in Paris claims that the US has been providing intelligence help to the Syrian regime regarding positions of ISIS in Syria.

That As-Safir correspondent is Mohammad Ballout. Elijah J. Magnier, AL RAI chief international correspondent, tweeted two days ago:

#BreakingNews: #USA #Syria: #SAF Mig-29 is bombarding on daily basis #IS selective targets in #Raqqa w guided missiles following #USA info

Reuters reports that Syrian hopes to find a detente with the "west" over the threat of the Islamic State:

Ghaleb Kandil, another Lebanese journalist with close ties to the Syrian government, said the West would be forced to deal with Assad sooner or later. In return for security cooperation, Assad would demand full political rehabilitation.

"The Syrian state is the only body with adequate intelligence about the terrorists," he said.

With the U.S. providing targeting data to the Syrian air-force at least some informal detente has already been agreed upon. More opportunities for a public reversal of the "western" position will appear soon.

Unlike Pepe Escobar anticipates, "a Syria extension" of U.S. air-force attacks is unlikely to happen as long as the Syrian air-force has and keeps its capabilities to act on anti-IS (signal-)intelligence the U.S. provides. Russia (and Iran) will take care that the Syrian air-force will have the material and personal capacities to achieve that.

Posted by b on August 21, 2014 at 17:53 UTC | Permalink | Comments (147)

August 20, 2014

Malooga On Ferguson - The Bigger Picture

by Malooga
lifted from a comment

@154 luca kasks: "Why don't you people wait for all the facts to come in?"

Facts are not like beloved relatives coming in to visit on cherished holidays; facts are like murdered ex-collaborators, to be secretly disappeared and buried deep in some dank forgotten hole in the ground.

Facts, for the ruling class, are dangerous beasts. Myths and stories are far safer fare.

Facts may escape unexpectedly at the very beginning of an event, before proper control systems are in place, after that all one is likely to get is the official story, or if that fails, the official fall-back position.

How could one get what is going on geopolitically by following this blog, and not get that the same conditions and principles of domination, control and brutalization operate similarly on a local scale?

Perhaps it might be helpful to detail those conditions and principles in order to remind ourselves what the theater in which these events take place is truly like, both for the residents of places like Ferguson, and for the police who manage those residents.

The war on drugs was not a war against drugs. It was a war for the ultra-rich rulers to control and profit from the cash streams of illegal drug profits, to finance un-sellable illegal wars, a method of destabilizing other countries through drug addiction, and a method of criminalizing the intentional poverty and hopelessness of the bottom 30%, or more, of the domestic population. (See: US protection of heroin in southeast Asia and Afghanistan, CIA crack distribution in US cities, Gary Webb, etc.)

The "War on Terror" is virtually the same thing: An outright war on the poor, and a destabilization of territories the empire does not control outright. Additionally, like drugs, the “war” is largely synthetic, that is to say, fake and victimless, where the perpetrators have to be secretly sponsored to create an artificial enemy, with what Rowan Berkeley accurately termed “pseudo-gangs.”

These wars are not real, in the sense that the problems as described are not real; and, such problems as may exist, are intentionally handled so as to exacerbate them, and reinforce the problem-reaction-solution dynamic.

Drugs are not a problem to be eradicated, rather, they are a medium to be employed, a means to an end. Terror, as we know, is not even a thing, it is just a tactic. You can’t criminalize a tactic, but you can employ it as a means to an end.

I don’t need to remind you that the US, the “land of the free,” has the largest -- in absolute and relative terms -- prison population on the planet. And the vast, vast, vast majority of those who are imprisoned are there for victimless crimes.

But that’s not all. Because if you grow up in the projects, and you raise your kid right, and miraculously manage to keep him away from guns and gangs, you still face two more daunting hurdles: poverty and police violence.

Let’s start with poverty. Official unemployment rates are lied over, real rates can be many times higher, and many in the projects can find no work at all, or only part-time work, without benefits, in a fast food joint. Lack of work equals lack of money, which equals lack of education, which equals lack of opportunity and work, and so on, in an endless vicious cycle.

Domestically, a new war is underway: an outright war on the poor, where those who can’t -- because of unemployment or other reasons -- keep up with their financial obligations are threatened with imprisonment for non-payment of bills, taxes, child support, court fees, parking tickets, etc. Indeed, we as a society have regressed to the days of Oliver Twist and workhouses. Prisoners must work for their keep these days as low cost producers for corporations, and quaint notions like labor laws or minimum wages do not apply to them.

Prisons have been privatized, and prisoners are just another commodity to be profited from in the capitalist system, like pork bellies, or wheat futures. Judges, like police, have been proved to have quotas: they are expected to meet a production goal where, like a factory worker, a certain number of people must be imprisoned each month or year. After all, the owners of these prisons are top campaign contributors, and they provide “jobs” to the local economy, so they must be kept happy. Cops, like judges, are under pressure to do their part in maintaining prison occupancy rates.

Any fool can see that this is not a description of a society, as anthropologists might have studied 100 years ago, but of a catabolic process, whereby a sick or diseased body (politic) greedily consumes itself on the way to the grave. And, as they quietly lament around my way, “it is what it is.”

And yet, it is worse: for those that escape these first three evils -- drugs, the “war on terror” and poverty -- which I have briefly detailed, there is a fourth evil to be circumvented: what the sociologists call “structural violence.” And this takes two forms. The first comes in the form of what psychiatrists term “frustration aggression.” Watch industrially raised chickens, confined to 2/3 of a square foot of cage space, artificial lighting, and a diet of drugs and GMO feedstock engage in vicious acts of cannibalism, and you will get a sense of what that is. The ghetto is a similarly sociologically confined space, and frustration and the inability to cope or escape can lead to misplaced violence or acting out against others.

The second type of violence is institutionalized violence, where, in an intentional process of social engineering, one group or class of people is taught to hate and fear another group or class. This is the process that I, employing Gregory Bateson’s insights, term schismogenesis. It is divide and rule at its most base level: Civil wars, genocide, pogroms, mob violence, etc.

And yes, the police are deeply inculcated in perpetuating institutional violence. They are trained to both hate and fear the public they lord over. And the system is not accidental, by any means. The police on the beat, the SWAT teams, the civic snipers, etc. -- these are people of rather limited intellectual abilities in understanding how the entire geopolitical system works. They are, by nature, not curious in that way -- rather, they are ordinary people who value fitting in, convention, tradition, and law and order in society. In other words, they buy into the myths of our society, its “freedom," and “liberty," and “goodness of purpose," and “rightness of heart," and “exceptionalism," lock, stock, and barrel. And they expect others to buy in as well in order to be “good" patriotic Americans. After all, “if you are not with us, you are against us," as George Bush Jr. explained in one of his few elegantly articulate formulations. Therefore, the police are vulnerable to being easily propagandized.

They are then compartmentalized in knowledge, grouped into subgroups, and endlessly trained and drilled in hate and fear of the official "enemy" of the day, and then trained in techniques of the highest level of violence in thwarting the alleged goals of these enemies. Police no longer make use of bobby clubs, they are now given the elite weapons of war that our soldiers use in combat. They watch movies to see how these weapons are employed. And to seal the deal, they are given special classes, trainings and drills from the same “specialists" on “terror” that train our military because the American way of subversion always includes making people feel special. Now, they are not dumb cops anymore, they are well trained, and they are told that they are our elite guard protecting the “homeland” from those who hate our ways of freedom.

They are also economically privileged compared to the people of places like Ferguson. Police have unions, and theirs are probably the only labor unions in America today not under constant attack from the ruling class. So they get generous overtime, benefits, can buy houses and raise kids in safety outside of the leviathan that I am describing. They also, to a certain extent, benefit from the inequalities of society. So they look down on those they are policing and look up to their betters: The wealthy and those who are experts in the “threats facing society today.” Go to a real wealthy neighborhood, and the cops don’t have that same smug attitude. They address you as “Sir” or Ma’am.” If they have to pull you over for having a headlight out, they can be downright apologetic -- after all, you may be a judge or a city councilman. They know who their betters are, and now they act like public servants, albeit a little falsely servile. This is obviously not the case in Ferguson, where the number of police stops annually is greater than the population of the town, and arrests are similarly elevated.

Finally, police on the force for any length of time must face the complete corruption of our society: They know that justice is a farce. They know who the drug dealers are, the money runners, the pimps, the bought politicians, and judges -- the whole nine yards. And they know that there is no will to change any of this. Moreover, they have no power over any of this: They can either choose to be complicit in the corrupt system, or keep to themselves and hope for the best not to be set up one day as a patsy.

Thus, police in our society live in a state of total cognitive dissonance, what one might call an ethical double-bind. They are forced to see that on one hand, we are supposedly the greatest society ever; on the other hand, life is hopelessly brutal and corrupt. They must believe in, or at least publicly pay lip service, to the myths they are sworn to uphold: the wars on drugs and terror; the promise of progress and a quasi-religious kind of civic and moral redemption -- that if you just keep your nose clean and work hard, you can escape the poverty of the ghetto they police; and that we live in a just society in which they are the protectors of that justice. Meanwhile, they like everyone else in America, watches as the whole system is rapidly breaking down. They know that there are no real jobs for the people of Ferguson, and that, like in the movie, “TheTruman Show,” the residents cannot escape the set.

This double bind is of course unresolvable. So police themselves, under tremendous internal strain, resort to the same frustration-aggression, and unexpected violent lashing out, in order to cope.

Under these conditions, the only power police have is over the people in the community they are supposed to serve. And the only way they can demonstrate that power is by acting out brutally and violently.

Sociologists and criminologists know that the methods police are taught and trained in don’t work, just as economists know that “trickle down” really means “flow up.” Gentler methods involving community involvement, restorative justice, etc. have all been worked out and proved to work. But the new methods actually do work, only for different purposes and to different ends: they frighten and cower populations, they allow one group to dominate another, they isolate people and pit them against each other in fruitless zero-sum games, and they destroy human lives, values, and charitableness. In sum, they control people, and allow them to be selectively harvested for profit, like a slowly maturing cash crop in the sweltering St. Louis summer heat.

And, community policing, bad as it is these days, does not even compare to the violence perpetrated by the new elite SWAT teams. These groups are as brutal as the teams used to clear houses in Iraq -- and no surprise there, for they are taught the same methods: If it moves, take it out.

And that brings us back to the police. Under the conditions I have just detailed, under the impossible constraints they forced to endure, how can they not be violent, at least some of the time. And how can they, as an organized force, not be violent in a systematic manner. Perhaps not all the time, but more often than not the social forces which police work under these days force violence to be propagated down in a systematic and totalizing manner.

And it is the awareness of all that I have described that causes many commenters here to reflexively assume police lies and violence to be ubiquitous. I hope that this is more understandable now. It is not a judgment of an individual’s (the cop who shot Michael Brown) -- who one obviously doesn’t know well -- moral value, rather it is an holistic appraisal of the social and material conditions of our society today, in which the American underclass, and their handlers, seek to operate.

Therefore, as for the police themselves, yes, perhaps out of the many hundreds of cases a year like this of police murder, corruption, assault, brutality, cover-up, bribery, theft, etc., there are possibly a few that were accidental, unintentional, or even false charges. If that were to be the case -- which appears practically impossible -- the facts would get out -- unless the cop were being intentionally set up. But, to focus on this petty detail, and insist upon its importance to the bigger picture, is to miss that bigger picture altogether. I hope we can all see this.

Posted by b on August 20, 2014 at 10:49 UTC | Permalink | Comments (149)

Ukraine: West Point Graduate Dies in Botched Attack

The Ukrainian army and the oligarch funded right-wing "national guard" volunteers are not making the progress they claim to make.

On the ground, fighting raged unabated, with Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, asserting that Ukrainian forces had entered the town of Ilovaysk, about 11 miles east of Donetsk, the rebels’ biggest remaining stronghold in eastern Ukraine.

But that attack on Ilovaysk was repelled:

At 22:00, the “soldiers of the Donbas battalion withdrew from battle near Ilovaisk,” the press release stated. Four soldiers of the battalion were killed by militants and the battalion commander Semen Semenchenko was wounded.

One of the dead Donbas fighters was a U.S. citizen:

An American has reportedly become the first foreign casualty on the Ukrainian side of the military conflict against Russian mercenaries and Kremlin-backed forces in eastern Ukraine.

Identified only under his nom de guerre of "Franko", he reportedly died from heavy artillery fire while trying to free the town of Ilovaisk in Donetsk Oblast on Aug. 19 while serving in the volunteer Donbas Battalion, Liviy Bereg photographer Maks Levin stated on Facebook, citing another photographer, Maks Dondiuk, who has embedded himself in various Ukrainian service units.
...
“There is no way for them to get out of Ilovask,” wrote Levin citing his colleague. He added that two other volunteer battalions, Azov and Dnipro, managed to leave the area earlier in the day.

Three battalions, a brigade equivalent, was repelled by heavy artillery fire from the insurgency side.

The U.S. citizen who died was one Mark Paslavsky

Mark Paslavsky aka @BSpringnote, 55. American who got Ukr citizenship so he could fight in Donbas battlion KIA today pic.twitter.com/EqAyvpFzKg

Paslavski was once interviewed by Vice and he claimed to have once served in a "professional military". This seems to confirm the claim:

.@WestPoint_USMA cc @USArmy: class of 1981 West Point graduate Mark Paslavsky has been #KIA in #Ukraine fighting against #Russia's invasion.

There seems to be little other information available about Paslavski. One wonders what his real name was and how a West Point graduate ended up, at the age of 55, dying in a botched militia attack in east Ukraine.

Posted by b on August 20, 2014 at 9:52 UTC | Permalink | Comments (71)

August 19, 2014

The Coup Announcement In Afghanistan

This in the New York Times reads like an early announcement of a democratic pro-U.S. coup in Afghanistan:

A coterie of powerful Afghan government ministers and officials with strong ties to the security forces are threatening to seize power if an election impasse that has paralyzed the country is not resolved soon.
...
After weeks of quietly discussing the prospect of imposing a temporary government, officials within the Karzai government said the best way out of a crisis that had emboldened the Taliban, weakened an already struggling economy and left many here deeply pessimistic about the country’s democratic future, might well be some form of interim government, most likely run by a committee.
...
It often happens that when power is seized during a political crisis, as in Thailand or Egypt, those taking charge argue that the step is essential to restore order and protect democracy in the long run. That is also the case here, where such a move is being advertised as a last resort to save democracy. It could also effectively discard the results of a presidential runoff election that, until it was derailed by allegations of fraud, had been promoted as a historic event in a country that never had a democratic transfer of power.

Both presidential candidates in Afghanistan, the northern alliance affiliated Abdullah Abdullah and the Pashtu candidate Ashraf Ghani had bribed whoever they could to win the election. But in the end they can not decided who had bribed more and thereby won. The length of the impasse does not matter as long as the country's bureaucracy keeps functioning, but there is one deadline that is threatened by it. This deadline may very well be the reason why this coup is intended. The question is again cui bono?

The officials said they believed they would have the backing of Afghanistan’s army, police and intelligence corps.
...
A new government is needed soon if there is to be any chance of securing deals to keep American and European troops here after the end of the year, some Afghan officials said.
...
Three senior Afghan officials said they needed a government in place by mid-September to ensure security agreements needed to keep some United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan beyond the end of the year.

Secretary of State Kerry tried twice to arrange for some badly defined national unity government in Kabul. Such a government is the cure-all solution introduced wherever the U.S. wants to stay in control. But the two candidates and the interests they represent can not agree on the terms. The security forces, depending on U.S. largess, will try their best to secure their future pay by getting the Status of Force Agreement with the U.S. signed.

As President Karzai does not want such an agreement and no new government is in sight the security forces are tempted to install their own new government. As such is the only possibility for the U.S. to keep its foothold in Afghanistan we will likely see any coup and the resulting government, like in Egypt, be recognized as "restoring democracy".

But such an arrangement will only encourage more resistance from the Taliban and other anti-government forces. The new "take no prisoners" policy of the corrupt government security forces will also increase the Taliban's support. As long as the interests of the people represented by the Taliban - and their demand for all foreign forces to leave - are not met, there will be no peace for the country.

Posted by b on August 19, 2014 at 12:45 UTC | Permalink | Comments (32)

August 18, 2014

Ferguson - Sending In The Bigger Guns

And so it begins?

National Guard called in after second night of chaos in Ferguson, Missouri

Missouri's governor said on Monday he would send the National Guard into the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson to restore calm after authorities forcibly dispersed a crowd protesting last week's fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen by police.
...
At around dusk on Sunday, hundreds of protesters in Ferguson including families with young children fled to safety after police wearing gas masks and body armor fired tear gas and smoke canisters to scatter them hours ahead of the curfew.

"The smoke bombs were completely unprovoked," said Anthony Ellis, 45. "It (the protest) was led by kids on bikes. Next you know they're saying, 'Go home, Go home!'"

The Missouri Highway Patrol said "aggressors" were trying to infiltrate a law enforcement command post and that armored vehicles were deployed to ensure public safety.

According to Billmon's research the Missouri National Guard has some supremacists/neo-nazi problems. One wonders how diverse such a force is. It has some Military Police battalions all of which have experience with handling "sandniggers" in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The National Guard will surely find this or that "aggressor" in Ferguson to justify a further escalation.

One hopes that other cities will join in with the protests in Ferguson and protest against what even conservatives describe as much too militarized and aggressive use of force against citizens prevalent in the United States.

Posted by b on August 18, 2014 at 14:27 UTC | Permalink | Comments (172)

August 16, 2014

Open Thread 2014-18

(Travelling ...)

News & views ..

Posted by b on August 16, 2014 at 18:07 UTC | Permalink | Comments (209)

August 15, 2014

The Mysterious Destroyed "Russian Armored Vehicles"

Yesterday the Guardian's Shaun Walker claimed to have seen Russian military vehicle crossing the Russian border into Ukraine. I wrote elsewhere that I am skeptical of that claim:

I'd be very careful in believing the stuff Shaun Walker writes. He was with the [aid-]convoy yesterday and the convoy is halted some 20-30 kilometer away from the border. How could he have observed the (not really well defined) border from there?

Said differently: The Guardian and Shaun Walker have certainly not be neutral in their reporting and  publishing about the Ukraine conflict. There is no reason for the Russian army to invade Ukraine especially not in near an aid-convoy which is covered by dozens of "western" journalists.

But this afternoon the Ukrainian government claimed that its troops overnight had destroyed a some Russian vehicles:

Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, told David Cameron in a phone call on Friday that a column of Russian armoured vehicles had been destroyed.

Now everyone in the media is jumping from the Shaun Walker report to the destroyed "Russian armored vehicle" to claim that it was a Russian military convoy that was attacked and destroyed within Ukraine.

But all armored vehicles in Ukraine are "Russian armored vehicles" as they all were constructed during the Soviet times. All the 123 tanks and APC destroyed in this conflict, most of them from the Ukrainian army, were "Russian armored vehicles". The insurgents use such vehicles as does the Ukrainian army. So even if Poroshenko's claim is true, and there was no proof presented for it at all, there is actually nothing factual that lets one connect "Russian armored vehicles" to actual Russian army vehicles.

The Russian government asserts that no Russian army vehicles have entered Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has claimed for several month that a Russian invasion is imminent or already occurring and a lot of other nonsense. Unless there is additional evidence that actual Russian army vehicles really entered Ukraine I will rather believe the Russian government.

Posted by b on August 15, 2014 at 18:15 UTC | Permalink | Comments (126)

August 14, 2014

Obama Lies - There Never Was A "Siege Of Mount Sinjar"

Obama today:

We broke the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar,” Obama said.

"We do not expect there to be an additional operation to evacuate people off the mountain, and it's unlikely we'll need to continue humanitarian air drops on the mountain," Obama continued.

This "broke the siege" statement is a lie. There never was a "siege" on the Sinjar mountain range. The Yazidi who had fled there were quickly welcomed and evacuated to Syria by the Kurdish PKK and YPG forces. There are now some 15,000 of Yazidis in the Kurdish part of Syria. Some thousand refugees may still be in the mountains but the nomadic shepherds who live there will likely help them along.

The PKK was already there doing the job three days before the first U.S. action took place.

On August 6 GulfNews reported:

“The PKK fighters have reached the Jabal Sinjar area, where they are protecting the Sinjaris from attacks” by militants, Penjweny said.

But another PUK official warned it could be some time before the civilians can be rescued.

“The PKK is working to open a safe passage for the displaced; it is not easy and it will require days,” Harem Kamal Agha said.

Here is video uploaded August 8 headlined "YPG and PKK rescue people from Sinjar" which shows part of the evacuation. Notice the tanker trucks with water and/or gasoline to keep the refugees going.

Herbert Maddison tweeted pictures from the area:

#HPG [#PKK] guerrilla in mount #Shingal / #Sinjar vicinity with trapped Ezidis, #Kurdistan #Iraq August 9, 2014

The PKK did even more than just rescue the Yazidis:

60 PKK guerrillas arrived to Lalesh, the sacred place of #Yazidis, in order to defend pic.twitter.com/oJ8qEp1wnM #ISIS #ISIL #Kurdistan

The only reason Obama sent troops and jets to the area was to protect the city of Erbil with its CIA station, the international airport and the local headquarters of various "western" oil companies.

When U.S. jets started bombing a few ISIS positions near to Erbil most Yazidis were already safe and on their way out of the mountains. The U.S. announced its first airstrikes on Friday the 8th while the PKK had started its operation to help the Yazidis on Tuesday the 5th. There was never a blockade or a siege and always a safe way out towards Syria which the refugees were helped along by the PKK.

But that good deed was done by the socialist from the PKK and YPG. The U.S. State Department officially designates the PKK as a "terrorist group" for its fight against the Turkish state. Unlike the pesh merga under the Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani these people know how to fight and have the discipline and training to achieve successes against ISIS and other Jihadi organizations.

But that is a story Obama does not want to tell. He needs an excuse to reintroduce U.S. forces back into Iraq, to secure the oil U.S. companies are pumping from there and to pressure for regime change in Baghdad. The Sinjar mountain "siege" was an easy excuse. Nearly as good as the sinking of the Maine and the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Posted by b on August 14, 2014 at 18:07 UTC | Permalink | Comments (88)