Monday, February 4, 2019

Cheap Seat View

Television Audience,

The problem is similar everywhere, that there is not enough wealth for the prerogatives of the very wealthy and the needs of the rest of us, at the same time. It has come to a head in France.
It is clear that Macron does not want to meet the main demands of the protesters; that he will not resign, and that he refuses to accept a citizens' initiative referendum. He has apparently decided that if he dissolved the national assembly and called for legislative elections to end the crisis -- as President Charles de Gaulle did it to put an end to an uprising in May 1968, as allowed by the French Constitution -- he would suffer a scathing defeat. He can see that an overwhelming majority of the French people reject him, so apparently he has determined to seek a way out:
Macron called for a "great national debate" to address the problems facing the country. It soon became clear, however, that the "great debate" would be unconventional, to say the least.
Macron wrote a letter to all French citizens inviting them to "participate", but saying explicitly that the "debate" would not change anything, that the government would continue in exactly the same direction ("I have not forgotten that I was elected on a project, on major orientations to which I remain faithful."), and that everything that was done by the government since June 2017 would remain unchanged ("We will not go back on the measures we have taken")...
"Macron is a technocrat. He thinks he is always right. He was programmed to do what he does. For him, France and the French people do not count. He is at the service of technocracy. He will do exactly what is wanted by the technocracy and a higher class, [who are] totally disconnected from the bulk of the country's population... Those who want to understand have to read Christophe Guilluy."  

Mish Shedlock on Brexit. (Easy for him to figure it out, since he lives on this side of the pond)
The UK has a choice: Walk away and have a bad 1-2 years with 39 billion pounds in hand, knowing the EU will have a far worse two years, or be made permanent fools of.
That is the choice.
The EU played May for a fool and she was then and remains now. May is on the EU's side. So why should they blink?

Dmitry Orlov on Why Venezuela Must Be Destroyed:
Last week Trump, his VP Mike Pence, US State Dept. director Mike Pompeo and Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, plus a bunch of Central American countries that are pretty much US colonies and don’t have foreign policies of their own, synchronously announced that Venezuela has a new president: a virtual non-entity named Juan Guaidó, who was never even a candidate for that office, but who was sorta-kinda trained for this job in the US. Guaidó appeared at a rally in Caracas, flanked by a tiny claque of highly compensated sycophants. He looked very frightened as he self-appointed himself president of Venezuela and set about discharging his presidential duties by immediately going into hiding...
 Why the unseemly haste to blow up Venezuela? The explanation is a simple one: it has to do with oil. “It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.” said John Bolton on Fox News. You see, Venezuelan oil cannot be produced profitably without high oil prices—so high that many oil consumers would go bankrupt—but it can certainly be produced in much higher quantities at a huge financial loss...
A rather large oil shortage is coming, and it will rather specifically affect the US, which burns 20% of the world’s oil (with just 5% of the world’s population). Once fracking crashes, the US will go from having to import 2.5 million barrels per day to importing at least 10—and that oil won’t exist. Previously, the US was able to solve this problem by blowing up countries and stealing their oil: the destruction of Iraq and Libya made American oil companies whole for a while and kept the financial house of cards from collapsing. But the effort to blow up Syria has failed, and the attempt to blow up Venezuela is likely to fail too because, keep in mind, Venezuela has between 7 and 9 million Chavistas imbued with the Bolivarian revolutionary spirit, a large and well-armed military and is generally a very tough neighborhood.  

​Moon of Alabama:
​The U.S. failed to get the international support for its recognition of Random Dude as president of Venezuela. So far only Canada, Israel and 14 Latin American states took its side. No international organization supports its position. Mexico and Uruguay, both members of the Lima group - a 'coalition of the willing' created by Canada, rejected to recognize Guaido and called instead for new elections. Secretary of State Pompeo's attempt to get the Organization of American States (OAS) on his side failed:
The efforts were unsuccessful, garnering only 16 favourable votes out of the 34 countries, with US allies Guyana, Santa Lucia, and Jamaica abstaining.
The United Nations Secretary General Guterres announced that the UN only recognizes the Maduro government. Italy blocked a European Union recognition of the Random Dude while the EU parliament, which has no power in foreign policies, followed the U.S. position. The EU now only demands new elections to be held sometime in the future. The African Union supports Maduro and spoke out against the coup attempt. Russia, China, NATO member Turkey, Iran and Syria spoke in support of the Maduro government.
In total the 'international support' the U.S. led coup attempt has gained so far is quite thin. It has no legitimacy. Unfortunately only few if any of the 'western' media will point that out.

After embattled Venezuelan dictator ignored an ultimatum to either call for Democratic elections or face even more calls for him to step down, four western European democracies - the UK, Spain, Germany and France - have officially recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's legitimate democratically-elected leader, according to CNN.
​The US and Russia have both been doing work in recent years to bring mid-range nuclear ballistic missiles technology to the point that they can quickly build some. The US has basically withdrawn from the Intermediate range missile treaty and Russia is following suit by modifying hypersonic missiles it uses on ships and planes.. (When that treaty was made, the US and USSR were the players. Now there is China, which is not a signatory at all. China has these missiles, and it is strengthening China's position in the South China Sea.) Helen's article.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The real reason for the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) is China deploying 1,000 medium and short-range missiles preventing a US presence in neighbouring seas, former Russian Security Council Secretary Andrey Kokoshin told Sputnik in an interview Friday.  
"China opposes the actions of the United States (to exit the INF Treaty) and calls on Washington and Moscow to properly resolve their differences through constructive dialogue," Gen Shuang said.
The diplomat warned about possible negative implications of US withdrawal from the agreement.
"The US unilateral withdrawal from the INF Treaty may trigger a series of adverse consequences. China will closely follow relevant developments," he said.
China opposes the expansion of the number of parties to the INF treaty and has called on the two parties to observe the current treaty, reach an agreement, and fulfilling their obligations, Geng added.

Trump wants China in nuclear negotiations in this new multipolar world. I say Israel should negotiate, too.
The US president announced that Washington will initiate the process of withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on 2 February and suspend all obligations under the accord. Moscow slammed the US actions, noting that it has failed to present evidence that prove Russian violations of the accord.
US President Donald Trump said that he hopes to negotiate a new accord to replace the INF Treaty, which would be "much better" and include more parties. He noted that the new accord should be adhered to by all signatories to it, not just the US.
"I hope that we are able to get everybody in a very big and beautiful room and get new treaty that would be much better," Trump said.

I​t is way worse and uglier than The Navy Times can speak to, due to CIA murders and drug running.
As President Trump considers pulling all U.S. forces out of Afghanistan, and with the Senate coming together this week to rebuke such a plan, a watchdog report released this week showcases the fragility of the reconstruction effort.
The U.S. government has spent at least $132 billion on Afghanistan since 2002 to stabilize a country torn apart by four decades of war, according to the latest report by the Defense Department’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
The SIGAR findings released this week echo similarly dismal findings in past reports.
Officials this week signaled hope regarding the latest peace talks with the Taliban that they hope would pave the way to an end to America’s longest war.
Trump decried the “total mess” he says he inherited in Afghanistan and Syria in a tweet Friday, signaling again his displeasure with the “’Endless Wars’ of unlimited spending and death.”

​How Crack Funded a CIA War, Interview with Gary Webb on the Contras and Reagan/Bush (RIP, "suicide")
On October 8, 1998, CIA I.G. Hitz published Volume Two of his internal investigation. The report described how the Reagan-Bush administration had protected more than 50 Contras and other drug traffickers, and by so doing thwarted federal investigations into drug crimes. Hitz published evidence that drug trafficking and money laundering had made its way into Reagan's National Security Council where Oliver North oversaw the operations of the Contras.
According to the report, the Contra war took precedence over law enforcement. To that end, the internal investigation revealed that the CIA routinely withheld evidence of Contra crimes from the Justice Department, Congress and even the analytical division of the CIA itself. Further, the report confirmed Webb's claims regarding the origins and the relationship of Contra fundraising and drug trafficking. The report also included information about CIA ties to other drug traffickers not discussed in the Webb series, including Moises Nunez and Ivan Gomez. More importantly, the internal CIA report documented a cover-up of evidence which had led to false intelligence assessments.

​On another front, where Iran can't be allowed to build a gas pipeline to supply Europe, which would "threaten" nuclear powerhouse, Israel.
After approaching two months of talk of a "full" and "immediate" US troop withdrawal from Syria, first ordered by President Trump on December 19 — which was predictably met with swift and fierce pushback from beltway hawks including in some cases his own advisers — it now appears the death knell has sounded on the prior "complete" and "rapid" draw down order.
Trump said in a CBS "Face the Nation" interview this weekend that some unspecified number of US troops will remain in the region, mostly in Iraq, with possibly some still in Syria, in order "to protect Israel" in what appears a significant backtrack from his prior insistence on an absolute withdrawal.

​Caitlin Johnstone: 
Mere hours before her campaign officially launched, NBC News published an astonishingly blatant smear piece titled “Russia’s propaganda machine discovers 2020 Democratic candidate Tulsi Gabbard,” subtitled “Experts who track websites and social media linked to Russia have seen stirrings of a possible campaign of support for Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard.” One of the article’s authors shared it on Twitter with the caption, “The Kremlin already has a crush on Tulsi Gabbard.”... This article is of course absurd. As we discussed recently, you will always see Russia on the same US foreign policy page as anti-interventionists like Tulsi Gabbard, because Russia, like so many other nations, opposes US interventionism. To treat this as some sort of shocking conspiracy instead of obvious and mundane is journalistic malpractice. There are many, many very good reasons to oppose the war agendas of the US-centralized empire, none of which have anything to do with having any loyalty to or sympathies for the Russian government... There will never, ever be an antiwar voice who the political/media class and their centrist followers espouse as good and valid; they’ll never say “Ahh, finally, someone who hates war and also isn’t aligned with Russia! We can get behind this one!” That will never, ever happen, because it is the opposition to war and interventionism itself which is being rejected, and in the McCarthyite environment of Russia hysteria, tarring it as “Russian” simply makes a practical excuse for that rejection... Whoever controls the narrative controls the world, as I never tire of saying. This difficulty in replicating the hermetically sealed media environment of the original cold war poses a severe challenge for narrative control, and it is for this reason reason that there is now so much skepticism of the establishment Russia narrative. It is also the reason for the establishment’s aggressive maneuvers to censor the internet, to demonize Russian media, and to smear anti-interventionist perspectives.

More Journalism from Helen of DesTroy:
Google and other online advertising platforms engage in disturbing privacy violations through the categories they use to target internet users, according to a new filing that reveals just how creepy this data collection can get.
Google and other online ad companies use intimate personal information like political beliefs, religion, sexual orientation, and even diseases and disabilities to target users for advertising, according to new evidence filed by digital rights organizations in Poland, Ireland and the UK. Their complaint takes aim at real-time bidding (RTB), online ad auctions in which highly sensitive information about users gleaned from their browsing history is traded by thousands of third-party companies which use these behavioral profiles to target ads.
“Incontinence,” “special needs kids,” and “gay life” are just a few of the categories on the Internet Advertising Bureau’s list that could infringe on Article 9 of the GDPR, the EU privacy law which bars the use of such sensitive data without explicit consent from users. Since most internet users have no idea these tags are being attached to them, let alone bought and sold by companies they’ve never heard of, this kind of invasive profiling clearly runs afoul of the law, the group says.

​Another story from Helen:​ This plutonium is going to be somewhere for eternity. That's unavoidable now.
The US Department of Energy secretly shipped half a metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium to Nevada despite the state’s strong opposition to receiving the nuclear material. The state government fears more deliveries may follow.
The Energy Department infuriated Nevada’s government with the admission that it had shipped weapons-grade plutonium from South Carolina to a nuclear security site 113km north of Las Vegas before November, when state authorities asked for a court order blocking such a move. They didn’t specify when the cross-country journey had occurred – merely that enough time had elapsed since then to disclose it without compromising national security. 
The state of Nevada is seeking an emergency injunction to block further shipments of plutonium, Governor Steve Sisolak announced at a press conference...
President Donald Trump revived a proposal – abandoned by his predecessor Barack Obama – to store the country’s nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, a site outside Las Vegas. The Energy Department approved a plan last August to store a full ton of plutonium at Yucca and Texas’ Pantex Plant, from which it would be sent on to New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory or another site by 2027.  

There was no crime until the investigations started.  
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of Roger Stone may be the most peculiar document to emerge from the Trump–Russia “collusion” saga. It is an instant classic in the Mueller genre: lots of heavy breathing, then sputtering anti-climax.
After a 20-page narrative about Russian cyber-ops, WikiLeaks’ role as a witting anti-American accomplice, and Trump supporters enthralled by thousands of hacked Democratic emails and visions of the Clinton campaign’s implosion, Stone, a comically inept hanger-on, ends up charged with seven process crimes. No espionage, no conspiracy, no commission of any crime until the investigations started...
This inflated portrait of Stone as a major criminal was further bloated by the scene of his arrest: a well-armed battalion of FBI agents sent to apprehend him as the media, conveniently on hand at 6 a.m., took it all in.

The federal judge presiding over the case against former Trump adviser Roger Stone seems to be getting sick of his constant media appearances and has threatened the self-styled dirty trickster and his lawyers with a gag order.
“This is a criminal proceeding, not a public relations campaign,” US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said, condemning the frequent “extrajudicial statements by the defendant” while admitting she understood Stone’s desire to tell his side of the story...
Stone has missed no opportunity to speak to the press since his arrest last Friday, appearing almost daily on Alex Jones’ Infowars show to discuss his case and booking an appearance on Tucker Carlson Friday night, following a whirlwind schedule of interviews with Reuters, CBS, NBC, and other outlets. Stone claims the FBI tipped off the CNN to his arrest – which would be flagrantly illegal – and says a neighbor saw the network’s news team arrive at his Florida home half an hour before arresting officers stormed in.

​Tesla batteries won't go very far in cold weather, not nearly as far as the owners paid extra for. Others are equally bad, but cheaper.

Out In The Cold

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