Monday, May 25, 2020

The China-Russia Alliance Does Not Have to Be a Threat to the West


by Gilbert Doctorow, Russia Insider:

“I submit that all of the above is wrong and results not only from the limited knowledge of the real situation on the ground in these two countries but to a prejudicial mindset that does not want to get at the facts.”

For a fascinating Russian TV News report from the huge 19th Party Congress in Beijing last week, featured in today’s RI – almost completely ignored by western media, click here.

In this essay we will examine two aspects of the same issue:  the strategic partnership between Russia and China which is fast becoming a foreign policy, commercial and military alliance. 

The first question centers on the relationship itself, how solid is it, and in particular can this potential game changer in international relations be unwound, can Russia be drawn back into the orbit of the Western world.  The second question is that given this partnership cum alliance, what kind of world order has taken shape in the past couple of decades?  We know for certain that it is no longer an American led unipolar world.  But is it de facto a multipolar world as so many of our commentators tell us, or are we witnessing a return to the bipolar world in the context of a New Cold War?  These issues are of critical importance if we are to understand the times we are living in and formulate an effective and durable system of world governance.

Notwithstanding the hysteria in the United States over threats to its democracy coming from Russia, as demonstrated by alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign…  Notwithstanding the claims that Russia has designs on the Baltic States, that it is destabilizing Ukraine and has further territorial ambitions there, all of which reasoning is adduced to justify US movements of arms and personnel into Eastern Europa as part of a program giving new life to NATO…  Notwithstanding the United States naming Russia as the country’s greatest security threat…The consensus view of American and European political scientists is that Russia is a country in decline. 


They make reference to its problematic demographic situation, to near stagnant GNP growth rates and to a highly centralized and authoritarian system of governance that seems incapable of implementing liberalizing reforms they insist are essential. In the near unanimous judgment of this fraternity of Western experts, the global power balance will be changed not by Russia but by China, the up-and-coming power that is already the world’s second largest economy and that has made its geopolitical ambitions clear by its militarization of the South China Sea, securing its perimeter in preparation for the launch of an ocean-going navy and global projection of power to match the global projection of its trade and investment ties.

These same experts tell us that the apparent Russian-Chinese partnership and their common action in the UnitedNations and other forums is not what it seems to be considering the fundamental divergence of their security interests . We are reminded of the nearly empty expanses of Siberia and the Russian Far Eastern territories, just across the border from overcrowded, resource and land hungry China. We are reminded of the  disparity in economic strength of the two, which dictates that Russia will be the “junior partner” – a situation which the Kremlin will find untenable. At best this is a temporary alignment that will not last, they say.

I submit that all of the above is wrong and results not only from the limited knowledge of the real situation on the ground in these two countries but to a prejudicial mindset that does not want to get at the facts. Russia may not be experiencing dynamic growth, but over the past two years it has survived a crisis of circumstance (sharply depressed oil prices) and economic warfare against it by the West that would have felled less competently managed governments enjoying less robust popularity than is the case in Putin’s Russia. Moreover, current GNP performance is on a par with Western Europe’s. Russian agriculture is booming, with the 2017 grain harvest the best in 100 years despite very adverse climatic conditions from early spring. In parallel, domestically produced farm machinery has been going from strength to strength. Other major Industrial sectors like civil aircraft production have revived from zero with the launch of new and credible models for both domestic and export markets. Major infrastructure projects representing phenomenal engineering feats like the bridge across the Kerch straits to Crimea are proceeding on schedule to successful termination in the full glare of regular television broadcasts. So where is this decrepit Russia that our Western commentators repeat to us daily?

The reason for their wrongheaded observations are not so hard to discover. The ongoing rampant conformism in American and Western thinking about Russia has taken control not only of our journalist commentators but also of our academic specialists who serve up to their students and to the general public what is expected and demanded: proof of the viciousness of the “Putin regime” and celebration of the brave souls in Russia who go up against this regime, such as the blogger turned politician Alexander Navalny or Russia’s own Paris Hilton, the socialite turned political activist Ksenia Sochak.

Although vast amounts of information are available about Russia in open sources, meaning the Russian press and commercial as well as state television, these are largely ignored. The sour grapes Russian opposition personalities who have settled in the United States are instead given the microphone to sound off about their former homeland. Children ofthese emigres now studying at American universities are characterized by one of America’s foremost scholars-administrators in the Russian studies field, Timothy Frye, at Columbia’s Harriman Institute, as giving soundness to the field by compensating for the stunning collapse of Russian language training in the country among non-Russian-descent undergraduates and graduate students. Meanwhile, anyone taking care to read, hear and analyze the words of Vladimir Putin becomes in these circles a “stooge.”  All of this limits greatly the effectiveness and usefulness of what passes for expertise about Russia.

Apart from the shortage of Americans or Western Europeans who are not émigrés from Russia or the other former republics of the Soviet Union and can read the language of their area of concentration, the field suffers, as it always has, even in its heyday during the Cold War, from a narrow concentration on Russia and from the impoverished general education of those entering the field. They do not study world history in a way that would put their Russian knowledge in some firmly anchored comparative international setting. 

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Anonymous Group Hackers Target Websites of Spanish Government, Popular Party


from Sputnik News:

A hacktivist group dubbed Anonymous has targeted Spanish institutions for the second time this week.

MADRID (Sputnik) — The Anonymous group carried out a number of attacks targeting websites of Spanish ministries and the country’s Popular Party (PP), a Sputnik correspondent reported Sunday. In addition to governmental websites and the one of the PP, the hackers had also targeted the website of the Francisco Franco Foundation. However, the activities of the websites were restored by Sunday morning.

This is already the second round by the Anonymous group aimed at supporting Catalonia’s independence aspiration. The day before, hackers attacked the website of the Spanish Constitutional Court.

The Anonymous group has been expressing their sentiment over the independence bid since it launched Operation Free Catalonia on September 24. They asserted it was a protest against Spanish efforts to block the stance. On October 20, the Spanish Homeland Security Department warned of a massive campaign being plotted under the slogans #OpCatalunya and #FreeCatalunya.

More than 90 percent of over 2 million Catalans cast their ballots in favor of Catalonia’s secession from Spain on October 1. This move was called illegal and unconstitutional by Madrid and set alight violent clashes between independence supporters and Spanish police. Also, Spain ordered the Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to define the region’s position on the separation bid by October 16.

As Puigdemont failed to meet the target date, Spain’s government has held an emergency meeting to start the procedure of invoking Article 155 of the constitution, which allows them to take power from the region and to set an early vote for the Catalan parliament. The attacks began soon after the meeting.

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Which Rotten Fruit Falls First?


by Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds:

I predict the current investigations will widen and take a variety of twists and turns that surprise all those anticipating a tidy, narrowly focused denouement. 
The theme this week is The Rot Within.

To those of us who understand the entire status quo is rotten and corrupt to its core, the confidence of each ideological camp that their side will emerge unscathed by investigation is a source of amusement. The fake-progressives (fake because these so-called “progressives” support Imperial over-reach and a status quo whose only possible output is soaring wealth and income inequality) are confident that a “smoking gun” of corruption will deliver their most fervent dream, the impeachment of President Trump, while Trump supporters are equally confident there is no “smoking gun.”

One camp is confident that the wily Clintons and their army of enablers, from former FBI Director Comey on down, will finally be brought to long-evaded justice for their various perfections of corruption and collusion: pay to play, and so on.

Clinton supporters are equally confident that there is no “smoking gun” that will bring down the House of Clinton, and by proxy, the organs of the Democratic Party.

The implicit historical model each camp is anticipating is of course Watergate, which unfolded with a dramatic inevitability that in retrospect almost seems scripted: a minor burglary led to the hubris of cover-up which led to the destruction of the Nixon presidency.

Often overlooked in this history is the key roles played by insider informants (such as Deep Throat) and the wider political demands for greater transparency the scandal triggered. The Church Committee ended up investigating the illegal campaigns of the FBI and CIA against the anti-war and civil rights movements (COINTELPRO etc.), and a small dent was made in the federal government’s decades-long reliance on official secrecy to cover up official corruption, collusion, malfeasance, lies, etc.– the ugly underbelly of agencies protecting the Empire from any inconvenient leaks of truth.

I submit that Watergate will not be the template for the multiple investigations being pursued in the present. It seems highly likely to me that who and what gets taken down by the investigations is much less predictable than in the Watergate template, which distilled down to an escalating campaign of cover-ups and stonewalling which simply compounded the crimes previously committed.

I submit that the investigations launched with an implicit intent of bringing down selected targets may well end up destroying people and institutions that weren’t in the crosshairs. The reason why this seems so likely is that the entire status quo is corrupt: the fraud, pay-to-play, lies and collusion are institutionalized and system-wide, and once some investigation drills a hole in the dam of secrecy and collusion, the hole may quickly widen as the fetid gush of hidden truths pours out.

In other words, when the entire status quo is corrupt and hiding its collusion, gathering evidence to nail one target inevitably tugs loose other threads, threads that the original investigators reckoned could be safely left untouched.

It doesn’t work that way, folks. Insiders end up releasing more than investigators bargained for, and all it takes is one insider and one journalist who isn’t beholden to a colluding-insider corporate boss to widen the hole in the dam into a veritable flood.

Longtime readers know I have long made the case that the Deep State has fractured into competing camps. For example:

Is the Deep State Fracturing into Disunity? (March 14, 2014)

Surplus Repression and the Self-Defeating Deep State (May 26, 2015)

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Doug Casey on the Recent NFL Protests


by Doug Casey, Casey Research:

Justin’s note: It’s one of today’s most controversial topics. Everyone’s talking about it. Even Donald Trump’s getting up in arms over it…

I’m talking about the recent NFL protests.

I still can’t help but wonder if people should even care about this. So to make sense of this, I called up Doug Casey…who I knew would have an interesting take on this matter…

Justin: Doug, I can’t wait to get your take on the recent NFL protests. But first tell me what you think of the National Anthem. Is it a worthy tradition?

Doug: I don’t see what sporting events have to do with nationalism. I don’t think they should go together.

The idea of playing a national anthem at sporting events or other gatherings is foolish and dangerous. It elevates the notion of the state, it keeps the presence of the government in front of people. It’s almost as bad an idea as having kids pledge allegiance to the flag at the start of the school day—another fairly recent innovation.

I looked into the history of this, and the anthem apparently first started being played sporadically at baseball games, during World War 1. It only turned into a tradition during WW2. Needless to say, during the ’30s, the Germans, the Italians, and the Russians always used their anthems to get the crowd thinking in the mode of “nationalistic citizens” watching the home team battle the enemy team, as opposed to sports fans just out to watch a game and have a good time.

Playing the National Anthem before a game is a bad idea. But every country in the world does it now. I think the crowds generally dislike it as a distraction and a waste of time, but nobody will say anything for fear of being lambasted for being “unpatriotic.” It’s groupthink in action.

Apart from the fact that anthems all sound discordant, and grate against the ear drum. They’re all basically military music—which is itself a contradictory term. I’ll only except the Marseillaise—which really is a noble tune, but inappropriate for US audiences.

Ultimately, it’s up to the team and stadium owners. If they want to do it, that’s their business. But it’s become such a tradition that—especially in view of the US being constantly involved in a war somewhere—it’s likely going to be impossible to eradicate. It no longer matters that it’s a bad tradition—it’s now a tradition.

And let me go further. I think that it’s in very bad taste and negative influence for the US government and the US military to use football games for military display. Flying fighter planes around and having military bands marching, is much more what I’d expect of the Germans in the ’30s than an ostensibly peaceful country in today’s world.

That said, I think that it makes sense to show respect for things like the National Anthem. They’re part of the national ethos. Disrespecting them upsets a community at a very gut level; it’s unwise, like telling someone his mother is ugly and has low morals.

Justin: Are you saying NFL players shouldn’t protest by taking a knee?

Doug: Well, anybody has a right to do anything, as long as it doesn’t aggress against other persons or their property. But just because something is legal and moral doesn’t mean it can’t also be stupid.

I’m not even sure what point these players are trying to make. In some cases, these athletes are making tens of millions of dollars a year. These guys are young, rich, famous, good-looking and generally on top of the world. They’re not subjects of “discrimination.”

So, why are they doing this? Do they feel that they’re actually in some danger of being shot? The answer is no, unless they’re hanging out in the ghetto, or acting out as thugs somewhere—some of them do. There’s certainly no reason to think these guys are moral paradigms. The rates of spousal abuse and off-field violence in the NFL—which is about 70{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} black—are way above the norm. The guy who started this nonsense, Colin Kaepernick, is actually just a scam artist. A crybaby looking for attention.

Frankly, I don’t care what they do or feel. It’s foolish and in bad taste for them to use their athletic platform to say whatever they’re saying. It’s unclear to me exactly what they’re trying to say.

Justin: You’re right, Doug. Colin Kaepernick was the first player to make this protest. He did so last year before a preseason game. And he kneeled to take a stand against police brutality and racial injustice.

Now you have entire teams doing it. Could these “showings of unity” repair race relations in this country?

Doug: No. Instead, they will damage race relations further.

The problem is that people are genetically programmed to be suspicious of those of a different race or even a different community.

A couple hundred thousand years ago, you’re out hunting a deer. If you met somebody else out there hunting that deer, and he wasn’t part of your immediate clan, he was probably an enemy. There’s a good chance that he was going to kill you after the deer goes down. The more different he was, the greater the odds violence would ensue.

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Report: Former Democrat FEC Chairman Calls for Americans Sharing ‘Fake News’ to be Fined


by Charlie Nash, Breitbart:

Former Democratic FEC Chairman, Ann Ravel, is pushing for the introduction of fines for individuals sharing “fake news,” according to a report.

In the proposal, citizens of the United States could face libel penalties for sharing “fake news.”

“After a social media user clicks ‘share’ on a disputed item (if the platforms do not remove them and only label them as disputed), government can require that the user be reminded of the definition of libel against a public figure,” Ravel proposed. “Libel of public figures requires ‘actual malice,’ defined as knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth. Sharing an item that has been flagged as untrue might trigger liability under libel laws.”

According to the Washington Examiner, the proposal could affect “users of platforms and news feeds, from Facebook, to Twitter, to the Drudge Report and even New York Times.”

“She would include ‘fake news,’ not just paid ads, to be regulated, though it’s never defined other than the Democrat’s description of ‘disinformation.’ And anybody who shares or retweets it could face a libel suit,” they reported. “She would also use regulation to ‘improve voter competence,’ according to the new proposal titled Fool Me Once: The Case for Government Regulation of ‘Fake News.’”

In response to Ravel’s proposal, former FEC Chairman Lee Goodman claimed, “Ann’s proposal is full blown regulation of all political content, even discussion of issues, posted at any time, for free or for a fee, on any online platform, from Facebook to the”

“A fatal flaw of Ann’s proposal is that it cannot define what is, or is not, ‘disinformation’ in a political message,” he continued. “Nevertheless, it proposes to tag threats of libel lawsuits and liability to thousands of American citizens who might want to retweet or forward a message that somebody else subjectively considers to be ‘disinformational.’ I call that the big chill.”

“Americans should not be required to sign a national registry everytime they post a political video on YouTube,” Goodman concluded.

Elections lawyer Andrew Woodson mirrored Goodman’s concerns, adding, “Any proposal built on intimidating Americans from sharing news stories on social media is headed in the wrong direction.”

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Depravity, Frivolity, and Dissent: Are We Watching the End of an Empire?


by Daisy Luther, The Organic Prepper:

A 40-year-old essay predicted the end of an empire and current events sure make it look like we’re watching it happen in real time.

I spend a fair bit of time scanning the news every day for my site, Preppers Daily News. And some days, I just have to shake my head as I realize that people are so desperate for…something…that they just keep going to further and further extremes to try and find that elusive thing their lives are missing.

The more I read, the more likeness I see to Sir John Glubb’s essay, The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival. (It’s only 24 pages and you should definitely read it – it’s brilliant.) Sir Glubb wrote this outstanding work when he was 79 years old, after a lifetime of being a soldier, traveling the world, and analyzing history. It’s well worth a read as he goes into detail about the fall of empires past.

The final stage of the end of an empire is the Age of Decadence. Some signs of this age are political dissensions (Antifa, anyone?), an influx of foreigners (Europe, anyone?), the welfare state (America, anyone?), despair (350 million people diagnosed), depravity (see below), and the rise of frivolity as people try to fill lives that have less and less meaning.

Sound familiar?

This video is a brief synopsis of the signs of an empire that is near its end.

A synopsis I read makes Glubb’s theory entirely applicable to modern society:

In the age of decadence many people choose to behave in ways that are unsustainable, apparently unaware of the consequences. They indulge in excessive, often conspicuous, consumption. An absurdly wealthy elite emerges, but instead of repelling the masses it is admired and celebrated. Those outside the elite aspire to similar levels of consumption, and are encouraged by the availability of cheap credit. People become convinced that increased consumption is the key to happiness, but in its pursuit they become measurably less happy. As David Morgan says, “you can never get enough of what you don’t need.”

At this point in the life cycle of an empire frivolity, as Glubb calls it, comes to the fore. In order to distract people from what’s really going on, the economy creates diversions. Voyeurism becomes central to culture: the gladiatorial spectacles in decadent Rome are mirrored in today’s ‘reality’ television. People become fixated on celebrity as the genuinely noteworthty become understandably camera shy. These invented celebrities are ‘famous’ just for being famous…

…Debauchery is another recurring theme at the end of empire. Society develops a strangely immature obsession with sex. People drink themselves to the point of unconsciousness and shamelessly collapse in the street. In Roman times, binge drinkers were left to their fate. Today’s debauchery is supervised by the police; its ‘victims’ are taken care of by hard-pressed health care professionals, placing further pressure on the public purse. And, all the while, supermarkets and corporations make a killing selling discounted booze to people barely old enough to buy it. This is our modern-day bread and circuses, with obese citizens literally becoming a burden on the state.

But the small can never satisfy the large. Cheap pleasures fail to compensate for the absence of meaning in so many people’s lives. A hankering for something greater remains…growing numbers are denied access to work; they can find no meaningful involvement in their community, so their potential goes unfulfilled. When people are prevented from fulfilling their potential, they often self-destruct. (source)

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Corey Feldman plans to out Hollywood paedophiles following Harvey Weinstein’s downfall


from ABC News:

FORMER child star Corey Feldman says he is working on a plan towards bringing his Hollywood abusers to justice.

COREY Feldman says he has a plan to bring his Hollywood abusers to justice — but he won’t name names to protect his family.

Feldman, 46, who’s been outspoken for years about alleged abuse he and his late friend and childhood co-star Corey Haim suffered — tweeted, “I will not [be] going on a talk show 2 disclose names of my abuser or [anyone else’s] abusers.”

 Corey Feldman (L) and Corey Haim in a 1988 film. Picture: Supplied Source:News Corp Australia
Corey Feldman (L) and Corey Haim in a 1988 film. Picture: Supplied Source:News Corp Australia

However, he added he’s “working on a plan” that might “shed some [light] on this situation if I can figure out a way 2 get actual justice while not risking my safety & well being. You will know when that time comes! … Let me add, this not about fear of being sued! Yes, that’s a real possibility but the bigger reason is safety 4 my family.”

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Unprecedented Housing Bailout Revealed, As China Property Sales Drop For First Time In 30 Months


from ZeroHedge:

Back in March, we explained why the “fate of the world economy is in the hands of China’s housing bubble.” The answer was simple: for the Chinese population, and growing middle class, to keep spending vibrant and borrowing elevated, it had to feel comfortable and confident that its wealth will keep rising. However, unlike the US where the stock market is the ultimate barometer of the confidence boosting “wealth effect”, in China it has always been about housing: three quarters of Chinese household assets are parked in real estate, compared to only 28{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} in the US with the remainder invested financial assets.

Beijing knows this, of course, which is why China periodically and consistently reflates its housing bubble, hoping that the popping of the bubble, which happened in late 2011 and again in 2014, will be a controlled, “smooth landing” process. 

The other reason why China is so eager to keep its housing sector inflated – and risk bursting bubbles – is that as shown in the chart below, in 2016 the rise of property prices boosted household wealth in 37 tier 1 and tier 2 cities by RMB24 trillion, almost twice the total local disposable income of RMB12.9 trillion. For any Fed readers out there, that’s how you create a wealth effect, fake as it may be. 

Unfortunately for China, whose record credit creation in 2017, and certainly in the months leading up to the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress which started last week, has been the primary catalyst for the “global coordinated growth”, the good times are now again over, and according to the latest real estate data released last week, property sales in China dropped for the first time since March 2015, or more than two-and-half years, in September and housing starts slowed sharply reinforcing concerns that robust growth in the world’s second-largest economy is starting to cool.

Property sales by floor area fell 1.5{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} in September from a year earlier, compared with a 4.3{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} increase in August and a 34{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} jump in September 2016, according to Reuters calculations based on official data released on Thursday. That marked the first annual decline since the start of 2015. Separately, new construction starts by floor area, a volatile but telling indicator of developers’ confidence, rose just 1.4{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} in September on-year, slowing from a 5.3{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} increase in August, according to Reuters calculations.

“The negative September sale number shows that, unequivocally, the property boom has peaked,” Rosealea Yao, a property analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics told Reuters. “We have seen some big rebounds at the end of the first and second quarter, but given how fast the sale numbers are declining, we expect no big rebound this time.”

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