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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Wars Fail

Pupils of History,

Eleni Tsigante, an Athenian of ancient family, has translated to English, the essay by a French Colonel, commander of artillery of NATO coalition forces in Syria, which was referenced in the Moon of Alabama article I posted 2/20/19.
This essay has ceased to be available online, but I copy what she has sent me, with thanks to her and to Colonel François-Régis Legrier.

Channeling Vietnam

Battle of Hajin: tactical victory, strategic defeat?
Colonel François-Régis Legrier
Head of the 68th Artillery Regiment of Africa. commanding officer Wagram Task Force Levant from October 2018 to February 2019. 
Author of If you want peace, prepare the war for Via Romana Publishing.

The battle of Hajin (September 2018 - January 2019) named after a small
locality on the east bank of the Euphrates on the borders of Syria and Iraq
deserves to be named in military history for more than one reason. First, it is 
the last "pitched battle" against the pseudo Islamic State and seems to put
an end to its desire to control a territory. It is then, for Westerners, rich in lessons 
about the war, and especially the limits of proxy warfare and our supremacy approach
through technology.

In the nineteenth century, the fate of a battle involving a few thousand
men was settled in one day - Austerlitz for example; in the twentieth century it
must be counted in weeks - one thinks of the Dunkirk pocket in 1940; in the
Twenty-first century, it takes almost five months and an accumulation of destruction to
fight combat 2000 combatants who have neither air support nor
electronic warfare, neither special forces nor satellites. That is the reality of
war today that should lead us, policy makers and military leaders,
to a salutary critical examination of how we conceive and wage war.

Of course, the battle of Hajin was won, but at exorbitant cost and the price of gross destruction. 
Of course, Westerners, in refusing to engage troops on the ground, have 
limited their risk and in particular that of placating public opinion. But this refusal begs a question: 
why maintain an army if we dare not use it? If the reduction of the last bastion of
Islamic State is not worth the trouble of engaging conventional troops, what cause is important enough? 
While extremely comfortable about demanding swarms of officers from major multinational staffs, Western nations
did not have the political will to send in 1,000 seasoned fighters to settle in a few weeks the 
fate of Hajin's pocket and save the population several months of war.

In addition, by subcontracting the conduct of ground operations to its proxies the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
 - troops backed by the Americans who delegated to them the right to fight in their place - , the Coalition (1)
gave up its freedom of action and lost control of the strategic tempo. Caught in a vice between 
Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from northeastern Syria and MSDS aims, 
we did not find a better solution than to intensify bombing to end it as soon as possible, thereby 
jeopardizing the future of this province. 

In the end, the question is whether the liberation of a region can be done only at the cost 
of the destruction of its infrastructures (hospitals, places of worship, roads, bridges, dwellings, etc.). 
This is the approach taken, yesterday and today, by the Americans; it's not ours and we wish 
here to indicate what could have been done to put the enemy out of action without transforming
Hajin's pocket into fields of ruins.

Characteristics of the Battle of Hajin: a distillate of all types of war

Located in the heart of the "Big Game" between regional and large powers, 
the pocket of Hajin gathered in September 2018 about 2 000 Islamist combatants
 including a majority of foreigners. Stretched over thirty kilometers
along the Euphrates in Syrian Arab-Kurdish territory and a dozen
kilometers deep, it is the last bastion of the so-called Caliphate of the "Islamic State",
which is not saying much. In reality, we will see that the battle extends beyond its geographic 
framework into the field of public perception, another essential issue of combat.

The action zone is a V-shaped strip of land wedged between the Euphrates to the 
the West and the Iraqi-Syrian border to the East with a rural area (fields and villages)
along the river and some desert. Note that the West Bank of the Euphrates is more or 
less under the control of the Syrian regime and Iraqi militias also control part of the border. 
The population is estimated to be a few thousand people, concentrated in the northern part of the
pocket (Hajin locality).

South of the pocket (tip of the V) and at the edge of the Euphrates in Iraqi territory
is the city of Al-Qaim. North of the city the border is held by the Iraqi army and, slightly 
set back, the ground-to-ground firing position of the coalition light artillery. In the South, the border 
is held by a militia affiliated to Iran (Katiba Hesbollah), a real little army with tanks and guns. If the border
is generally watertight in the North, it is very porous in the South, with the militia engaged in contraband.

The ground combat was entrusted to the US proxies - the SDF, the Arab-Kurdish alliance - advised by US
special forces and supported by the ground-to-ground and air-to-air fire of the Coalition. The Coalition troops 
are of a volume substantially equivalent to that of Daesh, but their combat value is quite relative knowing 
that the Kurdish fighters come from northeastern Syria where they are regularly attacked by Turks, American 
allies in NATO. At the end of October 2018, the SDF announced the suspension of operations following Turkish 
strikes and it took several weeks of negotiations to resume the fight. The same scenario was repeated 
in mid-December and almost compromised Hajin's proxy intake.

On the ground, the distinctive features of this battle are quite close to those of
battles of the First World War: a front line between fighters where each gain of 500 meters or 1 kilometer 
of territory represents a success; violent and repeated counter-attacks by an enemy surrounded on all sides and
who seeks to loosen the grip of SDF; a massive use of artillery, alone able to deliver fire in bad weather conditions 
and which, several times, saved the SDF when violently attacked; and finally, comparable combatant losses  
(several hundred in total on both sides).

On a purely tactical level, this battle has rediscovered all the virtues of ground-to-ground fire support 
(2) which combines the effects of saturation explosive shells and precision ammunition, and which is
operational in all weather. Thus, on December 3, 2018 Anti-tank shells were successfully fired for the first time in
Operation Infinite Resolve, with the bonus of destroying a pickup column launched on the assault of the SDF defense lines.

In the air, Western supremacy is obviously total. As in Gavin Hood's movie, Eye in the Sky (3), it's the 
quintessence of high technology unfolding almost without limit through the massive use of surveillance
and intelligence, and planes to observe and strike. In the space of six
months, several thousand bombs were dumped over a few tens of kilometers
square with the main result being destruction of infrastructure.

Has the enemy been destroyed by these strikes? Yes, but not as much as the reports claim - the impressive BDA (4) 
is calculated statistically and not by visual observation.
Has the enemy's morale and willingness to fight been destroyed? Obviously, no. He has deployed to the end 
an unshakable combativeness which profited in periods of bad weather preventing air strikes, to violently
counter-attack and repeatedly inflict serious tactical setbacks to MSDS. When defeat became unavoidable, 
he exfiltrated to areas of refuge to continue the fight in insurrectional mode leaving on the spot
only a handful of foreign fighters.

Thus, this battle perfectly illustrates the words of General Desportes:
"Increasingly efficient weapon systems always produce ever more disappointing results"(5). Let's pay heed. 
They are not disappointing because of the performers but because poorly employed; we will come back to this.

Finally, the battle of Hajin goes well beyond its geographic context to register widely in the infinite 
field of public perception. It is clear that in this area, Daesh has been able to exploit this weakness
to create value and make it their strategic success. The Western strikes and their real or fictitious collateral damage 
have been widely and successfully publicized. Indeed, on several occasions, the Coalition too often in reaction 
to public perception, gave up its strikes in the face of media pressure. There is a whole field of thought here 
to explore and in particular the shift in perspective: where Daesh uses this strategically to aim at Western public opinion, 
the Coalition, a military tool without any real political thinking, is forced to remain at the tactical level and can not exploit its
superiority in the information field with the same reactivity as the enemy.

The limits of proxy war and our techno-centered approach:
Proxy war - or how to lose control strategically

By relying on proxies to conduct the battle on the ground, the Westerners have certainly gained a short-term political 
advantage: that of avoiding losses and thus avoiding public opinion against their policy. On the other hand, in the medium-long term, 
this choice proved disastrous.

While asserting that the pocket was the Main Battle Area (6) by refusing to engage ground means or even attack helicopters, 
the Americans have created doubt about their real intentions to finish quickly. Therefore, it has been suggested that the Hajin pocket 
was an excellent alibi for maintaining a presence in northeastern Syria and especially to prevent possible
disintegration of the Coalition too fast. So, as the battle progresses, the speech was articulated as follows: "we must destroy Daech" 
to "yes, Daesh will soon be eliminated in Syria but it is reconstituted in Iraq and remains just as "dangerous", which raises the question 
of the relevance of the strategy followed all these years. Where is the real stake? Destroy Daesh or contain Iran?
Moreover, the most immediate consequence of such an approach is the loss of time and control: the operation progresses 
according to the will of the proxies and according to their own agenda and it trails in length whatever the scale of
support granted. It's called a stagnation.

To complicate matters, the divergence of views between Donald Trump and his military staff came to light. Faithful to his campaign 
promise, the President of the United States seized the opportunity of the recovery of Hajin in mid-December
to announce victory over Daesh and the withdrawal of US forces from Syria - showing, with brutal clarity, that it is the political tempo 
which should determine strategy and not the other way around.

By ignoring and refusing to include in their Middle East strategy Trump's desire for withdrawal announced two years ago, 
the US Administration and Coalition states created their own trap. Jostled by the political decision maker
on the one hand, and having relinquished control of the tempo of ground operations on the other, that is to say deprived of any 
margin of maneuver, their only reaction was to intensify air strikes and therefore further increase the intensity of destruction. Hajin
suffered the same fate as Mosul and Raqqa: near total destruction.

So this tactical victory, by the way it was acquired, compromised the future of this province without opening up any interesting 
strategic perspectives for the Coalition. The future of North-Eastern Syria is more than ever uncertain and Daesh, though it lost 
this territory, does not seem to be affected in its will to continue the fight.
The lesson is this: there can be no strategy and therefore no lasting victory without freedom of manouver. This is at the very heart 
of the intersection between politics and the military. The strategist must imperatively plan his action in the context of policy and must keep
control of operations in all areas including land operations if he wants to be able to present several options to the decision maker. 
There are no other possible solutions.

The techno-centered approach or the illusion of power

Relying mainly on special forces and tactical air strikes which become inoperative when weather conditions deteriorate, the Coalition
lost a lot of time, energy, and credibility, while Daesh had a nice game boasting of having defeated the world's leading power for months.
You have to be in a Strike Cell (7) on a cloudy day to understand all the limits of our techno-centered approach. Indeed, in the case of rain,
fog and clouds, screens become black, people play cards or watch a movie: the war stops for them while waiting for the next window of clear 
weather. During the violent Daesh counter-attacks in October 2018 and the withdrawal of SDF, the first observation of a general officer 
was to say: "Because of the weather, we no longer had air support". Implied: Daesh does not respect the rules of the game, it attacks 
in bad weather!

No, we were not held in check by the weather but by our refusal to adapt to our enemy and to the reality. The proxy war, that is to say
this refusal to engage combat-capable ground troops but to rely solely on special forces and the air force, is one of the main factors of
our current failure. Special forces are made ... for special operations and not conventional combat in urban or desert areas.
Again, make no mistake, this is not about criticizing here the indispensable contribution of the air force or special forces
but it is a mistake to rely solely on them to win a battle. This ultra-technological concept designed to reduce conventional troops and 
seduce the politician into believing we can do better with less is a seductive lure but a lure anyway.

So what did you have to do?

The answer is simple: understand that if the battle is won at the tactical level - adaptation to the terrain and to the enemy - the war is won 
at the strategic and political level, and that it is a dialectic of wills and not an eradication of "Bad guys" impossible to achieve.
In this case, it was necessary to relocate the battle of Hajin in a more global context: that of preventing Daesh from reconstituting itself 
on the one hand and preserving the future of the Euphrates valley by avoiding unnecessary destruction on the other hand.

At the tactical level, a battle is won by having the appropriate means in the right place and at the right time (principle of economy 
of forces and concentration of effort) to create a favourable balance of power. So, while relying on the SDF, it was necessary, in addition 
to supporting fire, to engage at least a grouping of tactical motorized interarmes able to seize quickly the Hajin pocket and thus limiting 
the destruction of infrastructure as much as possible.

Indeed, a battle is not just about destroying targets like at a fairground. It is the combination of manoeuver and fire power that dislocates
the enemy and makes it impossible for him to continue battle: by conquering the key points of the field, and its means of command
and logistics.  Hajin's capture in December is a late illustration of this: the enemy, having lost his command center, was no longer able 
to oppose coordinated resistance thereafter. Finally, the battle must be fought in imminent time in the public information field, that is to say 
in advance. The greater public believe what is stated first: this is an immutable law that must be taken into account.
Greater responsiveness was necessary to disqualify the behaviour of the opponent and value our success instead of having to 
justify afterward the unnecessary destruction, the collateral damage.

The evocation of the battle in the field of influences allows us to make a transition to the high parts of the war, strategy and politics.
Instead of focusing excessively on Hajin's pocket, the Coalition should have integrated it into a strategic approach and 
thus cut out its space of battle not according to its internal structures (division between command Special Forces in Syria and 
Conventional Command in Iraq) but depending on the enemy battle space from Kirkuk in the northeast of Iraq through the desert of Al-Anbar 
to the West through Hajin and Al-Qaim. Only an overall view of the problem would have made it possible to draft an overall strategy
and avoid the bitter realization that Daech will re-emerge where it was hunted two years before. Only a global strategy 
aimed at a lasting political resolution [my italics] would have allowed politics to understand the need for more time instead of rushing
to come out of what looks like a dead end and a failure.

We must therefore recall with General Desportes that the military victory must always be thought through the lens of its political 
purpose and that it can not do without of a commitment to contact: "The war at a distance is a decoy: it produces a
military effect but no political effect. The "power projection", that is to say the projection of destruction, without "projection of forces", 
of soldiers on the ground does not work ; it destroys without mastering the reconstruction and creates chaos. There is
a true illusion of air efficiency: yes, it allows some savings initially but it never leads to the expected result. At the end, 
it is always necessary, in one way or another, to control the space. »(8)


Yes, the battle of Hajin was won, but by refusing engagement on the ground, we unnecessarily 
prolonged the conflict and therefore contributed to increase the number of victims in the population. We destroyed massively
the infrastructure and gave the population a detestable picture of what may be a Western-style liberation leaving behind the 
seeds of a resurgence next time of a new opponent. We have not in any way won the war - for lack of a realistic and persevering 
policy and an adequate strategy.
How many Hajins  will it take to understand that we are wrong? 

(1) Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR): Coalition led by the Americans.
(2) It should also be noted the massive use by Daesh of rockets and mortars sometimes going to consumptions
100 ammunition a day.
(3) Released in 2016: shows the politico-legal ambiguities of a decision of an air strike.
(4) Battle Damage Assessment: estimate of enemy losses.
(5) Vincent Desportes: "Lessons today for the wars of tomorrow", Casoar n ° 231, p 19.
(6) The priority battle space
(7) Operations center covered with screens allowing a replica of the view provided by drones or airplanes. It is 
from there that air strikes and artillery fire originate, hence its name Strike Cell.
(8) Vincent Desportes: "Lessons today for the wars of tomorrow", op. cit.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

War For Survival

Armed Refugees,

Syrian War update from Moon of Alabama, the soon-to-be-retired French Colonel's assessment:
For now everyone waits for the U.S. to retreat from northeast Syria as Trump has ordered. Idleb will only be attacked when that proceeded.
The Islamic State as a territory holding entity is finished. It will continue to exist for some time as an underground terrorist movement in Syria and Iraq and as a brand that local groups elsewhere will use for their misdeeds.
Since the end of last week the last holdout of ISIS is down to a few thousand square meters. The U.S. is now again negotiating with the terrorists instead of finishing them off:
More than 300 Islamic State militants surrounded in a tiny area in eastern Syria are refusing to surrender to U.S.-backed Syrian forces and are trying to negotiate an exit, Syrian activists and a person close to the negotiations said Monday.
The DeirEzzor 24, an activist collective in eastern Syria, said several trucks loaded with food stuff entered IS-held areas in Baghouz in Deir el-Zour on Monday morning. The group also reported that ISIS released 10 SDF fighters Sunday without saying whether the supplies of the food stuff were in return for the release.
DeirEzzor 24 said that the truce reached between ISIS and the SDF last week has been extended for five more days as of Sunday.
A French colonel who led an artillery group in the fight against ISIS criticized the U.S. way of fighting that war:
Colonel Francois-Regis Legrier, who has been in charge of directing French artillery supporting Kurdish-led groups in Syria since October, said the coalition's focus had been on limiting its own risks and this had greatly increased the death toll among civilians and the levels of destruction.
"Yes, the Battle of Hajin was won, at least on the ground but by refusing ground engagement, we unnecessarily prolonged the conflict and thus contributed to increasing the number of casualties in the population," Mr Legrier wrote in an article in the National Defence Review.
"We have massively destroyed the infrastructure and given the population a disgusting image of what may be a Western-style liberation leaving behind the seeds of an imminent resurgence of a new adversary," he said, in rare public criticism by a serving officer.

MUNICH — Vice President Mike Pence repeated warnings to Turkey not to proceed with the purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system, a day after Turkey dismissed the first of two deadlines to cease with the planned sale.
Pence, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, told attendees “we will not stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries. We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East.
"The U.S. had set a Feb. 15 deadline for Turkey to respond and signal their intentions to cease with the sale, a U.S. official told Military Times. If Turkey refuses, a forthcoming sale of a Patriot missile defense system from the U.S. will be halted.
“We have been clear with Turkey,” the U.S. official said. “The will not receive the Patriot if they purchase the S-400."​ 
(Erdogan shakes in fear!)​

In his first major public address since the US formally pulled out of the INF arms-control treaty, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday that Russia would point its new arsenal of hypersonic missiles - which can purportedly bypass NATO's ABM systems - directly at the US if it dares to reintroduce ground-based intermediate-range missiles to Europe...
 Though Russia won't deploy weapons preemptively, Putin said that if the US does place weapons in Europe, Russia will deliver an "asymmetric" response and target not only the host countries of those weapons, but "decision-making center" in the US (presumably Washington).
Still, Putin said he's hoping the US and Russia can work out their differences.
"We don't want confrontation, particularly with such a global power as the US."

​At least the Empire is winning the Trade-War...​
Chinese state-run newspaper the Global Times warned - or perhaps threatened - late Tuesday that failed trade negotiations would have dire consequences for global stocks.  
The threat of a market catastrophe has pigeonholed the US into striking a deal with Beijing, the report suggests although many are confident that the situation is flipped...
Why China's implicit threat? Perhaps because, as Shard's Bill Blain noted earlier today, at least in the context of its economy, China is already losing the trade war, and therefore has little to lose by escalating the war of words. This is what Blain said overnight:
The recent data highlights the Chinese economy may be slowing faster than XI can maintain his grip – he’s weaker than ever before. (Raising one scenario threat of a long-drawn out period of uncertainty if he is marginalised/deposed and a power struggle follows. That could be very destabilising and disruptive for the Occidental economies desperate to sell the China!)
We reckon XI knows he’s out of time and has to settle – handing Trump a critical victory. Long-term the US-China tech-war is difficult to call. Trump is determined to garner payback for China IP theft, and its difficult to imagine the rest of Asia adopting Chinese tech systems if they lose the current trade war to the US. However, you can’t just undo years of China tech development. My techy contacts tell me Huawai’s boasts about the US’ inability to close them is partial bluff and bluster – it’s not as advanced or robust as it claims, plus the US is going to insist on wrecking it – which could prove another long-term friction point.

​War of the Worlds... A lot has happened on this field of battle since this prescient October 2018 article was penned.
Today America is locked in a struggle for high-tech supremacy with China. The battlefields range from lasers, hypersonic weaponry, and advanced unmanned systems for the military, to artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computers and even driverless cars in the civilian sector. One is transparently clear: whoever wins this struggle will become the dominant superpower in the 21st century; and one of the most decisive contests will be over 5G wireless.
Fifth-generation or 5G technology is much more than the future of global telecommunications, offering more bandwidth than anyone ever imagined (think of downloading entire movies in a few seconds) and enough to make the Internet of Things a daily reality. The rollout of 5G also demands billions of dollars to install the fiber-optic networks needed for these high-capacity systems, and billions more to operate them. Which companies and which countries design and invest in this new infrastructure, will have a hefty say in not only how 5-G transmits information, but also how others are to access the system.

​5G is a poisoned chalice. These frequencies are weaponized by the US military to beam at crowds, making them flee in pain.​ 
Samsung and telecom company Verizon made a joint announcement on Monday that was supposed to be unequivocally exciting news: the blazing-fast fifth generation wireless cellular network — known as 5G — is slated to be more accessible in the United States in the first half of next year (2019).
Yet public health experts, professors, and watchdog groups are increasingly concerned about the untested aspects that this next-gen cell network requires — including more cell towers and a constant chorus of higher-energy photons streaming through human bodies and dwellings.

​Charles Hugh Smith:
Those who are betting on Central Planning do not understand the essential role of adaptation.
The global economy is in the midst of a grand experiment pitting centralization (Central Planning) against the evolutionary model of adaptive, self-organizing networks. Centralization is the dominant dynamic of the Status Quo everywhere: the economies of China, Japan, Europe and the U.S. are all dominated by Central Planning: central banks, central state agencies, and Deep State / private sector nodes of wealth and power that pull the systemic strings.
Central Planning--the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few--is presented as the "solution": in China, the "solution" is a Total Information Awareness Social Credit Score system of centralized control of the populace...
That which is rigid and inflexible cannot adapt to rapid change, and thus it fails to adapt and vanishes from the Earth. That is the essence of evolutionary dynamics...
 Central Planning strips out the all the core dynamics of adaptation as dangers:dissent, experimentation, decentralization of power and capital, and a diversity of competing narratives. These are all mortal threats to Central Planning, which is by its nature rigidly hierarchical...
Adaptation can't be faked. Organizations that cannot adapt quickly and efficiently implode. This is a scale-invariant dynamic: the organizational size doesn't matter. Size and scale do not provide magical protection. Households, corporations, governments and empires that fail to adapt will collapse.
There is a real solution: decentralize, diversify, open the economy and society to dissent, experimentation and self-organizing networks of peers. Rapid adaptation requires radical decentralization, autonomy, transparency, flexibility and experimentation.

​Target Venezuela (Hey, Brazil, too!):
The real prize that these powerful international oil giants are eyeing likely lies well to the east of the Orinoco heavy oil fields where they now operate. The real prize is the ultimate control over one of the best-kept secrets in the oil industry, the huge oil reserves of a disputed area straddling Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil. The region is called Guayana Esequiba. Some geologists believe the Esequiba region and its offshore could contain the world’s largest reserves of oil, oil of far better quality that the heavy Orinoco crude of Venezuela. The problem is that owing to the decades-long dispute between Venezuela and Guyana the true extent of that oil is not yet known.

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba denied on Tuesday it has security forces in Venezuela and charged the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign of lies paving the way for military intervention in the South American country.  

​Venezuelan military moves to defend all borders. "Over our dead bodies!"​

Death Of Sailor In Iconic VJ-Day Photo Reminds Americans Of Halcyon Days When Wars Still Ended

​Helen of DesTroy (unattributed) wrote this fun piece for RT:
The boy who became the face of “white privilege” when an edited video of his confrontation with an indigenous protester went viral is suing the Washington Post for defamation, asking for its entire value in a 2013 sale as damages...
The suit claims the Post “wrongly targeted and bullied” the high schooler in order to “advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump” because Sandmann is white and wore the red Make America Great Again hat that has become an iconic symbol among the president’s fans – and his detractors.
By implying that Sandmann “engaged in acts of racism by ‘swarming’ Phillips, ‘blocking’ his exit away from the students, and otherwise engaging in racist misconduct,” the Post “fanned the flames of the social media mob into a mainstream media frenzy,” compounding the threats and bullying directed at the teen, while its failure to fact-check – the unedited video was freely available at the time of publication – confirms its “utter and knowing disregard for the truth.”

​That's not a bug, it's Charles De Gaulle's designed-in feature of the 5th Republic.​
Outside France, many economists tend to ascribe the yellow vest movement to the fact that the French are rebellious and that France is politically unmanageable. But what is special about France is not its people but its institutional system, which differs vastly from those of other European​ ​countries. Three dimensions seem to me particularly relevant in the current context.
The first concerns the political system. Under the current constitution, power is far more personalised than elsewhere. France is not a parliamentary democracy like Britain or Germany. Sure, all three have a lower and an upper chamber, but political parties play a fundamentally different role in France.
There, the dominant party is a creation of the president – like the RPR was a creation of Jacques Chirac, the Socialist party was created by François Mitterrand, and La République en Marche is the creation of Emmanuel Macron, around whom the party entirely revolves...
The second French peculiarity concerns the role of intermediate institutions, and in particular labour unions. Among the large European countries, France is where the rate of union membership is the lowest. In 2015, it was 36% in Italy, 25% in Britain, 18% in Germany, 14% in Spain, 12% in Poland and barely 8% in France. And the current practice further weakens the role of labour unions in the management of social conflicts.
The third concerns the organisation of the country’s territory. Metropolitan France is the largest country of the European Union by land mass, with 550,000 km2, compared with 499,000 km2 in Spain, 349,000 km2 in Germany, 304,000 km2 in Poland, 294,000 km2 in Italy and 242,000 km2 in Britain. Among these six countries, France is also the one (just behind Spain) with the lowest population density, with 119 inhabitants per square kilometre against 236 in Germany and 275 in Britain.
Despite this situation, France is the most centralised of the six biggest EU countries. According to the OECD, the share of sub-national entities in total public expenditure is only 20% in France against 50% in Spain, 47% in Germany, 32% in Poland, 30% in Italy and 26% in Britain.
The conclusion is incontestable. France is the European country where there is the most rebellion against its leader, because his power is the most personalised and the most centralised among the six big EU countries.
The personalisation of power, the weakness of Parliament – with a dominant party dominated by a single person – and the weak role of intermediate bodies like labour unions all combine to create a situation where citizens have no recourse to make their voice heard other than taking to the streets and demanding the resignation of the president.

​Like the old days...​
The Ten Years for Agroecology study shows that agroecological and organic farming can feed Europe a healthy diet, while responding to climate change, phasing out pesticides, and maintaining vital biodiversity.
The study suggests that agroecology – using ecological principles first and chemicals last in agriculture – presents a credible way of feeding Europe by 2050. But it says action is needed now, with the next 10 years critical in engaging Europe in the transition. The agriculture bill now going through parliament in the UK makes no mention of agroecology, although an amendment drafted by a cross-party group of MPs proposed that farmers using the approach should receive some sort of payment.
“The idea of an entirely agroecological Europe is often considered unrealistic in terms of food security because agroecology sometimes means lower yields,” said Percival. “But this new research shows that by refocusing diets around plant-based proteins and pasture-fed livestock, a fully agroecological Europe is possible.”

Replenishing the world’s forests on a grand scale would suck enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to cancel out a decade of human emissions, according to an ambitious new study.
Scientists have established there is room for an additional 1.2 trillion trees to grow in parks, woods and abandoned land across the planet.
If such a goal were accomplished, ecologist Dr Thomas Crowther said it would outstrip every other method for tackling climate change – from building wind turbines to vegetarian diets.

​Sequestering Carbon​

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Get There From Here

Pulling Together,

I've had extended opportunities, while driving to Yoakum and back, and gardening there, to consider our predicament as stewards of life on Earth. 
The machine that supports our lives grinds forward to burn all of the coal and oil as quickly as possible, killing us in the process.
It's a conundrum, but it's not insoluble. 
The solution has been practiced, for thousands of years, in many different parts of our world, and it arose independently.
The core of the solution is subsistence farming the same farms for generation after generation, improving and adapting the methods and techniques and soil, and passing down the wisdom.
If people somehow survive the next 50 years, it will be groups somewhere out there doing this.

Rob Uri writes an excellent article detailing how the system, itself assures this problem we have. No solution can arise from it, or be allowed by it.
Unbeknownst to most Americans, the nation’s forests were clear-cut from coast to coast in the mid-late nineteenth century. Photographs from the era show denuded landscapes— no trees, no animals, and streams still poisoned from the runoff in the present, for as far as the eye can see.  The scars from nineteenth and twentieth century strip mining in Pennsylvania draw direct geographical and historical lines to the mountaintop removal that is taking place in West Virginia today...
These natural resources produced the bounty of American capitalism every bit as much as the manufacturing prowess of the Second Industrial Revolution. In turn, this combination of low-cost resources, manufacturing prowess and natural borders (the oceans) produced the military might that defines America in the present. The logic of weapons and weaponry pervades American capitalism. Death and destruction, domination and control, are what America does...
The relevance for a Green New Deal is that confronting extractive and polluting industries is to confront both ‘private’ interests and the American state. Representatives of the state perceive these industries to be extensions of state power. Again, the U.S. Army explains the relationship here. Placing restrictions on multinational corporations and Wall Street is to reduce state power, goes the logic. And the belief is that the relationship is symbiotic— what benefits one, benefits the other.
There is a long history here. General Smedley Butler described his role leading U.S. military incursions abroad as a ‘gangster for capitalism.’ Economic Hitman John Perkins brought this corporate-state relation into the twenty-first century as coup-engineer for corporate interests...
Democrats claim that the dividing line for environmental resolution is between belief in climate change and unbelief. But the actual result is (1) they believe and (2) they perpetuate the problem.  

​That's not a bug...​
Study By MIT Economist: U.S. Has Regressed To A Third-World Nation For Most Of Its Citizens

​Tom Luongo:
In Warsaw, the U.S. cajoled some sixty countries, many of them Arab, to send representatives only to be scolded like schoolchildren by Vice President Mike Pence for undermining the drive for war with Iran...
The entire Warsaw meeting was designed to impress upon everyone how seriously they should take U.S. and Israeli desires for regime change in Iran. And how committed they are to keeping everyone in the fold on all matters pertaining to the Trump administration’s hostility towards Iran, Russia, and China...
 Pompeo and Netanyahu were putting the world on notice that they are not only 1) insane but 2) committed to their path to braying for war While, as Elijah Magnier points out, the entire dog and pony show in Warsawa was for Netanyahu’s re-election bid amidst cabinet resignations and corruption scandals.
​ ​At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts in Sochi to discuss the next phase of bringing peace to Syria.

​From The Guardian, UK.
Pro-Israel lobbyists funneled more than $22 million into the 2018 US election cycle, making the lobby far more active and influential than those aligned with other foreign nations, public records show...
It’s not just a handful of politicians receiving the pro-Israel money, either. In fact, the Israel lobby donates to the majority of politicians, spending money on 269 House representatives’ and 57 senators’ campaigns last year.
Interestingly, the Guardian noted that Democrats who demanded an apology from Omar coincidentally received some of the highest levels of contributions from the pro-Israel lobby.

Dozens of Israeli settlers launched an attack on Palestinians in the Old City of Hebron in the southern occupied West Bank on Tuesday night, yelling “death to Arabs!” in the street and hurling rocks at Palestinian homes.
According to locals, more than 100 settlers accompanied by over 70 armed Israeli forces began marching down Shuhada street at 9pm in the Old City, heading towards the Palestinian neighborhood of Tel Rumeida.
“They were chanting anti-Arab slogans, calling for the expulsion of all Palestinians from the area, saying this is the land of Israel, and saying we should all die.”...
“Here in the Old City we are used to such attacks, so the Palestinians all have bars on their windows so that the settlers can’t break through,” Dweik said.
He added that no one was badly injured, but several people sustained bruises on their faces and bodies from being physically assaulted by the settlers.
The attack lasted until just after midnight, Dweik said. “When the soldiers saw lots of Palestinians beginning to congregate in the area, they started to push the settlers back and control them.”

 Syrian state-run news agency SANA has cited local sources as saying that US forces have used helicopters to transfer large boxes full of the "spoils" of Daesh* terrorists from the al-Dashisha area in Hasaka province's southern countryside...-an account, which, as SANA stresses, corresponds with other reports that Daesh had transported some 40 tonnes of gold bullions stolen from Mosul in Iraq and other areas in Syria to al-Dashisha.
According to the sources, US military helicopters arrived in Hajun in Deir ez-Zor and Dashisha in Hasaka, transferring Daesh militants who had surrendered themselves to American troops and later directed them to the cashes of stolen gold, allegedly closing a deal under which Washington "spared hundreds of the terror organisation’s field leaders and experts".
Washington has yet to comment on the report.

​Kunstler has a lot of inconvenient truths compiled here... probably courtesy of Vladimir Putin.
The Trump “resistance” already seems demoralized by the collapse of the Russia collusion story, which had been the centerpiece of their impeachment hopes. Several reconstituted house committees under the new Democratic Party chairs, have pledged to keep mining that vein of fool’s gold to keep the hysteria alive long enough for the 2020 elections. But what will happen in the meantime as their enablers are dragged into courts of law to answer for their roguery?

​Oh No! How did Putin get to Kamala's Dad?
“My dear departed grandmothers(whose extraordinary legacy I described in a recent essay on this website), as well as my deceased parents , must be turning in their grave right now to see their family’s name, reputation and proud Jamaican identity being connected, in any way, jokingly or not with the fraudulent stereotype of a pot-smoking joy seeker and in the pursuit of identity politics. Speaking for myself and my immediate Jamaican family, we wish to categorically dissociate ourselves from this travesty.”  

​Researchers create rat-cyborgs and train people to control them with their minds. (The rats stayed on task. Some of the human controllers got distracted, but some of the human controllers got perfect scores directing the rats through mazes with a modified device for controlling prosthetic limbs. Researchers say this could be a two-way-street, fairly easily. Chinese researchers, y'all...)​

Wired for Politics

Friday, February 15, 2019

Fighting Vampires

Lights of Truth,

Technically, Ilhan Omar's grilling of Elliot Abrahms Vampire for the House Foreign Affairs Committee was yesterday's news, but she got further attacked by the Neocon-Amen-section, and Caitlin Johnstone jumped to her defense.
US warmongering is the most aggressively protected part of the establishment narrative matrix, because US warmongering is the glue that holds the unipolar empire together. Without it, our rulers cannot rule, so you’ll see imperial lackeys fiercely attacking anyone who draws attention to America’s bloodbaths around the world, even if they are good servants of the empire in other areas.
The difficulty for our rulers, though, is that warmongering is a very difficult thing to paint a pretty picture of, especially with our newfound ability to quickly share ideas and information around the globe. I mean, look at Elliott Abrams. Seriously, just watch him talk. That demonic grimace is the prettiest face they could find to put on their Venezuela agenda. I find that very encouraging.
The reason they work so hard to manufacture our consent for warmongering agendas is because they need that consent. They wouldn’t propagandize us so aggressively if they didn’t need us all trusting them and believing their stories, so the best way to fight establishment warmongering is to circulate disbelief in their stories. Whenever you see someone like Ilhan Omar drawing attention to the gaping plot holes in agendas like regime change interventionism in Venezuela, go ahead and help draw attention to it.

H.R. 1, better known as the For the People Act, has won praise from many Democrat-friendly pundits.
The first proposed legislation of the Democratic House would, among other things, expand voting rights by encouraging same-day registration, force presidents and vice presidents to release tax returns, and ban members of Congress from serving on corporate boards...
Page 268 of the bill, which was sponsored by Maryland Democrat John Sarbanes, features “Section 3201: National Strategy to Protect Democratic Institutions.”
The section mandates that the president work with the secretaries of Defense, State, and Education, along with the director of national intelligence, the chair of the Federal Election Commission and the “heads of any other appropriate federal agencies” to develop a “national strategy” against “cyber attacks, influence operations, disinformation campaigns” and other operations that could “undermine the security and integrity of United States democratic institutions.”
There’s nothing particularly odd about the president working with security agencies to come up with a plan to prevent cyber attacks and other foreign incursions. But this provision also specifically describes a strategy to combat domestic actors, and its mandate is couched in language that raises questions about its true purpose.

Moon of Alabama lays out what looks more and more like a failed US attempt at a coup d'Etat in Venezuela.
On January 25, two days after Random Guyidó declared himself President of Venezuela, the lack of planing in the U.S. coup attempt was already obvious:
My impression is that Trump was scammed. It was long evident that he gives little attention to details and does not think things through. Most likely Bolton, Pompeo and Rubio presented him with a three step plan:
Phase 1. Support the self declared president Guaidó; Phase 2: ... (wishful thinking) ...; Phase 3: Take half of their oil! ​...​
Bolton and Pompeo are both experienced politicians and bureaucrats. They likely knew that their plan was deeply flawed and would require much more than Trump would normally commit to. My hunch is that the soon coming mission creep was build into their plan, but that they did not reveal that.
The U.S. coup planners and their Venezuelan puppets had hoped that the Venezuelan military would jump to their side. That was wishful thinking and unlikely to happen. They also thought up some "humanitarian aid" scheme in which pictures of trucks crossing a long blocked bridge would soon shame the Venezuelan president into stepping down. That was likewise nonsense.
Unless the U.S. is willing and able to escalate, the coup attempt is destined to fail...The little spontaneous support the Random Guyidó had in some parts of the population is already lessening. Yesterday's demonstration he had called for saw less attendance than the one on January 23. He now says that he will force the 'aid' crossing on February 23 but he does not seem to have a real plan to achieve that:
President of the National Assembly Guaido also promised the country that US-delivered humanitarian aid will “enter the country no matter what” on February 23, issuing an “order” for the military to allow it to enter. However, military leaders have dismissed these calls, with the Central Defense Region tweeting in response that the armed forces would not take any orders from an “imperial lackey.”
If the U.S. does not do more than it has done so far the government under President Maduro can sit this out. The sanctions and the lack of oil revenue will create many immediate problems. But in a few weeks Venezuelan oil will have found new buyers. Fresh money will come in and new sources for imports of medicine and staple food will have been found.
Over the same time the Random Guy will lose support. The party he nominally leads only won 20% of the votes. The other opposition parties were never informed of his plan to declare himself president. Their support for the step was lukewarm and will cool further. They may in the end support the mediation talks Maduro has offered and which the UN, Uruguay and Mexico also support. The talks could lead to new parliament and/or presidential elections in a year or two and thereby solve the situation.
The U.S. would not be satisfied by a compromise solution. Trump is now committed to 'regime change' in Venezuela. But how can he do it?
Waging an open war against that country would be very messy, expensive and difficult to justify. To start and support a guerilla war - Elliott Abrams specialty - takes time also costs a lot of money. The chances to win it are low. Moreover Trump wants to get re-elected but could lose many votes over both scenarios.

"Friend of Bill"...​
The Jeffrey Epstein 2008 sex scandal that cast shadows on many prominent world figures has resurfaced again, raising questions about how the billionaire managed to get away with so many sex abuse cases. Speaking to Sputnik, Wall Street analyst Charles Ortel shared his views on ex-FBI chief Robert Mueller and the Clintons' role in the Epstein saga.  
On 6 February, the Department of Justice (DOJ) opened a probe into the handling of the Epstein child molesting case by Labour Secretary Alex Acosta — then the US attorney for Southern Florida — and other DOJ attorneys in 2008.
"The Epstein saga has long fascinated many who wonder how he managed to become a billionaire 'trading', starting with a thin resume, and, then, why so many powerful, rich, and well-connected people would travel to his various exotic locations in the company of young, beautiful women. It certainly is reasonable to wonder why interest in the case has bubbled up now, more than 10 years following Epstein's lenient plea agreement in late June 2008", Wall Street analyst and investigative journalist Charles Ortel told Sputnik, commenting on the timing of the DOJ investigation.

Oil, Agriculture and Imperialism​
We need to place greater emphasis on producing food rooted in the principles of localisation, self-reliance, (carbon sequestrating) regenerative agriculture and (political) agroecology and to acknowledge the need to regard the commons (soil, water, seeds, land, forests, other natural resources, etc) as genuine democratically controlled common wealth. This approach would offerconcrete, practical solutions (mitigating climate change, job creation in the West and elsewhere, regenerating agriculture and economies in the Global South, etc) to many of the world’s problems that move beyond (but which are linked to) agriculture.
This would present a major challenge to the existing global food regime and the prevailing moribund doctrinaire economics that serves the interests of Western oil companies and financial institutions, global agribusiness and the major arms companies. These interlocking, self-serving interests have managed to institute a globalised system of war, poverty and food insecurity.
The deregulation of international capital flows (financial liberalisation) effectively turned the world into a free-for-all for global capital. The further ramping up of US militarism comes at the back end of a deregulating/pro-privatising neoliberal agenda that has sacked public budgets, depressed wages, expanded credit to consumers and to governments (to sustain spending and consumption) and unbridled financial speculation. This relentless militarism has now become a major driver of the US economy.

​Can you call me back later? I'm still feeling pretty sick today. New phone works ok, though...
In the first instance, 5G is likely to make people electro-hypersensitive (EHS).[2] Perhaps it was sitting in front of two big computer screens for many of the 18 years I worked at the UN that made me EHS. When the UN Office at Vienna installed powerful WiFi and cellphone access points – designed to serve large, public areas – in narrow, metal-walled corridors throughout the Vienna International Centre in December 2015, I was ill continuously for seven months...
 Seemingly overnight a forest of 5G infrastructure has sprouted in Austria. In the space of three weeks one friend has gone from robust health to fleeing this country, where she has lived for 30 years. Each person experiences EMR differently. For her, it was extreme torture so she and I spent her last two nights in Austria sleeping in the woods. Interestingly, as she drove across southern Germany, she suffered torture even worse than in Austria, while in northern Germany she had no symptoms at all and felt completely normal, which suggests that there has been as yet no 5G rollout there.


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Stamping Out Insects


Rep. Ilhan Omar clashed with newly minted Venezuela Envoy Elliott Abrams during a Wednesday hearing in front of the House Foreign Relations Committee discussing the role of the US military in Central America.
"Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding your involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by president George H.W. Bush," began Omar. "I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful."
"If I could respond to that..." interjected Abrams.
"It was not a question," shot back Omar.
After a brief exchange in which Abrams protested "It was not right!" Omar cut Abrams off, saying "Thank you for your participation."
Omar: "On February 8, 1982, you testified before the Senate foreign relations committee about US policy in El Salvador. In that hearing you dismissed as communist propaganda, a report about the massacre of El Mozote in which more than 800 civilians - including children as young as two-years old - were brutally murdered by US-trained troops. During that massacre, some of those troops bragged about raping 12-year-old girls before they killed them. You later said that the US policy in El Salvador was a "fabulous achievement." 
"Yes or no - do you still think so?" asked Omar.
Abrams replied: "From, the day that Duarte was elected in a free election, to this day, El Salvador has been a democracy. That's a fabulous achievement."
Omar shot back: "Yes or no, do you think that massacre was a fabulous achievement that happened under our watch?" 
Abrams protested: "That is a ridiculous question---
to which Omar shot back, "Yes or no," cutting him off.
"No!" exclaimed Abrams, who added "I am not going to respond to that kind of personal attack - which is not a question."
Omar pushed back: "Yes or no, would you support an armed faction within Venezuela that engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, if you believe they were serving US interests as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua?" 
"I am not going to respond to that question, I'm sorry. I don't think this entire line of questioning is meant to be real questions, and so I will not reply." said Abrams.  

While the de jure role of state sponsored propaganda is to convince a population to adopt a certain line of thinking on the issues of the day, the de fato function of state sponsored propaganda is rather different. In a society in which even a sizeable minority of the public are capable of critical thinking, few will immediately believe everything they are told, even if they can’t quite put their figure on a specific point of contention.
Because of that, in educated societies as the Soviet Union’s was, state propaganda serves a purpose of alerting people as to what they are forbidden to disagree with in public. In other words, if the official state line as delivered through state sanctioned newspapers, radio and television is that the economy is booming, people are being paid well and on time and that the new housing stock is superior to any other in the world – the authors of such propaganda do not expect those who are under-paid, living in mediocre housing and unable to elevate themselves into a higher living standard, to believe the self-evident nonsense that forms the core of the propaganda...
But while the USSR’s old adversary, the United States is having its own problems with a less and less free market that is overly taxed, overly regulated, back in love with tariffs and all at the mercy of an inflation happy yet unaccountable Federal Reserve, there is alas a giant free speech problem, one that is all the worse in America’s European allied states who don’t even bother to pretend to have something akin to America’s constitutional first amendment...
But while Soviet propaganda worked on a linear business model, today’s American and European propaganda machine works on a triangular model. At the top of the triangle is big business. At the bottom two points of the triangle are government and media – both of which want the help of big businesses in order to enrich themselves...
Thus, the American and European media constantly send messages that it is impermissible to have an opinion contrary to the standard line on the following issues:  invading other people’s nations in the name of “human rights”, climate change being the fault of anyone with a car, the wonders of narcotics and pornography, why strict education is somehow evil and why fiat currencies are just swell.
Thus, just as Soviet propaganda had slogans that insulted the intelligence of the ordinary person like “brotherhood of nations” in order to keep people from questioning why certain investments were going to far off hinterlands while Russia’s heartlands were being economically destroyed, so too do western propagandists use terms like “fact checking” to imply that anyone who disagrees with a corporate (and hence government) sanctioned “fact” is a deceitful liar that should be shunned, shamed and insulted as such. While terms like “fact checking” are mostly used by social elites who author the propaganda, ordinary people tend to use the phrase “politically incorrect” to signal to their fellow man what cannot be said under fear of social and economic punishment.

Pipelines are a critical battlefield-lifeline-chokehold going forward. Ranks have broken at the periphery of the empire.
In the end, Macron and Washington – albeit working for different objectives – were defeated in their attempts to sabotage the emerging energy trade between Germany, Europe and Russia. Nord Stream 2, as with Russia’s Turk Stream to the south of Europe, seems inevitable by sheer force of natural partnership...
   Iraq is crippled by electricity and power shortages because of the criminal war that the US waged on that country from 2003-2011 which destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure. Iraq critically needs Iranian gas supplies to keep the lights and fans running. Yet, here we have the US now dictating to Iraq to end its lifeline import of Iranian fuel in order to comply with the Trump administration’s sanctions against Tehran. Iraq is furious at the latest bullying interference by Washington in its sovereign affairs.

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton has warned countries and companies against buying crude oil from Venezuela, after the Latin American country’s Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo said during a surprise visit to India that Venezuela wants to sell more oil to the fast-growing Indian market.
In a tweet with a Bloomberg article on Venezuelan-Indian oil relations attached, Bolton wrote: “Nations and firms that support Maduro’s theft of Venezuelan resources will not be forgotten. The United States will continue to use all of its powers to preserve the Venezuelan people’s a​s​sets and we encourage all nations to work together to do the same.”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday that Venezuelan gold would be processed in the Central Anatolian province of Çorum...
 On Monday Reuters reported that Venezuela uses some of the proceeds to buy consumer goods such as pasta and powdered milk, citing people with direct knowledge of the trade.
Trade between the two nations grew eightfold last year... 
A Nov. 1 executive order signed by US President Donald Trump bars US persons and entities from buying gold from Venezuela. It does not apply to foreigners. Ankara has assured the US Treasury that all of Turkey’s trade with Venezuela is in accordance with international law.

Venezuela's Envoy to Russia says Guaido was recruited by the US 10 years ago. (Sour Grapes! Who would believe such a thing?)

President by Proclamation, Guaido wants to restore Venezuela's ties with Israel, which has recognized him as the rightful leader of Venezuela.

Salvage whatever can be salvaged for the Empire, I guess...
Netanyah​u​ Asks Arabs to "Advance The Common Interest Of War With Iran"
The U.S. had called for a high level anti-Iran meeting in Poland. The purpose of the meeting was to bring with its allies and poodles into line with the U.S. agenda on Iran, to press them at least into issuing harsher sanctions. But the European rejected that...
The State Department went to some length to obfuscate the real purpose of the conference.​..
That State Department effort to somewhat hide the real agenda was sabotaged when the Prime Minister of Israel arrived and made it clear what the meeting is all about:
I am going to a meeting with 60 foreign ministers and envoys of countries from around the world against Iran. What is important about this meeting – and this meeting is not in secret, because there are many of those – is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran."

The Empire needs to enforce more discipline internally!
The House voted Wednesday to withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, delivering a rebuke of President Trump’s policy and bringing closer the prospect of the first veto of his tenure.  

This is probably just Russian propaganda...
Trillion-dollar-company Amazon skated through 2018's tax filings without paying a cent for the second year in a row. The e-commerce behemoth, which made $11 billion last year, will pay no taxes at all, thanks to 2017's tax reform.
Rather than pay the standard 21 percent corporate income tax rate, Amazon is actually claiming a tax rebate of $129 million, which works out to a logic-defying rate of -1 percent.

The president said Tuesday that he was open to letting the March 1 deadline for more than doubling tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods slide, if the two countries are close to a deal that addresses deep structural changes to China’s economic policies -- though he added he was not “inclined” to do so. The people said that Trump is weighing whether to add 60 days to the current deadline to give negotiations more time to continue...
Trump has indicated he will need to meet Xi to agree on a final deal. While no date has been set, a White House aide this week said the U.S. president still wants to meet his Chinese counterpart soon in a bid to end the trade war.  

Just reset the algorithms, right?
The Dutch government is working with Germany and Belgium on establishing “truck platooning” – where one human-driven vehicle leads a convoy of autonomous ones — on major roads.
Under the plans, about 100 driverless trucks would drive the “Tulip corridors” at night – from Amsterdam to Antwerp, and from Rotterdam to the Ruhr valley – fully maximising the routes through which the Netherlands distributes its goods using 5G technology and 1,200 smart traffic lights...
But a report by the professional service company KPMG highlights a major problem for Dutch ministers in introducing the technology to urban centres, where the bicycle is increasingly king.
Driverless cars detect other road users using a variety of cameras or laser-sensing systems to ensure that they stop if an object is detected in their path.​ ​But the varying sizes and agility of cyclists, with their sudden changes in speed and loose adherence to the rules of the road, present a major challenge to the existing technology.​..​ 
More than a quarter of all trips made by Dutch residents are by bike. Of all trips of a distance of up to five miles, a third are made by bicycle, with the rate only dropping to 15% for trips up to 10 miles in length.
Stijn de Groen, an automotive expert at KPMG, said in the report that for this reason the government would be best to focus on motorways. “We have a lot of bicycles,” he said. “In urban, crowded areas it will be very difficult to start autonomous driving.”

The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.
More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

Politicians and policymakers have failed to grasp the gravity of the environmental crisis facing the Earth, a report claims.
The think-tank IPPR says human impacts have reached a critical stage and threaten to destabilise society and the global economy.
Scientists warn of a potentially deadly combination of factors.
These include climate change, mass loss of species, topsoil erosion, forest felling and acidifying oceans.
The report from the centre-left Institute for Public Policy Research says these factors are "driving a complex, dynamic process of environmental destabilisation that has reached critical levels.

​RoundUp/glyphosate exposure increases risk of the worse type of lymphoma by over 40%. What else will eventually be found?​

Doing everything we are used to with renewables is different from doing some things with renewables. 
It's impossible.
Even renewable energy relies on certain decidedly non-renewable resources. Even the eco-friendliest solutions such as solar panels can’t be made without the use of finite rare earth elements. Batteries, too, are completely dependent on finite earth-sourced materials for their fabrication. What’s more, China currently has an overwhelming monopoly on a great number of these rare earth elements (although not all are as rare as this label implies). This means that in a renewable energy-based world, energy security could become a major issue. In addition to rare earth elements, there are myriad other non-renewable materials used in the production of renewable energy. Currently, the one that has everyone talking is lithium.

​Bike-to-work Day

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Making America Gape again


So how did Trump finally get the liberal corporate media to stop calling him a fascist? He did that by acting like a fascist (i.e., like a “normal” president). Which is to say he did the bidding of the deep state goons and corporate mandarins that manage the global capitalist empire … the smiley, happy, democracy-spreading, post-fascist version of fascism we live under.
I’m referring, of course, to Venezuela, which is one of a handful of uncooperative countries that are not playing ball with global capitalism and which haven’t been “regime changed” yet. Trump green-lit the attempted coup purportedly being staged by the Venezuelan “opposition,” but which is obviously a U.S. operation, or, rather, a global capitalist operation. As soon as he did, the corporate media immediately suspended calling him a fascist, and comparing him to Adolf Hitler, and so on, and started spewing out blatant propaganda supporting his effort to overthrow the elected government of a sovereign country...
Unfortunately, there is no America. There is nothing to make great again. “America” is a fiction, a fantasy, a nostalgia that hucksters like Donald Trump (and other, marginally less buffoonish hucksters) use to sell whatever they are selling … themselves, wars, cars, whatever. What there is, in reality, instead of America, is a supranational global capitalist empire, a decentralized, interdependent network of global corporations, financial institutions, national governments, intelligence agencies, supranational governmental entities, military forces, media, and so on. If that sounds far-fetched or conspiratorial, look at what is going on in Venezuela. 

Kyle Bass is a capitalist warrior of great acumen. He says Trump should press the attack hard in the trade war with China.
Reducing tariff rates and adjusting foreign ownership rules would be a good thing, but this would not end China’s long-standing policy of bulk economic espionage and theft, which annually costs America’s economy at least $300 billion, according to U.S. government estimates. Multiple U.S. administrations have sought to engage China on these issues for more than two decades, and the commitments made to the U.S. have rarely been fulfilled. America needs a commitment from China’s government that it will put an end to espionage and theft and agree to legal and financial repercussions for their theft. Trump’s administration should continue to push for this and not end talks until there is permanent change in China’s behavior.
For China to be a constructive member of the multilateral world trading system it must grant foreign companies, operating either inside China or outside, the same rights and privileges as Party-affiliated national champions. The current mercantilist system, based on subsidies and preferences, needs to be dismantled, but the concessions offered to date lack commitment.
The Trump administration needs to fully understand the leverage it has today — and the increased leverage that it will have after March 1, the end of the 90-day reprieve from the imposition of additional tariffs — is the most the U.S. will ever have. To squander this opportunity would be a catastrophe not only for Trump’s administration but for the West.

Two weeks after President Trump sent a spasm of enthusiasm through US markets by meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Washington during the last round of trade negotiations, President Xi is reportedly set to return the favor this week by meeting with a delegation led by Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to South China Morning Post.  (Feeling some urgency​?​)

​Charles Hugh Smith on 3 themes to watch in 2019:
Final Stages of Debt Supercycle:
The basic idea of the debt supercycle is simple: resolving every crisis of over-leveraged speculative excess, evaporation of collateral and over-indebtedness by radically increasing debt eventually leads to an implosion of the entire credit-based financial system...  
Decay of Social Order/Social Contract​
Look no further than Brexit in Britain, the yellow vests in France and the Deplorables in the U.S. for manifestations of a broken social contract and decaying social order. The politically invisible / financially vulnerable have declared we're still here to their globalized elite aristocrats, and this rebellion against elite domination and profiteering is being demonized by the corporate-state media as populism rather than what it really is: a full-blown revolt of the working class.
Social controls: Surveillance capitalism  
In response, the ruling elites have instituted social controls via ramped up official propaganda, Social Credit Scoring in China and private-sector Surveillance Capitalism in the U.S.
All these forms of social control seek to marginalize, suppress and censor dissent, alternative sources of information, alternative narratives and financial independence: hence the sudden eltist interest in Universal Basic Income (UBI) and similar central-state dependency programs: nothing suppresses a working class revolt quite like free money for keeping quiet, passive and obedient.
But some sectors of the working class are not willing to accept the bribes; they're holding out for actual political power, and this is why the ruling elites of France have responded to the yellow vest movement with such savagery.

​Battle Stations!​
Russian authorities and major internet providers are planning to disconnect the country from the internet as part of a planned experiment, Russian news agency RosBiznesKonsalting (RBK) reported last week...
 A first draft of the law mandated that Russian internet providers should ensure the independence of the Russian internet space (Runet) in the case of foreign aggression to disconnect the country from the rest of the internet...
A date for the test has not been revealed, but it's supposed to take place before April 1.

The autonomous system would ensure that Russia doesn’t face a total internet shutdown if relations with the West completely collapse and the US goes as far as cutting off Russian IP addresses from the World Wide Web.
Back in 2012, then-US President Barack Obama signed an executive order allowing him to take control of all communications on American soil, including those crucial for the normal operation of the internet.
The US National Security Agency actually caused a three-day internet blackout in Syria in November 2012, whistleblower Edward Snowden told Wired magazine. NSA hackers accidently ‘bricked’ one of the core routers while trying to install spyware on it.

​IMF and World Bank are used militarily as "Unconventional Weapons" by US 
In a leaked military manual on “unconventional warfare” recently highlighted by WikiLeaks, the U.S. Army states that major global financial institutions — such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — are used as unconventional, financial “weapons in times of conflict up to and including large-scale general war,” as well as in leveraging “the policies and cooperation of state governments.”
The document, officially titled “Field Manual (FM) 3-05.130, Army Special Operations Forces Unconventional Warfare” and originally written in September 2008, was recently highlighted by WikiLeaks on Twitter in light of recent events in Venezuela as well as the years-long, U.S.-led economic siege of that country through sanctions and other means of economic warfare. 

​How The Media Manufactures Consent for regime Change in Venezuela, Alan MacLeod
The latest extraordinary chapter in the bizarre world of Venezuelan politics is playing out before our eyes. After winning the 2018 presidential elections, Nicolás Maduro was inaugurated in January, only for the head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó -- a man whom, at the time, less than 20 percent of the country had even heard of -- to declare himself President.
Guaidó was immediately backed by the governments of the U.S. and U.K., with Vice President Mike Pence stating, "Nicolás Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power. He has never won the presidency in a free and fair election, and has maintained his grip of power by imprisoning anyone who dares to oppose him."...
In a recent study, I analyzed how the media presented the 2018 elections in Colombia and Venezuela. Looking at how these two elections were covered can help us understand why there's so little nuance in the media coverage of U.S.-Venezuela relations.
To study the 2018 elections, I used the propaganda model media scholars Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky outlined in their book Manufacturing Consent. Their propaganda model contends that mainstream, corporate media is not a neutral venue for truth. Instead, it is a vehicle that advances the interests of media owners and their advertisers.
The authors argue that, in contrast to the top-down censorship of authoritarian states, these outlets achieve uniform opinions through the pre-selection of "right-thinking" editors and reporters who have been trained at the "right" schools. They then disseminate information – or, at the very least, self-censor – in a way that protects or advances the ideology of ownership, advertisers and official sources.

​Ellen Brown, Killing the Public Banking Revolution in Venezuela
The banking crisis of 2009-10 exposed the corruption and systemic weakness of Venezuelan banks. Some banks were engaged in questionable business practices.  Others were seriously undercapitalized.  Others were apparently lending top executives large sums of money.  At least one financier could not prove where he got the money to buy the banks he owned.
Rather than bailing out the culprits, as was done in the US, in 2009 the government nationalized seven Venezuelan banks, accounting for around 12% of the nation’s bank deposits.  In 2010, more were taken over.  The government arrested at least 16 bankers and issued more than 40 corruption-related arrest warrants for others who had fled the country. By the end of March 2011, only 37 banks were left, down from 59 at the end of November 2009.  State-owned institutions took a larger role, holding 35% of assets as of March 2011, while foreign institutions held just 13.2% of assets.
Over the howls of the media, in 2010 Chavez took the bold step of passing legislation defining the banking industry as one of “public service.” The legislation specified that 5% of the banks’ net profits must go towards funding community council projects, designed and implemented by communities for the benefit of communities. The Venezuelan government directed the allocation of bank credit to preferred sectors of the economy, and it increasingly became involved in the operations of private financial institutions.  By law, nearly half the lending portfolios of Venezuelan banks had to be directed to particular mandated sectors of the economy, including small business and agriculture.

​10 Reasons the Gilets Jeunes are The Real Deal (yeah, missed a few...)
1. They don’t speak in Abstractions/idealisms: abstraction is the language of power, hierarchy and representation. Abstraction and its use in a political context are what unite all regimes be they communist, Nazi or neo-liberal.
2. The mainstream media blackout: It is only necessary to go onto Gilets websites to witness the violence being metered out to the yellow vests. Does any of this appear in the mainstream media?
4. The lack of celebrities or leaders. Even after 12 demonstrations and 3 months of agitation, there are still no spokesmen or leaders or celebrities, ‘speaking’ for the people. This by itself tells you it’s a genuine grassroots movement.
5. The manner in which the globalisers have no response but violence.
8. The presence of many poor baby boomers and retirees: these sorts of people don’t usually attend demonstrations partially because they’re too busy, too old, don’t care or are driven away by the orchestrated police violence created expressly for that purpose. Yet they constitute the majority of people at the roundabouts, particularly outside Paris. Their presence tells you everything about the veracity of this movement.

​Caitlin Johnstone,
Well, now we all know what happens when a public official criticizes AIPAC. And of course, that was the whole idea.
Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has published an apology for making self-evident observations about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an immensely influential lobbying firm which, like all lobbying firms, works to influence government policy toward a specific agenda, in this case the interests of the Israeli government. She issued the apology after hours upon hours of shrill, hysterical shrieking accusations of antisemitism from the entire establishment political-media class...
This wasn’t a random outburst, it was a political means toward political ends. This fact-free smear will be used to try and kill Omar’s re-election bid, and the damage that has been done to her reputation will serve as a head on a spike to deter any other would-be AIPAC critics on Capitol Hill in the future.​..
 For the last two years the mainstream liberal establishment has been endlessly bleating about the need to elevate women of color to positions of leadership; then the first Black Muslim and first Somali American ever to get elected to Congress begins taking the leadership for which she was elected, and it turns out they actually meant they just wanted women with dark skin who will advance the status quo of the white imperialist patriarchy.

IN 2005, STEVEN Rosen, then a senior official with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, sat down for dinner with journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, then of the New Yorker. “You see this napkin?” Rosen asked Goldberg. “In twenty-four hours, [AIPAC] could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin.”  

​Kunstler on "Mistaken Futures"​
Which opens the door to a great quandary. If industrial society is disintegrating (literally), then what takes its place? Many suppose that it is a robotic utopia powered by some as-yet-unharnessed cosmic juice, a nirvana of algorithms, culminating in orgasm-without-end (Ray Kurzweil’s transhumanism). Personally, I would check the “no” box on that outcome as a likely scenario.
The self-proclaimed socialists are actually seeing the world through a rear-view mirror. What they are really talking about is divvying up the previously-accumulated wealth, soon to be bygone. Entropy is having its wicked way with that wealth, first by transmogrifying it into ever more abstract forms, and then by dissipating it as waste all over the planet. In short, the next time socialism is enlisted as a tool for redistributing wealth, we will make the unhappy discovery that most of that wealth is gone.
The process will be uncomfortably sharp and disorientating. The West especially will not know what hit it as it emergently self-reorganizes back into something that resembles the old-time feudalism.  We have a new kind of mass squalor in America: a great many people who have nothing to do, no means of support, and the flimsiest notions of purpose in life. The socialists have no answers for them. They will not be “retrained” in some imagined federal crusade to turn meth freaks into code-writers for Google.

​Sharing Poverty​