Thursday, May 25, 2017

Down Donald's Memory Hole: Making America Again

Down the Memory Hole: Living in Trump’s United States of Amnesia

by Rebecca Gordon - TomDispatch


May 25, 2017

The Trump administration seems intent on tossing recent history down the memory hole. Admittedly, Americans have never been known for their strong grasp of facts about their past. 

Still, as we struggle to keep up with the constantly shifting explanations and pronouncements of the new administration, it becomes ever harder to remember the events of yesterday, let alone last week, or last month.

The Credibility Swamp


Trump and his spokespeople routinely substitute “alternative facts” for what a friend of mine calls consensus reality, the world that most of us recognize.

Whose inaugural crowd was bigger, Barack Obama’s or Donald Trump’s? It doesn’t matter what you remember, or even what’s in the written accounts or photographic record. What matters is what the administration now says happened then. In other words, for Trump and his people, history in any normal sense simply doesn’t exist, and that’s a danger for the rest of us.

Think of the Trumpian past as a website that can be constantly updated to fit the needs of the present. You may believe you still remember something that used to be there, but it’s not there now. As it becomes increasingly harder to find, can you really trust your own memory?

Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, Those Who Do Not Remember History...
In the first paragraphs of George Orwell’s famed novel 1984, Winston Smith slips through the doors of his apartment building, “Victory Mansions,” to escape a “vile wind.” Hate week -- a concept that should seem eerily familiar in Donald Trump’s America -- was soon to arrive. “The hallway,” writes Orwell, “smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats.” Smith then plods up to his seventh-floor flat, since the building's elevator rarely works even when there’s electricity, which is seldom the case. And, of course, he immediately sees the most famous poster in the history of the novel, the one in which BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU. (“It was one of those pictures... so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move.”)

Now, imagine us inside our own “Victory Mansions,” an increasingly ramshackle place called the United States of America in which, like Smith, we simply can’t escape our leader. Call him perhaps “Big Muddler.” He may not be looking directly at YOU, but he is, thanks to a never-ending media frenzy, remarkably omnipresent. Go ahead and try, but you know that whatever you do, however you live your life, these days you just can’t escape him. And if Donald Trump’s America isn’t already starting to feel a little like that ill-named, run-down building in a future, poverty-stricken London, then tell me what it's like.

Can’t you feel how rickety the last superpower on planet Earth is becoming as our very own Big-Muddler-in-Chief praises himself eternally for his “achievements”? Here’s just a small sample from a recent graduation address President Trump gave at the Coast Guard Academy. (You know, the one where he so classically claimed that “no politician in history -- and I say this with great surety -- has been treated worse or more unfairly”): 

“I’ve accomplished a tremendous amount in a very short time as president. Jobs pouring back into our country... We’ve saved the Second Amendment, expanded service for our veterans... I’ve loosened up the strangling environmental chains wrapped around our country and our economy, chains so tight that you couldn’t do anything -- that jobs were going down... We’ve begun plans and preparations for the border wall, which is going along very, very well. We’re working on major tax cuts for all... And we’re also getting closer and closer, day by day, to great healthcare for our citizens.”

This is, of course, all balderdash -- from the “big, fat, beautiful wall” the Mexicans were going to finance, for which he’s requested $1.6 billion in the next budget (compared to the up to $67 billion it might actually cost) and which he’s unlikely to get, to those scam jobs supposedly flooding in thanks to him. His urge is clearly to establish a fantasy America, a true Victory Mansion (undoubtedly with his name in golden letters above it) in the potential ruins of the country we once knew, which would indeed be an Orwellian trick of the first order. In the meantime, as TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon points out, President Trump and his coterie of cabinet plutocrats and advisers have been doing Orwell one better and, 33 years after 1984 passed us by, are in the process of creating their own memory hole down which they plan to stuff reality itself. Tom 

Down the Memory Hole: Living in Trump’s United States of Amnesia

by Rebecca Gordon

In recent months, revisions of that past have sometimes come so blindingly fast that the present has simply been overrun, as was true with the firing of FBI Director James Comey. First, the president ordered up some brand new supporting documents from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein. These were designed to underpin his line that Comey was fired on their recommendation -- for being “unfair” to Hillary Clinton. Then, even as his surrogates were out peddling that very story, Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that, “regardless of [Sessions’ and Rosenstein’s] recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.” And he explained why:

“And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”

Which rationale for Comey’s departure is true? Both? Neither? What is “truth” after all?

When the need to ask such questions occurs once in a while, it’s anomalous enough that we notice. We have time to remark that someone or various people in this story -- Sessions, Rosenstein, the surrogates, Trump himself -- are mistaken or even lying. Fortunately, in the case of Comey’s firing, journalists are still reporting the lies, but what happens if the rewrites of our recent history begin to come so fast that we stop keeping up?

During the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson was famously said to have a “credibility gap.” People, including journalists, had stopped believing everything his administration said about one very important topic: the war. Trump doesn’t have a credibility gap; he’s tossed us into a credibility swamp. We’re all there together swimming in a mire of truth and lies, with the occasional firecracker thrown in just to see if we’re still paying attention.

If the age of Trump doesn’t end relatively soon, the daily effort to sort out what happened from what didn’t may eventually become too much for many of us. Memory fatigue may set in, and the whole project of keeping the past in focus shelved. In that case, we might very well start to give up the concept of citizenship altogether and decide instead to just get on with our own private uninsured, underpaid, and overworked lives.

Sometimes it's easier to simply adjust to an ever-changing official version of reality than to keep up a constant, unrewarding struggle to remember. This was the phenomenon George Orwell described so unforgettably in his dystopian novel 1984. His hero, Winston Smith, becomes aware that the sole party that runs his country incessantly rewrites the past to its own liking and advantage. In fact, he realizes that “the past not only changed, but changed continuously.”

Like most inhabitants of the mega-state of Oceania, it wasn’t that Smith couldn’t accept such a reality. He could. What he couldn’t shake was a nightmarish sense “that he had never clearly understood why” the Party needed to do it. “The immediate advantages of falsifying the past were obvious, but the ultimate motive was mysterious” to him. That “ultimate motive,” he eventually realizes, is to so destroy people’s hold on memory that they come to believe that truth genuinely is whatever the Party says it is.

“In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable?”

Does President Trump know what he’s doing? Does he know that, in a more chaotic fashion than Orwell’s “Big Brother,” he’s grinding away at American memories, threatening to turn them into so much rubble? It’s hard to say; he appears to be incapable of either self-reflection or planning, indeed of acting in any way except on impulse. He does, however, seem to know in an intuitive way what works for him, what gets him things he wants, as he has his whole professional life. He’s called his method “truthful hyperbole.” And regardless of what he himself understands, there are certainly people around him who do grasp all too well the usefulness of that “ultimate motive,” of convincing the public that facts are not all that stubborn after all.

The Memory Hole


Supplying alternative facts is one way of destroying memory. Erasing real facts is another.

In Orwell’s 1984, there was a slot in the wall at the Ministry of Truth where Winston Smith worked, a memory hole, into which inconvenient documents could be fed to be consumed forever by a huge basement furnace. There are, it seems, plenty of memory holes in Washington these days.

Since January, the Trump administration has been systematically removing from federal websites inconvenient information on subjects as diverse as climate change and occupational health and safety, and replacing it with anodyne messages. Take, for instance, this one, which you get when you search the Environmental Protection Agency’s website for the term “climate change” and click on links that search turns up:

“This page is being updated.

“Thank you for your interest in this topic. We are currently updating our website to reflect EPA's priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator [Scott] Pruitt. If you're looking for an archived version of this page, you can find it on the January 19 snapshot.”

If you do click on the link for that January 19, 2017, “snapshot,” you can still (for now) see what the old climate change portal of the Obama era looked like. At the top of the “snapshot,” however, is a bright red notice announcing:

“This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to www.epa.gov. This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2017. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.”

The government has now entered full-scale climate change denial mode. Information of just about any sort on global warming has been or is being memory-holed in a wholesale fashion at other agency websites as well. The Guardian, for instance, reports that, in the part of the Department of Energy’s site addressed to children, “sentences that point out the harmful health consequences of burning coal and other impacts of fossil fuels have gone.” At the State Department, references to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and a recent U.N. meeting on climate change have similarly been expunged.

However, it’s not just government pronouncements on issues like climate change that are being sanitized. Actual data is disappearing from government websites. The federal government collects vast amounts of data, much of it the results of studies it has funded. Some agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency, are required by law to retain data they collect, but they are not required to post it. This means basic information and the results of scientific research, once available online, are now only available through a Freedom of Information Act request. Of course, you have to know that the information exists in the first place in order to request it.

One result of hiding such data is that scientists citing U.S. government webpages as sources in their own work are now finding that the references they’ve pointed to have disappeared. Arctic researcher Victoria Herrmann describes watching her citations dissolve into thin air:

“At first, the distress flare of lost data came as a surge of defunct links on 21 January. The U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic, the Implementation Plan for the Strategy, and the report on our progress all gone within a matter of minutes. As I watched more and more links turned red, I frantically combed the Internet for archived versions of our country’s most important polar policies.”

Herrmann was able to find some of her missing articles using the Wayback Machine, an internet archiving project. But as Herrmann points out, “Each defunct page is an effort by the Trump administration to deliberately undermine our ability to make good policy decisions by limiting access to scientific evidence.”

It’s not just environmental information that’s been tossed down the memory hole. Concerned about the health and safety of workers or animals? The Washington Post reports some things you won’t find anymore on federal sites:

“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, for instance, has dramatically scaled back on publicizing its fines against firms. And the Agriculture Department has taken offline animal-welfare enforcement records, including abuses in dog breeding operations and horse farms that alter the gait of horses through the controversial practice of ‘soring’ the animals’ legs.”

Sometimes information only hangs around for a brief moment, before sliding down the memory hole. That’s what happened to an advertisement for Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, which was masquerading as an entry on Share America, which the State Department calls its “platform for sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society.” The page appeared on the website of the U.S. embassy in London.

Someone must have realized that using the State Department to advertise the President’s private club was not a great idea. Conflict of interest? No problem. It’s down the memory hole.


Nor is it just government websites that are being reworked in a distinctly Orwellian fashion. Recently, the Trump 2020 reelection campaign (yes, it already exists) quietly removed many 2016 campaign documents from its website. The Washington Post’s Avi Selk describes some of the missing press releases, among them the one that reproduced Trump’s full interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in which he so infamously insulted Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father who spoke out against him at the Democratic Party convention, and his wife, Ghazala.

Similarly, links to Trump’s “New Deal for Black America,” released a week before the 2016 election, now bring up a dreaded “404 - Page not found” message on the Trump-Pence website. Whatever that “deal” was, it’s evidently no longer on offer, nor is it even to remain in the historical record.


The same memory hole has also evidently devoured a December 2015 press release announcing that “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Fortunately, versions of that particular statement were repeated often enough in enough places that lawyers have been able to continue to use it to argue against the president’s executive orders banning the entry of people from seven (now six) majority-Muslim countries.

The Trump administration’s memory holes have swallowed up more than documents and data. People have also disappeared -- if not from the world, at least from their government positions. We still remember former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former FBI Director James Comey, but who remembers Ponisseril Somasundaran or Courtney Flint? They are among the scientists recently dismissed from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Board of Scientific Counselors. Among their duties was to give advice on environmental regulation. They are to be replaced, according to agency spokesperson J.P. Freire, by people “who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community” -- that is, representatives of polluting industries.

The United States of Amnesia


Gore Vidal coined the expression “the United States of Amnesia” in a 2004 book about George W. Bush’s America. The particular instance of amnesia Vidal highlighted with that phrase was the failure of those then waging the “war on drugs” to remember the disasters of the prohibition of alcohol sales in the 1930s, and the ensuing corruption, gangsters, and smuggling rings that came with it.

His larger point, however, was that, in general, American historical memory is short. Thirteen years after Vidal’s book appeared, and with a new Republican administration ascendant, it seems that this country is in danger of sinking ever deeper into a state of amnesia. And can there be any question that, in a distinctly Orwellian fashion, the new administration is doing everything in its power to hasten that process? As the Trump administration prepares for a new “surge” on the perpetual battlefield that is Afghanistan, we’ve conveniently forgotten how little the last one achieved. We’ve forgotten how deregulation led to the Great Recession, as the federal Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded in 2011. “The greatest tragedy,” that panel wrote, “would be to accept the refrain that no one could have seen this coming and thus nothing could have been done. If we accept this notion, it will happen again.” Yet the Republicans in Congress can’t wait to repeal Dodd-Frank, the law that restored a semblance of regulation to the world of commercial banking.

The fifth-century African bishop St. Augustine was probably the first western thinker to pay attention to human memory. In his Confessions, Augustine observes that it is memory -- the ability to bring into present awareness past experiences and the ability to recognize the difference between past, present, and future -- that makes us self-aware beings. He described the “vast hall of my memory,” where “I meet myself and recall what I am, what I have done, and when and where and how I was affected when I did it.” It is on the basis of memory, he added, that “I reason about future actions and events and hopes, and again think of all these things in the present. 'I shall do this and that,' I say to myself within that vast recess of my mind which is full of many rich images, and this act or that follows.”

If Augustine was right and memory gives us our selves, allowing us to “reason about future actions and events and hopes,” then a political regime that seeks to destroy its people’s memory is an existential threat.

In that case, the first act of resistance is to remember who we are.


Rebecca Gordon, a TomDispatch regular, teaches in the philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes. Her previous books include Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States and Letters from Nicaragua.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Rebecca Gordon

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Russia-Gate's Rusty Hinges

New Cracks in Russia-gate ‘Assessment’

by Robert Parry - Consortium News


May 23, 2017

At the center of the Russia-gate scandal is a curious U.S. intelligence “assessment” that was pulled together in less than a month and excluded many of the agencies that would normally weigh in on such an important topic as whether Russia tried to influence the outcome of a U.S. presidential election.


Former CIA Director John Brennan
at White House meeting as President
Barack Obama’s counterterrorism adviser.

The Jan. 6 report and its allegation that Russia “hacked” Democratic emails and publicized them through WikiLeaks have been treated as gospel by the mainstream U.S. media and many politicians of both parties, but two senior Obama administration intelligence officials have provided new information that raises fresh doubts about the findings.

On Tuesday, former CIA Director John Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee that only four of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies took part in the assessment, relying on analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the oversight of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Brennan said the report,

“followed the general model of how you want to do something like this with some notable exceptions. It only involved the FBI, NSA and CIA as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It wasn’t a full inter-agency community assessment that was coordinated among the 17 agencies, and for good reason because of the nature and the sensitivity of the information trying, once again, to keep that tightly compartmented.”

But Brennan’s excuse about “tightly compartmented” information was somewhat disingenuous because other intelligence agencies, such as the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), could have been consulted in a limited fashion, based on their areas of expertise. For instance, INR could have weighed in on whether Russian President Vladimir Putin would have taken the risk of trying to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign, knowing that – if she won as expected and learned of the operation – she might have sought revenge against him and his country.

The Jan. 6 report argued one side of the case – that Putin had a motive for undermining Clinton because he objected to her work as Secretary of State when she encouraged anti-Putin protests inside Russia – but the report ignored the counter-argument that the usually cautious Putin might well have feared infuriating the incoming U.S. President if the anti-Clinton ploy failed to block her election.

A balanced intelligence assessment would have included not just arguments for believing that the Russians did supply the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks but the reasons to doubt that they did.

Pre-Cooked Intelligence


However, the restricted nature of the Jan. 6 report – limiting it to analysts from CIA, NSA and FBI – blocked the kind of expertise that the State Department, the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies might have provided. In other words, the Jan. 6 report has the look of pre-cooked intelligence.



Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (right) talks with 
President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, with John Brennan 
and other national security aides present. 
(Photo credit: Office of Director of National Intelligence)

That impression was further strengthened by the admission of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8 that “the two dozen or so analysts for this task were hand-picked, seasoned experts from each of the contributing agencies.”

Yet, as any intelligence expert will tell you, if you “hand-pick” the analysts, you are really hand-picking the conclusion. For instance, if the analysts were known to be hard-liners on Russia or supporters of Hillary Clinton, they could be expected to deliver the one-sided report that they did.

In the history of U.S. intelligence, we have seen how this approach has worked, such as the determination of the Reagan administration to pin the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II and other acts of terror on the Soviet Union.

CIA Director William Casey and Deputy Director Robert Gates shepherded the desired findings through the process by putting the assessment under the control of pliable analysts and sidelining those who objected to this politicization of intelligence.

The point of enlisting the broader intelligence community – and incorporating dissents into a final report – is to guard against such “stove-piping” of intelligence that delivers the politically desired result but ultimately distorts reality.

Another painful example of politicized intelligence was President George W. Bush’s 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMD that removed INR’s and other dissents from the declassified version that was given to the public.

Lacking Evidence


The Jan. 6 report – technically called an Intelligence Community Assessment (or ICA) – avoided the need to remove any dissents by excluding the intelligence agencies that might have dissented and by hand-picking the analysts who compiled the report.


 
President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney 
receive an Oval Office briefing from CIA Director George Tenet. 
Also present is Chief of Staff Andy Card (on right). 
(White House photo)

However, like the declassified version of the Iraq NIE, the Russia-gate ICA lacked any solid evidence to support the conclusions. The ICA basically demanded that the American public “trust us” and got away with that bluff because much of the mainstream U.S. news media wanted to believe anything negative about then-President-elect Trump.

Because of that, the American people were repeatedly – and falsely – informed that the findings about Russian “hacking” reflected the collective judgment of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, making anyone who dared question the conclusion seem like a crackpot or a “Russian apologist.”

Yet, based on the testimonies of Clapper and Brennan, we now know that the ICA represented only a hand-picked selection of the intelligence community – four, not 17, agencies.

There were other biases reflected in the ICA, such as a bizarre appendix that excoriated RT, the Russian television network, for supposedly undermining Americans’ confidence in their democratic process.

This seven-page appendix, dating from 2012, accused RT of portraying “the US electoral process as undemocratic” and offered such “proof” as RT’s staging of a debate among third-party presidential candidates who had been excluded from the Republican-Democratic debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

“RT broadcast, hosted and advertised third-party candidate debates,” the report said, as if allowing political figures in the United States who were not part of the two-party system to express their views, was somehow anti-democratic, when you might think that letting Americans hear alternatives was the essence of democracy.

“The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham,’” the report continued. Yet, polls have shown that large numbers of Americans would prefer more choices than the usual two candidates and, indeed, most Western democracies have multiple parties, So, the implicit RT criticism of the U.S. political process is certainly not out of the ordinary.

The report also took RT to task for covering the Occupy Wall Street movement and for reporting on the environmental dangers from “fracking,” topics cited as further proof that the Russian government was using RT to weaken U.S. public support for Washington’s policies (although, again, these are topics of genuine public interest).

Assessing or Guessing


But at least the appendix offered up some “evidence” – as silly as those examples might have been. The main body of the report amounted to one “assessment” after another with no verifiable evidence included, at least in the unclassified version that the American people were allowed to see.


President Donald Trump delivering inaugural address, Jan. 20, 2017
(Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov)

The report also contained a warning about how unreliable these “assessments” could be: “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.”

In other words, “assessing” in intelligence terms often equates with “guessing” – and if the guessers are hand-picked by political appointees – it shouldn’t be surprising that they would come up with an “assessment” that would please their bosses, in this case, President Obama and his appointees at CIA, NSA, FBI and ODNI.

The timing and speed of the Jan. 6 report also drew some attention at Tuesday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing, where Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, noted that President Obama requested the ICA on Dec. 9 and the last entry was dated Dec. 29.

“This report was produced in just 20 days in December,” Stefanik said, adding: “It’s of concern to me that there was a two-month lag” between when Obama’s intelligence agencies first alleged Russian “hacking” of Democratic emails and when Obama ordered the ICA.

Of course, the ICA’s flaws do not mean that Russia is innocent or that WikiLeaks is telling the truth when it asserts that the two batches of Democratic emails – one from the Democratic National Committee and the other from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta – did not come from the Russians.

But the Jan. 6 report has served as the foundation for a series of investigations that have hobbled the Trump administration and could lead to the negation of a U.S. presidential election via the impeachment or forced resignation of President Trump.

The seriousness of that possibility would seem to demand the most thorough examination and the fullest vetting of the evidence. Even just the appearance that the ICA might be one more case of politicized intelligence would do more to destroy Americans’ faith in their democratic system than anything that Putin might dream up.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Alan Burger, Ken Boon, Janine Bandcroft May 24, 2017

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com


May 24, 2017

In the waning days of its provincial mandate, outgoing Energy Minister, Bill Bennett announced a BCLiberals plan to create, if re-elected, an "independent wildlife agency" that could make politically unpalatable decisions regarding wildlife "management." And though couched in the language of conservation, in essence what that "management" means is continued recreational hunts of Grizzly Bear, and expanded culls against the top predator populations of Cougar and Wolves.

In a March 22nd press conference, now-retired East-Kootenay MLA, Bill Bennett proposed a $5 million start-up budget for the "expert and stakeholders" operated agency that would be funded using the near 10 million dollars in hunting licenses and fees collected annually.

Listen. Hear. 

Bennett said, the idea is to "get politics out of the way," but some of the "stakeholders" not invited to participate promise, politics will happen!

Dr. Alan Burger is Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Victoria. He's also professional wildlife consultant, based in the interior town of Merritt, B.C.

Alan Burger in the first half.

And; in the run-up to the provincial poll, BC Hydro Chair, Brad Bennett, grandson to the Grandaddy of dam builders, W.A.C. Bennett warned the electorate to beware of "fake news" when it comes to Site C saying,

“I take issue with the fake news crowd, talking about Site C and whether it’s needed or not. The fact is it’s needed. We know it’s needed. Our forecasting shows that very, very clearly.” 

With all due respect to the Chair, there are many, many for whom that need is not very, very clear.

Ken Boon is a Peace River Valley farmer whose multi-generation family farm is in the way of Site C. He's long argued Site C is not only not needed, but is too a massive mistake that will prove a white elephant for the province for generations to come. Boon is president of the Peace Valley Landowners Association and a past target of BC Hydro legal actions.

Ken Boon and Site C fakery in the second half.

And; CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will join us virtually at the bottom of hour to bring us up to speed with some of what's good going and planned for the coming week around here. But first, Alan Burger and minding the proposed minders in BC's wilds.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.ca.  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, http://www.pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: https://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Rogue By Any Other Name: Canada Disappears al-Qaeda in Syria

What’s In A Name? U.S. Takes Syria’s Al-Qaeda Off Terror Watchlists 

by Whitney Webb - MintPressNews


May 22, 2017

By changing its name to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda has managed to secure its removal from the U.S. and Canadian terror watchlists, allowing citizens of those countries to donate money and travel to fight with them.


  WASHINGTON, D.C.– It turns out that getting off the U.S.’ and Canada’s terror watchlist is as simple as changing your name. While the terror watchlist in the U.S. has long been both secretive and controversial – as “reasonable suspicion” is enough to label any individual a “terrorist” – terrorist groups tied to al-Qaeda have found that getting off the watchlist only requires minor rebranding.

The terror group, long known to most as Jabhat al-Nusra or the al-Nusra Front, has continued to function as al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria long after Daesh (ISIS) renounced its allegiance to the group in 2014. It was first placed on the U.S. and Canadian terror watchlists in 2012.

But by changing its name to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the group has managed to secure its removal from terror watchlists in both the U.S. and Canada, allowing citizens of those countries to donate money to the group, travel to fight with them and disseminate the group’s propaganda without incident.
 
In response, Nicole Thompson of the U.S. State Department told CBC News last Monday that while “we believe these actions are an al-Qaeda play to bring as much of the Syrian opposition under its operational control as possible, […] we are still studying the issue carefully.”

But the State Department is likely hesitant to label HTS a terror group, even despite the group’s link to al-Qaeda, as the U.S. government has directly funded and armed the Zenki brigade, a group that joined forces with al-Nusra under the HTS banner, with sophisticated weaponry.

As CBC noted,

“For the U.S. to designate HTS now would mean acknowledging that it supplied sophisticated weapons, including TOW anti-tank missiles, to ‘terrorists,’ and draw attention to the fact that the U.S. continues to arm Islamist militias in Syria.”

This is just the latest attempt by al-Nusra to rebrand itself as a “moderate” group, as it has used its commitment to being “anti-ISIS” and “anti-Assad” in order to convince the U.S. and its allies to arm them. Al-Nusra has been described by mainstream media as a “moderate opposition” group fighting against the embattled government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Their efforts have paid off, as the group is being supported to various degrees by foreign governments seeking to overthrow the Assad government. For example, take the words of Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah, who told the French publication Le Monde in 2015:

“we are clearly against all extremism, but, apart from Daesh [ISIS], all [sic] these groups are fighting to overthrow the [Assad] regime. The moderates cannot say to the Nusra Front … ‘We won’t work with you.’ You have to look at the situation and be realistic.”

The U.S. government has also accepted the rebranding of al-Nusra in recent years. The U.S. effort to do so began in earnest when former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper stated in 2015 that “moderate rebels” were “anyone who is not affiliated with ISIL [Daesh, ISIS].”

Since then, al-Nusra’s top commanders have asserted that they have received U.S.-made weapons, such as TOW missiles and tanks, directly from foreign governments supported by the U.S. In a 2016 interview with the newspaper Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger, al-Nusra unit commander Abu Al Ezz stated that when al-Nusra was “besieged, we had officers from Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel and America here…Experts in the use of satellites, rockets, reconnaissance and thermal security cameras.”

When asked specifically if US officers were present, Al Ezz replied: “The Americans are on our side.” This assertion has been bolstered by evidence that the U.S.-led coalition’s airstrikes in Syria have only focused on Daesh and intentionally avoided al-Nusra positions.

With al-Nusra now officially removed from Western terror watchlists, foreign governments that are opposed to the Assad regime – particularly the U.S. – will be free to fund and arm al-Qaeda as they see fit, making the West’s alleged goal of creating a post-Assad “secular Syria” a remote possibility at best.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress contributor who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, 21st Century Wire, and True Activist among others - she currently resides in Southern Chile.
More articles by Whitney Webb

An Increased Sense of DC Panic Surrounds Seth Rich Murder Mystery

DNC Affiliates Increase Involvement In Seth Rich Case After Wheeler Claims

by William Craddick - DisobedientMedia


May 22, 2017

Last week, Fox 5 DC’s report incited a storm of controversy after former D.C. police homicide detective Rod Wheeler stated that there was tangible evidence on murdered Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer Seth Rich’s laptop suggesting that he was communicating with Wikileaks prior to his death.

The story generated a large amount of outrage, with outlets like the Washington Post and Vice labeling it a “conspiracy theory” and claiming that it had no basis in fact. But details regarding the political affiliation of spokespeople and representatives of the Rich family appear to indicate that the DNC may be prioritizing its own interests, minimizing alleged political elements to the tragedy.

I. Legal Representatives And Spokespeople For Rich Family Have Ties To DNC, Crime Connected Unions


Since Fox 5 DC’s report, a number of individuals speaking on behalf of the Rich family have blasted Fox News and Rod Wheeler for speaking out on the case. Rich family spokesman Brad Bauman insisted that anyone who continued to push the story either had a “transparent political agenda,” or were a sociopath. But an August 2016 tweet from Wikileaks revealed that Bauman is a crisis public relations consultant working with the Pastorum Group. A media release from the Pastorum Group reveals that Bauman previously worked for the DNC and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The SEIU has previously been reported by the Wall Street Journal as a “top spender” for the Democrats, openly endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016 and actively assisted in her campaign. It has been widely criticized by some groups for the involvement of union members in crimes including embezzlement, criminal conspiracy, perjury and identity theft. The SEIU is also a client of the Strategic Consulting Group, which was founded by the Democratic operative Robert Creamer. In 2016, Creamer was implicated in footage obtained by journalist James O’Keefe which revealed that Creamer was engaging in voting fraud and violent disruption of political events, sometimes using his connections to unions who were as clients of his.

Bauman’s past professional ties to the DNC and the SEIU raise questions about the vehemence with which he has attacked journalists reporting on the circumstances of Seth Rich’s murder.

On May 19th, Rod Wheeler was sent a cease and desist letter on behalf of the Rich family by Joseph Ingrisano of the law firm Kutak Rock LLP. Kutak Rock has a long history of incredibly close affiliation with DNC politicians. The law firm donated $21,850 and $13,400 to President Barack Obama during his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, respectively. Kutak also gave $11,800 to Hillary Clinton during her 2016 presidential bid.

Kutak also has ties to the Rose Law Firm, which was at the center of the infamous Whitewater Controversy during the 1990’s. Hillary Clinton as well as White House staffer Vince Foster both practiced law at Rose, though Clinton has sought to distance herself from the firm given the allegations of scandal that surrounded it. On April 13th, 1998, Arkansas Business reported that a number of attorneys from Rose left the firm for Kutak Rock. Kutak Rock continues to maintain offices in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Pro-Democrat interests have also taken to Change.org to attack companies advertising with Fox 5 DC. The boycott campaign is organized by Karl Frisch, a former senior fellow at propaganda group Media Matters for America who spent his time at the organization helping develop “long-term strategy to target Fox News as a political actor.”


II. Rich Family’s Statements To The Public Are Inconsistent With Those Of Their Representatives


Despite the instance of representatives to the contrary, the Rich family have released multiple statements expressing gratitude to individuals privately attempting to help answer questions surrounding Rich’s murder and indicating fatigue at efforts from both sides to politicize the tragedy. On April 24th, Seth Rich’s parents released a video thanking those who had “stepped forward” to help identify their son’s killers and donated to the family’s GoFundMe. A May 18th update to the GoFundMe page by Seth Rich’s brother Aaron exhibited a general annoyance at third parties who were using the family for political motives. He asked for help that would allow the family to solve Rich’s murder without having to “rely on aid offered with strings.”


 
Message from Seth Rich’s brother criticizing 
“third parties” for politicizing Rich’s murder

The Rich family themselves appears divided on who was responsible for Seth Rich’s murder. Rich’s cousin, Jonathan Rich, told Sean Hannity on Twitter that he suspected Rich might have been in touch with Wikileaks. The topic clearly continues to remain controversial for the family.

III. The Investigation Into Rich’s Murder Has Been Marked By Incompetence

Facts about the investigation into Rich’s murder continue to raise concerns about the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department’s efforts to identify Seth Rich’s killers. The public incident report filed after Rich’s death shows that several officers who responded to the scene of the crime were wearing body cameras. But the Metropolitan Police claimed the footage was “lost” when met with requests to release the videos, which might have provided important clues. A May 21st, 2017 report by World Net Daily has also established that police failed to speak with staff at Lou’s City Bar (where Rich was last seen alive) to enquire about whether they had any pertinent evidence.

Even stranger, police chief Cathy Lanier resigned just a month after Rich’s death. Her replacement, Peter Newsham, has been plagued by past allegations of alcoholism and domestic violence. Newsham was also accused of severely mishandling a rape case after the family of an 11 year old girl alleged that he allowed the victim to be charged with filing a false report despite several medical accounts detailing her sexual injuries and genetic evidence indicating that she had been abused by multiple assailants.

It is also not clear why police would seize Rich’s laptop for an investigation into what was supposed to be a robbery gone bad. The Washington Post claimed that neither the FBI nor the police were in possession of Rich’s laptop. But this claim contradicts a report by the Washington Examiner which cited a former law enforcement official who stated that the laptop was examined during the investigation.

Whether the truth about who killed Seth Rich will emerge or not remains to be seen. In the aftermath of Fox 5 DC’s claims, Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom claimed he would provide proof that Seth Rich was the source of Wikileaks DNC email release on May 23rd. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has additionally hinted that while Wikileaks never discloses their own sources, other parties may hold important information concerning Seth Rich’s potential communications with the publisher.

Should information emerge showing that Seth Rich did in fact act as a source for Wikileaks, the intense denials from national media outlets and the intimate involvement of figures tied to the DNC in the case will undoubtedly fuel renewed allegations of a politically motivated cover up.

Trump Takes Up the Saudi Sword

Trump’s speech in Riyadh signals US escalation against Iran

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS


22 May 2017

Riddled with hypocrisy, clichés and absurdities, President Donald Trump’s speech Sunday before an assembly of monarchs and despots in Saudi Arabia spelled out an agenda of escalating US militarism throughout the Middle East and a buildup in particular toward war with Iran. Hailed by a fawning American media as “presidential”--supposedly eclipsing for the moment the crises and factional struggles engulfing the administration--the speech was reportedly drafted by Stephen Miller, the extreme right-wing ideologue credited with being the chief architect of Trump’s abortive executive order banning people from seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the US.

Much in Trump’s half-hour address echoed the speech delivered by Barack Obama in Cairo eight years earlier. Both presidents declared their desire to reset US relations with the Middle East, while absurdly posturing as leaders of a pacifist nation seeking only good for the region and offering to head up a united struggle against “violent extremism.”

In what was meant as a rhetorical invocation to action against terrorism, Trump told his audience,

“Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land. And drive them out of this earth.”

Like Obama before him, Trump had no interest in dealing with who brought Al Qaeda and similar forces in, as the historical trail leads directly to the CIA in Afghanistan and US imperialism’s longstanding support for right-wing Islamist organizations and terrorist groups as a counterweight to left nationalist and socialist influence in the Arab and Islamic world. Jointly, the US and Saudi Arabia continue to fund and arm such forces in their drive for regime-change in Syria.

Both speeches were laced with flowery tributes to Islamic culture. Trump noted in particular how impressed he was with the “splendor” of Saudi Arabia and the “grandeur” of the palace in which the so-called Arab Islamic American Summit had been convened.

What separated the two addresses were the different shifts in strategy by Washington. While Obama sought to repair the damage done by the Bush administration’s criminal war in Iraq by offering a new face for US imperialism, Trump traveled to Saudi Arabia to make clear his administration’s break with his predecessor’s policy of seeking a rapprochement with Iran based on the 2015 nuclear deal. He adopted an openly confrontational stance toward Tehran.

“Above all, America seeks peace--not war,” Trump proclaimed, in what stood out as the most blatant of the many lies in his brief address. The reality is that US wars in the region have killed millions over the past decade-and-a-half. And the thrust of the US president’s visit to Saudi Arabia, his first stop in a nine-day foreign tour, is the preparation for new and even bloodier conflicts.

This was made plain by the principal agreements forged between Trump and the Saudi monarchy, which included a $110 billion arms deal that incorporates the option to purchase $350 billion worth of weapons over the next 10 years.

The arms agreement “supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the entire Gulf region,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO, told reporters in Riyadh,

“in particular in the face of the malign Iranian influence and Iranian-related threats which exist on Saudi Arabia’s borders on all sides.”

In his speech, Trump painted Iran as the principal state sponsor of terrorism, accusing Tehran of providing terrorists with “safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment,” and fueling “the fires of sectarian conflict and terror,” all charges that could be leveled, with justification, against his Saudi hosts.

He portrayed the US cruise missile attack on Syria last month--followed just last week by the US bombing of a pro-government militia in the southeastern part of the country--as part of a wider struggle against Iranian influence. He went on to call upon “all nations of conscience” to “isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.”

That he was speaking in Saudi Arabia, a brutally repressive absolute monarchy, just two days after more than 70 percent of Iranian voters participated in a sharply contested election, did nothing to blunt Trump’s call for regime-change.

He specifically praised Saudi Arabia and its allies for having “taken strong action against Houthi militants in Yemen.” The near-genocidal Saudi war has killed some 12,000 Yemenis, while destroying basic infrastructure in the Arab world’s poorest country, leaving over 7 million people on the brink of starvation and unleashing a cholera epidemic that threatens a massive death toll.

In March, US Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis issued a memo calling for stepped-up US support for this criminal war, in which the Pentagon is already supplying intelligence and logistical backing to the Saudi bombing campaign.

Part of the weapons deal signed by Trump involves the shipment of precision-guided munitions that had been cut off in a highly limited gesture of disapproval of Saudi tactics in Yemen by the Obama administration, which itself concluded over $100 billion worth of weapons deals with Riyadh.

Also included in the new deal are tanks, artillery, helicopters and other weaponry that can be directly funneled into the slaughter in Yemen.

In addition to his speech and the signing of arms and investment deals, Trump participated in a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Saudi-led coalition of Gulf oil sheikdoms. Trump administration officials have raised the objective of using the GCC as the foundation of a Sunni Arab version of NATO directed at military confrontation with Iran.

Beyond the drive to militarily confront Iran, a principal regional rival of US imperialism in the Middle East, and the huge profits that Saudi arms purchases reap for the US military industrial complex, there are broader strategic considerations in the US turn toward a closer alliance with Riyadh.

Some of these issues were outlined on the eve of Trump’s trip in a piece published by the influential Washington think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies and authored by Anthony Cordesman, a longtime Pentagon adviser. First among them is, according to Cordesman, “the continued level of US dependence on Saudi help in securing the stable flow of Gulf oil.”

While US imports from the Gulf have fallen sharply over the past quarter-century, Cordesman cites “indirect dependence” in terms of the impact a disruption in oil exports would have on global energy prices and the world capitalist economy. In particular, he points to the dependence of Asian economies on Gulf petroleum exports.

If the United States failed in “providing power projection forces and arms” to the region, he writes, its principal global rival, China, might fill the void.

“China may not yet be ready to try to assume the role, but the entire South China Sea crisis would pale to near insignificance if China became the de facto guarantor of Gulf stability.”

Cordesman continues:

“The real-world nature of US influence and power in the Pacific would be cut massively, China’s leverage over other major Asian economies like Japan and South Korea would be sharply increased, and the potential rise in tension between China and India--and cut in India’s relative position--would have a massive impact on the balance of power in South Asia and the Indian Ocean.”

In other words, the turn toward closer relations with Saudi Arabia and the related Gulf oil sheikdoms is bound up with US imperialism’s mounting conflict with China, which it has identified as the principal challenge to the drive for American global hegemony. Washington is determined to dominate Asia, including China, by maintaining the military power to choke off the region’s energy imports.

The fact that the sclerotic House of Saud, one of the world’s last absolute monarchies, has become a lynchpin of Washington’s imperialist strategy, not only in the Middle East but globally, is a measure of the crisis of American and world capitalism.

Oil revenues, which account for fully 90 percent of the kingdom’s export earnings, have been cut nearly in half since 2014. Last month, the government was forced to reverse itself on austerity measures that hit the military and public employees over fear that declining living standards and rising unemployment are creating the conditions for social revolt.

In the predominantly Shia Eastern Province, the center of the kingdom’s oil production, security forces laid siege to the town of Awamiyah, a center of resistance to the regime, during the week preceding Trump’s visit. Combined with the failure of the Saudi bid to topple the Assad regime in Syria by supporting Al Qaeda-linked militias and the regime’s inability to retake Yemen from the Houthi rebels, the deepening domestic crisis is creating the conditions for revolutionary upheavals against Washington’s principal ally in the Arab world.

American Media's "Golden Age"?

US Journalism’s New ‘Golden Age’?

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News


May 22, 2017  

The mainstream U.S. media is congratulating itself on its courageous defiance of President Trump and its hard-hitting condemnations of Russia, but the press seems to have forgotten that its proper role within the U.S. democratic structure is not to slant stories one way or another but to provide objective information for the American people.

The Washington Post building in downtown Washington,
D.C. (Photo credit: Washington Post)

By that standard – of respecting that the people are the nation’s true sovereigns – the mainstream media is failing again. Indeed, the chasm between what America’s elites are thinking these days and what many working-class Americans are feeling is underscored by the high-fiving that’s going on inside the elite mainstream news media, which is celebrating its Trump- and Russia-bashing as the “new golden age of American journalism.”

The New York Times and The Washington Post, in particular, view themselves as embattled victims of a tyrannical abuser. The Times presents itself as the brave guardian of “truth” and the Post added a new slogan: “Democracy dies in darkness.” In doing so, they have moved beyond the normal constraints of professional, objective journalism into political advocacy – and they are deeply proud of themselves.

In a Sunday column entitled “How Trump inspired a golden age,” Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote that Trump “took on the institution of a free press – and it fought back. Trump came to office after intimidating publishers, barring journalists from covering him and threatening to rewrite press laws, and he has sought to discredit the ‘fake news’ media at every chance. Instead, he wound up inspiring a new golden age in American journalism.

“Trump provoked the extraordinary work of reporters on the intelligence, justice and national security beats, who blew wide open the Russia election scandal, the contacts between Russia and top Trump officials, and interference by Trump in the FBI investigation. Last week’s appointment of a special prosecutor – a crucial check on a president who lacks self-restraint – is a direct result of their work.”

Journalism or Hatchet Job?


But has this journalism been professional or has it been a hatchet job? Are we seeing a new “golden age” of journalism or a McCarthyistic lynch mob operating on behalf of elites who disdain the U.S. constitutional process for electing American presidents?


Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (right) talks 
with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, 
John Brennan and other national security aides present. 
(Photo credit: Office of Director of National Intelligence)

For one thing, you might have thought that professional journalists would have demanded proof about the predicate for this burgeoning “scandal” – whether the Russians really did “hack” into emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and then slip the information to WikiLeaks to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

You have surely heard and read endlessly that this conclusion about Russia’s skulduggery was the “consensus view of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies” and thus only some crazy conspiracy theorist would doubt its accuracy even if no specific evidence was evinced to support the accusation.

But that repeated assertion is not true. There was no National Intelligence Estimate (or NIE) that would compile the views of the 17 intelligence agencies. Instead, as President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8, the Russia-hacking claim came from a “special intelligence community assessment” (or ICA) produced by selected analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation, or as Clapper put it, “a coordinated product from three agencies – CIA, NSA, and the FBI – not all 17 components of the intelligence community.”

Further, as Clapper explained, the “ICA” was something of a rush job beginning on President Obama’s instructions “in early December” and completed by Jan. 6, in other words, a month or less.

Clapper continued: “The two dozen or so analysts for this task were hand-picked, seasoned experts from each of the contributing agencies.” However, as any intelligence expert will tell you, if you “hand-pick” the analysts, you are really hand-picking the conclusion.

You can say the analysts worked independently but their selection, as advocates for one position or another, could itself dictate the outcome. If the analysts were hardliners on Russia or hated Trump, they could be expected to deliver the conclusion that Obama and Clapper wanted, i.e., challenging the legitimacy of Trump’s election and blaming Russia.

The point of having a more substantive NIE is that it taps into a much broader network of U.S. intelligence analysts who have the right to insert dissents to the dominant opinions. So, for instance, when President George W. Bush belatedly ordered an NIE regarding Iraq’s WMD in 2002, some analysts – especially at the State Department – inserted dissents (although they were expunged from the declassified version given to the American people to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq).

An Embarrassing Product


Obama’s “ICA,” which was released on Jan. 6, was a piece of work that embarrassed many former U.S. intelligence analysts. It was a one-sided argument that lacked any specific evidence to support its findings. Its key point was that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a motive to authorize an information operation to help Hillary Clinton’s rival, Donald Trump, because Putin disdained her work as Secretary of State.


Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses UN
General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

But the Jan. 6 report failed to include the counter-argument to that cui bono assertion, that it would be an extraordinary risk for Putin to release information to hurt Clinton when she was the overwhelming favorite to win the presidency.

Given the NSA’s electronic-interception capabilities, Putin would have to assume that any such undertaking would be picked up by U.S. intelligence and that he would likely be facing a vengeful new U.S. president on Jan. 20.

While it’s possible that Putin still took the risk – despite the daunting odds against a Trump victory – a balanced intelligence assessment would have included such contrary arguments. Instead, the report had the look of a prosecutor’s brief albeit without actual evidence pointing to the guilt of the accused.

Further, the report repeatedly used the word “assesses” – rather than “proves” or “establishes” – and the terminology is important because, in intelligence-world-speak, “assesses” often means “guesses.” The report admits as much, saying, “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.”

In other words, the predicate for the entire Russia-gate scandal, which may now lead to the impeachment of a U.S. president and thus the negation of the Constitution’s electoral process, is based partly on a lie – i.e., the claim that the assessment comes from all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies – and partly on evidence-free speculation by a group of “hand-picked” analysts, chosen by Obama’s intelligence chiefs.

Yet, the mainstream U.S. news media has neither corrected the false assertion about the 17 intelligence agencies nor demanded that actual evidence be made public to support the key allegation that Russia was the source of WikiLeaks’ email dumps.

By the way, both Russia and WikiLeaks deny that Russia was the source, although it is certainly possible that the Russian government would lie and that WikiLeaks might not know where the two batches of Democratic emails originated.

A True ‘Golden Age’?


Yet, one might think that the new “golden age of American journalism” would want to establish a firm foundation for its self-admiring reporting on Russia-gate. You might think, too, that these esteemed MSM reporters would show some professional skepticism toward dubious claims being fed to them by the Obama administration’s intelligence appointees.


President Trump sworn in Jan. 20, 2017. (Screen shot Whitehouse.gov)

That is unless, of course, the major U.S. news organizations are not abiding by journalistic principles, but rather see themselves as combatants in the anti-Trump “resistance.”

In other words, if they are behaving less as a Fourth Estate and more as a well-dressed mob determined to drag the interloper, Trump, from the White House.

The mainstream U.S. media’s bias against Putin and Russia also oozes from every pore of the Times’ and Post’s reporting from Moscow. For instance, the Times’ article on Putin’s comments about supposed secrets that Trump shared with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the White House had the headline in the print editions: “Putin Butts In to Claim There Were No Secrets…” The article by Andrew Higgins then describes Putin “asserting himself with his customary disruptive panache” and “seizing on foreign crises to make Russia’s voice heard.”

Clearly, we are all supposed to hate and ridicule Vladimir Putin. He is being demonized as the new “enemy” in much the way that George Orwell foresaw in his dystopian novel, 1984. Yet, what is perhaps most troubling is that the major U.S. news outlets, which played instrumental roles in demonizing leaders of Iraq, Syria and Libya, believe they are engaged in some “golden age” journalism, rather than writing propaganda.

Contempt for Trump


Yes, I realize that many good people want to see Trump removed from office because of his destructive policies and his buffoonish behavior – and many are eager to use the new bête noire, Russia, as the excuse to do it. But that still does not make it right for the U.S. news media to abandon its professional responsibilities in favor of a political agenda.



The run-down PIX Theatre sign reads “Vote Trump” on 
Main Street in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. July 15, 2016.
(Photo by Tony Webster Flickr)

On a political level, it may not even be a good idea for Democrats and progressives who seem to be following the failed strategy of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in seeking to demonize Trump rather than figuring out how to speak to the white working-class people who voted for him, many out of fear over their economic vulnerability and others out of anger over how Clinton dismissed many of them as “deplorables.”

And, by the way, if anyone thinks that whatever the Russians may have done damaged Clinton’s chances more than her colorful phrase disdaining millions of working-class people who understandably feel left behind by neo-liberal economics, you may want to enroll in a Politics 101 course. The last thing a competent politician does is utter a memorable insult that will rally the opposition.

In conversations that I’ve had recently with Trump voters, they complain that Clinton and the Democrats weren’t even bothering to listen to them or to talk to them. These voters were less enamored of Trump than they were conceded to Trump by the Clinton campaign. These voters also are not impressed by the endless Trump- and Russia-bashing from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC, which they see as instruments of the elites.

The political danger for national Democrats and many progressives is that mocking Trump and thus further insulting his supporters only extends the losing Clinton strategy and cements the image of Democrats as know-it-all elitists. Thus, the Democrats risk losing a key segment of the U.S. electorate for a generation.

Not only could that deny the Democrats a congressional majority for the foreseeable future, but it might even get Trump a second term.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

Don't Cry for Me, Palestina

PALESTINE: The Frail Bodies Resisting Israeli Occupation Strike Fear into the Hearts of their Captors

by Dr Bouthaina Shaaban - 21st Century Wire


May 22, 2017

Algerian hero Jamila Bouheirad once told me when I met her in 2008:

“The French colonial authority condemned me to death when I was only eighteen years old. My mother came to see me, and it was supposed to be the last visit. My mother told me not to cry or fear anything, because Algeria would remember me, and that Algeria deserves all of our souls. My mother was never weak, she did not cry, instead she saluted me and she was assured of our final victory.

“After she left, the French prison guard that was watching us and listening in on our conversation was crying, and I thought she was crying because I was going to be executed.

“So I asked her, ‘why are crying? My mother and I did not cry, so why do you cry?’ She responded, ‘I weep for France, because I’m certain that we will leave Algeria as long as Algerians have this strong faith and determination.”

Determination and faith were the basis of every people’s victory again colonials, tyrants, and mercenaries, and they are the foundation of the national liberation movement that spread across Africa and Asia against Western colonialism.

Today, we’re living through a new experience that requires the Arab to have unprecedented faith and determination, because the Palestinians are facing the Israeli occupation with their frail bodies. Their bodies have become their tools to resist because all other tools for resistance were taken away from them, except for their strong determination and deep faith in Palestine, and that Palestine deserves sacrifice, and that Palestine will remain through the suffering and sacrifices of resistors and martyrs.

Yet the question here is why did Muslims and Arabs assume that Palestine is the responsibility of those prisoners alone while Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim officials are occupied with settlements and concessions that do not contribute to our cause or actually challenge the Zionist plans for Palestine, Iraq, Syria, and the Gulf?

These compromises and recognitions are hollow words which the Israeli occupation does not take seriously. The occupation is not afraid of the disunited Arabs, but it is concerned over those prisoners who believe in their cause and are willing to lay down their lives for Palestine, thus showing future generations the true path to defend the sacred cause.

There is no doubt that while Israeli prison guards are confronted with those Palestinian prisoners, they feel frustrated and concerned that a cause defended by such brave people could never be defeated.

The other question is that a billion Muslims and non-Muslims are living today in the month of Sha’baan, preparing to receive the holy month of Ramadan. However, they did not turn the holy fasting of the prisoners into a fast heard of by humankind in the four corners of the earth and did not turn this determination into a global movement for Palestine.

The loser here is not the prisoners at all, but the biggest losers are those defeatist Arabs and Muslims. They undermine their position in the eyes of the world and lose their value in the eyes of others. What place in history will be for Arabs and Muslims have if they don’t stand up for their brothers and their cause?

The disregard from most Arabs and Muslims to the importance of this ongoing battle of these defenseless heroes only points to the separation of these Arabs and Muslims from the real life cycle, the balance of power, and the essence of strategic thinking that keeps nations strong in the eyes of others.

The failure of these people to respond appropriately to the great sacrifices made by these prisoners for Palestine, and for all Arabs and the Muslim nation. This failure is one of the most important aspects of extinction. Nations descend and become extinct when the compass is lost among its people, and when the bonds between its sons are broken, it becomes almost impossible to meet on a common ground.

In other words, the failure we have seen from most Arabs and Muslims to show solidarity with the prisoners and to carry their cause to the region and the world is not a Palestinian shortcoming.

There is no doubt that the battle waged by these prisoners with their bodies and their noble souls is an honourable battle and a winning battle by all standards. The spirit triumphs over the body, determination and faith will win over the chains, the prison walls and the cruelty of the jailer.

This battle calls upon us to stop and think about the future and destiny of our nation in the absence of its nationalist parties. The sectarian Islamist parties have torn the nation and handed it to the Western enemy, and made it a prey for looting and squandered Arab lands and rights.

It is a battle that calls for reflection and for questioning who are the prisoners; are they the ones who challenge the harshest of actions with their bodies and will?

Or are the true prisoners those living in the illusion of compromises, lies and false personal victories that do not exceed the limits of their already limited thought ?

It is a battle that shows that these Palestinian prisoners are the true free men, and that those others, who do not have the will and the tools of victory are the true prisoners in body, spirit, mind, will and determination.


Dr Bouthaina Shaaban, is Political & Media Advisor to Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad

Marine Harvest Courting Dissenters: "We Are All John and/or Jane Doe"

Marine Harvest vs. First Nations - In Court 

by Alexandra Morton


May 22, 2017

June 1 is the first court date in the trespass suit that Marine Harvest filed against me and “John and Jane Doe” for boarding their salmon farm, at Midsummer Island, anchored in Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw territory.
 
Marine Harvest will be attempting to separate me from the First Nations. I am of no consequence in this case, mere cannon fodder, this is a contest between First Nations and the salmon farming industry.

Farm salmon exhibit poor health
clustering around air pump

Proceedings are open to the public Vancouver Court House 800 Smythe St. No time has been assigned and so the case will be heard at some point during the day.

Please consider helping with legal bills by donating to the Pacific Coast Wild Salmon Society: DONATE HERE


On August 23, 2016, approximately 60 First Nations from the waters of northeastern Vancouver Island, boarded a salmon farm in to perform a symbolic cleansing ceremony to protect Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw waters from the salmon farming industry.




The ceremony was a peaceful, political declaration of First Nation rights and title. It was visible opposition to the harm done by salmon farms operations to First Nations. This action followed 30 years of telling the provincial and federal governments and various Norwegian companies that they do not want salmon farmed in their waters. Despite this clear and sustained rejection of the salmon farming industry one third of the BC salmon farming industry is currently using Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw territory for profit and releasing disease, sea lice and tons of waste daily into the ocean, a direct assault on the survival of wild salmon, herring and many other species.

I attended this ceremony as a biologist who has spent these past 30 years studying the impact of salmon farms on Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw territory. While on the farm I put a GoPro camera directly into the pens and captured the first footage ever of farm salmon attacking wild fish trapped in the pens. Over 1 million people have viewed this disturbing footage of farm salmon in Musgamagw Dzawada'enuxw on facebook.

Film Hard Evidence  



One month later, I read in the international aquaculture publication Intrafish that Marine Harvest had decided to sue us for boarding the Midsummer farm!

However, in their Notice of Claim, Marine Harvest named only “Alexandra Morton” as the sole defendant, but also included “John Doe, Jane Doe and all other persons unknown to the Plaintiff occupying, obstructing, blocking, or physically impeding the Plaintiff’s Aquaculture sites.”

On November 16, 2016 three traditional Dzawada’enuxw leaders from U’kwa’nalis at the head of Kingcome Inlet who led the ceremony; Chiefs Okwilagame (Willie Moon), Joe Willie and Farron Soukochoff, rose from the disrespectful anonymity of “John Doe” and filed their own response in BC Supreme Court in their own names. They contested Marine Harvest’s right to occupy Dzawada’enuxw Territory under section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982.

Marine Harvest now appears to perhaps regret casting their net so wide net by naming “John and Jane Doe” and on June 1 seek to avoid the return volley by these Dzawada’enuxw leaders and duck the question are they the ones in trespass. Marine Harvest will attempt to withdraw their pleading of “John and Jane Doe” and remain focused on me, the non-indigenous biologist.

Marine Harvest will seek to prove that under the Land Act, RSBC 1996 that they have the right to occupy Dzawada’enuxw territory, lay a charge of trespass on this Nation, and the Nations there in support, and win an interim and permanent injunction against everyone that boarded the pens.

At issue is whether a person can come forward and substitute their own name where they have been described as “John and Jane Doe.” The law is vague on the rights of John and Jane Doe.


It is clear this is a ramping up of the contest between First Nations and the salmon farming industry’s right to use First Nation territory where they are not welcome. The Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw and Namgis appear to be the only Nations in BC who have not entered into any agreements with the salmon farming industry that are using their territories and yet they have been disregarded and are losing their fish to this industry. Turns out it doesn't matter to the federal and provincial governments whether First Nations say yes or no to salmon farms, the industry has been forced on all.

The Dzawada’enuxw and I are represented by Greg McDade who will argue that if Marine Harvest wishes to occupy First Nation territory and then seek injunctions against First Nations in their own traditional territories, Marine Harvest should do so directly, not by using "John and Jane Doe" and attempting to avoid the First Nations issues by striking out the First Nations question of rights and title entirely from the Defence. The licences of occupation, the tenures issued to this industry by the provincial government, are non-exclusive and yet Marine Harvest has made a bold move by trying to exclude First Nations.

And so the primary question before the court is who is in trespass; the Dzawada’enuxw or Marine Harvest? Furthermore the neighbouring nations Mamalilikala 'Namgis Ławitsis Ma'amtagila Da'naxdaxw Dzawada'enuxw Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxwa'mis Gwa'wa'enuxw were also on the Midsummer farm in a display of support and are also captured by Marine Harvest's legal strategy.

Marine Harvest took aim at me as perhaps their longest standing irritant, but in an ill thought out moment decided to cast their net wide and have run afoul of three powerful Dzawada’enuxw leaders. On June 1, Marine Harvest will try to eliminate the Dzawada’enuxw from this case. This case involved the fate of salmon and the forests, whales, people and cultures that depend on them, because the growing weight of scientific evidence increasingly demonstrates that the salmon farming industry is killing off the wild salmon of this region.

It is with the greatest sense of humility that I have been given the opportunity to serve First Nations in this way, as the target Marine Harvest could not resist going after and as a result Marine Harvest that finds itself in the cross-hairs of a Nation at the end of its patience.