to hell in a handbasket

Trump threatens to close social media platforms after Twitter puts fact-check warnings on his tweets
Kevin Reed, WSWS, May 28 2020

President Donald Trump (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Trump threatened Wednesday to close down social media platforms after Twitter placed a fact-check warning on two of his tweets from Tuesday, which made wild and unsubstantiated claims about mail-in ballots. In two successive tweets, he had written:

There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one. That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!

The two successive tweets on Wednesday morning were a continuation of the president’s complaint against Twitter the previous evening. In these he wrote:

@Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon WaPo. Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I as President will not allow it to happen!

Twitter flagged the president’s two Tuesday morning tweets with a hyperlink label that says:

! Get the facts about mail-in ballots.

When clicked, the link opens up a page on Twitter that provides a summary of the false facts about mail-in ballots in the president’s assertions, along with quotes from and links to multiple news responses from CNN, the Hill and the WaPo on the topic. The summary at the top of the page says:

On Tuesday, Pres Trump made a series of claims about potential voter fraud after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an effort to expand mail-in voting in California during the COVID-19 pandemic. These claims are unsubstantiated, according to CNN, WaPo and others. Experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud.

Trump became all the more incensed because Twitter used the responses of media outlets he has repeatedly attacked as “enemies of the people,” resulting in his Wednesday morning rant. In keeping with his modus operandi, the president’s angry tweets against social media companies were aimed at mobilizing his right-wing base of supporters for a barrage of attacks on individuals. In this case, the targets were Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey as well as a lower-level executive in charge of monitoring election interference and fake accounts with bots by the name of Yoel Roth. In his own tweets, Roth had previously referred to the president as a “racist tangerine,” compared White House adviser Kellyanne Conway to Joseph Goebbels, and referred to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a “bag of farts.” By Wednesday, he had become the target of a flame-trolling campaign spearheaded by Conway, who said on Fox News Wednesday morning:

Somebody in San Francisco, go wake him up and tell him he’s about to get a lot more followers.

It appears that Trump’s claim that “conservative voices” are being silenced by social media is part of an ongoing White House initiative reported last week by the WaPo, which noted:

Trump is considering establishing a panel to review complaints of anti-conservative bias on social media, according to people familiar with the matter.

The claim is false on its face. While there have been instances where conservative and extreme right-wing individuals and organizations have been subjected to banning, deleted accounts or content removal for violating “community standards” on social media, they have almost always been restored within hours or days and allowed to resume spreading racist, nationalist and neofascist views unhindered. Trump’s threat to “strongly regulate” social media reveals that the White House has been engaged in discussions with the legislative branch about the imposition of a stiffer regulatory regime over the social media monopolies and possibly the rest of the Silicon Valley tech giants.

Trump’s threat to regulate the companies was immediately backed up on Capitol Hill by Thug Senators Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley. As reported last week, the DoJ and A-G William Barr are preparing a lawsuit against Google for alleged anti-trust violations, and also working on legislation that will force consumer mobile device manufacturers such as Apple to build law enforcement back-door access to their data encryption products. As for the president’s threat to “close them down,” the WaPo wrote that the White House told reporters the president would sign an executive order “pertaining to social media,” but gave no further details. Just exactly how Trump would shut down the social media corporations over alleged political bias is unclear, considering that First Amendment constitutional protections limit any action the chief executive can take against the companies, according to legal experts. Moreover, given that the combined Wall Street value of the social media monopolies is something on the order of $1t, Trump’s threat to shut down the platforms is highly problematic from the standpoint of the investment interests of the Pindo corporate elite and financial oligarchy.

Additionally, it was reported on Wednesday that a Faschingstein federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling rejecting the lawsuit filed by Freedom Watch and right-wing commentator Laura Loom complaining that Twitter, Facebook, Google and Apple conspired to suppress conservative views and violated their speech rights. As analyzed here on the WSWS, the president’s campaign against mail-in ballots is linked to the fact that his poll numbers are falling. Trump and his Thug handlers are fearful that the expanded use of mail-in ballots necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic will result in a larger number of voters among workers, minorities and students, substantially reducing his chances of being reelected. The claims that “voter fraud” is rampant in Pindostan is a political hobby horse promoted by those who support right-wing and racist voter registration and voter ID requirements, which effectively disenfranchise working class and poor voters. The heightened conflict between Trump and Twitter is a manifestation of divisions within the corporate ruling elite in the midst of the health and economic crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. Behind the vitriol and threats, along with the unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud associated with mail-in ballots, is the fear that Pindostan is on the verge of an explosion of social and class conflict.

Pindostan sets stage for anti-China sanctions over HK
Peter Symonds, WSWS, May 28 2020

Sec State Mike Pompeo (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Pompeo yesterday formally declared that HK no longer had “a high degree of autonomy” from China, a step that opens the door for Faschingstein to impose a raft of economic and trade sanctions that will potentially damage its position as a global financial hub. Pompeo’s decision is a further step in the Trump administration’s anti-China campaign that has rapidly accelerated in recent months, including the vicious scapegoating of Beijing for the global COVID-19 pandemic. The moves towards new sanctions over HK make clear that the targeting of Beijing is not aimed just at deflecting attention from the criminal responsibility of the White House for the huge Pindo death toll, but is part of intensifying efforts to undermine China economically and strategically over the past decade and prepare for war. Pompeo’s statement came in response to last week’s announcement by China that its annual National People’s Congress will pass a new national security law covering subversion, terrorism and foreign influence in HK. The Chinese legislation, which is likely to be passed today, effectively overrides HK’s legislature that attempted but failed to pass such a law in 2003 in the face of mass demonstrations. Last November, following months of protests in HK against a proposed extradition law, the Pindo Congress passed legislation which required that the State Dept certify HK’s autonomy from China.

Pompeo’s declaration now allows the Trump administration to override Pindo legislation passed prior to the British handover of HK to China in 1997 that maintained pre-existing economic and trade relations with the former British colony. Its special economic status enabled HK to retain its position as a global financial hub for trade in and out of China, as well as for the headquarters of hundreds of Pindo and other corporations operating within China. In 2018, Pindostan had a $33b trade surplus with HK, some 8% of mainland China’s exports to Pindostan, and 6% of China’s imports, took place via HK, which benefitted from looser export controls than mainland China, agreements on technology transfers, academic exchanges, taxation, currency exchange, and sanctions. All of these are now in question. Earlier this week, Trump declared that Pindostan would respond “very powerfully” if the NPC passed the national security legislation. Asst Sec State David Stilwell confirmed that discussions on punitive measures were taking place, declaring that Pindostan was seeking to “mitigate the impact globally on the HK people.” However, any erosion of the HK economy will hit the working class the hardest, leading to rising unemployment and further cutbacks to the territory’s limited social services. While Faschingstein may be concerned about the impact of sanctions on Pindo corporations in HK and China, it has no concern for the plight of working people there, much less their democratic rights.

Further protests took place in HK yesterday both against the proposed national security legislation and also a law being considered in the HK legislature to outlaw any denigration of the Chinese anthem and flag. The limited size of the protests is a result not only of the COVID-19 restrictions and substantial police presence on the streets, but also the right-wing orientation of the protest leaders. What began last year as huge protests against the extradition legislation expressing the legitimate concerns of the majority of the population over democratic rights increasingly came to be dominated the reactionary outlook of groups and parties hostile to the working class, promoting anti-Chinese mainlander xenophobia and oriented to the major imperialist powers, particularly Pindostan, to intervene on their behalf. The response of former student Joshua Wong, a leader of Demosistō, in support of Pompeo’s announcement is a graphic demonstration of the pro-imperialist orientation of these organisations. He declared:

Our hope is that a drastic change of Pindo policy will encourage them to reverse course on HK.

Wong has spoken recently to Senator Josh Hawley, who last week introduced a resolution to condemn China’s natsec law. Last year Wong, who was feted in Eurostan & Pindostan as well as in the media as the face of HK protest, met with top political figures and addressed Congress. The statements of concern for the HK people by Pompeo and other Trump boxtops are utterly hypocritical. Pindo imperialism is no more interested in “human rights” in HK or China than it was in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria or Libya where it was exploited to justify its criminal wars. Whether it is HK, Taiwan or the Uyghur minority in western China, Faschingstein uses “human rights” as a convenient tool for undermining the unity of China which it regards as a dangerous banner to reasserting Pindo dominance internationally. Promoting the illusion that Pindostan will defend democratic rights in HK or anywhere else plays straight into the hands of the Chinese regime and sows divisions in the Chinese working class, the only social force that is capable of challenging the police state regime in Beijing.

The Trump administration’s decision to confront Beijing over HK is just the latest front in its provocative campaign against China that includes new measures targeted against Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, restrictions on investment in Chinese stocks, threats to impose new taxes on Pindo companies producing in China and confrontational Pindo naval operations in the South China Sea. Trump’s campaign that has bipartisan backing is a continuation of the Obama administration’s so-called “pivot to Asia” involving an aggressive confrontation with China across the board, diplomatically, economically and militarily. By 2020, the Pentagon will have stationed 60% of its naval and air assets in the Indo-Pacific region. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and accelerated the weakness and historic decline of Pindo and global capitalism and greatly heightened geo-political tensions. The Pindo ruling class is determined to bolster its global position against its rivals by all available measures including military, even if that plunges humanity into a catastrophic nuclear war.

Canadian court rules extradition trial of top Huawei executive can proceed
Roger Jordan, WSWS, May 28 2020

A Canadian court ruled yesterday that the extradition trial of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei and daughter of the founder of the China-based tech giant, can proceed. Meng was detained 18 months ago at Vancouver International Airport on the orders of the Trudeau government, acting at the behest of the Trump administration. Faschingstein intends to prosecute her on trumped-up charges of violating the Pindostan’s punishing illegal sanctions on Iran. In her ruling, British Columbia Supreme Court Associate Justice Heather Holmes found that the offence Meng is accused of would be considered a crime if it were committed in Canada, and consequently that the Pindo extradition request meets the “double criminality” test, which requires that the purported crime that is the subject of an extradition request also be considered an offence in the country from which the accused is being extradited. Meng’s attorneys had argued that as Canada lifted its sanctions against Iran in 2016, the actions the Pindo government alleges she committed would not constitute a crime under Canadian law. Whilst Justice Holmes tried to dress up her ruling in restrained legal language, it was transparently a political judgment, rooted in Canadian imperialism’s close and ever more pivotal strategic partnership with Faschingstein, under conditions of global capitalist crisis. Holmes’ 23-page decision essentially reprised the argument lawyers for the Canadian government had made before her: the fact that Canada was not imposing sanctions on Iran at the time was irrelevant because Meng is being charged with fraud. She wrote:

Canada’s law of fraud looks beyond international boundaries to encompass all the relevant details that make up the factual matrix, including foreign laws that may give meaning to some of the facts.

She later added that the Minister of Justice would have to decide whether extraditing Meng to Pindostan, where she faces the prospect of 30 years in prison, would be “unjust or oppressive.” In other words, Meng’s fate is a political rather than a legal affair. Meng was seized by Canadian authorities in Dec 2018 as part of a calculated provocation. The detention occurred the same day as Trump sat down with Xi on the sidelines of a G-20 meeting in Argentina to bully him into accepting a deal in the Pindo-instigated trade war with Beijing. The Canadian Border Security Agency, whose officers initially detained Meng, gave her the impression that they merely wished to question her. They took her belongings, including her phone, and supplied them to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Only several hours later did Meng learn that she was to be detained, and that she had been tricked into handing over her belongings. Her legal defence team have pointed to these facts to argue that her rights were violated and that she should be released. This matter will be dealt with in a separate hearing at a later date.

The persecution of Meng by Pindo and Canadian authorities is one element in a broader Pindo-led drive with bipartisan support in Congress to thwart China’s emergence as an economic and geostrategic rival. Beijing is the main target of Faschingstein’s refocusing of its aggressive foreign policy to combat “strategic competitors” that it fears threaten its position as the world’s economic and geopolitical hegemon. Huawei has come under fire because it is China’s flagship corporation in modern technology and telecoms infrastructure, as shown by its leading position in the 5G sector. The Trump administration, including Pompeo and NSA O’Brien, have demanded that Pindo vassals block Huawei from participation in their 5G networks on the grounds that the Chinese company and its technology represent a security risk. The Trudeau Liberal government has integrated Canada ever more fully into Faschingstein’s economic, diplomatic and military-strategic offensive against China. In addition to seizing Meng, the Liberal government has increased the deployment of Canadian military forces to the Asia-Pacific region, including by sending vessels into the contested South China Sea. Ottawa also agreed to an updated version of NAFTA called USMEXCA, which consolidated a North American trade bloc dominated by Pindostan with the aim of waging economic war and preparing for military conflict with China. In 2017, as the Trudeau government released a new defence policy that hiked military spending 70% by 2026, then-Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland described the economic rise of China as a key strategic “threat” to Canada. However, the Trudeau government has dragged its feet on taking a final decision on Huawei’s participation in the 5G network. This has been seized upon by a faction of the Canadian ruling elite, led by the Conservatives and right-wing media outlets, to denounce Trudeau for “appeasing” China, and demand that an even more hardline approach be taken to Beijing.

In the days leading up to yesterday’s ruling on Meng’s case, this anti-China campaign reached a crescendo. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer seized on China’s proposed adoption of a natsec law aimed at clamping down on protests in HK to demand that the Trudeau government exploit the issue of human rights more aggressively to step up pressure on Beijing. Accusing Trudeau of pursuing a policy of “appeasement,” Scheer called for Canada to lead an international coalition to impose sanctions on China over HK. Significantly, he likened his proposal to the leading role that former Conservative PM Stephen Harper played in creating an anti-Russia alliance that imposed sanctions on Russia following the fascist-led coup in Ukraine in 2014. The pro-imperialist forces who toppled Yanukovych were financed to the tune of billions of dollars by the Pindo State Dept, Canada and Germany among others. After Russia responded by annexing Crimea, NATO imposed stringent sanctions on Moscow and began a series of menacing military deployments along Russia’s western border and in the Black Sea that continue to escalate. The Canadian media also made much of a report released last week by the British neocon think-tank the Henry Jackson Society, which urged the Five Eyes to step up efforts to “decouple” from China. Canada, the report claims, depends on Chinese production for 367 types of goods, including 83 deemed important for critical national infrastructure. This week, the Trudeau government announced a national security review into the planned purchase by China’s Shandong Gold Mining Co of TMAC Resources, a gold mining company based in the Arctic. A government official said that “economic and natsec” issues played a role in the move. Canada’s national security establishment has long claimed that China poses a threat to Canadian “sovereignty” in the Arctic.

In answer to his critics on the right, Trudeau has insisted that his government is taking a tough stance on HK. He has voiced “deep concern” over the national security law and asserted that his government “stands with the people of HK.” Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne co-signed a statement with his British and Australian counterparts denouncing Beijing’s proposed law and accusing it of violating the terms of the Sino-British Treaty of 1984, which guaranteed HK’s autonomy. As always, such “human rights” claims are highly selective and are dictated by the Canadian bourgeoisie’s predatory interests. Canada under Trudeau has close ties with repressive leaders around the world such as Sisi, Modi & the Toads, but as far as a significant section of the ruling elite is concerned, Trudeau’s approach is far too conciliatory. Fen Hampson, an international affairs expert at Carlton University who writes regularly in the Globe and Mail, the Canadian bourgeoisie’s “newspaper of record,” ridiculed the government’s attitude to China as “talk softly and carry no stick.” Former Liberal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler co-authored a piece published in Policy Options on Monday, no doubt timed to coincide with the “human rights” posturing by the Pindo and Canadian ruling establishments over HK, which demands Ottawa take “legal steps” to hold China accountable for its “deliberate suppression of information” about the coronavirus pandemic. Cotler was a key figure in mobilizing support for an open letter released by the MacDonald Laurier Institute think-tank in April that blamed China for the pandemic. Among those who signed were Scheer and the two main competitors to succeed him as Conservative leader, Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole. These right-wing forces are sure to be emboldened by the BC Supreme Court’s ruling on the Meng case. They will no doubt seize on the predictable condemnation of the judgement from Beijing to rail against China’s disregard of Canada’s “democratic” and “independent” institutions, and cast Ottawa as a tiny David bravely confronting the Chinese Goliath, all the time concealing the fact that Canada is a junior partner in Pindo imperialism’s reckless drive to derail China’s “rise” through all means, including all-out war.

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