Five Keys to Inner Strength From Five Years in Prison

By Ross Ulbricht

Source: Bitcoin Magazine

October 1, 2018, marked five years since I was imprisoned. My physical surroundings today are ironically similar to what they were after my arrest back in 2013. I’m in the SHU again (Special Housing Unit, aka “the hole”). It means permanent lockdown, separated from the general prison population, in a small cell. There is a slot in the heavy metal door for food trays, a small steel toilet, a concrete bunk with thick rings at four points (I guess that’s how I’ll get strapped down if I go crazy), chipped paint on the walls and floor with gang names and desperate Bible quotes etched in, and everywhere thick marks counting the days spent here by former inhabitants (some collections are terrifyingly large).

The initial shock of entering the cell — and all it meant for my immediate future — gave way after a few days to a helpless, restless dread and a burning need to get out. This feeling had to be stuffed down to avoid madness, and eventually a numb acceptance took over, but it was a precarious arrangement. Desperate frustration simmered constantly beneath the surface.

When I was first arrested, I was put in the hole against my will at three different prisons as they bounced me across the country from San Francisco where I was arrested to New York where I was prosecuted. The only reason I was given for this was that I was “high profile.” After six weeks, I was let out and never returned … until now. This time, I’m actually glad to be here because the alternative is life-threatening.

I was forced by some other inmates to make a choice: assault someone or be assaulted. Morally I knew I couldn’t initiate violence against another, but if I refused, I would be seriously hurt and would face an uncertain future, not knowing how long I’d be in the hole under protective custody or whether I’d be sent to another prison where I’d meet the same fate.

When the dreadful situation arose, I managed to ask for protective custody before anything happened to me. I was immediately cuffed and escorted to this cell where I’m writing from. I chose the hole rather than hurt another man.

When they dropped me in the SHU after my arrest, I did my best, but it was a tough six weeks, going from a life of freedom straight in. I broke down when I got my first phone call, and, after one week, I completely lost track of time and grounding. It makes me anxious just remembering it.

Maybe after five-plus years I’m used to doing time, but I think it’s how I’ve done my time that has made me mentally tough, that has made the difference between how I handled the hole back then and how I’m handling it now. I want to share this hard-won wisdom with you. Here are the five keys to inner strength I’ve learned from five years in prison.

Patience

My first night locked up was in a San Francisco holding cell: just painted concrete, toilet and sink. There was blood splatter staining the wall. I was so impatient for that night to be over. I almost felt I couldn’t survive it, as if it would never end. Of course it did, but I’ve never felt time move so slowly.

Prison has its own pace. One time, getting two pages of medical records printed took three months. I once had a faucet running day and night for five weeks before it was fixed. A clogged toilet took two months and a complaint to the Office of the Inspector General. Another time, I spotted a letter addressed to me in the corner of a guard’s office. It had been there for four months.

I’ve learned that patience means doing what you can today then letting go. It means settling in to this moment and letting things come in their own time. Impatience and boredom do not bring results faster, but they do rob you of your happiness here and now.

Will to Fight

After a long day of working in the lab as an undergraduate research assistant back in 2005, my mentor asked me if I had ever boxed. I told him no, nor had I been in a real fight. Compared to many, I had a sheltered upbringing in safe schools and neighborhoods. I had no need to fight. He pulled out some 14-ounce gloves and we went a few rounds in the hall outside our office, blowing off steam and having fun. From then on, whenever the stress of work got high, we’d get the gloves out at night before heading home.

When I was arrested and thrown in jail, I faced an opponent in a real fight for the first time in my life. The prosecution wanted to take my life as I knew it. They wanted — and still want to — keep me in a cage forever. I found myself on an alien battlefield and my opponent had every advantage. Being initially locked up in a detention center was like fighting while under water, most of my energy going to day-to-day survival and dealing with prison bureaucracy.

At trial, I stepped into the ring hoping for a chance, for a fair fight. When my lawyer wasn’t allowed to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses and I wasn’t allowed to call my own, my hands were tied behind my back. And when the prosecution was allowed to hide corrupt agents from my jury and present unreliable and tainted digital evidence, they were handed a metal bat. It wasn’t a fight. It was a massacre. The defeats kept coming, first at the appellate court, then at the Supreme Court.

I remember one time when I decided to stay out late on the prison yard. The sun was setting, and it was just me and a few others out there. I walked over to a metal picnic table where a man I’ll call Big Mike sat alone. Big Mike was the biggest person I’ve ever met. He weighs twice as much as I do, and his arms are as thick as my legs. He once told me that he doesn’t work out because he gets too big and scares people. We chatted for a while and he told me about the arguments he was preparing for his next motion to the court.

“I need to keep working on my case every single day until I go free,” I said, inspired by his efforts.

His expression became stern. He stared me down then went into a half hour rant that only ended because we were called off the yard for the night. “Yes you do,” he said. “No one is going to fight for your freedom like you. These people got you tied in a knot and you’ll never get out if you don’t struggle and fight. You’re fighting for your life. They took your life from you. Only you can get it back.” He was still going as we walked into the cell block.

Big Mike had fought his entire life. He grew up on the streets of Philly. He fought to survive, and now he was fighting the last shreds of doubt and defeat still left in my heart. He won that night and lit a fire in me that’s been burning ever since.

The will to fight is primal. It’s in all of us. Like me, many of us have never needed it and it lays dormant. Yet you don’t need to wait until you are under attack and your life is in danger to learn to fight. You can fight for who you love, for what matters, for what you believe in, like your life depends on it. And truly it does because a life worth living is worth fighting for.

Forgiveness

A few months after I was sentenced, I lay down on my bunk after the cell door had been locked for the night. As my conscious mind slowed down and sleep approached, the faces of those who put me away for life bubbled up and captured my attention: the judges, prosecutors, politicians and agents, and they were looking down on me with mocking smiles. A cocktail of emotions accompanied these images, including anger, frustration, helplessness, even the beginnings of hate. My heart beat fast and my mind raced until I snapped fully awake and lay there trying to drift off again. After a few cycles of this, I sat up in bed. This wasn’t the first time I couldn’t stop these negative feelings. I had to get a grip.

While I was tossing and turning, those people were probably sleeping, comfortable and sound, in big comfy beds in big comfy houses. Or were they? Maybe they were also sitting up at night tormented by the thought of all the people like me they had condemned. Or maybe they didn’t care and rationalized the pain away. The truth, I realized, was that I had no idea. And further, all my anger wasn’t hurting them one bit. It was all right there with me in that cell. I wasn’t getting back at them by holding a grudge, but I was poisoning my mind.

As revolting as it felt at first, I had to forgive them. I purposely cultivated thoughts like “It wasn’t personal, they don’t even know me” and “Their hearts must be so calloused by what they do, I feel sorry for them.” I focused on feelings of love and kindness and imagined them radiating out and healing those who had hurt me. I don’t know if that had an effect on any of them, but I certainly started sleeping better.

As time went on, I became ruthless with these hateful thoughts whenever they entered my mind and would rewire them immediately as I had that night. I could not indulge in them because I had come to learn this simple truth: hate does not hurt the hated, it hurts the hater. It’s been years since I wasted my energy hating those people and I’m so much better off for having forgiven them.

Faith

Being condemned to grow old and die in prison with two life sentences plus 40 years is like staring into an abyss. My future as I knew it disappeared, replaced by darkness and uncertainty. In the face of this nightmare, faith became a matter of survival.

The day I was sentenced I returned to the detention center and was given hugs, condolences and a hot meal from my fellow prisoners. When I found some time alone that night, I saw two roads before me. One was a downward spiral. I could see that the further I went down, the harder it would be to claw my way back. At the bottom, the demons of despair, hatred and crushing sadness were waiting to devour me. The other path soared upward, but I couldn’t find the steps. There weren’t any. There was no reason to hope that I could hold onto.

In the following months, I had to leap, stumble and scramble toward that upward path. With all evidence to the contrary, I had to have faith that God would see me through whatever was to come. I realized I’m not strong enough on my own to keep from falling into that ever-present abyss. It may be irrational to believe without proof, to have faith, but it’s also irrational to forsake the hope, love and joy that faith brings, because it gives you the strength to fight and ultimately win. In a situation as desperate as mine, keeping faith alive is the difference between freedom and a slow, caged death.

Acceptance and Gratitude

There are endless opportunities for suffering in prison. You can suffer when they lock you in the cell and you feel like you’ll explode if you can’t get out; when your back spasms from the hard bunk; when you’re sick and feel isolated; when you notice the filth; when the door slams and locks behind your loved ones after a visit; when you feel like you’re drowning and just need one last day of freedom to breathe; when you wish you could keep sleeping but you have to get your boots on because what if a riot pops off; when you imagine the shank you saw pierce the last man is piercing your flesh; when you realize you haven’t had a moment of privacy in years and everything around you is cold and hard; when someone dies and you never got to say goodbye to.

I’ve had countless occasions for suffering. In each case the pain is unavoidable. It hits without warning and you feel it, whether you like it or not. And of course, the nature of pain is to not like it. Our natural reaction is to resist it, to fight it, to push it away or down. This aversion to pain is suffering.

To resist what is so and long for something better is to suffer. Pain and suffering seem hopelessly entangled in prison, but I’ve learned that suffering is not the unavoidable consequence of pain.

While pain is inevitable in my circumstances, suffering is entirely optional. Pain, even emotional pain, is just a physical sensation: the knot in my stomach, the ache in my heart and head. It is neither positive nor negative on its own. It just is. Suffering is our negative response to pain which compounds and amplifies it and drags it on and on.

I’ve come to believe that the antidote to suffering, the path out of it, is acceptance and gratitude. Acceptance turns “I can’t take another day in this hell” into “I am where I am, and yes, it hurts.” Gratitude goes a step further: “At least I have clean water and enough food. At least I’m alive and surviving. Thank you.” Suffering always arises in the context of inadequacy because you want what you don’t have. Acceptance and gratitude flip your context to one of abundance because you are focused on what you do have and are thankful for it. It’s the difference between misery and joy and it’s available to each of us every moment of the day.

So here I am in the hole, counting my many blessings and refusing to indulge in suffering. Hopefully, you can benefit from these five keys to inner strength without having to go through what I have. That would be a nice silver lining, to know what’s happened to me can make a difference for you. That is one more thing to be grateful for.

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Posted in consciousness, Law, Philosophy, Psychology, society, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saturday Matinee: Endangered Species

A Strange Harvest: Alan Rudolph’s ‘Endangered Species’

By Michael Grasso, K.E. Roberts, Richard McKenna

Source: We Are the Mutants

GRASSO: When our esteemed editor-in-chief recommended we look this week at the little-heralded-nor-remembered Endangered Species from 1982, I was cautiously optimistic. A B-movie starring Robert Urich, JoBeth Williams, Paul Dooley, and Hoyt Axton about cattle mutilations, shot on location in Colorado and Wyoming? I consider myself well-versed in movies about UFOs from the late ’70s and early ’80s, and the fact I’d never heard of this one was a real shock. To my further shock, the film was amazing: fascinating as both a time capsule of the early Reagan years and as a piece of weird outsider art/conspiratorial agitprop. In fact, in Mutant Chat this week I called Endangered Species “the last great 1970s political conspiracy thriller”; with a few days to mull over this assessment, I stand by it even more assertively. Endangered Species seamlessly and expertly weaves together all the threads of cattle mutilation lore as they currently stood in 1982, all while engaging the kind of B-plots that are characteristic of similar movies from this time period: a shoehorned (and slightly icky) romance between the two leads, a plucky teenage character for the teens in the audience to identify with, and a good chunk of edgy blood and gore (not just from the aforementioned mutilated cattle).

So I just have to ask before getting into the details and why I loved this trashy piece of late-night ’80s cable fare—Kelly, how in the hell did you find out about this thing?

ROBERTS: I remember this flick from the video store, but I never watched it (not that I remember, anyway) until about a year ago. Conspiracy films became a genre unto themselves after Watergate, as did UFO films after 1977’s Close Encounters. Endangered Species merges both—one of the few examples of such before The X-Files (1980’s Hangar 18, produced by exploitation experts Sunn Classic Pictures, is another). The campy elements are there, for sure, but overall I agree with you, Mike: this is a very interesting portrait of ramped-up paranoia during the high Cold War period that hits a surprising number of now well-known genre staples: “silent” black helicopters, chemical and germ warfare, keeping up with the Russians, moving vans that disguise shadowy government conspirators, references to satanism. Although the script can’t quite live up to the premise, the opening sequence that moves from a herd of cows in rural Colorado to a herd of humans rushing through the streets of NYC makes the point perfectly clear: our government makes no distinction between cows and people; we are all dumb beasts whose purpose is to be sacrificed for the preservation of the bastards in power.

MCKENNA: Jesus but it’s been a while since I last saw a mainstream film that felt as out-of-control as Endangered Species. I had a vague recollection of watching it, but apparently it was one of those false memories engendered by spending too long staring at the VHS covers down the rental shop, hence it was totally new to me. It comes on like an aggressive cross between a self-aware B-movie and an oddball independent cinema artifact, so it’s no surprise that director Alan Rudolph was a protégé of Robert Altman. Prior to Endangered Species, Rudolph had made a string of low-budget, intelligent, critically acclaimed films in a variety of genres. And Endangered Species is fucking great, despite the many odd and sometimes unpleasant things about it, which include what can’t help feeling like a bit of a cavalier attitude to animal welfare and Robert Urich’s awful yet incongruously multifaceted “hero” Ruben Castle. Castle is one of the most irritating and borderline repellent protagonists I can remember seeing posited as a good guy and romantic lead, despite which he’s given to flashes of grace and insight. Given Rudolph’s smarts, it’s intriguing to wonder if the character wasn’t a deliberate piss-take of bullheaded thuggish machismo—in fact, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether Endangered Species is actually stupid or just playing at it.

You mention Close Encounters, Kelly, and in some ways the whole film almost feels like a compelling satire-mashup of Spielbergian motifs, from the casting right down to the Sugarland Express-like motorcade of cars that provides the film with one of its most memorable images, as well as the disguised trucks containing government technology, like the ones used to ferry Francois Truffaut’s benevolent scientific staff across the US, though here ferrying something much less benign.

Rudolph’s direction is lucid and kinetic, the editing surprising, the acting pretty great, and the script off the wall enough to have its moments, but what is perhaps most surprising about it— especially given how early on it’s made clear that the UFOs are a cover for military–industrial complex shenanigans—is that Endangered Species somehow manages to remain oddly frightening (thanks in part to a deeply unsettling score by Gary Wright) and convincingly transfers the eerie atmosphere initially engendered by the non-sequitur aerial shots of rampaging livestock and rumors of heifer-lasering ETs to government conspiracies equally inhuman and incomprehensible.

GRASSO: Kelly, you’re right: this really is a sui generis artifact of ufology at the outset of the ’80s, one that really bridges two distinct eras in the field. As the 1980s progressed, tales of close encounters were rapidly leaving behind encounters of J. Allen Hynek’s third kind (where entities can be sensed or glimpsed) and becoming more and more likely to be abductions where perceptions of the experiencer’s sense of reality were changed: i.e., encounters of Jacques Vallée’s fourth kind. The suspicion that the U.S. government might be in some ways covering up or working in cahoots with the UFOs also dates from the 1980s, as the Majestic-12 hoax documents began circulating a year or two after Endangered Species was released. (One of Majestic-12’s biggest proponents, investigative reporter Linda Moulton Howe, was also one of the earliest journalists to cover the cattle mutilation phenomenon.)

But ultimately I can’t think of another film from this period that is so decidedly Valléean in its almost fractal unfolding of putative UFO phenomena. In his 1979 Messengers of Deception, Vallée spends quite a bit of time looking at cattle mutilations in the American West. At the time, the classic mutilation event was over a decade old: the case of Snippy the Horse in 1967. Vallée examines how the costly mystery of the cattle mutilation phenomenon in the latter half of the ’70s gradually turned these ranchers from initially believing that UFOs were responsible to eventually believing some kind of government conspiracy were behind the mutilations. These streams of anti-government conspiratorial thought obviously flowed together with existing suspicion of government interference in ranching and land management in the West that would feed into the militia movements of the 1990s and beyond. (It’s interesting to note that JoBeth Williams’ Sheriff Harry character deputizes the entire town at the end of the film to confront the shadowy base on the edge of town; the idea of the posse comitatus was hugely inspirational to the anti-government militias forming in the West at this time.)

But let’s concede this much to the ranchers: their cattle were dying, and they had some reason to suspect government experiments. In Endangered Species, the paramilitary forces are abducting and experimenting on cattle to test biological weapons to be used against the Soviets. (This is probably the best place to note that both Peter Coyote’s and Dan Hedaya’s black ops operatives emit real sleazy menace in every scene they’re in; they don’t get much screen time, but for me they were by far the best part of the film.) These mysterious operatives are utterly dedicated to these experiments for “patriotic” reasons. In Coyote’s confrontation with Hoyt Axton’s big-time rancher, it’s obvious that Axton’s character’s patriotism was a big reason for his collaboration with the cattle mutilators (“I’m a patriot, Steele; I’d do anything for my country”), but after the murder of town newspaper editor Paul Dooley to keep the coverup intact, the black ops boys have gone too far for his tastes. “And you’re not in Guatemala takin’ pot-shots at barefoot natives,” Axton says to Coyote, putting the black ops conspirators firmly in the sphere of the CIA. It’s no surprise that Axton eventually dies a gruesome death; after a black-bag team taints his toothbrush with a mysterious agent, his guts literally fall out of him as an out-of-control hemorrhagic illness ravages his system. Obviously, we’re meant to be reminded of the kinds of domestic ops performed by CIA programs like MKUltra here, but it’s also interesting to see a bioweapon on screen in 1982 that is very similar to the Ebola virus (discovered by scientists in 1976). Government conspiracies involving Ebola/Marburg viruses were also au courant in the 1990s, as were beliefs that the U.S. government either had deliberately engineered or released the AIDS virus into the U.S. population at the end of the 1970s.

ROBERTS: I need to mention E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial here. Released exactly two months before Endangered Species, Spielberg’s film also featured government agents (in this case, the FBI) spying on American citizens and actively seeking to keep the truth from them, prepared to use violence if necessary. Ultimately, the agents are portrayed as benevolent, even paternalistic, their boss (played by Peter Coyote!) revealed to be much like idealistic kid-hero Elliott—as well as a potential father figure to him. Endangered Species does not cop out in such a way (as Spielberg did in 2002 when digitally replacing the FBI’s guns in the chase scene with walkie-talkies, a tragic mistake he later rectified), and is much more disturbing because of it, as you guys mention. While a number of popular ’80s films take on the military-industrial complex and conspiracy, to some degree—The Manhattan Project (1986), The Philadelphia Experiment (1984), WarGames (1983), No Way Out (1987)—only John Carpenter’s They Live (1988) and Endangered Species offer an outright rejection of Reagan’s manipulative idealism.

The film missed an opportunity with JoBeth Willams (who had just starred in 1981’s Poltergeist), whose character we expect to be a man when she’s introduced as newly elected sheriff “Harry.” The camera follows her as she walks to the podium to get sworn in, her long hair tucked up under her hat. For a while, Harry gets to show off her investigatory chops, and even challenges Urich’s claim to hero status, until the predictable “Does she ever wear a dress?” comment gets trotted out, and she takes a backseat to a stock character (the burned-out, drunk NYC cop who’s dictating his first hard-boiled novel into a mini tape recorder).

MCKENNA: It’s true, the very talented JoBeth Willams isn’t used anywhere near as well as she could have been, and the situations the script puts her in range from patronizing to offensive, but despite that she still manages to give a performance that radiates humanity and realness. Playing Urich’s daughter, Marin Kanter (who also appeared in Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains the same year) is great too, as are all the various minor characters who evoke a convincing milieu of dickhead provincial bureaucracy.

In fact, Endangered Species is such a monster that even the poster’s a rocker, bringing together the lights in the sky from the alternate posters for E.T. with a light-grid (which appears in the film as part of the black ops tech used by the baddies) reminiscent of 1981’s Looker, giving it something of the feel of a summa of the zeitgeist. The whole thing quite clearly bears the greasy fingerprints of its executive producer, Zalman King. Better known for his screenplay for 1986 wank-fest 9½ Weeks and the erotic thrillers he subsequently directed, King had given a great performance four years previous to Endangered Species as the protagonist of Jeff Lieberman’s Blue Sunshine—another sort-of-countercultural horror-conspiracy movie—and was one of those people who seemed in some strange way to have the pulse of the unwholesome side of the popular culture, for better or worse. Endangered Species is yet more proof of that odd talent.

Another thing that struck me was the language used by the villains of the piece—a realistic-sounding form of the clinically euphemistic combat talk (which, like the conversations between scientists in 1980’s Altered States, makes you aware you are listening to professionals) that has now become commonplace but that feels surprisingly ahead-of-its-time in the context of the film. It not only gives Endangered Species a sheen of accuracy but also makes you wonder just how much this compellingly detached way of speaking about death and killing—because it is compelling, unfortunately—has contributed to normalizing, to whatever small extent, the kind of thinking that lies behind it.

GRASSO: As I said at the outset, Endangered Species feels a lot more like ’70s thrillers such as The Parallax View or Three Days of the Condor than your typical 1980s VHS fare. Even the ambiguous ending pretty much assures us that greater and more momentous injustices committed by U.S. government-aligned forces will likely continue, long after the credits roll. But it does diverge from those classic 1970s conspiracy thrillers in an important way: instead of the protagonists being crusading journalists (Paul Dooley’s newspaper editor dies about halfway through), the protagonists here are a pair of cops. JoBeth William’s Sheriff Harriet character, as mentioned before, is a woman who can get things done and has the nominal trust of her fellow Coloradans (even if there is the whiff of sexism around the way she is treated at a climactic town meeting). But Robert Urich’s vacationing New York City cop is straight out of street-level 1970s films. While he’s not the same kind of maverick hero as Al Pacino’s Serpico, he’s a salt-of-the-earth schlub, reminiscent of ’70s protagonists such as Walter Matthau in The Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three. But ultimately both protagonists are cops, and I think that’s worth noting as we move from the Nixonian Seventies to the Reaganite Eighties.

To echo what Richard said above, the film certainly is visually interesting for its budget and limitations. The high plains landscapes and slowly decaying small-town streets evoke the period exceptionally well, when America’s small towns were beginning to feel the hollowing out by global capital. The implicit confluence of shadowy government forces with local and international capitalists (in form of Axton’s rancher, the sinister big rigs, and the cattle mutilators’ headquarters, a U.S. missile silo eventually sold into private hands after the first round of U.S.-Soviet arms treaties in the late ’60s) is probably one of the most interesting sub rosa themes in the film. The film’s editing, especially around the repeated ubiquitous cattle abductions by helicopter, is solid as well. And the occasional use of computer graphics eschew the frequent cheesiness inherent in most ’80s films and give us a believable look at what the advanced surveillance and medical systems that the black ops personnel use might look like. Even Gary Wright’s offbeat synth score helps convey a feeling of technological alienation (although I chuckled at the inclusion of a character singing along to “Dream Weaver” on the radio). I maybe wouldn’t go so far to say that Endangered Species is a lost classic, but it’s a fascinating document that tells us more about the state of American conspiracy theorizing in the early 1980s than a lot of bigger, better-known films from the period.

Posted in Art, Conspiracy, culture, Film, Saturday Matinee, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Limits of American Destructiveness

By Dmitry Orlov

Source: Club Orlov

US foreign policy has always been directed at wrecking anything that wasn’t deemed sufficiently American and replacing it with something more acceptable—especially if that something allowed wealth to flow into the US from the outside. Compromises were reserved for the USSR, but even there the Americans constantly tried to cheat. For everyone else there was just submission, which was usually tactfully disguised as a positive—a seat at the big table which offered better chances for peace, prosperity and economic and social development.

Of course, it was a simple enough matter to pierce this veil of hypocritical politeness and to point out that the US, living far beyond its means, has only managed to survive by looting the rest of the world, but anyone who dared to do so would be ostracized, sanctioned, regime-changed, invaded and destroyed—whatever it took.

The US establishment has lavished its wrath on anyone who dared to oppose it ideologically, but it reserved its most extreme forms of malice for those who dared commit the cardinal sin of attempting to sell oil for anything other than US dollars. Iraq was destroyed for this very reason, then Libya. With Syria the juggernaut bogged down and stalled out; with Iran it is unlikely to ever get started.

Even the spineless European politicians are now forced to admit that US policies are designed to enrich certain American interests at the expense of their constituents; they understand by now that further denial would cause them further harm at the polls. Most insultingly to the American ego, US attempts at making Russia and China submit are being greeted with shrugs, titters and eye rolls. And now anybody who wants to can openly criticize the US and scheme behind its back.

How times have changed! US politicians and officials have abandoned all attempts at maintaining decorum and no longer disguise their rapacious, grasping ways. Instead of veiled threats, they now deploy big lies and fake threats. Focusing on the manufacture and dissemination of fakes, they have been attempting to use them to coerce obedience. There are the fake threats—Russian, Chinese, Iranian, North Korean, Cuban—that are used to call for discipline within NATO and for compliance with US unilateral sanctions.

There are also the fake (or false flag) events—a Boeing shot down over the Ukraine by “pro-Russian rebels”; the Skripal poisoning; fake chemical attacks in Syria preposterously blamed on the government; damaged oil tankers in UAE blamed on Iran. These fakes are being used as an an excuse to wreck everything—international security and trade agreements, the systems for insuring that these agreements are adhered to, and world trade.

Before the Americans would do their best to wreck anything that wasn’t theirs, then work to replace it with something that was theirs; but now they have nothing to offer as a replacement for what they are destroying. The only thing the US can offer China is Chinese victory in the trade war. China does not need the US, and this point is being rather loudly pounded home, not just by the Chinese government but by private companies and individuals as well.

First, there is a flood of countersanctions. In particular, a halt to the export of rare earth minerals will shut down electronics manufacturing and with it the entire US high tech sector. Then there are the bonuses to those who buy Huawei products and punishments for buying anything American, up to and including eating at McDonald’s. iPhones have been all but banned—not by the government but by peer pressure. Taking a trip to the US is now a firing offense. There is now a good chance that, caught up in this patriotic uplift, the Chinese are being prepared to make any sacrifice for the sake of outright victory in their trade war with the US.

But do the Americans still have the power to destroy? When Saddam Hussein decided to start selling oil for euros, the CIA organized a provocation that caused him to invade Kuweit as punishment for stealing Iraqi oil. This allowed the US to organize a gigantic expeditionary force with divisions from a large number of countries, including Syria and Egypt and pretty much all of NATO. After a decade of Hussein festering in place, a somewhat smaller coalition dealt him the coup de grâce, destroying Iraq in the process. The victims of the American invasion and occupation outnumber Saddam Hussein’s victims by orders of magnitude. Later, the same thing was done to Muammar Qaddafi, for similar reasons, and Libya is likely to remain as a ruin. There, some sort of minor coalition was cobbled together.

But now the US finds that it urgently needs to knock out Iran because otherwise it will be too late. It is time to form a new coalition and Mike Pompeo has started racing around Eurasia. First off, he offended the Germans by canceling his state visit with Angela Merkel on a moment’s notice and without offering a reason. Instead, he flew to Baghdad—a perfect location for launching an attack on Iran, except that the Iraqi response was a message of solidarity with Iran, willingness to mediate the US-Iranian dispute, and consideration of a ban on US troops on Iraqi soil.

And so Mike flew to Sochi, where he met with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and, briefly, with Putin. Most likely, Putin told him where he can stuff his war plans, and so Mike canceled his planned trip to Moscow, to avoid having Sergei Lavrov wipe his feet on him again. And so Mike flew on to Europe, where he got a quick “no” on Iran from EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini and an outright refusal to meet from the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Great Britain. And so Mike flew back to Washington. You can’t tell anything by looking at his smirking fat mug, but I am sure that he was crying on the inside.

US actions around the world can now be compiled into two lists. The first list is of what the US has succeeded or may yet succeed in wrecking. The second list is of what the US wants to or has been trying to wreck but won’t be able to. There is no third list of what the US has managed to wreck and then make whole again. The challenge for the whole world is to move as many items as possible from the first list to the second list. There are many ways of going about doing this that do have a chance of working and one that doesn’t: negotiating with Americans. Because they lie and cheat and aren’t worth talking to.

Posted in black ops, CIA, culture, Deep State, elites, Empire, Geopolitics, imperialism, Neocons, news, Oligarchy, society, State Crime, war | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Technotyranny: The Iron-Fisted Authoritarianism of the Surveillance State

By John W. Whitehead

Source: Activist Post

“There will come a time when it isn’t ‘They’re spying on me through my phone’ anymore. Eventually, it will be ‘My phone is spying on me.’” ― Philip K. Dick

Red pill or blue pill? You decide.

Twenty years after the Wachowskis’ iconic 1999 film, The Matrix, introduced us to a futuristic world in which humans exist in a computer-simulated non-reality powered by authoritarian machines—a world where the choice between existing in a denial-ridden virtual dream-state or facing up to the harsh, difficult realities of life comes down to a red pill or a blue pill—we stand at the precipice of a technologically-dominated matrix of our own making.

We are living the prequel to The Matrix with each passing day, falling further under the spell of technologically-driven virtual communities, virtual realities and virtual conveniences managed by artificially intelligent machines that are on a fast track to replacing us and eventually dominating every aspect of our lives.

Science fiction has become fact.

In The Matrixcomputer programmer Thomas Anderson a.k.a. hacker Neo is wakened from a virtual slumber by Morpheus, a freedom fighter seeking to liberate humanity from a lifelong hibernation state imposed by hyper-advanced artificial intelligence machines that rely on humans as an organic power source. With their minds plugged into a perfectly crafted virtual reality, few humans ever realize they are living in a dream world.

Neo is given a choice: to wake up and join the resistance, or remain asleep and serve as fodder for the powers-that-be. “You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe,” Morpheus says to Neo in The Matrix. “You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Most people opt for the red pill.

In our case, the red pill—a one-way ticket to a life sentence in an electronic concentration camp—has been honey-coated to hide the bitter aftertaste, sold to us in the name of expediency and delivered by way of blazingly fast Internet, cell phone signals that never drop a call, thermostats that keep us at the perfect temperature without our having to raise a finger, and entertainment that can be simultaneously streamed to our TVs, tablets and cell phones.

Yet we are not merely in thrall with these technologies that were intended to make our lives easier. We have become enslaved by them.

Look around you. Everywhere you turn, people are so addicted to their internet-connected screen devices—smart phones, tablets, computers, televisions—that they can go for hours at a time submerged in a virtual world where human interaction is filtered through the medium of technology.

This is not freedom.

This is not even progress.

This is technological tyranny and iron-fisted control delivered by way of the surveillance state, corporate giants such as Google and Facebook, and government spy agencies such as the National Security Agency.

We are living in a virtual world carefully crafted to resemble a representative government, while in reality we are little more than slaves in thrall to an authoritarian regime, with its constant surveillance, manufactured media spectacles, secret courts, inverted justice, and violent repression of dissent.

So consumed are we with availing ourselves of all the latest technologies that we have spared barely a thought for the ramifications of our heedless, headlong stumble towards a world in which our abject reliance on internet-connected gadgets and gizmos is grooming us for a future in which freedom is an illusion.

It’s not just freedom that hangs in the balance. Humanity itself is on the line.

Indeed, while most people are busily taking selfies, Google has been busily partnering with the NSA, the Pentagon, and other governmental agencies to develop a new “human” species.

Essentially, Google—a neural network that approximates a global brain—is fusing with the human mind in a phenomenon that is called “singularity.” Google will know the answer to your question before you have asked it, said transhumanist scientist Ray Kurzweil. “It will have read every email you will ever have written, every document, every idle thought you’ve ever tapped into a search-engine box. It will know you better than your intimate partner does. Better, perhaps, than even yourself.”

But here’s the catch: the NSA and all other government agencies will also know you better than yourself. As William Binney, one of the highest-level whistleblowers to ever emerge from the NSA said, “The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control.”

Cue the dawning of the Age of the Internet of Things, in which internet-connected “things” will monitor your home, your health and your habits in order to keep your pantry stocked, your utilities regulated and your life under control and relatively worry-free.

The key word here is control.

In the not-too-distant future, “just about every device you have — and even products like chairs, that you don’t normally expect to see technology in — will be connected and talking to each other.”

By 2020, there will be 152 million cars connected to the Internet and 100 million Internet-connected bulbs and lamps. By 2021, it is estimated there will be 240 million wearable devices such as smartwatches, keeping users connected it real time to their phones, emails, text messages and the Internet. By 2022, there will be 1.1 billion smart meters installed in homes, reporting real-time usage to utility companies and other interested parties.

This “connected” industry—estimated to add more than $14 trillion to the economy by 2020—is about to be the next big thing in terms of societal transformations, right up there with the Industrial Revolution, a watershed moment in technology and culture.

Between driverless cars that completely lacking a steering wheel, accelerator, or brake pedal and smart pills embedded with computer chips, sensors, cameras and robots, we are poised to outpace the imaginations of science fiction writers such as Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov. (By the way, there is no such thing as a driverless car. Someone or something will be driving, but it won’t be you.)

The aim of these internet-connected devices, as Nest proclaims, is to make “your house a more thoughtful and conscious home.” For example, your car can signal ahead that you’re on your way home, while Hue lights can flash on and off to get your attention if Nest Protect senses something’s wrong. Your coffeemaker, relying on data from fitness and sleep sensors, will brew a stronger pot of coffee for you if you’ve had a restless night.

Internet-connected techno gadgets as smart light bulbs can discourage burglars by making your house look occupied, smart thermostats will regulate the temperature of your home based on your activities, and smart doorbells will let you see who is at your front door without leaving the comfort of your couch.

Nest, Google’s $3 billion acquisition, has been at the forefront of the “connected” industry, with such technologically savvy conveniences as a smart lock that tells your thermostat who is home, what temperatures they like, and when your home is unoccupied; a home phone service system that interacts with your connected devices to “learn when you come and go” and alert you if your kids don’t come home; and a sleep system that will monitor when you fall asleep, when you wake up, and keep the house noises and temperature in a sleep-conducive state.

It’s not just our homes that are being reordered and reimagined in this connected age: it’s our workplaces, our health systems, our government and our very bodies that are being plugged into a matrix over which we have no real control.

Moreover, given the speed and trajectory at which these technologies are developing, it won’t be long before these devices are operating entirely independent of their human creators, which poses a whole new set of worries.

As technology expert Nicholas Carr notes, “As soon as you allow robots, or software programs, to act freely in the world, they’re going to run up against ethically fraught situations and face hard choices that can’t be resolved through statistical models. That will be true of self-driving cars, self-flying drones, and battlefield robots, just as it’s already true, on a lesser scale, with automated vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers.”

For instance, just as the robotic vacuum, Roomba, “makes no distinction between a dust bunny and an insect,” weaponized drones will be incapable of distinguishing between a fleeing criminal and someone merely jogging down a street.

For that matter, how do you defend yourself against a robotic cop—such as the Atlas android being developed by the Pentagon—that has been programmed to respond to any perceived threat with violence?

Unfortunately, in our race to the future, we have failed to consider what such dependence on technology might mean for our humanity, not to mention our freedoms.

Ingestible or implantable chips are a good example of how unprepared we are, morally and otherwise, to navigate this uncharted terrain. Hailed as revolutionary for their ability to access, analyze and manipulate your body from the inside, these smart pills can remind you to take your medication, search for cancer, and even send an alert to your doctor warning of an impending heart attack.

Sure, the technology could save lives, but is that all we need to know? Have we done our due diligence in dealing with the ramifications of giving the government and its cronies access to such intrusive programs? For example, asks reporter Ariana Eunjung Cha, “How will patients be assured that the technology won’t be used to compel them to take medications they don’t really want to take? Could what started as a voluntary experiment be turned into a compulsory government identification program that could erode civil liberties?

Let me put it another way.

If you were shocked by Edward Snowden’s revelations about how NSA agents have used surveillance to spy on Americans’ phone calls, emails and text messages, can you imagine what unscrupulous government agents could do with access to your internet-connected car, home and medications?

All of those internet-connected gadgets we just have to have (Forbes refers to them as “(data) pipelines to our intimate bodily processes”)—the smart watches that can monitor our blood pressure and the smart phones that let us pay for purchases with our fingerprints and iris scans—are setting us up for a brave new world where there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Imagine what a SWAT team could do with the ability to access, monitor and control your internet-connected home: locking you in, turning off the lights, activating alarms, etc.

Thus far, the public response to concerns about government surveillance has amounted to a collective shrug.

After all, who cares if the government can track your whereabouts on your GPS-enabled device so long as it helps you find the fastest route from Point A to Point B? Who cares if the NSA is listening in on your phone calls and downloading your emails so long as you can get your phone calls and emails on the go and get lightning fast Internet on the fly? Who cares if the government can monitor your activities in your home by tapping into your internet-connected devices—thermostat, water, lights—so long as you can control those things with the flick of a finger, whether you’re across the house or across the country?

It’s hard to truly appreciate the intangible menace of technology-enabled government surveillance in the face of the all-too-tangible menace of police shootings of unarmed citizens, SWAT team raids, and government violence and corruption.

However, both dangers are just as lethal to our freedoms if left unchecked.

Consider that on any given day, the average American going about his daily business is monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in virtually every way by both government and corporate eyes and ears.

Whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, will be listening in and tracking your behavior.

This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

In other words, there is no form of digital communication that the government cannot and does not monitor: phone calls, emails, text messages, tweets, Facebook posts, internet video chats, etc., are all accessible, trackable and downloadable by federal agents.

The government and its corporate partners-in-crime have been bypassing the Fourth Amendment’s prohibitions for so long that this constitutional bulwark against warrantless searches and seizures has largely been rendered antiquated and irrelevant.

We are now in the final stage of the transition from a police state to a surveillance state.

Having already transformed local police into extensions of the military, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI are in the process of turning the nation’s police officers into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone Stingray devices and so much more.

Add in the fusion centers and real-time crime centers, city-wide surveillance networks, data clouds conveniently hosted overseas by Amazon and Microsoft, drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras, and biometric databases, and you’ve got the makings of a world in which “privacy” is reserved exclusively for government agencies.

In other words, the surveillance state that came into being with the 9/11 attacks is alive and well and kicking privacy to shreds in America. Having been persuaded to trade freedom for a phantom promise of security, Americans now find themselves imprisoned in a virtual cage of cameras, wiretaps, sensors and watchful government eyes.

Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people.

And of course that doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine. Indeed, Facebook, Amazon and Google are among the government’s closest competitors when it comes to carrying out surveillance on Americans, monitoring the content of your emails, tracking your purchases and exploiting your social media posts.

“Few consumers understand what data are being shared, with whom, or how the information is being used,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Most Americans emit a stream of personal digital exhaust — what they search for, what they buy, who they communicate with, where they are — that is captured and exploited in a largely unregulated fashion.”

It’s not just what we say, where we go and what we buy that is being tracked.

We’re being surveilled right down to our genes, thanks to a potent combination of hardware, software and data collection that scans our biometrics—our faces, irises, voices, genetics, even our gait—runs them through computer programs that can break the data down into unique “identifiers,” and then offers them up to the government and its corporate allies for their respective uses.

For instance, imagine what the NSA could do (and is likely already doing) with voiceprint technology, which has been likened to a fingerprint. Described as “the next frontline in the battle against overweening public surveillance,” the collection of voiceprints is a booming industry for governments and businesses alike. As The Guardian reports, “voice biometrics could be used to pinpoint the location of individuals. There is already discussion about placing voice sensors in public spaces, and … multiple sensors could be triangulated to identify individuals and specify their location within very small areas.”

The NSA is merely one small part of a shadowy permanent government comprised of unelected bureaucrats who march in lockstep with profit-driven corporations that actually runs Washington, DC, and works to keep us under surveillance and, thus, under control. For example, Google openly works with the NSA, Amazon has built a massive $600 million intelligence database for CIA, and the telecommunications industry is making a fat profit by spying on us for the government.

In other words, Corporate America is making a hefty profit by aiding and abetting the government in its domestic surveillance efforts.

Control is the key here.

Total control over every aspect of our lives, right down to our inner thoughts, is the objective of any totalitarian regime.

George Orwell understood this. His masterpiece, 1984, portrays a global society of total control in which people are not allowed to have thoughts that in any way disagree with the corporate state. There is no personal freedom, and advanced technology has become the driving force behind a surveillance-driven society. Snitches and cameras are everywhere. And people are subject to the Thought Police, who deal with anyone guilty of thought crimes. The government, or “Party,” is headed by Big Brother, who appears on posters everywhere with the words: “Big Brother is watching you.”

Make no mistake: the Internet of Things is just Big Brother in a more appealing disguise.

Now there are still those who insist that they have nothing to hide from the surveillance state and nothing to fear from the police state because they have done nothing wrong. To those sanctimonious few, secure in their delusions, let this be a warning: the danger posed by the American police state applies equally to all of us, lawbreaker and law-abider alike.

In an age of too many laws, too many prisons, too many government spies, and too many corporations eager to make a fast buck at the expense of the American taxpayer, there is no safe place and no watertight alibi.

We are all guilty of some transgression or other.

Eventually, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we will all be made to suffer the same consequences in the electronic concentration camp that surrounds us.

Posted in Authoritarianism, censorship, civil liberties, consciousness, Corporate Crime, culture, Dystopia, elites, Film, Geopolitics, internet freedom, Law, Oligarchy, police state, propaganda, Psy-ops, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, Spirituality, State Crime, surveillance state, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Manufacturing War With Russia

By Chris Hedges

Source: Information Clearing House

Despite the Robert Mueller report’s conclusion that Donald Trump and his campaign did not collude with Russia during the 2016 presidential race, the new Cold War with Moscow shows little sign of abating. It is used to justify the expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders, a move that has made billions in profits for U.S. arms manufacturers. It is used to demonize domestic critics and alternative media outlets as agents of a foreign power. It is used to paper over the Democratic Party’s betrayal of the working class and the party’s subservience to corporate power. It is used to discredit détente between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. It is used to justify both the curtailment of civil liberties in the United States and U.S. interventions overseas—including in countries such as Syria and Venezuela. This new Cold War predates the Trump presidential campaign. It was manufactured over a decade ago by a war industry and intelligence community that understood that, by fueling a conflict with Russia, they could consolidate their power and increase their profits. (Seventy percent of intelligence is carried out by private corporations such as Booz Allen Hamilton, which has been called the world’s most profitable spy operation.)

“This began long before Trump and ‘Russiagate,’ ” Stephen F. Cohen said when I interviewed him for my television show, “On Contact.” Cohen is professor emeritus of politics at Princeton University, where he was the director of the Russian studies program, and professor emeritus of Russian studies and history at New York University. “You have to ask yourself, why is it that Washington had no problem doing productive diplomacy with Soviet communist leaders. Remember Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev? It was a love fest. They went hunting together [in the Soviet Union]. Yet along comes a post-Soviet leader, Vladimir Putin, who is not only not a communist but a professed anti-communist. Washington has been hating on him ever since 2003, 2004. It requires some explanation. Why do we like communist leaders in Russia better than we like Russia’s anti-communist leader? It’s a riddle.”

“If you’re trying to explain how the Washington establishment has dealt with Putin in a hateful and demonizing way, you have to go back to the 1990s before Putin,” said Cohen, whose new book is “War With Russia? From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate.” The first post-Soviet leader is Boris Yeltsin. Clinton is president. And they have this fake, pseudo-partnership and friendship, whereas essentially the Clinton administration took advantage of the fact that Russia was in collapse. It almost lost its sovereignty. I lived there in the ’90s. Middle-class people lost their professions. Elderly people lost their pensions. I think it’s correct to say that industrial production fell more in the Russian 1990s than it did during our own Great Depression. It was the worst economic and social depression ever in peacetime. It was a catastrophe for Russia.”

In September 1993 Russians took to the streets to protest the collapse of the economy—the gross domestic product had fallen by 50% and the country was convulsed by hyperinflation—along with the rampant corruption that saw state enterprises sold for paltry fees to Russian oligarchs and foreign corporations in exchange for lavish kickbacks and bribes; food and fuel shortages; the nonpayment of wages and pensions; the lack of basic services, including medical services; falling life expectancy; the explosion of violent crime; and Yeltsin’s increasing authoritarianism and his unpopular war with Chechnya.

In October 1993 Yeltsin, after dissolving the parliament, ordered army tanks to shell the Russian parliament building, which was being occupied by democratic protesters. The assault left 2,000 dead. Yet during his presidency Yeltsin was effusively praised and supported by Washington. This included U.S. support for a $10.2 billion International Monetary Fund loan to Russia during his 1996 re-election campaign. The loan enabled the Yeltsin government to pay huge sums in back wages and pensions to millions of Russians, with checks often arriving on the eve of the election. Also, an estimated $1.5 billion from the loan was used to directly fund the Yeltsin presidential campaign. But by the time Yeltsin was forced out of office in December 1999 his approval rating had sunk to 2%. Washington, losing Yeltsin, went in search of another malleable Russian leader and, at first, thought it had found one in Putin.

“Putin went to Texas,” Cohen said. “He had a barbecue with Bush, second Bush. Bush said he ‘looked into his eyes and saw a good soul.’ There was this honeymoon. Why did they turn against Putin? He turned out not to be Yeltsin. We have a very interesting comment about this from Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, who wrote, I think in 2003, that his own disillusion with Putin was that he had turned out not to be ‘a sober Yeltsin.’ What Washington was hoping for was a submissive, supplicant, post-Soviet Russian leader, but one who was younger, healthier and not a drinker. They thought they had that in Putin. Yeltsin had put Putin in power, or at least the people around Yeltsin did.”

“When Putin began talking about Russia’s sovereignty, Russia’s independent course in world affairs, they’re aghast,” Cohen said of the Washington elites. “This is not what they expected. Since then, my own thinking is we were pretty lucky after the 1990s to get Putin because there were worst contenders in the wings. I knew some of them. I don’t want to name names. But some of these guys were really harsh people. Putin was kind of the right person for the right time, both for Russia and for Russian world affairs.”

“We have had three years of this,” Cohen said of Russiagate. “We lost sight of the essence of what this allegation is. The people who created Russiagate are literally saying, and have been for almost three years, that the president of the United States is a Russian agent, or he has been compromised by the Kremlin. We grin because it’s so fantastic. But the Washington establishment, mainly the Democrats but not only, have taken this seriously.”

“I don’t know if there has ever been anything like this in American history,” Cohen said. “That accusation does such damage to our own institutions, to the presidency, to our electoral system, to Congress, to the American mainstream media, not to mention the damage it’s done to American-Russian relations, the damage it has done to the way Russians, both elite Russians and young Russians, look at America today. This whole Russiagate has not only been fraudulent, it’s been a catastrophe.”

“There were three major episodes of détente in the 20th century,” Cohen said. “The first was after Stalin died, when the Cold War was very dangerous. That was carried out by Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican president. The second was by Richard Nixon, advised by Henry Kissinger—it was called ‘the Nixon détente with Brezhnev.’ The third, and we thought most successful, was Ronald Reagan with Mikhail Gorbachev. It was such a successful détente Reagan and Gorbachev, and Reagan’s successor, the first Bush, said the Cold War was over forever.”

“The wall had come down,” Cohen said of the 1989 collapse of East Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall. “Germany was reunifying. The question became ‘where would a united Germany be?’ The West wanted Germany in NATO. For Gorbachev, this was an impossible sell. Twenty-seven point five million Soviet citizens had died in the war against Germany in the Second World War on the eastern front. Contrary to the bunk we’re told, the United States didn’t land on Normandy and defeat Nazi Germany. The defeat of Nazi Germany was done primarily by the Soviet army. How could Gorbachev go home and say, ‘Germany is reunited. Great. And it’s going to be in NATO.’ It was impossible. They told Gorbachev, ‘We promise if you agree to a reunited Germany in NATO, NATO will not move—this was Secretary of State James Baker—one inch to the east. In other words, NATO would not move from Germany toward Russia. And it did.”

“As we speak today, NATO is on Russia’s borders,” Cohen said. “From the Baltics to Ukraine to the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. So, what happened? Later, they said Gorbachev lied or he misunderstood. [That] the promise was never made. But the National Security Archive in Washington has produced all the documents of the discussion in 1990. It was not only [President George H.W.] Bush, it was the French leader François Mitterrand, it was Margaret Thatcher of England. Every Western leader promised Gorbachev NATO would not move eastward.”

“What do you end up with today?” he asked. “Betrayal. Any kind of discussion about Russian-American relations today, an informed Russian is going to say, ‘We worry you will betray us again.’… Putin said he had illusions about the West when he came to power.”

“Trump comes out of nowhere in 2016 and says, ‘I think we should cooperate with Russia,’ ” Cohen said. “This is a statement of détente. It’s what drew my attention to him. It’s then that this talk of Trump being an agent of the Kremlin begins. One has to wonder—I can’t prove it—but you have to think logically. Was this [allegation] begun somewhere high up in America by people who didn’t want a pro-détente president? And [they] thought that Trump, however small it seemed at the time that he could win—they really didn’t like this talk of cooperation with Russia. It set in motion these things we call Russiagate.”

“The forefathers of détente were Republicans,” Cohen said. “How the Democrats behaved during this period of détente was mixed. There was what used to be called the Henry Jackson wing. This was a very hard-line, ideological wing of the Democratic Party that didn’t believe in détente. Some Democrats did. I lived many years in Moscow, both Soviet and post-Soviet times. If you talk to Russian, Soviet policymakers, they generally prefer Republican candidates for the presidency.”

Democrats are perceived by Russian rulers as more ideological, Cohen said.

“Republicans tend to be businessmen who want to do business in Russia,” he said. “The most important pro-détente lobby group, created in the 1970s, was called the American Committee for East-West Accord. It was created by American CEOs who wanted to do business in Soviet Russia.”

“The single most important relationship the United States has is with Russia,” Cohen went on, “not only because of the nuclear weapons. It remains the largest territorial country in the world. It abuts every region we are concerned about. Détente with Russia—not friendship, not partnership, not alliance—but reducing conflict is essential. Yet something happened in 2016.”

The accusations made repeatedly by James Clapper, the former director of the National Security Agency, and John Brennan, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, concerning the Kremlin’s supposed control of Trump and Russia’s alleged theft of our elections are deeply disturbing, Cohen said. Clapper and Brennan have described Trump as a Kremlin “asset.” Brennan called Trump’s performance at a news conference with the Russian president in Finland “nothing short of treasonous.”

Clapper in his memoir, “Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence,” claims Putin’s interference in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Trump was “staggering.”

“Of course, the Russian efforts affected the outcome,” writes Clapper. “Surprising even themselves, they swung the election to a Trump win. To conclude otherwise stretches logic, common sense and credulity to the breaking point. Less than eighty thousand votes in three key states swung the election. I have no doubt that more votes than that were influenced by this massive effort by the Russians.”

Brennan and Clapper have on numerous occasions been caught lying to the public. Brennan, for example, denied, falsely, that the CIA was monitoring the computers that Senate staff members were using to prepare a report on torture. The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, took to the Senate floor to accuse Brennan and the CIA of potentially violating the U.S. Constitution and of criminal activity in its attempts to spy on and thwart her committee’s investigations into the agency’s use of torture. She described the situation as a “defining moment” for political oversight. Brennan also claimed there was not a “single collateral death” in the drone assassination program, that Osama bin Laden used his wife as a human shield before being gunned down in a U.S. raid in Pakistan, and insisted that torture, or what is euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation,” has produced valuable intelligence. None of these statements are true.

Clapper, who at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq was the head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon unit responsible for interpreting spy-satellite photos and intelligence such as air particles and soil samples, concocted a story about Saddam Hussein spiriting his nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and the documents that verified his program to Syria on the eve of the invasion. He blatantly committed perjury before the Senate when being questioned about domestic surveillance programs of the American public. He was asked, “Does the NSA [National Security Agency] collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper responded, “No, sir. … Not wittingly.” It was, as Clapper knew very well, a lie.

Our inability to oversee or control senior intelligence officials and their agencies, which fabricate information to push through agendas embraced by the shadow state, signals the death of democracy. Intelligence officials seemingly empowered to lie—Brennan and Clapper have been among them—ominously have in their hands instruments of surveillance, intimidation and coercion that effectively silence their critics, blunt investigations into their activities, even within the government, and make them and their agencies unaccountable.

“We have the Steele dossier that was spookily floating around American media,” Cohen said of the report compiled by Christopher Steele.

The report was commissioned by Fusion GPS and paid for by the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Bob Woodward reported that Brennan pushed to include the Steele dossier in the intelligence community assessment of Russian election interference.

“He [Steele] got it from newspapers,” Cohen said. “I don’t think he had a single source in Russia. Steele comes forward with this dossier and says, ‘I’ve got information from high-level sources.’ The Clinton campaign is funding this operation. But Steele is very important. He’s a former U.K. intelligence officer, if he’s really former, who had served in Russia and ran Russian cases. He says he has this information in the dossier about Trump frolicking with prostitutes. About Trump having been corrupted decades ago. He got it from ‘high-level’ Kremlin sources. This is preposterous. It’s illogical.”

“The theory is Putin desperately wanted to make Trump president,” Cohen said. “Yet, guys in the Kremlin, around Putin, were feeding Trump dirt to a guy called Steele. Even though the boss wants—does it make any sense to you?”

“Why is this important?” Cohen asked. “Right-wing American media outlets today, in particularly Fox News, are blaming Russia for this whole Russiagate thing. They’re saying that Russia provided this false information to Steele, who pumped it into our system, which led to Russiagate. This is untrue.”

“Who is behind all this? Including the Steele operation?” Cohen asked. “I prefer a good question to an orthodox answer. I’m not dogmatic. I don’t have the evidence. But all the surface information suggests that this originated with Brennan and the CIA. Long before it hit America—maybe as early as late 2015. One of the problems we have today is everybody is hitting on the FBI. Lovers who sent emails. But the FBI is a squishy organization, nobody is afraid of the FBI. It’s not what it used to be under J. Edgar Hoover. Look at James Comey, for God’s sake. He’s a patsy. Brennan and Clapper played Comey. They dumped this stuff on him. Comey couldn’t even handle Mrs. Clinton’s emails. He made a mess of everything. Who were the cunning guys? They were Brennan and Clapper. [Brennan,] the head of the CIA. Clapper, the head of the Office of [the Director of] National Intelligence, who is supposed to oversee these agencies.”

“Is there any reality to these Russiagate allegations against Trump and Putin?” he asked. “Was this dreamed up by our intelligence services? Today investigations are being promised, including by the attorney general of the United States. They all want to investigate the FBI. But they need to investigate what Brennan and the CIA did. This is the worst scandal in American history. It’s the worst, at least since the Civil War. We need to know how this began. If our intelligence services are way off the reservation, to the point that they can try to first destroy a presidential candidate and then a president, and I don’t care that it’s Trump, it may be Harry Smith next time, or a woman; if they can do this, we need to know it.”

“The second Bush left the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002,” Cohen said. “It was a very important treaty. It prevented the deployment of missile defense. If anybody got missile defense that worked, they might think they had a first strike [option]. Russia or the United States could strike the other without retaliation. Once Bush left the treaty, we began to deploy missile defense around Russia. It was very dangerous.”

“The Russians began a new missile program which we learned about last year,” he said. Hypersonic missiles. Russia now has nuclear missiles that can evade and elude any missile defense system. We are in a new and more perilous point in a 50-year nuclear arms race. Putin says, ‘We’ve developed these because of what you did. We can destroy each other.’ Now is the time for a serious, new arms control agreement. What do we get? Russiagate. Russiagate is one of the greatest threats to national security. I have five listed in the book. Russia and China aren’t on there. Russiagate is number one.”

 

Posted in black ops, CIA, culture, Deep State, Dirty Politics, elites, Empire, Geopolitics, imperialism, Militarization, Neocons, Social Engineering, society, State Crime, war | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two for Tuesday

Riz MC

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Democracy vs. The Putin-Nazis

By CJ Hopkins

Source: Consent Factory

Back in January 2018, I wrote this piece about The War on Dissent, which, in case you haven’t noticed, is going gangbusters. As predicted, the global capitalist ruling classes have been using every weapon in their arsenal to marginalize, stigmatize, delegitimize, and otherwise eliminate any and all forms of dissent from neoliberal ideology, and in particular from their new official narrative … “Democracy versus The Putin-Nazis.”

For over two years, the corporate media have been pounding out an endless series of variations on this major theme, namely, that “democracy is under attack” by a conspiracy of Russians and neo-Nazis that magically materialized out of the ether during the Summer of 2016. The intelligence agencies, political elites, academia, celebrities, social media personalities, and other organs of the culture industry have been systematically reifying this official narrative through constant repetition. The Western masses have been inundated with innumerable articles, editorials, television news and talk show segments, books, social media posts, and various other forms of messaging whipping up hysteria over “Russians” and “fascists.” At this point, it is no longer just propaganda. It has become the new “truth.” It has become “reality.”

Becoming “reality” is, of course, the ultimate goal of every ideology. An ideology is just a system of ideas, and is thus fair game for critique and dissent. “Reality” is not fair game for dissent. It is not up for debate or challenge, not by “serious,” “legitimate” people. “Reality” is simply “the way it is.” It is axiomatic. It is apothegmatic. It’s not a belief or an interpretation. It is not subject to change or revision. It is the immortal, immutable Word of God … or whatever deity or deity-like concept the ruling classes and the masses they rule accept as the Final Arbiter of Truth. In our case, this would be Science, or Reason, rather than some supernatural being, but in terms of ideology there isn’t much difference. Every system of belief, regardless of its nature, ultimately depends on political power and power relations to enforce its beliefs, which is to say, to make them “real.”

OK, whenever I write about “reality” and “truth,” I get a few rather angry responses from folks who appear to think I’m denying the existence of objective reality. I’m not … for example, this chair I’m sitting on is absolutely part of objective reality, a physical object that actually exists. The screen you’re probably reading these words on is also part of objective reality. I am not saying there is no reality. What I’m saying is, “reality” is a concept, a concept invented and developed by people … a concept that serves a variety of purposes, some philosophical, some political. It’s the political purposes I’m interested in.

Think of “reality” as an ideological tool … a tool in the hands of those with the power to designate what is “real” and what isn’t. Doctors, teachers, politicians, police, scientists, priests, pundits, experts, parents — these are the enforcers of “reality.” The powerless do not get to decide what is “real.” Ask someone suffering from schizophrenia. Or … I’m sorry, is it bipolar disorder? Or oppositional defiant disorder? I can’t keep all these new disorders psychiatrists keep “discovering” straight.

Or ask a Palestinian living in Gaza. Or the mother of a Black kid the cops shot for no reason. Ask Julian Assange. Ask the families of all those “enemy combatants” Obama droned. Ask the “conspiracy theorists” on Twitter digitally screaming at anyone who will listen about what is and isn’t “the truth.” Each of them will give you their version of “reality,” and you and I may agree with some of them, and some of their beliefs may be supported with facts, but that will not make what they believe “reality.”

Power is what makes “reality” “reality.” Not facts. Not evidence. Not knowledge. Power.

Those in power, or aligned with those in power, or parroting the narratives of those in power, understand this (whether consciously or not). Those without power mostly do not, and thus we continue to “speak truth to power,” as if those in power gave a shit. They don’t. The powerful are not arguing with us. They are not attempting to win a debate about what is and isn’t “true,” or what did or didn’t “really” happen. They are declaring what did or didn’t happen. They are telling us what is and is not “reality,” and demonstrating what happens to those who disagree.

The “Democracy versus The Putin-Nazis” narrative is our new “reality,” whether we like it or not. It does not matter one iota that there is zero evidence to support this narrative, other than the claims of intelligence agencies, politicians, the corporate media, and other servants of the ruling classes. The Russians are “attacking democracy” because the ruling classes tell us they are. “Fascism is on the march again” because the ruling classes say it is. Anyone who disagrees is a “Putin-sympathizer,” a “Putin-apologist,” or “linked to Russia,” or “favored by Russia,” or an “anti-Semite,” or a “fascist apologist.”

Question the official narrative about the Gratuitously Baby Gassing Monster of Syria and you’re an Assad apologist, a Russian bot network, or a plagiarizing Red-Brown infiltrator. Criticize the corporate media for disseminating cheap McCarthyite smears, and you’re a Tulsi-stanning Hindu Nazi-apologist. God help you if you should appear on FOX, in which case you are a Nazi-legitimizer! A cursory check of the Internet today revealed that “far-right Facebook groups are spreading hate to millions in Europe” by means of some sort of hypnogenic content that just looking at it turns you into a Nazi. Our democracy-loving friends at The Atlantic Council are disappointed by Trump’s refusal to sign the “Christchurch Call,” a multilateral statement encouraging corporations to censor the Internet … and fascism is fashionable in Italy again!”

This post-Orwellian, neo-McCarthyite mass hysteria is not going to stop … not until the global capitalist ruling classes have suppressed the current “populist” insurgency and restored “normality” throughout the Western world. Until then, it’s going to be pretty much non-stop “Democracy versus the Putin-Nazis.”

So, unless you’re enjoying our new “reality,” or are willing to conform to it for some other reason, prepare to be smeared as “a Russia-loving, Putin-apologizing conspiracy theorist,” or a “fascism-enabling, Trump-loving Nazi,” or some other type of insidiously Slavic, white supremacist, mass-murder enthusiast. Things are only going to get uglier as the American election season ramps up. I mean, come on … you don’t really believe that the global capitalist ruling classes are going to let Trump serve a second term, do you?

Posted in Authoritarianism, censorship, civil liberties, conditioning, consciousness, Conspiracy, corporate news, culture, Deep State, Dystopia, elites, Empire, freedom of speech, Geopolitics, imperialism, media, Media Literacy, news, propaganda, Psy-ops, Psychology, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, Sociology, State Crime, surveillance state, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Australian police chief links media raids to US-led “Five Eyes” spy network

By Mike Head

Source: WSWS.org

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) called a news conference on Thursday to justify its raids targeting journalists at two media organisations this week.

Police spent seven hours ransacking a News Corp political reporter’s home in Canberra on Tuesday, and eight hours poring over and seizing files at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) Sydney headquarters on Wednesday.

In an extraordinary admission, the AFP’s acting commissioner Neil Gaughan blurted out that the real reason for the raids was to protect the information that the Australian police and intelligence agencies receive from their “Five Eyes” counterparts. Five Eyes is a top-level network of intelligence agencies dominated by the US that also includes Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

“The Australian government, or particularly the Australian enforcement and intelligence communities, rely on secret and top-secret information from our international partners, particularly our Five Eyes partners,” the police chief said. “If we can’t be seen to protect our own internal information, [then] we are concerned that the information flow to us dries up.”

Citing government demands for investigations into leaks of secret information, Gaughan said the AFP received “numerous referrals to us [of leaks] and to be honest we get too many. But the premise of investigating these matters is to ensure the international community knows that we take the leaking of information, sensitive information, seriously.”

In other words, the AFP is under pressure not just from Canberra, but from Washington, to ensure that information, including about criminal actions of governments and its agencies, is kept from public view. This takes place amid the Trump administration’s mounting threats of war against Iran and Venezuela, as well as its escalating confrontation with China.

The AFP search warrants related to leaked documents exposing war crimes perpetrated by the Special Air Service (SAS) in Afghanistan and plans to legalise domestic mass surveillance by the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), which are both central to Five Eyes operations.

Gaughan’s remarkable declaration went virtually unreported throughout the establishment media in Australia and internationally. His admission vindicates the analysis made by the WSWS on Thursday:

“[I]t is inconceivable that the Australian government would have instigated and pursued the investigation of the ABC and Murdoch media journalists without the agreement, if not urging, of Washington. Both the SAS and the ASD surveillance agency are closely integrated into all the wars and war preparations of the US.”

Gaughan’s statement also underscores the warnings made by the WSWS that the persecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for exposing the war crimes, mass spying and regime-change operations of Washington and its allies, including Australia, is setting a precedent for the criminalisation of journalism.

By specifically targeting journalists, as well as whistleblowers, the Australian government is following the lead of the Trump administration. The US has charged Assange, a journalist and publisher, with multiple counts under the Espionage Act, for which he faces life imprisonment.

At his press conference, Gaughan refused to rule out laying charges against News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst or ABC reporters Dan Oakes and Sam Clark for publishing alleged “national security” secrets. Such charges against journalists would be without precedent in Australia since World Wars I and II.

In a pointed warning, Gaughan said “no sector of the community should be immune” from police investigations into alleged law-breaking. Gaughan said the police are probing the “publication” of documents marked “secret” and “top secret,” placing journalists and publishers squarely under threat of prosecutions.

The AFP is investigating breaches of the Crimes Act, which criminalises unauthorised disclosures by public servants, and also contains offences that apply to journalists. Journalists, as well as alleged leakers, can be jailed for up to seven years. Dating back to World War I, the legislation outlaws “receiving” information that “prejudices the security or defence” of Australia.

But, asked what was the harm of revealing wrongdoing by Australian troops or plans to extend spying laws, Gaughan said the substance of the reports was “irrelevant.” The mere disclosure of protected information was a crime. He bluntly stated: “The issue of whether or not the public has the right to know is really not an issue that comes into our investigation process.”

The Crimes Act provisions were recently replaced by even more far-reaching measures embedded in the “foreign interference” legislation that the Liberal-National government pushed through parliament at Washington’s urging late last year, supported by the Labor Party. The maximum penalties were increased to 10 years’ imprisonment. However, the new laws could not be applied to the current cases, because the alleged leaks occurred in July 2017 and April 2018.

Gaughan tried to refute accusations that the AFP was acting at the government’s behest. He denied that the police had waited until after the May 18 federal election to execute warrants and claimed no contact had been made with the government since the AFP informed Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton when the investigations first began.

These claims fly in the face of the facts. The government itself instigated both AFP investigations, and the Labor Party fully supported it in doing so. And Dutton and other government ministers immediately defended the raids. When Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked at a press conference if he was bothered by police raiding journalists’ homes, he replied: “It never troubles me that our laws are being upheld.”

Above all, as Gaughan himself revealed, the raids were mounted to satisfy the Five Eyes powers, which means the US above all. Successive governments, both Liberal-National and Labor, have committed Australia to be a key partner in this network as part of its military alliance with the United States.

The police raids are part of a global crackdown on freedom of speech, including in the US and other countries, such as France, where governments are taking the Trump administration’s repressive lead.

This assault is targeted directly at the basic right of the working class to know the crimes, war plans and conspiracies of the capitalist ruling elites and the state apparatuses they control. It is being mounted amid growing struggles by workers around the world against soaring social inequality and declining living and working conditions.

The Australian police chief’s open threats highlight the urgency of the worldwide campaign being waged by the WSWS and the Socialist Equality Parties for the defence of Julian Assange and the jailed whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Their plight is a test case in the struggle against the lurch toward war and dictatorial forms of rule.

Posted in Activism, black ops, censorship, civil liberties, culture, Dystopia, Empire, freedom of speech, Geopolitics, imperialism, internet freedom, media, news, police state, Psy-ops, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, State Crime, surveillance state | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment