eat the rich! ©

Bloomberg’s Rising Polls Show The Power Of Billionaire Narrative Control
Caitlin Johnstone, Feb

Back in November Mike Bloomberg was polling at 4% nationally and had the highest disapproval rating of any potential Demagog presidential candidate, and understandably so; the man has a uniquely horrible record and no redeeming traits to speak of. Now, after spending $400m in broadcast, radio and cable ads, $42m on Facebook ads, $36m on Google ads, and an unknown fortune on other shady manipulations, a national Quinnipiac poll released last week put him at 15% nationally in the Demagog primary. This week national polls released by NPR and Zogby put him at 19% and 20% respectively. You can argue against the validity of polls all you like, and surely none of them are pristine representations of public opinion. But there’s no denying that these numbers have gone way up, and there’s no denying that now, approvingly or not, everyone’s talking about Michael Bloomberg. Late night talk show hosts are doing bits about the prevalence of Bloomberg ads. People are making satirical videos spoofing them. I’ve seen parents complaining that their kids recite lines from his ads at the dinner table. It’s a story in itself. It’s saturating social consciousness. It’s very much a thing.

Glenn Greenwald recently tweeted:

Greenwald is of course correct. But while Bloomberg is doing something that is without precedent, his campaign is also highlighting problems with the system which have existed for ages. And in my opinion it would be an unfortunate waste if his campaign came and went without these problems getting more attention than they currently are. Mike Bloomberg is not the first plutocrat to use his wealth to manipulate a presidential election, and he is not the first plutocrat to use his wealth to manipulate public perception. He’s just the first to do it so brazenly and ham-fistedly. The fact that it is both possible and easy for a billionaire to throw a vast fortune at an electoral race and drastically influence its direction tells us everything we need to know about the illusory nature of Pindo democracy. And now it’s right out in the open. As long as a small elite group are able to manipulate the way people think and vote, then you don’t have democracy, you have oligarchy. If that small elite group happens to be much wealthier than everyone else, then it’s a specific kind of oligarchy known as plutocracy. You can watch this video and this video for some general information on the ways plutocrats exert control over the political system, and you can read this fascinating thread here for more specific information on how Bloomberg has been stifling opposition and manipulating endorsements out of political figures using his unparallelled spending power.

This has been happening all the time, for generations, and not just with presidential elections but with Pindos’ perception of what’s going on in their world as well. Whether it’s running ads, buying up media outlets, funding think tanks or incentivizing politicians to regurgitate the desired lines, billionaires are constantly using their wealth to shore up narrative control, because they understand that whoever controls the narrative controls the world. Bloomberg built a media empire. Jeff Bezos bought the WaPo. Most of Pindostan’s news media are owned or controlled by billionaires. Even that so-called “philanthropy” which mass media pundits keep crowing about in the same breath as Bloomberg’s name is actually just another billionaire narrative control apparatus, allowing them to donate a tiny tax-deductible portion of their income in exchange for political influence, and buying them the ability to wear the fancy label of “philanthropist” instead of “sociopathic parasite.” Billionaires pour vast fortunes into think tanks, which are generally institutions where academics are paid to come up with the most intelligent-sounding arguments possible explaining why it would be good and smart to do something evil and stupid, whether that be the destruction of the ecosystem, regime change in Iran, or further corporate/financial deregulation. They then circulate those arguments at key points of influence.

For a Bloomberg-specific example of think tank narrative control, take the time his donations to the Center for American Progress (CAP) leveraged that think tank into removing a chapter from a 2015 report detailing his Orwellian surveillance program targeting Muslims back when he was the mayor of NYC. Back in 2013 The Nation’s Ken Silverstein reported that CAP staffers “were very clearly instructed to check with the think tank’s development team before writing anything that might upset contributors.” Sure enough, a former CAP staffer named Yasmine Taeb recently detailed for Democracy Now how “the chapter was flagged by a member of the executive committee who actually previously had worked for Mayor Bloomberg” and “said that there would be a strong reaction by Bloomberg World if this report was released as it was.” At that point Bloomberg had given CAP nearly $1.5m.

The billionaire class has to buy up narrative control because there is nothing about plutocracy that is sane or healthy; people would never knowingly consent to it unless they were manipulated into doing so. Because power is relative, and because money is power in a plutocracy, plutocrats are naturally incentivized to maintain a system where everyone else is kept as poor as possible so that they can have as much relative power as possible. A glance at what the Sanders campaign has been able to accomplish just with small-dollar donations and grassroots support gives you some insight into why these plutocrats want people working long, exhausting hours with as little spare income as possible. Nobody would ever knowingly consent to being kept poor and busy just so some billionaires can live as modern-day kings, so they need to be propagandized into it via narrative manipulation. If you’ve ever wondered why it seems like the news man is always lying to you, that’s why. Whenever I write about the power of plutocratic propaganda, I always get people saying I’m just a conspiracy theorist (and that I have an awful addiction to alliteration). They argue that sure, it’s possible to influence public opinion a bit, but people are free agents and they make up their own minds based on any number of potential factors, so it’s silly to focus on media manipulation as the underlying cause of all the world’s ills. Oh yeah? If people can’t be manipulated by the wealthy into supporting agendas which don’t benefit them, how come a billionaire presidential candidate was able to quadruple or quintuple his polling numbers in three months just by throwing money at them? And that’s just one agenda of just one billionaire. There are 607 billionaires in Pindostan. And none of them are interested in giving up their plutocratic throne.

The unpleasant fact of the matter is that the human mind is far more hackable than people like to believe it is. Just listen to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer describe how he’d been completely taken in by the horrible mass media smear campaign against Julian Assange prior to taking his case. This is an educated, intelligent and highly compassionate man who, simply because he’d relied on the plutocratic media to help him figure out what’s going on in the world, had an understanding that Assange was a wicked man who was guilty of wicked deeds. It wasn’t until he took the case and began personally investigating the actual facts of the matter without the filter of the plutocratic media spinmeisters that he was able penetrate beneath the layers of narrative distortion to get at the reality of the situation. Some clever people figured out a long time ago that humans live in two worlds: the real world and the narrative world. The narrative world consists of the mental chatter which occupies the majority of most people’s moment-to-moment interest and attention. The real world is everything else: life as it is, without the stories about what life is. The clever people figured out that you can get folks to give you real things in the real world, just by giving them narratives in the narrative world. Use your control over your society’s dominant narratives and you can get people to hand you real wealth and power in exchange for a bunch of made-up stories of fear and inadequacy and factionalism and otherness. Manipulative men can get real-life sexual favors in exchange for narratives about love and romance. Manipulative priests can get your real-life tithes in exchange for narratives about imaginary deities. Manipulative politicians can get your real-life votes in exchange for narratives about imaginary terrorists. Manipulative billionaires can use the rewards of your real-life labor in exchange for units of an imaginary financial system which exists solely as a narrative construct. They figured out a way to get everything for nothing.

Humans are not difficult to manipulate. I am not difficult to manipulate. You are not difficult to manipulate. If you don’t appreciate this fact, you make yourself even easier to manipulate. It’s not difficult to mock the people who’ve been manipulated into supporting Bloomberg. What is difficult is coming to terms with the fact that you yourself, and indeed your entire species, have many glitches in your cognitive processes which can be, have been, and will continue to be exploited by adept manipulators. All we can do is make this conscious. Like everything else in this struggle, the solution to the mind’s intrinsic hackability is bringing the light of consciousness to it. Manipulators cannot operate in an environment with too much awareness of their tricks. Mike Bloomberg is a terrible human being. But at the very least he may operate as a catalyst for this consciousness.

pompeo in africa

Pompeo is not visiting Senegal, Angola & Ethiopia for fun, he’s there to fight China
Darius Shahtahmasebi, RT.com, Feb 18 2020

Pompeo with “Startup Sunday” founder Mame Aminata Diambo in Dakar, Feb 16 2020.
Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Reuters

The Pindo Sec State’s visit to Africa has more to do with China than anything else. After unveiling the first limb of its “Prosper Africa” strategy, Pindostan finds itself further locked in a geostrategic battle against China. Pompeo’s visit to Africa marks the first time in over 18 months that a Pindo cabinet member has landed on sub-Saharan Africa. According to Pompeo, the reason he is visiting Senegal, Angola and Ethiopia is because they are “three countries in various stages of development in their transition to democracy and their stability.” The more likely reason though is to promote Pindo investment as a genuine alternative to Chinese funding, all the while bad-mouthing Beijing (something Pompeo has been doing relentlessly for some time). However, Pompeo’s trip doesn’t appear to have produced anything tangible so far, other than anti-Chinese and pro-Pindo rhetoric. Just by way of example, he wrapped up his visit to Senegal by stating that the two partners had had “a lot of conversation about security issues” but indicated this issue was still under review. Given the Trump administration has begun targeting African nations by considering their inclusion in the infamous travel-ban list, cutting aid programs (or making them incredibly difficult to be implemented in practice), locals may be skeptical of the true motives behind this lackluster visit. In June last year, the Trump administration officially rolled out its ‘Prosper Africa’ program at the Corporate Council on Africa’s Pindo-Africa Business Summit in Mozambique. The Brookings Institute summarized the intent of this program relatively aptly when it posed the question:

Can Trump’s ‘Prosper Africa’ make Pindostan greater than China and other partners in Africa?

The official rationale behind the $50m program, introduced by none other than disgraced war-hawk John Bolton, is to promote “prosperity, security and stability in Pindo-Africa relations.” I’d be surprised if anyone actually believes that Africa’s prosperity, security or stability is anywhere near the top of Washington’s priorities, unless they’ve been living under a rock. Under the Trump administration, the INDOPAC region has become the MIC’s “priority theatre,” with the MENA slowly dwindling in value. While Faschingstein has talked big on Africa, its actions suggest it is hardly a continent that Pindostan is looking to invest too much time, money or even military manpower in. That being said, Pindostan will always have some cause for concern so long as China is expanding its influence in oil-rich regions centered in geopolitically significant locations. As it happens, these three African nations in question are integral to Chinese interests, so it is no surprise Pindostan made a show of sending someone with Pompeo’s status to talk with the leaders of Senegal, Angola and Ethiopia. Angola is the third-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, and the region’s second largest oil producer. It is of key relevance to Pindostan for those reasons, as well as the fact that Exxon Mobil and Chevron have significant interests in the country’s oil fields, as do France’s Total and Britain’s BP. Angola has received among the largest amounts of oil-backed Chinese infrastructure loans. It is China’s second-largest trading partner on the continent, and a key source of China’s oil. China will receive the bulk of Angola’s oil production. China also owns approximately 70% of Angola’s national debt.

The populous nation of Ethiopia, the last leg of Pompeo’s Africa tour, is one of the main destinations for Chinese businesses looking to invest in the continent. The two nations have also demonstrated a keenness to further promote military ties. Ethiopia’s proximity to Djibouti, which houses an official Chinese military base, will also be of some concern to Faschingstein, which views Ethiopia as a key security ally. Out of the three, it may in fact be Senegal that irks Pindostan the most. In 2018, Senegal joined China’s Silk Road Project, the first West African nation to do so. Senegal’s capital city, Dakar, is also hosting the 2021 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). In general, the African continent is predicted to have some 1.2b consumers by 2025. By the year 2030, consumer and business spending is expected to surpass $6t. We can’t possibly have all of these consumers investing their hard-earned cash in Chinese-owned enterprises. This dynamic equation is not unbeknown to locals, as one African literally told the WaPo:

Africa doesn’t interest Donald Trump. All he cares about is money.

However, Pindostan’s hypocritical behavior appears to be giving African leaders an uneasy sense that Pindostan is not going to look after their best interests moving forward. As a result, it is likely within its rights to rely less and less on a nation that helps sow instability and chaos in the African region, and turn instead to Pindo adversaries. It doesn’t take a genius to see why Africa is likely not getting too excited about Pompeo’s half-hearted approach to befriending key states in the region. Pindostan has been hyping up its intentions for Africa for well over a year, all the while combating China, but little has been done by Pindo boxtops in that time to strengthen the relationship with Africa, even with the announcement of the Prosper Africa strategy. By comparison, Pres Xi Jinping has visited Africa multiple times. In 2018, he visited Senegal to give Senegel’s Pres Macky Sall the “golden key” to a $52m wrestling stadium which came to fruition as part of a large Chinese aid program. Furthermore, the Chinese foreign minister has traveled to Africa at the start of every new year for the last 30 years. Donald Trump hasn’t visited Africa at all, but has made some genuinely derogatory comments about the region. In light of this ‘which suitor?’ dilemma, Kenyan Pres Kenyatta recently said:

We don’t want to be forced to choose. We must begin to look at Africa as the world’s biggest opportunity. I believe you can dare to look at it with a fresh eye.

At the end of the day, African nations don’t want to be used as a proxy battleground for Pindostan and China to engage in Cold War #2. Broadly speaking, China is Africa’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade amounting to well over $200b. Between 2010 and 2016, Chinese investment in Africa doubled. In Sep 2018 alone, Pres Xi had committed an extra $60b in financing, which included $10b reserved for Chinese buying of African goods. Pindostan has barely increased its investments since 2010. Beijing has also lived up to its promises of canceling debt for struggling nations, further putting into question the idea that China is actively using “debt-trap diplomacy” to bring these nations to their heels. While Pindostan likes to paint an evil picture of China as a predator pouncing on Africa and its resources, the truth is that African leaders are less likely to share this sentiment, and even less likely to believe that Pindostan is genuine in its recent rhetoric. Pompeo is visiting Africa out of necessity, to demonstrate Pindostan’s commitment to its foreign policy strategy, but not much commitment to anything much else.

scott ritter on erdogan’s chances

Turkey faces strategic defeat in Idlib after failing to live up to its commitments on Syria
Scott Ritter, RT.com, Feb 19 2020

Turkish commandos with APCs in Reyhanli, Feb 13 2020.
Photo: Cem Genco/Anadolu

When Turkey threw its weight behind the anti-Assad rebellion in 2011, it did so believing that it would be able to dictate the outcome on the ground by controlling the main organized resistance forces, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), formed from the ranks of defectors from the Syria Arab Army (SAA) and various bands of Islamist fighters affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). But the rebellion took on a life of its own and in 2012 Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, a Syrian Islamist fighting for AQI, returned to Syria to form a new resistance organization loyal to AQ, which became known as Jabhat al-Nusra. Over time, it emerged as the most effective anti-regime combat organization, surpassing the Turkish-controlled FSA for relevance on the battlefield. Nusra’s AQ affiliation, impaired its ability to receive outside funding, arms and equipment, and starting in 2015 it underwent a series of rebranding efforts, before assuming its current name, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in early 2017. But the rebranding efforts could not alter the fact that HTS remained a designated terrorist group in the eyes of much of the world, including Turkey.

Today, Jolani’s HTS comprises the bulk of the 30,000 or so anti-regime fighters operating in Idlib province, the last bastion of rebel-controlled territory in Syria. The SAA, backed by pro-Iranian militias and Russian Aerospace Forces (RAF), has been attacking both FSA and HTS positions in Idlib since 2015 to restore Syrian government authority over the area. In Sep 2018, to spare the civilian population in Idlib from the depravations of war, a ceasefire was agreed to by the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran during a summit convened in Sochi. Under the terms of the Sochi Agreement, Russia and Syria would forego offensive military operations in Idlib in exchange for Turkey enforcing so-called disengagement zones (DEZs), where anti-regime forces would surrender their heavy weapons and fighters from designated terrorist organizations such as HTS would be disarmed and evacuated. To support this effort, Turkey established a series of heavily-armed observation posts throughout the DEZs. However, instead of disarming the FSA and evicting HTS, Turkey used the outposts as a deterrence for any renewed offensive action by the SAA & RAF. In short, Turkey failed to live up to virtually the totality of its commitments under Sochi.

By the summer of 2019, both Russia and Syria decided that the ceasefire was no longer in effect, and renewed their offensive, targeting HTS forces dug in in and around the designated DEZs. This offensive has succeeded in destroying or displacing tens of thousands of HTS fighters, resulting in numerous strategic towns being recaptured by the SAA, along with vast swaths of territory. The Turkish forces in the observation posts were powerless to stop the offensive, and by Feb 2020, ten out of the twelve observation posts had been surrounded by the SAA. The seeming impotence of the Turkish military in the face of the combined SAA & RAF attack both enraged and embarrassed Erdogan, who dispatched some 5,000 soldiers accompanied by hundreds of pieces of military equipment, including tanks, armored fighting vehicles and artillery pieces into Idlib. Some of these forces were taken under fire by the SAA, with at least 13 Turkish soldiers being killed. Turkey claims to have responded in kind, killing scores of Syrian soldiers. The loss of life only angered Erdogan further, prompting him to threaten both the SAA and RAF operating in Idlib with destruction if they did not withdraw back to the positions occupied at the time of the Sochi agreement.

The response of the SAA & RAF was to continue the attack, resulting in even more towns and territory being returned to Syrian government control. By failing to comply with its obligations under the Sochi agreement to disarm and disband HTS units operating inside Idlib province, Turkey opened the door for the current ongoing offensive action by forces belonging to Syria and Russia. By dispatching thousands of Turkish troops into Idlib, Erdogan was hoping neither Russia nor Syria would seek to escalate the fighting in Idlib to include force-on-force engagements with a NATO member. When a Russian military delegation dispatched to the Turkish capital Ankara early last week was not able to convince their Turkish counterparts to back down, Erdogan doubled down by deploying even more troops and equipment into Idlib, and threatening to forcefully expel the SAA by month’s end if they did not cease their attacks. The SAA responded by surrounding even more Turkish military outposts, recapturing all of Aleppo from HTS and FSA forces, and driving deeper into HTS-held territory. Erdogan’s bluff had been effectively called.

The Turks now find themselves in an impossible situation. In a desperate bid to isolate itself from HTS, the Turks ordered all FSA forces that had been dispatched to reinforce HTS-controlled territory to return to Turkish-controlled territory, effectively isolating HTS forces on the battlefield, where they have subsequently either been destroyed or forced to retreat deeper into what remains of their Idlib bastion. For the Turkish troops still deployed inside Idlib, their situation has become increasingly perilous. Their numbers and dispositions preclude any chance of a meaningful defense of Idlib, even if the decision was made to engage the RAF & SAA. The best the Turks can hope for at this juncture is a new ceasefire that allows their military forces in Idlib to be withdrawn safely with their honor intact. In any event, by aligning its interests with those of Jolani and HTS, in violation of the 2018 Sochi Agreement, Turkey has made its position in Idlib unsustainable both militarily and politically. Under the 2018 Sochi agreement, Turkey was supposed to disarm and disassociate itself from HTS. Its failure to do so has sown the seeds of Turkey’s inevitable defeat in Syria.

confirmed: boris licks donald’s ass

Huawei shut out from scheme to see how 5G can link communities
Mark Sweney, Groon, Feb 20 2020
Huawei has been banned from participating in a £65m government scheme to explore how next-generation 5G technology can drive businesses and connect communities across the UK. The government set up the scheme last year, calling on businesses and communities to apply for funding to trial the vast potential of 5G technology. The first trials to receive funds include: exploring the use of the new technology to monitor the environment in North Yorkshire in an effort to develop an early warning system for flooding; experimenting with how 5G can help coastal search and rescue in Dorset; and testing how it can help the production of electric vehicles in a project led by Ford and Vodafone. However, the government, which announced on Thursday that its funding for the scheme would increase from £35m to £65m, said it would not award any funds to projects that aimed to involve the Chinese telecoms equipment group Huawei. Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said:

None of the winning projects, or future projects, will use equipment from high risk vendors.

Last month, the government, which has deemed Huawei to be a high-risk supplier because of its Chinese ownership, announced limits on the use of the firm’s equipment in the 5G networks being rolled out across the UK. The government has said Huawei is allowed to be involved in the non-core parts of the UK’s 5G network, the masts and towers, but with a 35% cap on use of the firm’s equipment. Huawei equipment is banned from use in the core of 5G mobile networks, where data is processed, and from sensitive locations such as those near nuclear sites and military bases. BT, which owns the mobile operator EE, said complying with the new regulations would cost it £500m as it stripped out and replaced Huawei equipment in its network over the next five years. Vodafone has said it will cost €200m (£169m) to comply across Europe, although in the UK it is already almost compliant. The government has committed to a total £200m investment in testbeds and trials across the UK to explore new ways 5G can be used, such as in farming, connectivity on trains, connecting rural communities, tourism and healthcare. Oliver Dowden, the DCMS secretary, said:

We’re determined to make the UK a world-leader in 5G and deliver on our promise to improve connections for people and businesses across the country. This includes seeing how it could create new jobs in the countryside, make businesses more productive and unleash even more ideas in our cutting-edge creative industries.

Pindostan ‘very concerned’ over Huawei’s role in UK 5G network
Dan Sabbagh, Mathilda Walters, Groon, Feb 19 2020

Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff has warned there could be “a direct and dramatic impact” on the sharing of intelligence between Pindostan and UK if Boris Johnson’s government goes ahead with allowing Huawei to supply equipment to build the British 5G mobile phone network. Mick Mulvaney’s remarks represent one of the most forceful warnings yet by senior Trump admin boxtops, who have repeatedly made clear their concerns about the British decision to allow the Chinese company to supply its technology. Speaking to an audience at the Oxford Union on the eve of a meeting he was due to have with Dominic Cummings and other British senior aides at Downing Street, Mulvaney said Pindostan was “very much concerned” about the issue. He told his audience at a behind-closed-doors event on Wednesday evening for student members of Oxford Union:

Our governments share a tremendous amount of security information. We are very much concerned that integrity of that information is hardwired into your computer systems, and if you folks go forward with the decision to include Huawei, it will have a direct and dramatic impact on our ability to share information with you. Period, end of story.

Mulvaney is due to come to Downing Street on Thursday for a meeting with Cummings, Johnson’s influential chief aide, and his direct counterpart, chief of staff Sir Edward Lister. Sources said that he was not expected to meet with Johnson himself, however. Pindostan has been trying to downplay the significance of the visit to London since news of it first leaked late last week, although pressure from the White House has remained high a month after the UK announced it would allow Huawei kit to be used in the new 5G network. In the past week Pompeo and Esper have both warned about Huawei, while Trump called the Pindo ambassador to Germany on Sunday night to pass on his concerns. Britain’s spy agencies believe that any surveillance risk from Huawei can be contained, and that they are familiar with the Chinese company’s technology, which has been used in both 3G and 4G networks, but Pindostan, often engaged in trade conflict with China, insists there is a security problem. Mulvaney is coming to London with Robert Blair, the White House’s Huawei envoy, who is expected to hold meetings with British experts and politicians concerned about the Chinese company. The critical meeting comes amid speculation that the White House wants the UK to commit to removing Huawei from British mobile phone networks in the near future, perhaps three to five years’ time, given that it is already a leading supplier to UK phone companies. The UK plan is to limit Huawei to a cap of 35% for each of the country’s four mobile phone operators, Vodafone, O2, EE and Three, although it will require the consent of parliament. Eliminating Huawei immediately would cost hundreds of millions more and would delay the rollout of 5G by a couple of years. Mulvaney arrived in Oxford, via Belfast where he had meetings with the DUP leader and Stormont first minister Arlene Foster, and with Michelle O’Neill, the deputy first minister from Sinn Féin, a day after meeting Irish PM Leo Varadkar. He claimed that had been his principal reason for visiting, saying in Oxford:

I introduced myself to some of the leaders in Northern Ireland so we can make sure that lines of communication would be open between Pindostan and Northern Ireland. My country has some ideas of honest broker that involve (the Republic of) Ireland and Northern Ireland.

thieves (and mass murderers) fall out

Intelligence Spats: Australia, Britain and Huawei
Binoy Kampmark, Off-guardian, Feb 19 2020

A note of fraternal tension has been registered between the UK and Australia. It began with Britain’s decision to permit China’s technology giant Huawei a role in the construction of the country’s 5G network. While the decision is qualified to non-core functions, as UK boxtops term it, the irritations to Pindostan and, it follows, Australia, have been far from negligible. Pindo Congress critturs have been clear that letting Huawei into the stables of security risks future trade deals. Pompeo has been equally insistent on the dangers on his visit to the UK, saying among other things:

When you allow the information of your citizens of the national security information of your citizens to transit a network that the Chinese Communist Party has a legal mandate to obtain, it creates risk.

At the MSC, Esper warned:

Reliance on Chinese 5G vendors could render our partners critical systems vulnerable to disruption, manipulation and espionage.

As for Trump, the words “apoplectic” and “fury” figured in responding to the UK decision. Australian boxtops have relished their role in telling the old, long-in tooth Mother Country off. Simon Gilding, director of the ASD till December, wrote in The Strategist:

5G decisions reflect one of those quietly pivotal moments that crystallise a change in world affairs. The UK is putting its faith in a flawed and outdated cyber-security model, to convince themselves that they can manage the risk that Chinese intelligence services could use Huawei’s access to UK telco networks to insert bad code.

The British decision had been “disappointing, doing the wrong thing” on the technology. For instance, it had not considered Australian testing in the field. He recalled:

I was part of the team in the ASD that tried to design a suite of cyber-security controls that would give the government confidence that hostile intelligence services could not leverage their national vendors to gain access to our 5G networks. Measures of mitigation were designed with the express purpose of preventing a state actor from gaining access to the networks. All failed.

The UK government has been attempting to reassure the “Five Eyes” that their security concerns are unjustified. Raab spent a good deal of his time during this month’s visit to Canberra attempting to assuage members of the Federal Parliament Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. That effort seemed to fall flat. In a report in the SMH, Deputy Intelligence Committee Chair and Labor MP Anthony Byrne was irate, notably at Raab’s response that the Huawei decision was a “technical” if “difficult” matter, but hardly political. Byrne is reported to have asked of Raab:

How would you feel if the Russians laid down infrastructure in your own networks? That’s how we feel about Huawei.

Officially, Byrne gave the impression that things had gone rather well in “a full and frank discussion regarding 5G, trade and strategic challenges.” Privately, that same Byrne was cocksure, daring, even rude. According to the source reported in the SMH, He basically said:

I’ll raise you my ASD against your GCHQ.

China, he argued, had become an “existential” threat to Australia, being both its largest trading partner and most formidable “security threat.” Few others were privy to the discussions that took place between Raab and various Australian parliamentarians. Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee’s Liberal MP Andrew Hastie was present, as was Foreign Affairs Committee chair, Liberal senator David Fawcett. The other person to bear witness to discussions was the UK High Commissioner Vicki Treadell. For Treadell, the matter was obvious. Someone in the meeting had ratted. As the ABC subsequently found out, “measured” and “stern” letters were duly sent from the High Commissioner’s Office to both committee chairs chiding them for the leaks. Despite failing to confirm the existence of such letters, the UK Commission being supposedly “unable to comment on private briefings, or on any information pertaining to these private briefings”, the shells had been fired. Feeling put out, Parliament’s intelligence and security committee cancelled a planned visit to the UK scheduled to take place in March, preferring the more reliable, anti-Huawei environs of Washington. The official, anodyne explanation for the cancellations was put down to advice given by Australia’s High Commissioner in the UK “as he advised that counterpart committees in the UK have not yet reconstituted following the UK’s December election.” The reasons given to the ABC by a member of the intelligence committee proved more forthright:

If this is the attitude of the British, we may as well visit the Pindos, who we can trust more on this stuff.

A right royal spat, indeed, and one not without its juvenile connotations.

this story is about pindostan’s degenerate & racist ‘journalism’, as much as it is about china

China expels WSJ reporters over ‘racist’ headline
Eva Xiao, AFP News, Feb 19 2020

China on Wednesday ordered three reporters from the WSJ to leave the country over what it deemed a racist headline, in one of the harshest moves against foreign media in years. Pindostan protested what it called an affront to press freedom. The day before, it had tightened rules on Chinese media organisations that it considers state propaganda. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the WSJ opinion piece, “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia,” had a “racially discriminatory” and “sensational” headline, and slammed the newspaper for not issuing an official apology. Geng told a press briefing:

As such, China has decided that from today, the press cards of three WSJ reporters in Beijing will be revoked.

The WSJ reported that deputy bureau chief Josh Chin and reporters Chao Deng and Philip Wen had been ordered to leave the country in five days. Pompeo condemned the expulsions and voiced hope that China would one day allow its citizens “the same access to accurate information” that Pindos enjoy. Pompeo said in a statement:

Mature, responsible countries understand that a free press reports facts and expresses opinions. The correct response is to present counter arguments, not restrict speech.

The three journalists work in the WSJ’s news section, which is not linked to the editorial and opinion section. The newspaper’s publisher, William Lewis, said the outlet was “deeply disappointed” with China’s decision and asked that the visas of the three reporters be reinstated. Lewis said in a statement:

This opinion piece was published independently from the WSJ newsroom and none of the journalists being expelled had any involvement with it. The need for quality, trusted news reporting from China is greater than ever, Roday’s decision to target our news department journalists greatly hinders that effort. However, this has clearly caused upset and concern amongst the Chinese people, which we regret.

The op-ed, written by Bard College professor Walter Russell Mead, criticised the Chinese government’s initial response to the new coronavirus outbreak, calling the Wuhan city government at the virus epicentre “secretive and self-serving,” while dismissing national efforts as ineffective. The phrase “sick man of Asia” originally referred to China in the late 19th and early 20th century, when it was exploited by foreign powers during a period sometimes called the country’s “century of humiliation,” Mead tweeted after the op-ed was published:

At Pindo newspapers, writers typically do NOT write or approve the headlines. Argue with the writer about the article content, with the editors about the headlines.

The new coronavirus epidemic has killed more than 2,000 people in China and infected more than 74,000, and has spread to at least two dozen countries. Geng said:

The article slandered the efforts of the Chinese government and the Chinese people to fight the epidemic.

The expulsions come a day after Pindostan angered China by classifying five state media outlets as foreign missions, including Xinhua and the China Global TV Network, with State Dept boxtops saying they were part of Beijing’s growing propaganda apparatus. On Wednesday, Global Times said in an editorial on its English-language website:

There are no connections between the two events, but it is not completely coincidental that they happened at about the same time. The two countries’ values are drifting apart. This is not a good sign.

China’s move to force out the three journalists marks a drastic escalation in pressure on the international media. Multiple foreign reporters have been effectively expelled over the past five years. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said in a statement:

The action taken against the WSJ correspondents is an extreme and obvious attempt by the Chinese authorities to intimidate foreign news organisations. China has not outright expelled a foreign correspondent since 1998. Nine journalists have been either expelled or effectively expelled through non-renewal of visas since 2013. In August, China refused to renew the press credentials of WSJ journalist Chun Han Wong, after he and Wen wrote an article on one of Pres Xi Jinping’s cousins. Our 2019 survey of 109 foreign journalists said many working in China have been threatened with visa delays, or issued with short-stay visas, which they believed were related to their coverage.

even the demure jason ditz is driven to an alarmist headline

Turkey Edges Toward Direct War With Syria in Idlib Province
Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, Feb 19 2020

Erdogan says that a military operation in north-west Syria to expel Syrian forces from Idlib is only “a matter of time,” as Turkey continues to send more troops into the area. Turkey has launched multiple attacks against the SAA in the past month, mostly to try to slow SAA advances against AQ. Erdogan has repeatedly demanded Syria abandon the Idlib Province to the Islamist groups, and now intends to try to directly do this. Erdogan presented this new war as necessary because talks with Russia failed to get them to expel Syria from this Syrian province. Russia, however, is warning Turkey against trying to impose a military solution in north-west Syria. Turkey is trying to present operations in support of AQ’s territorial control as a humanitarian necessity, and Syria’s fighting as endangering civilians.

Turkey edges towards direct conflict with Russian-backed Syria
Tuvan Gumrukcu, Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Reuters, Feb 19 2020

ANKARA/AMMAN – Erdogan said on Wednesday a military operation by his forces to push back a Syrian government offensive against rebels in north-west Syria was now “a matter of time” after talks with Russia failed to halt the assault. Turkish troops have already massed inside the Idlib region and more were heading to the border area, bringing NATO member Turkey and Russian-backed Syria close to the brink of direct confrontation. The Kremlin, which has supported the SAA push with airstrikes, said a clash between Turkish and SAA forces would be a “worst-case scenario” and Russia would work to prevent the situation from worsening. SAA troops supported by Russian warplanes and special forces have been battling since December to eradicate the last rebel bastions in Idlib and Aleppo provinces in what could be one of the final chapters of the nine-year-old civil war. Speaking to MPs from his ruling AK Party on Wednesday, Erdogan said Turkey was determined to make Idlib a secure zone even while talks with Moscow continued. Several rounds of diplomacy had failed to reach an agreement so far, he said. Erdogan, whose country has the second-largest army in NATO, said:

We are entering the last days for the regime to stop its hostility in Idlib. We are making our final warnings. Turkey has made every preparation to carry out its own operational plans. I say that we can come at any point. In other words, the Idlib offensive is only a matter of time.

Erdogan on Saturday appeared to move forward his earlier end-of-February deadline for a Syrian withdrawal from Idlib. Assad has showed no sign of doing so and has predicted the eventual defeat of his foes. They include Turkish-backed rebels and jihadist militants. An opposition military source told Reuters that 15,000 Turkish soldiers were now in north-west Syria after numerous convoys had poured into the territory in recent days. he said, referring to a Turkish border town:

You can’t imagine the scale of Turkish reinforcements, half of Reyhanli is now full of Turkish commandoes ready to enter Syria. They are readying their forces for zero hour, operations are expected to start any time.

Ankara and Moscow signed an agreement in 2018 to establish a de-escalation zone in Idlib allowing both sides to set up observation posts. Since the escalation in the conflict, both sides have accused each other of flouting the agreement. In Moscow on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Syrian forces were upholding previous agreements but also reacting to provocations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said:

If we talk about an operation against legitimate Syrian authorities and armed forces, it is of course a worst-case scenario.

In the past week the Syrian army has seized dozens of towns around Aleppo and the M5 highway linking Damascus to Aleppo. It was unclear when Ankara and Moscow might resume talks. Syrian military defector general Ahmad Rahhal said the talks in Moscow on Monday “were humiliating to Turkey” and had angered Ankara. He told Reuters:

The Russians have made a mistake. We are heading towards a Turkish military operation in Syria but no one knows exactly when. It may start in waves and gradually build up on several fronts.

Russia Warns Turkey, Blocks UN Bid To End Syria Bloodshed
Fulya Ozerkan, AFP, Feb 19 2020

Russia on Wednesday warned Turkey against intervening in Syria as it blocked a UN bid to end the Damascus regime’s brutal assault on the last rebel enclave. Syrian aid workers called urgently for a ceasefire and international help for nearly a million people fleeing the regime onslaught in the country’s northwestern Idlib province, the biggest wave of displaced civilians in the nine-year conflict. Turkey, supporter of some rebel groups in Idlib, has been pushing for a renewed ceasefire in talks with Russia, which backs the Syrian regime. Ankara is eager to prevent another flood of refugees into its territory adding to the 3.7 million Syrians it already hosts. The Syrian NGO Alliance said displaced people are “escaping in search of safety only to die from extreme weather conditions and lack of available resources.” Razan Saffour, of the Syrian Expatriate Medical Association, told AFP in Istanbul:

We have hundreds and thousands of people who are fleeing, not just from bombardments but from lack of insulation, from the weather, a lack of heating. It feels like doomsday.

The group said a total of $336m was needed for basic food, water and shelter. Education resources were also needed for 280 million displaced school-age children (sic! – RB). Erdogan said talks with Moscow over the past fortnight had so far failed to achieve “the desired result” and warned that Turkey would launch an offensive into Syria unless Damascus pulled its forces back by the end of the month. Erdogan said in a televised speech:

An operation in Idlib is imminent. We are counting down. We are making our final warnings.

He called for Syrian forces to retreat by the end of this month behind Turkey’s military posts in Idlib, which were set up under a 2018 deal with Russia designed to hold off a regime advance. The Kremlin quickly responded to Erdogan’s threat, saying that Turkey should instead act against “terrorist groups” in Idlib. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow:

If we are talking about an operation against the legitimate authorities of the SAR and armed forces of the SAR, this would of course be the worst-case scenario.

With Turkey moving large numbers of reinforcements into Idlib in recent weeks, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters in Ankara:

It is out of the question for us to withdraw from our observation posts. If there is any sort of attack against them, we will retaliate in kind.

Russia has repeatedly vetoed UNSCRs on the conflict, as it hopes for the triumph of the regime. At the UN, diplomats said they were unable to produce a statement on ending the fighting due to Russian objections. Nicolas de Riviere, the French ambassador to the UN, told reporters:

We tried very hard to have a press statement calling for cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access to Idlib. Basically Russia said no, which is very painful.

The UN envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, told the UNSC:

No progress has been reported after several rounds of talks between Turkey and Russia held in Ankara and Moscow. To the contrary, public statements from different quarters, Syrian and international, suggest an imminent danger of further escalation.

Earlier this week the UN said the displaced were mainly women and children. It warned that babies were dying of cold because aid camps are full. The Syrian NGOs called for the warring parties to allow safe access for humanitarian groups and for a “complete ceasefire and end to human rights violations.” According to the British-based SOHR, the regime offensive has killed more than 400 civilians since it began in December, adding to the toll of more than 380,000 who have died in the years of unrest. The UN OCHA head on site, Mark Lowcock, said earlier this week:

The violence in north-west Syria is indiscriminate. Health facilities, schools, residential areas, mosques and markets have been hit.

The head of the WHO said Tuesday that out of nearly 550 health facilities in north-west Syria, only about half were operational. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists in Geneva:

We repeat: health facilities and health workers are not a legitimate target.

Media Opposition Sources Run By British Intelligence
Moon of Alabama, Feb 19 2020

Russia has called Turkey’s bluff of a wide ranging attack on Syrian government forces. Erdogan will now have to find a way out of the Idleb trap he set himself in. His excellent Syria adventure is coming to an end. Meanwhile we learn that the British military intelligence ran another large disinformation campaign that brought ‘Syrian voices’ into the ‘western’ press. Erdogan continues with his wild rhetoric over Syria.

The Turkish talks with Russia have not gone well. Russia proposed the following points:

Some ten of Turkey’s observation points are currently surrounded by the SAA. If Turkey starts to escalate they will be in a dire situation. Turkey rejected the Russian proposal:

Erdoğan said on Feb 19 that talks with Russia on the northwestern Syrian region of Idlib were far from meeting Turkey’s demands and warned that a military operation there was a “matter of time.” Erdoğan said: “As with all operations, we say we could suddenly come one night. In other words, an Idlib operation is a matter of time. We are entering the last days for the regime to stop its hostility in Idlib. We are making our final warnings. Turkey has made all preparations to carry out its own operation plans in Idlib.”

The Kremlin spokesman called a Turkish attack the worst case scenario. Peskov said:

If it is an operation against Syria’s legitimate authorities and armed forces, it will definitely be the worst scenario. We are determined to continue to use our working contacts with our Turkish counterparts to prevent the situation in Idlib from escalating further.

Two hours after it published the above, TASS published this:

Two Russian Tupolev Tu-22M3 strategic bombers have performed a scheduled flight over the neutral waters of the Black Sea, Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. During the flight, the crews covered a distance of about 4,500 km and stayed in the air for more than five hours, the statement runs. Fighter jets of Russia’s Southern Military District escorted the bombers during the flight.

The Tu-22M3 can fire long-range cruise missiles. The Turkish military will understand that warning. The Russians are also prodding Erdogan with reports about Pindo weapon deliveries to Kurds in eastern Syria. Rear Adm Oleg Zhuravlev said in a daily briefing:

CENTCOM in the region is intensively saturating the territory east of the Euphrates river with weapons and ammunition. Since the beginning of 2020, 13 military convoys have arrived from Iraq to Syria, which included over 80 armored vehicles and more than 300 trucks loaded with various types of weapons, ammunition and materiel.

Reports now speak of more than a million refugees in Idleb even as the pre-war population of Idleb governorate never exceeded 1.5 million. Many of those already fled during the early war either to government held areas or to Turkey and beyond. Where are the million reported now supposed to have come from? The ‘western’ media is again practicing tear-jerking about these refugees in Idleb. But its reports forget to mention that AQ rules Idleb and that it prevents the people from crossing the line into Syrian government held areas:

In yet another lengthy, expensive, lavishly illustrated story about Idlib, the NYT once again failed to make any mention of the politics of what is happening in that enclave of north-western Syria, namely the fact that well-armed takfiri-jihadis from all around the world have controlled it for the past several years, while Syria’s government forces have been battling to regain control. In that latest article, as in all of the lengthy, one-sided tearjerkers it has published about Idlib over the past year, the NYT has no actual journalists or photographers on the ground reporting the story. It is wholly reliant instead on “stories” and footage it gathers from unverifiable sources inside the enclave, sources who notably never include any mention of the jihadi armed groups that control all aspects of life there.

Today we learn that many of these unverifiable sources have been on the British government payroll since at least 2012:

A number of leaked documents seen by Middle East Eye show how the propaganda initiative began in 2012 and gathered pace the following year, shortly after the UK parliament refused to authorise British military action in Syria. Drawing upon British, American and Canadian funding, UK government contractors set up offices in Istanbul and Amman, where they hired members of the Syrian diaspora, who in turn recruited citizen journalists inside Syria. During 2015, Free Syria, Syrian Identity and Undermine were funded in both British pounds and Canadian dollars, with the equivalent of around £410,000 ($540,000) being spent each month.

These ‘sources’ which were hired and instructed by the UK government are the ones quoted in ‘western’ papers. The whole scheme, like the British-organized White Helmets, was run by military intelligence officers:

Individuals familiar with the project say that around nine companies were invited to bid for the contracts. They included a number of firms established by former British diplomats, intelligence officers and army officers. Although the contracts were awarded by the UK’s foreign office, they were managed by the country’s Ministry of Defence, and sometimes by military intelligence officers. These companies set up offices in Amman, Istanbul and, for a period, at Reyhanli in south-east Turkey. From here they would employ Syrians who would in turn recruit citizen journalists inside Syria, who were under the impression that they were working for the media offices of Syrian opposition groups.

British intelligence also hired journalists to write ‘Syrian rebel’ propaganda stories, and organized and directed the opposition’s spokespersons:

Meanwhile, other leaked documents seen by MEE show that the British government had awarded contracts to communications companies which selected and trained opposition spokespeople, ran press offices that operated 24 hours a day and developed opposition social media accounts. British staff running these offices were told that their Syrian employees were permitted to talk to British journalists, as spokespeople for the Syrian opposition, but only after receiving clearance from officials at the British consulate in Istanbul. One of the responsibilities of the press offices set up covertly by the British government under the terms of these contracts was to “maintain an effective network of correspondents/stringers inside Syria to report on moderate armed opposition activity.” In this way, the British government was able to exert influence from behind the scenes over conversations that the UK media was having with individuals who presented themselves as Syrian opposition representatives.

It weren’t just UK media who cited those persons. The whole ‘civil opposition movement’ was, like the White Helmets, a well-organized and well-paid British government front. But when Turkey increased its role in Syria the British disinformation operation began to shut down:

British government enthusiasm for much of the work appears to have begun to wane as it became increasingly clear that the Assad government and its Russian and Iranian allies were winning the civil war, and funding for contracts began to dry up. Early in 2019, the Free Syrian Police, a British-backed organisation, finally ceased operations following a militant takeover of Idlib province, much to the dismay of civilians and civil society activists. The Turkish government is also said to have become less tolerant of the propaganda initiatives being co-ordinated from its territory. One British contractor is understood to have been expelled after the Turkish authorities discovered she had entered the country on a tourist visa.

That Turkey’s government became less tolerant to the British operation may also explain the death of the British military intelligence officer who ran the White Helmets propaganda group from his apartment in Istanbul.

yikes

Harrowing footage of 2007 Baghdad killings projected onto
UK parliament wall in protest against Assange’s extradition

RT.com, Feb 20 2020

Campaigners have projected the footage of a Pindo airstrike on Iraqi civilians, originally exposed by WikiLeaks, onto the parliament building in London, to protest against the proposed extradition to Pindostan of Julian Assange. Clips from the infamous 2007 footage were projected onto Westminster Palace, where both houses of parliament are located. The same video was projected on the wall of the Belmarsh maximum security prison in London, where the WikiLeaks co-founder is awaiting his Pindo extradition trial. The images on the buildings’ walls included photos of the activist along with slogans like ‘Don’t extradite Assange’ and ‘Journalism is not a crime.’ The anti-extradition group behind the stunt argues that the prosecution of Assange is unlawful because he did journalistic work, and all information published by WikiLeaks was of public interest. The classified footage, which was published by WikiLeaks in 2010, revealed how the crew of a Pindo AH-64 Apache attack chopper shredded a group of civilians in Baghdad, including two reporters working for Reuters, after (possibly) mistaking them for insurgents. Assange could face up to 175 years in prison if found guilty of all 18 charges that have been brought against him in Pindostan. His extradition hearings are to start next week.

Julian Assange case is the Dreyfus of our age, says John McDonnell
Ben Quinn, Groan, Feb 20 2020

The Pindo attempt to extradite Julian Assange is the “the Dreyfus case of our age”, John McDonnell has said after a two-hour visit to see the WikiLeaks founder in Belmarsh prison. On Wednesday it was claimed in a London court that Donald Trump had offered Assange a pardon if he would say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic party emails. Likening the plight of Assange to Alfred Dreyfus, McDonnell said Britain’s standing in the world would be severely damaged if the extradition went ahead. He said:

I think this is one of the most important and significant political trials of this generation. In fact, longer. I think it is the Dreyfus case of our age, the way in which a person is being persecuted for political reasons, for simply exposing the truth of what went on in relation to recent wars.

The extraordinary claim about the supposed offer of a pardon from Trump was made at a hearing at Westminster magistrates court on Wednesday before the opening next week of Assange’s legal battle to block attempts to extradite him. Assange faces charges in Pindostan for publishing hacked documents. A former Thug congress crittur named by the Assange legal team as a key witness denied the pardon claim. Assange’s lawyers alleged that during a visit to London in Aug 2017, congressman Dana Rohrabacher told Assange that “on instructions from the president he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.” Rohrabacher denied the claim, saying he had made the proposal on his own initiative, and that the White House had not endorsed it. McDonnell said he and Assange had discussed the issue of the reported pardon but had not gone into great detail. He said:

We are hoping that in court he is able to defeat the extradition bid. We don’t believe that extradition should be used for political purposes, and all the evidence, even the recent revelations with regard to Trump engagement, demonstrates that this is a political trial and we are hoping that the courts will see it that way. If this extradition takes place it will damage the democratic standing of our own country as well as Pindostan. We have a long-standing tradition in this country of standing up for whistleblowers, journalists. If this extradition takes place, I think it will damage our reputation.

A protest in support of Assange is due to take place on Saturday in Trafalgar Square and will be addressed by political figures and others such as Brian Eno. McDonnell said he and others were calling on people to demonstrate peacefully. He alluded to attempts to build a cross-party alliance to fight any extradition, adding that there were Tory MPs who he believed could come onboard. He also believed there were “deep doubts” in government, based on comments by Johnson to Corbyn about the unbalanced nature of the extradition treaty between Pindostan and the UK. McDonnell said:

The problems we have now is that when the hearings start they will be sub judice, and it will be difficult to raise it in the House of Commons, but we will be looking to see how we can raise it as often as we possibly can, of course within parliamentary rules, but also build cross-party support, and as you know people like David Davis have raised their concerns, so this is across parties in the House of Commons. I am hoping that combination of cross-party support, what has happened in the media, the exposés that have taken place in recent weeks, will ensure that we have a climate of opinion in this country that prevents this extradition taking place.

Media report ‘Trump asked Assange to deny/cover up link with Russia,’ quoting statement showing no such thing
Nebojsa Malic, RT.com, Feb 19 2020

Almost a year since Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ probe dropped dead from lack of evidence, mainstream media outlets are still pushing ‘Donald Trump-Russia collusion’ as established fact, twisting words to make it seem that way. Case in point are breathless bombshells on Wednesday that Assange’s lawyers confirmed Trump offered the WikiLeaks founder a pardon if he “denied Russia link to hack” of the Demagogs in 2016 (Groon) or “cover up the involvement of Russia in hacking” the DNC (Beast).

Both outlets base their headlines on a revelation from Westminster Magistrates Court, where Assange’s barrister Edward Fitzgerald presented a statement from another attorney, Jennifer Robinson, about Pindo Congressman Dana Rohrabaher “going to see Assange and saying on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Assange said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.” Though both publications faithfully reproduced Fitzgerald’s quote, they both jumped to the exact same conclusion, presenting Robinson’s statement as proof that Trump sought to “deny” or “cover up” what they treat as the established fact, namely the ‘Russian hack’ of the DNC, and the subsequent publication of internal party emails. Never mind that the ‘Russian hack’ has only been alleged by Mueller’s prosecutors and the Pindo intelligence community, the same one that spied on Trump during and after the 2016 election, the main story around which this malicious misinterpretation resolves isn’t even true. While Rohrabacher did visit Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, he said it was Assange who showed him “definitive proof that Russia was not the source” for the DNC emails, according to a Feb 2018 report in the Intercept.

Furthermore, Rohrabacher said that he was never able to share this with Trump, because he was blocked by the president’s chief of staff at the time, John Kelly. Rohrabacher told the Intercept:

Not only Kelly, but others are worried if I say one word to Trump about Russia, that it would appear to out-of-control prosecutors that that is where the collusion is.

Meanwhile, Assange did not want to release the evidence publicly, so as not to compromise his sources and methods. The timeline of events also goes against the Groon’s and Beast’s interpretation. Months after the meeting with Rohrabacher, in Nov 2018, a secret Pindo indictment against Assange was revealed. Mueller delivered his report, finding no evidence of any Pindos “colluding” with Russia in the 2016 election, on Mar 22 2019. Less than three weeks later, on Apr 11, Assange’s asylum was revoked and he was hauled out of the embassy in handcuffs. The WikiLeaks publisher was thrown into a dungeon in Belmarsh, where he has been ever since. In May, the Pindo government revealed the expanded indictment, threatening him with 175 years behind bars for “attempted hacking,” but in relation to the 2010 Pentagon disclosures, not the 2016 election. Meanwhile, the same media outlets that have spent the past three years screeching about Trump’s “collusion” with Russia are twisting words of Assange’s lawyers to retroactively validate their repeatedly debunked reporting, and see the WikiLeaks journalist imprisoned forever.

UK post brexit

941Source: Groan

Priti Patel claims 8.5 m people could fill workforce gaps created by new immigration plan
Andrew Woodcock, Independent, Feb 19 2020

Priti Patel has been branded “clueless” after claiming that labour shortages caused by her tough new immigration plans could be filled by 8.5m “economically inactive” people in the UK. The home secretary was speaking as sectors from care homes to construction to farming warned that they will face difficulty recruiting enough staff after the points-based system comes into force at the end of the year. But official figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the 8.5m 16 to 64 year olds currently not seeking work include around 2.3m students and 2.1 million long-term sick, as well as more than 1.1m who are retired and 1.9m who are looking after their family or home. Fewer than 1.9m of the total were recorded as wanting a job. The IPPR think tank calculated that Ms Patel’s immigration plans, which replace free movement with a requirement for most migrants to have a job offer worth £25,600 or more, would rule out around 70% of EU workers currently in the country, delivering a “shock” to key sectors of the economy. Those excluded would include 90% of EU nationals in the transport and storage sector, 85% in hotels and restaurants, 66% in health and social care and 59% in construction, the think tank said. Boris Johnson said the changes would mean the UK “welcoming the best and brightest from around the world whilst maintaining full control of our borders.” And Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage hailed them as “a very big step in the right direction.” But Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said they spelt “absolute disaster” for the care sector, which has not been granted an exemption from the minimum pay threshold. And the Federation of Master Builders said closing the door on “low-skill” workers would stand in the way of Mr Johnson achieving his promises of massive infrastructure investment and 1m new homes. Brian Berry, the trade association’s chief executive, said:

It’s simply unrealistic to assume the domestic workforce will fill this gap in the next nine months.

Dame Sara Thornton, the anti-slavery commissioner, warned that the protection of vulnerable people needs to be “front and centre” of the debate on the changes, as people-traffickers “will seek every opportunity to abuse new immigration policies” during a period of significant upheaval in the system. Meanwhile, Ms Patel conceded that her own parents, who set up a chain of newsagents after arriving in the UK in the 1960s, would not have been allowed into the UK under her new rules, though she suggested that they might instead have qualified under arrangements for refugees, having faced persecution in Uganda. Challenged over fears her plans will leave gaps in the workforce, the home secretary told Sky News:

It is about time businesses started to invest in people in this country. We have over 8 million people aged between 16 and 64 that are economically inactive right now. That is 20% of the workforce. It is down to businesses to work well with the government and join us in investing in people, levelling up across the UK so we can have wage growth across the entire country.

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, said it was “not credible” for ministers to expect millions of pensioners, students and carers to enter the workforce. she said:

Precarious youth and seasonal visas aren’t the answer either. The government’s plans will make it easier for bad bosses to exploit migrant workers and drive down pay and conditions for everyone.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said:

Priti Patel is clearly clueless about the labour market. Not only has she unveiled an immigration policy that potentially devastates our social care sector, detrimentally impacting on some of the most vulnerable in society, she’s also justifying it by saying that those who are carers, sick or retired should take up these jobs. Yet again, the Tories are putting dogma ahead of the needs of the economy and it’s the vulnerable paying the price.

Lib Dem home affairs spox Christine Jardine said:

Priti Patel’s comment is evidence that this government does not care a jot about people’s lives. Rather than allowing people to travel to the UK and contribute to our economy by working, Priti Patel would rather drag people out of education, out of retirement and out of hospital beds and set them to work.

Social care providers were loudest in their warnings about the blow the new immigration rules would deal to their sector. Migrants make up around 17% of staff in adult social care, 40% in London, and there are currently more than 120,000 unfilled vacancies across the country. The Nuffield Trust warned that Patel’s proposals risked pushing the sector “over the edge,” while Nadra Ahmed from the National Care Association said:

The government is either not listening or closing their eyes to the fact that social care needs to be on the shortage occupation list.

Farmers welcomed changes to increase the number of seasonal workers they can recruit from outside the EU from 2,500 to 10,000 for the coming harvest. But the National Farmers’ Union urged the government to commit to a full scheme for 2021, so growers can recruit the 70,000 seasonal workers needed on fruit, vegetable and flower farms. NFU president Minette Batters said that failure to provide an entry route not only for fruit-pickers, but also packers, meat processors and vets, would “severely impact” on their ability to deliver high-quality, affordable food for the public. And Martin Emmett of the Horticultural Trades Association said that a “significant increase” in numbers of seasonal agricultural worker places would be needed if the industry was to help Mr Johnson deliver his manifesto pledge to plant 75,000 acres of trees a year as part of the UK’s fight against climate change. he said:

The ornamental horticulture sector, along with other sectors, relies upon a seasonal workforce for its essential operations. We stand ready to support government targets on tree planting, import substitution, biosecurity and UK production, but the government needs to support the industry in how the shortfalls in labour are to be fulfilled in 2021 and beyond.

The more dysfunctional the royals are, the more their fans love them
Marina Hyde, Groan, Feb 20 2020

News that Prince Harry and Meghan will cease their royal duties at the end of next month is now in, yet offers no letup in the backbreaking schedule of Windsors-related toss-giving demanded of all UK humans. On the one hand, we are told that all this may turn out to be a mortal blow for the royal family, though my feeling is the mere fact of “Charles III” has the potential to be rather more seismic. On the other hand, we have never seemed to care more about these people. Whatever happened to Prince Charles’s much vaunted plan for a slimmed-down royal family? Over the past fortnight, there has been extensive coverage of the divorce of Peter Phillips, an event that perhaps mildly explains the trashy milk adverts Princess Anne’s son filmed for the Chinese market. One of these showed him as a shill for a state-owned dairy in the grounds of a palace-like stately home, gulping down milk as if his dignity depended on it, adorned by the slogan “British Royal Family Member Peter Phillips”. This generated a content frenzy, including such hilarities as the headline “PRINCESS DIANA’S CHEF SPOTS MAJOR ERROR IN PETER PHILLIPS’ MILK ADVERT.” Then, barely a week after the Phillips divorce news, we were “rocked” on behalf of the Queen by news of “yet more family heartache”, with the divorce of her nephew Viscount Linley and his wife Serena, a pair with the sort of general name recognition you might enjoy in one of the better witness protection programmes.

At first glance, it might seem that these hugely arcane tours through the court and social outliers are just an easy way to get more Meghan into the SEO terms. But the sheer churn of it all suggests that interest in the royals is the highest it’s been in years. Whether or not people care to admit it, they are most drawn to the Windsors when they are having unhappy dramas. The relationship of royal watchers to the watched is hugely dysfunctional. Take Prince Andrew’s 60th birthday, which was yesterday. A year ago, this event would have got no coverage to speak of, though the party he’d have thrown to celebrate might have provided some bog standard Range Rover arrival shots of people you didn’t care about even in the 90s. But given The Unpleasantness, there have been acres of stuff written about the very absence of celebration, all sufficiently lapped up for further acres of it to be produced to meet demand. There was the week of drama over whether or not councils should have to fly their town hall flags to mark it; the alleged “furore” over Westminster Abbey’s bells ringing for it; further slavering over how very little there was to slaver over. A personal favourite was Buckingham Palace’s unnecessary decision to press release the duke’s own decision NOT to become a full admiral, which you sense would have been a wrench for Andy. It’s a much better 60th birthday present than whisky stones, an apron saying “Old Fart”, or a brain-training game. Over to the formal Buckingham Palace communiqué on the matter, which milked the upset for all it was worth. It began ominously:

By convention, the Duke of York would be in line for military promotion on his 60th birthday. Following the decision by His Royal Highness to step back from public duties for the foreseeable future, the Duke of York has asked the Ministry of Defence if this promotion might be deferred until such time that His Royal Highness returns to public duty.

Could be the 12th of never; could be in his 90s, just in time to take advantage of the rising sea levels. Either way, you get the strong impression that the Windsors are still serving up exactly what people want. I’m struggling to imagine how they could have leaned in to it all any further, bar throwing Andrew’s 60th dinner at Pizza Express in Woking. Instead, Andrew’s bijou 60th gathering was held at Royal Lodge, home of the duke and his destranged wife, Duchess Fergie. According to reports, the number of invitees who found they were unavailable on the date grew so large that a second batch of invitations was sent out by Fergie’s assistant. The standout report into the matter was one in the Mail offering what its two authors called “a haunting insight” into the upcoming dinner. This opened with a throwback to the Queen’s 60th bash. “Click, click,” wrote the reporters of that event, really putting you inside the action. “Taking the pictures was her son, Andrew … He was 26. Friends recall him marvelling at his mother and wondering ‘what I’ll be like at 60’.” Well how very convenient for your article that they do. Or as the authors put it grimly:

Now we know.

Then again, the many “friends” of the Duke have been on hand since the Epstein story broke, and for the past few weeks have been chiefly concerned with furnishing non-details of the non-event of his holing up at home. “We call it being in the bunker”, confided one of these friends to the Mail this week, as though that were a terrifically abstruse term of art. So, yes, do expect much more news on all these developing stories in the months and years to come. For now, it is to be assumed that you are across the fact that Prince Andrew is hunkered down at home, what they call “being in the bunker,” with the weather “so wet that he has hardly been able to expel his frustrations on the golf course.” Perhaps that’s for the best. Were HRH to play a round, I can only picture him tailed by a helpful friend, who would mark any unfortunate foray into a sanded course hazard by solemnly informing other golfers:

We call it being in the bunker.

brain death of UK, never mind NATO

EU Says Northern Ireland Must Keep Custom Checks Post-Brexit
Demond Cureton, Sputnik News, Feb 19 2020

Northern Ireland must comply apply European Union customs codes as well as standards in goods, EU advisor Stefaan De Rynck said on Wednesday. The comments were made just weeks after Britain left the EU on Jan 31, triggering a year-long transition period of fierce negotiations on trade and cooperation agreements. De Rynck made the comments at a speech at the London School of Economics, which aimed to discuss concerns over post-Brexit trade and finance. The chief advisor to EU chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, also said that trade talks would be tougher than negotiations that secured the UK’s divorce settlement, due to the broader scope of issues and deadline. EU officials had told the UK ‘well in advance’ that free trade deals would require London to uphold comittments to fair competition, he added. The EU “respects” that the UK government has said that Brexit meant “friction and the creation of non-tariff barriers to trade,” De Rynck said as reported by Sky News political correspondent Rob Powell, but added that Mr Barnier had said in prior comments that “if you leave the single market, there will be friction.”

The EU “precondition” of a robust level playing field guarantee was “no surprise,” as it had been addressed by the EU27 as early as Mar 2018, De Rynck said. Every FTA was tailored to the third country involved, he added, responding to comments from Downing Street tweeted on late Tuesday.

​The UK’s Brexit plans were a “source of concern” and that its “level of ambition” was not being met as stated in last year’s agreement, he added, citing a ministerial statement released earlier in February. De Rynck added that the closest possible security relationship would require work with the ECJ if EU concepts were to be used, including adherence to the ECHR. The UK’s decision to end freedom of movement in the country was no surprise, he said, adding:

Free movement has been a tremendous benefit for this country economically and culturally.

The news comes after Barnier said that the EU would “never, never, never” compromise on the integrity of the common market, adding that London would face the reality after ‘underestimating’ the costs of leaving the EU. The top EU Brexit chief made the comments at the Queen’s University in Belfast amid uncertainty over the Irish backstop, which would enforce physical custom checks at the border between the country and Republic of Ireland, Reuters reported in late January. He said at the time:

Leaving the single market, leaving the customs union will have consequences. And what I saw in the last year is that many of these consequences have been underestimated in the UK. Now we have to face the reality.

Further problems arose after Mr Barnier struck down any notion of a ‘Canada-style’ free trade agreement with Brussels, stating that the geographical proximities of a UK-EU free trade deal were “very particular” and could not work as with deals between the UK and South Korea or Japan. The comments were followed by London’s plans to bar non-English speaking migrants and unskilled overseas workers after Brexit, which the Cabinet Office arguing for further investment in automation and retaining current workforces, allowing Downing Street to keep campaign promises to reduce net immigration figures. The UK officially left the EU at 23:01 on Jan 31, with a deadline of Dec 31 to finalise any negotiations with Brussels and secure an FTA or risk entering a ‘no-deal’ scenario under WTO terms. Johnson said that he would deliver Brexit ‘come what may’ after snap elections in early December when UK Conservatives landed a further 80 seats in Commons.

Barnier rebuffs Frost over EU trade deal
Andrew Woodcock, Independent, Feb 18 2020

Michel Barnier has delivered a firm rebuff to Boris Johnson over claims that it would be “undemocratic” for Brussels to expect the UK to sign up to a “level playing-field” on rules and regulations in a future trade deal. The claim was made in a high-profile speech last night by the prime minister’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost, who said that the ability for Britain to diverge from EU rules was the main point of withdrawal. Barnier said that agreement on common rules in areas like workplace rights and environmental protections was necessary to avoid unfair competitive advantages between businesses on opposite sides of the Channel. Brussels fears that the absence of shared regulations would result in the UK dumping cut-price goods produced to lower standards in its markets. He pointedly noted that Mr Johnson himself signed up to “robust” level playing-field arrangements in the political declaration agreed with Brussels only a few months ago. And he cast doubt on the prospect of the UK securing the Canada-style trade deal which the PM is seeking without a commitment of this kind, insisting that Britain’s geographical proximity to the remaining 27-nation bloc meant the two countries’ positions were not comparable. In a signal that Brussels is not ready to budge on the position agreed with the UK in October, Mr Barnier said:

We remain ready to work very quickly with the UK on the basis of the political declaration agreed with Boris Johnson just a few months ago. We remain ready to propose a partnership if the UK want it.

The impasse points towards a strictly limited trade deal, or no deal at all, when the transition period to Brexit ends in December, raising the prospect of tariffs and non-tariff barriers on UK exports to the continent. Speaking in Brussels on Monday, Mr Frost said that the UK was “not frightened” by the threat of greater trade friction.“ He said:

This isn’t a simple negotiating position which might move under pressure. It’s the point of the whole project. Any attempt to force Britain to comply with Brussels regulations would be unsustainable. At some point, democratic consent would snap dramatically and finally.

But Mr Barnier said that the level playing field demand was “truly not” undemocratic, telling reporters in Brussels:

It is a sovereign decision of the UK and the EU to put in certain subjects their rules, their norms, in cooperation with each other. It is a sovereign decision of the EU. It is a sovereign decision of the UK to co-operate. In last October’s political declaration document, Mr Johnson agreed to pursue a future relationship ensuring open and fair competition, encompassing robust commitments to ensure a level playing field. It is formally written in the political declaration to prevent that distortion of competition, unfair competitive advantages. That is what Boris Johnson wrote in the political declaration. I am looking for a means calmly and seriously to translate into legal form the political commitments made with the UK, not without it.

The EU remains ready to seek an “ambitious partnership” with Britain, but its “particular and unique geographical proximity” means that any deal cannot be directly compared with those struck with Canada, South Korea or Japan, he said.

EU wages ‘slide wars’ against UK to convince Boris Johnson it will not back down in trade deal row
Rob Merrick, Independent, Feb 19 2020

The EU is waging ‘slide wars’ against the UK to convince Boris Johnson it will refuse a tariff-free trade deal if he insists on the right to break its rules. A graph sets out why the UK, a powerful economy on its doorstep, will not be allowed to wriggle out of past commitments not required of Canada, South Korea, Japan and other distant countries. It shows how about 13% of EU trade is with the UK, while just 2% or less is with countries many thousands of km away that enjoy favourable agreements with Brussels. What was widely-dubbed ‘slide wars’ is a riposte to the inflammatory speech by David Frost, the prime minister’s EU adviser, insisting democracy will “snap” unless the UK can set its own regulations. The stance puts the UK on course to crash out of the transition period at the end of 2020 with no trade deal, risking huge economic damage, unless one side gives ground. An aide to Michel Barnier, Brussels’ chief negotiator, again insisted it would not budge from maintaining “level playing field” on state subsidies, environmental protections and workers’ rights. Speaking in London, Stefaan De Rynck warned:

It’s clear that for us it’s a different ball game that we are playing with the UK to the one that we agreed with Canada in terms of the level playing-field. Some in the UK now seem to want to become Canadians, but Dover is much closer to Calais than Ottawa is. Proximity matters, distance matters in trade. What also matters is the interconnectedness between our economies. So, in terms of zero tariff, zero quota access, this brings a lot of benefits to the UK economy and with benefits come obligations.

The EU hit back after No 10 issued what was widely seen as a misleading claim about a 2017 EU slide, warning Theresa May she was heading towards a hard Brexit Canada-style deal she opposed. The official Downing Street account tweeted:

Now they say it’s not on offer after all. What’s changed?

Mrs May’s former chief of staff, backed the EU, saying:

Nothing has changed. The EU has always said an FTA with the UK would need greater level playing-field provisions.

He pointed to paragraph 77 of the political declaration signed by Mr Johnson last autumn, which pledged to “uphold the common high standards” for state aid and regulatory standards. The clash came as the EU further toughened its conditions for a tariff-free deal, on both regulatory alignment and access to UK fishing waters. A draft mandate discussed by EU ambassadors says any agreement must “stand the test of time,” suggesting Brussels will push for the UK to sign up to its future regulations. It also makes clear a deal should “uphold” EU fishermen’s current rights in UK waters, a problem for the UK government, which has promised to reclaim fishing rights.

‘Racist’ is not a word that should be used lightly, but it is absolutely correct when applied to Boris Johnson
Tom Peck, Independent, Feb 18 2020

It is, in its way, unfortunate that the term “racist” is so very blunt. It is a word of tremendous force and width. “Racist” begins its journey somewhere around the BBC Parliament caption writer accidentally miscaptioning black MPs with each others’ names, and rides all the way up to and beyond the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Partly, that explains its popularity. There is nothing worse a person can be than a racist. To call someone a racist leaves a thrillingly salty taste in the mouth. If a political opponent or public figure can be found to have made some poorly phrased comments at some point in the fairly distant past, they can be bludgeoned with the “R” word, and dragged by association, and with thrilling potency, to the very extreme end of its scale. So when the rapper, Dave, reaching the conclusion of a stunning performance at the Brit awards, drops his pre-planned bomb, and says “the prime minister’s a real racist,” the instant response of whoops of delight from the crowd speak to the thrill of the attack: the severity of the crime of which the prime minister has been accused. But the use of the word also offers a way out. It is no surprise that it should take only seconds for those on the other side to say that of course Johnson is not a racist. The guys who killed Stephen Lawrence. They were racist. It’s just some old newspaper columns.

If you actually READ the column about Muslim women looking like bankrobbers and letterboxes, you’ll see it was a DEFENCE of liberalism.

Yes, yes of course it was. And, if you actually read my absolutely glowing review of my local curry house, you’ll see there are scarcely any more than two very light-hearted jokes about the waiting staff, and they still kicked me off TripAdvisor. The world’s gone mad. Is Boris Johnson a racist? Has he actively discriminated against people of colour throughout the course of his life? Probably not. But has he contributed to the suffering and the general hardness of life on non-white people living in Britain? Absolutely yes. Without any shadow of a doubt. Is it boring to have to bring up again, the columns about African children looking like “flag-waving piccaninnies?” About “watermelon smiles”? About even more egregious examples than that, calling a group of Ugandan children who once sang for him at a ceremony in Uganda as “aids-ridden choristers”? That the quotes haven’t died is that the new prime minister has declined two decades worth of opportunities to apologise for them. Is Dominic Cummings a racist? Does he consider non-white people to be inferior? Almost certainly not, even after this week’s hideous descent into the world of eugenics. But he certainly had no problem producing Islamophobic lies about “the UK’s “new border is now with Syria and Iraq” during the 2016 referendum. Providing Islamophobes with the Islamophobic lies they needed to vote for Brexit was a core strategy of the Vote Leave campaign. Is that racist? Yes, it absolutely is.

It is also a somewhat delicious irony that, on stage at the Brit awards, the rapper Tyler, The Creator, should be thanking Theresa May for preventing him from coming to the country five years ago, a matter of minutes before the government was about to launch its new salary-linked immigration scheme. By way of background: in 2015 Theresa May used anti-terror legislation to prevent Tyler, The Creator from performing at Reading and Leeds festival, on the grounds that his music “encourages violence and intolerance of homosexuality.” He has since made the point the songs in question were written from the point of an alter ego. That they were, you know, artistic works. No one has, as yet, banned James Bond movies because of the remarkable tendency of people within them to seek to blow up the world. Still, Tyler has made it now so evidently the laws have been relaxed. And as Theresa May herself is now out on the public speaking circuit, we can only assume she is also ascribing her edgy early work, you know, the “citizens of nowhere” stuff to some sort of Theresa May act that she, Theresa May, was working on at the time. Only trouble is, the old Theresa May, the actual prime minister one, was making a lot less money than the new one. And as Lorraine Kelly’s accountant will tell you, if you’re going to start claiming that you spend half your life doing a slightly tweaked impression of yourself, it makes much more financial sense if the fictional you is the higher earner. Poor May, cursed again.

All of which leaves us precious little time to consider the government’s new, “Australian points-based immigration system,” other than to point out it is nothing like the Australian one, which actually increases immigration, and isn’t points-based at all, other than that you gain or lose points based on how much money you earn. But an Australian style points-based immigration system is what the voters want, so it’s what we’re getting. It will mean that high-skilled, high earning, doctors and scientists and so on will be able to come to the UK, but it will spell, we are told, “the end of unskilled cheap labour.” Because when the native population makes it clear at the ballot box not once but twice that they’ve had enough of immigrants, what they obviously want is for the skilled jobs still to be taken by immigrants, but the unskilled, poorly paid ones to be saved for them. They’ve had enough of them all, coming over here, cooking our food, waiting our tables, cleaning our houses. It’s time those jobs were given back to their rightful owners, the British. From now on, the immigrants will have to know their place, which is flying our planes, running our universities, performing our complex surgical operations, and headlining our music festivals. That’s what taking back control was always about. And anyone that tries to tell you otherwise, ignore them. They just think you’re a racist.