Friday, March 31, 2023

What Is The Restrict Act And Why Is It Bad?

A short booster thread on this issue 👇

The RESTRICT ACT did not surface in a vacuum. It was preceded by Biden groundwork that is much deeper.

2) The “TicTok ban” legislation (SB686), which is a fraudulent auspice for total internet control by the intelligence community, comes from within bipartisan legislation spearheaded by the aligned interests of Senator Warner, the SSCI and DHS.

3) None of this is accidental, and the legislative branch is walking into the creation of an online control mechanism that has nothing whatsoever to do with banning TikTok.
5) If you have followed the history of how the Fourth Branch of Government has been created, you will immediately recognize the intent of this new framework. Image
6) The “National Cybersecurity Strategy” aligns with, supports, and works in concert with a total U.S. surveillance system, where definitions of information are then applied to “cybersecurity” and communication vectors.
7) This policy is both a surveillance system and an information filtration prism where the government will decide what is information, disinformation, misinformation and malinformation, then act upon it.
8) Now put the March 2nd announcement, the executive branch fiat, together with Senate Bill 686 “The Restrict Act” also known as the bipartisan bill to empower the executive branch to shut down TikTok.

10) /END

Tablet Calls The American "Disinformation Regime" The Hoax Of The Century

tablet  |  It was not enough for a few powerful agencies to combat disinformation. The strategy of national mobilization called for “not only the whole-of-government, but also whole-of-society” approach, according to a document released by the GEC in 2018. “To counter propaganda and disinformation,” the agency stated, “will require leveraging expertise from across government, tech and marketing sectors, academia, and NGOs.”

This is how the government-created “war against disinformation” became the great moral crusade of its time. CIA officers at Langley came to share a cause with hip young journalists in Brooklyn, progressive nonprofits in D.C., George Soros-funded think tanks in Prague, racial equity consultants, private equity consultants, tech company staffers in Silicon Valley, Ivy League researchers, and failed British royals. Never Trump Republicans joined forces with the Democratic National Committee, which declared online disinformation “a whole-of-society problem that requires a whole-of-society response.”

Even trenchant critics of the phenomenon—including Taibbi and the Columbia Journalism Review’s Jeff Gerth, who recently published a dissection of the press’s role in promoting false Trump-Russia collusion claims—have focused on the media’s failures, a framing largely shared by conservative publications, which treat disinformation as an issue of partisan censorship bias. But while there’s no question that the media has utterly disgraced itself, it’s also a convenient fall guy—by far the weakest player in the counter-disinformation complex. The American press, once the guardian of democracy, was hollowed out to the point that it could be worn like a hand puppet by the U.S. security agencies and party operatives.

It would be nice to call what has taken place a tragedy, but an audience is meant to learn something from a tragedy. As a nation, America not only has learned nothing, it has been deliberately prevented from learning anything while being made to chase after shadows. This is not because Americans are stupid; it’s because what has taken place is not a tragedy but something closer to a crime. Disinformation is both the name of the crime and the means of covering it up; a weapon that doubles as a disguise.

The crime is the information war itself, which was launched under false pretenses and by its nature destroys the essential boundaries between the public and private and between the foreign and domestic, on which peace and democracy depend. By conflating the anti-establishment politics of domestic populists with acts of war by foreign enemies, it justified turning weapons of war against Americans citizens. It turned the public arenas where social and political life take place into surveillance traps and targets for mass psychological operations. The crime is the routine violation of Americans’ rights by unelected officials who secretly control what individuals can think and say.

What we are seeing now, in the revelations exposing the inner workings of the state-corporate censorship regime, is only the end of the beginning. The United States is still in the earliest stages of a mass mobilization that aims to harness every sector of society under a singular technocratic rule. The mobilization, which began as a response to the supposedly urgent menace of Russian interference, now evolves into a regime of total information control that has arrogated to itself the mission of eradicating abstract dangers such as error, injustice, and harm—a goal worthy only of leaders who believe themselves to be infallible, or comic-book supervillains.

The first phase of the information war was marked by distinctively human displays of incompetence and brute-force intimidation. But the next stage, already underway, is being carried out through both scalable processes of artificial intelligence and algorithmic pre-censorship that are invisibly encoded into the infrastructure of the internet, where they can alter the perceptions of billions of people.

Something monstrous is taking shape in America. Formally, it exhibits the synergy of state and corporate power in service of a tribal zeal that is the hallmark of fascism. Yet anyone who spends time in America and is not a brainwashed zealot can tell that it is not a fascist country. What is coming into being is a new form of government and social organization that is as different from mid-twentieth century liberal democracy as the early American republic was from the British monarchism that it grew out of and eventually supplanted. A state organized on the principle that it exists to protect the sovereign rights of individuals, is being replaced by a digital leviathan that wields power through opaque algorithms and the manipulation of digital swarms. It resembles the Chinese system of social credit and one-party state control, and yet that, too, misses the distinctively American and providential character of the control system. In the time we lose trying to name it, the thing itself may disappear back into the bureaucratic shadows, covering up any trace of it with automated deletions from the top-secret data centers of Amazon Web Services, “the trusted cloud for government.”

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

In a technical or structural sense, the censorship regime’s aim is not to censor or to oppress, but to rule. That’s why the authorities can never be labeled as guilty of disinformation. Not when they lied about Hunter Biden’s laptops, not when they claimed that the lab leak was a racist conspiracy, not when they said that vaccines stopped transmission of the novel coronavirus. Disinformation, now and for all time, is whatever they say it is. That is not a sign that the concept is being misused or corrupted; it is the precise functioning of a totalitarian system.

If the underlying philosophy of the war against disinformation can be expressed in a single claim, it is this: You cannot be trusted with your own mind. What follows is an attempt to see how this philosophy has manifested in reality. It approaches the subject of disinformation from 13 angles—like the “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” Wallace Stevens’ 1917 poem—with the aim that the composite of these partial views will provide a useful impression of disinformation’s true shape and ultimate design.

Less than three weeks before the 2020 presidential election, The New York Times published an important article titled “The First Amendment in the age of disinformation.” The essay’s author, Times staff writer and Yale Law School graduate Emily Bazelon, argued that the United States was “in the midst of an information crisis caused by the spread of viral disinformation” that she compares to the “catastrophic” health effects of the novel coronavirus. She quotes from a book by Yale philosopher Jason Stanley and linguist David Beaver: “Free speech threatens democracy as much as it also provides for its flourishing.”

So the problem of disinformation is also a problem of democracy itself—specifically, that there’s too much of it. To save liberal democracy, the experts prescribed two critical steps: America must become less free and less democratic. This necessary evolution will mean shutting out the voices of certain rabble-rousers in the online crowd who have forfeited the privilege of speaking freely. It will require following the wisdom of disinformation experts and outgrowing our parochial attachment to the Bill of Rights. This view may be jarring to people who are still attached to the American heritage of liberty and self-government, but it has become the official policy of the country’s ruling party and much of the American intelligentsia.

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich responded to the news that Elon Musk was purchasing Twitter by declaring that preserving free speech online was “Musk’s dream. And Trump’s. And Putin’s. And the dream of every dictator, strongman, demagogue, and modern-day robber baron on Earth. For the rest of us, it would be a brave new nightmare.” According to Reich, censorship is “necessary to protect American democracy.”

To a ruling class that had already grown tired of democracy’s demand that freedom be granted to its subjects, disinformation provided a regulatory framework to replace the U.S. Constitution. By aiming at the impossible, the elimination of all error and deviation from party orthodoxy, the ruling class ensures that it will always be able to point to a looming threat from extremists—a threat that justifies its own iron grip on power.

A siren song calls on those of us alive at the dawn of the digital age to submit to the authority of machines that promise to optimize our lives and make us safer. Faced with the apocalyptic threat of the “infodemic,” we are led to believe that only superintelligent algorithms can protect us from the crushingly inhuman scale of the digital information assault. The old human arts of conversation, disagreement, and irony, on which democracy and much else depend, are subjected to a withering machinery of military-grade surveillance—surveillance that nothing can withstand and that aims to make us fearful of our capacity for reason.

 

Why US Has 30 Biolabs Inside Ukraine Controlled By US Department Of Defense?

WaPo  |  The Kremlin’s disinformation casts the United States — and Ukraine — as villains for creating germ warfare laboratories, giving Mr. Putin another pretext for a war that lacks all justification. The disinformation undermines the biological weapons treaty, showing that Mr. Putin has little regard for maintaining the integrity of this international agreement. The disinformation attempts to divert attention from Russia’s barbaric onslaught against civilians in Ukraine. In 2018, the Kremlin may have been seeking to shift attention from the attempted assassination of former double agent Sergei Skripal in Britain, or from the Robert S. Mueller III investigation that year of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential campaign.

The biological laboratories are just one example of Russia’s wider disinformation campaigns. Data shared by Facebook shows Russians “built manipulative Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter pages, created pro-Muslim and pro-Christian groups, and let them expand via growth from real users,” says author Samuel Woolley in “The Reality Game.” He adds, “The goal was to divide and conquer as much as it was to dupe and convince.” During the pandemic, Russia similarly attempted to aggravate existing tensions over public health measures in the United States and Europe. It has also spread lies about the use of chemical weapons, undermining the treaty that prohibits them and the organization that enforces it. In the Ukraine war, Russia has fired off broadsides of disinformation, such as claiming the victims of the Mariupol massacre were “crisis actors.” Russia used disinformation to mask its responsibility for the shoot-down of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17 over Ukraine in 2014.

The disinformation over Ukraine, repeated widely in the Russian media, plays well with social groups that support Putin: the poor, those living in rural areas and small towns, and those being asked to send young men to the front. Mr. Putin so tightly controls the news media that it is difficult for alternative news and messages to break through.

Disinformation is a venom. It does not need to flip everyone’s, or even most people’s, views. Its methods are to creep into the lifeblood, create uncertainty, enhance established fears and sow confusion.

The best way to strike back is with the facts, and fast. Thomas Kent, the former president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has pointed out that the first hours are critical in such an asymmetrical conflict: Spreaders of disinformation push out lies without worrying about their integrity, while governments and the news media try to verify everything, and take more time to do so. Mr. Kent suggests speeding the release of information that is highly likely to be true, rather than waiting. For example, it took 13 days for the British government to reach a formal conclusion that Russia was behind the poisoning of Mr. Skripal, but within 48 hours of the attack, then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told Parliament that it appeared to be Russia, which helped tip the balance in the press and public opinion.

In Ukraine, when Russia was on the threshold of invasion, government and civil society organizations rapidly coordinated an informal “early warning system” to detect and identify Russia’s false claims and narratives. It was successful when the war began, especially with use of the Telegram app. In a short time, Telegram use leapt from 12 percent adoption to 65 percent, according to those involved in the effort

Also in Ukraine, more than 20 organizations, along with the National Democratic Institute in Washington, had created a disinformation debunking hub in 2019 that has played a key role in the battle against the onslaught of lies. A recent report from the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy identified three major efforts that paid off for Ukraine in the fight against Russian disinformation as war began. One was “deep preparation” (since Russia was recycling old claims from 2014, they were ready); active and rapid cooperation of civil society groups; and use of technology, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to help sift through the torrents of Russian disinformation and rapidly spot malign narratives.

Governments can’t do this on their own. Free societies have an advantage that autocrats don’t: authentic civil society that can be agile and innovative. In the run-up to the Ukraine war, all across Central and Eastern Europe, civil society groups were sharpening techniques for spotting and countering Russian disinformation.

Plain old media literacy among readers and viewers — knowing how to discriminate among sources, for example — is also essential.

Open societies are vulnerable because they are open. The asymmetries in favor of malign use of information are sizable. Democracies must find a way to adapt. The dark actors morph constantly, so the response needs to be systematic and resilient.

 

Thursday, March 30, 2023

How Concerned Will The Anglo Establishment Become About Democracy In Israel?

korybko  |  At all costs, America believes that it must do whatever’s necessary to prevent the Israeli state from exercising its sovereign right under Bibi’s restored leadership to balance between the US-led West’s Golden Billion and the Sino-Russo Entente instead of decisively take the former’s side against the latter. Most immediately, its “deep state” wants Israel to arm Kiev, which Bibi himself warned earlier this month could abruptly catalyze a crisis with Russia in Syria.  

It's precisely this outcome that the US wants to have happen because it could open a so-called “second front” in its Eurasian-wide “containment’ campaign against Russia after the most recent efforts to do so in Georgia and Moldova have thus far failed. Furthermore, a major crisis in West Asia could impede the region’s accelerated rise as an independent pole of influence in the emerging Multipolar World Order, the scenario of which became viable after the Chinese-mediated Iranian-Saudi rapprochement.

That aforementioned development coupled with Bibi’s envisaged multi-alignment between the US-led West’s Golden Billion and the Sino-Russo Entente could lead to the near-total loss of American influence over West Asia, especially if Israel starts de-dollarizing its trade like Saudi Arabia is soon expected to do. Simply put, the entire region’s future role in the ongoing global systemic transition is at stake, thus explaining the grand strategic significance of Israel’s US-exacerbated crisis.

The socio-political (soft security) dynamics aren’t in Bibi’s favor, which could lead to him either backing down or being overthrown, with either of those outcomes raising the chances that Israel submits to being the US’ New Cold War vassal instead of continuing its trajectory as an independent player. If the military (hard security) dynamics become more difficult such as in the event of a tacitly US-approved Intifada, then his removal could be a fait accompli unless he succeeds in imposing a military dictatorship.

So as not to be misunderstood, the preceding scenario doesn’t imply that the Palestinian cause is illegitimate, but just that it can be exploited by the US like all others in advance of its larger interests. In any case, the situation is extremely combustible and it’s difficult to predict what’ll happen next. Nothing like this has ever happened before in Israel, neither domestically nor in terms of its ties with the US. This is literally unprecedented, especially in terms of its impact on International Relations as explained.

Jewish Extremists Give No Phuggs About Being An Openly Ethnotheocratic Apartheid State

socialistworker  |  For most of Israel’s history the state’s fundamental contradiction didn’t much trouble its governments. The claim of democracy gave them a veneer of legitimacy. It even allowed them to justify their occupation of Palestine, their obsessive military spending funded by the US, and the wars it carries out on the US’s behalf.

But as Israel’s grip on Palestinian land has tightened, it’s been faced with an existential dilemma. Accepting the Palestinians who live there as equal citizens would threaten Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. That’s something that the “liberal” and “left” parties who once dominated Israeli politics could never accept. But they have no solution to the problem of the occupation.

They’re not willing to end the occupation of east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Nor will they give up the settlements there where hundreds of thousands of their citizens now live. But neither are they willing to abandon the pretence of being a democracy. And they cling to the false promise of a two-state solution—the lie that they will one day give Palestinians a state of their own.

The Israeli right does have a solution—but it means casting off Israel’s democratic facade. The Israeli right is much better suited to maintaining Israel’s apartheid system. They’re much more open and determined in their desire to seize all Palestinian land, and in their hatred of Palestinian people.

So as the problem of the occupation grew over the years, so too has the popularity of the Israeli right. Binyamin Netanyahu has become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister by riding that tide. In 2015, he won re-election by warning of the “threat” posed by Arab voters voting “in droves”.

Having done that, he went on in 2018 to pass a new “basic law”—fundamental legislation that acts as Israel’s constitution. This said openly that only Jewish people have “an exclusive right to self determination” there. It was designed to entrench into law the apartheid system that had for decades been an unspoken reality. 

But it also meant admitting openly, for the first time, that Israel was not a democracy for Palestinians. Now, propped up by parties even further to his right, Netanyahu’s government wants to go further. What the US, Israel’s “centrists,” and the soldiers refusing to serve really fear is that in doing so, they’ll cast off the “democratic” identity. 

With it goes the cloak of legitimacy for the apartheid system. The alternative is a single, secular state in all of Palestine, with equal democratic rights for all of its citizens. But Israel’s defenders of “democracy” would rather envisage civil war before they countenance that.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Netanyahu Tryna Fund And Arm A Jewish Supremacist Militia

middleeasteye  |  Opposition lawmakers condemned the scenes, blaming them on Ben-Gvir and his supporters.

"Ben Gvir’s militias from La Familia are going wild right now on the streets of Jerusalem. Looking for Arabs to beat up," the leader of the Labor Party Merav Michaeli said on Twitter.

"This is the man that Netanyahu promised to set up for him his own militia with regular salaries at the expense of the state. Netanyahu is a threat to Israel."

La Familia, a fan group of the Beitar Jerusalem football team with a history of violence, took part in Monday’s counter demonstrations. 

Haaretz reported that right-wing activists were using WhatsApp and other social media platforms to call on supporters to take up arms and use vehicles to attack anti-government protesters.

In one group, known as 'The Unapologetic Right', a member called on protesters to bring "gasoline, explosives, tractors, guns and knives".

Labour party parliamentarian Gilad Kariv referred to attacks on Palestinians on Monday night as "attempted lynchings". 

"This is an organised infrastructure and not spontaneous gatherings. The police and Shin Bet don’t have a proper response, in intelligence or operations, to this violent infrastructure. It’s time for them to wake up," he tweeted. 

Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian analyst based in the city of Haifa in Israel, told Middle East Eye that Netanyahu's promise to Ben-Gvir of a "national guard" was a bigger win for the far-right than the judicial reforms themselves.

He said the national guard, which Ben-Gvir claims is needed to increase security around Israel and would be loyal to his national security ministry, would have as its "core ideology" hostility to Palestinian citizens of Israel.

NYTimes Sugarcoats And Soft-Peddles "Pro-Democracy" Protests In Jerusalem

NYTimes  | What prompted such large-scale chaos? In short, the extreme change that many Israelis feared the proposed judicial overhaul would bring. Like its American counterpart, Israel’s Supreme Court is very powerful. But with the overhaul, Israel’s Parliament could override the court’s decisions with a simple majority, giving the government sweeping power to enact its preferred policies.

Netanyahu and his allies argue that the overhaul is needed to limit the courts’ power. They believe the courts have become increasingly aggressive and have undermined voters’ choices over the past three decades. One example: The Supreme Court’s blocking of some settlements in the West Bank.

The opposition argues that the overhaul would significantly weaken one of the few checks, besides elections, on Parliament. Israelis in the opposition tend to hold a more secular, pluralistic vision for the country, and see the courts as important to preserving that view. The opposition also says that Netanyahu is pushing for the changes to protect himself because he is standing trial on corruption charges. Netanyahu denies that claim as well as the charges.

That opposition has gained momentum because it unites influential parts of Israeli society: universities, unions and the reservists who play a key role in the military. The backing of such organizations is often the difference between successful and failed protest movements, as my colleague Amanda Taub has explained. “Support from those institutions can be a way for protests to gain leverage over leaders, often by splitting up elite coalitions,” Amanda said.

That kind of split is already visible in Netanyahu’s cabinet. Over the weekend, the defense minister, Yoav Gallant, spoke out against the proposed overhaul, citing opposition from members of the military. “I see how the source of our strength is being eroded,” Gallant said.

Importantly, opposition from within the military goes beyond ideology. Soldiers and reservists argue that if the courts are too weak to provide a check on the military, officials may be more likely to give illegal orders and potentially expose soldiers to prosecution in international courts. “Those concrete concerns about self-interest may be far more difficult for the government to defuse than if the protests were just motivated by ideology and political solidarity,” Amanda wrote.

Netanyahu fired Gallant on Sunday. The dismissal prompted the latest protests in the country, which in turn compelled Netanyahu to pause his plans.

What’s next

Netanyahu’s proposed judicial overhaul was made possible by a rightward shift in Israeli politics, as this newsletter has explained. His backtracking in the face of heavy opposition suggests that perhaps Israel’s population hasn’t moved as far to the right as he believes.

The overhaul’s delay has calmed the situation for now. But it could also lead to more political chaos: Netanyahu’s coalition holds a slim majority in Parliament, and it could collapse if his right-wing allies believe he is going back on his word. That could force another election, which would be Israel’s sixth since 2019.

At the same time, reviving the overhaul would probably revitalize the protests and potentially splinter Netanyahu’s government again. Either option could cost Netanyahu his power.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Secular Jews Sick Of Ultraorthodox Extremism Putting Jewish Bidnis Out In These Streets

FT  |  Many say the crisis was triggered by Netanyahu’s decision to form an electoral alliance with extreme ultranationalists previously on the fringes of politics. 

The divisive veteran premier, who is on trial for corruption, returned to power in December by manufacturing a coalition dependent on ultraorthodox parties and ideologically driven religious Zionist leaders. 

These include Itamar Ben-Gvir, who in 2007 was convicted of inciting for racism and is now Netanyahu’s national security minister, and finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, a self-declared homophobe whose Religious Zionist party is one of the main drivers behind the legal reform. 

Both men live in settlements in the occupied West Bank that most of the international community consider illegal. They represent the religious nationalist settler movement and support the annexation of Palestinian territory. Ultraorthodox leaders hold other key posts, including the interior and religious affairs ministries. 

After last year’s election — the fifth in less than four years — the coalition’s 64 seats in the 120-member Knesset are split between Likud, with 32, and the ultraorthodox and religious Zionist parties.

In coalition agreements with the parties, Netanyahu committed to a number of policies that would have a far-reaching impact on Israeli society, including expanding the powers of Rabbinical courts and tightening rules around religious conversions and immigration. He also pledged to annex the West Bank “while choosing the timing and considering the national and international interests of the state of Israel”. 

Since winning the election last year, the coalition has drafted legislation on a number of fronts, ranging from the legal reforms to changes that allow people convicted of crimes, but spared jail time, to serve as ministers. It has also legalised nine Jewish settler outposts deep in the West Bank, which even Israel had deemed to be built illegally. 

Simcha Rothman, a MP with Smotrich’s Religious Zionist party, who heads the Knesset’s justice committee and is an architect of the planned judicial changes, considers the moment a “great opportunity” for “the believers”.

“What brings together the ultraorthodox, a religious Zionist like me [and] a secular like Netanyahu . . . is the deep belief that Israel is and should always be the homeland of the Jewish people,” he says. Rothman says the legal reforms are needed to rein in the “unchecked and unbalanced” powers of judges. He blames the Supreme Court for having a “big part in radicalising” Palestinians of Israeli citizenship, and argues that in its current form it can block parents’ autonomy over how they educate their children, and even economic policies. 

He complains that Jewish aspects of the state have been eroded, with “progressive elites” staging a “power grab in culture and academia”. He says an Israeli child can spend a year in school without opening a Bible and condemns a 2020 Supreme Court ruling that it was OK for people to bring non-kosher food into hospitals during Passover. 

In his mind, “Israel was helpless against trends that would make Israel lose its Jewish identity”. “I think it’s time for the public in Israel to decide if they want to be a country ruled by its people or by its judges,” Rothman says. “A constitutional moment is always some kind of a crisis, but it’s very important.” The government’s goal, he adds, is to “bring Israel back to normality”.

Musty Medieval Ultra-Orthodox Tryna Take Control Of The Jewish State

tikkunolam  |  As over 600,000 Israelis marched in scores of cities throughout the country and in major world capitals, cracks began to form in the governing coalition.  Facing near munity in the ranks of the IDF, defense minister Yoav Gallant called on Bibi Netanyahu to put a halt to the legislative steamroller being rammed through the Knesset. He did so in a dramatic national TV address, which was clearly intended as a shot across the prime minister’s bow.

Already, the ruling coalition passed a law legalizing five settlements Israel had promised George Bush would not be populated.  It also passed a law removing the attorney general’s right to disqualify a prime minister convicted of a criminal offense.  This will protect Netanyahu if he is convicted on any of the corruption charges he confronts in his current trial.  As Opposition leader Benny Gantz said in a TV interview, there are dozens more pieces of legislation that will follow if the government continues this onslaught.

Regardless of Gallant’s political opinions about this agenda, as a former army general, he understands that Israel must have a cohesive fighting force.  When there is munity within, the country cannot protect its citizens.  Not to mention, that the IDF is most significant unifying institution in the country.  It defines Israeli identity and most citizens serve in it.  For many Israelis the army and the state are indistinguishable.  For that reason, Gallant defines his allegiance to the state via the army.  If the army is not with the government, then the latter cannot or should not function.

To clarify, I am defining Israeli reality as most Israelis see it, in the above paragraph, and not offering my own opinion, which is highly critical, as readers will know.

Two senior Likud MKs followed suit announcing support for Gallant.  On the other side, a number of Netanyahu stalwarts denounced Gallant.  Fascist firebrand, Itamar Ben Gvir, called for the PM to immediately fire him.  I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow he calls for erecting a scaffold in Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street and hanging Gallant by the neck till he is dead, as judges used to say in the old Hollywood westerns.

Netanyahu has two choices: he can accede to Gallant and declare a ceasefire.  That would involve members of the governing coalition and opposition negotiating a compromise legislative agenda that would ensable some of the proposed “reforms,” while eliminating the most objectional ones.  Even if he agreed to this option, these negotiations would have no guarantee of success, since the sides are so far apart.

Or Netanyahu can reject Gallant’s call and go full steam ahead, throwing in his lot with the radical elements of his coalition, the anti-democracy coup plotters, Yariv Levin and Simcha Rotman. As I wrote in a recent post, this will bring a confrontaton between the legisltiave and judicial branches of Israeli government.  Until now, the Supreme Court has exerted limited powers compared to high courts in most democratic countries.  But at least it could review legislation and declare it in violation of Israel’s quasi constitutional Basic Laws.

In that sense, the Court would take up the laws passed by the far-right governing coalition and likely strike down most, if not all of them.  The legislative body really has very little recourse at that point.  It cannot force the Court to arrive a different conclusion short of taking the justices out in the courtyard and offering them a choice between life or death.  The Knesset has no enforcement provision that would enable it to override the Court.  Thus, its edict will prevail.

It remains to be seen how the coup plotters will react.  Perhaps after reading the decisions, they will water down or rephrase new proposed bills in the hope the justices will be willing to approve them.  Since the Court is a right-wing institution, it remains possible that they will approve some of the current legislation; and improve even more if it is modified or recast.

 

 

 

Monday, March 27, 2023

Any Man Who Must Say "I Am The King" Is No True King...,

caityjohnstone  |  The illusory truth effect is a cognitive bias which causes people to mistake something they have heard many times for an established fact, because the way the human brain receives and interprets information tends to draw little or no distinction between repetition and truth. Propagandists and empire managers often take advantage of this glitch in our wetware, which is what’s happening when you see them repeating key phrases over and over again that they want people to believe.

We saw another repetition of this line recently at an online conference hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce, in which the US ambassador to China asserted that Beijing must accept the US as the “leader” of the region China happens to occupy.

US empire managers are of course getting very assertive about the narrative that they are the world’s “leader” because that self-appointed “leadership” is being challenged by China, and the nations which support it with increasing openness like Russia. Most of the major international news stories of our day are either directly or indirectly related to this dynamic, wherein the US is struggling to secure unipolar planetary domination by thwarting China’s rise and undermining its partners.

The message they’re putting out is, “This is our world. We’re in charge. Anyone who claims otherwise is freakish and abnormal, and must be opposed.”

Why do they say the US is the “leader” of the world instead of its “ruler”, anyway? I’m unclear on the difference as practically applied. Is it meant to give us the impression that the US rules the world by democratic vote? That this is something the rest of the world consented to? Because I sure as hell don’t remember voting for it, and we’ve all seen what happens to governments which don’t comply with US “leadership”.

I’m not one of those who believe a multipolar world will be a wonderful thing, I just recognize that it beats the hell out of the alternative, that being increasingly reckless nuclear brinkmanship to maintain global control. The US has been in charge long enough to make it clear that the world order it dominates can only be maintained by nonstop violence and aggression, with more and more of that violence and aggression being directed toward major nuclear-armed powers. The facts are in and the case is closed: US unipolar hegemony is unsustainable.

The problem is that the US empire itself does not know this. This horrifying trajectory we’re on toward an Atomic Age world war is the result of the empire’s doctrine that it must maintain unipolar control at all costs crashing into the rise of a multipolar world order.

 

Steal A Name Make A King: The Trump Campaign's Collusion With Israel

thenation  |  Roger, hello from Jerusalem,” read the message from the Israeli secret agent. Dated August 12, 2016, it was addressed to Roger Stone—at the time a key player in Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign. “Any progress? He is going to be defeated unless we intervene. We have critical intel. The key is in your hands! Back in the US next week.” Later, the agent promised, “October Surprise coming!”

While the American media and political system fixated on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his armies of cyber warriors, trolls, and bots, what was completely missed in the Russiagate investigation of 2016 was the Israeli connection. No details of it were ever revealed in the heavily redacted Mueller Report. Nor was there any mention of an Israeli plot in the similarly redacted Senate Intelligence Committee Report on collusion charges in the 2016 election, or in any of the indictments or trials stemming from the Russia charges. Nor did any mention of Israeli involvement ever leak into the press. Yet I can reveal here the details of an elaborate covert operation personally directed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that aimed to use secret intelligence to clandestinely intervene at the highest levels in the presidential election on behalf of Trump.

Shadowy hints of the plot only became visible with the little-noticed release in 2020 of a heavily redacted May 2018 FBI search warrant and its accompanying affidavit. As part of the Mueller investigation, the bureau had conducted an extensive search for any foreign interference in the 2016 election, and the warrant was directed at securing the Google accounts of a mysterious Israeli agent acting under the direction of someone identified as “PM.” The FBI agent who wrote the affidavit noted, “I believe ‘PM’ refers to the ‘Prime Minister.’”

In the spring of 2016, no issue was more important to Benjamin Netanyahu than Donald Trump winning the White House. The GOP presidential candidate was key to everything he was after, from ending the Iran nuclear agreement, to recognizing Jerusalem—rather than Tel Aviv—as Israel’s capital, to continuing the occupation of Palestine. But November was months away, and there was no guarantee Trump would win. In the meantime, Netanyahu was under mounting pressure from President Barack Obama to finally resolve the issues surrounding Palestine. Leading the charge on behalf of Obama was Secretary of State John Kerry, who was equally determined to find a solution after many years of trying.

Kerry was not alone. The Middle East Quartet, a group formed to mediate the Palestine-Israel peace process that included representatives from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and Russia, was also seeking a solution to the issues surrounding the occupation—and it was about to release a report that was expected to be highly critical of Israel. With so much on the line, Netanyahu appears to have made a drastic decision. He would dispatch a discreet, highly trusted aide, armed with critical intelligence, to covertly “intervene” in the US election to help put his man Trump in the White House. Based on the FBI documents, the intelligence appears to have consisted of advance knowledge of Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and it may have included confidential details from the stolen e-mails. It was likely obtained by Israeli eavesdropping operations that were targeting secret Russian communications, as well as those of WikiLeaks.

Although the affidavit did not specify any individual defendants, the numerous potential criminal charges laid out in the FBI documents spoke to the seriousness of the Israeli plot. They included violation of the foreign contributions ban, which prohibits foreigners from contributing money or something of value to federal, state, or local elections. Other charges included aiding and abetting, conspiracy, wire fraud, and attempted conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Still another charge, “unauthorized access to a protected computer,” indicates Israel may have conducted illegal hacking operations. Based on the e-mails and text messages contained in the documents, the conspiracy began in the late spring of 2016, when it was beginning to appear that Trump had a good chance of winning the Republican nomination.

This was also when the FBI and the media began focusing heavily on possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, as a result of Moscow’s hacking of the DNC and the Clinton campaign. But while the Mueller investigation was never able to conclusively demonstrate any collusion with Russia, the FBI did uncover hard evidence of extensive collusion between close Trump associates and the highest levels of the Israeli government.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Debt Parasitism And The Collapse Of Antiquity

michael-hudson  |  The Collapse of Antiquity, the sequel to Michael Hudson’s “…and forgive them their debts,” is the latest in his trilogy on the history of debt. It describes how the dynamics of interest-bearing debt led to the rise of rentier oligarchies in classical Greece and Rome. This caused economic polarization, widespread austerity, revolts, wars and ultimately the collapse of Rome into serfdom and feudalism. That collapse bequeathed to the subsequent Western civilization a pro-creditor legal philosophy that has led to today’s creditor oligarchies.

In telling this story, The Collapse of Antiquity reveals the eerie parallels between the collapsing Roman world and today’s debt-burdened Western economies. 

Endorsements

“In this monumental work, Michael Hudson overturns what most of us were taught about Athens and Sparta, Greece and Rome, Caesar and Cicero, indeed about kings and republics. He exposes the roots of modern debt peonage and crises in the greed and violence of antiquity’s oligarch-creditors, embedded in their laws, which in the end destroyed the civilizations of classical antiquity.”
James K. Galbraith, author of Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe.

“In this fascinating book, Hudson explores the rise of the predatory rentier oligarchies of classical Greece and Rome. He makes a fascinating and persuasive case that the trap of debt led to the destruction of the peasantry, the states and ultimately even these civilizations.”
Martin Wolf, Chief Economics Commentator, Financial Times.

“Michael Hudson is an old school, 19th-century classical economist who puts fact before theory. To read his new book, The Collapse of Antiquity, is to learn why and how it has come to pass that we live in a world in which the money owns the people, not the people who own the money. The clarity of Hudson’s thought is like water in a desert, his history lesson therefore a sad story that is a joy to read.”
Lewis Lapham, editor of Lapham’s Quarterly.

Scope

    The Collapse of Antiquity is vast in its sweep, covering:
  • the transmission of interest-bearing debt from the Ancient Near East to the Mediterranean world, but without the “safety valve” of periodic royal Clean Slate debt cancellations to restore economic balance and prevent the emergence of creditor oligarchies;
  • the rise of creditor and landholding oligarchies in classical Greece and Rome;
  • classical antiquity’s debt crises and revolts, and the suppression, assassination and ultimate failure of reformers;
  • the role played by greed, money-lust (wealth-addiction) and hubris, as analysed by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and other ancient writers;
  • Rome’s “End Time” collapse into serfdom and pro-creditor oligarchic legacy that continues to shape the West;
  • the transformation of Christianity as it became Rome’s state religion, supporting the oligarchy, dropping the revolutionary early Christian calls for debt cancellation and changing the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer and “sin,” from a focus on the economic sphere to the personal sphere of individual egotism;
  • how pro-creditor ideology distorts recent economic interpretations of antiquity, showing increasing sympathy with Rome’s oligarchic policies.

Backcover

Rome’s collapse was the forerunner of the debt crises, economic polarization and austerity caused by subsequent Western oligarchies. The West’s pro-creditor laws and ideology inherited from Rome make inevitable repeated debt crises, transferring control of property and government to financial oligarchies.

Classical antiquity’s great transition to the modern world lay in replacing kingship not with democracies but with oligarchies having a pro-creditor legal philosophy. That philosophy permits creditors to draw wealth, and thereby political power, into their own hands, without regard for restoring economic balance and long-term viability as occurred in the Ancient Near East through Clean Slates.

Rome’s legacy to subsequent Western civilization is thus the structure of creditor oligarchies, not democracy in the sense of social structures and policies promoting widespread prosperity.

 

1966 British Children Perfectly Describe The Dystopian Now

indianexpress  |  It is interesting to hear historical perspectives of what people imagined the future would be like. One imagines that children in the 1960s imagined that there would be flying cars in the future. However, a video from the 1960s that was aired on the BBC shows how pragmatic children were when they were asked to imagine what life would be like in the year 2000.

A young boy said, “People will be regarded more as statistics than as actual people”. A girl then offered her opinion and said, “I don’t think it’s going to be so nice. I think, sort of, all machines everywhere, everyone doing everything for you. You know, you’ll get all bored and I don’t think it will be so nice.”

Another girl said, “First of all, these computers are taking over now. Computers and automation and in the year 2000, there won’t be enough jobs to go around and the only jobs there will be, it will be for people with high IQ and those who work computers and such things.”

Netizens were left amazed by how accurate and realistic the children sounded. Their answers proved true as almost 50 years later, the world is run by tech and almost all jobs depend on it.

“1960s children imagine life in the year 2000,” says the caption of the video that was posted on Twitter by the handle Historic Vids.

“How are they so deductive and well spoken at such a young age. They’re like young adults. Maybe influenced by the conversations that were being had at the dinner table,” commented a user. “Crazy how the average kid in their age range today cannot speak nearly as eloquently or intelligently about a sophisticated topic. Ask a kid this today and you likely won’t get as thoughtful and insightful of an answer. Technology is killing us,” said another.

The clip is from the year 1966 and a longer version of the video was posted by the BBC Archive on YouTube in December 2021.

 
 

Saturday, March 25, 2023

CBDC Will Enable Bankster Transformation To Permanent Endoparasitism

ineteconomics  |  Fast forward to the period of low inflation and low growth after 2001. The real estate boom set in, and that’s when you really had the financialization of everything. Up to then, the practice had normally been that banks would make mortgage loans and either keep them on their own books or, even if they sold them, they would sell the whole mortgage to Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, or to the private sector. Then someone came up with the idea that if you carve the loans into tranches and sell the tranches separately, you might receive more money than if you sold the whole thing.

It worked out for a while that way and that’s why everyone did it. That opened the door to the financialization of everything.

LP: What does this concept, the “financialization of everything,” entail?

WT: That’s when you start treating everything like it could be a bank liability — auto loans, credit card loans, and the like. You treat them the same way as the new mortgage credit – carving them up into tranches with different levels of credit risk and interest rates attached and selling them off as chunks instead of altogether as one block.

A New York securities lawyer friend and I used to speculate that we could even securitize and sell air rights in New York. That way you would be selling the blue sky itself! Obviously an absurd concept, but I assure you that people likely gave serious thought to it.

LP: How is the current banking crisis an outcome of the process of financialization?

WT: In several ways. Going back to the ‘70s and ‘80s, Walter Wriston at Citibank introduced the concept of “brokered deposits,” certificates of deposit that could be negotiated in the secondary market and resold. Nobody ever thought of doing that before. Traditionally, you took out a deposit in the bank, a CD account, and you kept it. That was that. You could borrow against it at the bank, but you didn’t go try to sell that to somebody else.

Thanks to that process of creating brokered deposits, the liability side of the bank’s balance sheet became financialized. The FDIC eventually put limits on the percentage of deposits that one bank could have that were brokered deposits because they were viewed as non-core deposits, quick-to-flee money, money that won’t be there in time of need, etc. That’s very much like what we’re seeing today.

On the asset side, banks like Silicon Valley and Signature were loaded up with things like mortgage-backed securities and also long-term Treasuries. They were doing that just to have the appearance of liquidity, the appearance of risk-free assets while ignoring so-called duration risks, that is, exposure to interest rate problems the longer the term of the bond or other obligation that you’re holding. By ignoring these issues, banks like Silicon Valley, First Republic, and Signature painted themselves into a corner. They have brokered deposits chasing the highest yield funding assets that have embedded risk that is not recognized in the kind of accounting they wanted to see.

Did Neocon Vermin Robert Kagan Call For The Assassination Of Donald Trump?

They’re obviously green-lighting assassination. pic.twitter.com/rSocx7WFKc — Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) December 4, 2023 WaPo  |   This is ...