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Thu, 20 Jul 2017
The World for People who Think


Pepe Escobar: Will Trump embody the Bannon doctrine?

© AP Photo/Evan Vucci
Bannon's demotion coincided with Trump's total abandonment of his principles.
Amidst the deep recesses of Trumpology - the new discipline crammed with "experts" trying to decode the new American presidency - it has become fashionable to deride Chief White House strategist Steve Bannon as a Jurassic Park-style sociopathic swamp creature, a "quasi-fascist" comparable to Islamofascists.

(Even though Bannon only metaphorically qualifies as a head-chopper.)

Dismissing Bannon as a sort of 21st century remixed Machiavelli/Richelieu in cargo pants and dodgy ties amounts to a juvenile cheap shot. Kelyanne Conway may be a "knife fighter with words"; Jared Kushner may have taken the D-train from Manhattan real estate deals to shadow Secretary of State sitting in the situation room. But the man to study in excruciating detail has got to be Bannon, who eats history and political theory essays for breakfast. Dismiss him at one's own peril.

The post-truth Machiavelli behind the most powerful of Princes sees our current geopolitical juncture as the ultimate battle between Good and Evil (no, Nietzsche's verdict, for him, does not apply.) "Good" in our case is Christian civilization and its history of two millennia - with a possible place of honor for the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution.

In contraposition, "evil" portends a cast of "existential threat" characters - from technocrats/post-modernity elites/ secularists (the enemy within) to Islam (the enemy at large). Even China, due to atheist Confucianism, might be portrayed as "evil".

So the stakes are clear-cut. Nuance is for traitors. And the only path to victory, according to the Bannon doctrine, is a devastating Shock and Awe against the "system". I have previously referred to Bannon's Leninist approach on how to capture and maintain power and destroy the old order. Yet what's coming is more like Lenin meets Apocalypse Now.

Take 2

16 Fake News Stories Mainstream Media Has Run Since Trump's Election

Since at least Donald Trump's election, our media have been in the grip of an astonishing, self-inflicted crisis. Despite Trump's constant railing against the American press, there is no greater enemy of the American media than the American media. They did this to themselves.

We are in the midst of an epidemic of fake news. There is no better word to describe it than "epidemic," insofar as it fits the epidemiological model from the Centers for Disease Control: this phenomenon occurs when "an agent and susceptible hosts are present in adequate numbers, and the agent can be effectively conveyed from a source to the susceptible hosts."

The "agent" in this case is hysteria over Trump's presidency, and the "susceptible hosts" are a slipshod, reckless, and breathtakingly gullible media class that spread the hysteria around like—well, like a virus.

It is difficult to adequately sum up the breadth of this epidemic, chiefly because it keeps growing: day after day, even hour after hour, the media continue to broadcast, spread, promulgate, publicize, and promote fake news on an industrial scale. It has become a regular part of our news cycle, not distinct from or extraneous to it but a part of it, embedded within the news apparatus as a spoke is embedded in a bicycle wheel.

Eye 2

Hidden in plain sight: Do psychopaths run the world?

© America Out Loud
Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it.
- John Lennon (1940-1980), English singer and songwriter

Lennon and others externalise the apparent paranoia that wells up inside us. "The world has gone mad!" More often than not we partition this voice off, content to view the world as others prescribe it. But who are these others, and what do they want?

The term psychopath is often criminally misjudged, thanks largely to unhelpful portrayals of sick, twisted and violent psycho-character types in the popular media. This has led, by way of public ignorance, to the common belief that the psychopath has no function, role or place in open society. A swift offload that allows us, the apparent sane majority, to circumvent our worst fears.

Any notion that the psychopath is incapable of functioning in open society is, according to M.E. Thomas1 - a self-confessed sociopath - flawed. The question is not the capacity to function, but rather what capacity or form that function takes. As Thomas says, psychopaths and sociopaths share an intertwined clinical history; both can function, they just do so differently. And though we are left to muse on what mask that function may take, in many social situations they excel.

Comment: It is most interesting that Mr. Parkins skirts around the work of master researcher Dr. Andrew Lobaczewski. His book, Political Ponerology, is the most comprehensive analysis of the destructive effects of psychopathy on the fabric of society.

Blue Planet

Anti-Empire Report: Russophobia, Fake News, and Trump

"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." - Alice in Wonderland
Since Yalta, we have a long list of times we've tried to engage positively with Russia. We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard. - General James Mattis, the new Secretary of Defense1
If anyone knows where to find this long list please send me a copy.

This delusion is repeated periodically by American military officials. A year ago, following the release of Russia's new national security document, naming as threats both the United States and the expansion of the NATO alliance, a Pentagon spokesman declared: "They have no reason to consider us a threat. We are not looking for conflict with Russia."2

Meanwhile, in early January, the United States embarked upon its biggest military buildup in Europe since the end of the Cold War - 3,500 American soldiers landed, unloading three shiploads, with 2,500 tanks, trucks and other combat vehicles. The troops were to be deployed in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary and across the Baltics. Lt. Gen. Frederick Hodges, commander of US forces in Europe, said, "Three years after the last American tanks left the continent, we need to get them back."

The measures, General Hodges declared, were a "response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea. This does not mean that there necessarily has to be a war, none of this is inevitable, but Moscow is preparing for the possibility." (See previous paragraph.)


Russia's rejected draft Syrian constitution wasn't serious proposal, but it still worked as intended

© REUTERS/ Mukhtar Kholdorbekov
Terrorists in suits.
The 'draft constitution' Russia presented to the parties at the Astana conference is not a blueprint for Syria's future and the Russians did not intend it in that way. It was a diplomatic play to get the parties talking about other issues than the sterile issue of the future of President Assad, which has prevented progress in all the negotiations up to now. In that it appears to have been successful.

Since shortly after the Syrian peace talks began in the Kazakh capital Astana, rumors have circulated that Russia proposed at the conference a 'draft constitution' for Syria.

Rumors about the contents of this 'draft constitution' have spread widely, with concern widely expressed that Russia might be seeking to impose its ideas on the Syrian people in quasi-colonial fashion, and that Russia is overreaching itself.

There have also been serious concerns that the 'draft constitution' threatens the integrity of the Syrian state by enforcing its federalization and by granting autonomy to the Kurds, and that Syria's traditional system of government with a strong executive President is being threatened, thereby making the country ungovernable and unable to meet external or internal threats.

Comment: And that's what the document, as written, implies, as Andrew Korybko points out in another piece for The Duran:
  • 4-2 giving the Kurds equal use of their language alongside Arabic within their "cultural autonomy";
  • 4-3 suggesting that it can be used in schools, though not stipulating whether or not this is limited to the "cultural autonomy" zone or nationwide;
  • 4-4 creating the pretext for "locally held referendum" to be conducted in potentially expanding this zone and allowing other copy-cat formats;
  • 10-5 says that "performing military or militarized activity outside the domain of state power is prohibited", but the conditional clause is "outside the domain of state power", so if the PYD reaches an agreement with Damascus, then it could potentially be allowed to "police" the "Kurdish cultural autonomy" as "self-defense forces";
  • 15-3 forcing Syrians to accept "decentralization";
  • 15-4 mandating the establishment of the "Kurdish Cultural Autonomy";
  • 24-3 curiously speaking about "federal law";
  • 45-2 allowing undefined "territorial units" to propose legislation, thus hinting that the "Kuridsh Cultural Autonomy" would have this right;
  • 46-2 speaking for the first and only time about a mysterious "Territories Assembly" which appears nowhere else in the text and might be a shell body for facilitating de-facto "federalization" after the Russian-written "draft constitution" is promulgated.

Comment: Maybe it's always 'supposed to have been' Russia in the role of 'world policeman', and the last 150 or so years has been something of an aberration?

An observation regarding the setting for these peace talks: Astana, modern capital of Kazakhstan, is the birthplace of the Eurasian Union, the 'center of Eurasia', and key in China's plans for building great transport links between Europe, the Middle East and eastern Asia.

It's no coincidence that Western expansion came to a halt in Syria, then that mess is being cleaned up by Eastern actors.

Update: Lavrov has essentially proven Mercouris's point:
Confirmation that this is indeed the purpose of the 'draft constitution' and that it has no other purpose has been provided by the most authoritative source possible, which is Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov himself. Here is how TASS describes him explaining the purpose of the 'draft constitution' in a telephone conversation Friday 3rd February 2017 with the French Foreign Minister
The Russian top diplomat provided comments on the Russia-proposed Syrian draft constitution, saying "it is an invitation for a conversation," an attempt to find common ground in approaches of the Syrian government and the opposition with an aim of creating conditions for the Syrians to decide about the future of their country in compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 (bold italics added)
In other words the 'draft constitution' is not a blueprint for Syria's future, or a discussion document, or even a position paper. It is - just as I said - a standard mediator's ploy to get all the Syrian parties "talking about something other than the future of President Assad, whilst highlighting areas for future discussion".

My clear impression is that the Russians are baffled and somewhat embarrassed by the attention the 'draft constitution' has attracted. Now that it has served its purpose of breaking the deadlock I doubt we will hear much more of it when the Astana talks resume, which they are due to do on Monday.


What They Won't Tell Us About Quebec Mosque Attack (VIDEO)

Six men slaughtered. Killed in cold blood while peacefully praying inside their local mosque. This week's mass murder in Quebec City sent shockwaves, not just across Canada, but the whole world.

Irrespective of political stripe or profession of faith, there is a categorical acceptance of the fact that this attack ought to be investigated, prosecuted, punished, and condemned.

For many, there is a certain satisfaction in knowing the sole suspect, Alexandre Bissonnette, is behind bars, facing eleven charges of first degree, and attempted murder.

But for others, questions remain.

Comment: Updates from TheRebel.media:

2 + 2 = 4

Let's end the myths of Britain's imperial past

A map of the British Empire, depicted appropriately in blood red.
David Cameron would have us look back to the days of the British empire with pride. But there is little in the brutal oppression and naked greed with which it was built that deserves our respect

Comment: For more on the inglorious exploits of the British Empire, read Joe Quinn's essay The British Empire - A Lesson In State Terrorism


'Post-truth Age': Media amplifying rage at Trump's 'Muslim ban', but was silent on Obama's similar moves

A 'Muslim Ban' protest outside the White House, January 29th, 2017
Police in the US have used tear gas to disperse protesters in Ohio as demonstrations against Donald Trump's immigration ban continue across the country.

Comment: Coming on the heels of protests over Trump's election, then his inauguration, media-inspired protest looks like it's going to be a regular feature of his presidency.

Guess who popped up to join the Trump-bashing?
Barack Obama has re-entered the political fray just ten days after he handed power over to Mr Trump, stating that he supports mass protests against the "extreme vetting" orders.

"The President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion," Mr Obama's spokesman said in a statement that was the former president's first since leaving office.

"Citizens exercising their Constitutional rights to assemble, organise and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake."

Yes, the same Obama whose administration did no different than Trump's with respect to immigration.

Cloud Lightning

Trump is in a trap and both sides are utterly unprepared for what's coming (VIDEO)

If there's one thing that should be absolutely clear in the current political environment in America, it's that there exists a deep division between the people of this nation. Both of sides of the aisle argue vehemently about what's best going forward, sometimes to the point of physical violence. And though the election of President Donald Trump speaks volumes about the sentiment of Americans, the following video report from Storm Clouds Gathering warns that both sides are utterly unprepared for what's coming.

Comment: Hate him or love him (or somewhere in between), Trump has been elected to improve the US condition amidst a disastrous set of circumstances, dangerous enemies and a virtual 'no win situation'. But it took a narcissistic, and crass showman with some actual good intentions and a willingness to literally (and figuratively) put his a** on the line - to try and address what are surely numerous insurmountable challenges. And at the end of the day, he just might fall prey to the very forces he is now trying to fight.


Scott Adams: Trump's 'Muslim ban' is just another 'Art of the Deal' opening bid

© Toronto Star
Trump signs new vetting measures for immigrants.
President Trump has issued temporary immigration orders that ban citizens from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. This is a good opportunity to test the Persuasion Filter against what you might call the Hitler Filter.

For new readers of this blog, my starting point is the understanding that human brains did not evolve to show us reality. We aren't that smart. Instead, our brains create little movies in our heads, and yours can be completely different from mine. We see that situation now. Half the country thinks President Trump is well on his way to becoming a Hitler-like dictator. But many other Americans think Trump is an effective business person with good intentions. They can't both be right.

I use the word "filter" to describe an optional way of looking at the world. A good filter is one that makes you happy and does a good job of predicting what happens next. Let's use that standard to compare the Hitler Filter to what I call the Persuasion Filter.

The Hitler filter clearly isn't making people happy. The people watching that movie are protesting in the streets. Meanwhile, the people who see Trump as a good negotiator looking out for the country are quite happy with the job he has done so far. The Persuasion Filter says Trump opens with a big first offer and negotiates back to something reasonable. If you don't recognize the method, it looks crazy, random, and racist.

But what about predictions?

Comment: Adams' follow up: The Canadian Option:
My most agitated liberal friend sent me a link today about Justin Trudeau announcing Canada would take all of the Trump-banned immigrants because diversity is their strength. My friend said that was an example of real leadership.

His conclusion is debatable, but didn't Canada just solve all of Trump's problems? If humane treatment of immigrants is the goal, Canada is the right place. They have polite behavior, free healthcare, and lots of space. That's a win-win-win.

Or am I missing something?

Canada also gives us a test case to compare to America's plan. In five years we can check back and see how it turned out for them. If it worked, we can reassess. Until then we obviously need to wall-off Canada. But that's another topic.

Now that I think about it, the Middle East has a lot of space too. Remind me again why Muslim countries are banning Muslim immigrants. Is it because they are Hitler?
Trump has defended his action, emphasizing its temporary nature and the fact that it is not a "Muslim (all-inclusive) ban":
"To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion - this is about terror and keeping our country safe," Trump said in a statement, adding that there are more than "40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order."

"We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days," he clarified.

Trump then explained his executive order, which bars entry of foreign citizens from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iran, motivated by the urge to be "protecting our own citizens and border."

He then questioned the reaction of the media, saying that former president Barack Obama actually issued a related order, adding it was during Obama's term that the seven countries picked for Trump's ban were pinned.

"My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror," Trump said.