By Peter Van Buren
Source: We Meant Well
A baby born when Robert Mueller started his investigation would be talking by now. But would she have anything to say?
We last looked at what Mueller had publicly, and what he didn’t have, some ten months ago, and cautioned skepticism that he would prove “collusion.” It’s worth another look now, but we’ll give away the ending: there is still no real evidence of, well, much of anything significant about Russiagate. One thing clear is the investigation seems to be ending. Mueller’s office reportedly even told various defense lawyers it is “tying up loose ends.” The moment to wrap things up is politically right as well; the Democrats will soon take control of the House and it is time to hand this all off to them.
Ten months ago the big news was Paul Manafort flipped; that seems to have turned out to be mostly a bust, as we know now he lied like a rug to the Feds and cooperated with the Trump defense team as some sort of mole inside Mueller’s investigation (a heavily-redacted memo about Manafort’s lies, released by Mueller on Friday, adds no significant new details to the Russiagate narrative.) George Papadopoulos has already been in and out of jail — all of two weeks — for his sideshow role, Michael Avenatti is now a woman beater who is just figuring out he’s washed up, Stormy Daniels owes Trump over $300k in fees after losing to him in court, there is no pee tape, and if you don’t recall how unimportant Carter Page and Richard Gates turned out to be (or even remember who they are), well, there is your assessment of all the hysterical commentary that accompanied them a few headlines ago.
The big reveal of the Michael Flynn sentencing memo on Tuesday was he will likely do no prison time. Everything of substance in the memo was redacted, so there is little insight available. If you insist on speculation, try this: it’s hard to believe something really big and bad happened such that Flynn knew about it but still wasn’t worth punishing for it, and now, a year after he started cooperating with the government, nobody has heard anything about whatever the big deal is. So chances are the redactions focus on foreign lobbying in the U.S.
This week’s Key to Everything is Michael Cohen, the guy who lied out of self-interest for Trump until last week when we learned he is also willing to lie, er, testify against Trump out of self-interest. If you take Cohen’s most recent statements at face value the sum is failed negotiations we all knew about already to build a Trump hotel in Moscow went on a few months longer than originally stated. Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York submitted a sentencing memo Friday for Cohen recommending 42 months in jail. In a separate filing, Mueller made no term recommendation but praised Cohen for his “significant efforts to assist the special counsel’s office.” The memos reveal no new information.
Call it as sleazy as you want, but looking into a real estate deal is neither a high crime nor a misdemeanor, even if it’s in Russia. Conspiracy law requires an agreement to commit a crime, not just the media declaiming “Cohen was communicating directly with the Kremlin!” Talking about meeting Russian persons is not a crime, nor is meeting with them. The takeaway this was all about influence buying by the Russkies falls flat. If Putin sought to ensnare Trump, why didn’t he find a way for the deal to actually go through? Mueller has to be able to prove actual crimes by the president, not just twist our underclothes into a weekly conspiratorial knot. For fun, look here at the creative writing needed to even suggest anything illegal. Doesn’t sound like Trump’s on thin ice with hot shoes.
Sigh. It is useful at this point of binge-watching the Mueller mini-series to go back to the beginning.
The origin story for all things Russiagate is a less-than-complete intelligence finding hackers, linked to the Russian government, stole emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2016. The details have never been released, no U.S. law enforcement agency has ever seen the server/scene of the crime, and Mueller’s dramatic indictments of said hackers, released as Trump met with Putin in Helsinki, will never be heard of again, or challenged, as none of his defendants will ever leave Russia. Meanwhile, despite contemporaneous denials of the same, it is now somehow accepted knowledge the emails (and Facebook ads!) had some unproven major affect on the election.
The origin story for everything else, that Trump is beholden to Putin for favors granted or via blackmail, is opposition research purchased by the Democrats and carried out by an MI6 operative with complex connectionsinto American intelligence, the salacious Steele Dossier. The FBI, under a Democratic-controlled Justice Department, then sought warrants to spy on the nominated GOP candidate for president, based on evidence paid for by his opponent.
Yet the real origin story for all things Russiagate is the media, inflamed by Democrats, searching for why Trump won (because it can’t be anything to do with Hillary, and “all white people and the Electoral College are racists” just doesn’t hold up.) Their position is Trump must have done something wrong, and Robert Mueller, despitehelping squash a Bush-era money-laundering probe, lying about the Iraq War, and flubbing the post-9/11 anthrax investigation, has been resurrected with Jedi superpowers to find it. It might be collusion with Russia or Wikileaks, or a pee tape, or taxes, all packaged as hard news but reading like Game of Thrones plot speculation. None of that is journalism to be proud of, and it underlies everything Mueller.
As the NYT said in a rare moment of candor, “From the day the Mueller investigation began, opponents of the president have hungered for that report, or an indictment waiting just around the corner, as the source text for an incantation to whisk Mr. Trump out of office and set everything back to normal again.”
The core problem is Mueller just hasn’t found a crime connected with Russiagate someone working for Trump might have committed. His investigation to date hasn’t been a search for the guilty party, Colonel Mustard in the library, but a search for an actual underlying crime, some crime, any crime. All Mueller has uncovered are some old financial misdealing by Manafort and chums that took place before and outside of the Trump campaign, payoffs to Trump’s mistresses which are not in themselves inherently illegal (despite what prosecutors simply assert in the Cohen sentencing report, someone will have to prove to a jury the money was from campaign funds and the transactions were “for the purpose of influencing” federal elections, not say simply “protecting his family from shame.” Cohen’s guilty pleas cannot legally be considered evidence of someone else’s guilt), and a bunch of people lying about unrelated matters.
And that’s the give away to Muller’s final report. There was no base crime as the starting point of the investigation. With Watergate there was the break-in at Democratic National Headquarters. With Russiagate you had… Trump winning the election (remembering the FBI concluded the DNC hack was done by the Russians forever ago, no Mueller needed.)
Almost everything Mueller has, the perjury and lying cases, are crimes he created through the process of investigating. He’s Schroeder’s Box; the crimes only exist when he tries to look at them. Mueller created most of his booked charges by asking questions he already knew the answers to, hoping his witness would lie and commit a new crime literally in front of him. Nobody should be proud of lying, but it seems a helluva way to contest a completed election as Trump enters the third year of his term.
Mueller’s end product, his report, will most likely claim a lot of unsavory things went on. But it seems increasingly unlikely he’ll have evidence Trump worked with Russia to win the election, and even less likely that Trump is now under Putin’s control. If Mueller had a smoking gun we’d be watching impeachment hearings by now.
Instead Mueller will end up concluding some people may have sort of maybe tried to interfere with an investigation into what turned out to be nothing, another “crime” that exists only because there was an investigation to trigger it. He’ll dump that steaming pile of legal ambiguity into the lap of the Democratic House to hold hearings on from now until global warming claims the city of Benghazi and returns it to the sea. Or the 2020 election, whichever comes first.
The uber-point of all this Ocean’s Nineteen-level conspiracy is supposedly so Putin can, whatever, sow dissent in America. Because if he wanted a puppet in the Oval Office it has been a damn poor return on investment — sanctions are still in place, NATO is still on Russia’s border, Montenegro joined NATO, Trump approved arms sales to the Ukraine, RT and Sputnik are sidelined as registered foreign agents, Cold Warrior-like hardliners Bolton and Pompeo are in power, the U.S. just delivered Russia an ultimatum on an arms control treaty that could return some American missiles to Europe, and more. On the plus side, there were those friendly Tweets.
Along the way new journalistic “norms” were created: Trump is too stupid to have made his money, so it must be ill-gotten. Trump did real estate deals in NYC and so is mobbed up. Trump’s taxes (albeit available to the IRS and Treasury for decades, the FBI and Mueller via warrant for years) hide secrets. Meanwhile, everyone in Russia with a few bucks is an oligarch, and everyone who anyone from the Trump side spoke with is “connected to Putin.” Trump doesn’t have lawyers, he has fixers and consigliere.
These tropes allow journalists to communicate in a kind of shorthand with the rubes who still imagine something will happen to annul the 2016 election. They allow each mini-development to appear to be a major event, as in the mind of the media everything is related, and everything accumulative. So a lie about a real estate deal in Russia is HUGE because it has something to do with Russia and see that connects all the dots!
None of that is journalism to be proud of, and it underlies everything Mueller. It is almost sad looking back at the old articles and TV tales to see how excited everyone got — Flynn was indicated! Sessions recused himself! Comey will save us! The Nunes Memo! They all used to matter sooooo much. Outlets like the NYT and WaPo rolled out a “source close to the White House” to comment whatever just happened means Mueller is getting close to nailing Trump. The nutters who took over once cogent places like HuffPo and Salon run “reporting” that reads like Game of Thrones plot speculation. Everybody runs the same headlines: BREAKING: Reports: Sources: Trump Fixer to Flip; Avenatti Says “Orange is the New Black, Buttercup!”
As one writer puts it, “For the last two years the mass media machine has been behaving very, very strangely, and it isn’t getting better, it’s getting worse. Not since the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq have we seen mainstream media outlets trying to shove narratives down our throats so desperately and aggressively.”
By Thierry Meyssan
International relations experienced a profound change with the paralysis of the Soviet Union in 1986, when the State was unable to control the civilian nuclear incident in Tchernobyl , then with the revocation of the Warsaw Pact in 1989, when the East German Communist Party  destroyed the Berlin Wall, and finally, with the dissolution of the USSR in 1991.
At that time, the President of the United States, George Bush Sr., decided to demobilise one million soldiers and devote the efforts of his country to its own prosperity. He wanted to transform US hegemony within its zone of influence, and expand it into that of the leader of the world, the guarantor of world stability. With that, he laid the foundations for a « New World Order », first of all in the speech he gave side by side with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, at the Aspen Institute (2 August 1990), then during his speech to Congress (11 September 1990), announcing operation « Desert Storm » .
The world of the après-Soviet Union is one of free circulation, not only of merchandise, but also world capital, under the unique control of the United States. In other words, the passage from capitalism to financialisation – not the triumphant culmination of free exchange, but an exacerbated form of colonial exploitation of the whole world, including the West. Within the space of a quarter of a century, the major US fortunes have multiplied many times, and the global wealth of the world has increased considerably.
By allowing capitalism to run wild, President Bush Sr. hoped to extend prosperity to the world. But capitalism is not a political project, it is simply a system of logic designed for creating profit. The logic of the US multinationals was to increase their profits by delocalising production to China, where it is now possible, and where workers are the lowest paid in the world.
Those who were prepared to measure the cost of this advance for the West were few and far between. New middle classes began to appear in the third world, and although they were, of course, far less wealthy than those in the West, they enabled new, mainly Asian states, to play a rôle on the world stage. But simultaneously, Western middle classes began to disappear , meaning that it became impossible for the democratic institutions they built to survive. Above all, the populations of entire regions were to be entirely crushed, starting with those of the African Great Lakes. This first regional war caused 6 million deaths, in Angola, Burundi, Namibia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, and was met with general incomprehension and indifference. The aim was to continue to seize the natural resources of these countries, but to pay less and less for them, which meant dealing with gangs rather than with the States who had to feed their populations.
The sociological transformation of the world is happening very fast and is clearly without precedent, although we do not have the statistical tools available today to evaluate it with precision. However, everyone can witness the increase in power of Eurasia, (not in the Gaullist sense of « Brest to Vladivostok », but that of Russia and Asia without Western and Central Europe), which seeks liberty and prosperity, while the Western powers, including the United States, are slowly and progressively declining, limiting individual freedom and ejecting half of their population into zones of poverty.
Today, the percentage of imprisonment in China is four times inferior to that of the United States,while their purchasing power is slightly higher. Objectively therefore, with all its faults, Chine has become a freer and more prosperous country than the United States.
This process was predictable from the beginning. Its application was studied for a long time. So, on 1 September 1987, a US forty-year-old published a page of counter-current publicity in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. He warned his compatriots about the rôle that President Bush Sr. was planning to allocate to the United States – to assume and finance out of their own pockets the responsibility for the developing « New World Order ». People read it and laughed. The author of these texts was real estate promoter, Donald Trump.
One month after the attacks of 11 September 2001, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld nominated his friend Admiral Arthur Cebrowski as Director of the new Office of Force Transformation. He was tasked with changing the culture of the entire US military in order to enable it to respond to a complete change in its mission
There was no longer question of using US armies to defend principles or interests, but to use them for a reorganisation of the world by dividing it into two parts – one one side the states integrated into the globalised economy, and on the other, the others . The Pentagon would no longer fight wars in order to steal natural resources, but to control access to those resources by the globalised nations. A division directly inspired by the process of globalisation which had already trashed half of the Western populations. This time, it was half of the world’s population which was to be excluded .
The reorganisation of the world began in the political zone known as the « Greater Middle East », that is to say stretching from Afghanistan to Morocco, with the exception of Israël, Lebanon and Jordan. This brought about the alleged epidemic of civil wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Syria and Yemen, which has already caused several million deaths.
Like a monster eating its own children, the global financial system based in the United States faced its first crisis in 2008, when the subprime bubble burst. Contrary to a commonly-held belief, this was absolutely not a global crisis, but a Western problem. For the first time, the NATO states experienced the first consequences of the policy they were supporting. Yet the upper Western classes changed nothing in their behaviour, as they witnessed with compassion the wreck of the middle classes. The only notable modification was the adoption of the « Volcker rule » , which forbade banks from profiting from information obtained from their clients in order to speculate against their interests. But while conflicts of interest enabled a number of crooks to get rich fast, they are not the root of the problem, which is far more wide-reaching.
The revolt of the Western middle and working classes against the globalised upper class began two years ago.
Aware of the Western recession as compared with Asia, the people of the United Kingdom were the first to attempt to save its life-style by leaving the European Union and turning to China and the Commonwealth (referendum of 23 June 2016) . Unfortunately, the leaders of the United Kingdom were unable to conclude the agreement they hoped for with China and experienced great difficulty in reactivating their links with the Commonwealth.
Then, witnessing the collapse of their civil industries, a part of the United States voted, on 8 November 2016, for the only Presidential candidate who was opposed to the New World Order, Donald Trump. He spoke of a return to the « American dream ». Unfortunately for his voters, although Donald Trump began to question the rules of globalised commerce, he had no team with him apart from his family, and was only able to modify, but not change, the military strategy of his country. Almost all of the general officers had adopted the Rumsfeld-Cebrowski ideology, and could no longer imagine themselves in any other role than defenders of financial globalisation.
Aware of the collapse of their national industry, and certain that they would be betrayed by their upper class, the Italians voted, on 4 March 2018, for an anti-system party composed of the Ligue and the 5-star Movement. These parties built an alliance in order to implement social policies. Unfortunately, they were rejected by the European Union . In France, tens of thousands of SME’s (small and medium-sized enterprises), subcontractors of industry, had gone bankrupt over the last ten years, but their compulsory tax deductions, already among the highest in the world, increased by 30 % over the same period.
Several hundreds of thousands of French people suddenly took to the streets to demonstrate against abusive financial measures. Unfortunately for them, the French upper classes have been contaminated by the very idea that was rejected by the United States, and therefore did their best to adapt their policies to the popular revolt, but not to change its basic causes.
If we look at each of these four countries separately, we will find four different explanations for what is happening there. But if we analyse the situation as a single phenomenon affecting different cultures, we will discover the same mechanisms across the board. In these four countries, consecutive with the end of capitalism, the middle classes disappeared more or less rapidly, and with them the political system that they incarnated – Democracy.
So either the Western leaders abandon the financial system they have developed and return to the productive capitalism of the Cold War, or they will have to invent a different organisation that no-one has so far been able imagine. Failing that, the West, which has directed the world for five centuries, will sink into a long period of internal chaos.
The Syrians were the first non-globalised People capable of surviving and resisting the destruction of Rumsfeld-Cebrowski’s infra-world. The French were the first globalised people to rise up against the destruction of the West, even if they are not aware that they are fighting the same unique enemy of all of humanity. President Emmanuel Macron is not the man for the situation, not because he has any responsibility for the system that preceded him, but because he is pure product of that system. In response to the riots in his country, he spoke from the G20 in Buenos-Aires, declaring that the meeting was a success in his eyes, (which it was not), and that he intended to advance more efficiently than his predecessors – in the wrong direction.
It appears that the British ruling class has its solution – if London in particular and the Western nations in general are no longer capable of ruling the world, it will be necessary to cut one’s losses and divide the world into two distinct zones. This is the policy implemented by Obama in the final months of his presidency , then by Theresa May, and now by Donald Trump, with their refusal to cooperate and their ready-made accusations, first of all against Russia and now against China.
It also seems that Russia and China, despite their historical rivalry, are aware that they will never be able to ally themselves with these Westerners who have never ceased trying to carve them up. This is the source of their project, the « Eurasian Economic Union » – if the world must be split in two, each participant will have to organise its own. In concrete terms, for Beijing, this means abandoning half of its « Silk Road » project and its redeployment with Moscow only in Greater Eurasia.
For the West and Greater Eurasia, it will be necessary to determine the split line as fast as possible. For example, what side will Ukraine choose? The construction by Russia of the Kertch bridge was aimed at separating the country, absorbing the Donbass and the Azov Sea basin, then Odessa and Transnistria. On the contrary, the incident at Kertch, organised by the Western powers, is aimed at enrolling all of Ukraine into NATO before the country fractures.
Since the ship of financial globalisation is sinking, many people are beginning to save their personal interests without any care for others. For example this is the source of the tension between the European Union and the United States. As far as this game is concerned, the Zionist movement has always had a length’s lead, which explains the mutation of Israëli strategy, which has abandoned Syria to Russia, and turned to both the Gulf States and East Africa.
Taking into account what is at play here, it is obvious that the insurrection in France is only the beginning of a much wider process which is going to spread to other Western countries.
It would be absurd to believe that at a time of financial globalisation, a government, whatever it might be, could resolve the problems of its country without first of all questioning international relations and at the same time regaining its capacity for action. But precisely, foreign policy has been kept on the sidelines of the democratic field since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It is both necessary and urgent to resign from almost all of the treaties and engagements of the last thirty years. Only the states which are able to re-affirm their sovereignty can hope to recover.
 According to Michaïl Gorbatchev, this was the event that made possible the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union in so far as it delegitimised the State.
 Contrary to a commonly-held belief in the West, it was the nationalists from the East-German Communist Party (and the Lutheran churches), and not the anti-Communists (and pro-US movements), who broke down the symbol of Soviet domination, the Wall.
 The main purpose of the invasion of Iraq was not to liberate Kuwaït, but to use this affair to build the strongest coalition possible under US command, including the USSR.
 Global Inequality. A New Approach for the Age of Globalization, Branko Milanovic, Harvard University Press, 2016.
 It is obvious that the wars of Bush Jr. and Obama were never intended to expand the Empire. First of all because by definition, democracy can only come from the People, not imposed by bombs. And then because the United States was already a plutocracy.
 The ex-president of the US Federal Reserve, Paul Volcker, is on the other hand, one of the architects of global financialisation. It is Volcker who took legal action on behalf of the UNO against the people and entities who had helped Iraq to bypass the UN embargo (the « oil for food » affair). Volcker is one of the principal personalities of the Pilgrim’s Society, the trans-Atlantic club presided by Queen Elizabeth II. As such, he became the main economic advisor to President Barack Obama, and organised part of his cabinet.
 Replacing the European Common Market, which was originally a system for cooperation between states, the European Union, as defined by the Treaty of Maastricht, is a supranational
By Gary Z. McGee
Source: Waking Times
“I must create a system or be enslaved by another Man’s.” ~William Blake
Becoming free is creating your own virtuous system despite being outflanked by unvirtuous systems controlled by unvirtuous men. It is cultivating a healthy way of living despite the unhealthy ways of unhealthy men. It’s becoming so “absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion” (Albert Camus). Then it’s building “a new model that makes the existing model obsolete” (Buckminster Fuller).
But first, we must ask ourselves what we are freeing ourselves for before asking ourselves what we are freeing ourselves from. The answer to that question, what are we freeing ourselves for, will be the foundation of our freedom, the cornerstone of our virtue, the building blocks of a healthier way of being human in the world.
Understand: we must be critical and highly skeptical of any “answer” that should arise from asking this most vital of questions. For if our “answer” is deemed invalid/unhealthy by the dictates of universal law (what’s healthy and what’s not), then it should be discarded as invalid/unhealthy for any humans who are attempting to be virtuous and healthy. Also, every “answer” should remain flexible and adaptable lest it become stagnant, rigid, dogmatic, tyrannical, or stuck in its ways.
A virtuous system follows the Golden Rule and the Nonaggression Principle:
“Beware of the good and the just! They like to crucify those who invent their own virtue for themselves.” ~Nietzsche
As human beings there is no way around the fact that we are social creatures. We need each other to survive in a hostile (entropic) universe. Therefore, the golden rule is paramount.
It is imperative that whatever we are freeing ourselves for does not overreach or impede the health and welfare of others. A truly virtuous system never forces its virtue onto others. The moment a so-called virtuous system forces its virtue or values onto others, it ceases to be virtuous. There’s no way around this absolute fact. Any attempt to “get around it” is a violation of the golden rule and therefore unvirtuous.
Likewise, it is vital that whatever we are freeing ourselves for does not violate the nonaggression principle (See caveat). A truly virtuous system is never directly violent. It is only ever violent in self-defense. The moment a so-called virtuous system becomes directly violent it ceases to be virtuous. The only moral exception to this fact is when violence is necessary to defend against direct violence –and, even then, only as a last resort. Any attempt to use violence to force others into compliance is a violation of the nonaggression principle and therefore unvirtuous.
Caveat: Being social animals in an environment with finite resources is highly complicated. To the extent that our virtuous system indirectly pollutes the environment it gets a pass for somewhat violating the nonaggression principle. The tragedy of the commons is a very real and sometimes unavoidable paradox. But, and here’s the rub, to the extent that our virtuous system directly pollutes the environment it is in direct violation of the nonaggression principle and therefore can no longer be considered virtuous.
A healthy system is sustainable, moral, and eco-conscious:
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” ~ Aldo Leopold
How do we know the current system (society) is unsustainable, immoral and even ecocidal, and thus unfit for healthy and virtuous people? It’s self-evident…
1.) Our society pollutes the air it needs to breathe.
2.) Our society pollutes the water it needs to drink.
3.) Our society pollutes the food it needs to eat.
4.) Our society creates unhealthy individuals it needs to evolve with.
Any system that forces its people to breathe polluted air, drink polluted water, eat polluted food and then continues to do all the things that causes that pollution is a profoundly sick society. Krishnamurti’s quote is a powerful reminder of this vital fact: “It’s no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
The solution is to create a system that is sustainable, moral, and eco-conscious; to create a healthy system that makes the unhealthy system obsolete.
The problem is that the unhealthy system overreaches. It overreaches with its pollution and it overreaches with its power. So almost any attempt at creating a healthier system will have to be covert and strategically defensive. Both in its attempt to create a healthy system and in its attempt to thwart the encroaching unhealthy system. It will have to be clandestine and stealthy on the one hand, and creative and daring on the other hand.
This will probably result in pockets of horizontal democracy on the group level: sustainable communes, ecovillages, and various types of anarchist groups. While on the individual level it will probably result in plenty of free-range humans, ninjaneers, eco-warriors, and various types of sustainable hermits.
The bottom line: Discovering a healthy and virtuous answer to the question ‘what are we freeing ourselves for?’ is no easy feat. It’s not for the faint of heart. It will take counterintuitive reasoning. It will require you to think outside of whatever box you’ve been conditioned to think inside of for most of your life. It will force you to unwash the brainwash. It will involve reprogramming your programming. It will demand that you question the profoundly sick society you were born into.
Most of all, it will require audacious courage in the face of comfortable cowardice. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
“A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition…I ought to go upright and vital and speak the rude truth in all ways…Your goodness must have some edge to it — else it is none.”
But, in the end, it will have been worth it. For you will have discovered moral virtue. You will have discovered provident health. You will have discovered authentic freedom. And your conscience will have finally been cleared.
In light of Philip K. Dick’s birthday tomorrow (he would have been 90), it’s an appropriate time to visit (or revisit) the film adaptation of his posthumously published novel “Radio Free Albemuth”. Being a longtime PKD fan and one of the film’s Kickstarter contributors, I admittedly wouldn’t be a completely objective critic, but after having seen it a few times its achievements and shortcomings become more apparent.
Like the novel it’s based on, Radio Free Albemuth is one of the most personal of Philip K. Dick’s narratives, featuring the most faithful retelling of his 2-3-74 experiences. Filmed on a shoestring budget by John Alan Simon the movie has a fitting late 70s/early 80s aesthetic. Much of the dialogue is straight out of the novel but I personally would have wanted a more streamlined and nuanced script with less tangential details and exposition, though the actors across the board do a commendable job delivering their lines as naturally and believably as possible. The many dream sequences could have benefited from a higher budget and better visual consistency, but were able to accomplish what was needed for the plot. The prison scenes near the end seemed a bit rushed and not reflective of the oppressiveness of actual prisons, though that was probably largely due to budgetary reasons as well.
Despite its flaws, I still find the film engaging and worth recommending. Aspects of the story may come across to modern audiences as cheesy but still works on a meta level. In our sophisticated real life corporate techno-dystopia, the idea of individuals trying to incite revolution through subliminal messaging embedded in pop songs requires a suspension of disbelief. However in a more general general sense, countless creators through history (including writers and filmmakers) have made attempts to subvert society and culture with varying and impossible to quantify results.
Watch the full film on Hoopla here: https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/11350683
By Caitlin Johnstone
The US State Department has issued a statement accusing the Syrian government of having carried out a false flag chemical weapons attack in northwestern Aleppo with the intent to blame it on the jihadist factions in the region, citing “credible info” that the public has not been permitted to see. Never mind the known fact that there are actual, literal Al Qaeda affiliates who have admitted to using chemical weapons in Aleppo, and who are known to have used chemical weapons throughout Syria even by the State Department’s own admission: the Official Narrative is that only the Syrian government uses chemical weapons, so the chemical weapons usage must necessarily be a false flag staged by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
Except they didn’t use the words “false flag”. Despite the accusation being the exact definition of the thing that a false flag attack is, you won’t see the US government using that term, nor will you ever see it used in this instance by any of the authorized mainstream narrative-framing institutions like CNN or Fox News. This is because the term “false flag” is reserved solely for mention when referring to crazy, kooky Kremlin propaganda, as in the insane, unhinged, tinfoil hat belief that terrorists in Syria might possibly have some kind of motive to stage a false flag chemical attack in order to get the US, UK and France to act as their air force in a retaliatory strike against the Syrian government. That kind of false flag would be completely inconceivable to any right-minded empire loyalist, and is forbidden to even think about.
Only surprising thing is how long it took.https://t.co/0A0p8dnQiq
— OffGuardian (@OffGuardian0) December 8, 2018
At the same time we are seeing a push from the mass media to advance a narrative that the Yellow Vests protests in France are due to Russian influence, with Iraq-raping neocon Max Boot publishing a column today in the Washington Post that is based entirely around the talking point that two trending Russian topics on social media have been “giletsjaune” and “France,” and Bloomberg putting out an article blatantly titled “Pro-Russia Social Media Takes Aim at Macron as Yellow Vests Rage”. Their entire theory is that since there are people in Russia talking about a major event that everyone else in the world is also talking about, the protests against Macron’s unpopular centrist policies are therefore the result of a conspiracy seeded by Russia.
But you’ll never hear this theory about a Russian conspiracy referred to as a “conspiracy theory” by the mainstream press. The theory that Russian elites have conspired to infiltrate the highest levels of the US government has been given serious treatment at the top echelons of media and political influence, despite its lacking any discernible evidence whatsoever, but when they talk about these alleged conspiracies they always make a point of using the word “collusion” instead. There is no actual difference between the words collude and conspire when used in this way, but the former is used because a deliberate effort has been made to stigmatize the word “conspiracy” while the word “collude” remains effectively neutral in the public eye.
But the fact of the matter is that conspiracy theories have gone mainstream, and there is no legitimate reason to call the authorized, power-manufactured conspiracy theories by a different name than the grassroots narratives like those about 9/11 or the JFK assassination. Indeed, due to the nature of populist folk narratives there is a lot more publicly available evidence contradicting the official 9/11 and JFK assassination stories than there is for the establishment Russia conspiracy theories, because those narratives often boil down to nothing more than secretive intelligence agencies saying “This is true because we said so.” Since grassroots conspiracy theories are unable to rely on empty assertions from authority, they tend to be built upon information that is publicly available.
Some people get annoyed with me for using the term conspiracy theory at all, but I insist that the phrase is itself intrinsically neutral: a theory about a conspiracy. The problem is not the phrase, it is the stigma that has been attached to that phrase by establishment media and establishment politicians; shifting to a different phrase to describe theories about conspiracies would only ensure that that phrase becomes stigmatized in the exact same way by the same sort of campaign. This would only ensure the survival of the tactic of regurgitating a pre-stigmatized label in the war of ideas instead of advancing actual arguments. The fact of the matter is that powerful people do indeed conspire, those conspiracies do indeed need to be talked about, and the largest promulgators of conspiracy theories are not Infowars or RT, but mainstream media and the US State Department.
Those who dismiss an idea by calling it a “conspiracy theory” without providing further argumentation are simply admitting to you that they have no argument, and it is right to point this out when they do it, because something being a conspiracy theory doesn’t mean it’s not grounded in facts. Some conspiracy theories are good and are backed by solid evidence, some are stupid and are circulated for intellectually dishonest reasons. Once upon a time you would be called a conspiracy theorist for saying the west is arming terrorists in Syria or the DNC is conspiring to ensure the primary victory of Hillary Clinton; those things are now conspiracy facts, as history has vindicated the solid theories which predicted them. Other conspiracy theories are promulgated by dim-witted partisan loyalists for no other reason than dim-witted partisan loyalty, like the aforementioned Russiagate conspiracy theory, or the QAnon conspiracy theory which claims Donald Trump is leading a rebellion against the Deep State as cryptically reported by an anonymous user on 8chan.
Other conspiracy theories are subscribed to simply because they help people escape the cognitive dissonance of conflicting beliefs. For example, a strong believer in capitalism who sees the undeniable signs that a plutocratic class has control of their government, but who cannot accept that this plutocratic takeover was facilitated by a rampant capitalist system which ensures that the greediest sociopaths rise to the top, may avoid cognitive dissonance by explaining the existence of the corrupt dominator class with conspiracy theories about Jews or pedovore cults. A liberal who cannot accept that neoliberal empire loyalists like Macron have failed to “make centrism cool” as Max Boot predicted will avoid cognitive dissonance by explaining the failures of the Church of the Status Quo with conspiracy theories about Russian social media campaigns.
To defeat populism, America needs its own Macron–a charismatic leader who can make centrism cool. My take: https://t.co/AAF1YwTnqb
— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) June 15, 2017
Conspiracy theories, in reality, are nothing more than people’s attempts to explain what is going on in their world. Why Trump got elected. Why things stay shitty despite our perfectly rational attempts to change them. Why voting doesn’t seem to make much difference in the actual behaviors of one’s government. Why we keep marching into stupid wars, Orwellian dystopia and climate collapse despite having every incentive not to. Why the wealthiest of the wealthy keep getting wealthier while everyone else gets poorer and poorer. Some attempts to explain these things will come from a well-informed and intellectually honest place, and some will come from a myopic and intellectually dishonest place. Their individual merits can only be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
And in my opinion the conspiracy theories coming from the world’s most powerful institutions are the most dishonest by far. I saw a recent post by the WikiLeaks Twitter account which referred to the corporate media as “the narrative business pretending to be in the news business,” which is in my opinion a perfect way to phrase it. The real currency of the world is not gold, nor is it bureaucratic fiat, nor even raw military force; it’s narrative control. The ability to control the stories people tell about what’s going on in their world means the ability to control how they think, how they vote, how they behave, and how they all agree money and power itself operates within our society. Since society is made of narrative, controlling the narrative is controlling that society.
Conspiracy theories are a way for those in power to manipulate the narrative without actually giving the public any hard facts and evidence, and the world’s most powerful institutions are increasingly relying on conspiracy theories because they don’t have facts and evidence on their side. And why would they? The same power establishment which deceived the world into destroying Iraq is obviously far too depraved to be able to justify its global hegemony with factual evidence. All they have is narrative control, and they’re starting to lose even that.
By Andre Damon
Google CEO Sundar Pichai denied allegations that the company was engaged in political censorship Monday at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Throughout the hearing, Republicans repeatedly claimed that the company was censoring search results to the detriment of right-wing viewpoints, while Democrats either denied the company’s censorship or justified it.
The fundamental reality—completely ignored at the hearing—is that the real targets of censorship by Silicon Valley, working with the US intelligence agencies and with the consent of both political parties, are left-wing, anti-war and socialist political organizations.
In August 2017, Google announced that it would implement changes to its search algorithm to promote “authoritative” news sources to the detriment of what it called “alternative” viewpoints. This action led to a massive decline in search rankings and traffic to left-wing, anti-war and progressive websites.
The campaign to implement this censorship regime was spearheaded by the Democratic Party, which, based on claims of Russian “meddling” in the 2016 election, sought to pressure the technology giants to block and suppress left-wing opposition, which it branded as “extremist viewpoints.”
The narrative of both parties is strikingly at odds with reality. Compared to April 2017, the far-right Breitbart.com had its search traffic increase by 25 percent. By contrast, search results for the World Socialist Web Site are down by 76 percent over the same period, and other left-wing sites remain down by 50 percent or more.
At the hearing, Pichai made one of Google’s most explicit denials to date that it was carrying out political censorship.
“I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way,” Pichai declared. “To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests. We are a company that provides platforms for diverse perspectives and opinions,” he said.
He added, “It’s not possible for any employee or groups of employees to manipulate our search results.”
In fact, the changes implemented in 2017 by the company were intended to empower “search evaluators” to impact Google search results. These individuals, whose input was added to Google’s more impartial PageRank algorithm, were told to respond negatively to pages displaying “alternative” viewpoints unless users explicitly specified they were looking for such views.
While some political organizations aligned with the Democratic Party were affected by Google’s actions, they either ignored or supported the censorship regime. The far right, meanwhile, made opposition to censorship a rallying cry.
US President Donald Trump, setting the tone for substantial sections of the Republican Party, has prominently accused Google of censoring search results. Republican members of Congress repeatedly held hearings accusing the company of suppressing right-wing and conservative political views.
“Google has long faced criticism for manipulating search results to censor conservatives,” Representative Lamar Smith declared at Monday’s hearing.
The Democrats, for their part, used Pichai’s testimony to alternately deny and justify the company’s censorship. In his remarks, committee chairman Jerrold Nadler declared that “no credible evidence supports this right-wing conspiracy theory.” In effect, Nadler and the other Democrats used the Republicans’ accusations about Google’s ‘liberal’ bias as a straw man, arguing, by extension, that all claims that Google is manipulating search results are a “conspiracy theory.”
Nadler then proceeded to justify Google’s censorship, which he had just denied. “Even if Google were deliberately discriminating against conservative viewpoints, just as Fox News and Sinclair broadcasting and conservative talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh discriminate against liberal points of view, that would be its right as a private company to do so, and not to be questioned by government.”
This, too, is a straw-man. In carrying out their censorship of left-wing views, Google and the other technology giants are acting at the instigation of the US intelligence agencies and leading political figures, serving as the state’s accomplice in violating the Constitution.
Responding to the Republicans’ claims, The Washington Post wrote in an editorial, “Members of the conservative majority on the House Judiciary Committee spent much of their time hammering Mr. Pichai with baseless accusations that Google rigs its search results to censor conservative content. Black-box algorithms will inevitably prioritize some content over other content, and to the extent companies can be transparent about how their systems work, they should be. But a single-minded and mindless focus on a nonexistent left-wing conspiracy within Google has had the paradoxical effect of discouraging companies from properly policing their platforms, as they hesitate to remove content that should be removed for fear of unfounded criticism.”
In other words, the Post is concerned that the Republican’s grandstanding about what they allege to be a bias against right-wing viewpoints might undermine the plans by the US intelligence agencies to intensify their censorship of left-wing opposition.
As working class-opposition throughout Europe and around the world continues to mount, the American political establishment is ramping up demands for censorship. Responding to the Yellow Vest demonstrations against social inequality in France, the New York Times wrote an editorial warning that “the power of social media to quickly mobilize mass anger, without any mechanism for dialogue or restraint, is a danger to which a liberal democracy cannot succumb.”
The clear implication is that a growing international upsurge of the working class will be met with even further repression and censorship.
By Jason Brennan
If you see police choking someone to death – such as Eric Garner, the 43-year-old black horticulturalist wrestled down on the streets of New York City in 2014 – you might choose to pepper-spray them and flee. You might even save an innocent life. But what ethical considerations justify such dangerous heroics? (After all, the cops might arrest or kill you.) More important: do we have the right to defend ourselves and others from government injustice when government agents are following an unjust law? I think the answer is yes. But that view needs defending. Under what circumstances might active self-defense, including possible violence, be justified, as opposed to the passive resistance of civil disobedience that Americans generally applaud?
Civil disobedience is a public act that aims to create social or legal change. Think of Henry David Thoreau’s arrest in 1846 for refusing to pay taxes to fund the colonial exploits of the United States, or Martin Luther King Jr courting the ire of the authorities in 1963 to shame white America into respecting black civil rights. In such cases, disobedient citizens visibly break the law and accept punishment, so as to draw attention to a cause. But justifiable resistance need not have a civic character. It need not aim at changing the law, reforming dysfunctional institutions or replacing bad leaders. Sometimes, it is simply about stopping an immediate injustice. If you stop a mugging, you are trying to stop that mugging in that moment, not trying to end muggings everywhere. Indeed, had you pepper-sprayed the police officer Daniel Pantaleo while he choked Eric Garner, you’d have been trying to save Garner, not reform US policing.
Generally, we agree that it’s wrong to lie, cheat, steal, deceive, manipulate, destroy property or attack people. But few of us think that the prohibitions against such actions are absolute. Commonsense morality holds that such actions are permissible in self-defense or in defense of others (even if the law doesn’t always agree). You may lie to the murderer at the door. You may smash the windows of the would-be kidnapper’s car. You may kill the would-be rapist.
Here’s a philosophical exercise. Imagine a situation in which a civilian commits an injustice, the kind against which you believe it is permissible to use deception, subterfuge or violence to defend yourself or others. For instance, imagine your friend makes an improper stop at a red light, and his dad, in anger, yanks him out of the car, beats the hell out of him, and continues to strike the back of his skull even after your friend lies subdued and prostrate. May you use violence, if it’s necessary to stop the father? Now imagine the same scene, except this time the attacker is a police officer in Ohio, and the victim is Richard Hubbard III, who in 2017 experienced just such an attack as described. Does that change things? Must you let the police officer possibly kill Hubbard rather than intervene?
Most people answer yes, believing that we are forbidden from stopping government agents who violate our rights. I find this puzzling. On this view, my neighbours can eliminate our right of self-defense and our rights to defend others by granting someone an office or passing a bad law. On this view, our rights to life, liberty, due process and security of person can disappear by political fiat – or even when a cop has a bad day. In When All Else Fails: The Ethics of Resistance to State Injustice (2019), I argue instead that we may act defensively against government agents under the same conditions in which we may act defensively against civilians. In my view, civilian and government agents are on a par, and we have identical rights of self-defense (and defense of others) against both. We should presume, by default, that government agents have no special immunity against self-defense, unless we can discover good reason to think otherwise. But it turns out that the leading arguments for special immunity are weak.
Some people say we may not defend ourselves against government injustice because governments and their agents have ‘authority’. (By definition, a government has authority over you if, and only if, it can oblige you to obey by fiat: you have to do what it says because it says so.) But the authority argument doesn’t work. It’s one thing to say that you have a duty to pay your taxes, show up for jury duty, or follow the speed limit. It is quite another to show that you are specifically bound to allow a government and its agents to use excessive violence and ignore your rights to due process. A central idea in liberalism is that whatever authority governments have is limited.
Others say that we should resist government injustice, but only through peaceful methods. Indeed, we should, but that doesn’t differentiate between self-defense against civilians or government. The common-law doctrine of self-defense is always governed by a necessity proviso: you may lie or use violence only if necessary, that is, only if peaceful actions are not as effective. But peaceful methods often fail to stop wrongdoing. Eric Garner peacefully complained: ‘I can’t breathe,’ until he drew his last breath.
Another argument is that we shouldn’t act as vigilantes. But invoking this point here misunderstands the antivigilante principle, which says that when there exists a workable public system of justice, you should defer to public agents trying, in good faith, to administer justice. So if cops attempt to stop a mugging, you shouldn’t insert yourself. But if they ignore or can’t stop a mugging, you may intervene. If the police themselves are the muggers – as in unjust civil forfeiture – the antivigilante principle does not forbid you from defending yourself. It insists you defer to more competent government agents when they administer justice, not that you must let them commit injustice.
Some people find my thesis too dangerous. They claim that it’s hard to know exactly when self-defense is justified; that people make mistakes, resisting when they should not. Perhaps. But that’s true of self-defense against civilians, too. No one says we lack a right of self-defense against each other because applying the principle is hard. Rather, some moral principles are hard to apply.
However, this objection gets the problem exactly backwards. In real life, people are too deferential and conformist in the face of government authority. They are all-too-willing to electrocute experimental subjects, gas Jews or bomb civilians when ordered to, and reluctant to stand up to political injustice. If anything, the dangerous thesis – the thesis that most people will mistakenly misapply – is that we should defer to government agents when they seem to act unjustly. Remember, self-defense against the state is about stopping an immediate injustice, not fixing broken rules.
Of course, strategic nonviolence is usually the most effective way to induce lasting social change. But we should not assume that strategic nonviolence of the sort that King practiced always works alone. Two recent books – Charles Cobb Jr’s This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed (2014) and Akinyele Omowale Umoja’s We Will Shoot Back (2013) – show that the later ‘nonviolent’ phase of US civil rights activism succeeded (in so far as it has) only because, in earlier phases, black people armed themselves and shot back in self-defense. Once murderous mobs and white police learned that black people would fight back, they turned to less violent forms of oppression, and black people in turn began using nonviolent tactics. Defensive subterfuge, deceit and violence are rarely first resorts, but that doesn’t mean they are never justified.
Jason Brennan is associate professor of strategy, economics, ethics and public policy at Georgetown University. He is the author, together with Peter Jaworski, of Markets Without Limits (2015), and his latest book is When All Else Fails: The Ethics of Resistance to State Injustice (2019).
Project Censored 12.18.18
Eleanor Goldfield and Bill Ottman discuss the Facebook/Twitter purge of hundreds of sites and the need alternatives such as Minds.com
Media Roots Radio 12.12.18
Clearing the Fog 11.27.18
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