25 December 2017

Mohammed Bin Salman and the Bleak Future of Saudi Arabia

Three years ago, I wrote a two-part post about the bleak future of the House of Saud and the Kingdom.

My point was that Saudi Arabia faced a number of internal and external problems that it might not be able to address and could find itself on the path of destruction.

Internally, they had an archaic succession system that would inevitably lead to ruthless competition or jousting among second generation princes. Their economic future was in doubt due to excessive spending and low oil prices.

Their perennially persecuted Shia minority was on the verge of rebellion.

And to top it off, badly needed reforms were impossible to implement due to the delicate balance between the legitimacy providing House of Wahhab and the ruling House of Saud.

Externally, the royal family's direct ties to Sunni terrorist organizations, their bitter rivalry with the Muslim Brotherhood and their implacable hatred towards Iran shrank their room of maneuver considerably.

And I suggested that if Iran managed to have the embargo lifted, as, at the time, it was on the verge to do, Saudi Arabia would find itself painted into a very small corner.

All of these issues have remained unresolved and most of them have been exacerbated by world events and the reckless moves of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), the winner of the Game of Thrones.

MBS is a young, ambitious and by all accounts highly volatile leader.

His solution to Saudi Arabia's problems was to diversify its economy, eliminate a bunch of subsidies, bring in direct foreign investment, push for a moderate Islam and turn the country into a regional superpower by limiting Iran's influence.

The economic bit was courtesy of McKinsey, the Iran part was wholly conceived by the Crown Prince himself.  On paper this all looks good. But evidently, success will be determined by how these are implemented.

Can you cut subsidies without creating social unrest? Can you go against the House of Wahhab, your family's unique source of legitimacy? Can you bring in foreign investment if the rule of law consists of your words? And finally can you go against Iran and do so on the cheap?

My preliminary answer is, good luck with that. I believe that this will not end well for MBS and the Kingdom.

Let me explain why.

Costly Belligerence and Dubious Alliances

Like all former rulers of Saudi Arabia, MBS is convinced that Iran is the Kingdom's mortal enemy.

He believes that the Islamic Republic is quietly creating a Shia Crescent around Saudi Arabia by re-aligning Iraq and Syria.

The Crescent is the Mario Brothers moustache on the right.

In and of itself this is not surprising, as I've written many times, Shia-Sunni animosity is almost as old as Islam and they are each other's worst enemy. Jews and Christians are not even close.

When the dynamic duo Javad Zarif and Hassan Rouhani managed to get the embargo lifted, MBS decided to take Iran on.

Since Saudi Arabia was not capable of winning a war with Iran, MBS could only fight the Islamic Republic through proxies.

That's why Saudi Arabia has been backing all the Sunni terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. And that is why MBS attacked Houthi rebels in Yemen. And it is also why he pressured Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri to resign from Riyadh.

Part of his strategy was to ensure that the US stayed on the sideline. To achieve this goal, he formed a surprising alliance with Netanyahu and spent hundreds of billions to buy weapon systems from the US.

He also provided generous financial support to General al Sisi in Egypt to keep Muslim Brotherhood on the defensive. At the same time, he maintained reasonable relations with Turkey despite Erdogan's belligerent outbursts about Morsi's overthrow.

The fundamental problem with this part of his plan is that it is way too expensive.

Take the Yemen war. Since the 200,000 strong Saudi army is good only to suppress civilian unrest, the Yemen war had to be conducted through a sustained bombing campaign. Bombs are not cheap. Its initial cost was estimated to be about one billion dollars a month.

Now it is costing $200 million a day with no end in sight.

In case your calculator's is not within easy reach, that's $6 billion a month or $72 billion a year.

No one knows the actual cost of supporting Sunni thugs in Syria and Iraq but by now they should be in the tens of billions dollars. There is also the need to finance Egypt's al-Sisi and a host of other client states in the region.

Add to that the $110 billion arms and equipment he promised to buy from the US military industrial complex to placate Donald Trump and you can see the Kingdom's ledger going into deep red.

It is true that there is no firm deal in place and Bruce Riedel doubts that the Saudis have the money to pay for the package. But it is also true that if MBS wants Trump on his side, he will have to find the money.

Case in point:
President Donald Trump told Saudi King Salman he would support the purchase of American military equipment to keep Saudi Arabia safe in a phone call Saturday. (...)
The discussion between the two leaders also came hours after an anti-corruption purge that led to the arrest of dozens of high-profile Saudis, including the billionaire founder of Kingdom Holding Co., Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of King Salman.
The message is clear.

Trump says, if you pay protection money, I will not get involved in your dealings even to save bin Talal who owns sizeable shares of Apple, News Corp, Four Seasons and a bunch of other important American companies.

The irony in all this is that these are mostly self-inflicted wounds.

The decision to attack Houthi rebels in Yemen is a perfect illustration. The Yemen crisis is complicated, but one thing was clear at the outset: as late as April 2015, "the United States National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan remarked that “It remains our assessment that Iran does not exert command and control over the Houthis in Yemen"."

I am not suggesting that Iran is not helping out the Houthi rebels, what I am saying is that when MBS decided to bomb the poorest Arab country back to the Stone Age to stop Iran, their involvement was much less than he claimed.

Now of course, they are in it up to their eyeballs. But that's largely thanks to MBS' misguided belligerence.
Iran is gradually increasing its support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Rather than eliminating the Iranian presence in the country, the Saudi-led war is giving Tehran the opportunity to become more influential there than ever. The Houthis remain fiercely independent of Iran, but they will need Tehran's backing more as the stalemate continues.
MBS is so uninformed that he now believes that it is the Hezbollah who is preventing him from winning that miserable war. And apparently that's why he forced Hariri's resignation.
But Prince Mohammed sent [Hariri] home with a task: to get Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Yemen. That demand proved, the Western and Arab diplomats said, that the prince was not well-informed on Yemen, sometimes called “Riyadh’s Vietnam.” Hezbollah, a Western diplomat said, had only about 50 fighters in Yemen, with Iran playing a much larger role in training and aiding the Houthi insurgents there.
 Abdulaziz al-Husseinya, acute malnutrition. Photo Iona Craig
Besides being a colossal strategic mistake that helped Iran, Yemen war was also an amazingly stupid PR move.

The image was one of that King Salman spending almost quarter of a billion for a month-long summer vacation in French Riviera, while millions of Arab children were dying of cholera (the worst outbreak on record) and famine thanks to Saudi attack and subsequent blockade.

It was also a very expensive mistake.

As Saudi net foreign assets declined by $200 billion, MBS realized he simply did not have the money to do all this.

Since he could never back down or reverse a strategy, his next move was to find a way to get the money.

Extortion Rackets: International and Domestic

Three days after he promised Trump that he would spend billions to buy military goods, MBS tried to squeeze Qatar.

He figured that, since he promised protection money to Trump, the Orange Man would not get involved (he didn't) and Qatar would either cough up a big chunk of money or face invasion.

As I wrote at the time, Qatar immediately moved to purchase a triple insurance policy against a possible Saudi intervention. Iran, Turkey and Russia all said that this would be a very unwise move with serious consequences.

So where does a Prince go when he needs a few hundred billion dollars?

Why, to other Princes of course.

As you know, he rounded up 200 wealthiest Saudis, most of them members of the Royal Family, and charged them with corruption. Besides Alwaleed bin Talal, other senior royal family members like Prince Miteb [or Mutaib] bin Abdullah, the former commander of the powerful National Guard and the son of the late King Abdullah and Prince Turki bin Abdullah the former Governor of Riyadh are among the detainees.

The deal is simple:
The judicial official clarifies that this is still "a pre-investigation". "We're asking people who took the money to give it back," he says. 
"It's a friendly process," chimes in the anti-corruption official who says everyone was told "we'll show you the evidence and we'll solve the problem".
In other words, even though they are accused of corruption. if they pay there is no prosecution. The first one to pay up was Miteb bin Abdullah. He signed a cheque for one billion and he was promptly discharged.

The goal is to collect at least $100 billion.
A businessman in Riyadh, who has seen some of the documents, had told me 1,900 bank accounts, including ones belonging to family members of suspects, were frozen. I ask officials in the Ritz-Carlton about reports of cash and assets totalling 800 billion dollars.
"Even if we get 100 billion back, that would be good," replies the official from the Special Committee. 
MBS is so desperate that there are some reports that Alwaleed bin Talal is being beaten up and tortured to break his unwillingness to part with his money.

While the Crown Prince froze assets worth about $190 billion, realistically, he could not get more than a few tens of billion dollars from these guys and sooner or later he will have to let them go.

The largest contributor is likely to be bin Talal and he is, reportedly, on the hook for $6 billion, that is, if he agrees to pay. Which I doubt, unless he is really being tortured.

If MBS confiscate their assets on the basis of corruption allegations, he can kiss his dream of bringing in foreign investment. One thing capital abhors is the absence of a solid legal system that protects assets.

Desperation setting in, MBS next move was to sell the Kingdom's crown jewel, the world's biggest company.

Floating Aramco

Initially, MBS claimed that the Aramco IPO would cover only about 5 percent of the company. Then he decided to put the whole thing on the market. Aramco is owned by Saudi Arabia and it constitutes their biggest source of revenue. Selling it will force the Kingdom to release its accounts and make its transactions transparent.

Which may prove to be a big problem as Aramco has invested in many more areas and separating portfolios would likely to be painful. Plus the Royal Family used it as a slush fund and correcting the books ahead of the IPO could be a big headache.

More importantly, in the long run, Aramco is not a valuable company. One analyst likened it to buying Blockbuster in the age of Netflix, suggesting that when all major automakers are phasing out the combustion engine it might be foolish to invest in oil.
Over 70 percent of every barrel of Aramco crude is used for autos and trucks in one way or another, Mr. Nasser said. (...) With a worldwide push to eliminate the internal combustion engine, the demand for oil five years from now will be far less than it is today.
The Saudis valued the company at $2 trillion. According the Financial Times, the actual number is more likely to be $900 billion.
Start with a $54-a-barrel oil price and factor in a steady lift from inflation over the first five years. Then, as well as adopting the new 50 per cent tax rate, the FT has left the royalty rate intact at 20 per cent. On these assumptions Aramco would be worth nearly $900bn. Any lost tax revenues would mostly be replaced by a dividend to the state. Sell 5 per cent of Aramco and on this valuation it should raise $42bn.
The last sentence tells you why MBS went for floating the whole of Aramco while simultaneously extorting money from other members of the Royal Family.

His foreign adventures and the financial squeeze is just one side of his problems. Domestically, he is facing major challenges.

Cutting Subsidies and Confronting the House of Wahhab

One of the reasons MBS is having hard time funding his proxy wars has to do with massive subsidies in Saudi Arabia.
According to a report by Jadwa Investment, energy subsidies cost the Saudi government around $61bn in 2015, or 9.3% of GDP.(...) Moreover, with domestic users paying the equivalent of $0.03 per KWh for electricity, which is 60% less than international prices, the government spent $23bn on electricity subsidies in 2015.
That's just the energy sector.

Two thirds of working Saudis are employed by the public sector. Their wages and housing and car allowances represent 45 percent of government spending ($128 billion).

Naturally, MBS announced that he was cutting both the energy sector and wage subsidies.
Petrol jumped from SR0.60 ($0.16) to SR0.90 ($0.24) per litre for high-grade Octane 95. 
Natural gas prices increased from $0.75 to $1.25 per million British thermal units (Btu), while ethane prices more than doubled, from $0.75 to $1.75 per million Btu.
His "Vision 2030" aims to cut public sector employment to 40 percent of government spending by 2020. In September 2017, he implemented cuts to public salaries and allowances ranging between 15 and 20 percent. Overtime bonuses were reduced by up to 50 percent.

Saudis, who were used to King Abdullah's largesse (his response to the Arab Spring was to add $130 billion on wages and subsidies in 2011) were not happy.

Sensing social unrest, MBS first brought back water subsidies then wage cuts were rolled back. He also slowed down the phasing out of energy subsidies.

This is important because the rule of the House of Saud is made possible by two elements.

One is the tacit understanding between the rulers and the ruled that in exchange for high income and steep subsidies that give them a very high standard of living, the populace accept to obey the King without question.

Secondly, the King accepts to enforce the conservative religious principles of the House of Wahhab in exchange for legitimacy they bestow upon him.

Reducing wages and subsidies nullify the social contract between the ruler and the ruled.

Being rather reckless, MBS is also attacking the other pillar of his monarchy: after the subsidy-wage cut debacle, "Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, speaking at a major investment conference, has promised his kingdom will return to “what we were before – a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world.”

Then, before the 200 Saudi Princes were taken to their ritzy prison he ordered the arrest of many prominent clerics.
Before the arrests on Saturday of his fellow royals and former ministers on corruption allegations, Prince Mohammed had stripped the religious police of their arrest powers and expanded the space for women in public life, including promising them the right to drive
Dozens of hard-line clerics have been detained, while others were designated to speak publicly about respect for other religions, a topic once anathema to the kingdom’s religious apparatus.
The clergy has not come out with strong words but that does not mean that they will accept this radical change lying down.

The same goes for the Princes. Even if they cough up extortion money they will not simply go to their merry way.

To begin with, they will fight corruption allegations by pointing the finger to the Crown Prince. It would be much more difficult to wear the mantle of anti-corruption crusader if the world suddenly didn't discover that, in the last couple of yearsyou purchased a $300 million for a chateau with a custom made wine cellar and tried to cover it up through shell companies.

Or you bought a $500 million mega yacht from a Russian vodka billionaire or bid $450 million to a newly discovered Leonardo Da Vinci portrait.

I thought the timing of the article and the damning details, like numerous shell companies hiding all these purchases, indicated inside information.

Can MBS Survive?

Lay people usually assume that if you control the army and the police force you can get away with anything.

You can, if you have the support of the business classes, your legitimacy is not questioned and your economy is doing well enough to keep your citizens from protesting.

Ask Macciavelli.

In this instance, MBS has gone after the business classes, he attacked the only institution that gives the House of Saud legitimacy and he is unable to keep his economy afloat.

My point is that he simply cannot govern with all three elements in jeopardy.

His reform movement will be resisted by the House of Wahhab as they did nearly 40 years ago. They will be instrumental in turning the population against him.

And the other members of the Royal Family will definitely give a helping hand to the House of Wahhab.

Previously, most of them, like Miteb bin Abdullah who was the Commander of National Guard, had important institutional power positions. They likely command a lot of respect and allegiance in those institutions and they will use that.

Conversely, MBS lacks the same respect as the architect of a very unpopular war where the poorest Arab country is being destroyed by Saudi Arabia with millions of civilians dying in the process.

Moreover, his new Palestinian peace plan ( a direct result of his alliance with Israel) will not endear him to Arab masses. According to the New York Times this is the plan MBS presented to Mahmoud Abbas whom he summoned him right after Hariri:
The Palestinians would get a state of their own but only noncontiguous parts of the West Bank and only limited sovereignty over their own territory. The vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal, would remain. The Palestinians would not be given East Jerusalem as their capital and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
Netanyahu wouldn't put it so starkly, even though it is evidently his wet dream.

In fact, his bizarre episode with Hariri could now be construed as an effort to destabilize Lebanon on behalf of Israel.

In short, I don't see a clear way out for MBS or a happy ending.

Or the Kingdom for that matter.

That potential outcome never troubled me but looking at Yemen it fills me with Schadenfreude.

05 December 2017

Mueller Is Going After Trump: Deutsche Bank Subpoena

From the beginning I maintained that Trump would never be impeached.

Unlike Democrats, Republicans never throw one of their own under the bus and Trump voters are solidly behind him.

Pundits are finally coming around.

But I also argued that Trump's presidency will end because of his past financial shenanigans and money laundering activities.

Five months ago I wrote this:
The Guardian recently reported that Deutsche Bank executives were going to be subpoenaed by Mueller. In case you are wondering what might be behind this move, well, it is a complicated and potentially very damaging tale.

Trump had borrowed $640 million from the bank's real estate lending division before the 2008 crisis. When he was unable to pay the $40 million portion that came due, he sued the bank for its role in the subprime debacle to get out of his liability.

Unimpressed, Deutsche Bank countersued.

Then something amazing happened. The bank's wealth management unit lent the $40 million to Trump in order for him to pay back its own real estate division.

Trump then moved his business from real estate division to private wealth management unit. That unit continued to lend him another $300 million. And this, at a time when no US banks or Wall Street firms would do business with the Trump Organization.

Ivanka and Jared also became clients of the same division. Reportedly, Kushner's mother was given an unsecured $25 million line of credit and Kushner also got a loan of $285 million last year.
Apart from the Trumps and Kushners, Deutsche Bank also has deep ties to Russia. In addition to settling allegations earlier this year that it allowed $10 billion to be laundered out of Eastern Europe, Deutsche Bank had a “cooperation agreement” with Vnesheconombank, a Russian state-owned development bank that is the target of U.S. economic sanctions.In case the name of the Russian bank sounds familiar that's because you remember it from a meeting between Kushner and its CEO Sergey Gorkov arranged by the Russian Ambassador Kislyak, a meeting he conveniently forgot about until it was leaked.
Deutsche Bank is connected to Russia and money laundering in another way.
. . . in May, federal prosecutors settled a case with a Cyprus investment vehicle owned by a Russian businessman with close family connections to the Kremlin. The firm, Prevezon Holdings, was represented by Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who was among the people who met during the presidential campaign with Donald Trump Jr. about Hillary Clinton. Federal prosecutors in the United States claimed Prevezon, which admitted no wrongdoing, laundered the proceeds of an alleged Russian tax fraud through real estate. Prevezon and its partner relied in part on $90 million in financing from a big European financial institution, court records show. It was Deutsche Bank.
Well, it finally happened.
US special counsel Robert Mueller has ordered Germany's Deutsche Bank to provide records of accounts held by Donald Trump, according to reports.
Mr Mueller issued a subpoena to the bank several weeks ago demanding the transaction data, Reuters news agency and a German newspaper say.
He is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia. 
Changing the agenda with Jerusalem might not be enough.

Soon Trump might have to bite the bullet and fire Mueller.

It would be interesting to see how Fox News would report the firing.

It would require the mother of all spins.

But with their gullible audience it shouldn't be too hard.

This feels more and more like 1939.

04 December 2017

Will Trump Fire Mueller?

As you might have heard Robert Mueller turned Michael Flynn who pleaded guilty to wilfully lying to the FBI.

Flynn is said to be cooperating.

And the consensus among legal scholars is that a plea deal for such a minor crime when more serious charges were available suggest that an arrangement had been worked out to sweep those under the rug in exchange for very damaging testimony against a bigger fish.

What bigger crime?

If you are a regular reader of this humble soapbox, you will remember that Flynn was accused of secretly acting on behalf of the Turkish government or contemplating the rendering of the aging cleric Fethullah Gulen.

This last episode was divulged by former CIA Director James Woolsey last March.

And it came back to the agenda a couple of weeks ago.

Curiously, Woolsey is on the Board of Directors of Flynn's company and he is cooperating with the Mueller investigation.

This is such a big deal that Trump recently invited Woolsey to dinner at the Southern White House to discuss, I assume, his role in all this.

Clearly, he is worried.

The charging documents against Mr Flynn state that he was directed to make contact with Russian officials by a "very senior member" of the Trump transition team.
Several US news organisations report the very senior official now under the spotlight is Jared Kushner - Mr Trump's adviser and son-in-law.
For a few months now, the targeting of Jared Kushner was an open secret.

Between Manafort and Flynn, Mueller could build a case that even Fox News could not attribute to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

If Kushner is also pressured, Mueller will have a clear picture of the money laundering operations of the Trump Organization, which is what he fears the most.

And if Trump waits too long, he knows he could be in serious trouble and might be unable to act.

So the Donald we know might make the bold move of firing Mueller.

Think about it.

His base will simply applaud the move as they will stick by him no matter what.

The Republicans will not do anything and they control both the House and the Senate.

Some like McCain or Flake will tweet mild criticisms.

But they are more preoccupied with tax cuts for the rich and destroying Social Security.

Democrats will howl. But Sunday talk shows will only feature Republicans.

Fox News will cover once again Clinton's email scandals.

And various Clinton shenanigans.

And Benghazi.

But if that happens, nothing will ever be the same again.

25 November 2017

Katherine Hartnett White Making America Great Again

A good friend of mine sent me this clip.

Normally, I am more textual than visual and I am not a big clip watcher. But this one is priceless.

It shows how the Orange Man surrounded himself with incompetent people. And how all his special advisers and cabinet members are clueless about their own portfolio.

I only wish that we had a similar video for Governor Goodhair and Bond Villain Mnuchin.

24 November 2017

Do you know who Rukhmabai Raut is?

You should.

She was born in 1864 in Bombay, British India. Her mother got her married when she was 11. Rukmabai refused to go live with her husband. Instead she sued him to get the marriage annulled.

This is an 11 year old girl in 19th century India.

The court rules in favor of her husband.
On 4 March 1887, Justice Farran, using interpretations of Hindu laws, ordered Rukhmabai to "go live with her husband or face six months of imprisonment". Rukhmabai responded that she would rather face imprisonment than obey the verdict. This resulted in further upheaval and social debate.
Undeterred, she petitioned Queen Victoria who agreed to have her marriage annulled.

During the legal proceedings, she also wrote feminist articles in the Times of India under the pen name A Hindu Lady to criticize Indian society's patriarchal attitudes.

Once free, she enrolled to London School of Medicine for Women in 1889 and became a doctor in 1894.

Even though she was one of the first Indian women to work as a physician,
ironically, women didn't want to be treated by her.
But the societal stigma that surrounded her when she left was still there. "Women who knew her and people she had grown up around decided they wouldn't be treated by her," said Dr Patker.
She moved elsewhere in India and worked as a physician until 1930.

Even after retirement she continued to write about women's right and their seclusion (known as the purdah system).

She remained a feminist throughout her life.

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

It doesn't feel like we progressed much, does it?

18 November 2017

Why ISIS Fighters Were Allowed to Leave Raqqa?

I have always been curious about why the ISIS story was never fully told.

My long time readers will remember me struggling with various questions about this shadowy organization.

In 2013, when ISIS showed up out of the blue with a $4 billion war chest and two professional film studios and several software development units all over the Arab world, I couldn't buy the idea that this slick entity was formed by an unknown preacher called Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and staffed by semi-literate thugs from Western European suburbia and disaffected North Africa youth.

The corporate media maintained that the organization was created by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian with anger management issues who never met al-Baghdadi and who died in 2006, 7 years before ISIS showed up as an amazingly well run terror machine to replace Al Nusra Front overnight.

They were so good, we were told, that they invaded Mosul, a city of 2 million with only 1,800 fighters. Nobody seemed to be too concerned that it was an impossible feat, as that represented 51 soldiers per neighborhood (Mosul has 35 districts).  Or less than one soldier per street.

Equally dubious were the extraordinary night fighting skills of ISIS soldiers and their ability to use heavy artillery and vehicles with astonishing sophistication.

Finally, no one bothered to point out that their insistence in forming a state and therefore inviting relentless attacks by far more superior forces was simply illogical.

None of it made any sense.

So I pieced together a framework that explained most of these peculiar issues.

According to documents unearthed by Der Spiegel, ISIS was created by Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, a colonel in Saddam's Mukhabarat with the explicit aim to rally the Sunni population to rise up against the American occupation.

He found al-Baghdadi in prison and he named him the public face of ISIS. He was also the guy who set up the organizational structure of ISIS and placed Baathist officers in key positions during the expansion process.

The military power was provided by Saddam's Vice Chairman of General Chief of Staff Izzat al-Douri's Naqshbandi Army.

It was that army that invaded Mosul and chased the demoralized Iraqi units. It was also them who did the bulk of fighting while Jihadi Johns and Jihadi Jeans from Europe posed for beheading videos.

The money that paid for the army, the studios, the monthly payments for fighting idiots was provided by Qatar. They needed a pipeline for their natural gas to Europe and both Syria and Iraq had said no to the project.

Al Nusrah Front the precursor of ISIS was not up to the job so ISIS got the mission.

The need for a pipeline is also the reason behind the need for an actual territory.

In other words, ISIS was made possible by the collusion of a lot of players.

Otherwise, do you really think that it is possible to create such a huge and slick monster without anyone noticing?

Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey all stood to benefit from the creation of a Pipelineistan from the ashes of Syria. And they actively supported ISIS.

Since Qatar's natural gas comes from shared fields with Iran, it represented an additional bonus in the form of weakening the Islamic Republic.

Europe was fine with the plan as well because of their dependence on Russian gas. Putin's often hostile relations with Ukraine indicated that he would not shrink from using gas as leverage. If Qatar's gas could reach Europe, with Norway as another major supplier, Europe could call Putin's bluff when they needed to.

The US was fine with the idea as it weakened both Russia and Iran.

That is why nobody pressured Turkey to close its borders or to stop providing arms and ammunition to ISIS and nobody said a word about the billions of dollars sent to ISIS.

And nobody tried to prevent tens of thousands young people from traveling to Syria to die for the cause.

All of these points are well documented and over the years I wrote a great deal about them. Yet none of this made to mainstream news media. Even the Der Spiegel revelations were not picked up by anyone. As late as last year, Frontline was still talking about Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi as the founder of ISIS.

Why did I rehash all of this one more time?

A few days ago, BBC published a long article in which they revealed that when Raqqa, ISIS' capital fell earlier this year, coalition forces hired lorries and drivers to have ISIS fighters and their families carried out of the city in peace.

When the deal was made with local people, Kurdish-led SDF and British and American officers made extensive arrangements to keep it secret.
Great pains were taken to hide it from the world. But the BBC has spoken to dozens of people who were either on the convoy, or observed it, and to the men who negotiated the deal. (...)
The Kurdish-led SDF cleared Raqqa of media. Islamic State’s escape from its base would not be televised.
According to the drivers, about 4,000 people consisting of fighters, their wives and children were transported out of Raqqa.
Another driver says the convoy was six to seven kilometres long. It included almost 50 trucks, 13 buses and more than 100 of the Islamic State group’s own vehicles. IS fighters, their faces covered, sat defiantly on top of some of the vehicles.

Footage secretly filmed and passed to us shows lorries towing trailers crammed with armed men. Despite an agreement to take only personal weapons, IS fighters took everything they could carry. Ten trucks were loaded with weapons and ammunition.
 This is the footage of the exodus made by SDF soldiers.

In case you think that these were beaten down and disillusioned militants, this is what the drivers said.
“They said, 'Let us know when you rebuild Raqqa - we will come back,’” says Abu Fawzi. “They were defiant and didn’t care. They accused us of kicking them out of Raqqa.” (...)
Almost everyone we spoke to says IS threatened to return, its fighters running a finger across their throats as they passed by.
What is interesting is the fact that they allowed foreign fighters to leave as well.
But foreign fighters – those not from Syria and Iraq - were also able to join the convoy, according to the drivers. One explains:
There was a huge number of foreigners. France, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi, China, Tunisia, Egypt...”
The convoys were left alone for the most part and when they reached a predetermined destination, the fighters moved on by themselves. Some used smugglers to get into Turkey, others into Iraq.

The report maintained that senior IS figures were evacuated earlier and they had their own highly paid smugglers.

The one exception was the notorious intelligence chief of ISIS Abu Musab Huthaifa. He was double crossed by his smugglers and was arrested before he could cross the Turkish border.
He says the convoy went to the countryside of eastern Syria, not far from the border with Iraq.

Thousands escaped, he says.

Abu Musab’s own attempted escape serves as a warning to the West of the threat from those freed from Raqqa.

How could one of the most notorious of IS chiefs escape through enemy territory and almost evade capture?
Apparently, before the siege, thousands escaped to Idlib, which is to the West of Raqqa. While some chose to stay others left for their country of origin.
Foreigners, too, also make it out - including Britons, other Europeans and Central Asians. The costs range from $4,000 (£3,000) per fighter to $20,000 for a large family.
According to the spokesman of coalition forces Co. Ryan Dillon they were reluctant to let them go. But they did.
“We didn’t want anyone to leave,” says Col Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the Western coalition against IS.

“But this goes to the heart of our strategy, ‘by, with and through’ local leaders on the ground. It comes down to Syrians – they are the ones fighting and dying, they get to make the decisions regarding operations,” he says.

While a Western officer was present for the negotiations, they didn’t take an “active part” in the discussions.
Does that make any sense to you?

Next time some of these future "lone wolves" kill tens of innocent civilians, remember this extraordinary decision to let these murderous thugs escape Raqqa and return to their countries.

And ask yourself this: Is there any way the people who made that decision did not know of its possible consequences?

12 November 2017

The Weinstein Effect and It's IOKIYAR Exception

I am immensely enjoying the daily parade of powerful men who are finally shamed for sexually harassing or assaulting women for decades.

And there seems to be no end in sight. The latest being the disgraced FIFA boss Sepp Blatter.

Others, as yet unnamed power players, must be shaking in their boots.

The scandal has a name: the Weinstein Effect.

It is also a very different than any previous scandals in two respects: the swift reaction of the companies and the equally swift apologies that followed their dismissal.

Everybody Knew 

In the early days of the Weinstein saga what was puzzling to me was how quickly the associated companies and institutions severed their ties with these predators.

Until now, unless these powerful men would deflect any accusations by categorically denying all allegations. Their publicists would issue carefully parsed denials and their lawyers would quash rumors by sending threatening cease-and-desist letters.

And studios or media outlets would demure and spout homilies about everyone being innocent until proven guilty.

Remember Bill O'Reilly's infamous loofah-falafel incident from 2004? He settled it for a lot of money with scarcely a blemish on his reputation.

He settled five more cases over the years and never suffered professionally.

In fact, as late as this January he had his contract with Fox News renewed (with a raise) after he settled another sexual assault allegation for $32 million.

Then came the Weinstein story and there was a paradigm shift.

Within days, the man was unceremoniously dumped by The Weinstein Company (TWC). And the guy who did so was his brother.

The Academy and BAFTA and TV Academy followed suit.

At first I couldn't figure out why such a dramatic turnaround took place. Then it occurred to me that's because everybody knew.

And they knew that too many other people knew to try to contain it.

You see, for decades, Harvey Weinstein's paid off a large number of victims gagged by ironclad NDAs. And The Weinstein Company (TWC) knew about these payoffs for years.

This is a man who loved belittling, berating and bullying people, especially women. He threw ashtray to his assistants, called them the C-word. And his exploits were the stuff of legend.

As Scott Rosenberg wrote, "everybody-fucking-knew."
You, the big producers; you, the big directors; you, the big agents; you, the big financiers. And you, the big rival studio chiefs; you, the big actors; you, the big actresses; you, the big models. You, the big journalists; you, the big screenwriters; you, the big rock stars; you, the big restaurateurs; you, the big politicians.” He writes, “You know who are. You know that you knew. And do you know how I know that you knew? Because I was there with you. And because everybody-fucking-knew.” 
That's why TWC also knew that they couldn't survive this by denying it.

That is the real Weinstein Effect.

And it is true in all cases.

It seems that every comedian knew about Louis CK and like TWC, many powerful structures protected him.

Same goes for the editors and publishers about the New Republic's Leon Wieseltier. Editor Peter Beinart and owner Marty Peretz knew about Wieseltier and they covered for him.

James Toback was exposed by Spy Magazine as early as 1989 and also by Gawker several times. His autobiography was entitled "The Pick-up Artist." Everybody knew of his habit of accosting women with the cheesy line "I am a famous director and you could be in my next movie."

Brett Ratner jerking off in front of actresses was covered by Gawker many years ago.

At Fox News, it was common knowledge that "the Chairman" was a serial harasser.

Besides Bill O'Reilly there was also Eric Bolling and I am sure there are many more in their current roster of on-air talent who acted the same way.

Google "Kevin Spacey and orgies" and you will find many stories from a few years back. I can't find the links now but I once stumbled upon many more explicit stories. He was notoriously tactile with young assistants or grips on every set.

Once again, "everybody fucking knew."

Which explains why, after Weinstein was fired, Mark Halperin was dropped by NBC, MSNBC, Showtime and his book publisher.

And Louis CK's movie company absorbed the cost of not releasing his movie and FX Network and HBO cut their lucrative relationship with him.

Because they knew that "everybody fucking knew."

With Kevin Spacey, possibly because he was gay and his first accuser was 14 years old at the time of the incident, the reaction was even more drastic. Netflix fired him from its popular and acclaimed franchise House of Cards and Ridley Scott decided to erase him from his latest movie by re-shooting all his scenes.

Then there are the unusual and swift apologies which stood in sharp contrast with previous vociferous denials.

My understanding is that, when these powerful men realized that their enablers did not hesitate to throw them under the bus to prevent people asking questions about how much they knew, they were told by their publicists and lawyers to apologize promptly and whole-heartedly.

Just think of Harvey Weinstein, who, a year earlier hired ex-Mossad agents (and a supposedly feminist lawyer) to destroy the same women. Now, his first reaction to the New York Times piece  was to apologize for all the hurt he caused.

Followed by the previously mandatory check-in to rehab for a non-existent condition.

Where is Amy Winehouse when we need her.

Halperin too apologized right away, as did Kevin Spacey, who claimed to be beyond horrified about his own actions.

Also deeply sorry were Dustin Hoffman, Ben Affleck, Louis CK, Chris Savino (the creator of Nickelodeon's Loud House), Michael Oreskes (top editor of NPR) and "David cop-a-feel" George H.W. Bush.

So far, Roy Price (the head of Amazon Studios), John Besh (celebrity chef) and Lockhart Steele (Top editor of Vox Media) are silent. I am sure their time will come.

One irony about all this is the fact that Weinstein has been telling his friends that his past behavior was designed to bring about these changes.
Disgraced Harvey Weinstein’s been telling what friends he has left that there’s a bigger reason he’s embroiled in his ever-widening sexual harassment scandal: to “change the world,” sources tell Page Six. 
“Harvey believes he is a savior,” a Hollywood insider says.
The source adds that the pervy former Weinstein Co. and Miramax macher has been telling confidantes “that he was born to take the fall for his behavior in order to ‘change the world.’ He is resigned to his punishment — as a martyr for social change.”
That's men for you.

Not A Few Bad Apples

I am glad that these people are exposed and women are having a moment of empowerment. But I wonder how effective this will be since, thanks to the clever maneuvering of the enablers we are focusing on the individual.

This is not a case of a few rotten apples. It is about power structures that foster this behavior.

This is about organizational culture and patriarchal permissiveness. Look at any institutions with men in power and women in subordinate positions, this is the natural outcome.

Universities were horrible in that respect and they still are. And they are also in denial:
A man called Brett Sokolow, who has made a name (and a lot of money) for himself by offering US universities advice on sexual misconduct, picked up on this a while ago. In a 2014 interview with al-Jazeera America, Sokolow explained how, while touring universities over a decade ago, he noticed campuses were very “squeamish” about the word rape and sexual misconduct hearing boards were unwilling to label offenders as rapists. So he tested the phrase “nonconsensual sex” with focus groups and found that it made people a lot more comfortable than a nasty word like rape. Now it has become standard terminology – Sokolow estimates that between 700 and 800 campuses have adopted the language in their sexual misconduct policies. And thank God for that. What a disaster it would be if we used language that made rapists, sorry I mean nonconsensual sexual penetrationists, uncomfortable!
Read the whole piece as it shows how the enablers distorted language at every turn.

The same goes for media outlets.

Remember the Good Girls Revolt? A series inspired by true events at Newsweek around 1970 where women could only do research and all writing was given to men.

Ironically, it was cancelled after one season by Roy Price, the Amazon studio chief who just resigned for sexual harassment. And there are talks to bring it back thanks to Weinstein Effect.

Overall, 45% of women polled said they have been sexually harassed at work. This translates to about 33.6 million women in the US. 
The group that experienced the most harassment were women between the ages 30 and 44 — almost half (49%) said they had been sexually harassed at work. Not far behind, 47% of women ages 45 to 64 said they were sexually harassed at work, followed by 41% of women ages 18 to 20, and finally 40% of women 65 or older.
You already know the so-called "Bro culture" in the largest tech companies. Susan Fowler anyone?

How about the culinary world and its sexist macho kitchens.
In March of that year, Ivy Knight, a Toronto writer and former cook, published a piece on Vice’s Munchies site called “What It’s Like to Be Attacked by Your Sous Chef,” in which she recounted a long list of horrifying stories from her time working in kitchens, including being slammed against a counter and choked after a bad service. A few months later, a cook named Kate Burnham came forward with hideous allegations about her experience as an employee at the Toronto restaurant Weslodge. In her complaint, she alleged, among other things, that three male colleagues at the restaurant had grabbed her breasts, slapped her ass with a spatula hard enough to leave bruises, and that a popular brunch activity for some of the cooks was to spray her face and hair with aerated hollandaise, an act whose inspiration is self-evident.
Read Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" it is worth it.

What is positive about the Weinstein effect is that it forces people to review the systemic nature and the power component of sexual misconduct.

But there is one group that is immune to the Weinstein Effect. The Republicans and of course the truly pious evangelicals. The original flip floppers, the group who were fine with abortion until they couldn't stand it.


Last September, as you no doubt remember, a tape was leaked to the media.

It had Donald Trump boasting that he routinely grabbed women by the pussy and forced them to do vile things against their will.

Right after that, former underage beauty pageant contestants revealed that he would barge in on them while they were naked and leer.

24 women came forward alleging various acts of sexual misconduct like forcible kisses, touching genitalia and in one case (Ivana) brutal rape.

When the stories came out the picture on the right was the reaction of Trumpkins.

A few days ago, the colorful racist Alabama judge turned GOP politician Roy Moore was accused of sexually assaulting a 14 year old girl when he was a prosecutor.

Three more women came forward to claim that he prayed on them while they were 14-18 years old.
One of the accusers said she was a 14-year-old working as Santa's helper at a shopping centre when Mr Moore first targeted her.
We are talking pedophilia and just days earlier Kevin Spacey was completely destroyed for hitting on a 14 year old.

Do you know what the reaction was to these serious and extremely disturbing accusations?
Alabama's state auditor Jim Zeigler came under fire on Thursday for his remarks defending Mr Moore. 
He was quoted as saying that even if the Washington Post report were true, "it's much ado about very little".
Mr Zeigler told the Washington Times newspaper: "Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus."
And many Republicans rushed to his defense.

Unsurprisingly, the evangelicals, Roy Moore's core base were fine with his pedophilia.
As Thomas Edsall recently noted, from 2011 to 2016, the percentage of white evangelical Protestants who believe that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life” shot up, from thirty to seventy-two per cent. Evangelicals went from being the least forgiving religious group to being the most forgiving religious group.
That's IOKIYAR for you.

06 November 2017

Texas Church Shooting

Why do Americans call for stricter Muslim immigration vetting after every murderous act committed by a Muslim but offer only thoughts and prayers after a white male mass shooting.

Shouldn't they ask for stricter vetting of gun buyers and gun owners?

You would think so but no one does.

And no one wonders about it.

04 November 2017

Catalonia: Massive Miscalculation On Both Sides

As you might have noticed, things are rapidly getting out of hand in Catalonia.

And instead of telling us why this is happening the corporate media has so far given us just the sound and fury.

From what I can see, it looks like this whole crisis was triggered by a massive miscalculation by Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia's President.

And now Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish Prime Minister, is doing the same.

Here is my take on the crisis.

Puigdemont's Big Bet

Until this confrontation with Catalonia, Mariano Rajoy was a very unpopular Prime Minister in every region of Spain. His austerity measures destroyed the country's economy and made millions of people unnecessarily miserable.

On top of that, his People's Party (PP) has been embroiled in a huge corruption scandal.

You see, a couple of decades ago, a man by the name of Francisco Correa set up a network for the purpose of bribing PP officials in exchange for government contracts. He called his network Gürtel, which means belt in German as Correa means belt in Spanish.

An unbreakable code.

The case was picked up in 2009 by Baltasar Garzón, the magistrate known for his grandstanding and high visibility cases.

Gürtel folks managed to get him suspended as a judge using an unrelated matter and the case languished for a while. It moved from judge to judge and finally, the trial began in 2016.

Correa was quickly found guilty and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

The former treasurer of PP, Luis Barcenas admitted in court that with the commissions paid by the Gürtel network a party slush fund was created. He had a parallel bookkeeping system.

To give you an idea how much money was involved, Barcenas is accused of having €48 million in Swiss banks in his own name.

During his 2013 deposition, Barcenas confessed that he gave Rajoy envelops full of cash, though in open court he retracted that allegation.

In July 2017, Mariano Rajoy became the first Prime Minister in Spanish history to testify in a trial. The court refused his offer to testify through video link and made him sit in court.

Unsurprisingly, Rajoy denied any knowledge of a slush fund or the Gürtel network.

Now, add to Rajoy's woes the fact that in the December 2015 elections, his party lost 64 seats and 16 percent of the votes, their worst showing since 1989. Currently, he has no parliamentary majority and he has to get everyone's approval to pass any legislation.

I believe that this rather bleak picture was at the heart of Carles Puigdemont's strategy. He assumed that Rajoy was so unpopular and weak that he could actually get huge concessions from him.

He figured that like Scotland, an independent Catalonia would be able to get EU membership and things would continue as before. And he would be the president of an actual country.

While it is true that Spain would hold a veto for any new EU member, I suspect Puigdemont must have thought he could successfully negotiate a deal with Rajoy given the latter's corruption predicament.

The problem for Puigdemont is that he had an equally weak political position.

Catalan politics has a dizzying array of parties and ever changing alliances.

In the last elections in 2015, the two pro-independence umbrella groups, Junt pel Si (Together for Yes) (JxSi) and Catalunya Si que es Pot (CatSíqueesPot) (Catalonia Yes We Can) fell short of a majority in Parliament.

JxSi needed the support of Candidature d'Unitat Popular (CUP) (Popular Unity Candidacy) but they didn't like JxSi leader and former president Artur Mas. He had his own serious corruption history.[link in French]

After almost four months of squabbling, in January 2016, moments before the deadline for fresh elections, Carles Puigdemont emerged as the compromise candidate for President.

The referendum and independence declaration stunts were designed to strengthen his position as the clean pro-independence politician.

As we know his bluff backfired spectacularly.

Besides violence and turmoil, "since October 1st, more than 1,500 companies, including almost all the big ones, have moved their domicile outside the region, and tourist bookings have dipped."

In other words, his gamble destroyed the region's economy and standing.

Now he is a fugitive in Brussels and his former cabinet members are languishing in Spanish jails.

Rajoy's Heavy-Handed Response

Mariano Rajoy used the artificial crisis created by Puigdemont very adroitly.

He baited him at every turn, threatening him with a series of escalating measures. Initially, I did not get his over-the-top reaction and often violent moves.

After all, a clear majority of Catalans were not in favor of independence. And if he let things run their course the independence movement would have fizzled out.

But it subsequently became clear that they were designed to leave Puigdemont with two equally bad choices: back down and lose face or declare independence and lose power.

At the same time, Rajoy went around to denounce Catalonia as the spoiled kid of Spain. It wasn't difficult: the region's economy was doing better than the rest of the country and they enjoyed a privileged position attracting the ire and jealousy of other regions.

In that sense, thanks to Puigdemont, Rajoy made Spaniards forget about his corruption and his austerity policies. The more intransigent he appeared with Catalonia the more popular he became elsewhere in the country.

Hence the electoral violence, the removal of Catalan autonomy and lately, the jailing of pro-independence politicians.

As a final touch, he got France and Germany declare that they would not recognize an independent Catalonia. And the EU Commission remained silent dashing an independent Catalonia's hopes of ever joining the Union.

It worked nicely. Puigdemont went all in and lost.

What's Next?

It looks to me that Rajoy overplayed his hand with issuing arrest warrants for sedition and treason for Puigdemont and jailing prominent Catalan politicians. These are the people in custody:

Oriol Junqueras, former deputy vice-president
Joaquim Forn, former interior minister
Raül Romeva, former external relations secretary
Carles Mundó, former justice minister
Dolors Bassa, former labour minister
Jordi Turull, former government presidency councillor
Josep Rull, former sustainable development minister
Meritxell Borras, former culture minister

And Puigdemont is in Belgium facing extradition.

Since he also called fresh elections on 21 December, Rajoy exposed himself to a very tangible possibility of Catalan people voting with their emotions.

Like most linguistic minorities (Bengalis in Pakistan or Quebecois in Canada) Catalans are fiercely protective of their heritage and cultural identity. And they might react unexpectedly, not to say irrationally, if Rajoy continues to humiliate their politicians, threaten them with long jail sentences and take over Mossos d'Esquadra.

The issue for Rajoy is what options he had if Catalans convincingly voted for pro-independence parties in these elections? Abolish autonomy and run the region from Madrid?

I seriously doubt that this is feasible at this point.

And even if Catalan voters chose pro-union parties in December, the aftertaste of Madrid's violent tactics, reminiscent of Franco era, will linger on for a long time and will likely poison the region's relations with the central government.

So, it seems to me that Rajoy's strategy of painting Puigdemont into a corner might have yielded the same result for him.

27 October 2017

Hillary Clinton and The Crime of Opposition Research

I don't get worked up easily.

I can read Trump tweets all day long and stay zen.

But the other day, I blew my top off when I read the latest hatchet job on Hillary Clinton.

Let me explain.

The day after the gold star family saga, where Trump insulted the widow of a black soldier and John Kelly lied for him, Washington Post ran a piece accusing Clinton campaign of funding the Christopher Steele opposition research dossier.

The ominous title was "Clinton campaign, DNC paid for research that led to Russia dossier."

This is the dossier that alleged among other verifiable claims that Russian sex workers allegedly urinated on the Orange Man in a bed where Obama once slept (I am not sure if it was just the bed or him in it, my inclination is to point at the bed).

Now, as I wrote here several times, the people who financed the oppo were Republican rivals of Donald Trump.

Interestingly, no media outlet bothered to find out who they were. In fact if you read the Post piece they say so themselves.
Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the company in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Before that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by an unknown Republican client during the GOP primary.
Whoever they were, they used Fusion GPS, a political research company, to hire the former British spy Christopher Steele to collect dirt on Trump.

He came through and gave them his conclusions. Piss and all.

When it became clear that Trump would be the presumptive nominee, Republicans stopped financing the oppo.

Naturally, Fusion GPS took it to DNC and asked them if they would be interested and they said yes.

As anyone else in any political campaign would. Oppo is a universal practice. Just ask Donnie Jr who took a meeting with a Russian lawyer to get some dirt on Clinton.

As you saw in the Post quote, DNC used Marc Elias' law firm Perkins Coie to fund the Fusion GPS investigation until October. This is their scoop.

But there is more.

Around October, with no one else to give money to this project, Christopher Steele, who was said to be sufficiently alarmed by his own findings, contacted his sources at FBI to let them see the dossier.

Or was it John McCain?

In any case, the FBI were so intrigued that they agreed to pay him to complete his research. But they never did or could when his name was revealed after the election.

Much of this is common knowledge among news junkies.

The only two pieces missing were the original contract holder and the Democratic intermediary for the subsequent funding since neither the DNC nor the Clinton campaign  fessed up to partially funding the Steele dossier.

And we now know that the answer to the second question was Marc Elias.

Though we still have no clue who the original Republican instigator was. And the liberal media have no desire to look into it.

So now that we are all up to speed, let's turn to the piece that affected my blood pressure.

A couple of days ago, I looked at the BBC News site, as I do every morning and I saw this.


First, look at her picture. Look at her eyes, her expression, her hands.

What does the picture say to you? Scary bitch? Grabby, corrupt politician? Shifty, untrustworthy woman?

All of the above?

I can tell you that for every decent picture of Clinton there are probably 500 like this one and it is not a coincidence.

As John LeCarré said in his latest book (The Pigeon Tunnel)
I opened my Times newspaper to be greeted by my own face glowering at me. From my sour expression I could tell et once that the text around it wasn't going to be friendly. Photographic editors know their stuff.
Second, read the text.

It claims that her team bankrolled a sleazy dossier and goes on stating that "Mrs Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) reportedly helped fund the research."

If you read the whole article, curiously, at the end there is a chart that you will see below.

You will notice that the timeline is the same one I provided in my introduction. DNC was not the funding group. They got involved briefly only to see the FBI taking over.

Yet they didn't use this information in their piece.

The trick is that no one would take a look at this chart. They already know from the outset that the scary looking bitch bankrolled a sleazy dossier.

Besides, the chart is meaningful only if you know the progression already.

My question is this: If you know the entries in this chart, which are in the same piece, how do you write a title like "Clinton Team and Democrats "Bankrolled" Trump Dirty Dossier" in good conscience.

And this is a British publication.

Imagine the fun they had in the US.

Next time you hear a male journalist ask the question, why people hate Clinton, slap them silly if you are a woman.

And he is within your reach.

It will be cathartic.

People hate her because the corporate media have been protecting scums like Weinstein, Halperin, O'Reilly or Wieseltier while attacking uppity women like Hillary Clinton.

22 October 2017

John Kelly Lied for Trump and No One Dared To Call It A Lie

You already know about Trump's racist remarks while calling the wife of a slain soldier.

He couldn't remember his name. He told her, well, he knew what he signed up for, and the following day she became the wife and the woman, still no names.

Moreover, he categorically denied the entire conversation and claimed that John Kelly was in the room and he could corroborate his account.

Enter John Kelly, a four star Marine Corps general and Trump's chief of staff.

He never denied what the conversation entailed, instead he attacked viciously the South Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who went public with the content of the call.

He first savaged her for eavesdropping on a private conversation. He said that she violated the sanctity of a private phone call. The problem is that, she was in the car and the call was on speakerphone.

And Kelly was also doing the same violating himself at the other end.

He then maintained that she was a self-aggrandizing empty barrel who took credit for the funding of an FBI building while she was in Congress. Here is what he actually said:
A congresswoman stood up, and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there and all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call he gave the money—the twenty million dollars— to build the building. And she sat down, and we were stunned. Stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned. But, you know, none of us went to the press and criticized. None of us stood up and were appalled. We just said, “O.K., fine.”
It turns out she never said any of these things and she praised John Boehner and other colleagues for shepherding the legislation in record time. And she spend the bulk of her speech praising FBI agents.

You can see it for yourself.

This is a shorter version, here is a link to the full 9 minutes.

Not only did she not claim credit for the funding, the authorization took place in 2009 when she was not even in Congress.

Kelly also added that he was so shaken by Representative Wilson's remarks he had to stroll through Arlington Cemetery for an hour to get over his anger.

In other words, as one journalist put it "he metaphorically dug up every body in Arlington National Cemetery to use them as human shields for Trump."

In short, the four-star Marine Corps general lied through his teeth. Nothing he claimed in his brief address was true.

And you know the funny thing, nobody dared to call him a liar. The Intercept is the only media outlet that I could find to use the L word.

Rachel Maddow at MSNBC did use the word as well.

In the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza presented it as one of the moral dangers of working for Trump.

NBC stated that Wilson said Kelly lied. It was a case of she said, he said.

Sun Sentinel that uploaded the video used "Kelly got it wrong" as its headline.

CNN reported that "Kelly erroneously claimed congresswoman took credit for building funding, video shows."

New York Times: After Video Refutes Kelly’s Charges, Congresswoman Raises Issue of Race.

Washington Post: What John Kelly got wrong about Rep. Frederica Wilson and the Johnson family.

And the White House stood by his account, video clips be damned.

Moreover, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary made a veiled threat about the advisability of questioning a general.

When asked about Kelly's inaccurate claims she said:
“If you want to go after General Kelly, that’s up to you,” she said. “But I think that that—if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.”
That's the kind of threat one used to hear in Turkey, Egypt, Iraq or South America.

Add this to the media's reluctance to call a lying general a liar and you see the level of militarization of civilian discourse in America.