Boycott Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Here’s Why:

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org

NATO — the neoconservatives, the marketeers for firms such as Lockheed Martin and BAE — has taken over the social-media giants and much of online international ‘news’-reporting, including that of virtually all independent news-sites and blogs.

Facebook, Twitter, and Google, in recent days, delivered what might be the death-blows.

NATO’s main PR agency, think-tank, and lobbying organization, is ‘non-profit’ — a legal tax-dodge that’s financed by donations from those weapons-making firms and their supporting firms and their ‘non-profits’, so that the taxes that it doesn’t pay will need to be paid instead by the general public. Billionaires know how to avoid taxes, and they hire politicians who write the laws with all the ‘right’ loopholes for them — and only for the very richest — to use. This PR agency is called “The Atlantic Council,” and it was set up in 1961, the exact same year that U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower left office warning that “the military-industrial complex” might take control of the U.S. Well, it did so, with The Atlantic Council’s help; and, now, it is finally lowering the boom against democracy itself — at least among the U.S. and its allied nations (the governments whose weapons-manufacturing firms are in, and sell to, NATO governments). The aim is to drive up the percentage of government-expenditures there that go to pay those firms, and so to reduce the percentages that go to pay everything else. The aim, in short, is the permanent-warfare-economy. After all, firms such as Lockheed Martin and BAE sell only to allied governments. They have virtually no consumers except those governments. So: their (and their ‘charities’) basic message is ‘austerity’ — except on ‘defense’ or realistically called “aggression.” This is national ‘defense’ such as against Iraq in 2003, and against Libya in 2011 — it is instead sheer aggression. George Orwell predicted “Newspeak” — well, here it is. It’s today’s norm, so normal that the public think it’s just natural, and conservatives and even many liberals think it’s the way that ‘a free market’ ought to be.

Here was Facebook’s announcement, on October 11th:

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https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/10/removing-inauthentic-activity/

11 October 2018

Removing Additional Inauthentic Activity from Facebook

Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior. Given the activity we’ve seen — and its timing ahead of the US midterm elections — we wanted to give some details about the types of behavior that led to this action. Many were using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites. Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was. Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate.

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Those 559 and 251 weren’t identified; none of them were. Facebook wants them to need to scream in order for them to be able to be noticed at all by the public. The announcement didn’t even say by what criteria they were measuring ‘Inauthentic Activity’ versus ‘legitimate political debate’. Their announcement did say “we look at these actors’ behavior – such as whether they’re using fake accounts or repeatedly posting spam – rather than their content when deciding which of these accounts, Pages or Groups to remove,” but unless they make public what the actual algorithms are by means of which they remove sites, no one should trust them, at all, because they can remove whatever NATO or The Atlantic Council (neither of which their announcement even mentioned) want them to remove.

The background for this act by the war-economy’s billionaires had already been reported at Mint Press on May 18th, “Facebook Partners With Hawkish Atlantic Council, a NATO Lobby Group, to ‘Protect Democracy’”, where Elliott Gabriel opened:

Facebook is hoping that a new alliance with the Atlantic Council — a leading geopolitical strategy think-tank seen as a de facto PR agency for the U.S. government and NATO military alliance – will not only solve its “fake news” and “disinformation” controversy, but will also help the social media monolith play “a positive role” in ensuring democracy on a global level.

The new partnership will effectively ensure that Atlantic Council will serve as Facebook’s “eyes and ears,” according to a company press statement. With its leadership comprised of retired military officers, former policymakers, and top figures from the U.S. National Security State and Western business elites, the Atlantic Council’s role policing the social network should be viewed as a virtual takeover of Facebook by the imperialist state and the council’s extensive list of ultra-wealthy and corporate donors.

Then, on October 12th, Mint Press’s Whitney Webb bannered “Facebook Purges US-Based Independent Media For Political Disinformation”, and reported that,

Notably, Facebook’s statement on the mass purge of pages was co-authored by Facebook Head of Cybersecurity Nathaniel Gleicher, who is a former White House National Security Council director of cybersecurity policy.

Twitter also banned many of the pages targeted for deletion by Facebook on Thursday, suggesting a coordinated censorship effort between the two most popular social media platforms.

Many of the pages banned had millions of likes, such as the Free Thought Project (3.1 million likes), Antimedia (2.1 million), Cop Block (1.7 million), and Police the Police (1.9 million). Several of the pages that were deleted on Thursday had been targeted by Facebook in recent months, both through new censorship algorithms and Facebook’s controversial team of “fact checkers.”

For instance, the Free Thought Project had been flagged earlier this year as “fake news” by Facebook “fact checking” partner organizations, including  the Associated Press (AP) and Snopes. In one case, a story published by the Free Thought Project was flagged as “false” by the AP. That story, which detailed the documented case of Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) being forcibly removed from a DHS migrant detention center that had once been a Walmart, was marked false because the AP asserted that the article made the claim that Walmart was housing immigrants for DHS. However, the article does not make the claim, instead accurately noting that the facility used to be a Walmart.

Censorship algorithms had also greatly affected traffic to the recently deleted pages for much of the past year. In the case of Antimedia, its traffic dropped from around 150,000 page views per day in early June to around 12,000 by the end of that month. As a reference, in June of last year, Antimedia’s traffic stood at nearly 300,000 views per day.

Also on October 12th, heavy dot com bannered “‘Facebook Purge’: List of Some Deleted Accounts on Left & Right” and listed a few dozen sites that the article’s writer had seen online screaming about having been removed.

Meanwhile, in UK’s very mainstream Daily Mail (the second-largest-circulation of all UK’s newspapers), columnist Michael Burleigh headlined on October 13th “Putin’s taking over Libya by stealth in order to point a new weapon at the West — millions of desperate migrants” and he opened:

So bloody and extensive is President Putin’s record of aggression, not least in Syria and Ukraine, that an incursion into the empty deserts of North Africa might hardly seem worth noting.

Yet the discovery that Russia is moving troops and missiles into war-torn Libya has rightly caused alarms to sound throughout the capitals of Europe.

It is a step of huge significance, and one with potentially disastrous results for Western nations.

The discovery that Vladimir Putin, above, and his government is moving troops and missiles into war-torn Libya has rightly caused alarm. Russia – this time in the form of Rosneft, the huge oil company controlled by Putin’s sinister crony Igor Sechin – is interested in a slice of Libya’s vast oil reserves, the largest in Africa

Libya has both oil and Mediterranean ports, and Russia is hungry for both.

But was it Russia that in 2011 had invaded and destroyed Libya, or was it U.S., UK, and France, who invaded and destroyed Libya — a country that like Iraq, Syria, Yemen and others which The West has destroyed, had never threatened nor invaded any of them?

Burleigh continued:

 – cause enough for concern, perhaps. Yet the real fear for European governments is this: Libya, with its porous southern borders, has become the main jumping-off point for the hundreds of thousands of African migrants now seeking to cross the Mediterranean to the shores of the EU and, in particular, Italy.

So, his own country, UK, had helped with the bombing of Libya that had caused all those ‘migrants’ (actually refugees) into Europe, but now he’s trying to blame Putin for it, as if Russia and not UK, U.S., and France were the cause of it. Doesn’t that “mislead people”?

But is the Daily Mail being strangled by Facebook, Twitter, and Google; or is it instead being done to the small-fry political sites, which aren’t owned and controlled by the aristocracies of the U.S., UK, France, and their allied aristocracies — all the aristocracies that are in NATO and promoted by The Atlantic Council?

Here is yet more from Elliott Gabriel’s excellent news-report at Mint Press on May 18th, providing background to the present purges and censorships:

The announcement, made last Thursday in a Facebook Newsroom post, explained that the social network’s security, policy and product teams will coordinate their work with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) to analyze “real-time insights and updates on emerging threats and disinformation campaigns from around the world.”

DFRLab employees include pro-war media activist Eliot Higgins (of Bellingcat fame) and Ben Nimmo — a senior fellow for information defense at the Atlantic Council, who earned infamy for his groundless accusations that actual Twitter users are Russian trolls.

Read more on Facebook

Continuing, Facebook global politics and government outreach director Katie Harbath explained:

This will help increase the number of ‘eyes and ears’ we have working to spot potential abuse on our service — enabling us to more effectively identify gaps in our systems, preempt obstacles, and ensure that Facebook plays a positive role during elections all around the world.”

“We know that tackling these problems effectively also requires the right policies and regulatory structures, so that governments and companies can help prevent abuse while also ensuring that people have a voice during elections. The Atlantic Council’s network of leaders is uniquely situated to help all of us think through the challenges we will face in the near- and long-term.”

The think-tank’s Digital Research Unit Monitoring Missions will also be tapped by the social network during elections and “other highly sensitive moments” to allow Facebook the ability to zero in on key locales and monitor alleged misinformation and foreign interference.”

Who is the Atlantic Council?

Hillary Clinton at the 2013 Atlantic Council Distinguished Leadership Awards (Photo: Atlantic Council)

The Atlantic Council was recently in the news for receiving a donation of $900,000 from the U.S. State Department for a “Peace Process Support Network” program to “promote non-violent conflict resolution” in support of Venezuela’s scattered opposition, with which the council enjoys very close ties. The council also advocates the arming of extremist militants in Syria (a “National Stabilization Force”) and a hard-line policy toward Russia.

Established in 1961 by former U.S. Secretaries of State Dean Acheson and Christian Herter, the Atlantic Council of the United States was originally conceived as a means to drum up support for the Cold War-era NATO alliance, which had formed in 1949 as the basis of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture during the post-WWII competition with the Soviet Union. Dozens of similar Atlantic Councils were eventually established throughout the NATO and Partnership for Peace states.

The council is a part of the Atlantic Treaty Association, a NATO offshoot that claims to unite “political leaders, academics, military officials, journalists and diplomats in an effort to further the values set forth in the North Atlantic Treaty, namely: democracy, freedom, liberty, peace, security, and the rule of law.”

In general, groups such as the Atlantic Council are meant to secure the legitimacy of U.S. policies and neoliberal economics in the eyes of world audiences and academia, whether they live in the “advanced democracies” (the imperialist center) or “developing democracies” (the post-colonial and economically exploited nations).

Mint Press — a real news-operation, instead of the fake-news operations that are being boosted by Facebook, Twitter, and Google — apparently hasn’t yet been removed by Facebook, but the permanent-war-economy is only just starting to lower the boom. And, who knows what’s next, in American ‘democracy’, now?

The way to boycott Facebook, Twitter, and Google, is to NOT respond to their ads, but instead to blacklist their advertisers and all media that rely upon those giant social-media sites. There are competitors, and those need to be aggressively favored by anyone who doesn’t want to be mentally strangulated by these three giant corporations.

These media-giants want to strangle the public; so, the public needs to strangle them first.

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Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Jamal Khashoggi: Where The Road to Damascus & The Path to 9/11 Converge

By Kristen Breitweiser, one of the four 9/11 widows – known as the “Jersey Girls” – instrumental in forcing the government to form the 9/11 Commission to investigate the 2001 attacks. Follow Kristen Breitweiser on Twitter: .

Road to Damascus Conversion: Derived from the Biblical story of Paul, the term “Damascus road conversion” is commonly used to refer to an abrupt about-face on a serious issue of religion, politics or philosophy. In this type of change, a single, dramatic event causes a person to become aligned with something he or she previously was against or support a position that he or she previously opposed. https://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-damascus-road-conversion.htm#didyouknowout

As a 9/11 widow who has spent the last 17 years fighting for accountability with regard to the 9/11 attacks that killed my husband and 3,000 others, I find the recent uproar over Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged murder interesting and out of character for many of those decrying his disappearance and demanding an investigation and accountability.

Frankly, 9/11 Family members keep a running list of all those in Washington who have proved by their past actions to be against U.S. victims of terrorism and in support of nations like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a nation with a long history of supporting global Wahhabist terrorism. As victims of terrorism, we are ever vigilant and watchful about all those named on our lists. We follow these folks actions, their speeches, their legislation, because we know that they are never looking out for our best interests as U.S. victims of terrorism. As a group, our institutional memory is broad and long. And we never forget.

That’s why we all happened to notice the uncharacteristic behavior of so many of those on our lists with the advent of Jamal Khasoggi’s disappearance. And it made us wonder why so many people, who had previously always blindly supported the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, were now so vociferously jumping Saudi ship.

What had caused this Road to Damascus conversion?

Take for example those who fought against the release of The 28 Pages of the Joint Inquiry of Congress(JICI) that detailed the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks for fear that The 28 Pages public release might harm the Saudi’s reputation and its very special relationship with the United States. A relationship, in large part, based on oil, weapons, money, and shared intelligence operations—things that have little to do with keeping American citizens safe. https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=27164

Regarding The 28 Pages, CIA Director, John Brennan once said, “releasing a classified section of the congressional investigation into the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States would be a mistake. A reason to keep them under wraps is they contain “unvetted information” that some could use to unfairly implicate Saudi Arabia in the terror attacks.” https://thehill.com/policy/national-security/278313-cia-director-28-pages-contains-inaccurate-information

Yet, now when faced with the comparatively less significant disappearance and murder of only one man, Khashoggi (not the thousands on 9/11, the hundreds from Khobar and the Embassy bombings or the 17 U.S. sailors from the Cole), based on far less substantiated and convincing evidence from newspapers(rather than a several hundred page bi-partisan, bi-cameral Congressional Investigation’s Final Report), John Brennan is suddenly moved to hold the Saudis accountable.

On Khashoggi’s disappearance, Brennan had this to say: “It appears increasingly likely that Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was detained and killed at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul. There is still much that we don’t know, but if such an audacious act was carried out, it almost certainly would have required the approval of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Khashoggi was a particular irritant to the crown prince. Khashoggi was widely known and respected inside and outside the kingdom for his literary talent, political acumen and principled opposition to Mohammed’s increasing authoritarianism and arrogance. The news reports and Turkish government accounts of Khashoggi’s disappearance from the Saudi Consulate, and the contemporaneous arrival of two planeloads of Saudis, have the hallmarks of a professional capture operation or, more ominously, an assassination. As someone who worked closely with the Saudis for many years, and who lived and worked as a U.S. official for five years in Saudi Arabia, I am certain that if such an operation occurred inside a Saudi diplomatic mission against a high-profile journalist working for a U.S. newspaper, it would have needed the direct authorization of Saudi Arabia’s top leadership — the crown prince. I am confident that U.S. intelligence agencies have the capability to determine, with a high degree of certainty, what happened to Khashoggi. If he is found to be dead at the hands of the Saudi government, his demise cannot go unanswered — by the Trump administration, by Congress or by the world community. Ideally, King Salman would take immediate action against those responsible, but if he doesn’t have the will or the ability, the United States would have to act. That would include immediate sanctions on all Saudis involved; a freeze on U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia; suspension of all routine intelligence cooperation with Saudi security services; and a U.S.-sponsored U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the murder. The message would be clear: The United States will never turn a blind eye to such inhuman behavior, even when carried out by friends, because this is a nation that remains faithful to its values.”

Really, Mr. Brennan? Never turn a blind eye? You turned two blind eyes to the Saudis for nearly 20 years as you defended them and kept the truth of their misdeeds shrouded in secrecy from the 9/11 families, the Embassy Bombing families, the Khobar Tower families, and the USS Cole families. Cover up is complicity and you have been complicit for 20 years! And now you are worried about inhumane behavior? Now, you are interested in the United States taking immediate action and imposing sanctions?

For the record, Mr Brennan—>3,000 innocent souls were brutally murdered in cold-blood on 9/11. Their massacre yielded literally tens of thousands of body parts that were recovered and returned to the victim’s family or unceremoniously incinerated at Ground Zero and/or hastily dumped in a garbage land-fill in Staten Island. http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/9-11-victims-not-left-fresh-kills-dump-families-article-1.307359  That, John Brennan, is the definition of inhumanity.

Unfortunately, John Brennan is not the only DC insider who’s pulling a road to Damascus conversion in the face of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance. As a 9/11 family member who fought with many other 9/11 family members to have the right to hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable in a court of law by getting legislation called JASTA (Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act) enacted into law, I know far too many people in Washington https://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/business-a-lobbying/297482-saudis-hire-lobbyists-amid-fight-over-9-11  more than willing to choose their Saudi “friends” https://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/business-a-lobbying/304019-saudi-arabia-continues-expansion-of-k-street-force instead of helping U.S. victims of terrorism get our day in court for the mass murder of our loved ones. https://28pages.org/saudi-lobbying-scandal/

Chief among those Saudi supporters who threw us under the bus was our Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama and members of his Administration. http://passjasta.org/2016/09/statement-regarding-president-obamas-veto-anti-terrorism-bill-jasta/  Obama opposed JASTA from the start. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/04/saudi-arabia-911-bill-congress/478689/  And, when JASTA earned a near unanimous vote by Congress to become law, Obama heartlessly vetoed it. Thankfully, Obama’s veto of JASTA was soundly overridden by Congress who meted out the only veto-override of Barack Obama’s entire 8-year nearly perfect Presidency. https://www.politico.com/story/2016/09/obama-jasta-228548 And he deserved it. And just for the record, over those 8 years, the families and survivors wrote 5 letters to President Obama asking for a dialogue with him about JASTA, all delivered by members of Congress and all completely ignored by him. President Obama even fought against the release of the 28 pages—delaying their release for years—even though he admitted to never taking the time to read them!

When asked about the victims of terrorism legislation, JASTA, and the rights of the 9/11 Families to have a path to justice to hold all those who participated in the 9/11 attacks accountable in a court of law, Obama Deputy National Security Advisor, Ben Rhodes, said, “while the White House was sympathetic to the concerns of 9/11 families, they objected to the bill’s “principle of undermining sovereign immunity.” https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tasneemnashrulla/house-vote-9-11-jasta-bill

In short, to the Obama Administration (who was, at the time, very focused on their Iran Deal and ensuring Saudi silence for that deal), the rights of the 9/11 families to justice for the mass murder of our loved ones, had to yield to the more noble sounding concept of state sovereignty. Funny, we were all pretty certain that any modicum of state sovereignty pretty much flew out the window on 9/11 when our homeland—i.e. our sovereign—was attacked by 19 hijackers(15 of whom were Saudi) crashing planes into buildings. Not so, for Rhodes and Obama.

Interestingly though, most recently, Ben Rhodes has said this about Saudi accountability as it pertains to Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance: we are presently suffering from, “A Fatal Abandonment of American Leadership with the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi. And that it drives home the consequences of the Trump administration’s refusal to champion democratic values around the globe.” Rhodes goes on to say, “It’s not too late to heed Khashoggi’s warnings—to understand that while Saudi Arabia is a historic partner of the United States, our interests are not totally aligned with the Saudi leadership’s, and our values are most definitely not. We should cease all support for the war in Yemen, and lead an effort to address its humanitarian crisis. We should balance our principled opposition to the Iranian regime’s nefarious behavior with a return to the diplomatic agreement that prevents that regime from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We should resume an aggressive transition away from a reliance on fossil fuels. We should support countries like Canada that have been bullied by the Saudis when they spoke out on human-rights issues. We should cease military sales until the truth about Khashoggi’s disappearance comes out, and make clear that our support going forward is not without conditions. And we could once more stand up for universal rights, even if it means inviting the opposition of those who have a very different view of justice.” https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/jamal-khashoggi-and-us-saudi-relationship/572905/

I’d just like to add a few points regarding Ben’s discussion of the “Fatal Abandonment of American Leadership” currently underway: First, the Yemen war started under President Obama. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/09/yemen-saudi-arabia-obama-riyadh/501365/ Second, any humanitarian crisis created in Yemen was largely ignored under Obama. https://theweek.com/articles/625047/obamas-odious-war-yemen  Third, military sales to the Saudis under Obama always flourished. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-saudi-security-idUSKCN11D2JQ And, fourth, regarding standing up for “universal rights” and “views of justice”—Obama should have chosen to stand up with the 9/11 families by supporting JASTA, rather than stabbing us in the back and vetoing JASTA. Full stop, Ben.

It’s important to highlight that, to date, not one person has been held accountable or fully prosecuted by the U.S. government for the mass murder of 3,000 people on 9/11, the injuries of thousands and the responders, many of whom are sick and dying. That’s why JASTA was so important to the 9/11 Families and all Americans. And that’s why we had hoped that a former Constitutional Law professor, scholar, and lawyer like President Barack Obama would have supported our efforts as U.S. victims of terrorism.

Notably, 17 years after the 9/11 attacks, those held at GTMO are still in the pre-trial phase of the military tribunal system. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/15/opinion/guantanamo-detainees.html And, lawyers who participate in the GTMO system privately acknowledge that the detainee cases will likely never make it to the trial phase—due in large part because of the difficulties created by the CIA’s enhanced interrogation(torture) program carried out on the GTMO detainees. https://theintercept.com/2018/03/05/guantanamo-trials-abd-al-rahim-al-nashiri/

Moreover, not one Department of Justice(DOJ) U.S. Attorney’s Office—even the famous Southern District of NY(SDNY) who can “indict a ham sandwich”—has bothered to file a single indictment against any co-conspirator connected to the 9/11 attacks. Inexplicably, 3,000 pre-meditated murders took place in downtown Manhattan a few blocks from the SDNY offices and they’ve got nothing to show for themselves when it comes to 9/11. How is that possible? Or, even acceptable? Where are the newspaper columns, editorials, articles, and op-eds about that outrage?

Of course, President Obama and his advisors were not the only ones fighting against the 9/11 Families in our plight to hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable in a court of law. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was another one of the key members of Congress who chose to side with the Saudis instead of the 9/11 Families.

Specifically, regarding JASTA and the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks, Graham was “not convinced the Saudi government was culpable even though many of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens.”They want to blame bin Laden,” Graham said about the Saudis. “All I can say is, from what I can tell, I don’t think the government of Saudi Arabia was involved here.” Graham, who said he’s in close contact with Saudi officials about the issue, warned it could destroy America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, a critical ally in the tumultuous Middle East. “This is an odd situation in the sense that 9/11 families are high on everybody’s list to take care of,” Graham said. “It comes at a time when Saudi Arabia believes that America is not a reliable ally. It comes at a time when they think they’re being blamed for things they didn’t do. All I’m trying to find is a way to move forward with a legal process that doesn’t destroy the relationship. That’s worth investing some time in.” https://www.cnn.com/2016/09/16/politics/gop-senators-9-11-lawsuit-bill/index.html

Now juxtapose that with what Graham has to say after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi: “I’ve never been more disturbed than I am right now. If this man was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, that would cross every line of normality in the international community.” https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/10/lindsey-graham-hell-to-pay-if-saudi-arabia-killed-jamal-khashoggi.html “If they’re this brazen it shows contempt. Contempt for everything we stand for, contempt for the relationship.” https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/11/lindsey-graham-channels-john-mccain-over-missing-saudi-journalist.html

Lindsey Graham has never been more concerned with such “brazen contempt” put forth by the Saudis in connection to the disappearance of Khashoggi? Apparently, for Lindsey, it wasn’t the 3,000 dead on 9/11, and fifteen Saudi hijackers flying planes into the Twin Towers and Pentagon that triggered the end of his Saudi love affair. No, it was Jamal Khashoggi getting killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

What really speaks to the hypocrisy currently underfoot surrounding Khashoggi and the sudden out of character demands for Saudi accountability is the cross-over Congressional signatories found on two separate Senate letters.

First, the Senator Bob Corker “Unintended Consequences” letter written and signed by 28 Senators immediately on the heels of JASTA becoming law. https://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/298357-senators-eye-changes-to-9-11-bill-after-veto  The 9/11 Families considered the Corker letter as a betrayal and an act of bad faith. In short, we believed that those who signed the letter had succumbed to Saudi pressure and thrown us under the bus.

In part, the Corker letter said: We have a great deal of compassion for the families and respect their desire for justice.  We understand your purpose in drafting this legislation is to remove obstacles so those who commit or support terrorist acts in the United States face the full range of consequences of the U.S. legal system.  However, concerns have been raised regarding potential unintended consequences that may result from this legislation for the national security and foreign policy of the United States. We would hope to work with you in a constructive manner to appropriately mitigate those unintended consequences.

Yet, when it comes to Khashoggi, Corker no longer seems to worry about any unintended consequences. Rather, he is seeking very significant and fully-intended consequences. Corker has this to say: “If it turns out to be what we all think it is today but don’t know, but what we all think it is today, there will have to be significant sanctions placed at the highest levels.” He also said, “It points to the idea that whatever has happened to him, the Saudis—I mean, they’ve got some explaining to do.” Corker warned that a congressional response to the alleged killing would be “tangible,” adding: “Our relations with Saudi Arabia, at least from the Senate standpoint, are the lowest ever. It’s never been this low.” https://www.thedailybeast.com/saudi-story-about-journalist-jamal-khashoggi-doesnt-hold-up-says-bob-corker-everything-points-to-murde

Unsurprisingly, Corker is not alone in his Road to Damascus conversion. Interestingly, nine of the very same Senators who wanted to “tweak” JASTA along with Senator Corker, due to their concerns about the “unintended consequences” of the 9/11 Families holding the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable, now seem to have no problem demanding an investigation and swift accountability for Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged murder. https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/10/politics/corker-menendez-letter-trump-saudi-sanctions-jamal-khashoggi/index.html

In part the Corker Khoshoggi letter states: The recent disappearance of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi suggests that he could be a victim of a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights, which includes “torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges and trial, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, and other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of person.” Therefore, we request that you make a determination on the imposition of sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act with respect to any foreign person responsible for such a violation related to Mr. Khashoggi. Our expectation is that in making your determination you will consider any relevant information, including with respect to the highest ranking officials in the Government of Saudi Arabia. Under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, the president, upon receipt of a letter from the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, must make a determination and is authorized to impose sanctions with respect to a foreign person responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights violations against individuals who seek to obtain, exercise, defend, or promote human rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression.”

Once again, we have a group of people doing a complete Road to Damascus conversion. These same nine Senators weren’t interested in providing Saudi accountability to the 9/11 Families, yet now, they are demanding it for Jamal Khashoggi.

Moreover, for years, many of these Senators didn’t seem to care too much about the human rights of the Yemeni citizens getting slaughtered by U.S. bombs and ammunitions. They all seemed ok with signing off on lucrative arms packages-even in the face of report after report after report of human rights atrocities taking place in Yemen and Syria at the hands of the Saudis. http://time.com/4528393/yemen-saudi-arabia-strike-wedding/ The nine Senators who signed both the Khashoggi letter and the JASTA “Unintended Consequences” letter are: Bob Corker, Lindsey Graham, Ben Cardin, Jeff Flake, Jeanne Shaheen, Chris Coons, Jeff Merkely, Mark Udall, and Jim Risch.

Which begs the obvious question: Who was Jamal Khashoggi and why has his disappearance and alleged murder triggered this unprecedented, and out of character response from so many in Washington DC?

Unfortunately, the answer to that question makes the many statements and support currently being given by so many in Washington even more incomprehensible. Because Jamal Khashoggi was no Mother Theresa.

First, let me be crystal clear—>Jamal Khashoggi was not merely a journalist working for the Washington Post.

Additionally, Jamal Khashoggi was not just an outspoken critic of current Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Simple research reveals a much more colorful background of Jamal Khashoggi. https://spectator.us/2018/10/jamal-khashoggi/

To start, a person should read the Chicago Tribune article from 2004 that talks about Jamal Khashoggi being recruited by Adel Batterjee http://historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=adel_abdul_jalil_batterjee  in the 1980’s to get the “scoop of a lifetime.” That assignment was to go with Batterjee to Afghanistan and hang-out with the CIA/Saudi mujahideen fighting against the Soviets. The article is long and very well-researched. I highly suggest you take the time to read it because it details very clearly and specifically why and how Jamal Khashoggi knew so much about al Qaeda, the CIA, the Saudis, and much of the financing, funding, and organizing of Bin Laden that led to the 9/11 attacks. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-0402220496feb22-story.html

Next, I would encourage you to read some of Jamal Khashoggi’s opinion pieces from the Daily Star. Notably, do not read the ones cherry-picked by David Ignatius.  Read some of the others that include some fairly fiery words from Khashoggi: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Commentary/2002/Jan-07/108710-combating-extremism-must-be-for-islams-sake-not-americas.ashx and http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Commentary/2002/Jan-15/108152-examining-the-state-of-the-great-saudi-american-meltdown.ashx and  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Commentary/2002/Jan-23/109014-us-combat-of-terrorist-financing-is-exasperating-the-saudis.ashx and http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Commentary/2002/Sep-17/101910-where-islam-is-concerned-the-world-has-become-colorblind.ashx  and http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Commentary/2003/Feb-22/110816-why-saudis-are-unruffled-by-us-call-for-reform.ashx and http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Commentary/2003/Jan-27/109765-bring-back-the-occupation.ashx

Also, please note that in one of the leading books written about the 9/11 attacks, Lawrence Wright’s, “The Looming Tower,” Jamal Khashoggi is portrayed by Wright as a “friend” of Bin Laden. Khashoggi is not a “journalist” who reports on bin Laden. Rather he is described as Osama Bin Laden’s friend. And the Bin Laden/Khashoggi friendship apparently spans more than a decade—from Afghanistan, to Pakistan, to the Sudan.

In addition, also note that Jamal Khashoggi was closely connected to Prince Turki al Faisal. Prince Turki was the head of Saudi intelligence for more than 20 years. Interestingly, he resigned from his post 10 days before 9/11. Probably more interestingly, Turki is the man who allegedly brokered the deal with Bin Laden back in 1998 where, in exchange for money and support, Bin Laden would not attack the Saudi Royal Family. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/563318/posts  Some believe that this agreement paved the way for the 9/11 attacks and various intelligence agencies around the globe “looking the other way” or “turning a blind eye” to al Qaeda’s actions in the lead up to 9/11. http://historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=turki_bin_faisal_bin_abdul_aziz_al_saud Notably, Prince Turki al Faisal was also one of the first named defendants in the 9/11 Families’ litigation. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/mar/02/september11.politics  He was dismissed from the case years ago due to grounds of sovereign immunity.

Moreover, Jamal Khashoggi was also closely connected to Prince Alaweed bin Talal who was held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel last year by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Additionally, reporting also links Talal to the 9/11 attacks. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/saudiarabia/11390705/Saudi-princes-supported-al-Qaeda-before-911-claims-twentieth-hijacker.html and https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/05/world/middleeast/pre-9-11-ties-haunt-saudis-as-new-accusations-surface.html and https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-03-20/alwaleed-reveals-secret-deal-struck-to-exit-ritz-after-83-days

Finally, there is Khashoggi’s family connection to Adnan Khashoggi, the notorious Saudi arm’s dealer at the center of the CIA’s Iran-Contra fiasco back in the 80’s. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/adnan-khashoggi-dead-saudi-arms-dealer-playboy-pleasure-wives-billionaire-lifestyle-wealth-profit-a7778031.html

Just because Jamal Khashoggi was around during the original days of al Qaeda’s creation, knew how all the Islamic charities were set up and how al Qaeda funds moved around the world, was a friend of Bin Laden’s for at least two decades, was very connected to Saudi intelligence and quite possibly, (like his Uncle Adnan) worked with the CIA, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Jamal Khashoggi was a bad actor.

But, I’m someone who believes that you judge a man’s character by the company he keeps which is why I find the current uproar over what happened to Jamal so curious.

One last fact to mention: the timing of Khashoggi’s disappearance when taken in connection with the 9/11 Families’ litigation. Last Friday, something very notable happened in the 9/11 litigation against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. For the first time ever, the Department of Justice stood on the side of the 9/11 Families and publicly committed to finally releasing three large tranches of formerly secret documents that we believe connect the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the 9/11 attacks. This is the biggest development we have had in our over 16 years of litigation.

In a time when news lasts about as long as a minute, why has the story of Jamal Khashoggi dominated headlines for more than a week? Was Jamal Khashoggi ever questioned by the FBI at any time before or after the 9/11 attacks? If not, why not? Was Jamal Khashoggi ever employed by the CIA? Was Jamal Khashoggi ever deemed an asset of the CIA? When did Jamal’s employment for Saudi intelligence come to an end? Was Jamal Khashoggi a joint asset between the GIA and the CIA? Did Jamal Khashoggi ever have any contact with the 9/11 hijackers or anyone in the support network of the 9/11 hijackers inside the United States? And, why did it take 15 Saudi assassins to kill Jamal Khashoggi? Doesn’t that seem a bit like overkill? And, is it just a coincidence that there were 15 Saudi hijackers on 9/11? Why would Jamal Khashoggi willingly go to the Saudi Consulate in Turkey—especially given his alleged sour relationship with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman? What would inspire him to go there? And what was the entreaty MBS allegedly made to Jamal more than one month ago about anyways? Was it made in earnest? What was Jamal Khashoggi really doing at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul?

In many ways, Jamal’s behavior reminds me of former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger when he got caught stealing and destroying top secret national security documents from the National Archives so many years ago. None of it makes any sense.

As someone who has fought for nearly 20 years to hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable for its alleged role in the 9/11 attacks, l applaud this newly found “mission of many” to hold the Saudis accountable—even if it is inspired by the disappearance, alleged murder and dismemberment of a man like Jamal Khashoggi.

Better late than never.

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Talk Nation Radio: Mark Dworkin on Navy Jet Noise Over Washington State

Mark Dworkin is, together with Melissa Young, an award-winning documentary film director, and the director of an important new film called Plane Truths. You can find Mark and Melissa at movingimages.org and this movie at planetruths.org. Plane Truths looks at the increased activity at the U.S. Navy base on Whidbey Island in Washington state — activity that is making life unbearable for locals and wildlife — collateral damage in the ever increasing militarization of society.

Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

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Video of a Workshop I Just Did in Santa Cruz on Abolishing War:

Video of a Workshop I Just Did in Santa Cruz on Abolishing War:

Workshop first half:

Workshop second half:

Speech the night before:

Speech and Q&A second half:

Speech text

We Need a New Armistice Day

Speech and Q&A in another video:

Speech later that day in Berkeley text:

Making the World Great for the First Time

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How Many Households Qualify as Middle Class?

What does it take to be middle class nowadays? Defining the middle class is a parlor game, with most of the punditry referring to income brackets as the defining factor.

People tend to self-report that they belong to the middle class based on income, but income is not the key metric: 12 other factors are more telling measures of middle class membership than income.

In Why the Middle Class Is Doomed (April 17, 2012) I listed five minimum threshold characteristics of membership in the middle class:

1. Meaningful healthcare insurance (i.e. not phantom insurance with $5,000 deductibles, etc.) and life insurance.

2. Significant equity (25%-50%) in a home or equivalent real estate

3. Income/expenses that enable the household to save at least 6% of its income

4. Significant retirement funds: 401Ks, IRAs, etc.

5. The ability to service all debt and expenses over the medium-term if one of the primary household wage-earners lose their job

I then added a taken-for-granted sixth:

6. Reliable vehicles for each wage-earner

Author Chris Sullins suggested adding these additional thresholds:

7. If a household requires government assistance to maintain the family lifestyle, their Middle Class status is in doubt.

8. A percentage of non-paper, non-family home hard assets such as family heirlooms, precious metals, tools, etc. that can be transferred to the next generation, i.e. generational wealth.

9. Ability to invest in offspring (education, extracurricular clubs/training, etc.).

10. Leisure time devoted to the maintenance of physical/spiritual/mental fitness.

Correspondent Mark G. recently suggested two more:

11. Continual accumulation of human and social capital (new skills, networks of collaborators, markets for one’s services, etc.)

And the money shot:

12. Family ownership of income-producing assets such as rental properties, bonds, etc.

The key point of these thresholds is that propping up a precarious illusion of consumption and status signifiers does not qualify as middle class. To qualify as middle class (that is, what was considered middle class a generation or two ago), the household must actually own/control wealth that won’t vanish if the investment bubble du jour pops, and won’t be wiped out by a medical emergency.

In Chris’s phrase, “They should be focusing resources on the next generation and passing on Generational Wealth” as opposed to “keeping up appearances” via aspirational consumption financed with debt.

What does it take in the real world to qualify as middle class?

Here are my calculations based on our own expenses and those of our friends in urban America. We can quibble about details endlessly, so these are mid-range estimates. These reflect urban costs; rural towns/cities will naturally have significantly lower cost structures. Please make adjustments as suits your area or experience, but please recall that tens of millions of people live in high-cost left and right-coast cities, and millions more have high heating/cooling/commuting costs.

The wages of those employed by Corporate America or the government do not reflect the total cost of benefits such as healthcare insurance. Self-employed people like myself pay the full costs of benefits, so we have to realize there is no ideal average of household expenses. Some households pay very little of their actual healthcare expenses, other pay for part of these costs and still others pay most or all of their healthcare insurance and co-pays.

1. Healthcare. Let’s budget $15,000 annually for healthcare insurance. Yes, if you’re 23 years old and single, you will pay less, so this is an average. If you’re older (I’m 64), $15,000 a year only buys you and your spouse stripped down coverage: no eyewear, medication or dental coverage–and that’s if your existing plan is grandfathered in. (If you want non-phantom ObamaCare coverage, the cost zooms up to $2,000/month or $24,000 annually.)

Add in co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses, and the realistic annual total is between $15,000 and $20,000 annually: Your family’s health care costs: $19,393 (this was before ACA).

Let’s say $15,000 annually is about as low as you can reasonably expect to maintain middle class healthcare.

2. Home equity. Building home equity requires paying meaningful principal. Let’s say a household has a 15-year mortgage so the principal payments are actually meaningfully adding to equity, unlike a 30-year mortgage. Let’s say $5-$10,000 of $25,000 in annual mortgage payments is interest (deductible) and $15-$20,000 goes to principal reduction.

3. Savings. Anything less than $5,000 in annual savings is not very meaningful if college costs, co-pays for medical emergencies, etc. are being anticipated, and $10,000 is a more realistic number given the need to stockpile cash in the event of job loss or reduced hours/pay. So let’s go with a minimum of $5,000 in cash savings annually.

4. Retirement. Let’s assume $6,000 per wage earner per year, or $12,000 per household. That won’t buy much of a retirement unless you start at age 25, and even then the return at current rates is so abysmal the nestegg won’t grow faster than inflation unless you take horrendous risks (and win).

5. Vehicles. The AAA pegs the cost of each compact car at $7,000 annually, so $14K per year assumes two compacts each driven 15,000 miles. The cost declines for two paid-for, well-maintained clunkers and increases for sedans and trucks. Let’s assume a scrimp-and-save household who manages to operate and insure two vehicles for $10,000 annually.

6. Social Security and Medicare Taxes. Self-employed people pay full freight Social Security and Medicare taxes: 15.3% of all net income, starting with dollar one and going up to $127,200 for SSA. But let’s take a household of two employed wage-earners and put in $8,000.

Property taxes: These are low in many parts of the country, but let’s assume a level between New Jersey/New York/California level of property tax and very low property tax rates: $10,000 annually.

Income tax: There are too many complexities, so let’s assume $2,000 in state and local taxes and $5,000 in federal taxes for a total of $7,000.

7. Living expenses: Some people spend hundreds of dollars on food each week, others considerably less. Let’s assume a two-adult household will need at least $12,000 annually for food, utilities, phone service, Internet, home maintenance, clothing, furnishings, books, films, etc., while those who like to dine out often, take week-ends away for skiing or equivalent will need more like $20,000.

8. Donations, church tithes, community organizations, adult education, hobbies, etc.: Let’s say $2,000 annually at a minimum.

Note that this does not include the cost of maintaining boats, RVs, pools, etc., or the cost of an annual vacation.

Here’s the annual summary:

Healthcare: $15,000 
Mortgage: $25,000 
Savings: $5,000 
Retirement: $12,000 
Vehicles: $10,000 
Property taxes: $10,000 
Income and Social Security/Medicare taxes: $15,000 
Living expenses: $12,000 
Other: $2,000

Minimum Total: $106,000

Vacations, travel, unexpected expenses, etc: $5,000.

Realistic Total: $111,000

That’s almost double the median household income of $59,000. Note that this $111,000 household income has no budget for lavish vacations, luxury vehicles, large pickup trucks, boats, second homes, college expenses, etc. There is no budget for private schooling. Most of the family income goes to the mortgage, taxes and healthcare. Savings are modest, along with living expenses and retirement contributions. This is a barebones budget.

$111,000 household income is right about the cut-off point for the top 20% of household income. How close are you to the top 1%?

Toss in a jumbo mortgage, college tuition paid in cash, an aging parent to care for or any of a dozen other major expenses and the minimum quickly rises to $155,000, which puts the household in the top 10% of household income.

How can we even talk about a “middle class” when the minimum thresholdsput the household in the top 20%? And we haven’t even considered the ultimateminimum threshold of middle class membership: family ownership of income-producing assets such as businesses, rental properties, bonds, etc.

The key takeaway of this chart is the concentration of the household wealth of the bottom 90% in the family home. The wealthy and upper-middle class own income-producing assets, while the bottom 90% own some life insurance, cash and pensions, but their largest asset by far is the family home. (They also “own” a tremendous amount of debt.)

The problem is life insurance, cash and pensions don’t generate much income, and neither does the family home. Households counting on the equity in bubble-priced housing are not factoring in the unwelcome reality that all bubbles pop, even housing bubbles that can’t possibly pop.

To have the equivalent security and generational wealth enjoyed by the middle class two generations ago, households have to check off all 12 minimum thresholds. I’m not sure there is a “middle class” any more; if we use these 12 minimum thresholds, the U.S. now has a super-wealthy class (top .01%), a very wealthy class (top .5%), an upper class (top 9.5% below the wealthy) and the rest(bottom 90%), with varying levels of security and assets but at levels far below what median-income households enjoyed in bygone eras.

By the standards of previous generations, the middle class has been stripmined of income, assets and purchasing power. 

My new mystery The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake is $1.29 (Kindle) or $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition.

Read the first section for free in PDF format. 

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