Friday, November 06, 2020

China Stopped The Ant IPO To Quarantine A Western Financialization And Securitization Pandemic

nakedcapitalism |  The Financial Times comment section confirmed this take and criticized the pink paper’s account, which mentioned but didn’t tease out the significance of Ma criticizing the government for being leery of unsecured personal lending:

At the end of October, Mr Ma criticised China’s state-owned banks at a financial summit in Shanghai. He suggested the big lenders had a “pawnshop mentality” and that Ant was playing an important role in extending credit to innovative but collateral-poor companies and individuals.

From the Financial Times’ peanut gallery:

Hater of Simpletons

For those who didn’t know what happened : check the new regulation which limits Ant’s leverage and enhances consumer protection, which also limits Ant’s valuation as a “tech” company. That was the main reason Jack fired at regulators in his speech [at the end of October] – and to be honest, there was no way he didn’t know the regulation long before the listing date and the speech (gov spent months on a policy, if not longer and would consult industry leaders)! If the IPO were not halted, investors would have suffered from major losses, not to mention the high leverage (60x+) and ABS put Ant’s customers at risk. Jack fired the speech to evade regulation and made sure HE made enough money from the listing. Not investors, not Ant users. Being sarcastic is easy. Try to get clear of what REALLY happened.

Now to the substance of the dispute, which led to the halt of the IPO and will require Ant to substantially restructure its business. Ant originates personal and small business loans to parties with little in the way of assets. These loans command higher interest rates than more conventional loans and from what we infer, “higher’ can mean “pretty high”.

As we have written, China hasn’t been shy about using leverage to boost growth, even though as we and others have written, over time, the incremental lending has produced less and less in the way of GDP lift. China has also had multiple mini-financial crises involving its “wealth management products.” These are typically uninsured investments that provide a fixed interest rate for a set period of time, typically five years. They have often provided funding for state-level real estate investments. Nevertheless, even if you allow for Michael Hudson’s view that land should be taxed aggressively to limit real estate rentierism, economists have found that borrowing to make productive investments in businesses, equipment, and buildings adds to growth, while increases in personal borrowing are a brake.

Another reason for China to take a dim view of personal borrowing is that the government prioritizes wage growth and improving living standards as its basis for legitimacy. There’s no reason, as in the US, to use consumer borrowing to mask stagnant worker wages. And the Chinese may even have recognized that overly financialized economies have lower rates of growth than ones at a more modest level of financial “deepening”. The IMF found that Poland was at the optimum level, but argued that more finance might not create a drag if the sector was well-regulated.

Mind you, we aren’t saying that China is a paragon of regulatory virtue. They still allow for stunning amounts of margin lending against stocks. And they’ve also sat pat as ghost cities, too often shoddily built, continue to rise, a textbook case of trading sardines.1 But they appear to want to avoid having a finance-driven economy, and also appear to have learned from some of our mistakes.

Now to the specifics of why Chinese officials came down on Ant. First, from the Wall Street Journal:

Some of the writing was on the wall earlier. While Ant was gearing up to launch its IPO, regulators had begun taking aim at the company’s fast-growing microloan business, which provides short-term credit to hundreds of millions of individuals and scores of small businesses.

On Sept. 14, China’s banking and insurance regulator issued a private notice to some commercial banks warning them about the risks of making loans in partnership with third-party institutions, according to a copy of the notice seen by The Wall Street Journal. It said banks should not be outsourcing their loan underwriting and risk controls.

When Ant partners with banks to make loans, the lenders provide the funding and bear the risk of defaults, while Ant collects fees for facilitating the transactions.

Two days later, the regulator published a guideline that placed caps on the volume of asset-backed securities that could be issued by microlenders. Two subsidiaries of Ant have bundled many loans into securities and sold them to raise funds for lending operations.

In other words, Chinese officials tried halting Ant’s practice of originating risky individual/small business loans and selling them to banks, both on the bank and Ant ends of the pipeline. That apparently didn’t lead to a change of course at Ant or its allied banks or lead to any change in appetite for its IPO.

The Ruling Elite, Money, And The Illusion Of Progress...,

theamericanconservative  |  “It was part of a strategy to signal that Republicans intended to seriously contest the South for the first time in over a century,” he writes. “[Ronald] Reagan was fetched at the airport in Meridian by his state chairman, Congressman Trent Lott. Lott had been president of the fraternity that stockpiled a cache of weapons used to riot against the federal marshals protecting a black student seeking to enter the University of Mississippi.” Perlstein reports that it was Lott who urged the president: “If Reagan really wanted to win this crowd over, he need only fold a certain two-word phrase into his speech: states’ rights.”

Perlstein was once dismissively dubbed the “gonzo historian” by former New York Times book review editor and rival chronicler of conservatives Sam Tanenhaus. Indeed, Perlstein recalls the notorious Neshoba County Fair “states’ rights” speech and countless other anecdotes in his 1,100-page opus, Reaganland, in downright Thompsonian fashion. It is his fourth installment of mid-century, American conservative history and it is his best, besting the magisterial Nixonland. Perlstein, a hard lefty journo, might indeed take himself too seriously, but at least he usually affords the same treatment to the subjects of his histories.

Rather than a conventional denunciation of the medial event in Reagan’s use of “the Southern Strategy,” Perlstein actually does reporting. Perlstein reveals Reagan didn’t really believe in what he was saying. “The way he carried out Trent Lott’s suggestion doused the enthusiasm of a previously energetic crowd,” Perlstein says. “And it was hardly worth it. The backlash was immediate and caustic.”

But what did Reagan actually say? “I still believe the answer to any problem lies with the people,” Reagan told the crowd. “I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves at the community level and at the private level, and I believe we’ve distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the Constitution to that federal establishment.” And Reagan said: “I believe in states’ rights.” It was considered by his critics as tantamount to Morse code to white supremacists. Perlstein dresses up the story pages before with paragraphs of dispatches on the dominance of racial vigilantism in the region in the years before Reagan’s speech. 

But after his address, in the inferno of an August afternoon in central Mississippi, Reagan won. Though reasonable points about black voter suppression can be raised, in November, Reagan won Neshoba County, he won Mississippi, and he won the United States Electoral College. And he did so against a Deep Southern, Democratic incumbent president, which was previously unthinkable. And the GOP hasn’t relinquished Mississippi since—not even when neighboring Arkansan Bill Clinton and Tennessean Al Gore dominated the Nineties.

Perlstein’s chronicle is about the 40th president but, of course, can’t escape the shadow of the 45th. Perlstein has called Donald Trump an heir to Reagan, only stripped of the sunny optimism. A generation of global leaders, usually liberal, championed democracy, only to see Palestine elect Hamas, Egypt elect the Muslim Brotherhood, Mississippi go to Reagan, Britain secede from Europe, and America annoit Trump.


Iron Law Of Oligarchy

wikipedia  |  The iron law of oligarchy is a political theory first developed by the German sociologist Robert Michels in his 1911 book, Political Parties.[1] It asserts that rule by an elite, or oligarchy, is inevitable as an "iron law" within any democratic organization as part of the "tactical and technical necessities" of organization.[1]

Michels's theory states that all complex organizations, regardless of how democratic they are when started, eventually develop into oligarchies. Michels observed that since no sufficiently large and complex organization can function purely as a direct democracy, power within an organization will always get delegated to individuals within that group, elected or otherwise.

Using anecdotes from political parties and trade unions struggling to operate democratically to build his argument in 1911, Michels addressed the application of this law to representative democracy, and stated: "Who says organization, says oligarchy."[1] He went on to state that "Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy."[1]8

According to Michels, all organizations eventually come to be run by a "leadership class", who often function as paid administrators, executives, spokespersons or political strategists for the organization. Far from being "servants of the masses", Michels argues this "leadership class," rather than the organization's membership, will inevitably grow to dominate the organization's power structures. By controlling who has access to information, those in power can centralize their power successfully, often with little accountability, due to the apathy, indifference and non-participation most rank-and-file members have in relation to their organization's decision-making processes. Michels argues that democratic attempts to hold leadership positions accountable are prone to fail, since with power comes the ability to reward loyalty, the ability to control information about the organization, and the ability to control what procedures the organization follows when making decisions. All of these mechanisms can be used to strongly influence the outcome of any decisions made 'democratically' by members.[2]

Michels stated that the official goal of representative democracy of eliminating elite rule was impossible, that representative democracy is a façade legitimizing the rule of a particular elite, and that elite rule, which he refers to as oligarchy, is inevitable.[1] Later Michels migrated to Italy and joined Benito Mussolini's Fascist Party, as he believed this was the next legitimate step of modern societies. The thesis became popular once more in post-war America with the publication of Union Democracy: The Internal Politics of the International Typographical Union (1956) and during the red scare brought about by McCarthyism.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Military And Law Enforcement Collaboration To Violate Rights And Grift Taxpayer Dollars

newyorker  |  Before dawn on January 23, 2019, Mark McConnell arrived at the Key West headquarters of the military and civilian task force that monitors drugs headed to the United States from the Southern Hemisphere. McConnell, a prosecutor at the Department of Justice and a former marine, left his phone in a box designed to block electronic transmissions, and passed through a metal detector and a key-card-protected air lock to enter the building. On the second floor, he punched in the code for his office door, then locked it behind him. On a computer approved for the handling of classified information, he loaded a series of screenshots he had taken, showing entries in a database called Helios, which federal law enforcement uses to track drug smugglers. McConnell e-mailed the images to a classified government hotline for whistle-blowers. Then he printed backup copies and, following government procedures for handling classified information, sealed them in an envelope that he placed in another envelope, marked “SECRET.” He hid the material behind a piece of furniture.

McConnell had uncovered what he described as a “criminal conspiracy” perpetrated by the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. Every year, entries in the Helios database lead to hundreds of drug busts, which lead to prosecutions in American courts. The entries are typically submitted to Helios by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the F.B.I., and a division of the Department of Homeland Security. But McConnell had learned that more than a hundred entries in the database that were labelled as originating from F.B.I. investigations were actually from a secret C.I.A. surveillance program. He realized that C.I.A. officers and F.B.I. agents, in violation of federal law and Department of Justice guidelines, had concealed the information’s origins from federal prosecutors, leaving judges and defense lawyers in the dark. Critics call such concealment “intelligence laundering.” In the nineteen-seventies, after C.I.A. agents were found to have performed experiments with LSD on unwitting Americans and investigated Vietnam War protesters, restrictions were imposed that bar the agency from being involved in domestic law-enforcement activities. Since the country’s founding, judges, jurors, and defendants have generally had the right to know how evidence used in a trial was gathered. “This was undisclosed information, from an agency working internationally with different rules and standards,” Nancy Gertner, a retired federal district judge and a senior lecturer at Harvard Law School, told me. “This should worry Trump voters who talk about a ‘deep state.’ This is the quintessential deep state. This is activities beyond your view, fundamentally affecting what happens in American courts.”

But the scheme benefitted the C.I.A. and the F.B.I.: the former received information obtained during operations, and the latter reported increased arrests and was able to secure additional federal funding as a result. The scope of the scheme was corroborated in hundreds of pages of e-mails, transcripts, and other documents obtained by The New Yorker.

For weeks, C.I.A. officials had been trying to stop McConnell from revealing the agency’s activities. They sent a lawyer to Key West with nondisclosure agreements, but McConnell refused to sign. A day before his early arrival at the office, McConnell had learned of an order to delete the screenshots on his computer. “I knew that I had to get the electronic evidence to outside investigators,” he told me. “There was no doubt about what I needed to do, and there was no doubt retaliation against me would follow.” He worked quickly, not knowing when security officers would arrive. Later that day, they came to McConnell’s office and deleted the images.

A little more than a month later, after C.I.A. officials accused McConnell of “spilling” classified information, the director of the task force suspended him. Soon, the C.I.A. director, Gina Haspel, visited the task force and was briefed on the matter. According to a sworn affidavit that McConnell filed with the Senate Intelligence Committee, and to a source with knowledge of the meeting, Haspel said that there needed to be repercussions for McConnell. (A C.I.A. spokesperson, Timothy Barrett, called the allegation “inaccurate and a gross mischaracterization.”) The military leadership of the task force ignored McConnell’s appeal of his suspension, and discussions about future assignments came to an abrupt halt. Six officials said that they believed the C.I.A. had retaliated against McConnell, leaving him nominally employed but unable to find a new post after decades of public service.

Cienfuegos Zepeda Mexico's Former Secretary Of Defense Busted At LAX....,

theamericanconservative  |  While American policymakers focus intently on developments in Europe, the Middle East, and the Indo-Pacific, trouble is brewing much closer to home. Under growing stress from drug-related violence and systemic corruption, Mexico is exhibiting worrisome signs of governmental dysfunction. The latest shock occurred on October 16, when U.S. authorities arrested Mexico’s former defense secretary, General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, at Los Angeles International Airport on drug trafficking and money laundering charges. Cienfuegos Zepeda was a major player in Mexico’s military and political affairs, leading the country’s armed forces for six years under former president Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018).

His disgrace is especially important because the military has been in charge of waging the war on illegal drugs since President Felipe Calderon made it the lead agency for that mission in 2006. Allegations that Cienfuegos Zepeda was on a drug cartel payroll, therefore, were especially embarrassing and demoralizing. As the Associated Press reporters Christopher Sherman and Maria Verza point out, Mexico’s reliance on its military has grown under current president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador: “He has entrusted it with not only leading the government’s ongoing fight with drug cartels, but also with stopping rampant fuel pipeline theft, building major infrastructure projects and being the backbone of the new, ostensibly civilian, National Guard.”

 Moreover, the military has long occupied a special status in Mexico’s political hierarchy. An ironclad agreement has been in place for decades that the army doesn’t interfere in politics, and civilian political leaders, including the president, do not interfere in the army’s internal operations. The appointment process for defense secretary highlights the extent of the military’s clout. In contrast to all other cabinet posts, the president does not have the latitude of making a personal choice for defense secretary; he or she chooses from a list of acceptable candidates that the generals submit.

The incident with Cienfuegos Zepeda was hardly the first time that scandal has rocked Mexico’s military and drug-fighting establishments. Genaro García Luna, who served as Mexico’s secretary of public security from 2006 to 2012 under President Calderon, was arrested last year in Texas on drug trafficking charges. U.S. prosecutors allege that he took tens of millions of dollars in bribes to protect Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel. Another notorious incident occurred even earlier. In 1996, the Mexican government appointed General Jesus Gutierrez Rebello, who had overseen military operations for the previous seven years in the narcotics-infested region of Guadalajara, to head the National Institute for the Combat of Drugs. U.S. officials hailed the appointment and how it symbolized the growing role of the country’s military in the drug war. Just months later, he was arrested for drug trafficking.

Ultimatum Of 10 Mexican States To Lopez Obrador: Dialogue And Respect Or Secession  |  While President López Obrador made threats and threats against private companies in the energy sector with which his government is waging a legal battle, 10 governors of the Republic yesterday issued an ultimatum to their government "in defense of federalism", trusts and of the budget for their states, in which they warned that if the president continues to ignore his request for dialogue to review the budgetary needs of local governments and refuses to review the draft Budget for 2021, the 10 entities they represent could take a route of breaking to leave the Federal Pact and leave the Republic.

In a coordinated and simultaneous manner, the 10 leaders that make up the Federalist Alliance, delivered a similar speech from the capitals of their states in which they demanded López Obrador stop snubbing and attacking their states, minimizing and disregarding their requests for a larger budget for their needs. In all the public events of each entity, the governors were accompanied by the representatives of the 3 public powers and the most representative sectors of each place to send the message that "we are not only the governors", but 10 entities (Jalisco , Nuevo León, Chihuahua, Guanajuato, Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Michoacán, Durango, Colima and Aguascalientes) whose inhabitants demand respect and dialogue from the Federation.

"We are here to send a strong message that we are not willing to tolerate more abuses by the Federation, we are here proud to be Mexican and with the conviction that we will always be Mexican. But no free and sovereign state that has a minimum of dignity can to continue being part of a Federation when the Government of the Republic ignores us, attacks us, insults us and takes away what belongs to us, "launched the governor of Jalisco, Enrique Alfaro, from the Hospicio Cabañas de Guadalajara.

In Chihuahua, Javier Corral, seconded it with the warning that if there is no response to his request for dialogue with the president, the states are ready to go to a political and legal battle with the Federation to defend their resources: "We are not going to allow neither abuse nor outrage. If the answer continues to be indifference and deaf ears, we are ready to fight the political and legal battle, "said the PAN president from the vicinity of the Government Palace and accompanied by representatives of the state powers and of Chihuahuan society.

From Nuevo León, Jaime Rodríguez Calderón threatened that the state will break with the Federation if the call for a more equitable distribution is not heard according to what each state contributes, and said that if this policy is followed, the state must generate different conditions from the local. "If he does not listen to us, it will generate an unnecessary confrontation, if he does not listen to us then the character of each region will be tested," he said.

The threat of rupture in the Republic was also heard from Guanajuato, where Governor Diego Sinhué also demanded dialogue from the President or, otherwise, he warned, the 10 united entities could make the decision to break the Federal Pact. "Today we want to tell you that we extend our hand and that if there is no dialogue we are ready to give the legal and political fight. By not listening to Guanajuato and the states that make up the Federalist Alliance, it may be leading Mexico to the beginning of breaking the Pact Federal government and that would be terrible for the whole country, "declared the PAN ruler.

In the same sense and with the same tone of ultimatum for a dialogue with the Federation in which drastic budget reductions to the states, the disappearance of the trusts and the destination of those resources can be reviewed, the governors Silvano Aureoles spoke. from Michoacán, Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca from Tamaulipas, José Rosas Aispuro from Durango, José Ignacio Peralta from Colima and Martín Orozco from Aguascalientes.  Each of them demanded respect for their entities and questioned that from the National Palace the president divides and confronts the Mexicans, while neglecting and minimizing the claims of the governors who are trying to ignore the political representation of their states. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Americans Will Get What We Deserve And We're Going To Get It Good And Hard....,

tomluongo  |  This election season hasn’t been about Trump versus Biden. It hasn’t been about capitalism versus socialism.

It’s not even about liberty versus authority.

As I said in my last article this election is about a simple choice, facing a chaotic future with courage or fear.

Regardless of who wins, my many libertarian friends and colleagues are correct that the ship of state cannot and will not be turned at this point in any meaningful way.

There are forces at work which will unleash hell on earth if Trump wins, which he should.

If the past four years have taught us anything it should have taught us that.

Hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. and Europe are facing an existential choice on both sides of the power dynamic.

The People sense the closing off of escape routes by an oligarch class that rightly sees their institutional power waning in the face of rapid decentralization of information.

Because of this, an inevitable power struggle has ensued. This election has taken on a quality that transcends the practical nature of elections — who will run the consensual hallucination that is the State.

The Davos Crowd is in full control at the moment in Europe and attempting The Black Revolution here in the U.S. They will enact as much of their Great Reset as they can and play every card in their hand and dirty trick in their bag to achieve it.

This election is a nexus, a singularity, that has become an opportunity for an inflection point in history, one where ideas that were forced into the fringe of the political discourse during the last cycle have the opportunity for a real audience in the next one.

And the question I have for libertarians is, “Are you ready to lead or are you going to sit aloof, arms folded, and miss your chance?”

From what I’ve seen so far it’s not promising.

Donald Trump is no Ron Paul, but, honestly, libertarian commentators were moaning about Ron in 2008 and 2012. He didn’t pass the purity test they said and he was encouraging people into the vortex of politics.

That was the wrong read then and it’s the wrong read now.

As Trump holds rally after rally around the country, bringing literally millions of people together a statement has been made.

Courage trumps fear.

Even Obama couldn’t pull crowds like Trump has. This is unprecedented in American politics.

Solve et Coagula: Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano's Letter To President Trump

lifesitenews |   In recent months we have been witnessing the formation of two opposing sides that I would call Biblical: the children of light and the children of darkness. The children of light constitute the most conspicuous part of humanity, while the children of darkness represent an absolute minority. And yet the former are the object of a sort of discrimination which places them in a situation of moral inferiority with respect to their adversaries, who often hold strategic positions in government, in politics, in the economy and in the media. In an apparently inexplicable way, the good are held hostage by the wicked and by those who help them either out of self-interest or fearfulness.

These two sides, which have a Biblical nature, follow the clear separation between the offspring of the Woman and the offspring of the Serpent. On the one hand, there are those who, although they have a thousand defects and weaknesses, are motivated by the desire to do good, to be honest, to raise a family, to engage in work, to give prosperity to their homeland, to help the needy, and, in obedience to the Law of God, to merit the Kingdom of Heaven. On the other hand, there are those who serve themselves, who do not hold any moral principles, who want to demolish the family and the nation, exploit workers to make themselves unduly wealthy, foment internal divisions and wars, and accumulate power and money: for them the fallacious illusion of temporal well-being will one day – if they do not repent – yield to the terrible fate that awaits them, far from God, in eternal damnation.

 In society, Mr. President, these two opposing realities co-exist as eternal enemies, just as God and Satan are eternal enemies. And it appears that the children of darkness – whom we may easily identify with the deep state which you wisely oppose and which is fiercely waging war against you in these days – have decided to show their cards, so to speak, by now revealing their plans. They seem to be so certain of already having everything under control that they have laid aside that circumspection that until now had at least partially concealed their true intentions. The investigations already under way will reveal the true responsibility of those who managed the COVID emergency not only in the area of health care but also in politics, the economy, and the media. We will probably find that in this colossal operation of social engineering there are people who have decided the fate of humanity, arrogating to themselves the right to act against the will of citizens and their representatives in the governments of nations.

 We will also discover that the riots in these days were provoked by those who, seeing that the virus is inevitably fading and that the social alarm of the pandemic is waning, necessarily have had to provoke civil disturbances, because they would be followed by repression which, although legitimate, could be condemned as an unjustified aggression against the population. The same thing is also happening in Europe, in perfect synchrony. It is quite clear that the use of street protests is instrumental to the purposes of those who would like to see someone elected in the upcoming presidential elections who embodies the goals of the deep state and who expresses those goals faithfully and with conviction. It will not be surprising if, in a few months, we learn once again that hidden behind these acts of vandalism and violence there are those who hope to profit from the dissolution of the social order so as to build a world without freedom: Solve et Coagula, as the Masonic adage teaches.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

The Seth Rich Assassination And Coverup Yet Another Reason Julian Assange Must Die In Jail

sicsempertyrannis |  While the law enforcement and intelligence community, along with the mainstream media, has been pushing the meme that there is no basis to believe that Seth Rich, as claimed by multiple independent sources, had contact with Julian Assange’s Wikileaks, the evidence suggests otherwise and it turns out the FBI has been covering up more relevant documents.

The first hint of the coverup came from David Hardy, an FBI Senior official, who affirmed in a 2017 affidavit that there were no responsive records. Hardy is the Section Chief of the Record/Information Dissemination Section (“RIDS”), Information Management Division (“IMD”), Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), in Winchester, Virginia. Here are the relevant portions of his first affidavit:

(19) CRS Search and Results. In response to Plaintiff’s request dated September 1, 2017, RIDS conducted an index search of the CRS for responsive main and reference file records employing the UNI application of ACS. The FBI searched the subject’s name, “Seth Conrad Rich,” in order to identify files responsive to Plaintiff’s request and subject to the FOIA. The FBI’s searches included a three-way phonetic breakdown5 of the subject’s name. These searches located no main or reference records responsive to Plaintiff’s FOIA request.

(9) By letter executed on November 9, 2017, OIP advised Plaintiff it affirmed the FBI’s determination. OIP further advised Plaintiff that to the extent his request sought access to records that would either confirm or deny an individual’s placement on any government watch list, the FBI properly refused to confirm or deny the existence of any such records because their existence is protected from disclosure pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(E). . .

David Hardy either was lying or dangerously incompetent. The FBI did have documents–emails to be specific. The FBI’s habit of stonewalling or denying that it has documents, in this case documents related to Seth Rich, is not unique to this case. Just ask Carter Page or General Michael Flynn.

  The FBI finally admitted to Judicial Watch in January 2020 that they had emails between the Washington Field Office and FBI Headquarters. These are dynamite because they show that the FBI’s Washington Field Office (which is not located at FBI Headquarters on 9th and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW in Washington, DC) was communicating with the FBI’s Peter Strzok and the Counter Intelligence Division. Why in the world would the FBI be involved in investigating what was supposedly a mere robbery of an unfortunate white victim (i.e., Seth Rich) and communicating on this investigation with the Counter Intelligence Division (CID) of the FBI. The CID only works international spy cases.

Here are the emails (I transcribed them and put them in chronological order to facilitate your ability to read them and understand what is being communicated).

Biggest Source Of Coronavirus Infections In Illinois Are Federal, State And County Prisons And Jails

investigatemidwest  | Newly obtained confidential statewide data shows that coronavirus outbreaks in workplaces, schools and prisons are driving Illinois’ rising cases — and many of these outbreaks have never been made public. 

Illinois surpassed 300,000 confirmed cases this past weekend and recorded its highest daily death count since late June on Friday

The internal data — prepared by the state health department and covering four different days between July and September — was obtained by the Documenting COVID-19 project at Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting as part of an open-records request. It gives detailed information and case counts for nearly 2,600 separate outbreaks across Illinois. 

The Illinois Department of Public Health, citing a state communicable diseases law, does not release details about where many outbreaks have occurred, limiting its disclosures to long-term care and assisted living facilities. Separately, the Illinois Department of Corrections and some counties regularly release numbers of infected inmates and prison staff. 

Public health officials issued a “warning list” last week for 28 Illinois counties at risk for coronavirus surges and blamed, in part, businesses who were "blatantly disregarding mitigation measures, people not social distancing, gathering in large groups and not using face coverings."

“Even though they are close to it, sometimes the infected don’t know that there’s a serious outbreak where they work. It’s a problem,” said Dr. Michael D. Cailas, an associate professor of occupational and environmental health sciences at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, who reviewed the confidential state data for this story. Cailas, who has mapped Chicagoland mortality data, added that many of the workplace outbreaks in Illinois are simply “not publicly known.”

In refusing to release the locations of outbreaks, the Illinois Department of Public Health said that it is bound by state and federal laws that are designed to protect the identity of those infected.

“Another consideration is the fact that people may not have become infected at the business location,” said department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold.

As part of its contract tracing efforts, the health department is compiling data on the types of facilities and locations where outbreaks are occurring and is “working to make this information available.” (The Documenting COVID-19 project and the Midwest Center have made the data available in a searchable format below.)

The data shows:

  • The single biggest source of coronavirus infections in Illinois are federal, state and county prisons and jails. The Cook County Jail, once considered the worst outbreak in the U.S., listed 1,074 positive cases as of Sept. 30, the largest count of any single outbreak. (The Cook County figure is now up to 1,118, according to the jail’s website, including the deaths of seven inmates and four staffers.)

    But significant outbreaks at other Illinois prisons, including Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, near Chicago; East Moline Correctional Center in Rock Island; and Robinson Correctional in Crawford, brings the prison total as of Sept. 30 to at least 3,500 cases across 36 different facilities. That’s nearly double the almost 1,800 prison figure for Illinois reported by the Marshall Project and The Associated Press.

    In response to questions, the Illinois Department of Corrections said its response to the coronavirus “continues to be deliberate and aggressive,” noting that, in mid-March, it suspended visitation and placed all of its facilities in quarantine to stem the virus’s spread. 

    Aside from personal protective equipment and cleaning, all state prison staff are screened and temperature checked; inmates are regularly reviewed for early release; and the department appointed a statewide infection coordinator to handle the response.

The Hidden Cost Of American Criminal Injustice

Time  |  We all know getting entangled in the criminal justice system leads to serious consequences. But few among us really understand that the slightest brush with the law bears an even stricter potential sentence – a lifetime trapped in an inescapable cycle of poverty.

A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law shows that $372 billion in earnings are lost in the United States each year for those who have a criminal conviction or have spent time in prison. That is enough money to close New York City’s poverty gap 60 times over.

While it is no secret that our criminal justice system has economic implications for those who serve time, we now understand just how devastating those impacts are. Time in prison slashes annual earning potential in half, which results in a loss of nearly half a million dollars over the course of a career. But if you are a person of color, these gaps widen even more dramatically. Blacks and Latinos who have a prison record experience a nearly flat trajectory in earnings after imprisonment, while their white counterparts’ earnings climb steadily across a lifetime.

These findings have enormous implications for the U.S. economy. More than 7 million people living in the U.S. have served time in prison and more than 45 million, and well over a tenth of all Americans, have been convicted of a misdemeanor, such as shoplifting.

These lost earnings impact the entire country, and they disproportionally drain resources and wealth from communities of color. Blacks are jailed at more than triple the rate of whites, and nearly half of all people serving effective life sentences are Black. This overrepresentation exacerbates an already disturbingly wide racial wealth gap that sees the median white family holding 10 times the wealth of the median Black family.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Why Isn't Glenn Greenwald In Jail Like Julian Assange Or A Fugitive Like Edward Snowden?

washingtonbabylon |  Greenwald, who won a Pulitzer for his spoon-fed reporting on Snowden, has been surprisingly reticent about the closing. He has provided only the vaguest of details about the future of the documents that Snowden earmarked for him while he was working for Booz, one of America’s most notorious intelligence contractors. In a Twitter post the after the Beast story broke, he took the company line that it was purely a business decision. “Like all digital media outlets, the Intercept has been confronted with financial restraints,” the $500K+ a year founder and journalist explained in his best bureaucratic voice. “The budget given to the Intercept by First Look Media for 2019 forces its editor-in-chief Betsy Reed, in consultation with the Intercept’s senior editors, to make extremely difficult decisions.”

Greenwald added that he and Poitras “continue to possess full copies of the archive” and that he is working to “ensure that publication” of the material will continue with “academics and researchers, not reporters” working with institutions that have enough funds “to do so robustly, quickly and responsibly.” He didn’t bother to mention Omidyar and the enormous investment ($250 million, equal to what Jeff Bezos paid to buy the Washington Post) gave to him and his partners to create The Intercept in the first place (Omidyar is the “sole shareholder” of First Look, its IRS form 990 states). And true to form, his “fearless” Intercept has yet to inform its many readers and supporters about the shutdown on its website. That’s odd, considering that it was financed by Omidyar specifically to control, publicize and promote Snowden’s archive. And perhaps that’s why the slogan “fearless, adversarial journalism” quietly disappeared from The Intercept Twitter feed in recent months and was replaced by the bland “We pursue the stories others don’t.” Who doesn’t?

The story of the shutdown raises fundamental questions about why the decision was made and what, ultimately, will happen to the Snowden collection and the vast number of secrets about US and global intelligence agencies still buried in its archive.

I believe the answers to these questions lie in two areas: first, the extensive relationships the Omidyar Group, the billionaire’s holding company, and the Omidyar Network, his investment vehicle, have forged over the past decade with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other elements of the national security state; and second, the massive funds Omidyar and his allies in the world of billionaire philanthropy control through their foundations and investment funds. “They have the resources of small nation-states,” says a corporate lawyer familiar with their operations.

In my view, the Snowden collection had become problematic to Omidyar as he positioned himself as a key player in USAID’s “soft power” strategy to wean the world from “extremism” with massive doses of private and public monies. The classified NSA documents may not have been a problem under the Obama White House, where Omidyar enjoyed privileged status. But under Trump, whose Justice Department has gone beyond Obama’s attacks on whistleblowers by pursuing Julian Assange and Wikileaks, holding on to the Snowden cache may had become a liability. It’s a plausible theory, based on extensive reporting and research I’ve done over the last five years.


Trump: The Man And The Record

post-gazette  |  Has Mr. Trump handled the pandemic perfectly? No. But no one masters a pandemic. And the president was and is right that we must not cower before the disease and we have to keep America open and working.

He has not listened well to people who could have helped him. He has not learned government, or shown interest in doing so.

But the Biden-Harris ticket offers us higher taxes and a nanny state that will bow to the bullies and the woke who would tear down history rather than learning from history and building up the country.

It offers an end to fracking and other Cuckoo California dreams that will cost the economy and the people who most need work right now. “Good-paying green jobs” are probably not jobs for Pittsburgh, or Cleveland, or Toledo, or Youngstown.

It offers softness on China, which Mr. Trump understands is our enemy.

Mr. Biden is too old for the job, and fragile. There is a very real chance he will not make it through the term. Mr. Trump is also too old but seemingly robust. But in Mike Pence, Mr. Trump has a vice president ready to take over, if need be. He is a safe pair of hands. Sen. Kamala Harris gives no evidence of being ready to be president.

This newspaper has not supported a Republican for president since 1972. But we believe Mr. Trump, for all his faults, is the better choice this year. We respect and understand those who feel otherwise. We wish that we could be more enthusiastic and we hope the president can become more dignified and statesmanlike. Each American must make up his or her own mind and do what he or she thinks is best for the community and the republic. Vote your conscience. And, whatever happens, believe in the country.

Trump Truck Swarm Scares "Riden With Biden" Bus Out Of The Red Kingdom...,

statesman |  A Trump Train swarmed a Biden Bus on Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin Friday afternoon, leading the Democrats on board, including congressional candidate Wendy Davis, to call 911 and cancel the Austin close of their “Battle for the Soul of the Nation” tour.

On Saturday evening, President Donald Trump tweeted his delight.

“I love Texas!” Trump tweeted with a video of the scene over the soundtrack of Tech N9ne’s “Red Kingdom. 

According to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s Texas campaign, a Biden-Harris campaign bus was heading north on I-35 Friday afternoon on its way from San Antonio to a drive-by event with supporters at Texas State University in San Marcos, followed by a “closing argument” press conference at the Texas AFL-CIO headquarters in downtown Austin, when vehicles with Trump signs and flags surrounded the bus trying to slow it down in the middle of the highway or run it off the road.

Biden staff notified 911 and local law enforcement, and, they reported, officers helped the bus to reach its Austin destination.  (no surprise about who got scurred and called the police)

“Rather than engage in productive conversation about the drastically different visions that Joe Biden and Donald Trump have for our country, Trump supporters in Texas instead decided to put our staff, surrogates, supporters, and others in harm’s way,” Tariq Thowfeek, Texas communications director of the Biden campaign, said in a statement Saturday.

“Our supporters will continue to organize their communities for Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Democrats up and down the ballot, and to the Texans who disrupted our events today: We’ll see you on November 3rd,” Thowfeek said.

No one was injured, and there were no reports of anyone being arrested.

It is evident on a video of the incident that there was a glancing but obvious contact between a black Trump pickup and a white car being driven behind the bus by a Biden campaign staffer, but no apparent serious or disabling damage.


Feminized View Through Overton's Window Of Glenn Greenwald's Departure....,

nymag  |  In Greenwald’s view, The Intercept was founded in order to resist such censorious impulses but has since succumbed to them, as he put it in his resignation essay:

Rather than offering a venue for airing dissent, marginalized voices and unheard perspectives, [The Intercept] is rapidly becoming just another media outlet with mandated ideological and partisan loyalties, a rigid and narrow range of permitted viewpoints (ranging from establishment liberalism to soft leftism, but always anchored in ultimate support for the Democratic Party), a deep fear of offending hegemonic cultural liberalism and center-left Twitter luminaries, and an overarching need to secure the approval and admiration of the very mainstream media outlets we created The Intercept to oppose, critique and subvert.

“He could have chosen to be a part of the mix, part of the conversation, the daily, weekly conversation about what we should be covering and what stories we were working on,” Hodge said. “But he never did that. He always held himself aloof from the newsroom and never, ever soiled himself with the day-to-day business of news gathering.”

Ryan Grim, The Intercept’s D.C. bureau chief, told Intelligencer that Greenwald’s conflict with The Intercept was part of a larger culture clash between Greenwald, a civil libertarian who objects in the strongest possible terms to any limitations on freedom of speech, and some of his younger left-leaning colleagues, who believe they have a responsibility to call out and try to shut down what they consider hateful or harmful speech. Greenwald wrote that he eventually concluded The Intercept itself embraced this so-called “cancel culture” in being reluctant to publish anything (like his Biden column) that might lead to accusations of aiding Trump and his supporters.

“There’s a phenomenon that exists everywhere, from corporate America to media, where the politics of younger people are different from the politics of some of the older people in these places,” Grim said. “The whole ‘woke debate’ that is played out endlessly on Twitter — he felt like there was too much of that going on at The Intercept.”

Once such example is a previously unreported incident from November 2018, when a group of Intercept staffers joined a virtual protest about Topic magazine, which was owned by the Intercept’s parent company, First Look Media. According to four First Look Media employees, the staffers went on the company’s Slack channel to object to Topic editor-in-chief Anna Holmes’s decision to publish a story about women who belonged to far-right groups, which included glamorous portraits of the women. The protest offended a number of senior Intercept editors, including Greenwald, who objected to the targeting of Holmes, a Black woman, and the suggestion that certain articles shouldn’t be published. (Nothing came of the protest, but Topic was shuttered in 2019 for unrelated financial reasons.)

Following the protest, Greenwald published a column that very pointedly criticized “the growing so-called ‘online call-out culture’ in which people who express controversial political views are not merely critiqued but demonized online and then formally and institutionally punished after a mob consolidates in outrage, often targeting their employers with demands that they be terminated.”

Another flash point occurred in June of this year, when Intercept reporter Akela Lacy publicly called out her colleague Lee Fang for “racist” behavior, including tweets about violence and Black Lives Matter protests. While Fang later released a thoughtful apology, many outside commentators saw him as a victim of cancel culture. In his resignation essay, Greenwald specifically criticized The Intercept’s “decision to hang Lee Fang out to dry and even force him to apologize when a colleague tried to destroy his reputation by publicly, baselessly and repeatedly branding him a racist.” Fang did not respond to a request for comment.

These generational and cultural dynamics have divided a number of newsrooms during the Trump administration.

Greenwald Censorship A Drop In The Bucket Compared To Across The Board Supression Of Biden Corruption...,

NYTimes |  Now Mr. Giuliani, undaunted and surrounded by a new cast of characters after some of his wingmen in the Ukraine caper were indicted, is trying again.

This time, he and his allies are using a mix of unsubstantiated assertions about the former vice president, innuendo and salacious material about his son, as well as records showing that Hunter Biden invoked his “family’s brand” as a reason he was valuable to a business venture, while his team’s business plan cited his father’s work in particular countries.

Mr. Giuliani and his allies — operating in parallel with a loosely linked network of conservatives — are in effect trying to recreate the blueprint Mr. Trump and his allies employed in 2016, when they used emails and documents, many stolen by Russian hackers, to paint Hillary Clinton as criminally corrupt and spread depraved conspiracy theories.

A Chinese-language media operation linked to Mr. Guo began promoting some of the material about the younger Mr. Biden weeks before it appeared in The New York Post.

The Post articles were quickly followed by others from Peter Schweizer, the conservative author who in 2016 had promoted unsubstantiated theories about corruption by the Clintons and who in this case was relying on material provided by a former associate of Hunter Biden who is serving a 30-month prison sentence for federal fraud charges. Hunter Biden was not charged in the case.

Mr. Schweizer’s work has been backed by some of the donors who fueled Mr. Trump’s rise in 2016, including the hedge fund heiress Rebekah Mercer’s family, the principal owner of the now-defunct data firm Cambridge Analytica, which also came under federal investigation after exploiting the private data of Facebook users in 2016.

Among the new participants in 2020 are some with close ties to Mr. Trump, including the former White House lawyer Stefan C. Passantino, a current White House official, Eric Herschmann, and the former Speaker Newt Gingrich. They worked to promote documents and claims by Tony Bobulinski, yet another unhappy former business partner of Hunter Biden.

But, as the anti-Biden forces quickly discovered, 2020 is not 2016.

While the president has promoted the material relentlessly, many of the Trump-friendly news outlets and other organizations that sustained the effort four years ago have been diminished or sidelined. Their 2020 replacements have had less reach, and the anti-Biden material they have been pumping out has been met with heightened skepticism from traditional news outlets and social media platforms determined to avoid being seen as abetting dirty tricks.

The New York Post articles based on the contents of the mysterious hard drive delivered by Mr. Giuliani failed to drive a broader narrative about Mr. Biden in the way that WikiLeaks did with the Clinton materials. Twitter and Facebook blocked or flagged the Post’s articles, which were published despite concerns from the paper’s newsroom.



Sunday, November 01, 2020

Armed, Fully Autonomous Drone Swarms Are Weapons Of Mass Destruction

usma  |  AFADS should be classified as weapons of mass destruction. As I argue in my new study at the US Air Force Center for Strategic Deterrence Studies, AFADS can exceed any arbitrary threshold for mass casualties and are inherently unable to distinguish between military and civilian targets.

Armed, fully autonomous drone swarms should be classified as WMD because of their degree of potential harm and inherent inability to differentiate between military and civilian targets—both of which are characteristics of existing weapons categorized as WMD.

Scalable Harm

The scalability of armed drone swarms means they can bypass any arbitrary threshold for defining “mass destruction”—regardless of whether such a definition is pegged to one thousand casualties, two thousand, or any other number. Whereas the size and impact of conventional weapons are limited by a number of factors, few limits exist on drone swarm scalability. Drone platforms are known, relatively easy to acquire technologies. The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College has identified ninety-five countries with military drones, comprising 171 different types of drone. The technology is rudimentary enough that basic drones can be bought at Best Buy or 3D printed. Converting drones into a swarm only requires the software and hardware to enable the drones to share information and make decisions and the finances to sustain development and acquisition.

Intel’s rapidly improving ability to control increasingly larger numbers of drones illustrates the ease of scaling. In 2016 the company flew one hundred drones simultaneously. In 2017 it flew three hundred drones. By 2018 it managed to fly 1,218 drones then 2,018. Give all 2,018 drones bombs and the collective certainly could inflict mass casualties.

Of course, the exact amount of harm is highly context dependent. Defenders may be armed with counter-drone systems or sophisticated air defenses. If slaughterbots become truly ubiquitous, states may just hang nets everywhere. Conversely, the flexible nature of drone swarms allows them to incorporate adaptations, such as standoff or chemical weapons. Drone swarms may also operate in multiple domains and incorporate antitank weapons, electronic-warfare equipment, or other systems that increase survivability.

Fortunately, so far few examples exist to judge drone swarms’ capacity for harm. The closest example occurred in January 2018, when Syrian rebels launched ten crude drones en masse against a Russian military base in Syria. Although the Russian military claimed it defeated the drones, the Free Alawite movement claimed to have destroyed an S-400 missile launcher valued at $400 million. Evidence on the damage is minimal and both actors have strong incentives to exaggerate or outright lie, so the exact harm is difficult to judge.


The Second And Third Drone Ages Are The End Of Both Infantry And Nocturnal Urban Crime...,

sicsempertyrannis  |  Back in early 1981, I did a few “odd jobs” between graduating from the Infantry Officer Advanced Course and starting the SF Officers Course. One of these jobs was as an ARTEP evaluator for a mech infantry company on Fort Benning. While I had plenty of book learning about tank-mech infantry teams, I was much more comfortable following a dismounted night attack through a cold January swamp. There was no Moon and a stiff, steady breeze so I felt we were making a stealthy approach. Although the attack was well executed, I learned something disconcerting during the after action review. Our night approach through the swamp was monitored by a high flying AC-130 gunship from 1st SOW. The gunship caught the heat signature of each approaching soldier as they silently slid through that moonless swamp. The lesson I took was that the idea of remaining undetected in uninhabited forests and mountains was a myth. Combine that with the Fort Benning aphorism, “If you can be seen, you can be killed” and I quickly became enamored with the concept of urban guerrilla warfare once I reached 10th Group. We would survive behind the Iron Curtain only by hiding among those we were to liberate from oppression.

So what does this stroll down memory lane have to do with the new drone wars? A lot, actually. It’s the same principle. Armies can be seen and killed from above by a wide range of drones in 2020 just as we could be seen and killed by the AC-130 back in 1980. The difference lies in the proliferation of these drones and the fact that they are less expensive than manned aircraft. They also don’t expose pilots or operators to death or capture. 

First there were our Predators and Reapers hunting down jihadis and the occasional wedding party. We have well over 500 of these heavy drones. We have even more smaller drones down to man packed, hand launched tactical varieties. But we are not alone anymore. China is producing them like gangbusters. Turkey has emerged as a major leader in the development and employment of drones. One of these, the Bayratkar T2B, has had success in Syria, Libya and Azerbaijan. Erdogan has also deployed the T2B against the PKK within Turkey and northern Iraq. 

The T2B is a medium altitude tactical drone. It has a range of more than 150 km and can fly at a maximum altitude of 22,500 feet. It has a maximum speed of 120 knots, a cruise speed of 70 knots and endurance of more than 24 hours. The T2B is powered with a 100 horsepower Rotax civil engine, an engine common to ultralight and homebuilt aircraft. The unit cost of the aircraft itself is less than 100 thousand dollars. Its electro-optical reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting system is now produced by Aselan in Turkey at a cost of 400 thousand dollars per unit. Although it does use GPS, it is not satellite controlled. Ground stations control the T2B by line-of-sight radio signal. The munitions, also produced in Turkey by Roketsan, are laser-guided, precision, long range and light weight. They include thermobaric and tandem warheads effective against reactive armor. Overall, the T2B is an impressive piece of kit.

How In The World Do You Detect Or Defend Against Truck-Hauled Swarms Of Smart Switchblade Drones?

thedrive  |  China recently conducted a test involving a swarm of loitering munitions, also often referred to as suicide drones, deployed from a box-like array of tubular launchers on a light tactical vehicle and from helicopters. This underscores how the drone swarm threat, broadly, is becoming ever-more real and will present increasingly serious challenges for military forces around the world in future conflicts.

The China Academy of Electronics and Information Technology (CAEIT) reportedly carried out the test in September. CAEIT is a subsidiary of the state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), which carried out a record-breaking drone swarm experiment in June 2017, involving nearly 120 small fixed-wing unmanned aircraft. Four months later, CAEIT conducted its own larger experiment with 200 fixed-wing drones. Chinese companies have also demonstrated impressive swarms using quad-copter-type drones for large public displays.

We don't know the name or designation of the drones CAEIT used in its September test, or that of the complete system being employed. However, video footage, seen below, shows that the unmanned aircraft are very similar in form and function to more recent models of China Poly Defense's CH-901 loitering munition. 

When the tube-launched CH-901 first emerged in 2016, it featured a pair of pop-out wings, as well as a folding v-tail. More recently, that design has evolved and replaced the v-tail with another set of pop-out wings and folding twin-tail arrangement, similar to the drones we see in the CAEIT test video. 

Of course, designs featuring two pairs of folding wings are very common for tube-launched drones and loitering munitions, including the Switchblade suicide drone from U.S. manufacturer AeroVironment. The unmanned aircraft CAEIT employed in its experiment is also reminiscent of American defense contractor Raytheon's Coyote.

The Coyote comparison also extends to launch options CAEIT demonstrated in its recent test. The 48-tube ground-based launcher, which is mounted on a modified 6x6 version of the Dongfeng Mengshi light tactical vehicle, is similar in some respects to multi-tube trail-mounted launchers that the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research used to launch Coyotes as part of its Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) effort, as seen in the video below. Poly Defense has also shown at least a mock-up of an array of tubular launchers for the CH-901.  Fist tap Dale

Turkey Also Regularly Uses Its Own Drones On Its Own Soil Against Its Own Citizens...,

theintercept |  Finding oneself in the crosshairs of a military drone is, for most people, not the most comforting situation. Yet at an air show last fall, tens of thousands of people had a different reaction.

A military drone took off from a runway, and moments later it began transmitting its view to a giant screen on stage. The video from the drone was clear enough to pick out your own face among the crowd. It was exactly what the drone’s pilot, seated in a trailer not far from the stage, was seeing. The crowd was in the crosshairs, and you could see the data about the aircraft’s pitch, roll, and altitude. In the bottom right corner of the screen, the words “Bore Invalid” indicated the drone was currently unarmed.

It’s the kind of video that, in a war zone, can end with a giant plume of smoke and the tattered remains of whatever the drone has just obliterated. Yet for this crowd, it was like catching a glimpse of themselves on the Jumbotron at a football game. When an announcer shouted out, “We see you, wave your hands!” they erupted in excitement.

The event had all the trappings of a typical air show. Hundreds of thousands of people — from government officials to school children bussed in by the thousands — paraded around the tarmac. They posed for selfies alongside fighter jets and attack helicopters. A team of F-16s flew in close formation, leaving intricate patterns of red and white smoke in their wake. A nearly constant series of sonic booms made it difficult to talk. Massive speakers blared pulsing music.

But there was something different about this air show: It wasn’t in America, the global pioneer of weaponized drones and the customary host of such pageants. It was in Turkey, just outside Istanbul. And the pilotless aircraft that delighted the crowd wasn’t made in America; it was manufactured by Turkey. The crowd was enthusiastic to be in its crosshairs because the spectacle signified that their homeland had taken its place among the most technologically advanced countries in the world.

Their country had entered the second drone age — in which the use of drones to kill people has proliferated far beyond the United States, the first country to kill people with missiles launched from drones after 9/11. Turkey now rivals the U.S. and the U.K. as the world’s most prolific user of killer drones, according to a review by The Intercept of reported lethal drone strikes worldwide. (Other countries that have reportedly killed people with drone-launched weapons include Israel, Iraq, and Iran.) The technology has been used by Turkey against ISIS in Syria and along Turkey’s border with Iraq and Iran, where ever-present Turkish drones have turned the tide in a decades-old counter-insurgency against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

While the U.S. was the foremost operator of armed, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the world for more than a decade, launching the first drone attack in 2001, today more than a dozen countries possess this technology. The U.K., Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Nigeria, and Turkey have all used armed UAVs to kill targets since 2015. Efforts by Washington to control proliferation through restrictions on drone exports have failed to slow down a global race to acquire the technology. Meanwhile, the U.S. has set a precedent of impunity by carrying out hundreds of strikes that have killed civilians over the last decade.

“We are well past the time when the proliferation of armed drones can in any way be controlled,” said Chris Woods, a journalist who has tracked drone use for more than a decade and director of the conflict monitor Airwars. “So many states and even nonstate actors have access to armed drone capabilities — and they are being used across borders and within borders — that we are now clearly within the second drone age, that is, the age of proliferation.”



Have You Yet Spied Out The Corner Of Your Eye How Much Turkey Has Been Flexing Lately?

smallwarsjournal  |  In the Syrian conflict, drone operations will continue to represent a significant element of Turkey’s strategy for maintaining a buffer zone to retain control of Idlib and other territory along its border. Undoubtedly, Syrian forces will take various actions to mitigate the Turkish air threat to their operations. A rough outline of a counter-drone approach would likely include operations designed to attrit Turkish UAS at a steady pace, implementing tactics to reduce Syrian exposure to air attacks, and acquiring technologies which limit the effectiveness of Turkish drones.

Beyond the Syrian theater, it will be interesting to watch how Turkish drones operate and their degree of success. In an article we recently published in the Small Wars Journal, we describe how differences between operational environments greatly affects the introduction of new technologies.[xxvi] This will be undoubtedly true for the Turkish drones as they are exported to other theaters of war. Observations of the Bayraktar’s performance in Libya suggest Turkey has had trouble generating sorties and the aircraft’s impact on the battlefield is minimal. On the other hand, Tunisia may fare better with their Anka-S procurement. In Tunisia, Anka-S can operate as ISR platforms for coordinating counterterror operations against Islamist militants in the country’s northwest and law enforcement activities designed to counter illicit trafficking. There, the Anka-S may prove ideal for operating across wide open terrain where there is little risk or exposure to hostile fire.

In Ukraine, the employment of Bayraktar UCAV could be more problematic. There, the principle threat to country’s Joint Forces Operation comes from Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass Region. More so than the Syrians, the Donbass separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk have effectively demonstrated their ability, with Russian assistance, to defeat unmanned systems by using electronic warfare (EW). On many occasions, the rebels have used EW to bring down or disrupt drones being operated by the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to the OSCE which is monitoring compliance of the Minsk II arms agreement. In the Donbass, the SMM has detected and tracked the presence of Russia’s most advanced EW systems, such as the R-330Zh Zhitel, automated jamming communication station and the Tirada-2 EW system. It is reasonable to expect these systems would be used against Ukraine’s Bayraktars in response to an increase in hostilities in the region.

When considered in total, the Turkish drone program still represents a significant technological and engineering achievement. Aside from Turkey, there is only a handful of countries capable of producing sophisticated, military UAS. What makes Turkey’s accomplishments more remarkable is the speed with which they were done. TAI only started making Ankas in 2013, while Baykar Makina just began its Bayraktar TB2 production in 2014.  The Bayraktar TB2 UCAV has been an extremely effective counterterrorism tool for Turkey and its role in Spring Shield was decisive. The lessons Turkey is learning on the battlefield in Syria will fuel further innovation and enable the country to mature an important segment of its defense industry sector.