Saturday 2 September 2023

In dangerous countries far away, they throw popular politicians in prison


In April 2022, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote engineered by his enemies. The U.S. was suspected of meddling in Pakistani politics because Khan visited Moscow on the very day of Russia’s Ukraine invasion. (We recently learned that the fat thumb of Washington was very much involved in tipping the scale.) 

Then on August 3, Khan was jailed after conviction on the charge of “illegally selling state gifts.” He was promptly rearrested by an anti-terrorism court on charges related to a May, 2023, riot in which his supporters attacked an army office.

Khan remains extremely popular in Pakistan as an outsider to the two-family duopoly that has pretty much owned the country since its birth in 1947 in cahoots with its highly politicized military. Though temporarily freed, Khan is likely to be in and out of detention and effectively blocked from contesting the next election despite his tens of millions of backers. While Pakistan retains the outward shell of an electoral democracy, there are few illusions about who rules the place.

Donald Trump, a former president, now faces 91 felony counts, which cumulatively could put him in prison for decades. The charges range from the silly, like the felony of conspiring to pay off a hooker, to the genuinely disturbing—trying to drum up a precise number of votes needed to flip a close election and stay in power.

The U.S. is not Pakistan. But the end run to avoid allowing the popular will to be heard is unsettlingly similar. In both cases, lawfare is at work to jigger the results of the next election. This is true whether or not Khan is guilty of keeping state swag and egging on his supporters to riot or whether Trump is guilty of attempted vote-stealing.

The situation did not suddenly materialize out of nowhere. The steady decline of what passes for democratic process did not originate with Trump, despite the fervid beliefs of his anti-partisans. Amidst the deafening clamor about electoral manipulation, one rarely hears the merest reference to one indisputable fact: Our presidents are not elected by the majority of voters. And no one seems to care.

The year 2000—not 2020—marked the modern wave of democratic collapse. Not only did we witness the Supreme Court’s judicial coup handing power to George W. Bush, but the Democrats, after the briefest of fussing, said, Okay fine. They then embraced Bush as a legitimate president, absolved him for 9/11 (imagine the blame-howling if Gore had presided over that nightmare), and saluted his decision to invade, conquer, and destroy a country halfway around the world. War-making, not the detail of who was to preside over it, was the overwhelming consensus. Defying the popular will didn’t matter.

But, many will argue, elections do matter, and the orange guy tried to subvert it. He made up fake stories, declared the winner illegitimate, and sent his minions to intimidate election officials and even Congress itself. True, and perhaps punishment is in order.

And when will accountability arrive for those who claimed the 2016 election was rigged, delegitimized him, then cooked up a phony link to a foreign power using the full resources of the intelligence/security state and slavish collusion by most media? The long-running Russiagate scandal was orders of magnitude worse than Watergate, but that subversion of the electoral process is still given a full pass. Take a moment to view Matt Orfalea’s mash-up video juxtaposing Trump’s inflammatory statements about 2020 with Hillary’s and her minions’ claims about 2016. (Watch it quickly as YouTube has flagged it again as a violation of its policy for “glorification, recruitment, or graphic portrayal of dangerous organizations,” despite the content consisting solely of video clips of public statements.)

The pursuit of Trump’s wacko election denialists is selective prosecution, the definition of a rogue state no longer subject to the rule of law. Trump did try to subvert the electoral process, but he wasn’t the first to do so, only far clumsier at it. He is also unprotected by the uni-party war state, unlike Team Dem.

The U.S. is not only approaching Third World-levels of income and wealth inequality but also the WWF approach to electoral showmanship we associated with it. For example, Senegal has a sorta-kinda democracy with regularly scheduled elections, but its main opposition figure, Ousmane Sonko, is now on hunger strike after being indicted again, this time for “undermining state security, criminal association, and creating serious political unrest.” That sounds a little more tinpot-dictator-ish than what’s happening here, but not by much.

Sonko’s party was also dissolved, which so far hasn’t happened to the Republicans. But if Democrats and their selected prosecutors have their way, Donald Trump may have to resort to a hunger strike to prevent state officials from blocking his name from the ballot based on an interpretation of Article 3 of the Constitution that is getting quite a bit of airtime. 

Imran Khan can’t participate in Pakistani elections for 5 years, and if he’s still popular by then, no doubt new charges will appear to make sure he doesn’t. Mr. Sonko might try to run for president of Senegal, but campaigning from a prison cell will limit his chances. Once upon a time, we looked upon these sham exercises as uncivilized and backward, worthy only of banana republics. Now, we’re eager to join them.

The real winner of the last election and, in all likelihood, the next is the MICIMATT*, the machine overseeing the churn of our national wealth into the lucrative business of making war. Our polity resembles less a republic than a Rome-ish state built on expeditionary legions and headed by a figurehead emperor. There’s far too much money on the table to leave important decisions in the hands of mere citizens of whatever partisan stripe. That will persist until the propaganda-induced illusions of military prowess and supremacy finally crumble and collapse. Stand by for news on that.

(*Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academic-Think Tank Complex, h/t Ray McGovern, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity—VIPS)


Thursday 20 July 2023

Odors of defeat and the wages of trickery

We’re being told that the Russians are indifferent to the plight of hungry Africans because they kaboshed a deal with Ukraine in which the latter’s grain exporting ships were permitted to transit the Black Sea without interference. As usual, that’s a false reading of the situation.

The headlines were dire: “Russian Grain Deal: Why Moscow Is Being Accused of Using Hunger as Blackmail,” trumpeted Yahoo News. “A hit to global food security,” said the LA Times. As usual, the war propaganda we’re being fed is heavy-handed enough to sink one of those giant boats laden with barley and sunflower seeds. In fact, the grain deal had two major components, not just one.

Yes, the Russians agreed to let Ukrainian grain exports travel freely to alleviate food shortages in the global South. In exchange, they were promised access to world markets for their own food products and fertilizer, including an agreement that Rosselkhozbank, the Russian Agricultural Bank, would be reconnected to the SWIFT payments system.

The Russians fulfilled their part of the bargain; Europe and the U.S. didn’t. After agreeing to several postponements, Moscow finally decided that the foot-dragging had gone far enough. Now, while the Russians say the deal can come back any time the original terms are carried out, they are no longer willing to cooperate on the basis of empty promises.

Don’t expect our self-righteous pols and pundits to acknowledge that aspect of the situation any time soon. The neocon cabal in D.C. will bash Russia with letting African babies starve and further wrecking Ukrainian finances. The idea that the deal could have been carried out by all parties as originally promised won’t enter the debate.

A nasty little side secret is that the Ukrainians’ supposed relief to the tables of the underdeveloped world was a bit exaggerated. A large portion—probably the majority—of the exported grain was headed right back to Europe. It’s important for the EU struggling with a staggering food inflation problem that they have enough feed for their animal stocks. But it’s not really a huge deal for, say, Egypt. John Helmer at Dances with Bears says that poor African countries received only 2.5% of the grain freed up under the deal.

Propaganda points aside, there is a danger in consistently saying you will do something and then not doing it. When the U.S. and its junior allies finally sit down to sort out what to do about the lost war in Ukraine, their Russian counterparts are not going to be in a trusting mood. A few years ago, various final arrangements could have been discussed among the hostile parties; now, U.S. diplomats are more likely to be handed a sheet of instructions.

Recent talk about a “stalemate” that will lead to a kind of Korea-style DMZ freezing the lines in eastern Europe for another half-century might have made sense if the parties involved were capable of coming to terms. They’re not.

Biden’s neocons and their European servants like Macron and Merkel haven’t been serious about the things they put their signatures to, such as the notoriously bad-faith Minsk accords. “We just did that to buy time for the Ukrainian military build-up,” they boasted not so long ago. That would once have been considered undiplomatic, but it sounded good when western leaders were eager to out-swagger each other. It was an expensive self-indulgence.

Proving that you’re a country incapable of keeping its word has a cost once others wise up to you. It means that the future of what’s left of Ukraine will be decided on the battlefield, not the negotiation table. The grain deal’s demise is only the prologue.

Wednesday 19 July 2023

Fighting WWF style

I received an email from the Department of Education a few days ago in which Secretary Miguel Carmona promised that “we will not stop fighting to provide debt relief to borrowers,” the “we” presumably being the whole Biden team and perhaps the party they belong to. Later in the note, Mr Secretary reiterated the concept: “We will not stop fighting to make sure that student debt is not a barrier for Americans.”

How grand that they’re in there “fighting” on my behalf! What Carmona pointedly did not promise was actually winning any of these noble fights.

A skeptic might wonder if he and his boss Joe ever meant to win them in the first place. They certainly did things that undermined their chances of success while waving their arms vigorously about how hard they’re fighting.

To start with, it took President Biden nearly two years to formulate a student debt relief plan. Once he did so, the pearl-clutching predictably began by the financiers making a pile off student debt. Unfair to the prosperous who paid theirs off! Costly! Giving away free shit!

These Murdoch-world talking points flooded the airwaves and journals, obscuring the realities of the vast burden of student debt that is crippling the prospects of the nation’s youth. Furthermore, even the most generous proposed forgiveness ($20,000) wouldn’t put a dent in the debt peonage many borrowers now live under.

Republican governors and the company that manages my own loan, Mohela, sued to stop the debt forgiveness, and the Trump-heavy Supreme Court agreed with them in June, even fast-tracking the decision by using their so-called “shadow docket” to leapfrog the issue past lower courts.

Mohela is a private entity, allowed by the Federal Government to enjoy free money by handling loans that pay them substantially more than the miniscule interest banks were charging for most of the last decade. Not only that, Mohela isn’t on the hook for non-payment—a sweet deal, but obviously not sweet enough.

I have a personal stake in the matter. I obtained a master’s degree late in life and took on debt to finance it. I’m not complaining because it boosted my earnings substantially, and I haven’t had any problems paying the amount established when I consolidated them and started out on a 20-year repayment plan.

But my loans have been a saga of betrayal. The deal I was promised in 2006 was that, in exchange for keeping up steady payments while working in the public-interest sector, I would be eligible for full forgiveness of the balance. That is, if I stuck to the nonprofit world or worked in underserved communities for a decade, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) would kick in. It was meant to encourage new nurses or MDs to take up positions in faraway posts or to eschew more lucrative gigs in the private sector. The deal was straight up: 10 years of sacrifice in exchange for full debt relief.

I duly did so. However, after eight years of regular payments, I was informed that the rules had changed and that I had to switch to an income-based payment plan. And oh by the way, sorry, but all your payments up to now don’t count! We made a mistake, and you will pay for it. Start over from zero.

That’s the way loan forgiveness has worked so far. Even among those who did manage to jump through all the correct hoops, a tiny percentage have successfully obtained loan forgiveness after turning in all the paperwork. That’s how all these wonderful programs that Fox News gets all knickers-twisted over actually work.

I decided not to give in to the new regime and continued to make my original payments, thinking that perhaps some well-intentioned government would someday, somehow, fix the sorry mess. When Biden’s plan arose, and the lawsuits followed, I promptly contacted my congressional representative, Adriano Espaillat, to encourage the Democrat-controlled U.S. Congress to take legislative action. After all, the lawsuit argued that Biden did not have executive authority to issue the forgiveness, so the obvious solution was to do it through statute.

Here’s what I wrote to Espaillat:

President Biden’s executive order to forgive a small portion of outstanding student loans has been overturned by a federal judge on the grounds that the executive is usurping a legislative function. There is a simple remedy: take legislative action to authorize the loan forgiveness.

I urge you to support H.R. 9110, which would amend the relevant statute. This must be done in the remaining days of the current session as your party is likely to lose control of the chamber starting next year.

Well, golly gee howdy! I was entirely correct in my assessment, for which I enjoy no glee. An Espaillat staffer later assured me verbally that all was well, that they had everything under control, and that the debt forgiveness package was safe. It wasn’t. Did he know that, or is Espaillat just a lousy defender of his constituents?

If I continue to pay off the loan I took out at the rate established by Mohela at the outset, I will retire the debt somewhere around 2031, or 25 years after I graduated. I will be 80 years old. Meanwhile, Biden, Carmona, and their pals will still be “fighting” for my interests and well-being. And Lucy will still be holding the football for Charlie Brown to kick.

Incidentally, while Joe’s pretty confused these days, I’m convinced that on this one he knew exactly what he was doing.

Sunday 16 July 2023

Water Rights on a Hot Planet


[Photo: Chaco Canyon in northeastern New Mexico, the site of a flourishing civilization c. 800-1250 C.E.]

The Supreme Court told the Navajos almost literally to pound sand in its June 22 decision in Arizona v. Navajo Nation, a case dealing with the ongoing struggle over water in the increasingly parched Southwest. The decision was 5–4 because a Trump-appointed justice, Neil Gorsuch, sided with the marginalized court liberals this time and, in fact, wrote quite an eloquent dissent to the majority opinion.

That majority took a look at the 1868 Treaty of Bosque Redondo between the United States and the Navajo Nation and did not see any explicit language there that compels the U.S. to provide Navajos the water they need. No matter that the tribe wasn’t asking for that. The court said the U.S. had no “affirmative duty”—surely a provocative choice of language these days—to do anything other than what is expressly stated in treaties, statutes, or regulations.

Gorsuch gave his fellow justices a history lesson that I will bet a large sum they either didn’t read or could care less. The 1868 treaty arose from a sorry, though familiar, history of genocidal destruction of Navajo life through forced resettlement into a desolate, virtually uninhabitable tract of land in eastern New Mexico. While the Navajo rebelled and eventually won the right to return to their ancestral territories in what became Arizona, it’s hard to argue (though the Supremes’ majority implies it) that they were in any condition to establish fair terms given that their choices were either to sign the treaty or slowly die off.

Gorsuch also points out that the Navajo lawsuit didn’t ask for concrete actions by the U.S. government to meet their water needs but merely a full accounting of what their water rights are, which has never been determined despite the tribe’s many formal requests dating back decades. The majority’s pearl-clutching that the Navajo might demand infrastructure improvements if the Court were to rule in their favor is ironic given how much wealth Washington has poured into the Hoover, Glen Canyon, and a dozen other dams to harness rivers for the benefit of burgeoning settler populations throughout Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado.

Gorsuch is an oddity on the ultra-conservative court with whose other members he shares a wide range of views. He sat on a western circuit and was known as a Native-friendly judge there, too. The fact that he has an enlightened view of sensitive environmental issues affecting the tribes is curious given the role his mother, Anne Gorsuch, played—as Ronald Reagan’s first director of the Environmental Protection Agency—in making that agency a bastion of corporate coziness and a flaccid defender of the selfsame environment.

Incidentally, Ms. Gorsuch was the boss of the notorious Rita Lavelle, whom Reagan appointed to head the Office of Toxic Waste, an accidentally appropriate post for her. I observed Lavelle close-up as a Washington reporter in 1981: she was the “lady who lunched” with every corporate lobbyist who asked her out. Lavelle turned out to be too corrupt even for the Reagan team and eventually got the boot. (She also was convicted ofperjury in “Sewergate” and did time.) But I digress.

Luckily, we are not responsible for our parents. Gorsuch’s sympathy with Indian tribes is a welcome relief from the ideological moonscape of the current court.

It would be easy for us to shake our liberal heads at the increasingly despicable court, its slapdash arguments, and its partisan jiggering of the law for predetermined ends. But when it comes to stealing water rights of the defenseless, the entire U.S. political establishment is still at it. Even the arguments marshaled in the 19th century—and quoted by Gorsuch—to justify the destruction of the Navajos have a familiar ring.

Here is Gorsuch waxing emphatic on the tactics used to compel the Navajo to leave their homes. What are the chances that study of this opinion would be allowed in a Florida classroom given how “divisive” it is?

[U.S. agent James Henry] Carleton picked the location himself: an area hundreds of miles from the Navajo’s homeland commonly called the Bosque Redondo. Warning signs flashed from the start. Officers tasked with surveying the site cautioned that it was “remote from viable forage” and that building material would have to come from a significant distance. Worse, they found that the water supply was meager and contained “much unhealthy mineral matter.” Carleton ignored these findings and charged ahead with his plan.

That left the not-so-small matter of securing the Navajo’s compliance. To that end, the federal government unleashed a “maelstrom of destruction” on the Tribe. Before all was said and done, “the Navajo had to be literally starved into surrender. Thousands of U. S. troops roamed the Navajo [Country] destroying everything the Navajo could use; every field, storehouse, and hut was burned.” The campaign was “brief, blunt, and, when combined with a particularly difficult winter,” effective. That period of violence led to “the Long Walk.” In truth, it was not one walk but many—over 53 separate incidents, according to some. In each case, federal officers rounded up tribal members, “herded [them] into columns,” and marched them hundreds of miles from their home. “Many died en route, some shot by the souldiers.” As one Navajo later recounted, people were killed “on the spot if they said they were tired or sick or if they stopped to help someone. Others fell victim to slavers with the full complicity of the U. S. officials.”

Details aside, the overall strategy is hardly a thing of the past. How many similar stories do we read of these days, from the Buddhist reactionaries chasing Muslim Rohingya out of their homes in Myanmar to the ongoing saga of Jewish supremacist settlers exploiting Palestinian lands (and water) for decades, destroying their crops, and attacking them with impunity?

It’s easy to lament past abuses, much harder to recognize current ones.

Thursday 22 June 2023

Why I Won’t Be Joining PRIDE This Year

PRIDE is a nice weekend in New York City. The streets are swarming with all sorts—I mean ALL sorts—of people who, perhaps more than any other time of the year, feel welcome to express their quirky uniqueness.

Sadly, I’m not feeling it this year, and it’s not for lack of trying. Emancipation is always a fine thing, and I wish everyone well. But the LGBTQ+ “community” (which incidentally may be more of a yearning than a reality) is shooting itself in both kneecaps in a way I won’t be part of.

Historically, one of the worst things we had to combat was the nefarious idea that adult Ls and Gs and whatevers were a danger to children because of the historic association in the mind of straight society between same-sex behavior and pedophilia. That was never true, and for the most part people finally realized it. After the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision of 2015, that old canard seem to be put permanently to bed, and the culture war about whether to leave adults alone in their private behavior looked to be mostly over.

Now, it’s back with a vengeance. Reactionary forces are eager to eliminate all aspects of rainbow-hood from libraries, schools, and even some public spaces. And it’s all in the name of protecting minors.

The point of the lance is the LGBTQ+ insistence that underage kids must be eased into gender transition with minimum obstacles and with no further public debate. This is not about putting a ring through your lip or even permanently inking your skin. Parents might not like those actions, but teen rebellion has a long history among the human race and probably won’t go away.

No, this is about permanent medical intervention based on what a sometimes very young or even pre-pubescent individual has decided to do with and to, er, themself. And sorry, gang, I think that at the very least we need deep and sustained debate on the wisdom of this course—placing me outside the bounds of permitted opinion in the LGBTQ+ “community.”

Examples of the suppression of dissident views on the recent explosion of gender questioning are legion. In the most recent case, a tenured academic, Northwestern professor Michael Bailey, published a study of what he termed “rapid onset gender dysphoria” among a non-random sample of hundreds of concerned parents whose children had declared themselves non-binary or the like. The study is a modest contribution to understanding this phenomenon, but it was quickly shouted down in the modern style of vigilanteism, and the journal retracted it (though it is still available online with a big RETRACTED stamp across its quite interesting pages).

We can discuss the details of that or many other studies and commentaries, and I’d like to. But that’s not allowed any more because any deviance from the official line on transgender issues is cause for expulsion from polite LGBT+ society. (I don’t doubt someone will invite me to climb on an ice floe upon reading this.)

It’s pointless to argue in advance that I have some credentials in the area, but I will anyway. I led an AIDS prevention and advocacy group in downtown Santiago, Chile, for seven years whose headquarters stood at the exact intersection where trans prostitution was practiced for a city of 5 million. (They had a lot of clients, especially married men.) We interacted with those women for years, defended them, and learned much about their difficult lives.

None of that will matter if my unease with the idea of 12-year-old girls independently deciding to get their breasts surgically removed becomes widely known. I expect to be cast into the outer darkness and told to keep quiet. Maybe I’ll even be expelled from the “community.” That’s why I’m taking the initiative to say in advance that joining with others for emancipation has meant a lot to me over the years. Also, I will be okay without it.

Meanwhile, that community is pushing forward to provide the most hateful elements of an unenlightened society with a gold-embossed invitation to resuscitate the worst historical fears of sexual minorities—that we are a danger to children. Don’t be surprised if the advances and gains of recent decades suddenly go into reverse, including, I dare to predict, marriage rights.

America went into a war footing in Europe a year ago convinced that an easy victory would follow. That was delusional, but the war-cheerers aren’t alone. My LGBTQ+ friends are riding a similar wave of dangerous overconfidence that will cause all of us to pay a devastating price. I’ll be watching from the sidelines while they proceed and will not be waving the rainbow flag.

Tuesday 9 May 2023

May 9 is Russia's Victory (over the Nazis) Day. Maybe we should learn what they're thinking.

Karl Rove told us long ago that he and his boys were in charge of reality. I think those days are over.

Our guardians make sure we don’t hear much from the Russians except for the occasional phrase from Vladimir Putin that is promptly spun so for us that we don’t have to read it ourselves. It might be a healthy exercise to get out of the post-Rovian bubble and see what the Russians are thinking on the 78th anniversary of Victory Day, what we call V-E Day (and don’t celebrate).

RF Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gave an important speech to his UN Security Council colleagues in late April, which got pretty much zero attention. It has some significant content.

Lavrov’s first statement was a reference to the 1945 victory over Nazi Germany by the “decisive contribution of my country with allied support” and the subsequent foundation of “the postwar international order” based on the UN Charter. Right out of the gate, Lavrov signals not only that the Red Army beat the Nazis but also ties that victory to the creation of the UN system. He is saying that the USSR and its descendant, the Russian Federation, laid the groundwork for a world consensus on how to maintain international peace. He insists that the UN’s guiding documents—especially “universally recognized standards of international law”—must form the basis of world security.

In contrast to the UN system that emerged from that war, Lavrov states, the US has devised a mysterious alternative called a “rules-based” order to replace international law. He complains that “Nobody has seen these rules. No one has discussed them.” Given that these “rules” have never been agreed to, it’s easy for the US and its allies to create them as they go along, which he says is exactly what they’re doing.

Lavrov criticizes what he says is a recurrent practice by the US of convening an international meeting on a given topic, selecting who can attend, and then declaring that the policies articulated there represent an “international community position.” This undermines the UN system by creating parallel procedures that inevitably produce outcomes favorable to one side, he says.

(Editorial insertion: The Russians are doing something similar through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Eurasian Economic Union, and the BRICS. One difference is that they don’t presume that these outfits represent some sort of “international community” aside from their member states.)

Returning to the WW2 theme later in his speech, Lavrov accuses the Kiev regime of “introducing the theory and practice of Nazism in everyday life,” including “huge torchlight processions under the banners of SS divisions” while “the West kept silent and rubbed its hands together.” In Russian eyes, we might conclude, World War II isn’t over.

Lavrov points out the irony of the sudden jettisoning of globalization by its erstwhile champions: globalization, he says, was “touted as a great benefit for humankind” for years. But now, through its punitive measures on trade and finance, the West is destroying globalization in favor of “sorting things out on the battlefield.”

Lavrov notes that NATO always insists it is a defensive alliance, but look at their expansion to Asia where they now have “responsibilities” in the Indo-Pacific region. He reiterates Russia’s well-known beef with the eastward expansion of NATO in Europe.

Lavrov made special hay out of the notorious comment by the EU’s top “diplomat” Joseph Borrell that Europe is a “garden” and the rest of the world a “jungle.” I’m sure that went down well in Africa. Count on the Russians to remind people of that offensive phrasing for a good while.

Lavrov is on tricky ground when addressing the issue of the sovereignty of nation states. He makes a case for Russia’s action in Ukraine by arguing that the UN treats sovereignty as less than absolute, meaning that it is based on “representing the whole people belonging to the territory.” Since the peoples of eastern Ukraine did not accept the coup government in Kiev after 2014, which sparked the civil war, he implies that Ukraine does not fulfill these requirements.

He then reminds listeners that the sovereignty principle is only important when the US says it is: there follow some whataboutisms re Kosovo (no referendum before secession); the bombing of Yugoslavia; Iraq 2003; Libya 2011. The Brits, says Lavrov, consider the Falkland Islands issue settled because the people who live there voted to remain British. And Crimea?

Lavrov recalls the attempts to settle the Ukrainian civil war (he doesn’t call it that) embodied in the two Minsk agreements, which Kiev and the West “cynically admitted with a tinge of pride that they never planned to fulfil.” That is undeniably accurate.

Lavrov denounced so-called “color revolutions” in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Belarus. He refuses to grant citizens of those nations agency for their own fates though he’s certainly not alone in that habit.

Lavrov makes interestingly gloomy statements about the future of the UN, whose foundational instruments he calls “a threat to Washington’s global ambitions.” He adds later that even the Secretary-General’s own staff are no longer behaving in the spirit of neutrality and instead are acting like agents of the West. He says the UN’s role in maintaining international peace is “crumbling before our eyes” and calls for the Security Council to be expanded to include Global South countries to replace the “overrepresented West.” Lavrov doesn’t elaborate on what should or might happen if that does not occur.

In short, Russia’s leadership sees today’s day of remembrance of their 27 million dead as a somber reminder of what the West is up to. Americans may see things differently, but I’m not sure how much that matters.

Thursday 2 March 2023

You’ll Need a Neck Brace To Prevent Narrative Whiplash

Remember when it was a “conspiracy theory” to question the natural origin of Covid-19, to dare to suggest that a lab leak might have started the epidemic that killed millions of people? You could get thrown out of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and your own family for promoting such a totally wacko, fat-redneck-knuckle-dragger theory.

Well, lo and behold! It’s now about to officially become Received Truth, endorsed by government officials, scientists, the Great, the Good, and Reasonable People. The explanation is pretty simple:

When the lab leak idea suggested negligence and/or misconduct by Americans, it was a thoughtcrime.

When the lab leak idea can be pinned on the Chinese enemy, it’s definitely probably almost certainly true.

Here’s Christopher Wray, renowned expert in molecular biology moonlighting as FBI director, assuring us that Now We Know. “You’re talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab that killed millions of Americans, precisely what that capability was designed for.” What conviction, what clarity now that the Wuhan lab is “Chinese-controlled” and no longer swarming with Americans funded by the NIH!

We don’t do propaganda here, do we? That’s the purview of non-democracies run by dictators who hate freedom. Then again, how long will it take for this Chinese-coverup trope to penetrate our discourse and become the new conventional wisdom? I’d say about a week.

Since our attention span is approximately that of a single-celled organism, few will recall that the new theory was recently the subject of a concerted campaign to dismiss it by high-level scientists, led by the inestimable Dr Fauci. His emails with ex-NIH director Francis Collins are revealing in that regard as they demonstrate a fevered scramble to get experts to pooh-pooh the lab leak notion. Back in 2021, our “intelligence” agencies promptly cooperated: they issued a reassuring statement that a lab leak was ever-so-unlikely. But that was then when U.S. scientists were deeply involved in the Wuhan lab performing the same gain-of-function research Fauci flatly denied compared to gambling in Casablanca.

How times have changed now that we have to gin up mass disgust with China and its leaders in preparation for Washington’s next war. Today, not only is lab-leak okay, it’s Essential Thinking. The new line is that evil empires are cooking up a dastardly plot to release deadly bugs onto the world. Who knows what will be next??!! I guess we’ll have to attack them right away. Before it’s too late! (Smoking gun, mushroom cloud, etc.)

Incidentally but perhaps not coincidentally, the Russians are claiming that the West is preparing “large-scale provocations involving toxic chemicals” to then blame Putin. Given the thin evidence for things like the alleged 2018 novichok poisoning on the since-disappeared Skripal family and the unlikely Douma chlorine attack in Syria, one can at least prepare to be skeptical. But so far, the zigzagging Beltway narrative has little competition in the public sphere.

Just for the record, here’s what the Russians said earlier this week:

On 22 February, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan made the statement, ‘Russian troops plan to use chemical weapons in the special military operation area.’ Russia regards this information as the intention of the United States itself and its accomplices to carry out a provocation in Ukraine using toxic chemicals. They expect that amid hostilities, the international community will be unable to organise an effective investigation with the result that the real organisers and executors may escape accountability and the blame is going to be placed on Russia. In our opinion, the preparations are in full swing.

Why would the winning side in a war resort to an action sure to bring worldwide condemnation? Maybe for the same reason the Russians blew up their own multi-billion-dollar pipeline. Choose your parallel reality: there are several on offer.