The Dangers of Political Extremism (1)

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I’m not sure I entirely agree with the totality of the rather unsettling forecast for Middle America, consequent upon Trump’s Presidency, and as set out in this article.

But I do agree that the US middle-class was feeling obsolete in 2016, and as a result clutched at the loudest, most obnoxious, populist straw available.

I do agree that we need to chronicle Trump’s failures in terms of metrics that relate to those who supported him.

And I do agree that it is not enough now merely to discredit Trump. One has to offer an alternative form of populism, that appeals to the very agitated concerns of the more reasonable of his supporters.

Otherwise, the vacuum will be filled by something else we don’t like.

Published in: on June 6, 2017 at 2:39 am  Leave a Comment  

The Media Today: What Qualifies as Real, not ‘Fake’?

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I find myself assailed by a host of questions at the moment that flow from what I want to do next with my book and my advocacy. All of which have to do with attempting to determine on which media vehicles I should be focusing my attention. And whether I should use someone else’s. Or become my own.

For me. Er. Because I tend to be thorough. Who said ‘obsessed’? Anyways. The starting point for me, is to have a look around, and see what’s what with the world of media.

In what context? Good question. Well. I like to write. And it would be nice if I could find some way of getting more attention. But that is not as important as finding a way to get more exposure for the contents of my book. And to get that investigation finished.

So. I want a medium or media that has respect, ratings and intrepid investigative journalism. In other words, a vehicle that is real, not ‘fake.’ And that is where I come to a grinding halt. Why? Hmm. Let’s do a 365 of the current media scene.

The so-called mainstream media don’t seem to be able distinguish any more between editorial and op-ed. And the pap they push, and the real news they ignore, is determined in large part by their corporate ownership.

Investigative journalism is pretty much dead in the mainstream media. The most intrepid, long-term investigative effort I have witnessed in the past decade or so was the London Guardian’s exposure of the bribery employed on a massive scale by Britain’s leading defense contractor, British Aerospace (BAe).

And yet. The Guardian teamed up on occasion with the UK’s Campaign Against the Arms Trade to undertake the more intensive investigation. And one of CAAT’s leading activists, Nick Gilby, eventually wrote what has been described as the seminal work on bribery in the international arms industry by BAe.

Necessarily, since much of the subject matter is the same as that covered in my book, I was intrigued by his book. And read it. Wrote to Nick. Got no response.

The problem was that Nick restricted himself solely to the information he could recover from the government. Which, in my opinion, is why the book missed the real story. The corruption of government in Great Britain by arms bribes.

Every single major arms exporting nation in the West, in the Seventies and Eighties, had a massive arms scandal, revolving around the receipt of bribes, and involving senior officials in those countries. With the exception of Great Britain.

Nick does a great job of exposing corruption everywhere except within the British body politic itself. That may be why I never heard back from him. I asked him bluntly whether he thought it realistic to assume that Great Britain was the only major arms-exporting nation in the West not to have corrupt politicians?

I respect Nick’s desire to be cleaner than cleaner. More ‘factual’ than fact itself. But it made me face a problem that I think all of us must face with our media.

Everyone has an agenda. A corporation. A CEO. An activist. A lobbyist. A mother. A father. A son. A daughter. A journalist. A writer. An author. Me.

Every single form of media outlet is going to be rendered biased to some extent by the subjectivity of its creator or creators.

How do we choose the right media to trust? Whether to read? Or to use as a media vehicle for our own investigation?

Nick wanted to be sure that he would not be rejected by the mainstream media. So, he kept his investigation rigidly factual. He got respect and coverage. But little attention. Because his findings lacked credibility.

I went to the same places that he did. BAe. Saudi Arabia. But I used my knowledge of the British political scene. The financial workings of the British Conservative Party. My research into the ‘Savoy Mafia.’ My friendship with the deceased subject of my book, Hugh Simmonds, CBE, a former member of the Conservative National Board of Finance, and a partner with a leading firm of London solicitors who specialize in, um, ‘money movement.’ To ask questions. To find patterns. To make connections.

I came up with informed speculation. I took that to other leads. And chronicled feedback and response. I was painfully careful to distinguish between available fact and connection in my book. But the result was not as obtusely ‘factual’ as Nick’s account. And I received next to no consideration from the mainstream media.

Which is the point at which one starts looking at the ‘alternative media.’

The primary development in news reporting in recent years has been the evolution of online media. All the mainstream media place great emphasis now on their online reporting.

Certain major players are online only – Huffington Post, Breitbart. Yet increasingly, the big boys and girls are having to compete with that ‘alternative media.’ Almost all of which is also online.

Blogs. Which are a tad passé. Online newspapers. Some better known than others. Many representing only a particular issue or point of view. And right there is the problem.

There is no regulation of online media. Fact becomes intertwined with opinion. Many of the outlets make no secret of that fact. But this creates a situation where ‘alternative media’ can make more interesting ‘noise’ than mainstream media.

The Guardian has been reporting all this week that what they describe as ‘DIY political websites’ have been competing favorably with mainstream UK news outlets in getting hits in their coverage of the UK General Election.

What the Guardian has also been reporting is that much, if not most, of that coverage has been Labour-oriented.

Which begs a question, which I have raised in the past week. Is both media coverage and polling truly reflecting a dramatic surge towards Labour in the closing stages of the 2017 UK General Election? Or, as some Labour activists themselves recognize, is it merely the case that Labour activists are more active? Louder? More present?

I’m not going to talk too much about that election here. I do that in a companion note I’m working on. But, more power to Labour activists. They are very good at getting themselves on panels. At answering the telephone. At making noise. But can one trust the ensuing media coverage and polling?

I remain in communication with a freelance British journalist, who revealed on one of the left-wing UK online newspapers, what he believed would be the defining story of the 2017 UK General Election campaign: the underhand donation of some £5 million by HSBC to the British Conservative Party.

(And by the way, a blog (AnotherAngryVoice), which itself gave space to the story, has been quoted by the Guardian as having the two most-hit stories of the 2017 UK General Election campaign.)

Of course I applaud the efforts of said freelance British journalist. And the fact that any media outlet would give his story coverage. And engage in an extensive Twitter campaign to give it profile. To be honest, I was jealous as heck at the initial results.

And yet. The story pretty much dwindled. Not least because a couple of well-known online newspapers rubbished the story and its findings.

Did they rubbish it because they were jealous? Because they have too much corporate backing? Or, because the online news outlets which gave the story so much profile are so avowedly left-wing? Are so consciously and ‘noisily’ Labour-leaning?

Or, was it simply that there was not enough ‘evidence’? And how do you get ‘evidence’ when you are a small online newspaper? A freelance journalist? Is it not fair merely to ask questions? And then hope that those media vehicles with more fulsome resources will pick up a story and run a full investigation? A sentiment I express poignantly, having asked the same question myself repeatedly.

I found myself – I guess I still find myself – with my own investigation, in a vicious circle of book –v- investigation –v- mainstream –v- freelance.

I’d go to a commercial publisher. Who would nicely suggest I get a newspaper to help with my investigation. Get more results. And then come back to them with a more ‘finished’ product.

I’d talk to a newspaper. Who would suggest that I write a book. Get it published. Maybe by a small firm. Get some profile. And then come back to them, when I had more coverage.

One journalist, Paul Lashmar, then of the London Independent, now of the University of Sussex, where he teaches about anti-corruption, investigative journalism, was very kind to me.

He explained to me, in 2001, that I had a story which, in all the best circumstances, he would be happy to investigate. He felt I had enough to make a compelling presentation to his editors.

The problem, he told me, as he shared the fact that he would not be making the presentation, the problem was that he reckoned it would take a year to get to a conclusion, and at least four assistants.

For that sort of investment, the Independent, any major ‘quality’ newspaper, would need to see a series of articles as the investigation was in progress. And Paul simply didn’t see that. All he saw was an end product. Not enough return for the investment.

The world of investigation is no longer (if ever it was) driven by the need for truth. It is driven by ratings. Money, for corporation-driven media. Hits, for politically-inspired activists.

On which latter point. Do not for one minute think that this is all about bad, bad corporate media. And good, good activist media. The latter can be just as mendacious as the former. And the former as truth-seeking as the latter. If it suits their ends.

One of the problems with the story about HSBC – and I have shared this with the journalist in question (um, should probably have kept my mouth shut) – one of the problems is that it had an agenda.

Maybe the agenda was deliberately to keep it simple, in order to have political impact during the British General Election.

Now, to be fair, that is just as much of an agenda as the British corporatized media not giving enough airspace to the British Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. And don’t be giving me guff about balance. The need for affirmative reporting, to offset the unfair advantage of corporatized media.

Bias is bias. It ain’t objective if it is subjective. And one of the primary consequences of the bias of the outlets giving positive coverage to the HSBC story, in my opinion, was that they missed the big story.

It’s no big news that British billionaires donate heavily to the British Conservative Party. The deeper story is that they are able to give so much money. That they want to give so much money. Because British billionaires essentially took over the British Conservative Party in the Nineties. So that they could use it as their own private money-laundering vehicle. And if that link tickled you, try this longer one, too.

So. A left-wing British activist, together with left-wing British online newspapers and blogs, ran a story, created a lot of noise. Which got nowhere. Because they were noisy and left-wing. Obviously had an agenda. May not have had enough evidence. May not have had much of a story. And, in my opinion, missed the real story. Because their primary ambition was to give the Conservative Party a bloody nose in the General Election. Which potentially renders them as useless (as truth-seekers) and self-obsessed as the corporatized media running editorial for advertising bucks.

And yet. The mainstream media. As corrupted by corporate cash as it is. Can sometimes hit a home run. Look at the Petrobas ‘Car Wash’ scandal in Brazil.

Or have a gander at another article in the Guardian. Which I have described as one of the scariest articles I have read anywhere in 30 years of investigating my book.

Now. Before we write off all ‘alternative media.’ Look at some of the people who have been making real headway with the Trump-Russia story. None of whom could be described as mainstream investigators.

One of them is a Washington, DC restaurateur, who (not unlike me) just believes in asking questions.

Along with – the real biggie for me, in this regard – a couple of guys, who I believe have uncovered the real truth behind Trump-Russia. But who can gain absolutely no traction whatsoever.

One of the guys is a Miami-based investigative journalist. The other a reasonably well-connected, national Democratic activist. Good enough credentials. But their story is making the rounds of what is definitely only the alternative news websites and blogs.

Why is no-one paying attention? Well. The politicians have their reasons. Self-preservation.

I came across the same response in the UK with my investigation and book. Everyone and his uncle ‘knows’ there is rampant high-level corruption of the British body politic arising from arms sales. But no-one wants to be the whistleblower. It would devastate said body politic. And would do nothing for the reputation or safety of the whistleblower.

Meanwhile. Those in authority, on both sides of the political divide, with an agenda to push with regards to Trump-Russia. They play leaking games with the media. Who themselves play along. Rather than finding the real story. Because they have to worry about ratings. And lawsuits. What with all the competition from online media sources. Who have no regulation. But make lots of politically-biased noise. Which gets hits. And. And. And.

The players and the media get away with this bastardization of investigation. Because we the people. We have our own agendas. And they aren’t always about finding the truth.

What is one to do? Whom do we trust? Well. You could take my approach. Read what takes your fancy. And try your best to test it against common sense, your own research, your own sense of what is real or likely. Maybe ask some questions? Heck, other ordinary people ask questions. Maybe this should be the age of the citizen journalist? The citizen investigator?

And don’t be too biased or snobby in your approach. It used to be that ‘alternative news’ meant left-wing. Not any more. It also embraces the right-wing. And. Um. News of a more ‘esoteric’ nature.

My wonderful publisher, Kris Millegan of TrineDay, got me on some ‘alternative’ online radio shows. To give my book an initial shove. And. Sigh. Like everybody else. They had their own agendas.

Most of them involved the existence of angels on earth, our genesis from UFO’s and the fact that someone’s grandfather not only was an extraterrestrial, but was also Grandmaster of the Noble Order of Freemasons of St. Thomas of Kinkade. Double sigh.

My favorite radio interview. The one I really, really thought was going to make a difference. Was my interview with Oliver Stone’s son. Not so much. Turns out he was more into fraternal orders than corruption. Triple sigh. Everyone has an agenda.

Mind you, I did get on a couple of Fox News regional radio programs. Say what you like. They were receptive. And honest.

They knew they weren’t going to find much common ground with me politically. But we settled on an approach which got me a nice reception, and allowed me to present my agenda.

The approach? The need for truth. And its relation to allowing people truly to be free. To be able genuinely to design their own destiny.

I still have a soft spot for those regional Fox presenters. There are some right-wing folk out there who are truly scared that too much agenda – right-wing, left-wing, political, media – is denying ordinary people the sense that they have any control over their lives.

Which neatly brings me back to what the rest of us can do to attempt to find our own truth. Which is: trust our instincts. Find out for ourselves. Ask questions. Become citizen journalists and investigators.

Which would be fine. Until we discover. From no less a source than the Guardian. That it ain’t just the corporatized media we are up against. Or alternative news sources. With political agendas. And tinfoil hats. Nope. Now the politicians, the government and big data are laying traps with military-style psyops.

I’ve always taken the view that I can take on anyone. If I can see them coming. But when the ground beneath us is itself shaky. If we can’t trust the consumer technology we use to order our sport’s shirts. Then how do we trust anything that is presented to us?

And just when you think it might be safe enough to get back in the water. You can apparently always count on your average UK journalism student to turn out to be British Intelligence. Just exactly when do I get to stop sighing?

Which brings me right back to where I began. In terms of my book, the next steps in my investigation and my advocacy. Which media can I trust? On which media vehicles should I be focusing my attention? Should I be trying to gain their co-operation? Or should I be attempting to become my own media vehicle?

And, by the by, which media can you trust? What is real, and what ‘fake’? And do you feel yourself any closer to the answers? Sigh …

Published in: on June 6, 2017 at 2:28 am  Leave a Comment  

We The People -v- Trump

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A couple of articles today underscoring my theme that Democrats will not retake the Presidency, Congress and the Senate with wishful thinking. There have to be changes.

Krystal Ball of People’s House Project says that we need to find candidates more in tune with the real concerns of ordinary working Americans. Don’t disagree with that.

Douglas Williams, writing in the London Guardian, is adamant that the seeming desire of leading Democrats just to stand pat on policy will doom Americans to Republican repeats in 2018 and 2020.

I agree with his analysis. But not with his prescription. I agree it is not enough merely to be anti-Trump. You have to discredit Trump. While at the same time offering policies that the more reasonable of his supporters will find attractive.

Trump didn’t gain their votes in 2016 because he was an obnoxious billionaire windbag. He won because he pretended to support policies that spoke to those ordinary working Americans.

Douglas goes too far in the other direction. Abandoning Trump. But also abandoning the concerns of those who voted for him. This will prove no more productive for Democrats.

Um. I wrote to the People’s House Project, offering my services …

Published in: on June 6, 2017 at 1:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Conscious Capitalism -v- Co-operation: Hyperbole and Hypocrisy

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When I spent some eleven years advocating within a leading grocery co-operative for worker’s rights, one of my rallying cries was that you don’t make a traditional capitalist corporate grocery store a genuine co-operative simply by writing a conscious, conscience check to a charity at the end of the financial year.

My particular so-called co-operative grocery store was very good at writing conscious, conscience checks all through the year. But, at the end of every year, it was still a traditional grocery corporation.

And so too was and is Whole Foods. Little difference.

It’s a shame really. There is nothing wrong with being a traditional grocery corporation, which writes conscious, conscience checks. Provided that’s what you say you are.

There’s nothing wrong with being an almost co-operative. Which tries to brighten the mood with dancing on its front lawn. And wine shows twice a year. Provided you don’t claim to be any more.

But when you seek capital by consciously lying about the nature of your capitalism. Well. Um. That’s not conscious capitalism. That’s consciously lying.

Frankly, I hope that the story of Whole Foods brings to an end the bunkem known as ‘conscious capitalism.’

I mean, what does that even mean? Capitalism is, by definition, not conscious. It is a hands-off way of driving economic activity, by making all of that activity serve only one purpose – the enriching of capitalists.

To be honest, I have no problem with that as a starting point. I think you need capital for economic activity.

But I think the employing of that capital should be a tad more conscious in its manner. And that requires structure.

Simply putting the word ‘conscious’ in front does not apply structure. It merely involves the CEO choosing to write one check more than all those he writes to the capital-holders.

I think capitalism can work for the social good, if the correct structure is applied. And I choose to believe that the correct structure is ‘co-operation.’ Mutualism. Properly applied, executed and administered.

Go look it up. I’m not allowed to direct you to my blog any more.

Published in: on June 6, 2017 at 1:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Impeachment, Prosecution, Innuendo: Hyperbole and Hypocrisy

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You know what I think? I think there’s not a blessed person in Washington with enough evidence to prosecute anyone. And they’re hoping that a leak here, an innuendo there, a shove up the something else somewhere else, will cause one or more of the Trump Team to spill.

Look. Do I think there is something awful to the whole Trump-Russia fandango? Yes. You know I do. I’ve gone on about it at length. It comes back to one word: ‘Rosneft.’

Then, why is everyone engaged in this tip-toe dance of hint, evasion, nod and wink? Because no-one wants to be the one to pull the trigger, causing devastating harm to the American body politic.

Why didn’t anyone do anything before now? Like, during the election campaign. I think folks turned the other way, because no-one believed Trump would win. And now, it’s all too late. And too embarrassing. Too many people know they knew. And did nothing. And so, instead, we play this dangerous game of Washington musical chairs.

Are we sure it’s just a game? Yes. If those making the accusations had anything, or knew they were prepared to speak to something, they’d refer to it. They know there’s something there. They know what it is. They just don’t want to be the first to use the word. They don’t want to be the one to bring down the pack of cards. Plus. I genuinely think Trump knows he and his staff have the perfect defense: you guys knew.

Take this morning. We have Hayden saying: yes, but. We have John McCain saying he doesn’t like it. Doesn’t like it?! I checked. Not grounds for impeachment. And Chris Cillizza of CNN saying, gee, you know why this is a problem? Again. Checked …

Do I think Trump should just be left alone? No. I think it is time for Washington to bite the bullet. And fess up. Somehow.

In my opinion. Washington knew what Trump and his entourage were doing in 2016 and 2017. They turned a blind eye. For whatever reason. And for that reason, what’s done is done.

We simply cannot have in the White House someone who has been as corrupted by one of the other major superpowers in the world, to the extent that Trump has.

And that’s the problem. It’s awful. But what exactly does one do?

This much I do know. You either fess up. And let the cards fall. Or you shut the f**k up. And we move on. As we did with Iran-Contra (Oliver North was an entertaining sideshow, which ended up with North et al being pardoned).

But this pantomime, being paraded on prime time every evening, has got to stop. It is doing untold harm to our government and to our reputation abroad.

I suspect that, sooner rather than later, a horrible deal is going to have to be struck. Where Trump et al are given unconditional immunity, pardons, whatever. We move out the whole shebang. And Pence takes over.

It won’t be pretty. More than one reputation will be irredeemably sullied. But the other thing I can tell you, without hesitation. Innuendo ain’t going to work. This Washington parlor game ain’t going to cut it. Not even one being conducted by Robert Mueller.

Trump and his team may know squat about governance. But they are past masters at avoiding jail and pleading the Fifth. We ain’t going to catch them out with good cop-bad cop.

Time to bite that bullet, people.

Published in: on June 5, 2017 at 12:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bigotry, Violence, the Rule of Law: Hyperbole and Hypocrisy

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I know there has been a theme to my advocacy for a year or two now. But I struggle to find an over-arching description.

What I am trying to present is a tiny beacon of consistent light. Where someone is demanding that we be honest with our politics. Where we say what we mean. Where we recognize reality. And stop trying to bypass others. Merely because they are inconvenient. Where we do not commandeer process, pretending that we are doing so democratically. Becoming so self-righteous in our own cause, that we do not recognize that we are employing the same exclusionary tactics of those we oppose.

And so I read this article. On one level, one can detect a shift in the workings of the alt-right. Where it is beginning to evolve a paramilitary aspect. One can froth about the condoning of violence now moving into a phase where boots will literally be put on the ground.

All of which would be fine, except for the words of the Portland Mayor: “Our current political climate allows far too much room for those who spread bigotry. Violent words can lead to violent acts.

“All elected leaders in America, all people of good conscience, must work deliberately (to) change our political dialogue.”

After which, pronouncements by all sides quoted in the article becomes a blur of hyperbole and hypocrisy.

Do I condone the hateful speech of the alt-right? No. Do I accept that violent language can lead to violent action? Yes. Do I think that the cause of one side is sufficiently more righteous that the other side that it is permitted to engage in violent language more than the other side? No.

Do I support the notion of pre-emptive violent language or action being employed by one side against another? No. Do I believe that two wrongs make a right? No.

Do I believe in democracy? Yes. Do I believe that our democracy allows for true free speech? It should. Does that include abhorrent free speech? Yes. Does that include speech which breaches existing law on assault? No. Does the existing law and its enforcement provide sufficient sanction against violent language and action? In my opinion, yes.

Can any law prevent a violent person attacking and harming another individual? No. Again. No.

What happened in Portland is awful, outrageous. What happened in Manchester is awful, outrageous.

None of it gives an ordinary citizen permission to engage in language or action, outside of the law, simply because they want to match a perceived threat.

If you look at the alt-right. If you look at militant jihadism. If you look at a Portland Mayor seeking to censor an alt-right gathering, if you look at globalism, if you look at militia groupings, if you look at the far right, the far left, anarchists, Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Donald frigging Trump.

And you see something which makes you want to take to the streets, throw a rock, throw a punch, hire a security firm, put on a uniform, burn a police car, yell and scream at a bystander, or beat them until they are dead. No-one is going to be able to stop you.

But do not pretend that you are not all engaging in exactly the same activity. Driven by exactly the same emotions. Contributing to exactly the same downward spiral.

It is no more accurate for one side to say of the other that violent language and action is a political lurch – a lurch to the far right. It is no such thing. It is a lurch to violence. Period. And it is a lurch to violence whatever your stated politics.

I, for one, will not engage in, nor support, nor enable violence. I decry all violent language and action. And frankly, there is enough to go around on all sides of the political aisle. Too much.

The answer is not to add to it. The answer is to speak out against all violent language and action .The answer is to recognize, however crazy we may allow our Facebook Feed to convince us we are being, the answer is to stop and listen to the other side.

When people say they are scared and angry because they feel threatened by the seeming racism of small-minded bigots. Then we listen.

When people say they are angry and scared by bigoted globalists who shut down their mills and censor their meetings. Then we listen.

Because bigotry knows no politics: “big·ot·ry – intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.” And it is time bigotry was expunged from all decent politics.

The answer is not to bypass democracy. The answer is to believe in it. To use the processes evolved over hundreds of years. To respect a person’s right to utter the most hateful filth. To step in and protect an individual at risk. To accept that there are unavoidable consequences, when a human prone to violence is involved. And to trust the processes we have evolved to enforce law, order and security in our democracy to exact appropriate retribution.

No more. No less.

To sanction anything less. To advocate the bypassing of process. In our functioning democracy. Whatever your politics. Whatever you think is your righteous justification. Is to step outside of the law as much as the people you decry. You become the same outlaw.

Now. If you want to be an outlaw. Go right ahead. But don’t be surprised when the full sanction of the law is brought against you. Be your politics left or right. And don’t be pretending you’re some sort of noble crusader. You ain’t. You’re adding to the problem. Wake up. Grow up.

And actually that goes for the folks leaking national security, as much as it goes for those employing bigoted, violent language and action. So, there is some consistency to my advocacy. If only there was a simple definition. Rather than a couple of pages of writing every time …

Published in: on June 5, 2017 at 12:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

US Memorial Day 2017

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I’m a pacifist. I don’t like violence. I hate war. But the world is not a perfect place. And we ask some among us, usually by the way those seeking escape from disadvantage, to man (and ‘woman’) the ramparts, and keep us safe at night.

I do not honor war. But I do salute those who do the job I wouldn’t choose to do. I recall those who die doing that job. And I remember the families and friends left behind, for whom the grieving never ends.

And that is where, probably, I should leave it. And yet, this year. This US Memorial Day. I want to share some other thoughts. Some other questions.

Do we spare a thought for those who make the decisions to go to war? Those who make the decisions, in the almost certain knowledge that it will never be they who die? Not them, nor their children?

Do we spare a thought for those among us who believed in the last US Presidential election that they might finally be choosing someone who wanted to bring the troops home, over someone who wanted to fight more ‘righteous’ wars, with other people’s children?

Do we spare a moment to wonder what those voters must be thinking, now that their hopes appear once more to be dashed? Do we have anything to offer them by way of succor, or hope for the future?

Is it permissible today to spare a thought for those who die fighting wars for other nations, besides the United States? For those who die fighting the same wars, but on the other side? Having been told that their cause is just as righteous as ours?

Am I allowed to spare a thought for the heroes among us, who die courageously, attempting peacefully to resolve the differences we create for ourselves, in the hope that war can be avoided?

And finally, do any of us take the time today to memorialize those who die when our wars come home to roost?

Published in: on June 5, 2017 at 12:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

The American Character: Lack of Faith in Process?

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The linked article about Jared Kushner and covert Russian backchannels precisely sums up, in my opinion, the dangerous territory Americans are negotiating with the manner in which they are mishandling their reaction to Donald Trump as President.

Americans are giving themselves permission to ignore political and bureaucratic conventions, in order to give free rein to their personal feelings, whether pro- or anti-Trump or pro- or anti-Washington.

Sometimes, a breath of fresh air, a calculated disregard for ‘tradition,’ can bring a needed sense of reform to ossified procedures. But sometimes, process exists for a reason. It expedites, it protects, it allows for caution, where a rulebook or playbook does not formally exist.

Clearly, there is a large body of opinion in the US which has become uncomfortable with what it regards as a national and international elite. They want change. And there are pathways to change. But that should not include shoving aside other countries’ elected leaders or leaking their intelligence.

Clearly, there is a large body of opinion that feels that Donald Trump is not only unqualified to be US President, but that he is abhorrent as an individual, and that his actions and behavior require that he be removed as President.

Again, pathways and processes exist to achieve the latter. And they should properly be followed. But the answer is not to engage in a bureaucratic civil war. Where, for reasons I am still not able fully to fathom, those with the authority choose not to pull the trigger on those processes. But rather pull their punches. And instead, resort to subterfuge, leaking and backstabbing, in order to undermine a President they simply do not like.

In both instances, ordinary Americans, you and I, connive in this backroom war of destabilization, by demonstrating what is currently proving to be the worst aspects of our national character, and cheering on the misbehavior from the sidelines.

If all this was merely frattish misbehavior. With no consequence other than bruised feelings. I wouldn’t mind. But it is becoming increasingly clear that this destabilization is causing a breakdown in international relations, and an increasing logjam in Washington itself.

Ok. So, how does the attached article underline all of this?

1) What precisely is wrong with Jared Kushner speaking with officials of a foreign country during a Presidential campaign, and then during a Presidential transition? Backchannels to Russia have existed since the days of Henry Kissinger. On a day when we note the passing of Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, aren’t we being a tad hypocritical?

2) If there is something wrong, why are ‘officials’ not coming out and telling us? If the reasons are subject to an ongoing investigation, then so too should be the information itself. You can’t have it both ways.

3) I believe there is a hugely damaging story behind the Trump-Russia connection. I have written about it. I believe that all parties knew of the damaging connection. And did nothing. For their own political reasons.

All of those parties should now man up. Either accept there was wrongdoing across the board, and let the chips fall where they fall. So as to exorcise the cancer from the American body politic. Or drop it, altogether. But this backroom, sniveling, sneaky, hint-dropping. Serves only to undermine that body politic further.

What does this mean exactly, Geoff? This article doesn’t clarify. It merely attempts to smear by association. It actually qualifies itself by stating that there is no certainty Kushner did anything wrong. Then why run it? To try to undermine Kushner andTrump. Why? Because no-one has the balls to come out and utter the word ‘Rosneft.’ This is underhand cowardice. And it is dangerous.

4) What is more. Once again. Current and former government officials are quoted without attribution. This is all backroom and underhand. But ok. Officials go off-the-record the whole time. But they shouldn’t, not when it involves leaking matters of national security. And yes. We are back there again.

5) It’s easy to miss. Because we’re more interested in the juice. But we have here a story, which is a non-story. Which attempts to undermine the credibility of Trump and Kushner. But actually undermines the credibility of the mainstream media, precisely because it is a non-story. Without proffered proof or substance. Where there may well be no wrongdoing. Where there is an investigation underway. A story which is proffered simply because the mainstream media in question do not like Trump or Kushner. And have decided to use their editorial, not their opinion pages, to demonstrate their dislike of Trump and Kushner.

6) More than this, the mainstream media have taken the bait proffered, in order to improve their ratings, and have run information which should properly be considered an issue of national security. Namely, the fact that the information about Kushner was obtained from intercepts of communications between the Russian ambassador and Moscow. This is irresponsible and potentially harmful.

And so the dangerous pantomime continues. I may be the only person in the world to see the danger. But this childish backroom civil war, playing out in the press, and with the connivance of the American psyche, is undermining government in this country, is damaging international relations, and is setting troubling precedents for future bureaucratic and political behavior.

There is an investigation. Let it do its work without collateral damage. Let that investigation expose the real story. And in the meantime, why don’t the rest of us demonstrate greater faith in the system, its processes – and ourselves?

Published in: on June 5, 2017 at 12:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Security -v- Privacy -v- Whistleblowing

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We pretty much know the basic arguments. But the lines are not easy to draw.

Any sentient human being knows that interference by some nations in the affairs of others has caused a backlash, which finds expression the only way some people know how – in what used to be termed low-intensity paramilitary operations.

We ought to address the causes more than we do. But. At the same time, any political entity having any kind of civic responsibility for people needs to be able to protect those people. And that requires some element of security activity.

‘Security activity,’ as the phrase suggests, requires a degree of operational secrecy, in order for there to be security. That follows, as night follows day.

At the same time, those in a position to influence that secrecy, that security owe some sort of responsibility to ensure that the required secrecy and security do not overstep, and impinge on people’s right to their own privacy and safety.

You can’t for very long gain the consent of the people you are protecting, in the name of security, if the operations themselves breach individual safety and security.

But. Who decides where the line is drawn and how?

Hmm. I would say each of us has a duty to our own conscience to do what we think is right. Provided we understand and accept that, in a majority-rule democracy, it is the majority who speak for the conscience of the democracy. And if individual conscience conflicts with majority conscience, there may well be uncomfortable consequences.

Ok. That’s all fine and dandy intellectual twaddle. But, what does it mean on the ground? Hard to say.

For myself, I would say that, if you sign a contract or swear an oath to keep secret and secure matters that are patently issues of national security, then if you leak, you breach the contract or oath, and you suffer the full consequences.

So. No. You won’t find me signing petitions saying Edward Snowden is a good guy. If he didn’t want to sign the contract or swear the oath, then he shouldn’t have done so.

In the UK, what about the Official Secrets Act? I don’t like it. But, until the majority direct that it should be repealed, it is the law. You sign it, you abide by it. You don’t like it. Don’t sign it.

What about investigative journalists? Both professional and citizen. Well. I regard myself as one of the latter. We have a duty to be bloody-minded pains in someone’s proverbial a**. To keep the balance. But. We might find ourselves dead as a consequence. It’s the price we might pay. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still investigate.

What about the professional media generally? Tough one. If you’ve signed something, you’ve signed something. Beyond that, it’s a balance thing. Are you publishing because you genuinely believe exposure to be more important than a tyrant’s view of national security (for example)? Or, are you just trying to beat CNN to the ratings?

And I think that is my problem with what certain US officials and US media have been doing recently. There hasn’t been some high-minded, noble ambition to protect people, or fight the good fight. There has simply been a base motive to hurt another protagonist in the security ‘game,’ or achieve profitable ratings.

 

Published in: on June 5, 2017 at 12:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Decency, Dignity – Making a Difference

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I have just read a post in the London Guardian newspaper that links to a major US media outlet which has seen fit to publish pictures of what it alleges are remaining components of the explosive device that killed 22 young people in Manchester, England.

Young people who, to date, include an 18-year old, a 15 year-old, a 14-year old and an 8-year old.

I can do no better than quote the Guardian newspaper:

“The UK government has expressed its anger after photographs apparently showing fragments from the Manchester bomb were leaked to the ———-. A Whitehall source said:

“We are furious. This is completely unacceptable. These images leaked from inside the US system will be distressing for victims, their families and the wider public. The issue is being raised at every relevant level by the British authorities with their US counterparts.”

The images appeared just hours after the home secretary, Amber Rudd, told the US authorities not to leak information. That came after details about the attack emerged in American media on Tuesday before being confirmed by British police. Rudd had said that she was “irritated” by the early release of Salman Abedi’s name and had made “very clear” to American counterparts that no further leaks should happen.

The row goes to the heart of the close intelligence-sharing relationship between the transatlantic allies and provides an awkward backdrop to Theresa May’s meeting with the US president, Donald Trump, at the Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday.”

Some of you will know that I have written recently about what I regard as the causal disregard some in the US have for matters of security.

Is it really that difficult to understand? Forget the reasons, forget the causes, forget the discussions I would likely be leading in other forums about the guilt the West should own for its behavior in the past, which behavior is the likely genesis for much of the bloodshed we are now experiencing in the West. Forget all that for one moment.

We are where we are. We need to protect our citizens. Our young. We do not do that by revealing all over our media what it is that we know about those who would wish us harm. What it is that we are doing. When. And how. So. Could the US please stop doing it?

And when I say US, I do not just mean Trump. It ain’t just him doing this. It is some in US intelligence. And it is other US officials, too. Plus, it is the US mainstream media, grasping at any opportunity, however insensitive and gruesome, to recover ratings.

And it’s not just about security. It is also about common decency. I have never understood why the mainstream media feel it necessary to publish pictures of people who are dead, and lying in the street. When relatives have probably not yet been told. Publishing pictures of people in pain. Where is the common sense of decency and dignity?

I do not seek regulation or legislation. I just want those who are in a position to make a difference, actually to start behaving differently. For the love of all things humane, could we all of us just make a simple decision not to make a profit off those of our baser instincts, which some of us attempt with a modicum of dignity to keep under some measure of control?

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Published in: on June 5, 2017 at 10:35 am  Leave a Comment