Turkey: Dozens of Women Protest Increasing Violence Against Women (AFP) 28 Sept 2019

Istanbul Protest 8 March 2019(8 March 2019 Women’s Rights Protest in Istanbul, Turkey) 

ISTANBUL: Dozens of women protested in Istanbul Saturday to denounce rising violence against women and the government’s failure to stop brutal attacks across the country.

They gathered in the Kadikoy neighborhood on the Asian side of Istanbul, recounting harrowing stories of women recently murdered across the country, including Emine Bulut, whose killing by her ex-husband in August sparked outrage.

“Stop the murder of women!”, “Stop male violence!” and “Do not watch violence, do something,” they shouted.

Bulut’s murder in front of her daughter sent shockwaves across Turkey after a video of the attack was published online.

The 38-year-old was stabbed to death in a cafe on August 18 by her former husband in the central Anatolian city of Kirikkale. Bulut, who had divorced him four years ago, died in hospital.

Her name was a worldwide trending topic on Twitter and “I don’t want to die” (#olmekistemiyorum) was widely quoted on social media.

“The murder of Emine Bulut sparked frustration and resentment in society. Her last words are ringing in all women’s ears: I don’t want to die,” Gamze Ozturk, one of the organizers, told AFP.

“There are increasing numbers of women being murdered and none of them wanted to die,” she said.

A total of 294 women were murdered in the only first eight months of 2019 – 40 of them in August alone, while 440 women were killed last year, according to the women’s rights group We Will Stop Femicide, which has been tracking gender-related deaths.

“We will be out on the streets to protect women’s rights until no single woman is killed,” protester Bircan Sahin told AFP.

Turkey has ratified the Council of Europe’s 2011 Istanbul Convention on preventing domestic violence – but activists say more needs to be done to put the laws into practice.

Archived – https://archive.is/PzYwX


DW Report on Domestic Violence Against Women in Turkey – 27 Jan 2019 (5:53 min)

18 Drones 7 Cruise Missiles – How the Saudi Oil Field Attack Overturned America’s Apple Cart – by Conn Hallinan – 30 Sept 2019

For all their overwhelming firepower, the U.S. and its allies can cause a lot of misery in the Middle East, but still can’t govern the course of events.


In many ways it doesn’t really matter who – Houthis in Yemen? Iranians? Shiites in Iraq? – launched those missiles and drones at Saudi Arabia. Whoever did it changed the rules of the game, and not just in the Middle East. “It’s a moment when offense laps defense, when the strong have reason to fear the weak,” observes military historian Jack Radey.

In spite of a $68 billion a year defense budget – the third highest spending of any country in the world – with a world-class air force and supposed state-of-the-art anti-aircraft system, a handful of bargain basement drones and cruise missiles slipped through the Saudi radar and devastated Riyadh’s oil economy. All those $18 million fighter planes and $3 million a pop Patriot antiaircraft missiles suddenly look pretty irrelevant.

This is hardly an historical first. British dragoons at Concord were better trained and armed than a bunch of Massachusetts farmers, but the former were 5,000 miles from home and there were lots more of the latter, and so the English got whipped. The French army in Vietnam was far superior in firepower than the Viet Minh, but that didn’t count for much in the jungles of Southeast Asia. And the US was vastly more powerful than the insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, but we still lost both wars.

The September 14 attack on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco refineries at Abqaiq and Khurais did more than knock out 50 percent of Saudi Arabia’s oil production – it shook the pillars of Washington’s foreign policy in the region and demonstrated the fragility of the world’s energy supply.

The End of the Carter Doctrine?

Since 1945, Washington’s policy in the Middle East has been to control the world’s major energy supplies by politically and militarily dominating the Persian Gulf, which represents about 15 percent of the globe’s resources. The 1979 Carter Doctrine explicitly stated that the US reserved the right to use military force in the case of any threat to the region’s oil and gas.

To that end, Washington has spread a network of bases throughout the area and keeps one of its major naval fleets, the Fifth, headquartered in the Gulf. It has armed its allies and fought several wars to ensure its primacy in the region.

And all that just got knocked into a cocked hat.

Washington blames Iran, but the evidence for that is dodgy. The Americans have yet to produce a radar map showing where the missiles originated, and even the Trump administration and the Saudis have scaled back blaming Tehran directly, instead saying the Iranians “sponsored” the attack.

Part of that is plain old-fashioned colonial thought patterns: the “primitive” Houthis couldn’t pull this off. In fact, the Houthis have been improving their drone and missile targeting for several years and have demonstrated considerable skill with the emerging technology.

The US– and, for that matter, the Saudis – have enormous firepower, but the possible consequences of such a response are simply too costly. If 18 drones and seven cruise missiles did this much damage, how much could hundreds do? World oil prices have already jumped 20 percent. How high would they go if there were more successful attacks?

The only way to take out all the missiles and drones would be a ground attack and occupation. And who is going to do that?

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has already begun withdrawing its troops from Yemen and has been holding talks with the Houthis since July (which is likely why UAE oil facilities were not attacked this time around). The Saudi army is designed for keeping internal order, especially among Shiites in its Eastern provinces and Bahrain. The princes in Riyadh are far too paranoid about the possibility of a coup to build a regular army.

Would the US? Going into an election with prices already rising at the pump? The US military wants nothing to do with another war in the Middle East, not, mind you, because they have suddenly become sensible, but as Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chair of the Joints Chiefs of Staff put it, it drains resources from confronting China.

Starting with the administration of George W. Bush, and accelerated during the Obama presidency’s “Asia Pivot,” the US military has been preparing for a confrontation with China in the South and/or East China Sea. The Pentagon also has plans to face off Russia in the Baltic.

One suspects that the generals made it clear that, while they can blow up a lot of Iranians, a shooting war would not be cost free. US Patriot missiles can’t defend our allies’ oil fields (or American bases in the region), and while the anti-missile capabilities on some US naval ships are pretty good, not all of them are armed with effective systems like the Sea Sparrow. Americans would be coming home in boxes just as the fall election campaign kicked into high gear.

Whether the military got that message through to the Oval Office is not clear, but Trump’s dialing down of his rhetoric over Iran suggests it may have.

Making Good on a Stalemate

What happens now? The White House has clearly ruled out a military response in the short run.

Trump’s speech at the UN focused on attacking globalism and international cooperation, not Iran. But the standoff is likely to continue unless the Americans are willing to relax some of their “maximum pressure” sanctions as a prelude to a diplomatic solution.

The US is certainly not withdrawing from the Middle East. In spite of the fact that shale oil has turned the United States into the world’s largest oil producer, we still import around one million barrels per day from Saudi Arabia. Europe is much more dependent on Gulf oil, as are the Chinese and Indians. The US is not about to walk away from its 70 plus year grip on the region.

But the chessboard is not the same as it was six months ago. The Americans may have overwhelming military force in the Middle East, but using it might tank world oil prices and send the West – as well as India and China – into a major recession.

Israel is still the dominant local power, but if it picks a fight with Iran or Hezbollah, those drones and cruises will be headed its way. Israel relies on its “Iron Dome” antimissile system, but while Iron Dome may do a pretty good job against the primitive missiles used by Hamas, mobile cruises and drones are another matter. While Israel could inflict enormous damage on any of its foes, the price tag could be considerably higher than in the past.

Stalemates can be dangerous because there is an incentive to try and break them by introducing some game changing weapon system. But stalemates also create the possibility for diplomatic solutions. That is certainly the case now.

If a more centrist government emerges from this last round of Israeli elections, Israel may step back from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s relentless campaign against Teheran. And Trump likes “deals,” even though he is not very good at them.

“This is the new strategic balance,” says Newclick Editor-In-Chief Prabir Purkayastha in the Asia Times, “and the sooner the US and its NATO partners accept it, the quicker we will look for peace in the region.”

Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Conn Hallinan can be read at www.dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and www.middleempireseries.wordpress.com.

Archive – https://archive.is/nrvpE

Right-Wing Militant Street Fighter – Kyle Chapman AKA ‘Based Stickman’ Given 5-Year Probation Sentence (CBS SF) 25 Sept 2019

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Right-wing activist Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman has been sentenced to five years probation for possessing a leaded cane during a violent clash of protesters at an anti-President Donald Trump Berkeley rally in 2017.

Kyle Chapman 3

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Mark McCannon told Chapman, a 43-year-old Daly City man, “You have a right to protest but peaceful protests have more influence than violent protests.”

Chapman — who had dubbed himself an “American nationalist” — was charged for his actions at the “March 4 Trump” rally at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley on March 4, 2017, in which Trump supporters clashed with counter-protesters.

“You were armed to the teeth during the protest” and said what could have been a peaceful protest turned violent “and the next thing you know it was a melee,” the judge scolded Chapman.

Ben Shapiro

At a hearing before another judge on Aug. 7, Chapman pleaded no contest to the felony possession of a leaded cane charge in a deal with prosecutors that called for him to be placed on three years’ probation.

McCannon added two years to the probation but did explain why he was changing the plea agreement.

The judge told Chapman, who was dressed in blue pants and a light blue short-sleeved shirt, he could throw out the plea deal if Chapman wanted to take his case to trial and try to get a shorter sentence.

However, Chapman agreed to the new sentence.

Kyle Chapman

At the March rally there were multiple instances of violence between the pro- and anti-Trump groups and Chapman was identified as one of the people causing violence, Berkeley police Officer Darrin Rafferty wrote in a probable cause statement.


A man later identified as Chapman, who was wearing a black baseball helmet, goggles and a backpack with metal buckles, sprayed what appeared to be pepper spray into a crowd of protesters that Chapman’s group had been arguing with, according to Rafferty.

“Chapman was involved in multiple altercations with many people” and “was swinging what appeared to be a wooden stick at many people,” Rafferty wrote.

However, Rafferty said it was unclear if Chapman hit anyone because the camera didn’t stay focused on him during the altercation.



Kyle Chapman 5

MAY 8, 2017 –The latest hero of the alt-right, a California man who has beaten and maced anti-Trump protesters on the streets of Berkeley, is a thrice-convicted felon who has served three separate prison terms, jumped bail, twice violated parole, used cocaine, LSD, and meth, and was described by his own lawyer as having “severe psychological problems,” court records show.

Kyle Chapman, a 41-year-old rough boy committed to destroying the “neo-Marxist scourge,” was arrested March 4 following a melee at a rally organized by Trump supporters. While marchers purportedly were there in support of free speech, Chapman–who has spent a combined 10 years behind bars–came dressed for a fight.

Chapman, a Bay Area resident, was one of ten combatants busted, but he alone emerged from the “March on Berkeley” as a fully formed right wing meme. Chapman wore a baseball helmet, shin guards, ski goggles, and a gas mask. He carried pepper spray and swung a large wooden closet rod. Chapman also toted a protective shield, a la Captain America.

At one point during the protest, Chapman broke the closet rod over the head of an opponent. Video of the strike quickly went viral, with fans of the costumed Chapman dubbing him the “Based Stickman” and the “Alt-Knight.”

Following his arrest, Chapman fans raised money for his bail and a legal defense fund has reportedly amassed more than $87,000 (the money, contributors are told, will cover legal fees “as well as financial assistance” for Chapman’s family “if need be”). The fundraising effort has gotten a push from Mike Cernovich, an alt-right leader who saluted Chapman as a “political prisoner.” Chapman has also solicited direct contributions via PayPal and GoFundMe and recently launched a web site that sells “Based Stickman” merchandise.

On April 15, during another Berkeley protest, Chapman, carrying an American flag, was filmed sucker punching a man. He was also recorded atop another man executing a ground and pound attack that left his victim bloody and dazed. As Chapman was landing blows, white supremacist Nathan Damigo was nearby punching a woman in the face and another man–wearing a yellow “Jesus Will Judge You!” hoodie–was stomping on a prone opponent.

“The Communists got their asses handed to them today,” exclaimed Chapman, who promised that his street fighting men were headed to “every liberal stronghold” to confront those who would “take our constitutionally protected rights from us.” He added, “All you cocksuckers in fucking Boston, watch out, we’re coming for you.”

Chapman, pictured in the below mug shots, recently announced the formation of the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, a group founded to “protect and defend our right wing brethren” through “street activism, preparation, defense, and confrontation.” The organization, Chapman declared, “is for those that possess the Warrior Spirit. The weak or timid need not apply.” He added, “President Trump has our back for the next 8 years. The timing couldn’t be better. Let’s do this!”

Chapman was more reserved when he returned to Berkeley on April 27 to address the cancellation of author Ann Coulter’s appearance at the University of California, Berkeley. During a brief speech, Chapman–who introduced himself as the “Alt-Knight”–pledged to “fight the radical left” to protect “our right for speech and assembly.” Describing left wing groups as domestic terrorism organizations, Chapman assured the small crowd that, “We are law-abiding Americans who care for the Constitution.” He then urged listeners to thank police officers for “being on the right side of the law.”

Now as for that law-abiding claim, Chapman’s rap sheet begs to disagree.

Chapman’s first felony conviction came days before his 18th birthday in November 1993. Chapman and an accomplice pleaded guilty to a pair of felony robbery charges, according to Texas court records.

Chapman, Houston police charged, pointed a firearm at two victims and demanded money. Though he was only brandishing a pellet gun, Chapman warned, “This is a .44 Magnum. Give me your money or I will shoot you.”

During a 2009 prison evaluation, Chapman told a psychologist that he had been “booted out” of high school “due to disciplinary problems.” Chapman said he joined the Navy in 1993, but never served due to the robbery arrest. He also told the prison doctor that, as a juvenile, he abused alcohol and used LSD and marijuana. But his “substance of choice,” Chapman added, was Scotchgard fabric spray, which he huffed.

Sentenced to five years in prison, Chapman served a combined 30 months in custody before being paroled in 1996. During his incarceration, Chapman said, he was repeatedly assaulted by fellow inmates.

Chapman eventually moved to California, where he worked as a bouncer at various San Diego-area strip clubs. During his 2009 psych exam, Chapman said that he stopped drinking while on parole in Texas, but resumed imbibing in California.

Chapman’s next felony conviction came in June 2001, when he pleaded guilty to grand theft. According to Superior Court records, he stole in excess of $400 worth of merchandise from a Macy’s in San Diego. Chapman was sentenced to four years in prison–three years on the grand theft rap and a one-year “enhancement” due to his prior conviction for robbery.

Chapman served a total of two-and-a-half years in custody, according to California court and corrections records. He was twice sent back to prison for violating terms of his parole, resulting in an additional five months behind bars.

After his release from prison, Chapman was under psychiatric care and was prescribed multiple medications for depression and anxiety. When his parole term expired, Chapman later told a psychologist, he “stopped all medication.” But he continued to drink heavily and was abusing the painkiller Vicodin (taking upwards of 30 pills daily). Chapman also acknowledged smoking pot and using cocaine “once in a while.” [The psych report notes that Chapman used methamphetamine as an adult, but it does not specify a time frame.]

Chapman’s most recent felony conviction came as a result of an undercover operation launched by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents and the San Diego Police Department’s street gang unit.

With the help of a confidential informant, investigators determined that an owner of a San Diego tattoo shop was illegally selling guns from the business. Agents suspected that some of the weapons ended up in the hands of local Hispanic street gang members.

On two occasions, Chapman provided the tattoo shop owner with weapons–a shotgun and an assault rifle–that were then immediately resold to the informant. One evening, as Chapman drove from his home to the tattoo shop to deliver the assault rifle, a San Diego Police Department surveillance helicopter followed Chapman’s Lexus on the six-mile trip.

Chapman was named in a July 2008 indictment charging him with two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Chapman was arrested at his San Diego home, which was simultaneously searched by cops and ATF agents. According to a search warrant inventory, investigators seized body armor, a Ruger pistol, two throwing knives, a bag of “suspected marijuana,” metal knuckles, two glass pipes, assorted ammo and shotgun shells, clips, and magazines.

In a plea agreement, Chapman copped to the felony charge related to his possession of the assault weapon.

While free on $35,000 bond posted by his girlfriend (who is now his wife), Chapman went on the lam before his February 2009 sentencing. During his one month as a fugitive, Chapman was “living as a homeless person in river beds,” according to a court filing by his lawyer, who claimed that his client “has severe psychological problems” and suffered from auditory and visual hallucinations and “delusions of persecution.”

After Chapman surrendered to federal agents, a U.S. District Court judge ordered a psychological evaluation to determine whether the felon was “suffering from a mental disease.” A Bureau of Prisons psychologist subsequently concluded that Chapman was not “substantially impaired by a mental disease or defect” and had not exhibited “any symptoms of serious mental illness” while being held in San Diego’s Metropolitan Correctional Center. Regarding a personality test that purported to show that Chapman was “psychologically disturbed,” Dr. Gordon Zilberman found that Chapman likely was “exaggerating or manufacturing symptoms when completing this test.”

In June 2009, Chapman was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison to be followed by a three-year probation term. Among the character references sent to the judge by Chapman’s family and friends was a letter from Chapman’s brother Derek. Sent a day before Chapman became a fugitive, the letter described the defendant as a “generally law abiding person.” Jeff Kugel, who met Chapman in 2007, wrote that “Kyle is very knowledgeable about history and the struggles of mankind against central power structures.” Kugel added that, “It is easy to come across as a little paranoid to the uninitiated when broaching this subject.”

After five years behind bars, Chapman was released from Bureau of Prisons custody in January 2014, at which time his probation sentence began. The terms of his supervised release included periodic drug testing and substance abuse treatment. He was also barred from consuming alcohol, attending gun shows, and possessing body armor, firearms, and ammunition. Chapman was also directed to participate in a mental health treatment program as directed by his probation officer.

Chapman’s federal supervision ended less than two months before the shield-carrying “Alt-Knight” made his March debut on the Berkeley streets. Court records contain no indication that Chapman’s federal probation was violated at any time.

Chapman was arrested on multiple felony counts for his alleged activities during the March 4 protest (which he proudly calls the “Battle of Berkeley”). Prosecutors with the Alameda County District Attorney’s office are still reviewing police reports and videos in advance of making a final charging decision when it comes to Chapman and his fellow arrestees.

While Chapman supporters wait to see if the ex-con adds yet another felony charge to his personal docket, they can bide the time in his online store, where $39.99 gets you “The Official Battle for Berkeley Hoodie.” The charcoal garment–a 50/50 cotton blend–is advertised as “As seen on TV, worn by Kyle Chapman,” who always dons the stylish item when battling the hordes laying siege to American ideals. (10 pages) http://www.thesmokinggun.com/file/based-stickman



Iran Prevails Over the US, Twice, But This Is Far from Over – by The Saker • 26 Sept 2019

UK Tanker 2


An Iranian official has announced that the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero was free to leave. Remember the Stena Impero? This is the tanker the IRGC arrested after the Empire committed an act of piracy on the high seas and seized the Iranian tanker Grace 1. Col Cassad posted a good summary of this info-battle, blow by blow (corrected machine translation):

  1. Britain, at the instigation of the US, seizes the Iranian tanker Grace 1 and demands from Iran guarantees that it in any case does not go to Syria.
  2. Iran, in response, captures the British tanker Stena Impero and says it will not retreat until the British releases Grace 1. British ships that guarded merchant ships in the Strait of Hormuz were warned that they would be destroyed if they interfered with the IRGC’s actions.
  3. After 2 months, Britain officially releases Grace 1, which is renamed Adrian Darya 1. It raised the Iranian flag and changed the crew.
  4. The British government says the tanker is released under Iran’s obligations not to unload the tanker at the Syrian port of Banias or anywhere else in Syria. Iran denies this.
  5. The US officially requires Britain and Gibraltar to arrest Adrian Darya 1 and not let it into Syria, as it violates the sanctions regime. Britain and Gibraltar refuse the US.
  6. Adrian Darya 1 reaches the coast of Syria and after a few days on the beam of Banias, unloads its cargo in Syria. The Iranian government says it has not made any commitments to anyone.
  7. After Adrian Darya 1 left Syria, Iran announced that it was ready to release the British tanker. The goal has been achieved.

This is truly an amazing series of steps, really!

The US is the undisputed maritime hyper-power, not only because of its huge fleet, but because of its network of bases all over the planet (700-1000 depending on how you count) and, possibly even more importantly, a network of so-called “allies”, “friends”, “partners” and “willing coalition members” (aka de facto US colonies) worldwide. In comparison, Iran is a tiny dwarf, at least in maritime terms. But, as the US expression goes, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog” which decides the outcome.

And then there is the (provisional) outcome of the Houthi strike on the Saudi oil installations. The Saudis appeared to be pushing for war against Iran, as did Pompeo, but Trump apparently decided otherwise:

(Video link)

Some have focused on the fact that Trump said that it was “easy” to attack Iran. Others have ridiculed Trump for his silly bragging about how US military gear would operate in spite of the dismal failure of both US cruise missile attacks (on Syria) and the Patriot SAMs (in the KSA). But all that bragging is simply obligatory verbal flag-waving; this is what the current political culture in the US demands from all politicians. But I think that the key part of his comments is when he says that to simply attack would be “easy” (at least for him it would) but that this would not show strength.

I also notice that Trump referred to those who predicted that he would start a war and said that they were wrong about him. Trump also acknowledged that a lot of people are happy that he does not strike (while others deplored that, of course, beginning with the entire US pseudo-liberal & pseudo-Left media and politicians). The one exception has been, again, Tulsi Gabbard who posted this after Trump declared that the US was “locked and loaded”:

(Video link)

Whatever may be the case, this time again, Trump seemed to have taken a last minute decision to scrap the attack the Neocons have been dreaming about for decades.

I think that I made my opinion about Trump pretty clear, yet I also have to repeat that all these “climbdowns” by Trump are, just by themselves, a good enough reason to justify a vote for Trump. Simply put; since Trump came to power we saw a lot of hubris, nonsense, ignorance and stupidity. But we did NOT see a war, especially not a major one. I will never be able to prove that, but I strongly believe that if Hillary had won, the Middle-East would have already exploded (most likely after a US attempt at imposing a no-fly zone over Syria).

We are also very lucky that, at least in this case, the rapid every four year Presidential election in the US contributes to keep Trump (and his Neocon masters) in check: Trump probably figured out that a blockade of Venezuela or, even more so, a strike on Iran would severely compromise his chances of being re-elected, especially since neither theater offers the US any exit strategy.

Still, following these immensely embarrassing defeats, Trump and his advisors had to come up with something “manly” (which they confuse with “macho”) and make some loud statements about sending more forces to the Persian Gulf and beefing up the Saudi air defenses. This will change nothing. Iran is already the most over-sanctioned country on the planet and we have seen what US air defense can, and cannot do. Truth be told, this is all about face-saving and I don’t mind any face-saving inanities as long as they make it possible to avoid a real shooting war.

Still, the closer we get to the next US election, the more Trump should not only carefully filter what he says, he would be well advised to give some clear and strict instructions to his entire Administration about what they can say and what they cannot say. Of course, in the case of a rabid megalomaniac like Pompeo, no such “talking points” will be enough: Trump needs to fire this psychopath ASAP and appoint a real diplomat as Secretary of State. After all, Pompeo belongs in the same padded room as Bolton.

Now if we look at the situation from the Iranian point of view, it is most interesting. First, for context, I recommend the recent articles posted by Iranian analysts on the blog, especially the following ones:

  1. War Gaming the Persian Gulf Conflict” by Black Archer Williams
  2. Karbala, The Path of Most Resistance” by Mansoureh Tadjik
  3. Resistance report: Syrian Army takes the initiative in Idlib while Washington blames its failures on Iran again” by Aram Mirzaei

I also recommend my recent interview with Professor Marandi.

I recommend all these Iranian voices because they are so totally absent from the political discussions on the Middle-East, at least in western media. Williams, Tadjik, Mirzaei and Marandi are very different people, they also have different point of views and focuses of interest, but when you read them you realize how confident and determined Iranians are. I am in contact with Iranians abroad and in Iran and all of them, with no exception, share that calm determination. It seems that, just like Russians, Iranians most certainly don’t want war, but they are ready for it.

The Iranian preferred strategy is also clear: just the way Hezbollah keeps Iran in check so will the Houthis with the KSA. The Houthis, who are now in a very strong negotiation position, have offered to stop striking the KSA if the Saudis do likewise. Now, the Saudis, just like the Israelis, are too weak to accept any such offer, that is paradoxical but true: if the Saudis officially took the deal, that would “seal” their defeat in the eyes of their own public opinion. Having said that, I can’t believe that the Saudis believe their own propaganda about war against Iran. No matter how delusional and arrogant the Saudi leaders are, surely they must realize what a war against Iran would mean for the House of Saud (although when I read this I wonder)! It is one thing to murder defenseless Shias in the KSA, Bahrain or Yemen and quite another to take on “the country which trained Hezbollah”.

Speaking of delusional behavior, the Europeans finally did fall in line behind their AngloZionist overlords and agreed to blame Iran for the attack under what I call the “Skripal rules of evidence” akahighly likely“. The more things change, the more they remain the same I suppose…

It is pretty clear that all the members of the Axis of Kindness (US, KSA, Israel) are in deep trouble on the internal front: Trump is busy with theZelensky vs Biden scandal, especially now since the Dems are opening impeachment procedures, the latest elections failed to deliver the result Bibi wanted, as for the Saudis, after pushing for war they now have to settle for more sanctions and radars, hardly a winning combination.

The Saudis are too weak, clueless and obese (physically and mentally) to get anything done by themselves. But the US and Israel are now in a dire need to show some kind of “victory” over, well, somebody. Anybody will do. Thus the US have just denied visas 10 members of the Russian delegation to the United Nations (thereby violating yet another US obligation under international law, but nobody in the US cares about such minor trivialities as international law); and just to show how amazingly powerful the Empire is, the Iranian delegation to the UN received the same “punished bad boys” treatment: truly, a triumph worthy of a superpower! Last minute update: the US is now revoking Iranian student visas and denying entry to Venezuelan diplomats.

This “war of visas” is the US equivalent of the “war on statues” the Ukrainians, Balts and the Poles have been waging to try to distract their population from the comprador policies of their governments.

As for the Israelis, I now expect the Israelis to strike some empty building in Syria (or even in Gaza!).

Conclusion: facts don’t really matter anymore, and neither does logic

Ten years ago Chris Hedges wrote a book calledEmpire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle and, a full decade later, this title is still an extremely accurate diagnostic. What Hedges politely called the “end of literacy” can be observed in all its facets, listening to US political and military leaders. While most of them are, indeed, morally bankrupt and even psychopaths, it is their level of ignorance and incompetence which is the most amazing. First, the Russians spoke ofnon-agreement-capable “partners” but eventually Putin quipped that it was hard to work withpeople who confuse Austria and Australia“. This all, by the way, applies as much to the Obama Administration as it does to the Trump Administration: their common motto could have been “illusions über alles” or something similar. Once a political culture fully enters into the realm of illusions and delusions the end is near because no real-world problem ever gets tackled: it only gets obfuscated, denied and drowned into an ocean of triumphalist back-slapping and other forms of self-worship.

Post scriptum: the US goes crazy but Trump just might survive after all

So the Dems decided to try to impeach Trump. While I always expected the Neocons to treat Trump as the “disposable President” which they would try to use to do all the stuff they don’t want to be blamed for directly, and then toss him away once they squeezed him for everything he could give them, I am still appalled by the nerve, the arrogance and the total dishonesty of the Dems (see my rant here).

My gut feeling is that Trump just might beat this one for the very same reason he won the first time around: because the other side is even worse (except Tulsi Gabbard, of course).

Of course, an attack on Iran would be a welcome distraction à lawag the dog and Trump might be tempted. Hopefully, the Dems will self-destruct fast enough for Trump not to have to consider this.


Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Attack Saudi Territory – 500 Saudis Troops Dead – Thousands Surrender (Al Jazeera) 29 Sept 2019

Yemen’s Houthi rebels release Saudi attack video

Saudi Arabia has not yet responded to Houthi claim 500 of its forces were killed or wounded in cross-border attack.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Sunday broadcast footage they said was of a major attack into Saudi Arabia that killed or wounded 500 soldiers with thousands of others surrendering.

Yahya Saree, a Houthi military spokesman, described an ambush on the Saudi forces that then developed into an “all-out” cross-border offensive that trapped the troops inside Saudi Arabia.

“More than 200 were killed in dozens of [missile and drone] strikes while trying to escape or surrender,” Saree said.

The fighting took place in the southern region of Najran with video images aired showing armoured vehicles hit by blasts and surrendering soldiers.

Saudi Arabia has not yet responded to the Houthi claim. Al Jazeera was not independently able to verify the footage or claims broadcast on Houthi-run Almasirah TV.

Saree said the offensive 72 hours earlier had defeated three “enemy military brigades”, leading to the capture of “thousands” of troops, including Saudi army officers and soldiers, and hundreds of armoured vehicles.

He said the prisoners “will be treated according to the ethics and the customs on the basis of a deal to exchange the POWs with the aggressors”.

Video showed armoured vehicles, some ablaze, with stencilled Saudi markings, along with large piles of weapons and ammunition the rebels say they seized.

The images also appeared to show bodies and men in Saudi military uniforms. Several identified themselves as Saudis.

Yemeni Houthi Rebel Fighters
Houti Rebels

‘Very much alone’

Yemen’s stalemated war has killed tens of thousands of people, badly damaged its infrastructure and crippled its health system.

Catherine Shakdam from the Next Century Foundation told Al Jazeera there was no reason to doubt what the Houthis are saying.

“The video and images coming through are actually affirming the statement. It’s a pivotal point in this war that now Yemeni are moving on Saudi land. It’s quite interesting to see with all the talk of a grand Saudi coalition that Saudi is very much alone in this fight,” Shakdam said.

Yemeni government troops, supported by air strikes of the Saudi-led coalition, have in recent months fought Houthi forces in the Kataf region of Yemen’s northern Saada province near the Saudi border. Local sources have said the Houthis have captured scores of Yemeni troops in the battles.

The Saudi-led coalition, which receives arms and intelligence from Western countries, intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from power in the capital Sanaa a year earlier.

‘War of attrition’

Shakdam said it appears the Houthis now have the upper hand in the conflict as Yemen’s people have “rallied around” the rebels because of Saudi human rights abuses, famine and the immense hardship caused by the war. 

“This war of attrition has worked against Saudi Arabia… Through their military advances they’re gaining access to more weapons, more territory and essentially pushing the Saudi against the wall,” she said.

Shireen al-Adeimi from Michigan State University said the attack might change the Saudi leadership’s perceptions of the four-and-a-half-year conflict.   

“It’s incredibly embarrassing for the Saudis giving how much support they have from not only the UAE but also the United States, the UK and several other countries. If the Houthis are able to carry out this level of operation it poses a significant turn in this war,” al-Adeimi told Al Jazeera.

The Houthis, who had recently stepped up missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities, have claimed responsibility for the largest-ever attack on Saudi oil facilities on September 14.

Riyadh dismissed the claim, saying the assault did not come from Yemen and has blamed Iran. Tehran denied this.

Damaged prestige

The Houthis said on September 20 they would halt missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia if the alliance stopped its operations. The coalition has not responded to the proposal.

Iran’s foreign minister urged Saudi Arabia to accept “security cannot be bought”, saying an end to the war in Yemen would quell regional tensions.

In an interview with Tehran’s official IRNA news agency, Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the Saudi leadership of stirring up strife.

“They think that, in the same way that they have so far bought everything with money and have managed to buy weapons, friendship and support, they can buy security with money as well,” he said, urging Riyadh to “put aside this illusion”.

Zarif said the solution “is absolutely clear and that is an end to the Yemen war”.

“Tension in the region will end and it will stop Saudi Arabia’s prestige being further damaged,” he said.


Al Jezeera – https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/yemen-houthi-rebels-release-saudi-attack-video-190929130644121.html

BBC – Houthi rebels video fails to prove Saudi troop capture claim – https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-49866677

Two AWOL US soldiers joined a far-right militia in Ukraine – Returned to US and killed a Florida couple – Planned to Fight Socialists in Venezuela – By Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) 27 Sept 2019

              (Alex Zwiefelhofer poses with a group of Ukrainian fascist fighters.)


The listing said, “For Sale: Lot of Guns,” and Serafin Lorenzo was interested.

The 53-year-old who went by Danny liked to buy expensive items and resell them for a profit, and the cache of guns he found on ARMSLIST.com offered the bargain he was looking for. There were four Glocks, a couple of 9mm pistols and nine high-powered rifles. The Florida seller, a guy named “Jeremy,” wanted just $3,000 cash.

“Leaving the country soon,” Jeremy’s listing said. “Looking to sale [sic] all my guns as I can’t take them with me.”

Lorenzo and Deana

Less than 24 hours after inquiring, Lorenzo and his wife, Deana, 51, were on the road from Brooksfield, Florida, late on the night of April 9, 2018, to meet Jeremy at an address just off Corkscrew Road in Estero, about 190 miles south. At 10:44 p.m., Lorenzo texted: “I’m at the church.”

Minutes later, the Lorenzos were dead.

Police found Lorenzo and his wife in the church parking the next morning. Next to Lorenzo’s body was a bill of sale for 15 firearms and a cellphone that sent the FBI down a wild path stretching halfway around the world leading to the alleged perpetrators.

Starting with little more than the online gun listing and the texts to Lorenzo from a Walmart burner phone, authorities say they learned the gunmen were two ex-Army soldiers bent on joining right-wing paramilitary groups involved in armed conflicts worldwide. The gun listing was true in one respect: They were leaving the country to go to Venezuela to fight the government with the resistance, prosecutors say. The guns were coming with them. They allegedly just wanted the Lorenzos’ $3,000 to fund the journey.

Alex Z

(Alex Zwiefelhofer)

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors identified the ex-soldiers as Alex Zwiefelhofer, 22, and Craig Lang, 29, in an indictment charging them with a host of federal crimes tied to the double homicide in Estero, just south of Fort Myers. The 33-page complaint traces the soldiers’ zigzagging paramilitary campaigns across the world, starting in Ukraine and, in Lang’s case, finally to Venezuela, revealing how some military veterans have been drawn to extremist causes overseas.

Caught in the crosshairs were the Lorenzos in an ambush plot that the FBI says Zwiefelhofer and Lang stole straight out of a movie clip they studied on the internet.


Murder Scene

(Serafin ‘Danny’ Lorenzo Jr. and Deana K. Lorenzo were found both killed at 9351 Corkscrew Road in Fort Myers, Florida on April 10, 2018. Danny, had been shot seven times and his wife Deana, had eleven bullet wounds )

“A review of this video was important,” an FBI special agent wrote of the unidentified movie, “in that the homicide scene in Estero, Fla, was consistent with the tactical approach of shooters and trajectory of the gunshot defects depicted in the movie.”

Lang was also named in a separate federal indictment this week as the alleged “mentor” to Army Pfc. Jarrett William Smith, who is accused of providing recipes for explosives online and talking about killing Antifa protesters and bombing CNN, the network reported. Smith had hoped to join Lang as a fighter in another extremist unit in Ukraine, where Lang currently lives, according to that complaint.

Craig Lang

(Craig Lang)

Lang is now in custody in Ukraine, Radio Free Europe reported Thursday, citing Lang’s associates and local fighters. Zwiefelhofer was arrested earlier this month in Wisconsin, and both are now awaiting extradition to Florida. Attorneys for the men are not yet listed in federal court records. An uncle of Lang’s Ukrainian girlfriend, Ihor Skritsky, told Radio Free Europe that Lang “denies any involvement.”

Zwiefelhofer and Lang were used to fighting behind the same lines.

They met after joining the same battalion in the Right Sector, a far-right Ukrainian nationalist paramilitary group dedicated to battling Russian separatists on eastern Ukrainian soil. Itching for combat, they were enamored by the group’s stated goal of removing Ukraine from Russian or European Union influence. “These people f—— want change,” Lang, who had completed two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, told Vice in a 2016 story about why right-wing Americans were joining the Right Sector. The Ukrainian government had banned the group from the battlefront.

Lang joined in 2016 after his life fell apart in the U.S. In 2014, he went AWOL from Fort Bliss in El Paso and drove cross-country to North Carolina in a car stocked with assault rifles and body armor, saying he wanted to kill his pregnant wife, Vice reported. Lang was dishonorably discharged from the Army and, after spending time in jail for the incident, couldn’t get a job, he told Vice.

So, he went back to war. Months later, in September 2016, Zwiefelhofer would go AWOL from the Army too, prosecutors say, and would encounter Lang upon arriving in Ukraine.

Alex z

(Alex Zwiefelhofer)

But after a while, Lang and Zwiefelhofer decided they wanted to change course. In June 2017, they headed to South Sudan to fight al-Shabab, a jihadist terrorist organization allied with al-Qaeda. They made it to Kenya with one other former Army soldier only to be captured by the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army trying to cross the border without papers. Stuck in a Kenyan jail, writing from a smuggled “prison pocket phone,” Zwiefelhofer complained in a July 2017 Facebook post: “so, week six of African jail. just contracted cholera.”

He and Lang would ultimately get deported back to the United States, each arriving at separate airports. But more jail awaited Zwiefelhofer upon his arrival in Charlotte that August. While interrogating him over his paramilitary endeavors in Ukraine and South Sudan, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at the airport also found child porn on his phone, according to the complaint. He was held in jail for months before being released on bond in November 2017 only to fail to turn up for his hearings.

He and Lang were too busy plotting their next overseas war-zone mission, according to the complaint. This time, prosecutors said they planned to hijack a yacht in Miami and sail south to join the armed conflict against the Venezuelan government.

On Zwiefelhofer’s Internet history, the FBI discovered one question he asked Google: “How to Smuggle Myself to South America.”

The FBI says it found the details of the plot in numerous Facebook messages he and Lang exchanged in the weeks and days leading up to the Lorenzo killings.

On April 4, 2018, the two men met at a Greyhound bus station in Florida and together headed to Miami, prosecutors say. Lang brought the cache of guns from home in Arizona. Once checked into the La Quinta Inn, they planned to hit up an Army surplus store for body armor, meet with a yachting company to tour some boats that would make ideal candidates for theft ― and finally, put up the fake gun listing to set up the deadly robbery, according to the complaint.

Just before setting it all in motion, the FBI said, they replayed the movie clip over and over from their hotel room and then took selfies in Hawaiian-style shirts, the FBI wrote.

The text message the duo was waiting for came in at 2:10 p.m. on April 9: “I have cash on hand,” Lorenzo wrote. “Mine is a sure deal.”

By the time police discovered the Lorenzos’ bodies in the church parking lot, Zwiefelhofer and Lang were long gone. One of Lang’s ex-Army associates would later tell the FBI that Lang and Zwiefelhofer never carried out the boat hijacking plot, instead fleeing to Washington state, as far away from the crime scene as possible.

Zwiefelhofer ultimately returned to Wisconsin. But Lang hadn’t given up on the plan to go to Venezuela or even back to Ukraine, prosecutors said. After lying low for a while, Lang met up with his ex-Army soldier associate, identified as “M.S.M.” in the indictment, who agreed to go with him to go south.

The new plan: Sell the guns used in the Florida killings to two men in exchange for their identities and social security numbers. That way, prosecutors said, they could obtain fraudulent passports and flee the United States for Ukraine or South America, according to the indictment.

It worked.

Lang and M.S.M. managed to fly to Bogota, Colombia. The resistance group Lang allegedly wanted to join had a safe house in the mountains of Cúcuta, Colombia, and they were planning to cross the border to fight the Venezuelan government. Lang got on a bus, M.S.M. told the FBI, and that was the last time M.S.M. saw him. M.S.M. got cold feet.

“He left Lang in Bogota because M.S.M. did not want to kill people,” the FBI reported in the complaint.

Lang faces federal passport fraud charges in a separate indictment filed last month. In that case, a man named Matthew Scott McCloud is indicted in the conspiracy with Lang. According to Missouri authorities, McCloud fled to Ukraine to avoid prosecution for felony stealing, then traveled to Colombia, Mexico and back to the United States, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported.

As for Zwiefelhofer, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested him in May in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, after he allegedly lied on an ATF form while trying to buy a gun. The FBI obtained a warrant to search his home, finding the distinctive Hawaiian shirt they allege he wore in Miami, and the laptop containing his search history.

The gun listing, they said, was created under the name Jeremy on that same computer

During an interrogation, Zwiefelhofer told the FBI about his excursions with Lang in Ukraine. He told the agent about their plans to meet in Miami, how they wanted to take a boat to Venezuela.

But when asked about the burner phone authorities linked back to him, the one that lured Serafin and Deana Lorenzo to their deaths, Lang denied any wrongdoing. He said he bought the burner phone at Walmart because they ran out of money to stay at La Quinta Inn and had to spend the night in a dog park, where the sprinkler system came on overnight and ruined his cellphone.

He said the story ended there.


Stars and Stripes

Archived – https://archive.is/VTfCJ

Russian military in Syria says it downed dozens of drones – by Yuras Karamanau (AP) 27 Sept 2019

Russian SU-35

(Russian Su-35 in Syria, Thursday, 26 Sept 2019)

HEMEIMEEM AIR BASE, Syria (AP) — The Russian military said Friday it has downed dozens of drones and rockets launched by militants this year targeting Russia’s air base in Syria.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said that so far in 2019 the military has shot down 58 drones and 27 rockets that targeted the Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s Mediterranean province of Latakia.

Russia has waged a military campaign in Syria since September 2015, allowing Bashar Assad’s government to reclaim control over most of the country amid a devastating civil war.

Russian in Syria

(Russian Pilot in Su-35 in Syria – Thursday, 26 Sept 2019)

Konashenkov, speaking to reporters during a trip to Syria organized by the ministry, said the militants have continuously improved their drones, which have a range of up to 250 kilometers (155 miles) and an altitude of up to 4 kilometers (13,123 feet).

He added that while the drones may look primitive, they perform well and are difficult to spot.

“It’s quite worrying that the terrorists have obtained the navigation and control technologies that only a few countries possess,” Konashenkov said.

He said the Russian base is protected by a variety of air defense assets. He said short- and medium-range Pantsyr S-1 and Tor M-2 air defense systems have proven highly efficient against the drones, and the base also has the long-range S-400 air defense systems.

Konashenkov said that most of the drone attacks were launched from Khan Sheikhoun and Latamna in the northwestern province of Idlib. The Syrian army captured those areas last month following weeks of a sweeping offensive backed by Russia.

Idlib, which lies along the border with Turkey, is the last major rebel stronghold, and the Syrian army onslaught has created friction between Russia and Turkey, which struck a de-escalation agreement for Idlib a year ago. Turkey protested the offensive as a violation of the deal, while Russia countered that the offensive was necessary to uproot militants who used the area as a base to launch attacks on Syrian government troops and Russia’s military base.

More than eight years of fighting has left the country in ruins, and officials in the areas reclaimed by the government are pleading for international assistance.

“We have suffered twice — first from the rebels who deliberately destroyed historic monuments and now from the indifference of international organizations that refuse to help us,” said Adnan Karaza, an official who oversees the historic Old City of Aleppo. “We haven’t received a penny.”

Many sections of the ancient city were destroyed in years of vicious fighting until Assad’s forces captured the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo three years ago. A giant portrait of Assad decorates the gates of the monumental medieval Citadel, the city’s top landmark.

Assad’s government has paid for the restoration of a section of the city’s medieval market, but there is no money to do the rest of the job.

“We wouldn’t like to think that the world doesn’t care about centuries of history,” said Waleed Hawala, a 72-year-old professor of history at Aleppo’s university who volunteered to help clear the Old City of debris together with his students. “But so far we have been doing all the restoration work ourselves.”


Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.



Did China just accidentally show off its new supersonic cruise missile? – by Liu Zhen (South China Morning Post) 27 Sept 2019

China missile

China’s military on Wednesday published a video containing a clip of what appeared to be the launch of a new type of supersonic cruise missile, only to withdraw the film and replace it with a version with that scene trimmed out.

The original footage, which ran for just over a minute, was released on social media by the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force as part of the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the

People’s Republic of China

, which falls on Tuesday.

The film contained a two-second clip in which an unidentified missile with an unusual design is seen being fired from a launcher truck. However, in the later version, the scene is replaced with footage of two separate missile launches in a desert setting.

The editing did not go unnoticed by China’s military observers, several of whom suggested that the weapon in the original film might have been a never-before-seen supersonic cruise missile.

In the clip the missile appears to have slim dorsal fins, foldable tail fins and additional propellant, all of which, according to one expert who asked not to be identified, suggests it is designed to fly long distances and faster than the speed of sound.

“The new missile would probably have a range of more than 1,000km [680 miles],” the person said.

The PLA already has a land-attack subsonic cruise missile – the Changjian-10 – that has an operational range of more than 1,500km (932 miles), which is equivalent to that of a medium-range ballistic missile.

Ballistic and cruise missiles differ in a number of ways but the latter tend to fly at lower altitudes and at slower speeds, making them more vulnerable to defence systems.

However, the Rocket Force has made significant progress in the development of glider vehicles for its ballistic missiles, like the Dongfeng-17 (DF-17), which is now capable of gliding in outer atmosphere at upwards of five times the speed of sound, making it more able to evade missile defence systems.

“Now that the DF-17’s glider technology is becoming more mature it could be used elsewhere. Other missiles, like this cruise missile [in the video clip], could also adopt similar vehicles to carry the warhead,” the source said.

The missile in the original footage also appeared to be fitted with several unidentified items of kit, which a second observer, who also asked not to be identified, said might be jamming and anti-jamming devices.

“These would enhance the missile’s ability to avoid electronic interference or guided interception by enemy missile defence systems, and therefore increase its chances of penetration,” he said.

China’s missiles are likely to be a big feature of the military parade that will take place on Tuesday in Beijing, with several of them going on display to the public for the very first time.

A military vehicle carrying DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) travels through Beijing on September 14 in a rehearsal for the military parade. Photo: Reuters
A military vehicle carrying DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) travels through Beijing on September 14 in a rehearsal for the military parade.

Among the stars of the show will be the DF-17 and the DF-41, an

intercontinental ballistic missile

that is capable of carrying 10 nuclear warheads and has the range to strike any point on the US mainland. It remains to be seen if the mystery supersonic cruise missile will be among them.

Chinese President Xi Jinping

, who also chairs the Central Military Commission, will officiate the day’s events, which will also feature 15,000 troops from 59 units, more than 160 aircraft and 580 active weapon systems.

In 1949, then Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong was guest of honour at a military parade to declare the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

While there were more troops on hand that day – about 19,000 in total – there was significantly less military hardware, with just 17 aircraft taking part in the fly-past. Nine of them even did two laps to make the air force look bigger than it actually was.


The Future of the Spectacle … or How the West Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Reality Police – by C.J. Hopkins (Consent Factory) 3 Sept 2019


consent factory

If you want a vision of the future, don’t imagine “a boot stamping on a human face — for ever,” as Orwell suggested in 1984. Instead, imagine that human face staring mesmerized into the screen of some kind of nifty futuristic device on which every word, sound, and image has been algorithmically approved for consumption by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (“DARPA”) and its “innovation ecosystem” of “academic, corporate, and governmental partners.”

The screen of this futuristic device will offer a virtually unlimited range of “non-divisive” and “hate-free” content, none of which will falsify or distort the “truth,” or in any way deviate from “reality.” Western consumers will finally be free to enjoy an assortment of news, opinion, entertainment, and educational content (like this Guardian podcast about a man who gave birth, or MSNBC’s latest bombshell about Donald Trump’s secret Russian oligarch backers) without having their enjoyment totally ruined by discord-sowing alternative journalists like Aaron Maté or satirists like myself.

“Fake news” will not appear on this screen. All the news will be “authentic.” DARPA and its partners will see to that. You won’t have to worry about being “influenced” by Russians, Nazis, conspiracy theorists, socialists, populists, extremists, or whomever. Such Persons of Malicious Intent will still be able to post their content (because of “freedom of speech” and all that stuff), but they will do so down in the sewers of the Internet where normal consumers won’t have to see it. Anyone who ventures down there looking for it (i.e., such “divisive” and “polarizing” content) will be immediately placed on an official DARPA watchlist for “potential extremists,” or “potential white supremacists,” or “potential Russians.”

Once that happens, their lives will be over (i.e., the lives of the potentially extremist fools who have logged onto whatever dark web platform will still be posting essays like this, not the lives of the Persons of Malicious Intent, who never had any lives to begin with, and who by that time will probably be operating out of some heavily armed, off-the-grid compound in Idaho). Their schools, employers, and landlords will be notified. Their photos and addresses will be published online. Anyone who ever said two words to them (or, God help them, appears in a photograph with them) will have 24 hours to publicly denounce them, or be placed on DARPA’s watchlist themselves.

Meanwhile, up where the air is clean, Western consumers will sit in their cubicles, or stagger blindly down the sidewalk like zombies, or come barrel-assing at you on their pink corporate scooters, staring down at the screens of their devices, where normal reality will be unfolding. They will stare at their screens at their dinner tables, in restaurants, in bed, and everywhere else. Every waking hour of their lives will be spent consuming the all-consuming, smiley, happy, global capitalist Spectacle, every empty moment of which will be monitored and pre-approved by DARPA.

What a relief that will finally be, not to have to question anything, or wonder what is real and what isn’t. When the corporate media tell us the Russians hacked an election, or the Vermont power grid, or are blackmailing the president with an FSB pee-tape, or that the non-corporate media are all “propaganda peddlers,” or that the Labour Party is a hive of anti-Semites, or that some boogeyman has WMDs, or is yanking little babies out of their incubators, or gratuitously gassing them, or attacking us with crickets, or that someone secretly met with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy, or that we’re being attacked by Russian spy whales, and suddenly self-radicalized Nazi terrorists, or it’s time for the “International Community” to humanitarianly intervene because “our house is burning,” and our world is on fire, and there are “concentration camps,” and a “coup in Great Britain” … or whatever ass-puckering apocalyptic panic the global capitalist ruling classes determine they need to foment that day, we will know that this news has been algorithmically vetted and approved by DARPA and its corporate, academic, and government partners, and thus, is absolutely “real” and “true,” or we wouldn’t be seeing it on the screen of our devices.

If you think this vision is science fiction, or dystopian satire, think again. Or read this recent article in Bloomberg, “U.S. Unleashes Military to Fight Fake News, Disinformation.” Here the lede to get you started …

“Fake news and social media posts are such a threat to U.S. security that the Defense Department is launching a project to repel ‘large-scale, automated disinformation attacks’ … the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants custom software that can unearth fakes hidden among more than 500,000 stories, photos, video and audio clips. If successful, the system after four years of trials may expand to detect malicious intent and prevent viral fake news from polarizing society …”

What could be more reassuring than the knowledge that DARPA and its corporate partners will be scanning the entire Internet for content created with “malicious intent,” or which has the potential to “polarize” society, and making sure we never see that stuff? If they can’t do it, I don’t know who can. They developed the Internet, after all. I’m not exactly sure how they did it, but Yasha Levine wrote a book about it, which I think we’re still technically allowed to read.

Anyway, according to the Bloomberg article, DARPA and its corporate partners won’t have the system up and running in time for the 2020 elections, so the Putin-Nazis will probably win again. Which means we are looking at four more years of relentless Russia and fascism hysteria, and fake news and divisive content hysteria, and anti-Semitism and racism hysteria, and … well, basically, general apocalyptic panic over anything and everything you can possibly think of.

Believe me, I know, that prospect is exhausting … but the global capitalist ruling classes need to keep everyone whipped up into a shrieking apoplectic frenzy over anything other than global capitalism until they can win the War on Populism and globally implement the New Normality, after which the really serious reality policing can finally begin.

I don’t know, call me crazy, or a Person of Malicious Intent, but I think I’d prefer that boot in the face.


C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and political satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23, is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant Paperbacks. He can be reached at cjhopkins.com or consentfactory.org.

Archive – https://archive.is/7wMG4

The US Military Officials Who Knew Saudi Arabia Would Fail in the War on Yemen – by Mark Perry (American Conservative) 25 Sept 2019

Privately they’ve been saying for years that Riyadh can’t win in Yemen and that we shouldn’t have given the Houthis up.

US Marine Corps General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., Commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), poses for a picture, while standing before a portrait of Saudi Arabia’s founding King Abdulaziz ibn Saud (R) and current Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L), during his visit to a military base in al-Kharj in central Saudi Arabia on July 18, 2019. ( FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

While it’s seems axiomatic that most Americans suffer from historical amnesia, that’s not necessarily true for the U.S. military. And as America and Iran were sprinting towards a military confrontation last week, a recently retired senior U.S. military officer expounded on what he called “the bumbling, incompetent and feckless stupidity of it all.”

The target of the officer’s ire was not Donald Trump (whom he admires) or Mike Pompeo (who he doesn’t), but Saudi Arabia’s March 2015 decision to go to war against the Iranian-allied Houthi tribal movement in Yemen —“which is,” he argues, “how all of this nonsense got started in the first place.”

He explained: “We didn’t see the [Saudi] invasion [of Yemen] coming and we were shocked when it happened. But we were pretty blunt. We told them, ‘you can’t win and you’ll bankrupt your country. It’ll be a quagmire.’ And we were right.”

This officer’s “we-told-ya-so” narrative, as it turns out, is accurate. Saudi Arabia’s invasion of Yemen to destroy the Houthi rebellion (and reinstate the government of Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi) not only surprised the Obama administration, it was met with nearly open disdain by the U.S. military. Key senior officers of the U.S. Special Operations Command viewed the Houthis as a robust counter to al-Qaeda’s strength in Yemen and even argued that America take steps to support them.

“The Houthis were only nominally Iran’s surrogates,” a military officer told me at the time, “but they were also our quiet partners against al-Qaeda.” Yet back in 2015, because of the Saudi invasion (with support from nine other Arab states), the possibility that the Pentagon could count on Houthi backing was not only off the table, senior Pentagon officials predicted that the tribe would strengthen its ties with their Shia co-religionists in Iran—something that, prior to the Saudi invasion, it hadn’t wanted to do. That’s why key segments of the U.S. military thought the Saudi invasion was a mistake.

But that’s not how Senator John McCain saw it. McCain defended the Saudi invasion, linked it to Barack Obama’s decision to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, and said there was good reason that the Saudis had kept their planned intervention a secret. “These countries, led by Saudi Arabia, did not notify us nor seek our coordination or our assistance in this effort, because they believe we are siding with Iran,” McCain, who succumbed to cancer in 2018, said.

Senior U.S. military officers scoffed at this, even as, given McCain’s stature as the arbiter of all-things-military, they kept their views private. “The reason the Saudis didn’t inform us of their plans,” a U.S. Central Command officer told me at the time, “is because they knew we would have told them exactly what we think—that it was a bad idea.” Yemen expert Michael Horton, whose intimate knowledge of the conflict is informed by visits to the region, echoed these views while channeling the U.S. military’s skepticism about Saudi Arabian military competence: “Frankly, they cannot begin to manage this,” he told me soon after the Saudi intervention. “They have all the toys, but few people who know how to manage them. Their NCO and officer corps are largely untested, and their enlisted men are drawn from the lowest rungs of Saudi society. If they get bogged down in Yemen, I wonder about the loyalty of many of their soldiers and NCOs.”

The Saudi-led intervention began well enough, with a relentless air campaign and naval blockade that initially eroded Houthi strength. And despite its skepticism, the U.S. military turned on a dime, providing the Saudi-led coalition with intelligence and logistical support and advising senior officers of the United Arab Emirates, which commanded most of the anti-Houthi ground forces. But over the course of the next three years, the intervention bogged down. The blockade triggered a famine that affected millions of Yemenis, the UAE’s mercenary force proved no match for the better-led Houthis, rebel militias began to lob scud missiles into Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, Riyadh’s allies began to peel away from the coalition (the UAE exited Yemen last July), the UAE-led mercenary army suffered a series of devastating defeats along the Saudi border, and, most crucially, the Houthis strengthened their ties with Tehran—all of which Pentagon officials had predicted back in 2015.

Saudi Arabia’s troubles in Yemen rang alarm bells in Washington. Within months of taking office, Donald Trump’s national security team began meeting with Middle East experts to explore ways to ease the Saudis out of their Yemen pratfall. The under-the-radar meetings, conducted by national security adviser H.R. McMaster and his staff, were accompanied by mounting intelligence reports that Saudi Arabia’s intervention was throwing into doubt the long-term stability of the Saudi government. In fact, officials inside the royal family were using the Yemen crisis to mount a whisper campaign to undermine Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

In the wake of these White House consultations, a senior Pentagon official told me, the Trump administration reached two conclusions—that “all is not well in the House of Saud,” and that the U.S. should open talks with the Houthis to end the war. In September, as a part of this effort, the State Department dispatched David Schenker to Riyadh to pressure the Saudis to join prospective U.S.-Houthi talks hosted by Oman.

This history provides context for the September 14 missile and drone strikes on a major oil processing facility inside Saudi Arabia. The U.S. intelligence community has since concluded that the attack, launched from western Iran, accounted for nearly 20 strikes that destroyed four oil tanks and disabled sophisticated oil pumping equipment. While the damage only temporarily curtailed world oil supplies, it sent shudders through global oil markets—and the White House.

The Trump administration only briefly considered a military response, before dispatching Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Riyadh and then announcing the deployment of additional U.S. ground forces to help the Saudis improve their air defenses—a strategy that a senior Pentagon civilian described as “talking big and carrying a swagger stick.” In fact, the bluff and bluster belied the reality of what is actually happening in the region, this same Pentagon civilian told me. “We’re not the only ones moving pieces on the board,” he said. “Over the last two years, the Iranians have shown that they can hit us and our allies from all kinds of places.”

According to this official, the U.S. and Iran have been engaged in “a kind of low intensity proxy war” in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the waters of the Persian Gulf since May 2018, when Washington withdrew from the U.S.-Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. By one count, the tit-for-tat conflict (“an escalatory salvo in an expanding regional power struggle,” as one report phrased it), has included the bombing of oil tankers, drone strikes on key ports, missile strikes on Riyadh, cross border operations targeting Saudi soldiers, and a drone offensive on the Golan Heights.

The attacks have run parallel to Iran’s decision to upgrade and expand its support for Iranian proxies in the region, which, in turn, sparked the scrambling of Israeli jets to bomb suspected Iranian bases in Syria, Lebanon, and (most recently) Iraq. While the tit-for-tat blows have not yet put the U.S. and Iran into a direct confrontation, both nations are climbing the escalatory ladder towards war. Tehran’s new calculus (“expanding the battlefield,” as the senior Pentagon civilian phrased it) means that any U.S. strike against Iran itself would have to take into account multiple responses that would pit Iran and its allies (including Hezbollah) against the U.S. and its allies (including Israel).

“You know that popular map that you see on Twitter that shows that Iran is surrounded by U.S. bases?” the Pentagon civilian asks rhetorically. “Well, guess what? The Iranians have now surrounded Saudi Arabia. And so while we’ve ratcheted up the economic pressure, they’ve decided to do the same. Last week’s message was loud and clear—if we can’t market our oil, we’re going to make damn sure you can’t market yours.”

Left unsaid, but implied in this assessment, is what the official was careful not to say: that despite all of America’s saber rattling and Mike Pompeo’s bluster, the U.S. is playing an increasingly weak military hand—and it’s only getting weaker.

Mark Perry is a contributing editor at The American Conservative and the author of The Pentagon’s Wars. He tweets @markperrydc.



How Russia And Iran Beat Their Opponents’ Strategies – by Moon of Alabama – 17 Sept 2019

Over the last decades Russia and Iran both needed to develop means to protect themselves against an ever growing threat from the United States and its allies. Both found unique ways to build deterrence that fit their situation.

Neither the U.S. nor its allies reacted to those developments by adopting their strategies or military means. It is only recently that the U.S. has woken up to the real situation. The loss of half its oil export capacity may finally wake up Saudi Arabia. Most other U.S. allies are still asleep.

When NATO extended into east Europe and the U.S. left the Anti-Ballistic-Missile Treaty Russia announced that it would develop countermeasures to keep the U.S. deterred from attacking it. Ten years later Russia delivered on its promise.

It had developed a number of new weapons that can defeat the ballistic missile defense the U.S. installed. It also put emphasis on its own air and missile defense as well as on radar and on electronic countermeasures that are so good that a U.S. general described them as “eye-watering”.

All this allowed Putin to troll Trump by offering him Russian hypersonic missiles. As we analyzed:

Trump is wrong in claiming that the U.S. makes its own hypersonic weapons. While the U.S. has some in development none will be ready before 2022 and likely only much later. Hypersonic weapons are a Soviet/Russian invention. The ones Russia now puts into service are already the third generation. U.S. development of such missiles is at least two generations behind Russia’s.That Russian radar can ‘see’ stealth aircraft has been known since 1999 when a Yugoslav army unit shot down a U.S. F-117 Nighthawk stealth aircraft. Russian air and missile defense proved in Syria that it can defeat mass attacks by drones as well as by cruise missiles. U.S.-made air and missile defense in Saudi Arabia fails to take down even the primitive missiles Houthi forces fire against it.

Yesterday, during a press conference in Ankara with his Turkish and Iranian colleagues, Putin trolled Saudi Arabia (video @38:20) with a similar offer as he had made to Trump:

Q: Does Russia intend to provide Saudi Arabia with any help or support in restoring its infrastructure?Putin: As for assisting Saudi Arabia, it is also written in the Quran that violence of any kind is illegitimate except when protecting one’s people. In order to protect them and the country, we are ready to provide the necessary assistance to Saudi Arabia. All the political leaders of Saudi Arabia have to do is take a wise decision, as Iran did by buying the S-300 missile system, and as President Erdogan did when he bought Russia’s latest S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft system. They would offer reliable protection for any Saudi infrastructure facilities.

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani: So do they need to buy the S-300 or the S-400?

Vladimir Putin: It is up to them to decide.

Erdogan, Rouhani and Putin all laughed over this exchange.

U.S. allies, who have to buy U.S. weapons, have followed a similar defense investment strategy as the U.S. itself. They bought weapon systems that are most useful for wars of aggression but did not invest in defensive weapon systems that are needed when their enemies prove capable of hitting back.

That is the reason why Saudi Arabia has more than 350 modern fighter planes but only relatively few medium and long range air defense systems that date back to the 1970s.

The Saudi air defense is only able to protect certain economic and social centers. Most of its borders and its military bases are not covered.

[T]he point-defense layout of the network leaves large portions of the nation undefended by strategic SAM assets. While aircraft can be called upon to defend these areas if required, the presence of large gaps in the nationwide air defense picture leaves numerous vulnerabilities open to exploitation by a foreign aggressor.

Saudi air defense as documented by Amir at Iran GeoMil.

biggerMoreover the protection it has in place is unidirectional. The red circles designate the theoretical reach of the U.S. made PAC-2 air defense systems installed at their center. But the real reach of these systems only cover less than a half-circle. The PAC-2 and PAC-3 systems are sector defenses as their radars do not rotate. They can only see an arc of 120°. In the case of the Saudis those radars only look towards the east to Iran which is the most likely axis of attack. That left the crude oil processing plant in Abqaiq completely unprotected against attacks from any other direction. Neither Saudi Arabia nor the U.S. know where the attack really came from.

biggerThe Russian experience against the U.S. directed drone swarm attacks against its airbase Hmeymim in Syria showed that short range air defenses and electronic countermeasures are the best defense against mass drone and cruise missile attacks.

Saudi Arabia does not have short range air defenses against drones and cruise missiles because the U.S. does not have such systems. It also does not have sophisticated electronic countermeasures because the U.S. can not provide any decent ones.

What the Saudis need are the Russian Pantsyr-S1 short range air defense, dozens of them, and the Krasukha-4 electronic warfare system. The Russian may well offer at least the first item. But would the U.S. allow the Saudis to buy them?

Saudi Arabia, like the U.S., never took its opponents seriously. It bombed Yemen to smithereens and never expected to be hit back. It long rallied the U.S. to wage war on Iran but took few measures to protect itself from an Iranian counterreaction.

After the long range attack from Yemen in August it was warned that the Houthi’s missile reach had increased. Saudi Arabia ignored the warning and it took zero notable measures to protect Abqaiq processing center which is a choke point for half its income.

Iran, in contrast, developed its weapons along an asymmetric strategy just as Russia did.

Iran does not have a modern airforce. It does not need one because it is not aggressive. It has long developed other means to deter the U.S., Saudi Arabia and other opponents in the Middle East. It has a large number of self developed medium range ballistic missiles and a whole zoo of short to medium range drones and cruise missiles. It can hit any economic or military target within their 2,000 kilometer reach.

It also makes its own air defenses which recently enabled it to take down an expensive U.S. drone. Here is General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of IRGC’s Aerospace Force, explaining how that was done (video, engl. subs).

Iran developed relations with friendly population groups in other countries and trained and equipped them with the necessary defensive means. These are Hizbullah in Lebanon, various groups in the Syria, the PMG/Hashd in Iraq, the Houthi in Yemen and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

None of these groups is a full proxy for Iran. They all have their own local politics and will at times disagree with their big partner. But they are also willing to act on Iran’s behalf should the need arise.

Iran developed a number of weapons exclusively for its allies that differ from the ones it itself uses. It enables its partners to build those weapons themselves. The cruise missile and drones that the Houti in Yemen use are different from the one Iran uses for its own forces.

New drones and missiles displayed in July 2019 by Yemen’s Houthi-allied armed forces


Iran has thereby plausible deniability when attacks like the recent one on Abquiq happen. That Iran supplied drones with 1,500 kilometer reach to its allies in Yemen means that its allies in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq and elsewhere have access to similar means.

The Saudis have long failed to take Iran’s counter strategy into their considerations just as the U.S. has failed to consider the Russian’s. Both will have to change their aggressive strategies. Both are now going have to (re-)develop real defensive means.

Moon of Alabama

Crises in the Middle-East and a Few Hopefully Useful Pointers – by The Saker • 18 Sept 2019

The Middle-East is literally exploding: the Houthis have delivered an extremely effective blow against Saudi oil production which (so they claim) has now dropped by 50% before bouncing back; there are persistent rumors that Russian Su-35S and S-400 have threatened to shoot down Israeli aircraft attacking Syria; Lebanon has declared that it will defend itself against Israeli attacks; Hezbollah has been threatening to deliver crippling strikes on Israel and even Israeli officials; Turkey has purchased Russian air defenses and says that if the US refuses to deliver their F-35s, then Turkey will consider Su-35S and even maybe Su-57’s. Bibi Netanyahu tried to use Putin for his reelection campaign (well, he really is trying desperately to stay out of jail) but had to go home empty handed and, according to the JP, his mission was a failure.

Finally, and just to make sure that the crises are only limited to the Middle-East: the Polish and the EU Court have successfully sued to try to force Russia to use the Ukrain gas transit; the US is invoking ancient treaties to threaten Venezuela; the UK is going to hell in a handbasket; Europe (well, Germany) can’t even get the Polish to heel about North Stream 2 (well, they are heeling, of course, but to Uncle Sam, not Angela Merkel); India and Pakistan are threatening one another over Kashmir. Did I forget anything?

Oh yes, the DPRK is firing new missiles; the US wants to blame Iran for the Houthi attacks; China categorically rejects such accusations, while Russia continues to announce new revolutionary weapons built on new principles and plans to deploy the S-500 “Prometheus”, just to make sure the Empire does not get any stupid ideas about trying to strike Russia (or her allies which will begin purchasing the S-500 in 2021, according official sources).

I am sure I have forgotten plenty. Really, the Empire is collapsing on all fronts and that, in turn, means the chances that the ignorant dimwits in the White House will do something very stupid, dramatically increase.

Yes, I know, Bolton was fired. And I applaud that, but considering that I believe that Pompeo is even more delusional and evil than Bolton (not to mention fantastically arrogant!), that is hardly a reason to hope (I just read that Robert C. O’Brien will succeed Bolton; he used to be the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department; I wonder if that means even more kidnappings of Russian nationals worldwide…?).

There is so much to cover here that I will limit myself to a few points about the Middle-East which I think are important.

First, the partial destruction of the most important Saudi oil facilities is a HUGE embarrassment for the US. Remember that the KSA is really the “center” of CENTCOM and even the reason for its existence (to “protect” Iran from the USSR and officially keep the Shah safe, but in reality this was also part of a major deal between the US the KSA: “you accept payment only in dollars and we will protect you against everybody“). Sure, there is a long list of western stooges to which a similar promise was made, including Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Manuel Noriega, Hosni Mubarak and many others; most are now dead, the rest in jail (iirc). Now its the turn of the Saudis it seems: not only could the super-duper “better than the S-300” patriots not stop the Houthis, all of the combined might of CENTCOM failed too.

Second, I can only concur with ‘b’ at Moon of Alabamathe war is over for the KSA. Whether they realize it or not makes no difference. Okay, it will make a difference in time, but in time only. The Saudis and their US patrons have three solutions:

  1. Continue pretty much like before: that is the definition of insanity if different results are expected.
  2. Escalate and strike Iran, following which the entire Middle-East will explode with dramatic consequences.
  3. Do what the US always does: declare victory and leave.

Obviously, the third option is the only sensible one, but who said that Bibi, Trump or MbS are sensible at all? Tulsi Gabbard joined me in calling Trump somebody’s bitch, except I call him an Israeli bitch whereas Gabbard calls him a Saudi bitch. Same difference!

There is, however, one restraining factor: if Trump ever strikes Iran he will become the “disposable President” for the Neocons: Iran will use the opportunity to strike Israel and Trump will be impeached for it (the Neocons are, after all, in total control of the DNC and many key committees in Congress).

So this will all boil down to Trump and whether he has the info and brains to realize that an attack on Iran will wreck his Presidency (which is already FUBARed enough and attacking Iran will make it official) and he will be both impeached and, obviously, never reelected.

Third , could the Houthis have done it themselves? Absolutely yes. Iran did not have to strike directly, precisely because the Houthis were capable of doing it themselves. Check out this official exhibit of Houthi ballistic missiles and drones and see for yourself here and here. Furthermore, the Houthis are becoming very similar to Hezbollah and they have clearly learned advanced missile and drone capabilities (from Iran, which is why the Israelis and the US are so angry). Now I am not, repeat, NOT saying that Iran did not help or that this strike would have been as successful had Iran not provided intelligence, targeting, technical expertise, etc. But if there is any evidence of direct Iranian involvement, let this “malevolent manatee” (which is how Fred Reed referred to Pompeo) show it to the world, and it better be better than the crap they showed for Skripal or the chemical false flags in Syria.

Fourth, what this means for the KSA and their AngloZionist patrons is that the Houthis can strike anywhere inside the KSA with total impunity. And not only in the KSA. Furthermore, I suspect that Iran can also hit every single oil or gas related facility in the Middle-East just like it can strike every US/CENTCOM/NATO/Israeli objective it wants. Furthermore, in case of total war in the Middle-East, you can expect missiles raining down on US facilities not only from Yemen (Houthis) and Lebanon (Hezbollah) but also potentially from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fifth, it really does not matter where or what the US and/or Saudis and/or Israelis fire at Iran, the response will be the same, at least according to Professor Marandi: it will be massive and the oil and gas export capability of the entire Middle-East will be threatened. There is no safe, cheap or effective way to strike Iran. But do the folks in DC realize that?

Next, I want to offer a few points about the alleged interception of Israeli F-35 by Russian Su-35S over Syria.

First, we really don’t have the facts, so let’s wait a little. Most stories about this come from one Arabic online paper. Now, in the last 24 hours there was “sort of kinda” confirmation from Russia, but not from officials, and these reports were not so much giving factual details as gloating that Netanyahu walked away from Russia with nothing.

Second, my best guess is that this story is probably based on reality. The Israelis have been behaving as if they did not care about the Russian presence in Syria: so they engage in airstrikes exclusively for PR purposes (remember, Bibi wants to avoid jail!) and the Russians probably complained and were ignored, and now they’ve had enough.

Third, the fact that the Jerusalem Post had to published a horrified article about this event conclusively proves that those who were trying to convince us that Russia and Israel were working hand in hand and that Putin was Bibi’s best friend were, well, full of crapola and their clickbait was just that: clickbait.

Fourth, there are those technology buffs who will always try to prove that the Su-35S is vastly superior to the F-35 and that this story is very credible and those who will explain that the F-35 is vastly superior to the Su-35S and that this story is pure invention. The truth is that it is useless and meaningless to compare two advanced aircraft “in the abstract” or declare that one is so much better than the other. Okay, yes, the Su-35S is superior in many aspects to the F-35, but most definitely not in all possible scenarios. In fact, we would also need to know what other aircraft were in the air at the time – including AWACs, SEAD and EW – and we would need to find out exactly what role the Russian S-400s played (if any). Generally, I urge you not to engage in a) “bean-counting” (only looking at quantities) or in b) making direct combat aircraft comparisons. In the latter case, we would need to know what kind (and how much) of training the pilots got, what kind of weapons they had, what kind of sensors they used and how, and more generally, exactly how the Israelis decided to structure their attack and how the Russians decided to respond. Finally, we would have to get some detail on sensor fusing, network-centric operations, datalinks, etc. Since we know nothing about any of that, I recommend that we don’t dwell on aircraft/radar/missile X vs aircraft/radar/missile Y. It’s just not worth it.

Fifth, there are already rumors about this being a false flag operation of the Israelis, the British, the KSA or the US. Well, I sure can’t prove a negative, but I see no compelling reason to make such conclusions. First, this is really bad news for the Empire and, second, the Houthis have done similar actions many times in the past and there is no reason to suspect that they could not have done what they did. Still, it is also undeniable that any hike in oil prices benefits a lot of people (US shale, Russia, the KSA, etc.). Finally, there is always and by definition the risk of the Israelis and their Neocon allies pulling off some kind of false flag to finally trigger a US attack on Iran. All these are, however, only indirect arguments, at least so far. The fact that a false flag is possible does not mean it actually happened, let’s never forget that and never drop to premature or unfounded conclusions.

Sixth, let’s look at the targets themselves. We are talking about oil facilities, huge ones, which under the logic of US/NATO/Israel (aka the “Axis of Kindness”) is most definitely classified as “regime support infrastructure” or something similar. Furthermore, even under non Axis of Kindness logic, the laws of war allow strikes on infrastructures critical to the enemy’s military effort. So while TV stations, embassies or medical factories are NOT legal targets, critical oil facilities are. The ONLY stipulation is that the attacking side make an honest effort in selecting targets and munitions and try to avoid avoidable casualties. As far as I know, the Saudis have mentioned zero victims. Yes, that is unlikely, but that is how things stand for the time being. In this case, the Houthi strike was absolutely legitimate, especially considering the kind of genocidal devastation the Axis of Kindness and the KSA have unleashed against Yemen.

Lastly, I will venture a guess as to why the US and Saudi air defense were so useless: they probably never expected an attack from Yemen, at least not such a sophisticated one. Most of the US/KSA air defenses are deployed to defend against an attack from Iran, from the northern direction. The fact that this strike was so successful strongly suggest that it came from the south, from Yemen.

Conclusion: (Sept 18th)

I was about to conclude that according to RT, the Saudi Oil Minister has declared that the KSA “don’t know yet who is responsible” and that this was good news. Then I saw this: “Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of sponsoring oil-plant attack, says it ‘couldn’t have originated in Yemen“, also on RT. Not good. Not credible either.

For one thing, had it been Iran, the strike would have been far more massive and would have only been a part of a much bigger, full-scale, attack not only on Saudi oil facilities, but also on all crucial CENTCOM installations and forces. There is no way the Iranians would have opened major hostilities (and these strikes were definitely described by the Saudis as “major”) just to wait for a massive US/KSA/Israeli retaliation. The Iranians are most certainly not going to repeat Saddam Hussein’s crucial mistake and allow the US/CENTCOM/NATO/Israel/KSA the time needed to prepare for a massive attack on Iran.

I am monitoring various “indicators and warnings” which would suggest that the US is up to no good, and so far I have noticed only one potentially worrying event: MSC Sealift and US transportation Command has ordered a no-notice turbo activation of between 23 to 25 ships from the 46 ship Ready Reserve Force (RRF have to be 5-day ready). This is an unprecedented number since 2003 and it could mean somebody just taking precautions or someone is getting twitchy. But the timing is usually September, but not in this number (more about this here). But please keep in mind that such indicators cannot be considered in isolation from other facts. Should there be more, I will do my best to report them on the blog.

The fact that US/KSA air defenses performed so miserably does not mean that the US is totally clueless about ‘whodunit’. There are a lot of other sensors and systems (including in space) which will detect a missile launch (especially a ballistic missile!) and there are some radar modes which allow for long-range detection but not necessarily capable of track-while-scan or of long-range engagements. Furthermore, you can also monitor data signals and general telemetry, and since the US has immense databases with the “signature” signals from all sorts of enemy hardware, they also probably could accurately assess which type of systems were used. Just in this case, just as in the case of MH-17, the Pentagon knows exactly ‘whodunit’. Ditto for the Russians who have a lot of SIGINT/FISINT in the Middle-East (and in space).

But in the last days of the Empire, facts don’t really matter. What matters is whatever is seen as politically expedient by the folks in the White House and in Israel. My biggest hope is that Trump finds out the truth about the strikes and that he has enough brains left to understand that should he strike Iran he will lose the election and will probably even be impeached to boot.

Let’s hope that his narcissistic instincts will save our long-suffering planet!

Saudi Maginot Line – The Drone Attacks on Saudi Arabia Have Changed Global Warfare – by Patrick Cockburn – 22 Sept 2019

Saudi Attack hole

The devastating attack on Saudi oil facilities by drones and missiles not only transforms the balance of military power in the Middle East, but marks a change in the nature of warfare globally.

On the morning of 14 September, 18 drones and seven cruise missiles – all cheap and unsophisticated compared to modern military aircraft – disabled half of Saudi Arabia’s crude oil production and raised the world price of oil by 20 per cent.

This happened despite the Saudis spending $67.6bn (£54bn) on their defence budget last year, much of it on vastly expensive aircraft and air defence systems, which notably failed to stop the attack. The US defence budget stands at $750bn (£600.2bn), and its intelligence budget at $85bn (£68bn), but the US forces in the Gulf did not know what was happening until it was all over.

Excuses advanced for this failure include the drones flying too low to be detected and unfairly coming from a direction different from the one that might have been expected. Such explanations sound pathetic when set against the proud boasts of the arms manufacturers and military commanders about the effectiveness of their weapons systems.

Debate is ongoing about whether it was the Iranians or the Houthis who carried out the attack, the likely answer being a combination of the two, but perhaps with Iran orchestrating the operation and supplying the equipment. But over-focus on responsibility diverts attention from a much more important development: a middle ranking power like Iran, under sanctions and with limited resources and expertise, acting alone or through allies, has inflicted crippling damage on theoretically much better-armed Saudi Arabia which is supposedly defended by the US, the world’s greatest military super-power.

If the US and Saudi Arabia are particularly hesitant to retaliate against Iran it is because they know now, contrary to what they might have believed a year ago, that a counter-attack will not be a cost-free exercise. What happened before can happen again: not for nothing has Iran been called a “drone superpower”. Oil production facilities and the desalination plants providing much of the fresh water in Saudi Arabia are conveniently concentrated targets for drones and small missiles.

In other words, the military playing field will be a lot more level in future in a conflict between a country with a sophisticated air force and air defence system and one without. The trump card for the US, Nato powers and Israel has long been their overwhelming superiority in airpower over any likely enemy. Suddenly this calculus has been undermined because almost anybody can be a player on the cheap when it comes to airpower.

Anthony Cordesman, a military expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, succinctly sums up the importance of this change, writing that “the strikes on Saudi Arabia provide a clear strategic warning that the US era of air supremacy in the Gulf, and the near US monopoly on precision strike capability, is rapidly fading.” He explains that a new generation of drones, cruise missiles, and precision strike ballistic missiles are entering the Iranian inventories and have begun to spread to the Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Similar turning points in military history have occurred when the deployment of an easily produced weapon suddenly checkmates the use of a more complicated one.

A good example of this was the attack on 11 November 1940, on five Italian battleships, moored at their base at Taranto by 20 slow moving but sturdy British Swordfish biplanes, armed with torpedoes and launched from an aircraft carrier. At the end of the day, three of the battleships had been sunk or badly damaged while only two of the British planes were missing. The enormity of the victory achieved at such minimal cost ended the era when battleships ruled the sea and replaced them with one in which aircraft carriers with torpedo/bomber were supreme. It was a lesson noted by the Japanese navy which attacked Pearl Harbour in similar fashion a year after Taranto.

The Saudis showed off the wreckage of the drones and missiles to assembled diplomats and journalists this week in a bid to convince them that the Iranians were behind the air raid. But the most significant feature of the broken drone and missile parts was that, in full working order, the weapons that had just rocked the world economy would not have cost a lot. By way of contrast, the US-made Patriot anti-aircraft missiles, the main air defence of Saudi Arabia that were so useless last Saturday, cost $3m (£2.4bn) apiece.

Cost and simplicity are important because they mean that Iran, the Houthis, Hezbollah and almost any country can produce drones and missiles in numbers large enough to overwhelm any defences they are likely to meet.

Compare the cost of the drone which would be in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to the $122m (£97.6m) price of a single F-35 fighter, so expensive that it can only be purchased in limited numbers. As they take on board the meaning of what happened at Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities, governments around the world will be demanding that their air force chiefs explain why they need to spend so much money when cheap but effective alternatives are available. Going by past precedent, the air chiefs and arms manufacturers will fight to their last breath for grossly inflated budgets to purchase weapons of dubious utility in a real war.

The attack on Saudi Arabia reinforces a trend in warfare in which inexpensive easily acquired weapons come out on top. Consider the track record of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED), usually made out of easily available fertiliser, detonated by a command wire, and planted in or beside a road. These were used with devastating effect by the IRA in South Armagh, forcing the British Army off the roads and into helicopters.

IEDs were used in great numbers and with great effect against US-led coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Immense resources were deployed by the US military into finding a counter to this deadly device, which included spending no less than $40bn (£32bn) on 27,000 heavily armoured vehicles called MRAPs. A subsequent army study revealed that that the number of US servicemen killed and wounded in an attack on an MRAP was exactly the same as in the vehicles which they had replaced.

It is unthinkable that American, British and Saudi military chiefs will accept that they command expensive, technically advanced forces that are obsolete in practice. This means they are stuck with arms that suck up resources but are, in practical terms, out of date. The Japanese, soon after they had demonstrated at Pearl Harbour the vulnerability of battleships, commissioned the world’s largest battleship, the Yamato, which fired its guns only once and was sunk in 1945 by US torpedo aircraft and bombers operating from aircraft carriers.

ship sinking

U.S. Ships More Air Defense Systems That Do Not Work To Saudi Arabia (Moon of Alabama) 21 Sept 2019

The Washington Post notices Russia’s offer to sell its air defense systems to Saudi Arabia. It does not like that:

The attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities last weekend were a disaster for both Riyadh and Washington, with weapons allegedly made in Iran circumventing expensive U.S. missile defense systems.But in Moscow, news of the attack was greeted as yet another chance to mock the United States and its allies — all while extolling the virtues of Russia’s own missile defense technology.

“We still remember the fantastic U.S. missiles that failed to hit a target more than a year ago, while now the brilliant U.S. air defense systems could not repel an attack,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a briefing on Friday. “These are all links in a chain.”

The Yemeni attack on Saudi oil installations caused serious damage (more photos). In Abqaiq at least five of nine stabilization columns were destroyed. These are needed to make crude oil transportable. The three phase separators that separate the fluids into gas, oil and water were likewise eliminated. Most of the gas storage tanks at Abqaiq were penetrated.

biggerSome 5,000 additional workers are now racing to repair the damage. It will still take weeks if not months to get everything up and running again.

Saudi Arabia had to delay oil deliveries to Asian customers. Some will receive heavy oil grades instead of the light sweet crude they ordered. Deliveries to Bahrain were halted completely. Deliveries to Saudi refineries were cut. Saudi Arabia bought additional gasoline and kerosene from the international markets as its own refineries received less crude oil than needed. Saudi citizens report of a lack of gasoline and a video shows long queues in front of a local gas station.

The air defenses surrounding Abqaiq proved to be ineffective. That may have been because they were shut off. But it is doubtful that the systems, even if they had been on alert, would have made any difference.

The U.S. made Patriot system in question was built as an air defense system against fighter jets. It was later upgraded to give it some capability against ballistic missiles. But even its latest iteration is not capable of defeating smaller drones or low flying cruise missiles.

While the Washington Post writer recognizes that the Patriot system can cover only one third of the horizon and fails to detect smaller low flying objects he still asserts that it is better than the systems Russia makes:

While Russia’s S-400 system may have impressive specifications on paper, many analysts are cautious in their assessment of it. It has not been fully tested in real life, whereas the Patriot system successfully intercepted missiles during both the Gulf War and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The “successfully intercepted” link goes to the a site named missiledefenseadvocacy.org which is obviously a lobby organization to promote U.S. air defense systems. Its description of the Patriot includes these two claims:

During the Gulf War, U.S. Patriot batteries brought down at least 11 enemy missiles and other Patriot batteries deployed in defense of Israel’s major cities intercepted numerous incoming missiles as well.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. Patriot batteries intercepted a total of nine enemy tactical ballistic missiles. One notable intercept occurred on March 23, 2003 when Iraqi forces launched an Ababil-100 tactical ballistic missile (TBM) at coalition forces in Kuwait. The TBM was destroyed by a Patriot system protecting over 4,000 Soldiers and the Aviation Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division.

There is serious doubt that those numbers are true. Besides that the number of hits does not say anything about the system unless one also knows the number of missiles it failed to engage. After the first Gulf war Congress investigated the issue and concluded:

The Patriot missile system was not the spectacular success in the Persian Gulf War that the American public was led to believe. There is little evidence to prove that the Patriot hit more than a few Scud missiles launched by Iraq during the Gulf War, and there are some doubts about even these engagements.

During the first Gulf war the Patriot system had a systemic software problem that made them incapable of hitting the targets:

On February 25, 1991, during the Gulf War, an American Patriot Missile battery in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, failed to track and intercept an incoming Iraqi Scud missile. The Scud struck an American Army barracks, killing 28 soldiers and injuring around 100 other people. A report of the General Accounting office, GAO/IMTEC-92-26, entitled Patriot Missile Defense: Software Problem Led to System Failure at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia reported on the cause of the failure. It turns out that the cause was an inaccurate calculation of the time since boot due to computer arithmetic errors. Specifically, the time in tenths of second as measured by the system’s internal clock was multiplied by 1/10 to produce the time in seconds. This calculation was performed using a 24 bit fixed point register. In particular, the value 1/10, which has a non-terminating binary expansion, was chopped at 24 bits after the radix point. The small chopping error, when multiplied by the large number giving the time in tenths of a second, led to a significant error.

Twelve years later, during the war on Iraq, the Patriots also failed:

The 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, which is charged with protecting U.S. ground forces from air and missile attacks, recently released its account of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” As part of that history, the command reports that the Patriot missile defense system, which is designed to destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, scored a perfect nine for nine in intercepting Iraqi missiles. Colonel Charles Anderson, chief of staff of the command, wrote, “The critics concerns over Patriot lethality should be forever silenced.”Yet Iraq fired at least 23 ballistic and cruise missiles, according to the report, during the three-week span it took U.S. forces to fight their way to Baghdad and topple Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Nine out of more than twenty three is better than zero but not a great record. But the Patriots also achieved two hits on fighter planes. Unfortunately those were the wrong ones:

A US Navy fighter has been shot down over Iraq by a Patriot missile in the second friendly-fire incident involving the weapon.The F-18 Hornet from the carrier Kitty Hawk went missing on Wednesday night during a bombing mission. The incident follows the shooting down of an RAF Tornado GR4 by a Patriot as it returned to base in Kuwait, with the loss of its two-man crew.

In 2017 the Saudis fired Patriot missiles against Yemeni ballistic missiles that were launched at Riyadh. All of them failed to hit their targets:

[M]y colleagues at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and I closely examined two different missile attacks on Saudi Arabia from November and December 2017.In both cases, we found that it is very unlikely the missiles were shot down, despite officials’ statements to the contrary.

The Patriot system does not work. It is one of those typical U.S. big ticket items that enrich the owners of the defense industry but are of little combat value.

The U.S. is now sending more soldiers to Saudi Arabia with more Patriot systems and additional Terminal High Attitude Area Defense, or THAAD, systems. Neither of these can protect against drones or cruise missiles like those that were used in the attack on Abqaiq. The whole operation is useless security theater.

When the U.S. attacked Syria with 105 cruise missiles the Russian equipped Syrian army managed to shoot down 71 of them. The cruise missiles that got through were aimed at undefended targets.

The Russian base in Syria was attacked several times by swarms of drones. All were taken down by either electronic countermeasures or by short range air defense systems. The long range S-400 have not been engaged yet because no situation required their use.

What Saudi Arabia needs is a layered defense systems similar to the one Syria deploys. It requires point defense systems like Pantsyr-S1 and medium range defense systems like the BUK-2. Long range defense systems like the S-400 can be added to protect against high flying bombers and against ballistic missiles. Electronic countermeasures like the Krasuhka-4 system can be added to suppress radio commanded missiles and drones.

No western country can provide such a modern layered system. If the Saudis really want to defend their country they will have to buy the Russian stuff. But the U.S. is unlikely to allow that.

That makes it more likely that the Saudis will accept the ceasefire the Yemeni Houthi have just offered to them (machine translation):

In a speech marking the fifth anniversary of the September 21 revolution, President of the Supreme Political Council Mehdi Mashat launched a peace initiative in which he called on all parties from all sides of the war to seriously engage in serious and genuine negotiations leading to a comprehensive national reconciliation that does not exclude anyone from injecting blood. In the interest of the remaining bonds of brotherhood and to overcome the higher national interests.He announced the cessation of the targeting of Saudi territory by flying planes, ballistic missiles, wings and all forms of targeting.

“We are waiting for the same or better greetings in a similar announcement to stop all forms of targeting and aerial bombardment of our Yemeni territory and reserve the right to respond if this initiative is not met,” he said.

We will have to wait to see how the Saudi clown prince reacts to that offer. If he rejects it the Houthi will surely remind him that his oil exporting desert country is a target rich environment.


Resistance to Islamization Spreads Across China – “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers…” by Steven Lee Myers (Indian Express) 22 Sept 2019

Uyghur Fighters in Syria(Uyghurs from China some of the most brutal Islamic Jihadist in Syria)

In China s northwest, the government is stripping the most overt expressions of the Islamic faith from a picturesque valley where most residents are devout Muslims. Authorities have destroyed domes and minarets on mosques that were built without construction permits, including one in a small village near Linxia, a city known as Little Mecca.

Similar demolitions have been carried out in Inner Mongolia, Henan and Ningxia, the homeland of China s largest Muslim ethnic minority, the Hui. In the southern province of Yunnan, three mosques were closed. From Beijing to Ningxia, officials have banned the public use of Arabic script.

This campaign represents the newest front in the Chinese Communist Party s sweeping rollback of individual religious freedoms, after decades of relative openness that allowed more moderate forms of Islam to blossom. The harsh crackdown on Muslims that began with the Uighurs in Xinjiang is spreading to more regions and more groups.

a group of people walking down the street

It is driven by the party s fear that adherence to the Muslim faith could turn into religious extremism and open defiance of its rule. Across China, the party is now imposing new restrictions on Islamic customs and practices, in line with a confidential party directive, parts of which have been seen by The New York Times.

The measures reflect the hard-line policies of China s leader, Xi Jinping, who has sought to reassert the primacy of the Communist Party and its ideology in all walks of life.

Uyghur Fighters 2

(Uyghur Islamic Fighters in Syria)

The campaign has prompted concerns that the repression of Uighur Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang has begun to bleed into other parts of China, targeting Hui and other Muslims who have been better integrated than Uighurs into Chinese society. Last year, a top party official from Ningxia praised Xinjiang’s government during a visit there and pledged to increase cooperation between the two regions on security matters.

Uyghur riots

(2009 – Uyghur Islamists attack random Han Chinese civilians on the streets during Islamist organized  Ürümqi riots  197 killed )

Uyghur 5

(Han Chinese man beaten to the ground by Islamist Uyghur protesters July 2009)

Haiyun MaHaiyun Ma, a Hui Muslim professor at Frostburg State University in Maryland, said the crackdown was continuing a long history of animosity toward Islam in China that has alienated believers.

The People s Republic of China has become the world s foremost purveyor of anti-Islamic ideology and hate, he wrote in a recent essay for the Hudson Institute. This, in turn, has translated into broad public support for the Beijing government s intensifying oppression of Muslims in the Xinjiang region and elsewhere in the country.

None of the new measures, so far, have approached the brutality of Xinjiang s mass detentions and invasive surveillance of Uighurs. But they have already stirred anxiety among the Hui, who number more than 10 million.

We are now backtracking again, Cui Haoxin, a Hui Muslim poet who publishes under the name An Ran, said in an interview in Jinan, south of Beijing, where he lives.

To Cui, the methods of repression that are smothering Uighur society in Xinjiang now loom over all of China. One day, this model will not only target Muslims, he said. Everyone will be harmed by it.

a close up of a brick building: A shuttered mosque in Kashgar with its crescent removed from the dome’s peak, in China’s western region of Xinjiang, where most ethnic Uighurs live (Gilles Sabri The New York Times.) (A closed mosque in Kashgar with its crescent removed from the dome’s peak, in China’s western region of Xinjiang, where most ethnic Uighurs live)

Sinicization of Islam

Islam has had followers in China for centuries. There are now 22 million to 23 million Muslims, a tiny minority in a country of 1.4 billion. Among them, the Hui and the Uighurs make up the largest ethnic groups. Uighurs primarily live in Xinjiang, but the Hui live in enclaves scattered around the nation.

The restrictions they now face can be traced to 2015, when Xi first raised the issue of what he called the Sinicization of Islam, saying all faiths should be subordinate to Chinese culture and the Communist Party. Last year, Xi s government issued a confidential directive that ordered local officials to prevent Islam from interfering with secular life and the state s functions.

Critics of China s policies who are outside the country provided excerpts from the directive to The Times. The directive, titled Reinforcing and Improving Islam Work in the New Situation, has not been made public. It was issued by the State Council, China s Cabinet, in April of last year and classified as confidential for 20 years.

The directive warns against the Arabization of Islamic places, fashions and rituals in China, singling out the influence of Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam s holiest sites, as a cause for concern.

It prohibits the use of the Islamic financial system. It bars mosques or other private Islamic organizations from organizing kindergartens or after-school programs, and it forbids Arabic-language schools to teach religion or send students abroad to study.

The most visible aspect of the crackdown has been the targeting of mosques built with domes, minarets and other architectural details characteristic of Central Asia or the Arabic world.

a group of people sitting at a table: Hui Muslim men attend midday prayers at a mosque in Linxia, China, Sept. 15, 2019. Spray paint has been applied to the vase on the right, possibly to cover up Arabic script. In 2018, President Xi s government issued a confidential directive that ordered local officials to prevent Islam from interfering with secular life and the state s functions. (Gilles Sabri The New York Times.)( No Women Allowed – Hui Muslim men attend midday prayers at a mosque in Linxia, China, Sept. 15, 2019. Spray paint has been applied to the vase on the right, possibly to cover up Arabic script. In 2018, President Xi s government issued a confidential directive that ordered local officials to prevent Saudi Wahhabi Islam from interfering with secular life and the state s functions..)

Targeting Domes and Arabic Script

In the state s view, the spread of Islamic customs dangerously subverts social and political conformity.

In Ningxia, the provincial government banned public displays of Arabic script, even removing the word halal from the official seal it distributes to restaurants that follow Islamic customs for preparing food. The seals now use Chinese characters. That prohibition spread this summer to Beijing and elsewhere.

The authorities in several provinces have stopped distributing halal certificates for food, dairy and wheat producers and restaurants. Chinese state media have described this as an effort to curb a pan-halal tendency in which Islamic standards are being applied, in the government s view, to too many types of foods or restaurants.

Ningxia and Gansu have also banned the traditional call to prayer. Around historical mosques there, prayer times are now announced with a grating claxon. One imam in Ningxia s capital, Yinchuan, said authorities had recently visited and warned him to make no public statements on religious matters.

The Arabic word halal (still slightly visible at center) has been painted out on this sign at a poultry shop in Linxia, China, Sept. 15, 2019. The authorities in several provinces have stopped distributing halal certificates for food, dairy and wheat producers and restaurants. (Gilles Sabri The New York Times.) (still slightly visible at center) has been painted out on this sign at a poultry shop in Linxia, China, Sept. 15, 2019. The authorities in several provinces have stopped distributing halal certificates for food, dairy and wheat producers and restaurants.)

Authorities have also targeted the mosques themselves. In Gansu, construction workers in Gazhuang, a village near Linxia, descended on a mosque in April, tearing off its golden dome. It has not yet reopened. Plainclothes policemen prevented two Times journalists from entering.

In the southern province of Yunnan, where there have long been Hui communities, authorities last December padlocked mosques in three small villages that had been run without official permission. There were protests and brief scuffles with police, to no avail. The county issued a statement accusing the mosques of holding illegal religious activities and classes.

In one of the villages, Huihuideng, Ma Jiwu carried his grandson outside the shuttered local mosque, which had operated inside a home.

Ma, wearing the distinctive skullcap that many Hui wear, said the imams there had ignored warnings to move their services to the village s main mosque, where a Chinese flag hangs in the central courtyard and a large red banner exhorts worshipers, Love your country, love your religion.

They did not listen, Ma said.

Near the main mosque, a woman said the closing of the smaller one had stirred resentment, but also a feeling of resignation. She used a Chinese idiom for helplessness against a superior force, in this case the government: The arm cannot twist the thigh.


‘Islam is Right About Women’ Posters Pasted on Streets in Mass Town – Liberals Outraged – Police Launch Manhunt – 21 Sept 2019

Winchester, Mass:  ‘Islam is Right About Women’ has been a topic on people’s mind and in conversation after someone put a number of leaflets on street signs and utility poles across the town of Winchester, Massachusetts,  during the last week or so.  Winchester is an upper class suburb of Boston.

Liberals and Islamophiles are outraged.

Local media reporters are baffled as to what the phrase ‘Islam is Right About Women.’   While the simple sentence would be easily understood by an elementary school fourth grader, people who work for the ‘consent manufacturing’ industry like newspapers and television and online media must pretend that they can not fathom what this message could possibly mean.

“This is hate speech,” one woman said to reporters.

“Hate speech” is an impossibly undefinable and elastic subject, as can be seen here. How is this “hate speech” in any conceivable fashion?

If an adherent of Islam put it up, he or she would strenuously object to that label, and maintain that Islam’s treatment of women was divinely-ordained justice. So if this is “hate speech,” then Islam is hateful, which I’m sure not a soul in the ‘manufacturing consent’ main stream media meant to imply.

Or are they afraid that the signs were put up by “Islamizationphobes”? If so, it’s an odd sort of “hate speech” to affirm what one opposes.

Anyway, is Islam right about women?

The Qur’an teaches that men are superior to women and should beat those from whom they “fear disobedience”: “Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them.

Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because Allah has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them.” — Qur’an 4:34

The Qur’an likens a woman to a field (tilth), to be used by a man as he wills: “Your women are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth as you will” — Qur’an 2:223

It declares that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man: “Get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as you choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her” — Qur’an 2:282

(Following Commandments from Qur’an – Gay Man Thrown Off Roof)

It allows men to marry up to four wives, and have sex with slave girls also: “If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if you fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly, then only one, or one that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice” — Qur’an 4:3

(Algerian Young Woman Assassinated for Refusing to Wear Hijab)

It rules that a son’s inheritance should be twice the size of that of a daughter: “Allah directs you as regards your children’s inheritance: to the male, a portion equal to that of two females” — Qur’an 4:11

It allows for marriage to pre-pubescent girls, stipulating that Islamic divorce procedures “shall apply to those who have not yet menstruated” — Qur’an 65:4

Also, a Muslim wife may not refuse sex. A hadith depicts Muhammad saying: “If a husband calls his wife to his bed [i.e. to have sexual relation] and she refuses and causes him to sleep in anger, the angels will curse her till morning” (Bukhari 4.54.460).

Mohamed said, “Most of the people in Hell will be women.”

And: “By him in Whose Hand lies my life, a woman can not carry out the right of her Lord, till she carries out the right of her husband. And if he asks her to surrender herself [to him for sexual intercourse] she should not refuse him even if she is on a camel’s saddle” (Ibn Majah 1854).

Islamic law stipulates: “The husband may forbid his wife to leave the home…because of the Reliance of the Traveller m10.4).

hadith related by Bayhaqi that the Prophet…said, ‘It is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to allow someone into her husband’s house if he is opposed, or to go out of it if he is averse” (

(Islamizationphobic Kurdish Women Fighter Destroys Islamic State Sign Ordering Women’s Modesty)

In the US the media has a theoretical  right to free speech.  But, there are many things that people in the American main stream media must not say, and they know that they can lose their jobs very easily no matter how popular or productive or intelligent they are.

In the US media one must praise Women’s Rights and praise Islam as a ‘Religion of Peace.’  Pointing out any of the things people who follow Islam believe, or what Islamic texts command Muslims to do is considered a crime against the Islamic Race.  Somehow the set of religious beliefs one adopts when one converts, or is forced to convert, to Islam changes one’s race.  So,  fierce intellectual opposition to Islamic ideas about women is not considered ‘Feminism’ or ‘Women’s Liberation.’  Intellectual opposition to Islamic ideas is labelled ‘racism.’

How can one support equality for women in society and at home and also defend Islam is a problem easily solved.  George Orwell called it ‘Doublethink.’  The ability to hold two conflicting ideas in ones head simultaneously with no problem and no debate.  As one American Leftist writer explained almost a hundred years ago, “It’s hard to get someone to understand something when their job depends on them not understanding the idea.”

The word ‘Islam’ means ‘submit.’


Saudis Bought the Most Expensive US ‘Defense’ Systems – The Systems Failed to Defend the Oil Plants – 20 Sept 2019

The American Made Patriot and Aegis Systems Are Designed to Make Money and Scare Opponents – Apparently, They Don’t Actually Stop Incoming Missiles and Drones

Saudi Patriots

The Houthi rebels in Yemen say that they have the intelligence and simple training required to launch drones and missiles that they have gotten from Iran.  Over the last four years the Houthis have been under a callous attack by Saudi Arabia backed and aimed by US satellite intelligence and mid-air refueling and who knows what else?


(Houthi Military Leader Brigadier Yahya Saree Announcing Successful Attack – Protesters Against Saudi Attacks in Yemen)

Two weeks ago Houthis announced their own improved air defense system.

Saudis and UAE forces seem to take particular delight in targeting schools and hospitals and weddings – anywhere people can not fight back and their are no men with sophisticated weapons.  So, the Houthis have tried to bring the war to Saudi Arabia with simple drone attacks at first and a few missiles that hit the Saudi airports.  But as the death toll from Saudi bombing and Saudi sponsored brutal Islamic Jihadist forces the Houthis have fought harder, and smarter.  The attack knocking out 50% of Saudi oil production will surely go down as one of the most successful military operations in this century.

aegis 1

Multiple Patriot missile launchers, Aegis destroyers and radar are supposed to be guarding Saudi airspace, but they failed to stop a massive strike on an oilfield.  They had one job, and they did not work.  The actual properties of the systems seem to be that they are very expensive and advertised around the world to ‘scare’ opponents.  Nobody is as afraid now.

aegus 4

Spending billions and billions and billions the Saudis and Americans smugly assumed no one would dare attack such a system backed by such a comprehensive air-defense and expensive radar.

aegis 3

There are 88 Patriot missile launchers – 52 of them are the latest PAC-3 version – supposed to shield the Saudi norther border.  There are three guided missile destroyers armed with 100 SM-2 missiles in the Persian Gulf monitoring anything coming from Iran.

Apparently these very expensive military systems do not work.

US and Saudi military forces first heard about the attacks when they looked at the news, or heard explosions.  They never saw it coming.

Patriot missile system

The Patriot and Aegis systems are not designed to pick up smaller aircraft, apparently.  US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo dreamed up an excuse for the failure, saying that “some of the finest in the world don’t always pick things up.” This would perhaps be plausible if only one Patriot launcher was online at the time of the attack

U.S. Navy photo by Jayme Pastoric

aegis 9

(A B-52H Stratofortress aircraft assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron lands at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, May 8, 2019. The Bomber Task Force is deployed to U.S. Central Command to defend American forces and interests in the region.)

Apparently all the kings horses and all the kings men…


Saudis Aramco was just about to offer a public sale of shares in the company in a couple of weeks – Aramco just lost half its value.

The Duran 20 Sept 2019


See Also: Military Times -Patriot missiles, amphibious transport dock deploy to deter Iranian ‘threats’

Trump Mocks Sen. Graham’s Calls for War, Asks How Iraq Worked Out – by Jason Ditz – (AntiWar.com) 18 Sept 2019

Bolton rips Trump for interest in diplomacy

Trump Line Drawing

In comments to reporters on Wednesday, President Trump is continuing to reject the idea of starting a war with Iran. After dismissing Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) calls, saying not starting a war was a sign of strength, he continued to roast Graham, citing Graham’s support for the Iraqi War, and saying reporters should ask “how did going into Iraq work out?

Graham is being predictably hawkish, but it seems that he’s in a minority in the Senate, where even many of his fellow Republicans are expressing reluctance to escalate precipitously, and are urging debate on the matter instead of hasty action.

Speaking of hawks, President Trump is reportedly facing intense criticism behind closed doors from recently fired John Bolton, who attended a closed-door lunch on Wednesday during which attendees say he repeatedly ripped Trump for policy decisions.

Bolton’s objections, surprising nobody who was paying attention, were to Trump’s interest in diplomacy. Bolton insisted that diplomatic overtures to both Iran and North Korea were doomed to fail, and even trying to hold talks sends a “terrible message.”


People Who Live In Glass Skyscrapers – Yemenis Promise to Target Abu Dhabi UAE – 19 Sept 2019

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have promised to launch drone and missile attacks on the United Arab Emirates and the skyscrapers sheathed in glass in the financial center of the city of Abu Dhabi.  The UAE has sent troops and mercenaries and Islamic Jihadists to fight in Yemen.
The Saudis and UAE allies seem to specialize in terror bombing on non-military targets like school buses, elementary schools, hospitals, weddings, and funerals in Yemen.  The US re-fuels Saudi jets mid-air so the bombers don’t have to fly all the way back to Saudi airfields.
The Houthis have been at war with a coalition of states led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE since March 2015, when the coalition invaded Yemen seeking to reinstall President Mansour Hadi who had been ousted the year prior. The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and produced a dire humanitarian crisis in which millions have lost access to regular food, clean water and healthcare.

The possibility that Iranian-made missiles were used in the attack on the Saudi oil plants isn’t a huge revelation, Viktor Murakhovsky, military analyst and editor-in-chief of Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine.


Saudi crying

Showcasing the wreckage from the missiles and drones that struck Abqaiq and Khurais facilities might have proven this point, but those were identified as soon as first photos of the debris emerged in wake of the strikes. Iran has developed such “long-range cruise missiles” on the basis of Soviet Kh-55 missile, which it bought from Ukraine in early 2000s, Murakhovsky said.

On the heels of a Saudi press conference blaming Tehran for this weekend’s oil field and refinery attacks, a Houthi military spokesman insisted the militant group was behind the the spectacular action, and vowed to carry out additional strikes beyond Saudi Arabia.

“We have dozens of targets within our range in the UAE, some are in Abu Dhabi and can be attacked at any time,” said the spokesman, Yahya Saria.

The UAE should stop its participation in the war on Yemen if it wants to protect its glass skyscrapers.

The Houthis have developed new drones powered by “normal and jet engines,” which will extend their range of attack, Saria added.

The armed group – known formally by its party title Ansar Allah – claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attacks on Saudi oil facilities, which led to disruptions in the global supply and spiked oil prices by nearly 20 percent. Both Riyadh and Washington insist Iran had a hand in the strikes, but the Islamic Republic has denied all involvement.

There’s no secret that Iran supplies weaponry and military hardware to the Houthis in Yemen and cruise missiles could’ve well been among those deliveries,” Murakhovsky, the weapons expert, said. If so, such missiles are “not difficult” to operate and the Houthi forces didn’t need any help from Iranian specialists to carry out the attack on their own, the military expert said.

Target Iran

‘Trump knows striking Iran is a bad idea’

What the Saudi report basically says is that “the weaponry could’ve been supplied, and probably was, by Iran in exactly the same way that the UK and others have supplied arms to Saudi Arabia, which had been used in this four-year war against Yemen,” Matthew Gordon-Banks, former British MP and senior research fellow at the UK Defense Academy, said.

But by coming up with accusations against their main geopolitical rivals in Tehran, Riyadh “tends to expect the US to do its dirty work for them” – meaning a retaliatory strike on Iran.  Many Americans remember the Saudi participation in the attacks on 9/11.  Who wants to die for the Saudis who always seem to want to pay mercenaries and Jihadists to do their dirty fighting for them?

The Saudis are unlikely to achieve the goal of America fighting Iran for them as US President Donald Trump knows that “no matter what his advisors may say, a strike against Iran could have devastating consequences throughout the Gulf and internationally.”

Iran is a strong, self-sufficient country, with large territory and capable military, and this means no rash moves from Washington should be expected before the 2020 election.

The majority of those, who voted for Trump don’t want war, suggesting that the US will continue sanctioning Tehran and will only resort to cold war moves aimed at maintaining tensions in oil-rich Persian Gulf.

See Also:


Street Artist Banksy Depicts Pro-EU British Parliament as Apes – 18 Sept 2019

banksy devolved parliament

Banksy’s painting “Devolved Parliament” – which depicts MPs as chimpanzees in the middle of a Commons session – is going up for auction.

banksy 3

The 13-foot long artwork is the artist’s largest known canvas work.

Alex Branczik, European head of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, said Banksy “confronted the burning issues of the day”, and that “regardless of where you sit in the Brexit debate, there’s no doubt that this work is more pertinent now than it has ever been, capturing unprecedented levels of political chaos and confirming Banksy as the satirical polemicist of our time”. The auction comes just one year after Banksy famously self-destructed an artwork immediately after a winning bid at the world-famous auction house.

banksy png

Earlier this year, “Devolved Parliament” was installed at The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery to mark the original ‘Brexit Day’, when the UK was meant to leave the EU.

This is not the first time the elusive and overtly political artist has made a statement on Brexit. Back in 2017, Banksy unleashed a mural in Dover of an overall-clad workman chipping out the UK’s star adorned on the EU flag. The same piece was mysteriously painted over this year.

banksy instagram

banksy pained over

Blunders eroded US military edge in Pacific – By Grant Newsham (Asia Times) 17 Sept 2019

US MilitaryIndo-Pacific|Analysis
Blunders eroded US military edge in Pacific

Chinese PLA Navy soldiers on a naval vessel in the South China Sea. Photo: Twitter

‘Averting Crisis’ report shows China has made big strides in region because of US inability to recognize the PLA as its key rival

The United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney recently issued a report: “Averting Crisis: American Strategy, Military Spending and Collective Defense in the Indo-Pacific.” Averting Disaster would be a better title. The crisis is already here.

The report correctly describes America’s eroded military edge in the Indo-Pacific – such that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army even outmatches US forces in certain areas. In fact this was apparent 10 or more years ago. Yet anyone sounding the alarm would have been poorly received at most academic institutions – maybe even the University of Sydney.

So while the report’s findings are unsurprising, the fact it was even written is a pleasant surprise.

“China skeptics” are everywhere these days, and that’s a good thing, assuming the newly found skepticism outlasts a change in administration in Washington.

Importantly, the University of Sydney report gets the main things right, provides plenty of evidence and makes for grim reading.

Much of the press coverage focuses on the PLA’s ability to launch a sudden, devastating missile strike against vulnerable US bases in the region. But the problems go beyond China’s formidable missile force. Rather, Chinese advances are across the military spectrum: surface ships, fighters and bombers, submarines and anti-submarine warfare, cyber and outer space warfare. Beijing is figuring out how to put it all together – and operating far from Chinese territory.

Two J-15 fighter jets of the PLA Navy prepare to take off from China's aircraft carrier, The Liaoning, during an exercise. Photo: AFP
Two J-15 fighter jets of the PLA Navy prepare to take off from China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, during an exercise. Photo: AFP

This is a huge challenge for US forces – as noted in a sobering passage from page 58 of the report:

China has made strides in developing new classes of munitions that the United States has abrogated since the end of the Cold War…. American naval vessels do not have the strike power needed to confront [PLA navy] warships in the open sea, while the [US] air force lacks stealthy, long-range missiles for land, air and maritime strike role.

In simple language: The US could have a hard time in a fight – and might not win. A far cry from years of assumed American superiority over the PLA.

The PLA might not even need to fight if the US doesn’t get its act together. If trends continue, China simply builds up such dominance that America’s friends are demoralized and the US can’t move against Chinese aggression at an acceptable cost. If so, the game is over before it even starts.

Fixation on the ‘Sandbox’

So what happened?  The report describes a combination of things, including the distraction and strain of nearly 20 years of continuous combat in the Middle East and South Asia. And there was America’s inability to prioritize its global efforts, along with inadequate and uncertain defense budgets.

 True enough. The Pentagon was indeed fixated on the “sandbox,” as the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones were known, although its enemies were not exactly the Wehrmacht.

And “misplaced priorities” is also fair criticism.  The report details the billions spent on Iraq and Afghanistan, and even on Eastern Europe following Putin’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine, while the Indo-Pacific got shortchanged.

This writer recalls Pacific US Marine commanders’ unsuccessful efforts to convince other Marine generals in Washington of Asia’s importance – and running afoul of PACOM  commanders and Department of Defense officials when suggesting China was a threat needing attention.

The report includes numbing detail about troubles with the US defense budget – both the amount and the process. Fair enough. But $700+ billion is a lot of money. Perhaps if less had been spent on littoral combat ships better suited for fighting anybody but the Chinese, or $45 billion a year in Afghanistan, enough money would be available for the Indo-Pacific.

The USS Ronald Reagan enters Guam’s Apra Harbor in 2011. Photo: US Navy / Peter Lewis

Curiously, the report tiptoes around the root cause of the current dilemma. That is: 30 years of policy-makers, foreign policy elites in academia and think-tanks, and military leaders taking too rosy a view of the PRC – while American business interests aided and abetted.

If you wouldn’t even call China an “adversary” why waste money and thought on Asia?

But there is some good news. The US has a strong hand to play – starting with a broad and belated recognition that the PRC is an adversary rather than a “responsible stakeholder.” And as the University of Sydney report indicates, even some allies now agree.

Second, even though the PLA has narrowed the gap or even taken the lead in some areas, the US military is still extremely powerful – and presumably has a few weapons in the works that PRC spies haven’t stolen.

And there is geography, which does not favor China. The islands of the “first island chain” – stretching from Japan to the Philippines, on to Taiwan and down to Malaysia – are a potential barrier to Chinese operations into the Pacific.

The South China Sea. Photo: Google Maps Satellite Imagery
The South China Sea. Photo: Google Maps Satellite Imagery

New operational concepts to deploy anti-ship missiles, anti-submarine weapons and air defense systems along the first island chain would turn the South China Sea into a bathtub from which the PRC could hardly move.

And the US has allies (for now) and friends who want an alternative to PRC domination.  The report properly calls for “capability aggregation” –  or, in plain language, America and regional military partners sharing resources.

But the report also offers a stark – and accurate – warning:

Neither the US-Australia alliance nor the broader regional alliance and partner network have developed the levels of military interoperability, shared understanding of risk and resolve, or coordination required for credible collective deterrence.

But didn’t every bi- and multilateral exercise the US military has conducted in Asia over the last 40 years declare “improving interoperability” as its objective? And all were declared rousing successes.

 A lot of work needs done – and fast. And this won’t be easy, as the report notes.  More defense money will be hard to come by, and the modernization backlog is so great that it will take some time.  Unfortunately, the PRC may not wait.

Fixing the US military cannot be the only line of effort.

PRC vulnerable

Notably, the PRC is vulnerable to economic pressure – being over-dependent on exports and desperately needing to earn convertible currency since nobody much wants Chinese yuan.

And there’s a soft-power card to play.  That is, the sheer attractiveness of the United States and free nations compared with Beijing’s repressive communist dictatorship. Maybe one day Washington will figure out strategic communications and influence operations.

But while the US has a strong hand there’s something missing, and the University of Sydney report overlooks it as well.  That is the human element and how inept leadership – military and civilian – got the US military into the current crisis in the Indo-Pacific.

How else does one explain a PACOM commander declaring climate change his biggest worry – not the People Liberation Army – and a Navy secretary prioritizing “green fuels” over arming US ships with anti-ship missiles that go as far and as fast as the Chinese navy’s missiles?

Make no mistake: Money, hardware, priorities and alliances are important, but without decent leadership – think, Nimitz, Spruance and Marshall – the chances of America averting disaster in the Indo-Pacific are slim.

Where that leadership will come from is anybody’s guess.

US admirals, left to right, Spruance, King and Nimitz on an airfield on an island in the Pacific in 1944 or 1945. King was WWII chief of staff of the US Navy. Nimitz was commander of the American Pacific fleet. Spruance succeeded Nimitz as chief of the Pacific fleet. Photo: AFP


Grant Newsham is a former Marine Corps Reserve Asia/Pacific intelligence chief.

Asia Times

This Wasn’t How Trump’s War on Iran Was Supposed to Go – by David C. Hendrickson (American Conservative) 17 Sept 2019

The U.S. thought it was cleverly choking the regime, but now it’s clear that ‘maximum pressure’ goes both ways.

Saudi Arabia: major fire at Aramco, the world’s largest oil refinery after drone attack.

The Saturday attack on Saudi oil facilities, which took 5.7 million barrels of oil per day offline, is the escalation that wasn’t supposed to happen. Now that it has happened, we enter perilous new terrain.

America has blamed Iran and hinted at some sort of retaliation. Iran has denied responsibility, while the Houthis gladly take it. There are conflicting reports of where the missiles or drones were launched from, which we will learn more about in the coming days.

In the meantime, Trump is in a tight spot of his own making, with neither escalation nor retrenchment looking to be attractive options.

It is still uncertain when Saudi Aramco can get everything back on line. The attack showed sophistication. Critical nodes were hit. If the facilities are quickly repaired, that lessens the gravity of this event. The Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s showed the resiliency of oil installations, as Iraqi bombers pounded Kharg Island, where Iran exported much of its oil, yet the Iranians managed to keep the exports flowing. This suggests that a war of attrition today would be possible without major disruptions, though the impact of new technologies of attack and resistance makes any guess hazardous.

If past crises are any indication, a sustained loss of 5.7 million barrels per day, over five percent of world oil consumption, would likely quadruple oil prices. Strategic petroleum reserves can cover this to a certain extent: the U.S. system can pump 4.4 million barrels per day. But it would exhaust its reserves in 150 days at that pace. We do not know whether more strikes will be forthcoming or whether such efforts can be successfully suppressed with airpower or invigorated defenses. All we can say is that the great game has advanced to a new stage.

From the beginning, escalation has seemed the likely consequence of the Trump administration’s decision to asphyxiate the Iranian regime by cutting off its ability to export oil. This was a declaration of economic war. That is the polite term, as it is an action every international lawyer on the planet, back in the day when these things mattered, would have called an act of war without any precious qualifiers.

It turns out that there may be some street cred to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s assertion that if Iran isn’t allowed to export oil, others will face obstacles too. Tit for tat. Got a quid? Here’s a quo. The funny thing is that any significant threat to Saudi capacity creates a pressing need to get Iran’s spare capacity onto the world market. As to which side now has more leverage, in a position to squeeze harder, that’s a tough question. Putting it nicely, the Iranians can, if their will is stout, impose huge costs on the United States and the world economy. They would only consider that if pressed extremely hard, yet the United States has been pressing them extremely hard for over a year now.

Remember that the purpose of America’s economic war on Iran was to force Iran to submit to 12 demands issued by Pharaoh Mike Pompeo in his edict delivered on May 21, 2018. It was really disappointing that Pompeo didn’t raise the obvious thirteenth demand and insist that the embargo would not be lifted until an American regent was appointed in Tehran, taking the Islamic Revolution under neoliberal guidance until circumstances changed, after which Iranian democracy would be restored to its former lack of glory. That was implied, to be sure, but we didn’t get much straight talk from Mr. Pompeo on that point.

This ultimatum was reminiscent of the demands that the Austro-Hungarians made on the Serbs on a certain date in 1914. Make them as extreme as you can, said the inspired diplomatists looking for war. World reaction was then unfavorable. Winston Churchill, in charge of Britain’s navy, called it “the most insolent document of its kind ever devised.” The resemblance to Pompeo’s ultimatums hardly shows the imminence of a 1914-like crisis today, but there is a certain arrogance to both the U.S. warmongers and Austro-Hungarians. The Austrians got the war they were looking for; the neocons may yet get theirs.

Trump’s renunciation of the Iran nuclear deal is mostly about Israel and its perceived security requirements. Not only must Iran not have a single nuclear weapon, it must not have the theoretical capability to produce a weapon, were the Iranians to break from their pledges under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the JCPOA. This imposes a requirement on the Islamic Republic that no other medium-sized power has had to endure. That the Iranians are bearers of an ancient civilization makes the humiliation all the more painful. Those 12 demands were not designed to produce a settlement; they were designed to produce a crisis, as they now have done. Regime change lies back of them—that or simply the immiseration of another Muslim country.

American policy toward Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has recently been mostly about arms sales. People say all the time that the oil companies are the heavyweights in this drama. In fact, they are secondary. What has driven events in the recent past is the military-industrial complex salivating over the sales of high-priced and high-tech U.S. armaments to sheikdoms with money to burn. The MIC plunderers, like the Hollywood moguls, understand that you simply must have the foreign market to make the big profits. Politicians see such sales as a way of making our own arms purchases remotely affordable and thereby politically palatable. For these reasons, foreign arms sales to reprehensible characters is Washington’s go-to move, a win-win for the plutocrats and the praetorians.

The United States acted under no prompting of national interest in so aiding and abetting the Saudi war in Yemen, but its hankering after all those lucrative contracts was just too much temptation. When the flesh is weak, as it seems to be in Washington, burning flesh is not a problem. Trump saw it as a great business deal and had no compunctions about the human fallout in Yemen. The Democrats—a certain Democrat, especially—did what was once said of Austrian Queen Maria Theresa after the Partition of Poland in 1772: “She wept, but she took.”

The president may have outsmarted himself this time. He got rid of National Security Adviser John Bolton because he didn’t like Bolton’s across-the-board hawkish recommendations, but he signed on to the very big change in U.S. policy towards Iran that Bolton had recommended. Trump thought he was in control of the escalation. But when you declare your intention to asphyxiate another country, you’ve committed an act of war. Retaliation from the other side usually follows in some form or fashion. You can then advance to your ruin or retreat in ignominy.

Trump has threatened retaliation, but he surely does not want a big war with Iran. His supporters definitely do not want a war with Iran. Americans in general are opposed to a war with Iran. Mysteriously, however, the U.S. declaration of war on Iran in fact—though not, of course, in name, heaven forbid—escaped notice by the commentariat this past year. The swamp’s seismograph doesn’t record a reading when we violate the rules, but when the other guy does, it’s 7.8 on the Richter Scale.

The whole drama, in a nutshell, is just the old-fashioned hubris of the imperial power, issuing its edicts, and genuinely surprised when it encounters resistance, even though such resistance confirms for the wunderkinds their view of the enemy’s malevolence.

Is Trump trapped? That is the question of the hour. He faces strong pressure to do something in retaliation, but that something may aggravate the oil shock and imperil his re-election. As he dwells on that possibility, he will probably look for ways to back down. He will try to get out of the trap set by the U.S. economic war on Iran without abandoning the economic war on Iran. But that probably won’t work; that was Iran’s message over the weekend. Were he to abandon the economic war, however, he would get a ton of flak from both sides of the aisle in Congress. The commentators would scream “appeasement!” In Washington lobby-land, we’d be back to 1938 in a flash.

Does the president have the gumption to resist that tired line? I hope so.

David Hendrickson teaches history at Colorado College and is the author of Republic in Peril: American Empire and the Liberal Tradition.


Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians launch strike – Reject management offer – (WJZ) 17 Sept 2019

Baltimore Symphony

BALTIMORE (WJZ) 13 Sept 2019  — The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will postpone two season-opening concerts as the musicians continue to strike while they wait to agree on their new contracts. The free concert scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. at the Meyerhoff was rescheduled to Saturday, Sept. 21.  Striking musicians have given free prerformances in the poor part of town.

On September 10, the musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra voted down two contract proposals from the symphony’s Board of Directors. The workers, who have been locked out since June 16, are now on strike, refusing to return to work on September 9 when the Board reopened the symphony for the fall concert season.

The conflict between the musicians and management continues to center on the Board’s unilateral cancellation of the 2019 summer season, with management insisting on a permanent end to all future summer sessions. Most of the musicians have not been paid since June 14, after the BSO’s Board unilaterally eliminated the summer season and then locked out the musicians. The musicians have each lost about $20,000 in pay due to the lockout.

Baltimore Symphony Boss

On September 9, BSO management presented the musicians with two contract options. The first, for a one-year contract to expire on August 31, 2020, would make permanent a 40-week season, create a small stipend to pay the musicians over the summer, and pay each musician a share of $1 million donated to the BSO specifically to supplement the income lost during the summer.

According to the Baltimore Sun, with the addition of the $1 million donation, the musicians would be paid approximately what they received under the expired contract. That contract expired in January 2019. The musicians rejected the offer both because there was no guarantee beyond the first year that their salaries would be paid in full and their insistence that the summer session be restored.

The second option offered by the Board would have extended the expired contract for four months, through December 31, but made no provision for the $2.5 million in lost musician pay and benefits during the summer lockout. According to Brian Prechtl, a percussionist with the BSO, and co-chair of the Baltimore Symphony Musicians Players Committee, the musicians overwhelmingly rejected both proposals.

A statement posted to Facebook by the musicians described it as a “dark day” for the BSO. Despite being locked out for three months, the musicians remained resolute in defense of their livelihood, saying they “will continue the fight to preserve our 103-year old institution, which serves the City of Baltimore, the surrounding counties and the State of Maryland.” The statement continues:

“This dispute isn’t just about money. It is also about respect, respect for the quality of the musicians on stage, respect for generations of Marylanders who have built this orchestra and for the thousands of people who have bought tickets and have donated to this venerable institution.”

Many fans and community members expressed support for the musicians and denounced management in the comments. One wrote, “I am outraged and heartbroken that the world-class musicians of this great orchestra are being treated so badly, as well as their precious audience members and supporters. I will continue to believe in the long-term flourishing of the orchestra, but I am so sorry for this painful period of uncertainty and injustice. Sending support. Will return to stand on the picket line with you. Honored to do so.” Many others expressed that the current management should be replaced.

The situation for symphony workers at the BSO and the attack on the right to culture is part of a national trend. While unlimited funds are provided for the military and local police departments, the already meager funding for the arts is routinely slashed. In the BSO’s case, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation providing an additional $1.6 million for it in the 2020 fiscal year budget and another $1.6 million for the following year. However, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan refused to release the funds, which represent more than half the wages and benefits lost by the musicians during the lockout. Prechtl told the Baltimore Sun that if the additional state funding was made available, “We would be at work this week. I can guarantee it.”

Orchestras throughout the country are routinely starved of public funding. To name only a few examples, the nearby National Philharmonic, which performs at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Maryland, nearly shut down this summer due to financial difficulties, and earlier this year the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was on strike for two months after management there sought massive cuts in musicians’ pay to overcome funding shortfalls. In 2012-2013, the Minnesota orchestra cancelled a complete season because of lack of funding and, in 2010-2011, Detroit musicians launched a six-month strike to fight a proposed 30 percent wage cut, as management sought to overcome a $3.8 million deficit at the expense of the musicians.

In comments to the Baltimore Sun, Michael Kaiser, chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland—named for the billionaire family of Trump’s education secretary—stated, “This is an American problem. Many symphonies have gone bankrupt. Miami has no major symphony. San Antonio’s symphony almost closed a year ago. The next 10 to 20 years are going to be a transitional period for orchestras.”

The comment went on to complain that orchestras will never enjoy the improvements in productivity that have made auto companies and other large corporations billions in profits, callously describing the right of musicians to decent wages as “the cost disease.”

The BSO musicians have accused management of negotiating in bad faith and have filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in an attempt to force the BSO Board to negotiate in “good faith.” However, in order to win support and force BSO management to better contract terms, musicians, like the working class generally, cannot rely on the NLRB. The remedies for “bad faith” bargaining are almost meaningless (generally, merely an order, months or years down the road, that an employer return to the bargaining table).

To carry forward the strike, BSO musicians must make the widest possible appeal to other symphony musicians and, more broadly, to workers and students throughout the city and state. Last week, musicians were joined on their picket lines by students at the Maryland Institute College of Art. This represents a step forward in broadening the struggle.

During their strike, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra sent a powerful message by playing free concerts, engaging many members of the community who would not otherwise have the opportunity to hear orchestral music live. BSO musicians are doing the same. On Saturday, they performed a concert before a packed audience at New Shiloh Baptist Church in impoverished west Baltimore. This refutes claims by some that classical music is the province only of the rich, and that the working class is not interested in such performances.

The majority of people in Baltimore and around the world do not want to see classical music confined to recordings and academic study. It is up to musicians to connect their struggle with the struggle of workers globally for better wages. As capital abandons any cultivation of the arts in a blind pursuit of profit, only the working class can ensure that human culture continues to develop.

See Also: Musicians picket after Baltimore Symphony Orchestra locks them out – 17 June 2019 (2:06 min) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8gtImv1V-c

Saudi Arabia – Third Largest Buyer of Weapons in the World – Can’t Figure Out How to Protect Oil Refineries – (Bloomberg) 16 Sept 2019

Saudi Wealth, Weaponry, and Arrogance Still Can’t Guarantee Oil’s Protection

Saudi  Weaponry: Must Import Foreigners to Operate Sophisticated Systems

(Bloomberg) — How could Saudi Arabia, a country with the world’s third-largest military budget and six battalions of U.S.-built Patriot missile-defense systems, fail to defend the beating heart of the oil industry on which the kingdom depends?

That question lies at the heart of responses to Saturday’s attack on Abqaiq, which cut Saudi oil production by half, and is critical to any assessment of whether investors will have to permanently factor higher political risk assumptions into the price of oil.

As audacious as the strike was, it was only the latest in a series and should have come as no surprise. The effectiveness of the Saudi military machine has long been questioned, despite spending $83 billion on defense last year, compared to $45 billion for Russia and $20 billion for regional rival Iran. The kingdom’s formidably equipped air force has been bombing Iran-backed Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen since 2015, but has so far failed to tip the civil war in favor of Saudi allies.

Yet any firm answers to the question of Saudi vulnerability will have to wait for more clarity on exactly what happened on Saturday, according to air defense specialists. There are conflicting accounts as to what technologies were used — a swarm of 10 armed unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles or a mix of the two.

“If it was a mixed attack, if you have small UAVs plus cruise missiles coordinated, coming in at low level — that is a wicked problem to deal with, even for a capable Western military,” according to Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a U.K. think tank. “The best place to stop this stuff is before it gets in the air.”

Formidable Challenge

Defending against drones — whether over airports or on the battlefield — was a hot topic at the U.K.’s biggest annual defense show last week among the companies that manufacture and sell high-end defense systems to governments around the world, said Barrie.

The nature of oil installations — large, stationary and inflammable — in any case makes their defense a formidable challenge, according to Barrie and others. So too their dispersion across Saudi Arabia’s vast empty spaces and the need to monitor thousands of miles of porous borders with Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan.

An online comment – All the best weapons in the world will not matter if the troops using them don’t care. Saudi Arabia has a real motivation problem. Troops don’t even bother showing up except for parades.

They should be able to defend the Kingdom against any threat with the weapon systems they own. But that depends on competent weapon system operators and a command structure that cares.


And: ” The issue is that drones/cruise missiles cannot be dealt with with conventional defense like Patriots/Thad or aircraft. That problem nobody has solved not even US,” Ali Shihabi, a Saudi commentator close to the government, said in a tweet Monday. THAAD, for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, is another large-format U.S. missile defense system.

One can fix this issue very easily, drones communicate by radio waves, find the bandwidth that they operate on then block that signal (Jam). Just like the Iranian’s blocking (Jamming) GPS signal in the straits that the ships use to navigate. C’mon now, we have been blocking signals for years.

The New World Order Is In Meltdown – Russia and China Stronger Than Ever – by Jon Hellevig – 30 Aug 2019

US Debt

The last week of August was full of portentous events. Only somebody who has not been awake for the last few years will fail to realize how these at first sight unconnected events are part of the same matrix. There was the ever louder talk in mainstream media about an approaching global recession, inverted yield curves and the negative yields, which tell us that the Western financial system is basically in coma and kept alive only by generous IV injections of central bank liquidity. By now it has dawned on people that the central bankers acting as central planners in a command economy and printing money (aka quantitative easing) to fuel asset bubbles are about to wipe off the last vestiges of what used to be a market economy.

Then we saw Trump taking new twitter swipes at China in his on-and-off “great trade deal” and the stock markets moving like a roller coaster in reaction to each new twitter salvo. Also, we had both Trump and Macron sweet talking about getting Russia back and again renaming their club G8. Last Tuesday at a G7 presser in Biarritz, the Rothschild groomed Macron took it one step further opening up about the reasons why they all of a sudden longed for friendship with Russia: “We are living the end of Western hegemony.” In the same series, Britain’s new government under Boris Johnson was telling his colleagues in Biarritz that he is now decisively going for a no-deal Brexit, after which he went back to London and staged a coup d’état by suspending parliament to ensure no elected opposition interfered with it.

Perhaps the weirdest news to crown it all, came from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where the Western central bankers were holed up for their annual retreat. The president of Bank of England Mark Carney shocked everybody (at least those not present) by announcing that the US dollar was past its best-before and should be replaced with something the central bankers have up their sleeves.

The New World Order is in its death throes

What these events have in common is that they amount to an admission that the globalist New World Order project in its present form is dead, or at least in its death throes. It has bumped its head against an impenetrable Sino-Russian wall of resistance. The heated totalitarian propaganda against Russia since 2001 (when the NWO realized that Putin wasn’t their man); regime change and color revolutions in neighboring countries; attempts at Maidan style coups in Moscow; and finally the sanctions since 2014 were key to the Anglo-Zionist empires strategy. They needed to take over either China or Russia to gain absolute world hegemony. Taking over either one, they would have checkmated the remaining one, and after that the entire world. They rightly deemed Russia as the weaker piece and went all out in that direction. The NWO wanted to take advantage of Russia’s weakness in form of its Western minded comprador class and a shell-shocked liberal intelligentsia (dominating media, culture and business, just like in Hong Kong, BTW), which is constitutional uncapable of thinking with their own brains to liberate themselves from Soviet era stereotypes (“Soviet Union/Russia bad, West good”).

They then figured that economic and cultural sanctions (e.g. Olympic ban) coupled with doubling down on the propaganda would break the country. Luckily, the Russian narod, the common people saw through it all and would not play along with the enemy. At the same time, Russia paraded its resurrected military in Crimea and Syria as well as its formidable new hypersonic doomsday weapons. The military option to take over Russia was not in the cards any longer.

Russian economy from strength to strength

Believing their own propaganda, they had got that totally wrong. Endlessly repeating their own self-serving talking points they must have truly fancied that Russia’s economy amounted to nothing else than export of fossil fuels, that “Russia’s economy is the size of Holland’s,” that “Russia does not produce anything,” and that Russia was “nothing but a gas station with nukes” (somehow managing to ignore the significance of the nukes part). I seriously believe, that the propaganda had become so complete that the Western leaders and the intelligence people actually had come to adapt their own propaganda as the truth. What is for sure, is that all Western media, including what should be the most respected business journals and all those think tanks, had not published one honest appraisal of the Russian economy in 15 years. Every single piece I read over the years had clearly been written with the aim to denigrate Russia’s achievements and economic development. Nowhere to be found were reports on how Putin by 2013 had totally overhauled the economy transforming Russia into the most self-sufficient diversified major country in the world with all the capabilities of the foremost industrial powers. In fact, I tend to think that even the US presidents from Bush to Obama were fed in their intelligence briefings cooked up fake reports about the Russian economy and the whole nation. Actually, I would go one step further. I bet that the CIA itself in the end believed the propaganda it had given birth to. (It has been said that at some point the genuine Russia analysts had all been dismissed or demoted and replaced with a team specializing in anti-Russian propaganda).

But actually all the data was there in plain view. I myself took the trouble to compile a report on the real conditions of Russia’s economy fresh at the onset of the 2014 crisis. In the report, I set out to show that Russia indeed had modernized and diversified its economy; that it had a vibrant manufacturing industry in addition to its energy and minerals sector; and that its budget revenues and economy at large were not at all as dependent on oil and gas as it was claimed. Among other things, we pointed out that Russia’s industrial production had by then grown more than 50% (between 2000 and 2013) while having undergone a total modernization at the same time. In the same period, production of food had surged by 100% and exports had skyrocketed by almost 400%, outdoing all major Western countries. Even the growth of exports of other than oil and gas products had been 250%.

The gist of the study may be summarized with this quote from it:

“The crisis-torn economy battered by years of robber capitalism and anarchy of the 1990’s, which Putin inherited in 2000, has now reached sufficient maturity to justify a belief that Russia can make the industrial breakthrough that the President has announced.”

Events have borne out this insight. And it is therefore that Russia won the sanctions battle.

The report represented an appeal to the Western leaders to give up on their vain hope of destroying Russia through their sanctions and risking nuclear war at it. Russia was invincible even in this respect. For that purpose I expressly added this missive in the introduction to the report:

We strongly believe that everyone benefits from knowing the true state of Russia’s economy, its real track record over the past decade, and its true potential. Having knowledge of the actual state of affairs is equally useful for the friends and foes of Russia, for investors, for the Russian population – and indeed for its government, which has not been very vocal in telling about the real progress. I think there is a great need for accurate data on Russia, especially among the leaders of its geopolitical foes. Correct data will help investors to make a profit. And correct data will help political leaders to maintain peace. Knowing that Russia is not the economic basket case that it is portrayed to be would help to stave off the foes from the collision course with Russia they have embarked on.”

A follow-up report of June 2017 covering the sanctions years 2014 – 2016, showed how Russia went from strength to strength never mind the Western attempts at isolation. This report stressed that Russia’s economy had now become the most diversified in the world making Russia the most self-sufficient country on this earth.

In this report we exposed the single biggest error of the propaganda driven Russia analysis. This was the ridiculous belief that Russia supposedly was totally dependent on oil and gas just because those commodities made up the bulk of the country’s exports. Confusing exports with the total economy, they had foolishly confused the share of oil and gas in total exports – which was and remains at the level of 60% – with the share of these commodities of the total economy. In 2013 the share of oil and gas of Russia’s GDP was 12% (today 10%). Had the “experts” cared to take a closer look they would have realized that on the other side of the equation Russia’s imports were by far the lowest (as a share of GDP) of all major countries. The difference here is that while Russia does not export a great deal of manufactured goods, it produces by far a bigger share of those for the domestic market than any other country in the whole world. Taking the 60% of exports to stand for the whole economy was how the “Russia produces nothing” meme was created.

Finally in a November 2018 report, I could declare that Russia had won hands down the sanctions war having emerged from it as a quadruple superpower: industrial superpower, agricultural superpower, military superpower and geopolitical superpower.

Macron et co. realizes that Russia actually is a superpower

These facts have now finally dawned on certain key stakeholders of the globalist regime can be discerned from the fact that they have tasked their handpicked puppet president Macron to make up with Russia. Trump has got the same assignment, which is evident from the siren calls of the two leaders in Putin’s address. Both want to invite Putin to their future G7-8 get-togethers.

As it was said, Macron went as far as unilaterally capitulating and declaring the decline of the West. He went on to spell out that the reason for this spectacular geopolitical about-face was the rise of the Beijing – Moscow (de facto) alliance that has caused a terminal shift on the world scene. Curiously, he also openly blamed the errors of the United States for the dire state of affairs pointing out that “not just the current administration” were to be blamed. No doubt, the foremost of these errors, Macron had in mind, was the alienation of Russia and pushing the country into the warm embrace of China. It is quite clear, that this is what they want to remedy, snatch the bear back from the dragon. Fortunately, that won’t happen. Good if there will be rapprochement and good if the West will try, but after all what Russia has learnt by now it will not sell out on China under any circumstances. I think Putin and the Russian powers that be have clearly opted for a multipolar world order. That is definitely not what Macron’s and Trump’s employers have in mind but let them try.

Until Trump took office, the strategy of the US regime had been to pursue only Russia in its geopolitical ambitions, but by then it had dawned on them that Russia was invincible especially in the de facto alliance with China. In a sign of desperation, the empire then opened big time another front with China. Essentially going from bad to worse.

US debt 2

The world order is being shaken like never before

“The world order is being shaken like never before…”, that’s another quote from Macron. Obviously, it refers to the military and geopolitical strengths of the Sino-Russian alliance, but certainly also to the economic shifts as the West has lost – and will keep losing – its economic domination. This brings us back to Mark Carney of Bank of England and his unprecedented attack on the US dollar arguing that it was time to end its global reserve currency status. As one option Carney brought up that the major Western central banks would instead issue a digital cryptocurrency. That is to say, a NWO currency controlled by the central banks. That would effectively mean the replacement of the Federal Reserve cartel with a cartel of the Western central banks (the Fed obviously being a part of it). That’s yet one step further north from any kind of democratic control and a giant step towards world government.

What could possibly have prompted such a radical US hegemony puncturing idea to be put forward? One reason obviously is that the Western economies really are in that extreme critical condition that more and more analysts caution about. (We shall look at the economic facts further down). There’s a very real possibility that we will be hit by a doomsday recession. What’s sure is that Carney’s bizarre speech could possibly not have occurred in a normal economic environment (any more than Macron’s admission that the Western hegemony is done with)According to Zerohedge, The Financial Times, the party organ of the globalist elite, admitted as much in its report on the Jackson Hole meeting. The central bankers “acknowledged they had reached a turning point in the way they viewed the global system. They cannot rely on the tools they used before the financial crisis to shape the economic environment, and the US can no longer be considered a predictable actor in economic or trade policy — even though there is no imminent replacement for the US dollar in sight.”

There was an effective admission that the central bankers had run out of tricks to pull the economies out of the everything-bubble mess, not to mention the looming doomsday recession. According to FT, Carney went as far as flashing the war card saying: “past instances of very low rates have tended to coincide with high risk events such as wars, financial crises, and breaks in the monetary regime.” On the one hand this can be seen as an admission on how deeply tormented they are about the financial situation and what could happen when it comes crashing down. On the other hand, it can be seen as a sales pitch, “only we can fix it, trust us, give us a carte blanche.” Or more probably, both.

Note from above Carney saying: “the US can no longer be considered a predictable actor in economic or trade policy.” Bank of England President here directly attacking President Trump.

And just a couple of days later William Dudley an ex-president of New York Federal Reserve Bank (the most influential of the 12 federal reserve banks that comprise the Federal Reserve System) followed up on a direct attack on Trump. But as they say about spies, there are no ex-spies, and I would think the same applies for the global financial elite. And yes indeed, Dudley is a card carrying member of the Council of Foreign Relations. Dudley had penned an op-ed for Bloomberg titled “The Fed Shouldn’t Enable Donald Trump,” where he openly lobbies for the Fed to deliberately damage the economy in order to neutralize the policies (namely trade wars) of the sitting president and prevent his reelection chances by willfully ruining the economy.

One thing is for sure, the elite is desperate and in serious disarray. Very probable that the elite is split, too. It seems as if there were two globalist factions competing with each other and wanting to follow vastly different strategies. One faction supports Trump and the other is against him. Possibly, one that wants to do things with force and another that wants to gain by stealth. That could be Pentagon and the military-industrial complex vs. the financial elite, who also owns the media. My argument does not hinge on the veracity of those division lines, but that some rupture exists among the elites must be taken for granted, otherwise Trump would have been ousted by now with all that pressure on him.

To summarize

The Western world is in turmoil: the previous overwhelming geopolitical domination is gone and over with; military solutions against the main adversaries – China and Russia – are off the books; hybrid wars against them have failed; China and Russia are economically stronger than ever, too strong for the adversary; and to boot the domestic Western economies are in extraordinary bad shape, risking a depression of epic proportions.

US Failed To Protect Saudi Oil Plant – Billions Spent on Equipment – US Troops, Ships, Planes, Satellites, Drones – Failed to See Massive Attack – by Finian Cunningham – 17 Sept 2019

Saud Hit
The devastating blitz on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry has led to a flurry of accusations from US officials blaming Iran. The reason for the finger-pointing is simple: Washington’s spectacular failure to protect its Saudi ally.

The Trump administration needs to scapegoat Iran for the latest military assault on Saudi Arabia because to acknowledge that the Houthi rebels mounted such an audacious assault on the oil kingdom’s heartland would be an admission of American inadequacy.

Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars in recent years purchasing US Patriot missile defense systems and supposedly cutting-edge radar technology from the Pentagon. If the Yemeni rebels can fly combat drones up to 1,000 kilometers into Saudi territory and knock out the linchpin production sites in the kingdom’s oil industry, then that should be a matter of huge embarrassment for US “protectors.”

Saudi burns

American defense of Saudi Arabia is germane to their historical relationship. Saudi oil exports nominated in dollars for trade – the biggest on the planet – are vital for maintaining the petrodollar global market, which is in turn crucial for American economic power. In return, the US is obligated to be a protector of the Saudi monarchy, which comes with the lucrative added benefit of selling the kingdom weapons worth billions of dollars every year.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Saudi Arabia has the world’s third biggest military budget, behind the US and China. With an annual spend of around $68 billion, it is the world’s number one in terms of percentage of gross domestic product (8.8 per cent). Most of the Saudi arms are sourced from the US, with Patriot missile systems in particular being a recent big-ticket item.

Yet for all that financial largesse and the finest American military technology, the oil kingdom just witnessed a potentially crippling wave of air assaults on its vital oil industry. Saudi oil production at its mammoth refinery complex at Abqaiq, 205 miles (330 kms) east of the capital Riyadh, was down 50 per cent after it was engulfed by flames following air strikes. One of the Saudi’s biggest oilfields, at Khurais, also in the Eastern Province, was also partially closed.

There are credible reports that the damage is much more serious than the Saudi officials are conceding. These key industrial sites may take weeks to repair.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo got it half right when he claimed, “Iran launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply”.

Yes, it is unprecedented. But Pompeo and other US officials have most likely got it wrong about blaming Iran.

Saud 2

Some Trump administration officials told US media that “cruise missiles” were responsible for the giant fireballs seen over the Saudi oil facilities. One was quoted anonymously as saying: “There’s no doubt that Iran is responsible for this… there’s no escaping it. There is no other candidate.”

In a hurried effort to substantiate accusations against Iran, satellite images were released which show what appears to be the aftermath of the air strike on the Abqaiq refinery complex. US officials claim the location of the explosions indicate the weapons originated not from Yemen to the south, but from either Iran or Iraq.

Even the normally dutiful New York Times expressed doubt about that claim, commenting in its report: “The satellite photographs released on Sunday did not appear as clear cut as officials suggested, with some appearing to show damage on the western side of facilities, not from the direction of Iran or Iraq.”

The accusations made by Pompeo and others are assertions in place of substantiated claims.

Saudi Arabia - Home of Wahabi Islam - Attacked - World Cheers!

It is noteworthy that President Donald Trump refrained from openly blaming Iran by name, merely hinting at the possibility. If Pompeo is so adamant in fingering Iran, why didn’t Trump? Also, the president made a telling remark when he said he was “waiting for verification” from Saudi Arabia “as to who they believe was the cause of the attack.” Again, if US officials are explicitly accusing Iran then why is Trump saying he wants “verification” from the Saudis?

For its part, Iran has flatly dismissed the allegations that it had any involvement, saying that statements by Pompeo were “blind” and tantamount to setting up a conflict.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi also rejected claims that his country’s territory might have been used by pro-Iranian Shia militants to launch the air strikes.

The Houthi rebels in Yemen have issued unambiguous statements claiming responsibility for the air raids on the Saudi oil installations. They were specific that the weapons were drones, not missiles, adding with details that 10 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were deployed.

Notably too, most US media reported initially that the attacks were by drones flown from Yemen. Associated Press reported a level of sophistication in the attacks whereby drones were used first to disable the US Patriot radar systems before other UAVs proceeded to execute the air strikes.

It therefore seems that US officials are attempting to switch the story by blaming Iran. It is reckless scapegoating because the logical consequence could elicit a military attack against Iran, in which event Tehran has warned it is ready for war.

The rationale for blaming Iran is that the Yemeni rebels (which Iran supports politically) are just not capable of using drones with such dramatic success against the Saudi oil industry. The culprit must be Iran, so the rationale goes. This is a follow-on from alleged sabotage by Iran against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf earlier this summer.

However, a timeline shows that the Houthis are more than capable of launching ever-more powerful ballistic missiles and deeper penetrating drones into Saudi territory. The rebels have been using drones from the beginning of the war which the US-backed Saudi-UAE coalition launched on the southern Arabian country in March 2015.

Over the past four years, the Houthi aerial firepower has gradually improved. Earlier, the Saudis, with American defense systems, were able to intercept drones and missiles from Yemen. But over the last year, the rebels have increased their success rate for hitting targets in the Saudi interior, including the capital Riyadh.

In May this year, Houthi drones hit Saudi Arabia’s crucial east-west pipeline. Then in August, drones and ballistic missiles were reported to have struck the Shaybah oil field near the border with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as the Dammam exporting complex in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.

The Yemenis claim they are taking the war to Saudi Arabia and the UAE after years of relentless air strikes on their homeland which have resulted in nearly 90,000 dead. A recent UN report censured the US, Britain and France for possible complicity in war crimes through their military support for the Saudi coalition.

There must be trepidation among the monarchs in Saudi Arabia and the UAE that the rebels from war-torn and starving Yemen are now coming after them with drones that could demolish their oil economies. What’s more, the much-vaunted American protector is not able to deliver on its strategic bargain, despite billions of dollars of Pentagon weaponry. That’s why Washington has to find an excuse by casting Iran as the villain.

Damage At Saudi Oil Plant Points To Well Targeted Swarm Attack – by Moon of Alabama – 16 Sept 2019

Saturday’s attack on the Saudi oil and gas processing station in Abqaiq hit its stabilization facility:

The stabilization process is a form of partial distillation which sweetens “sour” crude oil (removes the hydrogen sulfide) and reduces vapor pressure, thereby making the crude oil safe for shipment in tankers. Stabilizers maximize production of valuable hydrocarbon liquids, while making the liquids safe for storage and transport, as well as reduce the atmospheric emissions of volatile hydrocarbons. Stabilizer plants are used to reduce the volatility of stored crude oil and condensate.

Soon after the attack U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went into full ‘blame Iran’ mode:

Secretary Pompeo @SecPompeo – 21:59 UTC · Sep 14, 2019
Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy. Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.
We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks. The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression

Abqaiq lies at the heart of the Saudi oil infrastructure. It processes more than half of the Saudi oil output.

biggerThe U.S. government published two detailed pictures of the attack’s result.

Saud Hit
The pictures show some 17 points of impact. There are cars visible in the second more detailed picture that demonstrate the gigantic size of the place. The targets were carefully selected. At least 11 of those were egg shaped tanks with a diameter of some 30 meter (100 foot). These are likely tanks for pressurized (liquidized) gas that receive the condensate vapor from the stabilization process. They all have now quite neat holes in their upper shells.

The piping to and from the egg shaped tanks shows that these were configured in groups with double redundancy. Two tanks beside each other share one piping system. Two of such twin tanks are next to each other with lines to their processing train. There are a total of three such groups. Damage to any one tank or group would not stop the production process. The products would be routed to another similar tank or group. But with all tanks of this one special type taken out the production chain is now interrupted.

Two processing areas were hit and show fire damage. At least the control equipment of both was likely completely destroyed:

Consultancy Rapidan Energy Group said images of the Abqaiq facility after the attack showed about five of its stabilization towers appeared to have been destroyed, and would take months to rebuild – something that could curtail output for a prolonged period.“However Saudi Aramco keeps some redundancy in the system to maintain production during maintenance,” Rapidan added, meaning operations could return to pre-attack levels sooner.

The targeting for this attack was done with detailed knowledge of the process and its dependencies.

The north arrow in those pictures points to the left. The visible shadows confirm the direction. The holes in the tanks are on the western side. They were attacked from the west.

The hits were extremely precise. The Yemeni armed forces claimed it attacked the facility with 10 drones (or cruise missiles). But the hits on these targets look like neither. A total of 17 hits with such precise targeting lets me assume that these were some kind of drones or missiles with man-in-the-loop control. They may have been launched from within Saudi Arabia.

There is no information yet on the damage in Khurais, the second target of the attacks.

The U.S. and Israel are able to commit such attacks. Iran probably too. Yemen seems unlikely to have this capability without drawing on extensive support from elsewhere. The planing for this operation must have taken months.

A Middle-East BBC producer remarks:

Riam Dalati @Dalatrm – 22:44 UTC · Sep 15, 2019
17 points of impact. No Drones or missiles were detected/intercepted. Saudis & Americans still at loss as to where the attack was launched from. #KSA seriously needs to shop elsewhere & replace the Patriot or reinforce it with a web of radar operated AA guns like the Oerlikon.
A source familiar with #Aramco situation told us earlier today that it was a “swarm attack”, a mix of > 20 drones and missiles, at least half of which were “suicide” drones. #USA & #KSA, he said, are ‘certain’ that attack was launched from #Iraq but ‘smoking gun still missing’
They are also ‘fairly certain’ that #IRGC was behind the operation because, even though the missiles used were identical to those of the #Houthis, an inspection of the debris found in the desert revealed a ‘couple of new updates’ and a ‘distinctly better craftsmanship’

The Wall Street Journal reports of the damage:

The strikes knocked out 5.7 million barrels of daily production, and the officials said they still believe they can fully replace it in coming days. That would require tapping oil inventories and using other facilities to process crude. One of the main targets of the attack was a large crude-processing plant in Abqaiq.

“It is definitely worse than what we expected in the early hours after the attack, but we are making sure that the market won’t experience any shortages until we’re fully back online,” said a Saudi official.

Even if Saudi officials were successful in restoring all or most of the lost production, the attack demonstrates a new vulnerability to supply lines across the oil-rich Gulf.
Tankers have been paying sharply higher insurance premiums, while shipping rates have soared in the region after a series of maritime attacks on oil-laden vessels, which the U.S. has blamed on Iran.

Khurais produces about 1.5 million barrels a day and Abqaiq, the world’s biggest crude-stabilization facility, processes seven million barrels of Saudi oil a day, turning crude into specific grades, such as Arabian Extra Light.

The repairs at Abqaiq will likely take weeks, not days. Brent crude futures rose by 19.5 percent to $71.95 per barrel, the biggest jump since 14 January, 1991:

Aramco gave no timeline for output resumption. A source close to the matter told Reuters the return to full oil capacity could take “weeks, not days”.Riyadh said it would compensate for the damage at its facilities by drawing on its stocks, which stood at 188 million barrels in June, according to official data.

U.S. President Donald Trump was way more careful in attributing the strike than his Secretary of State.

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump – 0:50 UTC · Sep 16, 2019
Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!

Any direct attack on Iran would result in swarms of missiles hitting U.S. military installations in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Saudi water desalination plants, refineries and ports would also be targets.

It is doubtful that Trump or the Saudis are ready to risk such a response.

The attack on Abqaiq was not the last one and all Saudi installations are extremely vulnerable:

Yemen’s Houthi rebels said oil installations in Saudi Arabia remain among their targets after attacks against two major sites slashed the kingdom’s output by half and triggered a surge in crude prices.The Iranian-backed rebel group, cited by the Houthi’s television station, said its weapons can reach anywhere in Saudi Arabia. Saturday’s attacks were carried out by “planes” using new engines, the group said, likely referring to drones.

Middle East Eye, a Qatari financed outlet, reported yesterday that the attack was launched from Iraq by Iran aligned forces in revenge for Israeli attacks in Syria. The author, David Hearst, is known for slandered reporting. The report is based on a single anonymous Iraqi intelligence source. Qatar, which is struggling with Saudi Arabia and the UAE over its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, would like to see a larger conflict involving its rivals east and west of the Persian Gulf. The report should therefore be disregarded.

Saudi Arabia has no defenses against this kind of attacks. The U.S. has no system that could be used for that purpose. Russia is the only country that can provide the necessary equipment. It would be extremely costly, and still insufficient, to protect all of the Saudi’s vital facilities from similar swarm attacks.

Attacks of this kind will only end when Saudi Arabia makes peace with Yemen and when the U.S. ends its sanctions of oil exports from Iran. As Iran’s President Rouhani said:

“If one day they want to prevent the export of Iran’s oil, then no oil will be exported from the Persian Gulf”

It is high time for hawks like Pompeo to recognize that Iran means what it says and has the tools to fulfill that promise.

Saudi Arabia - Home of Wahabi Islam - Attacked - World Cheers!



The Rise of the Comfort College At US universities, personal grievances are what everyone’s talking about – By Steven B. Gerrard – 9 Sept 2019

college comfort

Last year, in the fall of 2018, I tried to stand up for campus free speech.

A small group of faculty at Williams College in Massachusetts, where I teach philosophy, had circulated a petition to have our institution sign a national pledge of allegiance to principles of free expression that originated at the University of Chicago. Over 50 colleges and universities, including Princeton and the Citadel, had already adopted the mainstream liberal principles, protecting both speakers and protesters.

Williams 3

I was cautiously optimistic. Like many liberal arts colleges, Williams had gone through a free-speech crisis — and survived. In 2016, our then-president canceled a talk from a conservative writer (the first presidential cancellation since 1865, when Ralph Waldo Emerson was barred from speaking on campus); he also ordered that a mural of the school’s founder be temporarily boarded over because of objections to its depiction of Native Americans.

In response to these actions and the uproar that followed, I decided, as an old-fashioned liberal, to teach a course called “Free Speech and Its Enemies.” It proved to be a good decision. When the semester began, most of the students were willing to censor almost anything they didn’t like. By the end of the semester, the consensus was eminently reasonable: Of course we shouldn’t censor or cancel anyone; we just have to work to maximize the educational mission of all our events.

Williams f 2What caused the change? A semester’s worth of readings, from John Stuart Mill to selected Facebook posts, as well as speakers representing a multitude of perspectives, and serious and civil class discussion. My students came to see that free speech protects everyone, especially the oppressed, and includes those who share their leftist views.

So it was with all this in mind that I went into a faculty meeting to present the free-expression “pledge” with the idea that we would have a productive discussion. Then reality hit.

Opposing factions gather over the cancelation of conservative commentator Ann Coulter's speech at the  University of California

As I stepped up to the lectern in one of the college’s elegant Federal-style halls, students marched into the room, bearing a letter naming me an “Enemy of the People.”

In the spirit of liberal openness, I read their letter aloud. This is what it said: “‘Free Speech,’ as a term, has been co-opted by right-wing and liberal parties as a discursive cover for racism, xenophobia, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and classism.” The letter reserved special scorn for liberalism: “Liberal ideology asserts that morality is logical — that dehumanizing ideas can be fixed with logic and therefore need to be debated.” But, it added, “dehumanization cannot be discussed away.”

The letter finished, I started to reply. But a group of younger faculty in the front row demanded that I be quiet and let the students speak. And the students did. They had almost nothing to say about free speech; instead, they testified to the indignities they suffered at Williams. The dean of the college, who was in attendance, praised the students for their passion.

And so began Williams College’s annus horribilis, a year marked by protests, marches, threats and demands — everything but rational argument. A significant number of faculty not only supported this, but also instigated it. And the administration? Its response was to appoint a committee consisting of faculty, staff and students. Since “free speech” was now a dirty phrase, it was called “the Ad Hoc Committee on Inquiry and Inclusion.”

The year pretty much went downhill from there.

When student activists got around to making demands of the Board of Trustees at the end of the spring semester, the first item on the list was this:

Commit to a complete process of reparation and reconciliation to Indigenous peoples including the increased hiring and admittance of Indigenous faculty, staff, and students as well as the reallocation of property back to Nations impacted by the College’s ongoing settler occupation.

Somewhere in between — maybe it was when a play by a prominent African American playwright was canceled because the actors claimed the imagery triggered uncomfortable feelings, maybe it was when students put up posters threatening a faculty member and the administration failed to respond — I came to realize that the small liberal arts college where I began teaching in 1992 had become something altogether different.

At Williams College’s bicentennial in 1993, Frederick Rudolph, a beloved and esteemed professor of history at the school, gave a speech in which he defined the three eras of his and other elite colleges: the Christian college, the gentlemen’s college and the consumer’s college. Rudolph predicted that the consumer Williams “will be moving on, making way for the as yet undefined next era in the college’s history.”

Williams 4Elite private education in America is on the cusp of this new era. The controversies over free speech, safe spaces, trigger warnings, microaggressions and the like are symptoms of this shift. They are currently considered controversies because the colleges are in transition, and many do not realize that the old standards no longer hold. Once the transition is complete, the “correct” side of the controversies will become central to a school’s identity — just as faith was to the Christian college, self-confidence was to the gentlemen’s college, and alumni devotion and achievement were to the consumer’s college.

Some have suggested naming this new college “the therapeutic university” or “the woke college.” I prefer “the comfort college,” because it combines the emotional component of the first with the political elements of the second. Our students are comfortable in their opinions but uncomfortable with their lives, finding their world and the Williams campus a threatening place. Once Williams’ transition to comfort college is complete, the students will expect to find their college truly comfortable in all respects.

The Christian college, Rudolph wrote, was “defined by a transcendent Christian purpose.” The gentlemen’s college was characterized “by an almost obsessive cultivation of gentlemanly values.” The consumer’s college was shaped “by a zealous attention to the academic market and the student as consumer.”

What characterizes the comfort college? The slogan of the comfort college is “diversity and inclusion.” And just to be clear: The presence of previously underrepresented groups is vital, necessary and welcome. What’s more, insensitivity toward people’s identities should be self-censored, and social pressure to do so is a helpful tool.

But another agenda, an agenda that runs counter to true diversity and inclusion, has (often silently) accompanied these positive changes. At some point along the way, this laudable attention to the language of inclusion turned from a psychologically realistic sensitivity into a harsh and confrontational tribal marker. Much of comfort-college language — “neurodiverse” versus “mentally ill,” “minoritized” versus “minority” — simply identifies one as a member of the woke tribe, and using the wrong term will bring about social death.

The lack of cognitive significance in tribal language is a symptom of the deeper disease: the devaluing of the pursuit of knowledge. Students are now absolutists. Students, administrators and some faculty know what is right (and who is wrong). Any challenge to their views cannot be in pursuit of knowledge or even clarification. It can only come from the desire to crush and oppress.

Willams 4

If this quest for power is what one believes motivates others, then there is little need to investigate one’s own motivations. As Harvard professor of African and African American studies Henry Louis Gates Jr. put it: “We Liberal Reformists say: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you; and — hope for the best. The Left says: Let’s do unto you what you did unto Others; and then see how you like that.”

And it is knowledge, the holy grail of philosophers, that the comfort college devalues. It does not completely disregard it; the issue is subtler. Most societies and cultures at different times have much the same list of virtues. It’s how they rank these virtues that sets them apart. The U.S. has always expressed a value for both justice and equality. Deciding which takes precedence has been a source of deep legal controversy and political conflict. Most people value both individual happiness and community cohesion; whole cultures are divided on which one comes first. The Christian college, the gentlemen’s college and the consumer’s college held knowledge as paramount. They differed on what was true and on the source of knowledge, but all laid claim to knowledge as a primary goal. If you ask current students, and many administrators and faculty, what the goals of their colleges are, you will have to wait some time before hearing “knowledge.”

Williams 5

In the first decade of this century, the Williams College mission statement was old-fashioned enough to speak of virtues:

Williams seeks to provide the finest possible liberal arts education by nurturing in students the academic and civic virtues, and their related traits of character. Academic virtues include the capacities to explore widely and deeply, think critically, reason empirically, express clearly, and connect ideas creatively. Civic virtues include commitment to engage both the broad public realm and community life, and the skills to do so effectively. These virtues, in turn, have associated traits of character. For example, free inquiry requires open-mindedness, and commitment to community draws on concern for others.

When the pursuit of knowledge slips down the hierarchy of virtues, so do the accompanying virtues that nurture its discovery. Knowledge, since Plato, has usually been defined as justified true belief, and when knowledge is devalued, the routes to justification — argument and evidence (and, of course, the free speech that makes their determination possible) — fall away. And that is just what is happening.

Williams College’s long year of troubles intensified on the first day of the spring semester. An assistant professor of English sent an email to her students saying she would not be teaching; she had gone on medical leave, citing “a refusal to continue business as usual” in the face of “the College’s violent practices.” In response, students sent a letter to the trustees declaring that “We hold the truth of discursive and institutional violence to be self-evident.”

Self-evident. Refusing to consider evidence goes against the tenor of all three previous colleges. (Even the Christian college studied arguments for the existence of God.) We might at first dismiss this as (literal) sophomoric bravado. However, in a meeting for faculty of color called by the dean of the faculty, one professor asked for evidence of “violent practices.” Another professor responded that “to ask for evidence of violent practices is itself a violent practice.”

So dies the old college.

Essayist William Deresiewicz gets it right when he says

Selective private colleges have become religious schools. … They possess a dogma, unwritten but understood by all: a set of “correct” opinions and beliefs, or at best, a narrow range within which disagreement is permitted. There is a right way to think and a right way to talk, and also a right set of things to think and talk about. … Which brings us to another thing that comes with dogma: heresy. Heresy means those beliefs that undermine the orthodox consensus, so it must be eradicated: by education, by reeducation — if necessary, by censorship.

In contrast, the gentlemen college’s mission statement proclaimed that

The ideal product of this type of college, the so-called “liberally educated man,” is difficult to define because he does not conform to any fixed pattern. Indeed a respect for individuality is the starting point of any “liberal” education. It is hoped that a student who has graduated from Williams will be aware of uniqueness — the value inherent in convictions, tastes, and opinions which are the result of disciplined but independent investigation. 1

I am not sorry to have seen the gentlemen’s college go; it certainly would not have welcomed a Jew like me, much less my daughters, and many, many others. It ignored whole continents of knowledge and fell far short of its ideals. But we need to know what to throw out, what to keep and what to modify. Philosopher Martha Nussbaum usefully distinguishes between two kinds of multiculturalism:

The world-citizen view insists on the need for all citizens to understand differences. … It is connected with a conception of democratic debate as deliberation about the common good. The identity-politics view, by contrast, depicts the citizen body as a marketplace of identity-based interest groups jockeying for power, and views difference as something to be affirmed rather than understood. 2

The consumer’s college, however imperfectly, celebrated the world-citizen version of multiculturalism, and the curriculum blossomed to the benefit of all our students. The comfort college takes another view.

Part 2: The comfort college and its costs to American education.

  1. Williams College Bulletin, April 1958, page 22.
  2. Writing in 1997, Nussbaum was unfortunately overly optimistic: “Some faculty pursue the diversification of the curriculum in a way that ultimately subverts the aims of citizenship, focusing on interest-group identity politics rather than on the need of all citizens for knowledge and understanding. Some, too, have become unjustly skeptical of rational argument, thinking of its abuses as if they were part of the essence of rationality itself. These errors and excesses, however, are neither ubiquitous nor uncontroverted.”


To contact the author of this story:
Steven B. Gerrard at sgerrard@williams.edu



A US War With Iran Would Be a Catastrophic Miscalculation – by James Howard Kunstler

Lost in the Past for a Night and a Day – Lucy told me to read Gaskell’s novel of 1850’s England – North and South – 16 Sept 2019

I bumped into this young woman’s video recommending various classic works of English literature.  One book she recommended was North and South by Elizabeth Gaskill.  She gave a brief outline of the book about a young woman who moves from high society circles in London in the south of England to the dirty industrial north and the events of the young woman’s life.

Lucy, the book pusher, also mentioned that there was a video series of the work for those who might find the reading a little difficult.

After finishing her video I looked up North South on Youtube and found a four hour series from 1975.  So I began to watch and enjoy, and spent my whole Sunday evening ‘binge’ watching the entire four episodes.  What a delight when Patrick Stewart, who I know from Star Trek The Next Generation appeared as one of the main characters.  But, he had hair on his head.  I watched so many Star Trek The Next Generation episodes when I had Netflix free for a year with my cable subscription that I felt like I worked there.  When people asked me where I went to school I had the impulse to say, “Star Fleet Academy.”  So seeing Patrick Stewart felt like he was in a Star Trek The Next Generation holodeck simulation.


After watching about four hours of the drama I was ready for sleep at about 11 o’clock and decided to listen to an audio book reading of the book as I drifted off to sleep.

This morning I saw on Youtube a brief clip from a more recent video adaptation of North and South and look forward to watching this version as I also work my way through the audio reading.


The book is in the Public Domain and freely available to read online or to download from Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4276/4276-h/4276-h.htm


For more info about the book and author see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_and_South_(Gaskell_novel)

Outline.com copy of post – https://outline.com/cUe422


US Military Hasn’t Fought a Real Foe in Decades – Russia, China, Iran Could Deliver a Nasty Surprise – by Fred Reed – 13 Sept 2019

For a couple of decades I covered the military for various publications, as for example the Washington Times and Harper’s, and wrote a military column for Universal Press Syndicate. I was following the time-honored principle of sensible reporters: “Ask not what you can do for journalism, but what journalism can do for you.” The military beat was a great gig, letting you fly in fighter planes and sink in submarines. But if you take the study seriously, as I did, you learn interesting things. Such as that a war with a real country, such as Russia, China, or even Iran, would be a fool’s adventure. A few points:

Unused militaries deteriorate


The US fleet has not been in a war since 1945, the air forces since 1975. nor the Army in a hard fight since Vietnam. Bombing defenseless peasants, the chief function of the American military, is not war.

In extended periods of peace, which includes the bombing of peasants, a military tends to assume that no major war will come during the careers of those now in uniform. Commanders consequently do what makes their lives easy, what they must do to get through the day and have reasonable fitness reports. This does not include pointing out inadequacies of training or equipment. Nor does it include recommending large expenditures to remedy deficiencies. Nor does it include recommending very expensive mobilization exercises that would divert money from new weapons.

Thus an armored command has enough replacement tracks for training, but not enough for tanks in hard use in extended combat. When the crunch comes, it turns out that getting more track requires a new contract with the manufacturer, who has shut down the production line. The same is true for air filters, there not being much sand at Fort Campbell but a lot in Iraq. Things as mundane as MRATs and boots are not there.in real-war quantities.

GAU-8 ammo is in short supply because theory says the F-35 will do tank busting. The Navy runs out of TLAMs early on and discovers that manufacturing cruise missiles takes time. Lots ot it.

And of course some things simply don’t work as expected. Military history buffs will remember the Mark XIV torpedo, the Mark VI exploder of WWII, and the travails of the Tinosa.

Come the war, things turn into a goat rope. FUBAR, SNAFU.


The United States cannot fight a large land war, as for example against Russia, China, or Iran. Such a war would require conscription. The public would not stand for it. America no longer enjoys the sort of patriotic unity that it did at the beginning of the war against Vietnam. It will not accept heavy casualties. People today are far more willing to disobey the federal government. Note that many states have legalized marijuana in defiance of federal law, that many jurisdictions across the country simply refuse to assist federal immigration enforcement. Any attempt to send Snowflakes and other delicates to fight would result in widespread civil disobedience.

The Navy

The existing fleet has never been under fire and does not think it ever will be. Most of its ships are thin-skinned, unarmored. One hit by an antiship missile would remove them from the war. This is as true of the Tico-class Aegis ships as of the newer Arleigh Burkes.

An aircraft carrier is a bladder of jet fuel wrapped around high explosives.The implications are considerable. A plunging hypersonic terminally-guided ballistic missile, piercing the flight deck and exploding in the hangar deck, would require a year in the repair yards. The Russians and Chinese are developing–have developed–missiles specifically to take out carriers. Note that the range of some of these missiles is much greater than the combat radius of the carrier’s aviation. Oops.

The USS Stark, 1987, after being hit by a pair of French Exocet missiles fired by an Iraqi Mirage
The USS Forrestal in 1967 after a five-inch Zuni land-attack missile, a pipsqueak rocket, accidentally launched on deck. It hit another fighter. The resulting fire cooked off large bombs. One hundred thirty-four dead, long stay in repair yards.

The Navy is assuming that it cannot be hit.

The Milquetoast Factor

Through Vietnam, America’s wars were fought by tough kids, often from rural backgrounds involving familiarity with guns and with hard physical work. I know as I grew up and went to Marine boot with them. Discipline, if not quite brutal, came close. Physical demands were high. In AIT–Advanced Infantry Training–at Camp Lejeune, it was “S Company on the road!” at three-thirty a.m., followed by hard running and weapons training until midnight. Yes, oldsters like to remember how it was, but that was how it was.

Today America has a military corrupted by social-justice politics. Recruits are no longer country boys who could chop cordwood. Obesity is common. The Pentagon has lowered physical standards, hidden racial problems, softened training. The officers are afraid of the large numbers of military women who are now in combat positions. One complaint about sexism and there goes the career.

Officer Rot

In times of extended peace the officer corps decays. All second-tour officers are politicians, especially above the level of lieutenant colonel. You don’t get promoted by suggesting the the senior ranks are lying for political reasons, as by insisting that the Afghan war is being won. Peacetime encourages careerists who advance by not making waves. Such Pattons of PowerPoint invariably have to be weeded out, at a high cost in lives, in a big war.

Today’s military is not going to fare well in anything resembling equal combat against Afghans, Russians, or Iranians. The US military has not been able to defeat Afghan villagers in eighteen years with an immense advantage in air power, gunships, armor, artillery, medical care, and PXs. What do you think would happen if they had to fight the Taliban on equal terms–sandals, rifles, RPGs, and not much else?


The future is the enemy of the present.

The military is not ready for a real war now because its focus is always on things down the road. For example, the Navy cannot now defeat hypersonic antiship missiles but will be able to, it thinks, someday, maybe, world without end, with near-magical lasers still in development. These will funnel lots of money to Raytheon or Lockheed Martin or somebody whether they work or not. Which isn’t important since nobody really believes there will be a serious war.

This is common thinking. America is in process of acquiring B-21 intercontinental nuclear bombers for a frightening price. These will be useless except in a nuclear war, when they would still be useless because the ICBMs would already have turned targets into glowing rubble when the B-21s got there.

What the B21 will look like. It has a seat for Robin. The appeal of such things for adult twelve-year-olds is underestimated.

Why build them? Because Northrop-Grumman has so much money that its lobbyists use snow shovels to fill Congressional pockets. In my days of covering the Pentagon, whenever a new weapon was bought, the AH-64 for example, the prime contractor would hand out a list of subcontractors in many states–whose congressmen would support the weapon to get the jobs. It is all about money. Sometimes Congress forces the military to buy weapons it explicitly says it doesn’t want, such as more M1 tanks from the factory in Lima, Ohio. Jobs.

In short, many weapons are bought for economic reasons, not for use in war. In my day, II saw many not-for-use weapons. The B1, B2, DIVAD, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the M16, the V-22, the LAW. Nothing has changed.

The Blank Ignorance Factor

The landscape outside of the Five-Sided Wind Tunnel is at least as bleak as that within. A friend, very much in a position to know, estimates that ninety percent of the Senate does not know where Burma is. Think Hormuz-Malacca-South China Sea.The likelihood that Trump knows what countries are littoral to the Caspian is zero. When I covered the military very few in Congress and nobody in the major media knew anything at all about weaponry and it uses: surface duct, deep sound channel, convergence zones, pseudo-random beam steering, APFSDS, staring receivers, chirp coding. These are the first-grade small talk of people who pay attention. These do not include minor lawyers-become-Congressmen from East East Jesus, Nebraska. Yet hey vote on military policy.

The Arrival of the Maintenance Hog

Being in a real war is hard on equipment. There are battle damage and heavy wear and tear. This doesn’t matter in the wars today’s military fights. America cannot really lose, only be worn down and leave. If the US “loses” in Afghanistan or Syria, it won’t matter to Americdans and few will even notice. Because America always fights from well-protected bases and airfields, it can afford to use weapons that require a lot of maintenance, often including high-tech work. In a real war, no.

In WWII, a fighter plane was just a malformed truck: engine, windshield, tires, motor, stamped metal. If one came back full of holes, repair crews with reasonable training could repair them fast on the hangar deck. It wasn’t quite pop rivets and Bondo, but close.

After the Big War, American aircraft almost always flew from relatively safe bases. For example, in Vietnam the carriers were never in danger. After Vietnam the aerial forces seldom even suffered battle damage. Since the US was always attacking utterly inferior enemies, sortie rates and repair time ceased to matter.

And the military came to expect such luxury.

But now we have the F-35, the latest do-everything fighter of grotesque cost. It seems to be a real dog, poorly designed and suffering from endless problems. By accounts in the technical press, it is a hangar queen with very low sortie rates, poor readiness, and requiring complex electronic maintenance often at remote echelons.

This isn’t how you fight a real war.

How Wars Turn Out

Typically, not as planned. I’ve said this before but it is worth repeating. Look at history:

The American Civil War was supposed to last a day at First Manassas; wrong by four years and 650,000 dead. Napoleon thought his attack on Russia would end with the French in Moscow, not the Russians in Paris–which is what happened. WWI was supposed to last weeks and be a war of movement; wrong by four bloody years of trench warfare. The Japanese Army did not expect WWII to end with GIs buying their daughters drinks in Tokyo, nor the Germans that it would end with the Russian infantry in Berlin. The Americans did not think they would lose in Vietnam, nor the Russians that they would lose in Afghanistan. And so on.

This happens partly because militaries are overconfident as a job requirement. You can’t tell the Marines that they are at best mediocre light infantry or the Navy that it is essentially a target setl. Instead the American armed forces are always said to be the best equipped, best trained, bravest, most formidable military that the world has ever seen. Except they aren’t.

Assume that Bolton gets his war against Iran. Advisers tell him it will be short and sweet, surgical, a cake walk. Have we heard this before? The Navy says it can keep Hormuz open, grrr, woof. But somehow Iran doesn’t follow the script, doesn’t surrender. The Navy to its surprise cannot find the deeply dug-in and truck-borne antiship missiles that keep hitting tankers. These keep burning. Soon nobody will insure them. They stop coming. Three weeks into the war the world is screaming for oil, there is no end in sight, Trump can’t admit that he has blundered, and Bolton wants to nuke Tehran.

Or Washington pushes too hard in the South China Sea, an accidental collision turns into a shooting incident, and the Pompeo-Boltonian Bannonites order the fleet to teach the Chinamen a lesson. Unfortunately the Chinese antiship missiles turn out to be rather better than expected, a carrier is disabled and three destroyers rendered scrap.

Now what? Huge and uninformed egos in Washington could not accept defeat. For one thing, it would end American credibility as a hegemon, and everybody and his herd of goats would want to buy Chinese antiship missiles. Vanity plays a larger in world affairs than the textbooks say. Washington, stupidly but inevitably, would double down and start an all-out war with China. At that point things would become unpredictable.

Nuclear War

Men of incalculable stupidity and likely sexual inadequacy talk about nuclear war as winnable. Dream on. Reflect: American cities cannot feed themselves. Three days without food shipments and New Yorkers would clear the supermarket shelves. A week and they would kill for cans of tuna fish. Two weeks and they would be eating each other. A very few nuclear bombs on transportation hubs would prevent distribution of food for months. Even fewer cobalt bombs, designed to produce a maximum of lingering radiation, would make the farm belts lethally radioactive for a decade.

“Defense Intellectuals,” usually stupid enough that they ought to live in trees, chatter about escalation dominance and the intimidation factor and airtight missile defense. They are nuts. What they really need is a codpiece and a subscription to Pornhub Premium.

This is why it is a really, really, bad idea to have a psychopathic cockatoo, two loon Christians, and a pathologically aggressive momma’s boy in a position to start a war.


Write Fred at jet.possum@gmail.com. Be sure to put the letter “pdq” somewhere in the subject line to prevent heartless deletion by anti-spam software.

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After Bolton, Trump Goals Remain Unrealized – by Pat Buchanan • 13 Sept 2019

For Bolton’s worldview, formed and fixed in a Cold War that ended in 1991, was irreconcilable with the policies Donald Trump promised in his 2016 campaign. Indeed, Trump was elected because he offered a foreign policy that represented a repudiation of what John Bolton had advocated since the end of the Cold War.

Trump wanted to call off Cold War II with Russia, to engage with Vladimir Putin, and to extricate us from the Middle East wars into which Bolton and the neocons did so much to plunge the United States.

Where Trump demanded that NATO nations and allies like South Korea and Japan start paying the cost of their own defense, Bolton is an empire man who relishes the global role and responsibilities of America as the last superpower and custodian of the New World Order.

Trump saw in the hermit kingdom of North Korea an opportunity to end its isolation and bring Kim Jong Un into talks to persuade him to give up his nuclear weapons, in return for a full readmission and welcome into the world that Pyongyang turned its back on after World War II.

In Trump’s passive acceptance of Kim’s resumption of short-range missile tests last August, Bolton surely saw signs of appeasement.

To Bolton, Trump’s trashing of Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal was the first step toward a confrontation and clash to smash the Tehran regime. To Trump, it was a first step to a Trump-negotiated better bargain with Iran.

Bolton’s hawkish stance of confrontation, and conflict if necessary to impose our will, from the Eastern Baltic, to Ukraine and the Black Sea, to the Middle East, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, the Korean Peninsula, today finds almost no broad support among the American electorate.

It is only among foreign policy elites in Beltway think tanks, the generals who ran the national security state, liberal interventionists in the media and the hierarchy of the GOP that we find echoes of Bolton.

The rest of the country has moved on. They want an end to the endless wars and to put America first again.

In the Democratic debates, climate change — the melting ice caps of the Arctic and Greenland — represents the real “existential threat.”

Tulsi GabbardOnly Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has made foreign policy her focus. But she is the antithesis of Bolton, an anti-interventionist who wants to end the wars and bring the troops home.

Yet, after Bolton’s departure, Trump’s problem is this: What he promised in 2016 he has been unable to deliver.

Rather than summits with Putin, the U.S. and NATO under Trump have sent additional forces to the eastern Baltic. We have let the U.S.-Russian strategic arms agreements lapse. We have sent lethal military aid to Ukraine to fight pro-Russian rebels in the Donbass.

Bibi Netanyahu, not Trump, holds the meetings with the Russian president, is in Moscow again this week, and has plastered a huge poster of himself and Putin at his Likud Party’s headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu Billboard

We blacklist Putin, while Bibi relies on Vlad to help bring home the Russian-Jewish vote in Israel’s election next week.

We still have troops in Syria and Iraq and are closer to war with Iran than the day Trump took office. Such a war would become the defining event of Trump’s presidency and leave this country tied down in virtual perpetuity in the Middle East.

Trump’s hopes for a negotiated withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of his first term has been dealt a crippling blow with the cancellation of his Camp David summit with the Taliban.

Indeed, ex-Defense Secretary James Mattis threw cold water this week on the very idea of bringing our troops home. We must keep “boots on the ground” in Afghanistan, said Mattis, we cannot leave the Afghan forces alone to fight the terrorists and hold the country together:

“We’re going to have to stick with those countries that are not yet ready to do it on their own and keep … enough boots on the ground not to … turn the ground back over to the very enemy that attacked us before.”

What Mattis is saying is that Trump’s goal of extracting us from the “forever war” entails too great a risk, and U.S. troops in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan will have to soldier on, indefinitely.

North Korea continues to test missiles that may not be able to hit the U.S. homeland, but they could hit U.S. troops and bases in South Korea and Japan.

If, by 2020, Kim Jong Un still refuses to give up his nuclear weapons, Iran is back to enriching uranium, the Taliban atrocities continue unabated, and U.S. troops remain in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan in the same numbers they are today, what does Trump do? What does Trump say?


Going Theory: Cave-Dwelling Muslim in Afghanistan, 19 Islamist Friends Mastermind Devastating Attack on US – by Pepe Escobar (Asia Times) 11 Sept 2019

After years of reporting on the Global War on Terror, many questions behind the US attacks remain unresolved

Afghanistan was bombed and invaded because of 9/11. I was there from the start, even before 9/11. On August 20, 2001, I interviewed commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, the “Lion of the Panjshir,” who told me about an “unholy alliance” of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the ISI (Pakistani intel).

Back in Peshawar, I learned that something really big was coming: my article was published by Asia Times on August 30. Commander Massoud was killed on September 9: I received a terse email from a Panjshir source, only stating, “the commander has been shot.” Two days later, 9/11 happened.

A hijacked plane crashes into the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001 in New York.

And yet, the day before, none other than Osama bin Laden, in person, was in a Pakistani hospital in Rawalpindi, receiving treatment, as CBS reported. Bin Laden was proclaimed the perpetrator already at 11am on 9/11 – with no investigation whatsoever. It should have been not exactly hard to locate him in Pakistan and “bring him to justice.”

In December 2001 I was in Tora Bora tracking bin Laden – under B-52 bombers and side by side with Pashtun mujahideen. Later, in 2011, I would revisit the day bin Laden vanished forever.

One year after 9/11, I was back in Afghanistan for an in-depth investigation of the killing of Massoud. By then it was possible to establish a Saudi connection: the letter of introduction for Massoud’s killers, who posed as journalists, was facilitated by commander Sayyaf, a Saudi asset.

Saudi-born alleged terror mastermind Osama bin Laden is seen in a video taken at a secret site in Afghanistan. This was aired by Al-Jazeera on Oct. 7, 2001, the day the US launched bombing of terrorist camps, airbases and air defense installations in its campaign against the Taliban for sheltering bin Laden. Photo: AFP

For three years my life revolved around the Global War on Terror; most of the time I lived literally on the road, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, the Persian Gulf and Brussels. At the start of ‘Shock and Awe’ on Iraq, in March 2003, Asia Times published my in-depth investigation of which neo-cons concocted the war on Iraq.

In 2004, roving across the US, I re-traced the Taliban’s trip to Texas, and how a top priority, since the Clinton years all the way to the neo-cons, was about what I had baptized as “Pipelineistan” – in this case how to build the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, bypassing Iran and Russia, and extending US control of Central and South Asia.

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Later on, I delved into the hard questions the 9/11 Commission never asked, and how Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign was totally conditioned by and dependent on 9/11.

Michael Ruppert, a CIA whistleblower, who may – or may not – have committed suicide in 2014, was a top 9/11 analyst. We exchanged a lot of information, and always emphasized the same points: Afghanistan was all about (existent) heroin and (non-existent) pipelines.

In 2011, the late, great Bob Parry would debunk more Afghanistan lies. And in 2017, I would detail a top reason why the US will never leave Afghanistan: the heroin rat line.

Now, President Trump may have identified a possible Afghan deal – which the Taliban, who control two-thirds of the country, are bound to refuse, as it allows withdrawal of only 5,000 out of 13,000 US troops. Moreover, the US ‘Deep State’ is absolutely against any deal, as well as India and the rickety government in Kabul.

But Pakistan and China are in favor, especially because Beijing plans to incorporate Kabul into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and have Afghanistan admitted as a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, thus attaching the Hindu Kush and the Khyber Pass to the ongoing Eurasia integration process.

Praying for a Pearl

Eighteen years after the game-changing fact, we all remain hostages of 9/11. US neocons, gathered at the Project for the New American Century, had been praying for a “Pearl Harbor” to reorient US foreign policy since 1997. Their prayers were answered beyond their wildest dreams.

Already in The Grand Chessboard, also published in 1997, former National Security Adviser and Trilateral Commission co-founder Zbigniew Brzezinski, nominally not a neocon, had pointed out that the American public “supported America’s engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.”

So, Brzezinski added, America “may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat.”

As an attack on the homeland, 9/11 generated the Global War on Terror, launched at 11pm on the same day, initially christened “The Long War” by the Pentagon, later sanitized as Overseas Contingency Operations by the Obama administration. This cost trillions of dollars, killed over half a million people and branched out into illegal wars against seven Muslim nations – all justified on “humanitarian grounds” and allegedly supported by the “international community.”

Year after year, 9/11 is essentially a You Have The Right to Accept Only The Official Version ritual ceremony, even as widespread evidence suggests the US government knew 9/11 would happen and did not stop it.

Three days after 9/11, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that in June 2001, German intelligence warned the CIA that Middle East terrorists were “planning to hijack commercial aircraft to use as weapons to attack important symbols of American and Israeli culture.”

In August 2001, President Putin ordered Russian intel to tell the US government “in the strongest possible terms” of imminent attacks on airports and government buildings, MSNBC revealed in an interview with Putin that was broadcast on September 15 that year.

No US government agency has released any information on who used foreknowledge of 9/11 in the financial markets. The US Congress did not even raise the issue. In Germany, investigative financial journalist Lars Schall has been working for years on a massive study detailing to a great extent insider trading before 9/11.

Mr Mueller, I presume

Robert Mueller was the Director of the FBI from 2001 to 2003. He was appointed by President Bush only one week before 9/11. Three days after 9/11, Mueller said, “there were no warning signs that I’m aware of” pointing to the possibility of airplanes crashing into buildings.

In fact FBI agents repeatedly accused HQ of blocking myriad investigations before 9/11 that could have prevented it.

In a devastating book, The FBI Accomplice of 9/11 (Documents), written in French and recently translated into English, Patrick Pasin painstakingly tracks all warnings on record: not only to the FBI, directly, but also including the by now notorious “August 6 memo,” which referred to planned attacks involving multiple airplane hijackings. Then National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice famously dismissed the memo as “very vague,” “very non-specific” and “nothing really new here.”

Pasin meticulously aims to prove that the FBI knew all there was to know about indications toward the possibility of a 9/11. But then the bureau silenced them; buried them; made them disappear; fell into a prolonged comma; and, in quite serious instances, may have even forged false evidence, as in arguably fabricating a list of Muslim hijackers, complete with the finding of indestructible passports, and forging impossible phone calls placed at 30,000 feet.

Trump knows buildings

Discrediting the official, immutable 9/11 narrative remains the ultimate taboo. Hundreds of architects and engineers engaged in meticulous technical debunking of all aspects of 9/11’s official story are summarily dismissed as “conspiracy theorists.”

In the afternoon of 9/11, Donald Trump the real estate developer (not yet President of the United States) was interviewed by phone by Channel 9 in New York.

Fasten your seat belts, because this is incandescent. The serial money quotes start rolling at 5:20

Channel 9: “There is a great deal of questions about whether or not the damage and the ultimate destruction of the buildings was caused by the airplanes, by architectural defect or possibly by bombs, or after-shocks. Do you have any thoughts on that?”

Donald Trump: “It wasn’t architectural defect. The World Trade Center was always known as a very, very strong building. Don’t forget that it took a big bomb in the basement [in 1993]. Now the basement is the most vulnerable place, because that is your foundation and it withstood that. And I got to see that area about 3 or 4 days after it took place, because one of my structural engineers actually took me for a tour because he did the building. And I said ‘I can’t believe it’. The building was standing solid and half of the columns were blown out. This was an unbelievably powerful building if you know anything about structure. It was one of the first buildings that was built from the outside. The steel, the reason the WTC had such narrow windows is that in between all the windows you had steel on the outside of the building. That’s why when I first looked at it you had big, heavy I-beams. When I first looked at it I couldn’t believe it because there was a hole in the steel. And this was steel that was … you remember the width of the windows of the World Trade Center, folks, I think that you know, if you were ever up there, they were quite narrow and in between was this heavy steel. I said: How could a plane, even a 767 or 747 or whatever it might have been, how could it possibly go through the steel? I happen to think that they had not only a plane, but they had bombs that exploded almost simultaneously. [italics mine]. Because I just can’t imagine anything being able to go through that wall. Most buildings are built with the steel on the inside around the elevator shafts. This one was built from the outside, which is the strongest structure you can have. And it was almost just like a can of soup.”

Channel 9: “You know…we were looking at pictures all morning long of that plane coming into Building #2. And when you see that approach the far side, then all of a sudden within another millisecond the explosion pops out the other side.”

Donald Trump: “Right. I just think that there was a plane with more than jet fuel.” [italics mine]

Donald Trump may be extremely controversial – and all things for all people. But one thing the former real estate developer and current President of the United States does know about is building construction.

Serious questions

In contrast, skepticism rooted in Greek and Latin tradition came up with arguably the best documentary on 9/11: Zero, an Italian production. Just as arguably the most stimulating book on 9/11 is also Italian: The Myth of September 11, by Roberto Quaglia, which offers a delicately nuanced narrative of 9/11 as a myth structured as a movie. The book became a huge hit in Eastern Europe.

Serious questions suggest quite plausible suspects to be investigated regarding 9/11, far more than 19 Arabs with box cutters. Ten years ago, in Asia Times, I asked 50 questions, some of them extremely detailed, about 9/11. After reader demand and suggestions, I added 20 more. None of these questions were convincingly addressed – not to mention answered – by the official narrative.

World public opinion is directed to believe that on the morning of 9/11 four airliners, presumably hijacked by 19 Arabs with box cutters, traveled undisturbed – for two hours – across the most controlled airspace on the planet, which is supervised by the most devastating military apparatus ever.

American Airlines Flight 11 deviated from its path at 8.13am and crashed into the first World Trade Center tower at 8.57am. Only at 8.46am did NORAD – the North American Aerospace Defense Command – order that two intercepting F-15s take off from Otis military base.

By a curious coincidence a Pentagon war game was in effect on the morning of 9/11 – so air-controllers’ radars may have registered only ‘ghost signals’ of nonexistent aircraft simulating an air attack. Well, it was much more complicated than that, as demonstrated by professional pilots.

‘Angel was next’

World public opinion is also directed to believe that a Boeing 757 – with a wingspan of 38 meters – managed to penetrate the Pentagon through a six-meter-wide hole and at the height of the first floor. A Boeing 757 with landing gear is 13 meters high. Airliners electronically refuse to crash – so it’s quite a feat to convince one to fly five to 10 meters above the ground, landing gear on, at a lightning speed of 800 kilometers an hour.

According to the official narrative, the Boeing 757 literally pulverized itself. Yet even after pulverization, it managed to perforate six walls of three rings of the Pentagon, leaving a two-meter wide hole in the last wall but only slightly damaging the second and third rings. The official narrative is that the hole was caused by the plane’s nose – still quite hard even after pulverization. Yet the rest of the plane – a mass of 100 tons traveling at 800 kilometers an hour – miraculously stopped at the first ring.

All that happened under the stewardship of one Hani Hanjour, who three weeks before had been judged by his flight instructors to be incapable of piloting a Cessna. Hanjour, nonetheless, managed to accomplish an ultra-fast spiral descent at 270 degrees, aligning at a maximum 10 meters above ground, minutely calibrating the trajectory, and keeping a cruise speed of roughly 800 kilometers an hour.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, left, and US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld brief reporters at the Pentagon on Oct. 8, 2001 following the US bombing raids on Afghanistan in response to 9/11 attacks. Photo: AFP / Luke Frazza

At 9.37am, Hanjour hit precisely the Pentagon’s budget analysts’ office, where everyone was busy working on the mysterious disappearance of no less than $2.3 trillion that Defense Secretary Donald “Known Unknowns” Rumsfeld, in a press conference the day before, said could not be tracked. So, it’s not only Boeings that get pulverized inside the Pentagon.

World public opinion is also directed to believe that Newtonian physics was suspended as a special bonus for WTC 1 and 2 on 9/11 (not to mention WTC 7, which was not even hit by any plane). The slower WTC tower took 10 seconds to fall 411 meters, starting from immobility. So it fell at 148 kilometers an hour. Considering the initial acceleration time, it was a free fall, not the least impeded by 47 massive, vertical steel beams that composed the tower’s structural heart.

World public opinion is also directed to believe that United Airlines Flight 93 – 150 tons of aircraft with 45 people, 200 seats, luggage, a wingspan of 38 meters – crashed in a field in Pennsylvania and also literally pulverized itself, totally disappearing inside a hole six meters by three meters wide and only two meters deep.

Suddenly, Air Force One was “the only plane in the sky.” Colonel Mark Tillman, who was on board, recalled: “We get this report that there’s a call saying ‘Angel’ was next. No one really knows now where the comment came from – it got mistranslated or garbled amid the White House, the Situation Room, the radio operators. ‘Angel’ was our code name. The fact that they knew about ‘Angel,’ well, you had to be in the inner circle.”

This means that 19 Arabs with box cutters, and most of all their handlers, surely must have been “in the inner circle.” Inevitably, this was never fully investigated.

Already in 1997, Brzezinski had warned, “it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of also challenging America.”

In the end, much to the despair of US neocons, all the combined sound and fury of 9/11 and the Global War on Terror/Overseas Contingency Operations, in less than two decades, ended up metastasized into not only a challenger but a Russia-China strategic partnership. This is the real “enemy” – not al-Qaeda, a flimsy figment of the CIA’s imagination, rehabilitated and sanitized as “moderate rebels” in Syria.

Source: Asia Times



Are Global Elites Planning to Topple the Dollar? – by F. William Engdahl – 13 Sept 2019

Unusual remarks and actions by the outgoing head of the Bank of England and other central banking insiders strongly suggest that there is a very ugly scenario in the works to end the role of the US dollar as world reserve currency. In the process, this would involve that the Fed deliberately triggers a dramatic economic depression. If this scenario is actually deployed in coming months, Donald Trump will go down in history books as the second Herbert Hoover, and the world economy will be pushed into the worst collapse since the 1930s. Here are some elements worth considering.

Bank of England speech

The about-to-retire head of the very special Bank of England, Mark Carney, delivered a remarkable speech at the recent annual meeting of central bankers and finance elites at Jackson Hole Wyoming on August 23. The 23-page address to fellow central bankers and financial insiders is clearly a major signal of where the Powers That Be who run world central banks plan to take the world.

Carney addresses obvious flaws with the post-1944 dollar reserve system, noting that,

“…a destabilising asymmetry at the heart of the IMFS (International Monetary and Financial System) is growing. While the world economy is being reordered, the US dollar remains as important as when Bretton Woods collapsed.” He states bluntly, “…In the longer term, we need to change the game…Risks are building, and they are structural.”

What he then goes on to outline is a remarkably detailed blueprint for global central bank transformation of the dollar order, a revolutionary shift.

Carney discusses the fact that China as the world leading trading nation is the obvious candidate to replace the dollar as leading reserve, however, he notes,

“…for the Renminbi to become a truly global currency, much more is required. Moreover, history teaches that the transition to a new global reserve currency may not proceed smoothly.”

He indicates that means it often needs wars or depressions, as he cites the role of World War I forcing out sterling in favor of the US dollar. What Carney finds more immediate is a new IMF-based monetary system to replace the dominant role of the dollar. Carney declares,

“While the rise of the Renminbi may over time provide a second best solution to the current problems with the IMFS, first best would be to build a multipolar system. The main advantage of a multipolar IMFS is diversification… “ He adds, “… When change comes, it shouldn’t be to swap one currency hegemon for another. Any unipolar system is unsuited to a multi-polar world… In other words he says, “Sorry, Beijing, you must wait.”

The Bank of England Governor proposes in effect that the IMF, with its multi-currency Special Drawing Rights (SDR), a basket of five currencies—dollar, Pound, Yen, Euro and now Renminbi—should play the central role creating a new monetary system:

“The IMF should play a central role in informing both domestic and cross border policies. … Pooling resources at the IMF, and thereby distributing the costs across all 189 member countries…”

For that to work he proposes raising the IMF SDR funds triple to $3 trillions as the core of a new monetary system.


Then Carney proposes that the IMF oversee creation of a new payments infrastructure based on an international “stablecoin.” Referring to the private Libra, he clearly states a “new Synthetic Hegemonic Currency (SHC) would be best provided by the public sector, perhaps through a network of central bank digital currencies.” Note that Carney, a former Goldman Sachs banker, is mentioned as a leading candidate to replace Christine Lagarde as IMF head. Is his speech open admission of what is being planned by the world’s leading central bankers as the next step to a world currency and global economic control? Let’s look further.

Lagarde to ECB

The Carney speech, when deciphered from its central bank language, gives us for the first time a clear roadmap where the powers that control world central banking would like to take us. The world reserve role of the US dollar must end; it must be replaced by some form of IMF SDRs as basis for a multi-currency reserve. That in turn would ultimately be based on digital money, so-called block chain currencies. Such currencies, make no mistake, would be completely controlled by central bank authorities and the IMF. That would require their often-proposed elimination of all cash in favor of digital money where every cent we spend can be monitored by the state. This cashless society would also set the stage for the next great financial crisis and the confiscation by governments of ordinary citizens’ bank deposits under new “bank bail-in” laws now on the books since 2014 in every major industrial country including the EU and USA.

The IMF is fully behind the turn to global blockchain digital currencies and use of SDR to replace the dominant US dollar. In a little-noticed speech in November 14, 2018, IMF chief Lagarde strongly indicated that the IMF was behind central bank digital currencies as well as cashless societies. She noted very carefully,

“I believe we should consider the possibility to issue digital currency. There may be a role for the state to supply money to the digital economy.” She added, “A new wind is blowing, that of digitalization…What role will remain for cash in this digital world? … demand for cash is decreasing—as shown in recent IMF work. And in ten, twenty, thirty years, who will still be exchanging pieces of paper?”

Dudley Remarks

The introduction of this central bankers’ new digital currency world will require, as Carney suggests, dramatic upheavals of the status quo, upheavals that would lead to the end of the dominant role of the US dollar since the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement. As that dollar reserve currency role is a pillar of American power in the world, for that to happen would require nothing short of catastrophe. Is this in fact what the Federal Reserve is quietly planning with its money policies?

A remarkable hint of what might be in the works came in an OpEd by the person who until 2018 was the very important President of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Bill Dudley, who like Mark Carney is a senior Goldman Sachs alumnus. Dudley is no minor actor in the central bankers’ world. Until last year he also was a member of the Bank for International Settlements Board of Directors and chaired the BIS Committee on Payment Settlement Systems and the Committee on the Global Financial System.

Dudley, pointing to the Trump trade war policies and economic dangers of same, then issues the following rare undiplomatic declaration:

“Trump’s re-election arguably presents a threat to the U.S. and global economy, to the Fed’s independence and its ability to achieve its employment and inflation objectives. If the goal of monetary policy is to achieve the best long-term economic outcome, then Fed officials should consider how their decisions will affect the political outcome in 2020.”

While it shocked many, Dudley is merely making public what the Fed has done since its creation in 1913 — influence the course of world and US politics stealthily behind the cover of “neutral” monetary policies. Dudley suggests not “Russian interference” but rather Fed interference.

The Fed could easily tip the US into crisis. The debt levels of the US economy are at record high levels for private households, Federal government, and US corporate debt. Most US corporations have used growing debt, well over $9 trillion, to make stock buybacks rather than invest in new plant and equipment, fueling an unprecedented bubble in the S&P stocks. The rising stocks are not a sign of economic health but of a dangerous speculative bubble vulnerable to collapse.

Were the Fed now to resume rate rises and continue its less-publicized Quantitative Tightening into 2020, a domino-style series of debt defaults, corporate bankruptcies, home mortgage foreclosures, default on car loans and student loans could quickly make a second Trump Presidency in 2020 more than doubtful. However that would be no grounds for the rest of the world opposed to Trump policies to cheer. It would also trigger collapse in major emerging market countries who have borrowed hundreds of billions denominated in US dollars, including Chinese state companies, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil to name a few. EU banks from Italy to Germany to France would fail.

If this Dudley scenario comes to pass in 2020 or not, only the key central bank actors know for sure. It is clear that, after almost eleven years since the 2008 global financial meltdown, the unprecedented central bank zero interest rate policies in the EU and until recently the US, have fueled creation of what some call an “everything bubble”, not only in stocks, in corporate and public bonds, in home prices. Is a new Fed intervention to raise rates and tighten credit the event– the deliberate central bank rupturing of this inflated bubble using the excuse of the Trump danger to the world economy– that Carney has in mind when he says, “transition to a new global reserve currency may not proceed smoothly,”? Let us hope not. The coming months will tell.


Note to readers: Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. et cetera.

Source: Global Research


The 5 Biggest Capitalist Lies About Labor Unions – by Robert Reich – 5 Sept 2019


Union members walk in the Labor Day parade in Detroit earlier this week.

Wealthy corporations and their enablers have spread 5 big lies about unions in order to stop workers from organizing and to protect their own bottom lines. Know the truth and spread the truth.

Lie #1: Labor unions are bad for workers. Wrong. Unions are good for all workers—even those who are not unionized. In the mid-1950s, when a third of all workers in the United States were unionized, wages grew in tandem with the economy. That’s because workers across America—even those who were not unionized—had significant power to demand and get better wages, hours, benefits, and working conditions. Since then, as union membership has declined, the middle class has shrunk as well.

Lie #2: Unions hurt the economy. Wrong again. When workers are unionized they can negotiate better wages, which in turn spreads the economic gains more evenly and strengthens the middle class. This creates a virtuous cycle: Wages increase, workers have more to spend in their communities, businesses thrive, and the economy grows. Since the 1970s, the decline in unionization accounts for one-third of the increase in income inequality. Without unions, wealth becomes concentrated at the top and the gains don’t trickle down to workers.

Lie #3: Labor unions are as powerful as big business. No way. Labor union membership in 2018 accounted for 10.5 percent of the American workforce, while large corporations account for almost three-quarters of the entire American economy. And when it comes to political power, it’s big business and small labor. In the 2018 midterms, labor unions contributed less than $70 million to parties and candidates, while big corporations and their political action committees contributed $1.6 billion. This enormous gulf between business and labor is a huge problem. It explains why most economic gains have been going to executives and shareholders rather than workers. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Lie #4: Most unionized workers are in industries like steel and auto manufacturing. Untrue. Although industrial unions are still vitally important to workers, the largest part of the unionized workforce is workers in the professional and service sectors—retail, restaurant, hotel, hospital, teachers—which comprise 59 percent of all workers represented by a union. And these workers benefit from being in a union. In 2018, unionized service workers earned a median wage of $802 a week. Non-unionized service workers made, on average, $261 less. That’s almost a third less.

Lie #5: Most unionized workers are white, male, and middle-aged. Some unionized workers are, of course, but most newly unionized workers are not. They’re women, they’re young, and a growing portion are black and brown. In fact, it’s through the power of unions that people who had been historically marginalized in the American economy because of their race, ethnicity, or gender are now gaining economic ground. In 2018, women who were in unions earned 21 percent more than non-unionized women. And African Americans who were unionized earned nearly 20 percent more than African Americans who were non-unionized.

Don’t believe the corporate lies. Today’s unions are growing, expanding, and boosting the wages and economic prospects of those who need them most. They’re good for workers and good for America.





How The BBC’s Quentin Sommerville Created Fairytales Of Underground Hospitals In Syria – by Moon of Alabama – 13 Sept 2019

In August 2013 the BBC produced a fake video headlined “Saving Syria’s Children” about an alleged chemical weapon attack in Syria which it claimed was caused by the Syrian government. Robert Stuart has since pressed the BBC to admit the obvious fabrication of these scenes.

Today the BBC posted on its website another Syria clip under the title Idlib’s secret hospitals hiding from air strikes:

Air strikes have been targeting hospitals in the rebel-held province of Idlib, Syria, despite the fact that it is a war crime. Medics have been forced underground in order to survive.The UN accuses the Syrian government and allied Russian warplanes of conducting a deadly campaign that appears to target medical facilities.

BBC’s Middle East correspondent, Quentin Sommerville, visits one hospital in a secret location.

Sommerville starts with standing next to destroyed building claiming that it has been a hospital that was bombed.

biggerIt isn’t the “only building that was targeted” there. It is the only building that was there. The building is standing within an orchard. There are no other buildings or infrastructure around it. Why would anyone have built a hospital far from a town? There are no signs that building ever was a hospital and is doubtful that it was one.

The next shot has been shown in other TV clips (on Channel 4?). It shows the entrances to some caves but no car, no persons and nothing else is around it.

biggerSuddenly six explosions happen at the very same time.

biggerImmediately after the explosions, but not before them, the sound of a passing jet is heard.

I have never heard or seen of a jet that manages to release six bombs that land in such a tight pattern and explode all at the very same time. Compare the impact pattern and explosion timing with this recent carpet bombing (vid) of an island in Iraq. And why please was the camera in place that made such a tight shot of it?

This was clearly a stunt made with some buried explosives that were centrally ignited at the same time. The jet noise was later added to the shot.

In the next scene two people walk down a concrete stairway within a regular building.

biggerThe scene cuts to one filmed at the entrance of roughly dug cave while the reporter insinuates that both are the same.

biggerThe reporter claims that the cave is a hospital.

biggerHe walks further down the stairs into the cave …

bigger… and ends up in a well built building with straight painted walls and a nice balustrade. This might be a hospital but there is no sign that it is one. What is certain is that it is not underground or in a cave.

biggerThe whole claim of the BBC clip is that the hospitals are underground because they get bombed. But the part that is supposed to prove that is clearly cut from a real building scene to a walk down into a cave scene and back to a real building scene. The sequence is clearly a propaganda fake.

The clip continues with Sommerville talking to some ‘doctor’ who answers in Arabic.

biggerThen follow scenes from the Atmah Charity Hospital which is a real hospital. It lies north of Idleb city and right next to the Turkish border near the Olive Tree refugee camp near the town of Atmah. It is sponsored by Orient Charity, established by the Syrian anti-Assad businessman Ghassan Aboud who lives in the UAE, and is operated by the Muslim Brotherhood aligned Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS). Ghassan Aboud also owns Orient News which is a Jihadist outlet. There follow the typical pictures of injured children which are used to create more hate against the Syrian government and the millions of children it protects from the U.S. sponsored Jihadists attacks.

biggerOn his Twitter account Quentin Sommerville posted another version of his Idleb tale. It is longer and the cut differs significantly from the clip on the BBC website.

biggerSome scenes are similar. The ‘bombed hospital’ is there. The fake ‘bombing’ of the caves is also in it. The interview scene with the Arabic speaking doctor in the ‘underground hospital’ is missing in this version but the same person reappears.

Sommerville speaks with the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria about the coordination system for hospitals. The hospitals are supposed to tell the UN there geographic coordinates which the UN then hands to Russia with the request not to bomb those places. The UN’s Pomos Moumtzis defends the system. Sommerville claims that 40 such hospitals have been bombed in recent months. Syria’s Idleb governorate never had that many hospitals.

What is happening here is that the Jihadis, with whom Sommerville traveled and who he rightly says are seen as terrorist even by the ‘west’, report the coordinates of their headquarters and weapon depots as hospitals. The UN has no way to check their claims. When the Russian or Syrian airforce then bomb those places the Jihadis claim that their hospitals were hit.

There are more false sequences in the longer clip Sommerville tweeted.

At 4:27 the cameraman rides on the back of a motorcycle through a covered alley or basement into a ‘hospital entrance’. More than a dozen motorcycles are parked there and there is professional ventilation.

biggerIt is the very same ‘underground hospital’ and the same Arabic speaking ‘doctor’ as in the first clip. Notice that the ‘doctor’ rode his motorcycle through town while wearing his supposedly clean clinic clothes.

biggerSommerville narrates: “This hospital is very deep out of reach of the bombs. We were told to move fast too.”

The above scene cuts to two men running down a basement stairway seemingly from the hospital. It is the same stairway as in the first clip but filmed from a slightly different perspective and in a different take.

biggerSummerville continues: “Even under this solid rock we await the next attack.” The scene cuts to two men running down an underground tunnel with rough walls.

biggerIt is the same tunnel as in the first clip.

The sequence as a whole makes no sense. If the hospital is ‘out of reach of the bombs’ why run further down from it?

In the first clip the storyline around the same ‘underground hospital’ is the opposite of the storyline in the second version. In the first clip the reporter walks first down the stairway and then down the rough tunnel to allegedly reach the ‘underground hospital’. In the second longer clip the reporters leave from the ‘underground hospital’ down the stairway and further down into the rough cut tunnel to be more safe from bombs.

Which is the real sequence Mr. Sommerville? Is the hospital at the lower end of the rough wall tunnel or is it at the upper end? Could you please make up your mind?

At 5:00 min Sommerville says that he travels further south towards the frontline escorted by the Jihadist controlled ‘Salvation government’. The scene cuts to a drone shot of a refugee camp insinuating that it is in the same southern area. But the camp is like all refugee camps in Idleb in the north directly at the Turkish border. The border wall which Turkey erected can be clearly seen behind it. The place is far from the frontline.

biggerThe two Sommerville videos show how the BBC works. First a politically wanted narrative is created. Scenes are then taken and cut into sequences that fit that narrative. The same or similar scenes can be used to create a different version of the same narrative or even a completely different one. Neither of those narratives needs to be anywhere near the realities on the ground.

Unfortunately many people fall for such cheap propaganda junk.


Defiant Saudi women stun onlookers by wearing Western clothes in public (AFP) 12 Sept 2019

Defiant Saudi Arabian women have stunned onlookers on the streets of Riyadh by walking around without wearing their customary cloaks.

Defiant Saudi Arabian women have stunned onlookers on the streets of Riyadh by walking around without wearing the customary body-shrouding garments.

Despite the risk of provoking arch-conservatives, many women are now leaving their cloaks open in the front or wear them in bright colours.

Mashael al-Jaloud has taken the cultural rebellion a step further — she stopped wearing the robe altogether.

In a stunning sight, the 33-year-old human resources specialist strolled through a mall in central Riyadh last week wearing nothing but a burnt orange top over baggy trousers.

Saudi human resources professional Mashael al-Jaloud, 33, walks in Western clothes past Saudis at the popular Riyadh mall.

Saudi human resources professional Mashael al-Jaloud, 33, walks in Western clothes past Saudis at the popular Riyadh mall.Source:AFP

With her high heels clacking on marble tiles, a defiant Saudi woman turned heads and drew gasps as she strutted down a Riyadh mall.

With her high heels clacking on marble tiles, a defiant Saudi woman turned heads and drew gasps as she strutted down a Riyadh mall.Source:AFP

People audibly gasped as she took to the streets.

People audibly gasped as she took to the streets.Source:AFP

In the crowd, there were audible gasps and arched eyebrows. Women veiled head-to-toe stared askance. Some mistook her for a celebrity.

“Are you famous?” asked a woman who sidled up to her.

“Are you a model?” Jaloud laughed and said she was a normal Saudi woman.

The billowy abaya, usually all-black, is customary public wear for women in the ultraconservative Islamic kingdom, where it is widely seen as a symbol of piety.

Last year, de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hinted during an interview with CBS that the dress code may be relaxed, saying the robe was not mandatory in Islam.

But despite his sweeping liberalisation drive, the practice continued as no formal edict followed.

Some women subsequently mounted a rare social media protest against the restriction, posting pictures of themselves wearing the figure-concealing garment inside out.

Jaloud is one of only a handful of women who have abandoned the abaya in recent months.

Jaloud is one of only a handful of women who have abandoned the abaya in recent months.Source:AFP


Jaloud is one of only a handful of women who have abandoned the abaya in recent months.  But the trend underscores a bold push for social liberties by young Saudis that may outstrip the monarchy’s capacity for change.

Manahel al-Otaibi, a 25-year-old activist, has also foregone the garment. “For four months I have been living in Riyadh without an abaya,” said Otaibi, walking along Tahlia St, a restaurant-lined thoroughfare, in casual overalls.

“I just want to live the way I want, freely and without restrictions. No one should force me to wear something I don’t want.” The abaya, which has existed for thousands of years but only became obligatory in recent decades, is also mandatory for non-Muslim women in the kingdom.

Saudi Manahel al-Otaibi, a 25-year-old activist, walks in Western clothes in the Saudi capital Riyadh's al Tahlia St.

Saudi Manahel al-Otaibi, a 25-year-old activist, walks in Western clothes in the Saudi capital Riyadh’s al Tahlia St.Source:AFP

She said she just ‘wants to live without restrictions’.

She said she just ‘wants to live without restrictions’.Source:AFP

The dress code was once fanatically enforced by the now-neutered religious police, and uncovered women still face random harassment in a conservative nation where attire is often associated with chastity.

“There are no clear laws, no protection. I might be at risk, might be subjected to assault from religious fanatics because I am without an abaya,” Jaloud said.

In July, she posted a video on Twitter revealing another Riyadh mall had stopped her from entering without an abaya.

She said she had tried unsuccessfully to persuade its guards by playing Prince Mohammed’s television interview, in which he said women were only expected to wear “decent, respectful clothing” — not necessarily an abaya.

In response to her post, the mall tweeted it would not permit entry to “violators of public morals”.

A Saudi royal also condemned her on Twitter, calling her a publicity seeker and demanding she be punished for the “provocative” act.

Jaloud said she recently faced similar hostility at a Riyadh supermarket, where a fully veiled woman threatened to call the police.

The dress code for women in Saudi Arabia is extremely conservative.

The dress code for women in Saudi Arabia is extremely conservative.Source:AFP

Jaloud remains defiant, but she is still forced to wear an abaya and headscarf to work or risk losing her job.

In a regulation that seems to be arbitrarily enforced, the Saudi labour ministry says on its website that working women are expected to be “modest, well-covered” and should not wear anything “transparent”.

Prince Mohammed has sought to shake off his country’s ultraconservative image by allowing cinemas, mixed-gender concerts and greater freedoms for women, including the right to drive.

As part of the liberalisation, the kingdom has invited a host of international musicians to perform, such as rapper Nicki Minaj, well known for her skin-baring music videos.

“(Minaj) is going to shake her backside and all her songs are about sex … and then everyone tells me to wear the abaya,” a young Saudi woman fumed in a recent online video that went viral. “What the hell!”

Minaj eventually cancelled her visit, citing the kingdom’s poor human rights record.

But the sentiment encapsulates the tussle between a mostly young population clamouring for greater freedoms and hardliners alarmed by the pace of reforms they see as un-Islamic.

But Jaloud argued the abaya was “not linked to religion”. “If it was, Saudi women wouldn’t take them off when they go outside the kingdom,” she said.



What Strategy? US Pushes Russia Into Alliance With China – by Robert Berke (Oilprice.com) 12 Sept 2019

The US Massively Underestimates The Trade War Blowback


Trade wars and sanctions are economic weapons against rival regimes, and like actual military warfare, often lead to unanticipated and sometimes devastating blowback from the targeted regimes.

A prime example was President Obama sanctioning Russia over its annexation of Crimea. The sanctions were designed to block Russia from any access to western financing, aimed at causing a dire financial and economic crisis in Russia that would force it to relinquish Crimea and end support for Ukraine’s breakaway territories.

In fact, the sanctions did cause Russia to enter a short-lived recession. But it also had other, much more drastic results for the West. It forced Russia to move closer to China, and Moscow saw Beijing as a great alternative to western financing for Russian industries.

At the same time, western companies were forced to withdraw from Russian mega-deals because of sanctions. The best-known example was Exxon, forced by sanctions to walk away from an Arctic joint venture with Russia’s state-owned oil giant, Rosneft, where it had invested $3.2 billion. In their very first effort, the partners successfully drilled oil wells containing 750 million barrels.

As noted by Reuters, the withdrawal was costly:

“Exxon will post an after-tax loss of $200 million as a result of pulling out of the Rosneft deal, but the true costs for the company run much deeper. Exploring and developing giant offshore fields in Russia was supposed to provide long-term growth for the company, and, in recent years, has seen falling reserves.”

But the opportunity losses are likely to be far higher for Exxon, the company that famously missed the US shale revolution. The long-term deal with Rosneft, expected to continue for decades, included exploration for oil in the Black Sea, enormous shale resources in Western Siberia, and the development of three large blocks in the Arctic (Kara Sea).

The trade war with China that has led to tariffs on billions of dollars in Chinese exports to the US, and as a result, Russia and China have moved even closer. It remains an absolute mystery why no one in the west had foreseen the blowback from economic warfare leading to an alliance between two of its most powerful adversaries.

China’s major state-owned oil companies and its Silk Road fund each became 10% partners in Russia’s first major Arctic LNG (liquified natural gas), project in the Yamal Peninsula, undertaken with Novatek, Russia’s largest independent gas producer. The project offers great prospects for enormous expansion.

The US acts as if it has been blind-sided by the Russian/China moves, even though years before it undertook economic warfare against them, China, the world’s largest energy importer, agreed to finance oil and gas multi-billion-dollar pipelines in neighboring Russia. Now Russia has become China’s largest energy supplier, equaling or perhaps even surpassing its energy supplies to Europe.

A similar scenario is taking place in the Persian Gulf where the US has withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, while imposing economic sanctions on Iranian oil exports.  The French energy giant, Total, that in recent years has been a leading international oil company in that country, was forced to withdraw because of sanctions, just like Exxon in Russia’s Arctic, it left billions of dollars on the table.

This may also answer the question as to why French Prime Minister Macron was so intent on inviting the Iranian Foreign Secretary to the recent G7 meeting in France. It’s also no secret that French carmakers Peugeot and Renault are the main suppliers to Iran’s auto assembly plants.

As stated by Global Village Space (GBS), China and Russia rushed to aid Iran, with China replacing Total, in a 25-year deal estimated to be worth some $400 billions. With that, China inherits a bonanza, providing much needed finance and technology to a country that was and could again become one of the world’s leading energy producers. China is looking to finance $280 billion to develop Iran’s gas, oil and petrochemicals industries, along with $120 billion to improve transport and manufacturing, making it a key partner in China’s Road and Belt program.

The deal also gives China the right to buy any or all Iranian oil, gas, and petrochemicals products at a minimum guaranteed 12% discount to global benchmarks, plus an additional discount of 6-8% for risk adjusted compensation. Financing will proceed using local currencies, avoiding the costs of converting to a hard currency like the US dollar or the Euro, giving the Beijing yet another 10% cost advantage.

GBS further reports that the security for these projects will include up to 5,000 Chinese security personnel on the ground in Iran to protects Chinese projects and to safeguard the transit of energy products from Iran to China, including security for the very strategic Hormuz Straits.

In direct defiance of US sanctions against Iran, China has stepped into the breach, increasing its oil purchases from Iran while becoming Iran’s major energy trade and finance partner. Like Russia, it seems that Iran is moving towards a military alliance with China. If the west worries about China’s expansive moves in the South China Sea, along China’s own borders, what to make then of China moving in on Hormuz, where some 30% of world oil is transited each day?

If these are considered winning policies for the West, one has to ask what failure looks like.

The West is already slowly becoming aware of the blowback this disastrous policy has caused. Evidence for this can be found in Macron’s efforts to persuade Trump towards a peaceful resolution with Iran.

It is well known that the US has been in secret meetings with Iran representatives, much to the dismay of the Saudi Arabia and Israel. As Bloomberg reports, after the G7 meeting, Trump publicly and repeatedly stated he was ready to meet with Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani. Bloomberg also reported that in a meeting with his Cabinet, Trump announced that he was ready to ease sanctions as a possible way to open negotiations between the two countries. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin agreed with the President, while National Security Advisor Bolton voiced strong opposition, that only one day later, led to his firing. Secretary of State Pompeo stated that Trump may meet on the sidelines of the upcoming UN meeting with Iran’s President.

The firing of Bolton was immediately followed by a fall in the price of oil and gold. Allowing Iran to continue to increase supplies into already well supplied oil markets will add downward pressure on oil prices. For the Trump administration, this is not necessarily a bad thing… unhappy consumers at the gas pump make for unhappy voters.

Similarly, the Trump Administration badly needs to move towards ending the trade war with China in order to calm global markets. The recent announcement of the resumption of trade talks between the US and China in October may provide an opportunity for a similar easing of tariffs and a path towards further resolution.

Although these actions could help to quell global tensions, it may be too late to reverse some of the serious damage caused by US-led economic warfare. Once China positions itself in Iran, it will not likely be interested in withdrawing from its new strategic position in the Middle East, that it gained as a result of US near sighted foreign policy.

Prior to the election, we may see a breakthroughs in the trade war, and the alleviation of sanctions with Russia, Iran, China, and perhaps even North Korea, but the US will almost certainly see the negative consequences from adversaries it helped to expand and strengthen.

By Robert Berke for Oilprice.com


Mozilla wants tales of YouTube radicalization to censor unwanted clips. What, you don’t have one? – 13 Sept 2019

Mozilla wants tales of YouTube radicalization to censor unwanted clips. What, you don’t have one?
Firefox maker Mozilla is trying to shame YouTube into “fixing” its recommendation algorithm, soliciting horror stories from users sent down radicalizing “rabbit holes.” Trouble is, most users don’t want more censorship.

Once, at 2 a.m., you searched YouTube for ‘Did aliens build Stonehenge?’ Ever since, your YouTube recommendations have been a mess: Roswell, wormholes, Illuminati,” Mozilla laments in its call for submissions, asking users for their “YouTube regret” so that they might “put pressure on YouTube to do better.”

YouTube’s recommendation engine can lead users down bizarre rabbit holes — and they’re not always harmless,” the company warns.

Sometimes they drive people toward misinformation and extreme viewpoints.

Putting aside the inanity of blaming YouTube for its users’ regrettable viewing choices – no one forces a user to click on the platform’s “recommended” videos – Mozilla seems confident that there is an army of YouTube users out there who are itching for stricter censorship on the platform. The media establishment, after all, has been screaming for months that YouTube is radicalizing people, and no one wants to be radicalized.

Except there’s little indication that this silent majority of YouTubers offended by recommendations for “misinformation and extreme viewpoints” exists, outside of what has been insinuated by the mainstream media.

PewDiePie, the YouTube star who recently hit 100 million subscribers, actually had to withdraw a planned $50,000 contribution to the Anti-Defamation League – an “anti-hate” organization that has demanded more stringent censorship across social media, including presenting platforms with lists of accounts it would like to see deplatformed – after his viewers rebelled.

Certainly, PewDiePie’s viewers do not represent all of YouTube. But his channel is not political, and these are not fringe elements denouncing the ADL. These are ordinary YouTube users tired of having content creators they love booted from the platform for wrongthink, often in a “trial-by-algorithm” that fails to take context into account when demonetizing and banning users.

The algorithm does occasionally punish users for watching the “wrong” video, as when one watches a live-streamed presidential debate and is subsequently deluged with mainstream TV network content. However, independent content creators have been complaining about YouTube cutting off their recommendation traffic, especially in months following June’s “Vox Adpocalypse,” which saw “borderline” content creators who behaved themselves and didn’t actually break any rules punished anyway.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki even boasted about strangling these creators’ reach last month, announcing the latest round of censorship piloted in the US would be rolled out in the UK and other English-speaking countries. She even bragged about YouTube’s “commitment to openness” and free speech while a number of creators were being deplatformed on the very same day.

Searching controversial terms is much more likely to bring up mainstream sources anyway, thanks to YouTube breaking its own algorithm in order to keep users’ opinions in line, as a former employee whistleblower revealed earlier this year, releasing nearly 1,000 pages of internal documents detailing an Orwellian censorship regime.

Mozilla’s call for complaints is a solution in search of a problem. The company is scheduled to meet with YouTube in two weeks, according to its post. If it really wants to make its users happy, it will tell YouTube to stop censoring them.


An Englishman in America Explains Brexit Blindness To Americans – by Andrew Sullivan – 13 Sept 2019

One of the frustrating aspects of reading the U.S. media’s coverage of Brexit is that you’d never get any idea why it happened in the first place. Brexit is treated, automatically, as some kind of pathology, a populist act of wanton self-harm, an absurd idea, etc etc. And from the perspective of an upstanding member of the left-liberal media establishment, that’s all true. If your idea of Britain is formed by jetting in and out of London, a multicultural, global metropolis that is as lively and European as any city on the Continent, you’d think that E.U. membership is a no-brainer. Now that the full hellish economic consequences of exit are in full view, what could possibly be the impulse to stick with it?

I get this. I would have voted Remain. I find London to be far more fun now than it was when I left the place. But allow me to suggest a parallel version of Britain’s situation — but with the U.S. The U.S. negotiated with Canada and Mexico to create a free trade zone called NAFTA, just as the U.K. negotiated entry to what was then a free trade zone called the “European Economic Community” in 1973. Now imagine further that NAFTA required complete freedom of movement for people across all three countries. Any Mexican or Canadian citizen would have the automatic right to live and work in the U.S., including access to public assistance, and every American could live and work in Mexico and Canada on the same grounds. This three-country grouping then establishes its own Supreme Court, which has a veto over the U.S. Supreme Court. And then there’s a new currency to replace the dollar, governed by a new central bank, located in Ottawa.

How many Americans would support this? How many votes would a candidate for president get if he or she proposed it? The questions answer themselves. It would be unimaginable for the U.S. to allow itself to be governed by an entity more authoritative than its own government. It would signify the end of the American experiment, because it would effectively be the end of the American nation-state. But this is precisely the position the U.K. has been in for most of my lifetime. The U.K. has no control over immigration from 27 other countries in Europe, and its less regulated economy has attracted hundreds of thousands of foreigners to work in the country, transforming its culture and stressing its hospitals, schools and transportation system. Its courts ultimately have to answer to the European Court. Most aspects of its economy are governed by rules set in Brussels. It cannot independently negotiate any aspect of its own trade agreements. I think the cost-benefit analysis still favors being a member of the E.U. But it is not crazy to come to the opposite conclusion.

More to the point, the European Economic Community has evolved over the years into something far more ambitious. Through various treaties — Maastricht and Lisbon, for example — what is now called the European Union (note the shift in language) has embarked on a process of ever-greater integration: a common currency, a common foreign policy and now, if Macron has his way, a common central bank. It is requiring the surrender and pooling of more and more national sovereignty from its members. And in this series of surrenders, Britain is unique in its history and identity. In the last century, every other European country has experienced the most severe loss of sovereignty a nation can experience: the occupation of a foreign army on its soil. Britain hasn’t. Its government has retained control of its own island territory now for a thousand years. More salient: this very resistance has come to define the character of the country, idealized by Churchill in the country’s darkest hour. Britain was always going to have more trouble pooling sovereignty than others. And the more ambitious the E.U. became, the more trouble the U.K. had.

As I said, I would have voted Remain. But I understand the legitimate arguments to Leave, and also would have respected the result of a referendum which attracted more votes than any general election in history. In 2016, both sides insisted that this was it: a clear and irrevocable choice. And when Leave won the referendum, it was incumbent to honor that result, as had been the case when a referendum in 1975 backed membership. That’s what democracy is: the peaceful acceptance of political defeat. And that’s why the refusal of the elites to accept their defeat would be a very mixed blessing. Staying in the E.U. — either formally or informally (as in the May compromise) — is a slap in the face to democracy. The right and parts of the rust belt left will see this as a function of an elite conspiracy to defy the will of the people, and they will radicalize still further. It was a mistake to hold the referendum. But it’s a deeper and more dangerous one to ignore its clear result.

And that is Boris Johnson’s core case: the people decided, the parliament invoked Article 50, and so it is vital for democracy that the U.K. exit without any continuing hassle or delay. If parliament is seen as dismissing the result of the referendum, then the parliament will effectively be at war with the people as a whole, and he will rally the people against them. It’s near perfect populism. His job is to get what the people voted for done, despite the elites. And if that is the central message of the coming election campaign he will not only win, but handily.

1619 – The New York Times Has Abandoned Liberalism for Activism – By Andrew Sullivan – 13 Sept 2019


“Our democracy’s ideals were false when they were written.”

I’ve been struggling with that sentence — the opening statement of the introductory essay to the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project on the legacy of slavery in America — for a few weeks now.

It’s a very strange formulation. How can an enduring “ideal” — like, say, freedom or equality — be “false” at one point in history and true in another? You could of course say that the ideals of universal equality and individual liberty in the Declaration of Independence were belied and contradicted in 1776 by the unconscionable fact of widespread slavery, but that’s very different than saying that the ideals themselves were false. (They were, in fact, the most revolutionary leap forward for human freedom in history.) You could say the ideals, though admirable and true, were not realized fully in fact at the time, and that it took centuries and an insanely bloody civil war to bring about their fruition. But that would be conventional wisdom — or simply the central theme of President Barack Obama’s vision of the arc of justice in the unfolding of the United States.

No, in its ambitious and often excellent 1619 Project, the New York Times wants to do more than that. So it insists that the very ideals were false from the get-go — and tells us this before anything else. Even though those ideals eventually led to the emancipation of slaves and the slow, uneven and incomplete attempt to realize racial equality over the succeeding centuries, they were still “false when they were written.” America was not founded in defense of liberty and equality against monarchy, while hypocritically ignoring the massive question of slavery. It was founded in defense of slavery and white supremacy, which was masked by highfalutin’ rhetoric about universal freedom. That’s the subtext of the entire project, and often, also, the actual text.

Hence the replacing of 1776 (or even 1620 when the pilgrims first showed up) with 1619 as the “true” founding. “True” is a strong word. 1776, the authors imply, is a smoke-screen to distract you from the overwhelming reality of white supremacy as America’s “true” identity. “We may never have revolted against Britain if the founders had not understood that slavery empowered them to do so; nor if they had not believed that independence was required in order to ensure that slavery would continue. It is not incidental that 10 of this nation’s first 12 presidents were enslavers, and some might argue that this nation was founded not as a democracy but as a slavocracy,” Hannah-Jones writes. That’s a nice little displacement there: “some might argue.” In fact, Nikole Hannah-Jones is arguing it, almost every essay in the project assumes it — and the New York Times is emphatically and institutionally endorsing it.

Hence the insistence that everything about America today is related to that same slavocracy — biased medicine, brutal economics, confounding traffic, destructive financial crises, the 2016 election, and even our expanding waistlines! Am I exaggerating? The NYT editorializes: “No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed … it is finally time to tell our story truthfully.” Finally! All previous accounts of American history have essentially been white lies, the NYT tells us, literally and figuratively. All that rhetoric about liberty, progress, prosperity, toleration was a distraction in order to perpetrate those lies, and make white people feel better about themselves.

There’s no question that Americans have deliberately avoided the brutal truths about slavery, and it is undeniably important that the full horror of that hideous regime be better and more widely understood. A special issue dedicated to exposing the racial terror-state in America before and after Reconstruction is extremely worthwhile. I wasn’t brought up here, but I can easily believe that high-school history literally whitewashes the historical reality, and still minimizes the evil. Taking that on is God’s work. Equally, Hannah-Jones’s essay is deeply moving about the faith in America that African-Americans, with little reason, clung to for so long. Vital too is recognizing that African-Americans are the most American of anyone in this country (apart, of course, from Native Americans). Her account of her father’s dedication to his country brought a lump to my throat — as did her own recognition that she was once wrong to condescend to his patriotism.

One wonders, though, if her father saw no promise in the white Americans he served with in the military, or in white Americans’ participation in the struggle for racial equality, and whether his patriotism, like his daughter’s, was only about African-Americans’ struggle against oppression (subsequently copied, according to Hannah-Jones, by every other minority) — and not, say, about Americans of all races defeating Nazism, or of all races ending slavery, or winning civil rights. Ta-Nehisi Coates, in his first memoir, The Beautiful Struggle, mocked his own father for this kind of naive patriotism, viewing him at one point as “an acolyte of that peculiar black faith that makes us patriots despite the yoke. So he worshiped JFK, got amped off old war movies.” It was only later that Coates Senior saw the truth that the plight of African-Americans “was not a tumor to be burrowed out but proof that this whole body was a tumor, that America was not a victim of great rot but rot itself.”

It seems to me that the New York Times’ editors and reporters want to say this, but not quite so explicitly. So the issue is riddled with weirdnesses like the opening sentence. 1619 is the “true” founding at one point, and then only “as important as” 1776 at another. The original ideals were false, and then the country was founded on “both an ideal and a lie.” It’s as if liberal editors reined in radical writers but couldn’t do so coherently, and lost the plot at times. Which is a good way of understanding the NYT as a whole right now, and the internal conversation that took place in the office soon after.

In a NYT town hall recently leaked to the press, a reporter asked the executive editor, Dean Baquet, why the Times doesn’t integrate the message of the 1619 Project into every single subject the paper covers: “I’m wondering to what extent you think that the fact of racism and white supremacy being sort of the foundation of this country should play into our reporting … I just feel like racism is in everything. It should be considered in our science reporting, in our culture reporting, in our national reporting. And so, to me, it’s less about the individual instances of racism, and sort of how we’re thinking about racism and white supremacy as the foundation of all of the systems in the country.”

It’s a good point, isn’t it? If you don’t believe in a liberal view of the world, if you hold the doctrines of critical race theory, and believe that “all of the systems in the country” whatever they may be, are defined by a belief in the sub-humanity of black Americans, why isn’t every issue covered that way? Baquet had no answer to this contradiction, except to say that the 1619 Project was a good start: “One reason we all signed off on the 1619 Project and made it so ambitious and expansive was to teach our readers to think a little bit more like that.” In other words, the objective was to get liberal readers to think a little bit more like neo-Marxists.

The New York Times, by its executive editor’s own admission, is increasingly engaged in a project of reporting everything through the prism of white supremacy and critical race theory, in order to “teach” its readers to think in these crudely reductionist and racial terms. That’s why this issue wasn’t called, say, “special issue”, but a “project”. It’s as much activism as journalism. And that’s the reason I’m dwelling on this a few weeks later. I’m constantly told that critical race theory is secluded on college campuses, and has no impact outside of them … and yet the newspaper of record, in a dizzyingly short space of time, is now captive to it. Its magazine covers the legacy of slavery not with a variety of scholars, or a diversity of views, but with critical race theory, espoused almost exclusively by black writers, as its sole interpretative mechanism.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that view deserves to be heard. The idea that the core truth of human society is that it is composed of invisible systems of oppression based on race (sex, gender, etc.), and that liberal democracy is merely a mask to conceal this core truth, and that a liberal society must therefore be dismantled in order to secure racial/social justice is a legitimate worldview. (That view that “systems” determine human history and that the individual is a mere cog in those systems is what makes it neo-Marxist and anti-liberal.) But I sure don’t think it deserves to be incarnated as the only way to understand our collective history, let alone be presented as the authoritative truth, in a newspaper people rely on for some gesture toward objectivity.

This is therefore, in its over-reach, ideology masquerading as neutral scholarship. Take a simple claim: no aspect of our society is unaffected by the legacy of slavery. Sure. Absolutely. Of course. But, when you consider this statement a little more, you realize this is either banal or meaningless. The complexity of history in a country of such size and diversity means that everything we do now has roots in many, many things that came before us. You could say the same thing about the English common law, for example, or the use of the English language: no aspect of American life is untouched by it. You could say that about the Enlightenment. Or the climate. You could say that America’s unique existence as a frontier country bordered by lawlessness is felt even today in every mass shooting. You could cite the death of countless millions of Native Americans — by violence and disease — as something that defines all of us in America today. And in a way it does. But that would be to engage in a liberal inquiry into our past, teasing out the nuances, and the balance of various forces throughout history, weighing each against each other along with the thoughts and actions of remarkable individuals — in the manner of, say, the excellent new history of the U.S., These Truths by Jill Lepore.

But the NYT chose a neo-Marxist rather than liberal path to make a very specific claim: that slavery is not one of many things that describe America’s founding and culture, it is the definitive one. Arguing that the “true founding” was the arrival of African slaves on the continent, period, is a bitter rebuke to the actual founders and Lincoln. America is not a messy, evolving, multicultural, religiously infused, Enlightenment-based, racist, liberating, wealth-generating kaleidoscope of a society. It’s white supremacy, which started in 1619, and that’s the key to understand all of it. America’s only virtue, in this telling, belongs to those who have attempted and still attempt to end this malign manifestation of white supremacy.

I don’t believe most African-Americans believe this, outside the elites. They’re much less doctrinaire than elite white leftists on a whole range of subjects. I don’t buy it either — alongside, I suspect, most immigrants, including most immigrants of color. Who would ever want to immigrate to such a vile and oppressive place? But it is extremely telling that this is not merely aired in the paper of record (as it should be), but that it is aggressively presented as objective reality. That’s propaganda, directed, as we now know, from the very top — and now being marched through the entire educational system to achieve a specific end. To present a truth as the truth is, in fact, a deception. And it is hard to trust a paper engaged in trying to deceive its readers in order for its radical reporters and weak editors to transform the world.

Youtube video – The 1619 Project of the New York Times (2:11:46 min)

Breaking Up the Democratic Party – by Michael Hudson • 12 Sept 2019

Thursday’s debate on Walt Disney’s ABC channel is shaping up as yet another shameless charade. The pretense is that we are to select who the Democratic presidential candidate will be. But most Americans, as the Irish say, vote with their backsides, belonging to the informal but dominant party of non-voters who choose not to be sucked into legitimizing the bad choices put before them.

The debate is being presented as a reality entertainment show. The audience is invited to rate the candidates who seem most likely to implement the policy they want – but not including the economy. Most Americans are now living from paycheck to paycheck and cannot come up with even $400 in an emergency. They are afraid to go on strike or even to complain about their job, because they are afraid of getting fired – and of losing their corporate health care, knowing that getting sick may wipe them out. These problems will not appear on Walt Disney.

Voters basically want what Bernie Sanders is promising: a basic right to Single Payer health care and a retirement income. That means protection against the Republican-Democratic threats to cut back Social Security to balance the budget in the face of tax cuts for the richest One Percent and rising Cold War military spending. This means a government strong enough to take on the vested financial and corporate interests and prosecute Wall Street’s financial crime and corporate monopoly power. When neoliberals shout, “But that’s socialism,” Americans finally are beginning to say, “Then give us socialism.” It beats being ground down into debt peonage.

But here’s the trick that the TV debates sweep under the rug: It is not the voters who are empowered to choose the Democratic Party’s candidate. That privilege belongs legally to the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Since stacking the political deck in 2016 to serve up Hillary Clinton as nominee, it has put in place rules that will enable its Donor Class members, superdelegates and other lobbyists for the One Percent to repeat the trickery once again in 2020.

I hope that the candidate who is clearly the voters’ choice, Bernie Sanders, may end up as the party’s nominee. If he is, I’m sure he’ll beat Donald Trump handily, as he would have done four years ago. But I fear that the DNC’s Donor Class will push Joe Biden, Kamala Harris or even Pete Buttigieg down the throats of voters. Just as when they backed Hillary the last time around, they hope that their anointed neoliberal will be viewed as the lesser evil for a program little different from that of the Republicans.

So Thursday’s reality TV run-off is about “who’s the least evil?” An honest reality show’s questions would focus on “What are you against?” That would attract a real audience, because people are much clearer about what they’re against: the vested interests, Wall Street, the drug companies and other monopolies, the banks, landlords, corporate raiders and private-equity asset strippers. But none of this is to be permitted on the magic island of authorized candidates (not including Tulsi Gabbard, who was purged from further debates for having dared to mention the unmentionable).

Donald Trump as the DNC’s nominee

The problem facing the Democratic National Committee today remains the same as in 2016: How to block even a moderately left-wing social democrat by picking a candidate guaranteed to lose to Trump, so as to continue the policies that serve banks, the financial markets and military spending for Cold War 2.0.

DNC donors favor Joe Biden, long-time senator from the credit-card and corporate-shell state of Delaware, and opportunistic California prosecutor Kamala Harris, with a hopey-changey grab bag alternative in smooth-talking small-town Rorschach blot candidate Pete Buttigieg. These easy victims are presented as “electable” in full knowledge that they will fail against Trump.

Trump meanwhile has done most everything the Democratic Donor Class wants: He has cut taxes on the wealthy, cut social spending for the population at large, backed Quantitative Easing to inflate the stock and bond markets, and pursued Cold War 2.0. Best of all, his abrasive style has enabled Democrats to blame the Republicans for the giveaway to the rich, as if they would have followed a different policy.

The Democratic Party’s role is to protect Republicans from attack from the left, steadily following the Republican march rightward. Claiming that this is at least in the direction of being “centrist,” the Democrats present themselves as the lesser evil (which is still evil, of course), simply as pragmatic in not letting hopes for “the perfect” (meaning moderate social democracy) block the spirit of compromise with what is attainable, “getting things done” by cooperating across the aisle and winning Republican support. That is what Joe Biden promises.

The effect has been to make America into a one-party state. Republicans act as the most blatant lobbyists for the Donor Class. But people can vote for a representative of the One Percent and the military-industrial complex in either the Republican or Democratic column. That is why most Americans owe allegiance to no party.

The Democratic National Committee worries that voters may disturb this alliance by nominating a left-wing reform candidate. The DNC easily solved this problem in 2016: When Bernie Sanders intruded into its space, it the threw the election. It scheduled the party’s early defining primaries in Republican states whose voters leaned right, and packed the nominating convention with Donor Class super-delegates.

After the dust settled, having given many party members political asthma, the DNC pretended that it was all an unfortunate political error. But of course it was not a mistake at all. The DNC preferred to lose with Hillary than win with Bernie, whom springtime polls showed would be the easy winner over Trump. Potential voters who didn’t buy into the program either stayed home or voted green.

Starve out the DNC

Now is the time to start thinking about what to do if and when the DNC presents voters with neoliberal Hillary 2.0, preferring to lose with Biden or his clones than to win with Bernie.

I think the only effective response will be to boycott the Democratic Party – not only its presidential candidates, but its Blue Dog candidates and incumbents.

The legal kerfuffle raised by Sanders supporters in the aftermath made the switcheroo official. The courts affirmed that the Democratic Party’s candidate for president is legally chosen by the DNC alone, and may or may not be the candidate elected by voters in the primaries. To cap matters, the superdelegates serve as a safety valve against any candidate unwilling to go whole-hog neoliberal. A legal tangle of state and national U.S. election laws effectively blocks third parties from meaningful representation in Congress. Registered Independents such as Sanders are constrained to caucus with and serve on committees of one of the two parties.

That makes it difficult for any third party to play more than the role of a spoiler in elections. When the Democratic Party runs its right-wing Blue Dog candidates, a third-party protest will throw the Senate or Congressional election to the Republican – until the DNC finally just walks away.

It would not help much to take over the Democratic Party as long as its rules cede control to Wall Street donors. For the party to be reconstituted, the coterie that has imposed Rubinomics, Hillary’s neocon military empire, and is threatening to balance the budget by cutting Social Security needs to be isolated.

The most obvious start is to run real progressive candidates against incumbents, like AOC in Queens. If the DNC bans consultants from working with them, they should be attacked in the primary and then either stay home or vote for a third party in the fall election to defeat the incumbent rather than participate in the fake choices of just which neoliberal may be the least worst.

Democrat leaders will denounce the Third Party, claiming that voters would have supported Democratic otherwise, much as they blamed Ralph Nader in 2000. The reality is that voters refused to support the right-wing neocon Joe Lieberman (how appropriate that he became Obama’s Senate mentor) and his neoliberal Democratic Leadership Council front-man Gore, who would have given George W. Bush a run for awfulness.

The only way to make the Democrat Party democratic is to clean house, to boycott its Blue Dog candidates even though this throws elections to the Republicans until the DNC is emptied out. Only at that point can its rules be replaced with ones committing the party to follow the choice of voters and the majority non-Democratic (even non-voting) bloc instead of big donors and super-delegates.

This tactic may lead to Republican sweeps in the next few elections. That is the price that the Democrats have forced to be paid for their neoliberal intransigence that has made Donald Trump their president as much as that of Republican voters.

There is no such thing as centrist stability in a polarizing economy

There is no “middle class” policy in an indebted economy polarizing at an accelerating pace as financial rentiers lord it over an indebted majority. That is why wage earners have lost their identity with the Democratic Party’s loyalty to Wall Street. Although Democratic politicians presents themselves as the only alternative to Republican corporate lobbyists, the DNC is a smoke-filled room of donors, packaged in identity politics – every identity except that of indebted wage earners. It is merely a diversion to focus on personalities and to claim that economic reform is “divisive” because it may offend centrist voters such as the Democrats’ dream of attracting suburban Republican women.

Joe Biden’s promise of a moderate centrist policy is like Warren Harding’s slogan of a “return to normalcy” a century ago, in 1920. But a “return” would mean rolling back the enormous post-1980 increase in debt, the privatizations, deregulation and other neoliberal nightmares. Today’s U.S. economy – like that of Europe – has no middle ground. Attempts at a “moderate” party are merely a euphemism for backing the financial and real estate sector, the oil industry and the military-industrial complex.

If America had a parliamentary system reflecting voters’ preferences for parties, the Democratic Party would share the fate of German and other European Social Democrats that have embraced neoliberal economics and would poll about 5 percent of the vote, just barely being represented in a truly democratic congress. Voters are rejecting neoliberalism everywhere, but the DNC and foreign formerly left-wing party bureaucracies are holding onto it. They have become zombie party hacks.

Sanders rightly blames Wall Street and the One Percent for the economy’s financial mess. Warren strikes a resonant chord in seeing the need to alleviate the debt burden saying in effect, “It’s the debt, stupid.” But she also seems prepared to go along opportunistically with the rest of the Democratic Party’s platform.[1] Even so, the DNC seems quite willing to throw the election to Trump as its major funders and super-delegates back Biden, Harris and Buttigieg.

When Bernie says he will take on Wall Street, people believe him. When Elizabeth Warren says that, voters worry about just how far she may compromise. When Biden or Harris say that, most voters realize that they are simply grabbing slogans that play well in focus groups, selling their personalities without policy content.

Most potential voters have no party in the United States, but are forced into a choice between Republican and Democratic neoliberals. The polls euphemize most voters as “undecideds,” as if they have not decided to avoid both parties and try to scrape by as best they can with the bad choices put before them: Republican corporate lobbyists, or Democratic Wall Street lobbyists, both parties supporting military spending and representing the One Percent who form their donor base.

Most Democratic voters have decided not to back Biden or Harris. They realize their interests were betrayed first by Clintonomics and its deregulation of Wall Street and stripping away of social spending, and then by Obama protecting his Wall Street donors from “the mob with pitchforks,” namely, those who voted for his empty promise of hope and change. That is how the DNC views its constituency – to be manipulated and its attention diverted onto the Fantasy Island episode aired on Thursday on ABC.


[1] She also seems to welcome support from the Clintonites and is seeking their super-delegates. See Jonathan Allen, “Warren and Clinton talk behind the scenes as 2020 race intensifies,” NBC, September 7, 2019. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/warren-clinton-talk-behind-scenes-2020-race-intensifies-n1049701


The Books Every New Graduate Should Read, According to a Dozen Business Leaders – by Oliver Staley (Quartz)


Read up.

New graduates may think they’re ready for the world, but even after all that learning, there’s still room in their heads for some wisdom. We asked a dozen business leaders—from CEOs of big companies and startups, to deans of leading business schools—what books they would put in the hands of a newly minted graduate. Here’s what they recommended:

undefinedThe Boys in the Boat

Daniel James Brown’s account of an underdog rowing team beating the elite squads of the US and Europe on its way to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin is “a vivid description of grit, hustle and, perseverance,” said Mark Hoplamazian, CEO of Hyatt, the hotel company. “If you want to be part of a team, you have to be willing to give up some of your self.”

Stock photo

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Sportswriter Mitch Albom’s best seller from 2006 teaches us “you never know who you touch or the impact you have,” said Jennifer Morgan, president of SAP North America, a unit of the German software giant. “Having a perspective beyond business is something you value as you get older.”


This 2001 biography of the UK prime minister, written by Roy Jenkins, is “a great tale of failure, perseverance, the importance of timing, and overcoming adversity,” said Peter Todd, dean of HEC, a top-ranked business school in Paris.


Team of Teams

Retired general Stanley McChrystal, who led US special operations in Iraq between 2003 and 2008, makes the case for a new way of organizing companies and work around small, nimble teams. McCrystal shows “how the sum is greater than the parts,” said Bill Clough, CEO of CUI Global, a small industrial conglomerate, and a former police officer and air marshal.


This 1993 play by Tom Stoppard combines the past and present to explore the meaning of truth. “You can’t possibly know what happened unless you were there, and people don’t always act in rational ways,” said Kathryn Minshew, CEO of The Muse, a job-search site that targets millennials. “It’s helpful not to jump to conclusions and assumptions about who, what, when and why, without knowing.”

435425The Obstacle is the Way

This 2014 book by Ryan Holiday is “a book about stoic philosophy,” said Grant Langston, CEO of eHarmony, an online dating company. “It shows you that the hard way can be the right way; the act of getting into it can be the solution to the problem.”

The Hero’s Journey

This volume, edited by Phil Cousineau, weaves interviews with Joseph Campbell—the famed writer and lecturer on mythology—with insights from the anthropologists, filmmakers, and musicians inspired by his work. “It’s about the mythology of life,” said Rick Goings, former CEO of Tupperware, the houseware company. “It expands your vision of what the road of life could look like.”

This volume, edited by Phil Cousineau, weaves interviews with Joseph Campbell—the famed writer and lecturer on mythology—with insights from the anthropologists, filmmakers, and musicians inspired by his work. “It’s about the mythology of life,” said Rick Goings, former CEO of Tupperware, the houseware company. “It expands your vision of what the road of life could look like.”

The End of Power

Moisés Naím, a former editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy, explains how ideas about authority and control are rapidly changing in this 2013 treatise. “His theory is that power is very easy to acquire, difficult to exercise, and impossible to keep with the changing realities of our world,” said Rajeev Vasudeva, CEO of Egon Zehnder, a global executive search firm.

Weapons Shop of Isher

1984 and The Weapons Shop of Isher

These two works of speculative fiction— the 1949 classic by George Orwell and an out-of-print 1951 novel by A.E. van Vogt—offer two visions of a dystopian future. “New graduates are charged with developing their relationships with society: family, co-workers, government,” said Jeff Jonas, CEO of SAGE Therapeutics, a biotechnology company. “While 1984 is embraced nowadays as being more prophetic, the Isher stories provide an alternative view of how one can deal with an oppressive government.”


The Innovators

A history of the men and women who created the computer and the internet, this 2014 book was written by Walter Isaacson, author of biographies of Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Steve Jobs. “The innovation challenge is the most important one facing the western world today,” said Geoff Garrett, dean of the Wharton School, the University of Pennsylvania’s business school.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Klaus Schwab, founder of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, theorizes that we’re currently at the beginning of a new age that will fundamentally change how we live and work. “If you were a college student and you read that talked about it in a job interview, they’d be really impressed,” said Catherine Engelbert, former CEO of Deloitte, an accounting and consulting firm.


Dee Leopold, the former director of admissions for the Harvard Business School, recommends this 1872 classic by George Eliot  ”to young and old alike. Why? I think the characters are intriguing, compelling plot lines  and an absolutely exquisite narrator’s voice.”














What spooked the spooks? What we still don’t know about Russiagate – by Stephen Cohen (The Nation) 6 Sept 2019

What spooked the spooks? What we still don’t know about Russiagate (by Stephen Cohen)
Vital questions about perhaps the worst alleged presidential scandal in US history remain unanswered.

It must again be emphasized: It is hard, if not impossible, to think of a more toxic allegation in American presidential history than the one leveled against candidate, and then president, Donald Trump, that he “colluded” with the Kremlin in order to win the 2016 presidential election, and, still more, that Vladimir Putin’s regime, “America’s No. 1 threat,” had compromising material on Trump that made him its “puppet.” Or a more fraudulent accusation.

Even leaving aside the misperception that Russia is the primary threat to the US in world affairs, no aspect of this allegation has turned out to be true, as should have been evident from the outset. Major aspects of the now infamous Steele Dossier, on which much of the allegation was based, were themselves not merely “unverified” but plainly implausible.

Was it plausible, for example, that Trump, a longtime owner and operator of international hotels, would commit an indiscreet act in a Moscow hotel that he did not own or control? Or that, as Steele also claimed, high-level Kremlin sources had fed him damning anti-Trump information even though their vigilant boss, Putin, wanted Trump to win the election? Nonetheless, the American mainstream media and other important elements of the US political establishment relied on Steele’s allegations for nearly three years, even heroizing him, and some still do, explicitly or implicitly.

Not surprisingly, former special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of “collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. No credible evidence has been produced that Russia’s “interference” affected the result of the 2016 presidential election in any significant way. Nor was Russian “meddling” in the election anything akin to a “digital Pearl Harbor,” as widely asserted, and it was certainly far less and less intrusive than President Bill Clinton’s political and financial “interference” undertaken to assure the reelection of Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1996.

Nonetheless, Russiagate’s core allegation persists, like a legend, in US political life, in media commentary, in financial solicitations by some Democratic candidates for Congress, and, as is clear from my own discussions, in the minds of otherwise well-informed people.

The only way to dispel, to excoriate, such a legend is to learn and expose how it began, by whom, when, and why.

Officially, at least in the FBI’s version, its operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign that began in mid-2016 was due to suspicious remarks made to visitors by a young and lowly Trump aide, George Papadopoulos. This too is not believable, as I pointed out previously. Most of those visitors themselves had ties to Western intelligence agencies. That is, the young Trump aide was being enticed, possibly entrapped, as part of a larger intelligence operation against Trump. (Papadopoulos wasn’t the only Trump associate targeted, Carter Page being another.)

But the question remains: Why did Western intelligence agencies, prompted, it seems clear, by US ones, seek to undermine Trump’s presidential campaign? A reflexive answer might be because candidate Trump promised to “cooperate with Russia,” to pursue a pro-détente foreign policy, but this was hardly a startling, still less subversive, advocacy by a would-be Republican president. All of the major pro-détente episodes in the 20th century had been initiated by Republican presidents: Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan.

So, again, what was it about Trump that so spooked the spooks so far off their rightful reservation and so intrusively into US presidential politics? Investigations being overseen by Attorney General William Barr may provide answers, or not. Barr has already leveled procedural charges against James Comey, head of the FBI under President Obama and briefly under President Trump, but the repeatedly hapless Comey seems incapable of having initiated such an audacious operation against a presidential candidate, still less a president-elect. As I have long suggested, John Brennan and James Clapper, head of the CIA and Office of National Intelligence under Obama respectively, are the more likely culprits.

The FBI is no longer the fearsome organization it once was and thus not hard to investigate, as Barr has already shown. The others, particularly the CIA, are a different matter, and Barr has suggested they are resisting. To investigate them, particularly the CIA, it seems, he has brought in a veteran prosecutor-investigator, John Durham.

Which raises other questions. Are Barr and Durham, whose own careers include associations with US intelligence agencies, determined to uncover the truth about the origins of Russiagate? And can they really do so fully, given the resistance already apparent? Even if so, will Barr make public their findings, however damning of the intelligence agencies they may be, or will he classify them? And if the latter, will President Trump use his authority to declassify the findings as the 2020 presidential election approaches in order to discredit the role of Obama’s presidency and its would-be heirs?

Equally important perhaps, how will mainstream media treat the Barr-Durham investigation and its findings? Having driven the Russiagate narrative for so long and so misleadingly – and with liberals perhaps finding themselves in the incongruous position of defending rogue intelligence agencies – will they credit or seek to discredit the findings?

It is true, of course, that Barr and Durham, as Trump appointees, are not the ideal investigators of intel misdeeds in the Russiagate saga. Much better would be a truly bipartisan, independent investigation based in the Senate, as was the Church Committee of the mid-1970s, which exposed and reformed (it thought at the time) serious abuses by US intelligence agencies. That would require, however, a sizable core of nonpartisan, honorable, and courageous senators of both parties, who thus far seem to be lacking.

There are also, however, the ongoing and upcoming Democratic presidential debates. First and foremost, Russiagate is about the present and future of the US political system, not about Russia. (Indeed, as I have repeatedly argued, there is very little, if any, Russia in Russiagate.) At every “debate” or comparable forum, all of the Democratic candidates should be asked about this grave threat to American democracy, what they think about what happened and would do about it if elected president. Consider it health care for our democracy.

By Stephen F. Cohen

This article was originally published by The Nation. 


“You know what you’re doing is a sin,” her mother said.

My girlfriend lived with me.  For years.  Years of sinning.  But, like most couples, we had times when the sexual coupling was less frequent.

She told me after a visit with her mother that her mother had said what we were doing was a sin.

“Tell your mother that maybe we aren’t sinning as much in reality as we are in her imagination,” I replied.

After a time we stopped coupling and she moved out, and the sinning stopped.

At least with her.

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I went to a Catholic elementary school for nine years where “I’m telling Ma!” was replaced with “That’s a sin!”  The moral code was spelled out pretty clearly in the Baltimore Catechism that I studied in Saint Gregory’s Grammar School.

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So…I’ve heard the word before.  I understand the concept.  Acts can be sins, thoughts can be sins.

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Pa. coal miner, 25, killed as mine wall collapses on top of him – By John Luciew – 29 Aug 2019


Tanner McFarland

By John Luciew | jluciew@pennlive.com

What is being described as a long wall of coal collapsed on top of a 25-year-old miner in western Pa., killing him Thursday night.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette identifies the dead miner as Tanner Lee McFarland of Washington, Pa.

Tanner Lee McFarland was killed Thursday evening when part of the wall and roof in the area of the mine he was working collapsed, crushing him under tons of coal and rock.

McFarland, age 25, of Washington, Pennsylvania was killed around 6 p.m. Thursday while working at Consol Energy’s Enlow Fork Mine in Washington County, part of the company’s Pennsylvania Mining Complex. The mines are located about 60 miles south of Pittsburgh, near the West Virginia border. Tanner McFarland

McFarland is survived by his wife Casey and their two-year-old son Gavin Lee. Tanner and Casey began dating in 2012 and were married in 2015. Casey is expecting their second child.

Tanner was well liked by his co-workers and friends. A GoFundMe page has already raised over its goal of $25,000, which included support from miners throughout the country who didn’t know him.

Dennis Letavish, who worked with McFarland, posted this remembrance on Facebook:

“It’s been 2 days. 2 restless nights. Nonstop thoughts and emotions. You were more than our boss you were our friend our brother. It all still doesn’t feel real I’m just waiting to wake up from this nightmare we are living. Tanner McFarland we will never forget the memories we made and your inability to use a tape measure. You impacted us all each in different ways and we love you and will never forget you brother …”


Enlow Fork is one of three mines in Consol’s Pennsylvania Mining Complex, which also includes the Bailey and Harvey mines, and is commonly referred to as the Bailey mine because it was the first of the three. The complex is several times the size of Manhattan, covers coal reserves underneath portions of Washington and Greene counties, and is the largest underground mine in the US.

Fifteen hundred miners and contractors work in the mine. Consol operates 11 long walls in the three mines and production is the company’s number one concern. Long wall mining is a technique in which a massive mining machine mines coal along the entire face of the section, often 1,500 feet long, with the coal pulled off on conveyor systems while the mountain collapses behind it as the machine moves forward.

In February of this year reporters interviewed a miner who was especially concerned about the push for production in the mine at the expense of miners’ health and safety.

The miner explained that Consol was only looking to increase production and didn’t care about maintenance of the machines or the safety of the men.

“Everyone in the mine is very mad and concerned,” he said. “It is all production, production, production but they are creating the conditions where something can happen.”

In 2018, the three mines produced a record 27.6 short tons of coal, up 5.6 percent from the previous record of 26.1 short tons in 2017. The Enlow Fork Mine produced over 10 million short tons that year. Consol’s aim has been to produce more this year and the mine has been working at near 100 percent capacity.

After that production report, Consol management told miners that if they talked to the press it would only lead to safety investigators entering the mine and possibly shutting down sections. The unspoken threat was that workers would lose their jobs.

The miner reported that the company was not rock dusting as soon as it was supposed to. Rock dusting is a technique used to prevent the buildup of coal dust, which is explosive. He also indicated that Consol was falsifying dust samplings that the company turned into state and federal regulators.

“You can’t mine that much coal without putting a lot of dust into the air,” the miner said.

Black lung disease has gone up for miners all across the Appalachian coalfields of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky. The deadly condition is hitting miners at a younger age and more aggressively and is the number one killer of coal miners.

One contributor is longwall mining, which, with its greater output and cutting into rock, puts more silicon into the air. When breathed in, silicon cuts the lung tissue, forming scarring which can’t absorb oxygen. This hastens black lung and makes it more aggressive and lethal.

Demand for coal is down as electric power plants switch to less expensive natural gas for fuel. So far this year several coal companies have declared bankruptcy, including Blackjewel, the nation’s sixth largest producer of coal, and Cloud PeakEnergy, the third largest producer.

Twelve hundred miners lost their jobs when Cloud Peak shut down and another 1,700 miners were put out of work when Blackjewel went bankrupt. Blackjewel miners in Cumberland Kentucky continue to occupy railroad tracks leading from one of Blackjewel’s mines to demand that the company pay them the more than three weeks in back pay owed them when the company filed for bankruptcy.

Mines such as Consol are seeking to push production and cut costs to make as much profit as possible, no matter the toll on workers and their families.