Category Archives: Russia

Is “Russiagate” another deception like Iraqi WMDs?

Iraq: A Deadly Deception – strong parallels with current “Russiagate” affair

The alleged Russian collusion/interference investigations lumber on. Despite the media spin and intelligence leaks nothing of substance has yet been unearthed. Nothing to verify the claims originally made by Hillary Clinton when she attempted to divert attention from the Democratic National committee emails leaked by Wikileaks.

Politically partisan and Russophobic commentators still hold out hope. Admitting no credible evidence has yet emerged publicly (after 18 months) they call on critics to wait for the investigation final reports. They repeatedly use the phrase “where there is smoke there must be fire.”

But what if the investigations finally report that there is no evidence to support Clinton’s original claims? Worse, what if the investigations show that the claim itself was simply an attempt by the establishment to manipulate US politics? To prevent the election of Trump and then to discredit the election result and work to unseat the elected present?

What if the “fire” causing all this “smoke” actually took place, and still continues, but within the political establishment – and within the state agencies, the FBI and intelligence groups?

Well, that is the conclusion drawn by ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern in a recent report – The FBI Hand behind Russia-gate. His conclusions parallel strongly with what was done to justify the 2003 US Invasion of Iraq. The fact that he, with other intelligence agents, criticised the way intelligence was being selectively used by the Bush government is also another strong parallel (see the video Iraq: A Deadly Deception above where McGovern is interviewed).

McGovern, together with other ex-intelligence officers in the organisation Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity,  is analysing and criticising the use of intelligence in the Russiagate affair. They have, for example, submitted to Congress forensic information on the leaked Democratic National Committee documents which indicate these documents were leaked and not hacked as the political and intelligence establishments  claim

McGovern summarises his report this way:

“In the Watergate era, liberals warned about U.S. intelligence agencies manipulating U.S. politics, but now Trump-hatred has blinded many of them to this danger becoming real.”

McGovern’s conclusion may still lack sufficient convincing evidence (although I think there is far more evidence than has yet appeared to support Clinton’s story). But important evidence has recently appeared and further investigation of that material is sure to be enlightening.

The Strzok-Page texts

McGovern discusses some of the evidence of political partisanship and Russiaphobia bias within the FBI revealed in the text messages between FBI Counterintelligence Section chief, Peter Strzok, and his FBI lawyer girlfriend,  Lisa Page. These reveal that they knew their discussions were damning – Strzok insisted their discussion only be in texts to avoid them being traced. Page actually wrote in one text: “So look, you say we text on that phone when we talk about Hillary because it can’t be traced, . .

So far only a fraction (375) of more than 10,000 of these texts have been released, and these only in the last few weeks. These show an almost childish and gleeful partisan support for Hilary Clinton and hatred for Donald Trump. They also show a belief that they could, maybe, play a role in preventing Trump’s elections. Page wrote:  “And maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace. “ Strsok replies: “of course I’ll try and approach it that way. I just know it will be tough at times. I can protect our country at many levels.”

McGovern points out:

“Another text message shows that other senior government officials – alarmed at the possibility of a Trump presidency – joined the discussion. In an apparent reference to an August 2016 meeting with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Strzok wrote to Page on Aug. 15, 2016, “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk.”  Strzok added, “It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event that you die before you’re 40.”

Strzok will be asked to explain the “insurance policy” comment when he is called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But one can’t help wondering if the so-called Trump Dossier (which has been largely discredited) and the DNC email hacking story were parts of this “insurance policy.”

Strzok a key player in investigations

Strzok and Page were removed from the Mueller investigation last August when these texts came to light, although this was not made public until December. McCabe has said he will retire early.

Partisan commenters have tried to play down these texts but we should not forget Strzok was the Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division and led the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. In this role:

” It is a safe bet that he took a strong hand in hand-picking the FBI contingent of analysts that joined “hand-picked” counterparts from CIA and NSA in preparing the evidence-free, Jan. 6, 2017 assessment accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of interfering in the election of 2016. “

Previously:

“As the FBI’s chief of counterespionage during the investigation into then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s unauthorized use of a personal email server for classified information, Strzok reportedly changed the words “grossly negligent” (which could have triggered legal prosecution) to the far less serious “extremely careless” in FBI Director James Comey’s depiction of Clinton’s actions. This semantic shift cleared the way for Comey to conclude just 20 days before the Democratic National Convention began in July 2016, that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring charges against Mrs. Clinton.”

Trump’s vindication a downside

While welcoming release of the FBI text messages which provide “documentary evidence that key FBI officials involved in the Russia-gate investigation were indeed deeply biased and out to get Trump,” McGovern warns that they also add  “hard proof to Trump’s longstanding lament that he was the subject of a “witch hunt.””

“Justified or not, Trump’s feeling of vindication could hardly be more dangerous — particularly at a time when the most urgent need is to drain some testosterone from the self-styled Stable-Genius-in-Chief and his martinet generals.

On the home front, Trump, his wealthy friends, and like-thinkers in Congress may now feel they have an even wider carte blanche to visit untold misery on the poor, the widow, the stranger and other vulnerable humans. That was always an underlying danger of the Resistance’s strategy to seize on whatever weapons were available – no matter how reckless or unfair – to “get Trump.””

He also warns it will be difficult for the Washington establishment to “turn back” or have “second thoughts” on all this. The Russophobia and its use in political campaigns are now ingrained. How often will it raise its ugly head in the upcoming elections? And what will that mean for the US political climate?

An example already at hand is its use to oppose whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s candidacy for a US Senate seat in the state of Maryland – see the tweets from Molly McKew who Glen Greenwald describes as “one of the media’s favorite Russia-obsessed “experts”” saying “she didn’t even wait an hour before depicting Chelsea Manning’s Senate candidacy as a dastardly Kremlin plot.”

No certainties

McGovern declares:

“The Donnybrook is now underway; the outcome uncertain.”

And he has good reason to doubt a satisfactory conclusion.

“At this point, the $64 question is whether the various congressional oversight committees will remain ensconced in their customarily cozy role as “overlook” committees, or whether they will have the courage to attempt to carry out their Constitutional duty. The latter course would mean confronting a powerful Deep State and its large toolbox of well-practiced retaliatory techniques, including J. Edgar Hoover-style blackmail on steroids, enabled by electronic surveillance of just about everything and everyone. Yes, today’s technology permits blanket collection, and “Collect Everything” has become the motto.”

Let’s remember this warning given to Trump after the election when there were fears he may do a bit of “housecleaning:”

“Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, with almost four decades of membership in the House and Senate, openly warned incoming President Trump in January 2017 against criticizing the U.S. intelligence community because U.S. intelligence officials have “six ways from Sunday to get back at you” if you are “dumb” enough to take them on.”

Still, it is early days. There are many more of the Strzok-Page texts to be released and there is also talk of other, yet to be released,  evidence coming to light of partisan bias and prejudiced actions within the FBI and the investigation team.

Real progress may depend on at least some of the media abandoning their previously partisan attitudes and pressuring the investigations to declassify the evidence they have. As the Wall Street Journal recently said about the current arguments of the “Trump dossier:”

“You can bet that the dossier spin is going to get even crazier, which is why it is so urgent that Congress move quickly to declassify core documents and release them to the public.

So long as those documents remain secret, dossier proponents can concoct whatever story they choose. It’s time to end the season of silly spin and begin one of accountability.”

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“Fire and Fury” exposes the fundamental problems of the anti-Trump movement

Anti-Trump lowbrowism burst into full bloom with the new Michael Wolff book. Credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters

I have long considered myself a “lefty,’ a “liberal” and a “progressive.” But I have despaired over the last 18 months at the behaviour of what I have often considered “my side.” The sinking of “fellow liberals” into a quagmire of political partisanship, political conspiracy theories, confirmation bias and hateful hostility to anyone daring to present an alternative viewpoint distresses me. I have personally been called pro-Nazi and pro-white supremacist for defending freedom of speech and daring to point out simple facts. And this by people from “my side.”

It all suggests the story of the emperor who had no clothes and I can sympathise with those people who have adapted to this atmosphere by simply shutting up. I have found myself also doing that at times as there no longer appears to be room for a reasoned discussion among “liberals” and people on the “left.”

I keep telling myself this will pass – and perhaps we are starting to see a glimmer of hope. A new opinion piece by David Brooks in the New York Times (which has unfortunately often fed the confirmation bias, political partisanship and conspiracy theories) is a hopeful sign. His article The Decline of Anti-Trumpism outlines many of the feelings I have had over the last year about the anti-Trump (and anti-Russian) hysteria in the US.

Lets’ be clear – Brooks’ article is not a defence of Trump – he declares himself  a “proud member” of “the anti-Trump movement.” That is also my position – but not in a party political partisan way. After all, I do not live in the US and if I did I would not have voted for either Trump or Clinton.

Reducing everything to a fairy tale

Brooks believes the anti-Trump movement seems to be “getting dumber:”

“It seems to be settling into a smug, fairy tale version of reality that filters out discordant information. More anti-Trumpers seem to be telling themselves a “Madness of King George” narrative: Trump is a semiliterate madman surrounded by sycophants who are morally, intellectually and psychologically inferior to people like us.

I’d like to think it’s possible to be fervently anti-Trump while also not reducing everything to a fairy tale.”

That’s what I noticed from early on – yet to challenge these fairy tales, particularly the dangerous conspiracy theory of “Russian collusion,” just means one gets called one of “Putin’s useful idiots” or pro-Trump, pro-Nazi and a white supremacist. And this is by people who I have considered in the past as rational – people who should know better.

Insularity and lowbrowism

The anti-Trump movement has all the marks of an internet silo – if a big one – which excludes any contrary viewpoint.

“The anti-Trump movement suffers from insularity. Most of the people who detest Trump don’t know anybody who works with him or supports him.  . . .  So they get most of their information about Trumpism from others who also detest Trumpism, which is always a recipe for epistemic closure.

The movement also suffers from lowbrowism. Fox News pioneered modern lowbrowism.[It] offers a steady diet of affirmation, focuses on simple topics that require little background information, and gets viewers addicted to daily doses of righteous contempt and delicious vindication.”

“Fire and Fury”

Maybe Brooks has come to this position relatively recently as he writes  “anti-Trump lowbrowism burst into full bloom with the Wolff book.” He is, of course, referring to the latest “exposures” in the just-published book Fire and Fury.” it is selling like hot cakes. I even have my own copy but am unsure now whether to waste time reading it. Wile the mainstream media is promoting it more rational comments suggest the book is a disaster. Brooks says of the author:

“Wolff doesn’t pretend to adhere to normal journalistic standards. He happily admits that he’s just tossing out rumors that are too good to check. As Charlie Warzel wrote on BuzzFeed, “For Wolff’s book, the truth seems almost a secondary concern to what really matters: engagement.”

The ultimate test of the lowbrow is not whether it challenges you, teaches you or captures the contours of reality; it’s whether you feel an urge to share it on social media.”

That description seems to me to describe the whole anti-Trump, Russian collusion story right from the beginning. Brooks points out this is not good:

“I’ve noticed a lot of young people look at the monotonous daily hysteria of we anti-Trumpers and they find it silly.”

There is more to life than Trump

On the one hand, this sort of hysteria weakens the “anti-Trump movement,” or of more concern, it discredits serious attempts to fight against the harmful policy of the current US president and Congress. There are many harmful policies that need fighting against and it is silly to see the anti-Trump hysteria as contributing anything to those specific struggles.

More seriously, Brooks points out that this descent into a quagmire of irrational confirmation bias, political partisanship and political conspiracy theories is of wider concern – and more long-term concern:

“This isn’t just a struggle over a president. It’s a struggle over what rules we’re going to play by after Trump. Are we all going to descend permanently into the Trump standard of acceptable behavior?

Or, are we going to restore the distinction between excellence and mediocrity, truth and a lie? Are we going to insist on the difference between a genuine expert and an ill-informed blowhard? Are we going to restore the distinction between those institutions like the Congressional Budget Office that operate by professional standards and speak with legitimate authority, and the propaganda mills that don’t?”

Footnote

Another example of this low brow hysteria “bursting into full bloom,” in this case over the Russian collusion myth, is the book Collusion by former Moscow correspondent for the Guardian, Luke Harding. This interview with Harding illustrates again how the current narrative has become dominated by mediocrity and lies and not truth and excellence.

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Yet another way Russia is undermining our society

Are those horrible Russians cheating by getting their children to read? Image credit: Rosman

OK – must stress this is satire. Too many people seem to have adopted the slogan “Question Less” in their approach to the news media, particularly on reports. like this one.

Don’t want anyone to go away with the wrong idea.

I came across this piece on the Blogmire – Results of International Literacy Study Reveal Yet More Attempts by Russia to Meddle in Western Democracies and Undermine Our Way of Life. Written by the Blogmire’s resident Russia expert, Russ O’Phobe:


The recent news that Russia has topped the Progress in International Reading and Literacy Study (PIRLS), has sent shockwaves through the civilised world, with analysts believing that this is yet more evidence of a mendacious scheme by the Kremlin to destroy our values and way of life.

The study, which is based on tests taken every five years, measures literacy rates amongst 10-year-olds around the world, with around 320,000 children across the globe sitting the tests. According to the most recent results, Russian children came in first, whilst children from more enlightened countries, such as the US, UK and Canada were much further down the list. Western analysts are in agreement that this simply cannot be the case, given the vast amounts of money pumped into the education systems of those countries every year.

According to a spokesperson for the British Government’s Department of Education, the results provide yet further evidence of Russian meddling and manipulation, this time using innocent children as pawns in a sinister game:

“As everyone knows, whilst Britain has a world class education system that is the envy of every nation, Russia is a poor country where nothing works and everyone is force-fed a constant diet of Kremlin propaganda. Given that this is the case, we simply refuse to believe that it is possible for Russian children to have better reading results than British children, and it is obvious to us that the explanation for these results must be a more sinister one.”

One theory put forward is that the Kremlin has been running a state-sponsored duping campaign, whereby the results from the reading tests have been manipulated and falsified to give Russian children higher marks than their Western counterparts. The theory has been put forward by Dr. Georgy Rodzyanko, who used to work in the Russian Department for Education, before fleeing the country after being arrested for corruption – a charge that is almost certainly trumped up.

According to Dr. Rodzyanko, who has recently been undergoing treatment for psychological problems, this is exactly what happened, and on the basis of his testimony there have been calls for Russia to be banned from future PIRLS tests.

Another explanation is that the results are actually real, but that they have come about only as the result of a nefarious plot to get children to learn their letters and develop an interest in reading from very early ages. According to some analysts, whilst many Western toddlers are being taught real life skills, such as learning how to use an iPhone and questioning their gender, Russian children are being forced to learn the alphabet. It is even thought that some Russian parents may even be reading books to them regularly from an early age.

According to one anonymous source in the US Department of Education, if this is the case it represents a systematic scheme to undermine the West by making its education systems and methods of parenting look shabby:

“The PIRLS study shows that Russia will stop at nothing to undermine our values, even if that means teaching their children in ways that the modern world long ago rejected. It is a clear attempt to meddle with our democratic system, by sowing the seeds of doubt in people’s minds that the huge sums of money we spend on education might be largely wasted. This is a clear threat to our way of life and you can be sure that we will not let them get away with it.”

To back up that threat, the Governments of the US, UK, Canada and the EU are considering placing more sanctions on Russia. This would include banning the export of exercise books and pens to the country. It could also see a ban on imports to Western countries of the works of authors such as Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, in order to try to prevent the spread of literacy.

In addition, a joint international inquiry has been set up to deal with the threat. Amongst other things, it will be looking into the claim that Kremlin trolls have been attempting to undermine literacy rates in Western countries by advertising the works of Russian authors on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.


 

Chemical weapons use in Syria UN report flawed by political bias

A local reporter at the site of the alleged chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun (Source: YouTube)

I fully accept almost all news reports we see are politically biased. It is up to the reader to recognise this and to critically analyse reports from all media. But I am still annoyed to find political bias in considered, and often scientifically and evidence-based, official reports from authoritative bodies.

The official reports on the  MH-17  commercial airliner tragedy in eastern Ukraine are an example of such political bias and I  discussed these in the past (see MH17 – Preliminary report leaves most conspiracy theories intactMH17 tragedy: 1 year on,  Flight MH17 in Ukraine – what do intelligence services know? and But will it stand up in court?).

Unfortunately, I now draw the same conclusion of political bias in the recent report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-United Nations Joint investigative Mechanism (JIM). Mind you, I have seen similar bias in earlier reports from the OPCW in the past. In particular, I am shocked by the fact these reports never relied on evidence collected on-site by inspection teams – they were simply desk-top studies. While reports of chemical weapons use by terrorist groups were usually found “not confirmed” because of lack of supporting evidence the reported of use by Syrian armed forces were often accepted as reliable – without supporting evidence. Indeed, a reason for accepting these unconfirmed reports often given by the OPCW was that the Syrian Air Force had not answered the requests for flight logs!

So why do I think the current JIM report is politically biased?

I won’t go into a detailed analysis here but will simply take a few issues which I think stand out. I am using the leaked copy of the report Seventh report of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism and readers can download this by clicking the link

No on-site inspection

This, together with the lack of proper identification and control of samples, is a huge problem with this report. I really think this approach of “desk studies” from a distance, and reliance on politically motivated non-state and militia reports underlies how unprofessional the chemical weapons investigation bodies have become.

At the time of the alleged attack in Khan Shaykhun last April, there were strong calls (including from the Syrian government) for the investigation groups to send teams to both Khan Shaykhun (where the chemical attack occurred) and the Al-Shaayrat airbase (which the US attacked within days claiming the chemical weapons had come from there). No team was ever sent to Khan Shaykhun but a JIM team did eventually visit the Al-Shaayrat airbase in October – months after the incident on April 4!

At the airbase, the JIM only collected information on flights from the base on the day of the attack and interviewed pilots but specifically excluded any sample collection. Their excuse:

“Collecting samples at the airbase was not an objective of the visit. The Mechanism had assessed that doing so would not advance the investigation. If a single chemical munition was flown from that base, the Mechanism considered that there was little chance of finding any trace of sarin or its degradation products in an airbase of that size without specific information as to where to sample.”

Why assume a “single chemical munition” – at an airbase where munitions are regularly stored? And why not make an effort to find out where such munition would have likely been stored on the base?

As for visiting the site of the explosion:

“While the Leadership Panel considered that a visit to these sites would have been of value, such value would diminish over time. Further, the Panel was
required to weigh the security risks against the possible benefits to the investigation.”

That seems very tame to me. As the Syrian government had offered what guarantees they could I am forced to ask what effort was made to get security guarantees from the “rebel”/”terrorist” groups in the area? After all, the media seemed to have no problem linking up with “activists” and others in that area at the time and the investigating agents had no trouble linking up with representatives of the militias when they collected samples from them in other countries.

I have since seen a report that the:

“Director of the UN Department for Safety and Security informed the Security Council on October 4, 2017 that in reality safety guarantees were duly received from the local field commanders but the OPCW Mission declined to use that opportunity and chose to conduct investigation remotely. “

In situations like this where investigating bodies are collecting evidence and where blame may be attributed I would have thought that it imperative for investigation teams to collect samples themselves and ensure the integrity of the samples during transport to a certified laboratory. But in this case, the investigators relied on samples collected by the “rebel”/”terrorist” groups and handed over on the territory of a neighbouring country!

The crater in Khan Shaykhun

Here are a couple of  very early photos (I think within a day) of the crater formed by the alleged chemical weapon in Khan Shaykhun

Credit: Aleppo Media Centre – a “rebel”/”terrorist” news agency in Syria

Credit: Syria Chemical Weapon Attack:  Truth Comes At A Cost

Now that does not look like the result of a bomb or missile launched by a warplane. It looks more like the explosion of a placed device – and that was the early conclusion of some independent investigators. For example, Dr. Theodore Postol concluded the sarin tube was placed on the ground and not dropped from an aeroplane. He presents this image of a likely mechanism in his own analytical report.

Yet the JIM did not properly consider that specific configuration. It did list an “improvised explosive device (IED)” as one possible explanation but discounted it because “No witnesses reported any activities related to the placing of an explosive charge on the ground at the location of the incident.”  That is hardly a good forensic approach – offenders placing such a device are not going to do this in full view of passers-by, are they? The JIM did have a witness statement “consistent with this scenario:”

“In an interview with the Mechanism, the witness reported waking up at around 0700 hours on 4 April 2017 to the sound of explosions. The witness stated that there had been no aircraft over Khan Shaykhun at the time and that aircraft had only started launching attacks at around 1100 hours.”

It also relied on interpretations from unnamed “experts” and “institutes.” (The lack of identification seems very unprofessional – we are asked to trust unnamed people!). But it all seems like straw-clutching to me. I have since read a report on the analysis of the JIT claims by Russian experts from the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Industry and Trade. This can be found in Additional Assessment of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism Seventh Reportwhich was made available to the Security Council by the Russian UN mission. This expert analysis relies on mathematical analysis and research describing the behaviour of stationary and air-launched explosive devices. Their conclusion that the evidence indicated the explosion of a stationary device, and not an aerial launched (from several km high!) missile or bomb seems pretty convincing to me.

Chemical fingerprint of “sarin-like” material

The JIM report describes the expert analysis of the chemical residues found at or near the Khan Shaykhun crater and samples from the stockpiles of precursors for chemical weapons previously held by the Syrian government.  While the Russian analysis questions some of the conclusions (eg. whether the sarin could be produced by “artisan” teams or required factory manufacture) I think the JIM conclusion that the chemical evidence supported their claim that the Syrian government was the guilty party is well off beam.

When chemical weapons and precursor stockpiles were removed from Syria in 2013 the final conclusion was that while all government held material had been removed nothing could have been done about stockpiles which had previously been captured by jihadists – “rebels” or “terrorists.” Jihadist seizure of chemical weapons and precursors is hardly unknown. For example, Foreign Policy reports on an example of the capture of chemical weapons stockpiles by opponents of the government (Al Nusra) in the article How the Islamic State Seized a Chemical Weapons Stockpile.

Jihadists looting the weapons stockpiles in the Syrian army base known as Regiment 111, shown here in a still shot taken from a video posted online. Source: Foreign Policy

Yet the JIM report does not even mention this possibility. I would have thought the chemical fingerprint of the sarin samples they had indicated the guilty party was more likely one of the jihadist groups than government forces.

An objective consideration may have considered the possibility that the government had secretly manufactured chemical weapons since 2013 but surely it would have also considered the far more likely possibility that the sarin used came from stocks in the hands of one or other of the armed militia fighting the government. (And fighting each other in the area as there are credible reports of chemical weapons use in those conflicts).

The refusal to even consider this possibility is one sign to me of the very poor professional standards of the JIM team and the unnamed experts it relied on.

Conclusion

The reports of the investigations of this use of chemical weapons could be analysed in far more detail. I only discussed what I think are the most obvious aspects here but I can only conclude that this report to the UN was politically biased. It was certainly of very low scientific standards and did not give proper identification of the “experts” and “institutes” it used for analysis and opinion.

While it did give some qualifications underlining that they could not draw  definite conclusions about who used the chemical weapons (despite its chemical fingerprint) and could not identify any Syrian plane sufficiently close to the area which could have carried out the attack it still, nevertheless, finishes by stating:

“the Leadership Panel is confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017. “

An update: The mandate for this joint investigation mechanism was not renewed by the UN Security Council. The   US, the Russian Federation/Brazil and Japan submitted resolutions on its renewal but all were defeated. The stumbling blocks appeared to be:

  • The US wanted to declare the findings of guilt on the part of the Syrian government be accepted and opposed improvement of JIM’s procedures.
  • The Russian/Brazilian resolution insisted that the investigation team’s standards be improved and that, in particular, physical inspection of sites by the investigating teams themselves be obligatory.

Frankly, I think the Russian/Brazilian resolution identified a key problem and the US resolution was motivated by geopolitical interests and did not have proper evidence-based support.

As I said initially – we have come to expect political bias in news media reports but it is very disappointing to find such obvious bias in reports from bodies which are meant to carry out their investigations objectively.

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Political maturity in New Zealand – at least compared to the US

A moment of clarity in the NZ election negotiations. Credit: NZ Herald.

Maybe it is the social media silo effect but I think a lot of New Zealanders feel proud about the way our recent elections went.

Once again we are a world leader. A new impressive young female Prime Minister. An atmosphere of cooperation – or at least respect all around from (and towards) the winners and losers. And a feeling that our new Prime Minister may have the unifying skills necessary for the job at this time.

But what has impressed me is the beginning of some clarity about the nature and causes of our problems. We are talking about housing and child poverty as indicators of a failed economy and not low inflation, the balance of payments, etc., as indicators of a “successful economy.” No matter how good the “accepted” economic indicators appear to be an economy is not successful if it fails to protect its children and has the degree of homelessness we are seeing.

Winston Peters’ honesty about the causes of our problems being inherent in an economic system oriented towards the interests of dead money and not towards people is refreshing. It’s a long time since we have heard such economic honesty from a politician in our parliament. Also refreshing is the fact that our media (not known for admitting such basic problems) has repeated his statement.

And isn’t it heartening to have a Prime Minister flagging an interest in ministerial jobs aimed at helping children rather than something like finance?

Maturity

Like many, I am cynical of the concept of “capitalism with a human face” but New Zealand at the moment should be seen as a glowing example of how democracy should work. Yet we have the US promoting itself as exceptional, a leader of the free world” and the best example of “democracy.” A self-belief so strong it wishes to impose their example on “less fortunate” countries. And, too often, even New Zealander commentators and journalists get captured by such silliness.

But come on!

Just imagine if Bill English threw his toys out of the cot because his “natural” assumption of power has been denied by the electoral system. Just imagine if he attempted to “explain” his failure by promoting the fiction that the “Russians did it,” or blamed President Putin for his problems. Just imagine if all sorts of attempts were now being made to produce “evidence” of collusion between our new leaders and those horrible Russians. I am sure we could, if we were that childish, find examples of meetings with diplomats, maybe even professional or financial links with someone indirectly connected to a firm which may exist in St Petersburg.

And what about all those pro-Labour and pro-Green”trolls” on social media? Hell, they were all over Facebook and Twitter! Surely that is evidence of manipulation by Russian “troll farms.” And what about the “fact” that the pro-Russian media heavily promoted Jacinda Adern and is glorying in her victory?

OK, perhaps not even Hillary Clinton would accuse the NZ Herald of being “pro-Russian” – but here is the “undeniable evidence” – this story run by Sputnik which, for this purpose, we could describe as being a propaganda arm of the Kremlin!

Oh dear. The “evidence is mounting up.” It’s becoming “undeniable!”

I am glad we live in a country with more political maturity but isn’t it sad that the most powerful (militarily) country in the world is so politically immature. And, also sad when even commentators in New Zealand buy into that immaturity.

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Are we all anti-fascist now?

US neo-Nazis and fascists supporters march in Charoltsvill, USA.
Image credit: Alejandro Alvarez/News2Share via Reuters

Wouldn’t that be nice? What if the current almost universal condemnation of fascism by the main stream media and social media commenters were genuine.? That it represents an abhorrence for fascism and its modern supporters who attempt to revive it – and not just partisan politics.

Because fascism is abhorrent. And it does have its modern apologists, even revivalists. It is not new, even in the US, and people shouldn’t be surprised at its manifestation in Charlottesville.

After all, we have seen similar actions in other parts of the world – in parts of the world which understandably understand fascism and its consequences far better than the average US citizen does.

Thousands of nationals, neo-Nazis and pro-fascists march in Kiev, Ukraine, on the anniversary of the birth of Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera.
Image credit: South China Morning Post.

Yes, I know. Our media tends to treat the marchers in Kiev and Riga as “freedom fighters” and not what they really are – supporters of  Nazi collaborators and those organisations derived from them which still exist today and play a role in the politics of those countries. But, unlike the USA, those collaborators were responsible for thousands of deaths of their fellow citizens(see my article Don’t put all the blame on the Germans – a lesson from World War II).

Supporters of Latvia’s Waffen-SS legion hold an annual commemoration Nazi SS division formed from Latvians during World War Two. Image Credit: The Telegraph.

 

Sculpture of the “Unbowed man” at the Khatyn Memorial site near Minsk in Byelorussia. The sculpture depicts Yuzif Kaminsky, the only adult to survive the massacre by Ukrainian Nazi groups, holding his dead son Adam.
Image credit: John Oldale.

Which brings me to my real message – my suggestion for action

Why not take advantage of this new-found anti-fascist feeling? Rather than let the lessons of Charlotteville disperse and die out why not do something meaningful and specific? Something that might last. And something with an international influence.

My suggestion – the US should change its stance next time the regular United Nations General Assembly resolution on “Combating the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” comes up.

The resolution expresses concern about the fact that in some countries, famed Nazi movement leaders and former members of the SS are honoured, and monuments to fighters (e.g partisan heroes) against fascism are demolished or subjected to desecration. It calls on states to pass legislation prohibiting the denial of crimes against humanity and war crimes during the Second World War.

It was last passed in November 2016. Then the only countries voting against the resolution were Ukraine, the United States and Palau!

Just imagine, if the US goes with its current anti-fascist feelings it could, at last, vote for this resolution. Of course, Palau as a client state will also automatically reverse its vote.

As for Ukraine – well, who could say the country is such a mess. Chances are the current government in Kiev may not be in power next time the vote occurs. But, unfortunately, the extreme nationalist and neo-fascist forces which seem to dictate affairs in that country will still be around.

But what about closer to home

Can not New Zealand also learn from the current anti-fascist feelings emanating from the USA? New Zealand traditionally takes the cowards way out and abstains on this resolution. Apparently aligning itself with the 131 countries supporting the resolution in 2016 would have caused too much displeasure from the USA – something we still seem to be afraid of. So we joined the group of 48 countries that abstained.
But, I guess, if the USA changed heart and voted for the anti-fascist resolution we would meekly snap into line and also vote for it.

A job for the US (and NZ) House of Representatives?

OK, the current US president may be even less willing than previous presidents to take a real international stand against fascism. But don’t we have some recent history that might provide a solution. Why don’t the US Congress and Senate follow on from their recent almost unanimous resolutions constraining the president in his handling of international affairs?

They made it impossible for President Trump to take any action on sanctions against Iran, North Korea and the Russian Federation without a decision from Congress.

So why not a near unanimous Congressional resolution demanding the USA in future votes for this resolution in the UN General Assembly? A resolution that prevents the US Ambassador from voting against it again without a decision from Congress?

Perhaps the New Zealand Parliament could place a similar restriction on our representatives at the UN

After all, aren’t we all anti-fascist now?

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The “information war” and social media, or how to tell if you are a Kremlin troll

New NATO headquarters cost US$1.23 billion – yet they are worried about that you and I might be Kremlin Trolls because we comment on social media. Image credit: New NATO headquarters could run €1 billion

Well, what do you know? According to NATO, I must be a Kremlin Troll. I fit all four of the criteria they present in this film produced by  Stratcom  – the NATO Strategic Communication center of excellence of excellence.

1: Comments longer than 4 lines. I don’t think any of my comment have been less that 4 lines – verbosity plagues me, and always has.

2: Comments out of context. – I guess some people might say that about my comments. In fact, some people have questioned their relevance at times.

3: Comments openly aggressive and hostile. Must admit I mine are sometimes – but usually only after someone has called me a shill in the pay of Big Pharma or Big Fluoride. Or called me a Kremlin troll!

4: Comments have language errors. That certainly qualifies me. It might be that I am chronologically and/or optically challenged. Or maybe it is my erratic 1 finger typing, the lack of a backlit keyboard and laziness of spell checking. But I certainly qualify with that one.

So, that’s it. I am officially (according to NATO) a Kremlin troll. And it looks like NATO is now threatening to do background research on me (I am sure our SIS can help). Then they will label me. I guess the label is Kremlin troll. As if name-calling was a new phenomenon on social media.And then they will ignore me. If only – experience tells me that Big Brother organisations like this never ignore anyone.

But this is what the world has come to. An international military organisation, incredibly well-financed and armed, is worried about people like you and me who might be commenting on social media!

What the hell is that about? And why have they got their nickers in a twist about social media. It’s almost as if they feel they have lost the ability to control what people think and have set out on a programme of weeding out people who might not accept the official narrative.

Still, perhaps there is hope for me. there is another analysis which I prefer – described by Adam in his article 5 steps to becoming a Putin Agent. Of course, he is being satirical with his title (he says “‘Putin Agent’ sounds a bit better than ‘guy with informed opinions’”) but I do think his list describes me better than the NATO one.

Here is his list (and it is worth reading what he says abotu each point):

  1. Be A Free Global Thinker
  2. Question Authority, Question the ‘Experts’, Question EVERYTHING
  3. Respect Other Nations
  4. Don’t Be A Fanatic
  5. Have A Sense of Humour 

Mind you, I picked up this article on Facebook via RussiaFeed. Whoops, that has  one of NATO’s keywords in its title which identifies it as a “fake news source.” Yes NATO has got into judging news sources and attempting to prevent us reading the “bad” ones as well as judging our social media comments.

This really does underline that NATO has adopted a new weapon in armoury – the “information war.”

Problem is, in this war NATO considers that you and I are the enemy.

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The Putin Derangement Syndrome

Rolling Stone has come out with a name for a madness which seems to be sweeping the US  – and even more widely – at the moment. The Putin Derangement Syndrome.

The latest clinical evidence for this illness must surely be this report from the BBC on the deaths of 14 or more Russians in a Metro bombing in St Petersburg.  A report suggesting that somehow President Putin was responsible!

Such “reporting” is simply obscene. But in this world where the people with a Putin derangement syndrome seem to prevail such stupid allegation becomes evidence and then fact.

Will the St Petersburg bombing of 2017 be added to that already long list of Putin’s crimes? You know – the Moscow apartment bombings, the Moscow Metro bombings, the murders a Denis Voronenkov (murdered in  Kiev by a member of the neo-Fascist Azov brigade but blamed on Putin), Boris Nemtsov, Alexander Litvinenko, Boris Berezovsky, Paul Klebnikov, Anna Politkovskaya, etc., etc. All attributed to Putin, no evidence – but the simple allegations have become facts in the minds of this suffering from the Putin Derangement Syndrome.

Hell, it has apparently become necessary candidates for cabinet office in the US to give the politically correct answer to the questions – Do your believe Putin is a murderer? or Do you believe Putin is a war criminal?

Bugger the evidence – we just want to you come on board and show that you also suffer from the Putin Derangement Syndrome before we let you do this job.

And what about those who have died? Do we not wish to honour them? How does the Washington Times honour those people and their families by publishing (at least for a time) a photo of a protest in their report? As if the gathering was somehow celebrating the atrocity.

And in Germany, the government decided they wouldn’t taint the Brandenburg Gate with the Russian colours because the atrocity was not “exceptional.” Yet after similar attacks in Paris, Brussels, London, Istanbul , Nice and Jerusalem, the Berlin landmark was shown in solidarity with the victims in the national colors of the respective countries. After the massacre of an Islamic assassin in a gay club in Orlando in Florida with about 50 deaths last summer, the Brandenburg Gate was immersed in the rainbow colors of the gay movement.

In attacks in other countries, Berlin showed less selectivity. – Quelle: http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/26303642 ©2017

OK, give the malady a clinical name. Call it the Putin Derangement Syndrome. Or perhaps, just be a bit more honest and call it old-fashioned racism (see Western racism and the stereotyping of Russians).

Whatever – I just find the attitude obscene.

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Be careful what you wish for

I find the current anti-Russian hysteria rather childish – illustrating how shallow many people’s approach to politics is. Hillary Clinton relied on Russophobia in her attempt to divert the attention of  US voters away from the  Democratic Party manipulations to prevent Bernie Sanders’s nomination. She blamed the Russians, and in particular blamed Russian president Putin, for exposure of the corruption – and that saga continues today.

The fact this seems to have fooled some people, at least the more politically partisan, is worrying. I have often seen Russophobia as essentially a form of racism. It is, at least, a very unsophisticated approach to politics and it is sad to see people manipulated by its use.

The demonisation of president Putin is particularly laughable. Not only does it show a willingness to believe the most outlandish stories about the man, it also shows a complete ignorance about his place in the Russian political system. In particular, our media often resorts to quoting who they call the Russian “opposition” – people who can not even get sufficient electoral support to win Duma seats,  or even organise a credible political party. These people do not represent a real threat to the current president – nor should we see them as credible alternatives to Putin.

In fact, if the Russophobes actually considered things a bit more objectively and recognised who the credible alternatives to Putin are they just might change their tune.

In Russian politics be careful what you wish for – particularly if your wishes are coming from a position of ignorance.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky – Russia’s Trump!

The video above shows a speech by a real Russian opposition leader. He does have a Duma seat. Vladimir Zhirinovsky is the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. In the 2016 Duma elections that party came third, with just slightly less support than the Duma opposition party – the  Communist Party of the Russian Federation.

But current polling indicates the Liberal Democrats are now in second place. More importantly, Zhirinovsky has already been nominated as a candidate for next year’s presidential elections. So far the only announced candidate!

As the Russian Communist Party is rumoured to not be standing their current leader, Zhirinovsky is surely the real and only credible presidential alternative to Valadimir Putin. That is if Putin actually stands!

Putin’s party, United Russia, has yet to announce a candidate and Putin himself has been a bit cagey – hinting that he actually sees a life beyond politics and has several non-political projects he is keen to get involved in.

I don’t think there is any doubt about Putin’s popularity in Russia. He would be sure to win the presidential elections if he stands – but what if he doesn’t? It is possible that even another  United Russia candidate, may not be certian to win against Zhirinovsky.

Perhaps those people in the west currently succumbing to Russophobia, and Putinphobia, should have a think. What would a Zhirinovsky presidential administration look like?

Have a look at the video and see what you think.

Perhaps Vladimir Putin really is a responsible and careful leader after all. Someone protecting the interests of his own country – internally and internationally – but at the same time recognising that other countries also have legitimate international interests. Someone who appears always ready to unwilling to get into the childish abusive political labelling we are so familiar with in the west. I think Putin is – but I do not think Zhirinovsky is.

Be realistic – which leader would you prefer had their finger on the nuclear button in Russia?

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Sources our mainstream media uses to promote their narrative about Syria

No, I haven’t gone to the dark side.

But I do find this video interesting. The interviewer is Bilal Abdul Kareem who claims to be from On the Ground News. He is one of the sources used extensively by the western Mainstream media in their reporting of the battle for Aleppo, and of Syrian war in general. He allies himself with the “terrorists”/”rebels” and obviously has strong ideological commitments to them.

The guy he is interviewing is the “rebel”/”terrorist” leader of the jihadists in east Aleppo before it was liberated – Abu Abd.

Of course, one must take with many grains of salt talk about “liberation”, “freedom” and sympathy for “human rights” from such people. But they certainly make no secret of the funding and other support they were getting from external patron countries – and their bitterness they didn’t get more – or more foreign mercenary fighters. The interview also makes clear what a shambles these groups were in, which gives credence to frequent reports of “rebel”/terrorist” groups in Syria regularly getting into internal armed conflicts.

Incidentally,  the western mainstream media did often use Bilal Abdul Kareem as a source in their reporting of the Aleppo battle (recall how they are always attributing their information to “activists”) and they still use him.  That media used his “last” video message from east Aleppo as the jihadists there surrendered. But they did not use all his material.

This is one video the mainstream media refused – showing how the jihadists in east Aleppo refused humanitarian and prevented it getting into their area. Just didn’t  fit with their narrative of blaming Syria and the Russian Federation for the inability of aid organisations to get humanitarian aid into the area.

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