the “free press” circus

I Can’t Stand Fox News, But Censoring It Might Be The Dumbest Idea Ever
Matt Taibbi, Feb 23 2021

Two and a half years ago, when Alex Jones of Infowars was kicked off a series of tech platforms in a clearly coordinated decision, I knew this was not going to be an isolated thing. Given that people like Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy were saying the ouster of Jones was just a “good first step,” it seemed obvious the tactic was not going to be confined to a few actors. But corporate media critics insisted the precedent would not be applied more broadly. CNN’s Oliver Darcy commented:

I don’t think we are going to be seeing big tech take action against Fox News any time soon.

Darcy was wrong. Just a few years later, calls to ban Fox are not only common, they’re intensifying, with media voices from Brian Stelter on CNN to MSNBC analyst Anand Giridharadas to former Media Matters critic Eric Boehlert to WaPo columnists Max Boot and Margaret Sullivan all on board. The movement crested this week with a letter from California House Democrats Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney, written to the CEOs of cable providers like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Cox and Dish. They demanded to know if those providers are “planning to continue carrying Fox News, Newsmax and OANN beyond any contract renewal date” and “if so, why?”

The news comes in advance of Wednesday’s House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on “traditional media’s role in promoting disinformation and extremism.” This sequence of events is ominous because a similar matched set of hearings and interrogations back in 2017, when Senators like Mazie Hirono at a Judiciary Committee hearing demanded that platforms like Google and Facebook come up with a “mission statement” to prevent the “foment of discord” accelerated the “content moderation” movement that now sees those same platforms regularly act as de facto political censors. Sequences like this, government “requests” of speech reduction, made to companies subject to federal regulation, make the content moderation decisions of private firms a serious First Amendment issue. Censorship advocates may think this is purely a private affair, in which the only speech rights that matter are those of companies like Twitter and Google, but any honest person should be able to see this for what it is.

In the last go-around, Virginia Senator Mark Warner prepared a lengthy white paper called “Potential Policy Proposals for Regulation of Social Media and Technology Firms,” that among other things considered making the tech giants more susceptible to tort claims, as well as beefing up FTC authority over the firms. This was the sword raised over the head of Silicon Valley as it considered whether or not it had a duty to implement those Senatorial demands for plans to prevent the “foment of discord.” The line to potential government action isn’t quite as direct this time, but it’s notable that Blair Levin, the former chief of staff of the FCC under Bill Clinton, said that this week’s hearings could serve as a first step to what the NYT called “meaningful action.” Levin said of this week’s hearings:

You have to establish a factual record, and then try to figure out: What are the appropriate roles for the government in changing that dynamic?

Press freedoms have been in steep decline for a while. Barack Obama’s record targeting of whistleblower sources (and in some cases, journalists themselves) using the Espionage Act was a first serious sign, followed by Donald Trump’s prosecution of Julian Assange. We progressed to a particularly dangerous new stage in recent years, with oligopolistic tech companies, urged on by politicians, engaging in anti-competitive agreements to suppress political voices on both the left and the right. The so-called media reporters at major organizations like CNN and the NYT have mostly either been silent or have played cheerleading roles during the most eyebrow-raising recent developments: the decision by Facebook and Twitter to block access to a pre-election NY Post story about Hunter Biden, the stunning exercise in monopoly influence by Amazon and Apple in swallowing up the “free speech” platform Parler, the banning of SWP accounts in England and the US, and the shutdown of livestream capability by alternative media outlets (and the removal of celebrated footage shot from the Capitol riot by people like Status Coup videographer Jon Farina), a story that amazingly only got major play at … Fox News. All of these stories share the same theme: small, unelected groups of private executives making sweeping decisions about speech, cheered on by Democrat Party politicians. If it proceeds to its logical conclusion, it poses a much more serious problem for society than even Fox News at its worst.

The campaign against Fox is being framed as part of an effort to combat what Eshoo and McNerney characterize as “misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories and lies.” There are so many problems with this point of view, it’s hard to know where to start. For one thing, complainants rarely make an effort to distinguish between opinions they find obnoxious, and actual lies or errors. This blurring of lines between “misinformation” or “disinformation,” and reporting that simply has political effects deemed deleterious by Democrats and their pals in media, has been going on since 2016, when for instance the leaked-but-true Podesta and DNC emails were regularly described as elements of a “misinformation campaign.” It was the same with the Hunter Biden story last autumn, where there was no evidence that any of the material was false, but newspapers regularly described it as reading “suspiciously like disinformation” or a “misinformation test for social media.”

Take a look, for instance, at the timeline of “Fox News misinformation in 2020” put out by Media Matters, a media criticism agency founded by notorious once-Republican, now-Democrat Party attack dog David Brock. Here are some things listed as “misinformation,” a word that in almost every dictionary carries a connotation of “false” or “incorrect” communication. These are verbatim entries from Dec 2020:

  • A Fox “straight news” program mentioned Benghazi more than the over 3,100 people who died from the pandemic the day before. [Outnumbered Overtime, 12/10/20]
  • Laura Ingraham encourages viewers to gather for the holidays. [The Ingraham Angle, 12/16/20]
  • Fox & Friends goes full War on Christmas, after over 2,600 Americans died from the pandemic the day before. [Fox & Friends, 12/9/20]
  • Dana Perino: Biden should show “a little bit of grace and gratitude” to Trump for COVID-19 vaccines. [The Daily Briefing, 12/8/20]

These are political, not factual complaints, as is Sullivan’s beef that Tucker Carlson “tries to sow doubt about the prevalence of white supremacy,” or that Sean Hannity likes to “blast Biden as ‘cognitively struggling.’” As to that last point, news features wondering about Donald Trump’s mental fitness were myriad for four years (hell, even I wrote one), as were “Trump with tiny wang” cartoons, and “Trump touchingly gay with Putin” jokes. Confusing that which you find politically offensive with actually erroneous or deceptive reporting has become so common, even media professionals don’t seem to care about the difference anymore. Fox absolutely does drift into outright deceptions, though it hardly has a monopoly on this behavior (more on that in a moment). But being the gigantic money-obsessed enterprise that it is, it still tends to steer clear of the worst kinds of offenses in this business, i.e. actionable lies.

It was amazing to see the WaPo media critic Sullivan argue in favor of extraordinary measures to remove or boycott Fox by citing the fact that the network was considering a promotion for Maria Bartiromo, who was “among those recently forced under threat of a lawsuit to air a video that debunked repeated false claims on her show that corrupt voting software had given millions of Trump votes to Biden.” Sullivan glossed over this episode, which was actually evidence against the need to take these channels down. Before the New Year, a cease-and-desist letter from Dominion Voting Systems went out to Fox, the Epoch Times, OAN, Newsmax and others, demanding an end to evidence-free claims about their company. It worked, as even OAN retreated, and Newsmax, tail between its legs, broadcast a two-minute statement to “clarify” that it had no evidence for claims of election fraud made against the companies Dominion and Smartmatic. This is exactly how the existing system is supposed to work, in a legal framework that still makes the cost of broadcasting provable deceptions prohibitive to deep-pocketed companies like Fox. Libel and defamation laws are imperfect but effective. If the massive Fox audience were driven further underground, that tool would no longer be worth much.

However, those gunning for the removal of Fox, Newsmax and other outlets are clearly not interested in getting there by way of the law. They want to take advantage of the hyper-concentration of power among media distributors: the tech giants like Apple and Amazon that can zap a massively successful app like Parler overnight, and the confederation of cable carriers like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon that hold dominion over broadcast networks. We have to ask politicians like Eshoo and critics like Sullivan and Boot: where exactly do they want massive conservative audiences to go, if Fox is removed from the air? By any rational standard, having them watch Fox is way down the list of worst-case scenarios. Take the example of Carlson and Trump lawyer Sidney Powell. Carlson asked for proof of election theft last year, and “she never sent us any evidence, despite a lot of polite requests.” Trump voters mostly don’t read the WaPo or watch CNN, but they do watch Carlson, which made that segment significant, just as the following sizzle-reel of Fox personalities trying to convince viewers the election story was over was significant.

Sullivan went so far as to post this in her piece decrying Fox, would she prefer that a station with even less appetite for challenging its viewers rose in its place? The unspoken subtext to all of these efforts is a hope that those enormous conservative audiences eventually won’t be able to go anywhere at all. The Internet, it is hoped, will gradually be cleansed of their “misinformation” agents, and red-staters will either watch CNN or suck eggs. The information distribution business is now sufficiently concentrated that it’s possible to imagine a fully politically homogenous news landscape. That’s the clear endgame, and the reason letting Fox go to the guillotine is a serious mistake. It’s no accident that this campaign to go after Fox comes at the end of a very long and painful process of kneecapping the alternative press in America, one that benefited the biggest corporate actors every step of the way. The introduction of the Internet destroyed the commercial formula of local newspapers, among other things by undercutting the revenue base long provided by classified ads. Marshall McLuhan wrote all the way back in 1964:

Classified ads (and stock-market quotations) are the bedrock of the press. Should an alternative source of easy access to such diverse daily information be found, the press will fold.

He was right. According to PEN, in the fifteen years between 2004 and 2019, 1,800 newspapers closed, and the news media, most of it local, lost $35b in revenue, and roughly 47% of its staff. Roughly 1,300 communities in this country have no newspapers now, a dynamic that more and more forces people to look to regional or national news sources for information.

They’ve severely undercut the ability of alternative media outlets to survive. Just look at the preposterous YouTube restrictions of independent videographers like Farina and Ford Fischer. Now, audiences are herded into ever-larger informational pens. Within those pens, the trend in recent years has accelerated toward ideological homogeneity, so that most people are getting their information from one of two ecosystems, conservative or “liberal,” which is really more like “neoliberal.” I warned four years ago where this was headed:

The model going forward will likely involve Republican media covering Democrat corruption and Democrat media covering Republican corruption. This setup just doesn’t work.

The reason it doesn’t work is that CNN, the WaPo, MSNBC, NYT, Boston Globe and NPR do not act like competitors in this sort of landscape. In a binary set-up, they don’t police each other’s mistakes, any more than Fox and the Daily Caller do. Even forgetting about the appalling free speech issues involved, if you take Fox, Newsmax and OANN off the air, who will check the work of the remaining CNNs of the world? CNN’s own media reporter, who is at the head of the line calling for Fox to be removed? Because the undeniable fact about the last four years, in particular, is that as bad as Fox often is (and I’ve found its cynical cheering of mask rebellion in particular almost viscerally off-putting) the so-called “reputable” press has of late been just as bad if not worse, from a factual point of view. From calling Carter Page a foreign agent, to raising massive fusses about an absurd and disproven Alfa-Bank-Trump secret server story, to erroneous coverage of the Covington High School fiasco, to rampant lying about the source of the “pee tape” story, to putting Michael Avenatti on live TV to make dubious rape accusations, to doing exactly what Fox is accused of doing, perhaps at a smaller scale but still raising questions about the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s election, the last four years have shown that Fox does not have a monopoly on “misinformation,” not by a long shot. The Russiagate stupidity alone marks the whole business with a failing grade for the whole era, especially as it caused news outlets to openly align with political actors.

Just to take one example, virtually every “reputable” news agency incorrectly denounced the so-called “Nunes memo” detailing FISA abuse by the FBI, written in Feb 2018 by Republican congressman Devin Nunes. The WaPo called it a “joke” and a “sham,” while another of its editorialists said Trump’s release of it was “his most unethical act since firing Comey.” NY Magazine, bravely defending the honor of the FBI, wrote, “FBI Director Opposes Release of False Nunes Memo.” Bloomberg: “FBI Has Grave Concerns About Nunes Memo.” CBS quoted Nancy Pelosi’s warning that release of this “fake” and “distorted” intelligence might cause a “constitutional crisis,” and called for Nunes to be removed as a Committee Chair. In the end, the report by Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz ratified virtually every assertion about FBI misdeeds in the Nunes memo. Who covered this? A few random independents like me, but mainly, big conservative outlets like Fox News:

When congressional testimony of figures like former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe was declassified, and we found out that the FBI as far back as Aug 2016 had dropped George Papadopoulos as an investigative target because the evidence “didn’t particularly indicate that he was interacting with the Russians,” who covered that key information about the ostensible origin of the Trump-Russia probe? Not the papers that hyped to the sky the story of Papadopoulos as a conduit to Russian spies. No, these stories appeared in the fine print of the WSJ and in the work by figures like, of all people, Sean Hannity. The pattern is firm: when the NYT or CNN screws up, you look for the real correction at Real Clear Investigations or Fox, and vice versa. Removing one side from the scene will leave the other with a monopoly on error.

When original Fox programming architect Roger Ailes died a few years ago, I criticized the “Christopher Columbus of hate” for helping invent the toxic media culture that had long been tearing the country apart. Ailes made a fortune innovating a programming strategy based upon a “factory-like production of news stories that spoke to Americans’ worst fantasies about each other,” realizing “the more scared and hate-filled we are, the more advertising dollars come pouring in.” His version of Fox stoked the divisive effect with an endless barrage of stories mainly designed to terrify older, conservative audiences, who were told over and over, in between ad blocs of course, that the America they remembered was under attack, by everyone from campus lesbians to al-Qaeda. This looked like the corporate news media version of ripping off the elderly with telemarketed magazine subscriptions, and I wanted no part of it, which is one reason I never appeared on the channel despite regular invitations. It’s also why in Hate Inc, I described Fox as the clear progenitor of the division-for-profit model of modern commercial media. Circumstances have come all the way around. Incredibly, Fox News may soon be the last line of defense against an all-out assault on the heterogenous free press as an institution, and people like me, who’ve despised the channel their whole lives, now find themselves in the unenviable position of having to defend the “Fair and Balanced” channel as a matter of self-preservation.

The local and alternative presses are already dying, and tech platforms have already successfully asserted their rights to censor. All that remains is to topple a behemoth like Fox as a show of strength, leaving an untouchable Soviet-style club of Chuck Todds and Jennifer Rubins and Max Boots in charge of disseminating an approved™ top-down version of reality. Are you excited yet? Imagine the reaction! Do the Eshoos of the world think Fox viewers would just shrug off the L, and find ways to warm up to Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes and Joy Reid? To the many Fox-haters out there: imagine a world in which you’re told, by an unelected bund of cable distributors, that you have to get used to watching Tucker and Sean. Would you take that lying down? Or would you lose your mind with rage, and reach for something sharp? How does anyone think this is going to end well?

they’ll drag us all down if they can

The Versailles Hall of Mirrors as 21st Century Washington and Brussels
Martin Sieff, Strategic Culture, Feb 27 2021

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavarian State Premier Markus Soeder at a Bavarian state cabinet meeting
in the Neues Schloss Spiegelgalerie, Herrenchiemsee Island, Germany, Jul 14 2020. Photo: Peter Kneffel

The Legendary Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles was built to display the wealth, power and glory of France’s most proud and spectacular monarch, Louis Quatorze (XIV) the Sun King. But a century later it became the opposite: making a mockery of his arrogance and pride when the thousand-year-old monarchy, the grandest in the history of Europe, was toppled in the French Revolution of 1789-93 and the king’s descendant, well-meaning, hapless Louis XVI, was beheaded. Then, the Hall of Mirrors, created by the great king’s favorite architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart and completed in 1684, became a metaphor for the centralized system focused on pomp, circumstance and the arrogant display of limitless wealth that Louis Quatorze had created. Trapped in the empty luxury and petty court intrigues of Versailles, the French ruling class could only see their own imagined beauty and illusions of power reflected in mirrors. They were ignorant and blind to the despair and rage building up against them among the ordinary people of France.

Today, old Reagan Free Market, minimum government Republicans and tree-hugging, coal, oil and natural gas-hating and abortion-loving romantic Green Democrats who hold the politics of Washington and its media in an iron (and rusting) grip are the true heirs of those decadent French aristocrats. Their Mainstream Media has become a 21st century Cybernetic Hall of Mirrors 2.0. Across the Atlantic the dark and doomed Spirit of Versailles has migrated from the outskirts of Paris to Brussels where it now resides in the European Commission. History has repeated itself on a colossally larger scale. The more that Silicon Valley and the Mainstream Media have extended their control over the United States, the more they have lost control of the actual population of the country. Now we see the ruling international, free trade liberal elite hypnotized by their own dreams, by the very fantasies they have used to control their populations for so long, making them blind to the forces of rebellion and rage are rising up inexorably to destroy them.

Utterly blind to their own failures and their direct responsibility for them, US liberal and European leaders project their own guilt outwards on to their own victims, the despised “Deplorables” as Hillary Clinton contemptuously called them, the hard-working decent working classes of America in industry and agriculture, white, black and Hispanic alike. And they blame Russia and China, independent remote nations on the other side of the world, for the very conditions they themselves have labored so long and hard to bring about. As Alistair Crooke wrote in these columns on Feb 8:

Unable to deal directly with the evidence of systematic failings and economic ‘rigging’ (that being far too sensitive an issue), western leaders work instead to alter the definition of reality. When you are attempting to extend a make-believe economy by printing more and more debt, in spite of its failed history, it is no wonder you have to silence dissent.

Aldous Huxley’s prophetic, dystopian masterpiece “Brave New World,” published back in 1932, perfectly envisioned 21st century America with its arrogant, self-satisfied Alpha elite depriving the despised Deltas and Epsilon workers at the bottom of the social pyramid of all intelligence, literacy, self awareness and any aspirations to real culture. In the eyes of today’s Alpha elite, as Crooke clearly sees:

Those then, that do not embrace the propaganda that big Tech and the corporate media relentlessly push, need to be de-platformed, and pushed to the fringes of society.

Crooke then chillingly pointed out how the NYT, for more than 140 years the revered authoritative voice of Liberal America, is now calling on the Biden administration to appoint a “Reality Czar” who will be given authority to deal with “misinformation” and “extremism.” Crooke rightly sees this as a modern revival of the Medieval Inquisition, armed with chemical drugs and electronic tools of surveillance of which the Inquisition could not even dream. This is of course correct. But the comprehensiveness of the machinery of dissent that the NYT demands in fact contains its own self-destruction. For the Western Elite has unwittingly trapped itself in a closed system, a self-reflecting illusion, the modern updated high-tech version not just of Huxley’s Brave New World but also of Louis Quatorze’s corrupt and sordid Old World.

As Matthew Ehret, another contributor to this platform, has documented, closed systems, in society as well as in physics and ecology, are doomed to deterioration, decay and collapse. This follows the remorseless processes of Entropy defined in the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Only continual inputs of energy, ideas and organizing principles from outside the closed system can reverse the Entropy process and entity, whether it is biological, social, economic or political. However, the liberal elitists of Washington and Brussels refuse to acknowledge the validity of any other ideas or systems outside their own control. Their own arrogance dooms them, and those trapped under their control. The global elites have now trapped themselves in another Hall of Mirrors. And they hate to the marrow of their bones the very conception that they could possibly wake up from their dream and break out of their own self-constructed trap. Instead of conditioning the despised Deltas and Epsilons to rejoice in their servitude, Huxley’s perfect closed system has trapped his own Alpha elite instead. In his message to the Davos World Economic Forum this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Crooke noted, warned the Western elite how their irrationality and failure to recognize the failure of their catastrophic economic policies is propelling the world towards universal crisis and global war. And we are all caught up in the madness with them.

i’m surprised they don’t accuse greenslade of treason, being as they are utter nazi bigots

Fleet Street editor Roy Greenslade reveals his secret support for the IRA and refuses to apologise
Tony Allen-Mills, The Sunday Times, Feb 27 2021

Greenslade outside his home in Co Donegal. Photo: Arthur Edwards

A former Fleet Street editor who secretly supported Irish republicanism has “come out of hiding” to explain why he believes the IRA bombing campaigns of the 1970s to 1990s were justified. Roy Greenslade, a former editor of the Daily Mirror, wrote a media column for The Guardian and is now emeritus professor of journalism at City University, London. He reveals today that he was “in complete agreement about the right of the Irish people to engage in armed struggle,” even as the newspapers he worked for denounced the IRA’s terror campaigns. Greenslade writes in an article for the March issue of the British Journalism Review, a quarterly academic journal:

I came to accept that the fight between the forces of the state and a group of insurgents was unequal and therefore could not be fought on conventional terms. In other words I supported the use of physical force.

Greenslade offers no apology for his views. He once guaranteed bail for John Downey, an IRA member accused of participating in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing of the Queen’s Household Cavalry, killing four soldiers and seven horses. His defence of what he describes as Downey’s “dedication to peace” infuriated Mark Tipper, brother of Trooper Simon Tipper, one of the soldiers killed. Tipper said:

Professor Greenslade can’t see that a true man of peace cannot also be an unapologetic murderer. Downey spent 37 years fighting to evade and escape justice, never disavowing violence, while Greenslade continues to prove himself both a coward and a fraud.

Norman Tebbit, whose wife Margaret was left paralysed after the IRA’s Brighton bomb, condemned Greenslade’s remarks, adding:

I presume that the extension of his argument is that those who disagree with him are entitled to kill him.

Greenslade’s activities as a republican first emerged in 2008, when a book by one of his colleagues at The Guardian claimed he had secretly written columns for the Sinn Féin newspaper An Phoblacht while working in London in the late 1980s. Greenslade, 74, has confirmed that he did write pro-republican columns under the pseudonym “George King,” a play on King George V, who presided over the partition of Ireland in 1922. In his article he explains that as he rose through Fleet Street’s ranks, he married an Irish journalist, Noreen Taylor, and bought a home in Donegal. One of his neighbours was Patrick Doherty, a prominent Sinn Féin activist once named as a member of the IRA army council. They became close friends, but Greenslade decided back in England to keep his views on Ireland to himself. he writes:

I needed a wage because I was on the verge of taking a mortgage. Better, then, to button my lip and carry on … to own up to supporting Irish republicans would result in my losing my job. However much I believed their tactics to be valid, I could not hope to convince colleagues that the killing of civilians, albeit by accident, was justifiable.

When he became editor of the Daily Mirror in 1990, he did not feel compromised “because it was the only mainstream newspaper to have consistently urged the removal of British troops from the north of Ireland.” He was previously a news executive at the Sunday Times under the editorship of Andrew Neil, who claimed last week he had once appeared “on an IRA hit list” because of his newspaper’s ”very robust” stance against the IRA. Neil said he was at a loss to understand what Greenslade had been up to. He said:

I had no idea of Roy’s Irish sympathies. I always got on quite well with him but he had no influence on our Irish coverage. Was he a spy? What possible purpose could he serve the IRA? Everything we knew about the IRA we published. They didn’t need a spy, they just needed to buy the paper on Sunday.

Asked those questions last week, Greenslade insisted that he had “not engaged in any nefarious or illegal activities.” He was never approached by security agencies and claims to have no idea if anyone ever tried to identify the real “George King.” Greenslade added:

Even if they did catch on, I was far too lowly a person to worry about.

absolute scum of the earth

All the Crown Prince’s Men
David Hearst, Middle East Eye, Feb 27 2021

McGurk meeting with MbZ in Feb 2018, with sitting to his right, Barbara Leaf (WAM)

Who advised Biden that MbS could not be sanctioned even though US intelligence had concluded that he approved the capture or killing of Jamal Khashoggi? We do not know all the actors involved in this decision, nor can we reconstruct the debate that took place, but a few pieces of the puzzle are now falling into place. The NYT’s White House and National Security correspondent David Sanger reported that the decision not to penalise the crown prince came after weeks of internal debate. Sangerreported that Biden’s newly formed national security team has advised him that “there was no way to formally bar the heir to the Saudi crown from entering the US, or to weigh criminal charges against him, without breaching the relationship with one of America’s key Arab allies.” Who are the key players in Biden’s security team on the Middle East? The first is Brett McGurk, who was named recently as the NSC’s coordinator for the MENA. McGurk is an old hand, having served under three presidents: Bush 43, Obama 44 and Trump 45. His last job was special presidential envoy for The Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh from 2015 to 2018. Oct 2018 was a busy time for McGurk. He worked closely with the Saudis to influence the Iraqi elections in May 2018, and then  tried, unsuccessfully, to build a coalition allied with US and Saudi interests to reinstate the prime minister Haider al-Abadi. Just before the new government of Adil Abd’ul-Mahdi was sworn in, McGurk flew to Riyadh. This was nine days after the Oct 2 2018 murder of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. While his future president, Biden, was so shocked and appalled at the butchery that took place there, it was business as usual for McGurk. During his visit, McGurk met with the then Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir. A week later, then- Sec State Pompeo arrived in Riyadh to discuss what was still then referred to as the disappearance of Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia was still pretending that the journalist had walked out of the consulate alive. As Pompeo arrived, the kingdom publicly pledged $100m to support US operations in northern Syria, in what was perceived as a potential payment as Riyadh sought Trump’s help in managing the blowback over allegations that Saudi agents were responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance. McGurk was on hand to play down the linkage between Pompeo’s arrival and the blood money Riyadh had just given. McGurk said in a statement:

We always expected the contribution to be finalized in the fall time frame. The specific transfer of funds has been long in process and has nothing to do with other events or the secretary’s visit.

Note the language McGurk used to refer to Khashoggi’s killing. He called it “other events.” In any case, McGurk made no secret at the time of his close connections in Riyadh and in Abu Dhabi. He tweeted his meetings and boasted about them in private contacts with Iraqi politicians. In trying to cajole Iraqi Sunni politicians to support Abadi, McGurk offered personal meetings with the Saudi crown prince. Iraqi politician Khamis Khanjar, for years Washington’s go-between with Sunni tribal leaders, recalled in an interview with MEE last year:

He tried to entice us, promising things for us to support Abadi. Once he said to me: ‘We will go, me and you, in private meets and we will meet MBS and I will push the Saudis to open up with you.’

McGurk’s warmth to the young prince was reciprocated. MBS instructed his officials to “take care of him,” a Saudi source with knowledge of the foreign contacts of MBS’s inner circle told MEE. Nor has McGurk been anything but open about his praise for the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, often known as MbZ, the Saudi prince’s tutor and the author of the plan to normalise relations with Israel. In February 2018, McGurk tweeted the following:

McGurk still praises MBZ to this day. He told the NYT Magazine, which published a portrait of bin Zayed, that at first he was sceptical of MbZ’s intuitions about the dangers of the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam. He said:

I was sceptical at first. It seemed extreme. But I’ve come to the conclusion that he was often more right than wrong.

McGurk has also built strong relationships with MbZ’s brother Tahnoon bin Zayed, the national security adviser of the UAE, and Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the US. Through them, McGurk managed to get tens of millions of dollars to support the US projects in northeast Syria. Nor did McGurk’s relationship with the UAE end when he left government service over Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria in Dec 2018. Note it was Trump, not Khashoggi’s murder, that persuaded McGurk to quit government service. In Apr 2020, McGurk joined Primer, a machine intelligence company headquartered in San Francisco. McGurk was described on Primer’s website as an independent board director who brought “a rare breadth of experience from battlefields in the Middle East to the Oval Office, Situation Room, and negotiating tables with America’s closest allies and fiercest foes.” This followed a pattern established for former members of US administrations, in which they joined companies related directly or indirectly to the UAE. In Nov 2018, Primer raised $40m from investors, which included Mubadala Investment, an Emirati sovereign wealth fund valued in 2017 as having $369.5b in assets. McGurk was one of four directors on the board of the company, one of whom is listed as representing Mubadala itself. That’s McGurk. But there is someone else in a key position advising the White House on security in the Middle East. Look again at the picture McGurk tweeted of his meeting with MbZ in Feb 2018, and you will see, sitting to his right, Barbara Leaf. Leaf was at the time the US ambassador to the UAE. A career diplomat, Leaf had served as a top State Dept official for the Arabian peninsula and Iraq, the agency’s first director of the Office of Iranian Affairs, and had served in Israel, Egypt and Tunisia. After leaving government along with McGurk in 2018, Leaf joined the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank. There, her task was to “offer insights” on the US relationship with the UAE. Leaf defended Trump’s impending sale of $23b of advanced weaponry to the UAE. She told Vox News:

This won’t change the military balance in the Middle East. Iran’s missile and nonconventional arsenals  are formidable and could wreak immense damage, even if the UAE gets the F-35.

Leaf has now joined the NSC as senior director for the MENA. These then are the type of people who advised Biden not to sanction MbS with a visa ban. They have strong relations with the UAE, and it is noticeable that Abu Dhabi was the first to issue a statement of solidarity with the Saudis after the publication of the US intelligence report. There were, of course, other agencies involved in the advice Biden received. We also know that former CIA staffers, who keep in touch with the debate inside the agency and who know Saudi Arabia well, were not keen on real change in Riyadh, regarding any such move as a risky venture. Nevertheless, the decision they collectively took and the message it sends out is a fateful one. Trump resisted the publication of the report by the ODNI for the very good reason that, if he published it, his administration would be forced to react to it. The “good” Biden has now gone one step further than the “bad” Trump. Biden published the report because he was legally obliged to do so, but has now chosen not to act on its central findings. This does not just put him in the same place that Trump and Pompeo had arrived at. It actively ties Biden to a policy of maintaining impunity from international justice that this decision confers on the future Saudi king. This is not a position that is necessarily stable or that is safe for any US administration to hold, even for one as cynical as the one led by Biden. The Biden administration now faces two other lawsuits seeking information about Khashoggi’s killing. One seeks “all records relating to the killing of US resident Jamal Khashoggi.” In another, the Committee to Protect Journalists seeks information and documents about what the intelligence community knew of the threat posed to Khashoggi before his murder. Gregory Meeks, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released a statement that mixed praise for the release of the unclassified report with threat. The statement read:

However, given the report’s conclusions about the direct role of Mohamed bin Salman, I look forward to further steps towards accountability. This official US government document confirms and reiterates what previous investigations have indicated: namely his control and direct authority over the Saudi Rapid Intervention Force and related intelligence bodies mean he was indeed directly involved. As Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I will continue to work with the Biden administration to take further steps to ensure everyone, including those at the top, are held fully accountable, and I am reviewing further options to do so. The forced repatriation, intimidation, or killing of dissidents by the Saudi government, or any other government, must not go unchecked.

And everyone seems to be forgetting Saad al-Jabri, a former Saudi interior minister who is in hiding in Toronto and was himself the target of a 50-man murder team sent, he alleges, by MBS to kill him shortly after they dispatched Khashoggi. His lawsuit against bin Salman is ongoing in a DC court. Jabri is very much alive and kicking and promises to reveal more about the crown prince’s dirty operations. With Jabri, or indeed any Saudi dissident hiding in exile, the message Biden sends to his intended killer is nothing short of chilling. It is this: the US will sanction the people you ordered to murder Khashoggi, but it cannot sanction you as you are too important to us. This will embolden the murderous prince more than anything his friends in Trump or Pompeo could have done. It means he can get away with doing the same thing again and again. National security grounds were used as a get-out-of-jail card for a minor player in this saga, the convicted paedophile George Nader. As we all know, he went on to commit more crimes and now is back in a US prison. The crown prince will no doubt vary his means of conducting his terror campaign against anyone who speaks out against him, but, whatever he does, he now knows he cannot be punished because America, even under an administration that is hostile to him, will just not allow it. The champagne corks must be popping in the crown prince’s deserted palace in a half-built city of Neom, if alcohol is indeed the only stimulant at hand. But the message this sends about America’s foreign policy in the Middle East is a calamitous one. I wrote 10 days ago that Khashoggi would be the litmus test of Biden’s commitment to run an ethical foreign policy and to promote democracy and the rule of law around the world. On Friday he failed that test, calamitously. It is not too late for Biden to make the right decision. If he fails to, he will now live with the consequences. Khashoggi is not over, as Biden is just about to find out.

relative scum of the earth

Scholars call on Australian historian to decline Israeli award
Nora Barrows-Friedman, Electronic Intifada, Feb 27 2021

More than 250 Australian and international scholars are calling on a prominent Australian historian to reconsider accepting the 2021 Dan David Prize in rejection of Israel’s colonial violence and apartheid. The $1m prize is awarded by a foundation based at Tel Aviv University, an institution complicit in maintaining Israel’s systemic violations of Palestinian rights. Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the US president, was also awarded the Dan David Prize and eagerly gave his implicit endorsement of Israeli medical apartheid. In an open letter, the scholars urge Alison Bashford of the University of New South Wales to avoid “a flagrant contradiction” with her own published work, “which aims to contribute to ‘the critical history of colonialism, nationalism and public health.’” Signatories include co-founder of the BDS movement Omar Barghouti, Exeter University historian Ilan Pappe, Kehaulani Kauanui of Wesleyan University, Judith Butler of UC Berkeley, Rashid Khalidi and Nadia Abu El-Haj of Columbia University, Saree Makdisi of UCLA and Jake Lynch of the University of Sydney. They add that accepting the Dan David Prize would help Israel whitewash its violations of international law in refusing to vaccinate millions of Palestinians under military occupation against COVID-19 and placing obstacles “in the way of transfer of vaccines into Gaza and the West Bank, entry to which it fully controls, clear testament to the apartheid regime it maintains.” Activists with BDS Australia also called on Bashford to reject the award. BDS Australia stated:

Millions of Palestinians are subjected to Israel’s slow ethnic-cleansing regime, which dispossesses, arbitrarily imprisons, maims and kills them in large numbers. To them, a high-profile prize from the heart of the Israeli political and academic establishment can only appear a cruel joke.

In 2016, feminist historian Catherine Hall of University College London declined to accept the prize following, as she stated, “many discussions with those who are deeply involved with the politics of Israel-Palestine, but with differing views as to how best to act.” In 2019, Reporters Without Borders faced sharp criticism when it accepted the Dan David Prize. Agence Média Palestine accused RSF of taking part in a propaganda exercise aimed at burnishing Israel’s image. The Dan David Prize board includes Henry Kissinger, the American statesman notorious for a horrific array of crimes including masterminding the 1973 military coup in Chile and the dropping of more bombs on Cambodia than the US and its allies had used in the whole of WW2. For Alison Bashford, the scholars say that refusing the award “would earn you the respect and admiration of all those who believe that academic research must serve the cause of freedom, in Palestine and in the world.”

iraq & syria

A typical evening in the Middle East
Colonel Cassad, Feb 27, 23:23

A typical evening in the Middle East. Another missile attack on Riyadh. The air defense unit of the capital of Saudi Arabia has reported that it shot down at least one ballistic missile over the capital using Patriots PAC-3:

How many missiles were fired has not yet been reported. One of the missiles overcame the air defense umbrella (as usual, the Patriots cannot handle Iranian missiles 100%) and fell somewhere on the outskirts of the city. Here is video with an explosion:

Unknown persons (most likely Syria or Russia) launched missile strikes using surface-to-surface missiles at the fuel and lubricant depots of pro-Turkish militants in Al-Muzaleh, west of Jarablus, where crude oil purchased by terrorists from SDF was stored as part of a smuggling scheme between pro-Turkish and militants and pro-American Kurds. Reported serious damage, no information about the victims. It is also reported that during the day the Russian Aerospace Forces inflicted several airstrikes on the positions of the militants in the mountainous Latakia and Idlib. Active strikes are being applied for the 3rd day. Can be considered a therapeutic measure. The Turks are whining all day today about the Turkish company destroyed last year, which was written off to the Syrian Air Force, although Su-34s were used there in response to MANPADS launches at Russian bombers. 34 Turkish soldiers and officers were officially killed. Unofficially from 60 to 85. The coalition of Iraqi Shiite militant organizations (oriented towards Tehran) has declared that it will not joke with “Big Satan” and will definitely respond to attacks on sheds near Abu Kemal. We are waiting for new shelling of the “Green Zone” in Baghdad, burned convoys (yesterday in retaliation they burned 2 American vehicles from a logistics convoy in central Iraq) and missile launches at US bases.

Houthis Surprise Saudi Arabia With Large-Scale Missile, Drone Attack
South Front, Feb 28 2021

Saudi Arabia announced late on Feb 27 that its air defense forces had foiled a “ballistic attack” by the Houthis (Ansar Allah) on the capital Riyadh. In an official statement, the Saudi-led coalition said ballistic targets, most likely missiles, were successfully intercepted over Riyadh. The coalition didn’t provide the exact number of the hostile objects which targeted Riyadh. Yet, the Saudi Press Agency, SPA, shared footage showing several successful interceptions in the sky of the capital. At around the same time, the coalition announced that five drones were intercepted in the Kingdom’s southern region. According to the coalition’s claims, some of the drones were on their way to strike civilian targets in the city of Khamis Mushait. The coalition said that the ballistic targets and the drones were launched by the Houthis from Yemen, without providing any additional information. The Houthis are yet to comment on Saudi Arabia’s claims. Over the last few days, the group targeted the Kingdom with several drones without announcing the attacks. In the last few months, the Houthis stepped up their attacks on Saudi Arabia. These attacks are meant to pressure the Kingdom into ending its war on Yemen, which has been wreaking havoc for more than five years.

a very bitter op-ed

Welcome to Snitch Nation: From kids to parents, it’s a race to rat out your (former) loved ones before they get you first
Helen Buyniski, RT.com, Feb 27 2021

In the grand tradition of divide and conquer, the ruling class has set in motion a fool-proof way to keep us from uniting against the Great Reset and attendant restrictions on human freedoms: dupe us into snitching on each other! In order to achieve the proper level of blanket obedience, it’s important that ordinary people trust the government unquestioningly, and fear and hate those who don’t. This is best accomplished by discrediting and distancing the target population from all non-approved information sources, whether that’s Grandma down in Florida or their favorite alt-media YouTube channel. The target must be informed in no uncertain terms that they’re in the midst of an ‘infodemic,’ a deadly (if invisible and intangible) swarm of ideas that must be resisted at all costs by keeping one’s eyes and ears firmly fixed on the news networks, lest one fail to keep up with the ever-shifting New Normal.

One of the first stateside images of the Covid-19 pandemic to outline that ‘normal’ in New York City showed a group of people walking innocently down the street while their neighbors, standing on their fire escape and looking down, yelled at them for failing to “social distance” adequately. The implication, as NYC gradually and then rapidly saw its Covid-19 numbers climb, was that the group of friends walking had failed to put the needs of the community above their own. The more New Yorkers could be like the man on the fire escape, the better. But without the necessary “perception management,” the people screaming on the fire escape would get bottles (and possibly bullets) thrown at them. Nobody likes a snitch. At least, no one did back then. And who could forget Los Angeles’ mayor Eric Garcetti, delivering his threat against businesses that chose not to heed his draconian lockdown? Not only would they have their water and electricity shut off, he said, but anyone who called in to report businesses operating illegally would get some money for their efforts. Stumbling over the well-known aphorism about snitches and stitches, he joyfully declared that now “Snitches get rewards!”

Rather than inspiring a legion of snitches to rise up, however, he was mocked ferociously. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio similarly crashed and burned when he debuted a snitch hotline for the city, receiving a litany of dick-pics and Hitler memes instead of the photos of city residents failing to social distance that he’d asked for. Their “perception” hadn’t been adequately managed. But it’s been a year since those abortive early efforts. Other municipalities have continued to push the snitch-line as a useful police-state tool, noticing that as lockdowns drag on, people become more desperate for companionship, willing to settle for a conversation with anyone, even the police officer who’s come to haul your neighbor away for thinking impure thoughts about Bill Gates. These interactions offer a tiny nugget of human companionship to sweeten the fundamentally antisocial act of sending the authorities after an innocent neighbor. One trick has been to interrogate children. Kids in Vermont were asked, away from their parents, whether they’d been part of a “multi-family gathering” for Thanksgiving. If they answered yes, they were ordered to self-isolate for 14 days – or seven days if they were willing to submit to an invasive Covid-19 test. Never mind that they’re warping those kids’ brains for life, duping them into ratting out their own family, or that young children are almost always symptomless with Covid-19, can’t you see there’s a war pandemic on?!

The proprietors of Snitch Nation have also learned that financial incentives are ideal where moral incentives don’t exist, and states like New York and Massachusetts quickly realized that trying to overcome people’s natural aversion to snitching needed some help. New York began offering $75,000 yearly salaries to contact tracers who’d done little more than pass a free online course offering some unusual definitions of “autonomy” (hint: it ceases to exist when someone fails to obey quarantine rules). The contact-tracing course (which I took) offers more than the usual training in Orwellian ‘newspeak’, however. The chirpy-voiced instructor reminds the aspiring contact tracer that they are not under any circumstances to warn their friends or family if someone they know is infected, even it if means allowing their 80-year-old grandma to go risk her life playing bridge at the house of someone who just got out of the hospital being treated for Covid-19 and is still not well. One’s loyalty can be only to the state.

As more Americans wake up to the fact that merely getting their double-dose of vaccine is not going to set the US on a path to normality, not unless 70% or is it 90% or maybe 100% of the rest of the country gets it, they’re going to need someone to blame, and it better not be the vaccine companies. After all, they’re already indemnified! The US can expect a heavy-handed scapegoating campaign aimed at shaming family, friends, and neighbors who harbor a healthy distrust towards a scientific establishment that changes its mind on a weekly basis. And the media world is pushing Snitch Nation with all its might. Journalists like Brandy Zadrozny at NBC and Taylor Lorenz at the NYT have made it their business to pry into the private lives of private citizens whose only ‘crimes’ are having the ‘wrong’ opinions, while another news anchor reported recently from a Florida supermarket, describing the shoppers’ maskless nonchalance as if it was a genocide being conducted in real-time. Wrongthink about politics and Covid-19 has merged to the point where anyone expressing a deviation from the official line regarding the pandemic is shrieked at, Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style, as a Trump supporter and set upon by the harpies of social media.

In such a climate, then, it’s no surprise there are so many Americans eagerly calling up the FBI and DHS to report their parents, uncles, sisters, and other family members who participated in the Jan 6 demonstration at the Capitol, whether they were there to “riot” or merely to protest, whether or not they actually made it into the building or merely stood outside marveling at the ineptitude of their government. Told their loved ones had been hopelessly radicalized by a dangerous cult and could have killed someone, they were led to believe their act of betrayal was one of love. No doubt the world is sick of Orwell references by now, but the torture facility in 1984 was called the “Ministry of Love” for a reason.

Texas teenager Jackson Reffitt turned his father in to the police before the man even attended the rally or told anyone in the family about it, insisting that he “just wanted someone to know” about it. The younger Reffitt was subsequently thrown out of his family’s home by his devastated mother and sisters, whom he admits were “absolutely ruined about the news from what I did.” But that brief flicker of remorse was crushed with the huge amount of money the young man subsequently raised via GoFundMe: a whopping $147,229 as of Thursday. No longer saddled with student loans, car bills or insurance costs, Reffitt has learned a chilling lesson about loyalty and values, as has everyone watching him swell with pride on CNN: family loyalty is not required to get through life, as long as one maintains a slavish, unwavering devotion to the police state.

Copycats have already started turning in their own relatives and even ex-boyfriends, figuring they have nothing to lose (aside from their dignity, which isn’t fetching much on the market these days). Given the rapidly expanding class of ideas deemed ‘anathema’ over the last year, the rank and file of Snitch Nation can only be expected to grow. Should the rest of us fail to act – to remind our own loved ones that ratting out their neighbors for an extra piece of chocolate is fundamentally wrong on multiple levels – we can expect reinforced echo chambers, a further collapse in interpersonal relations, and an iron-fisted, jello-brained rule by a hopelessly alienated populace incapable of having a civilized discussion unless they already agree on every topic to be discussed beforehand. All those who engage in wrongthink will be branded with a scarlet letter and shown the door. No exceptions.

there’s a remarkable lack of hard facts in this story, and that’s the whole point of writing it

As FBI touts ‘unprecedented’ speed of Capitol ‘insurrection’ probe, police still don’t know what caused officer’s death
RT.com, Feb 27 2021

A hearse leaves the Capitol with the cremated remains of Brian Sicknick, Feb 3 2021.
Photo: Alex Brandon/Reuters

Seven weeks on from the Capitol riot, police say a toxicology report on the officer who was allegedly killed isn’t done, raising questions over whether investigators are sitting on facts that don’t fit a murder-mayhem narrative. The medical examiner’s report on Officer Brian Sicknick’s death following the Jan 6 riot hasn’t been completed, as toxicology results are still pending, the Capitol Police Dept said on Friday in a statement. More than 50 days after the Capitol attack, and even as other aspects of the “insurrection” investigation race move ahead, the department offered no explanation for delays in determining what substances may have been in Sicknick’s bloodstream. The department said:

Officer Sicknick’s family has asked for privacy during this difficult time and that the spreading of misinformation stop regarding the cause of his death.

Police gave no indication of the types of misinformation they were citing. However, CNN and other MSM outlets have falsely reported that Sicknick was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher. It took until nearly four weeks after the riot for CNN to say, without correcting any of its previous coverage, that medical examiners found no sign of blunt force trauma. It turned out that Sicknick collapsed in his division office hours after the riot ended, reportedly from a stroke, and died in hospital the following night. Investigators reportedly suspect that Sicknick died as a result of a reaction to chemicals to which he was exposed during the riot, such as bear spray or pepper spray. The NYT, CNN and other media outlets on Friday focused their reporting on the fact that the FBI has zeroed in on an unidentified suspect in the killing of Sicknick. However, it is just as likely that the outlets, which apparently used Sicknick’s death as part of their narrative, are jumping ahead of themselves again: without knowing the cause of death, it’s unclear how one could prove that a particular person or persons killed the officer, or that he was “killed” at all. CNN’s story is also still claiming that the officer “suffered his fatal injuries” during the riot, although Sicknick wasn’t initially hospitalized unlike some 15 other Capitol police officers injured that day. Ken Sicknick, the officer’s brother, revealed that Brian sent him a message indicating that despite being pepper-sprayed twice, he was not in bad shape. In contrast to the lack of new information on the cause of Sicknick’s death, the FBI is bragging about rapid progress in the overall Capitol investigation. Acting deputy attorney general John Carlin said on Friday:

The investigation into those responsible is moving at a speed and scale that is unprecedented, and rightly so. Those responsible must be held to account, and they will be.

He added that as of Thursday night, more than 300 people had been arrested in connection with the Capitol attack. Carlin, a former ABC News contributor and a key figure in the Obama-Biden administration’s secret surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page, has painted a picture of Washington under siege from Trump-inspired terrorists. Speaking of his return to the Dept of Justice four years after resigning, he said:

I never expected to have to walk through the DoJ hallways filled with hundreds of soldiers positioned to protect the department from terrorists, but I did. That is not acceptable. That is not America, and it will not happen again.

But continuing delays in determining the cause of Sicknick’s death are raising more and more questions over a key piece of the narrative used to justify fears that millions of violent, cop-killing insurrectionists seek to topple the government. One commenter said Saturday on Twitter:

Another observer agreed:

Conservative commentator Peter McConeghy pointed out that Sicknick’s autopsy report is just one of several unanswered questions that are being brushed off. For instance, police still haven’t identified the officer who shot and killed rioter Ashli Babbitt inside the Capitol. Nor have investigators determined who allegedly planted bombs at the Republican and Democrat Party headquarters offices the night before the riot.

A total of five people died on the day of the Capitol riot, including Sicknick, Babbitt and three more pro-Trump protesters who are said to have died of pre-existing medical conditions such as heart attacks. Two more Capitol police officers committed suicide in the wake of the events, with media quickly linking the tragedies to the riot, but their deaths have not been surrounded by the same hero veneer nationally, and there appear to be no investigations launched in connection with the suicides.

FBI Flips To ‘Bear Spray’ Narrative As Individual Singled Out In Capitol Officer’s Death
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, Feb 28 2021

After initial false reports that a Capitol Police officer was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher prior to his death, the FBI is now operating on the theory that the officer may have been exposed to bear spray or similar nonlethal irritant, before he later died in a hospital. Officer Brian Sicknick, whose mother believes he suffered a stroke, texted his brother Ken after he was injured. Ken told ProPublica:

He texted me last night and said, ‘I got pepper-sprayed twice,’ and he was in good shape,”. “Apparently he collapsed in the Capitol and they resuscitated him using CPR.

Sicknick was later placed on a ventilator, passing away on Jan 7 before his family could make it to the hospital to say their goodbyes. He was given the rare distinction of lying in honor in the Capitol Rotunda. On Jan 8, the NYT reported that a rioter hit Sicknick in the head with a fire extinguisher before he died. Three days later, the NYT issued a correction, asserting:

Investigators have found little evidence to back up the attack with the fire extinguisher as the cause of death (and) increasingly suspect that a factor was Officer Sicknick being sprayed in the face by some sort of irritant, like mace or bear spray, the law enforcement official said.

Now, according to the NYT, the FBI has “pinpointed an assailant” seen on video who attacked several officers with bear spray, and discussed attacking officers with bear spray beforehand, according to an anonymous official.

Given the evidence available to investigators, prosecutors could be more likely to bring charges of assaulting an officer, rather than murder, in the case. But the death of Officer Sicknick, a 42-year-old Air National Guard veteran who served in Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan, could increase the penalties that prosecutors could seek if they took such a case to court. Irritants like bear spray, pepper spray and mace are considered to be nonlethal crowd control deterrents, but they can cause physical reactions that could create risks for people with underlying health conditions and disorientation that could lead to injury.

Two other officers who were working the day of the Capitol riot committed suicide, while 138 officers suffered various injuries ranging from bruises to fractures to concussions the NYT adds, citing local police. On Friday, six members of the Proud Boys, whose leader Enrique Tarrio was outed in January as a ‘prolific’ FBI snitch, were indicted by the Justice Dept with “conspiracy to obstruct the certification of President Biden’s electoral victory and to attack law enforcement,” according to the report. The suspects were also accused of threatening a federal officer and entering the Capitol while armed with a deadly or dangerous weapon, including a wooden ax handle. Again according to the NYT:

Federal prosecutors said that Louis Enrique Colon of Missouri, Felicia Konold and Cory Konold of Arizona, and William Chrestman, Christopher Kuehne and Ryan Ashlock of Kansas were part of a group of Proud Boys who traveled to Washington in order to “stop, delay, and hinder the congressional proceeding” on Jan 6. They did so after Enrique Tarrio, the self-described national chairman of the Proud Boys, identified in the indictment as Person One, said on social media that members should “turn out in record numbers” and “spread across downtown DC in smaller teams.

Why didn’t the NYT mention that Tarrio was a ‘prolific FBI snitch’ according to court documents? According to prosecutors, the Proud Boys coordinated their travel to DC and stayed together at an Airbnb rental near the Capitol. They are accused of working together to force their way through barriers and around the Capitol building, where they gained entry to the complex and traveled as a group, according to the indictment. Tarrio, meanwhile, was barred by a judge from entering DC the day of the riot due to a prior arrest on vandalism and weapons charges, after a federal prosecutor requested that he be prohibited from attending.

Here’s the NYT story, authored by two of the usual suspects:

FBI Said to Have Singled Out Potential Assailant in Capitol Officer’s Death
Katie Benner, Adam Goldman, NYT, Feb 26 2021

WASHINGTON — The FBI has pinpointed an assailant in its investigation into the death of Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who was injured while fending off the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol last month and later died, according to officials. The FBI opened a homicide investigation into Officer Sicknick’s death soon after the Jan 6 attack on the Capitol. Investigators initially struggled to determine what had happened as he fought assailants. They soon began to suspect his death was related to an irritant, like mace or bear spray, that he had inhaled during the riot. Both officers and rioters were armed with such irritants during the attack. In a significant breakthrough in the case, investigators have now pinpointed a person seen on video of the riot who attacked several officers with bear spray, including Officer Sicknick. And video evidence shows that the assailant discussed attacking officers with the bear spray beforehand. While investigators narrowed potential suspects seen in video footage to a single person this week, they have yet to identify the assailant by name. Given the evidence available to investigators, prosecutors could be more likely to bring charges of assaulting an officer, rather than murder, in the case. But the death of Officer Sicknick could increase the penalties that prosecutors could seek if they took such a case to court. On Jan 7, when Officer Sicknick died, the Capitol Police issued a statement that said he “was injured while physically engaging with protesters,” and then “returned to his division office and collapsed.” He succumbed to his injuries at the hospital. In the hours after Officer Sicknick was rushed to the hospital, officials initially said that he had been struck with a fire extinguisher. They later said that there was no evidence to support that he had died from any blunt force trauma. More recently, FBI officials homed in on the potential role of an irritant as a primary factor in his death.

The Justice Dept on Friday also indicted six members of the far-right nationalist group the Proud Boys with conspiracy to obstruct the certification of President Biden’s electoral victory and to attack law enforcement. The suspects, who had already been charged by criminal complaint, were also accused of threatening a federal officer and entering the Capitol carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon, including a wooden ax handle. Federal prosecutors said that Louis Enrique Colon of Missouri, Felicia Konold and Cory Konold of Arizona, and William Chrestman, Christopher Kuehne and Ryan Ashlock of Kansas were part of a group of Proud Boys who traveled to Washington in order to “stop, delay, and hinder the congressional proceeding” on Jan 6. They did so after Enrique Tarrio, the self-described national chairman of the Proud Boys, identified in the indictment as Person One, said on social media that members should “turn out in record numbers” and “spread across downtown DC in smaller teams.” The department said that the group coordinated their travel to Washington and stayed together in an Airbnb rental near the city. They brought and wore matching uniforms and carried paramilitary gear and supplies into the Capitol, including camouflaged combat uniforms, tactical vests with plates, helmets, eye protection and radio equipment, according to the indictment. Prosecutors accused the group of working together to force their way through a line of Capitol Police and through the barriers around the building. Once inside, they traveled as a group through the building. Before entering, some of them, exhorted the large crowd to act. “Whose house is this?” Chrestman called. The crowd responded, “Our house!” When the crowd yelled to Chrestman that they wanted their house back, Chrestman shouted, “Take it!” He also threatened an officer who was preparing to file non-lethal munitions into the crowd, prosecutors said.

staggeringly, the author of this is still a high-school student

Why the Capitol Riot Terrified the Elite
James Ketler, Mises Wire, Feb 25 2021

These days, it sure looks like they have them right where they want them. Using the storming of the Capitol Building as a pretext, the media-government alliance has targeted Trump, his supporters, and their fellow travelers harder than ever before. Many on the right consider the Jan 6 storming to have been a dream come true for the leftist elite, giving them the ability to impeach Trump again, deplatform right-wingers, and weaponize the Justice Dept against the establishment’s foes. Everything, though, may not be as it first seems. There’s no reason to be despondent or worry that the Left has sealed its ultimate victory. It has done no such thing. Rather, the storming, for what it’s worth, proved the power of ragtag populists and exposed the elite’s shaky foundations. There’s a reason they’re so terrified. In political discourse, narratives are everything so, quite predictably, there’s heated dispute over what actually happened on Jan 6. One pressing question is: How did the stormers manage to actually break into the Capitol, one of the most heavily guarded buildings in the world? Cell phones and social media allowed civilian attendants to document the day’s events, which has made some details clearer and others a bit murkier. From freelance journalist Marcus DiPaola, one particularly bizarre video emerged which appeared to show Capitol Police willingly removing barricades to allow rioters inside the building complex. In response to that footage, many leftists contend that the storming was an attempted “coup” and “inside job” planned by Republican politicians and Capitol Hill officials to reinstall Trump for a second term. Of course, that’s nothing more than baseless media drivel. Had it been an actual coup, the storming would have been far bloodier and better orchestrated, with rogue military units and politicians leading the charge—but nothing like that happened. On the other hand, after seeing the questionable footage, many right-wingers have alleged that the event was a “false flag” arranged by Antifa provocateurs to defame Trump and his supporters. To the credit of this theory, at least one far-left activist was arrested in connection with the storming. However, it’s not clear that Antifa had any role in drumming up the crowd’s furor; certainly, the anti-elitist spirit was strong enough on its own. Strange as the video was, there’s a third potential explanation, expounded by PolitiFact:

Many officers had to abandon their posts and barricades because they were far outnumbered and overwhelmed.

Marcus DiPaola, who shot the footage, floated the same explanation, as did former Capitol Police chief Terrance Gainer. The police’s limited manpower was no match for the immensity of the Trumpian mob, leaving the officers in fear for their own safety and their posts strategically indefensible. A panoply of additional on-the-ground footage reveals the brutish tactics many of the rioters used to gain access to the building. They openly ripped away barricades, scaled walls, broke windows and doors, and once inside, used their collective force to push back the officers who tried to “hold the line.” If nothing else, this shows, in physical terms, how frustrated the populist right has become with the federal establishment. As is true of most mass spontaneous action, the stormers seem to have had different reasons for doing what they did. Some may have hoped to interrupt the Senate’s session and pressure lawmakers into blocking some of Biden’s electoral votes. Others likely stormed the building as an act of anti-establishment desecration, whipped up by the rage of other rioters. Apparently, there was also a small group of extremists who called for Mike Pence’s execution, according to reports. Indeed, the stormers were a far-from-perfect lot but, aside from a couple crazies here and there, they were driven by an opposition to the federal establishment shared by millions of Americans. After five years of shameless anti-Trump witch hunts, culminating in an election fraught with vote irregularities, the events of Jan 6 should be little surprise. When legal, political methods of seeking redress from the state become unresponsive, there is no longer any choice but to seek extra-legal, non-political methods. Trump himself understands this. In one of his final tweets before being suspended, he wrote:

These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.

These tensions, in fact, existed long before the Trump era. Disheartened by decades of increasing federal abuse, these people stood up in an anti-Swamp rebellion aiming to “take back the people’s house.” This reflects an immutable principle of government outlined by the sixteenth-century French libertarian Étienne de La Boétie:

The inhabitants themselves permit or rather bring about their own subjection, since by ceasing to submit they would put an end to their servitude.

It may appear that the state holds power over the people, but in reality the converse is true; it is the people en bloc who, by choosing to obey or not obey, hold ultimate power over the state. The only way a state can enforce its laws at all is if the people overall acquiesce to it. If sufficiently widespread, political resistance would disrupt the status quo to such a degree as to render its function completely ineffectual. In the final analysis, it is the people who hold the power. After stirring up a great deal of chaos, the Capitol stormers were flushed out of the building over the course of a few hours and the riots outside were broken up. Early the next morning, Congress certified the electoral vote count for Joe Biden, and the following weeks were flooded by the prosecution of more than two hundred stormers. Does that mean that their resistance failed? In the short term, yes; in the long term, maybe not. As Murray Rothbard said about the French “May 68” protests:

Whether it fizzles or triumphs, it gives the lie once and for all to the widespread myth that revolutions, whether or not desirable, are simply impossible in the modern, complex, highly technological world.

By storming the Capitol, the rioters proved that successful resistance against the American Leviathan is indeed still possible. Clearly, the right-populists have both the numbers and willpower necessary to significantly disrupt the federal order, and their zeal is unlikely to dissipate any time soon. Therefore, the question of another revolt is not one of if, but of where and when. This reality was clear right after the storming occurred. In anticipation of riots during President Biden’s inauguration, 26k army and Air National Guard troops were deployed to Washington DC, and razor-wire fencing was set up around the Capitol Building. The day passed by without any incident, yet thousands of national guardsmen are still set to remain in DC through mid-March or longer) and the acting chief of the Capitol Police has called for the fencing to stay up permanently. As Rothbard observed in volume I of Conceived in Liberty, political resistance is not effect neutral, but actually has an augmentative effect on the actions of other partisans:

If cherished in later tradition, a revolution will decrease the awe in which the constituted authority is held by the populace, and in that way will increase the chance of a later revolt against tyranny.

That is to say that even a foiled resistance plot can help attract more people to the fold of dissent if the rebels have some cultural sway. Plans to pack the Supreme Court, unleash restrictive gun control, and prosecute right-wingers, rather than signifying the elite’s final triumph, may serve to further rally the populist dissenters. When the rioters began their push to breach the Capitol Building, law-makers were forced to shelter in place, before then evacuating to a secure location. For some of them, the day’s events were evidently traumatic. That can be seen in the hyperbolic language that’s been used to describe the storming, like Chuck Schumer likening it to Pearl Harbor. The stormers crossed the threshold of the establishment’s cushy elitism and exposed lawmakers to the real-world ire their actions create. As described in a passage from Cato’s Letters:

The only secret in forming a free government is to make the interests of the governors and of the governed the same.

Angry populists, who’ve watched federal decrees wreak havoc on their lives, turned around and gave law-makers a taste of their own medicine. In the wake of this, the media-government alliance has clamped down against the populist right harder than ever before. Yet, in this vicious pushback, one can sense a prescient hint of panic within establishment ranks that the threads of their dominance may finally be unraveling. Far from playing a domineering role, the establishment politicos find themselves on the defensive in a politically unstable position. Someday, whether it be in one week or thirty years, the US could face a serious period of mass anti-establishment demonstrations; if that day comes, it’ll signal the Washington elite’s ultimate failure. With no cards left to play, they may be forced to tread lightly on the right-wing populists and avoid violent confrontation as much as possible, for fear of repercussions like those of Jan 6. This may force their hand into granting the Right some concessions, perhaps some very big ones, like a return to more states’ rights or, better yet, the right of unilateral secession. This would short-circuit the federal order and help restore to America’s overtaxed and overburdened some of their long-withheld freedoms. With everything in view, it looks like the journey down this path may have already begun.

i’ve been browsing for 2 hours so far this morning (sunday) and this is the only decent story i’ve found

Media Completely Ignore American Secret Agent’s Trial for Terrorism in Venezuela
Alan Macleod, MintPress News, Feb 26 2021

Items found on Heath at the time of his arrest according to Venezuelan authorities.
Photo: Venezuelan Foreign Ministry

CARACAS — Unless you read the local Venezuelan press, you are unlikely to know that an American secret agent is currently standing trial in Venezuela on charges of terrorism and weapons trafficking. Matthew John Heath was arrested in September outside Amuay and Cardon oil refineries in possession of a submachine gun, a grenade launcher, C4 explosives, a satellite phone and bricks of $20 bills. The Venezuelan government also alleges that he was found carrying a small coin or badge that CIA employees use to prove their identity to one another without raising suspicions. On Wednesday, Heath pled not guilty to all charges. Situated in Falcon state in the west of the country, the Amuay and Cardon facilities are the largest refineries in the oil-rich nation, considered an enemy of the United States since it elected socialist president Hugo Chavez in 1998. The facilities have been the site of controversy before: in 2012, a fire at the plants killed 55 people; after conducting hundreds of interviews with experts and witnesses and carrying out over 200 inspections and technical tests, the Venezuelan government claimed that the evidence of sabotage was “overwhelming.”

A former marine, Heath is also widely reported to have been a CIA agent, serving the agency as a communications operator between 2006 and 2016, at which time he took a job at security firm MVM (for obvious reasons, the CIA does not confirm or deny the identity of its staff). Although MVM is technically a private company, it was founded by three former Secret Service agents and continues to work closely with Washington. According to business directory Dunn & Bradstreet, the firm “provides security staffing and consulting services, primarily to US government entities.” Indeed, the only clients listed on its website are American government agencies. “Need a secret agent?” begins its description of the company. There is not a hint of this, however, on MVM’s public-facing website, which describes the organization as merely “providing extensive domain expertise in the areas of counter-narcotics, criminal and civil investigations, public safety, and national security.” MVM’s 800 employees, it states, are here to offer “professional and administrative services, informational technology services, and mission solutions.” This follows a broader trend of the U.S. government outsourcing clandestine operations to private contractors — a process that ensures there is less accountability and public scrutiny, as well as one that keeps its more controversial actions at arm’s length. As Allen Weinstein, cofounder of the National Endowment for Democracy, said in 1991:

A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.

One might think that a supposedly innocent American citizen on trial for terrorism inside a hostile enemy country, facing decades behind bars in Venezuela’s notorious prisons, would spark a nationwide media furor, especially as Heath claims that he was tortured while incarcerated. But far from it. In fact, there has been zero mention of the case in national U.S. media this week, including nothing in the NYT, CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, the WaPo, Fox News, or USA Today. This is striking, as the news was published on the largest newswire service, Reuters, meaning that virtually every outlet in the West must have seen it and could freely republish it themselves or use its material for a story. Virtually the only Western media outlets touching the story were local news stations in Tennessee, Heath’s home state. Yet none of those outlets mentioned Heath’s alleged background as a secret agent, nor the incriminating items in possession of which he was arrested, rather presenting him as a completely innocent victim of an authoritarian regime. Few even offered an explanation as to why, amid a raging pandemic, he would leave the US and go to Venezuela of all places. NBC affiliate WBIR Channel 10 was the only exception, claiming he had traveled there to gain “more boating experience,” a defense that is unlikely to convince many Venezuelan prosecutors.

The State Dept, which rarely misses an opportunity to denounce Venezuela’s Maduro government for human rights transgressions, has also been largely silent over the case. Its entire comment on the situation amounts to one tweet from spokesman Ned Price, in which he tepidly asks Venezuela for a “fair trial.” The deafening silence from Washington and from corporate media suggests that Heath was indeed in Venezuela on official business and that the government has made a conscious decision to cut ties to him, leaving him to his fate so as to not draw more attention to its own actions. Kicking up a storm of protest would entail inviting far more scrutiny upon itself and potentially losing any plausible deniability that it is not engaged in a campaign of international terrorism against the South American nation. The US has been carrying out a decades-long push for regime change against the Venezuelan government, supporting coup attempts, funding and training political movements, and propping up self-declared president Juan Guaidó as the country’s rightful ruler. In January, the US lost its most powerful ally in the cause, as the European Union chose to stop recognizing Guaidó after he lost his seat in the Venezuelan National Assembly in recent elections.

Earlier in the year, the US was similarly caught with its hand in the cookie jar, after two former Green Berets led an amphibious invasion on Venezuela with the goal of shooting their way to the presidential palace and installing Guaidó as dictator. The attempt failed spectacularly, and few of the heavily armed fighters managed to even make it to land, the event quickly being dubbed Donald Trump’s “Bay of Piglets.” Trying to defend themselves, the American mercenaries implicated a number of key figures, including Trump himself, as well as former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince. The coup plotters even claim they met at the Trump Doral resort in Miami. Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put out a half-hearted denial, claiming only that “there was no US government direct involvement” in the botched coup attempt. Heath’s case is the latest in a series of US cloak-and-dagger moves against the Caribbean nation. Whether he is found guilty or not, it appears that he will be receiving no help from the US government. When things go wrong in espionage, you are apparently on your own.