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Sun, 17 Dec 2017
The World for People who Think


Moon

American democracy in the age of empire

liberty in the dark
Shortly after the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, made a candid confession to the Army Times, "I'm running out of demons, I'm running out of villains. I'm down to Castro and Kim Il Sung." Amid the general bonhomie of the military interview, Powell nicely encapsulated a central truth of empire: it doesn't want peace. Never did. Imperialism, the monopoly stage of capitalism, is based on conquest. Peace is little more than an aftermath in the imperialist vision. It is the dusty rubble-strewn silence that descends on Aleppo when the jihadists have been bussed out. It is the silent pollution of the Danube when the NATO jets have flown. Peace is an interlude between the birth of avarice and the advent of aggression. Little else.

If Powell confessed empire's disinterest in peace, he also expressed the need of the imperials state for a steady supply of new enemies. Conflict is the lifeblood of imperial capitalism. It is how the ruling class further enriches itself. It is how the global elite expand their dominion over the planet. Those who will not pay tribute under threat of menace, must ultimately face the menace. But this truth, that the imperial state is the carmine tip of elite expropriation, must not be aired among the hoi polloi. It is the unseemly underbelly of power and if it were widely understood it would hack away the legitimacy of the state, which is only justified by its nominal commitment to the welfare of the nation. That claim only appears legitimate in the face of some grim and ghastly threat. Powell understood that with the nasty specter of the evil empire crumbling to ash on an Asian plain, a spine-chilling new antagonist would have to be invented to replace it.

Bandaid

Russiagate keeps falling apart: Strzok-gate and Mueller's cover-up

strzok mueller
Almost eighteen months after Obama's Justice Department and the FBI launched the Russiagate investigation, and seven months after Special Counsel Robert Mueller took the investigation over, the sum total of what it has achieved is as follows:

(1) an indictment of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates which concerns entirely their prior financial dealings, and which makes no reference to the Russiagate collusion allegations;

(2) an indictment for lying to the FBI of George Papadopoulos, the junior volunteer staffer of the Trump campaign, who during the 2016 Presidential election had certain contacts with members of a Moscow based Russian NGO, which he sought to pass off - falsely and unsuccessfully - as more important than they really were, and which also does not touch on the Russiagate collusion allegations; and

(3) an indictment for lying to the FBI of Michael Flynn arising from his perfectly legitimate and entirely legal contacts with the Russian ambassador after the 2016 Presidential election, which also does not touch on the Russiagate collusion allegations, and which looks as if it was brought about by an act of entrapment.

Of actual evidence to substantiate the claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the election Mueller has so far come up with nothing.

Here I wish to say something briefly about the nature of "collusion".

Comment: See also: Mueller investigation has unveiled rampant political collusion in Washington


People 2

Class dismissed: Identity politics without the identity - The white American working class

famous people Trump emperor Obama collage painting
"The goal of mainstream politicians of both parties should be to drive a wedge between the viciousness of white supremacy and people who are basically decent but tired of what they see as 'political correctness' that ignores the very considerable challenges faced by working-class whites while directing them to feel sorry for a whole range of other groups."

-Joan C. Williams, White Working Class - Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America

"We're voting with our middle finger."

-South Carolina Trump supporter

"There was no reason why the Left had to abandon its old blue collar base."

-Milo Yiannopoulos
My apologies to Ta Nehisi Coates and the "it's all about race" school of politics, but by now it should be clear to just about everyone that attempting to achieve a democratic majority by multiplying victim minorities is doomed to failure.

For the four decades we have seen neo-liberal economics at work, white working class fortunes have gone steadily down the drain while diversity enthusiasts aggressively demanded universal sympathy for a growing list of victim groups: the poor, blacks, Latinos, "native" Americans, Asians, the disabled, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, the transgendered, queers, non-binary people, the asexual, along with every possible "intersection" of these identities. Meanwhile, legitimate anger at the economic squeeze imposed on working people from outsourcing and mass immigration from the Third World has been written off as racism, sexism, nativism, and xenophobia. By 2016, the longstanding depression visible throughout rural America was a key factor in elevating Donald Trump to the presidency.

Comment: The left lost its way by betraying the genuine needs of the working class, and it is now chasing phantoms into fruitless and even dangerous territories. See also: Fascism came to America wrapped in a rainbow flag and wearing a pussyhat


Oscar

(Not satire) And the winner of TIME's 2017 'Person of the Year' award goes to... Hollywood celebrity supporters of #MeToo!

NBC show time metoo
© NBC
'This is the fastest moving social change we have seen in decades,' says Time editor-in-chief

The Hollywood abuse "silence breakers" have been named as Time magazine's 2017 Person of the Year.

The decision to grant people who have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct with the accolade was announced on NBC's Today show on Wednesday morning.

The award is decided by Time's editors and goes to the person or group who has had the most influence on the year's news for better or worse.

"This is the fastest moving social change we have seen in decades," Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal told the programme.

"It began with individual acts of courage by hundreds of women - and some men, too - who came forward to tell their own stories".

Dollar

US Military invests $100m in 'genetic extinction' technologies, should Russia be concerned?

mosquito bite
© dr_relling/Flickr, CC BY-SA
Cutting-edge gene editing tools could be used to distort the sex-ratio of mosquitoes to effectively wipe out malarial populations.
A US military agency is investing $100m in genetic extinction technologies that could wipe out malarial mosquitoes, invasive rodents or other species, emails released under freedom of information rules show.

The documents suggest that the US's secretive Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) has become the world's largest funder of "gene drive" research and will raise tensions ahead of a UN expert committee meeting in Montreal beginning on Tuesday.

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is debating whether to impose a moratorium on the gene research next year and several southern countries fear a possible military application.

UN diplomats confirmed that the new email release would worsen the "bad name" of gene drives in some circles. "Many countries [will] have concerns when this technology comes from Darpa, a US military science agency," one said.

The technology is capable of splicing DNA strands in order to insert, alter, or remove targeted traits, and "drive" them through a population by ensuring all the offspring of the targeted organism inherit the alteration. Proponents of the gene-editing technology say it can be used to wipe out malaria-spreading mosquitoes, for example. Critics point out that the method could have unforeseen environmental consequences.


Comment: Many countries should have concerns about this news, particularly Russia. DARPA has a history of involving itself in some really creepy stuff. It is highly unlikely that the US military, in particular its DARPA branch, is interested in using this technology to deal with mosquitoes or other 'environmental' problems. DARPA has always been about improving the US military's fighting capability and its ability to defeat its perceived enemies. As such, it is likely that this research is linked to the report from July this year that the US Air force has requested samples of Russian RNA and synovial fluid.
'Weaponizing viruses'? U.S. Air Force places ad for biological samples from Russians

The US Air Force is looking to acquire samples of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and synovial fluid from Russians, according to a government website used to place tenders. The reason behind the order hasn't been specified.

The Air Force's Air Education and Training Command has placed a listing on the Federal Business Opportunities website asking for at least 12 RNA samples from Russian people of a European ancestry, as well as 27 samples of synovial fluid.
Russian RNA request US Air Force

The original US Air Force tender for Russian RNA and synovial fluid
In the request, the US Air Force stated that "information on donors must be provided with the samples, including their sex, age, ethnicity, smoking history, medical history, height, weight and Body Mass Index (BMI)."

Russian president Putin may have hinted at this report while presiding over a meeting of Russia's Human Rights Council in late October 2017.
"Images are one thing, but do you know that biological material is being collected all over the country, from different ethnic groups and people living in different geographical regions of the Russian Federation? The question is - why is it being done? It's being done purposefully and professionally. We are a kind of object of great interest", Putin said.
After the initial request was released by the US Air Force, member of the UN Commission on Biological Weaponry, Igor Nikulin told reporters:
"New types of biological weapons are being developed. There's nothing else that could possibly interest the military department. Most likely, they are weaponized viruses. The US is trying to develop various types of biological weapons specifically for specific carriers of this gene pool, and Caucasoids are needed since they constitute the majority of the population of our country. This is the same focus group for which they are trying to find the samples. It's necessary for the viruses to act selectively on one or another ethnic group."

Comment: So on the one hand the idea that the research could be used for bioweapons is dismissed as fantasy, while another report assessed the "potential threats the technology might pose in the hands of an adversary".


Blackbox

MI5 Foils 'Islamist Terror Plot' to 'blow up and assassinate' Theresa May

Theresa May 10 downing street

Easy target? Unlikely.
British intelligence has allegedly foiled a terrorist plot to assassinate Prime Minister Theresa May, one of nine terrorist schemes thwarted so far by UK spies in 2017, local media report.

Two men were arrested last week for plotting terrorist atrocities in the UK, British news outlets reported Tuesday. Naa'imur Zakariyah Rahman, 20, from north London, and Mohammed Aqib Imran, 21, from Birmingham, were apprehended during security raids and charged with preparing and assisting in acts of terrorism. They are due to appear before the Westminster Magistrates court Wednesday.

Comment: Indeed, the timing of this announcement about the 'plot to kill May' is very interesting. Yesterday, the independent assessment highlighted many problems with British intelligence handling of suspects who went on to carry out attacks, and that some of those attacks COULD have been prevented, but were not. As noted, there is likely a conflict of interest here where British intelligence is reluctant to prevent terror attacks when their own budget depends on those terror attacks being carried out. So this alleged 'plot' against May would appear to be damage control, as if to say 'look, you still need us!'.


Magic Hat

Mueller's investigation is about obstruction, which means it's about impeachment

Trump airforce one
The smoke is clearing from an explosive Mueller investigation weekend of charges, chattering, and tweets. Before the next aftershock, it might be helpful to make three points about where things stand.

In ascending order of importance, they are:

1.) There is a great deal of misinformation in the commentariat about how prosecutors build cases.

2.) For all practical purposes, the collusion probe is over. While the "counterintelligence" cover will continue to be exploited so that no jurisdictional limits are placed on Special Counsel Robert Mueller, this is now an obstruction investigation.

3.) That means it is, as it has always been, an impeachment investigation.

Comment: So you see the point here. These investigations and indictments by Mueller may be a fishing expedition to try and find enough small yet not prosecutable 'crimes' against Trump to justify the launching of impeachment proceedings, or at least to have that threat hanging over this head so he is more amenable to being 'influenced' by certain agents of the US 'deep state'.


Cow

Why Flynn's plea exposes the nonsense that is the 'Russiagate' conspiracy

Flynn plea deal
President Donald Trump's short-lived national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Most US media jumped on the plea as proof of Trump's collusion with Russia. Actual documents, however, tell a different story.

A court document signed by special counsel Robert Mueller, dated Thursday, specifies two instances of Flynn telling FBI investigators things that were not true. They relate to two conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in December 2016.

In the Statement of Offense signed by Flynn at his court appearance on Friday, he admitted to acting on instructions from a senior "Presidential Transition Team" (PTT) official, prompting breathless speculation if that was Trump himself, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, or someone else altogether. The one question nobody seems to be asking is, "So what?"

It is intuitively obvious to even the most casual observer that Flynn's "crime" is a procedural one: he told FBI investigators he hadn't done a thing that he actually did. But was the thing he did - namely, speak with the Russian ambassador to the US - against the law? Not really.

USA

Mueller Investigation: Politics, Not Law Enforcement or Counterintelligence

Michael Flynn

The end game is the removal of Trump, either by impeachment or by publicly discrediting him and making his reelection politically impossible.


Here's what I'd be tempted to do if I were President Trump: I'd direct the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, including any Obama-administration collusion in that enterprise.

I would make sure to call it a "counterintelligence investigation," putting no limitations on the special counsel - just as with the investigation that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been unleashed to conduct into Trump "collusion" with Russia. That is, I would not restrict the prosecutor and investigators to digging for specified criminal violations. Or, indeed, any criminal violations. I'd just tell the special counsel, "Have at it" - with unbound authority to scrutinize the negotiations surrounding the eventual Iran nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

Books

SJWs need to stop trying to protect everyone's feelings

burning book
Like every kid, I was forced to read Fahrenheit 451 in high school.

If you'd asked me what it was about before last week, I would have told you: "Firemen who burn books."

And if you'd asked me why on earth they did that, I would have answered just as confidently: "Because a tyrannical government wanted them to."

There is a trend afoot to conveniently remember the works of authors like Ray Bradbury and Aldous Huxley as warnings against distant totalitarianism and control. But this only scratches the surface of what these books are about.