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The Rule of Power Over the Rule of Law

By Ralph Nader | November 15, 2017

Me Too is producing some results. At long last. Victims of sexual assault by men in superior positions of power are speaking out. Big time figures in the entertainment, media, sports and political realms are losing their positions – resigning or being told to leave. A producer at 60 Minutes thinks Wall Street may be next.

Sexual assaults need stronger sanctions. Only a few of the reported assaulters are being civilly sued under the law of torts. Even fewer are subjects of criminal investigation so far.

Perhaps the daily overdue accounting, regarding past and present reports of sexual assaults will encourage those abused in other contexts to also blow the whistle on other abuses. Too often, there are not penalties, but instead rewards, for high government and corporate officials whose derelict and often illegal decisions directly produce millions of deaths and injuries.

A few weeks ago, former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice shared a stage at the George W. Bush Institute, reflecting on their careers to widespread admiration. What they neglected to mention were the devastated families, villages, cities and communities and nations plunged into violent chaos from the decisions they deliberately made in their careers.

In a 1996 interview, Madeleine Albright, then secretary of state under Bill Clinton, was asked by Lesley Stahl of CBS 60 Minutes about the tens of thousands of children in Iraq whose deaths were a direct result of Clinton-era sanctions designed to punish Baghdad and whether it was worth it (At that time, Ms. Stahl had just visited these wasting children and infants in a Baghdad hospital). Secretary Albright replied in the affirmative.

Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state under George W. Bush, pushed for the criminal and unconstitutional invasion of Iraq, which resulted in over one million Iraqi deaths, millions of refugees, a broken country and sectarian violence that continues to this day. She has said she often thinks about this mayhem and feels some responsibility. Yet one wonders, as she collects huge speech fees and book advances from her position at Stanford University, whether she might consider donating some of her considerable resources to charities that support those Iraqis whose lives were destroyed by the illegal interventions she advocated.

Then there is lawless Hillary Clinton, who, against the strong advice of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and without any Congressional authorization, persuaded Barack Obama to support a destabilizing regime overthrow in Libya– which has since devolved into a failed state spreading death, destruction and terror in Libya to its neighboring countries. Clinton, who is at large touting her new book and making millions of dollars in book royalties and speech fees to applauding partisan audiences, should also consider making donations to those who have been harmed by her actions.

Relaxing in affluent retirement are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the butchers of millions of innocent Iraqis and Afghans. They too are raking it in and receiving ovations from their partisans. No prosecutors are going after them for illegal wars of aggression that were never constitutionally declared and violated our federal laws, international treaties and the Geneva Conventions.

As these ex-officials bask in adulation, the American people are not being shown the burned corpses, charred villages, and poisoned water and soil created by their “public service.” Nor are they exposed to the immense suffering and broken hearts of survivors mourning their deceased family members. Americans never hear the dreaded 24/7 whine of the omnipresent drones flying over their homes, ready to strike at the push of a button by remote operators in Virginia or Nevada. Nor do they hear the screams and sobbing of the victims of unbridled military action, fueling ever-greater hatred against the US.

Corporate executives also get rewarded for the mayhem they unleash by selling dangerously defective cars (e.g. GM, Toyota and VW recently) or releasing deadly toxins into the air and water or presiding over preventable problems in hospitals that a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine study reported is talking 5000 lives a week in this country.

What’s the difference? Because the cause and effect by officials pushing lethal politics, openly carried out with massive armed forces, do so at a distance in time and space (the Nuremberg principles after World War II, which included adherence by the US, addressed this problem). They lather their massive violent, unlawful actions with lies, cover-ups and deceptions, as was the case in 2002-2003 in Iraq. They wrap the flag around their dishonorable desecrations of what that flag stands for and the lives of US soldiers whom they sent there to kill or die.

These officials overpower the rule of law with the rule of raw power – political, economic and military.

For centuries patriarchal mayhem has exploited women in the workplace or the home. Raw power – physical, economic and cultural, regularly, overpower the legal safeguards against wrongful injury, rape and torture, both in the household and at work.

Sporadic assertions of a punishing public opinion will not be enough in either sphere of humans abusing humans. That is why the rule of law must be enforced by the state, and through private civil actions.

November 17, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Democratic Party oligarchs already scheming for the 2020 nomination

By Greg Felton | November 12, 2017

To this day, establishment Democrats are in denial about their party’s role in causing the election of Donald Trump. Rather than support the candidacy of the popular, progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, who would have defeated Trump handily, the Democratic National Committee sabotaged his campaign so that it could nominate the loathesome and unelectable Hillary Clinton. Why would a U.S. political party knowingly commit electoral suicide? Essentially, the Democratic Party hierarchy is more loyal to a foreign government (Israel) than it is to the U.S. For these “Clintoncrats,” installing a warmongering Israeli satrap in the White House was more important than nominating a candidate who cared about the U.S. national interest and American lives.

For obvious reasons, the DNC’s corruption and Clinton’s moral and intellectual unfitness cannot be admitted, so to explain how a bombastic amateur won an election that was essentially rigged against him the Clintoncrats have to invent excuses. One that is still flogged by mainstream media and Internet trolls is that the Russian government “hacked” the election to help Trump. Mentioned as far back as April 2016, this fiction serves four purposes.

First, it allows the Clintoncrats to link Trump to the alleged hacking, thereby imputing impeachable misconduct and painting his victory as illegitimate. Second, it reinvents Hillary Clinton as a victim to deflect attention from her bankster/Israel-first servility and war-criminal past, both of which were largely responsible for making Democratic voters run to Trump. Third, the exclusive external focus on Russia and Trump distracts the public from rampant internal corruption within the Democratic Party and its repression of the surging progressive movement that Sanders leads. Fourth, the invention of Russian hacking, as well as anti-Trump/anti-Sanders blamecasting, gives the Clintoncrats a device to reimpose its authority on the party and the Berniecrats.

Although the election is more than three years away, any opportunity to attack Trump and score points against the progressives must be seized, and it is in that spirit that the Charlottesville riot takes on a deeper meaning than we are being led to believe.

Charlottesville—A Political Contrivance

In a world of universal deceit, crises are staged by those in power or those who hope to seize power. If these “decepticons” can inflame public opinion to serve their interests, especially when a targeted group is set up to take the blame, the public and the media are effectively co-opted since those who are enraged or terrified are too busy reacting emotionally to the crisis to question its validity much less perceive that they are being manipulated. We saw this tactic employed successfully, for example, in the World Trade Center/Pentagon attack, the Boston Marathon bombing and the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan bombings in Paris. It also worked for the Clintoncrats in Charlottesville.

A crisis that casts white southerners in a maliciously violent light while inflaming black anger and sense of racial victimhood can help bring defectors back to the Democratic Party and enlist the party’s confederates in the media to vilify Trump. This is why the dominant images of the August 12 riot are emotional and reactive: white violence against “anti-racist” counter-protesters, a car driven by a white man into a crowd of pro-black counter-protesters, a beatified victim of the driver’s impact and scathing denunciations of Trump for his equivocal ascription of blame for the violence.

The inflammatory depictions of the riot have succeeded because, like all propaganda, they generated an artificial moralized causality. From these images it was easy to infer that they were deliberate, willful acts of violence by white racist protesters, and so preclude the possibility of any intelligent, critical analysis. Such a rational approach would imply either that the white protesters were not entirely reprehensible or that the images as presented did not depict the whole truth. Because the riot was moralized from the outset, anyone who tried to appeal to objectivity could expect to be vilified as an apologist for white racism. This is what happened to Trump.

The most egregious example of this propaganda is a piece written by Helena Cobban, a writer and researcher on international affairs who unfortunately opted for ranting over research. Here is how she began:

This weekend, for the third time this year, our home-city of Charlottesville has been the target of a campaign by leaders of the hate-filled “Alt-Rights” and their associates to claim the space of this city as their own. Yesterday, one of their apparent supporters, who had driven here from Ohio, plowed his car into a group of anti-hate protesters very near to the downtown mall that is the heart of our city, killing one woman (32-year-old Heather Heyer) and injuring more than a dozen others.

Another, more indirect, result of the haters’ provocative convergence on Charlottesville was that a state police helicopter that had been circling over downtown for many hours later crashed a little east of town, killing two state troopers.…

Cobban uses “hate” or “hater” 22 times to stigmatize the protesters, but such lazy name-calling speaks to the prejudice of the writer, not to any alleged negative characteristics of the protesters. Cobban also wrapped the “anti-hate” protesters in sanctimonious, religious verbiage, not bothering to mention that many came armed with chemical irritants, baseball bats, wooden clubs and helmets. There is no possible way the Antifa/BLM crowd could be depicted as “peaceful” or “anti-hate.” In fact, these counter-protesters were the ones spoiling for a fight. Even if one were to accept that the white protesters started the riot, the Antifa/BLM crowd did much to escalate it.

Finally, Cobban manages to praise the police and politicians, and it is here that that the riot proves its political worth for the Clintoncrats. As I showed last time, Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s Democratic governor, bears most of the responsibility because he did nothing to keep the factions apart even though he said he had put the National Guard on stand-by in the name of public safety:

“Men and women from state and local agencies will be in Charlottesville to keep the public safe, and their job will be made easier if Virginians, no matter how well-meaning, elect to stay away from the areas where this rally will take place.”

He never used them because he said that the armed militias, better equipped than the state police, were adequate to keep order. “Not a shot was fired—zero property damage,” he said. Business Insider reporter Harrison Jacobs, as I wrote earlier, deftly captures the perversity of this statement:

“McAuliffe’s response that law enforcement’s handling of the violence was successful because there were no bullets fired and “zero property damage” would appear to ignore that dozens were left injured and a 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, was killed…”

Cobban’s screed, although laughably prejudiced, accurately betrays the essence of the official effect-to-cause narrative that serves the Clintoncrats’ larger objective: condemn white protesters not for what they did, but for who they are and by extension condemn Trump and his southern voter base. Cobban’s title, “Charlottesville confronting white supremacy and hate,” depicts the sort of pro-black/anti-Trump, good-vs-evil hysteria. However, if the riot is viewed from cause to effect as honesty demands, an entirely different picture emerges, one that exposes the political machinations behind it.

First, those who objected to the decision to move the Robert E. Lee statue had a valid permit to stage a protest in Emancipation Park. An attempt had been made to have the permit quashed and the protest relocated to a smaller park, but the original permit was upheld in court. After 15 minutes or so the Charlottesville police, in violation of the permit, dispersed them. The dispersal brought the protesters into direct contact with Antifa/Black Lives Matter counter-protesters, and from there violence ensued. Had the police left the protesters alone and kept the two sides apart, there would have been no violence, but it was necessary to provoke white southerners into looking like the aggressors.

Second, the narrative about the death of Heather Heyer is based on a fabrication that begs allusion to the false-flag Boston Marathon bombing, in which two Chechen brothers were set up to take the blame, and crisis actors were hired to sell the story.

James Alex Fields, a 20-year-old from Ohio, is alleged to have driven the car that hit and killed Heyer, but there is no evidence that he was even behind the wheel or that the car in question hit her. Video footage of the event clearly shows “his” car striking another car, not Heyer, but that still does not answer all questions. One thing we do know: Heather Heyer, who was overweight and taking medication, died on a sidewalk from a heart attack, not a car impact.

From different angles and in different videos, different numbers of cars are involved, and people that were allegedly injured in one version turn up in other scenes unharmed, thus inviting reasoned speculation that this was yet another staged event complete with crisis actors.

CRISIS ACTOR: On the left, a man being struck by the car falsely attributed to James A. Fields as it was being backed away sharply from the site of impact. On the right, that same man sitting uninjured on a parked Toyota while the same impact car is visible next to it on the right. Note the red sneakers.

Indeed, there were conveniently placed “witnesses” to provide the rhetorical spin needed to fix the official narrative in our minds. One conspicuous person was Brennan Gilmore, a former State Department operative in Africa and manager of Virginia Democrat Tom Perriello’s failed campaign for governor. About Heyer’s death, Gilmore told MSNBC:

It was clearly perpetrated by one of these racist Nazis who came to Charlottesville to spread their vile ideology. And he targeted this crowd very clearly. There is no question of anyone who witnessed it that his intent was to cause a mass casualty incident, a domestic terrorist incident as far as what I witnessed.

Gilmore gives himself away by not so much giving evidence but by overselling the absolute certainty of it: “clearly perpetrated,” “very clearly,” there is no question… that his intent was,” “a domestic terror incident.” Gilmore was in no position to make such dogmatic assertions. Also, in the video his intonation is flat and robotic, and he looks unnaturally stiff, as one might be if asked to read lines.

MISSING VEHICLE: The Toyota van with the crisis actor in the above picture is missing in this long shot of the path the impact car took. The Toyota should be somewhere under the red arrow. These inconsistencies strongly suggest that this scene was staged and more than once.

Fields’s part in Heyer’s death had to be invented to make the incident look like an act of deliberate violence by a white racist because that’s what the Clintoncrats wanted. Fields, who was in the crowd and could not have been driving the infamous car, ends up libeled as a “terrorist.” In fact Gilmore wasn’t alone in his labelling of Fields; McAuliffe read from the same script: “You can’t stop some crazy guy who came here from Ohio and used his car as a weapon. He is a terrorist.”

It’s uncertain if the Charlottesville propaganda will still have credibility come Election Day 2020, assuming Trump survives in office that long, but no matter how often its imagery and contrived morality are flogged it won’t mean squat if the Democratic establishment can’t come up with a candidate who is credible, likeable and electable—“an un-Hillary Clinton.” That person looks like it might be McAuliffe, the man most responsible for the riot. Understanding how he fits into the Clintoncrats long-term political ambitions can give a more coherent explanation of the riot and why he did nothing to stop it.

Charlottesville and the ‘Third Clinton’

At 59, McAuliffe is youngish, energetic and comes with an impeccable Clinton loyalist pedigree.

  • 2001 to 2005, chairman of the Democratic National Committee
  • 1996, co-chairman of Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign,
  • 2008, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

In addition, McAuliffe guaranteed the $1.35 million mortgage on the Clintons’ Chappaqua, NY, house and went into business with Tony Rodham, Hillary Clinton’s brother. McAuliffe speaks with Bill Clinton every day and is a fundraiser extraordinaire. If there’s Democratic money to be donated, he knows how to get it. The political and financial propinquity between McAuliffe and the Clintons/Rodhams is so conspicuous that McAuliffe might as well be considered a Clinton, with all the mutual backscratching that that term connotes.

In October 2016, The Daily Mail reported that Hillary Clinton helped raise funds for Common Good VA, McAuliffe’s Political Action Committee (PAC), which then donated $500,000 to the congressional campaign of Clinton’s friend Jill McCabe, the wife of Andrew McCabe, who would later be promoted to FBI deputy director and responsible for investigating Clinton for her use of a private e-mail server. The investigation was dropped. Three years earlier, Clinton had endorsed McAuliffe for governor of Virginia.

In 2009, as chairman of the start-up GreenTech Automotive, McAuliffe needed Chinese investment capital, so he formed a business relationship with Hillary Clinton’s brother Tony Rodham, CEO of Gulf Coast Funds Management. Gulf Coast was in the business of procuring visas for foreigners under the federal EB-5 program for investing at least $500,000 in a rural or impoverished area and created at least 10 jobs. GreenTech qualified because it was set up in a rundown corner of Mississippi.

The GreenTech/Gulf Coast venture ran into serious problems because visa applications were held up over qualification criteria and other legal matters, so Rodham and McAuliffe made personal appeals to government officials to expedite matters, all of this while Clinton was Obama’s secretary of state. One of these officials was Alejandro Mayorkas, director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, whom they personally asked to fast-track the applications. Mayorkas did so, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General would later determine that Mayorkas gave Rodham and McAuliffe unethical, preferential treatment.

Mr. Mayorkas, now Deputy Secretary of DHS, [but who resigned in October 2016 over this matter] communicated with stakeholders on substantive issues outside of the normal adjudicatory process, and intervened with the career USCIS staff in ways that benefited the stakeholders. Mr. Mayorkas’ conduct led many USCIS employees to reasonably believe that specific individuals or groups were being given special access or consideration in the EB-5 program. (p. 52)

The political favouritism afforded Rodham and McAuliffe can be seen in this timeline excerpt from the DHS report about Gulf Coast’s activities. McAuliffe ended his role in GreenTech in 2012 before running for governor in 2013.

The Establishment Man

On June 13, 2017, two months before the Charlottesville riot, McAuliffe gave an interview to the on-line news source Politico This interview is significant because in it McAuliffe pushes the Clintoncrats’s electoral game plan and in so doing telegraphs his future, passive response in Charlottesville.

Russian to judgment

Within a span of fewer than three minutes during the first quarter of the interview, McAuliffe repeatedly pushed the Russia-hacking line using the same pat phrases and the same delivery, as if he had memorized them from a script:

“trying to destabilize our government,”
“wanted to destabilize the presidency,”
“detabliizing our democracy.”
“a direct assault on the democracy of the United States.”

The segment ended with this categorical summation at 12 minutes 19 seconds: “Clearly, Russia was involved in trying to destabilize our government.”

Just like Brennan Gilmore later at Charlottesville, McAuliffe had no first-hand proof of what he was talking about. He only had a prefabricated narrative to work from. He read his part dutifully, although, like Gilmore, he did not appear to appreciate that pat repetition of boilerplate is a defining characteristic of propaganda.

Further proof that McAuliffe was lying comes from his less-than-dogmatic certainty on the subject of evidence for Russian involvement:

“Somebody had to give these people a road map”;
“I believe somebody was directing the Russians”;
“Something was going on.”

Using subjective or vague claims to back up dogmatic assertions is standard in fabricated effect-to-cause narratives, but a logical, cause-to-effect narrative proves the opposite of what McAuliffe claimed. The best evidence comes from WikiLeaks, which in March this year debunked the Russian hacking story in its Vault 7 release:

Another program described in the documents, named Umbrage, is a voluminous library of cyber-attack techniques that the CIA has collected from malware produced by other countries, including Russia. According to the WikiLeaks release, the large number of techniques allows the CIA to mask the origin of some of its attack and confuse forensic investigators.… What this means is that current efforts by Democratic Party leaders and Deep State leakers in the government intelligence sector to pin the blame on Russia for hacking the election or for trying to help elect Trump as president, now must confront the counter-argument that the Deep State itself, in the form of the CIA, may have been behind the hacks, but is making it look like the Russians did it. (emphasis added)

In December 2016, The Intercept refuted the Russian-hacking dogma, and CNBC reported that DHS tried 10 times to hack Georgia‘s election database. Given all this prior evidence of domestic hacking, McAuliffe stuck to the script. As if to make the point crystal clear, on September 28, 2017, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla accused DHS of lying about Russian hacking.

Moral high ground

Pandering to voter emotion and prejudice is a necessary distraction mechanism to preclude rational debate; thus, one of the buttons McAuliffe repeatedly pushed was “values”: moral Democrats have them; immoral “Trumpublicans” don’t:

Leadership is… moral based, value based, and that’s what the Trump administration is lacking (26m40s)

“Values” is one of those vacuous, undefined terms that can be filled with subjective bias and then be made to stand as a definitional truth. For example, “terrorism,” which specifically refers to a government’s use of coercion, violence and fear to intimidate people into obedience, is now an epithet that can be hurled at anyone who uses violence to defy Israeli or American authority. There is no coercive element to such an act, but that no longer matters, any rational analysis of “terrorism” is virtually unthinkable.

McAuliffe may not like the Trump administration, but to say it has no morals or values is inane. Trump does have morals and values, just not the same ones. One doesn’t have to like Trump or agree with him to see that McAuliffe is denying him the essential humanity that he lavishes on the much less deserving Hillary Clinton.

How does McAuliffe think Clinton and the Democratic Party have any claim to morality and “values” when they are responsible for the devastation of Libya and the murder of its leader. Why isn’t McAuliffe troubled that Clinton sold herself to Goldman Sachs banksters while she was a senator? Is being a war criminal and a bankster prostitute the sign of high moral standing? Clearly not, which is why generic terms like “values,” are only ever asserted, never explained, and why they are such good weapons for propagandists.

Liberal poster boy

McAuliffe may be embarrassingly predictable when he runs down Trump and flails at Russia, but on domestic policy he is on solid ground. He has bona fide liberal credentials, and these will be essential selling points if the Clintoncrats hope to crush the democratic wing of the party.

In the interview, McAuliffe boasted that he vetoed legislation against abortion, homosexuals, transsexuals, the environment and voting rights. He proudly told of his reforms to the juvenile detention system, which cut the number of inmates by half and ended maximum security sentences for 14 year-olds. He also made points by noting that he stared down the gun lobby and in the home state of the National Rifle Association no less.

McAuliffe achieved all this and more despite having to work with a Republican-led state legislature. He attributed this success to common values—there’s that word again—which also allowed him to pass legislation to improve jobs, education, transportation and health care. Given that the Republican Party is largely in thrall to god, guns, and greed, McAuliffe’s boasting of “common values” is perhaps not the wisest thing to do.

The Clintoncrats will need to play up McAuliffe’s liberal credentials for all their worth because as is stands the progressive Berniecrats show every sign of capturing the anti-Trump vote. As Salon reported in late May, Berniecrats won districts in state elections in New York and New Hampshire that had voted strongly for Trump in the last election: Christine Pellegrino on Long Island, and Edie DesMarais in Wolfeboro, respectively. Meanwhile, in Montana’s congressional race, Berniecrat Rob Quist openly called for a revolution against the Democratic establishment. He lost, but he forced the Republicans to spend millions of dollars for what should have been an easy victory.

Much of the Berniecrats’ overall success can be attributed to their rational understanding of the last election: not a vote for Trump over Clinton but a vote for populism over the political establishment. As Salon reporter Conor Lynch wrote:

No matter how unpopular Trump gets… Democrats would be foolish to think they can revert to business as usual and still lead a successful resistance. If there is anything more anathema to the American electorate than the boorish president, it is the corrupt and arrogant Washington establishment.

This penetrating analysis is, of course, lost on the Clintoncrats, who are planning to refight their last failure by continuing to treat voters as mindless inputs in some abstract numbers game. For the 2018 mid-term elections they intend to use Hillary Clinton’s 2016 results as a starting point in hopes of mimicking the 2010 mid-terms, when the Republicans surged to majority status.

As Politico reported on May 22, 2017, the Clintoncrats’ chief strategist is none other than Rahm Emanuel—dual Israeli/U.S. citizen, Mossad agent, and former White House Chief of Staff. This epitome of the corrupt and arrogant Washington establishment is in regular contact with the Clintoncrat hierarchy and holds frequent strategy sessions with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. If the electorate sees through the propaganda, the Clintoncrats will be in trouble in 2020, when McAuliffe will be the new face of the party.

Technically, McAuliffe has not formally committed. In the Politico interview he denied any interest in the presidency and fell back on his duty to serve the people of Virginia. This declaration of political modesty, though, was entirely predictable and can be discounted. First, it would be unseemly for McAuliffe to appear to be ambitious so early. Second, a declaration would draw unwanted media attention to his business dealings. Third, the decision might already have been made in secret.

It might be significant or it might just be coincidence, but from June 1-4, a little more than a week before the Politico interview, McAuliffe was invited to attend his first Bilderberg meeting, which happened to take place in Virginia. Bilderbergers are a group of the world’s most powerful plutocrats and power brokers who hold annual meetings behind closed doors. What they discuss is not reported, but they are thought to be the real power behind world governments. McAuliffe’s invitation could signal that his appointment as Clinton’s successor has received official establishment sanction. We might infer this because in 1991, Bill Clinton, then governor of Arkansas, attended his first Bilderberg meeting; the next year he went on to win the Democratic nomination and the presidency.

Charlottesville in perspective

McAuliffe’s contradictory behaviour during the Charlottesville riot makes sense only if it is understood as serving the Clintoncrats’ political motives. There was no political advantage to preventing a racial confrontation that would help the Democratic establishment, demonize the president and stigmatize one of his significant electoral constituencies. As Emanuel infamously told the Wall Street Journal on Nov. 19, 2008, soon after Barack Obama’s election:

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”

Emanuel was referring to the Lehman Brothers banking scandal, but his quote has taken on a life of its own. For example, it was cited by Hillary Clinton on March 6, 2009, in a speech to the European Parliament. McAuliffe never used the quote but he followed its spirit.

The Clintoncrats will need many episodes like Charlottesville if they hope to stampede Democratic voters into propping up the crumbling establishment.

A different version of this essay appears in Charlottesville: A Political Theatre in Three Acts…, edited by Dr. James Fetzer available from Moon Rock Books

November 12, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Deception | , , , , | Leave a comment

Deconstructing the Climate Demagoguery of the Wine Country Wildfire Tragedies

By Jim Steele | Landscapes and Cycles | October 25, 2017

As sure as the winds will blow, climate demagogues hijack every human tragedy to amplify fears of rising CO2 concentrations. Despite that fact other critical factors were keys to understanding the devastation of the Wine Country fires, politicians like Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and Governor Jerry Brown were quick to proclaim climate change had made the fires worse than they would have been.

Climate researcher Kevin Trenberth has long tried to undermine the foundations of science by discarding the null hypothesis. Without formal testing whether a tornado, hurricane or wildfire event is within the expectations of natural variability, Trenberth simply asserts every tragedy is made worse by rising CO2. Accordingly, he is interviewed by climate change propagandists after every weather tragedy. In an interview with InsideClimateNews a few months before the Wine Country wildfires Trenberth continued to proselytize his views, “Whatever conditions exists, they’re always exacerbated by climate change. There’s always that heat variable, the increased risk.”

Indeed heat is always a variable, but usually it has nothing to do with CO2. Sadly, due to his extreme beliefs Trenberth often confuses climate with weather.

Similarly, Daniel Swain who authors a good California Weather Blog, unfortunately strays when he tries to interject CO2-climate change into an otherwise good weather analysis. Writing the fires should also be looked at from “the long-term climate context,” he argued the “record-hottest summer” dried out the vegetation exacerbating the fire conditions. But he too failed to separate natural climate and weather events from his hypothesized contributions from CO2. As will become clear from a more detailed analysis, climate change played no part in the wildfire devastation.

The Ignition Component

Fire danger rating systems analyze 1) an ignition component, 2) a fuel component and 3) a spread component to determine how to allocate fire-fighting resources and when to issue public alerts. Natural fires are caused by lightning, and so good weather models can forecast the short-term probability of lightning fires. Lightning fires are also more likely during warm and moist seasons enhancing their window of predictability. Unfortunately, Cal Fire reports 95% of California fires are unpredictably ignited by humans.

Climate alarmists like Dr. Trenberth have blithely suggested global warming is increasing the fire season stating, “In the West, they used to talk about a fire season, the fire season used to be 60 days, then 90 days, and now they think it’s year-round. There’s no pause.” Tragically that uncritical belief in a climate-related extended fire season has been parroted by lay person and scientists alike. But the facts show the observed extended fire season is due to human ignitions. Blaming climate change is fake news!

In a 2017 paper researchers reported that across the USA from 1992 to 2012, “human-caused fire season was three times longer than the lightning-caused fire season and added an average of 40,000 wildfires per year across the United States. Human-started wildfires disproportionally occurred where fuel moisture was higher.” Furthermore “Human-started wildfires were dominant (>80% of ignitions) in over 5.1 million km2, the vast majority of the United States, whereas lightning-started fires were dominant in only 0.7 million km2.”

We can reduce some human caused ignitions. The Wine Country fires were not ignited by lightning but all observations suggest they were started by downed power lines in high winds. A year ago, California legislators introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at reducing wildfire ignitions from powerlines. Although governor Brown hypes the unsubstantiated dangers of climate change, he vetoed the bill which would have promoted real action to prevent well-known human causes of wildfires. Preventing powerline ignition could have prevented the Wine Country tragedy.

The Fuel Component

Fire ecologists will estimate a fire’s potential intensity by calculating the Energy Release Component (ERC), a measure of the potential heat energy per square foot. ERC is a function of the biomass both dead and alive, and the biomass moisture content. As fuels increase and as fuels dry the ERC increases. Live fuels are modeled such that maximum moisture content coincides with the peak growing season, and declines thereafter as the plants go dormant. Moisture content of dead fuels are modeled according to their diameters.

Depending on their diameters, dead fuels will lose moisture as they equilibrate with their dry surroundings at rates that vary from 1 hour to 1000 hours or more. To aid in firefighting management decisions, fuels are categorized into 4 groups as described in Gaining an Understanding of the National Fire Danger Rating System published by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group

1-Hour Time-lag Fuels “consist of herbaceous plants or round wood less than one-quarter inch in diameter. Also included is the uppermost layer of litter on the forest floor.” The ERC of these fuels and thus the fire danger, can change throughout the day. Dead grass as well as twigs and small stems of chaparral shrubs are 1-hour fuels, and those fine fuels sustained the rapid spread of the Wine Country fires. Assertions that recent and past summer droughts or decades of climate change had dried the fuels and exacerbated the Wine Country fire danger have absolutely no scientific basis. The approach of the hot, bone-dry Diablo Winds would have extracted all the possible moisture from the dead grasses and chaparral twigs within hours, regardless of past temperatures. Trenberth and Swain simply confused rapid weather changes with climate change.

The critical “long-term context” they never discussed is that a century of fire suppression allowed destructive levels of fuel loads to develop, increasing the biomass component of the ERC estimate. As populations grew, so did the demand to suppress every small fire that could threaten a building. Natural small fires reduce the fuel load, whereas fire suppression allows fast drying fuels to accumulate. Unfortunately, fire suppression only delays the inevitable while stocking more fuel for a much more intense blaze. Local officials and preservationists have long been aware of this problem, and controlled burns to reduce those fuels were being increasingly prescribed. Tragically, it was too little too late.

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Figure 1: A prescribed control burn in Wine Country

10-Hour Time-lag Fuels are “dead fuels consisting of round wood in the size range of one quarter to one inch in diameter and, very roughly, the layer of litter extending from just below the surface to three-quarters of an inch below the surface.” The fuel moisture of these fuels vary from day to day and modeled moisture content is based on length of day, cloud cover or solar radiation, temperature and relative humidity.

100-Hour Time-lag Fuels are “dead fuels consisting of round wood in the size range of 1 to 3 inches in diameter and, very roughly, the forest floor from three quarters of an inch to four inches below the surface.” Moisture content of these fuels are also a function of length of day (as influenced by latitude and calendar date), maximum and minimum temperature and relative humidity, and precipitation duration in the previous 24 hours.

Much of the chaparral shrubs produce twigs and stems in size ranges of the 1-hr, 10-hr and 100-hr fuels. These fuels were most likely the source of burning embers that high winds propelled into the devastated residential areas. Again, these dried out fuels are the result of a natural California summer drought and short term weather conditions such as the bone-dry Diablo Winds that arrive every year.

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Figure 2 Moisture content of 3-8 inch diameter fuels from March to December

1000-Hour Time-lag Fuels are “dead fuels consisting of round wood 3 to 8 inches in diameter or the layer of the forest floor more than about four inches below the surface or both”. These larger fuels are more sensitive to drought conditions that existed months earlier, so it could be rightfully argued that a hotter drier July and August made these fuels more flammable in October and exacerbated the fires.

Fire ecologists planning prescribed burns to reduce fuel loads, wait until the 1000-Hr fuels’ moisture content is reduced to 12% or lower. If these larger fuels are dry, it is certain the smaller fuel categories are dry as well, so that all fuels will be highly flammable. As seen in the graph above (Figure 2) 1000-hr fuels reach that critical dryness threshold by July 1st and remain below that threshold until mid-October when the rains begin to return. Contrary to Trenberth’s blather, California’s fire season has always lasted 90+ days. Undoubtedly the unusually hot and dry 2017 summer would have lowered 1000-hr fuel moisture content even further. Nonetheless those fuels become naturally flammable every summer. Furthermore, these larger fuels were less often burned and thus insignificant factors in regard to the fires rapid spread. The rapid spread of the fires was due to consumption of the rapidly drying fuels.

Swain is fond of finding a “record setting” metric to bolster his climate change assertions. As such, he noted the “record-hot summer had dried out vegetation to record levels” and linked to a graph tweeted by John Badoglio showing October ERC values for the past 30 years were at a record high in 2017 (in part because of delayed rains). However, that “record” was also largely irrelevant. The ERC calculation is heavily biased by the greater biomass of the larger 1000-hr fuels that would indeed get drier as the autumn continued without rain. Still those larger fuels were insignificant contributors to the rapidly spreading fire. As seen below (Figure 3), the grasses have been entirely burnt while the larger shrubs and trees, as well as the woody debris near the base of the trees (in the upper left) have not been consumed. In fact many of the trees are still alive. The potential energy estimated by the “record ERC” was only partially realized. It was the fast-drying dead grass and chaparral shrubs that turned potential ERC into meaningful fiery heat.

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Figure 3

The Spread Component

“The spread component is defined as “the theoretical ideal rate of spread expressed in feet-per-minute.” Wind speed, slope and fine fuel moisture are key inputs in the calculation of the spread component, thus accounting for a high variability from day-to-day.” Thus, a combination of dry fuels and high winds typically result in fire-watch and red-flag warnings one day and no warnings days later as the winds subside. Forest rangers are well aware that September and October bring the powerful Diablo Winds of Santa Rosa as well as the Santa Anas of southern California, and with those winds comes the highest fire danger.

Cliff Mass is an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington and author of the superb Cliff Mass Weather and Climate blogs. An October 16th post provides an excellent summary of the metorological conditions that created the fierce winds driving the Wine Country fires. In essence, a strong approaching wind flow (the Diablo Winds) coupled with a thermal inversion near the top of the mountains that border the Santa Rosa valley, accelerated winds into a 60 to 90 mile per hour downslope wind event, a phenomenon known as a mountain wave. Those high winds snapped power line poles and ignited fires. The regional topography also funneled the winds and fire down the valley, taking dead aim at the heart of Santa Rosa. The topography had guided a similar fire in 1964, the Hanley fire, which was started by a carelessly discarded cigarette. Unfortunately without much concern, most of the burnt homes in the Tubbs fire had been built on top of the burnt grounds of that previous Hanley fire, despite public protests.

Were those high winds perhaps exacerbated by climate change? Highly unlikely!

The Diablo Winds affecting Santa Rosa or the Santa Annas of southern California are driven by cooling seasonal temperatures in the high deserts to the east. The inner continent cools faster than the oceans, setting up a pressure gradient driving the winds toward the coast. The winds then heat adiabatically rising 5 degrees Celsius for every 1000 feet of elevation descent. An adiabatic rise in temperature means no added heat from any source and basic physics tells us temperatures can rise adiabatically simply due to compression. Thus an air mass that originated near Flagstaff Arizona at a 6,900 foot elevation, could adiabatically warm by 30 degrees as it reaches sea level.

The flow direction of winds are largely driven by unequal seasonal changes in temperatures. During the summer the interior heats faster than the oceans, such that a cooling onshore wind reduces interior temperatures. This pattern reverses in the autumn as the interior lands cool faster than the ocean creating an inland high pressure that drives the Diablo and Santa Anna winds toward the coast. Despite declining solar insolation, this autumn wind flow causes coastal California to experience some of its hottest days of the year in September and October, commonly referred to as Indian summer. Similarly a pressure system that inhibited the cooling onshore winds around San Francisco, resulted in a record hot summer temperature. By simultaneously opposing cooling sea breezes while bringing warm winds that were adiabatically 5 to 10 degrees warmer, temperatures rise and relative humidity falls. The result is bone-dry hot Diablo winds that suck the moisture from land and vegetation wherever the winds pass.

To restate the forces driving the winds, the Diablo winds are the result of a pressure gradient resulting from an interior that cools cooler faster than the ocean. If CO2 is warming the earth to any significant extent, then we would expect that warming to prevent the inner continent from cooling as quickly as it did decades ago. Thus CO2-global warming would predict a decline in that pressure gradient and a weakening of these winds.

To summarize, none of the fire components- ignition, fuels, or spread – had been affected by climate changes.

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Finally, keen observers will notice that entire blocks of houses, and entire neighborhoods were completely burnt to the ground, in contrast to neighborhood trees that often remained relatively unscathed. This suggests that the high winds rapidly carried burning embers from the grassland and chaparral into these developments. While the trees did not trap the embers, the buildings did. I would expect we will soon hear about investigations inquiring into why these residences were not required to erect more fire safe structures, especially when built in a known fire-prone habitat in a high wind corridor. The simple requirement of constructing eaves in such a manner that prevents the trapping of burning embers and fire-proof roofs may have saved many homes.

Indeed there are many lessons that will allow us to prevent such wildfire disasters in the future if we have accurately determined the causes of these fires. Cliff Mass notes that our short-term weather models had accurately predicted the time and place of the fiercest winds. That information could be used to temporarily shut down the electrical grid where power lines are likely to ignite fires. We can bury power lines below ground. We can remove the high fuels loads that accumulated during a century of misguided fire suppression. Insurance companies can demand higher rates unless proven precautions are undertaken. It is those lessons that Gore, Clinton, Brown should be promoting to inform the public. Trenberth and Swain should be informing the people of the natural weather dangers that are inevitable. There is no evidence that climate change, whether natural or anthropogenic, exacerbated the ignition, fuels or spread components of these deadly fires. And worse, their obsessed belief that rising CO2 concentrations worsen every tragedy only distracts our focus from real life-saving solutions.

Jim Steele is Director emeritus Sierra Nevada Field Campus, San Francisco State University and author of Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

November 5, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

How Obama and Hillary Clinton Weaponized the ‘Dossier’

By George Szamuely George Szamuely | The Duran | October 31, 2017

The disclosure that the Clinton campaign, using white-shoe law firm Perkins Coie as a cutout, financed the so-called Steele dossier confirms what we have known all along.

The Trump-Russia collusion story was a joint invention of the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign. It enabled the Obama administration to make use of the nation’s security and intelligence services to spy on Trump and his associates and to use whatever information they thereby gleaned to try to get Hillary into the White House. The failure of the scheme didn’t stop either Obama or the Clintons. Following the election debacle, an enraged Obama administration sought vengeance by disseminating the dossier as widely as possible with a view to undermining the incoming Trump administration and to ensuring that no rapprochement with Russia would be possible. In doing so, Obama and Clinton have thrown American politics into turmoil and have perhaps pushed the United States and Russia toward armed confrontation.

We have known the basic outlines of the Steele dossier story since January. The Steele dossier, we have been told, started off as a piece of opposition research prepared by Fusion GPS and financed by a Republican rival of Trump’s or perhaps a GOP NeverTrumper. Following Trump’s victory in the GOP primaries, the Democrats took over its funding. Fusion hired Christopher Steele, a former head of the Russia desk at MI6 who now ran his own corporate intelligence firm, Orbis Business Intelligence. Using the leads Steele had developed during his years at MI6, he reported back to his paymasters his shocking discovery: The Russians had been cultivating Trump for years in preparation for his run for the presidency. So shocked was Steele by this that he rushed to alert the FBI, MI6 and even select reporters.

Most of this story is pure fiction. Neither the GOP nor a primary rival of Trump’s had any involvement with the dossier. To be sure, in October 2015, the Washington Free Beacon, a neo-conservative Web site funded by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, did hire Fusion to undertake opposition research on Trump. However, money for this undertaking dried up by May 2016.

The Steele-crafted Trump-Russia collusion story was from start to finish a Democratic Party operation. Its origins can be traced back to April 2016 and the leak of the Democratic National Committee e-mails. The DNC announced that it had been “hacked.” However, instead of reporting the matter to the proper authorities, the DNC turned to attorney Michael Sussmann, a partner at the Perkins Coie law firm. Sussmann got in touch with cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike Inc. Now, CrowdStrike is no geeky, techno-gee-whiz firm. Its founder is Russian-born Dmitri Alperovitch, a senior fellow at the NATO-funded, intensely Russophobic Atlantic Council. “Within a day, CrowdStrike confirmed that the intrusion had originated in Russia,” the New York Times wrote. On June 14, CrowdStrike announced that the DNC hack perpetrators were two separate hacker groups employed by the Russian government.

Even though no one other than CrowdStrike had examined the DNC servers, U.S. intelligence agencies immediately declared that they were in agreement and that they had “high confidence” that the “Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents” from the DNC.

It was at this moment that the Clinton people made the strategic decision to tie Trump to Putin and to make the centerpiece of its campaign the idea that a vote for Trump was a vote for the Kremlin. Perkins Coie—yet again—got in touch with Fusion, which, in turn, got in touch with Christopher Steele. Steele had contacts at MI6 and, perhaps more important, contacts at the FBI. He had allegedly worked with the FBI in the takedown of FIFA.

Steele, who had many contacts at the FBI, understood what was required of him. On June 20, six days after CrowdStrike’s announcement, he filed his first report. It was exactly what the Clinton campaign was looking for: lurid, unsubstantiated but nonetheless juicy allegations. Russia had supposedly been “cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least 5 years.” Trump had hired prostitutes to “perform a ‘golden showers’ show in front of him” at Moscow’s Ritz Carlton Hotel. “Trump’s unorthodox behavior in Russia over the years had provided the authorities… with enough embarrassing material… to be able to blackmail him.”

Steele’s first memo enticed the Clinton people and they eagerly turned on the money spigots. Steele followed up with a memo revealing that the Russians were behind the DNC leak, that Putin “hated and feared” Hillary Clinton and that there existed a “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation” between Trump and the Russians. The recently-indicted Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, managed this co-operation on behalf of Trump by using “foreign policy advisor” Carter Page as an intermediary. “In return the Trump team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise U.S./NATO defense commitments in the Baltics and eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine.”

Carter Page, whom no one had ever heard of and who had never even met Trump, featured prominently in the Steele memos and in subsequent U.S. media coverage of the campaign. A July 19 memo from Steele had Page holding a “secret meeting” with Igor Sechin, executive chairman of Rosneft, the Russian state oil company, in which the two men discussed future bilateral energy cooperation and “an associated move to lift Ukraine-related” sanctions against Russia.

The Clinton campaign theme was set. By July 23, 2016, Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, was telling ABC News on Sunday that “experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke in to the DNC, took all these emails and now are leaking them out through these Web sites. . . . It’s troubling that some experts are now telling us that this was done by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.” A couple of days later, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who was to lead the post-election “Trump-Russia collusion” charge in Congress, declared:

Given Donald Trump’s well-known admiration for Putin and his belittling of NATO, the Russians have both the means and the motive to engage in a hack of the D.N.C. and the dump of its emails prior to the Democratic Convention. That foreign actors may be trying to influence our election—let alone a powerful adversary like Russia—should concern all Americans of any party.

In August, it was reported, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wrote to FBI Director James Comey demanding disclosure of the contents of the dossier: “In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government… The public has a right to know this information.” And, of course, Hillary Clinton famously accused Trump of being “Putin’s puppet” during their third presidential debate.

The Steele dossier was now driving the Obama administration’s scrutiny of Trump’s people as well as media coverage of the campaign. Steele, the BBC reported, “flew to Rome in August to talk to the FBI. Then in early October, he came to the US and was extensively debriefed by them, over a week. He gave the FBI the names of some of his informants, the so-called ‘key’ to the dossier.” The FBI went to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court and obtained an order to “monitor the communications” of Carter Page, as “part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign.” According to the Guardian, the FISA court turned down its first application (an unusual event, if true), asking the agency to narrow its focus. Eventually, the FBI managed to convince the court that “there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power.” What was the basis of this probable cause? CNN reported that the FBI based its application on the claims made in the Steele dossier. That’s very serious business. If the FBI was presenting the FISA court unverified material from the dossier as if it were verified then it was clearly deceiving the court in order to obtain a politically-motivated warrant.

By September 2016, U.S. media were reporting that Carter Page had become a person of interests for the U.S. government: “U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials—including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president.” Words straight from the dossier. The same media report had “U.S. intelligence agencies” receiving reports that Page met one Igor Diveykin, who “serves as deputy chief for internal policy and is believed by U.S. officials to have responsibility for intelligence collected by Russian agencies about the U.S. election.” This too is almost verbatim from Steele’s July 19 memo.

The U.S. government has actually made very little pretense that it didn’t make use of the dossier. FBI Director James Comey admitted to Congress that the dossier had been “one of the sources of information the bureau has used to bolster its investigation.” Then, on Jan. 11, 2017, following Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s meeting with Trump during which he and Comey presented the president-elect a summary of the dossier, Clapper issued a strange statement: The intelligence community “has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions. However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.” This was a classic non-denial denial. That he and his friends did not “rely” on the dossier doesn’t mean that they didn’t make full use of it.

Federal investigators also wiretapped Paul Manafort, both before and after the election and indeed right through to the last days of the Obama administration. According to CNN, the FBI launched an investigation of Manafort in 2014 shortly after the Feb. 22, 2014, coup d’etat in Ukraine. Manafort had worked as a political consultant work for former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. However, the “surveillance was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence.” In other words, by the time Manafort went to work for the Trump campaign in May 2016, he was no longer under FBI surveillance. The FBI resumed its surveillance at just about the time the first of Steele’s memos started arriving in Washington.

The wiretaps had nothing to do with the charges Special Counsel Robert Mueller has just brought against Manafort. Mueller’s charges involve activities that took place long before Manafort joined the Trump campaign. What the FBI was looking for was evidence that Manafort was a conduit between the Kremlin and Trump.

Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn also featured prominently in the dossier. He too came under Obama administration surveillance. Indeed, Obama’s people used the wiretaps in order to get him ousted from his newly-appointed position. Obama administration holdover, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, listened in on a conversation Flynn had had with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, on Dec. 29, 2016, and decided that the incoming national security adviser was susceptible to blackmail from the Russians. She never really explained on what grounds the Russians could or would blackmail Flynn. Her argument seemed to be that because Flynn had discussed the possible lifting of sanctions—a policy that would run contrary to that of the Obama administration that was still in office at the time this conversation had supposedly taken place—he had violated the Logan Act, which prohibits private individuals conducting U.S. foreign policy. No one has been prosecuted under this statute for 200 years. Why the Russians would want to invoke an obscure statute to threaten Flynn, an official well-disposed toward them, with a prosecution that could never succeed and thereby to undermine the very policy they were seeking, namely, the lifting of sanctions, was never explained. Nonetheless, armed with this nonsense, Yates rushed over to the White House demanding dismissal of Flynn. He was susceptible to blackmail and was therefore a security risk. It seemed to be a joke, but for reasons that remain baffling, the White House meekly complied with Yates’s demand.

We now know that the Obama administration’s surveillance of Trump’s people reached pathological levels following the election. It is almost certain that the FBI did pay Steele to continue his work. The Washington Post reported that the bureau had “reached an agreement with [Steele] a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work.” The Post claims that “Ultimately, the FBI did not pay Steele. Communications between the bureau and the former spy were interrupted as Steele’s now-famous dossier became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials.” This seems highly unlikely. According to a number of news stories, the Clinton campaign stopped paying Steele sometime at the end of October. Yet Steele continued sending memos through December. Somebody had to have paid him. Steele is not the type to work pro bono.

Obama people such as Samantha Power, Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes went on an unmasking rampage during the election and after. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has claimed that the Obama administration made “hundreds of requests during the 2016 presidential race to unmask the names of Americans in intelligence reports, including Trump transition officials.” The requests were made without specific justifications on why the information was needed. More sinister were the activities of the Obama people after the election. Trounced by Trump, they vented their fury doing everything possible to undermine the incoming administration. The New York Times reported that during the last days of the Obama administration “White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential… across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.”

A former deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration official, Evelyn Farkas, revealed that she was telling her former colleagues:

Get as much information as you can, get as much intelligence as you can, before President Obama leaves the administration, because I had a fear that somehow that information would disappear with the senior people that left…. That the Trump folks, if they found out how we knew what we knew about their, the staff, the Trump staff’s dealing with Russians, that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we would no longer have access to that intelligence. So I became very worried, because not enough was coming out into the open, and I knew that there was more.

The full extent of the Obama administration’s campaign of surveillance, espionage and sabotage has yet to be revealed. The right-wing media have excitedly latched onto the Clinton revelations in order to put out a ridiculous story of their own. Americans are still innocent victims; Russians are still villains interfering with our gloriously pristine elections. The new victim-in-chief is Trump and the new Russian colluder-in-chief is Clinton. As ever, nothing changes in Washington.

George Szamuely, PhD, author of Bombs for Peace: NATO’s Humanitarian War on Yugoslavia, is Senior Research Fellow at the Global Policy Institute of London Metropolitan University.

November 2, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Putin, Trump and Manafort

By Margaret Kimberley | Black Agenda Report | November 1, 2017

The American propaganda campaign being waged against the Russian Federation and its president Vladimir Putin has reached a stage of perverse perfection. It is virtually impossible to put forth a dissenting opinion that will be accepted or considered worthy of consideration. The Democrats are leading the charge to silence and censor and they are getting buy-in from people who otherwise consider themselves to be progressive.

This columnist has been interviewed on Radio Sputnik on two occasions. That fact should not be at all noteworthy but in the current atmosphere of Russophobia being pushed by the corporate media and Democratic politicians, it is a risky statement to make. Sputnik International is a Russian government entity, just as the BBC is “state run media” on behalf of the British government and the CBC for Canada. But anyone and anything connected to Russia gets the double standard treatment and is targeted for attack.

Marcus Ferrell was until recently a campaign staffer for Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. He resigned after the Atlanta Journal Constitution revealed that he had been a guest on the program By Any Means Necessary which is hosted by Sputnik. Ferrell didn’t discuss Russia at all. Confederate monuments were the topic of conversation. But the level of fear is so great that he felt compelled to resign. His boss made no effort to fight against the tide and she didn’t defend him either.

Every day a new shoe drops in this faux scandal. Twitter announced that it would not accept advertisements from Sputnik or RT, formerly known as Russia Today. Sputnik had never even paid for ads on Twitter but why be bothered by facts when ginned up phony outrage is so readily available.

It is Democrats who demanded that Facebook and Twitter stop telling the truth about Eastern European click bait schemes and instead join in that party’s witch hunt. Now we are told that Russian social media posts meant to influence American politics reached 126 million people on Facebook over a two-year period. Of course the last paragraphs of that story reveal that only one out of 23,000 pieces of content actually reached anyone. That fact is too inconvenient and makes for a bad headline.

While social media giants are submitting to marching orders, the state and corporate sponsored Public Broadcasting System (PBS) produced its second anti-Putin documentary in as many years. First “Putin’s Way” in 2015 and now “Putin’s Revenge” feature so-called experts who outdo one another in stoking anti-Russian flames. PBS can never seem to find any expert who can make counter arguments.

While the corporate media compete to see who can dumb down the country the fastest, the legal wheels are turning to get Trump out of office and Russia is the pretext for the action. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort has been indicted for tax fraud. His indictment is just the beginning of the bipartisan effort to end the Trump presidency. They hope to resume doing the elites’ business without hindrance from the man who is so bad for the neoliberal brand.

Nothing matters to liberals more than getting Trump out of office. Their juvenile political understanding was turned upside down by Hillary Clinton’s defeat and they haven’t been the same since. They are obsessed with the man they hate. They have been fed a steady diet of red meat which explains away their illusions about the failed Democratic Party and the fact that millions of their fellow citizens don’t see the world the way they do.

Paul Manafort was a long time Republican Party operative going back to the days of Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign. He used his connections to become a lobbyist, a hired gun for governments ranging from Nigeria to the Philippines to Kenya to Romania to Ukraine. Manafort would not be facing serious legal jeopardy if he hadn’t taken on that particular gig.

We are told that Ukraine’s former president Victor Yanukovich was “pro Russian” and that Manafort’s representation proves Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Neither statement is true but no one knows outside of the small circle of people who make herculean efforts to educate themselves about world affairs.

As the old saying goes, the fix is in. Manafort is just the first notch on former FBI director Robert Mueller’s gun. He will go after other Trump connected cronies and relatives who have done shady business but that won’t be the reason for the pursuit. There are many sleazy American lobbyists and business people but no one cares until there is a moment when their downfall is politically useful.

Free speech is being undermined, the left are losing their access to media and prosecutors are going after crooks, but not because they want justice to be done. If Putin was trying to destroy America he couldn’t do a better job than the media, crooked politicians and the deluded liberals who all work together.

Margaret Kimberley can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

November 2, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

How America Spreads Global Chaos

By Nicolas J.S. Davies | Consortium News | October 30, 2017

As the recent PBS documentary on the American War in Vietnam acknowledged, few American officials ever believed that the United States could win the war, neither those advising Johnson as he committed hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops, nor those advising Nixon as he escalated a brutal aerial bombardment that had already killed millions of people.

U.S. F-105s bomb North Vietnam in 1966
(Photo credit: U.S. Air Force)

As conversations tape-recorded in the White House reveal, and as other writers have documented, the reasons for wading into the Big Muddy, as Pete Seeger satirized it, and then pushing on regardless, all came down to “credibility”: the domestic political credibility of the politicians involved and America’s international credibility as a military power.

Once the CIA went to work in Vietnam to undermine the 1954 Geneva Accords and the planned reunification of North and South through a free and fair election in 1956, the die was cast. The CIA’s support for the repressive Diem regime and its successors ensured an ever-escalating war, as the South rose in rebellion, supported by the North. No U.S. president could extricate the U.S. from Vietnam without exposing the limits of what U.S. military force could achieve, betraying widely held national myths and the powerful interests that sustained and profited from them.

The critical “lesson of Vietnam” was summed up by Richard Barnet in his 1972 book Roots of War.  “At the very moment that the number one nation has perfected the science of killing,” Barnet wrote, “It has become an impractical means of political domination.”

Losing the war in Vietnam was a heavy blow to the CIA and the U.S. Military Industrial Complex, and it added insult to injury for every American who had lost comrades or loved ones in Vietnam, but it ushered in more than a decade of relative peace for America and the world. If the purpose of the U.S. military is to protect the U.S. from the danger of war, as our leaders so often claim, the “Vietnam syndrome,” or the reluctance to be drawn into new wars, kept the peace and undoubtedly saved countless lives.

Even the senior officer corps of the U.S. military saw it that way, since many of them had survived the horrors of Vietnam as junior officers. The CIA could still wreak havoc in Latin America and elsewhere, but the full destructive force of the U.S. military was not unleashed again until the invasion of Panama in 1989 and the First Gulf War in 1991.

Half a century after Vietnam, we have tragically come full circle. With the CIA’s politicized intelligence running wild in Washington and its covert operations spreading violence and chaos across every continent, President Trump faces the same pressures to maintain his own and his country’s credibility as Johnson and Nixon did. His predictable response has been to escalate ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and West Africa, and to threaten new ones against North Korea, Iran and Venezuela.

Trump is facing these questions, not just in one country, Vietnam, but in dozens of countries across the world, and the interests perpetuating and fueling this cycle of crisis and war have only become more entrenched over time, as President Eisenhower warned that they would, despite the end of the Cold War and, until now, the lack of any actual military threat to the United States.

Ironically but predictably, the U.S.’s aggressive and illegal war policy has finally provoked a real military threat to the U.S., albeit one that has emerged only in response to U.S. war plans. As I explained in a recent article, North Korea’s discovery in 2016 of a U.S. plan to assassinate its president, Kim Jong Un, and launch a Second Korean War has triggered a crash program to develop long-range ballistic missiles that could give North Korea a viable nuclear deterrent and prevent a U.S. attack. But the North Koreans will not feel safe from attack until their leaders and ours are sure that their missiles can deliver a nuclear strike against the U.S. mainland.

The CIA’s Pretexts for War

U.S. Air Force Colonel Fletcher Prouty was the chief of special operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1955 to 1964, managing the global military support system for the CIA in Vietnam and around the world. Fletcher Prouty’s book, The Secret Team: The CIA and its Allies in Control of the United States and the World, was suppressed when it was first published in 1973. Thousands of copies disappeared from bookstores and libraries, and a mysterious Army Colonel bought the entire shipment of 3,500 copies the publisher sent to Australia. But Prouty’s book was republished in 2011, and it is a timely account of the role of the CIA in U.S. policy.

Prouty surprisingly described the role of the CIA as a response by powerful people and interests to the abolition of the U.S. Department of War and the creation of the Department of Defense in 1947. Once the role of the U.S. military was redefined as one of defense, in line with the United Nations Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of military force in 1945 and similar moves by other military powers, it would require some kind of crisis or threat to justify using military force in the future, both legally and politically. The main purpose of the CIA, as Prouty saw it, is to create such pretexts for war.

The CIA is a hybrid of an intelligence service that gathers and analyzes foreign intelligence and a clandestine service that conducts covert operations. Both functions are essential to creating pretexts for war, and that is what they have done for 70 years.

Prouty described how the CIA infiltrated the U.S. military, the State Department, the National Security Council and other government institutions, covertly placing its officers in critical positions to ensure that its plans are approved and that it has access to whatever forces, weapons, equipment, ammunition and other resources it needs to carry them out.

Many retired intelligence officers, such as Ray McGovern and the members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), saw the merging of clandestine operations with intelligence analysis in one agency as corrupting the objective analysis they tried to provide to policymakers. They formed VIPS in 2003 in response to the fabrication of politicized intelligence that provided false pretexts for the U.S. to invade and destroy Iraq.

CIA in Syria and Africa

But Fletcher Prouty was even more disturbed by the way that the CIA uses clandestine operations to trigger coups, wars and chaos. The civil and proxy war in Syria is a perfect example of what Prouty meant. In late 2011, after destroying Libya and aiding in the torture-murder of Muammar Gaddafi, the CIA and its allies began flying fighters and weapons from Libya to Turkey and infiltrating them into Syria. Then, working with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Croatia and other allies, this operation poured thousands of tons of weapons across Syria’s borders to ignite and fuel a full-scale civil war.

Once these covert operations were under way, they ran wild until they had unleashed a savage Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria (Jabhat al-Nusra, now rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), spawned the even more savage “Islamic State,” triggered the heaviest and probably the deadliest U.S. bombing campaign since Vietnam and drawn Russia, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Hezbollah, Kurdish militias and almost every state or armed group in the Middle East into the chaos of Syria’s civil war.

Meanwhile, as Al Qaeda and Islamic State have expanded their operations across Africa, the U.N. has published a report titled Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment, based on 500 interviews with African militants. This study has found that the kind of special operations and training missions the CIA and AFRICOM are conducting and supporting in Africa are in fact the critical “tipping point” that drives Africans to join militant groups like Al Qaeda, Al-Shabab and Boko Haram.

The report found that government action, such as the killing or detention of friends or family, was the “tipping point” that drove 71 percent of African militants interviewed to join armed groups, and that this was a more important factor than religious ideology.

The conclusions of Journey to Extremism in Africa confirm the findings of other similar studies. The Center for Civilians in Conflict interviewed 250 civilians who joined armed groups in Bosnia, Somalia, Gaza and Libya for its 2015 study, The People’s Perspectives: Civilian Involvement in Armed Conflicts. The study found that the most common motivation for civilians to join armed groups was simply to protect themselves or their families.

The role of U.S. “counterterrorism” operations in fueling armed resistance and terrorism, and the absence of any plan to reduce the asymmetric violence unleashed by the “global war on terror,” would be no surprise to Fletcher Prouty. As he explained, such clandestine operations always take on a life of their own that is unrelated, and often counter-productive, to any rational U.S. policy objective.

“The more intimate one becomes with this activity,” Prouty wrote, “The more one begins to realize that such operations are rarely, if ever, initiated from an intent to become involved in pursuit of some national objective in the first place.”

The U.S. justifies the deployment of 6,000 U.S. special forces and military trainers to 53 of the 54 countries in Africa as a response to terrorism. But the U.N.’s Journey to Extremism in Africa study makes it clear that the U.S. militarization of Africa is in fact the “tipping point” that is driving Africans across the continent to join armed resistance groups in the first place.

This is a textbook CIA operation on the same model as Vietnam in the late 1950s and early 60s. The CIA uses U.S. special forces and training missions to launch covert and proxy military operations that drive local populations into armed resistance groups, and then uses the presence of those armed resistance groups to justify ever-escalating U.S. military involvement. This is Vietnam redux on a continental scale.

Taking on China

What seems to really be driving the CIA’s militarization of U.S. policy in Africa is China’s growing influence on the continent. As Steve Bannon put it in an interview with the Economist in August, “Let’s go screw up One Belt One Road.”

China is already too big and powerful for the U.S. to apply what is known as the Ledeen doctrine named for neoconservative theorist and intelligence operative Michael Ledeen who suggested that every 10 years or so, the United States “pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show we mean business.”

China is too powerful and armed with nuclear weapons. So, in this case, the CIA’s job would be to spread violence and chaos to disrupt Chinese trade and investment, and to make African governments increasingly dependent on U.S. military aid to fight the militant groups spawned and endlessly regenerated by U.S.-led “counterterrorism” operations.

Neither Ledeen nor Bannon pretend that such policies are designed to build more prosperous or viable societies in the Middle East or Africa, let alone to benefit their people. They both know very well what Richard Barnet already understood 45 years ago, that America’s unprecedented investment in weapons, war and CIA covert operations are only good for one thing: to kill people and destroy infrastructure, reducing cities to rubble, societies to chaos and the desperate survivors to poverty and displacement.

As long as the CIA and the U.S. military keep plunging the scapegoats for our failed policies into economic crisis, violence and chaos, the [elite elements of] United States and the United Kingdom can remain the safe havens of the world’s wealth, islands of privilege and excess amidst the storms they unleash on others.

But if that is the only “significant national objective” driving these policies, it is surely about time for the 99 percent of Americans who reap no benefit from these murderous schemes to stop the CIA and its allies before they completely wreck the already damaged and fragile world in which we all must live, Americans and foreigners alike.

Douglas Valentine has probably studied the CIA in more depth than any other American journalist, beginning with his book on The Phoenix Program in Vietnam. He has written a new book titled The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World, in which he brings Fletcher Prouty’s analysis right up to the present day, describing the CIA’s role in our current wars and the many ways it infiltrates, manipulates and controls U.S. policy.

The Three Scapegoats

In Trump’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly, he named North Korea, Iran and Venezuela as his prime targets for destabilization, economic warfare and, ultimately, the overthrow of their governments, whether by coup d’etat or the mass destruction of their civilian population and infrastructure. But Trump’s choice of scapegoats for America’s failures was obviously not based on a rational reassessment of foreign policy priorities by the new administration. It was only a tired rehashing of the CIA’s unfinished business with two-thirds of Bush’s “axis of evil” and Bush White House official Elliott Abrams’ failed 2002 coup in Caracas, now laced with explicit and illegal threats of aggression.

How Trump and the CIA plan to sacrifice their three scapegoats for America’s failures remains to be seen. This is not 2001, when the world stood silent at the U.S. bombardment and invasion of Afghanistan after September 11th. It is more like 2003, when the U.S. destruction of Iraq split the Atlantic alliance and alienated most of the world. It is certainly not 2011, after Obama’s global charm offensive had rebuilt U.S. alliances and provided cover for French President Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Cameron, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Arab royals to destroy Libya, once ranked by the U.N. as the most developed country in Africa, now mired in intractable chaos.

In 2017, a U.S. attack on any one of Trump’s scapegoats would isolate the United States from many of its allies and undermine its standing in the world in far-reaching ways that might be more permanent and harder to repair than the invasion and destruction of Iraq.

In Venezuela, the CIA and the right-wing opposition are following the same strategy that President Nixon ordered the CIA to inflict on Chile, to “make the economy scream” in preparation for the 1973 coup. But the solid victory of Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party in recent nationwide gubernatorial elections, despite a long and deep economic crisis, reveals little public support for the CIA’s puppets in Venezuela.

The CIA has successfully discredited the Venezuelan government through economic warfare, increasingly violent right-wing street protests and a global propaganda campaign. But the CIA has stupidly hitched its wagon to an extreme right-wing, upper-class opposition that has no credibility with most of the Venezuelan public, who still turn out for the Socialists at the polls. A CIA coup or U.S. military intervention would meet fierce public resistance and damage U.S. relations all over Latin America.

Boxing In North Korea

A U.S. aerial bombardment or “preemptive strike” on North Korea could quickly escalate into a war between the U.S. and China, which has reiterated its commitment to North Korea’s defense if North Korea is attacked. We do not know exactly what was in the U.S. war plan discovered by North Korea, so neither can we know how North Korea and China could respond if the U.S. pressed ahead with it.

Most analysts have long concluded that any U.S. attack on North Korea would be met with a North Korean artillery and missile barrage that would inflict unacceptable civilian casualties on Seoul, a metropolitan area of 26 million people, three times the population of New York City. Seoul is only 35 miles from the frontier with North Korea, placing it within range of a huge array of North Korean weapons. What was already a no-win calculus is now compounded by the possibility that North Korea could respond with nuclear weapons, turning any prospect of a U.S. attack into an even worse nightmare.

U.S. mismanagement of its relations with North Korea should be an object lesson for its relations with Iran, graphically demonstrating the advantages of diplomacy, talks and agreements over threats of war. Under the Agreed Framework signed in 1994, North Korea stopped work on two much larger nuclear reactors than the small experimental one operating at Yongbyong since 1986, which only produces 6 kg of plutonium per year, enough for one nuclear bomb.

The lesson of Bush’s Iraq invasion in 2003 after Saddam Hussein had complied with demands that he destroy Iraq’s stockpiles of chemical weapons and shut down a nascent nuclear program was not lost on North Korea. Not only did the invasion lay waste to large sections of Iraq with hundreds of thousands of dead but Hussein himself was hunted down and condemned to death by hanging.

Still, after North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon in 2006, even its small experimental reactor was shut down as a result of the “Six Party Talks” in 2007, all the fuel rods were removed and placed under supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the cooling tower of the reactor was demolished in 2008.

But then, as relations deteriorated, North Korea conducted a second nuclear weapon test and again began reprocessing spent fuel rods to recover plutonium for use in nuclear weapons.

North Korea has now conducted six nuclear weapons tests. The explosions in the first five tests increased gradually up to 15-25 kilotons, about the yield of the bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but estimates for the yield of the 2017 test range from 110 to 250 kilotons, comparable to a small hydrogen bomb.

The even greater danger in a new war in Korea is that the U.S. could unleash part of its arsenal of 4,000 more powerful weapons (100 to 1,200 kilotons), which could kill millions of people and devastate and poison the region, or even the world, for years to come.

The U.S. willingness to scrap the Agreed Framework in 2003, the breakdown of the Six Party Talks in 2009 and the U.S. refusal to acknowledge that its own military actions and threats create legitimate defense concerns for North Korea have driven the North Koreans into a corner from which they see a credible nuclear deterrent as their only chance to avoid mass destruction.

China has proposed a reasonable framework for diplomacy to address the concerns of both sides, but the U.S. insists on maintaining its propaganda narratives that all the fault lies with North Korea and that it has some kind of “military solution” to the crisis.

This may be the most dangerous idea we have heard from U.S. policymakers since the end of the Cold War, but it is the logical culmination of a systematic normalization of deviant and illegal U.S. war-making that has already cost millions of lives in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. As historian Gabriel Kolko wrote in Century of War in 1994, “options and decisions that are intrinsically dangerous and irrational become not merely plausible but the only form of reasoning about war and diplomacy that is possible in official circles.”

Demonizing Iran

The idea that Iran has ever had a nuclear weapons program is seriously contested by the IAEA, which has examined every allegation presented by the CIA and other Western “intelligence” agencies as well as Israel. Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei revealed many details of this wild goose chase in his 2011 memoir, Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times.

When the CIA and its partners reluctantly acknowledged the IAEA’s conclusions in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), ElBaradei issued a press release confirming that, “the agency has no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran.”

Since 2007, the IAEA has resolved all its outstanding concerns with Iran. It has verified that dual-use technologies that Iran imported before 2003 were in fact used for other purposes, and it has exposed the mysterious “laptop documents” that appeared to show Iranian plans for a nuclear weapon as forgeries. Gareth Porter thoroughly explored all these questions and allegations and the history of mistrust that fueled them in his 2014 book, Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scares, which I highly recommend.

But, in the parallel Bizarro world of U.S. politics, hopelessly poisoned by the CIA’s endless disinformation campaigns, Hillary Clinton could repeatedly take false credit for disarming Iran during her presidential campaign, and neither Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump nor any corporate media interviewer dared to challenge her claims.

“When President Obama took office, Iran was racing toward a nuclear bomb,” Clinton fantasized in a prominent foreign policy speech on June 2, 2016, claiming that her brutal sanctions policy “brought Iran to the table.”

In fact, as Trita Parsi documented in his 2012 book, A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy With Iran, the Iranians were ready, not just to “come to the table,” but to sign a comprehensive agreement based on a U.S. proposal brokered by Turkey and Brazil in 2010. But, in a classic case of “tail wags dog,” the U.S. then rejected its own proposal because it would have undercut support for tighter sanctions in the U.N. Security Council. In other words, Clinton’s sanctions policy did not “bring Iran to the table”, but prevented the U.S. from coming to the table itself.

As a senior State Department official told Trita Parsi, the real problem with U.S. diplomacy with Iran when Clinton was at the State Department was that the U.S. would not take “Yes” for an answer. Trump’s ham-fisted decertification of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA is right out of Clinton’s playbook, and it demonstrates that the CIA is still determined to use Iran as a scapegoat for America’s failures in the Middle East.

The spurious claim that Iran is the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism is another CIA canard reinforced by endless repetition. It is true that Iran supports and supplies weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas, which are both listed as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. But they are mainly defensive resistance groups that defend Lebanon and Gaza respectively against invasions and attacks by Israel.

Shifting attention away from Al Qaeda, Islamic State, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and other groups that actually commit terrorist crimes around the world might just seem like a case of the CIA “taking its eyes off the ball,” if it wasn’t so transparently timed to frame Iran with new accusations now that the manufactured crisis of the nuclear scare has run its course.

What the Future Holds

Barack Obama’s most consequential international achievement may have been the triumph of symbolism over substance behind which he expanded and escalated the so-called “war on terror,” with a vast expansion of covert operations and proxy wars that eventually triggered the heaviest U.S. aerial bombardments since Vietnam in Iraq and Syria.

Obama’s charm offensive invigorated old and new military alliances with the U.K., France and the Arab monarchies, and he quietly ran up the most expensive military budget of any president since World War Two.

But Obama’s expansion of the “war on terror” under cover of his deceptive global public relations campaign created many more problems than it solved, and Trump and his advisers are woefully ill-equipped to solve any of them. Trump’s expressed desire to place America first and to resist foreign entanglements is hopelessly at odds with his aggressive, bullying approach to every foreign policy problem.

If the U.S. could threaten and fight its way to a resolution of any of its international problems, it would have done so already. That is exactly what it has been trying to do since the 1990s, behind both the swagger and bluster of Bush and Trump and the deceptive charm of Clinton and Obama: a “good cop – bad cop” routine that should no longer fool anyone anywhere.

But as Lyndon Johnson found as he waded deeper and deeper into the Big Muddy in Vietnam, lying to the public about unwinnable wars does not make them any more winnable. It just gets more people killed and makes it harder and harder to ever tell the public the truth.

In unwinnable wars based on lies, the “credibility” problem only gets more complicated, as new lies require new scapegoats and convoluted narratives to explain away graveyards filled by old lies. Obama’s cynical global charm offensive bought the “war on terror” another eight years, but that only allowed the CIA to drag the U.S. into more trouble and spread its chaos to more places around the world.

Meanwhile, Russian President Putin is winning hearts and minds in capitals around the world by calling for a recommitment to the rule of international law, which prohibits the threat or use of military force except in self-defense. Every new U.S. threat or act of aggression will only make Putin’s case more persuasive, not least to important U.S. allies like South Korea, Germany and other members of the European Union, whose complicity in U.S. aggression has until now helped to give it a false veneer of political legitimacy.

Throughout history, serial aggression has nearly always provoked increasingly united opposition, as peace-loving countries and people have reluctantly summoned the courage to stand up to an aggressor. France under Napoleon and Hitler’s Germany also regarded themselves as exceptional, and in their own ways they were. But in the end, their belief in their exceptionalism led them on to defeat and destruction.

Americans had better hope that we are not so exceptional, and that the world will find a diplomatic rather than a military “solution” to its American problem. Our chances of survival would improve a great deal if American officials and politicians would finally start to act like something other than putty in the hands of the CIA.


Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.  He also wrote the chapters on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.

October 31, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Rise of MEK/NCRI in Washington: Pay Off The Right People and You Are No Longer A Terrorist

Maryam Rajavi- Rudy Giuliani and Senator Joe Lieberman at the free Iran Gathering – 1 July 2017. Image credit: Maryam Rajavi/ flickr)
By Philip Giraldi | American Herald Tribune | October 30, 2017

If you want to change a group of terrorists who have killed Americans overseas into something that appears to be much more benign, all you have to do is pay off the right people in Washington. With enough money, you can even open a nice plush lobbying office on Pennsylvania Avenue in the District of Columbia, not too far from the White House and Capitol Hill.

One-time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been rightly blamed for the ill-conceived and badly bungled “regime change” in Libya in 2011 that eventually led to her mishandling of the resulting blowback in Benghazi, but one of her greatest failings just might have involved the piece of paper she signed when she removed the Mujaheddin e Khalq (MEK) group from the State Department list of “designated terrorist organizations” in September 2012.

How is it possible that the bad judgment demonstrated in the Libyan fiasco that created a failed state, a humanitarian disaster, a migrant crisis, armed terrorists and ultimately produced the murder of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans compares with a signature on a piece of paper? It is because that signature put in place one of the elements that will most likely in the near future lead to a far more disastrous war for the United States than was Libya. MEK, now labeled the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), has become a principal voice of the war party that is now seeking to attack Iran, a role similar to that played by Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress in his disseminating of lies in the lead up to the catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The tale of the rehabilitation and rise of MEK/NCRI is a subset of the ongoing corruption of America’s political culture, best illustrated by the fact that even national security is now up for sale, enabling a terrorist group to transform itself into a “resistance movement” and eventually be labeled “freedom fighters.”

How did this happen as MEK was on the State Department roster of foreign terrorist organizations since the list was established in 1997? Its inclusion derived from its having killed six Americans in the 1970s, its participation in the U.S. Embassy hostage-taking and from its record of extreme violence both inside and outside Iran since that time. When I was a CIA trainee our course included a simulation of the horrific attack on U.S. Air Force Officers in Tehran in 1973 that killed two colonels.

MEK is widely regarded as a terrorist cult headed by a bizarre husband and wife team Massoud and Maryam Rajavi. Its members are required to be celibate and are subjected to extensive brainwashing, physical torture, severe beatings even unto death, and prolonged solitary confinement if they question the leadership. One scholar who has studied them describes their beliefs as a “weird combination of Marxism and Islamic fundamentalism.”

With the sharp turn of the Trump Administration against Iran, NCRI is now finding an audience, telling the American public that Iran is “cheating” on the nuclear deal.  It also tells us that “Iran’s nuclear weapons program has far from halted” and has claimed to identify four major sites that “with a high degree of certainty” have been involved in various aspects of the allegedly ongoing nuclear weapons project. This has led Jillian Mele of Fox News to declare, falsely, that “It appears [Iran’s nuclear] weapons program is fully operational.”

The CIA has in the past recruited MEK/NCRI agents to enter into Iran and report on nuclear facilities, but Israel’s Mossad is the group’s principal employer. Agents, recruited and trained by Israel, have killed a number of Iranian nuclear scientists and officials. The group appears to have ample financial resources, places full page ads in major US newspapers, and is also known to pay hefty fees to major political figures who are willing to speak publicly on its behalf. The group claims to want regime change in Iran to restore democracy to the country, an odd assertion as it itself has no internal democracy and is loathed by nearly all Iranians.

Because MEK/NCRI is a resource being used by Tel Aviv in its clandestine war against Iran, it is perhaps inevitable that many friends of Israel in the United States actively campaigned to have the group removed from the terrorism list so that it could, ironically, have a free hand to continue to terrorize Iran. Indeed, neocons at their various think tanks and publications as well as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee all recommended delisting the group and continue to support it. Prominent American Jews to include Elie Wiesel and Alan Dershowitz have been advocates for the group in spite of its record of terrorism.

Multi-million dollar contracts with Washington lobbying firms experienced at “working” congress backed up by handsome speaking fees have induced many prominent Americans to join the chorus supporting NCRI. Prior to 2012, speaking fees for the group started at $15,000 and went up from there. Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell reported more than $150,000 in honoraria. Rudy Giuliani has been paid generously for years at $20,000 per appearance for brief, twenty-minute speeches. Bear in mind that MEK was a listed terrorist group at the time and accepting money from it to promote its interests should have constituted material support of terrorism.

The group’s well-connected friends have included prominent neocons like John Bolton and ex-CIA Directors James Woolsey, Michael Hayden and Porter Goss as well as former Generals Anthony Zinni, Peter Pace, Wesley Clark, and Hugh Shelton. Traditional conservatives close to the Trump Administration like Newt Gingrich, Fran Townsend and Elaine Chao are also fans of NCRI. Townsend in particular, as a national security specialist, has appeared on television to denounce Iran, calling its actions “acts of war” without indicating that she has received money from an opposition group.

The emergence of NCRI at this time is just another fool’s game with the usual Washington crowd queuing up for a bad cause because they are both lining their pockets and thinking they are helping Israel by punishing Iran. In any event it is a poor bargain for the rest of us, but that hardly seems to matter anymore.

October 30, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Democratic Money Behind Russia-gate

By Joe Lauria | Consortium News | October 29, 2017

The two sources that originated the allegations claiming that Russia meddled in the 2016 election — without providing convincing evidence — were both paid for by the Democratic National Committee, and in one instance also by the Clinton campaign: the Steele dossier and the CrowdStrike analysis of the DNC servers. Think about that for a minute.

We have long known that the DNC did not allow the FBI to examine its computer server for clues about who may have hacked it – or even if it was hacked – and instead turned to CrowdStrike, a private company co-founded by a virulently anti-Putin Russian. Within a day, CrowdStrike blamed Russia on dubious evidence.

And, it has now been disclosed that the Clinton campaign and the DNC paid for opposition research memos written by former British MI6 intelligence agent Christopher Steele using hearsay accusations from anonymous Russian sources to claim that the Russian government was blackmailing and bribing Donald Trump in a scheme that presupposed that Russian President Vladimir Putin foresaw Trump’s presidency years ago when no one else did.

Since then, the U.S. intelligence community has struggled to corroborate Steele’s allegations, but those suspicions still colored the thinking of President Obama’s intelligence chiefs who, according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, “hand-picked” the analysts who produced the Jan. 6 “assessment” claiming that Russia interfered in the U.S. election.

In other words, possibly all of the Russia-gate allegations, which have been taken on faith by Democratic partisans and members of the anti-Trump Resistance, trace back to claims paid for or generated by Democrats.

If for a moment one could remove the sometimes justified hatred that many people feel toward Trump, it would be impossible to avoid the impression that the scandal may have been cooked up by the DNC and the Clinton camp in league with Obama’s intelligence chiefs to serve political and geopolitical aims.

Absent new evidence based on forensic or documentary proof, we could be looking at a partisan concoction devised in the midst of a bitter general election campaign, a manufactured “scandal” that also has fueled a dangerous New Cold War against Russia; a case of a dirty political “oppo” serving American ruling interests in reestablishing the dominance over Russia that they enjoyed in the 1990s, as well as feeding the voracious budgetary appetite of the Military-Industrial Complex.

Though lacking independent evidence of the core Russia-gate allegations, the “scandal” continues to expand into wild exaggerations about the impact of a tiny number of social media pages suspected of having links to Russia but that apparently carried very few specific campaign messages. (Some pages reportedly were devoted to photos of puppies.)

‘Cash for Trash’

Based on what is now known, Wall Street buccaneer Paul Singer paid for GPS Fusion, a Washington-based research firm, to do opposition research on Trump during the Republican primaries, but dropped the effort in May 2016 when it became clear Trump would be the GOP nominee. GPS Fusion has strongly denied that it hired Steele for this work or that the research had anything to do with Russia.

Then, in April 2016 the DNC and the Clinton campaign paid its Washington lawyer Marc Elias to hire Fusion GPS to unearth dirt connecting Trump to Russia. This was three months before the DNC blamed Russia for hacking its computers and supposedly giving its stolen emails to WikiLeaks to help Trump win the election.

“The Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee retained Fusion GPS to research any possible connections between Mr. Trump, his businesses, his campaign team and Russia, court filings revealed this week,” The New York Times reported on Friday night.

So, linking Trump to Moscow as a way to bring Russia into the election story was the Democrats’ aim from the start.

Fusion GPS then hired ex-MI6 intelligence agent Steele, it says for the first time, to dig up that dirt in Russia for the Democrats. Steele produced classic opposition research, not an intelligence assessment or conclusion, although it was written in a style and formatted to look like one.

It’s important to realize that Steele was no longer working for an official intelligence agency, which would have imposed strict standards on his work and possibly disciplined him for injecting false information into the government’s decision-making. Instead, he was working for a political party and a presidential candidate looking for dirt that would hurt their opponent, what the Clintons used to call “cash for trash” when they were the targets.

Had Steele been doing legitimate intelligence work for his government, he would have taken a far different approach. Intelligence professionals are not supposed to just give their bosses what their bosses want to hear. So, Steele would have verified his information. And it would have gone through a process of further verification by other intelligence analysts in his and perhaps other intelligence agencies. For instance, in the U.S., a National Intelligence Estimate requires vetting by all 17 intelligence agencies and incorporates dissenting opinions.

Instead Steele was producing a piece of purely political research and had different motivations. The first might well have been money, as he was being paid specifically for this project, not as part of his work on a government salary presumably serving all of society. Secondly, to continue being paid for each subsequent memo that he produced he would have been incentivized to please his clients or at least give them enough so they would come back for more.

Dubious Stuff

Opposition research is about getting dirt to be used in a mud-slinging political campaign, in which wild charges against candidates are the norm. This “oppo” is full of unvetted rumor and innuendo with enough facts mixed in to make it seem credible. There was so much dubious stuff in Steele’s memos that the FBI was unable to confirm its most salacious allegations and apparently refuted several key points.

Perhaps more significantly, the corporate news media, which was largely partial to Clinton, did not report the fantastic allegations after people close to the Clinton campaign began circulating the lurid stories before the election with the hope that the material would pop up in the news. To their credit, established media outlets recognized this as ammunition against a political opponent, not a serious document.

Despite this circumspection, the Steele dossier was shared with the FBI at some point in the summer of 2016 and apparently became the basis for the FBI to seek Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against members of Trump’s campaign. More alarmingly, it may have formed the basis for much of the Jan. 6 intelligence “assessment” by those “hand-picked” analysts from three U.S. intelligence agencies – the CIA, the FBI and the NSA – not all 17 agencies that Hillary Clinton continues to insist were involved. (Obama’s intelligence chiefs, DNI Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan, publicly admitted that only three agencies took part and The New York Times printed a correction saying so.)

If in fact the Steele memos were a primary basis for the Russia collusion allegations against Trump, then there may be no credible evidence at all. It could be that because the three agencies knew the dossier was dodgy that there was no substantive proof in the Jan. 6 “assessment.” Even so, a summary of the Steele allegations were included in a secret appendix that then-FBI Director James Comey described to then-President-elect Trump just two weeks before his inauguration.

Five days later, after the fact of Comey’s briefing was leaked to the press, the Steele dossier was published in full by the sensationalist website BuzzFeed behind the excuse that the allegations’ inclusion in the classified annex of a U.S. intelligence report justified the dossier’s publication regardless of doubts about its accuracy.

Russian Fingerprints

The other source of blame about Russian meddling came from the private company CrowdStrike because the DNC blocked the FBI from examining its server after a suspected hack. Within a day, CrowdStrike claimed to find Russian “fingerprints” in the metadata of a DNC opposition research document, which had been revealed by an Internet site called DCLeaks, showing Cyrillic letters and the name of the first Soviet intelligence chief. That supposedly implicated Russia.

CrowdStrike’s Dmitri Alperovitch

CrowdStrike also claimed that the alleged Russian intelligence operation was extremely sophisticated and skilled in concealing its external penetration of the server. But CrowdStrike’s conclusion about Russian “fingerprints” resulted from clues that would have been left behind by extremely sloppy hackers or inserted intentionally to implicate the Russians.

CrowdStrike’s credibility was further undermined when Voice of America reported on March 23, 2017, that the same software the company says it used to blame Russia for the hack wrongly concluded that Moscow also had hacked Ukrainian government howitzers on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine.

“An influential British think tank and Ukraine’s military are disputing a report that the U.S. cyber-security firm CrowdStrike has used to buttress its claims of Russian hacking in the presidential election,” VOA reported. Dimitri Alperovitch, a CrowdStrike co-founder, is also a senior fellow at the anti-Russian Atlantic Council think tank in Washington.

More speculation about the alleged election hack was raised with WikiLeaks’ Vault 7 release, which revealed that the CIA is not beyond covering up its own hacks by leaving clues implicating others. Plus, there’s the fact that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has declared again and again that WikiLeaks did not get the Democratic emails from the Russians. Buttressing Assange’s denials of a Russian role, WikiLeaks associate Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, said he met a person connected to the leak during a trip to Washington last year.

And, William Binney, maybe the best mathematician to ever work at the National Security Agency, and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern have published a technical analysis of one set of Democratic email metadata showing that a transatlantic “hack” would have been impossible and that the evidence points to a likely leak by a disgruntled Democratic insider. Binney has further stated that if it were a “hack,” the NSA would have been able to detect it and make the evidence known.

Fueling Neo-McCarthyism

Despite these doubts, which the U.S. mainstream media has largely ignored, Russia-gate has grown into something much more than an election story. It has unleashed a neo-McCarthyite attack on Americans who are accused of being dupes of Russia if they dare question the evidence of the Kremlin’s guilt.

Just weeks after last November’s election, The Washington Post published a front-page story touting a blacklist from an anonymous group, called PropOrNot, that alleged that 200 news sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other leading independent news sources, were either willful Russian propagandists or “useful idiots.”

Last week, a new list emerged with the names of over 2,000 people, mostly Westerners, who have appeared on RT, the Russian government-financed English-language news channel. The list was part of a report entitled, “The Kremlin’s Platform for ‘Useful Idiots’ in the West,” put out by an outfit called European Values, with a long list of European funders.

Included on the list of “useful idiots” absurdly are CIA-friendly Washington Post columnist David Ignatius; David Brock, Hillary Clinton’s opposition research chief; and U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The report stated: “Many people in Europe and the US, including politicians and other persons of influence, continue to exhibit troubling naïveté about RT’s political agenda, buying into the network’s marketing ploy that it is simply an outlet for independent voices marginalised by the mainstream Western press. These ‘useful idiots’ remain oblivious to RT’s intentions and boost its legitimacy by granting interviews on its shows and newscasts.”

The intent of these lists is clear: to shut down dissenting voices who question Western foreign policy and who are usually excluded from Western corporate media. RT is often willing to provide a platform for a wider range of viewpoints, both from the left and right. American ruling interests fend off critical viewpoints by first suppressing them in corporate media and now condemning them as propaganda when they emerge on RT.

Geopolitical Risks

More ominously, the anti-Russia mania has increased chances of direct conflict between the two nuclear superpowers. The Russia-bashing rhetoric not only served the Clinton campaign, though ultimately to ill effect, but it has pushed a longstanding U.S.-led geopolitical agenda to regain control over Russia, an advantage that the U.S. enjoyed during the Yeltsin years in the 1990s.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Wall Street rushed in behind Boris Yeltsin and Russian oligarchs to asset strip virtually the entire country, impoverishing the population. Amid widespread accounts of this grotesque corruption, Washington intervened in Russian politics to help get Yeltsin re-elected in 1996. The political rise of Vladimir Putin after Yeltsin resigned on New Year’s Eve 1999 reversed this course, restoring Russian sovereignty over its economy and politics.

That inflamed Hillary Clinton and other American hawks whose desire was to install another Yeltsin-like figure and resume U.S. exploitation of Russia’s vast natural and financial resources. To advance that cause, U.S. presidents have supported the eastward expansion of NATO and have deployed 30,000 troops on Russia’s border.

In 2014, the Obama administration helped orchestrate a coup that toppled the elected government of Ukraine and installed a fiercely anti-Russian regime. The U.S. also undertook the risky policy of aiding jihadists to overthrow a secular Russian ally in Syria. The consequences have brought the world closer to nuclear annihilation than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

In this context, the Democratic Party-led Russia-gate offensive was intended not only to explain away Clinton’s defeat but to stop Trump — possibly via impeachment or by inflicting severe political damage — because he had talked, insincerely it is turning out, about detente with Russia. That did not fit in well with the plan at all.


Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist. He has written for the Boston Globe, the Sunday Times of London and the Wall Street Journal among other newspapers. He is the author of How I Lost By Hillary Clinton published by OR Books in June 2017. He can be reached at joelauria@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.

October 29, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

‘Collusion’ Claims Backfire on Democrats Threefold, but Russia Is More Evil Than Ever

By James George JATRAS | Strategic Culture Foundation | 27.10.2017

For months America and the rest of the world have been bombarded with hysterical claims from sore-loser Democrats, GOP Never-Trumpers, and their media shills that Donald Trump only won the 2016 election thanks to the hidden hand of that Mephistopheles of contemporary geopolitics, Vladimir Putin. Never mind that no evidence of any collusion between the Russians and anyone on the Trump team has been found, despite millions of dollars spent by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and several Congressional committees.

With the growing sense that there’s no collusion to be found, the narrative lately had shifted towards a new story: maybe what the Russians were really doing was planting discord among Americans to exacerbate our social problems and destroy our faith in our democratic institutions. So, for a measly few hundred thousand dollars’ worth of social media ads (many of them appearing after the election) on Facebook, Twitter, etc., Russian interests (we are never told who, exactly) aimed to “sow chaos and create divisions among Americans” – evidently in general, without any link to Trump or even particularly to help him. Among the favorite topics for socially divisive ads were left-leaning memes about Black Lives Matter and the environmental hazards of fracking, as well “a range of right-wing causes associated with Donald Trump’s campaign,” such as gun rights and illegal immigration. (Regarding the latter, let’s not forget that, while remaining an unreconstructed KGB commie, Putin is also a tiki-torch wielding Grand Dragon of the global Alt-Right white nationalist movement. He’s another Stalin and “literally Hitler” at the same time.) If not for dastardly Russian meddling, we would have no social problems at all, and everybody would be holding hands singing Kumabaya.

But now, with astonishing speed, just this week three stories have popped out that toss the whole Russian collusion tangle right back in face of Hillary Clinton and her party:

1. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for a defamatory “dossier” against Trump allegedly based on Russian sources:

‘An explosive and salacious dossier alleging links between President Donald Trump and Russia was in part financed by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, according to a report Thursday.

‘Marc E. Elias, a lawyer who represented Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, retained Fusion GPS, an intelligence firm that commissioned the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to produce the dossier, The Washington Post reported. . . . It has previously been reported that the dossier was financed by anti-Trump Republicans during the 2016 primary before Democrats picked up the tab. [ . . . ]

‘The revelation comes amid increasing attempts by some Republicans on Capitol Hill to get Fusion GPS to reveal who financed the dossier. Last week, two Fusion GPS partners appeared before the House Intelligence Committee following a subpoena by the panel’s Republican Chairman Devin Nunes. However, the firm’s officials invoked their constitutional privilege not to answer any questions. [ . . . ]

The dossier, first published by BuzzFeed News in January, garnered widespread attention in part to a particularly salacious allegation. It claimed that the Russian FSB spy agency possessed a compromising video of Trump getting Russian prostitutes to urinate on a Moscow hotel room bed once slept on by Obama and his wife, Michelle.’ [Newsweek, October 24: “TRUMP-RUSSIA ‘PEE TAPE’ DOSSIER WAS PAID FOR BY HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: REPORT”]

2. Russian investors are said to have paid millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation and a half-million dollar speaking fee to Bill Clinton while Hillary, as Secretary of State, was considering approval of a controversial acquisition of a uranium-mining company:

‘Multiple congressional committees are investigating an Obama-era deal that resulted in a Russian company purchasing American uranium mines.

‘Lawmakers are also asking the Department of Justice to lift a reported gag order on a confidential informant who is expected to have more information about the agreement that allowed Russia to control about one-fifth of the uranium mining in the US – and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s involvement in it. [JGJ Note: The gag order was lifted shortly after this story was posted.]

‘President Trump called the Uranium One deal “the real Russia story” as federal investigators continue to probe Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election. And The Hill recently reported that Russian officials engaged in a “racketeering scheme” to further its energy goals in the US

‘In 2013, Russian company Rosatom acquired a Canadian uranium mining company, now called Uranium One, which has assets in the US Uranium is key to making nuclear weapons. Through the deal, Russia is able to own about 20 percent of US uranium production capacity. [ . . . ]

‘The agreement was approved by nine government agencies with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an inter-agency group that reviews how certain foreign investments can impact national security. Clinton’s State Department was one of those agencies, though the former secretary of state told WMUR-TV in 2015 that she was not “personally involved” in the agreement. [ . . . ]

‘Republicans have largely decried the deal, especially as some investors reportedly donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. Former President Bill Clinton also received a $500,000 speaking fee in Russia and reportedly met with Vladimir Putin around the time of the deal.

‘The FBI had looked into the agreement and uncovered that some Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in nefarious dealings, which included extortion, bribery and kickbacks, The Hill reported. Evidence of wrongdoing by Vadim Mikerin, the Russian official overseeing Putin’s nuclear expansion in the US who was eventually sentenced to prison, was discovered by the FBI before the deal was approved, according to The Hill.’ [Fox News, October 25: “Obama-era Russian Uranium One deal: What to know”]

3. A firm linked to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta, is reportedly under investigation by Mueller for influence-peddling on behalf of Russian interests:

‘Tony Podesta [John’s brother] and the Podesta Group are now the subjects of a federal investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, three sources with knowledge of the matter told NBC News.

‘The probe of Podesta and his Democratic-leaning lobbying firm grew out of Mueller’s inquiry into the finances of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to the sources. As special counsel, Mueller has been tasked with investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

‘Manafort had organized a public relations campaign for a non-profit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU)… The ECMU was reportedly backed by the Party of Regions, the pro-Russian and oligarch-funded Ukrainian political party for which Manafort worked as a consultant, and which paid his firm millions.’ [NBC News, October 24: “Mueller Now Investigating Democratic Lobbyist Tony Podesta”]

At this point no one knows what impact these developments will have or how they relate to one another. But two things are certain. First, at least for a while Trump supporters and much of the Republican party, plus media like Fox News, will be dancing with glee, whooping it up that the Democrats have now been caught in their own “RussiaGate” snare. How much real change there will be in the political landscape, either in getting rid of the collusion cloud over Trump’s head or dragging down Hillary, the Podestas, and their cronies, remains to be seen.

Second, it’s already clear that Trump’s defenders are at least as thrilled to play the anti-Russian card as the Democrats have been:

  • What does Democratic funding of the Christopher Steele dossier mean? The Democrats were implementing a Russian “Chekist provokatsiya” to smear Trump! (Never mind that there’s no evidence the Russians had anything at all to do with what may well be a total fabrication by Steele and his pals in the shadowy world of British intelligence. (Let’s not forget the possible role of GCHQ in monitoring then-candidate Trump.) Or maybe it’s the fruit of the warped imagination of the yet-to-be identified Republican who funded Steele. Or maybe the FBI, which also paid Steele.)
  • Why did the Russians bribe Bill and Hillary with speaking fees? To get their filthy paws on American uranium and “corner the market” on “the foundational material for nuclear weapons”! (Never mind that no less than the United States, Russia – which sits right next to friendly Kazakhstan, the world’s top uranium producer – can make as many warheads as desired; access to sufficient uranium isn’t an issue. As for the bribes, why should it be a surprise that some Russians would play the same game as the Saudis, Emiratis, Qataris, Ukrainians, and others who “contributed” the coffers of the likely next, and highly corrupt, president of the United States?)
  • What were the Podesta Group and Manafort doing working for an NGO supported by Ukraine’s Party of Regions? Peddling influence for Putin! (Just try to explain to anyone in Washington that working for Yanukovych and “Putin lobbying” weren’t necessarily the same thing.)

In short, whatever the fallout in terms US internal politics, the root of all evil, for Republicans and Democrats alike, will remain the vast Russian conspiracy and its demon mastermind in the Kremlin.

October 27, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Russia-gate Breeds ‘Establishment McCarthyism’

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | October 26, 2017

In the past, America has witnessed “McCarthyism” from the Right and even complaints from the Right about “McCarthyism of the Left.” But what we are witnessing now amid the Russia-gate frenzy is what might be called “Establishment McCarthyism,” traditional media/political powers demonizing and silencing dissent that questions mainstream narratives.

Sen. Joe McCarthy with lawyer Roy Cohn (right)

This extraordinary assault on civil liberties is cloaked in fright-filled stories about “Russian propaganda” and wildly exaggerated tales of the Kremlin’s “hordes of Twitter bots,” but its underlying goal is to enforce Washington’s “groupthinks” by creating a permanent system that shuts down or marginalizes dissident opinions and labels contrary information – no matter how reasonable and well-researched – as “disputed” or “rated false” by mainstream “fact-checking” organizations like PolitiFact.

It doesn’t seem to matter that the paragons of this new structure – such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and, indeed, PolitiFact – have a checkered record of getting facts straight.

For instance, PolitiFact still rates as “true” Hillary Clinton’s false claim that “all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies” agreed that Russia was behind the release of Democratic emails last year. Even the Times and The Associated Press belatedly ran corrections after President Obama’s intelligence chiefs admitted that the assessment came from what Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called “hand-picked” analysts from only three agencies: CIA, FBI and NSA.

And, the larger truth was that these “hand-picked” analysts were sequestered away from other analysts even from their own agencies and produced “stove-piped intelligence,” i.e., analysis that escapes the back-and-forth that should occur inside the intelligence community.

Even then, what these analysts published last Jan. 6 was an “assessment,” which they specifically warned was “not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.” In other words, they didn’t have any conclusive proof of Russian “hacking.”

Yet, the Times and other leading newspapers routinely treat these findings as flat fact or the unassailable “consensus” of the “intelligence community.” Contrary information, including WikiLeaks’ denials of a Russian role in supplying the emails, and contrary judgments from former senior U.S. intelligence officials are ignored.

The Jan. 6 report also tacked on a seven-page addendum smearing the Russian television network, RT, for such offenses as sponsoring a 2012 debate among U.S. third-party presidential candidates who had been excluded from the Republican-Democratic debates. RT also was slammed for reporting on the Occupy Wall Street protests and the environmental dangers from “fracking.”

How the idea of giving Americans access to divergent political opinions and information about valid issues such as income inequality and environmental dangers constitutes threats to American “democracy” is hard to comprehend.

However, rather than address the Jan. 6 report’s admitted uncertainties about Russian “hacking” and the troubling implications of its attacks on RT, the Times and other U.S. mainstream publications treat the report as some kind of holy scripture that can’t be questioned or challenged.

Silencing RT

For instance, on Tuesday, the Times published a front-page story entitled “YouTube Gave Russians Outlet Portal Into U.S.” that essentially cried out for the purging of RT from YouTube. The article began by holding YouTube’s vice president Robert Kynci up to ridicule and opprobrium for his praising “RT for bonding with viewers by providing ‘authentic’ content instead of ‘agendas or propaganda.’”

The article by Daisuke Wakabayashi and Nicholas Confessore swallowed whole the Jan. 6 report’s conclusion that RT is “the Kremlin’s ‘principal international propaganda outlet’ and a key player in Russia’s information warfare operations around the world.” In other words, the Times portrayed Kynci as essentially a “useful idiot.”

Yet, the article doesn’t actually dissect any RT article that could be labeled false or propagandistic. It simply alludes generally to news items that contained information critical of Hillary Clinton as if any negative reporting on the Democratic presidential contender – no matter how accurate or how similar to stories appearing in the U.S. press – was somehow proof of “information warfare.”

As Daniel Lazare wrote at Consortiumnews.com on Wednesday, “The web version [of the Times article] links to an RT interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that ran shortly before the 2016 election. The topic is a September 2014 email obtained by Wikileaks in which Clinton acknowledges that ‘the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia … are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.’”

In other words, the Times cited a documented and newsworthy RT story as its evidence that RT was a propaganda shop threatening American democracy and deserving ostracism if not removal from YouTube.

A Dangerous Pattern

Not to say that I share every news judgment of RT – or for that matter The New York Times – but there is a grave issue of press freedom when the Times essentially calls for the shutting down of access to a news organization that may highlight or report on stories that the Times and other mainstream outlets downplay or ignore.

And this was not a stand-alone story. Previously, the Times has run favorable articles about plans to deploy aggressive algorithms to hunt down and then remove or marginalize information that the Times and other mainstream outlets deem false.

Nor is it just the Times. Last Thanksgiving, The Washington Post ran a fawning front-page article about an anonymous group PropOrNot that had created a blacklist of 200 Internet sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other independent news sources, that were deemed guilty of dispensing “Russian propaganda,” which basically amounted to our showing any skepticism toward the State Department’s narratives on the crises in Syria or Ukraine.

So, if any media outlet dares to question the U.S. government’s version of events – once that storyline has been embraced by the big media – the dissidents risk being awarded the media equivalent of a yellow star and having their readership dramatically reduced by getting downgraded on search engines and punished on social media.

Meanwhile, Congress has authorized $160 million to combat alleged Russian “propaganda and disinformation,” a gilded invitation for “scholars” and “experts” to gear up “studies” that will continue to prove what is supposed to be proved – “Russia bad” – with credulous mainstream reporters eagerly gobbling up the latest “evidence” of Russian perfidy.

There is also a more coercive element to what’s going on. RT is facing demands from the Justice Department that it register as a “foreign agent” or face prosecution. Clearly, the point is to chill the journalism done by RT’s American reporters, hosts and staff who now fear being stigmatized as something akin to traitors.

You might wonder: where are the defenders of press freedom and civil liberties? Doesn’t anyone in the mainstream media or national politics recognize the danger to a democracy coming from enforced groupthinks? Is American democracy so fragile that letting Americans hear “another side of the story” must be prevented?

A Dangerous ‘Cure’

I agree that there is a limited problem with jerks who knowingly make up fake stories or who disseminate crazy conspiracy theories – and no one finds such behavior more offensive than I do. But does no one recall the lies about Iraq’s WMD and other U.S. government falsehoods and deceptions over the years?

Often, it is the few dissenters who alert the American people to the truth, even as the Times, Post, CNN and other big outlets are serving as the real propaganda agents, accepting what the “important people” say and showing little or no professional skepticism.

And, given the risk of thermo-nuclear war with Russia, why aren’t liberals and progressives demanding at least a critical examination of what’s coming from the U.S. intelligence agencies and the mainstream press?

The answer seems to be that many liberals and progressives are so blinded by their fury over Donald Trump’s election that they don’t care what lines are crossed to destroy or neutralize him. Plus, for some liberal entities, there’s lots of money to be made.

For instance, the American Civil Liberties Union has made its “resistance” to the Trump administration an important part of its fundraising. So, the ACLU is doing nothing to defend the rights of news organizations and journalists under attack.

When I asked ACLU about the Justice Department’s move against RT and other encroachments on press freedom, I was told by ACLU spokesman Thomas Dresslar: “Thanks for reaching out to us. Unfortunately, I’ve been informed that we do not have anyone able to speak to you about this.”

Meanwhile, the Times and other traditional “defenders of a free press” are now part of the attack machine against a free press. While much of this attitude comes from the big media’s high-profile leadership of the anti-Trump Resistance and anger at any resistors to the Resistance, mainstream news outlets have chafed for years over the Internet undermining their privileged role as the gatekeepers of what Americans get to see and hear.

For a long time, the big media has wanted an excuse to rein in the Internet and break the small news outlets that have challenged the power – and the profitability – of the Times, Post, CNN, etc. Russia-gate and Trump have become the cover for that restoration of mainstream authority.

So, as we have moved into this dangerous New Cold War, we are living in what could be called “Establishment McCarthyism,” a hysterical but methodical strategy for silencing dissent and making sure that future mainstream groupthinks don’t get challenged.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

October 26, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

What Did Hillary Clinton Know?

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | October 25, 2017

The revelation that Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped pay for the notorious “Steele Dossier” of hearsay claims about Donald Trump’s relations with Russia is not surprising but is noteworthy given how long the mystery about the funding was allowed to linger.

Another mild surprise is that the Clinton campaign would have had a direct hand in the financing rather than maintaining an arm’s length relationship to the dossier by having some “friend of the campaign” make the payments and giving Clinton more deniability.

Instead, the campaign appears to have relied on its lawyer, Marc E. Elias of Perkins Coie, and a confidentiality agreement to provide some insulation between Clinton and the dossier’s startling claims which presumably helped inform Clinton’s charge in the final presidential debate that Trump was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “puppet.” Indeed, how much Clinton personally knew about the dossier and its financing remains an intriguing question for investigators.

Ultimately, the facts about who commissioned the dossier were forced out by a congressional Republican subpoena seeking the bank records of Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired former British intelligence operative Christopher Steele to compile the opposition research, known as “oppo,” against Trump.

As part of the legal wrangling over that subpoena, the Clinton/DNC law firm, Perkins Coie, wrote a letter releasing Fusion GPS from its confidentiality agreement.

After that letter, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday night that the Clinton campaign and the DNC had helped fund the Steele effort with attorney Elias retaining Fusion GPS in April 2016 and with Fusion GPS then hiring Steele.

The Post reported that “people familiar with the matter” disclosed that outline of the arrangement but still would not divulge how much the Clinton campaign and the DNC paid to Fusion GPS. One source told me that the total amount came to about $1 million.

‘Trash for Cash’

An irony about Hillary Clinton’s role in funding allegations about Trump’s connection to the Russians, including claims that he cavorted with prostitutes in a five-star Moscow hotel while Russian intelligence operatives secretly filmed him, is that the Clinton camp bristled when Bill Clinton was the subject of Republican “oppo” that surfaced salacious charges against him. The Clintons dismissed such accusations as “cash for trash.”

Nevertheless, just as conspiratorial accusations about the Clintons gave rise to the Whitewater investigation and a rash of other alleged “scandals,” which bedeviled Bill Clinton’s presidency, the Steele Dossier — also known as the “Dirty Dossier” — provided a map that investigators have followed for the ongoing Russia-gate investigation into President Trump.

Much like those Clinton allegations, Steele’s accusations have had a dubious track record for accuracy, with U.S. government investigators unable to corroborate some key claims but, I’m told, believing that some are true nonetheless.

In the 1990s, even though the core allegations of wrongdoing about the Clintons and their Whitewater land deal collapsed, the drawn-out investigation eventually unearthed Bill Clinton’s sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and led to his impeachment in the House although he was acquitted in a Senate trial.

Some Democrats have openly hoped for the impeachment of President Trump, too, and they have hitched many of those hopes to the Russia-gate bandwagon.

There is also no doubt about the significance of the Steele Dossier in spurring the Russia-gate scandal forward.

When Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, offered what amounted to a prosecutor’s opening statement in March, his seamless 15-minute narrative of the Trump campaign’s alleged collaboration with Russia followed the trail blazed by Steele, who had worked for Britain’s MI-6 in Russia and tapped into ex-colleagues and unnamed sources inside Russia, including supposedly leadership figures in the Kremlin.

Steele’s Methods

Since Steele could not reenter Russia himself, he based his reports on multiple hearsay from these anonymous Russians who claim to have heard some information from their government contacts before passing it on to Steele’s associates who then gave it to Steele who compiled this mix of rumors and alleged inside dope into “raw” intelligence reports.

Besides the anonymous sourcing and the sources’ financial incentives to dig up dirt, Steele’s reports had other problems, including the inability of FBI investigators to confirm key elements, such as the claim that several years ago Russian intelligence operatives secretly videotaped Trump having prostitutes urinate on him while he lay in the same bed at Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton used by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

That tantalizing tidbit was included in Steele’s opening report to his new clients, dated June 20, 2016. Apparently, it proved irresistible in whetting the appetite of Clinton insiders. Also in that first report were the basic outlines of Russia-gate.

But Steele’s June report also reflected the telephone-tag aspects of these allegations: “Speaking to a trusted compatriot in June 2016 sources A and B, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure and a former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin respectively, the Russian authorities had been cultivating and supporting US Republican presidential candidate, Donald TRUMP for a least 5 years.

“Source B asserted that the TRUMP operation was both supported and directed by Russian President Vladimir PUTIN. Its aim was to sow discord and disunity both within the US itself, but more especially within the Transatlantic alliance which was viewed as inimical to Russia’s interests. … In terms of specifics, Source A confided that the Kremlin had been feeding TRUMP and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, for several years. …

“The Kremlin’s cultivation operation on TRUMP also had comprised offering him various lucrative real estate development business deals in Russia, especially in relation to the ongoing 2018 World Cup soccer tournament. However, so far, for reasons unknown, TRUMP had not taken up any of these.”

Besides the anonymous and hearsay quality of the allegations, there are obvious logical problems, especially the point that five years before the 2016 campaign, virtually no one would have thought that Trump had any chance of becoming President of the United States.

There also may have been a more mundane reason why Trump’s hotel deal fell through. A source familiar with those negotiations told me that Trump had hoped to get a half interest in the $2 billion project but that Russian-Israeli investor Mikhail Fridman, a founder of Russia’s Alfa Bank, balked because Trump was unwilling to commit a significant investment beyond the branding value of the Trump name.

Yet, one would assume that if the supposedly all-powerful Putin wanted to give a $1 billion or so payoff to his golden boy, Donald Trump, whom Putin anticipated would become President in five years, the deal would have happened, but it didn’t.

Despite the dubious quality of Steele’s second- and third-hand information, the June 2016 report appears to have impressed Team Clinton. And once the bait was taken, Steele continued to produce his conspiracy-laden reports, totaling at least 17 through Dec. 13, 2016.

Framing the Investigation

The reports not only captivated the Clinton political operatives but influenced the assessments of President Obama’s appointees in the U.S. intelligence community regarding alleged Russian “meddling” in the presidential election.

Still, a careful analysis of Steele’s reports would have discovered not only apparent factual inaccuracies, such as putting Trump lawyer Michael Cohen at a meeting with a Russian official in Prague (when Cohen says he’s never been to Prague), but also the sort of broad conspiracy-mongering that the mainstream U.S. news media usually loves to ridicule.

For instance, Steele’s reports pin a range of U.S. political attitudes on Russian manipulation rather than the notion that Americans can reach reasonable conclusions on their own. In one report dated Sept. 14, 2016, Steele claimed that an unnamed senior official in Putin’s Presidential Administration (or PA) explained how Putin used the alleged Russian influence operation to generate opposition to Obama’s Pacific trade deals.

Steele wrote that Putin’s intention was “pushing candidate CLINTON away from President OBAMA’s policies. The best example of this was that both candidates [Clinton and Trump] now openly opposed the draft trade agreements, TPP and TTIP, which were assessed by Moscow as detrimental to Russian interests.”

In other words, the Russians supposedly intervened in the U.S. presidential campaign to turn the leading candidates against Obama’s trade deals. But how credible is that? Are we to believe that American politicians – running the gamut from Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren through former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to President Donald Trump – have all been tricked by the Kremlin to oppose those controversial trade deals, which are also broadly unpopular with the American people who are sick and tired of trade agreements that cost them jobs?

Of course, the disclosure that the Clinton campaign and the DNC helped pay for Steele’s opposition research doesn’t necessarily discredit the information, but it does suggest a possible financial incentive for Steele and his collaborators to sex-up the reports to keep Clinton’s camp coming back for more.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

October 26, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment