History Runs in Zig-Zags: Crisis in Kashmir, Hope in Argentina

As one door  bangs shut in Kashmir, another opens in Argentina, writes Vijay Prashad.

By Vijay Prashad
Tricontinental: Institute
for Social Research

As one door sharply bangs shut in Kashmir, another opens in Argentina. That is the nature of our struggles. In 1859, Friedrich Engels wrote, “History often proceeds by jumps and zig-zags.” To imagine history as linear, moving in a progressive direction, is bewilderingly incorrect. It is romantic to believe either that history is conservatively circular – so that change is fundamentally impossible – or that history is progressively linear – so that everything improves in a scientific manner. Neither is plausible.
Human history is a struggle between the imagination for a better life and the constraints of the present. Some of these constraints are material, and some are social. Inadequate material conditions and the rigidities of class can hold back human progress.

The undemocratic attack on the people of Kashmir comes at the same time as the people of Argentina voted in their primary to overwhelmingly say that they are fed up with the politics of austerity (please see our Dossier no. 10 from November 2018 on the crisis in Argentina and the role of the IMF). Argentina’s population will vote again in October. By all indications, they will throw out President Mauricio Macri. Musicians and militants in Argentina have taken the old Italian partisan ballad, “Bella Ciao,” (“Goodbye Beautiful”) and refashioned it as a cry against neoliberalism and austerity “Macri Chau” (Goodbye Macri).

Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s former president, reflected on the results of the primary in Argentina with the thought that this was a ‘light at the end of the tunnel for Argentina and for Latin America.”

History might move in zig-zags, but in temporal terms it is bewildering. Large numbers of significant events seem to strike us at faster and faster rates. It is hard to keep up with the news, let alone follow what is going on in each country. Tragedies appear suddenly and the names of communities that are little known fly off our lips: The Yazidis! The Rohingyas! In the next instance, they are forgotten, only to be replaced by the next calamity. Even as events rush by, history seems to be at a standstill. Nothing really changes. Lives remain precarious, days seem repetitive. The combination of what appears to be the speed of change with the experience of stasis is what is disorienting.

To provide a modest map to navigate some of these events, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research will produce a regular “Red Alert,” a brief two-page assessment of key crises that can be easily printed out and distributed. The first – which is below – is on Kashmir. The PDF of this Red Alert #1: Kashmir can be downloaded here.

Where is Kashmir?

Kashmir is fundamentally contested, each acre claimed by one or the other neighboring country (India, Pakistan and China). It covers 222,200 square kilometers – the size of countries such as Ghana and the United Kingdom.

Approximately 17 million people live across this vast area, mostly in the regions controlled by India and Pakistan. The population of the Indian-held region alone is 12.5 million. Aksai Chin, controlled by China, is barren, significant mainly for a road that connects Tibet to Xinjiang.

What is the Permanent Problem of Kashmir?

The question of Kashmir is part of the unresolved business of the partition of South Asia in 1947. Until 1947, the region was under the control of a Hindu monarchy. The king was unwilling to accede to India. It was after armed raiders from Pakistan entered the Kashmir valley that he agreed to sign the Instrument of Accession. The most popular political movement in the region, the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah), agreed to join the Indian Union as long as Kashmir’s autonomy was respected. The Indian Union has consistently whittled away at this autonomy.

On the day that the Indian army entered Kashmir (Oct. 27, 1947), India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sent a telegram to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan. In this telegram, Nehru wrote that Kashmir’s future “must be decided with the wishes of the people.” The standoff brought the dispute to the United Nations Security Council, which called for a plebiscite (resolutions 38 and 47).

Kashmir was divided by the war of 1947 between India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan have fought at least four major wars (1947, 1965, 1971, and 1999) as a result of this conflict, which has generated a permanent insurgency and a permanent militarization. There are estimated to be 600,000 Indian troops in Kashmir. Both countries have nuclear weapons.

Conditions in the Indian part of Kashmir have been atrocious for decades. Sober observers of the region have catalogued human rights abuses, including detentions, collective punishment, and torture of civilians. The UN High Commissioner of Human Rights’ reports from 2018 and 2019 show a shocking disregard for human rights by the Indian government in Kashmir. This violation of human rights and dignity is sought to be justified by the wild accusation that Kashmiris are terrorists. 

What is the Current Crisis in Kashmir?

Two articles in the Constitution of India (1950) offered a fragile compromise towards the state’s autonomy. Article 370 conferred a special status on Jammu & Kashmir, allowing the state autonomy over certain key aspects of its governance. Article 35A prevented non-Kashmiri permanent residents from, among other matters, owning land in Kashmir

On Aug. 5, 2019, the right-wing Indian government of Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) invalidated articles 370 and 35A. This has been a demand of the Indian right-wing ever since 1948. On April 3, 2018, the Indian Supreme Court had said that Article 370 had acquired permanent status. Article 35A could not be removed because the Constituent Assembly had been dissolved in 1957. The legal basis to remove these two articles is not available. It will be challenged in the Indian courts.

Before the Modi government made this announcement in parliament, it sent 35,000 additional Indian troops into Kashmir. At the same time, it arrested all the major political leaders in Jammu & Kashmir. The legislative assembly had been dissolved in November 2018. The press was curtailed, and the Internet and phone services shut down.

The Indian government has unconstitutionally abolished the state of Jammu & Kashmir and divided it into two Union Territories, which will be governed from New Delhi rather than from Jammu & Kashmir’s capital Srinagar.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) called the government’s actions the “murder of democracy and federalism.”

What is the Geopolitical Impact of the Kashmir Crisis?

The Indian government’s move on Jammu & Kashmir should not merely be seen as an internal matter. It is inextricably linked to the geopolitical atmosphere around the region.

The borders of China, India and Pakistan collide in Kashmir. All three countries have fought wars for parts of Kashmiri territory. India and Pakistan have fought four wars, while China and India fought one major war in 1962.

The main conflict here – since the 1940s – has been between India and Pakistan. Disagreements are deeply rooted in the political culture of each country. The rise of the far right in India has only inflamed the conflict further.

Wrapped up in the India-Pakistan conflict is the larger struggle between the United States and China. China opened its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to any country that would like to participate. India has refused partly because of its older history of animosity against China and partly because of its subordination to the United States. The United States is against the BRI; it is committed to the encirclement of China.

China’s BRI has developed in Pakistan and Nepal. The $46 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) runs through Pakistani-controlled Kashmir along the Karakoram Highway to the Gwadar Port in Baluchistan. In 2017, China and Nepal agreed to build the Himalayan Economic Corridor. India’s Border Roads Organisation has been busy building roads along its border with China, from Kashmir to Bhutan to Nagaland.

In 2017, tensions rose in the Doklam region near the border between Bhutan, China, and India. Bhutan openly says that it does not want to get drawn into a China-India conflict. It wants to settle its border with China but is prevented from doing so by India.

The drawing above is from Chittaprosad, one of the great Communist artists of his day. “In my artwork, I represent the tradition of moralists and political reformers,” Chittaprosad wrote. “To save people means to save art itself. The activity of an artist means the active denial of death.” No wonder he drew that powerful picture for Kashmir in 1946.

Our comrades Maimoona Mollah, Kavita Krishnan, Jean Drèze and Vimal Bhai went to Kashmir on a fact-finding mission from August 9 to 13. They returned with a harrowing tale, whose report must be widely shared. “The whole of Kashmir is, at the moment, a prison, under military control,” they write.

The hospitals in Jammu & Kashmir fill up with injured civilians. Journalist Mudasir Ahmad visited the Lal Ded maternity hospital in Srinagar. He met Bilal Mandoo and Raziya, who were sitting with their stillborn baby. Stuck in the curfew, complications at the birth led to the death of their child. They are trapped in the hospital. “I feel like I’m choking here,” says Raziya. She speaks for all Kashmiris.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, journalist, commentator and a Marxist intellectual. He is the executive director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and the chief editor of LeftWord Books.

This article is from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment PolicyAllegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.

 




Mass Shootings in the White Noise of Anywhere USA

Phil Rockstroh muses on how the impulse to possess an unlimited number of firearms fits into the late-imperium scheme of things. 

By Phil Rockstroh 
The U.S.  is less of a nation than a collective, psychotic episode.
Within day-to-day life in the nation, a cultural aura exists that shifts, mingles and merges between a sense of nervous agitation and displaced rage, in combination with a sense of weightlessness. The fragmented quality of daily life imparts an insubstantial, unreal quality wherein the citizenry of the capitalist/consumer empire of hungry ghosts drift through a nadascape comprised of ad hoc, fast-buck-driven, suburban/exburban architecture and the ersatz eros of constant, consumer come-ons. 
Yet beneath the nebulous dread and nettling angst of it all, there exists the primal human imperative for connection and social communion i.e., authentic eros. The most lost among the lost in the ghostsphere of the collective mind attempt to animate the realm of shades with libations of blood. The gods of the capitalist death cult demand no less. 

Where does an impulse to possess an unlimited number of firearms fit into the scheme of things?  A firearm’s heft, for one. The weapon’s substantial feel, when held and hoisted, serves, provisionally, to mitigate a psychical sense of weightlessness. The act of engagement eases nervous agitation.  Gun reality offsets the weightless content of media reality. Focus is achieved when one aims the weapon on a target. Nebulous dread transforms into adamantine purpose. The presence of an Angel of Death will focus the mind. The ground, for the moment, feels solid beneath one’s feet. Hence, there arrives a craving, in the sense of addiction, to hoard the object that provides relief; in addition, massive quantities of ammunition must be stored as emotional ballast.

The mystifying, rankling, uncontrollable criteria of this weightless Age and the white noise of uncertainty seem to yield to the clear and decisive crack of a rifle shot. Relief is imagined in the concomitant carnage. The late British author Rebecca West captures the phenomenon in her book, “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon:” 

“Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.”

Feedback Loop of Carnage

Because we, on a personal level, in most cases, choose the primary option, our hidden, shadow half will live out the latter on a collective basis. During the blood lust on display at President Donald Trump’s rallies, the mob finds a collective comfort zone in catastrophic longings. The domestic landscape of paranoia works on behalf of the profiteers of perpetual war, perpetrators of the U.S.-created deathscapes overseas, and vice versa, in a self-resonating feedback loop of carnage.

In our era, in which, the U.S. empire is in decline and the white supremacist order is giving way, Trump’s frightened legions feel as if their identity is under siege. Seal off the nation’s borders. Construct an unscalable wall. Create a cordon sanitaire to protect and preserve racial purity. A strong authority figure is craved to set the world back in order. The phenomenon could be termed, Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome (ASS) — a pathology manifested in personality types who have been traumatized by the authoritarianism of the U.S. socio-political milieu but who seek to assuage their hurt and humiliation by identification with the very forces responsible for their torment. It’s the stuff of a cultural nervous breakdown. 

To that end, according to its own laws, the nation’s citizenry, sufferers of mental distress, should be restricted from purchasing a gun. Yet without a doubt, the most disturbed of all are the nation’s political class, those responsible for gun legislation. There is compelling evidence that they present a clear and present danger to themselves and others. The political class is a menace to society; they make decisions, more often than not, based on delusional thinking, that are responsible for harm on a massive scale. They should be subject to institutional-style restraint, within the confines of the most heavily secure, lockdown ward in an asylum for the criminally insane. 

Although the so-called mentally ill, as a rule, are not any more inclined to commit violent crimes than are the general population of capitalist dystopias. The U.S. was founded in genocidal violence and the fortunes of its ruling class’ are protected by the state sanctioned violence of the police and are bloated by the violence inherent to imperialist shakedown operations.

It comes down to this: In our emotionally brutal era, those deemed mentally ill are suffering from capitalism. The pummeling stress and boot-in-the-face, hierarchy-inflicted humiliations inherent to the system inflict trauma on large swathes of the citizenry.

Epidemic levels of middle-aged U.S. citizens are dying with needles in their arms. The inherent and internalized white supremacy of the societal order has been exacerbated by Trump’s self-serving, reckless agitprop and acts in a drug-like manner causing dopamine levels to rise in those experiencing emotional torment due to humiliation-caused despair. Demagogues such as Trump are aware and exploit the manner in which despair can be mitigated by the emotional displacement of rage.

Fascist insignias rise when the hopes and aspirations of the working class lie shattered across a capitalist economic wasteland. Hoisted torches provide the illusion that dark despair has been banished. The fascist mob becomes possessed by a belief that they, en masse, can ascend into the precincts of heaven by scaling a mountain of corpses comprised of outsider groups.

Fascism as Psychoactive Drug

Fascism acts as an anesthetic to the wounds delivered by capitalism. It is also a psychoactive drug; its incantatory rhetoric and imagist psychical material provides an intoxicating, crude allure.

Capitalism is borne on manic wings. The economic elite move from corporate skyscrapers and high-rise rooftops in order to travel by helicopter, where upon landing, they board private, luxury jets, then, whereupon landing again, they are transported by helicopter to corporate skyscrapers and high-rise rooftops. Touching the Earth is a fleeting experience. The ruling class have lost touch with ground-level verities. In a classical sense, such displays of hubris were understood as the progenitor of madness. The gods first elevate those they drive mad.

And, yes, race-based fears and animus are in play.  Racism engendered mass murder has been coming to pass since armed Europeans trudged ashore in the Americas, with their blood-sodden religion and their murderous craving for gold and land. Of course, the racist demagoguery of the Bloated Orange Tub of Nazi Goo oozing into and agitating the limbic systems of violent cretins during homegrown Nuremberg Rallies and his compulsion to blitzkrieg the pixel-sphere with Der Stürmer tweets is fomenting racist mayhem that includes bacchanals of blood. U.S. mythos is rancid with the reek of the corpses of the innocent slaughtered by white men brandishing firearms. Mass murderers have been and continue to be enshrined as heroes, from Wounded Knee to Afghanistan. 

The nation was established by gun-enabled genocide and the intimidation of African slaves held at gunpoint on capitalist plantations. The truth has never been faced e.g., the suppression of the Nixon tape in which Ronald Reagan displayed his racist mindset. 

The U.S. citizenry thanks the soldiers of its racist wars of aggression for their “service.” The origins of perpetual shooting sprees can be traced to the heart of darkness of the nation and its concomitant white supremacist creed. The killings happened long before the rise and election of the Tangerine Tweet Führer. Of course, the racist shit-heel Trump has exacerbated the situation. He deserves all scorn cast his way. It is obvious his capacity for malice does not possess a governor’s switch.

Trump is a two-legged emblem of the hypertrophy at play in late U.S. imperium. Gun-inflicted violence is steeped into the blood-stained fabric of the U.S. (sham) republic. Withal, Trump is not an anomaly; he is an emblem. Gun-strokers are no more going to shed their mythos than liberals and progressives are going to shed theirs that the U.S. is a democratic republic, governed by the rule of law, and progressive reforms will be implemented by its High Dollar owned and controlled political class that will serve to turn around the trajectory of the blood-built and maintained U.S. empire. 

Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living, now, in Munich. He may be contacted: philrockstroh.scribe@gmail.com and at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/phil.rockstroh

If you value this original article, please consider making a donation to Consortium News so we can bring you more stories like this one.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment PolicyAllegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.




JOHN KIRIAKOU: How a Suicide Watch Really Works

If Jeffrey Epstein’s death turns out to have been self-inflicted, it would represent a complete breakdown in the system that was supposed to protect him.

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

A cottage industry has been spawned over the past week for the chattering classes on every network to comment on the apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein, the millionaire financier charged with sex-trafficking of underage girls. 

The talking heads have also babbled on about the inner workings of federal prisons.  Nearly every word I’ve heard is either factually incorrect, out of context, or fantastical.  I spent 23 months in a federal penitentiary and served on  suicide watch over a fellow inmate.  So I can set the record straight about how suicide watches work in federal prisons, and about the conditions that led Epstein, apparently, to take his own life.  If Epstein’s death turns out to have been an actual suicide, it would be the result of a complete breakdown in the system that was supposed to protect him.

First, suicide watch in the federal prison system is a big deal.  When a prisoner is suicidal, or has attempted suicide, he is placed in a designated “suicide watch room.”  It is a physical room in the medical unit where one wall is a window.  The prisoner is stripped naked and given a paper smock to wear.  There are no sheets or pillowcases on the bed. So the prisoner doesn’t harm himself, there is nothing else inside the room other than a sink and a toilet. Outside that window wall, a rotating shift of prisoner volunteers sits 24 hours a day to watch the prisoner to make sure he doesn’t attempt suicide again.  There are also video cameras inside the room to ensure the prisoner does not try to harm himself.  Uniformed guards check on the prisoner every 30 minutes, and a nurse, physician’s assistant, or psychologist visits the prisoner at least once a day.

When the prisoner is released from suicide watch, which usually takes a week or two, one of two things happen:  Either the prisoner is returned to his cell, where he normally has between one and five cellmates, or he is sent to solitary confinement, where he can be watched more closely than he could be watched in the general population.  In most prisons, solitary confinement is not at all solitary.  Solitary confinement is usually grossly overcrowded with two or even three prisoners in each cell built for one.  One prisoner is in a bunk and the other one or two sleep on mats on the floor.  Depending on the prison, guards patrol the unit every 15 or 30 minutes to make sure than nothing untoward is taking place.  And don’t forget that there are security cameras that cover literally every inch of a prison every minute of every day.  At least, there are supposed to be.

Many Mistakes

So how did Epstein kill himself, if that’s what happened?  Every safeguard at every turn had to fail.  First, we know that Epstein was not on suicide watch.  He had been removed, despite the fact that he had only recently attempted suicide. That was a mistake. 

We know also that Epstein was returned to a two-man cell and that his cellmate had been transferred to another prison, leaving him alone there.  That was a mistake. 

We know that two of the three guards who were responsible for watching Epstein were not trained corrections officers. The prison was short staffed — most are — and two of the three guards were actually supposed to be assigned elsewhere in the prison.  (Secretaries, nurses, even the dentist and the chaplain sometimes pitch in when there aren’t enough guards.)  That was a mistake.

Two of the three guards also were exhausted. One had worked overtime five days in a row and another was working mandatory overtime.  That was a mistake.  The guards were supposed to make rounds every 30 minutes to make sure that everything was in order and no prisoners were in danger.  They didn’t do that.  That was yet another mistake.

None of these observations answers the question of whether Epstein actually committed suicide.  It appears that he did.  But, let’s not forget that in any prison in America, sex offenders — and especially those who sexually assault children — are the lowest of the low. Their lives are always in danger. I can tell you a hundred stories of assaults on pedophiles that I observed from my time at the Federal Correctional Institution at Loretto, Pennsylvania. 

One of the reasons that almost all pedophiles are kept in low-security prisons is that they’re so much more likely to be assaulted or even murdered in higher-security facilities and they’re not eligible to be placed in minimum-security work camps because of the gravity of their crimes.  The Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, however, where Epstein was awaiting trial, is a maximum-security facility because it’s a transportation center. Almost every prisoner there is awaiting trial and will eventually be sent somewhere else.  Epstein was likely a marked man from the minute he walked through the door.

I don’t know if Epstein committed suicide. When we have to choose between incompetence and conspiracy, I usually go with incompetence, though there are many powerful people who were in Epstein’s circle who would not have wanted facts to emerge at his trial. One cannot rule out that all these mistakes made could have been intentional to create the conditions for him to attempt suicide again—this time successfully.

One of my attorneys gave me some advice before I left for prison. “Don’t make anybody angry,” he said. “Most prisoners are attached to one gang or another — the Italians, the Aryans, the Crips and the Bloods, MS-13, the Mexican drug gangs. Every one of them has a long arm and they can reach into any prison in the country.”

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act — a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

If you enjoyed this original article, please consider making a donation to Consortium News so we can bring you more stories like this one.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment PolicyAllegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.




Epstein’s Death & the Investigation of Powerful Networks

Craig Murray delves into allegations against Jeffrey Epstein and another suspicious death that the case recalls.  

By Craig Murray
CraigMurray.org.uk

There are a number of royal palaces and grand residences of former presidents and prime ministers where the inhabitants have a little bit more spring in their step following the death of Jeffrey Epstein. The media is rushing to attach the label “conspiracy theory” to any thought that his death might not have been suicide. In my view, given that so many very powerful people will be relieved he is no longer in a position to sing, and given that he was in a maximum-security jail following another alleged “suicide attempt” a week ago, it would be a very credulous person who did not view the question of who killed him an open one.

There has been a huge amount of obfuscation and misdirection on the activities of Epstein and his set. To my mind, the article which remains the best starting point for those new to the scandal is this one from Gawker. 

A few days ago a federal court unsealed 2,000 pages of documents related to the allegations against Epstein. Of these the most important appears to be a witness statement from Virginia Giuffre alleging that while a minor she had sex at Epstein’s direction with then Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, plus a variety of senior foreign politicians.

Epstein’s sexual activities and partying with young girls were carried out in full view of key friends, his domestic and office staff, his pilots and of course the participants. There is no shortage of potential witnesses. Several of these really ought to be taking great care – though if I were them I would certainly eschew any protection involving U.S. security services or law enforcement. Ghislaine Maxwell might take heed of her father’s fate and avoid swimming for a few years.

(I am probably not the only one old enough to compare the many similarities between Robert Maxwell’s asset stripping career and that of Philip Green. The progress of society after 30 years of Thatcher, New Labour and returned Tories meaning that Green by contrast got no criminal charges and much bigger yachts.)

Evidence Concerning Prince Andrew

In the U.K., Giuffre’s alleged relationship with Prince Andrew has been mentioned in the media. In fact the evidence that she had a relationship with Prince Andrew of some sort is overwhelming. Here is some of the actual evidence from the court documents.

The age of heterosexual consent in England is 16 and there is no indication that Prince Andrew is doing anything illegal in this photograph in which Giuffre is 17. Nor is the photo in itself evidence of sex, though it certainly is intimate. The notion however that Giuffre was “lent out” to Andrew may have legal implications as she was flown into the country, allegedly for the purpose.

No satisfactory alternative explanation has been offered as to what might have been happening here, as Giuffre’s lawyers noted.

No further details appear in the documents to amplify Giuffre’s claim that she was forced to have sex with a “well known prime minister,” other than to repeat the claim. But what is plain is that her tale is not entirely invention. Just how much more did Epstein know, and who might he have taken down with him?

Bill Clinton’s Epstein Connection 

The truth is that sexual abuse by the rich and famous transcends all political boundaries. Bill Clinton was very frequently on Epstein’s plane and Epstein joins the very long list of those connected to the Clintons who died in dubious circumstances.

Two coincidences – the first being the bruise marks on the neck sustained in Epstein’s first “suicide attempt” in jail – remind me of the case of John Ashe, the senior official very close to the Clintons who died with bruise marks on his neck, when he accidentally dropped his barbell on his throat while bench-pressing alone at home.

Ashe was charged and awaiting trial for receiving corrupt funds from businessman Ng Lap Seng while Ashe was serving in the USA’s turn as president of the UN General Assembly. Ng Lap Seng, a six-time visitor to the Clinton White House, had previously been accused of making very large illegal donations to Clinton campaign funds, and was subsequently arrested while entering the USA with over $4 million in cash. Unlike the Clintons, Ashe was charged with taking Seng’s money and rather like Epstein may have had an interesting song to sing while going down, had he not conveniently dropped the barbell on his throat.

I said that the first thing that jogged me to link the Epstein/Clinton and the Ashe/Clinton cases was the bruise marks on the throat. The second is that both stories have been debunked by self-proclaimed “conspiracy-busting” website Snopes – in a manner which shows that Snopes has no regard for the truth whatsoever.

In the case of John Ashe, Snopes wrote an utterly tendentious piece of “myth-busting” which stated that it was a myth that Ashe’s death occurred shortly before his trial and that he was not due to testify against the Clintons. Snopes failed to mention that Ashe, a very senior Clinton appointee, was charged with taking corrupt money from precisely the same man who had been very widely accused of giving corrupt money to the Clintons. And while it was true his trial was not imminent, his pre-trial deposition was. 

In the Epstein/Clinton case Snopes wrote a piece debunking the notion that this is a photograph of Bill Clinton on Epstein’s private jet.

Snopes sets out to prove that this is not Epstein’s private jet but that of another billionaire, and that the girl is not Rachel Chandler. For the sake of argument I am prepared to accept what they say on both counts. But is the sensible reaction to that photo to say “Oh that’s OK it’s another billionaire’s jet” or to say “Why is Bill Clinton on a billionaire’s private jet in an intimate pose with a worryingly young female?” As with the Prince Andrew photo, although it has been circulating for years, no alternative innocent explanation is on offer.

Passion for Sexual Exploitation

And the fact that this is another billionaire’s plane should open again the much wider question of networks of the rich and the powerful indulging each other’s passion for sexual exploitation of the young. It is a great shame that in the U.K., the Establishment has been able to characterize the falsifications of Carl Beech as discrediting the entire notion of historical child sexual abuse. It is as though one person making up stories about a bishop would mean there was never child exploitation in the Catholic Church.

The deeper question is why such a significant proportion of the rich and powerful have a propensity to want to assuage their sexual desires on the most vulnerable and powerless in society, as opposed to forming relationships among their peers. I suspect it is connected to the kind of sociopathy that leads somebody to seek or hoard power or wealth in the first place. 

It is not necessary to develop that idea further, to understand that the Epstein case had given us a glimpse of criminal sexual behavior which, beyond doubt, involves many powerful people. It is essential that the threads that can be grasped are now worked on assiduously to uncover the entire network. 

I am afraid to say I suspect the chances of that actually happening are very slim indeed.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010.

This article is from CraigMurray.org.uk.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment PolicyAllegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.




The Epstein Case: Everyone’s a Conspiracy Theorist

The only problem with the term is the meaningless use of it as a pejorative, writes Caitlin Johnstone.

By Caitlin Johnstone
CaitlinJohnstone.com

Plutocratic propaganda outlet MSNBC has run a spin segment about the medical examiner’s determination of the cause of Jeffrey Epstein’s death “pending further information.”

“Our sources are still saying that it looks like suicide, and this is going to set conspiracy theorists abuzz I fear,” said NBC correspondent Ken Dilanian. “NBC News has been hearing all day long that there are no indications of foul play, and that this looks like a suicide and that he hung himself in his cell.”

Dilanian, who stumbled over the phrase “conspiracy theorists” in his haste to get it in the first soundbite, is a known asset of the Central Intelligence Agency. This is not a conspiracy theory, this is a well-documented fact. A 2014 article in The Intercept titled “The CIA’s Mop-Up Man” reveals email exchanges obtained via Freedom of Information Act request between Dilanian and CIA public affairs officers which “show that Dilanian enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication.” There is no reason to give Dilanian the benefit of the doubt that this cozy relationship has ended, so anything he puts forward can safely be dismissed as CIA public relations.

When I mentioned Dilanian’s CIA ties on MSNBC’s Twitter video, MSNBC deleted its tweet and then re-shared it without mentioning Dilanian’s name. Here is a screenshot of the first tweet followed by an embedded link to the current one (which I’ve archived, just in case):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up until the news broke that Epstein’s autopsy has been unable to readily confirm suicide, mass media headlines everywhere have been unquestioningly blaring that that was known to have been the cause of the accused sex trafficker’s death. This despite the fact that the FBI’s investigation has been explicitly labeling it an “apparent suicide,” and despite the fact that Epstein is credibly believed to have been involved in an intelligence-tied sexual blackmail operation involving many powerful people, any number of whom stood to gain plenty from his death.

Berating by Mass Media Narrative Managers

So, things are moving in a very weird way, and people are understandably weirded out. The response to this from mass media narrative managers has, of course, been to berate everyone as “conspiracy theorists.”

Jeffrey Epstein: How conspiracy theories spread after financier’s death,” reads a BBC headline. Epstein Suicide Conspiracies Show How Our Information System Is Poisoned,” reads one from The New York Times. Conspiracy Theories Fly Online in Wake of Epstein Death,” warns The Wall Street JournalFinancier Epstein’s Death Disappoints Victims, Launches Conspiracy Theories,” reads the headline from U.S.- funded Voice of America.

These outlets generally match Dilanian’s tone in branding anyone who questions the official story about Epstein’s death as a raving lunatic. Meanwhile, normal human beings all across the political spectrum are expressing skepticism on social media about the “suicide” narrative we’re all being force-fed by the establishment narrative managers, many of them prefacing their skepticism with some variation on the phrase “I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but…”

“I’m not a conspiracy theorist but there are an awful lot of very powerful people who would like to see this Epstein thing go away. Is anyone investigating the guard on duty?” tweeted actor Patricia Heaton.

“I am not into conspiracy theories. But Epstein had destructive information on an extraordinary number of extraordinarily powerful people. It is not easy to commit suicide in prison. Especially after being placed on suicide watch. Especially after already allegedly trying,” tweeted public defender Scott Hechinger.

Journalist Abi Wilkinson summed up the silliness of this widespread preface very nicely, tweeting, “ ‘I’m not a conspiracy theorist’ is such a weird assertion when you think about it, the idea there’s a binary between believing all conspiracies and flat out rejecting the very concept of conspiracy in all circumstances.”

Indeed, I think it’s fair to say that we are all conspiracy theorists if we’re really honest with ourselves. Not everyone believes that the official stories about 9/11 and the JFK assassination are riddled with plot holes or what have you, but I doubt that anyone who really sat down and sincerely grappled with the question “Do powerful people conspire?” would honestly deny it. Some are just more self-aware than others about the self-evident reality that powerful people conspire all the time, and it’s only a question of how and with whom and to what extent.

Dictionary Definition

The word “conspire” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “to join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act or an act which becomes unlawful as a result of the secret agreement.” No sane person would deny that this is a thing that happens, nor that this is likely a thing that happens to some extent among the powerful in their own nation. This by itself is a theory about conspiracy per definition, and it accurately applies to pretty much everyone. Since it applies to pretty much everyone, the label is essentially meaningless, either as a pejorative or as anything else.

The meaningless of the term has been clearly illustrated by Russiagate, whose adherents react with sputtering outrage whenever anyone points out that they’re engaged in a conspiracy theory, despite the self-evident fact that that’s exactly what it is: a theory about a band of powerful Russian conspirators conspiring with the highest levels of the U.S. government. Their objection is not due to a belief that they’re not theorizing about a conspiracy, their objection is due to the fact that a highly stigmatized label that they’re accustomed to applying to other people has been applied to them. The label is rejected because its actual definition is ignored to the point of meaninglessness.

The problem has never been with the actual term “conspiracy theory;” the problem has been with its deliberate and completely meaningless use as a pejorative. The best way to address this would be a populist move to de-stigmatize the label by taking ownership of it. Last month Cornell University professor Dave Callum tweeted, “I am a ‘conspiracy theorist’. I believe men and women of wealth and power conspire. If you don’t think so, then you are what is called ‘an idiot’. If you believe stuff but fear the label, you are what is called ‘a coward’.”

This is what we all must do. The debate must be forcibly moved from the absurd question of whether or not conspiracies are a thing to the important question of which conspiracy theories are valid and to what degree.

And we should probably hurry. Yahoo News reported earlier this month that the FBI recently published an intelligence bulletin describing “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists” as a growing threat, and this was before the recent spate of U.S. shootings got establishment narrative-makers pushing for new domestic terrorism laws. This combined with the fact that we can’t even ask questions about extremely suspicious events like Jeffrey Epstein’s death without being tarred with this meaningless pejorative by the mass media thought police means we’re at extreme risk of being shoved into something far more Orwellian in the near future.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a  book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment PolicyAllegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.




US Agriculture Needs 21st-Century New Deal

Three scholars look at what can be done for U.S. farms, where bankruptcies were already at a 10-year high before the floods this past spring. 

Jeff Jorgenson looks over a partially flooded field he farms near Shenandoah, Iowa, May 29, 2019. (AP/Nati Harnik)

By Maywa Montenegro, University of California, Davis; Annie Shattuck, University of California, Berkeley, and Joshua Sbicca, Colorado State University

The Conversation 

These are difficult times in farm country. Historic spring rains – 600 percent above average in some places – inundated fields and homes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that this year’s corn and soybean crops will be the smallest in four years, due partly to delayed planting.

Even before the floods, farm bankruptcies were already at a 10-year high. In 2018 less than half of U.S. growers made any income from their farms, and median farm income dipped to negative $1,553 – that is, a net loss.

At the same time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that about 12 years remain to rein in global greenhouse gas emissions enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Beyond this point, scientists predict significantly higher risks of drought, floods and extreme heat.

And a landmark UN report released in May warns that roughly 1 million species are now threatened with extinction. This includes pollinators that provide $235 billion to $577 billion in annual global crop value.

As scholars who study agroecology, agrarian change and food politics, we believe U.S. agriculture needs to make a systemwide shift that cuts carbon emissions, reduces vulnerability to climate chaos and prioritizes economic justice. We call this process a just transition – an idea often invoked to describe moving workers from shrinking industries like coal mining into more viable fields.

But it also applies to modern agriculture, an industry which in our view is dying – not because it isn’t producing enough, but because it is contributing to climate change and exacerbating rural problems, from income inequality to the opioid crisis.

Reconstructing rural America and dealing with climate change are both part of this process. Two elements are essential: agriculture based in principles of ecology, and economic policies that end overproduction of cheap food and reestablish fair prices for farmers.

Since the mid-1930s, the number of U.S. farms has declined sharply and average farm size has increased.

Climate Solutions on the Farm

Agriculture generates about 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from sources that include synthetic fertilizers and intensive livestock operations. These emissions can be significantly curbed through adopting methods of agroecology, a science that applies principles of ecology to designing sustainable food systems.

Agroecological practices include replacing fossil-fuel-based inputs like fertilizer with a range of diverse plants, animals, fungi, insects and soil organisms. By mimicking ecological interactions, biodiversity produces both food and renewable ecosystem services, such as soil nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration.

Cover crops are a good example. Farmers grow cover crops like legumes, rye and alfalfa to reduce soil erosion, improve water retention and add nitrogen to the soil, thereby curbing fertilizer use. When these crops decay, they store carbon – typically about 1 to 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide per 2.47 acres per year.

Cover crop acreage has surged in recent years, from 10.3 million acres in 2012 to 15.4 million acres in 2017. But this is a tiny fraction of the roughly 900 million acres of farmed land in the U.S.

Another strategy is switching from row crops to agroforestry, which combines trees, livestock and crops in a single field. This approach can increase soil carbon storage by up to 34 percent. And moving animals from large-scale livestock farms back onto crop farms can turn waste into nutrient inputs.

Advocates say sustainable farming methods are less vulnerable to impacts      of climate change than conventional large-scale farming.

Unfortunately, many U.S. farmers are stuck in industrial production. A 2016 study by an international expert panel identified eight key “lock-ins,” or mechanisms, that reinforce the large-scale model. They include consumer expectations of cheap food, export-oriented trade, and most importantly, concentration of power in the global food and agricultural sector.

Because these lock-ins create a deeply entrenched system, revitalizing rural America and decarbonizing agriculture require addressing systemwide issues of politics and power. We believe a strong starting point is connecting ecological practices to economic policy, especially price parity – the principle that farmers ought to be fairly compensated, in line with their production costs.

Economic Justice on the Farm

If the concept of parity sounds quaint, that’s because it is. Farmers first achieved something like parity in 1910-1914, just before America entered World War I. During the war U.S. agriculture prospered, financing flowed and land speculation was rampant.

Those bubbles burst with the end of the war. As crop prices fell below the cost of production, farmers began going broke in a prelude to the Great Depression. Unsurprisingly, they tried to produce more food to get out of debt, even as prices collapsed.

President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal included programs that directed public investments to rural communities and restored “parity.” The federal government established price floors, bought up surplus commodities and stored them in reserve. It also paid farmers to reduce production of basic crops, and established programs to prevent destructive farming practices that had contributed to the Dust Bowl.

An Agricultural Adjustment Administration representative in his office, Taos County, New Mexico, December 1941. The agency was created under the New Deal to reduce farm surpluses and manage production. (Irving Rusinow)

These policies provided much-needed relief for indebted farmers. In the “parity years,” from 1941 to 1953, the floor price was set at 90 percent of parity, and the prices farmers received averaged 100 percent of parity. As a result, purchasers of commodities paid the actual production costs.

But after World War II, agribusiness interests systematically dismantled the supply management system. They included global grain trading companies Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill and the American Farm Bureau Federation, which serves primarily large-scale farmers.

These organizations found support from federal officials, particularly Earl Butz, who served as secretary of agriculture from 1971 to 1976. Butz believed strongly in free markets and viewed federal policy as a lever to maximize output instead of constraining it. Under his watch, prices were allowed to fall – benefiting corporate purchasers – and parity was replaced by federal payments to supplement farmers’ incomes.

The resulting lock-in to this economic model progressively strengthened in the following decades, creating what many scientific assessments now recognize as a global food system that is unsustainable for farmers, eaters and the planet.

A New ‘New Deal’ for Agriculture

Today the idea of restoring parity and reducing corporate power in agriculture is resurging. Several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have included it in their agriculture positions and legislation. Think tanks are proposing to empower family farms. Dairy delegates to the regulation-averse Wisconsin Farm Bureau Foundation voted in December 2018 to discuss supply management.

Along with other scholars, we have urged Congress to use the proposed Green New Deal to promote a just transition in agriculture. We see this as an opportunity to restore wealth to rural America in all of its diversity – particularly to communities of color who have been systematically excluded for decades from benefits available to white farmers.

This year’s biblical floods in the Midwest make any kind of farming look daunting. However, we believe that if policymakers can envision a contemporary version of ideas in the original New Deal, a climate-friendly and socially just American agriculture is within reach.

Maywa Montenegro, UC President’s postdoctoral fellow, University of California, Davis; Annie Shattuck, Ph.D candidate, University of California, Berkeley, and Joshua Sbicca, assistant professor of sociology, Colorado State University. All three  authors belong to the American Association of Geographers, a funding partner of The Conversation.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment PolicyAllegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.




The 9% Lie: Industrial Food & Climate Change

Ronnie Cummins challenges the widely used official estimate of greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. agriculture.

By Ronnie Cummins
Independent Science News for Food and Agriculture

The Climate Emergency is finally getting the attention of the media and the U.S. (and world) body politic, as well as a growing number of politicians, activists and even U.S. farmers.
This great awakening has arrived just in time, given the record-breaking temperatures, violent weather, crop failures and massive waves of forced migration that are quickly becoming the norm. Global scientists have dropped their customary caution. They now warn us that we have to drastically reduce global emissions – by at least 45 percent – over the next decade. Otherwise, we’ll pass the point of no return – defined as reaching 450 ppm or more of CO2 in the atmosphere sometime between 2030 and 2050 – when our climate crisis will morph into a climate catastrophe. That’s when the melting polar ice and Arctic permafrost will trigger catastrophic sea rise, fueling deadly forest fires, climate chaos, crop failures, famine and the widespread disintegration of society as we know it.
Most people now understand that we must quickly move to renewable forms of energy, such as wind and solar, and reduce our fossil fuel emissions as much as possible. But it’s far less widely understood that energy conservation and renewables can’t do the job alone.

Ending Massive Emissions

Alongside the massive political and economic campaign to move to 100 percent (or nearly 100 percent) renewable energy as soon as possible, we must put an end to the massive emissions of our corporate-dominated food and farming system and start drawing down and sequestering in our soils and forests billions of tons of “legacy” CO2 from the atmosphere, utilizing the enhanced photosynthesis of regenerative farming, reforestation and land restoration.

Regenerative agriculture refers to farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity. This results in both carbon drawdown and improved water infiltration and storage in soils. Regenerative practices include:

  • Reduction/elimination of tillage and use of synthetic chemicals.
  • The use of cover crops, crop rotations, compost, and animal manures.
  • Integrating animals with perennial and annual plants to create a biologically diverse ecosystem on the farm.
  • Grazing and pasturing animals on grass, and more specifically using a planned multi-paddock rotation system.
  • Raising animals in conditions that mimic their natural habitat.

If regenerative food, farming and land use – which is essentially moving to the next stage of organic farming, free-range livestock grazing and eco-system restoration – are just as essential to our survival as moving beyond fossil fuels, why aren’t more people talking about this? Why is it that moving beyond industrial agriculture, factory farms, agro-exports and highly-processed junk food to regenerating soils and forests and drawing down enough excess carbon from the atmosphere to re-stabilize our climate is getting so little attention from the media, politicians and the general public?
New Poll Data

The International Food Information Council Foundation released a poll on May 22, 2019, that found that “22 percent [of Americans] had heard of regenerative agriculture and 55 percent said they had not heard of it but were interested in learning more.”

Why don’t more people know about the incredible potential of regenerative agriculture, or more precisely regenerative food, farming and land-use practices, to fix our climate, restore the environment, improve the livelihoods of farmers and rural communities and produce more nutritious food? Why is it that the U.S. and global climate movement until recently has focused almost exclusively on reducing emissions through renewable energy?
Our collective ignorance on this crucial topic may have something to do with the fact that we never learned about these things in school, or even college, and until recently there was very little discussion of regeneration in the mass media, or even the alternative media.
But there’s another reason regeneration as a climate solution doesn’t get its due in Congress or in the media: powerful corporations in the food, farming and forestry sector, along with their indentured politicians, don’t want to admit that their current degenerate, climate-destabilizing, “profit-at-any-cost” production practices and business priorities are threatening our very survival.

And government agencies are right there, helping corporate agribusiness and Big Food bury the evidence that these industries’ energy-intensive, chemical-intensive industrial agricultural and food production practices contribute more to global warming than the fossil fuel industry.

The 9 Percent Claim

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) repeatedly claim that industrial agriculture is responsible for a mere 9 percent of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. As the EPA explains, GHG “emissions from agriculture come from livestock such as cows, agricultural soils and rice production.”

After hearing this 9-percent figure regurgitated over and over again in the media, most people draw the conclusion that food and farming aren’t that important of a factor in global warming, especially when compared with transportation, electricity generation, manufacturing and heating and cooling our buildings.

What the EPA, USDA, Big Ag, chemical, and food corporations are conveniently hiding from the public is that there’s no way to separate “U.S. agriculture” from our “food system” as a whole. Their faulty math (i.e. concealing food and farming emissions under the categories of transportation, manufacturing, etc.) is nothing but a smokescreen to hide the massive fossil fuel use and emissions currently belched out by our enormously wasteful, environmentally destructive, climate-destabilizing (and globalized) food system.
USDA and EPA’s 9-percent figure is ridiculous. What about the massive use of petroleum products and fossil fuels to power U.S. tractors and farm equipment, and to manufacture the billions of pounds of pesticides and chemical fertilizers that are dumped and sprayed on farmlands?
What about the ethanol industry that eats up 40 percent of our chemical- and energy-intensive GMO corn production? Among other environmental crimes, the ethanol industry incentivizes farmers to drain wetlands and damage fragile lands. Taking the entire process into account, corn production for ethanol produces more emissions than it supposedly saves when burned in our cars and trucks.

What about the massive release of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide from factory farms and the GMO, monocrop industrial grain farms that supply these feedlots and CAFOs with animal feed?
What about the methane emissions from the fracking wells that produce the natural gas that is used in prodigious amounts to manufacture the nitrogen fertilizer dumped on farmlands – fertilizer that then pollutes our waterways and creates oceanic dead zones as well as releasing massive amounts of nitrous oxide (300 percent more damaging than even CO2) into our already oversaturated atmosphere?
What about the 15-20 percent of global fossil fuel emissions that come from processing, packaging (most often non-recycled plastic), refrigerating and transporting our highly processed (mainly junk) food and agricultural commodities on the average 1,500 miles before they reach the consumer?
What about the enormous amounts of GHG emissions, deforestation and ecosystem destruction in the international supply chain enabling Big Box stores, supermarket chains and junk food purveyors to sell imported cheap food, in many cases “food-like substances” from China and overseas to undernourished and supersized U.S. consumers?
What about the enormous emissions from U.S. landfills where wasted food (30-50 percent of our entire production) rots and releases methane, when it could be used to produce compost to replace synthetic fertilizers?
A more accurate estimate of GHG emissions from U.S. and international food, farming and land use is 44-57 percent, not the 9 percent, as the EPA and USDA suggest.
We’re never going to reach net zero emissions in the U.S. by 2030, as the Green New Deal calls for, without a profound change, in fact a revolution, in our food, farming, and land use practices.

This essay is part of The Organic Consumers Association’s Regenerative Agriculture campaign. To sign their petition in support of a Green New Deal that puts regenerative food, farming, and land use front and center, sign here if you’re a farmer, and here if you’re an activist or a green consumer.

Ronnie Cummins is the co-founder and international director of the Organic Consumers Association. He is also the founder of Via Orgánica, a network of organic consumers and farmers based in Mexico.

This article is from Independent Science News for Food and Agriculture.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment PolicyAllegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.




How Holmes Would Work the Epstein Case

Given the roll call of high and mighty involved, Michael Brenner inspects the many dead ends investigators are likely to hit.    

By Michael Brenner

Jeffrey Epstein is dead. An alleged suicide who was found strangled in his prison cell Saturday morning at the federal Metropolitan Correction Center in NYC. He made an apparent previous attempt on July 23 – after which he was placed under suicide watch and received daily psychiatric examinations for six days. On July 29 he was returned to his original cell with the suicide watch removed, but scheduled to be checked by guards every 30 minutes. They did not do so the night of his death. There is a suggestion that they were working an unnaturally long overtime shift.

That’s all we know for sure. Let’s put ourselves in the position of those famed fictional detectives and consider their methods for dealing with hundreds of such cases. What lessons have Jules Maigret, Cain, Inspector Salvo Montelbano, et al, taught us?  

First, we should attempt to ascertain with as much exactitude as the evidence permits what happened. Epstein choked to death – by what means? A belt?  The legs of his trousers? By his own hands?  If the first, why wasn’t the elementary rule of removing every possible instrument of self-destruction from the cell observed – especially whatever it was he used in the first attempt? Where did he hang himself from – an overhanging pipe or other protuberance? If so, why was he placed in a cell so designed? 

Forensics  

How long had Epstein been dead when the body was discovered? Do we know with certainty the cause of death, i.e. could he have been killed by poison, for example, before the hanging? How long would it normally take for one to die from a self-administered hanging of this sort? How does that relate to the sequence of look-ins by guards? Are there any other observable marks on the cadaver?  

Motives 

Numerous. All those associated with Epstein before his 2006 conviction, during his virtual imprisonment, and subsequently by whomever might appear in his little black book, or remembered by pilots or other staff (e.g. one pilot testified that former President Bill Clinton was on 10-to-20 “Lolita Express” flights; the doorman at Epstein’s Manhattan apartment saw President Donald Trump join the party on several occasions). We are talking about a large slice of the American elite – political, economic, legal, entertainment. More than a cross-section, it is a veritable roll-call of the high and mighty. In addition, there is Prince Andrew and an array of Gulf sheiks. They all had compelling reason to want to keep Epstein’s mouth shut. So, too, those who arranged his unprecedented, highly dubious plea bargain in 2006.  

That may include the FBI and/or CIA which had a strong situationally defined interest in getting their hooks into Epstein who was in a position to blackmail all of the above. So, too Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. Let’s note that Ghislaine Maxwell (Epstein’s No. 2 and sometime “partner”) is the daughter of the British publisher Robert Maxwell who is now known to have run an extensive intelligence network for Mossad among the London elite for which he was honored by President Shimon Peres and six former intelligence chiefs when buried in Jerusalem after a mysterious death off his private yacht in 1991. 

Cooperation from any of this list of suspects is unlikely. 

Interrogation 

Appropriate methods vary by person and circumstance. Here are a few standard techniques to get tongues wagging. 

No. 1. Build an irrefutable case against one of the suspects and then use that as leverage to induce a denunciation of others – particularly the most exposed and vulnerable. This is an old standard that retains its effectiveness. Blackmail holds its value. Some of the young women who served as sex slaves for our lords and masters should be able to identify the most recognizable figures. Doubtless, though, most have either been bought off (as Trump did Stormy Daniels and others), will be bribed, or blackmailed by virtue of their reluctance to put at risk their present lives. And they will need guarantees of protection. From whom? – accidents happen.

No. 2. Physical coercion.  Fortunately or not, this method is ruled out because of the case’s high visibility. Moreover, CIA Director Gina Haspel is currently unavailable as she is fighting tooth-and-nail to stay in the good graces of her boss. In addition, the Thai government reportedly has withdrawn its grant of access to the local “black sites” out of fear that the country’s highly lucrative sex tourism trade could be harmed by further exposure of the unsavory goings-on beyond the world of massage parlors. 

No. 3. Psychology. There are a variety of approaches that evidently are more effective for eliciting vital information than physical coercion. Only morons like those in the CIA believe that you can beat the truth out of resistant suspects – of course, for them the real satisfaction came in the torture rather than in the solicitation of vital information. Revenge is what the War on Terror has been all about. There is also the risk that they will fabricate information in order to stop the pain and/or because they have paid to do so. 

Those more subtle methods may run into other obstacles. 

For one thing, the high and the mighty have developed over their years in power both a sense of impunity/immunity and a pathological conviction that they can do no wrong – whatever the action involved.  Defense mechanisms are elaborate and well- practiced. They are habitual liars; many are clinical narcissists who may be unable to differentiate truth from falsehoods altogether, e.g. Trump.  Second, appeals to honor, morality or sense of embarrassment may also be fruitless because these people tend to be shameless.   Can anyone recall the last time that a prominent public figure in the United States has demonstrated genuine remorse? 

A Strategy 

If there were some intervention by another party that facilitated or encouraged Epstein’s death – an admittedly overriding IF – then the best way of determining who it was is to concentrate on the narrow end of the funnel. IF someone arranged for a lifting of the suicide watch with an ulterior motive in mind, or instructed guards to space out widely their look-ins at Epstein’s cell, or “forgot” to remove the drawstring from his pajamas – that conjectured person (or his intermediary) could be identified by whomever implemented the instructions/suggestions. Said person(s) could be more easily intimidated, blackmailed or induced to spill the beans than any of the big shots. 

The behavior of the psychiatrists who gave permission to lift the suicide watch is also suspect.  Their action is being described as unheard-of by renowned psychiatrists. One distinguished professor has told me in confidence that they will be in deep professional trouble for their warped judgment alone – whatever other circumstances obtain. All of their communications with outside parties should be examined. Any signs of evasion should evoke intense grilling – psychiatrists are easier to break than al-Qaeda fanatics, Mafia hitmen or narcissistic politicos. 

Conclusion 

We are assured that the investigation will cover the whole gamut of Epstein’s illicit actions, including the 2006 cover-up, which will be pursued.  At the moment, most powers-that-be seem to agree on that. Doubtless, will see a long editorial from that holier-than-thou/pillar of the republic, The New York Times board, calling for a full and thorough inquiry as to what happened. They will cite the public interest in reaffirming the impartiality of our hallowed judiciary – including looking back at 2006. They will make no mention of the awkward fact that they themselves paid the matter little heed for 13 years. Understandable – numerous persons cited are folks they run into at Upper East side cocktail parties and the Hamptons. 

Prediction: The Department of Justice, led by Trump’s lackey Attorney General William Barr, will insist on controlling all aspects of the investigation. If they can turn up a few snippets regarding the Clintons, they will leak them. Then, the entire affair will slip from public view. We have become expert at losing the past in the mists of the present – like the fog rolling through the Golden Gate — that erase all images on a regular 24-hour cycle. 

So, a year of two from now, there will be a low-key announcement that the investigation has found nothing that calls into question the conclusion that Epstein indeed committed suicide – alone and of his own volition. His earlier alleged crimes will be said to be excluded by the statute of limitations or the absence of credible evidence due in part to the deaths of certain principals. One negligent guard will be singled out for dereliction of duty; a letter of reprimand will be placed in his personnel file and he will be punished by a denial of coffee breaks for a full two weeks.  Maybe, just maybe, the American Psychiatric Association will devise some new guidelines re. Suicide Watches in prison – without specifically mentioning this incident. 

Michael Brenner is a professor of international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. mbren@pitt.edu

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment Policy. Allegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.




Russiagate is Dead, but for the Political Establishment, it is Still the New 42

Craig Murray offers a guide to a judge’s conclusion that claims made as the basis of Russiagate are insufficient to even warrant a hearing. 

By Craig Murray
CraigMurray.org.uk

Douglas Adams famously suggested that the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42. In the world of the political elite, the answer is Russiagate. What has caused the electorate to turn on the political elite, to defeat Hillary
Clinton and to rush to Brexit? Why, the evil Russians, of course, are behind it all.

It was the Russians who hacked the Democratic National Commitee and published Hillary’s emails, thus causing her to lose the election because… the Russians, dammit, who cares what was in the emails? It was the Russians. It is the Russians who are behind WikiLeaks, and Julian Assange is a Putin agent (as is that evil Craig Murray). It was the Russians who swayed the 1,300,000,000 dollar presidential election campaign result with 100,000 dollars of Facebook advertising. It was the evil Russians who once did a dodgy trade deal with Aaron Banks then did something improbable with Cambridge Analytica that hypnotized people en masse via Facebook into supporting Brexit.

All of this is known to be true by every Blairite, every Clintonite, by the BBC, by CNN, by the Guardian, The New York Times and The Washington Post. “The Russians did it” is the article of faith for the political elite who cannot understand why the electorate rejected the triangulated “consensus” the elite constructed and sold to us, where the filthy rich get ever richer and the rest of us have falling incomes, low employment rights and scanty welfare benefits. You don’t like that system? You have been hypnotized and misled by evil Russian trolls and hackers.

[Whether Trump and/or Brexit were worthy beneficiaries of the popular desire to express discontent is an entirely different argument and not one I address here].

Except, Not True 

Except virtually none of this is true. Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inability to defend in person his deeply flawed report took a certain amount of steam out of the blame Russia campaign. But what should have killed off “Russiagate” forever is the judgement of Judge John G. Koeltl of the Federal District Court of New York.

In a lawsuit brought by the Democratic National Committee against Russia and against WikiLeaks, and against inter alia Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and Julian Assange, for the first time the claims of collusion between Trump and Russia were subjected to actual scrutiny in a court of law. And Judge Koeltl concluded that, quite simply, the claims made as the basis of Russiagate are insufficient to even warrant a hearing.

The judgement is 81-pages long, but if you want to understand the truth about the entire “Russiagate” spin it is well worth reading it in full. Otherwise let me walk you through it.

This is the crucial point about Koeltl’s judgement. In considering dismissing a case at the outset in response to a motion to dismiss from the defense, the judge is obliged to give the plaintiff every benefit and to take the alleged facts described by the DNC as true. The stage of challenging and testing those facts has not been reached. The question Koeltl is answering is this. Accepting for the moment the DNC’s facts as true, on the face of it, even if everything that the Democratic National Committee alleged happened, did indeed happen, is there the basis for a case? And his answer is a comprehensive no. Even the facts alleged to comprise the Russiagate narrative do not mount up to a plausible case.

The consequence of this procedure is of course that in this judgement Koeltl is accepting the DNC’s “facts.” The judgement is therefore written entirely on the assumption that the Russians did hack the DNC computers as alleged by the plaintiff (the Democratic National Committee), and that meetings and correspondence took place as the DNC alleged and their content was also what the DNC alleged. It is vital to understand in reading the document that Koeltl is not stating that he finds these “facts” to be true. Doubtless had the trial proceeded many of them would have been challenged by the defendants and their evidentiary basis tested in court. It is simply at this stage the only question Koeltl is answering is whether, assuming the facts alleged all to be true, there are grounds for trial.

Judge Koeltl’s subsequent dismissal of the Russiagate nonsense is a problem for the mainstream media and their favorite narrative. They have largely chosen to pretend it never happened, but when obliged to mention it have attempted to misrepresent this as the judge confirming that the Russians hacked the DNC. It very definitely and specifically is not that; the judge was obliged to rule on the procedural motion to dismiss on the basis of assuming the allegation to be true. Legal distinctions, even very plain ones like this, are perhaps difficult for the average cut and paste mainstream media stenographer to understand. But the widespread failure to report the meaning of Koeltl’s judgement fairly is inexcusable.

The key finding is this. Even accepting the DNC’s evidence at face value, the judge ruled that it provides no evidence of collusion between Russia, WikiLeaks or any of the named parties to hack the DNC’s computers. It is best expressed here in this dismissal of the charge that a property violation was committed, but in fact the same ruling by the judge that no evidence has been presented of any collusion for an illegal purpose, runs through the dismissal of each and every one of the varied charges put forward by the DNC as grounds for their suit.

Judge Koeltl goes further and asserts that WikiLeaks, as a news organization, had every right to obtain and publish the emails in exercise of a fundamental First Amendment right. The judge also specifically notes that no evidence has been put forward by the DNC that shows any relationship between Russia and WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks, accepting the DNC’s version of events, merely contacted the website that first leaked some of the emails, in order to ask to publish them. 

Judge Koeltl also notes firmly that while various contacts are alleged by the DNC between individuals from Trump’s campaign and individuals allegedly linked to the Russian government, no evidence at all has been put forward to show that the content of any of those meetings had anything to do with either WikiLeaks or the DNC’s emails.

No Evidence

In short, Koeltl dismissed the case entirely because simply no evidence has been produced of the existence of any collusion between WikiLeaks, the Trump campaign and Russia. That does not mean that the evidence has been seen and is judged unconvincing. In a situation where the judge is duty bound to give credence to the plaintiff’s evidence and not judge its probability, there simply was no evidence of collusion to which he could give credence. The entire Russia-WikiLeaks-Trump fabrication is a total nonsense. But I don’t suppose that fact will kill it off.

The major implication for the Assange extradition case of the Koeltl judgement is his robust and unequivocal statement of the obvious truth that WikiLeaks is a news organization and its right to publish documents, specifically including stolen documents, is protected by the First Amendment when those documents touch on the public interest.

These arguments are certainly helpful to Assange in the extradition case. But it must be noted that the extradition request has been drafted to try to get around the law by alleging that WikiLeaks was complicit in the actual theft of documents by Chelsea Manning. Judge Koeltl does not address this question as he was presented with no evidence that WikiLeaks had contact with the “hackers” prior to their obtaining the documents, so the question did not arise before him. In the extradition request, the attempt is to argue that Assange encouraged and abetted Manning in obtaining the material. This is supposed to be a different argument.

In fact, this attempt to undermine the First Amendment has no merit. Cultivation of an insider source is a normal part of journalistic activity, and encouraging an official to leak material in the public interest is an everyday occurrence in such cultivation. In the “Watergate” precedent, for example, the “Deep Throat” source, Mark Felt of the FBI, was cultivated and encouraged over a period by Bob Woodward. In addition to which, Manning’s access to the documents could not be characterized as “theft.” Leaking of official secrets by an insider is a very different thing to a hack from outside.

And in conclusion, I should state emphatically that while Judge Koeltl was obliged to accept for the time being the allegation that the Russians had hacked the DNC as alleged, in fact this never happened. The emails came from a leak not a hack. The Mueller Inquiry’s refusal to take evidence from the actual publisher of the leaks, Julian Assange, in itself discredits his report. Mueller should also have taken crucial evidence from Bill Binney, former Technical Director of the NSA, who has explained in detail why an outside hack was technically impossible based on the forensic evidence provided. 

The other key point that proves Mueller’s Inquiry was never a serious search for truth is that at no stage was any independent forensic independence taken from the DNC’s servers, instead the word of the DNC’s own security consultants was simply accepted as true. Finally no progress has been made – or is intended to be made – on the question of who killed Seth Rich, while the pretend police investigation has “lost” his laptop. 

Though why anybody would believe Robert Mueller about anything is completely beyond me. 

So, there we have it. Russiagate as a theory is as completely exploded as the appalling Guardian front page lie published by Kath Viner and Luke Harding fabricating the “secret meetings” between Paul Manafort and Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy. But the political class and the mainstream media, both in the service of billionaires, have moved on to a stage where truth is irrelevant, and I do not doubt that Russiagate stories will thus persist. They are so useful for the finances of the armaments and security industries, and in keeping the population in fear and jingoist politicians in power.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010.

This article is from CraigMurray.org.uk.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment PolicyAllegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.




Hijacking the Second Amendment

The gun lobby has hijacked the Second Amendment, which was intended for citizen militias to provide domestic “security” without a standing army. The amendment is a dangerous relic, never clearer than  after El Paso and Dayton, writes Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

The Second Amendment was written after a war in which a new nation without a standing army defeated the biggest standing army on the planet. To defend itself, the new country relied on citizens arming themselves in civilian militias.

Ever since Britain had permanently garrisoned troops in Massachusetts to put down the brewing rebellion in 1768, opposition to standing armies ran deep among Americans. The Revolution was nearly lost because the Continental Congress for years refused George Washington’s pleading for a standing army. Sam Adams, before he and his class of merchants had won, believed a permanent force was “forever dangerous to civil liberties.”

“Soldiers are apt to consider themselves as a body distinct from the rest of the citizens,” Adams said. “They have arms always in hand.” But, “the Militia is composed of free citizens. There is, therefore, no danger of their making use of their Power to the destruction of their own rights.”

Adams amended his position as the war dragged on, realizing the necessity of a trained, disciplined force in extreme circumstances. But once the war was over, he returned to his earlier position, saying a standing army was no longer needed.

Because of this distrust of standing armies the new republic wrote into its Constitution the Second Amendment, ensuring that citizens, and not a permanent state military, would bear arms to protect the land. However, the United States today has the largest standing armed forces ever assembled. The militias are now called the standing National Guard.

Thus, the rationale for the Second Amendment is completely lost in history. It has as much relevance and moral force today as Section 2 of Article 1 that permitted slavery. The Second Amendment means nothing unless we disband the National Guard and America’s armed forces.

It is a dangerous absurdity to think it can justify the sale and possession of handguns (and even more lethal firearms). The Framers would surely be horrified by the events last weekend in Dayton and El Paso and would wonder what had become of their republic. The Second Amendment must be repealed.

This article, originally published on Dec 17, 2012, has been updated to mention the latest massacres, illustrating that nothing has changed in seven years.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at  joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .