The Catholic Saint Who Was a Muslim Slayer – Saint Louis King of France

St Louis

(1243 – King Louis IX of France Ordered the Burning of 12,000 Jewish Talmuds)

Thirteenth Century Holy Warrior King Louis of France

In 1296 the deceased former head of the French state became a recognized saint of the Catholic Church. King Louis the Ninth said he was inspired in all of his actions as king by his Christian zeal.

He fought in wars against Islam, and he fought in France against blasphemy and Jewish people.  Blasphemy, doubting the teachings of the Catholic Church, was severely punished by Saint Louis government.  The punishments for those who thought differently from Saint Louis and the Church was mutilation of the tongue and lips.

Saint Louis opposed the payment of interest on money loans as something forbidden by the Bible.  He also outlawed gambling and prostitution.  He spent great sums of money for ‘relics’ of Christ and built a special church to hold them – the Sainte-Chapelle.

Saint Lois expanded the scope of the Religious Police, the Inquisition, to target Jewish people and ordered the burning of collections of Jewish books including The Talmud.

Saint Louis took up arms against Muslims to bring Christianity back to the Middle East and North Africa.  He died fighting against Islam in North Africa.

Much of what is known of Louis’s life comes from Jean de Joinville‘s famous Life of Saint Louis.  Joinville was a close friend, confidant, and counselor to the king, and also participated as a witness in the papal inquest into Louis’ life that ended with his canonization in 1297 by Pope Boniface VIII.  The popes in Rome had encouraged holy wars against the Islamic empire in the Middle East and North Africa and King Louis heeded the call.

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Louis was born in 1214 to a Castilian mother and a Frankish father. Louis was 12 years old when his father died in 1226. He was crowned king within the month at Reims cathedral. Because of Louis’s youth, his mother, Blanche of Castile,  ruled France as regent during his minority.  His mother was a fanatical Christian.

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(Blanche of Castile.)

Louis’ mother had him trained him to be a ruthless leader and a intolerant Christian. She used to say:

I love you, my dear son, as much as a mother can love her child; but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should ever commit a mortal sin.

No date is known for the beginning of Louis’s personal rule. His contemporaries viewed his reign as co-rule between the king and his mother, though historians generally view the year 1234 as the year in which Louis began ruling personally, with his mother assuming a more advisory role.  She continued to have a strong influence on the king until her death in 1252.

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(Margaret of Provence)

In 1234, Louis married Margaret of Provence. The new queen’s religious zeal made her a well suited partner for the king. He enjoyed her company, and was pleased to show her the many public works he was making in Paris, both for its defense and for its health. They enjoyed riding together, reading, and listening to music. This attention raised a certain amount of jealousy in his mother, who tried to keep them apart as much as she could.  They had eleven children, five sons and six daughters. This line continued in power in France for five hundred years. In 1793, as the guillotine fell on King Louis XVI,  Abbe Edgeworth said: “Son of Saint Louis, ascend to Heaven!”

Saint Louis publicized his acts of charity.   Soldiers rounded up beggars who were fed from his table, he ate their leavings, washed their feet, ministered to the wants of the lepers, and daily fed over one hundred poor. He founded many hospitals and houses: the House of the Filles-Dieu for reformed prostitutes; the Quinze-Vingt for 300 blind men, hospitals at Pontoise, Vernon, Compiégne.[25]

St. Louis installed a group of the Trinitarian Order of Catholic clergy in his château of Fontainebleau. He chose Trinitarians as his chaplains, and was accompanied by them on his crusades. In his spiritual testament he wrote: “My dearest son, you should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you would allow yourself to commit a mortal sin.” Basically saying “Follow church rules.”  At the time the clergy were like a second government.

Saint Louis bought “the Crown of Thorns” supposedly worn by Jesus and other holy relics from the Eastern Emperor at Constantinople. He sent two Dominican friars to bring these sacred objects to France, and, attended by an impressive train, he met them at Sens on their return. To house the relics, he built on the island in the Seine named for him, the shrine of Sainte-Chapelle, one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic architecture in existence. Since the French Revolution it stands empty of its treasure.

The Sainte Chapelle, a perfect example of the Rayonnant style of Gothic architecture, was erected as a shrine for the Crown of Thorns and a supposed fragment of the True Cross, phony relics of the time of Jesus.  Louis purchased these in 123941 from Emperor Baldwin II of the Latin Empire of Constantinople, for the exorbitant sum of 135,000 livres (the chapel, on the other hand, cost only 60,000 livres to build). This purchase should be understood in the context of the extreme religious fervor that existed in Europe in the 13th century. The purchase contributed greatly to reinforcing the central position of the king of France in western Christendom, as well as to increasing the renown of Paris, then the largest city of western Europe. During a time when cities and rulers vied for relics, trying to increase their reputation and fame, Louis IX had succeeded in securing the most prized of all relics in his capital. The purchase was thus not only an act of devotion, but also a political gesture: the French monarchy was trying to establish the kingdom of France as the “new Jerusalem.”

Saint Louis loved sermons, heard two Masses daily, and was surrounded, even while traveling, with priests chanting the hours. He was said to be most happy in the company of priests talking about the Christian religion and God.

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His friend and biographer, the Sieur de Joinville,  who accompanied him on his first crusade to the Holy Land, relates an anecdote to illustrate how religious the king was.

“What is God?”King Louis once asked him.

Joinville replied, “Sire, it is that which is so good that there can be nothing better.”

“Well,” said the King, “now tell me, would You rather be a leper or commit a mortal sin?”

The spectacle of the wretched lepers who wandered along the highways of medieval Europe might well have prompted a sensitive conscience to ask such a question.

“I would rather commit thirty mortal sins,” answered Joinville, in all candor, “than be a leper.”

Louis expostulated with him earnestly for making such a reply.

“When a man dies,” he said, “he is healed of leprosy in his body; but when a man who has committed a mortal sin dies he cannot know of a certainty that he has in his lifetime repented in such sort that God has forgiven him; wherefore he must stand in great fear lest that leprosy of sin last as long as God is in Paradise.”[1]

The Saint Burned Jewish Books

In 1243, in Paris, at the urging of Pope Gregory IX, Saint Louis ordered the burning  of some 12,000 manuscript copies of the Talmud and other Jewish books. 

In the 1230s, Nicholas Donin, a Jewish convert to Christianity, translated the Talmud, the collection of Jewish writings on religion and the Jewish faith.

Donin then pressed 35 charges of anti-Christian hate speech in the Talmud to Pope Gregory IX by quoting a series of detailed anti-Christian passages about Jesus, Mary or Christianity.

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(Pope Gregory IX )

There is a Talmudic passage, for example, where Jesus of Nazareth is sent to Hell to be boiled in excrement for eternity. Donin also pointed out passages of the Talmud that permits Jews to kill non-Jews, because non-Jews are not fully human in God’s eyes. Gentiles were put on Earth to serve Jewish people according to several sections of the Talmud.

The Catholic Church encouraged Jewish people to convert to Christianity and rewarded intellectuals who became Christians and helped campaign against Judaism.  Donin was very ambitious and had visions of rising high in the Church. Convincing the authorities that he could prove Christianity was God’s successor to the Old Testament and ancient Jewish beliefs through the most authoritative books unique to the Jews was a sure path up the ladder to success in the Church for a Jewish convert. By winning such an argument, all the Jews would convert it was believed.  Donin hoped to use a close reading of the Talmud to show the superiority of Christ and the Church.  Jesus was the Messiah the Torah had foretold, according to Donin.

This led to the Disputation of Paris, which took place in 1240 at the court of Saint Louis, where rabbi Yechiel of Paris defended the Talmud against the accusations of the Christian convert Nicholas Donin.  Rabbeinu Yechiel made such a skillful defense that the king agreed that it was true that one could not prove Christianity through the Talmud.  The Talmud is a confusing maze of commentary by many authors with no defining thread or consistent narrative.  Nevertheless, Donin said that the Talmud was an insult to the Christianity.  Sections of the Talmud denounced Jesus Christ as a false teacher and not the Messiah his followers believed he was.

Therefore, in 1243, King Louis IX ordered the burning of 24 cartloads of priceless Hebrew manuscripts.  In the Middle Ages each book to be hand-written. The Talmud alone is, in the modern printed format, about 2,300 pages.  Scribes of that time wrote using quill pens and manufactured ink on parchment (or vellum paper that then began to be produced). The pure physical labor of sitting and writing that volume of words alone boggles the mind. The 24 cartloads amounted to some 12,000 volumes. Louis had all the copies of the Talmud he could get his hand on collected and burned them publicly

Jewish people were targeted in other ways.  When Saint Louis wanted to finance holy wars against Islam he confiscated money from anyone who loaned money with interest payments – the Jewish money lenders had their assets  seized and Jewish money lenders were then expelled from the country.  Saint Louis also ordered that all Jewish people must wear a patch of cloth on their outer clothes so that everyone in public would know they were Jewish.  Louis IX, on the other hand, was single-minded in his efforts to induce the Jews to convert.   The Jewish community in France took long to recovered after the oppression of Saint Louis. France never again became the great seat of learning or even the great seat of Jewish tradition as it was in the 11th through 13th centuries.

“Even today, the majority of Jews in France are Sephardic Jews who came from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco within the last century. It is not a scholarly or a particularly strong Jewish community. It certainly never again looked like Rashi’s community, after Saint Louis religious police burned the Talmud.”

Many European Christian countries required Jewish people to wear particular hats, or particular pieces of clothing.  The Catholic Church wanted Jewish people to be identifiable.  The rules were varied from place to place and sometimes not strictly enforced.  But Saint Louis changed that in France.  On June 19, 1269 Louis IX issued a general edict for the whole of France that Jewish people must wear a cloth circular badge on the breast above the heart.

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(Medieval Jewish Clothing)

This edict was endorsed by the Church councils of Pont-Audemer (1279), and Nîmes (1284).  Some regulations also required that a second sign should be worn on the back. At times, it was placed on the Jewish person’s hat, or at the level of the belt. The badge was yellow in color, or of two shades, white and red. Wearing it was compulsory from the age of thirteen, according to some authorities.  Saint Louis ordered that any Jew found without the badge had to give his clothes to the person who had denounced the Jewish person.  In cases of a second offense a severe fine was imposed.  Saint Louis received government funds each year as his tax collectors went to Jewish communities to sell the state issued badges every adult Jewish person had to wear.

(The Jewish Badge Required by Saint Louis IX)

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Holy Warrior Saint

In the south of France a religiously independent movement was crushed by a Crusade when Saint Louis was fifteen years old while his mother was the effective ruler of the country.

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The Albigensian Crusade taught Saint Louis that religious differences where settled by warfare.   Religious opponents of the king could be attacked and killed and their property taken.

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Saint Louis took up arms against Islam during two crusades, in his mid-30s in 1248 (Seventh Crusade), and then again in his mid-50s in 1270 (Eighth Crusade).

In 1248 Louis assembled forces for an attack on the Islamic Middle East.  For six years he was in Egypt.  After crossing the Mediterranean the Christian invaders captured the port of Damietta, Egypt in 1249.  The Islamic defenders had simply retreated with out putting up a fight for the small port on one of the many outlets of the Nile to the Mediterranean.  The French invaders did not know much about Egypt or how to deal with the hot climate and local environment.  The upper class knights and lords and barons were used to pushing around unarmed peasants and had difficulty in the rough life of a military camp in a strange land.  The religiously trained leaders had no ideas about basic sanitation or what microorganisms might be in the local water.  Soldiers began to get sick with diseases that were not common in the colder climate of Europe.

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Saint Louis IX thought that he could capture the Egyptian capital city of Cairo.  Egypt was a populous Islamic state and capturing the country for Christianity would provide an opening to taking Jerusalem and the Holy Land of Christ’s time.  The local Egyptian Muslim ruler was sick and dying and other Islamic powers were facing the Mongols coming from the east toward Baghdad.  The Egyptian ruler died and his wife became effective queen and organized effective defenses against the crusader army.  The Nile waters were rising and Louis forces simply did not know how to operate on the terrain.

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The Battle of Al Mansurah was fought from February 8 to February 11, 1250, between Crusaders led by Louis IX, King of France against the local Muslim forces of Egypt.  The Crusaders advanced into a town that had emptied and found themselves trapped inside by Egyptian fighters.  Numerous soldiers died including leading knights.  The crusaders eventually made a retreat back towards their base on the shore.

Egyptians had transported light ships overland and blocked the Crusaders from reinforcements or effective retreat.  Egyptians employed the burning chemical weapon called ‘Greek fire’ to burn Crusader ships.  The invaders supply ships were captured. The Crusaders fought their way back toward their base with heavy losses.  The besieged Crusaders soon began suffering from famine and disease. Some Crusaders surrendered to the Muslim forces and faced a life of slavery.

Despite being overwhelmed and ultimately defeated, King Louis IX tried to negotiate with the Egyptians, offering the surrender of the Egyptian port of Damietta in exchange for Jerusalem and a few towns on the Syrian coast. The Egyptians rejected the offer, and the Crusaders retreated to Damietta under cover of darkness on April 5, followed closely by the Muslim forces. At the subsequent Battle of Fariskur, the last major battle of the Seventh Crusade, the Crusader forces were annihilated and King Louis IX was captured on April 6, 1250.

 

Meanwhile, the Crusaders were circulating false information in Europe, claiming that King Louis IX defeated the Sultan of Egypt in a great battle, and Cairo had been betrayed into Louis’s hands.[23][24] Later, when the news of Louis IX’s capture and the French defeat reached France, the Shepherds’ Crusade movement occurred in France.[25]

According to medieval Muslim historians, 15,000 to 30,000 French fell on the battlefield and thousands were taken prisoners.[26] Louis IX of France was captured, chained and confined in the house of Ibrahim Ibn Lokman, the royal chancellor, and under the guard of a eunuch slave named Sobih al-Moazami.[27] The king’s brothers, Charles d’Anjou and Alphonse de Poitiers, were taken prisoner at the same time, and were carried to the same house with other French nobles.  A camp was set up outside the town to shelter the rest of the prisoners. Louis IX was ransomed for 400,000 dinars, or livres (at the time France’s annual revenue was only about 1,250,000 livres tournois) . After pledging not to return to Egypt, Louis surrendered Damietta and left for Acre with his brothers and 12,000 war prisoners whom the Egyptians agreed to release.[28]

The battle of Al Mansurah was a source of inspiration for Islamic writers and poets of that time. One of the satiric poems ended with the following verses: “If they (the Franks) decide to return to take revenge or to commit a wicked deed, tell them :The house of Ibn Lokman is intact, the chains still there as well as the eunuch Sobih“. —from stanza by Jamal ad-Din ibn Matruh. [29]

The name of Al Mansurah (Arabic: “the Victorious”) that dates from an earlier period[30] was consolidated after this battle. The city still holds the name of Al Mansurah today, as the capital of the Egyptian governorate, Daqahlia. The National Day of Daqahlia Governorate (capital Al Mansurah) on February 8, marks the anniversary of the defeat of Saint Louis IX in 1250. The house of Ibn Lokman, which is now the only museum in Al Mansurah, is open to the public and houses articles that used to belong to the French monarch, including his personal thirteenth century grooming items.

For the next four years King Louis stayed in the Crusader States around Jerusalem.  Funds from France were used to build the Crusader states.  In 1254 King Louis and what was left of his crusader army returned to France.

Saint Louis’ Last Crusade

After ruling in France burning Jewish books and making Jewish people wear badges Saint Louis wanted to take the fight for a Christian supremacy to a Muslim ruled country right across the Mediterranean  Sea from France – Tunisia.

After landing a large force outside the city of Tunis the crusaders began to suffer from dysentery.  Great numbers became sick and the decision was made to retreat back across the sea.  A treaty that was favorable to the Christian ruler of Sicily was negotiated and Islamic rule was secured in North Africa and Tunisia.

The crusade is considered a failure after Saint Louis died shortly after arriving on the shores of Tunisia, with his disease-ridden army dispersing back to Europe shortly afterwards.  In order to create holy ‘relics’ Louis body was boiled so the bones could be retrieved and sent to various churches to venerate as a physical connection to the dead king and soon to be saint.  While ghoulish by today’s standards, the transportation of the body back to Europe would not have been healthy in 1270.

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(The Death of King Louis IX during the siege of Tunis)

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Louis_IX_of_France

A portrait of St. Louis hangs in the chamber of the United States House of Representatives.

Saint Louis is also portrayed on a frieze depicting a timeline of important lawgivers throughout world history in the Courtroom at the Supreme Court of the United States.

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https://outline.com/rSrY3U

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Links

https://www.jewishhistory.org/the-burning-of-the-talmud/

http://www.ewtn.com/library/mary/louis.htm

The French Monarchy and the Jews
From Philip Augustus to the Last Capetians

William Chester Jordan – http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/13748.html

http://crusades.wikia.com/wiki/Louis_IX_of_France

http://crusades.wikia.com/wiki/Louis_IX_of_France

https://www.jstor.org/stable/1455330?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Radical Liberal ‘ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser Calls For Confronting Republicans ‘Where They Sleep’ – 30 Sept 2018

ThinkProgress is a radical liberal pro-Democrat organization.  The ‘justice editor’ Ian Millhiser of Florida has called for ‘confronting’ Republicans who don’t vote with Democrats ‘where they sleep.’  This invitation to protest at Republican’s homes was published on Twitter.  Ian 00Ian 01Ian 02Ian 03Ian 04Ian 05Ian 06Ian 07Ian 08Ian 09

https://thinkprogress.org/

The Social and Political Costs of the Financial Crisis, 10 Years Later – by Gautam Mukunda – 25 Sept 2018

Wall Street Uber Alles

It is hard to overstate the sheer economic cost of the 2008 financial crisis. The combination of increased expenditures and decreased revenues resulting from the crisis from 2008 to 2010 is likely to cost the United States government well over $2 trillion, more than twice the cost of the 17-year-long war in Afghanistan. Broader measures are even more damning. Measured by decrease in per capita United States GDP compared to the pre-crisis trend, by 2016 the crisis had cost the country 15% of GDP, or $4.6 trillion. Such numbers are too vast to be understood in any meaningful way, but one on a smaller scale may be even more powerful. A 2018 study by the Federal Reserve Board found that the crisis cost every single American approximately $70,000. Just in dollar terms, the crisis was arguably the most significant event of the 21st century so far, and the largest single economic downturn since the Great Depression. If the only effects of the financial crisis were economic, it would still be worth revisiting 10 years later.

But the most important effects of the financial crisis may be political and social, not economic. The years after the crisis saw sharp increases in political polarization and the rise of populist movements on both the left and right in Europe and the U.S., culminating in Brexit in the UK and the election of Donald Trump here — by some measures the country’s most polarizing president ever. Such increases in political divides are a predictable response to financial crises across eras and countries. Even the economic recovery experienced by the U.S. and, to a lesser extent, Britain, is not enough to neutralize the long-term political and social effects of the collapse.

The severity of the crisis was such that probably no government response could have eliminated these political and social consequences; when the economy collapses, people will suffer, and they will blame the people in charge. In my opinion, the way that the Bush and Obama administrations chose to respond to the crisis greatly exacerbated the change in American political culture produced by the crisis.

Fundamentally, the American (and world) economy was crippled by the actions of the leaders of the American financial sector, and the U.S. government chose to “punish” those leaders by giving them enormous sums of money through bailouts. This may have been the right decision. It may have been necessary to prevent a second Great Depression. It might even have been economically optimal, in the sense that it prevented an even worse outcome at the lowest possible cost (I do not believe this, but let’s assume it is true for the sake of argument). It nonetheless strikes most Americans as fundamentally unjust.

Justice is generally conceived of in one of two ways. The first, and more common, one is that justice is fairness. In a fair world, good behavior is rewarded and bad acts (usually meaning acts that contravene generally accepted norms) are punished. Economists and people with significant training in economics, however, often conceive of justice as efficiency — that is, the just outcome is the one that maximizes welfare. Although this is how economists often see it, most people have a very different perspective. Psychology experiments show that most people — and even monkeys! — believe that justice is fairness, and believe it so strongly that they will pay significant costs to protest unfair outcomes. People given the chance to punish someone who has betrayed them in a game, for example, will generally take it even if doing so leaves them worse off. They explicitly choose fairness over efficiency.

The arguments in favor of the government’s response to the financial crisis — ranging from TARP, to the nationalization of AIG, to allowing bailed-out banks to continue to pay bonuses to their employees — all hinged on the logic of justice as the rescue of the American economy at the lowest possible financial cost. These arguments, however, entirely ignore the powerful and far more common belief that justice is fairness. Efficiency may have required rewarding people who had acted badly and punishing the blameless — but that did not make it fair.

One way to highlight the scale of this unfairness is to look at the contrast between how bailed-out banks and automotive companies were handled. When the government rescued major American banks, it did not fire even one of their CEOs. The bailouts did not prevent the banks from generously paying their executives, and paying dividends to shareholders, rather than retaining capital to increase stability. When the government bailed out AIG, it did not impose a single penny of loss on any of AIG’s creditors. If you were a player in the American financial system, the government did everything possible to make sure that you did not suffer consequences from the crash your industry had caused.

When GM and Chrysler were bailed out, on the other hand, their CEOs were fired and their unionized workforces were forced to accept substantial pay cuts, even though they had nothing to do with the causes of the crisis. Each individual decision may, in some sense, have been the right one when measured purely in terms of economic efficiency. In aggregate, however, they gave the appearance of a government willing to spare no expense to shelter Wall Street from the consequences of its own mistakes, while largely unwilling to make similar efforts for others.

Perhaps even worse was the extent to which the government focused its efforts on stabilizing the financial sector instead of directly aiding most Americans. This was best symbolized by former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s approach to the response to the financial crisis. He explained, for example, why the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which was meant to help Americans who were facing eviction because they were unable to pay their mortgages, had done little, because its real purpose was to “foam the runway” for banks that had made the loans — that is, he saw it as a program meant to help banks, not the customers to whom they had made loans, often under predatory terms.

Even if we accept the argument that focusing almost entirely on the health of the financial sector was the best way to handle the crisis, this approach creates a series of problems. It largely removes any pressure on the sector to permanently change the behaviors that led to the crisis. Even worse, though, it corroded the bonds of trust required for the functioning of democracy.

It’s entirely reasonable that many voters would lose trust in the governing elite. And when that trust is broken, democratic populations will turn to politicians who promise to overturn that elite, whether it’s Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Boris Johnson, or Nigel Farage. Populist movements often turn to outsiders to lead them. The problem with voting for complete outsiders, however, is that they don’t have a track record. You don’t know what they really believe. And they don’t always know how to pull the levers of power. Once in office, they can turn on you and pursue policies very different from the ones they promised, they can be manipulated by insiders, or they can simply be ineffective in trying to enact their agenda. The result is either more of the same or a government that is so discombobulated that it cannot function.

We can see different versions of this unfolding now in both the U.S. and UK. In the UK, within days of winning the vote to leave the EU, leading Brexiters started walking back key campaign promises to redirect EU funding toward Britain’s national health services, cut immigration, and harden Britain’s borders. Now, two years after the vote, the government has been unable to cobble together a deal to actually leave the EU. The result has been a government frozen in inaction, constant threats to PM Teresa May’s authority, the resignation of key officials, and continued confusion about what to do next.

In the U.S., Donald Trump has been either unable or unwilling to aggressively pursue the populist policies he promised during the campaign, with the exception of cutting back on refugee admissions and, to some extent, imposing tariffs on foreign trade. During his campaign, Trump promised to raise taxes on the rich and repeatedly attacked Goldman Sachs (and attacked his opponent for giving paid speeches to them). Once in office, he has cut taxes on the wealthy, filled his administration with Goldman alums, and sought to limit the power of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — in essence, rewarding the financial elites whose failure helped lead to his election.

The task facing May’s and Trump’s successors is simple. He or she, Democrat or Republican, Labour or Tory, must break this cycle. He or she will have to have both the will and the skill to address major concerns about the economy, ranging from stagnating median income to increasing inequality to the fundamental economic insecurity of most people. Beyond that, however, the two successors must govern in a way that is seen to be just. That means, for example, demonstrating that those who break the law will be punished, even if they are wealthy and powerful. A leader seeking to assuage these sorts of concerns, for example, might seek to emphasize white-collar crime, which is still too often ignored by prosecutors, and for which the overall number of prosecutions in the U.S. is at a 20-year low. Whatever their approach, future leaders should be guided by the idea that has always underpinned democratic societies — justice is about much more than economic efficiency. It fundamentally also requires fairness.


Gautam Mukunda is a Research Fellow at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School. Previously, he was on the faculty of Harvard Business School, and he received his PhD from MIT in Political Science. He is the author of Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter.

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Egypt Sends Actress to Jail for Spreading ‘Fake News’ Over Sexual Harassment – By Jared Malsin – 29 Sept 2018

Amal Fathy 01

CAIRO—A woman has been sentenced in Egypt to two years in prison for allegedly spreading fake news after she posted a video on Facebook decrying her experience of sexual harassment in the country.

People walk by a poster of Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for the upcoming presidential election, in Cairo

The sentencing of actress Amal Fathy comes as Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi has given free rein to the country’s police and judiciary to clamp down on women who complain of sexual assault and harassment and women’s activist groups. The crackdown on women and feminist organizations is part of a broader government assault on civil society, dissidents, and anyone perceived as tarnishing the country’s image.

Ms. Fathy was arrested in a raid on her home in May after she published a video on her personal Facebook page where she talked about her experience of sexual harassment in a Cairo bank.

Cairo’s Maadi Misdemeanor Court sentenced Ms. Fathy to a year in prison on a charge of publishing what it called “fake news” with the intent of toppling the Egyptian regime, and to a second year in prison for possession of “indecent material,” a reference to the video itself. She was also fined 10,000 Egyptian pounds (about $560).

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“To me, this is a clearance toward harassers that they can freely harass women,” said Mohamed Lotfy, Ms. Fathy’s husband.

“The message to women or victims of harassment is, ‘Shut up your mouth or we will jail you,” said Mr. Lotfy, who works as a human rights defender, speaking outside the courthouse.

Ms. Fathy is expected to appeal her sentence.

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A second woman, a Lebanese tourist named Mona Mazbouh, was arrested in June after complaining of about sexual harassment during a visit to Egypt. She was initially sentenced in July to eight years in prison on charges of spreading rumors that could “undermine society” and defaming religion. She was freed after that sentence was overturned earlier in September.

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The arrests contributed to what Egyptian women have described as a chilling effect on public complaints of sexual harassment.

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Women’s rights advocates and specialists working with survivors of sexual trauma say they have faced detention and questioning by security forces over their work.

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President Sisi vowed to end sexual assault after a woman was attacked by a crowd of men celebrating his inauguration in 2014. A widely spread video shows a woman wearing only a black shirt, surrounded by a group of men who appear to be ripping off her clothes and beating her. She has enormous bruises on the lower half of her body, which is completely naked. At the end of the two-minute video she is carried, bloody and bruised, to apparent safety in a vehicle. The video went viral on Facebook and Twitter, prompting anguished debate on the sites of activists against sexual harassment and violence in Egypt.

(Vice Video about Sexual harassment in Egypt – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZD70uTQDJ1g )

egypt assault

(Egyptian Dictator Sisi brings flowers to woman beaten and raped in the street by Sisi supporters)

Sisi sworn in as Egypt's new president

State institutions have denounced sexual harassment but many Egyptian women say they don’t feel comfortable reporting cases of assault to police, who are mostly Muslim men.

 

Wall Street Journal

Policebook’s New Propaganda Partners – US Government Approved – CIA Certified – 28 Sept 2018

Media giant Facebook recently announced (Reuters, 9/19/18) it would combat “fake news” by partnering with two propaganda organizations founded and funded by the US government: the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI). The social media platform was already working closely with the NATO-sponsored Atlantic Council think tank (FAIR.org, 5/21/18).

In a previous FAIR article (8/22/18), I noted that the “fake news” issue was being used as a pretext to attack the left and progressive news sites. Changes to Facebook’s algorithm have reduced traffic significantly for progressive outlets like Common Dreams (5/3/18), while the pages of Venezuelan government–backed TeleSur English and the independent Venezuelanalysis were shut down without warning, and only reinstated after a public outcry.

The Washington, DC–based NDI and IRI are staffed with senior Democratic and Republican politicians; the NDI is chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, while the late Sen. John McCain was the longtime IRI chair. Both groups were created in 1983 as arms of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a Cold War enterprise backed by then–CIA director William Casey (Jacobin, 3/7/18). That these two US government creations, along with a NATO offshoot like the Atlantic Council, are used by Facebook to distinguish real from fake news is effectively state censorship.

Facebook’s collaboration with the NED organizations is particularly troubling, as both have aggressively pursued regime change against leftist governments overseas. The NDI undermined the Sandinista government of Nicaragua in the 1980s, and continues to do so to this day, while the IRI claimed a key role in the 2002 coup against leftist President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, announcing that it had

served as a bridge between the nation’s political parties and all civil society groups to help Venezuelans forge a new democratic future…. We stand ready to continue our partnership with the courageous Venezuelan people.

The Reuters report (9/19/18) mentioned that Facebook was anxious to better curate what Brazilians saw on their feeds in the run-up to their presidential elections, which pits far-right Jair Bolsonaro against leftist Fernando Haddad. The US government has a long history of undermining democracy in Brazil, from supporting a coup in 1964 against the progressive Goulart administration to continually spying on leftist President Dilma Rousseff (BBC, 7/4/15) in the run-up to the parliamentary coup against her in 2016 (CounterSpin, 6/2/17).

Facebook: Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments

Soon after it partnered with the Atlantic Council, Facebook moved to delete accounts and pages connected with Iranian broadcasting channels (CNBC, 8/23/18), while The Intercept (12/30/17) reported that in 2017 the social media platform met with Israeli government officials to discuss which Palestinian voices it should censor. Ninety-five percent of Israeli government requests for deletion were granted. Thus the US government and its allies are effectively using the platform to silence dissenting opinion, both at home and on the world stage, controlling what Facebook‘s 2 billion users see and do not see.

Progressives should be deeply skeptical that these moves have anything to do with their stated objective of promoting democracy. Bloomberg Businessweek (9/29/17) reported that the far-right Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party went to Facebook headquarters for discussions with US companies about how it could use the platform for recruitment and micro-targeting in the 2017 elections. AfD tripled its previous vote share, becoming the third-largest party in Germany, the far right’s best showing since World War II.

Public trust in government is at 18 percent—an all-time low (Pew, 12/14/17). There is similar mistrust of Facebook, with only 20 percent of Americans agreeing social media sites do a good job separating fact from fiction. And yet, worldwide, Facebook is a crucial news source. Fifty-two percent of Brazilians, 61 percent of Mexicans, and 51 percent of Italians and Turks use the platform for news; 39 percent of the US gets their news from the site.

This means that, despite the fact that even its own public mistrusts it, the US government has effectively become the arbiter of what the world sees and hears, with the ability to marginalize or simply delete news from organizations or countries that do not share its opinions. This power could be used at sensitive times, like elections. This is not an idle threat. The US created an entire fake social network for Cubans that aimed to stir unrest and overthrow the Cuban government, according to the Guardian (4/3/14).

That a single corporation has such a monopoly over the flow of worldwide news is already problematic, but the increasing meshing of corporate and US government control over the means of communication is particularly worrying. All those who believe in free and open exchange of information should oppose Facebook becoming a tool of US foreign policy.

https://fair.org/home/facebooks-new-propaganda-partners/

UK: Peterloo Massacre Movie Director Says Incident Should Be Taught in Schools – by Helen Pidd – 15 Aug 2018

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All schoolchildren in the UK should be taught about the Peterloo massacre, according to Mike Leigh, who has directed a film about the little-known Manchester atrocity sometimes referred to as Britain’s Tiananmen Square.

Leigh grew up in Salford, a short walk from St Peter’s Field, where on 16 August 1819 government forces charged into a peaceful rally by more than 60,000 people who were demanding political reform and protesting against poverty.

Cavalry troops slashed at the crowd with sabres, and an estimated 18 protesters were killed and more than 650 injured, making it the bloodiest political clash in British history.

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The incident led to an acceleration in the progress of suffrage in Britain and, two years later, to the formation of the Manchester Guardian, now the Guardian. At the time of the massacre just 2% of the population had the vote.

Leigh, whose new film, Peterloo, tells the story of the slaughter, said he did not learn about it in school, and nor did most other people. “When we were making the film, a lot of us, in quite wide-ranging ages – I’m in my mid-70s and others were in their 20s – were all from the north-west, all saying: ‘I’d never heard of it.’”

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He added: “From where I grew up in Great Cheetham Street you could walk to where it happened in less than half an hour. No one took us out from school and marched us about to say ‘this happened here’, which is remarkable.”

He said children should be taught about Peterloo. “They will know about 1066 and Magna Carta and Henry VIII and his six wives and they may be told about the French revolution and the battle of Waterloo … [The massacre] was a major, major event which resonated down the 19th century into the 20th century in the context of democracy and suffrage.”

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Manchester Histories, a charity, is leading the campaign for Peterloo to be taught in all schools. It has applied for money from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help schools teach about the attack, and it is developing a dedicated website and walking app on the subject and training a cohort of volunteers to become “Peterloo ninjas”.

There is no explicit mention of Peterloo on the national curriculum, though the Department for Education said teachers were free to teach it if they wanted.

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(George IV, prince regent)

Leigh said he saw parallels between England then and the country of today. “In the end, why is the film still relevant? Many reasons. One of them being the difference between those who have and those who don’t have. Those who have power and those who don’t. Those who have wealth and those who are on the breadline.”

Peterloo a

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At the time of the massacre, the London-based government was ignorant of life outside the capital, said Leigh. The then home secretary, Henry Addington, who oversaw the ruthless crackdown on dissent that reached its bloody nadir at Peterloo, had never been to the north, Leigh discovered during his four years of research.

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Peterloo 00

“The government, which of course was elected by only 2% of the population, had no idea what the living and working conditions were like for workers in the north. They couldn’t. So all [Addington] knew is that it was a hotbed of sedition.”

The government saw those agitating in the north as “terrorists who had to be put down”, said Leigh. “But we know that these were people with a legitimate cause. Some of them were moderate and some of them more extreme.”

The biggest problem Leigh had when shooting the £14m film was that Manchester had changed so much in the two centuries since Peterloo.

(Peterloo Massacre in August 1819, Richard Carlile)

“When we embarked on it, I said obviously we are going to shoot it in Manchester. Well, not a single frame of it is filmed in Manchester,” said Leigh, who shot the massacre scenes in Tilbury, Essex.

The site of the battle is now unrecognisable, occupied by tooting trams, Manchester’s central library and the Midland hotel.

Though Peterloo was filmed outside of the city, Manchester is to host a special presentation of the film, after the BFI London film festival decided to show a premiere film outside of the capital for the first time in its 62-year history.

Peterloo screens on 17 October at Manchester’s Home, followed by a Q&A with the director and cast that will be simulcast to cinemas around the UK. It goes on general release on 2 November.

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Peterloo – The Movie – A Review (BBC)

Mike Leigh’s Peterloo builds toward a vibrantly realised moment based on British history. In 1819, when Manchester, England had no representative in parliament and the local economy was in shambles, 60,000 people gathered in St Peter’s Field for a peaceful demonstration, waving colourful banners and waiting to hear speakers for their cause. Before it had even started, the army was planning to shut the protest down.

On screen, soldiers on horseback wielding sabers tear through the crowd, slashing at anyone in their path: men, women and children. Leigh immerses viewers in the scene, lucidly carrying us into the crowd and its terrifying chaos. He tracks specific characters we have come to know as they cower from the riders or search for family members who have vanished from sight. In reality, 15 people were killed and hundreds injured. Some of the film’s fictional characters share their fate. Journalists of the day called the event the Peterloo Massacre, an allusion to Waterloo’s wartime carnage.

Peterloo is purest Mike Leigh in the best sense: class-conscious, beautifully acted and filmed and a call for social change. It is also, despite that kinetic battle scene, a film of ideas and political conversation, not action.

The historical problems Leigh’s characters confront are presented in exquisite detail, down to the sympathetic working class’s rotting teeth and the smug ruling class’s lace and finery. But the ideas are also designed to resonate today: an economy that short-changes workers, callous politicians without conscience or empathy, even an assault on truth and a defence of the journalism that might pierce the government’s lies.

As he has done when tackling other issues – abortion in Vera Drake, or race in Secrets and Lies – Leigh personalises those issues through his characters. The film begins at the Battle of Waterloo itself, explosions sounding while a young soldier named Joseph stands on the battlefield. In an extreme close-up, the film captures his blood-spattered face, his eyes bulging and staring in a disconcerting way. He makes his way home to Manchester, suffering from what would now be recognised as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

His poor, labouring family members are among the film’s central, fictionalised characters. They include his politically active father, grown siblings and their children, and his mother, Nellie. Maxine Peake (among only a handful of familiar actors) stands out as Nellie, who sells pies to earn a trifle of money and sees the need for reform, but is sceptical about the demonstration. Peake brings all that worry to the character’s face, but even with her, Leigh is not concerned about developing full characters. Joseph and Nellie are effectively used emblems.

Symbolic gestures

Other characters are even less distinct, including journalists who arrive in Manchester to report on the protest. Some characters are in a single scene, including a servant who appears in court and is sentenced to hang for taking one of his master’s coats. That the master had two coats and the servant was cold is not considered an adequate defence by the judge.

The local magistrates and government representatives arrayed on the other side are even less defined, except by their shared condescension. Dismissing the lower class  as “honest, gullible folk”, is the kindest word anyone in the ruling class has to say. They  fear insurrection and decide they must keep the lower classes under their feet, bluntly stating that squelching the protest with violence will teach the upstarts a lesson.

In a brief but gleefully mischievous scene, the London ministers report on this trouble to the Prince Regent himself, played by Tim McInnerny as a bloated, vain, cartoonish narcissist with rouged cheeks. It’s hard not to see this bewigged caricature as Leigh’s nod to Donald Trump.

The ministers regularly distort the truth on the Prince’s behalf. When a potato is thrown at his closed royal carriage, the act is labelled a violent assault and used as another excuse to repress all protests. As the film moves between workers’ meetings in Manchester and the government’s preemptive plan to end the protest, Leigh creates a nightmare version of Downton Abbey’s upstairs/downstairs divide.

Straddling the two is Henry Hunt, a historical figure played by Rory Kinnear. A famous orator, he arrives in Manchester to speak out for workers’ rights. But he is also vain and snobbish, proof that political allies are not always the heroes you want them to be. Hunt’s presence and flawed character is the best evidence that the film won’t descend to simplistic versions of good and bad factions.

All of this is exquisitely shot by cinematographer Dick Pope. Along with Mr Turner and the delightful Topsy-Turvy, Peterloo is among Leigh’s most visually ravishing films. In chiaroscuro he depicts the dark browns inside the workers’ cottages, the light on their faces reminiscent of Rembrandt. Outside, there are wide shots of vast green fields in clear bright vistas, as a local militia prepares for battle. During the massacre, the red uniforms of the soldiers on horseback tower above the dull colours of the masses.

For all its strengths, there’s no denying that the film is talky. Joseph’s family debates whether the protest will be safe. In Manchester, some demonstrators want to carry arms, while others believe that will only provoke violence. The camera is fluid and active, so the scenes are never static. But all that dialogue may make some viewers restless during the 154-minute running time. The deliberate pacing is a risk Leigh is willing to take, as he holds back on the action and allows the conflict to simmer.

Some Leigh films are easy to like and others, such as Naked, with David Thewlis as a homeless brute, are more demanding. Peterloo requires viewers to accept the slow boil that leads to its explosive and sad end, but it is also the uncompromising work of a master.

http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180906-film-review-peterloo-is-a-massacre-that-speaks-to-today

Trump to UN: Obey the US or Be Punished – by Finian Cunningham – 27 Sept 2018

US way or no way: Trump treated rest of world as America’s footstool at UNSC

Foundation and Press TV.
US way or no way: Trump treated rest of world as America’s footstool at UNSC

 

Donald Trump chaired the UN Security Council this week to deliver a thuggish ultimatum to the world to obey American orders on Iran or face retribution for not kowtowing to Washington’s diktat.

The world’s highest forum for maintaining global security and peace was thus turned into a platform for brazen, criminal American rhetoric.

The 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York this week was a head-spinning spectacle of American bullying and arrogance – to the point where delegates couldn’t contain their laughter at one stage over Trump’s ridiculously self-righteous speech.

In his address to the assembly, Trump repeated the hackneyed accusations against Iran as being “the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism.” Nothing new in that, but what this US president is doing is putting Iran on notice that it either capitulates or faces violent aggression.

Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton, in a separate speech in New York, warned Iran “there would be hell to pay” over Washington’s baseless accusations.

Washington reinforced its threats to impose a total embargo on Iran’s vital oil trade and cut Tehran off from the US-dominated international banking system. One could consider this to be an act of economic warfare pushing Iran towards further confrontation.

What’s more, when Trump chaired the Security Council meeting he provocatively warned other nations they face “severe consequences” if they continue to trade with Iran in defiance of US sanctions.

The day before, all the other signatories to the international nuclear accord with Iran held a meeting to reiterate their support for the 2015 agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The European Union, in conjunction with Russia and China, is trying to set up a new payment mechanism which would circumvent US sanctions and banking restrictions.

Yet, here was Trump telling them, “Don’t even try it!” The president is saying that it’s the US way, or no way.

This unilateral imposition of Washington’s interests over all other nations, including its supposed allies, is the conduct of a tyrant which inevitably is inciting tensions leading to confrontation.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif correctly said the US was “abusing” the Security Council. Trump was using it as a forum to assert Washington’s dictatorial policy. The irony is that the forum is supposed to be one for maintaining global order and peace, but under American “leadership” it is used as a sounding board for US aggression.

The Security Council agenda this week was nominally about non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Trump opened the two-hour session with a rambling recap of his address to the General Assembly the previous day in which he used the Security Council to again demonize Iran as a terrorist regime “proliferating [ballistic] missiles all across the Middle East.”

Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord earlier this year, in May, constitutes a violation of international law, given that the JCPOA was ratified by the Security Council under Resolution 2231.

Yet, Trump tried to make a virtue of this American trashing of an international treaty by justifying it with baseless accusations against Iran. The “rogue state” epithet that Trump levels against Iran is actually more fitting for the US.

The president’s chairing of the Security Council meeting had, on a lighter note, the appearance of comic theater. At times it looked like Trump was holding a re-run of his reality TV show, The Apprentice, boasting about his imagined greatness.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador, set the gavel in front of Trump like it was a toy for the president to bang in order to get attention from the rest. Then at some later point during the session, probably due to boredom, the president walked out with his security guards, leaving Haley to fill his seat.

All the other permanent members of the UN Security Council – France, Britain, Russia and China – one after another rejected the US position that the Iran nuclear accord was “horrible”. Each one of them said it was a viable, working agreement making the world safer from non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reminded delegates that numerous inspections had shown Iran to be in complete compliance with the JCPOA, which meant that Trump’s withdrawal from the deal was unjustified and wrong and is increasing tensions and insecurity in the Middle East.

“The unilateral withdrawal of the US from the JCPOA is a serious threat to the international non-proliferation regime,” said Lavrov.

So, how’s that for paradox. Trump presides over the world’s top security committee with an agenda of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. But international consensus views the US as recklessly jeopardizing security.

It is hard to disagree with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, when he said of this week’s proceedings, that the US is the one being isolated on the world stage, not Iran.

The disturbing thing is this though. Trump and his hawkish administration officials do not give a fig what the rest of the world thinks. Everyone is wrong, the US is right, is their view.

That much was made clear in the way Trump had the unabashed conceit to chair the Security Council as an opportunity to exalt American self-righteousness despite its transparent transgression of international law concerning Iran.

American rhetoric at the UN is always a feast of hubris and self-serving falsehoods. But this year, Trump presented a veritable cornucopia of absurd contradictions.

He exhorted the Security Council on how “we can replace the horrors of war … with the beautiful promise of peace.” Just minutes before that mawkish flourish, Trump was putting the world on notice that it must follow US orders to strangulate Iran or be prepared for American punishment.

In this General Assembly speech, Trump swooned about the “sovereignty” of nations as a guiding principle in his vision for the world. Evidently however, in the real world, this US president, like his predecessors, has nothing but contempt for other nations’ sovereignty, if those nations dare to dissent from Washington’s diktat.

Another glaring contradiction is that Trump lambasts “global bureaucracy”, asserting that the US will never be held to account by international rules above its own laws. This “America First” doctrine is an embrace of lawlessness. That has always been the American way. Trump is merely making the doctrine explicit.

But while Trump wants US sovereignty to be an unbridled supreme power, he also has no hesitation in using the “global bureaucracy” of the UN and multilateralism to enforce Washington’s diktat over others. That’s wanting cake and eating it too.

America used to flatter its imperialism by claiming to be the “world’s policeman”. Under Trump, US power is apparently that of the “world’s thug”.

The contradictions in American rhetoric and reality are becoming so absurd, even polite diplomats can no longer keep a straight face.

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Finian Cunningham
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture

Blackwater Warlord Erik Prince: I can turn around the situation in Afghanistan in 6 months with 3,600 mercenaries – by Paul Szoldra – 27 Sept 2018

Prince Erik

The former founder and CEO of Blackwater says he needs just six months and roughly 3,600 men to make the Afghan War look far different from the shitshow it is now.

In an interview with Afghanistan’s TOLO News, Erik Prince once again pitched his idea to privatize the nearly-17-year-old conflict, offering up a force of “contracted veteran mentors” from the United States and NATO countries to serve alongside Afghan security forces.

“Well, I would say six months after the program is fully ramped up, you have a very different situation on the ground, I will commit to that,” Prince said, outlining a plan to provide 36 contractors for each unit of Afghan security forces, who would serve for two to four years at a time.

Yes, you read that right: Erik Prince says he can turn the war around in six months while suggesting his contractors could be there for at least four years.

“They provide leadership, intelligence, communications, medicals, and logistics expertise to their Afghan counterparts and go with them in the field all the time to make sure their Afghan counterparts are paid and fed, that they are well led, that they have a communications plan, all those essential elements of soldiering don’t break down,” he said.

Prince also said that if one of his contractors “does an evil act” such as intentionally injuring a civilian, they “could” be held accountable through the military’s Uniform Code of Military Justice, which brought military contractors into the fold back in 2007.

Afghanistan map

“It’s legally possible” to bring charges against a contractor in Afghanistan or elsewhere, according to Phil Carter, a lawyer and senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. “Contractors can be subject to the UCMJ in war or contingency operations.”

But… there’s a big but.

Carter mentioned the court-martial of Alaa Mohammad Ali, an Iraqi working for a contractor who was convicted of stabbing a fellow contractor. Although Ali was convicted and his appeal was subsequently denied, it still remains an open question of whether an American civilian could be convicted under military law and still pass constitutional muster.

“It’s not really been tested otherwise, and there’s sort of a big question as to how this would take place,” Carter said.

Prince has been shopping his privatization plan for several months to American officials and in the media. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis shot down the idea last month, telling reporters at the Pentagon that “privatizing is probably not a wise idea.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Resolute Support Mission declined to comment.

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New York City police officers caught running prostitution ring – 28 Sept 2018

 

Slut

A retired NYPD vice detective put his know-how to bad use — allegedly masterminding a prostitution and gambling ring that got him and seven active cops arrested, The Post has learned.

Three sergeants, two detectives and two police officers spent Wednesday night in custody ahead of arraignments Thursday on charges including enterprise corruption, promoting prostitution and official misconduct, sources said.

The retired vice detective, whose name was not immediately released, was arrested Tuesday night, sources said.

The busts are part of a three-year, Internal Affairs probe into cop-protected brothels run on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens and in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

But they were just the beginning.

Investigators are targeting an additional 30 cops for questioning and possible arrest, sources said Wednesday night.

More than 40 civilians have also been arrested, sources said.

The investigation was launched in 2015, “after a member of the department suspected illegal activity by other members of the department and reported to Internal Affairs,” a source said.

Over the next three years, investigators spent thousands of hours on surveillance and undercover work, the source said.

Multiple wire-taps were also used.

“Today, those who swore an oath and then betrayed it have felt the consequences of that infidelity,” NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill said of the busts.

“The people of this Department are rightly held to the highest standard, and should they fail to meet it, the penalty will be swift and severe.”

Part of the investigation was centered on the Brooklyn South Narcotics building, which spent much of Wednesday on lock-down, with the electronic devices of all personnel seized.

Also as part of Wednesday’s busts, Internal Affairs officers stormed the 72nd Precinct in Sunset Park.

They ordered the desk supervisor to take them downstairs to the locker room, where they clipped a detective’s lock, confiscating his locker’s contents, sources said.

That cop — who had only been assigned to the 72nd Precinct about five months ago, working previously in IAB — was placed on modified duty, but not arrested, the sources said.

Mike Palladino, head of the Detectives Endowment Association, said, “The allegations are disturbing and if true reflect negatively on the entire NYPD.

“However, like everyone else, the detectives have a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.”

Police sources identified those arrested, and their charges, as:

Sgt. Carlos Cruz, 69th Precinct Det. Squad, enterprise corruption; Sgt. Louis Failla, Queens Evidence Collection Team, official misconduct; Sgt. Cliff Nieves, Transit Bureau Investigation, promoting prostitution; PO Steven Nieves, 84th Precinct, promoting prostitution; PO Giancarlo Raspanti, 109th Precinct, official misconduct; Det. Gionanny Rojas-Acosta, Criminal Investigation Division Training, enterprise corruption; Det. Rene Samaniego, Brooklyn South Vice, enterprise corruption.

Additional reporting by Laura Italiano

https://nypost.com/2018/09/12/nypd-cops-busted-in-major-gambling-and-prostitution-probe/

US Has Nuclear Bombers in Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Turkey and Belgium – by John Laforge – 27 Sept 2018

Illegal US Nuclear Weapons Handouts

The US military practice of placing nuclear weapons in five other countries (no other nuclear power does this) is a legal and political embarrassment for US diplomacy. That’s why all the governments involved refuse to “confirm or deny” the practice of “nuclear sharing” or the locations of the B61 free-fall gravity bombs in question.

Expert analysts and observers agree that the United States currently deploys 150-to-180 of these nuclear weapons at bases in Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Turkey and Belgium. The authors of the January 2018 report “Building a Safe, Secure, and Credible NATO Nuclear Posture” take for granted the open secret that nuclear sharing is ongoing even though all six countries are signatory parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

In a paper for the journal Science for Democratic Action, German weapons expert Otfried Nassauer, director of Berlin’s Information Center for Transatlantic Security, concluded, “NATO’s program of ‘nuclear sharing’ with five European countries probably violates Articles I and II of the Treaty.”

Article I prohibits nuclear weapon states that are parties to the NPT from sharing their weapons. It says: “Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly….” Article II, the corollary commitment, states says: “Each non-nuclear weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly … or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices….”

What nuclear sharing means in practice

The five NATO countries currently hosting US H-bombs on their air bases are officially “non-nuclear weapons states.” But as Nassauer reports, “Under NATO nuclear sharing in times of war, the US would hand control of these nuclear weapons over to the non-nuclear weapon states’ pilots for use with aircraft from non-nuclear weapon states. Once the bomb is loaded aboard, once the correct Permissive Action Link code has been entered by the US soldiers guarding the weapons, and once the aircraft begins its mission, control over the respective weapon(s) has been transferred. That is the operational, technical part of what is called ‘nuclear sharing.’”

This flaunting of the NPT is what peace activists on both sides of the Atlantic refer to when calling the US bombs in Europe “illegal.” Nassauer notes, “The pilots for these aircraft are provided with training specific to use nuclear weapons. The air force units to which these pilots and aircraft belong have the capability to play a part in NATO nuclear planning, including assigning a target, selecting the yield of the warhead for the target, and planning a specific mission for the use of the bombs.”

“NATO nuclear sharing,” Nassauer writes, “was described in 1964 by one member of the US National Security Council … as meaning that ‘the non-nuclear NATO-partners in effect become nuclear powers in time of war.’ The concern is that, at the moment the aircraft loaded with the bomb is on the runway ready to start, the control of the weapon is turned over from the US, a nuclear weapon state, to non-nuclear weapon states. … To my understanding, this is in violation of the spirit if not the text of Articles I and II of the NPT.”

How Do the US and its Allies Explain their Lawlessness?

An undated, 1960s-era letter from then-US Secretary of State Rusk explained the US ‘interpretation’ of the NPT. The pretext for ignoring the treaty’s plain language, the Rusk letter “argues that the NPT does not specify what is allowed, but only what is forbidden. In this view, everything that is not forbidden by the NPT is allowed,” Nassauer explained.

In its most absurd section, Rusk simply denies the treaty’s obvious purpose and intent. “Since the treaty doesn’t explicitly talk about the deployment of nuclear warheads in countries that are non-nuclear weapon states,” Nassauer writes, “such deployments are considered legal under the NPT.”

It is so easy to show that the United States and its nuclear sharing partners are in violation of the NPT, the governments involved work hard pretending there is nothing to worry about no lawbreaking underway, no reason to demand answers. This is why so many activists across Europe have become nonviolently disobedient at the air bases involved.

The transparent unlawfulness of NATO’s nuclear war planning is also the reason why prosecutors in Germany don’t dare bring serious charges against civil resisters; even those who have cut fences and occupied hot weapons bunkers in broad daylight. Some Air Force witness might testify at trial that US nuclear weapons are on base.

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Return to Sender: Writing to Radical Liberal Leftists – They never answer – by Howard Lisnoff

24 Aug 2018

“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” Shakespeare (in Julius Caesar) couldn’t have known any leftists, but I wouldn’t have minded chatting with him to find out just how many of the so-called regular folk he communicated with in Elizabethan England. It wasn’t even called “Elizabethan England” back then, so we could have simply sat at a pub and chewed the fat, so to speak. He had to have known commoners because they were a part of his audiences, but then again he may not have, but his early financial situation may have made it necessary for his to communicate with lots of people, if only for the purpose of survival.

The point here is that hierarchies exist as substantially among what’s left of the left (and that doesn’t amount to very much, save for identity politics), as they do everywhere else in society, and human nature, in terms of intellectual, social, economic and political differences is highly stratified. It’s what, in part, keeps us atomized from one another.

When I read the mass media reports about the death of a fairly well-known leftist, my immediate reaction was one of grief. That person was one of my Facebook friends, which actually amounts to a proverbial hill of beans, but I wrote a tribute to the fellow and posted it on his timeline. By early evening I had taken it down. Why? He had chalked up some substantial achievements in his life and certainly had not done any of Shakespeare’s “evil.”

It turns out that this person, like many other notable people on the left, could have cared less about communicating with me. In fact, in the years that I had written to him, he never answered a single personal message that was in response to a position he had taken, or post that he had made. It was a one-sided affair, and I had been there and done that again and again over the past several decades. Whether it was through traditional slow mail, or responses to an article by way of a commentary or letter, the result has been universal: A 100% no response rate. Ralph Nader, who my Facebook friend castigated for not being sufficiently radical during an interview several years ago, recounts the exact same phenomenon in Return to Sender: Unanswered Letters to the President, 2001-2015 , Nader’s book about the near-total lack of response to his letters addressed to presidents about important issues.

Within a few days the talking heads of the left were on Democracy Now, a left news outlet that has never responded to any of my inquiries to them. They must be too busy. It goes on and on: Write about a topic as a journalist or writer, send it to others on the left who have covered the same issue and the result will be same. If they won’t respond to Ralph Nader, why should they respond to someone writing and toiling in the hinterlands?

Readers may say that this is all just a bunch of sour grapes, but this is the reality in which I find myself. Following the 2016 election cycle, I wrote to a Congressional candidate for whom I had worked in nearby New York state, making some observations about the past election. Of course, the candidate never bothered to respond, although I had spent weeks on the streets canvassing for that candidate and travelled significant distances to work in that campaign office. I also supported that campaign in a material way. Now, when that candidate sends me a constant stream of emails asking for support in yet another race for a different office, I ignore those communications.

I remember the case of a famous artist who was saved from capture by the Nazis during World War II and never bothered to say very much in the way of thanks to his saviors when the war was over. He had escaped by the skin of his teeth, but I suppose all of those empty canvasses in his future were too much for him, so he never bothered to thank those who took great pains to ensure his art would go on after the Holocaust.

Several years ago I worked at a high school as a counselor. The school was dysfunctional with high numbers of adolescents failing courses in core academic subjects year after year. The school accreditation agency was prepared to take the school’s accreditation away at the time (which it did a few years later). I was swamped with calls from concerned parents wanting to know how their son or daughter was performing academically. Some weeks the pile of callback messages was piled as high as my office telephone, but I managed to spend time each day calling and speaking with parents who were concerned about their child’s progress.

I guess that answering personal communications is just not all that important among those members of the political left who have become small-time celebrities.

During the Nuclear Freeze Movement, a friend appeared at my door one day and suggested that we trade phone numbers among the members of our group—landlines in those days—if Reagan decided to initiate a crackdown against political opponents. I sort of laughed the suggestion off thinking that the political climate probably would not get that bad in the early 1980s. I’m not quite as sanguine about repression these days, and what would communication matter now since the government has all of our personal information and those in leadership positions among us would be too busy to return a call or other communication. The resistance would collapse faster than the pushback in Europe did in 1939-1940 before the Nazi onslaught.

August marks the 50th anniversary of the protests in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic Convention, complete with police riots. The Guardian does a superb job recounting those events with an excellent photographic essay accompanying the article. Those were the days when protest was the great leveler of individuals! I was able to say hello, at least on a formal basis, to one of the leaders of the Chicago protests, Abbie Hoffman, since one of his lawyers and a lawyer I had back in those days worked in the same law office on Broadway in New York City.

Archive

In the USA – ‘I Cannot Write!’ – by Andre Vltchek – 19 June 2015

At the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), in Los Angeles, a gigantic, carnivorous flag with torn ends was waving in an artificial wind created by enormous propellers.

horrific, carnivorous flag at MOCA

There were no visitors at the exhibition. For a while I thought that in all this huge space I was totally alone. But soon I noticed two figures in black torn dresses, moving slowly, in semi-darkness, desperately clinging to the walls. Backs bent, they passed by the bookstore right near the place where someone had put a small sign on the wall that said, “I cannot breath!”

Most likely it was a performance, a desperate protest action of one man and one woman, a performance against this giant all-devouring flag.

“I cannot breath!” A man shouted before he died, before he was murdered by the regime.

“I cannot write!” I thought. Which to me was almost the same as not being able to respire.

***

It was the first time in many years that I had missed my column, my essays, for several weeks.

Even when I was arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Kenya, in Senegal, I still managed to write.

I managed to write after a deranged, evangelical and fascist preacher paid hotel staff to poison me in the Indonesian city of Surabaya.

I wrote in many warzones and desperate slums, from Iraq to Mindanao, from Haiti to Marshall Islands.

But I couldn’t write in the United States of America. Not one single line, not one word. Not this time.

***

I spoke. I was invited to speak and I spoke at some huge conference in southern California, and I gave talks at peace and opposition gatherings in Monterey, San Jose and Fresno.

I was asked to speak on my 1.000 page book “Exposing Lies of the Empire”, which became a bestseller, defined my stand against the Empire, showing horrors it has been committing all over the world.

I showed films, excerpts from my films on Africa: on Rwanda and Congo, on refugee camp for Somali refugees, and on the horrific slums of Nairobi.

I was asked to show all this and more, but at the end, a man stood up and asked: “Why are you showing all this to us?”

“Because your country is murdering millions, right now”, I replied.

“What are you expecting us to do?” He asked again, in a cool voice.

As he uttered this, I was still recovering from a monstrous jetlag, after travelling for 48 hours from South Africa, arriving in California only one day before the presentation. In South Africa, I was among my comrades. Everything was different: there is a tremendous struggle for a better world, poor people confronting and pressing their government, the great UNISA (University of South Africa) getting deeply involved. There I spoke at The 14th International Symposium on the Contributions of Psychology to Peace. There I spoke and spoke, and fought and fought, and was involved in negotiations, and was helping to shape the concepts: of how no peace could and should exist without justice, without social justice and how no progress could be made anywhere on the Planet, without confronting Western imperialism and fascism.

In California it was up side down: all totally different. In California I stood alone, facing cold faces of self-righteous crowds; crowds convinced of their superiority, even when they were, “benevolently” and mildly critical of several murderous actions committed by their country in countless parts of the world.

“They are not telling us the truth”, I heard people repeating on several occasions.

The citizens of the Empire were eager to describe themselves as “victims”. Did the same spectacle appear in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s? Most likely yes! “Defeated Germany was hit by hyper-inflation, reparations, therefore it was a victim!” It felt it became a victim of the Bolsheviks and the Jews and the French, and the Roma… The United States was not defeated externally, only internally. The two settings are different. Yet there are many similarities, especially in how two empires have treated “un-people”.

“Do you believe in collective guilt, in collective responsibility?” Someone challenged me from the public.

“Definitely!” I shouted back. “The responsibility and the guilt of the West, of the white race, of Christianity, of the Empire! Collective responsibility and guilt for hundreds of millions of victims defined as un-people. Victims gassed, bomber, starved, mutilated… Collective guilt and responsibility for raping the free will of billions in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania. Collective guilt and responsibility for the ongoing global apartheid!”

***

I felt no urgency from people living in Southern California; I felt no urgency in Fresno, Monterey or San Jose. Life was going on. Their life… About other lives, they knew nothing. They actually made sure to know nothing.

Once in a while they protested, to feel good about themselves.

I was pushing speeches, presentations and talks about what I saw in Africa and the Middle East: perpetual wars, destruction of entire nations, millions of corpses piling on top of the others. I gave examples and showed films. I was offering in-depth analyses about how the West has been antagonizing China and Russia.

At one point I began talking, passionately, about Latin American revolutions: about poetry and music, about stories, about the quixotic beauty of rebellion. I spoke about poets like Neruda, Paz, Cardenal and Parra. I was trying to ignite the crowd. Then, suddenly, I felt there was something wrong… dead silence. I looked in front of me: most of the “crowd” consisted of women over 80-years old, some on wheelchairs, several of them sleeping.

“Young people here are… into themselves,” I was told. “It is not easy to make them join…”

Day after day I was questioning what I was doing here; in the middle of the country responsible for mass murders all over the Planet. Was I also becoming insane, like several editors of the pseudo left-wing, Eurocentric publications in both North America and Europe, who preach to the world that the people in Spain, Greece and the US actually suffer as much or almost as much as billions of un-people worldwide? As if most of them have not been, despite everything, enjoying tremendous privileges paid for by lives and blood of Africans, Asians, and Middle Easterners. No, I still knew what was going on! I still knew who the real victims were. I still wanted to get out of there, as quickly as possible!

Here, it was all one tremendous nonsense; the “feel good” empty stuff! Peace movements… Almost no blacks, very few Hispanics or Asians! They were not buying any of this. They knew it was not for them.

The people that I kept meeting did not really want any change, it was patently clear. They did not want to “know”, either. Information has been available on-line, from RT, from Counterpunch, it was everywhere, really everywhere! But to actually know would mean that one could not hide behind his or her ignorance, anymore; to know would mean that one would be obliged to act!

***

There are almost no revolutionaries left in the United States or Europe, just the morally defunct masses, emotionless, insincere, selfish individuals scared to lose their privileges. At least the right-wingers are honest!

The regime takes full advantage of the situation. It feeds, and upholds the state of things. But both the rulers and selfish, hypocritical masses became inter-dependent; they push the same line. That is why fascist parties are never voted out of power: almost everyone in the US and Europe wants the exploitation and rape of the rest of the world to go on!

Does anyone really believe that those protesters in Spain and Greece are fighting some internationalist battles, battles for humanity? Or do they simply want their social and economic privileges back? Those privileges they were swimming in just one or two decades back, privileges delivered through grants and subsidies, while millions of un-people in the poor world were being plundered and sacrificed, so their lazy fellow human beings in the EU and the US could live the high-life, because they were born white and in one of the ‘right places’?

The left wing lost in both North America and Europe. It lost patently and shamefully. But until now it is so arrogant that it dares to address countries like China or Russia with that Western, Christian air of superiority: it dares to think that it has right to decide whether China or South Africa are actually socialist or Communist or, to use that idiotic Western propaganda slogan, “more capitalist than the West itself”.

During my two-week stay in California I detected no remorse. When I showed and explained how millions have been killed by Western imperialism, people would say “oh how terrible!” Because, that is what they were trained to say. But there was no determination to change things, no true feelings.

Wherever I went, I felt thoroughly out of place. I was expected to “fit”. I was told not to show images too shocking, as people were “very sensitive”! Eventually, I decided not to show any images at all. It was understood that I should be polite. While all I wanted was to shout insults to the faces of those self-righteous men and women, who were following that appalling Christian tradition: do some good while ignoring real evil, all in order to buy some credit before facing eternity.

I kept hearing cliché statements about peace, about democracy. Some wanted justice and an end to wars, but clinging desperately to the symbols of the Empire, to the legacy of its old collaborators, like Vaclav Havel, Pope John Paul II, Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa…

I couldn’t breath. I lost the ability to write. I felt anger building inside me. The anger was suffocating, strangling me. It was unhealthy anger, mixed with frustration! It was not that sacred anger one feels when going to a battle against great evil. It was also somehow petty, indescribable, and pathetic. It was breaking me, humiliating me.

I hated the fights I had to fight here.

***

I tried to see the reality that was surrounding me with different eyes but wherever I looked I saw only a dysfunctional, sad, collapsing country and culture.

I drove on freeways full of patches and bumps. I rode on a primitive rail system. I encountered people who were absolutely not interested in working or improving their country. I was confronted by individualism, by egotism. I saw people who clearly disliked each other, but pretended that they are full of concern and courtesy.

But one wrong move, and hatred and explosion would follow.

I saw a country where basic positive human instincts and values have already collapsed.

***

To function in this society was humiliating. I tried to send a package. At Clermont post office I was made to repack it three times, as I did not have the right box (only the post master knew what the right box actually was, but he would never bother to show me). At the train station, a woman who was idle, banging into her smart phone, informed me that the train station does not sell tickets. I had to go out, into the terrible heat, and try to buy them from a vending machine. I could not see – the sun was merciless. I returned, and asked again. “Call the train company and complain”, I was told. “Could I buy my ticket on board?” “No”, I was told. “And if you board your train without ticket, you can get arrested”.

It all began when I arrived. After travelling some 48 hours from South Africa to Southern California, carrying films and books for the conference, I was not even met at the airport. So I took a taxi. But nobody met me at the place where I was supposed to stay. I stood on the street for more than one hour. A few days later, moving to another place, the person who was supposed to take me there was two hours late. When I commented on that, in a matter-of-fact tone of voice, he began shouting: “Do you want to walk?”

I was not expecting much from people living in a country that is murdering millions, but the arrogance that I encountered, was still mind-blowing. It was not just the arrogance from airport security personnel: it was the arrogance coming from the ordinary citizens.

I also detected an unbelievable lack of discipline. In China, India, Vietnam, people would get fired if they would adopt the tone of voice and performance of many US employees. I heard many times “we don’t want to end up working like people in Asia”. “Great!” I would reply. “Fine! But then don’t expect people worldwide working overtime, or even dying for your lethargy”. What a luxury, such attitude!

Leaving the US for Ecuador, I tried to check luggage to my final destination. The Delta employee had no idea where Quito is, and at 05:20am she obviously did not want to learn. She checked my luggage only to Mexico, and when I protested (I would have to drag my suitcase through Mexican customs and re-check it again), she began regurgitating some rules that she invented at the spot. I insisted. She called her supervisor. She was told to check me all the way to Quito. But she had no idea how. Was she apologetic? Not at all! The longer it took her, the more bullish she became.

It was obvious that the Empire had learned how to murder un-people long-distance, and how to control them remotely.

The Empire’s citizens have been bitching that their privileges have been disappearing. Well, they are melting away, but most of them are still there. No country outside the Western realm could survive with such low work ethics, performing so poorly.

In the West, to be “left wing” means demanding greater privileges and benefits for the Westerners, therefore exploiting more slave laborers abroad.

To us, the left wing means “internationalism”.

The two visions are antagonistic, not complimentary. The goals of the left wing in Ecuador or Venezuela would suffer, if the left wing in the West actually wins.

Colonialism never died!

Apartheid was never dismantled; it just became global.

Slavery was renamed but it continues.

Otherwise, how could the United States and Europe survive in their present shape?

***

During those two weeks I met some of the greatest thinkers living in the United States: Michael Parenti, and John Cobb. Some time ago I worked with Michael on two books, one his and one mine, but this was our first face-to-face encounter. I discussed Christianity with John Cobb, trying to define what is encoded in it that allows the most horrid atrocities to be committed in the name of the Cross. It was deep, philosophical discussion, and we will convert it into a book, soon.

I also spent one wonderful evening in LA, with CounterPunch editor Joshua Frank and his wife Chelsea, both brilliant and good hearted and fun to be with.

I worked and travelled with a dedicated radio host and activist, Dan Yaseen and his partner Camille.

Yes, of course, there are bright, good and devoted people living in the United States. But even they know and admit that the group is just too small for the size of the country, too tiny to stop the crimes that the Empire is committing.

***

I was shocked by the state in which I found the United States.

I left many years ago. I left New York, which was, for more than a decade, my home. I never returned, except to launch my books and films, and to see my friends. I never stayed for long time. Two weeks, this time, was the longest in years.

This visit broke me. It exhausted me. It thoroughly depressed me.

I saw clearly how grotesque pseudo-morality, disgusting religious concepts and hypocrisy influenced and ruined entire nations, client states, worldwide, especially in Asia and Africa.

Yes, I believe in collective guilt. Holding US citizenship, I share the guilt. And therefore, I work non-stop, not to wash my hands, but to stop the madness.

I am convinced that the West, the white race and its lackeys abroad, have no right to rule over this Planet. I saw enough to back my conviction.

The West is finished, its culture dead. What is left is unattractive, even horrifying. There is no heart, no compassion, and no creativity. And those billions of people beyond the Western realm should not be dying, while forced to support the aggressive individualism of the post-Christian, post-Crusade colonialism and fascism of Europe and the United States.

***

During those dreadful two weeks, my ability to write collapsed, but only until that moment when the landing gear of my airplane that was heading south, towards Latin America, detached itself from the runway of Salt Lake City airport.

After that, everything went back to normal. The engines roared, and I opened my Mac, and began typing. By the time I landed in Mexico City, half of this essay was written. And in Quito, surrounded by warmth, kindness of local, mainly indigenous, people, I felt happy, strong and alive once again. I began writing; I was able to write. Therefore I survived. My nightmare was over.

giving anti-imperialist speech in Fresno

two tough revolutionaries Parenti and Vltchek

sadness in LA

 

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest books are: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and Fighting Against Western Imperialism.Discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western TerrorismPoint of No Return is his critically acclaimed political novel. Oceania – a book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about Indonesia: “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Press TV. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and the Middle East. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

Archive

Italian Love Phrases

Love phrases in italian with english translation

 

circles and man

Ti amo – I love you

Ti amo tanto – I love you so much

Amore mio – My love

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Ti amo con tutta l’anima – I love you with all my soul

Amo solo te – I love you only

Ti adoro – I adore you

line 007

Ti voglio bene – I like you / I love you

Ti voglio tanto bene – I like you so much

Mi piaci – I like you

Image (46)

Mi piaci tanto – I like you so much

Sei speciale – You are special

Sei incredibile – You are incredible

coloring book

Ti penso sempre – I always think of you

Mi rendi felice – You make me happy

Mi manchi – I miss you

computer 2s

Ho bisogno di te – I need you

Non posso vivere senza te – I can’t live without you

Tu sei l’unico uomo per me – You are the only man for me

One line drawing of a snake

One line drawing of a snake. Snake icon outline. Singe animal icon from the big animals outline. stock vector

Tu sei l’unica donna per me – You are the only woman for me

Tu sei la uomo della mia vita – You are the man of my life

Tu sei la donna della mia vita – You are the woman of my life

Sei l’amore della mia vita – You are the love of my life

Image (36)

Sei la mia anima gemella -You are my soulmate

Il mio cuore è solo tuo – My heart is only yours

Sei tutto ciò che voglio – You are everything I want

Con te ogni giorno è meraviglioso – Everyday is wonderful with you

Il nostro amore è più forte di qualunque cosa – Our love is stronger than anything

Sei la cosa più bella che mi sia mai capitata – You’re the best thing ever happened to me

line 013

Voglio stare con te per sempre – I want to be with you forever

Voglio passare il resto della mia vita con te – I want to spend the rest of my life with you

Vuoi sposarmi ? – Do you want to marry me ?

Si, lo voglio – Yes I want

Ti voglio bene literally means : I want you good or I want your good
It is less strong and yet sweeter than ‘ti amo‘
“Ti amo” has frequently a more physical and passionate implication, while ‘ti voglio bene’ just deals with feelings. It is more used with siblings, parents and friends than with lovers. But it can also be used with lovers.

Abstract portrait of a woman

Continuous line drawing. Abstract portrait of a woman side view. Vector illustration.

Other italian love phrases

Vuoi essere la mia ragazza ? Do you want to be my girlfriend ?

Vuoi essere il mio ragazzo ? Do you want to be my boyfriend ?

Vorrei che tu fossi qui con me – I wish you were here with me

Non vedo l’ora di vederti – I can’t wait to see you

Mi hai cambiato la vita. – You changed my life

Sei bellissimo/a. – You are beautiful

Ho un debole per te. – I’m weak for you.

Sei tutto per me. – You’re everything to me

Sono pazzo/a di te. – I’m crazy about you

Sono innamorato/a di te. – I’m in love with you

Ti penso ogni giorno. – I think about you every day

Dammi un bacio. – Give me a kiss.

 

 

US v China – Here Comes the Thirty Years Trade War – by Pepe Escobar – 25 Sept 2018

Trade tensions between the US and China could drag on for decades but China’s focus on its Belt and Road Initiative could provide relief

Alibaba’s Jack Ma has warned that the ongoing US-China trade war could last at least 20 years. As we’ll see, it’s actually more like 30 – up to 2049, the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Steve Bannon always boasted that President Trump was bound to conduct a “sophisticated form of economic warfare” to confront China.

The logic underpinning the warfare is that if you squeeze the Chinese economy hard enough Beijing will submit and “play by the rules.”

The Trump administration plan – which is, in fact, trade deficit hawk Peter Navarro’s plan – has three basic targets:

  1. Displace China from the heart of global supply chains.
  2. Force companies to source elsewhere in the Global South all the components necessary for manufacturing their products.
  3. Force multinational corporations to stop doing business in China.

The overarching concept is that unending confrontation with China is bound to scare companies/investors away.

There’s no evidence South Korean or German conglomerates, for instance, would withdraw from the vast Chinese market and/or production facilities.

And even if the Flight Away from China actually happened, arguably the American economy would suffer as much, if not more, than China’s.

The latest US tariff volley may lower China’s GDP by only 0.9 percentage points, according to Bloomberg Economics. But China may still grow a healthy 6.3% in 2019.

This is a decent overview, with numbers, of what the trade war might cost China.

What’s certain is that Beijing, as confirmed by a rash of editorials in Chinese state media, will not just play defense.

Beijing sees the trade war as “protracted.” A Commercial Cold War 2.0 atmosphere is now in effect but China is fighting the ideological war on two fronts. At home, Beijing is using strong language to define its position against the US but taking a significantly softer approach in the international arena.

It’s extremely helpful to understand how the current situation has arisen by examining the work of Wang Hui, a professor of Chinese language and literature at Tsinghua University, top essayist and the star player of China’s New Left.

Hui is the author of the significant The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought, published in 2005 and still without an English translation.

Some of Hui’s key conclusions still apply 13 years later, as he explains how Chinese society has not yet adapted to its newfound status in international relations; how it has not solved the “accumulated contradictions” during the breathtakingly fast process of marketization; and how it still has not mastered the inherent risks in the globalization drive.

Hui’s analysis is echoed in many a Chinese editorial including delicious throwback lines such as the “sharpening of internal contradictions” in international relations. After all “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” as codified by Deng Xiaoping and renewed by Xi Jinping, excels in exploiting and bypassing “internal contradictions.”

It’s all about BRI

Jack Ma, also hinted at a bigger picture, when he said that to counter the trade war, China should focus exports across the New Silk Roads/Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), specifically mentioning Africa, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe.

Five years after President Xi launched BRI – then named One Belt One Road (OBOR) – in Astana and then Jakarta, it’s only natural that Ma concentrates on what I have emphasized to be the primary Chinese foreign policy strategy for the next three decades.

It’s never enough to stress that BRI’s six main connectivity corridors, spanning up to 65 nations, according to the original timetable, are still in the planning stage up to 2021. That’s when actual implementation starts, all the way to 2049.

Ma alluded to BRI expansion across strategically positioned nations of the Global South, including Central, South and Southeast Asia as well as Africa and Eastern Europe.

Quite a few of these nations have been extremely receptive to BRI, including 11 that the UN describes as Least Developed Countries (LDCs), such as Laos, Djibouti and Tanzania. BRI projects – and not World Bank projects with strings attached – represent the solution to their infrastructure woes.

Thus we see Beijing signing memorandums of understanding (MOUs) for BRI projects with no less than 37 African nations and the African Union (AU).

As BRI is closely interlinked with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the bank will handle financing for BRI projects in Indonesia.

And the US-China trade war extrapolates to third countries such as Brazil profiting in terms of its commodities exports.

China is slowly but surely attempting to master the fine-tuning of financing complexities for projects in multiple connectivity corridors – including those in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar and Kazakhstan. At the same time, Chinese companies keep an eye on a political deal that will have to be brokered by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to unlock the BRI integration of Afghanistan.

In cases of nations excessively exposed to Chinese investment – such as Laos, Djibouti, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – China is deploying a range of financing options from debt relief to clinching long-term contracts to buy natural resources. Whether China will leverage financing of strategic deep-water ports in Myanmar and Djibouti to build a “string of pearls” dotting the Indian Ocean supply chains is pure speculation.

A key vector to watch is how Germany and France approach BRI’s inroads in Central and Eastern Europe, for instance, via the Budapest-Belgrade high-speed rail linked, BRI-style, to Piraeus port in the Mediterranean. Italy is in – the Adriatic is connected to BRI. Germany is in with arguably BRI’s key European terminal in the Ruhr valley. France, however, dithers.

Russia is also in. Nearly 70 projects are being co-financed by BRI and the Eurasia Economic Union  (EAEU). The Vladivostok forum once again proved the Russia-China strategic partnership, and its BRI/EAEU extension is in full effect.

A flimsy developed strategy by the Quad (US, India, Japan, Australia) has no potential to derail BRI’s reach, complexity, wealth of capital and human resources.

For all the financial/soft power challenges, BRI participant nations, especially across the Global South, are locked on their side of the Chinese infrastructure investment “win-win” bargain. The current, relentless BRI-bashing is not only myopic but irrelevant, as BRI, constantly fine-tuned, will keep expanding all the way to 2049. What it will certainly face is a 30-year trade war.

How One Might Raise Robot-Proof Children – By Alexandra Samuel (Wall Street Journal) 25 April 2018

How You Can Raise Robot-Proof Children

There will still be jobs in the future. Just make sure your child is ready for them.

Arts education fosters the creative thinking children will need to compete for jobs.
Arts education fosters the creative thinking children will need to compete for jobs. Illustration: Bob Staake for The Wall Street Journal

Parents worry about a lot of things—like whether their children will get into college, or become drug addicts, or get abducted by strangers. But I spend a lot more time worrying that my children are going to live with us forever because robots have taken all their potential jobs.

As somebody who has spent her adult life focused largely on two things—studying technology trends and raising children—I’m acutely aware of the effect that continued advances in artificial intelligence could have on my children’s opportunities. After all, a recent McKinsey report predicts that by 2030, when my two children are just joining the workforce, up to 30% of today’s current work will have been automated.

The problem is, we don’t know for certain which particular jobs will be automated years from now, because AI is constantly developing in surprising ways. So while it’s helpful to get a broad sense of which kinds of jobs or skills are most likely to be taken over by robots, all of that is only so useful.

So how do you raise robot-proof children? Helping them develop a broad set of particular skills is the best way to improve their odds of being gainfully and happily employed. Here is a list of things you can do, whatever career path they go down.

Teach them to code: Yes, robots will eventually do most of the actual coding, so this isn’t about coding jobs. The point of learning to code is that there’s no better way to anticipate where automation is heading than to understand what kinds of problems code is or isn’t good at solving. Coding knowledge will also help future workers survive or excel in fields that become increasingly automated. For example, lawyers may do less contract-review work, but more work establishing the rules for contract-reading bots.

Even if your children won’t take a programming class per se, you can still teach them the principles of coding logic with a mobile game like LightBot, toys like Wonder Workshop’s programmable Dash robot, or our new family favorite, the card game Potato Pirates. Yes, these can get expensive—but not compared with feeding your unemployable child for the next 30 years.

Include arts education: We already know arts education is good for the soul and creative thinking. But now it’s essential to foster that kind of creativity as a competitive advantage. That’s because, in general, jobs that involve creativity are less likely to be automated than routine or predictable activities, or those that involve processing large amounts of information.

Include some after-school art classes in your children’s education (whether that means painting, music or theater) alongside sports or academic enrichment, and look for teachers who focus on creative thinking as much as technical skill. You may need to get creative yourself to find the activity that’s a fit for your child. My eldest loved every kind of arts class, but my youngest was only interested in tech-related activities, so we found a digital art class that suited him better than sculpture and painting.

Nurture emotional intelligence: Even the most breathless forecasts still put the arrival of emotional robots very far in the future. While some chatbots and robots are learning to recognize emotional cues and respond with simulated emotional affect, there are many career paths—like teaching or nursing—that require a level of emotional connection far beyond what any AI will be able to provide. And in any field, nothing will give your child an edge over the machines like a strong empathetic orientation and great interpersonal skills.

Give and TakeArtificial intelligence is expected to eliminatesome jobs but create others. By oneprojection, jobs created will outpace jobs lostglobally by 2020.Source: Gartner
.millionJobs lostJobs gained2018’19’20’21’22’23’24’25012345

A book titled “The Whole-Brain Child” by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson helped me learn some conversational strategies for prompting emotional self-reflection in my children. Or look for a program like Roots of Empathy, which brings babies into classrooms to teach empathy to elementary-school children.

Rethink the rules: Both the traditional school system and a lot of parenting advice frame child discipline in terms of compliance and rule-following. But rule-following is exactly where robots excel, and where even the most disciplined worker is likely to fall short in comparison. So encourage your children to question rules and think independently—because that fosters the kind of thinking that robots can’t master. Yes, it makes parenting a bit harder in the short term. I regret all the rule-questioning whenever I’m just trying to get my youngest to sleep. But I’m banking on it paying off in a couple of decades.

Insist on self learning: Make sure your children teach themselves at least one significant skill or subject—like a language, a tech skill or an academic subject—to a level of excellence equivalent to at least a year-long course. It’s crucial that your children learn how to learn, not just in the classroom but also on a do-it-yourself basis, because they’ll need to continuously reskill to keep up with rapid technological change.

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My children have enjoyed learning digital illustration from tutorials on TutsPlus.com, math via KhanAcademy.org and beginning animation at JAM.com.

Skip entry-level service jobs in favor of entrepreneurship: Many children need part-time or summer jobs to pay for college, contribute to their family’s financial well-being or get a little pocket money. But if you’re insisting that your child take a first job at a store selling, say, coffee or clothes, because you think it will help them build useful work experience—well, think again. Frontline service and retail jobs are widely predicted to disappear, so the experience children gain in these jobs will be far less useful than the experience of starting their own business, since many of them will need to create their own jobs as small-business owners, consultants or freelancers.

Help your children develop an entrepreneurial mind-set and skill set by encouraging them to run their own businesses, even if they are small or time-limited: They could create their own online storefront, selling their own creations or reselling pre-existing products, or run an offline business like dog walking or babysitting. One of my children set up an Etsy store at age 8, with some parental help, and six years later still draws on that experience in a new online business doing art and illustration work by commission.

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Talk about the bigger picture: While you’re busy robot-proofing your children, take the time to engage them in the bigger questions that a robotic future will bring, and how they can prepare for a world in which they are likely to be working side-by-side with robots and artificial intelligences.

Movies like “WALL-E,” “Big Hero 6” and “Bicentennial Man” for younger children or “The Matrix,” “Her” and “Robot & Frank” for much older children can give you a starting place for conversations about what kinds of things robots are really good at, and what is uniquely human. The more your children learn to reflect critically on the role of automation in our society and our economy, the more they will be prepared to shape that future.

Ms. Samuel, a frequent contributor to Journal Reports, is a technology researcher and writer in Vancouver, British Columbia. She can be reached at reports@wsj.com.

Appeared in the April 30, 2018, print edition.

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Leftist Groups Position On The Syrian Civil War

Leftist Groups on the Syrian Civil War

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This is a survey of various groups around the world considered to the left of democratic socialism regarding their stances on the Syrian civil war. I have searched the websites of just over 50 left-wing and far left parties, networks, and international tendencies for any articles, blurbs, statements, etc. regarding Syria since 2011. You’ll notice that I tend to focus on American leftist groups, with which I have the most familiarity. Also note that some of the international organizations overlap with each other.
I have found that leftists have incredibly diverse attitudes toward Syria, even within ideological tendencies. All the groups profiled below support secularism and socialism (or, in the case of some anarchists, socialist-like systems) and oppose intervention by Western powers, but their attitudes towards the Assad regime, the Kurdish PYD/YPG-led Rojava, the vast and multi-colored opposition, and the so-called Islamic State vary greatly.
I will eventually follow up this article with a list of leftist groups in Syria.
The organizations are grouped by ideology. A couple of notes regarding ideological nuances:
  • I use “Leninists” to refer to communists who are pro-Lenin but neither pro-Stalin nor pro-Trotsky. “Leninists” usually call themselves Marxist-Leninists, but that same label is also used by those who support Stalin (“anti-revisionists”), so I find use of the term “Marxist-Leninist” problematic.
  • “Stalinists” seldomly use this term to describe themselves; as said above, they prefer “Marxist-Leninist”. Nevertheless, I call them “Stalinists” to distinguish them from Maoists, who branched off into their own ideology, and Hoxhaists, who support Stalinism as specifically applied under Albania’s communist leader Enver Hoxha.
  • Trotskyists are somewhat notorious for splitting and quarreling with each other over relatively small things. You’ll see that I’ve split the multitude of Trotskyist groups into three tendencies: “post-Pablo”, “anti-Pablo”, and “other”. This refers to the most prominent split in the Trotskyist movement: in 1953, the Fourth International (the original Trotskyist political international) split over the policies of its leader Michel Pablo. Many of the groups that split away, including the Socialist Workers Party in the US, eventually rejoined in 1963 after Pablo had become marginalized and expelled from the FI; the resulting “re-unified” Fourth International is sometimes known as the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, or USFI. I refer to Trotskyists who support this reconciliation as “post-Pablo”. Some of the dissidents continued to see the FI as “Pabloite”; I refer to these as “anti-Pablo” (often they will refer to themselves as “orthodox Trotskyists”). Although there is very little ideological substance to the current divide between post-Pablo and anti-Pablo, relations between the two tendencies are often hostile, so I find it helpful to retain the distinction. The third major Trotskyist tendency is the Third Camp, which had split from the mainstream Trotskyist movement in 1940, having become dissatisfied with the latter’s allegedly too-sympathetic view of the USSR under Stalin. Third Camp Trotskyists, as well as mainstream Trotskyists who do not fall into either category regarding the Pablo split, are grouped under “other Trotskyists”.

Leninists

V. I. Lenin expanded on the work of Marx and Engels, arguing that an elite vanguard party would be needed to lead the working class to overthrow the capitalist order and establish a socialist dictatorship of the proletariat in order to lead to the achievement of communism. The vanguard party was to be organized along democratic centralist lines: debate within the party was encouraged, but once a majority decision had been reached, party members were expected to comply. This highly centralized mode of organization was opposed by the Mensheviks, the rivals of Lenin’s Bolsheviks. Both the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks held that Russia, as a relatively underdeveloped country, would need to undergo a bourgeois democratic revolution before a socialist revolution could succeed. But whereas the Mensheviks were relatively supportive of the provisional government that came to power in the February Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks called for the overthrow of this government and the immediate transition to socialist rule. In the October Revolution later that year, the Bolsheviks seized power and spent the next few years consolidating their rule during the chaotic Russian civil war.
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Stance on Syria: supported initial protests; later supported government’s reforms in 2012. Now critically supportive of government. Supports negotiations.
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Background information: founded in 1919. The “official” (e.g., pro-Moscow) American communist party during the Cold War. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, it has promoted a softer, more liberal democratic-friendly version of communism while still maintaining its official Leninist doctrine and structure – similar to the Western European Eurocommunist movements of the 70s and 80s. Although this trend has made it the target of much criticism from traditional, hardline communists, it retains links with the “official” communist parties of the world as a participant in the International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties, which is listed further down.
Stance on Syria: supports opposition and YPG. Says original protests were led by working class; attributes failure to lack of working class leadership, harsh government response, and capitalist/Islamist opportunism.
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Background information: formed in 1938. Originally the major Trotskyist party in the US, it drifted away from Trotskyism in the 80s towards a more Cuba-friendly Leninist position. It leads an informal international grouping of pro-Cuban ex-Trotskyists called the Pathfinder tendency. It remains one of the largest far left parties in the US.
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Stance on Syria: supports government. Supports “bourgeois nationalist” governments against imperialism. Calls Syria “sole remaining independent secular state in the Arab world”, praises its support of Hamas and Hezbollah. Calls Syria-Iran relationship “strategic progressive alliance.” Says US fomented rebellion to serve own interests, exaggerated harsh government response, exaggerated support for opposition. “By all accounts, the major rebel forces are all sectarian reactionaries — ISIS and Al Nusra being the largest organizations.” “The Russian strategy to support and add to the military strength of the Syrian government and its armed forces is a realistic strategy that can defeat ISIS and the other jihadi groups.”
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Background information: split from the SWP in 1958-1959 under the leadership of Sam Marcy. Marcy had supported the controversial 1956 Warsaw Pact invasion of Hungary and admired many aspects of Mao’s China. The WWP maintains a positive – though not completely uncritical – attitude towards all  Communist regimes, from the USSR under Stalin to the USSR under Khruschev, from China under Mao to China under Deng Xiaoping, to Vietnam, Cuba, and North Korea.  It has loose links with the International Communist Seminar, which is listed further down.
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Stance on Syria: supports government. Acknowledges mass scale of 2011 protests, but implies there were just as many calls for sectarian Islamism as for democratic reforms. Supports government’s reforms in 2011-2012. Very supportive of Russia’s military intervention and efforts at negotiation. Says US intervention is the main source of chaos.
“The dominant ideology of the various rebel groups in Syria is that of reactionary sectarian Islamists, the two main poles being the Islamic State and the Nusra Front.” “Under the current balance of forces in Syria, it is obvious that the only real alternative to ISIS and Al Qaeda is the Syrian state in Damascus.” “If the U.S. priority were to fight ISIS, it would throw its support behind Syria’s government, by far the most significant force fighting against ISIS on the ground.”
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Background Information: split from the Workers World Party in 2004 for reasons that are still unclear. Like the WWP, it is largely supportive of the various different Communist regimes of past and present. Along with the Socialist Workers Party, it is one of the more visible far left groups in the US, regularly running candidates for election. Like the WWP, it also maintains loose links with the International Communist Seminar.
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Stance on Syria:  – supported initial protests, but now only supports YPG. Says Assad is brutal, but that opposition is fractious and dominated by sectarian Islamists. Supportive of PKK/PYD ideology, though somewhat critical of practices.
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Background information: The original FRSO was formed as a Maoist party in 1985. In 1999, it split into two rival groups, each claiming the name and legacy. This faction, using the domain freedomroad.org, has largely abandoned Maoism, arguing that a more open-minded Leninist approach (e.g., less focused on fighting revisionism) was necessary. Black Liberation and self-determination for other oppressed “nations” continue to play a prominent role in both factions’ platforms.
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Stance on Syria: supports government. Says “US-vetted militia” began operating in 2011. “U.S.-sponsored ‘dissident organizations’ devoted to overthrowing the constitutional government of Syria have been launching attacks on Syrian security forces since March [2011].” “The Syrian foreign ministry continues to demand that all States guilty of supporting terrorism inside of Syria withdraw their support immediately. So too, the people of Syria continue to organize demonstrations and other mass actions to demand the liberation of the areas occupied by the insurgents.” “In Syria the struggle against foreign aggression and interference is uniting the overwhelming majority of people.” Opposed Geneva talks as “imposed” on Syria by US.
Sources:
Background information: an ex-Hoxhaist party formed in 1992. Opposition to alleged American imperialism and defense of alleged US targets (e.g., North Korea) are its most prominent themes.
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Stance on Syria: vaguely supports government. “Regarding Syria it should be clear by now that ‘ISIS’ has been funded and set in motion by the U.S., and that U.S., British and French special forces have been on the ground in Syria from the beginning.” Sources:
Background information: formed in 1993, though its roots lie in a 1958 anti-revisionist split from the Communist Party USA. Its predecessor organizations were Maoist and Black Liberationist.
Stance on Syria: supports opposition. Stresses positive role of democratic revolutions even if they are not socialist. “One excuse given for non-support [of the rebels] is that the Syrian fighters accepted weapons from the US and were somehow pawns of the CIA. But an oppressed people has a right to get its weapons from anywhere.” Opposes idea of transitional government, calls for full overthrow of Assad. Says Russia and Assad don’t distinguish between legitimate opposition and jihadis. Accuses Gulf monarchies of funding fundamentalism at expense of democracy advocates; accuses US of ignoring Assad and only focusing on IS.
Sources:
Background information: founded in 1995 from remnants of the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA, which was Hoxhaist. CVO describes itself as “anti-revisionist”, but unlike the actual anti-revisionist movement, it considers Stalinism and its ideological descendants – Maoism and Hoxhaism – as revisionist as well as Trotskyism. Instead, it advocates a “return to Lenin”.
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Stance on Syria: supports government. Supports international negotiations. Sources:
Background information: split in 1981 from the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA (see Communist Voice Organization above) after the MLP-USA broke with the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist). The USMLO remains closely linked to the CPC-ML, which abandoned Hoxhaism in the late 80s in favor of a more Cuba- and North Korea-friendly stance.

Hoxhaists and Stalinists

Joseph Stalin took over from Lenin during a long intra-party struggle in the 1920s and put forth the idea of socialism in one country, the idea that socialism could be achieved in the USSR despite the failure of other communist revolutions around the world. He was most infamous, of course, for his extremely brutal suppression of dissent and extensive cult of personality. When Nikita Khrushchev secured control of the USSR in 1953 following Stalin’s death, he repudiated what he saw as Stalin’s excesses, leading those who supported Stalin to deem Khruschev “revisionist”. Mao’s China and Hoxha’s Albania led the subsequent anti-revisionist movement but split during the 70s over Mao’s alleged deviations from Stalin’s policies and the increasing détente between China and the US. Hoxhaist ideology is extremely similar to Stalinism; as said above, the difference is that Hoxhaists support Stalinism as specifically applied in Hoxha’s Albania.
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Stance on Syria: supported initial opposition, but now only supports YPG. “The popular movement of protest has been transformed into a destructive civil war. The bloodthirsty repression is striking the people, and since the beginning, the Assad regime has rejected any democratic reform that would satisfy the aspirations of the Syrian people. This situation is the consequence of the foreign reactionary, imperialist and Zionist intervention, through Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia…” “…there is a battle and polarization between the imperialists and reactionaries in the region on one hand, and the power and actions of the Kurds on the other hand. The Kurdish nation… has progressed towards cementing its identity, to place itself as the alternative of self-determination despite the pressure of the imperialists and their reactionary allies.”
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Background information: a Hoxhaist international founded in 1994; it is referred to with the name of its publication in parentheses to distinguish it from the Maoist international of the exact same name which publishes International Newsletter (see Revolutionary Organization of Labor below). Leading parties include the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador and the Workers’ Party in Tunisia. The American Party of Labor appears to be the unofficial US section of the ICMLPO-US.
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Stance on Syria: neutral. Rejects all sides as imperialist and/or reactionary. “[The Syrian Communist Party] offer[s] little criticism of Assad’s anti-worker, neoliberal economic policies, or of the corruption and cruelty of a regime that has impoverished millions of Syrians.” “None of the leading rebel forces represent the working class in Syria.”
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Background information: founded as a Maoist split from the CPUSA in 1962. It controlled nearly half of the well-known Vietnam-era Students for a Democratic Society activist group. It moved away from Maoism in 1971 and is now Stalinist, though as noted in my introduction, they would dispute this label. Not affiliated with any international tendencies, but they claim to have several supporters across the globe.
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Stance on Syria: supports YPG. Says US uses threat of ISIS to continue intervention in Iraq and launch one in Syria.
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Background information: split from the CPUSA in 1961. Formerly known as the Ray O. Light Group. Very little online presence. Traditionally it has been considered Maoist, and it participates in the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (International Newsletter), a Maoist international, but it is also critical of many key aspects of Maoism, particularly the Cultural Revolution. It is also a member of the International Coordination of Revolutionary Parties and Organizations and is a regular attendant of the International Communist Seminar, both of which are listed further down.
Maoists
Mao Zedong further developed Stalinism. Whereas most Marxists up to that point focused on the industrial proletariat, Mao focused on the peasantry. He emphasized rural guerrilla warfare and anti-imperialism in “Third World” countries. He also encouraged a “Cultural Revolution” to rid China of treacherous “capitalist-roaders”, “feudal” cultural practices, and other vestiges of capitalism and imperialism. This tumultuous period of Chinese history lasted from 1966 to 1976, when Deng Xiaoping secured power and instituted a number of reforms, including reducing much of the cult of personality around the now-dead Mao, allowing (limited) criticism of the party, and opening the country to market reforms and privatization. Deng called his reforms “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” The ideology of the Chinese Communist Party today is still officially referred to as “Mao Zedong Thought”, but “Maoists” today view the Chinese regime as revisionist.
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Stance on Syria: neutral. Says US is chiefly responsible for Syrian bloodbath. “It is an unfortunate fact that among the forces ‘in the field’ in Syria, none of them represent the interests of the people—including the regime and its allies and the motley collection of jihadists and more pro-U.S. forces.” Sources:
Background information: formed in 1975. The main Maoist party in the US. Led by the charismatic Bob Avakian, it controlled the other half of the Students for a Democratic Society and battled bitterly with the Progressive Labor Party for control. It was a member of the now-defunct Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. The RIM advanced a specific type of Maoism called Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, which placed special emphasis on guerrilla-style “protracted people’s wars” and included such infamous militant groups as the Communist Party of the Philippines, the Communist Party of Peru (“Shining Path”), and one of many Nepalese Maoist factions that overthrew the monarchy in that country in following the 1996-2006 civil war.
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Stance on Syria: supports government. “Syria plays a positive role in the Middle East. Its people and government are supportive of the struggle to free Palestine and assist the patriotic forces in Lebanon. Syria opposes Zionism and imperialism. The point here is not that the government of Syria is perfect or without fault. The point is this: It would be a sad setback for the collective efforts of the Arab peoples to achieve national liberation if Syria was pushed into a civil war, or delivered into the hands of those who have sold their soul’s to Washington and the West.” “One can debate the nature of the demonstrations against the Syrian government several years ago and what led up to them, but today, right now, the opposition is bought, paid for, and acting on behalf of the U.S. and the most reactionary of Arab regimes.”
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Background information: the other half of the 1999 split in the FRSO (see Leninist section). This faction continued the original FRSO’s Maoist line. It is affiliated to the International Communist Seminar and is arguably the most pro-North Korean of any US party.

Trotskyists

Leon Trotsky was Stalin’s chief rival to succeed Lenin. Trotsky criticized Stalin’s bureaucracy as well as the concept of socialism in one country, instead arguing that the only way for socialism to succeed in Russia was if other revolutions occurred around the world at the same time; otherwise, the world’s capitalist forces would overwhelm the isolated Russia and reverse the revolution. Trotsky defined Stalin’s USSR as a “degenerated workers’ state” – that is, a state which had originally been truly socialist but had degraded over time through the lack of world revolution and the poisonous Stalinist bureaucracy, though it was still better than a capitalist state. Workers owned the means of production, but not political power. Trotsky was assassinated in 1940, and when Soviet satellite states began popping up in Eastern Europe following World War II, his followers called these satellites “deformed workers’ states”: similar to degenerated workers’ state, but unlike the USSR, they had been stunted from birth. See the introduction for details on the major splits within Trotskyism.
Post-Pablo
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Stance on Syria: supports opposition, critically supports YPG. Linked to the Revolutionary Left Current, a Syrian leftist group which operated a tiny militia called the People’s Liberation Faction from 2014-2015. Asserts that opposition is still democratic. Criticizes indiscriminate shelling by rebels. “Despite the various truces the Assad regime and its allies have indeed continued military offensives in various parts of the country. This is actually the main reason why the ‘peace’ negotiations are stalled.” Critical of PKK and PYD. “The survival of Rojava against attacks from Islamic State is undoubtedly a victory for the left. The Kurdish movement deserves concrete solidarity in its struggle for self-determination, the more so because in Rojava people are trying to construct a progressive alternative.” “However, it was the uprising against the Syrian state that gave the Kurdish movement the chance to form Rojava as the Assad regime decided to focus on fighting the rebels.”
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Background information: the result of the reunification of the original Fourth International in 1963. Calls itself simply the Fourth International, but it’s often called the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (referring to the name of the leadership council from 1963-2003) to distinguish it from other claimants of the “Fourth International” name.
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Stance on Syria: originally supported uprising, but now critically supports Russians. Said in 2012 that “the economic exploitation of Syria’s workers and peasants by its ruling class, a class subservient to global capital, and the horrific oppression and murderous policies of the Syrian regime to enforce that exploitation, mean that we stand with the Syrian masses in their uprising against the regime.” Later says US took advantage of Assad’s brutality to try to set up new regime. “… in the absence of anything resembling a revolutionary leadership, the democratic and popular thrust of the anti-Assad mobilizations rapidly dissipated.”
Alleges US and Gulf monarchies support IS. Critical of Assad, but says “the removal of Assad’s oppressive capitalist Syrian regime is the sole responsibility of the Syrian people, not U.S. imperialism and its reactionary allied forces.” “Syria’s right to self-determination necessarily includes the right of the Syrian government to seek and accept the support of the militia fighters that are today defending Syria against imperialist intervention in several of its manifestations.” Sees Russia as counterbalance to US imperialism. Criticizes YPG for accepting US aid.
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Background information: split from the Socialist Workers Party in 1983 as the SWP abandoned Trotskyism. One of the five major US Trotskyist parties today. Semi-affiliated with the USFI, but it disagrees with most other USFI sections on Syria.
Stance on Syria: supports opposition. Defends opposition as revolutionary, “mass popular uprising”. “… the main aim of direct U.S. intervention in Syria is to prevent the grassroots popular movement from coming to power.” Sources:
Background information: founded in 1988. Partly exists as a faction within Solidarity (see below). Considered very close to the USFI, though not officially affiliated.
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Stance on Syria: critically supports opposition. “If initially there was a popular uprising, by the end of 2011 it had transformed itself into an armed conflict along sectarian lines.” “The role of Marxists is to support the creation of independent organizations of the working class and poor, their self-control and defence, fight against Assad’s brutal dictatorship, but without having any illusions in the bourgeois and imperialist military or in the jihadists, who have nothing to offer to the working class, except more death and misery.” Critical of PKK/PYD ideology and of PYD’s ambiguous relationship with regime and support from the West – says they’re trying to balance between two brutal capitalist powers. Highly critical of Russian intervention and motivations behind it.
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Background information: another major Trotskyist international. Leading party is the Socialist Party in England and Wales. Strong emphasis on the role of trade unions. Historically, it pursued the tactic of entryism (joining another party in the hopes of swaying that party to your position), but that was abandoned in 1991-1992. American section is Socialist Alternative, one of the five major Trotskyist parties in the US.
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Stance on Syria: supported initial protests, but now neutral. Attributes failure of protests to regime violence and weak, unorganized state of working class.
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Background information: split from the CWI in 1992 after upholding the tactic of entryism. Formerly known as the Committee for a Marxist International. Leading party is Socialist Appeal in the UK. US section is Workers International League.
Stance on Syria: supports opposition. Has reposted other parties’ pro-opposition articles on Syria. Sources:
Background information: split from Socialist Action in 1999-2001. Like the Socialist Workers Party, it views Cuba very positively. Also known as Socialist Viewpoint after their magazine.
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Stance on Syria: critically supports opposition and YPG. Critical of political solutions that would retain Assad.
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Background information: split from the Socialist Workers Party in 1964 over a number of differences. Places a special emphasis on radical feminism. One of the five major Trotskyist parties in the US.
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Stance on Syria: supports opposition. Opposed to internationally-sponsored negotiations. “There is no way out to this impasse the Arabic [sic] country is in, as long as Assad remains in power. And the only way to defeat him is supporting the groups affiliated to the Free Syrian Army, who hold a democratic, independent position; the ones who have not sold, directly or indirectly, to the different forces acting in the conflict, followed by the interest on how to increase their own influence around the region. We must provide weapons to the rebels fighting against the regime and against the self-denominated Islamist groups, with no previous conditioning.”
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Background information: split from the United Secretariat of the Fourth International in 1982 under the leadership of Nahuel Moreno after disagreeing with the USFI’s decision to endorse guerrilla warfare in Latin America. Leading party is the United Socialist Workers Party in Brazil. American section is Workers’ Voice.
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Stance on Syria: supports opposition. Criticizes 2016 Russian-American-sponsored truce as a sham.
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Background information: formed in 1995, partially as a split from the International Workers League – Fourth International. Leading party is the Socialist Workers’ Movement in Argentina. American section is Socialist Core.
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Stance on Syria: supported initial protests, but now neutral. “… Assad’s regime is neither progressive nor anti-imperialist: it is a despotic dictatorship that has, for decades, been implementing neoliberal policies… The Syrian people rose up against these conditions. However, militarization stifled the popular uprising and gave rise to a civil war, in which imperialist countries and regional powers, like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Gulf States, that support the Sunni militias, in order to further their reactionary interests, are intervening, through the different factions in struggle.” “The aim [of US support to the rebels] was to let both sides wear themselves out and then attempt a negotiated solution between Assad’s regime and the opposition, with support from Russia.”
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Background information: split from the International Workers League – Fourth International in 1993. Formerly known as the Trotskyist Fraction – International Strategy. Leading party is the Socialist Workers’ Party in Argentina. No US section.
Anti-Pablo
Stance on Syria: vaguely supports government. Characterizes war as “CIA-backed regime change operation” in pursuit of US political-economic goals. “From the outset, the US proxy war for regime-change was launched with the aim of depriving Moscow and Tehran of their principal ally in the Arab world in preparation for direct confrontation with both countries.”
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Background information: split from the original Fourth International in 1953 (see introduction). Leading party is the Socialist Equality Party in the US, one of the country’s five major Trotskyist parties, which emerged from a 1964 split from the Socialist Workers Party after the SWP joined the re-unified FI.
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Stance on Syria: supports YPG. “We have supported the uprising of the poor and dispossessed of Syria and will side with the revolution against the Assad regime in the future as well. But the war that is being prepared now has nothing in common with either the progressive goals or the forces of that insurrection.”
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Background information: a minor Trotskyist international formed in 2004. It generally holds similar positions to the International Committee of the Fourth International. Leading party is the Workers’ Party in Argentina. American section is Refoundation and Revolution, a faction within the multi-tendency group Solidarity (listed further down), though R&R may be defunct.
Stance on Syria: unclear. Opposes opposition. Blames NATO and Gulf monarchies for war.
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Background information: a Trotskyist international founded in 1993. The last in a series of internationals formed around the leadership of French Trotskyist Pierre Lambert. Leading party is the International Communist Current in France, though that organization’s current status in unclear. American section is Socialist Organizer, which puts a special emphasis on Latino activism.
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Stance on Syria: neutral. Views YPG as US puppet, ISIS as anti-imperialist. “The setting up of the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] was prepared by a year of joint operations in which the YPG served as proxies for the U.S. military. During that time, as Kurdish forces overran ISIS-controlled villages, they repeatedly carried out communalist expulsions, driving Arabs and Turkmen from their homes.”
“We have no side in Syria’s squalid civil war between the butcher Assad and various rebel forces dominated by different kinds of Islamists. But we do have a side against the U.S. and other imperialist powers. Thus, while implacable opponents of everything the reactionary cutthroats of ISIS stand for, we take a military side with ISIS when it aims its fire against the imperialist armed forces and their proxies in the region, including the Kurdish nationalist forces in Iraq and Syria. At the same time, while our main opposition is to the imperialists, we also oppose the other capitalist powers, such as Russia and Turkey, involved in Syria and are for all of them to get out.”
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Background information: split from the International Committee of the Fourth International in 1966. Formerly known as the International Spartacist Tendency. Leading party is the Spartacist League in the US, which had split from the Socialist Workers Party in 1964 after the SWP joined the re-unified FI.
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Stance on Syria: neutral. “In Syria’s civil war, revolutionaries do not support either the brutal Baathist dictatorship or its reactionary Islamist opponents. At the same time, it is necessary to side militarily with any indigenous forces (including Islamists) when they are attacked by the U.S. and other imperialists.”
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Background information: split from the International Communist League – Fourth International in 1982, accusing the Spartacist League’s leader James Robertson of ruthlessly harassing anyone who posed a threat to his leadership. Leading party is the Bolshevik Tendency in the US.
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Stance on Syria: neutral. Opposes government, but would support it if West invaded.
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Background information: split from the International Bolshevik Tendency in 2008, accusing its leaders of the same abuse of power that led the IBT to split from the ICL-FI. Unclear if it is just a US group or if it has an international following.
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Stance on Syria: neutral. “… any blows against imperialist intervention and domination, even by ultra-reactionary forces such as the I.S., [are] in the interests of the working class and oppressed peoples of the world.” Does not consider Russia imperialist.
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Background information: a minor Trotskyist international formed in 1998. Leading party is the Internationalist Group in the US, which had split from the Spartacist League in 1996. The L4I sees the Spartacists’ ICL-FI as insufficiently devoted to three central principles: maintaining an active and distinctly Trotskyist international, remaining active in the labor movement, and defending the Soviet Union and its satellite states as the lesser evils in the face of capitalism.
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Stance on Syria: unclear. Supported initial protests. Attributes failure of protests to regime brutality, dependence of minorities on Assad. Criticizes opposition as fractious, and sectarian and/or pro-imperialist.
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Background information: I can’t find information about the origins of this Trotskyist international. It places special emphasis on union activity. Its leading party is the Lutte Ouvrière in France. American section is The Spark, which was formed in 1971 a few years after its members split from the Spartacist League for developing sympathies with the Lutte Ouvrière.
Other Trotskyists
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Stance on Syria: supports opposition. “The Syrian Revolution is in a tragic situation. It is attacked on all sides – by the forces of the Assad regime and its regional and international allies, by the open allies of Western imperialism, and by sectarian jihadi groups. Despite their antagonisms, these different forces have a common interest in crushing the original democratic revolutionary movement, which united Syrians of all religious and ethnic backgrounds in the struggle to overthrow the regime.”
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Background information: a Third Camp Trotskyist international formed over a long period of time between the 60s and 90s. Its (now deceased) leader, Tony Cliff, championed the theory that the Stalinist states were not deformed or degenerated workers states, but rather “state capitalist”, or capitalist economies controlled by state bureaucracies with socialist trappings. Leading party is the Socialist Workers Party in the UK (not to be confused with the SWP in the US). American section used to be the International Socialist Organization (see below).
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Stance on Syria: supports opposition. Very critical of Iran and Russia. Opposed to US-Russian-backed negotiations. Critical of YPG cooperation with government.
“Overwhelmingly, these people [those killed in the war] have been slaughtered by the Assad-Iran-Russia Triple Alliance.” “True, Saudi Arabia has funded jihadis, among other militias, but the Saudis and the U.S. are only the number-three culprit in creating the Syrian disaster. Assad is clearly number one, and his allies are number two.”
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Background information: formed in 1977. One of the five major US Trotskyist parties. It was the American section of the International Socialist Tendency until 2001, when it was expelled over disagreements on how to view the end of the Cold War.
Stance on Syria: supports opposition. Critical of YPG cooperation with government. “Certainly, the choice between an IS caliphate or a restored totalitarian Baathist dictatorship is a choice between the plague and cholera.” “The fact that, despite four and a half years of struggle, Syrian revolutionaries are still fighting Bashar al-Assad is as much a testament to their resolve, and to their popular support, as it is to the utter absence of any forces assisting them for much of that time.”
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Background information: a Trotskyist international formed in 1984. It argues that the original Fourth International broke with true Trotskyism in 1951 when it declared that the Stalinist parties in Eastern Europe were still capable of being reformed. Leading party is the Red Flag Platform (formerly known as Workers’ Power) in the UK, which in 2015 joined the Labour Party. Workers’ Power had split from the same group that later became the Socialist Workers Party (UK, not US; see International Socialist Tendency above) in 1974. American section is also known as Workers’ Power.
Stance on Syria: supports opposition. Calls PKK/PYD “pro-imperalist” and “petty-bourgeois.” “Inspired by the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, the multinational masses of workers and peasants in Syria started to stand up against the injustices imposed on them by the Assad dictatorship and the world economic crisis. We characterize this uprising as a justified attempt to foment a democratic revolution and at the same time to fight for important social demands.”
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Background information: split from the League for the Fifth International in 2011. The leading section is in the UK (they simply go by the name RCIT Britain). No US section.
Stance on Syria: critically supports opposition. “But the Western imperialists have feared Syria’s popular revolutionary uprising far more [than the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah alliance], because of its potential to advance the struggle against dictatorship and imperialism throughout the region. Thus they have stood by while Assad, armed by Russian imperialism and Iran, slaughtered hundreds of thousands in his counterrevolutionary war, far more than the IS has killed; they have refused to arm even secular democratic rebel forces because they could not trust them to serve their interests; and they have until now refused to clamp down on support for jihadists as long as they were acting primarily to divide and weaken revolutionary forces.”
“Our opposition to U.S. imperialism in Syria means absolutely no support for Assad’s rule and no call to defer the struggle against his regime.” “… when it comes to sending arms to rebel forces, we promote the arming only of those that: 1) are independent of foreign powers and committed to defending Syria and all the region’s peoples against imperialism; and 2) are opposed to religious sectarianism and to attacks on civilians.”
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Background information: a small Trotskyist international formed in 1992. Known for its theory that the USSR was “statified capitalist”, with some characteristics of capitalism but not as much as Tony Cliff thought. Leading party is the League for the Revolutionary Party in the US, which is descended from the same group from which the International Socialist Organization split.
Stance on Syria: supported initial protests, but now neutral. Criticizes opposition for sectarianism. Criticizes PYD for opportunism, authoritarianism and pro-imperialism.
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Background information: a Third Camp Trotskyist party in the UK. It originally formed in 1966 as a split from the group that later became the Militant Tendency, which founded the Committee for a Workers’ International (listed earlier); after several mergers and defections, it emerged in its modern form in 1992. AWL holds that the USSR and its satellite states were “bureaucratic collectivist”, the same conclusion that the American Max Shachtman came to after he split from the original Fourth International in 1940, creating the Third Camp. Due to this particularly negative view of the USSR and its satellite states, as well as its allegedly “soft” view of Western imperialism and Zionism, AWL has a poor reputation among other leftist groups.

Left communists

Left communists emerged as critics of both the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks. They promoted a highly decentralized socialist government. Rosa Luxemburg was an important influence on left communism.
Stance on Syria:  – neutral. Supported initial protests. Particularly critical of government and foreign intervention on both sides. Regards war as “imperialist stalemate”.
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Background information: a left communist international formed in 1975. Leading party is International Revolution in France. American section is known as Internationalism.
Stance on Syria: neutral. “In this situation the proletariat in Syria can do or say nothing. It has already been ideologically and materially dismembered by either falling into line to defend one of the competing forces or it has simply become victim of the conflict.” “Opposing these wars without giving support to brutal regimes like that of Assad is the start of opposing the system that survives by them.” Critical of the PKK/PYD; compares YPG to Irish Republican Army – seen by many as “progressive” and “revolutionary” but still a sectarian nationalist militia.
“It is this threat of ethnic/sectarian war, which heralds the danger for the future. Ultimately despite the differences between the PKK and the Da’esh, the similarities between the two are what links them. A socialist veneer does not stop an ethnic militia from playing its part in the escalation of the cycle of ethnic conflict, and ethnic cleansing. It is clear in this struggle that the Da’esh is the aggressor, and that the PKK is merely defending its turf. It is also clear that compared to the Da’esh, the PKK looks positively progressive. None of this stops either of them playing their roles in the intensification of ethnic conflict.”
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Background information: a left communist international formed in 1983; formerly known as the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party. Leading party is the Internationalist Communist Party (Battaglia Comunista) in Italy, which had split from Amadeo Bordiga’s International Communist Party (see below) in 1952. American section is the Internationalist Workers Group.
Stance on Syria: neutral. “The rival bourgeois factions fighting for power in Syria today, whether led by Assad or the opposition forces managed and manoeuvred mainly from abroad, are indisputably enemies of the Syrian, Middle Eastern and international proletariat.” “But the working class in Syria will be equally oppressed either by the current government or the new government to support US; change hands only business with oil and gas.” (This second quote is translated from the original Italian by Google Translate)
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Background information: founded in 1943 in Italy; became an international in the 60s. A leading figure was Amadeo Bordiga; Bordigist left communism has similar views of the “vanguard party” to those of Lenin, although Bordiga heavily criticized the authoritarian state that developed as the Bolsheviks emerged from the Russian civil war.  In the late 60s and 70s, the ICP began to split into several different organizations, all claiming the original name. The faction linked above is known as “International Communist Party (Il Partito Comunista)” after their newspaper. No American section.

Left anarchists

“Left anarchism” encompasses all anarchist schools of thought supporting collectivist economic models, such as Mikhail Bakunin-style collectivism, socialism, or syndicalism (essentially, rule by trade unions). Some also identify as communists (though not Marxists) and are thus called anarcho-communists. Left anarchists themselves typically regard the term “left anarchism” as redundant since they believe all true anarchists are economically left-wing and that laissez-faire anarchists or right anarchists are not true anarchists.
Stance on Syria: supported early FSA. Critically supports YPG; critical of PKK/PYD ideology and alleged authoritarianism. Critical of negotiations. “Since the Syrian revolution degenerated into a civil war , when the revolting masses or its co-ordinating committees and its local decentralized militias firstly known as free Syrian army were substituted by warlords-led semi-regular groups backed by regional despots ; Syrian revolutionaries became in a very difficult situation : cannot accept the victory of the dictator, at the same time they knew very well that his defeat doesn’t mean liberating the masses from dictatorship but substituting a dictator with another…”
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Background information: a left anarchist international. Leading affiliate is the Anarchist Federation in France. No American section.
Stance on Syria: supported early FSA. Did not see Islamists as allies. I can’t find much writing on Syria later than 2012, so their current position is unclear.
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Background information: an anarcho-syndicalist international. Leading affiliate is the National Confederation of Labor in Spain (CNT in Spanish), which was one half of the CNT-FAI anarchist alliance that played a prominent role in the Spanish Civil War (the FAI, or Iberian Anarchist Federation, is the Spanish affiliate of the International of Anarchist Federations today). Its American section used to be the Workers Solidarity Alliance (see below).
Stance on Syria: critically supports YPG. Critical of PKK/PYD ideology.
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Background information: an anarcho-syndicalist group in the US. It left the International Workers Association for unknown reasons, though it essentially has the same ideology.
Stance on Syria: there doesn’t seem to be a single, unified stance on Syria. Most articles are generally critically supportive of the YPG and (to a lesser degree) the opposition.
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Background information: a loose platformist network based around a website created in 2005. “Platformism” is a trend within anarcho-communism and anarcho-syndicalism that promotes the organizational philosophies of Nestor Makhno and other Ukrainian and Russian anarchists who led the ultimately-defeated Free Territory in Ukraine during the Russian civil war. Many of Anarkismo’s unofficial “affiliates” were part of the now-defunct International Libertarian Solidarity. Leading “affiliate” is the General Confederation of Labour in Spain, which split from the CNT (see International Workers Association) in 1979 over how to approach the Spanish transition to democracy. Two American “affiliates”: Black Rose Anarchist Federation and Humboldt Grassroots.

Others

Stance on Syria: critically to strongly supportive of government, depending on individual member party. All or nearly all describe the war as a Western imperialist intervention.
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Background information: an international based around an annual conference first established by the Communist Party of Greece in 1998. Its members are the “official” Communist Parties – usually, but not always, those which were pro-Soviet. Leninists, Stalinists, Maoists, and Hoxhaists are all represented. Leading parties include the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the Communist Parties ruling China, Laos, Vietnam, and Cuba, the Workers’ Party of Korea (which has officially abandoned Marxism and Leninism but retains ties to the world’s communist parties), and countless others.
Among these are the Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash), which is Stalinist, and the Syrian Communist Party (Unified), which is Leninist; both are members of the Ba’ath-led National Progressive Front. American section is the CPUSA, listed earlier.
Stance on Syria: vaguely supports government. Calls opposition “terrorists” funded by reactionary imperialists. Apparently, one of the more strongly pro-Assad parties, the Communist Party of Great Britain, tried unsuccessfully to include an explicit mention of “the Baathist regime led by Bashar al-Assad” in a 2013 declaration on Syria.
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Background information: a loose international based around an annual conference hosted by the Workers’ Party of Belgium, first organized in 1996. Members are mostly anti-revisionist (e.g., Stalinist, Maoist, and Hoxhaist), with some sympathetic Leninists, including some of the “official” Communist Parties, meaning that the ICS overlaps with the International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties. The ICS’ current status is unclear: their website is offline, and as far as I can tell, the last meeting was in 2014. Furthermore, the Workers’ Party of Belgium seems to have abandoned anti-revisionism in favor of Eurocommunism (see CPUSA entry). The Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash) was a regular attendant. American parties that regularly attended include the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (Maoist faction) and Revolutionary Organization of Labor. The Workers World Party and the Party for Socialism and Liberation attended occasionally or were invited but did not attend.
Stance on Syria: supports YPG. Very critical of both government and opposition. “We declare ourselves against the two imperialist blocks: if there’s an [American] intervention in Syria we will be opposed to it, but we will not support the wave that eulogizes Russia just because of mere folklore, because they are just as imperialist as the Americans.” Dismisses reports of the Rojava government oppressing or expelling non-Kurds.
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Background information: an anti-revisionist international founded in 2010. Mostly made up of Maoist parties, with some Stalinists, Hoxhaists, and Leninists. Leading parties include the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party in Turkey, the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany, and the Provisional Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist). American section is the Revolutionary Organization of Labor.
Stance on Syria: critically supports opposition. “[The war can only end] if there’s a major change in the position of the Syrian regime. The minimum that might be seen by the opposition as the basis of agreement would be a transitional government, with Bashar al-Assad stepping down — any transitional set-up that would be presided over by Assad would be a non-starter.” “Russia’s deadly raids and the intervention of Iran, Hezbollah, and sectarian Iraqi militias champion this profoundly reactionary, anti-democratic project [the Assad regime].”
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Background information: a multi-tendency leftist group in the US. It was the result of a merger of three Trotskyist groups in 1986, one of which was the same group from which the International Socialist Organization had split. It maintains loose links with the United Secretariat of the Fourth International.
Stance on Syria: neutral. Says 2011 protests arose mainly the economic inequality of “crony capitalism.” “For the Syrian working class the best likely outcome in present circumstances from an ending of the civil war is a bourgeois capitalist liberal democracy and at worst an Islamic fundamentalist reactionary theocracy. Any group replacing the Assad regime will have to continue to run Syrian capitalism for the benefit of the Syrian capitalist class.”
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Background information: an “Impossibilist” Marxist international founded in 1904. Impossibilism is particularly critical of the value of social and economic reforms, arguing that such reforms actually strengthen capitalism and should therefore be avoided. It also rejects Lenin’s concept of the vanguard party and democratic centralism. Leading party is the Socialist Party of Great Britain. American section is the World Socialist Party of the United States.
Stance on Syria: supports opposition. Supports establishing a no-fly zone. Critical of PYD/YPG’s ambiguous relations with Assad and “unprincipled attacks” on FSA.
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Background information: a Marxist Humanist organization in the US founded in 1955. Originally Trotskyists, its members, led by Raya Dunayevskaya, combined a focus on Marx’s philosophical works with the ethics- and rationalist-focused philosophy of humanism. Dunayevskaya had sided with Shachtman in the 1940 split in the Trotskyist movement and ended up agreeing with Tony Cliff (see International Socialist Tendency) that the USSR was state capitalist.
Stance on Syria: critically supports opposition and YPG. Says West is content with handing “a victory to the murderous Assad regime over its internal opponents, more than 200,000 of whom it has slaughtered, and some of whom remain true to the emancipatory ideals of the 2011 uprising.”
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Background information: a small Marxist Humanist international. It was founded in 2010 by the US Marxist Humanists, which was one half of a 2007-2008 split from News & Letters over alleged cliquish leadership and degenerating activity.
Stance on Syria: supports government. Says “Syria is being ravaged by a civil war deliberately promoted by Western powers to destabilize the country and prepare it for regime change. The rebels do not speak for the majority of the population.”
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Background information: a loose network of Latin American leftist parties founded in 1990. Member parties range from center-left social democrats to the far-left Communist Party of Cuba. Besides the CPC, leading members include the Workers’ Party of Brazil, the Movement for Socialism in Bolivia, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front in El Salvador, and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (the party of the late Hugo Chavez). Three American affiliates, all in Puerto Rico: the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, the Socialist Front, and the Hostosian National Independence Movement.

The JFK Assassination – Who Did It? – by Ron Unz – 25 June 2018

Part Two of Two
American Pravda: the JFK Assassination, Part II – Who Did It?
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A strong dam may hold back an immense quantity of water, but once it breaks the resulting flood may sweep aside everything in its path. I had spent nearly my entire life never doubting that a lone gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald killed President John F. Kennedy nor that a different lone gunman took the life of his younger brother Robert a few years later. Once I came to accept that these were merely fairy tales widely disbelieved by many of the same political elites who publicly maintained them, I began considering other aspects of this important history, the most obvious being who was behind the conspiracy and what were their motives.

On these questions, the passage of a half-century and the deaths, natural or otherwise, of nearly all the contemporary witnesses drastically reduces any hope of coming to a firm conclusion. At best, we can evaluate possibilities and plausibilities rather than high likelihoods let alone near certainties. And given the total absence of any hard evidence, our exploration of the origins of the assassination must necessarily rely upon cautious speculation.

From such a considerable distance in time, a bird’s-eye view may be a reasonable starting point, allowing us to focus on the few elements of the apparent conspiracy that seem reasonably well established. The most basic of these is the background of the individuals who appear to have been associated with the assassination, and the recent books by David Talbot and James W. Douglass effectively summarize much of the evidence accumulated over the decades by an army of diligent assassination researchers. Most of the apparent conspirators seem to have had strong ties to organized crime, the CIA, or various anti-Castro activist groups, with considerable overlap across these categories. Oswald himself certainly fit this same profile although he was very likely the mere “patsy” that he claimed to be, as did Jack Ruby, the man who quickly silenced him and whose ties to the criminal underworld were long and extensive.

 

An unusual chain of events provided some of the strongest evidence of CIA involvement. Victor Marchetti, a career CIA officer, had risen to become Special Assistant to the Deputy Director, a position of some importance, before resigning in 1969 over policy differences. Although he fought a long battle with government censors over his book, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, he retained close ties with many former agency colleagues.

During the 1970s, the revelations of the Senate Church Committee and the House Select Committee on Assassinations had subjected the CIA to a great deal of negative public scrutiny, and there were growing suspicions of possible CIA links to JFK’s assassination. In 1978 longtime CIA Counter-intelligence chief James Angleton and a colleague provided Marchetti with an explosive leak, stating that the agency might be planning to admit a connection to the assassination, which had involved three shooters, but place the blame upon E. Howard Hunt, a former CIA officer who had become notorious during Watergate, and scapegoat him as a rogue agent, along with a few other equally tarnished colleagues. Marchetti published the resulting story in The Spotlight, a weekly national tabloid newspaper operated by Liberty Lobby, a rightwing populist organization based in DC. Although almost totally shunned by the mainstream media, The Spotlight was then at the peak of its influence, having almost 400,000 subscribers, as large a readership as the combined total of The New Republic, The Nation, and National Review.

Marchetti’s article suggested that Hunt had actually been in Dallas during the assassination, resulting in a libel lawsuit with potential damages large enough to bankrupt the publication. Longtime JFK assassination researcher Mark Lane became aware of the situation and volunteered his services to Liberty Lobby, hoping to use the legal proceedings, including the discovery process and subpoena power, as a means of securing additional evidence on the assassination, and after various court rulings and appeals, the case finally came to trial in 1985.

As Lane recounted in his 1991 bestseller, Plausible Denial, his strategy generally proved quite successful, not only allowing him to win the jury verdict against Hunt, but also eliciting sworn testimony from a former CIA operative of her personal involvement in the conspiracy along with the names of several other participants, though she claimed that her role had been strictly peripheral. And although Hunt continued for decades to totally deny any connection with the assassination, near the end of his life he made a series of video-taped interviews in which he admitted that he had indeed been involved in the JFK assassination and named several of the other conspirators, while also maintaining that his own role had been merely peripheral. Hunt’s explosive death-bed confession was recounted in a major 2007 Rolling Stone article and also heavily analyzed in Talbot’s books, especially his second one, but otherwise largely ignored by the media.

 

Many of these same apparent conspirators, drawn from the same loose alliance of groups, had previously been involved in the various U.S. government-backed attempts to assassinate Castro or overthrow his Communist government, and they had developed a bitter hostility towards President Kennedy for what they considered his betrayal during the Bay of Pigs fiasco and afterward. Therefore, there is a natural tendency to regard such animosity as the central factor behind the assassination, a perspective generally followed by Talbot, Douglass, and numerous other writers. They conclude that Kennedy died at the hands of harder-line anti-Communists, outraged over his perceived weakness regarding Cuba, Russia, and Vietnam, sentiments that were certainly widespread within right-wing political circles at the height of the Cold War.

While this framework for the assassination is certainly possible, it is far from certain. One may easily imagine that most of the lower-level participants in the Dallas events were driven by such considerations but that the central figures who organized the plot and set matters into motion had different motives. So long as all the conspirators were agreed on Kennedy’s elimination, there was no need for an absolute uniformity of motive. Indeed, men who had long been involved in organized crime or clandestine intelligence operations were surely experienced in operational secrecy, and many of them may not have expected to know the identities, let alone the precise motives, of the men at the very top of the remarkable operation they were undertaking.

We must also sharply distinguish between the involvement of particular individuals and the involvement of an organization as an organization. For example, CIA Director John McCone was a Kennedy loyalist who had been appointed to clean house a couple of years before the assassination, and he surely was innocent of his patron’s death. On the other hand, the very considerable evidence that numerous individual CIA intelligence officers and operatives participated in the action has naturally raised suspicions that some among their highest-ranking superiors were involved as well, perhaps even as the principal organizers of the conspiracy.

These reasonable speculations may have been magnified by elements of personal bias. Many of the prominent authors who have investigated the JFK assassination in recent years have been staunch liberals, and may have allowed their ideology to cloud their judgment. They often seek to locate the organizers of Kennedy’s elimination among those rightwing figures whom they most dislike, even when the case is far from entirely plausible.

But consider the supposed motives of hard-line anti-Communists near the top of the national security hierarchy who supposedly may have organized Kennedy’s elimination because he backed away from a full military solution in the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis incidents. Were they really so absolutely sure that a President Johnson would be such an enormous improvement as to risk their lives and public standing to organize a full conspiracy to assassinate an American president?

A new presidential election was less than a year away, and Kennedy’s shifting stance on Civil Rights seemed likely to cost him nearly all the Southern states that had provided his margin of electoral victory in 1960. A series of public declarations or embarrassing leaks might have helped remove him from office by traditional political means, possibly replacing him with a Cold War hard-liner such as Barry Goldwater or some other Republican. Would the militarists or business tycoons often implicated by liberal JFK researchers have really been so desperate as to not wait those extra few months and see what happened?

Based on extremely circumstantial evidence, Talbot’s 2015 book The Devil’s Chessboard, something of a sequel to Brothers, suggests that former longtime CIA Director Allan Dulles may have been the likely mastermind, with his motive being a mixture of his extreme Cold Warrior views and his personal anger at his 1961 dismissal from his position.

While his involvement is certainly possible, obvious questions arise. Dulles was a seventy-year-old retiree, with a very long and distinguished career of public service and a brother who had served as Eisenhower’s secretary of state. He had just published The Craft of Intelligence, which was receiving very favorable treatment in the establishment media, and he was embarked on a major book tour. Would he really have risked everything—including his family’s reputation in the history books—to organize the murder of America’s duly-elected president, an unprecedented act utterly different in nature than trying to unseat a Guatemalan leader on behalf of supposed American national interests? Surely, using his extensive media and intelligence contacts to leak embarrassing disclosures about JFK’s notorious sexual escapades during the forthcoming presidential campaign would have been be a much safer means of attempting to achieve an equivalent result. And the same is true for J. Edgar Hoover and many of the other powerful Washington figures who hated Kennedy for similar reasons.

On the other hand, it is very easy to imagine that such individuals had some awareness of the emerging plot or may even have facilitated it or participated to a limited extent. And once it succeeded, and their personal enemy had been replaced, they surely would have been extremely willing to assist in the cover-up and protect the reputation of the new regime, a role that Dulles may have played as the most influential member of the Warren Commission. But such activities are different than acting as the central organizer of a presidential assassination.

 

Just as with the hard-line national security establishment, many organized crime leaders had grown outraged over the actions of the Kennedy Administration. During the late 1950s, Robert Kennedy had intensely targeted the mob for prosecution as chief counsel to the Senate Labor Rackets Committee. But during the 1960 election, family patriarch Joseph Kennedy used his own longstanding mafia connections to enlist their support for his older son’s presidential campaign, and by all accounts the votes stolen by the corrupt mob-dominated political machines in Chicago and elsewhere helped put JFK in the White House, along with Robert Kennedy as his Attorney General. Frank Sinatra, an enthusiastic Kennedy supporter, had also helped facilitate this arrangement by using his influence with skeptical mob leaders.

However, instead of repaying such crucial election support with political favors, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, perhaps ignorant of any bargain, soon unleashed an all-out war against organized crime, far more serious than anything previously mounted at the federal level, and the crime bosses regarded this as a back-stabbing betrayal by the new administration. Once Joseph Kennedy was felled by an incapacitating stroke in late 1961, they also lost any hope that he would use his influence to enforce the deals he had struck the previous year. FBI wiretaps reveal that mafia leader Sam Giancana decided to have Sinatra killed for his role in this failed bargain, only sparing the singer’s life when he considered how much he personally loved the voice of one of the most famous Italian-Americans of the 20th century.

These organized crime leaders and some of their close associates such as Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa certainly developed a bitter hatred toward the Kennedys, and this has naturally led some authors to point to the mafia as the likely organizers of the assassination, but I find this quite unlikely. For many decades, American crime bosses had had a complex and varied relationship with political figures, who might sometimes be their allies and at other times their persecutors, and surely there must have been many betrayals over the years. However, I am not aware of a single case in which any even moderately prominent political figure on the national stage was ever targeted for assassination, and it seems quite unlikely that the sole exception would be a popular president, whom they would have likely regarded as being completely out of their league. On the other hand, if individuals who ranked high in Kennedy’s own DC political sphere set in motion a plot to eliminate him, they might have found it easy to enlist the enthusiastic cooperation of various mafia leaders.

Furthermore, the strong evidence that many CIA operatives were involved in the conspiracy very much suggests that they were recruited and organized by some figure high in their own hierarchy of the intelligence or political worlds rather than the less likely possibility that they were brought in solely by leaders of the parallel domain of organized crime. And while crime bosses might possibly have organized the assassination itself, they surely had no means of orchestrating the subsequent cover-up by the Warren Commission, nor would there have been any willingness by America’s political leadership to protect mafia leaders from investigation and proper punishment for such a heinous act.

 

If a husband or wife is found murdered, with no obvious suspect or motive at hand, the normal response of the police is to carefully investigate the surviving spouse, and quite often this suspicion proves correct. Similarly, if you read in your newspapers that in some obscure Third World country two bitterly hostile leaders, both having unpronounceable names, had been sharing supreme political power until one was suddenly struck down in a mysterious assassination by unknown conspirators, your thoughts would certainly move in an obvious direction. Most Americans in the early 1960s did not perceive their own country’s politics in such a light, but perhaps they were mistaken. As a total newcomer to the enormous, hidden world of JFK conspiracy analysis, I was immediately surprised by the mere sliver of suspicion directed towards Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, the slain leader’s immediate successor and the most obvious beneficiary.

The two Talbot books and the one by Douglass, totaling some 1500 pages, devote merely a few paragraphs to any suspicions of Johnson’s involvement. Talbot’s first book reports that immediately after the assassination, the vice president had expressed a frantic concern to his personal aides that a military coup might be in progress or a world war breaking out, and suggests that these few casual words demonstrate his obvious innocence, although a more cynical observer might wonder if those remarks had been uttered for exactly that reason. Talbot’s second book actually quotes an apparent low-level conspirator as claiming that Johnson had personally signed off on the plot and admits that Hunt believed the same thing, but treats such unsubstantiated accusations with considerable skepticism, before adding a single sentence acknowledging that Johnson may indeed have been a passive supporter or even an accomplice. Douglass and Peter Dale Scott, author of the influential 1993 book Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, apparently seem never to have even entertained the possibility.

Ideological considerations are probably an important reason for such remarkable reticence. Although liberals had grown to revile LBJ by the late 1960s for his escalation of the unpopular Vietnam War, over the decades those sentiments have faded, while warm memories of his passage of the landmark Civil Rights legislation and his creation of the Great Society programs have elevated his stature in that ideological camp. Furthermore, such legislation had long been blockaded in Congress and only became law because of the 1964 Democratic Congressional landslide following JFK’s martyrdom, and it might be difficult for liberals to admit that their fondest dreams were only realized by an act of political parricide.

Kennedy and Johnson may have been intensively hostile personal rivals, but there seem to have been few deep ideological differences between the two men, and most of the leading figures in JFK’s government continued to serve under his successor, surely another source of enormous embarrassment to any ardent liberals who came to suspect that the former had been murdered by a conspiracy involving the latter. Talbot, Douglass, and many other left-leaning advocates for an assassination conspiracy prefer to point the finger of blame towards far more congenial villains such as hard-line, anti-Communist Cold Warriors and right-wing elements, notably including top CIA officials, such as former director Allan Dulles.

An additional factor helping to explain the extreme unwillingness of Talbot, Douglass, and others to consider Johnson as an obvious suspect may be the realities of the book publishing industry. By the 2000s, JFK assassination conspiracies had long become passé and were treated with disdain in mainstream circles. Talbot’s strong reputation, his 150 original interviews, and the quality of his manuscript broke that barrier, and attracted The Free Press as his very respectable publisher, while later drawing a strongly positive review by a leading academic scholar in the New York Times Sunday Book Review and an hour long television segment broadcast on C-Span Booknotes. But if he had devoted any space to voicing suspicions that our 35th president had been murdered by our 36th, surely the weight of that extra element of “outrageous conspiracy theory” would have ensured that his book sank without a trace.

 

However, if we cast off these distorting ideological blinders and the practical considerations of American publishing, the prima facie case for Johnson’s involvement seems quite compelling.

Consider a very simple point. If a president is struck down by an unknown group of conspirators, his successor would normally have had the strongest possible incentive to track them down lest he might become their next victim. Yet Johnson did nothing, appointing the Warren Commission that covered up the entire matter, laying the blame upon an erratic “lone gunman” conveniently dead. This would seem remarkably odd behavior for an innocent LBJ. This conclusion does not demand that Johnson was the mastermind, nor even an active participant, but it raises a very strong suspicion that he at least had had some awareness of the plot, and enjoyed a good personal relationship with some of the principals.

A similar conclusion is supported by a converse analysis. If the plot succeeded and Johnson became president, the conspirators must surely have felt reasonably confident that they would be protected rather than tracked down and punished as traitors by the new president. Even a fully successful assassination would entail enormous risks unless the organizers believed that Johnson would do exactly what he did, and the only means of ensuring this would be to sound him out about the plan, at least in some vague manner, and obtain his passive acquiesce.

Based on these considerations, it seems extremely difficult to believe that any JFK assassination conspiracy took place entirely without Johnson’s foreknowledge, or that he was not a central figure in the subsequent cover-up.

 

But the specific details of Johnson’s career and his political situation in late 1963 greatly strengthen these entirely generic arguments. A very useful corrective to the “See No Evil” approach to Johnson from liberal JFK writers is Roger Stone’s The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ, published in 2013. Stone, a longtime Republican political operative who got his start under Richard Nixon, presents a powerful case that Johnson was the sort of individual who might easily have lent his hand to political murder, and also that he had strong reasons to do so.

Among other things, Stone gathers together an enormous wealth of persuasive information regarding Johnson’s decades of extremely corrupt and criminal practices in Texas, including fairly plausible claims that these may have included several murders. In one bizarre 1961 incident that strangely foreshadows the Warren Commission’s “lone gunman” finding, a federal government inspector investigating a major Texas corruption scheme involving a close LBJ ally was found dead, shot five times in the chest and abdomen by a rifle, but the death was officially ruled a “suicide” by the local authorities, and that conclusion was reported with a straight face in the pages of the Washington Post.

Certainly one remarkable aspect of Johnson’s career is that he was born dirt-poor, held low-paying government jobs throughout his entire life, yet took the oath of office as the wealthiest president in modern American history, having accumulated a personal fortune of over $100 million in present-day dollars, with the financial payoffs from his corporate benefactors having been laundered through his wife’s business. This odd anomaly is so little remembered these days that a prominent political journalist expressed total disbelief when I mentioned it to him a decade ago.

Stone also effectively sketches out the very difficult political situation Johnson faced in late 1963. He had originally entered the 1960 presidential race as one of the most powerful Democrats in the country and the obvious front-runner for his party’s nomination, certainly compared to the much younger Kennedy, whom he greatly outranked in political stature and also somewhat despised. His defeat, involving a great deal of underhanded dealings on both sides, came as a huge personal blow. The means by which he somehow managed to get himself placed on the ticket are not entirely clear, but both Stone and Seymour Hersh in The Dark Side of Camelot strongly suggest that personal blackmail was a greater factor than geographical ticket-balancing. In any event, Kennedy’s paper-thin 1960 victory would have been far more difficult without Texas narrowly falling into the Democratic column, and election fraud there by Johnson’s powerful political machine seems almost certainly to have been an important factor.

Under such circumstances, Johnson naturally expected to play a major role in the new administration, and he even issued grandiose demands for a huge political portfolio, but instead he found himself immediately sidelined and treated with complete disdain, soon becoming a forlorn figure with no authority or influence. As time went by, the Kennedys made plans to get rid of him, and just a few days before the assassination, they were already discussing whom to place on the reelection ticket in his stead. Much of Johnson’s long record of extreme corruption both in Texas and in DC was coming to light following the fall of Bobby Baker, his key political henchman, and with strong Kennedy encouragement, Life Magazine was preparing a huge expose of his sordid and often criminal history, laying the basis for his prosecution and perhaps a lengthy prison sentence. By mid-November 1963, Johnson seemed a desperate political figure at the absolute end of his rope, but a week later he was the president of the United States, and all those swirling scandals were suddenly forgotten. Stone even claims that the huge block of magazine space reserved for the Johnson expose was instead filled by the JFK assassination story.

Aside from effectively documenting Johnson’s sordid personal history and the looming destruction he faced at the hands of the Kennedys in late 1963, Stone also adds numerous fascinating pieces of personal testimony, which may or may not be reliable. According to him, as his mentor Nixon was watching the scene at the Dallas police station where Jack Ruby shot Oswald, Nixon immediately turned as white as a ghost, explaining that he had personally known the gunman under his birth-name of Rubenstein. While working on a House Committee in 1947, Nixon had been advised by a close ally and prominent mob-lawyer to hire Ruby as an investigator, being told that “he was one of Lyndon Johnson’s boys.” Stone also claims that Nixon once emphasized that although he had long sought the presidency, unlike Johnson “I wasn’t willing to kill for it.” He further reports that Vietnam Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge and numerous other prominent political figures in DC were absolutely convinced of Johnson’s direct involvement in the assassination.

Stone has spent more than a half-century as a ruthless political operative, a position that provided him with unique personal access to individuals who participated in the great events of the past, but one that also carries the less than totally candid reputation of that profession, and individuals must carefully weigh these conflicting factors against each other. Personally, I tend to credit most of the eyewitness stories he provides. But even readers who remain entirely skeptical should find useful the large collection of secondary source references to the sordid details of LBJ’s history that the book provides.

 

Finally, a seemingly unrelated historical incident had originally raised my own suspicions of Johnson’s involvement.

Just prior to the outbreak of the Six Day War in 1967, Johnson had dispatched the U.S.S. Liberty, our most advanced intelligence-gathering ship, to remain offshore in international waters and closely monitor the military situation. There have been published claims that he had granted Israel a green-light for its preemptive attack, but fearful of risking a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet patrons of Syria and Egypt, had strictly circumscribed the limits of the military operation, sending the Liberty to keep an eye on developments and perhaps also to “show Israel who was boss.”

Whether or not this reconstruction is correct, the Israelis soon launched an all-out attack on the nearly defenseless ship despite the large American flag it was flying, deploying attack jets and torpedo boats to sink the vessel during an assault that lasted several hours, while machine-gunning the lifeboats to ensure that there would be no survivors. The first stage of the attack had targeted the main communications antenna, and its destruction together with heavy Israeli jamming prevented any communications with other U.S. naval forces in the region.

Despite these very difficult conditions, a member of the crew heroically managed to jerry-rig a replacement antenna during the attack, and by trying numerous different frequencies was able to evade the jamming and contact the U.S. Sixth Fleet, informing them of the desperate situation. Yet although carrier jets were twice dispatched to rescue the Liberty and drive off the attackers, each time they were recalled, apparently upon direct orders from the highest authorities of the U.S. government. Once the Israelis learned that word of the situation had reached other U.S. forces, they soon discontinued their attack, and the heavily-damaged Liberty eventually limped into port, with over 200 dead and wounded sailors and NSA signal operators, representing the greatest loss of American servicemen in any naval incident since World War II.

Although numerous medals were issued to the survivors, word of the incident was totally suppressed by a complete blanket of secrecy, and in an unprecedented step, even a Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded only in a private ceremony. The survivors were also harshly threatened with immediate court martial if they discussed what had transpired with the press or anyone else. Despite the overwhelming evidence that the attack had been intentional, a naval court of inquiry presided over by Admiral John S. McCain, Jr., father of the current senator, whitewashed the incident as a tragic accident, and a complete media blackout suppressed the facts. The true story only began to come out years later, when James M. Ennes, Jr., a Liberty survivor, risked severe legal consequences and published Assault on the Liberty in 1979 .

As it happened, NSA intercepts of Israeli communications between the attacking jets and Tel Aviv, translated from the Hebrew, fully confirmed that the attack had been entirely deliberate, and since many of the dead and wounded were NSA employees, the suppression of these facts greatly rankled their colleagues. My old friend Bill Odom, the three-star general who ran the NSA for Ronald Reagan, later shrewdly circumvented the restrictions of his political masters by making those incriminating intercepts part of the standard curriculum of the Sigint training program required for all intelligence officers.

In 2007 an unusual set of circumstances finally broke the thirty year blackout in the mainstream media. Real estate investor Sam Zell, a Jewish billionaire extremely devoted to Israel, had orchestrated a leveraged-buyout of the Tribune Company, parent of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, investing merely a sliver of his own money, with the bulk of the financing coming from the pension funds of the company he was acquiring. Widely heralded as “the grave dancer” for his shrewd financial investments, Zell publicly boasted that the deal gave him nearly all of the upside potential of the company, while he bore relatively little of the risk. Such an approach proved wise since the complex deal quickly collapsed into bankruptcy, and although Zell emerged almost unscathed, the editors and journalists lost decades of their accumulated pension dollars, while massive layoffs soon devastated the newsrooms of what had been two of the country’s largest and most prestigious newspapers. Perhaps coincidentally, just as this business turmoil hit in late 2007, the Tribune ran a massive 5,500 word story on the Liberty attack, representing the first and only time such a comprehensive account of the true facts has ever appeared in the mainstream media.

By all accounts, Johnson was an individual of towering personal ego, and when I read the article, I was struck by the extent of his astonishing subservience to the Jewish state. The influence of campaign donations and favorable media coverage seemed completely insufficient to explain his reaction to an incident that had cost the lives of so many American servicemen. I began to wonder if Israel might have played an extraordinarily powerful political trump-card, thereby showing LBJ “who was really boss,” and once I discovered the reality of the JFK assassination conspiracy a year or two later, I suspected I knew what that trump-card might have been. Over the years, I had become quite friendly with the late Alexander Cockburn, and the next time we had lunch I outlined my ideas. Although he had always casually dismissed JFK conspiracy theories as total nonsense, he found my hypothesis quite intriguing.

Regardless of such speculation, the strange circumstances of the Liberty incident certainly demonstrated the exceptionally close relationship between President Johnson and the government of Israel, as well as the willingness of the mainstream media to spend decades hiding events of the most remarkable nature if they might tread on particular toes.

 

These important considerations should be kept in mind as we begin exploring the most explosive yet under-reported theory of the JFK assassination. Almost twenty-five years ago the late Michael Collins Piper published Final Judgment presenting a very large body of circumstantial evidence that Israel and its Mossad secret intelligence service, together with their American collaborators, probably played a central role in the conspiracy.

For decades following the 1963 assassination, virtually no suspicions had ever been directed towards Israel, and as a consequence none of the hundreds or thousands of assassination conspiracy books that appeared during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s had hinted at any role for the Mossad, though nearly every other possible culprit, ranging from the Vatican to the Illuminati, came under scrutiny. Kennedy had received over 80% of the Jewish vote in his 1960 election, American Jews featured very prominently in his White House, and he was greatly lionized by Jewish media figures, celebrities, and intellectuals ranging from New York City to Hollywood to the Ivy League. Moreover, individuals with a Jewish background such as Mark Lane and Edward Epstein had been among the leading early proponents of an assassination conspiracy, with their controversial theories championed by influential Jewish cultural celebrities such as Mort Sahl and Norman Mailer. Given that the Kennedy Administration was widely perceived as pro-Israel, there seemed no possible motive for any Mossad involvement, and bizarre, totally unsubstantiated accusations of such a monumental nature directed against the Jewish state were hardly likely to gain much traction in an overwhelmingly pro-Israel publishing industry.

However, in the early 1990s highly-regarded journalists and researchers began exposing the circumstances surrounding the development of Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal. Seymour Hersh’s 1991 book The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy described the extreme efforts of the Kennedy Administration to force Israel to allow international inspections of its allegedly non-military nuclear reactor at Dimona, and thereby prevent its use in producing nuclear weapons. Dangerous Liaisons: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn appeared in the same year, and covered similar ground.

Although entirely hidden from public awareness at the time, the early 1960s political conflict between the American and Israeli governments over nuclear weapons development had represented a top foreign policy priority of the Kennedy Administration, which had made nuclear non-proliferation one of its central international initiatives. It is notable that John McCone, Kennedy’s choice as CIA Director, had previously served on the Atomic Energy Commission under Eisenhower, being the individual who leaked the fact that Israel was building a nuclear reactor to produce plutonium.

The pressure and financial aid threats secretly applied to Israel by the Kennedy Administration eventually became so severe that they led to the resignation of Israel’s founding Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion in June 1963. But all these efforts were almost entirely halted or reversed once Kennedy was replaced by Johnson in November of that same year. Piper notes that Stephen Green’s 1984 book Taking Sides: America’s Secret Relations With a Militant Israel had previously documented that U.S. Middle East Policy completely reversed itself following Kennedy’s assassination, but this important finding had attracted little attention at the time.

Skeptics of a plausible institutional basis for a JFK assassination conspiracy have often noted the extreme continuity in both foreign and domestic policies between the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, arguing that this casts severe doubt on any such possible motive. Although this analysis seems largely correct, America’s behavior towards Israel and its nuclear weapons program stands as a very notable exception to this pattern.

An additional major area of concern for Israeli officials may have involved the efforts of the Kennedy Administration to sharply restrict the activities of pro-Israel political lobbies. During his 1960 presidential campaign, Kennedy had met in New York City with a group of wealthy Israel advocates, led by financier Abraham Feinberg, and they had offered enormous financial support in exchange for a controlling influence in Middle Eastern policy. Kennedy managed to fob them off with vague assurances, but he considered the incident so troubling that the next morning he sought out journalist Charles Bartlett, one of his closest friends, and expressed his outrage that American foreign policy might fall under the control of partisans of a foreign power, promising that if he became president, he would rectify that situation. And indeed, once he had installed his brother Robert as Attorney General, the latter initiated a major legal effort to force pro-Israel groups to register themselves as foreign agents, which would have drastically reduced their power and influence. But after JFK’s death, this project was quickly abandoned, and as part of the settlement, the leading pro-Israel lobby merely agreed to reconstitute itself as AIPAC.

 

Final Judgment went through a number of a reprintings following its original 1994 appearance, and by the sixth edition released in 2004, had grown to over 650 pages, including numerous long appendices and over 1100 footnotes, the overwhelming majority of these referencing fully mainstream sources. The body of the text was merely serviceable in organization and polish, reflecting the total boycott by all publishers, mainstream or alternative, but I found the contents themselves remarkable and generally quite compelling. Despite the most extreme blackout by all media outlets, the book sold more than 40,000 copies over the years, making it something of an underground bestseller, and surely bringing it to the attention of everyone in the JFK assassination research community, though apparently almost none of them were willing to mention its existence. I suspect these other writers realized that even any mere acknowledgement of the existence of the book, if only to ridicule or dismiss it, might prove fatal to their media and publishing career. Piper himself died in 2015, aged 54, suffering from the health problems and heavy-drinking often associated with grim poverty, and other journalists may have been reluctant to risk that same dismal fate.

As an example of this strange situation, the bibliography of Talbot’s 2005 book contains almost 140 entries, some rather obscure, but has no space for Final Judgment, nor does his very comprehensive index include any entry for “Jews” or “Israel.” Indeed, at one point he very delicately characterizes Sen. Robert Kennedy’s entirely Jewish senior staff by stating “There was not a Catholic among them.” His 2015 sequel is equally circumspect, and although the index does contain numerous entries pertaining to Jews, all these references are in regards to World War II and the Nazis, including his discussion of the alleged Nazi ties of Allen Dulles, his principal bête noire. Stone’s book, while fearlessly convicting President Lyndon Johnson of the JFK assassination, also strangely excludes “Jews” and “Israel” from the long index and Final Judgment from the bibliography, and Douglass’s book follows this same pattern.

Furthermore, the extreme concerns that the Piper Hypothesis seems to have provoked among JFK assassination researchers may explain a strange anomaly. Although Mark Lane was himself of Jewish origins and left-wing roots, after his victory for Liberty Lobby in the Hunt libel trial, he spent many years associated with that organization in a legal capacity, and apparently became quite friendly with Piper, one of its leading writers. According to Piper, Lane told him that Final Judgment made “a solid case” for a major Mossad role in the assassination, and he viewed the theory as fully complementary to his own focus on CIA involvement. I suspect that concerns about these associations may explain why Lane was almost completely airbrushed out of the Douglass and 2007 Talbot books, and discussed in the second Talbot book only when his work was absolutely essential to Talbot’s own analysis. By contrast, New York Times staff writers are hardly likely to be as versed in the lesser-known aspects of the JFK assassination research community, and being ignorant of this hidden controversy, they gave Lane the long and glowing obituary that his career fully warranted.

 

When weighing the possible suspects for a given crime, considering their past pattern of behavior is often a helpful approach. As discussed above, I can think of no historical example in which organized crime initiated a serious assassination attempt against any American political figure even moderately prominent on the national stage. And despite a few suspicions here and there, the same applies to the CIA.

By contrast, the Israeli Mossad and the Zionist groups that preceded the establishment of the Jewish state seem to have had a very long track record of assassinations, including those of high-ranking political figures who might normally be regarded as inviolate. Lord Moyne, the British Minister of State for the Middle East, was assassinated in 1944 and Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN Peace Negotiator sent to help resolve the first Arab-Israel war, suffered the same fate in September 1948. Not even an American president was entirely free of such risks, and Piper notes that the memoirs of Harry Truman’s daughter Margaret reveal that Zionist militants had tried to assassinate her father using a letter laced with toxic chemicals in 1947 when they believed he was dragging his heels in supporting Israel, although that failed attempt was never made public. The Zionist faction responsible for all of these incidents was led by Yitzhak Shamir, who later became a leader of Mossad and director of its assassination program during the 1960s, before eventually becoming Prime Minister of Israel in 1986.

If the claims in the 1990s tell-all bestsellers of Mossad defector Victor Ostrovsky can be credited, Israel even considered the assassination of President George H.W. Bush in 1992 for his threats to cut off financial aid to Israel during a conflict over West Bank settlement policies, and I have been informed that the Bush Administration took those reports seriously at the time. And although I have not yet read it, the recent, widely-praised book Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations by journalist Ronen Bergman suggests that no other country in the world may have so regularly employed assassination as a standard tool of state policy.

There are other notable elements that tend to support the Piper Hypothesis. Once we accept the existence of a JFK assassination conspiracy, the one individual who is virtually certain to have been a participant was Jack Ruby, and his organized crime ties were almost entirely to the huge but rarely-mentioned Jewish wing of that enterprise, presided over by Meyer Lansky, an extremely fervent supporter of Israel. Ruby himself had particularly strong connections with Lansky lieutenant Mickey Cohen, who dominated the Los Angeles underworld and had been personally involved in gun-running to Israel prior to the 1948 war. Indeed, according to Dallas rabbi Hillel Silverman, Ruby had privately explained his killing of Oswald by saying “I did it for the Jewish people.”

An intriguing aspect to Oliver Stone’s landmark JFK film should also be mentioned. Arnon Milchan, the wealthy Hollywood producer who backed the project, was not only an Israeli citizen, but had also reportedly played a central role in the enormous espionage project to divert American technology and materials to Israel’s nuclear weapons project, the exact undertaking that the Kennedy Administration had made such efforts to block. Milchan has even sometimes been described as “the Israeli James Bond.” And although the film ran a full three hours in length, JFK scrupulously avoided presenting any of the details that Piper later regarded as initial clues to an Israeli dimension, instead seeming to finger America’s fanatic home-grown anti-Communist movement and the Cold War leadership of the military-industrial complex as the guilty parties.

Summarizing over 300,000 words of Piper’s history and analysis in just a few paragraphs is obviously an impossible undertaking, but the above discussion provides a reasonable taste of the enormous mass of circumstantial evidence mustered in favor of the Piper Hypothesis.

 

In many respects, JFK Assassination Studies has become its own academic discipline, and my credentials are quite limited. I have read perhaps a dozen books in the subject, and have also tried to approach the issues with the clean slate and fresh eyes of an outsider, but any serious expert would surely have digested scores or even hundreds of the volumes in the field. While the overall analysis of Final Judgment struck me as quite persuasive, a good fraction of the names and references were unfamiliar, and I simply do not have the background to assess their credibility, nor whether the description of the material presented is accurate.

Under normal circumstances, I would turn to the reviews or critiques produced by other authors, and comparing them against Piper’s claims, then decide which argument seemed the stronger. But although Final Judgment was published a quarter-century ago, the near-absolute blanket of silence surrounding the Piper Hypothesis, especially from the more influential and credible researchers, renders this impossible.

However, Piper’s inability to secure any regular publisher and the widespread efforts to smother his theory out of existence, have had an ironic consequence. Since the book went out of print years ago, I had a relatively easy time securing the rights to include it in my collection of controversial HTML Books, and I have now done so, thereby allowing everyone on the Internet to conveniently read the entire text and decide for themselves, while easily checking the multitude of references or searching for particular words or phrases.

This edition actually incorporates several much shorter works, originally published separately. One of these, consisting of an extended Q&A, describes the genesis of the idea and answers numerous questions surrounding it, and for some readers might represent a better starting point.

There are also numerous extended Piper interviews or presentations easily available on YouTube, and when I watched two or three of them a couple of years ago, I thought he effectively summarized many of his main arguments, but I cannot remember which ones they were.

 

The Kennedy assassination surely ranks as one of the most dramatic and heavily reported events of the twentieth century, yet the overwhelming evidence that our president died at the hands of a conspiracy rather than an eccentric “lone gunman” was almost entirely suppressed by our mainstream media during the decades that followed, with endless ridicule and opprobrium heaped on many of the stubborn truth-tellers. Indeed, the very term “conspiracy theory” soon became a standard slur aimed against all those who sharply questioned establishmentarian narratives, and there is strong evidence that such pejorative use was deliberately promoted by government agencies concerned that so much of the American citizenry was growing skeptical of the implausible cover story presented by the Warren Commission. But despite all these efforts, the period may mark the inflection point at which public trust in our national media began its precipitous decline. Once an individual concludes that the media lied about something as monumental as the JFK assassination, he naturally begins to wonder what other lies may be out there.

Although I now consider the case for an assassination conspiracy overwhelming, I think that the passage of so many decades has removed any real hope of reaching a firm conclusion about the identities of the main organizers or their motives. Those who disagree with this negative assessment are free to continue sifting the enormous mountain of complex historical evidence and debating their conclusions with others having similar interests.

However, among the cast of major suspects, I think that the most likely participant by far was Lyndon Johnson, based on any reasonable assessment of means, motive, and opportunity, as well as the enormous role he obviously must have played in facilitating the subsequent Warren Commission cover-up. Yet although such an obvious suspect must surely have been immediately apparent to any observer, Johnson seems to have received only a rather thin slice of the attention that books regularly directed to other, far less plausible suspects. So the clear dishonesty of the mainstream media in avoiding any recognition of a conspiracy seems matched by a second layer of dishonesty in the alternative media, which has done its best to avoid recognizing the most likely perpetrator.

And the third layer of media dishonesty is the the most extreme of all. A quarter century ago, Final Judgment provided an enormous mass of circumstantial evidence suggesting a major, even dominant, role for the Israeli Mossad in organizing the elimination of both our 35rd president and also his younger brother, a scenario that seems second in likelihood only to that of Johnson’s involvement. Yet Piper’s hundreds of thousands of words of analysis have seemingly vanished into the ether, with very few of the major conspiracy researchers even willing to admit their awareness of a shocking book that sold over 40,000 copies, almost entirely by underground word-of-mouth.

So although committed partisans can continue endless, largely fruitless debates over “Who Killed JFK,” I think that the one firm conclusion we can draw from the remarkable history of this pivotal event of the twentieth century is that all of us have lived for many decades within the synthetic reality of “Our American Pravda.”

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The JFK Assassination – What Happened – by Ron Unz – 18 June 2018

Part One of Two
The JFK Assassination, Part I – What Happened?
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About a decade ago, I got a Netflix subscription and was amazed that the Internet now provided immediate access to so many thousands of movies on my own computer screen. But after a week or two of heavy use and the creation of a long watch-list of prospective films I’d always wanted to see, my workload gained the upper hand, and I mostly abandoned the system.

Back then, nearly all Netflix content was licensed from the major studios and depending upon contract negotiations might annually disappear, so when I happened to browse my account again in December, I noticed that a couple of films on my selection list included warning notices saying they would no longer be available on January 1st. One of these was Oliver Stone’s famous 1991 film JFK, which had provoked quite a stir at the time, so thinking now or never, I clicked the Play button, and spent three hours that evening watching the Oscar winner.

Most of the plot seemed bizarre and outlandish to me, with the president’s killing in Dallas supposedly having been organized by a cabal of militantly anti-Communist homosexuals, somehow connected with both the CIA and the mafia, but based in New Orleans. Kevin Costner starred as a crusading District Attorney named Jim Garrison—presumably fictional—whose investigation broke the assassination conspiracy wide open before the subtle tentacles of the Deep State finally managed to squelch his prosecution; or at least that’s what I vaguely remember from my single viewing. With so many implausible elements, the film confirmed my belief in the wild imagination of Hollywood scriptwriters and also demonstrated why no one with any common sense had ever taken seriously those ridiculous “JFK conspiracy theories.”

Despite its dramatic turns, the true circumstances of President John F. Kennedy’s death seemed an island of sanity by comparison. Lee Harvey Oswald, a disgruntled young marine had defected to the USSR in 1959 and finding life behind the Iron Curtain equally unsatisfactory, returned to America a couple of years later. Still having confused Marxist sympathies, he’d joined public protests supporting Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and gradually turning toward violence, purchased a mail-order rifle. During the presidential visit, he had fired three shots from the Dallas School Book Depository, killing JFK, and was quickly apprehended by the local police. Soon, he too was dead, shot by an outraged Kennedy supporter named Jack Ruby. All these sad facts were later confirmed by the Warren Commission in DC, presided over by the U.S. Chief Justice together with some of America’s most respected public figures, and their voluminous report ran nearly 900 pages.

Yet although the film seemed to have affixed an enormous mass of incoherent fictional lunacy on top of that basic history—why would a murder plot in Dallas have been organized in New Orleans, five hundred miles distant?—one single detail troubled me. Garrison is shown denouncing the “lone gunman theory” for claiming that a single bullet was responsible for seven separate wounds in President Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connolly, seated beside him in the limousine. Now inventing gay CIA assassins seems pretty standard Hollywood fare, but I found it unlikely that anyone would ever insert a fictional detail so wildly implausible as that bullet’s trajectory. A week or so later, the memory popped into my head, and I googled around a bit, discovering to my total astonishment that the seven-wounds-from-one-bullet claim was totally factual, and indeed constituted an absolutely essential element of the orthodox “single gunman” framework given that Oswald had fired at most three shots. So that was the so-called “Magic Bullet” I’d occasionally seen conspiracy-nuts ranting and raving about. For the first time in my entire life, I started to wonder whether maybe, just maybe there actually had been some sort of conspiracy behind the most famous assassination in modern world history.

Any conspirators had surely died of old age many years or even decades earlier and I was completely preoccupied with my own work, so investigating the strange circumstances of JFK’s death was hardly a high personal priority. But the suspicions remained in the back of my mind as I diligently read my New York Times and Wall Street Journal every morning while periodically browsing less reputable websites during the afternoon and evening. And as a result, I now began noticing little items buried here and there that I would have previously ignored or immediately dismissed, and these strengthened my newly emerging curiosity.

Among other things, occasional references reminded me that I’d previously seen my newspapers discuss a couple of newly released JFK books in rather respectful terms, which had surprised me a bit at the time. One of them, still generating discussion, was JFK and the Unspeakable published in 2008 by James W. Douglass, whose name meant nothing to me. And the other, which I hadn’t originally realized trafficked in any assassination conspiracies, was David Talbot’s 2007 Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, focused on the relationship between John F. Kennedy and his younger brother Robert. Talbot’s name was also somewhat familiar to me as the founder of Salon.com and a well-regarded if liberal-leaning journalist.

None of us have expertise in all areas, so sensible people must regularly delegate their judgment to credible third-parties, relying upon others to distinguish sense from nonsense. Since my knowledge of the JFK assassination was nil, I decided that two recent books attracting newspaper coverage might be a good place to start. So perhaps a couple of years after watching that Oliver Stone film, I cleared some time in my schedule, and spent a few days carefully reading the combined thousand pages of text.

I was stunned at what I immediately discovered. Not only was the evidence of a “conspiracy” absolutely overwhelming, but whereas I’d always assumed that only kooks doubted the official story, I instead discovered that a long list of the most powerful people near the top of the American government and in the best position to know had been privately convinced of such a “conspiracy,” in many cases from almost the very beginning.

The Talbot book especially impressed me, being based on over 150 personal interviews and released by The Free Press, a highly reputable publisher. Although he applied a considerable hagiographic gloss to the Kennedys, his narrative was compellingly written, with numerous gripping scenes. But while such packaging surely helped to explain some of the favorable treatment from reviewers and how he had managed to produce a national bestseller in a seemingly long-depleted field, for me the packaging was much less important than the product itself.

To the extent that notions of a JFK conspiracy had ever crossed my mind, I’d considered the argument from silence absolutely conclusive. Surely if there had been the slightest doubt of the “lone gunman” conclusion endorsed by the Warren Commission, Attorney-General Robert Kennedy would have launched a full investigation to avenge his slain brother.

But as Talbot so effectively demonstrates, the reality of the political situation was entirely different. Robert Kennedy may have begun that fatal morning widely regarded as the second most powerful man in the country, but the moment his brother was dead and his bitter personal enemy Lyndon Johnson sworn in as the new president, his governmental authority almost immediately ebbed away. Longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who had been his hostile subordinate, probably scheduled for removal in JFK’s second term, immediately became contemptuous and unresponsive to his requests. Having lost all his control over the levels of power, Robert Kennedy lacked any ability to conduct a serious investigation.

According to numerous personal interviews, he had almost immediately concluded that his brother had been struck down at the hands of an organized group, very likely including elements from within the U.S. government itself, but he could do nothing about the situation. As he regularly confided to close associates, his hope at the age of 38 was to reach the White House himself at some future date, and with his hands once again upon the levels of power then uncover his brother’s killers and bring them to justice. But until that day, he could do nothing, and any unsubstantiated accusations he made would be totally disastrous both for national unity and for his own personal credibility. So for years, he was forced to nod his head and publicly acquiesce to the official story of his brother’s inexplicable assassination at the hands of a lone nut, a fairy tale publicly endorsed by nearly the entire political establishment, and this situation deeply gnawed at him. Moreover, his own seeming acceptance of that story was often interpreted by others, not least in the media, as his wholehearted endorsement.

Although discovering Robert Kennedy’s true beliefs was a crucial revelation in the Talbot book, there were many others. At most three shots had allegedly come from Oswald’s rifle, but Roy Kellerman, the Secret Service agent in the passenger seat of JFK’s limousine, was sure there had been more than that, and to the end of his life always believed there had been additional shooters. Gov. Connolly, seated next to JFK and severely wounded in the attack, had exactly the same opinion. CIA Director John McCone was equally convinced that there had been multiple shooters. Across the pages of Talbot’s book, I learned that dozens of prominent, well-connected individuals privately expressed extreme skepticism towards the official “lone gunman theory” of the Warren Commission, although such doubts were very rarely made in public or on the record.

For a variety of complex reasons, the leading national media organs—the commanding heights of “Our American Pravda”—almost immediately endorsed the “lone gunman theory” and with some exceptions generally maintained that stance throughout the next half-century. With few prominent critics willing to publicly dispute that idea and a strong media tendency to ignore or minimize those exceptions, casual observers such as myself had generally received a severely distorted view of the situation.

If the first two dozen pages of the Talbot book completely overturned my understanding of the JFK assassination, I found the closing section almost equally shocking. With the Vietnam War as a political millstone about his neck, President Johnson decided not to seek reelection in 1968, opening the door to a last minute entry into the Democratic race by Robert Kennedy, who overcame considerable odds to win some important primaries. Then on June 4, 1968, he carried gigantic winner-take-all California, placing him on an easy path to the nomination and the presidency itself, at which point he would finally be in a position to fully investigate his brother’s assassination. But minutes after his victory speech, he was shot and fatally wounded, allegedly by another lone gunman, this time a disoriented Palestinian immigrant named Sirhan Sirhan, supposedly outraged over Kennedy’s pro-Israel public positions although these were no different than those expressed by most other political candidates in America.

All this was well known to me. However, I had not known that powder burns later proved that the fatal bullet had been fired directly behind Kennedy’s head from a distance of three inches or less although Sirhan was standing several feet in front of him. Furthermore, eyewitness testimony and acoustic evidence indicated that at least twelve bullets were fired although Sirhan’s revolver could hold only eight, and a combination of these factors led longtime LA Coroner Dr. Thomas Naguchi, who conducted the autopsy, to claim in his 1983 memoir that there was likely a second gunman. Meanwhile, eyewitnesses also reported seeing a security guard with his gun drawn standing right behind Kennedy during the attack, and that individual happened to have a deep political hatred of the Kennedys. The police investigators seemed uninterested in these highly suspicious elements, none of which came to light during the trial. With two Kennedy brothers now dead, neither any surviving members of the family nor most of their allies and retainers had any desire to investigate the details of this latest assassination, and in a number of cases they soon moved overseas, abandoning the country entirely. JFK’s widow Jackie confided in friends that she was terrified for the lives of her children, and quickly married Aristotle Onassis, a Greek billionaire, whom she felt would be able to protect them.

Talbot also devotes a chapter to the late 1960s prosecution efforts of New Orleans DA Jim Garrison, which had been the central plot of the JFK film, and I was stunned to discover that the script was almost entirely based on real life events rather than Hollywood fantasy. This even extended to its bizarre cast of assassination conspiracy suspects, mostly fanatically anti-Communist Kennedy-haters with CIA and organized crime ties, some of whom were indeed prominent members of the New Orleans gay demimonde. Sometimes real life is far stranger than fiction.

 

Taken as a whole, I found Talbot’s narrative quite convincing, at least with respect to demonstrating the existence of a substantial conspiracy behind the fatal event.

Others certainly had the same reaction, with the august pages of The New York Times Sunday Book Review carrying the strongly favorable reaction of presidential historian Alan Brinkley. As the Allan Nevins Professor of History and Provost of Columbia University, Brinkley is as mainstream and respectable an academic scholar as might be imagined and he characterized Talbot as

the latest of many intelligent critics who have set out to demolish the tottering credibility of the Warren Commission and draw attention to evidence of a broad and terrible conspiracy that lay behind the assassination of John Kennedy — and perhaps the murder of Robert Kennedy as well.

The other book by Douglass, released a year later, covered much the same ground and came to roughly similar conclusions, with substantial overlap but also including major additional elements drawn from the enormous volume of extremely suspicious material unearthed over the decades by diligent JFK researchers. Once again, the often bitter Cold War era conflict between JFK and various much harder-line elements of his government over Cuba, Russia, and Vietnam is sketched out as the likely explanation for his death.

Summarizing a half-century of conspiracy research, the Talbot and Douglass books together provide a wealth of persuasive evidence that elements of organized crime, individuals with CIA connections, and anti-Castro Cubans were probably participants in the assassination plot. Oswald seems to have been working with various anti-Communist groups and also had significant connections to U.S. intelligence, while his purported Marxism was merely a very thin disguise. With regard to the assassination itself, he was exactly the “patsy” he publicly claimed to be, and very likely never fired a single shot. Meanwhile, Jack Ruby had a long history of ties to organized crime, and surely killed Oswald to shut his mouth.

Many others may have suffered a similar fate. Conspirators daring enough to strike at the president of the United States would hardly balk at using lethal means to protect themselves from the consequences of their action, and over the years a considerable number of individuals associated with the case in one way or another came to untimely ends.

Less than a year after the assassination, JFK mistress Mary Meyer, the ex-wife of high-ranking CIA official Cord Meyer, was found shot to death in a Washington DC street-killing with no indications of attempted robbery or rape, and the case was never solved. Immediately afterwards, CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton was caught breaking into her home in search of her personal diary, which he later claimed to have destroyed.

Dorothy Kilgallen was a nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist and television personality, and she managed to wrangle an exclusive interview with Jack Ruby, later boasting to her friends that she would break the JFK assassination case wide open in her new book, producing the biggest scoop of her career. Instead, she was found dead in her Upper East Side townhouse, having apparently succumbed to an overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills, with both the draft text and the notes to her Jack Ruby chapter missing.

Shortly before Jim Garrison filed his assassination charges, his top suspect David Ferrie was found dead at age 48, possibly of natural causes, though the DA suspected foul play.

During the mid-1970s, the House Select Committee on Assassinations held a series of high-profile hearings to reopen and investigate the case, and two of the witnesses called were high-ranking mafia figures Sam Giancana and Johnny Rosselli, widely suspected of having been connected with the assassination. The former was shot to death in the basement of his home one week before he was scheduled to testify, and the body of the latter was found in an oil-drum floating in the waters off Miami after he had been subpoenaed for an additional appearance.

These were merely a few of the highest-profile individuals with a connection to the Dallas assassination whose lives were cut short in the years that followed, and although the deaths may have been purely coincidental, the full list is rather a long one.

 

Having read a couple of books that completely upended my settled beliefs about a central event of twentieth century America, I simply didn’t know what to think. Over the years, my own writings had put me on friendly terms with a well-connected individual whom I considered a member of the elite establishment, and whose intelligence and judgment had always seemed extremely solid. So I decided to very gingerly raise the subject with him, and see whether he had ever doubted the “lone gunman” orthodoxy. To my total astonishment, he explained that as far back as the early 1990s, he’d become absolutely convinced in the reality of a “JFK conspiracy” and over the years had quietly devoured a huge number of the books in that field, but had never breathed a word in public lest his credibility be ruined and his political effectiveness destroyed.

A second friend, a veteran journalist known for his remarkably courageous stands on certain controversial topics, provided almost exactly the same response to my inquiry. For decades, he’d been almost 100% sure that JFK had died in a conspiracy, but once again had never written a word on the topic for fear that his influence would immediately collapse.

If these two individuals were even remotely representative, I began to wonder whether a considerable fraction, perhaps even a majority, of the respectable establishment had long harbored private beliefs about the JFK assassination that were absolutely contrary to the seemingly uniform verdict presented in the media. But with every such respectable voice keeping so silent, I had never once suspected a thing.

Few other revelations in recent years have so totally overturned my understanding of the framework of reality. Even a year or two later, I still found it very difficult to wrap my head around the concept, as I described in another note to that well-connected friend of mine:

BTW, I hate to keep harping on it, but every time I consider the implications of the JFK matter I’m just more and more astonished.

The president of the US. The heir to one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in America. His brother the top law enforcement officer in the country. Ben Bradlee, one of his closest friends, the fearless crusading editor of one of the nation’s most influential media outlets. As America’s first Catholic president, the sacred icon of many millions of Irish, Italian, and Hispanic families. Greatly beloved by top Hollywood people and many leading intellectuals.

His assassination ranks as one of the most shocking and dramatic events of the 20th century, inspiring hundreds of books and tens of thousands of news stories and articles, examining every conceivable detail. The argument from MSM silence always seemed absolutely conclusive to me.

From childhood, it’s always been obvious to me that the MSM is completely dishonest about certain things and over the last dozen years I’ve become extremely suspicious about a whole range of other issues. But if you’d asked me a couple of years ago whether JFK was killed by a conspiracy, I would have said “well, anything’s possible, but I’m 99% sure there’s absolutely no substantial evidence pointing in that direction since the MSM would surely have headlined it a million times over.”

Was there really a First World War? Well, I’ve always assumed there was, but who really knows?….

 

Our reality is shaped by the media, but what the media presents is often determined by complex forces rather than by the factual evidence in front of their eyes. And the lessons of the JFK assassination may provide some important insights into this situation.

A president was dead and soon afterward his supposed lone assassin suffered the same fate, producing a tidy story with a convenient endpoint. Raising doubts or focusing on contrary evidence might open doors better kept shut, perhaps endangering national unity or even risking nuclear war if the trail seemed to lead overseas. The highest law enforcement officer in the country was the slain president’s own brother, and since he seemed to fully accept that simple framework, what responsible journalist or editor would be willing to go against it? What American center of power or influence had any strong interest in opposing that official narrative?

Certainly there was immediate and total skepticism overseas, with few foreign leaders ever believing the story, and figures such as Nikita Khrushchev, Charles DeGaulle, and Fidel Castro all immediately concluded that a political plot had been responsible for Kennedy’s elimination. Mainstream media outlets in France and the rest of Western Europe were equally skeptical of the “lone gunman theory,” and some of the most important early criticism of U.S. government claims was produced by Thomas Burnett, an expatriate American writing for one of the largest French newsweeklies. But in pre-Internet days, only the tiniest sliver of the American public had regular access to such foreign publications, and their impact upon domestic opinion would have been nil.

Perhaps instead of asking ourselves why the “lone gunman” story was accepted, we should instead be asking why it was ever vigorously challenged, during an era when media control was extremely centralized in establishmentarian hands.

Oddly enough, the answer may lie in the determination of a single individual named Mark Lane, a left-liberal New York City attorney and Democratic Party activist. Although JFK assassination books eventually numbered in the thousands and the resulting conspiracy theories roiled American public life throughout the 1960s and 1970s, without his initial involvement matters might have followed a drastically different trajectory.

From the very first, Lane had been skeptical of the official story, and less than a month after the killing, The National Guardian, a small left-wing national newspaper, published his 10,000 word critique, highlighting major flaws in the “lone gunman theory.” Although his piece had been rejected by every other national periodical, the public interest was enormous, and once the entire edition sold out, thousands of extra copies were printed in pamphlet form. Lane even rented a theater in New York City, and for several months gave public lectures to packed audiences.

After the Warren Commission issued its completely contrary official verdict, he began working on a manuscript, and although he faced enormous obstacles in finding an American publisher, once Rush to Judgment appeared, it spent a remarkable two years on the national bestseller lists, easily reaching the #1 spot. Such tremendous economic success naturally persuaded a host of other authors to follow suit, and an entire genre was soon established. Lane later published A Citizens Dissent recounting his early struggles to break the total American “media blackout” against anyone contradicting the official conclusion. Against all odds, he had succeeded in sparking a massive popular uprising sharply challenging the narrative of the establishment.

According to Talbot, “By late 1966, it was becoming impossible for the establishment media to stick with the official story” and the November 25, 1966 edition of Life Magazine, then at the absolute height of its national influence, carried the remarkable cover story “Did Oswald Act Alone?” with the conclusion that he probably did not. The next month , The New York Times announced it was forming a special task force to investigate the assassination. These elements were to merge with the media furor soon surrounding the Garrison investigation that began the following year, an investigation that enlisted Lane as an active participant. However, behind the scenes a powerful media counterattack was also being launched at this same time.

In 2013 Prof. Lance deHaven-Smith, past president of the Florida Political Science Association, published Conspiracy Theory in America, a fascinating exploration of the history of the concept and the likely origins of the term itself. He noted that during 1966 the CIA had become alarmed at the growing national skepticism of the Warren Commission findings, especially once the public began turning its suspicious eyes toward the intelligence agency itself. Therefore, in January 1967 top CIA officials distributed a memo to all their local stations, directing them to employ their media assets and elite contacts to refute such criticism by various arguments, notably including an emphasis on Robert Kennedy’s supposed endorsement of the “lone gunman” conclusion.

This memo, obtained by a later FOIA request, repeatedly used the term “conspiracy” in a highly negative sense, suggesting that “conspiracy theories” and “conspiracy theorists” be portrayed as irresponsible and irrational. And as I wrote in 2016,

Soon afterward, there suddenly appeared statements in the media making those exact points, with some of the wording, arguments, and patterns of usage closely matching those CIA guidelines. The result was a huge spike in the pejorative use of the phrase, which spread throughout the American media, with the residual impact continuing right down to the present day.

This possible cause-and-effect relationship is supported by other evidence. Shortly after leaving The Washington Post in 1977, famed Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein published a 25,000 word Rolling Stone cover story entitled “The CIA and the Media” revealing that during the previous quarter century over 400 American journalists had secretly carried out assignments for the CIA according to documents on file at the headquarters of that organization. This influence project, known as “Operation Mockingbird,” had allegedly been launched near the end of the 1940s by high-ranking CIA official Frank Wisner, and included editors and publishers situated at the very top of the mainstream media hierarchy.

For whatever reason, by the time I came of age and began following the national media in the late 1970s, the JFK story had become very old news, and all the newspapers and magazines I read provided the very strong impression that the “conspiracy theories” surrounding the assassination were total nonsense, long since debunked, and only of interest to kooks on the ideological fringe. I was certainly aware of the enormous profusion of popular conspiracy books, but I never had the slightest interest in looking at any of them. America’s political establishment and its close media allies had outlasted the popular rebellion, and the name “Mark Lane” meant almost nothing to me, except vaguely as some sort of fringe-nut, who very occasionally rated a mention in my mainstream newspapers, receiving the sort of treatment accorded to Scientologists or UFO activists.

Oddly enough, Talbot’s treatment of Lane was also rather dismissive, recognizing his crucial early role in preventing the official narrative from quickly hardening into concrete, but also emphasizing his abrasive personality, and almost entirely ignoring his important later work on the issue, perhaps because so much of it had been conducted on the political fringe. Robert Kennedy and his close allies had similarly boycotted Lane’s work from the very first, regarding him as a meddlesome gadfly, but perhaps also ashamed that he was asking the questions and doing the work that they themselves were so unwilling to undertake at the time. Douglass’s 500 page book scarcely even mentions Lane.

Reading a couple of Lane’s books, I was quite impressed by the enormous role he had seemingly played in the JFK assassination story, but I also wondered how much of my impression may have been due to the exaggerations of a possible self-promoter. Then, on May 13, 2016 I opened my New York Times and found nearly a full page obituary devoted to Lane’s death at age 89, the sort of treatment these days reserved for only the highest-ranking U.S. Senators or major rap stars. And the 1,500 words were absolutely glowing, portraying Lane as a solitary, heroic figure struggling for decades to reveal the truth of the JFK assassination conspiracy against an entire political and media establishment seeking to suppress it.

I read this as a deep apology by America’s national newspaper of record. President John F. Kennedy was indeed killed by a conspiracy, and we are sorry we spent more than a half century suppressing that truth and ridiculing those who uncovered it.

Part Two

 

Archive

‘Dopesick’ – Journalist Beth Macy examines the opioid crisis – 14 Aug 2018

The author of Dopesick on how we’re still failing opioid users

OxyContin, an opioid painkiller.
Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

When 27-year-old Debbie Honaker went to her doctor in Lebanon, Virginia, after a routine gallbladder surgery in the early 2000s, she was prescribed “Oxy tens” — 10 milligrams of OxyContin. At her next visit, it turned into 40s. Then she graduated to Percocet. Soon, she began stealing pills, then buying them from Medicaid patients for $1. “At the end of your journey, you’re not going after drugs to get high; you’re going to keep from being sick,” she says.

Honaker’s story is just one of many in author Beth Macy’s new book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America, which chronicles the 20-year history of the opioid epidemic, starting with the dawn of OxyContin in 1996 and ending with grim statistics: more than 42,000 dead from opioid overdoses in 2016 alone and expert predictions that 300,000 will die in the next five years.

Macy’s first book, 2014’s Factory Man, underscored the toll of offshoring business on America’s rural communities. In Dopesick, Macy, a Roanoke-based journalist, continues to follow American workers, investigating how those who have lost factory and mining jobs have been hit especially hard by the opioid epidemic.

The villains of Dopesick are the pharmaceutical companies — namely Purdue Pharma, the company that sold OxyContin — corruptible doctors, and a lax Food and Drug Administration. The victims? The rest of America, especially those in economically distressed parts of the country.

America is sick, Macy argues, and too many people have looked the other way during the worst drug epidemic in its history.

I spoke with Macy to better understand the history of the epidemic, its real-world impact, and what is missing from our national conversation on opioids.

Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.  (An interview on Youtube (49:00 min) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoUmaJ4fSXk  – Or on Hooktube https://www.hooktube.com/watch?v=IoUmaJ4fSXk

Hope Reese

You write about central Appalachia as “the birthplace of the modern opioid epidemic.” What are the characteristics that made a region like Lee County, Virginia — which began seeing teenagers overdose in the late ’90s — susceptible to the OxyContin epidemic?

Beth Macy

It’s the same thing if you look at the other initial hot spots. In Machias, Maine, a logging and fishing community, there were also many people already on painkillers from legitimate injuries due to these manual labor jobs. But in Appalachia, in particular, you had trade deals like NAFTA in ’94, and then China joined the WTO in ’01, and so you saw the furniture and the textile mills closing and the jobs going away — and at the same time, a huge rise in disability.

Now, 57 percent of the men of working age in Lee County are unemployed. As this is happening, this whole notion that we were horribly undertreating pain began being pushed by big pharma. Suddenly you couldn’t go and visit somebody in the hospital where there wasn’t a whiteboard where they would ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10, or draw a smiley face or a frowny face.

All these things sort of converged: the joblessness, the rapacious behavior of big pharma, Purdue Pharma in particular. One of the first cops I interviewed said, “Oh, yeah, people were walking down the street with green and orange smudges on their shirt.” Orange was the color of an Oxy 40 mg and green for the Oxy 80 mg. They had held the pills in their mouths to soften up the time-release mechanism coating so they could get the euphoric rush of an entire pill all at once, then wiped the coating off on their shirtsleeves.

Hope Reese

I’m also interested in how doctors were incentivized. They were basically taking bribes — going on Caribbean vacations, for instance, hosted by pharma companies. Has there been a crackdown on doctors? What kind of gifts are they allowed to accept from sales reps?

Beth Macy

That’s changed in more recent years. In the first decade, it was kind of like a Wild West of pharmaceutical sales tactics. Pharmaceutical ads were starting to air on TV. A good friend of mine who is a pharma rep broke it down for me: They would find out what the doctor wanted and they would show up with whatever that was. He was waiting for the doctor, a chain-smoking doctor in Bland, Virginia, and another rep has already beaten him — they were there with a carton of cigarettes with a Celexa sticker on it.

Purdue used similar techniques. They paid doctors to be spokesmen for them, saying: Come to a seminar in Boca Raton or Arizona, and we’ll pay you to go out and give speeches about [OxyContin].

Hope Reese

Many people who become addicted to OxyContin eventually move on to heroin, which is cheaper. How are we doing with the pill problem? And even if we have tackled that issue, isn’t it a bigger problem once people start taking heroin?

Beth Macy

The updated CDC guidelines in 2016 were a great improvement. It was kind of what those parents who initially lost their kids to OxyContin overdose wanted. They wanted the guideline to be that opioids were used sparingly, that doctors try pain relievers like ibuprofen and aspirin before prescribing the highly addictive pills, and that they give most patients only a few days’ supply — that opioid therapy for short-term pain last three days, and very rarely longer than seven. Overall, that’s good, but as soon as the OxyContin and the other pills got harder to get, you saw the drug cartels bringing in heroin.

Marijuana laws started becoming legal in states, and the drug cartels needed to make up their profit [from lost marijuana sales]. The doctors are doing better about not prescribing opioids out the wazoo, but we now have 2.6 million Americans with opioid use disorder. What are we going to do about that? You just can’t flip off a switch and it stops.

What I see on the ground are serious holes in the tapestry of treatment. The Roanoke Times finally did a story on medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, which combines therapy with medications like methadone or Suboxone. In it, they quote Steve Ratliff, adult and family services director for Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare, and he doesn’t believe in it. He told the newspaper that they only use buprenorphine if counseling has been attempted first and doesn’t work — and then they give them the option. This is not consistent with state policy, and in my view, it is just wrong.

Now, in an age of Fentanyl — dealers started cutting heroin with fentanyl heavily in 2015, and it became much stronger and deadlier — the risk of dying is much higher. We’re going to let them fail first?

Hope Reese

In the book, you point to evidence that shows that abstinence-based centers, a model of treatment in which people are cut completely off of the drugs, have not proven to be the best route to recovery. So why do they dominate the treatment landscape?

Beth Macy

I think it’s because the recovery industry developed largely as treatment centers for alcoholism. So the abstinence-only models put forth by [Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous] are historically what most of the recovery industry has been centered around.

Abstinence models may be better to treat alcoholism, but not opioids, since opioids, especially those laced with fentanyl, are deadly. [Many fewer people] OD on alcohol [compared to heroin]. What I see on the ground is families that can afford to send their children to rehabs — and most families can’t — end up spending thousands of dollars for treatment that is not what science says is the best way to treat opioid use disorder.

One family I know with two heroin-addicted sons spent $300,000 on an abstinence center. That wasn’t including the heroin-related legal fees that they had.

Hope Reese

More than 40,000 Americans died of overdoses from opioids such as fentanyl, heroin, and prescribed painkillers in 2016, and they are estimating even more in 2017. What about long-term consequences? If this has been going on for 20 years, what will the country look like in 20 more years?

Beth Macy

Think about the foster care system. In Lee County, one in three kids are raised in foster care now. And think about what are their kids going to be like? That’s really frightening.

Another long-term consequence that scares the dickens out of me is hepatitis C. There are centers, needle exchange programs, where you come and you turn in your dirty needles. There, you get clean needles and you get to know these people who want to help you and want to help you get you hooked up with social work and counseling and ultimately, when you’re ready, go on to treatment. That’s what’s missing in most of America right now.

I was visiting a needle exchange recovery program in Las Vegas recently that was only located on the outskirts of town. If you’re an addicted person and you’re homeless, you probably live near the downtown in these tunnels underneath the city, so the homeless people who are addicted have to save up their bus fare to go there. And it’s because they didn’t want the tourists to see the addicts.

The guy who runs it who has been in this world of prevention and harm reduction for a long time said that what keeps him up at night is in 15 to 20 years, we’re gonna have a tsunami of hepatitis C because so many people who are injecting are sharing needles.

I mean, it’s cultural. Our country’s way of thinking has been, “We gotta incarcerate our way out of this,” “We gotta be tough,” “We gotta just say no.” And that has not worked in other countries. Other countries that have adopted a treatment approach have done much better.

Hope Reese

This topic has finally become of part of a national conversation — but what’s still missing from the larger dialogue? What surprised you after spending all this time with addicts, dealers, and families?

Beth Macy

What surprised me is how this could happen to just anyone. It literally spares no one. And because it started out in these politically unimportant places, people didn’t pay attention to it. We’re basically leaving the institution of the family to deal with the worst drug crisis in the nation’s history.

You see these families in so much pain. They’re so weary; they’re so worn out. Many of them have these ideological divides within the family, because maybe they have somebody in AA or NA themselves — who maybe doesn’t see medication-assisted treatment as the best way for their addicted loved one to get better.

You see that colors a lot of family dynamics around medication-assisted treatment, and you see them worn out also because of bad behavior by the addicted people whose brains have been taken over by this drug, such as users who steal from their families to fund their next fix, for instance. Too often, the addicted person isn’t seen as someone worthy of evidence-based medical care until people are sitting in the pews at their funeral.

Hope Reese

I want to know how the book affected you, especially since a lot of the reporting was done in your own community. In particular, one of the women addicted to heroin who you spent a lot of time with ended up becoming a prostitute in Nevada, and was eventually found dead, in what appeared to be a violent murder.

Beth Macy

It was really hard to interview people who died before I had the chance to write up my book, but it was nothing compared to the pain that these families are going through.

I was constantly balancing that between anxiety and feeling hopeless about it.

I take things pretty personally sometimes. I have hundreds of text messages back and forth with many of the mothers in the book. But as a friend of mine said, “The only way I think you’re going to be able to protect yourself and write this book at the same time and survive it is to find the helpers.”

Correction: A pervious version of this article misstated the number of opioid overdoses in the past 15 years.

Hope Reese is a journalist in Louisville, Kentucky. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, Playboy, Vox, and other publications. Find her on Twitter @hope_reese.

……………………

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America, by Beth Macy, Little, Brown and Company, 2018, 384 pages.

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Archive

Humorless NYT tech expert ridiculed after ‘fact-checking’ obviously fake Trump pic – 25 Sept 2018

Clueless…

NYT tech expert ridiculed after 'fact-checking' obviously fake Trump pic
A New York Times columnist has posted a ‘fact-check’ of a widely-shared, clearly doctored picture of US President Donald Trump in a hurricane rescue. Conservatives gleefully suggested other obvious Trump memes for NYT to verify.

Kevin Roose, NYT’s business columnist, who has taken on writing about social media and US politics, triggered an avalanche of memes and mostly sarcastic comments on Twitter when he reposted a picture showing US President Donald Trump handing a MAGA cap to a hurricane victim standing waist-deep in muddy waters.

The original photo was taken during the Texas flooding in 2015 and its doctored version resurfaced during Hurricane Harvey.

Roose tweeted that the altered image has been shared 275,000 times on Facebook, suggesting the social media giant could apply the same tools it uses to combat ‘revenge porn’ “to prevent obviously fake photos from going viral.”

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It’s unclear what set Roose off about the year-old image widely seen as a joke, of which there are plenty on social media.

Rising to the occasion, Trump supporters, including Jack Posobiec and Cassandra Fairbanks, had a good laugh by posting memes that NYT specialists might want to fact-check next.

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Many were telling Roose that he had overreacted to what had obviously been intended as humor and satire.

Some raised the more serious issue of possible censorship that could result if Facebook starts policing memes.

When confronted by a user if he believes that thousands of people who reposted the meme were genuinely believing it was real, Roose refused to back down, asking the user to define “believe” and “real.”

After facing a massive backlash for his initial tweet, Roose complained that he was overwhelmed with “ur a dumb*ss” comments for doing a “viral normie tweet.”

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Al Qaeda’s Medics – UK begins ‘resettling’ White Helmets as refugees – 24 Sept 2018

UK begins ‘resettling’ White Helmets as refugees
The first Syrian White Helmets have arrived for resettlement to the UK, where officials call them “brave volunteers” and heroes. The group only works in militant-controlled areas and has been seen rubbing shoulders with jihadists.

Members of the group and their families will be settled in the UK under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), the Home Office announced on Monday.

The White Helmets “saved the lives of thousands of innocent civilians during the Syrian conflict,” said Home Secretary Sajid Javid, adding he was “proud that the UK is resettling these brave individuals and their families and giving them the opportunity to rebuild their lives here.”

 

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“We welcome the first White Helmets to be resettled in the UK,” said Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, calling their actions “true modern day heroism.”

“These brave volunteers have rushed to pull people from the rubble when bombs have rained down on Syria and I’m proud that the UK has led the way in their evacuation and resettlement,” added Hunt.

London has granted asylum to 29 “White Helmets” and up to 70 of their family members, the Daily Telegraph reported. The first family has already arrived, with the rest due next month. The Home Office did not include any numbers in its announcement. Back in July, the UK led efforts to evacuate 98 group members and 324 of their relatives from an enclave in southern Syria, via Israel.

In a sense, the White Helmets are coming home: the group was set up in 2013 by former British intelligence operative James Le Mesurier, and is funded in part by the US and UK governments. Though calling itself the “Syrian civil defense,” the group has operated exclusively in areas controlled by anti-government rebels, among whom is Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, now called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

The government in Damascus flat-out accuses the White Helmets of being terrorists, offering them a choice between surrender and amnesty, or death.

“You have videos and photos of this group’s members holding swords and celebrating the death of Syrian soldiers,” President Bashar Assad told Russian journalists in July.“What more evidence do you need that they are not a humanitarian organization, but a mask used by Al-Qaeda?”

Members of the group have featured prominently in rebel propaganda videos that later turned out to be staged, “rescuing” children from bombed-out buildings or helping “chemical attack” victims while not wearing any protective gear.

The Russian Ministry of Defense accused the group of staging a “false flag” chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma in April, which was used as a pretext for US-UK-French missile strikes against Syria. Another false flag attack is being prepared in Idlib, the last remaining bastion of jihadists in Syria, the Russian military said earlier this month.

Syrian Army Capture Damascus Air Base

(The secular Syrian Arab Army recaptures an airport near Damascus, Syria)

According to the UK International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, however, the White Helmets are facing “persecution from the Assad regime” and have a lot of “valuable experience and expertise protecting civilians in need.”

“We should be so proud of Britain’s role supporting their life-saving work and now providing them and their families with sanctuary and helping them rebuild their lives,” Mordaunt said on Monday.

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https://archive.is/aoOqo

‘I was a teenage race terrorist’ – Mark Wahlberg’s Victims – Lifelong Scars From Rocks Wahlberg Threw at Children

A victim of one of Mark Wahlberg’s racially motivated attacks as a teenage delinquent in segregated Boston in the 1980s insists he shouldn’t be granted a pardon for his crimes.

Kristyn Atwood was among a group of mostly black fourth-grade students on a field trip to the beach in 1986 when Wahlberg and his white friends began hurling rocks and shouting racial epithets as they chased them down the street.

“I don’t think he should get a pardon,” Atwood, now 38 and living in Decatur, Georgia, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“I don’t really care who he is. It doesn’t make him any exception. If you’re a racist, you’re always going to be a racist. And for him to want to erase it I just think it’s wrong,” she said.

Mary Belmonte, the white teacher who brought the students to the neighborhood beach that day, sees things differently. “I believe in forgiveness,” she said. “He was just a young kid – a punk – in the mean streets of Boston. He didn’t do it specifically because he was a bad kid. He was just a follower doing what the other kids were doing.”

The 43-year-old former rapper, Calvin Klein model and “Boogie Nights” actor wants official forgiveness for a separate, more severe attack in 1988, in which he assaulted two Vietnamese men while trying to steal beer. That attack sent one of the men to the hospital and landed Wahlberg in prison.

Wahlberg, in a pardon application filed in November and pending before the state parole board, acknowledges he was a teenage delinquent mixed up in drugs, alcohol and the wrong crowd. He points to his ensuing successful acting career, restaurant ventures and philanthropic work with inner city youths as evidence he’s turned his life around.

“I have apologized, many times,” he told the AP in December. “The first opportunity I had to apologize was right there in court when all the dust had settled and I was getting shackled and taken away, and making sure I paid my debt to society and continue to try and do things that make up for the mistakes that I’ve made.”

Court documents in the 1986 attack identify Wahlberg among a group of white boys who harassed the school group as they were leaving Savin Hill Beach in Dorchester, a mixed but segregated Boston neighborhood that had seen racial tensions during the years the city was under court-ordered school integration.

The boys chased the black children down the street, repeatedly shouting “n—–” and hurling rocks until an ambulance driver intervened. Wahlberg was 15 at the time.

Atwood says she still bears a scar from getting hit by a rock. No one was seriously injured, but the attack left a lasting impression.

“I was really scared. My heart was beating fast. I couldn’t believe it was happening. The names. The rocks. The kids chasing,” Belmonte told the AP.

Wahlberg and two other white youths were issued a civil rights injunction: essentially a stern warning that if they committed another hate crime, they would be sent to jail.

In 1988, Wahlberg, then 16, attacked two Vietnamese men while trying to steal beer near his Dorchester home.

According to the sentencing memorandum, he confronted Thanh Lam, a Vietnamese man, as he was getting out of his car with two cases of beer. Wahlberg called Lam a “Vietnam f—— s—” and beat him over the head with a 5-foot wooden stick until Lam lost consciousness and the rod broke in two.

Documents say Wahlberg ran up to another Vietnamese man, Hoa Trinh, and asked for help hiding. After a police cruiser drove past, he punched Trinh in the eye. Later, he made crude remarks about Asians.

Wahlberg ultimately was convicted as an adult of two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, marijuana possession and criminal contempt for violating the prior civil rights injunction. He was given a three-month prison sentence, of which he served about 45 days.

Trinh declined to be interviewed by AP, and efforts to locate Lam were unsuccessful.

Judith Beals, a former state prosecutor involved in the cases, said Wahlberg’s crimes stand out because he violated the injunction with an even more violent attack on people of yet another race.

“It was a hate crime and that’s exactly what should be on his record forever,” Atwood said.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mark-wahlberg-victim-says-he-shouldnt-be-pardoned/

Sex Witch-hunt – Now #MeToo is coming for your thought crimes – By Karol Markowicz – 23 Sept 2018

The #MeToo movement’s search for demons to slay has expanded well beyond just those accused of sexual misbehavior. Now, if you’ve done anything to disseminate the accused’s side of the story, they’re coming for #YouToo.

Last week, Ian Buruma not so quietly left his position as editor of The New York Review of Books. The mob had descended on him days earlier for publishing an essay by Jian Ghomeshi. Ghomeshi was a Canadian broadcaster who’d been accused of sexual assault early on in the #MeToo movement. Ghomeshi stood trial in Canada for sexual assault of six women and was acquitted of all charges in 2015.

Ghomeshi’s piece attempted an apology and an explanation of how he became a person he despised. “I wore the right ribbons, used the right hashtags, hosted the right guests. I did interviews with everyone from Toni Morrison to Gloria Steinem, Drake and Maya Angelou. I attended demonstrations and spoke at progressive fund-raisers,” he wrote. “And at some point, when it came to women, I began to use my liberal gender studies education as a cover for my own behavior. I was ostensibly so schooled in how sexism works that I would arrogantly give myself a free pass.”

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He describes the helplessness, shame and fear he felt after the accusations hit. He admits he behaved atrociously toward women, he’s regretful and he is looking for a path back. The public can deny him one, of course — but apparently the public must deny him one.

In a new front for the mob, it’s not enough to target the perpetrator of the misdeed. They are now targeting those who offer them a platform like Buruma did, or say anything warm about them at all.

Norm Macdonald learned this recently when he urged forgiveness for his friends Louis CK and Roseanne Barr. “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” canceled Macdonald’s upcoming appearance. Fallon told Macdonald that producers were “crying” over allowing Macdonald to appear.

Macdonald had an appearance on “The View” a few days later where he pointed out that he had not actually been accused of any action and his offense was words on behalf of those who were. “I don’t want to be tossed in with people who did, not crimes, but sins,” he said. “I barely have consensual sex.”

Too late: The mob has grown impatient with making distinctions between acts and thoughts.

The mob was particularly enraged by Buruma because of an interview he gave to Slate magazine explaining his decision to publish the Ghomeshi piece.

“I have absolutely no doubt that the #MeToo movement is a necessary corrective on male behavior that stands in the way of being able to work on equal terms with women. In that sense, I think it’s an entirely good thing,” he said. So far so good.

But he added that, “like all well-intentioned and good things, there can be undesirable consequences. I think, in a general climate of denunciation, sometimes things happen and people express views that can be disturbing.”

It’s not enough to support the existence of the #MeToo movement; the mob demands that support take a very specific shape.

Margaret Sullivan in the Washington Post, among others, criticized a “cavalier” comment Buruma made during the interview: “The exact nature of his behavior — how much consent was involved — I have no idea, nor is it really my concern.” It sounded like Buruma was dismissing the importance of consent, but he was actually making a larger point about someone being legally acquitted while still considered guilty by the public. The preceding comment was “All I know is that in a court of law he was acquitted, and there is no proof he committed a crime.”

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We find a way back into society for the worst criminals, for murderers. A poignant story went viral recently about a police officer who had forgiven, and befriended, the man who shot him. We love those stories of redemption and forgiveness, but the idea of absolution for an accused, and in this case acquitted, #MeToo man is too much for us to consider.

People are right to be concerned that #MeToo has gone too far. There are few who don’t think the movement has done good work in exposing predatory men and encouraging victims to come forward.

But when an editor is forced out of his job because he published something controversial, or a friend of the accused suffers professionally for his kind words, we’ve gone to the crazy place and need to come back from it.

Source: NYPost

Policebook Signs on with US ‘Big Brother’ propaganda outfits to monitor foreign election ‘fake news’ – by Winston Smith (Ministry of Truth) 24 Sept 2018

‘Orwellian’ move: Facebook teams up with US government to police ‘fake news’ in foreign elections

‘Orwellian’ move: Facebook teams up with US government to police ‘fake news’ in foreign elections
Facebook has teamed up with two US government-funded think tanks as part of a new initiative to bolster the social media giant’s “election integrity efforts” around the globe.

The new partnership with the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) was revealed by Facebook in a call with reporters last week and reported by Reuters — but the company’s choice of partners has since raised a few eyebrows. Both think-tanks are funded by the US government, through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Tweeting about the initiative, Mark Weisbrot, a co-director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, called Facebook’s decision to work with the US government-funded organizations “Orwellian” and said that they “specialize in overseas propaganda.” Weisbrot also criticized Reuters reporting of the news which focused on Facebook’s supposed fake-news busting efforts and seemed lacking in “any awareness” of who the two groups were.

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During the telephone Q&A with reporters focusing on the upcoming elections in the US and Brazil, Facebook’s Elections and Civic Engagement Samidh Chakrabarti, said that “preventing election interference” on the platform has been “one of the biggest cross-team efforts” the company has seen. But is teaming up with government-funded think tanks really the best way to prevent election interference on Facebook?

Asked by CNBC reporter Salvador Rodriguez to elaborate on the partnership, Katie Harbath, who heads up Facebook’s Global Politics and Government Outreach team, said she wanted to be clear that Facebook’s work with the IRI and NDI is only focused “internationally” and that it has nothing to do with domestic elections in the US. Harbath said the two organizations have “a lot of experience in working in elections and in many countries around the globe” and that Facebook can learn from them about “election integrity risks” that exist in other countries.

That knowledge might prompt a sign of relief from American journalists, but given the US government holds a very real stake in the outcome of many other elections worldwide, it still seems a little odd that Facebook should be using US government-funded organizations to help it decide what constitutes fake news in foreign elections, or to “slow the global spread of misinformation” as Reuters put it.

It’s not the first time Facebook has chosen a dubious partner to help it out in its fight against fake news, either. The social media giant also entered a similar partnership with the Atlantic Council, a think tank funded by the US and other NATO governments, as well as by a slew of US weapons manufacturers.

Shortly after its partnership with the Atlantic Council was revealed, Facebook temporarily deleted the English-language page of the Venezuela-based news outlet Telesur without explanation. Telesur is one of the only English-language media sources providing an alternative view on events in Venezuela.

Facebook has also been criticized for capitulating to demands and threats made by the Israeli government by deleting the accounts of a number of accounts run by Palestinian activists.

 

Nonetheless, Facebook has said it is setting up a “war room” ahead of major elections in Brazil next month. The war-like rhetoric echoes a Washington Post op-ed by Facbook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last month, in which he said Facebook was in an “arms race” against “bad actors” and that the platform needed to improve its “defenses”.

Amy Studdart, a senior advisor at the IRI, told Reuters that the details of its partnership with Facebook had not been fully worked out, but said the organization would help Facebook employees “understand how their platform is being used on the ground all around the world.”

The NED and its affiliates have been criticized as engines of “regime change” around the world, and one of its founders famously noted in 1991 that “a lot of what we do now was done covertly by the CIA 25 years ago.”

https://www.rt.com/usa/439249-facebook-us-funding-fake-news/

Laughing With the Secret Policemen – Luke Harding – the hack who came in from the cold – by BlackCatte – 9 Sept 2015

Luke Daniel Harding (born 1968) studied English at University College, Oxford. While there he edited the student newspaper Cherwell. He worked for The Sunday Correspondent, the Evening Argus in Brighton and then the Daily Mail before joining The Guardian in 1996. He was the Guardian’s Russia correspondent from 2007-11.

Aside from his more publicly known achievements, it’s worth noting Harding was accused of plagiarism by Mark Ames and Yasha Levine of the eXile for publishing an article under his own name that lifted large passages almost verbatim from their work. The Guardian allegedly redacted portions of Harding’s article in response to these accusations.

According to his own testimony, Luke Harding is the guy who realised he was in the siloviki cross hairs one day when, during his stay in Moscow as the Guardian’s bureau chief, he came home and found one of his bedroom windows open.

A less situationally-aware person would have made the fatal mistake of thinking one of his kids or his wife had done it, or he’d done it himself and just forgotten, or that his landlord had popped in to air the rooms (a bit of a tendency in Russia apparently). But Luke was sure none of his family had opened the window. So it had to have been the FSB.

You see, Luke isn’t confined as we are by the constraints of petty mundanity. That was why it had been so clear to him, even without any evidence, that the FSB had murdered Litvinenko. And that was why Luke took one look at that open window and realised the entire Russian intelligence machine was out to get him….

The dark symbolism of the open window in the children’s bedroom was not hard to decipher: take care, or your kids might just fall out. The men – I assume it was men – had vanished like ghosts.

And that was only the start of the vicious campaign that was to follow. Tapes were left in his cassette deck, when he knew he hadn’t put them there. An alarm clock went off when he knew he hadn’t set it. Luke was filled with ” a feeling of horror, alarm, incredulity, bafflement and a kind of cold rational rage.”

Luketalking

Things developed rapidly. Luke went to visit a woman called Olga who warned him to take care, because he was “an enemy of Putin.” He was sure someone had hacked his email account. Whenever he said the name “Berezovsky” his phone line would go dead, so he started using the word “banana” instead. A person from the Russian president’s office called and asked for his mobile number. Unable to imagine a single good reason why a Russian government official would need a cell phone number for the Guardian’s Russia bureau chief, he refused.

That wily Putin wasn’t going to catch him that easily. The game of cat and mouse had begun.

A middle-aged woman with a bad haircut knocked at his door at 7am, and walked away when he opened it. Had she just gone to the wrong door? Of course not, it was the FSB taunting him. At the airport on his way back to London a man with a Russian accent (in Moscow!) tapped him on the back and told him there was something wrong with his jacket. Noticing the man was wearing a leather coat, which meant he must be from the KGB, Luke immediately rushed to the gents and took off all his clothes to find the “bugging device” the man had planted on him. He didn’t find one, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t there.

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When the Russian government launched its prosecution of Berezovsky for fraud, someone from the FSB phoned Luke and asked him to come in and make a statement about the interview he’d conducted with the man a short time before. They also advised him to bring a lawyer, which seemed sinister to Luke. A man called Kuzmin interviewed him for 55 minutes. Luke got quite thirsty, but wouldn’t drink the fizzy water he was offered, because he was pretty sure it had been tampered with. Surprisingly Kuzmin didn’t interrogate him as expected, but Luke decided this was because the FSB were trying to intimidate him. They probably didn’t need to do an interrogation, thought Luke, since they’d been breaking in to his flat almost every day for like – ever, switching on his alarm clock and probably also bugging his phone.

After the western-backed Georgian invasion of South Ossetia Luke was amazed to note there was widespread antagonism toward western journalists in Moscow. And the FSB just would not leave him alone. Worried by this “campaign of brutishness” he decided to keep a log of the dreadful things they were doing. Reading this we find not only did they continue to regularly open his windows, they once turned off his central heating, made phantom ringing sounds happen in the middle of the night (Luke couldn’t find where they were coming from), deleted a screen saver from his computer and left a book by his bed about getting better orgasms.

All this would have broken a lesser man. But Luke didn’t break. Maybe that’s why in the end, they knew they’d have to expel him like in the old Soviet days. Which is what they did. Well, they didn’t renew his accreditation, which is the same thing. They pretended it was because he didn’t have the right paperwork for an extended visa and offered him a short extension so his kids could finish up at school. But Luke knew it was actually a Soviet-style expulsion. Because Luke can always see the real game when most of us just can’t.

He demanded to know if President Medvedev had been told – personally – that Luke was going home. The person in the press department he was speaking to just sort of looked at him and didn’t say anything.

Luke was pretty sure he worked for the FSB.

So he went home, got on the lecture circuit and wrote a book all about his terrible experiences in Vladimir Putin’s neo-Stalinist hell. But just when he thought all his espionage problems were over, they started up again when he began his book about Edward Snowden.

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This time it was the NSA, GCHQ and a host of other western agencies stalking him. The PTB obviously realised that Luke’s book would be much much more of a threat to national security than even Snowden himself, and did everything they could to try to stop him writing it. They followed him around (he knew they were agents because they had iPhones) and even used spy technology to remote-delete sentences from his computer – while he was typing them. Especially when he was writing mean things about the NSA. But after he typed “I don’t mind you reading my manuscript… but I’d be grateful if you don’t delete it”, they realised they’d met their match and stopped.

He wasn’t sure if the culprits were NSA, GCHQ or a Russian hacker, but one thing it definitely wasn’t was a glitchy keyboard.

I mean that would just be stupid.

NOTE: In case any of our readers are (understandably) inclined to think we must be making this up or exaggerating, we encourage them to read about it here and here in Luke’s own words. You’ll find we have merely summarised them.

Yes, he really does believe everything attributed to him in this article. He really does think the FSB were opening his windows. And he really did run to the public toilet and take all his clothes off because a man tapped him on the back in an airport.

We also recommend you take in this opinion piece by Julian Assange, and this one by a Brit ex-pat in Moscow.

After that feel free to complete the following questionnaire:

Is Luke Harding:

  1. “the reporter Russia hated”
  2. an “enemy of Putin”
  3. a borderline psychotic paranoiac, whose narcissistic delusions have been deliberately encouraged and exploited by an intelligentsia that will use any old crap it can find to further its agenda
  4. a bit of a tosser

…………………….

https://off-guardian.org/2015/09/09/luke-harding-enemy-of-the-state/

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US Postal Workers Labor Unions Plan Day of Protest – 8 Oct 2018 – Opposing Privatization of US Postal Service

Postal Workers extend bargaining, plan mass action Oct. 8

APWU President Mark Dimondstein speaks at an anti-privatization rally. | Joe Piette/Flickr

WASHINGTON – The Postal Workers (APWU) and Postal Service management agreed Sept. 20 to extend bargaining for a month after the old contract expired that day, union President Mark Dimondstein announced.

And in the middle of the talks, APWU, the Letter Carriers – each of whom have at least 200,000 members – the Mail Handlers, which is a Laborers sector, and the Rural Letter Carriers will take to the streets on Oct. 8 for a national day of action against the GOP Trump administration’s postal privatization plans.

APWU started bargaining over a new pact with USPS on June 26, with frequent sessions leading a 10-day round-the-clock sprint as the old contract’s deadline approached.

Those last talks “identified important issues that the union believes deserve more time to discuss and explore before declaring an impasse and ending negotiations for a voluntary agreement,” APWU said.

“Our goal is to reach a negotiated settlement that can be voted on by the members” said Dimondstein, the lead bargainer. “National negotiations are always challenging. At this point in time it is in the best interest of the members to stay at the bargaining table rather than declare a hard and fast impasse.”

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(Florida postal protest – 2 March 2018)

The union’s goals of “fighting today for a better tomorrow” include: Fair pay hikes, retaining cost of living increases, job security and continued no lay-off protections, closing the gaps of what APWU calls a “divisive three-tier wage structure,” addressing hostile work environments, expanded postal services and “seeking better career and full-time opportunities” for part-timers.

“Negotiations are never easy. Especially in the current political environment, they will be extremely challenging. The APWU’s success will depend on how much power and leverage can be mustered with member involvement and support from the public,” Dimondstein warned.

But hanging over the bargainers’ heads is the Trump administration plan to privatize the Postal Service, a scheme first laid out in the president’s budget and due to be amplified by a report from a special committee he appointed earlier this year.

The panel, which includes various top Trump administration officials – but no workers – had an original August 30 reporting deadline, but the White House decided to push the divisive issue back until after the mid-term elections.

That will send the workers out into the streets under the theme: “The U.S. Mail – Not for Sale!!”

“Privatizers – those who want to sell the public postal service to private corporations – are hard at work. Together we can stop them in their tracks. Get ready to hit the streets with our sister postal unions, family, friends, and community allies to Save Our Service. Rallies will take place at many congressional offices throughout the country. Check with your local and state leaders for more details and for the exact time and location in your area,” the unions said in a joint statement.

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(Boston MA postal protest – 27 Nov 2017)

Dimondstein warned his convention delegates, meeting in August in Pittsburgh, of that coming conflict. At least one prior report says privatization might also include an end to USPS’ exclusive franchise to carry first-class mail.

“This White House, the Heritage Foundation, and their billionaire backers, the Wall Street investors, they want their greedy hands on the public till and the public good – but they’ve started something that they’re not going to be able to stop. They think this is their time…We’re going to show them this is truly our time,” Dimondstein said.

The unions are already gathering congressional support against privatization, the Letter Carriers reported.

Led by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., 28 senators introduced a non-binding anti-privatization resolution, SRes 623, on September 20. The solons include both independents – Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a longtime postal workers supporter – and five Republicans: Jerry Moran of Kansas, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.

Several backers of the anti-privatization resolution are in tough races this fall: McCaskill, Jon Tester, D-Mont., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. – the top target of a radical right “dark money” spending spree – and Tina Smith, DFL-Minn.  An identical House anti-privatization measure, HRes 993, was introduced on July 16.

“NALC is proud to see such a strong bipartisan defense in both the House and Senate against what amounts to an attack not simply on Letter Carriers and other postal employees, but the American people as well,” union President Fredric Rolando said.

“Privatization of the U.S. Postal Service would hurt both low-income and rural Americans especially who live in areas where it might not be profitable to deliver to them.” He’s urging workers to contact lawmakers to get them to sign on as cosponsors.

The union “hopes Congress progresses with sensible postal reform” to improve Postal Service “finances instead of resorting to hack-and-burn privatization policies.”

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American Postal Workers Union site  – http://www.apwu.org/issues/excessing

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Archive

A Great Idea at the Time: the Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books by Alex Beam – book review – By Kasia Boddy – 20 Feb 2009

Kasia Boddy investigates the history of the Great Book

This is the story of great books; not just any great books, mind you, but the 54 volumes launched in Chicago in 1952 as the Great Books of the Western World. In the course of just over 200 brisk pages, Alex Beam explains how, and why, such an entity came into being.

 

The story reveals a lot, not only about the cultural aspirations and anxieties of Fifties America, but also about our desire to identify and preserve cultural value. Last month, The Bookseller reported that, against the general half-year trend, sales of the publisher CRW’s Collector’s Library – hard-backed classic novels with sewn cloth bindings and ribbon markers – were up 47 per cent. When times are hard, customers want ‘‘the quality of a bygone era’’.

 

Beam locates the origin of the Great Books project in two late-19th-century developments: middle-class anxiety about what the newly literate working classes were reading, and the introduction of specialisation in the university curriculum. At the very moment that Charles Eliot was transforming Harvard from a gentleman’s college into a modern university, he launched Harvard Classics, a popular version of the broad education he had argued was obsolete.

Great Books

 

In the universities, a different role was envisaged for the Great Books – as specialisation increased, so did nostalgia for the time when students shared a common intellectual ‘‘core’’. In 1920, Columbia University instituted a foundation course which, renamed and reshaped, continues to this day. The form of the class was as important as the content.

In 1929, Mortimer J Adler left Columbia to set up a similar system at the University of Chicago, invited by its new president, Robert Maynard Hutchins. Beam presents them as a comic duo – an ‘‘intellectual Mutt ’n’ Jeff’’. Chicago quickly gained a reputation as an ‘‘eccentric’’ place, ‘‘where they talked about Plato and Aristotle and Aquinas day and night’’.

 

It took many years for Hutchins and Adler to turn their beloved syllabus into a rival to the Harvard Classics. Chicago’s 54 volumes boasted two important differences. First, and important to Adler, Harvard’s set lined up at 60 inches, Chicago’s – ‘‘32,000 pages of tiny, double-column, eye-straining type’’ – was 62. Secondly, while Harvard Classics promised social mobility, Chicago promised deliverance. ‘‘I am not saying that reading and discussing the Great Books will save humanity from itself,’’ said Hutchins, ‘‘but I don’t know anything else that will.’’

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Hutchins said the choice of what to include was ‘‘almost self-selected, in the sense that one book leads to another, amplifying, modifying, or contradicting it’’. What was offered was the Western World’s ‘‘Great Conversation’’, as it developed from Homer to Freud, via another 72 dead white men. No contextualising introductions or explanatory footnotes were provided. If the work could not speak for itself, and for ever, it was not a Great Book. Nevertheless, two of the 54 volumes were taken up by the Syntopicon, a glorified index of 102 Great Ideas, assembled by college graduates, directing readers to the best sources on Good or Evil, Necessity or Contingency, Pleasure or Pain. Debates like these, the editors believed, would ward off ‘‘one of the greatest threats to democracy’’: the ‘‘reduction of the reader to an object of propaganda’’. Great Books, in other words, were promoted as part of the Cold War defence against totalitarianism.

During the Fifties, a growing middle class embraced Great Books alongside other commodities, like the Reader’s Digest condensed novels and the Book of the Month club. Dwight Macdonald mocked the ‘‘book of the millennium club’’ as fetishism, but the fetish sold a million copies.

In the wake of the Civil Rights and Women’s movements of the Sixties and Seventies, the Great Books idea increasingly came to be seen as wrong-headed.

Great Books 2

The Chicago Great Book sets no longer sell, (Editor – yes they do – on Amazon new $1000) but our desire to identify, preserve and, above all, to talk about the best in literature and thought remains strong. But who shall tell us what that is? In 2001 Jonathan Franzen complained when the Oprah Book Club stuck its glitzy label on his novel; The Corrections, he said, was ‘‘in the high-art literary tradition’’. Three years later, Oprah championed Anna Karenina and a million copies were sold.

Telegraph

Archive

 

I Love Reading Old Fiction – I No Longer Have Interest in Writing Fiction – by Xenagogue Vicene – 24 Sept 2018

I have loved stories since I was a child.  I loved the narrative.  I loved the voice over in certain movies.  Making sense of things.  Putting things in order.  A beginning, a middle, and an end, as Aristotle observed.  I started with comic books.  A friend who lived across from Ashmont Station had a whole bureau draw filled with comics and I loved to sit and read.  One of my favorite kinds of comics where Classics Illustrated – a kind of ‘great books’ for kids.

Classics Illustraed

In middle school and high school reading fiction was an escape for me.  I did not read novels because I wanted to become smarter, or because they were part of any plan.  I just bumped into books in the public library and read out of curiosity.

great 5

On summer nights I would read late into the night.  My mother would yell up the stairs at me to put out the light and go to sleep.  She could see my bedroom light reflected on the bricks of the garage outside the kitchen window.  I read under my bed covers with a flashlight sometimes when I was so involved in a book that I just had to read the next lines.

Great b 00

But I did learn more and more about words and context and character and plot.  I tested well on the big standardized tests in school and got into Boston Public Schools exam school.  I began to keep a journal in high school when I was sixteen years old.  I was inspired by Winston Smith in the novel ‘1984.’  I also thought that Henry David Thoreau had some interesting ideas about living and writing with an eye on the seemingly mundane world around any person.

When I was in a pre-college program for Wesleyan University one of my teachers said that I had a knack for creative writing.  He liked the flow of my words.  Encouraged, I took classes in creative writing in college.  I worked with Tony ….. and F. D. Reeve who urged me to concentrate and write more.  I wrote a couple of dozen short stories, and as a senior project I wrote a novella about the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland.  I was graduated with High Honors for the work on the novella.  After college I wrote another novel about working at McDonald’s and dealing with a wife and young child.

I continued to write my journal over the years, sometimes writing more, sometimes letting weeks go by without an entry.

I contacted an agent in Boston about my McDonald’s novel and he expressed an interest and asked to see the manuscript.  But, nothing came of that, and I did not see much avenue of exposure for my work.  I wrote mote and more in a journal, and simply did not think of publishing, or reaching any audience.  My writing, and my fiction writing, was like my reading of fiction – purely for self entertainment, and enlightenment.

Then came access to the internet and social media and online blogs and places to post comments.  I was off.  I could write a five paragraph post in minutes.  I had learned to ‘touch type’ when I was in high school during the summer because I thought my handwriting was hopelessly ugly.  I took the summer school class in typing because I went to an all boys high school and there was no typing offered.  I was thrilled when  I saw the typing class at the Burke high summer school was all girls.  But, there was hardly any interaction; we were doing typing drills, not discussing fiction and short stories.

In my twenties I typed up fiction stories and worked on my two novels and kept a journal.  I borrowed my sister’s electric typewriter and felt modestly professional.  Occasionally I worked as an English teacher, and had a little bit of daily interaction with fiction.  I wrote short stories and vignettes at night and on weekends.  But I began to sell radical left newspapers on the street and go to public meetings.  The idea of putting some mildly leftist meaning into a fictional story that might be read at some future date my a few people who might get the message lost its appeal for me.  Better to go out on a Saturday and sell a few issues of a radical left newspaper than hide a meaning in an arcane fiction.

I still read lots of fiction, especially works from the past.   My undergraduate major was Comparative Literature at the College of Letters.  The courses were like Great Books.  The emphasis was on Western European literature with American works thrown in at the end.  When I was in high school I saw ads for The Great Books of the Western World which was a series of about 50 volumes put out by Encyclopedia Britannica.  I filled out a postcard in a magazine ad saying I was interested.  Some hapless salesman showed up at my house unannounced when I was out ‘gallivanting’  as my mother used to say.   The set cost about $300 bucks back then.  I thought about that series about ten years ago and looked it up online.  The set was still being put out, but the cost was now $1000. I spoke with a computer expert about my desire for the Great Books and he told me that we need to rethink how we look at books.  All the works in the series are in the public domain, and all of them are online for free on sites like Project Gutenberg and as audio books on Librivox.

Great Books

One day I just happened to look on Craigslist in the Books for Sale section.  There was the Great Books set for sale – $49.  I called immediately and found to my delight that the seller was in Jamaica Plain about twenty minutes car drive away from me.  When I was handing over the money after seeing the slightly worn set from 1954 I said to the seller, “There has to be a story to these books, what is it?”  He told me he had bought the books twenty years earlier from a woman who had joined Scientology and was moving to Sweden to work for the church.

“Does that mean I’ll be joining Scientology if I read these books?  Or is it because she didn’t read the books that she joined Scientology? ”  I asked laughing.

I handed him the exact change, which surprised him. “Are you going to read them?  Or are they for shelf decoration?’ he asked as we carried the books down to my car on the street below.

“Oh, I’m going to read them,” I answered.  “I love these stories.’

When I brought my treasure trove home and my sixteen year old nephew saw boxes of volumes with the brown bindings and the gilt edges he said, “These look like the books in the library that nobody ever goes near.”

“Somebody better go near them, your entire civilization is based on the ideas in these books, ” I answered.  His remark was worth the $49.

great b 4

……………….

I loved seeing how great works of fiction from the past were turned into movies or cartoons.  When my children were little I recorded a series of cartoons based on great works of literature that was on Nickelodeon on Sunday mornings.  There were Dickens stories like ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘A Tale of Two Cities.’  When I was watching an old VHS tape about ten years ago there was a commercial for an audio set of The World’s 100 Greatest Books I wondered if the series was still around since the tape was about twenty years old.  I looked online and found the series was still offered and bought the fifty CD set.  The CD’s have a roughly ten minute introduction to the work and the author followed by a Cliff Notes kind of summary of the story.  The CD’s are a good introduction to some dusty old work that might be hard to understand simply opening to the first page and diving in.  I recorded videos of candles burning and the audio lecture and put them online to help other people interested in old books, and to practice my video and audio editing skills.

I listen to fiction audio books almost every day.  My house is filled with fiction books and videos and movies and animations.  Every room in my apartment has fiction books in it.

Yet…I have no desire to compose fiction.  It never even enters my mind.  I write things everyday.  But I am trying to tell honest truths, honest feelings; I am not trying to clock my observations as fiction.  I am not trying to cram real life with all of its loose ends and plot holes into the tidy world of fiction and short stories and long stories and novellas and novels.  I live in a time and place were I have the relative freedom to simply come right out and say what I think and what I think should be done.  I don’t have to hide things on imaginary islands like Lillput, or in a galaxy far away.  I don’t have to dodge the censor through fiction.  So….I, a lover of past fiction, do not think about current fiction.  I have no idea who current fiction writers are.  I was in a school cafeteria sitting with a young college student talking about old books and classic literature when she switched to some of her current favorites.  I had never heard of any of them, and I had no interest in finding out who they were.  I have a mountain of past classics that I still have not read.  When I want to know about the current society I go right to the news and commentary online about the way things are.  I’m not interested in a fictionalize version of what is right in front of me.

I always thought the novel form of writing was a great way to tidy things up to make sense of some aspect of some life.  So, I do think of some things from my  journal that I have been keeping for almost fifty years now.  About eight years ago I was working part time as a college instructor.  I wanted to avoid drinking and smoking and concentrate on my subject.  I started to type up a three year section of my journal when I was going out with Amy Finegold.   For five months I plowed through the journal entries written in longhand.  I typed and added pictures and more descriptions.  When the journal talked about a time in Harvard Square I added pictures of the square from the 1970’s when Amy and I were there.  But, I found myself feeling some of the anxiety and pain I had in the relationship with that girlfriend.  I got a 250 page manuscript out of the five months of typing.  The night I finished I felt the need for a drink and a smoke and to meet a new woman.  I went out to Vincent’s nightclub and met a woman.

great b 3

I posted the 250 pages I wrote on Blogger.  Not long after my account at Youtube was cancelled because of music copyright violations.  My Blogger account was also cancelled and the 250 pages vanished.  At around the same time the computer that I had typed the 250 page work on died, and the manuscript with it.  C’est la vie.

I did have a hard copy that I had printed out.  It’s almost like a novel.  So my history of fiction comes down to a journal with fiction techniques applied.  Next I should try putting my work in baked clay tablets like the ones that are 6,000 years old from ancient Sumer.   The clay tablets are seemingly indestructible.  I thought of getting a stone grinder and putting some poems or a short story in stone.  I suppose I could also learn to back up my work on a USB drive.  Whatever I do – I can not see myself planning any works of fiction.  Why not just tell the truth.

great b 2

https://archive.is/Cttdh

 

The Syrian Ceasefire Proves How Far Putin Has Come Out on Top – by Patrick Cockburn • 23 Sept 2018

A ceasefire seldom gets a good press. If it succeeds in ending violence or defusing a crisis, the media swiftly becomes bored and loses interest. But if the fighting goes on, then those who have called the ceasefire are condemned as heartless hypocrites who either never intended to bring the killing to an end or are culpably failing to do so.

Pundits are predictably sceptical about the agreement reached by Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi on Monday to head off an imminent offensive by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces directed against rebels in Idlib province. This is the last enclave of the armed opposition in western Syria which has lost its strongholds in Aleppo, Damascus and Daraa over the past two years.

Doubts about the accord are understandable because, if it is implemented, the anti-Assad groups in Idlib will be defanged militarily. They will see a demilitarised zone policed by Russia and Turkey eat into their territory, “radical terrorist groups” removed, and heavy weapons ranging from tanks to mortars withdrawn. The rebels will lose their control of the two main highways crossing Idlib and linking the government held cities of Aleppo, Latakia and Hama.

There is a striking note of imperial self-confidence about the document in which all sides in the Syrian civil war are instructed to come to heel. This may not happen quite as intended because it is difficult to see why fighters of al-Qaeda-type groups like Hayat Tahrir al-Sham should voluntarily give up such military leverage as they still possess. The Syrian government has said that it will comply with the agreement but may calculate that, in the not so long term, it will be able to slice up Idlib bit by bit as it did with other rebel enclaves.

What is most interesting about the agreement is less its details than what it tells us about the balance of forces in Syria, the region and even the world as a whole. Fragile it may be, but then that is true of all treaties which general Charles de Gaulle famously compared to “young girls and roses – they last as long as they last”. Implementation of the Putin-Erdogan agreement may be ragged and its benefits temporary, but it will serve a purpose if a few less Syrians in Idlib are blown apart.

The Syrian civil war long ago ceased to be a struggle fought out by local participants. Syria has become an arena where foreign states confront each other, fight proxy wars and put their strength and influence to the test.The most important international outcome of war so far is that it has enabled Russia to re-establish itself as a great power. Moscow helped Assad secure his rule after the popular uprising in 2011 and later ensured his ultimate victory by direct military intervention in 2015. A senior diplomat from an Arab country recalls that early on in the Syrian war, he asked a US general with a command in the region what was the difference between the crisis in Syria and the one that had just ended with the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. The general responded with a single word: “Russia.”

It is difficult to remember now, when Russia is being portrayed in the west as an aggressive predatory power threatening everybody, the extent which it was marginalised seven years ago when Nato was carrying out regime change in Libya.

Russia was in reality always stronger than it looked because it remained a nuclear superpower capable of destroying the world after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 just as it was before. It should be difficult to forget this gigantically important fact, but politicians and commentators continue to blithely recommend isolating Russia and pretend that it can be safely ignored.

The return of Russia as a great power was always inevitable but was accelerated by successful opportunism and crass errors by rival states. Assad in Syria was always stronger than he looked. Even at the nadir of his fortunes in July 2011, the British embassy in Damascus estimated that he had the backing of 30 to 40 per cent of the population according to The Battle for Syria: International Rivalry in the New Middle East by Christopher Phillips, which should be essential reading for anybody interested in Syria. Expert opinion failed to dent the conviction among international statesmen that Assad was bound to go. When the French ambassador Eric Chevallier expressed similar doubts about the imminence of regime change he received a stern rebuke from officials in Paris who told him: “Your information does not interest us. Bashar al-Assad must fall and will fall.”

Such wishful thinking and flight from reality continues to this day. Miscalculations by Washington, Paris and London have provided Putin with ideal political terrain on which to reassert the power of the Russian state. The agreement signed by Russia and Turkey last Monday deciding the future of Idlib province is a token of how far Russia has come out on top in Syria. Putin is able to sign a bilateral agreement with Turkey, the second largest military power in Nato, without any reference to the US or other Nato members.

The accord means that Turkey will increase its military stake in northern Syria, but it can only do so safely under license from Moscow. The priority for Turkey is to prevent the creation of a Kurdish statelet under US protection in Syria and for this it needs Russian cooperation. It was the withdrawal of the Russian air umbrella protecting the Kurdish enclave of Afrin earlier this year that enabled the Turkish army to invade and take it over.

As has happened with North Korea, President Trump’s instincts may be surer than vaunted expertise of the Washington foreign policy establishment and its foreign clones. They have not learned the most important lesson of the US-led intervention wars in Iraq and Syria which is that it is not in western interests to stir the pot in either country. Despite this, they argue for continued US military presence in northeast Syria on the grounds that this will weaken Assad and ensure that any victory he wins will be pyrrhic.

Everything that has happened since 2011 suggests the opposite: by trying to weaken Assad, western powers will force him to become more – not less – reliant on Moscow and Tehran. It ensures that more Syrians will die, be injured or become refugees and gives space for al-Qaeda clones to reemerge.

Russian dominance in the northern tier of the Middle East may be opportunistic but is being reinforced by another process. President Trump may not yet have started any wars, but the uncertainty of US policy means that many countries in the world now look for a reinsurance policy with Russia because they are no longer sure how far they can rely on the US. Putin may not always be able to juggle these different opportunities unexpectedly presented to him, but so far he has had surprising success.

https://web.archive.org/web/20180923221928/http://www.unz.com/pcockburn/the-syrian-ceasefire-proves-how-far-putin-has-come-out-on-top/

https://archive.is/zXf7W

Don’t share this! EU’s new copyright law could kill the free internet – by Neil Clark – 20 Sept 2018

Don’t share this! EU’s new copyright law could kill the free internet
It’s basically a battle between billionaires Axel Springer SE and Google. But it is ordinary internet users who will fall victim to the EU’s new copyright law, which urgently needs modification.

It’s good to share. But the European Parliament clearly doesn’t think so. Its new copyright legislation, passed last week, clamps down quite severely on sharing things online. The dynamism of the internet is at threat. When Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, warns us of the dangers the new law poses, we should all sit up straight and pay attention.

For a start, the legislation shifts the responsibility for the uploading of copyright material to the internet platforms themselves. Beforehand it was the job of the companies who thought their copyright was infringed to do this. Many don’t bother, and are happy to see their material uploaded to sites like YouTube as they know it promotes an artist’s work and boosts sales. But all that is likely to change.

Read more

 © Valentin Wolf/Global Look Press

Under Article 13, platforms would have to install “upload filters”. YouTube could be shorn of much of its content. Big sites would probably survive but, as ZDNet warns here, smaller sites could easily be put out of business by “copyright trolls”.

Not that there’s anything wrong of course, with sensible protection of copyright. As a prolific five-articles-a-week writer and author I can’t tell you how frustrated and angry I feel when I see my work “pirated” by a commercial website which hasn’t even asked my permission to reprint it, let alone offer me  payment. Copyright law needs reform for the digital age. There needs to be an easy way for creators of content to receive payment from those who have stolen their work. The trouble is, the EU has used a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Look at the way the ability to link to, and quote from, other work without payment, is threatened by the directive.

Sites like RT’s ‘Op-ed’ section, which you are reading now, would be adversely affected and may be even put out of action. One of the advantages of writing an article for an online site over print is that links to articles mentioned can easily be inserted. This enables the reader to see for him/herself the original source. But Article 11 of the Directive raises fears that payment may, in certain circumstances, have to be paid to sites which are linked to. Being able to quote freely from other articles, so long as they are credited, is surely a good thing. It’s essential for instance when you are writing a piece dissecting another. But under the new legislation all but the very briefest quotes may have to be paid for. Think how much that would restrict quality journalism and hinder the free exchange of knowledge.

Then there’s the threat to memes, one of the most entertaining aspects of online life. It’s true that memes are often based on material which technically is copyrighted. But isn’t legislating against them taking it all too far? Article 13 states that “online content sharing service providers and right holders shall cooperate in good faith in order to ensure that unauthorised protected works or other subject matter are not available on their services.” That could mean you tweeting a GIF of Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho showing great disinterest in a topic could fall ‘foul’ of the law.

(So to get over this, you might think of going to a football match yourself, taking a photo of the player, manager, team, or the stadium, and then tweeting that. Be careful, you could be “red-carded” under Article 12a, as Wired in their ‘Explainer’ piece points out here (do we have to pay them for the link, Ed?).

The overall impact of the legislation, if it becomes law in member states, will be stultifying. We’ll all be turned into nervous wrecks, worried that we have infringed the new laws in one way or another. Don’t we have enough stress already in our lives without the European Parliament adding to it?  What’s made the Internet so fandabidozi (will we have to pay The Krankies copyright to use that term?!), is that it has, up to now, been free to grow organically. Blogs that attract readers thrive, those that don’t go to the wall. But the very fact that it’s been a relatively free space, alarms the control freaks and brain-washers.

The EU legislation, bad as it is in its own right, must be seen as part of a wider attempt to clamp down on free expression and the free exchange of ideas in the West at a time when fewer people than ever before believe establishment narratives. This month a British MP by the name of Lucy Powell, launched a bill in Parliament entitled the ‘Online Forums Bill’ to ban private Facebook groups which promote “hate”, “racism” and “fake news”. But who defines what these terms actually mean?

The authorities, that’s who, and they will use their powers selectively and hypocritically to silence anyone who poses a threat to those living very comfortable lives inside the castle. Just look at how the ‘fake news’ debate has been framed in such a way to equate ‘fake news’ with ‘Russian news’, ignoring the promulgation of ‘fake news’ by non-Russian media about Iraqi WMDs which led to a war which killed over 1m people.

Powell’s bill comes on top of the enormous pressure that companies like Facebook have been placed under to toe the line and flag up content from non-approved providers. We were told that in July, Twitter had purged of about 70 million accounts. Censorship is coming back under the guise of “fighting extremism”,“countering fake news”, or “countering the scourge of anti-Semitism.” If they want to censor it they’ll find a noble sounding, virtue-signaling excuse. We need to resist this, and resist it strongly.

In free societies it should be up to internet users themselves to decide what articles and outlets they read, what Facebook groups they join (closed or otherwise), and what Twitter accounts they follow, and not Big Brother or any other kind of politically correct thought police. And the EU should be concerning itself not with trying to control the internet, through manufactured ‘concerns’ over copyright, but in solving the pressing problems affecting Europe’s economies. Youth unemployment stood at around 43 percent in Greece, 33 percent in Spain and 32 percent in Italy, the last time I looked.  What help will the Copyright Directive be to the young jobless?

…………………………

Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at http://www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66

Numerous Racist Attacks – Hate Crimes of Mark Wahlberg – by Nathan Bernado – 19 April 2016

https://archive.is/xt5JP

I was a bit shocked when I stumbled on this information while surfing the Internet. What happened was a bit unimaginable and beyond my own comprehension. I can honestly say that I have never had the thought or the urge to commit a racially-motivated violent and brutal attack on another human being. Hey, that’s just me.

So, I was quite struck with dismay and shock when I read that super-star Mark Wahlberg had done such a thing, something so full of disregard, hate, and complete brutality.

Therefore, I was moved to write about it. Honestly, my motivation was partly anger: I remembered being bullied by racist kids when I was a child. And I had as many reasons to do bad things when I was a child too, but never even dreamed of doing what Mark Wahlberg had done; I grew up poor, raised by a neglectful single mother, in a violent neighborhood. Yet, I never did, nor ever wanted to attack anyone and most of all not for any racial reasons.

We will look at what it was exactly that Mark Wahlberg did back in his youth, who his victims were and the damage he did to them, and what was the outcome and his response to his own actions.

The Hate Crimes

The first incident occurred when Mark Wahlberg was 15 years old. He had already been hooked on cocaine and other drugs since the beginning of his teens. I imagine it is a time in a person’s life when he is energetic and mischievous. Though, I have to wonder about the extremity of Mark’s crimes at this age.

The assault occurred over a period of two days. Mark and his gang seemed a bit transfixed on attacking a group of black school children whom they stalked and attacked verbally and physically. On June 15, 1986 Mark and three other teenagers approached 12-year-old Jesse Coleman and his older brother and sister as they were walking home. The group chased the group of black school children on their bikes; one of the assailants told the children, “We don’t like black ni–ers in the area so get the f–k away from the area!”

The group continued to chase the children on their mopeds, yelling, “Kill the ni–ers! Kill the ni–ers!” Each one of Mark’s little gang threw rocks at their victims. By the time the children reached Burger King, Mark and the rest of the bullies turned and left; I’m assuming they didn’t want their actions witnessed in a business area where they’d easily be spotted.

The next day, while Jesse Coleman was on a field trip to the beach with his class, Mark and his gang followed the group to the beach. As the group was returning from the field trip, Mark’s group began yelling racial slurs at the children; Mark and his friends summoned more to join him and they threw rocks at the children, one hitting a black girl and another hitting a white girl. The teacher was able to get an ambulance there and the attackers ran away.

Nearly two years later, on April 8, 1988, Mark decided to turn his hatred towards Asians. Thanh Lam, while carrying two cases of beer from his car to his home, was struck by a large wooden stick wielded by Mark Wahlberg; Mark, at this time, called Thanh a “Vietnam fu–ing sh-t!” The blow knocked the man out.

Mark and two others left the scene. Mark then ran into another Vietnamese man named Hoa Trinh; at first asking the man for help in hiding from the police, when police came along, Wahlberg punched the man in the eye, knocking him to the ground; Trinh ended up losing that eye.

While in police custody, Mark continued to refer to “Slant-eyed g–ks” and other such slurs.

All of this is a matter of public record and Wahlberg admits to these incidents openly. For the last crime, Wahlberg was sentenced to two years in prison, but served 45 days and was released.

Mark has attempted to repent for his past behavior.
Mark has attempted to repent for his past behavior. | Source

Mark Wahlberg Repents

Like many people who have committed horrendous acts in the past, Mark has attempted to repent. He has taken that lame and over-done route of “finding God” and going to church, and has also started a charity foundation that helps at-risk youth.

It seems in his youth, Mark was helped by a neighborhood Catholic priest and the Boys and Girls Club to clean up his act. While the Boys and Girls Club was not too effective, they had to ban him from the club back in the day, the priest has remained friends with Mark since his youth. Mark has contributed money to the parish.

Well, if he needs to convince himself that he’s a good person, or needs the aid of religion to do the right thing, I guess a person needs to do what they need to do. But all it really takes is a little bit of honesty, no need for all the fluff.

While I have to wonder what was behind such hatred and cruelty, the fact remains that the crimes Mark Wahlberg committed occurred when he was a foolish youth, in a rough neighborhood, while he was hooked on hard drugs. Many of us in our youth make major errors, it is a time when we are at the peak of confusion and still learning hard lessons. Repentant or not, Mark’s violent behavior is in the past.

Mark Wahlberg at the premier of The Shooter.
Mark Wahlberg at the premier of The Shooter. | Source

Mark’s Hate Crimes

Date
Victim
Crime
June 15, 1986
Jesse Coleman and his brother and sister and by-standers, attacked due to being black
Stalked, verbally attacked and threatened victims and threw rocks which struck victims
April 8, 1988
Thanh Lam and Hoa Trinh, attacked due to being Vietnamese
Victim called racial slurs and struck with heavy stick and knocked out. Other victim punched in the eye and lost eye due to attack.

Update | December 18, 2014

I thought I’d give an update here because a couple of things have happened recently related to these past hate crimes committed by Wahlberg. He has formally applied to the Massachusetts Board of Pardons to be pardoned for his 1988 conviction for the assault of the two Vietnamese men. Of course, there are people on both sides, some on his side and some who don’t think he should be pardoned. However, he states that he has made something better of himself and wants to serve as an example that no matter what your life is like and what you’ve done, you can change.

Interestingly, one of his victims, Hoa Trinh, has come out and forgiven him. He says, basically, that we can make mistakes and be reckless in our youth and, for him, it’s all in the past. He also states that Mark didn’t put out his eye, he actually lost his eye in the Vietnam War. He also hadn’t even been aware who it was who assaulted him; he didn’t know it was someone who’s become a major celebrity now.

There are indeed compelling arguments against Mark getting a pardon; one being that it doesn’t really help his case of wanting to be an inspiration to youth. In fact, letting the conviction stand is better testimony about his mistake and that he’s moved on from it. And many agree that Mark never handled his misdeeds well.

Still his victim, Mr. Trinh, has forgiven him and comes forth with great understanding and, in fact, compassion. Quite ironic.

But it gets better. Turns out Mark’s people have contacted Mr. Trinh and Mark intends to meet with him. Looks like there is still time to make amends yet. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

Update | January 15, 2015

Well, we didn’t have to wait long for this story to unfold. The prosecutor that worked to convict Wahlberg of his 1988 crime against the Vietnamese men has come out against giving him a pardon. Judith Beals, the attorney, is very accurate in stating that Wahlberg never really admitted publicly that what he committed in the late 80s were hate crimes and, in fact, a series of them. Like quite the bad habit. There is much missing in his mishandling of this issue. Even his request for the pardon makes it sound like his crime was an isolated incident, which, as you know, was not. He also makes no mention of the racial aspect of the incident.

I’d agree with Beals that a pardon sends a wrong message. If we are to pardon Wahlberg, then there’s a long list of people that should be pardoned. Why him?

Of course, it should be mentioned, for one thing Mark mentioned it in his request for a pardon, that he is trying to get a concessionaire’s license for his restaurants. Looks like that conviction could interfere with him getting that license. Seems when he finally takes action on this hate crime issue, it’s still kind of all about him.

Update January 21, 2015 | Other Victim Not So Forgiving

It’s been reported that a victim from the 1986 hate crime Wahlberg committed, for which he had received a civil rights injunction, does not think he should be forgiven and pardoned. She says he’s still a racist and his crime was a hate crime and the conviction should stand.

Her name is Kristyn Atwood, now 38, and she was among the kids who had rocks thrown at them in ’86 while Mark also hurled threats and the N-word. She was hit by one of the rocks.

However, the teacher who was with the kids at the time, Mary Belmonte, while admitting the incident was terrifying and horrific, has taken a sympathetic stance with Wahlberg, believing he should be forgiven.

Looks like this isn’t over yet.

Update February 3, 2015 | Former Bodyguard Against Pardon

The list of people who do not want to see Wahlberg get the pardon for hate crimes he committed in the 1980s is ever-growing, it seems. His former bodyguard who used to be a part of his entourage had sued Wahlberg for an incident in 2001 in which he claims that Wahlberg punched him and bit his arm. According to Leonard Taylor, the bodyguard, Mark runs hot and cold and will be happy with you one minute and giving you the evil eye the next. He thinks Wahlberg really hasn’t changed.

Speaking of entourage, made me think of the incident in which Wahlberg and his entourage got into a brawl with Madonna’s entourage, which occurred close to the time he was in hot water for giving a guy a brutal beatdown at a Boston park back in the early 1990s.

Four Roses strike ends with deal between unions and bourbon company – by Grace Schneider (Louisville Courier Journal) 21 Sept 2018

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https://archive.fo/Qkzv4

The Four Roses strike ended Friday afternoon after the unions representing striking workers and the bourbon maker reached a tentative agreement.

Employees could be back on the job by as soon as Monday.

“We’re all just excited. It’s a good day for Four Roses and it’s a good day for workers,” said Jeff Royalty, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 10d.

Four Roses released a statement saying the agreement received “unanimous union board endorsement,” which ended the walkout. The company “looks forward to beginning full production again soon.”

The company and three unions that represent 53 hourly employees at a distilling operation in Lawrenceburg and a bottling and maturation facility near Cox’s Creek were at odds over changes to a sick leave policy and other provisions in a five-year master contract.

The workers left the job Sept. 7 and had picketed outside both locations until Friday afternoon, when the parties emerged from a day-long bargaining session.

Background: Four Roses bourbon workers on strike: Here’s what we know now

Read more: Here’s why the workers’ strike at Four Roses has bigger implications

A major issue for the unions was a company proposal to change the sick leave policy for incoming employees, providing workers 10 sick days per year but prohibiting them from carrying them over to the next year or bank them, as current employers can.

Instead, the new hires would have been eligible for short-term disability. The unions balked at what they described as a two-tier package for benefits that treats current workers differently from those hired later.

In the end, Royalty said, the parties agreed that workers would get the option to keep the current sick leave policy or sign up for short-term disability. Both new workers hired in and those now on the payroll can choose either program, he said.

“We stood our ground on two tier,” Royalty said, adding that the company was receptive to reaching a compromise.

The unions really appreciated the work on the deal by Ryan Ashley, Four Roses’ chief operating officer, he said.

Four Roses, a subsidiary of Japanese beverage conglomerate Kirin Holdings, also agreed to a provide a $2,000 signing bonus after the deal is ratified and a bonus in the first year of a new contract of $1,500.

Annual bonuses would decline in each year of the agreement to $600. Employees also will receive wages increases of between 30 cents and 50 cents an hour annually. Those raises would be retroactive to Aug. 1.

Grace Schneider: 502-582-4082; gschneider@courierjournal.com; Twitter: @gesinfk. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/graces 

https://www.courier-journal.com/story/money/companies/2018/09/21/four-roses-strike-ends-union-deal/1382131002/

Ivy League Study: ‘Undocumented’ Population is 22 Million, Double Establishment Estimate

migrants

The population of illegal migrants is roughly 22 million, or twice the establishment estimate of 11 million, say three professors from Yale University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The shocking estimate will force establishment politicians and pro-migration advocates to recalculate the estimated impact of the huge illegal population on wages and salaries, on crime rates, welfare consumption, rental and real-estate prices, productivity rates, and the distribution of job-creating investment funds to coastal vs. heartland states.

The higher illegal population estimate helps explain why Americans’ wages and salaries have risen so little amid apparently record-low unemployment rates, and it also undercuts companies’ loud demands for yet more immigration of foreign workers, consumers, and renters.

The population estimate also raises the political and economic stakes of any amnesty legislation. In 2014, public opposition blocked the bipartisan, establishment, media-boosted Gang of Eight bill, which claimed to offer an amnesty to just 11 million migrants. Currently, advocates for a ‘Dream Act’ amnesty claim it will provide green cards to roughly 3 million sons and daughters of illegal immigrants.

The new estimate also bolsters President Donald Trump’s demand that reluctant GOP and hostile Democratic legislators fund a border wall.

“Our purpose is to provide better information,” said Jonathan Feinstein, an economics professor at Yale. In a video statement, he defended the estimate from likely critics, saying it is an expert analysis, not a political project:

This paper is not oriented towards politics or policy. I want to be very clear. This paper is about coming up with a better estimate of an important number, and we are really trying in this paper to keep away from making any statements about how that could or should be used. It is just a paper to help the debate be organized around some better information, which in my opinion is a good thing to do. I think the debate should always be centered around the best information we can develop.

The academics expected their techniques to show the population is smaller than the consensus estimate of 11.3 million. “Our original idea was just to do a sanity check on the existing number,” said Edward Kaplan, operations research professor at Yale. “Instead of a number which was smaller, we got a number that was 50 percent higher. That caused us to scratch our heads.”

Operations research is a skill that extracts accurate estimates from scraps of data. It began in World War II when academics were enlisted to help track Nazi U-boats and weapons-production. For example, the academics used scraps of information to conclude that the Nazis produced 270 Panther tanks in February 1944. After the war, captured factory data showed the production of 276 Panthers in that month.

“We have a conservative estimate that the number is at least 16.7 million,” said Edward Kaplan, an operations research professor at Yale. The study used “over 1 million scenarios accounting for all of the variability in the various parameters that we need for this model [and] on average, we’re estimating something like 22 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.”

The study says:

The figure [below] also shows our conservative estimate of 16.7 million in Red, and the most widely accepted estimate heretofore of 11.3 million in Blue on the far left. We note that this last estimate is for 2015, but should be comparable since both the estimates based on the survey approach and our modeling approach indicate that the number of undocumented immigrants has remained relatively constant in recent years. Finally, the mean estimate of 22.1 million is shown in black in the center of the distribution.

Illegal

The new estimate uses new sources of data, such as the fingerprints of migrants caught at the Mexican border, said Mohammad Fazel‐Zarandi, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. In contrast, the current estimate of 11.3 million is based on the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey. “It’s been the only method used for the last three decades,” says Fazel‐Zarandi.

The illegal population is higher than expected because more migrants crowded into the United States during the cheap-labor policies of Presidents’ George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, the researchers said.

The inflow leveled off in 2008 once the economy crashed when millions of new migrants and poor Americans were unable to pay their rising mortgage costs.

The existing population of illegals tends to decline as many die of natural causes, or return home, or get “Adjustment of Status” to become legal residents. But the population is being kept level because new migrants — especially foreigners who overstay their visas or who migrate from Central America — offset the natural decline.

The Yale study goes up to 2016, and so does not offer 2017 and 2018 numbers. Many new migrants are overstaying their visas and sneaking across the borders, but President Donald Trump has tightened border defenses against overstays and border-crossers.

The Yale study complements the Census Bureau’s new estimate of the nation’s population and workforce. The bureau concluded the nation has been enlarged by 44.5 million legal or illegal immigrants, plus 17 million children of legal immigrants. Together, the new estimates conclude that the nation’s has a record-breaking foreign-born population of 55 million migrants.

That number is roughly 16.9 percent of the population, or roughly one person six living in the United States.

The study does not examine the number of illegal white-collar workers. That calculation is difficult because academics have not even counted the number of resident white-collar visa-workers, such as L-1 and H-1B visa holders. Breitbart News estimates that U.S. companies employ roughly 1.5 million white-collar visa workers in jobs that are sought by U.S. college graduates.

Four million young Americans will join the workforce this year, but the federal government will also import 1.1 million legal immigrants, and allows an army of at least 2 million blue-collar and white-collar visa-workers to work U.S. jobs, alongside asylum-claiming migrants and illegal aliens.

Overall, the Washington-imposed economic policy of economic growth via immigration shifts wealth from young people towards older people by flooding the market with cheap white-collar and blue-collar foreign labor.

That flood of outside labor spikes profits and Wall Street values by cutting salaries for manual and skilled labor offered by blue-collar and white-collar employees. The policy also drives up real estate priceswidens wealth-gaps, reduces high-tech investment, increases state and local tax burdens, hurts kids’ schools and college education, pushes Americans away from high-tech careers, and sidelines at least 5 million marginalized Americans and their families, including many who are now struggling with opioid addictions. Immigration also pulls investment and wealth away from heartland states because investment flows towards the large immigrant populations living in the coastal states.

Border Wall

https://web.archive.org/web/20180922130927/https://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2018/09/21/ivy-league-study-illegal-population-is-22-million-double-estb-estimate/

Bono, Bloody Bono – Irish ‘Tax Refugee’ Millionaire Bono Explains the Thinking of Working Class Populists – 21 Sept 2018

‘Detachment from real life’: Vox Bono talks populism in Europe with Zakaria

Bono EU flagBono EU flag 2Bono EU Lover

https://archive.is/YxD8n

‘Detachment from real life’: Bono talks populism in Europe with Zakaria

Journalist Fareed Zakaria, a Harvard-educated millionaire with his own CNN show on Sundays wanted to understand how Europe, a continent finally at peace after centuries of conflict, could be succumbing to the rise of “populism and nativism.” What, he wondered, could be fuelling Europeans’ newfound Euroscepticism and “hostility toward strangers, foreigners, anyone who is different.”

Rather than ask a Spaniard watching migrant boats plow ashore on his country’s beaches, or a Dutchman whose picture-postcard village now features a mosque and ten kebab shops, Zakaria sat down with U2 frontman Bono, for an article published in the Washington Post on Thursday.

“Europe needs to go from being seen as a bore, a bureaucracy, a technical project, to being what it is: a grand, inspiring idea,” the singer opined. He argued that while the EU has enacted mountains of legislation, it has failed to capture the imagination of Europeans.

“That idea of Europe deserves songs written about it, and big bright blue flags to be waved about,” he wrote in a German newspaper recently. To that end, Bono has taken to unfurling a gigantic blue EU flag at U2 concerts, a gimmick he described as “a radical act.”

However, are Europeans interested in Bono’s song-and-dance brand of Europhilia?

Bono and Pope

 

Bono and Bush

Well, the thing about populism is that, by definition, it’s popular. In his article, Zakaria points out that anti-immigrant sentiment runs high in countries like Hungary. Elsewhere, Sweden’s anti-immigration Sweden Democrats took the second-largest share of the vote in elections two weeks ago; Italy’s eurosceptic government enjoys record approval ratings; and Austria’s right-wing government has made strengthening its borders a national priority.

Talking to Zakaria, Bono called for a different type of patriotism, one that seeks “unity above homogeneity.” However, his own acts to heal the divide and foster this new patriotism have planted him firmly in the social justice warrior camp.

 

Bono glasses

As Swedes went to the polls earlier this month, Bono called the anti-Islamization populists Nazis at a concert in Paris. Dressed as a ‘devil clown,’ the singer performed a Nazi salute while shouting “Akesson,” the surname of Jimmie Akesson, the Islamizationphobic Sweden Democrats’ leader. After calling Swedes “potential Aryans,” he then insulted French right wing populist Marine Le Pen, as part of a wider tirade against the Islamizationphobic right in general.

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On immigration, Bono has gone beyond simply calling for Europeans to accept refugees from war-torn countries. Jamie Drummond, CEO of Bono’s own anti-poverty NGO, ‘ONE’, has argued for mass African immigration to Europe.

“As Africa’s population doubles, a lot of them, whatever the circumstances, will be coming to Europe, as economic migrants or as refugees, they will be coming, and that is a good thing” Drummond told an Irish government committee last year. “We will be senescent demographically. We’ll need their youthful energy.”

Zakaria and [Bono] Hewson reach no further understanding of European populism and fear of Third World culture and Islamization in Zakaria’s article, other than that it’s bad, and can maybe be stopped with catchy songs and shiny flags. At least that’s the position of a singer with a beachfront villa in Monaco and a $700 million fortune who seemingly pays taxes in any country but his own.

Like many of Bono’s endeavors, the article was relentlessly mocked online.

Bono 3bono 4bono 6bono 7bono Listen

https://archive.is/QG5Q0

Crimes against Humanity: “Normal” Treatment of Middle Eastern Women – by Khadija Khan – 28 January 2017

A bitter truth, often glossed over in the name of “tradition,” is the religious teachings and the responsibilities of a Muslim woman. Most glossed over is the violence that men are still allowed to inflict on their women in the name of their religion and culture on such a massive part of the planet.

This brutality not only takes place in ISIS-held territory but across most Muslim societies. All around you, you see women killed, molested, imprisoned, maimed and incarcerated while their men sugar-coat the abuse as “modesty”, “honour”, “divine law” or even “justice”.

In addition to warning would-be ISIS recruits of the horrors that await them if they jump onto the bandwagon of terrorist organizations, let us take a look into “normal” Muslim societies.

Women in Saudi Arabia, in the name of laws and “traditions”, are kept effectively non-existent. They are forced, outside the house to wear full-body covering, abayas. Most full coverings for women are black, which absorbs heat, and are made of non-porous, cloth — not cotton — in the scorching heat.

Women are also not allowed to drive, they cannot leave the house without a male guardian, they are liable to be flogged, stoned to death or beheaded if found guilty of even the smallest infractions, and often, as in being raped, even if they are factually innocent.

Campaigns have been launched to abolish the guardian system, in which women must be escorted outside their homes by a male relative or “guardian”.

The mainstream religious lobby immediately went on the defensive. Saudi Arabia’s highest Islamic figure, the grand mufti, denounced the call to abolish guardianship as a crime against Islam.

Mullahs seem to prefer protecting inhuman laws to protecting humans.

In Iran, women are forced to cover themselves and need a guardian to step outside the home, if they want to be “protected”. Bicycling is prohibited.

Women are also forced to live with an abusive husband, as dictated by abusive marital laws and social taboos.

Moral brigades by the name of Gasht e Ershad (“guidance patrol”) coerce females to behave “decently”. Now Sharia patrols and curbs against women also exist in England and France – an indication where these extremists want to drive the West.

In parts of France, women cannot go out onto the street “unaccompanied” or even enter a café. “Here,” men tell them, “we do things like in our home countries!”

In a province of Indonesia, Aceh, a woman, accused of being intimate with her boyfriend, is caned in front of a jeering crowd. Later, a photograph of the screaming woman is published as a token of pride for the men who had just exacted this “justice” — on her; no consequence for the boyfriend. It was a lesson to remind women to submit to their place in society.

Under the newly proposed Sharia laws, women are also forced to be accompanied by a male guardian to “protect” them. Banda Aceh also banned women from entertainment venues after 11pm unless they are accompanied by a male family member. Aceh district has also banned unmarried men and women from riding together on motorbikes.

Turkey last year presented a bill for tackling its widespread child-marriage issue: the Turkish government introduced a bill that pardons a rapist if he marries his victim. The victim is not consulted. After the rage of the masses, the bill was withdrawn – at least for the time being.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said at a news conference in Istanbul:

“We are taking this bill in the parliament back to the commission in order to allow for the broad consensus the president requested, and to give time for the opposition parties to develop their proposals.”

The government seems determined to bring it back after making some minor changes.

Many Muslim countries follow similar restraints, effectively keeping women under house-arrest. All forms of exploiting women are presented as divine law, sharia, in which women have no say, which they are unable to use in their own defence, and which they are forced to accept as their fate.

The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), not required by Islam, is a pre-Islamic tribal norm across the African belt of the Muslim region, as well as in parts of India, Indonesia and Middle East.

In Pakistan, the hudood ordinance, promulgated in 1979 to curb outside-of marriage-sex, has actually turned out as a monstrosity for female rape victims.

The ordinance demands, under sharia law, that a rape victim be grilled in a court of law as if she is the perpetrator. She is asked to produce four male witnesses to prove her case or else she is booked as having committing adultery and having already confessed to the crime.

These are countries where men are not only permitted, but invited, to consider woman a pet to be killed, burned with acid, benzene or a weapon of choice supposedly to preserve a family’s “honour”.

These laws, put in place by the governments and the clergy, provide a safe escape for criminals, such as those who kill their women and claim it is in the name of “honour”.

A killer can be pardoned in court by the victim’s next of kin, who, thanks to much clan intermarriage, is usually a family member of the assailant as well. The judge, with the stroke of a pen, therefore lets these criminals walk free.

Although recently Pakistan passed a bill barring the family members from pardoning assailants in the name of sharia (Qissas) or reconciliation, the flickering hope of its implementation is still in question as no court has so far set this new law as a precedent in the hundreds of pending cases across the country. That neglect means that despite the new law, in practice, rulings are “business as usual”.

Such taboos are also safeguarded by the clergy, who rule the society through the loudspeakers of the mosques.

Afghanistan remains perhaps the most brutal country in terms of women’s rights violations.

Farkhanda Malikzada, for instance, a 27-year-old seminary student accused by a fortune teller a custodian of a shrine, of burning a Quran, was simply thrown to hound-like mob of men who beat and burned her to death — in front of a number of police officers and cameras in broad daylight. Most of the identifiable assailants were never punished, while the fortune teller who unleashed this horror had his death sentence commuted.

Investigators also revealed that Farkhanda might have questioned sexual orgies by the shrine’s custodians, who were later found inside the holy place with condoms and Viagra.

“Yet,” reports Alissa J. Rubin, who wrote the New York Times report, “Afghan women most need the legal system to defend them: They are largely powerless without the support of male family members, and it is usually family members who abuse them.”

Being covered in black, non-porous cloth in the desert heat; being stoned to death or beheaded; being confined to a house as a brood-mare and servant, effectively enslaved, unable to leave or earn an independent living, are the reality that millions of women are made to suffer every day – supposedly for their “protection”.

To add insult to injury, in most societies, these discriminations are imposed by the mullahs as religious obligations.

In the 21st century, an unchaperoned woman outside the house is regarded as subhuman, fair game to be raped, assaulted, humiliated, burned alive or decapitated — based on patriarchal norms.

The deeper horror is that all these abuses — child marriage, confinement, FGM, rape, torture, and legal discrimination — have accomplices. These enablers are often well-meaning people from the West, “multiculturalists” who are reluctant to pass judgement on other people’s customs no matter how brutal they might be. What they are really doing, however, is providing crucial support for savage injustices either by sweeping them under the carpet or by defending barbarism as “cultural norms”.

Three- or four-year-old girls go to kindergarten wearing a headscarf — no longer just in the Middle East or Africa but in England, Germany and virtually throughout Europe.

These kinds of abuses are permitted and even encouraged by an indoctrination that runs deep through the generations, and that are tragically perpetuated by well-meaning “multiculturalists” in Europe who actually think they are doing “good” by preserving these barbaric conditions.

Sadly, they are unable to see that they are actually part of the huge jihadi radicalization machine working under the very nose of even governments in the West.

As the British in India effectively got rid of the practice of suttee, in which Hindu widows were required to throw themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre, if people would really like to do “good”, they will please help to stop similar crushing practices.

Khadija Khan is a Pakistan-based journalist and commentator.

 

https://web.archive.org/web/20180922014151/https://xenagoguevicene.com/2018/09/22/crimes-against-humanity-normal-treatment-of-middle-eastern-women-by-khadija-khan-28-january-2017/

FBI Suspected 1960’s Rad/Lib ‘Ramparts’ Magazine to Be Foreign Agent – by Emma Best – 13 Sept 2018

Ramparts

FBI suspected “Ramparts” was a foreign agent that provided propaganda and intelligence services

Bureau considered the magazine’s interviews with foreign leaders to be “subversive,” and an accurate exposure of CIA activities to be “disinformation”

 

Written by Emma Best
Edited by JPat Brown
Files recently released to MuckRock shed light on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation of the radical Ramparts magazine. Originally classified SECRET, the investigation described in the FBI files was an “internal security” matter relating to the magazine’s registration status. Paralleling and seemingly predicting some of the later investigations of WikiLeaks, the Bureau suspected that Ramparts “may currently be engaged in acts of distribution of propaganda, acting as a political agent, collecting information, forwarding information, et cetera, while acting as the agent of a foreign principal.”

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Though portions of the file remain classified, the nearly hundred page dossier details significant portions of the investigation. While much of the dossier deals with the financial aspects of Ramparts’ operation, it also accuses the outlet of being a front for foreign agencies. While details of this accusation remain redacted, the file synopsis reveals that it is based off of “foreign contacts” which reportedly showed that “source material received from foreign agencies” appeared in Ramparts.

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While the nature of this information and the foreign agencies isn’t revealed in this release, nor are its sources, a file released by the Government Attic reveals that the Bureau’s sources for information relating to Ramparts included representatives from The Asia Foundation, a Central Intelligence Agency front.

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While the recently released file doesn’t explain what type of information the Bureau suspected Ramparts received from foreign agencies, the file released by Government Attic does address the issue at points. One memo to the FBI Director accuses Ramparts of being “a virtual official propaganda arm of Soviet Russia.”

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Another memo from the FBI Director, issued as part of the Bureau’s COINTELPRO interest in Ramparts, states that the magazine’s exposure of CIA funding of the National Student Association was “inspired by the Soviets as a disinformation operation.”

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As the Agency would confirm in numerous classified documents, this “disinformation” was accurate and the funding only ceased as a result of Ramparts’ exposure.

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Although much of the FBI’s dossier focused on Ramparts’ financial supporters and subscribers, it also devoted two and a half pages to what it described as the magazine’s subversive foreign contacts. Out of this, only one page is unredacted. The document describes two different confidential sources reporting that Mike Ansara of Ramparts had expressed interest in traveling to Cairo, where they and an unidentified individual reportedly hoped to interview the president of the United Arab Emirates.

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Ramparts’ desire to interview foreign leaders for their reporting was hardly a unique concern for the Bureau. Immediately after falsely claiming that the magazine’s editor had admitted to lying about having information about the murder of civil rights workers (as the New York Times makes clear, the information existed by the government’s threat of indicting witnesses and putting their lives at risk resulted in a predictable chilling effect), the Bureau points out that the editor had expressed interest in interviewing Fidel Castro. This stance was clearly hypocritical of the government, as then-journalist Richard Helms’ interview of Adolf Hitler launched a career that culminated in his becoming the Director of Central Intelligence.

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It’s unclear from the files how the Bureau justified seeing a journalist’s desire to interview major world figures as “subversive” and signs of being an unregistered foreign agent. It’s also unclear why the Bureau considered accurate reporting, such as Ramparts’ exposure of the National Student Association’s relationship with CIA, to be “disinformation.” The claims do make clear, however, the government’s capricious standards. Accompanying documents leave little doubt that the key factor to the government was the willingness of an individual or outlet to criticize the government and the wars it engaged in.

Numerous additional FOIA requests – including for the complete FBI file on Ramparts – are being filed by MuckRock to learn more about the FBI’s investigations of Ramparts, its staff, contributors and supporters. In the meantime, you can read the dossier below, or the Government Attic’s release here. You can also read the full 29,000 pages of the FBI’s Reagan file, in which the Ramparts dossier was located, here.

 

https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2018/sep/13/ramparts-fbi/?utm_source=MuckRock+Wide+List&utm_campaign=c5049ed3f9-europa_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_20aa4a931d-c5049ed3f9-364946977

Miami FL: Crossdressed Man who posed as a housewife pleads guilty to making secret sex tapes with 150 men – 20 Sept 2018

Man who posed as a housewife pleads guilty to making secret sex tapes with 150 men

By Jay Weaver And David Ovalle

September 20, 2018 12:35 PM

 

A South Florida man who cross-dressed as a woman and taped himself having sex with at least 80 unsuspecting straight men to produce internet porn videos pleaded guilty Thursday in Miami federal court.

Bryan Deneumostier, 33, admitted engaging in sex with 150 men — with just over half unaware of his production of the secret videos and just under half aware of it.

Deneumostier, known by the screen name “susanleon33326,” pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal interception of oral communications before U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga. He faces up to 10 years in prison at his sentencing on Nov. 29, though he is expected to receive less time. As part of his plea agreement, three related charges will be dropped by federal prosecutors.

Deneumostier has been held without bond after being charged this summer with luring the men to his Homestead home, making the sex tapes without their knowledge and then uploading them on a porn site that charged a fee.

 

Deneumostier was arrested in July on charges of making unlawful recordings of commercial sex acts for an adult website. An indictment, filed by prosecutors Cary Aronovitz and Mona Sedky, lists three victims related to his operation of “StraightBoyz.” The site promised gay men videos of real straight men being conned into accepting sex acts, all while blindfolded or wearing blacked-out goggles.

Investigators believe Deneumostier helped operate the subscription-based adult site, which featured about 620 video hookups, over the past four years. Although the website is no longer in operation, many of the videos can still be viewed on other porn sites.

“The site offered for streaming approximately 619 ‘hook up’ videos that depicted sexual activity between Deneumostier and other men,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “The defendant had surreptitiously made audio and video recordings of the sexual encounters, without the victims’ knowledge or consent. He later sold the ‘hook up’ videos to a third party located overseas and caused them to be posted onto the website.”

Agents with Homeland Security Investigations found that at least 80 of the men depicted on the site were victims, never knowing their sexual encounters were being recorded and uploaded to the web.

Agents believe Deneumostier posed as a “real, heterosexual female” and posted ads on Craigslist seeking flings at her house near the Homestead Reserve Air Base.

“When the men ask for assurances that there are no cameras, he assured them that ‘she’s’ married to someone in the Army and she would never photograph or video them,’ ” according to a law enforcement document.

In reality, the document says, “Deneumostier is video- and audio-taping the entire sexual encounter.”

Deneumostier was represented by Assistant Federal Public Defender D’Arsey Houlihan, who declined to comment after his client’s change of plea hearing.

Deneumostier has other legal troubles. Earlier this summer, Deneumostier was arrested and charged with having sex with an underage boy at the Floridian Hotel in Homestead, according to a police report.

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/article218723835.html

Julia Salazar: The democratic socialist lied. And lied. And lied. Then she won handily in Brooklyn. – by Bari Weiss (NYT) 14 Sept 2018

Julia Salazar, the Left’s Post-Truth Politician

The democratic socialist lied. And lied. And lied. Then she won handily in Brooklyn.

Bari Weiss

By Bari Weiss

Ms. Weiss is a staff writer and editor for the Opinion section.

 

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Julia Salazar speaking with the press after her primary win on Thursday, 13 Sept 2018

According to The Washington Post’s running count, Donald Trump is averaging 7.6 “Trumpian claims” a day. One wonders how many Salazarian claims Julia Salazar has spoken.

On Thursday Ms. Salazar, a 27-year-old rookie politician and democratic socialist, trounced an eight-term state senator in the Democratic primary in New York’s 18th District. The district is gentrifying North Brooklyn — East Williamsburg, Bushwick — and there is no Republican on the ballot. So Ms. Salazar is guaranteed to win in November.

That she pulled this off even though she is, to put it gently, allergic to the truth, tells you a lot about our current political moment.

It’s one thing to change your mind. And Ms. Salazar has on several fronts.

In less than a decade she went from being pro-life to pro-choice. From a conservative Christian Zionist to an outspoken advocate of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. From a registered Republican to a progressive insistent that she is “actively working to dismantle” capitalism and to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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It’s the ideological equivalent of a cinnamon-raisin bagel with lox. Strange. But technically kosher.

But evolving politically is different from fabricating your life story.

A few weeks ago, Ms. Salazar was perfectly positioned as the Robin to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Batman. She was a Colombian immigrant with a Columbia degree. A Jew of color and a working-class girl raised by a single mother without a college degree who had struggled to support her family. She was treated to flattering profiles in outlets like The Village Voice and New York Magazine.

The problem is that few of the details were true.

Ms. Salazar was born in South Florida. She was raised in a Catholic home and her conversion story, which no one can verify, keeps changing. She never graduated from Columbia, unlike her mother, who in fact did finish college. She grew up in a comfortable middle-class home. She even has a trust fund.

Much of this fact-checking was helped along by Ms. Salazar’s own family members, who seemed distressed about the way their past was being discussed in the press. Ms. Salazar claimed that her brother, Alex, had a political ax to grind: He has “very right-wing politics,” she told Vox. “Very anti-socialist politics.” Her brother responded that his aim was “telling the truth about my family.”

It’s hard to recall an instance where a candidate’s integrity was being openly challenged by her family more than by her political opponent.

 

Ms. Salazar’s first instinct was to accuse Tablet Magazine, where I used to be an editor, of practicing “race science” when it cracked open the story in August about inconsistencies in her background and raised questions about her account of converting to Judaism. A few days before voters went to the polls she softened it a bit for Rolling Stone: “I regret not having the foresight to anticipate being misunderstood.”

But none of it mattered. She won 58.5 percent of the vote — 20,603 to her opponent’s 14,614.

In the run-up to the election, only Citizens Union, a good government group, dropped its endorsement on the grounds that Ms. Salazar had provided incorrect information about her “academic credentials.” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez doubled down on her support for the candidate, saying, through a spokesman, that she remained behind her “100 percent.” Cynthia Nixon, who in July called Ms. Salazar “the future of the Democratic Party,” never wavered, nor did the New York City comptroller Scott Stringer. And the Democratic Socialists of America threw its organizing support behind her.

A known liar is now heading to Albany. At least she’ll be in good company?

No matter how many things Ms. Salazar makes up, it seems unfair to liken her to our post-truth president, who lies on a much grander scale and who has the power to do far, far greater damage.

And yet, the willingness of Ms. Salazar’s supporters to look past her fabrications sounds eerily familiar to the justifications Trump supporters made in 2016: Yes, he’s distasteful and prone to exaggeration. But he’s promising to pass policies we like. Supporting him is a price worth paying in pursuit of our goals.

Even the right’s dismissal of anything critical of Mr. Trump as fake news has its left-wing equivalent. On Friday on the website Jacobin, a democratic socialist writer celebrated Ms. Salazar’s win and dismissed the press’s “unprecedented smears.” There was, he says, “no smoking gun” and the whole thing could be chalked up to hostility to her political views — or, worse, to some kind of right-wing conspiracy.

In this, her supporters were helped by one story where her testimony rings true. Ms. Salazar is one of a dozen women who have accused David Keyes, until this week a top aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, of sexual misconduct. He denies the allegations, but I know several of the women who have accused Mr. Keyes and I am convinced they are telling the truth. Given the pattern of his alleged behavior, I have every reason to believe that Julia Salazar is, too.

But her supporters are now using this episode to paint a broader falsehood. They’re implying that the critical reporting was ginned up by right-wing Zionists to discredit her — that she’s a victim of a targeted campaign rather than a woman who was victimized by a man but also one who fabricated parts of her past for political gain. Just like Mr. Trump’s supporters, her fans have reserved much of their hostility for the media, which had the chutzpah to ask basic questions of a person running for elected office.

The right has been damaged beyond belief by its embrace of Mr. Trump. That Trumpian logic and Trumpian loyalty is now beginning to infect the left is nothing to cheer.

Bari Weiss is a staff editor and writer for the Opinion section. @bariweiss

https://archive.fo/BFu1W

Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing – by John Pilger – 20 Sept 2018

(Robert Parry)

The death of Robert Parry earlier this year felt like a farewell to the age of the reporter. Parry was “a trailblazer for independent journalism”, wrote Seymour Hersh, with whom he shared much in common.

Hersh revealed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the secret bombing of Cambodia, Parry exposed Iran-Contra, a drugs and gun-running conspiracy that led to the White House. In 2016, they separately produced compelling evidence that the Assad government in Syria had not used chemical weapons. They were not forgiven.

Driven from the “mainstream”, Hersh must publish his work outside the United States. Parry set up his own independent news website Consortium News, where, in a final piece following a stroke, he referred to journalism’s veneration of “approved opinions” while “unapproved evidence is brushed aside or disparaged regardless of its quality.”

Although journalism was always a loose extension of establishment power, something has changed in recent years. Dissent tolerated when I joined a national newspaper in Britain in the 1960s has regressed to a metaphoric underground as liberal capitalism moves towards a form of corporate dictatorship. This is a seismic shift, with journalists policing the new “groupthink”, as Parry called it, dispensing its myths and distractions, pursuing its enemies.

Witness the witch-hunts against refugees and immigrants, the willful abandonment by the “MeToo” zealots of our oldest freedom, presumption of innocence, the anti-Russia racism and anti-Brexit hysteria, the growing anti-China campaign and the suppression of a warning of world war.

With many if not most independent journalists barred or ejected from the “mainstream”, a corner of the Internet has become a vital source of disclosure and evidence-based analysis: true journalism. Sites such as Wikileaks, Consortium NewsWSWS.orgTruthdig,Global ResearchCounterPunch and Information Clearinghouse are required reading for those trying to make sense of a world in which science and technology advance wondrously while political and economic life in the fearful “democracies” regress behind a media facade of narcissistic spectacle.

In Britain, just one website offers consistently independent media criticism. This is the remarkable Media Lens — remarkable partly because its founders and editors as well as its only writers, David Edwards and David Cromwell, since 2001 have concentrated their gaze not on the usual suspects, the Tory press, but the paragons of reputable liberal journalism: the BBC, the Guardian, Channel 4 News.

Their method is simple. Meticulous in their research, they are respectful and polite when they ask why a journalist why he or she produced such a one-sided report, or failed to disclose essential facts or promoted discredited myths.

The replies they receive are often defensive, at times abusive; some are hysterical, as if they have pushed back a screen on a protected species.

I would say Media Lens has shattered a silence about corporate journalism. Like Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in Manufacturing Consent, they represent a Fifth Estate that deconstructs and demystifies the media’s power.

What is especially interesting about them is that neither is a journalist. David Edwards is a former teacher, David Cromwell is an oceanographer. Yet, their understanding of the morality of journalism — a term rarely used; let’s call it true objectivity —  is a bracing quality of their online Media Lens dispatches.

I think their work is heroic and I would place a copy of their just published book, Propaganda Blitz, in every journalism school that services the corporate system, as they all do.

Take the chapter, Dismantling the National Health Service, in which Edwards and Cromwell describe the critical part played by journalists in the crisis facing Britain’s pioneering health service.

The NHS crisis is the product of a political and media construct known as “austerity”, with its deceitful, weasel language of “efficiency savings”  (the BBC term for slashing public expenditure) and “hard choices” (the willful destruction of the premises of civilised life in modern Britain).

“Austerity” is an invention. Britain is a rich country with a debt owed by its crooked banks, not its people. The resources that would comfortably fund the National Health Service have been stolen in broad daylight by the few allowed to avoid and evade billions in taxes.

Using a vocabulary of corporate euphemisms, the publicly-funded Health Service is being deliberately run down by free market fanatics, to justify its selling-off . The Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn may appear to oppose this, but is it? The answer is very likely no. Little of any of this is alluded to in the media, let alone explained.

Edwards and Cromwell have dissected the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, whose innocuous title belies its dire consequences. Unknown to most of the population, the Act ends the legal obligation of British governments to provide universal free health care: the bedrock on which the NHS was set up following the Second World War. Private companies can now insinuate themselves into the NHS, piece by piece.

Where, asks Edwards and Cromwell, was the BBC while this momentous Bill was making its way through Parliament? With a statutory commitment to “providing a breadth of view” and to properly inform the public of “matters of public policy”, the BBC never spelt out the threat posed to one of the nation’s most cherished institutions.  A BBC headline said: “Bill which gives power to GPs passes.” This was pure state propaganda.

There is a striking similarity with the BBC’s coverage of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s lawless invasion of Iraq in 2003, which left a million dead and many more dispossessed.   A study by the University of Wales, Cardiff, found that the BBC reflected the government line “overwhelmingly” while relegating reports of civilian suffering. A Media Tenor study placed the BBC at the bottom of a league of western broadcasters in the time they gave to opponents of the invasion. The corporation’s much-vaunted “principle” of impartiality was never a consideration.

One of the most telling chapters in Propaganda Blitz describes the smear campaigns mounted by journalists against dissenters, political mavericks and whistleblowers. The Guardian’s campaign against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is the most disturbing.

Assange, whose epic WikiLeaks disclosures brought fame, journalism prizes and largesse to the Guardian, was abandoned when he was no longer useful. He was then subjected to a vituperative – and cowardly — onslaught of a kind I have rarely known.

With not a penny going to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous”. They also disclosed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables.

With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh”.

The Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore wrote, “I bet Assange is stuffing himself full of flattened guinea pigs. He really is the most massive turd.”

Moore, who describes herself as a feminist, later complained that, after attacking Assange, she had suffered “vile abuse”. Edwards and Cromwell wrote to her: “That’s a real shame, sorry to hear that. But how would you describe calling someone ‘the most massive turd’? Vile abuse?”

Moore replied that no, she would not, adding, “I would advise you to stop being so bloody patronising.”

Her former Guardian colleague James Ball wrote, “It’s difficult to imagine what Ecuador’s London embassy smells like more than five and a half years after Julian Assange moved in.”

Such slow-witted viciousness appeared in a newspaper described by its editor, Katharine Viner, as “thoughtful and progressive”. What is the root of this vindictiveness?  Is it jealousy, a perverse recognition that Assange has achieved more journalistic firsts than his snipers can claim in a lifetime? Is it that he refuses to be “one of us” and shames those who have long sold out the independence of journalism?

Journalism students should study this to understand that the source of “fake news” is not only trollism, or the likes of Fox news, or Donald Trump, but a journalism self-anointed with a false respectability: a liberal journalism that claims to challenge corrupt state power but, in reality, courts and protects it, and colludes with it. The amorality of the years of Tony Blair, whom the Guardian has failed to rehabilitate, is its echo.

“[It is] an age in which people yearn for new ideas and fresh alternatives,” wrote Katharine Viner. Her political writer Jonathan Freedland dismissed the yearning of young people who supported the modest policies of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as “a form of narcissism”.

“How did this man ….,” brayed the Guardian’s Zoe Williams, “get on the ballot in the first place?”  A choir of the paper’s precocious windbags joined in, thereafter queuing to fall on their blunt swords when Corbyn came close to winning the 2017 general election in spite of the media.

Complex stories are reported to a cult-like formula of bias, hearsay and omission: Brexit, Venezuela, Russia, Syria. On Syria, only the investigations of a group of independent journalists have countered this, revealing the network of Anglo-American backing of jihadists in Syria, including those related to ISIS.

Supported by a “psyops” campaign funded by the British Foreign Office and the US Agency of International Aid, the aim is to hoodwink the Western public and speed the overthrow the government in Damascus, regardless of the medieval alternative and the risk of war with Russia.

The Syria Campaign, set up by a New York PR agency, Purpose, funds a group known as the White Helmets, who claim falsely to be “Syria Civil Defence” and are seen uncritically on TV news and social media, apparently rescuing the victims of bombing, which they film and edit themselves, though viewers are unlikely to be told this. George Clooney is a fan.

The White Helmets are appendages to the jihadists with whom they share addresses. Their media-smart uniforms and equipment are supplied by their Western paymasters. That their exploits are not questioned by major news organisations is an indication of how deep the influence of state-backed PR now runs in the media. As Robert Fisk noted recently, no “mainstream” reporter reports Syria, from Syria.

In what is known as a hatchet job, a Guardian reporter based in San Francisco, Olivia Solon, who has never visited Syria, was allowed to smear the substantiated investigative work of journalists Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett on the White Helmets as “propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government”.

This abuse was published without permitting a single correction, let alone a right-of-reply. The Guardian Comment page was blocked, as Edwards and Cromwell document.  I saw the list of questions Solon sent to Beeley, which reads like a McCarthyite charge sheet — “Have you ever been invited to North Korea?”

So much of the mainstream has descended to this level. Subjectivism is all; slogans and outrage are proof enough. What matters is the “perception”.

When he was US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus declared what he called “a war of perception… conducted continuously using the news media”. What really mattered was not the facts but the way the story played in the United States. The undeclared enemy was, as always, an informed and critical public at home.

Nothing has changed. In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s film-maker, whose propaganda mesmerised the German public.

She told me the “messages” of her films were dependent not on “orders from above”, but on the “submissive void” of an uninformed public.

“Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked.

“Everyone,” she said. “Propaganda always wins, if you allow it.”

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https://web.archive.org/web/20180921013152/https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/09/20/hold-the-front-page-the-reporters-are-missing/

Cox’s Creek KY: Four Roses Bourbon Distillery Workers on Strike – 7 Sept 2018

Four Roses 23

This distillery just completed an expansion. Now workers are striking.

The employees took out a newspaper advertisement in The Anderson News late last month, calling it “the worst contract proposal since Prohibition.”

Four Roses, which is owned by Kirin Brewery in Japan, recently completed a $55 million expansion that will double its capacity. The distillery is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year.

Four Roses has not commented on the strike.

Four Roses 32344

Four Roses 4
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Will you stand with Four Roses Bourbon workers?

Four_roses_composite

In the midst of an historic bourbon boom, workers at Four Roses distillery and bottling facilities are standing together to ensure that all members of the Four Roses family earn equal benefits for their hard work. The hardworking men and women who craft Four Roses bourbon made the difficult decision to go on strike on September 7th.

For more than two months, company officials at Four Roses have failed to negotiate a fair contract with their union employees. The company has been pushing to implement a two-tier system that would reduce benefits for new employees, even as the company invests $55 million in expanding the distillery to keep up with global demand for Four Roses bourbon.

“We’re a family at Four Roses. We all work together because we take pride in the quality represented by that Four Roses label,” said Curt Standiford, a member of UFCW Local 23D who has worked for Four Roses for five years. “We cannot let the company treat the new hires like they are not a part of this family. I’m putting my job on the line to protect new hires because I believe in the tradition and dedication that we put into every barrel of Four Roses.”

On September 7th, Four Roses workers across three unions took the extraordinary step of voting to strike if the company would not come to an agreement that set a single standard for all employees.

“The bourbon business is booming, and our hardworking members have dedicated themselves to Four Roses’ success,” said Ronnie Hatfield, President of UFCW Local 23D which represents workers at the warehousing facility in Bullitt County. “This company is expanding and now is not the time to steal the future from hardworking Kentucky families who want to be part of the Four Roses tradition.”

“We are one union family at Four Roses and we will not be divided,” said Jeffrey Royalty, President of UFCW Local 10D which represents workers in the distillery in Lawrenceburg, Ky. “We want to make Four Roses a better company for the next generation. Employees working side by side to craft Four Roses bourbon have earned the same better future for their families.”


Background:

  • Four Roses is currently nearing completion of a $55 million expansion of its distillery and warehousing.
  • The UFCW has been negotiating for a fair contract with Four Roses since June.
  • The current contract expired on July 31, but UFCW members continued working under a contract extension until September 7.
  • Four Roses workers went on strike on September 7 after holding a strike vote.
  • Workers at Four Roses are represented by UFCW Local 10D, UFCW Local 23D and NCFO 320.

Action Network – https://actionnetwork.org/forms/will-you-stand-with-four-roses-bourbon-workers/

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Kentucky UFCW workers strike at Four Roses plants

By Amy Husk
Unionists picket Four Roses plant in Cox’s Creek Sept. 8.
(Unionists picket Four Roses plant in Cox’s Creek Sept. 8. )

COX’S CREEK, Ky. — Following a 100 percent solid vote authorizing a strike, 53 members of United Food and Commercial Workers locals 10-D and 23-D walked out Sept. 7 at two Kentucky Four Roses bourbon facilities. Spirited picket lines went up at both the Lawrenceburg distillery and the bottling plant and warehouse here. The region is a center for production of bourbon.

The company demands that union members accept a divisive two-tier system and concessions in sick leave, seniority rights and  vacation, as well as reduced payments for workmen’s compensation.

“We walked off the job at the end of our shift yesterday,” Patrick Rogers, who has worked for close to 10 years in the warehouse, told the Militant. “We’re picketing round-the-clock.”

“We have been negotiating since July,” said Blake Newton, another warehouse worker. “The company gave us their ‘last, best and final offer’ on Thursday. There was nothing in it but demands for more concessions. We had to go on strike.”

“We’re not so concerned about what they’ve offered us, but what they want us to give up for the next generation,” Jeff Royalty, president of Local 10-D, told Lawrenceburg TV station WDRB. “A two-tiered system is like a cancer. In the short term, first year or two, you don’t see much change. Five, six, seven years down the road, it eats away. It eats away between the camaraderie of people that work together.”

Four Roses just completed a $55 million expansion expected to create 30 new jobs and double production capacity.

A steady stream of cars and trucks drove by honking their horns to show support, including workers on their way to the large Jim Beam distillery up the street.

“We have a lot of support,” Newton said, waving to the honking drivers. “Even some construction workers who were building onto the warehouse saw our picket and turned around and left. They said they would respect our picket line and not cross.”

Other area workers joined the picket line, bringing their own signs and cheers of support. Amy Anglin-Coulter came with other members of United Steelworkers Local 1241 who work at Barton’s distillery in nearby Bardstown.

“This is what it’s all about,” said Anglin-Coulter, “The union is about brotherhood and sisterhood, so here we are.”

https://archive.is/AHFVo

Ten years after the financial crash Wall Street pay up 13 percent while workers’ wages stagnate – 19 Sept 2018

Gold 000
CNBC

Wall Street salaries at their highest levels since the financial crisis

18 Sept 2018 ( 4:50 min) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jb_8qEeWTqI
19 September 2018

The Office of the New York State Comptroller reported Monday that both profits and pay at Wall Street securities firms soared at double-digit rates last year and are continuing their spectacular rise in 2018.

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https://archive.fo/IDma7

Abstract Expressionism – The CIA School of Art – by Alastair Sooke

In the immediate aftermath of World War Two, something exciting happened in the art world in New York. A strange but irresistible energy started to crackle across the city, as artists who had struggled for years in poverty and obscurity suddenly found self-confidence and success. Together, they formed a movement that became known, in time, as Abstract Expressionism. It is currently the subject of a major exhibition, featuring 164 artworks by 30 artists (including Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko), at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

rothko

( Mark Rothko)

One of the most remarkable things about Abstract Expressionism was the speed with which it rose to international prominence. Although the artists associated with it took a long time to find their signature styles, once the movement had crystallised, by the late ‘40s, it rapidly achieved first notoriety and then respect. By the ‘50s, it was generally accepted that the most exciting advances in painting and sculpture were taking place in New York rather than Paris. In 1957, a year after Pollock’s death in a car crash, the Metropolitan Museum paid $30,000 for his Autumn Rhythm – an unprecedented sum of money for a painting by a contemporary artist at the time.

Jackson Pollock, Autumn Rhythm, 1957

The Metropolitan Museum in New York acquired Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm for an unprecedented sum in 1957, a year after the artist’s death (Credit: Metropolitan Museum)

 

The following year, The New American Painting, an influential exhibition organised by New York’s Museum of Modern Art, began a year-long tour of European cities including Basel, Berlin, Brussels, Milan, Paris, and London. The triumph of Abstract Expressionism was complete.

Unwitting helpers?

Before long, though, the backlash had begun. First came Pop Art, which wrested attention away from Abstract Expressionism at the start of the ‘60s. Then came the rumour-mongers, whispering that the swiftness of Abstract Expressionism’s success was somehow fishy.

Jackson Pollock (Credit: Credit: Getty Images)

Pollock was a heavy drinker who lived a reclusive life, cut short by a car accident at the age of 44 (Credit: Getty Images)

In 1973, in an article in Artforum magazine, the art critic Max Kozloff examined post-war American painting in the context of the Cold War. He claimed to be reacting against the “self-congratulatory mood” of recent publications such as Irving Sandler’s The Triumph of American Painting (1970), the first history of Abstract Expressionism. Kozloff went on to argue that Abstract Expressionism was “a form of benevolent propaganda”, in sync with the post-war political ideology of the American government.

Pollock said that everyone at his high school thought he was a ‘rotten rebel from Russia’

In many ways, the idea seemed preposterous. After all, most of the Abstract Expressionists were volatile outsiders. Pollock once said that everyone at his high school in Los Angeles thought he was a “rotten rebel from Russia”. According to David Anfam, co-curator of the Royal Academy exhibition, “Rothko said he was an anarchist. Barnett Newman was a declared anarchist – he wrote an introduction to Kropotkin’s book on anarchism. So here you had this nexus of non-conformist artists, who were completely alienated from American culture. They were the opposite of the Cold Warriors.”

Despite this, however, Kozloff’s ideas took hold. A few years before they were published, in 1967, the New York Times had revealed that the liberal anti-Communist magazine Encounter had been indirectly funded by the CIA. As a result, people started to become suspicious. Could it be that the CIA also had a hand in promoting Abstract Expressionism on the world stage? Was Pollock, wittingly or not, a propagandist for the US government?

CIA Sweep

Soft power

A number of essays, articles and books followed Kozloff’s piece, all arguing that the CIA had somehow manipulated Abstract Expressionism. In 1999, the British journalist and historian Frances Stonor Saunders published a book about the CIA and the “cultural Cold War” in which she asserted: “Abstract Expressionism was being deployed as a Cold War weapon.” A synthesis of her argument is available online, in an article that she wrote for the Independent newspaper in 1995. “In the manner of a Renaissance prince – except that it acted secretly – the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years,” she wrote.

Mark Rothko, No15 Dark Greens on Blue with Green Band,1957

Rothko’s No 15 Dark Greens on Blue with Green Band dates from 1957 (Credit: Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko ARS, NY and DACS, London)

The gist of her case goes something like this. We know that the CIA bankrolled cultural initiatives as part of its propaganda war against the Soviet Union. It did so indirectly, on what was called a “long leash”, via organisations such as the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), an anti-Communist advocacy group active in 35 countries, which the CIA helped to establish and fund. It was the CCF that sponsored the launch of Encounter magazine in 1953, for instance. It also paid for the Boston Symphony Orchestra to travel to Paris to participate in a festival of modern music.

It is possible that important British abstract painters were shaped by America’s spymasters

According to Saunders, the CCF financed several high-profile exhibitions of Abstract Expressionism during the ‘50s, including The New American Painting, which toured Europe between 1958 and 1959. Supposedly, the Tate Gallery couldn’t afford to bring the exhibition to London – so an American millionaire called Julius Fleischmann stepped in, stumping up the cash so that it could travel to Britain. Fleischmann was the president of a body called the Farfield Foundation, which was funded by the CIA. It is therefore possible to argue that important British abstract painters, such as John Hoyland, who were profoundly influenced by the Tate’s exhibition in ’59, were shaped by America’s spymasters.

Nelson Rockefeller

(Nelson Rockefeller was the president of MoMA in the 1940s and 1950s and had close ties with figures in US intelligence)

 

Saunders also highlighted links between the CIA and New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which was instrumental in promoting Abstract Expressionism. Nelson Rockefeller, the president of MoMA during the ‘40s and ‘50s, had close ties with the US intelligence community. So did Thomas Braden, who directed cultural activities at the CIA: prior to joining “the Company”, he was MoMA’s executive secretary.

‘Shrewd and cynical’

Even today, however, the story of the CIA’s involvement with Abstract Expressionism remains contentious. According to Irving Sandler, who is now 91, it is totally untrue. Speaking to me by phone from his apartment in New York’s Greenwich Village, he said: “There was absolutely no involvement of any government agency. I haven’t seen a single fact that indicates there was this kind of collusion. Surely, by now, something – anything – would have emerged. And isn’t it interesting that the federal government at the time considered Abstract Expressionism a Communist plot to undermine American society?”

girl in front of painting by barnett newman in museum

(Barnett Newman)

America was the land of the free, whereas Russia was locked up, culturally speaking – David Anfam

David Anfam is more circumspect. He says it is “a well-documented fact” that the CIA co-opted Abstract Expressionism in their propaganda war against Russia. “Even The New American Painting [exhibition] had some CIA funding behind it,” he says. According to Anfam, it is easy to see why the CIA wished to promote Abstract Expressionism. “It’s a very shrewd and cynical strategy,” he explains, “because it showed that you could do whatever you liked in America.” By the ‘50s, Abstract Expressionism was bound up with the concept of individual freedom: its canvases were understood as expressions of the subjective inner lives of the artists who painted them.

Franz Klein

Franz Kline’s works are more rigorously composed and less spontaneous than those of other Abstract Expressionists (Credit: Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago)

 

As a result, the movement was a useful foil to Russia’s official Soviet Realist style, which championed representative painting. “America was the land of the free, whereas Russia was locked up, culturally speaking,” Anfam says, characterising the perception that the CIA wished to foster during the Cold War.

Barnett Newman s

(Barnett Newman)

This isn’t to say, of course, that the artists themselves were complicit with the CIA, or even aware that it was funding Abstract Expressionist exhibitions. Still, whatever the truth of the extent of the CIA’s financial involvement with Abstract Expressionism, Anfam believes that it was “the best thing the institution ever paid for”. He smiles. “I’d much rather they spent money on Abstract Expressionism than toppling left-wing dictators.”

Alastair Sooke is art critic of The Daily Telegraph.

Barnett Newman hh

(Barnett Newman)

CIA owns media

https://archive.fo/PvttH

Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’ – How the spy agency used unwitting artists such as Pollock and de Kooning in a cultural Cold War – By Frances Stonor Saunders

 

For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art – including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko – as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince – except that it acted secretly – the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years.

The connection is improbable. This was a period, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the great majority of Americans disliked or even despised modern art – President Truman summed up the popular view when he said: “If that’s art, then I’m a Hottentot.” As for the artists themselves, many were ex- communists barely acceptable in the America of the McCarthyite era, and certainly not the sort of people normally likely to receive US government backing.

motherwell 03

(Motherwell)

Why did the CIA support them? Because in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, this new artistic movement could be held up as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and the cultural power of the US. Russian art, strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket, could not compete.

motherwell 2

(Motherwell)

The existence of this policy, rumoured and disputed for many years, has now been confirmed for the first time by former CIA officials. Unknown to the artists, the new American art was secretly promoted under a policy known as the “long leash” – arrangements similar in some ways to the indirect CIA backing of the journal Encounter, edited by Stephen Spender.

The decision to include culture and art in the US Cold War arsenal was taken as soon as the CIA was founded in 1947. Dismayed at the appeal communism still had for many intellectuals and artists in the West, the new agency set up a division, the Propaganda Assets Inventory, which at its peak could influence more than 800 newspapers, magazines and public information organisations. They joked that it was like a Wurlitzer jukebox: when the CIA pushed a button it could hear whatever tune it wanted playing across the world.

motherwell 00

(Motherwell)

The next key step came in 1950, when the International Organisations Division (IOD) was set up under Tom Braden. It was this office which subsidised the animated version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which sponsored American jazz artists, opera recitals, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s international touring programme. Its agents were placed in the film industry, in publishing houses, even as travel writers for the celebrated Fodor guides. And, we now know, it promoted America’s anarchic avant-garde movement, Abstract Expressionism.

Initially, more open attempts were made to support the new American art. In 1947 the State Department organised and paid for a touring international exhibition entitled “Advancing American Art”, with the aim of rebutting Soviet suggestions that America was a cultural desert. But the show caused outrage at home, prompting Truman to make his Hottentot remark and one bitter congressman to declare: “I am just a dumb American who pays taxes for this kind of trash.” The tour had to be cancelled.

The US government now faced a dilemma. This philistinism, combined with Joseph McCarthy’s hysterical denunciations of all that was avant-garde or unorthodox, was deeply embarrassing. It discredited the idea that America was a sophisticated, culturally rich democracy. It also prevented the US government from consolidating the shift in cultural supremacy from Paris to New York since the 1930s. To resolve this dilemma, the CIA was brought in.

motherwell 04

(Motherwell)

The connection is not quite as odd as it might appear. At this time the new agency, staffed mainly by Yale and Harvard graduates, many of whom collected art and wrote novels in their spare time, was a haven of liberalism when compared with a political world dominated by McCarthy or with J Edgar Hoover’s FBI. If any official institution was in a position to celebrate the collection of Leninists, Trotskyites and heavy drinkers that made up the New York School, it was the CIA.

Until now there has been no first-hand evidence to prove that this connection was made, but for the first time a former case officer, Donald Jameson, has broken the silence. Yes, he says, the agency saw Abstract Expressionism as an opportunity, and yes, it ran with it.

“Regarding Abstract Expressionism, I’d love to be able to say that the CIA invented it just to see what happens in New York and downtown SoHo tomorrow!” he joked. “But I think that what we did really was to recognise the difference. It was recognised that Abstract Expression- ism was the kind of art that made Socialist Realism look even more stylised and more rigid and confined than it was. And that relationship was exploited in some of the exhibitions.

De Koonig

 

(Willem de Kooning)

“In a way our understanding was helped because Moscow in those days was very vicious in its denunciation of any kind of non-conformity to its own very rigid patterns. And so one could quite adequately and accurately reason that anything they criticised that much and that heavy- handedly was worth support one way or another.”

To pursue its underground interest in America’s lefty avant-garde, the CIA had to be sure its patronage could not be discovered. “Matters of this sort could only have been done at two or three removes,” Mr Jameson explained, “so that there wouldn’t be any question of having to clear Jackson Pollock, for example, or do anything that would involve these people in the organisation. And it couldn’t have been any closer, because most of them were people who had very little respect for the government, in particular, and certainly none for the CIA. If you had to use people who considered themselves one way or another to be closer to Moscow than to Washington, well, so much the better perhaps.”

This was the “long leash”. The centrepiece of the CIA campaign became the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a vast jamboree of intellectuals, writers, historians, poets, and artists which was set up with CIA funds in 1950 and run by a CIA agent. It was the beach-head from which culture could be defended against the attacks of Moscow and its “fellow travellers” in the West. At its height, it had offices in 35 countries and published more than two dozen magazines, including Encounter.

de koonig 2

(Willem de Kooning)

The Congress for Cultural Freedom also gave the CIA the ideal front to promote its covert interest in Abstract Expressionism. It would be the official sponsor of touring exhibitions; its magazines would provide useful platforms for critics favourable to the new American painting; and no one, the artists included, would be any the wiser.

This organisation put together several exhibitions of Abstract Expressionism during the 1950s. One of the most significant, “The New American Painting”, visited every big European city in 1958-59. Other influential shows included “Modern Art in the United States” (1955) and “Masterpieces of the Twentieth Century” (1952).

Because Abstract Expressionism was expensive to move around and exhibit, millionaires and museums were called into play. Pre-eminent among these was Nelson Rockefeller, whose mother had co-founded the Museum of Modern Art in New York. As president of what he called “Mummy’s museum”, Rockefeller was one of the biggest backers of Abstract Expressionism (which he called “free enterprise painting”). His museum was contracted to the Congress for Cultural Freedom to organise and curate most of its important art shows.

CIA owns media

The museum was also linked to the CIA by several other bridges. William Paley, the president of CBS broadcasting and a founding father of the CIA, sat on the members’ board of the museum’s International Programme. John Hay Whitney, who had served in the agency’s wartime predecessor, the OSS, was its chairman. And Tom Braden, first chief of the CIA’s International Organisations Division, was executive secretary of the museum in 1949.

Now in his eighties, Mr Braden lives in Woodbridge, Virginia, in a house packed with Abstract Expressionist works and guarded by enormous Alsatians. He explained the purpose of the IOD.

“We wanted to unite all the people who were writers, who were musicians, who were artists, to demonstrate that the West and the United States was devoted to freedom of expression and to intellectual achievement, without any rigid barriers as to what you must write, and what you must say, and what you must do, and what you must paint, which was what was going on in the Soviet Union. I think it was the most important division that the agency had, and I think that it played an enormous role in the Cold War.”

He confirmed that his division had acted secretly because of the public hostility to the avant-garde: “It was very difficult to get Congress to go along with some of the things we wanted to do – send art abroad, send symphonies abroad, publish magazines abroad. That’s one of the reasons it had to be done covertly. It had to be a secret. In order to encourage openness we had to be secret.”

If this meant playing pope to this century’s Michelangelos, well, all the better: “It takes a pope or somebody with a lot of money to recognise art and to support it,” Mr Braden said. “And after many centuries people say, ‘Oh look! the Sistine Chapel, the most beautiful creation on Earth!’ It’s a problem that civilisation has faced ever since the first artist and the first millionaire or pope who supported him. And yet if it hadn’t been for the multi-millionaires or the popes, we wouldn’t have had the art.”

Would Abstract Expressionism have been the dominant art movement of the post-war years without this patronage? The answer is probably yes. Equally, it would be wrong to suggest that when you look at an Abstract Expressionist painting you are being duped by the CIA.

CIA Sweep

But look where this art ended up: in the marble halls of banks, in airports, in city halls, boardrooms and great galleries. For the Cold Warriors who promoted them, these paintings were a logo, a signature for their culture and system which they wanted to display everywhere that counted. They succeeded.

* The full story of the CIA and modern art is told in ‘Hidden Hands’ on Channel 4 next Sunday at 8pm. The first programme in the series is screened tonight. Frances Stonor Saunders is writing a book on the cultural Cold War.

Covert Operation

In 1958 the touring exhibition “The New American Painting”, including works by Pollock, de Kooning, Motherwell and others, was on show in Paris. The Tate Gallery was keen to have it next, but could not afford to bring it over. Late in the day, an American millionaire and art lover, Julius Fleischmann, stepped in with the cash and the show was brought to London.

The money that Fleischmann provided, however, was not his but the CIA’s. It came through a body called the Farfield Foundation, of which Fleischmann was president, but far from being a millionaire’s charitable arm, the foundation was a secret conduit for CIA funds.

Moma

So, unknown to the Tate, the public or the artists, the exhibition was transferred to London at American taxpayers’ expense to serve subtle Cold War propaganda purposes. A former CIA man, Tom Braden, described how such conduits as the Farfield Foundation were set up. “We would go to somebody in New York who was a well-known rich person and we would say, ‘We want to set up a foundation.’ We would tell him what we were trying to do and pledge him to secrecy, and he would say, ‘Of course I’ll do it,’ and then you would publish a letterhead and his name would be on it and there would be a foundation. It was really a pretty simple device.”

Julius Fleischmann was well placed for such a role. He sat on the board of the International Programme of the Museum of Modern Art in New York – as did several powerful figures close to the CIA.

America Stati Uniti New York Manhattan Museum of Modern Art MOMA museo

https://archive.is/RWhD6

On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again? – by Jack Rasmus – 19 Sept 2018

monopoly 23

This past weekend, September 15-16, marked the 10th anniversary of the Lehman Brothers Investment bank collapse and the subsequent generalized financial system crash that followed. Business and mainstream media flooded the airwaves and print publications with recounts and assessments of the events of ten years past. Most promoted the theme about how the Federal Reserve central bank and the US Treasury rescued us all from another 1930s-like depression. The corollary message is that ‘IT’ can’t happen today because of the various reforms instituted in the wake of the crash that now prevent the repeat of something similar like 2008.

Buried in the reviews of 2008 events is the sticky question of whether the investment bank, Lehman Brothers, should have been allowed to fail—as the US Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, and the chair of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, decided to allow. The collapse of Lehman precipitated a chain of events and subsequent failures that resulted in a virtual freeze up of the entire US (and much of the rest of the global) financial system. Credit not only contracted—it essentially disappeared altogether for a period of time. The almost total absence of available credit spilled over to the rest of the non-financial economy. Businesses laid off workers at the rate of 1 million a month for the next six months—a trajectory almost exactly that of 1929-1930. By March 2009, even mainstream economists like Paul Krugman were declaring we had entered another ‘great depression’.

Ever since 2008 a debate has simmered whether Paulson-Bernanke should have allowed Lehman Brothers to go under, thus precipitating a chain reaction of derivatives claims that reverberated throughout the US banking system and beyond. The giant insurance company, AIG, a major issuer of derivatives contracts, quickly required bailout after Lehman’s collapse. Brokerages like Merrill Lynch were bailed as well. The big banks—Bank of America and Citigroup—were technically bankrupt by late 2008 and could have been dismantled were it not for $300 billion in debt payment guarantees by the US government. The financial arms of the auto companies, especially General Motors’ GMAC, which had invested heavily in subprime mortgages, dragged down their operating companies until bailed out by another $180 billion government infusion. Mid-tier banks were provided more than $100 billion. And the Federal Reserve set up special ‘facilities’—aka auctions—for various sectors of the financial system and provided emergency funds based on whatever interest they, the mutual funds, investment banks, and others said they wanted to pay. The borrowers, in other words, set their own interest rates. Those rates were quickly driven down by the Fed, to an historic low of 0.10% and kept there for another 7 years. The Fed then paid 0.25% to whoever borrowed from it and left the borrowed funds with it—i.e. a free subsidy of 0.15% for doing nothing. The Democratic Congress did its party as well, allowing banks to suspend normal ‘mark to market’ accounting practices and thus lie about how bad their balance sheets actually were. The Fed then conducted phony ‘stress tests’ of the banks to help them cover up their insolvent condition so that investors might then again start buying bank stocks that had collapsed. Thereafter, over the next seven years, through 2016, by means of its quantitative easing QE program, the Fed bought up (or re-bought) bad assets from the banks, shadow banks, and individual investors totaling more than $6 trillion (often at above market prices for those securities).

monopoly 2On the fiscal policy side of bailout, the Obama administration provided a mere $25 billion to help bail out the 14 million homeowners that would eventually face foreclosures during the crash and ‘recovery’ period. In contrast, however, it provided $1 trillion in business-investor tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 ($200 billion in the 2009 Recovery Program, supplemented by another $800 billion at the close of 2010). Obama would then extend the Bush tax cuts of 2001-04 for another two years, 2010-2012, at a cost of $450 billion a year. And to top it off in January 2013,Obama agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for another decade at a cost to the Treasury of yet another $5 Trillion.

This unprecedented, massive bailout of bankers, corporations, and owners of capital incomes was arguably set in motion or accelerated by Paulson and Bernanke, by allowing the collapse of Lehman Brothers—one of the two milestone events of the 2008 crisis. The other, occurring in March 2008, was the bailout by Bernanke’s Fed of the Bear Stearns investment bank.

The Sticky Debate: Why Bear But Not Lehman

The debate about why Bear Stearns was bailed and Lehman not has never quite gone away since the events of 2008. Nor has the contending arguments whether Lehman should have been allowed to fail. Autobiographies published by Paulson, Bernanke, and Tim Geithner (head of the key New York Fed district charged with big bank regulation)—i.e. all the key decision makers re. Lehman at the time—all insist that Lehman should not have been bailed, or that they just did not see the consequences. In other words, it was either the ‘right decision’ or a simple mistake. But there is another argument that has been more or less suppressed in the press and media: that Lehman was allowed to fail in order for Goldman Sachs investment bank to benefit by reaping tens of billions of dollars on derivative payments from the insurance giant, AIG. When AIG then went under, it was bailed out—costing $180 billion at the time. Similarly, in the case of Bear Stearns the preceding March 2008, it was in contrast bailed out by the Fed, which provided a $29 billion loan to JP Morgan Chase to absorb Bear Stearns’ assets at pennies on the dollar.

Goldman thus benefited greatly from Lehman’s collapse while Chase similarly did from Bear Stearns’ rescue. And the government—the US Treasury and Federal Reserve—was complicit in arranging the bailout of the one and the collapse of the other. The apparent anomaly of why Bear was bailed and Lehman allowed to go under is thus explainable by the US government’s role allowing even bigger and more influential banks—JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs—to gobble up their competitors (Bear and Lehman) on the cheap. In the one, Chase benefited from the bailout; in the other, Goldman benefited from the collapse.

monopoly

This suggests the unifying element of the apparent different treatments of Bear v. Lehman was the US government—Treasury and Fed—unofficial policy at the time of trying to resolve the crisis by making even bigger banks more financially solvent, and thus able to withstand the crisis, at the expense of the smaller.

This policy of saving the big bankers at the expense of the smaller was disastrous, however. In the case of Bear Stearns, it gave a signal to speculators they could attack and drive down the stock prices of other financial institutions and the Fed-Treasury would do nothing. And that’s exactly what happened after March 2008, as the vultures descending on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the GSEs, that Paulson’s Treasury then bailed out at a cost of $300 billion; then attacked smaller banks like Washington Mutual, causing it too to fail; then moved on to brokerages like Merrill Lynch; and then Lehman. If the speculators and short-sellers of these bank and financial institutions’ stocks were prevented from doing what they did by Paulson and the Treasury, or Congressional action, there would have been no Lehman to allow to collapse—or Washington Mutual, or AIG, or GMAC or Bank of America or Citigroup, or the $6 trillion Fed bailout that followed, 2009-16.

Few progressive economists bother to investigate all this, allowing their commentary to fall into the ‘safe zone’ trap of discussion themes set by the business and official mainstream press. Like the mainstream press, they have tended to focus on whether the Lehman collapse was ‘necessary’—and not on ‘who benefited’, why, and the role of the US government (Treasury and Fed).

One exception to this is the recently released book by Laurence Ball, definitely not a progressive or ‘left’ economist. His ‘The Fed and the Lehman Brothers’ book (Cambridge University Press, 2018) dives into this question of the contributing role of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve in engineering the failure of Lehman Brothers (if not the similar event of Bear Stearns). It’s an essential read. Yours truly also raised the issue back in 2010 in my own book, ‘Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression’, (Pluto books, London, 2010).

The Fed’s Bear Stearns Bailout: JP Morgan Chase’s Multibillion Dollar Windfall

In the book I argue that Bear Stearns—the first ‘bookend’ to the crisis—set in motion a chain reaction of liquidity and insolvency events throughout the ‘shadow banking’ sector starting in early 2008 that culminated in the Lehman crash in September. Lehman’s implosion then exacerbated and deepened the liquidity-insolvency problems throughout virtually the entire financial system, as contagion spread as the ‘transmission mechanisms’ of the crisis—i.e. accelerating general asset price deflation and derivatives liability claims between banks and financial institutions—infected one credit sector after another, including international. With Lehman, what had started as a subprime mortgage problem in 2007, had now become a generalized credit problem connected by the cancerous thread of derivatives linking banks and financial institutions globally. 2008 was a derivatives crisis not a mortgage crisis.

Bear Stearns’ collapse was caused in large part by the giant commercial bank, J.P. Morgan Chase—which eventually became the big beneficiary of Bear Stearns’ insolvency. JP Morgan Chase’s eventual takeover of Bear Stearns in April 2008 was arranged with the direct assistance of Ben Bernanke’s Federal Reserve, the US central bank. Bernanke arranged a low interest loan of $29 billion to Chase with which it ‘bought’ up Bear Stearns’ assets. Chase thus did not commit any of its own capital. Chase acquired Bear assets for pennies on the dollar. Bear Stearns’ New York Manhattan building and properties alone were worth more than $100 billion. Its remaining financial assets and accounts billions of dollars more. Its customer base was worth untold further billions to Chase.

US Treasury’s Lehman Brothers Decision: Goldman Sachs Gets $69 Billion

Similarly, the Lehman collapse was engineered with the help of the US government—specifically the direct assistance of the US Treasury. In the Lehman case the direct beneficiary of the Lehman collapse was the Goldman Sachs investment bank, a main competitor of Lehman.

The Fed did not offer to bail out Lehman, unlike Bear Stearns. Bernanke’s weak excuse was it did not have the authority to do so. Or the liquidity, since it, the Fed, had expended most of its balance sheet assets in preceding months in bailing out Bear and others. The latter argument is specious. The Treasury could have easily provided the Fed the liquidity to bail out Lehman. But as Laurence Ball, in his ‘The Fed and Lehman Brothers’ summarizes in his four year study of the Lehman case: “the Fed could have rescued Lehman but officials chose not to because of political pressures”. What officials? What political pressures?

The officials and pressures suggests Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, who just two years prior was the CEO of Goldman Sachs. By allowing Lehman to go under, Paulson ensured that his former employer, Goldman Sachs (whose stock he personally still held when leaving Goldman in 2006), would be able to collect on the billions of dollars in Credit Default Swaps (CDS) it bought from AIG. CDS’s are ‘bets’ that an institution will fail. If it fails, the issuer of the CDS bets has to pay off the buyer of the CDS. AIG had issued a massive number of CDS that Lehman would fail. It would have to pay Goldman if Lehman failed tens of billions of dollars. When Lehman was allowed to fail (by Paulson), Goldman collected. Because AIG had over-issued CDS on Lehman that it did not have the resources to pay—AIG became insolvent as well.

By bailing out AIG to the tune of $180, AIG was able to pay Goldman and others on their CDS bets that Lehman would fail. In short, Lehman was allowed to fail (by Paulson’s decision), so AIG could provide a tens of billions of dollars windfall to Goldman Sachs, Paulson’s former employer, and Paulson approves the AIG bailout so it could pay Goldman. If this isn’t a ‘smoking gun’ then what is?

Of course, no one was about to investigate Paulson’s role (and Bernanke’s willingness to go along and not bail out Lehman as well) in all this despite the prima facie evidence. After all, none of the actual bankers responsible for the 2008 crisis in general were ever indicted or went to jail. So why would the US government’s Treasury Secretary, big banker, CEO of Goldman be charged with anything?

It is important to understand that the US government played a central role in assisting the two larger banks—Chase and Goldman—to gobble up their smaller capitalist competitors, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. And that this assistance occurred after both Chase and Goldman played a key role causing the collapse of Bear and Lehman.

Bear’s rescue directly benefited JP Morgan Chase in the tens of billions; Lehman’s collapse benefited Goldman Sachs in the tens of billions as well. Capitalist bankers devour each other, but US politicians play their part as well. That’s how the system works.

This role of government and politicians in the 2008 banking crash is often treated shallowly, or altogether ignored, by mainstream economic and business reviewers of the 2008 crash—Ball’s book somewhat to the contrary. T

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the 2008 crash. Most say that ‘It’ could never happen again. Banks are better regulated. They have significant capital buffers to offset losses should another collapse of their asset prices occur. We have the ‘Volcker Rule’. The subprime mortgage housing problem is no longer. Housing finance reforms are in place. And so forth. But don’t bet on it. And don’t bet that in the next crisis coming that government and politicians won’t be deeply involved in assisting their bigger banker friends making money off the crisis.

For capitalist banks are cannibals. They eat their own. Never was this more obvious than during the 2008 financial crisis. And our government and politicians are there to ensure that they are well fed.

(Readers interested in my analysis of the Bear-Lehman ‘bookend events’ to the 2008 crisis are welcomed to read the excerpts on the events of March to September 2008 on my website which is accessible at www.kyklosproductions.com/articles.html).

monopoly 33

https://web.archive.org/web/20180919233537/https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/09/19/on-the-10th-anniversary-of-lehman-brothers-2008-can-it-happen-again/

Bernie Sanders: From Eugene Debs Radical to H. Clinton Sheep Dog – by Bruce E. Levine – 19 Sept 2018

https://archive.is/pQ2W8

Bernie Sanders, in his thirties, wrote and directed the documentary Eugene V. Debs: Trade Unionist, Socialist, Revolutionary (1979), and a picture of Debs hangs on Sanders’s office wall. But the arc of Sanders’s polit­­ical career has moved in the opposite direction from the arc of his hero. Debs moved from polite dissent to courageously resisting illegitimate authority—landing him in prison and shortening his life. In contrast, Sanders moved from polite dissent to overt obedience—de-energizing anti-authoritarians.

Debs is one of several anti-authoritarians who I profile in Resisting Illegitimate Authority, a book about and for anti-authoritarians, many of whom have today been disillusioned by Sanders serving as a sheepdog for the Democratic Party (herding those who had fled from it back into it). Worse than other such sheepdogs, Sanders, from his earliest years in politics, has attempted to seduce anti-authoritarians by identifying with Debs but then, for career expediency, ignored what his hero’s life taught him.

Debs, in his twenties, was a successful Democratic politician but gradually became radicalized by his experiences. In his late thirties, when jailed for leading the Pullman Strike, it became clear to Debs that both the Republican and Democratic Parties were owned by the ruling class. Debs moved from dissent to disobedience—ultimately disobeying not only the Democratic Party but the U.S. government.

Debs young

Sanders began as an anti-war socialist and member of the Liberty Union Party which rejected the corporatism of both the Democratic and Republican Parties. After being elected to various offices in Vermont, Sanders supported military interventions that resulted in the deaths of many civilians, and he championed wasteful military expenditures that benefitted him politically (see Jeffrey St. Clair’s Bernie & The Sandernistas for the unpleasant details). Ultimately, Sanders supported the Democratic Party’s pro-corporatist and pro-militarist presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Sanders began with dissent but moved to obedience—obeying even the Democratic Party.

 

(Young Bernie Sanders at protest for racial integration)

Sanders’s initial dissent propelled his political career; his ultimate obedience kept his career intact; and by 2017, polls reported that he was the most popular politician in the United States. Sanders knows full well the life of Eugene Debs—and the price Debs paid for being a genuine anti-authoritarian who disobeyed illegitimate authorities.

As a young man, Eugene “Gene” Debs (1855–1926) had several jobs in the railroad industry. After leaving the industry, he maintained loyalty to his fellow workers as a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and the editor of their Firemen’s Magazine. He then went into politics and never lost an election running as a Democrat. The voters in his home town of Terre Haute twice elected him city clerk, and he was elected to the Indiana General Assembly in 1884 at age 29. However, after his bill to help railway workers was gutted, he became cynical of the legislative process and did not run for re-election.

In his late thirties, as the leader of the American Railway Union, the polite Debs initially believed that grievances with management could be settled by reason and compromise, but he soon recognized the naivety of this view. In 1894, Debs led the Pullman Strike, precipitated by the Pullman Company significantly cutting wages. Debs was initially reluctant to strike, reminding workers that the federal government might intercede militarily as it had previously done in the strike by silver miners at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. However, when workers voted to strike, Debs led it. As Debs had predicted, President Grover Cleveland and Attorney General Richard Olney got an injunction against the Pullman Strike. The injunction was enforced by the U.S. Army, and this broke the strike. Debs was found guilty of contempt of court for violating the injunction and was sentenced to prison.

“Eugene Debs, a lifelong Democrat who three times campaigned for Grover Cleveland,” notes his biographer Ray Ginger, “was deprived of faith in the major political parties by the actions of Cleveland and Olney. He could no longer advocate labor’s adherence to parties which were firmly controlled by the large corporations.” Bernie Sanders knows all this.

Debs was not a socialist when he began his first prison term in Woodstock, Illinois, in 1895. He recalled in 1902 in his article “How I Became a Socialist” that “a swift succession of blows that blinded me for an instant and then opened wide my eyes— and in the gleam of every bayonet and the flash of every rifle the class struggle was revealed.” It became clear to Debs that the ownership class has at its disposal “an army of detectives, thugs and murderers.” It also became clear to him that this ownership class owned most of the press, the Republicans and Democrats, and the judiciary. Beginning in 1900, Debs ran as the Socialist candidate for president of the United States, and would ultimately run five times. In the 1912 presidential election, Debs obtained 6% of the vote, and running from a prison cell in 1920, he garnered 3.4% of the vote.

Debs received his most severe punishment from the Democratic Party and the U.S. government after speaking out against its entry into World War I. Democrat Woodrow Wilson had been re-elected president in 1916 on his pledge of neutrality; but, pressured by Wall Street, which had engineered large war loans to the English and French, Wilson reversed himself on U.S. involvement and venomously attacked those who did not follow suit.

In 1918, Debs gave a speech in Canton, Ohio, stating: “Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. . . . And that is war, in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles.” Debs told the thousands of people in the Canton audience, “They tell us that we live in a great free republic; that our institutions are democratic; that we are a free and self-governing people,” and the crowd responded in loud laughter. Debs responded to their laughter, “This is too much even for a joke.” For this speech, Debs was sentenced to ten years in a federal penitentiary.

Debs 23

Wilson’s venom for Debs was such that even after the end of the war, Wilson announced, “This man was a traitor to his country and he will never be pardoned during my administration.” Wilson even denied a pardon for Debs when it was recommended because of Debs’s poor health by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer (notorious for his “Palmer Raids,” incarcerating and deporting dissenters). It was the Republican president Warren Harding, following Wilson, who commuted Debs’s sentence in 1921.

Previous to prison, Debs had suffered from recurrent headaches, severe rheumatism, and debilitating low back pain; and Ginger notes, “Prison food had completely wrecked his stomach and his kidneys.” Prison time for Debs exacerbated his health issues, and he died in 1926, shortly before he would have turned 71 years old.

Bernie Sanders knows full well the life of Eugene Debs and what it says about the U.S. government and the Democratic Party. Sanders also knows the fate of a genuine U.S. anti-authoritarian: At best, they will be shunned—ask Ralph Nader whose phone calls Sanders has not returned since 2000; or in Debs’s case, thrown in prison; or, even worse, they will be assassinated—ask the friends and family of Fred Hampton.

Sanders, an astute politician, has long known that simply labeling himself as a socialist separated him out, giving him the appearance of being rebellious and making him quite popular, as long as he never moved beyond easy dissent to difficult disobedience. Sanders knows full well that real disobedience results in being crucified by the mainstream press, as was the case with both Debs and Nader. Sanders knows that dissent without disobedience is no threat to authoritarians in power. As I show in Resisting Illegitimate Authority, by profiling several genuine U.S. anti-authoritarians, only disobedience truly threatens authoritarians, and so it is severely punished in a variety of ways.

In 2017, the town of Woodstock, Illinois, where Debs served his six-month prison stint for leading the Pullman strike, evidenced some political fortitude by honoring Debs. It’s not too late for Sanders, who dishonored Debs by supporting the pro-militarist and pro-corporatist Hillary Clinton, to regain some of his honor.

Sanders can begin by telling Americans these truths: that safe dissent without strategic disobedience is easily ignored by authoritarians; that without the defiance of strikes, working people will continue to get screwed; that without the disobedience of financial boycotts, immoral corporations and violent governments are unmoved; and that without brave men and women refusing to be obedient soldiers, insane wars continue.

Debs discovered these truths the hard way through his life experience, and Sanders learned these truths the easy way from studying the life of his hero. While Sanders lacks his hero’s courge to actually disobey illegitimate authorities, he can regain some honor—and re-energize some anti-authoritarians—by at least telling Americans what he knows to be true: that while dissent can be effective in a genuine democracy, only strategic disobedience is effective with authoritarian rule.

Eugene V. Debs 1922 by Moses Dykaar

It might also re-energize a few anti-authoritarians if Bernie apologized to them in this manner: “I’m sorry, sorry for you and sorry for me. Here, I sold what was left of my soul, and Trump beat Hillary anyway. Maybe God—not the one of organized religion but the God of the great anti-authoritarian Spinoza—is trying to tell you and me something about selling out.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20180919222134/https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/09/19/when-bernie-sold-out-his-hero-anti-authoritarians-paid/

US Al Qaeda Allies ‘White Helmets’ stealing children for ‘chemical attack’ theater in Idlib – by Vanessa Beeley – 17 Sept 2018

Idlib

Vanessa Beeley
Vanessa Beeley is an independent investigative journalist and photographer. She is associate editor at 21st Century Wire.
White Helmets stealing children for 'chemical attack' theater in Idlib
…………………………………………………………..
“Leave our children in peace. Let our children play, stop ‘playing’ with our children.” These are the words of a mother whose child was stolen and is being imprisoned in Idlib by terrorist groups and the White Helmets.

I met Wafaa at her home with her husband Mohammed Ibrahim and her two sons Hamza, 9, and Lotfe, 14. Both Wafaa and Mohammed are lawyers, they met while studying at the same university. Wafaa is strong, her expression is defiantly hopeful and optimistic despite fears for her kidnapped son, Ahmed, who is now 11.

“Ahmed was born mute, he couldn’t speak,” she told me. “I believe this is why he was taken from us, because he cannot protest or resist.”

Ahmed was kidnapped by terrorist groups only 200 meters from his home one year ago. The location of their home will not be disclosed to protect the security of the family, but they know that Ahmed is now being held with other children in Idlib. The locations change regularly, according to information the family has received from friends and family still trapped inside Idlib.

On August 30, 2018, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem stated that the US Coalition-sponsored White Helmets had kidnapped 44 children in order to use them as ‘props’ in the staging of a chemical weapon attack in Idlib. The White Helmets have a history of providing the scenarios required to precipitate FUKUS aggression against Syria.

Their most recent chemical attack hoax attempt in Douma in April 2018 was proven unreliable by the OPCW interim report. Sensationalist suggestions of sarin use by the Syrian government during the last moments of the liberation of Douma from the murderous Jaysh al-Islam fanatics was dismissed by the findings in the report. The chlorinated elements detected in the samples taken by the OPCW could come from any manner of household items and no conclusions of chlorine use by the Syrian government have been drawn. Western media and their governments have ignored the findings of the OPCW and are once more preparing the ground for a “chemical attack” in Idlib to enable further unlawful aggression against Syria during the Arab Army’s campaign to cleanse Idlib of the terrorist infestation.

Wafaa’s greatest fear is that Ahmed will be used alongside other children as actors in such a staged chemical attack.

“I stopped working when Ahmed was taken from us. About six months ago, a friend came from Turkey to Idlib. As they were crossing the border between Syria and Turkey, they stopped to rest. Their son knows Ahmed very well. Ahmed has a particular way of communicating by making a sound that is very recognizable by those who know him. Their son heard Ahmed making this sound. He told his parents that Ahmed was close by,” she said.

Wafaa’s voice trembled as she described this identification of her son. At least he was alive. Shortly after the family were given this information, an alleged chlorine gas attack was carried out in Saraqib to the east of Idlib city. A recent OPCW report on this alleged incident concludes that:

“Chlorine, released from cylinders through mechanical impact, was likely used as a chemical weapon on 4 February 2018 in the Al Talil neighborhood of Saraqib.”

However, the FFM (Fact-Finding Mission) was unable to enter Saraqib due to the risk of being executed or kidnapped by the “moderate” fanatics occupying the area. They instead relied entirely on “open-source” testimonies and evidence provided by compromised sources such as the White Helmets.

“Shortly after the Saraqib reports of a chemical attack, we received a phone call from the groups who were holding Ahmed. The man told me that the reason for kidnapping Ahmed was gone and that he would probably be returned soon,” Wafaa informed me.

Read more

FILE PHOTO  The aftermath of what White Helmets group claims was a suspected chemical attack in Douma, April, 7, 2018 White Helmets / Reuters

I asked her if they knew who was holding Ahmed captive.

“Shortly after Saraqib happened, some women who managed to leave Idlib came to me. They told me that Al-Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda in Syria) were in charge of the children and the White Helmets were helping them with this. When I reported it, the White Helmets accused me of being ‘Shabiha.’ This is a death sentence if you are caught by the armed groups.”

Wafaa still has a sister in Idlib who is able to pass some information on to her directly or to people leaving Idlib via the Russian/Syrian established humanitarian corridors, which evacuate civilians to safety ahead of the ground campaign to liberate Idlib commences.

“Abu al-Duhur corridor is going to reopen, but we know that the terrorist groups are charging civilians 300,000 Syrian Pounds ($600) to leave by these corridors. People are leaving with nothing except the clothes on their back and yet we are told these monsters bring us ‘freedom and democracy.’”

Wafaa described the foreign fighters occupying Idlib: “Most people in Idlib avoid the foreign fighters, they are very extreme and dangerous. My sister told me that a few days ago she walked past some Uyghur children in her district. They started taunting her because the hem of her skirt was too high. People see the White Helmets in the same way. They are foreign, and they are well paid. They are wealthy like the foreign extremists. Most people in Idlib don’t allow their children to go to school because they fear that the White Helmets will kidnap them.”

Wafaa explained that the White Helmets don’t ask for money for the safe return of the children, which was the practice of the armed groups earlier in the conflict, according to her family.

“Why don’t they ask for money? This means they want to use the children for something else. They call anyone who questions them “shabiha” because they need to keep their image clean in the West. They are not ‘humanitarians,’ they are terrorists in a uniform, that’s all.”

Wafaa is terrified that these US coalition proxies, which include the White Helmets, have already used Ahmed for one of the reportedly staged events that have been prepared in advance, in order to criminalize the Syrian government and its allies as soon as the SAA liberation campaign begins in earnest.

Read more

Omran Daqneesh, still living in liberated Aleppo, under the control of the Syrian government. A happy, well-adjusted little boy. © Vanessa Beeley

“Ten days ago, a woman came to see me. She had just arrived from Idlib. She showed me a photo of Ahmed and confirmed he is still alive but imprisoned with many other children. She told me that the White Helmets move the children from place to place depending upon where the attacks might be staged. They are kept in prisons all the time. I worry so much that he is sick or scared and he can’t speak. I am convinced I will see Ahmed’s face in one of these chemical attack videos or reports,” said Wafaa.

As we were talking about Ahmed, his younger brother Hamza was reacting strongly and becoming increasingly agitated.

“He does this every time we discuss his brother, Ahmed. He is deeply disturbed by the loss of his brother,” Wafaa explained. “I used to take more care of Ahmed because he had special needs but now I try to protect Hamza more also.”

Throughout the interview, Wafaa remained composed and eloquent. She presented facts in a considered and objective way. Her child has been abducted, he is imprisoned by some of the most brutal extremist groups in Syria, but Wafaa displayed a fortitude that defied fear or pity. She remained proud and resilient. Mohammed Ibrahim, Ahmed’s father, was quieter and more withdrawn but the unbreakable bond between the couple and Ahmed’s brothers was evident. They were united in hope and determination that Ahmed will survive his ordeal and will be returned to them.

“If Idlib is liberated, we know that our army will bring Ahmed home to us. They will rescue him.”

Wafaa’s first display of anger and frustration came when I asked her to describe the reality of the “moderate” occupation of her homeland to people in the West.

“We have no voice. We are the forgotten Syrian people. Nobody listens to us when we tell the world that these monsters are killing us, killing our children, stealing our lives and destroying our homes. These ‘moderates’ don’t bring freedom or democracy, they bring only bloodshed, fear and loss. We want Idlib cleansed of their presence, we want the West to take their terrorists out of our country. What did we do wrong to deserve this? Why should my son suffer, for what? Please bring this to an end, let us live in peace as we did before 2011.”

Just before I left this family, I filmed Wafaa as she gave perhaps the most powerful message of her interview – “Leave our children in peace. Let our children play, stop ‘playing’ with our children.” In Syria, children have been cruelly exploited to promote war to ensure the deaths of more children. Wafaa is demanding that people in the West recognize this fact and do all they can to prevent more children suffering at the hands of the Western client fanatics and affiliated White Helmets. We should hear her plea and act upon it before it’s too late for Ahmed and all the other children who will suffer the same fate if we do nothing.

 

 

https://archive.is/s1sOc

The Lehman 10th Anniversary Spin as a Teachable Moment – by Michael Hudson 18 Sept 2018

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Wall Street did not let the Lehman Brothers crisis go to waste. The banks that have paid the largest fines for financial fraud are now much bigger and more profitable. The victims of their junk mortgage loans are poorer, and the economy is facing debt deflation.

Was it worth it? What was not saved was the economy.

Today’s financial malaise for pension funds, state and local budgets and underemployment is largely a result of the 2008 bailout, not the crash. What was saved was not only the banks – or more to the point, as Sheila Bair pointed out, their bondholders – but the financial overhead that continues to burden today’s economy.

Also saved was the idea that the economy needs to keep the financial sector solvent by an exponential growth of new debt – and, when that does not suffice, by government purchase of stocks and bonds to support the balance sheets of the wealthiest layer of society. The internal contradiction in this policy is that debt deflation has become so overbearing and dysfunctional that it prevents the economy from growing and carrying its debt burden.

Trying to save the financial overgrowth of debt service by borrowing one’s way out of debt, or by monetary Quantitative Easing re-inflating real estate, stock and bond prices, enables the creditor One Percent to gain, not the indebted 99 Percent in the economy at large. Therefore, from the economy’s vantage point, instead of asking how the banks are to be saved “next time,” the question should be, how should we best let them go under – along with their stockholders, bondholders and uninsured depositors whose hubris imagined that their loans (other peoples’ debts) could go on rising without impoverishing society and preventing creditors from collecting in any event – except from government by gaining control over it.

A basic principle should be the starting point of any macro analysis: The volume of interest-bearing debt tends to outstrip the economy’s ability to pay. This tendency is inherent in the “magic of compound interest.” The exponential growth of debt expands by its own purely mathematical momentum, independently of the economy’s ability to pay – and faster than the non-financial economy grows.

The higher the debt/income ratio rises, the more interest, amortization payments and late fees are extracted from the economy. The resulting debt burden slows the economy, causing defaults. That is what happened in 2008, and is accelerating today as debt ratios are rising for corporate debt, state and local debt, and student debt.

Neither legislators, academics nor the public at large recognize a corollary Second Principle following from the first: An over-indebted economy cannot be saved unless the banks fail. That means writing down the financial claims by the One to Ten Percent – in other words, the net debts owed by the 99 to 90 Percent. Wiping out bad debts involves writing down the “bad savings” that are the counterpart to these debts on the asset side of the balance sheet. Otherwise the economy will suffer debt deflation and austerity.

“Recovery” since 2008 has been much slower than earlier recoveries because debt deflation is siphoning off more and more personal and corporate income. To make matters worse, the bailout’s policy of Quantitative Easing to re-inflate asset prices has reduced rates of return for pension funds, insurance companies and employee retirement savings. This means that more state and local government income must be diverted to meet retirement commitments.

Something has to give, and it is not likely to be the savings of the donor class at the top of the economic pyramid. As a result, the economy at large is threatened with an exponentially expanding erosion of disposable income and net worth for most people and companies. Investment managers are warning of a financial meltdown, given today’s historically high price/earnings ratios for stocks and also for rental properties.

What is not acknowledged is that such a crisis is a precondition for today’s economy to recover from the rising debt/income and debt/GDP ratios that are burdening the United States, Europe and other regions. At least the United States has been able to monetize its budget deficits and subsidize banks to carry its rising debt overhead with yet new debt. The Eurozone has banned budget deficits of over 3 percent of GDP, imposing austerity that leaves the only response to over-indebtedness to be Greek-style austerity: depopulation, shrinking living standards, wipeouts of retirement income and pensions, mortgage defaults, shortening lifespans, and mass selloffs of public infrastructure to foreign financial appropriators.

None of this was spelled out in the September 15 weekend marking the tenth anniversary of Lehman Brothers’ failure and subsequent rescue of Wall Street. President Obama, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and their fellow financial lobbyists at the Federal Reserve and Justice Department are credited with saving “the economy,” as if their donor class on Wall Street was a good proxy for the economy at large. “Saving the economy from a meltdown” has become the euphemism for saving bondholders and other members of the One Percent from taking losses on their bad loans. The “rescue” is Orwellian doublespeak for expropriating over nine million indebted Americans from their homes, while leaving surviving homeowners saddled with enormous bubble-mortgage payments to the FIRE sector’s owners.

What has been put in place is not a restoration of traditional status quo, but a reversal of over a century of central bank policy. Failed banks have not been taken into the public domain. They have been enriched far beyond their former levels. The perpetrators of the collapse have been rewarded, not penalized for lending more than could possibly be paid by NINJA borrowers and speculators whose mortgage applications were doctored by systemic fraud at Countrywide, Washington Mutual, Bank of America, Citigroup and their cohorts.

The $4.3 trillion that could have been used to save debtors was given to the banks and Wall Street firms whose recklessness and outright fraud caused the crisis. The Federal Reserve “cash for trash” swaps with insolvent banks did not restore normalcy or the status quo ante. What occurred was a financial revolution by stealth, reversing the traditional responsibility of creditors to make prudent loans.

Quantitative Easing saved creditors and the largest stockholders and bondholders by lowering the interest rates by enough to make it profitable for new loans to inflate asset prices on credit. This revived the value of collateral backing bank loans and bondholdings. “Saving” the economy in this way actually sacrificed it. That is why our “recovery” is only “on paper,” a result of calculating GDP to include bank earnings and hypothetical homeowner windfalls as rents are soaring.

Among Democrats, the most extreme tunnel vision denying that debt is a problem comes from Paul Krugman: Writing that “The purely financial aspect of the crisis was basically over by the summer of 2009,”[1] he criticized what he called the “bizarre Beltway consensus that despite high unemployment and record low interest rates, debt, not jobs, was the real problem.”

This misses the point that 2009 was the real beginning for most of the nine million homeowners being foreclosed on and evicted from their homes. Consumers found themselves with less income “freely disposable” after paying their monthly FIRE sector nut off the top of their paycheck – housing charges, credit card charges, medical insurance, student debt, FICA withholding and tax withholding. Krugman says that he would have solved the problem by more deficit spending to pump enough money into the economy to enable debtors to keep paying the banks their exponential growth of interest claims.

We are still living in the destabilized, debt-ridden aftermath of such pro-bank advocacy. In the New Yorker, John Cassidy celebrates a book by Columbia professor Adam Tooze promoting the idea that “the economy” cannot exist without the credit (that is, debt) provided by the financial sector.[2] True enough, but does it follow that rescuing the economy must involve rescuing Wall Street and enriching the banks at the expense of the rest of the economy. That conflation is an Orwellian rhetoric of deception that has been introduced to the discussion of how the economy was “rescued” by locking in today’s Great Debt Deflation.

At the neoliberal/neocon Brookings Institution, Treasury secretaries Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner joined with the Federal Reserve’s Ben Bernanke to explain that the public simply didn’t understand how successful they all were in saving not only the banks, but non-bank financial institutions. Unlike Sheila Bair, they did not point out that behind these institutions were the bondholders, the One Percent of savers who held the rest of the economy in debt. Bernanke wrote a Financial Times piece producing junk statistics purporting to show that there was no underlying debt or financial problem at all, merely a “panic.”[3] To paraphrase, he said: “The crisis was all in the mind folks. Nothing to see here. Keep moving on.” It is as if, as Margaret Thatcher liked to insist, There Is No Alternative.

Can this bailout without debt writedowns really bring prosperity? Can economies achieve growth by “borrowing their way out of debt,” by creating enough new credit to cover the interest charges out of capital gains from the asset-price inflation fueled by new bank credit. That is the logic that has guided the Federal Reserve’s net $4.3 trillion in Quantitative Easing, and the parallel credit creation by the European Central Bank under Mario “Whatever it takes” Draghi. Ellen Brown recently published a review, “Central Banks Have Gone Rogue, Putting Us All at Risk, noting that the ECB has become a major stock buyer.[4] The beneficiaries are the stockholders who are concentrated in the wealthiest percentiles of the population. Governments are not underwriting homeownership or the solvency of labor’s pension plans, but are underwriting the value of collateral backing the savings of the narrow financial class.

The GDP accounts report the widening gap between low government bond rates and the cost of credit to banks compared to the higher rates paid by mortgage borrowers, credit-card holders and student loan customers as “financial services.” What is extracted from the economy is added to the GDP statistic instead of being treated as a subtrahend. This absurd practice reflects the degree to which Wall Street lobbyists have captured economic statistics. The National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA) have been turned into a vehicle for deception. What is celebrated as growth of the GDP since 2008 has been mainly the growth in financial extraction, along with the health-insurance sector profiting from Obamacare.

Glenn Hubbard, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under George W. Bush, uses Orwellian doublethink to pretend that “Debt is Wealth.” He concludes a Wall Street Journal op-ed: “An ability to recapitalize banks remains crucial and must be explained to a skeptical Congress and public,”[5] so that wealthy bondholders and speculators will not suffer losses.

On a brighter side, Adair Turner pokes fun at the “Authoritative experts such as the IMF [who] explained how increased securitisation and trading activity made the financial system more efficient and less risky.”[6] It was as if “options” and hedges can get rid of risk entirely, not shift them onto Wall Street victims such as the naïve German Landesbanks.

The aim of this week’s disinformation campaign is to prevent popular anger advocating what was done in classical antiquity. The ancients fought civil wars for land redistribution and debt cancellation. Today the demand should be for mortgage writedowns to bring their carrying charges in line with reasonable rent charges, limited to the former normal 25 percent of homeowner income – while rolling back the FICA wage withholding and allied taxes levied to bail out the creditor class.

 

An Athenian antecedent to today’s financial takeover

It is an old story, with a striking parallel in classical Athens. After losing the Peloponnesian war to oligarchic Sparta in 404, a Pinochet-style military junta – the Thirty Tyrants – was installed. During its eight months of terror its members killed a reported 1,500 democratic advocates whose land and other property they grabbed. Advocates of democracy took refuge in Thrace and other neighboring regions.

After the exiled democratic leaders reconquered Athens, they sought to restore harmony, going so far as to pay off all the debts that the oligarchic junta had run up to Sparta. To top matters, the subsequent 4th century obliged Athenian jurors and indeed, mayors in some Greek cities to swear an oath: “I will not allow private debts (chreon idiom) to be cancelled, nor lands nor houses of Athenian citizens to be redistributed.”[7]

If no such pledge is needed today by public officials, it is because the financial administrators at the Treasury, Federal Reserve and other regulatory agencies already have shown themselves to be so tunnel-visioned from graduate school through their employment history that they can be trusted to find debt writedowns as unthinkable as enforcing laws against criminal financial fraud to punish individuals rather than their institutions. Academia joins in the deception that financial engineering can sustain a geometric growth in debt ad infinitum without imposing austerity. The bailout aftermath has demonstrated that corporations are not really “persons” if they cannot be given jail time.

The key financial principle is that this self-expansion of interest-bearing debt grows to absorb more and more of the economic surplus. The solution therefore must involve wiping out the excess debt – and savings that have been badly lent. That is what crashes are supposed to do. It was not done in 2008. That is why the status quo was not restored. A vast giveaway to the financial elites occurred, setting the rest of the economy on a road to debt peonage.

It would have been nice to have read an article by Sheila Bair explaining the procedures that the FDIC had in place, ready to take over insolvent Citigroup and other banks in similar straits, saving all the insured depositors by taking over these institutions. No doubt as public institutions they would not have indulged in junk mortgages or, for that matter, takeover loans.

It would have been nice to hear from Hank Paulson and perhaps Barney Frank on how they tried to get incoming President Obama to write down bad mortgages whose carrying charges were as far above the debtor’s ability to pay as they were above the going rental value for similar properties. It would have been nice to hear a mea culpa from Mr. Obama apologizing for representing the interest of his campaign donors by standing between them and his voters with pitchforks. Even an article by Tim Geithner or Eric Holder on how lucky they felt at getting such high-paying jobs after they left office from the financial sector they had overseen and “regulated.”

What is needed now is to follow up the primary policy perception that today’s financially dysfunctional economy cannot be saved without a bank crash. That means rolling back the enormous gains that the FIRE sector has made since 1980 at the expense of the “real” economy. Banks have ceased to be an “engine of growth.” They are not making loans to create new means of production. They are lending to asset strippers, not asset creators. It is not hard to show this statistically. (I drafted an attempt in Killing the Host, and am now working with Democracy Collaborative to prepare a larger study.)

At stake is whether the U.S. and Western European economies are going to end up looking like those of Greece, Latvia and Argentina – or imperial Rome for that matter. Neoliberals applaud today’s victorious finance capitalism as the “end of history.” One such end has already occurred once, at the close of Roman antiquity. It is remembered as the Dark Age. Progress stopped as the creditor and landowning class lorded it over the rest of society. Trade survived only among the lords at the top of the economic pyramid. Today’s “End of History” dream threatens to unfold along similar lines. It is all about relative power of the One Percent.

Notes

[1] Paul Krugman, “Days of Fear, Years of Obstruction,” The New York Times, September 14, 2018.

[2] John Cassidy, A World of Woes: A global take on a decade of financial crisis,” The New Yorker, September 17, 2018.

[3] “Ben Bernanke pins blame for Great Recession on bank panic,” Financial Times, September 13, 2018.

[4] Ellen Brown recently published a review, Central Banks Have Gone Rogue, Putting Us All at Risk.” Public Banking Institute and Truthdig, September 13, 2018.

[5] Glenn Hubbard, “Bailouts Shouldn’t Be Only for Banks” Wall Street Journal, September 14, 2018. To be sure, Hubbard acknowledges that Republicans had agreed to but incoming President Obama nixed: “The government should have directed a mass refinancing of mortgages for primary homes in which the borrower was current in payments.”

[6] Adair Turner, “Banks are safer but debt remains a danger,” Financial Times, September 12, 2018.

[7] Demosthenes Against Timocrates (xxiv.149).

https://archive.is/oNXa7

Australia’s financial newspaper warns of another global crash – 19 Sept 2018

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By Mike Head
19 September 2018

“It will happen again.” That was the headline on last weekend’s Australian Financial Review marking the tenth anniversary of the liquidation of the US investment bank, Lehman Brothers, which began the global financial breakdown of 2008–09. (https://www.afr.com/news)

The newspaper published multiple articles warning that another crash is inevitable and that it would likely be even worse for international and Australian capitalism, because of the escalation of financial and household debt, the intensifying US-China economic war and the collapse of cooperation between the major economic and military powers.

Significantly, the edition’s accompanying editorial also sounded an alarm on the state of Australia’s political system, describing it as “shaken and fraying on the extremes” and “dysfunctional, producing five prime ministers in as many years.” Moreover, “declining loyalty has drained the political parties of meaning.”

Behind the backs of the working class, the corporate and financial ruling class is discussing the likelihood of a catastrophic economic failure that will unleash social suffering and class conflicts that the existing political system will not be able to contain.

This provides a further insight into the factional warfare that led to the ouster of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last month and which is tearing apart the Liberal-National Coalition, one of the two pillars—with the Labor Party—of capitalist rule since World War II.

The prospect of a financial meltdown and an all-out trade war is propelling a drive to refashion the Liberal Party and the political establishment as a whole along extreme right-wing authoritarian, nationalist and xenophobic lines to divert and suppress the anticipated eruption of working class and political unrest.

Writing from Washington, the financial newspaper’s economics correspondent Jacob Greber gave a sense of the discussions underway about the fragile state of the world economy. “While the next crisis is unlikely to be a repeat of the GFC [global financial crisis], it will almost certainly echo,” he wrote. “The triggers will be different, and are by definition unknowable. But it will be just as scary and just as sudden when it finally bites.”

Despite Greber’s remarkable admission that the source of the next crisis would be “unknowable” as far as corporate analysts are concerned, he listed factors that were likely to make the coming meltdown even more “scary” and “sudden” than the GFC.

“[M]any of the things that came together in 2008 to prevent another Great Depression may not be available next time,” Greber noted. These included the “unprecedented cooperation between the world’s central banks” and China’s willingness to help bail out the US financial system. Today, President Donald Trump’s “America first” approach had thrown that into “serious doubt.”

Greber also referred to the bipartisan agreement of the US Congress in 2008 to inject hundreds of billions of dollars into the financial markets to stabilise the banks, followed by other “unconventional” measures. These featured record low interest rates and the pumping of billions more dollars into the hands of the financial oligarchs via “quantitative easing.”

Greber cited a warning by Wall Street Journal economics commentator Greg Ip that “polarisation, populism and protectionism” would mean “far less political will” in a now “dysfunctional” Washington to deal with the crisis. These references primarily related to the instability triggered by the Trump administration, but it was the preceding eight years of the Obama White House that saw the burden of the collapse imposed on the working class, via the destruction of jobs and cuts to wages.

Making a parallel warning, the Australian Financial Review editorial voiced concern about the “deepening distrust” in “politics, business and even media.” In Australia, as in the US, the political elite displayed complete unity in propping up the banks and finance houses at the expense of workers’ jobs and conditions.

Among the voices warning of the potential consequences of the next crisis are Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan, the prime minister and treasurer in the last Labor government, who boast of “saving the banks” in 2008–09 by guaranteeing their borrowings and deposits and providing $42 billion in economic stimulus packages to spur retail spending.

Together with the much larger stimulus provided by the Chinese regime, which boosted Australian mining exports for several years, these measures averted a crash. However, the record profits of the banks and corporations went hand in hand with an intensified offensive against workers’ jobs and living standards.

Moreover, the bonanza handed to the finance houses by the Labor government, combined with record low official interest rates, fuelled a speculative property bubble that sent house prices soaring.

Prices are now declining, under conditions in which Australian households are now saddled with some of the highest mortgage debts in the world—exceeding 200 percent of disposable income. Falling house values, stagnant wages and rising interest rates threaten to cause immense financial stress that could see many lose their homes.

On average, house prices in Sydney, the most expensive city, have dropped 6 percent since last September and forecasts of future falls range up to 40 percent. One forward indicator, housing finance, is 8.3 percent below last year’s peak. Investor loans, which rose to 40 percent of the total and fuelled the bubble, have decreased by 28 percent since 2015.

Monopoly

Overshadowing these indicators are escalating measures by Washington, including punitive tariffs on Chinese imports, to prevent China from challenging US supremacy. Any major economic crisis in China, Australian capitalism’s largest export market, will have vast implications.

According to the Reserve Bank of Australia’s typically downplayed September board minutes, “members observed that there were still significant tensions around global trade policy and that this represented a material risk to the outlook.”

In recent weeks already, the leading Australian share market index has fallen from near 6,400 to below 6,200, and the Australian dollar has dropped and wavered around 71 to 72 US cents, a far cry from its peak above the US dollar in 2012.

Given the uncertainty, the central bank left its official cash rate unchanged at 1.5 percent, where it has sat for more than two years, but warned that the next move is likely to be up. Any such move, even by 0.5 points, would see millions of households trapped in debt, unable to pay their mortgages as house values fall.

Increasingly, corporate media commentators are calling into question the ability of the Liberal-National government, currently headed by Scott Morrison, to deal with the mounting social tensions and political disaffection. In the same edition of the Australian Financial Review, Australian Broadcasting Corporation political correspondent Laura Tingle said the Morrison government offered only the prospect of a “depressing circus for some time to come.”

With the Coalition wracked by political rifts, the Labor Party could lead the next government. But its role would be to try to shore up the profit system by handouts to the financial oligarchy and deepening the assault on the jobs and conditions of the working class, as the last Labor government did from 2007 to 2013.

https://archive.is/SzrkC

Support Your Local Police State? Report shows that US police militarization does not reduce crime – by Erik Schreiber 19 September 2018

Police Militarized

 

Militarizing police forces does not reduce crime or make police officers safer, according to a study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .

“On average, militarized police units do not appear to provide the safety benefits that many police administrators claim,” said Jonathan Mummolo, Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, the study’s author.

The results of Mummolo’s research may not seem surprising, but they directly contradict the assertions of law enforcement officials across the country, from the local to the federal level.

After police responded to the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri with assault rifles and tanks, Col. John Belmar, the top police officer in the county, claimed that military equipment had kept civilians and officers safe during the protests. “Had we not had the ability to protect officers with those vehicles, I am afraid that we would have [had] to engage people with our own gunfire,” Belmar told USA Today. “I really think having the armor gave us the ability not to have pulled one trigger.” If the armor was necessary to prevent the police from firing, one wonders why they carried assault rifles in the first place.

At a 2016 press conference, Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City would be providing $7.5 million worth of military helmets and vests to its police force. “An attack on our police officers is an attack on all of us,” he said. “And we have to make sure we’re taking every measure available to protect our officers with the latest gear, the latest technology, given the horrible scourge of guns in this country, and how we’ve seen these guns turned against law enforcement.”

Militarization of the police started in the 1990s under the Department of Defense’s Program 1033, which provides surplus military gear to federal, state, and local police under the guise of the War on Drugs. Examples of this war-making equipment included grenade launchers, armored vehicles and bayonets. These armaments flowed steadily to the police over the decades, with more than $5 billion in surplus gear transferred to date.

People around the world were shocked and outraged at the brutal response to the protests in Ferguson, and by the way that the police force had been transformed into an occupying army. As part of an effort to ease popular anger, the Obama administration slightly restricted, but did not eliminate, police departments’ ability to obtain surplus military gear.

“Those restrictions went too far,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he addressed the 63rd Biennial Conference of the National Fraternal Order of Police last August. “We will not put superficial concerns above public safety.” Any reservations about turning police into soldiers who fight battles against citizens were thus “superficial,” in the eyes of the Trump administration. Sessions described the weapons as “life-saving gear” that are needed to fight “terrorism” and “crime.”

Mummolo’s research shows that such talk is no more than a pretense. For his research, he defined police militarization as “a continuum defined by a combination of equipment, tactics, and culture that centers on violent conflict.” It is difficult to categorize certain localities as militarized because the degree of militarization varies from place to place. Mummolo overcame this difficulty by focusing on special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams, which are modeled on military special forces units and represent “a heightened commitment to the use of militarized equipment and tactics.”

Through a public records request, Mummolo obtained information about every SWAT deployment in Maryland over the five-year period from fiscal 2010 through fiscal 2014. Maryland agencies had recorded all SWAT activity uniformly because of a state law, since expired, that had required them to do so. There were approximately 8,200 SWAT deployments during the period that Mummolo studied.

To determine the extent to which police militarization affects crime and officer safety, Mummolo combined data from the federal Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies surveys (which describe whether agencies provide SWAT services) with FBI data on violent crimes and the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted database.

Mummolo found that, far from fighting violent crime or terrorism, the purpose of approximately 91 percent of SWAT deployments was to serve search warrants.

Deploying a SWAT team for this purpose is to apply excessive and overwhelming force. The operation “often involves percussive grenades, battering rams, substantial property damage, and, in rare cases, deadly altercations stemming from citizens’ mistaken belief that they are experiencing a home invasion,” said Mummolo.

Less than 5 percent of deployments were responses to “barricade” scenarios, which involve an armed suspect who refuses to surrender to police. The data “show that the vast majority of SWAT deployments occur in connection with nonemergency scenarios,” said Mummolo. The soldiers-policemen enter homes forcibly in 68 percent of deployments and seize property in 84 percent of deployments. This shameless brutality can have no purpose other than terrorizing the working class.

The demographic makeup of Maryland’s localities varies in racial diversity. Mummolo found that the higher the percentage of black residents in an area, the greater the volume of SWAT deployments per 100,000 residents in that area. This correlation persisted after Mummolo controlled for local unemployment, education, household income levels and local crime rates. The data confirm that SWAT teams are used to attack the poorest layers of the population.

When he examined the data to evaluate the effect of a department’s use of a SWAT team on violent crime, Mummolo concluded that “there is no evidence that acquiring a SWAT team lowers crime or promotes officer safety…. Using the available data, the benefits of increased deployments [on crime and officer safety] appear to be either small or nonexistent.” These findings expose the claims of Belmar and Sessions as fraudulent.

The study uses its results to also suggest that if only greater care is taken by the authorities in the deployment of military gear, police-community relations will benefit. “…[P]olice may suffer reputational damage when they deploy militarized units,” said Mummolo. “These results suggest that the often-cited trade-off between public safety and civil liberties is, in the case of militarized policing, a false choice.” In other words, the aim is to convince the authorities to proceed with more caution as they continue their campaign to defend the status quo of record inequality and exploitation.

To examine how exposure to images of militarized police affects the public’s attitude toward law enforcement, Mummolo conducted two surveys. He concluded that viewing photos of militarized police decreased respondents’ support for police funding and decreased “confidence” in the police.

One illuminating result is that Mummolo found little evidence that race influenced people’s response to images of militarized police, despite lower baseline levels of confidence in the police among African-Americans. This result suggests that workers regardless of their race correctly identify the police as their antagonists.

The reputational costs of militarization to law enforcement are “troubling,” said Mummolo, “since prior work shows that negative views of police inhibit criminal investigations and are associated with stunted civic participation.”

Contrary to what the report suggests, however, the police are not interested in greater “civic participation” in working class communities. Riot gear, percussion grenades, and assault rifles are not intended to encourage civic engagement, but to suppress it. Police terror is a means of silencing the working class and sending the message that any resistance to deteriorating working and living conditions will entail a heavy cost.

The repeal of the very mild Obama-era restrictions on police acquisition of military equipment comes as the struggles waged by teachers, UPS employees, and other workers across the country are intensifying. The fight for a living wage, for adequate health care, and for a more human existence is the real “terror” that militarized police are intended to combat.

https://www.princeton.edu/news/2018/08/21/militarization-police-fails-enhance-safety-may-harm-police-reputation

 

https://archive.is/xuMrG

First, They Came for the Memes – Facebook expands censorship to photos and videos

Cnn Warns

By Mike Ingram
18 September 2018

A September 13 statement by Facebook Product Manager, Antonia Woodford, titled “Expanding Fact-Checking to Photos and Videos” marks a significant escalation of the company’s censorship efforts.

Under the pretense of combating so-called “fake news” and “Russian interference” the social media giant has spent the last two years assembling an army of censors and established partnerships with 27 so-called fact-checker partners in 17 countries. The partners, include the Associated Press, (AP) Agence France-Presse (AFP), Pagella Politica in Italy, Animal Politico in Mexico and others, together with fact checking sites such as Factcheck.org, PolitiFact and Snopes.com. At the end of last year, Facebook announced a partnership with the right-wing The Weekly Standard prompting widespread outrage.

The role of this latest partnership was highlighted last week when The Weekly Standard flagged an article posted by ThinkProgress with the headline “Brett Kavanaugh said he would kill Roe v. Wade last week.” The article was flagged as false on the preposterous claim that the word “said” in the headline implied a direct quote, rather than the dictionary definition of “indicate,” “show,” or “communicate.” The ThinkProgress incident is only the latest indication of the political character of the censorship by Facebook.

It is unknown exactly how many posts have been flagged as false by Facebook or its fact checker partners since the program began two years ago. A false flag will reduce future traffic by 80 percent, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Now the program is to be expanded to photos and video—a process that was first detailed in March this year.

The March statement headlined “Hard Questions: What is Facebook Doing to Protect Election Security?” by VP of Product Management, Guy Rosen, announced, “We’re fact-checking photos and videos, in addition to links. We’re starting in France with the AFP and will be scaling to more countries and partners soon.”

The global expansion of the censorship campaign to photo and video was announced in the September 13 statement. Woodford wrote, “We know that people want to see accurate information on Facebook, so for the last two years, we’ve made fighting misinformation a priority. One of the many steps we take to reduce the spread of false news is working with independent, third-party fact-checkers to review and rate the accuracy of content. To date, most of our fact-checking partners have focused on reviewing articles. However, we have also been actively working to build new technology and partnerships so that we can tackle other forms of misinformation. Today, we’re expanding fact-checking for photos and videos to all of our 27 partners in 17 countries around the world (and are regularly on-boarding new fact-checking partners).”

The statement says that Facebook has “built a machine learning model that uses various engagement signals, including feedback from people on Facebook, to identify false content.” The company then sends photos or videos to fact checkers, “or fact-checkers can surface such content on their own”, Woodford writes. “Many of our third-party fact-checking partners have expertise evaluating photos and videos and are trained in visual verification techniques, such as reverse image searching and analyzing image metadata, like when and where the photo or video was taken,” she continued.

Based on research conducted since March, Facebook claimed that photo and video “misinformation” falls into three categories, “(1) Manipulated or Fabricated, (2) Out of Context, and (3) Text or Audio Claim.”

The claim that Facebook is motivated by the need for accurate content was refuted in an analysis presented last month by one of the company’s other “partners”, the prominent military think-tank, the Atlantic Council.

After Facebook announced last month that it had shut down the event page for a counter-protest to a fascist demonstration called by the organizers of last year’s Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, during which left-wing demonstrator Heather Heyer was murdered by a right-wing extremist. The company also announced that it had shut down 32 other pages, including ones opposing police violence and defending immigrant rights.

The Atlantic Council issued a report which said that the shut down by Facebook targeted “the left of the political spectrum” and that the pages were an attempt to “infiltrate left-wing American communities.” The report said these pages “sought to promote divisions and set Americans against one another.”

The report stated that events created by “inauthentic” groups “have a very real, organic, and engaged online community” but that “the intent of inauthentic activity appeared to be designed to catalyze the most incendiary impulses of political sentiment.”

It is not so-called “inauthentic” groups that are the catalyst for incendiary political sentiment but the conditions of social inequality, police repression and war confronting millions of people throughout the world. Facebook’s attempt to suppress photo and video postings is an intensification of the company’s attempt to hide the true state of American and world society—and more importantly the mounting opposition to it—from the population.

Video footage of police killings has been the catalyst for demonstrations across the United States. A search in the video section of Google for “police shooting” yields 97 million results. The overwhelming majority of these are either bodycam or witness footage of unarmed victims of police violence.

Images of immigrant children sitting in cages after being torn from their mothers’ arms by immigration officers likewise provoke the justified outrage of millions of working people throughout the world.

Photographs of the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdî, who drowned in the Mediterranean See in 2015 after his family fled war torn Syria along with thousands of refugees trying to reach Europe were spread around the world, prompting international outrage.

These are the types of “incendiary” images Facebook is seeking to suppress. Over the past two years, Facebook, along with other technology giants such as Google and Twitter have become the self-appointed arbiters of “fake news” and “authoritative content.”

Working with the intelligence agencies and both Democrats and Republicans, the technology giants are seeking to effectively blacklist any viewpoint opposing that of the official political establishment. The main target of this blacklisting is left-wing and, in particular, socialist viewpoints.

https://archive.fo/QgGEa

Missouri: Labor unions sue to overturn ‘paycheck deception’ law – 18 Sept 2018

Missouri unions sue to overturn ‘paycheck deception’ law

St. Louis Labor Tribune

ST. LOUIS – Fresh off their big statewide win against one GOP-business-right-wing anti-worker scheme – the so-called “right to work” law – Missouri’s unions are taking on another, “paycheck deception.” But this time they’re doing it in court.

The measure, they say, violates the state constitution.

Led by disgraced former GOP Gov. Eric Greitens, a prime pusher of RTW, the top-heavy right-wing majorities in the legislature rammed through this measure, too.

“Paycheck deception,” which the right mis-names “paycheck protection,” is an unconstitutional overreach meant to weaken workers’ rights to collective bargaining, the union coalition says.

 

 

It’s also a top cause of the radical right in other states, as part of their determined vicious national campaign to destroy workers’ rights.

To stop it in Missouri, seven unions presenting teachers, patient care professionals, maintenance workers and public safety employees sued to kill it. They said it constrains free speech of most public-sector unions and gives preferential treatment to others.

The law, passed this past session as HB1413, took effect August 28. That’s the same day RTW would have kicked in if two-thirds of Show Me State voters hadn’t rejected it.

“Paycheck deception” would require recertification votes for most public-sector unions to continue representing workers, limit bargaining topics and require annual worker-by-worker OK to deduct union dues or other fees from paychecks or to spend money on political causes.

It also would let bosses unilaterally change union contracts, would ban strikes, picketing or demonstrations of any kind and lets bosses immediately fire those who violate that ban.

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And it creates unnecessary and burdensome bureaucratic hoops for unions to represent their members by requiring government employees – other than fire fighters, police and other first-responders – to “opt-in” annually to have their union dues withdrawn from their paychecks.

The right wing and their political puppets push some of those provisions elsewhere around the U.S. The ban on dues deductions, for example, is intended to push workers out of politics. The yearly re-certification votes are in Wisconsin’s infamous Act 10. Iowa’s GOP-run legislature and governor imposed bargaining limits.

The lawsuit, filed in St. Louis County, seeks an injunction and declaration the law violates several provisions of the Missouri Constitution, including free speech and due process rights and a specific right for employees “to organize and to bargain collectively.”

Missouri is only one of four states that expressly protects the right of collective bargaining in its state constitution. The lawsuit asserts that HB1413 violates that right.

Greitens signed HB1413 into law on June 1, just hours before he resigned in disgrace ahead of impeachment proceedings on multiple allegations of official and personal misconduct.

The law was part of a slew of unpopular, anti-labor measures enacted by the Republican-led legislature last session. Others eliminated the merit system for state employees, restricted prevailing wages and the GOP’s switch of RTW, then Proposition A, from the November election to the August primary.

The GOP thought a lower turnout in the dog days of summer would let them convince voters to OK right-to-work. They were wrong, big-time.

Paycheck deception would also chop into Missouri state workers’ pay, which is already the ranked lowest in the nation. The new law is designed to weaken the ability of public-sector employees to bargain for better wages and working conditions.

The lawsuit argues the new law violates several rights guaranteed under the Missouri Constitution, including the freedom of speech, association and petition; equal protection; protection against impairment of contracts and the right to organize and bargain collectively.

“This is another attempt by legislators backed by corporate interests to attack our right to speak up about student needs, class-size, wages and benefits,” said Lori Sammelmann, an instructional coach in the Ferguson-Florissant school district.

“Missouri teachers are already some of the lowest paid in the country. These lawmakers are out of touch with the actual realities and responsibilities we face as public school teachers and would rather silence us and undermine our ability to negotiate for better learning conditions and better pay, while simultaneously giving corporations and the wealthy more power in our political system,” she added.

In an effort to pit workers against each other, the law selectively discriminates against certain types of public-sector employees but not others. It exempts police, fire fighters, and other public safety employees represented by a law enforcement or public safety union, but not those same employees if they are represented by a trade union.

Anti-worker GOP Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin did the same thing in his infamous Act 10, but he was even more selective. Public safety unions which backed him in his first race for governor in 2010 were exempt. Other public worker unions – including other public safety unions – weren’t.

That exemption for public safety workers, the lawsuit argues, “imposes a raft of harsh restrictions on a disfavored set of public-employee labor organizations and their members,” while exempting others. And that, the lawsuit argues, violates equal protection requirements in the Missouri Constitution.

Meanwhile, another Greitens law eliminating the merit system for state workers took effect August 28 amid fears that it could turn state social service jobs into patronage positions.

Under the new law, state government employees can now be “discharged for no reason or any reason not prohibited by law.” The law eliminates the State Merit System, which for more than seven decades required workers to be hired or promoted based on skill and protected them for being fired arbitrarily.

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St. Louis Labor Tribune

The legislature established the merit system in 1946 to prevent political patronage when hiring for non-political state jobs and to bring professionalism to personnel decisions. Nothing in the merit system prohibited workers from being fired for cause or poor performance.

Before adoption of the merit system, nearly all state workers – including janitors, secretaries, cooks, nurses, corrections officers and state troopers and others – risked losing their jobs whenever control of the governor’s office switched parties.

Communications Workers Local 6355 President Natashia Pickens told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the new law makes some social service workers nervous.

“We do work for the government,” she said. “If I choose to support a candidate, and that candidate is of the opposite party, am I going to be at risk of losing my job? These are a lot of questions we’ve had, and we’ve not been able to get any responses.”

Under the merit system, most workers are hired based on their performance on standardized tests, rather than their allegiance to a particular politician or political party.

That’s gone, Pickens said. The new law, which passed on virtual party-line votes, also guts established processes that protected merit employees from frivolous complaints.

“You can be fired for any reason and they don’t have to tell you what the reason is,” she added.

Tim Rowden is editor of the St. Louis Labor Tribune     

https://archive.is/Bgg9M

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Massachusetts: Gas Explosions Reveal Infrastructure Decay and Company Negligence – by Donald Donato – 18 Sept 2018

https://archive.fo/sa1n4

Massachusetts gas explosions reveal infrastructure decay and negligence

(People cover their faces to protect themselves from heavy smoke from a fire on Bowdoin Street in Lawrence – Thursday. 13 Sept 2018)

LAWRENCE, Mass.—Thursday, September 13, just as most families were getting ready to eat their supper, Esperanza Academy teacher, Sasha Weisse, 27, of South Lawrence, Massachusetts, hurriedly sent a message out to her Facebook friends: “I’m alive and evacuated.”  Terrified, with reports of explosions and fires throughout the city, Sasha and her roommates had to escape with little notice.

Over 8,600 surrounding homes and businesses were affected by Columbia Gas Company’s aging and deadly natural gas system that had exploded first at a Lawrence home, triggering fires and gas explosions in 80 other homes in that northern Massachusetts city famous for the 1912 “Bread and Roses” textile workers’ strike. The surrounding towns of Andover and North Andover were also affected.

Residents like Sasha waited in the dark—literally and figuratively—for Columbia Gas Company, the city and/or state officials to do something, to let them know their homes and workplaces would not blow up next. But there was no such reassurance.

Gas Sarah

As Columbia Gas fumbled and first responders became overwhelmed with explosions and fires, over a thousand union gas workers still locked-out in a dispute with National Grid, offered their assistance. The United Steelworkers Locals 12003 and 12012 issued a statement saying, “Our 1,200 veteran natural gas workers are ready now to offer our experience and technical expertise during this crisis and to help safely restore service to the region.” The USW workers distributed items, ran errands, and helped those affected by the gas fires and explosions.

The following morning, Sasha was angered to find that the only information she had received of any use was an incident map tweeted by the Massachusetts State Police. Adding insult to injury, activist groups and the American Civil Liberties Union were outraged to see that the state police web browser in the Twitter screenshot was filled with bookmarks showing the police keep an eye on local activist websites and calendars.

Days later, Sasha said, “I had to get past roadblocks just to get to my house and take as much as I could carry by hand to a temporary place to stay.” With anger clearly in her face, the Schenectady, N.Y. native commented, “This may have been an ‘accident’, but the negligence that led to an accident like this happening is just criminal.”

Meanwhile, schools and businesses in Lawrence and surrounding towns were closed and over 8,000 residents were evacuated. By Friday morning, the police and firefighters had been responding to an overwhelming number of fires and explosions—over 80 in all. 18-year-old Leonel Rondon, also of Lawrence, was killed when a chimney from a house explosion crushed his car, and more than 20 people were rushed to local hospitals, several requiring surgery.

Lucky for Sasha, she and her housemates evacuated as soon as they could. “Our house is on a Columbia gas line. Right now, I’m feeling helpless, sad, anxious, and incredibly angry.” By Monday, four days later, Sasha returned to her rented home only to have to deal with the stress of being told by the gas company that her gas line was still on, though there was an order to close the lines throughout the city. When Lawrence firefighters checked on the valves yesterday afternoon, they were closed; meaning the gas company was not aware which homes had been turned off. Six gas fires blew up in homes and other buildings within a few blocks of Sasha’s apartment.

The continued decay of U.S. infrastructure and society will require a lot more than new pipes to fix.

It turns out there are thousands of gas leaks all over Massachusetts. As a result of an embarrassing study that revealed thousands of leaks around the state, since 2014, the state government has required gas utilities to list and fix gas leaks.

Columbia Gas is one of four other natural gas companies serving the state. Others include National Grid, Eversource Energy, and Unitil. A further study on the effectiveness of the 2014 list of gas leaks by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology indicated that 1,263 (32 percent) of Eversource leaks were “lost.” 2,938 (17 percent) of National Grid leaks were also “lost.” According to the MIT report, “These natural gas leaks weren’t repaired, but they vanished from public utility company data between 2014 and 2015.”

In a further indictment of the negligent practices of utility companies, according to the Boston Globe, Ohio state investigators ruled in 2015 that Columbia Gas of Ohio was to blame for an explosion that destroyed several homes and damaged more than 20 others. Federal investigators also pinned the blame on Columbia’s owner, NiSource, for a 2012 pipeline rupture in Sissonville, West Virginia.

Sasha and her students number among the millions of victims of the apocalyptic breakdown of infrastructure in Massachusetts and the nation. According to USA Today, “About every other day over the past decade, a gas leak in the United States has destroyed property, hurt someone, or killed someone.” That means the explosions in Massachusetts this past week are the tip of the iceberg.

One day before the gas explosions began, a large water main broke on the heavily traveled commuter road State Route 16 in Chelsea, Massachusetts, snarling traffic for the entire day. A few weeks before that, another water main blew in Worcester, the state’s second largest city, and in suburban Weston. Almost every day, one or another subway or commuter rail line has been reporting serious delays or cancellations. There are no high-speed trains, and the few inter-city trains are slow, expensive, and unreliable.

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Firefighters work to knock down a fire on Jefferson Street in Lawrence.MA

Every weekday, and many weekend days, traffic jams are common on the region’s highways. Frequent traffic reports are a big part of radio, TV, and web news.

The unsustainable U.S. infrastructure is breaking down, with extensive implications economically, socially, and politically. This costly and unsustainable infrastructure has not been maintained, with backlogs in upkeep stretching back to the 1970s. The most obvious breakdown is on the streets, highways, and bridges, which are overcrowded and deteriorating. But the most dangerous breakdowns go unseen until something goes wrong—the broken-down water, sewage, oil, and gas lines.

The hardest to see is the human breakdown. The workers that are locked-out, untrained, or overworked—again, until something goes wrong. Sasha herself is a recent graduate who lives under the enormous weight of student loans from her graduate studies. She is emblematic of a society where mounting government, corporate, and individual debt takes precedence over much-needed public infrastructure and human needs.

On Thursday, these factors converged when entire neighborhoods blew up or caught fire in northern Massachusetts, but the continued decay of U.S. infrastructure and society will require a lot more than new pipes to fix.

Sasha Weisse and Wadi’h Halabi contributed to this article.