Tue, 13 Apr 2021 18:53:53 GMT Tue, 13 Apr 2021 18:53:53 GMT State Legislatures Are Finally Limiting Governors' Emergency Powers Ryan McMaken

Last week, Indiana governor Eric Holcomb vetoed a bill that would limit gubernatorial authority in declaring emergencies. The bill would allow the General Assembly to call itself into an emergency session, with the idea that the legislature could then vote to end, or otherwise limit, a governor’s emergency powers. Although both the legislature and the governor’s office are controlled by Republicans, the legislature has apparently wearied of the governor’s repeated renewals of the state’s emergency status in the name of managing the effects of the covid-19 virus.

The legislature could still override the veto. In Indiana, an override requires only a majority vote.

If the legislature does so, it won’t be the first state to override a governor’s veto on this front. Last month, the Republican-led Ohio legislature voted to override Republican Mike DeWine’s veto of Senate Bill 22, which gives lawmakers the authority to cancel any gubernatorial health orders that last longer than thirty days. The bill also creates a legislative oversight panel.

These two states, however, offer only a small sampling of what state legislators have planned during 2021’s legislative session. In fact, lawmakers in forty-five states have proposed more than three hundred measures this year designed to expand legislative oversight over governors’ emergency powers.

Ironically, in many states, the covid-19 shutdowns—which many governors used to essentially turn their state governments into institutions of one-man rule and rule by decree—may end up precipitating a widespread movement to limit executive powers in state governments. The fact that a great many residents of New York, Ohio, and California have apparently had enough of their governors may be a harbinger for the future.

One can only hope so, since this is a debate that is long overdue.

States have long expanded the administrative powers of governors and lengthened their terms in office. So we now have a nation full of politically and administratively powerful state governors who think it perfectly reasonable to declare year-long states of emergency, shut down businesses at the point of a gun, and order law-abiding citizens to stay in their homes. In many states, legislatures could do little, and did do little. 

In response to any efforts to curtail their powers, governors will naturally protest, claiming—as Mike DeWine did—that to limit the governors’ powers would upset the “balance of powers” or otherwise constitute a threat to public safety. No legislator should fall for this ruse. It’s high time that governors be reined in and stripped of the many powers which governors of yesteryear could only dream of wielding. Just as executive power at the federal level constitutes one of the gravest dangers that the US regime can pose, the same is true at the state level.

State Legislators Move to Rein in Governors

The idea that governors must be trusted with emergency powers has long rested on a presumption that these powers would be limited in time and scope.

The covid-19 business closures, mask orders, and stay-at-home orders, on the other hand, have made it abundantly clear that state governors will enthusiastically embrace emergency orders that last many months, with governors freely renewing their emergency powers again and again and again. Moreover, governors have wielded their power arbitrarily, often apparently deciding to implement shutdowns on a whim, with no established metrics for how many covid deaths or infections would trigger more business closures. Governors have handed over public health decisions to unelected bureaucrats who often meet in secret and with no public accountability.

It appears many legislators have learned something from the experience.

According to the AP:
About half of [the 45 states considering bills to limit governors’ powers] are considering significant changes, such as tighter limits on how long governors' emergency orders can last without legislative approval….

Though the pushback is coming primarily from Republican lawmakers, it is not entirely partisan.

Republican lawmakers have sought to limit the power of Democratic governors in states such as Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina. But they also have sought to rein in fellow Republican governors in such states as Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana and Ohio. Some Democratic lawmakers also have pushed back against governors of their own party, most notably limiting the ability of embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to issue new mandates.
In Ohio, the new legislation that will limit DeWine's power also explicitly “limits local health officials’ power to require people to quarantine or self-isolate without a specific medical diagnosis and allows Ohioans to sue over the constitutionality of any state emergency order in their home county.”

Efforts to rein in governors’ powers are not limited to legislative action. The state supreme courts in Wisconsin and Michigan have both handed down rulings limiting the governors’ powers, and a recall election designed to end Gavin Newsom’s lockdown fetish is—so far—moving forward.

Most efforts to limit governors’ power, however, are likely going to have to come at the legislative level. The federal courts have made it clear they’re not willing to do much to limit emergency powers, and state supreme courts have also proven to be mostly unresponsive.

A Long Trend of Increasing Governors' Powers

If legislatures do move to limit governor’s powers, however, it would be only a small reversal in a long and well-established trend toward increases in gubernatorial power.

In the early years of the United States, state governors were thoroughly limited by the legislatures. In many cases, governors were appointed by the legislatures themselves, and terms of office were one or two years in length. Although states then moved toward popular election of governors—thus making them more independent of the legislatures—the legislatures also moved to reduce the governor’s administrative power by making more offices elected rather than appointed by the governor.

Thus, during the first half of the nineteenth century, up until around 1850,
the governor's appointing power, and as a result his control of the administration was at its lowest point. The general result of the development up to that time made the governor's position less important than at first; and his legislative authority was of greater importance than his administrative authority.1
This changed during the second half of the century, however, and in a lengthy 1912 analysis for the Michigan Law Review, John Fairlie concluded:
In the period since 1850 the position of the State governor has been strengthened to a notable extent, not so much by changes in the State constitutions, as by the expansion of State administration and a considerable increase in the appointing power of the governor conferred by statute. Many new State offices, boards and commissions have been established; and these positions have been filled on the nomination of the governor usually with the consent of the senate. This increase in appointing power has added to the governor's control over the State administration; and the increased administrative control has added to the influence of the governor in other directions…. The general result has been to emphasize decidedly the importance of the governor's office; although his authority still falls much short of that of the President of the United States.
In other words, increasing the number of administrative agencies and offices constitutes a de facto increase to a governor's power. Coupled with new opportunities to appoint political allies to bureaucratic offices, the effect is sizable indeed.

It's also notable that Fairlie's words were written in 1912. Needless to say, the administrative power of governors, exercised through appointed bureaucrats, has not exactly been reduced since 1912. Moreover, over the past century, the number of state governors enjoying four-year terms instead of two-year terms has nearly doubled, further increasing the governors' independence from both the voters and the legislature.

Unfortunately, limiting gubernatorial power will do nothing to directly limit federal power or the US president's vast executive power, which dwarfs that of the states. This is part of the reason why Americans largely ignore their state governors and their offices. They have, until recently, seemed relatively invisible. Yet, the covid-19 lockdowns have unexpectedly brought into clear view the fact governors do in fact wield immense power over the daily lives of Americans, and many do so in an aggressive and arbitrary manner. Now is as good a time as any to strip these governors of more than a little of their much-abused power. 

1.John A. Fairlie, "The State Governor. II. Administrative Powers," Michigan Law Review 10, no. 5 (March 1912): 370–83. 

Reprinted with permission from]]> Tue, 13 Apr 2021 18:53:53 GMT
Two Front War? Three Fronts? What's Biden's Game in Taiwan, Iran, and Ukraine? Daniel McAdams
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Facing The Facts Of War With Russia Douglas Macgregor

Conflict with Russia may be inevitable. Kiev’s strident threats to resolve the crisis in Eastern Ukraine with force of arms, combined with Washington’s refusal to acknowledge that Moscow actually has legitimate national security interests in Eastern Ukraine, makes it so. Equally troubling, the president sees no particular reason why he should explain to the American people why Washington’s readiness to support Kiev’s use of force against Russia makes strategic sense for America. 

In 1937, when the Imperial Japanese government expressed sincere regret for attacking and sinking the USS. Panay, an American gunboat that had been patrolling China’s Yangtze River, US Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew was not satisfied. He warned the Japanese Foreign Ministry that “Facts mean more than Statements.”

Grew was right. A Biden-Harris guarantee of support for the Ukrainian government’s plan to reconquer its lost territories, including Luhansk, Donetsk, or Crimea, is about as meaningless as the British government’s 1939 guarantee of assistance to the Poles in the event of a German attack on Poland. 

In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided not to retaliate against the Japanese. FDR knew there was no public support in the United States for a war with Japan or any other great power. FDR also resisted pressure from the US Navy’s admirals to retaliate because he knew America’s armed forces were not ready for a full-scale war. As for our British friends, they were not ready to weaken their fleet in the Atlantic to join a fight against Japan when the threat of war with Germany was growing. 

It is easy for presidents to moralize and posture in public about matters thousands of miles from America’s borders when it currently costs nothing in terms of American blood. Unfortunately, this condition won’t last. Fighting in Eastern Ukraine will produce heavy casualties on both sides. Russian and Ukrainian soldiers are courageous, intelligent, and ruthless. None of them are “woke.” All are motivated by patriotism, ingrained discipline, and a strong professional military ethos. 

Because the Russian military is larger and better armed, the most likely outcome is a Russian victory. Moscow is then likely to direct its forces to swallow Ukraine’s territory east of the Dnieper River making matters far worse for Kiev. As Angela Merkel observed in 2015, Putin is confident that the battle in Eastern Ukraine is one that he can definitely win. 

If Russian military power prevails, President Biden’s promise of support means US or Allied NATO air or ground forces may intervene to rescue the Ukrainians from defeat. In Europe, US Army and Marine ground forces are too weak to intervene 500 miles east of the Polish border, even if reinforced in a timely manner by armored brigades. None of NATO’s ground forces are ready to cope with Russia’s BM-30 SMERCH Rocket Artillery Formations. Rockets fired from just five of Russia’s BM-30 SMERCH rocket launchers can devastate an area the size of New York City’s Central Park (843 acres, or 3.2 square miles) in minutes.

Thus, if US and allied forces do intervene, they are likely to do so with air assets. How effective Russian integrated air defenses will be is unknown, but it would be ill-advised to underestimate the impact of Russian IADs with phased array radars. Some of the newest air defense systems—like the Russian S-500—are so capable that many US Defense officials privately worry that even warplanes like the F-22, F-35, and the B-2 risk destruction if they attempt to penetrate them. 

Since prevailing winds in Eastern Europe would spread nuclear fallout across Russia and Central Asia all the way to Korea, the Russian use of nuclear weapons is very unlikely—unless of course, US forces use so-called “tactical nuclear weapons,” which would trigger Russian escalation to the strategic nuclear level with ominous consequences for planet Earth. However, virtually all US and allied military installations, from Estonia to Spain, will be within range of Russian Kalibr Cruise Missiles carrying 1,000 pound, high explosive, conventional warheads.

President Biden’s apparent guarantee of US support to Ukraine’s president suggests he’s also drinking deeply from the poison well of failed American statecraft and generalship, a wellspring of uncreative minds with no appreciation for real warfare. Twenty years of desultory battles against weak opponents (insurgents without armies, air forces, and air defenses) has not elevated much warfighting talent to the senior ranks of the armed forces to cope with a radically changed warfighting environment. 

Read the whole article here.]]> Tue, 13 Apr 2021 14:11:22 GMT
The Free World Died of COVID-19 Jordan Schachtel

As someone with a background in foreign policy and international affairs, I am often asked to discuss the ramifications of having Joe Biden as the so-called leader of the Free World.

While it is easy to get carried away debating the merits of a heavily compromised man being the physical representation of the Free World, and how cringeworthy and depressing that is, I can’t help but get stuck on the possibility that the term itself is no longer viable. 

“What Free World?”

The Free World is a term that was originally used to describe the Allied powers during WWII, but it is most applicable here when discussing what united the anti-Soviet bloc to the United States during the Cold War. It was these “Western world” values of free speech, free media, the freedom of assembly, and freedom of association that united our sovereign states against the evils of Communism.

COVID Mania has turned the world’s sovereign states into one tyranny after another. And the authoritarian forces of the world won this second “Cold War” against its citizens without firing a shot. Some appear to be under the impression that the ruling class, which just finished the fastest roll up of power in human history, will simply return these stolen liberties when the “national emergency” comes to an end. I’m not particularly convinced that this is the case.

As John Adams once said, “But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever."

In the United States, our federalist system allows for pockets of freedom in places like Florida, Texas, South Dakota and the like. But dare to protest in the Nation’s Capital today and you’ll quickly find yourself on an FBI watchlist, and almost certainly, with a future date in our nation’s kangaroo court system. We continue to see authoritarian states implementing “vaccine passports” and other discriminatory measures in the name of a virus. Throughout most population centers in the United States, there are still heavy “COVID restrictions” on society and the economy. Our nation is no longer united behind these “Free World” concepts, and they are now only considered virtuous ideas in the aforementioned pockets of freedom in America. In the rest of the country, it has been made crystal-clear that your rights do not supersede a disease with a 99.8% recovery rate.

Now observe the devastation in the rest of the Anglosphere:

The United Kingdom has placed its citizens under indefinite confinement. Their “COVID restrictions” have lasted well over a year, and there is no end in sight.
Canada, which has also been under a strict lockdown for over a year, has mutilated the free press while simultaneously transforming into a Chinese state colony. Under the “leadership” of Justin Trudeau, Canada has essentially outlawed freedom of movement, free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly in the name of a virus.
New Zealand, another nation that is cozying up to Beijing, is committed to a “Zero COVID” self-siege that has blockaded the island nation from the world for over a year. Citizens who test positive for COVID-19 are forcibly sent to quarantine camps. The government has recently considered legislation punishing people for the act of acquiring COVID-19.
States in Australia have implemented some of the most intrusive lockdowns in the world. In Victoria, lockdowns meant citizens were only allowed to leave their homes for one hour a day, and they were not allowed to travel outside of a certain radius from their homes. The act of protesting is illegal, and it will be met by riot police. 
As for other NATO members, and other bumper sticker labeled liberal democracies in the “Free World,” actual freedoms remain difficult to identify. Germany, France, and Italy just entered another round of rights restricting lockdowns, and countless more “Free World” nations continue chipping away at personal freedoms.
Making things all the more confusing (and eye opening), people living in countries long considered adversarial, authoritarian nations (like Russia, China, Belarus, etc) are enjoying more freedoms than your average citizen in the West. Belarus never implemented lockdowns. Russians have treated their restrictions in a very lax manner. China has been open for well over a year.
The Western values that some of us hold near and dear to our hearts are not shared by our ruling class. The Free World, as a united force, was indeed very sick for the better part of the 21st century, but it has finally died from COVID-19. The concept only lives on in our imaginations and memories. The COVID era has exposed that these values that supposedly united the West are nothing more than a facade.

However, there are reasons for optimism. There are millions and millions of us who have witnessed the atrocities committed by governments over the course of the past year, and have become “red-pilled” to the threat posed by these authoritarian forces. Like-minded people can and will build a new coalition that stands behind our unalienable rights. Whether that comes in the form of an alliance of nation states or a more independent movement of citizens around the world remains to be seen. The demand for the recognition of basic human freedoms will soon become too obvious to ignore. There are many paths for a new Free World to emerge, but for now, the old Free World as a uniting force for Western values is a relic of history.

Reprinted with permission from The Dossier.
Support the author here.]]> Mon, 12 Apr 2021 18:01:22 GMT
Major Covid Myth Destroyed - Is Freedom Winning? Daniel McAdams
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After The Bear Showed Its Teeth The Ukraine Filed For Peace? Moon of Alabama

First the Ukraine said it would use force to recover the renegade Donbass region as well as Crimea. It then moved heavy troops towards the contact lines. The ceasefire at the contact line was broken multiple times per day. Several Ukrainian soldiers died while attempting to remove a minefield in preparation of an attack.

It became clear that a war in Ukraine's east was likely to soon braek out. A successful war would help Ukraine's president Zelensky with the ever increasing domestic crises. A war would also give the US more influence in Europe. The US and NATO promised "unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty”.

Russia gave several verbal warnings that any Ukrainian attack on the renegade provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk or Crimea would cause a serious Russian intervention. There was never a chance that the US or NATO would intervene in such a war. But it was only after Russia started to move some of its troops around that sanity set in. It dawned on the Ukrainian leadership that the idea of waging war against a nuclear armed superpower was not a good one.

Late yesterday it suddenly decided to file for peace (machine translation):
The Armed Forces ruled out the use of force to "liberate" Donbass

KIEV, April 9 - RIA Novosti. "Liberation" of Donbass by force will lead to mass deaths of civilians and servicemen, and this is unacceptable for Kiev, said Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Ruslan Khomchak.

"Being devoted to universal human values ​​and norms of international humanitarian law, our state puts the lives of its citizens in the first place," the General Staff's press center quoted him as saying.

According to Khomchak, the Ukrainian authorities consider the political and diplomatic way to resolve the situation in Donbass a priority. At the same time, he added that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are ready for an adequate response both to the escalation of the conflict and to "the complication of the military-political and military-strategic situation around the country."
Zelensky himself chipped in (machine translated):
Zelensky spoke for a truce in Donbass

MOSCOW, April 9 - RIA Novosti. President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the need for a new truce in Donbass after visiting the contact line.

The head of state wrote on Facebook that shooting at the front lines had become "a dangerous routine." "After several months of observing a complete and general ceasefire, we returned to the need to establish a truce," Zelensky said.

As the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Ruslan Khomchak emphasized earlier, the use of force to "liberate" Donbass is unacceptable for Kiev, as it is fraught with casualties among the civilian population and military personnel. At the same time, last week he said that the Armed Forces of Ukraine will strengthen the grouping of troops in the Donbass and in the Crimean direction - in response to the "build-up" of Russian forces on the border with Ukraine.
It seems that order has come from Washington to stand down - at least for now. US reconnaissance flights near Russia's border continue. One should therefore consider that the sudden call for a renewed ceasefire might be a ruse.

But if it is not why was all of this allowed to happen in the first place?

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.]]> Mon, 12 Apr 2021 14:01:37 GMT
Global Taxes – Global Stagnation Ron Paul

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has proposed that governments around the world require payment of at least a uniform “global minimum corporate tax.” A motivation for Yellen's push for a global minimum corporate tax is fear that the Biden administration’s proposed increase in the US corporate tax will cause some American corporations to flee the US for countries with lower corporate taxes.

President Biden wants to increase corporate taxes to help pay for his so-called infrastructure plan. The plan actually spends more on “progressive” priorities, including a down payment on the Green New Deal, than on infrastructure.

Much of the spending will benefit state-favored businesses. For example, the plan provides money to promote manufacturing and electric vehicles. So, the idea is to raise taxes on all corporations and then use some of the received tax payments to subsidize government-favored businesses and industries.

The only way to know the highest valued use of resources is by seeing what goods and services consumers voluntarily choose to spend their money on. A system where the allocation of resources is based on the preferences of politicians and bureaucrats — who use force to get their way — will be less efficient than a system where consumers control the allocation of resources.

Thus, the greater role government plays in the economy the less prosperous the people will be — with the possible exception of the governing class and those who make their living currying favor with the rulers.

Yellen’s global corporate tax proposal will no doubt be supported by governments of many European Union (EU) countries, as well as the globalist bureaucrats at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). For years, these governments and their power-hungry OECD allies have sought to create a global tax cartel.

The goal of those supporting global minimum taxes enforced by a global tax agency is to prevent countries from lowering their taxes. Lowering corporate and other taxes is one way countries are able to attract new businesses and grow their economies. For example, after Ireland lowered its corporate taxes, it moved from being one of the poorest countries in the EU to having one of the EU’s strongest economies. Also, American workers and investors benefited from the 2017 tax reform’s reduction of corporate taxes from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Yellen and her pro-global tax counterparts deride tax competition between countries as a “race to the bottom.” In fact, tax competition is a race to the top for the countries whose economies benefit from new investments, and for the workers and consumers who benefit from new job opportunities and new products. In contrast, a global minimum corporate tax will raise prices and lower wages, while incentivizing politicians to further increase the minimum.

A global minimum corporate tax will also set a precedent for imposition of other global minimum taxes on individuals. This scheme may even advance the old Keynesian dream of a global currency. The Biden administration is already taking steps toward a global currency by asking the International Monetary Fund to issue more special drawing rights (SDRs).

Global tax and fiat currency systems will only benefit the world’s political and financial elites. In contrast, regular people across the world benefit from limited government, free markets, sound money, and reduced or eliminated taxes.]]> Mon, 12 Apr 2021 13:43:21 GMT
Russia and Ukraine: War Coming? With RPI's Daniel McAdams RPI Staff
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How Bellingcat Launders National Security State Talking Points into the Press Alan MacLeod

Investigative site Bellingcat is the toast of the popular press. In the past month alone, it has been described as “an intelligence agency for the people” (ABC Australia), a “transparent” and “innovative” (New Yorker) “independent news collective,” “transforming investigative journalism” (Big Think), and an unequivocal “force for good” (South China Morning Post). Indeed, outside of a few alternative news sites, it is very hard to hear a negative word against Bellingcat, such is the gushing praise for the outlet founded in 2014.

This is troubling, because the evidence compiled in this investigation suggests Bellingcat is far from independent and neutral, as it is funded by Western governments, staffed with former military and state intelligence officers, repeats official narratives against enemy states, and serves as a key part in what could be called a “spook to Bellingcat to corporate media propaganda pipeline,” presenting Western government narratives as independent research.

Citizen journalism staffed with spies and soldiers

An alarming number of Bellingcat’s staff and contributors come from highly suspect backgrounds. Senior Investigator Nick Waters, for example, spent three years as an officer in the British Army, including a tour in Afghanistan, where he furthered the British state’s objectives in the region. Shortly after leaving the service, he was hired by Bellingcat to provide supposedly bias-free investigations into the Middle East.

Former contributor Cameron Colquhoun’s past is even more suspect. Colquhoun spent a decade in a senior position in GCHQ (Britain’s version of the NSA), where he ran cyber and Middle Eastern terror operations. The Scot specializes in Middle Eastern security and also holds a qualification from the US State Department. None of this, however, is disclosed by Bellingcat, which merely describes him as the managing director of a private intelligence company that “conduct[s] ethical investigations” for clients around the world — thus depriving readers of key information they need to make informed judgments on what they are reading.

There are plenty of former American spooks on Bellingcat’s roster as well. Former contributor Chris Biggers, who penned more than 60 articles for the site between 2014 and 2017, previously worked for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency — a combat support unit that works under the Department of Defense and the broader Intelligence Community. Biggers is now the director of an intelligence company headquartered in Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington (close to other semi-private contractor groups like Booz Allen Hamilton), that boasts of having retired Army and Air Force generals on its board. Again, none of this is disclosed by Bellingcat, where Biggers’s bio states only that he is a “public and private sector consultant based in Washington, D.C.”

For six years, Dan Kaszeta was a US Secret Service agent specializing in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and for six more he worked as program manager for the White House Military Office. At Bellingcat, he would provide some of the intellectual ammunition for Western accusations about chemical weapons use in Syria and Russia’s alleged poisoning of Sergei Skripal.

Kaszeta is also a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank funded by a host of Western governments as well as weapons contractors such as Airbus, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Its president is a British field marshal (the highest attainable military rank) and its senior vice president is retired American General David Petraeus. Its chairman is Lord Hague, the U.K.’s secretary of state between 2010 and 2015.

All of this matters if a group is presenting itself as independent when, in reality, their views align almost perfectly with the governments funding them. But yet again, Bellingcat fails to follow basic journalism ethics and inform readers of these glaring conflict of interests, describing Kaszeta as merely the managing director of a security company and someone with 27 years of experience in security and antiterrorism. This means that unless readers are willing to do a research project they will be none the wiser.

Other Bellingcat contributors have similar pasts. Nour Bakr previously worked for the British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office while Karl Morand proudly served two separate tours in Iraq with the US 82nd Airborne Division.

Government and intelligence officials are the opposite of journalists. The former exist to promote the interests of power (often against those of the public) while the latter are supposed to hold the powerful to account on behalf of the people. That is why it is so inappropriate that Bellingcat has had so many former spooks on their books. It could be said that ex-officials who have renounced their past or blown the whistle, such as Daniel Ellsberg or John Kiriakou, have utility as journalists. But those who have simply made the transition into media without any change in positions usually serve only the powerful.

Who pays the piper?

Just as startling as its spooky staff is Bellingcat’s source of funding. In 2016 its founder, Eliot Higgins, dismissed the idea that his organization got money from the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) as a ludicrous conspiracy theory. Yet, by the next year, he openly admitted the thing he had laughed off for so long was, in fact, true (Bellingcat’s latest available financial report confirms that they continue to receive financial assistance from the NED). As many MintPress readers will know, the NED was explicitly set up by the Reagan administration as a front for the CIA’s regime-change operations. “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,” said the organization’s co-founder Allen Weinstein, proudly.

Higgins himself was a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, NATO’s quasi-official think tank, from 2016 to 2019. The Atlantic Council’s board of directors is a who’s who of state power, from war planners like Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell to retired generals such as James “Mad Dog” Mattis and H.R. McMaster. It also features no fewer than seven former CIA directors. How Higgins could possibly see taking a paid position at an organization like this while he was still the face of a supposedly open and independent intelligence collective as being at all consistent is unclear.

Other questionable sources of income include the Human Rights Foundation, an international organization set up by Venezuelan activist Thor Halvorssen Mendoza. Halvorssen is the son of a former government official accused of being a CIA informant and a gunrunner for the agency’s dirty wars in Central America in the 1980s and the cousin of convicted terrorist Leopoldo Lopez. Lopez in turn was a leader in a US-backed coup in 2002 and a wave of political terror in 2014 that killed at least 43 people and caused an estimated $15 billion worth of property damage. A major figure on the right-wing of Venezuelan politics, Lopez told journalists that he wants the United States to formally rule the country once President Nicolas Maduro is overthrown. With the help of the Spanish government, Lopez escaped from jail and fled to Spain last year.

Imagine, for one second, the opposite scenario: an “independent” Russian investigative website staffed partially with ex-KGB officials, funded by the Kremlin, with most of their research focused on the nefarious deeds of the US, U.K. and NATO. Would anyone take it seriously? And yet Bellingcat is consistently presented in corporate media as a liberatory organization; the Information Age’s gift to the people.

The Bellingcat to journalism pipeline

The corporate press itself already has a disturbingly close relationship with the national security state, as does social media. In 2019, a senior Twitter executive was unmasked as an active duty officer in the British Army’s online psychological operations unit. Coming at a time when foreign interference in politics and society was the primary issue in US politics, the story was, astoundingly, almost completely ignored in the mainstream press. Only one US outlet of any note picked it up, and that journalist was forced out of the profession weeks later.

Increasingly, it seems, Bellingcat is serving as a training ground for those looking for a job in the West’s most prestigious media outlets. For instance, former Bellingcat contributor Brenna Smith — who was recently the subject of a media storm after she successfully pressured a number of online payment companies to stop allowing the crowdfunding of the Capitol Building insurrectionists — announced last month she would be leaving USA Today and joining The New York Times. There she will meet up with former Bellingcat senior investigator Christiaan Triebert, who joined the Times’ visual investigations team in 2019.

The Times, commonly thought of as the United States’ most influential media outlet, has also collaborated with Bellingcat writers for individual pieces before. In 2018, it commissioned Giancarlo Fiorella and Aliaume Leroy to publish an op-ed strongly insinuating that the Venezuelan state murdered Oscar Perez. After he stole a military helicopter and used it to bomb government buildings in downtown Caracas while trying to ignite a civil war, Perez became the darling of the Western press, being described as a “patriot” (The Guardian), a “rebel” (Miami Herald), an “action hero” (The Times of London), and a “liberator” (Task and Purpose).

Until 2020, Fiorella ran an opposition blog called “In Venezuela” despite living in Canada. Leroy is now a full-time producer and investigator for the U.K.-government network, the BBC.

Bad news from Bellingcat

What we are uncovering here is a network of military, state, think-tank and media units all working together, of which Bellingcat is a central fixture. This would be bad enough, but much of its own research is extremely poor. It strongly pushed the now increasingly discredited idea of a chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, attacking the members of the OPCW who came forward to expose the coverup and making some bizarre claims along the way. For years, Higgins and other members of the Bellingcat team also signal-boosted a Twitter account purporting to be an ISIS official, only for an investigation to expose the account as belonging to a young Indian troll in Bangalore. A leaked U.K. Foreign Office document lamented that “Bellingcat was somewhat discredited, both by spreading disinformation itself, and by being willing to produce reports for anyone willing to pay.”

Ultimately, however, the organization still provides utility as an attack dog for the West, publishing research that the media can cite, supposedly as “independent,” rather than rely directly on intelligence officials, whose credibility with the public is automatically far lower.

Oliver Boyd-Barrett, professor emeritus at Bowling Green State University and an expert in the connections between the deep state and the fourth estate, told MintPress that “the role of Bellingcat is to provide spurious legitimacy to US/NATO pretexts for war and conflict.” In far more positive words, the CIA actually appears to agree with him.

“I don’t want to be too dramatic, but we love [Bellingcat],” said Marc Polymeropoulos, the agency’s former deputy chief of operations for Europe and Eurasia. “Whenever we had to talk to our liaison partners about it, instead of trying to have things cleared or worry about classification issues, you could just reference [Bellingcat’s] work.” Polymeropoulos recently attempted to blame his headache problems on a heretofore unknown Russian microwave weapon, a claim that remarkably became an international scandal. “The greatest value of Bellingcat is that we can then go to the Russians and say ‘there you go’ [when they ask for evidence],” added former CIA Chief of Station Daniel Hoffman.

Bellingcat certainly seems to pay particular attention to the crimes of official enemies. As investigative journalist Matt Kennard noted, it has only published five stories on the United Kingdom, 17 on Saudi Arabia, 19 on the US (most of which are about foreign interference in American society or far-right/QAnon cults). Yet it has 144 on Russia and 244 under its Syria tag.

In his new book “We Are Bellingcat: An Intelligence Agency for the People,” the outlet’s boss Higgins writes: “We have no agenda but we do have a credo: evidence exists and falsehoods exist, and people still care about the difference.” Yet exploring the backgrounds of its journalists and its sources of funding quickly reveals this to be a badly spun piece of PR.

Bellingcat looks far more like a bunch of spooks masquerading as citizen journalists than a people-centered organization taking on power and lies wherever it sees them. Unfortunately, with many of its proteges travelling through the pipeline into influential media outlets, it seems that there might be quite a few masquerading as reporters as well.

Reprinted with permission from MintPressNews.]]> Sat, 10 Apr 2021 17:14:27 GMT
Young People Are Particularly Vulnerable To Lockdowns Ethan Yang

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic governments across the world implemented an unprecedented and untested strategy to slow the spread of the disease. Colloquially known as lockdowns, these public health interventions effectively shut down most normal societal functions through the use of stay-at-home orders, school closures, business closures, bans on large gatherings, and travel restrictions. This policy apparatus effectively relegated the vast majority of people to a form of self-quarantine and completely upended the standard social functioning of society. Although these measures were advertised in the United States as a short-term measure, the now infamous two weeks to flatten the curve policy to shut down societal functions to control the spread of Covid-19 dragged on for over a year. 

The damage to society was certainly extensive, with a 3.5 percent annualized economic retraction record in 2020 and a 32.9 percent decline in Q2 of 2020, making this one of the sharpest economic declines in modern history. However, the level of suffering and trauma caused by these policies cannot be appropriately expressed by economic data alone. 

Lockdown policies may have caused a substantial amount of financial damage but the social damage is just as concerning, if not more so. Across the board, there have been increased reports of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, that are linked to social isolation, substantial life disruptions, and existential dread over the state of the world. Unlike lost dollars, mental health problems leave real and lasting damage which could lead to complications later in life, if not self-harm or suicide. For young people, a drastic increase in suicides has claimed more lives than Covid-19. That is because they are far less vulnerable to Covid than older segments of the population but far more negatively impacted by lockdowns.


Quarantine in general is a traumatizing experience for most people. A study conducted by the Mental Health Foundation found that,
For a variety of reasons, quarantine can be traumatising for some parents. In a study on post-traumatic stress disorder in health-related disasters, criteria for PTSD was met in 25% of isolated or quarantined parents. The same study found links between PTSD criteria in adults and their children having PTSD symptoms. Duration of quarantine and consequent lack of social and physical contact with friends/family and the outside world has been shown to be associated with increased PTSD symptoms. Similarly, it has been shown that social isolation and associated loneliness have a negative impact on mental health outcomes for adults.
Although lockdowns have detrimentally affected the entire population, young people (primarily referring to those under the age of 30) have been particularly harmed by these policies at rates much higher than the general population. This is concerning for many reasons. One of the first being that young people make up less than half of one percent of Covid-19 related deaths in the United States. An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine noted that in Sweden, where schools remained open, from December 31, 2019, to February 18, 2021, there were zero reported Covid-19 related deaths for children aged 1-16. The second, which will be explained in-depth in this article, is that young people are biologically, culturally, and developmentally more vulnerable to the effects of lockdown policies and social isolation. Finally, young people have very little political voice despite comprising around a third of the US population. 

The result is a large and critical segment of the population that is not only facing disproportionately greater mental hardship than the rest of the population, both short and long-term, but also lacking the tools to voice their concerns. Such an outcome should not only be a reason for concern because young people are the future of society, but because such damage is a direct result of unprecedented lockdown policies, not the virus. 

Why Are Lockdowns So Harmful to Young People

To understand why young people have been especially harmed by lockdowns, it is important to first know what makes them so vulnerable in the first place. People do not become fully functional and equipped adults from birth. Over many years, important biological functions are developed and important life skills are learned. From a socioeconomic standpoint, youth is also when important social and professional milestones are achieved from establishing relevant career experience to making important friendships. These biological and social factors all further necessitate the need for young people to be able to partake in normal societal functions, which are not only important for their emotional well-being, but their ability to become stable members of society. 

An article published by BBC writes about the dangers of isolation and mass quarantine for students when it notes,
Prof Ellen Townsend, an expert in child and adolescent self-harm and suicide from Nottingham University, says the way students are being treated “is massively damaging for their mental health.

'It doesn’t make sense to lock up young people,' she says. 'We have to move past this one disease – a more nuanced approach is needed.'
The need for younger individuals from children to adolescents to be able to socialize and independently live their lives is wired into human neurobiology. NPR notes,
Young brains need social connection to feel secure about their identity and place in the world, says Gregory Lewis, who studies the neurobiology of social interaction at Indiana University.
Being able to socialize not just with immediate family and friends but with broader society through venues such as large events and in-person schooling is essential to human development. This is due to a biological urge to separate from the family to create an independent sense of identity through friendships and experiences that begins with early childhood and refines itself up to late adolescence. According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer 
Valerie Braunstein, a psychologist in private practice in Center City who works with adolescents, said that social distancing requirements affect teens differently than adults because it is developmentally appropriate for them to prioritize friendships. She said socially distancing from friends takes a much more negative emotional toll on teens than adults.

'Their task of development is to create social relationships and work on their own sense of identity and autonomy, so when there are barriers in the way of that healthy developmental goal, that can create negative emotional consequences like anxiety, depression, stress, or anger,' Braunstein said. 'I think it’s important for everyone to have empathy for that.'
These developmental priorities make young individuals particularly vulnerable to mass quarantine policies, as they not only remove important factors necessary for maturity but prevent the achievement of biological necessities. A study conducted by the Mental Health Foundation notes,
Emerging evidence suggests that, amongst the general population in the UK, the proportion of adults experiencing loneliness is highest amongst young adults aged 18-24, with another survey identifying that 50% of 16-24 year-olds have experienced ‘lockdown loneliness.’ This could, as the literature suggests, be a consequence of the loss of peer group support during this (sic) important developmental stages where peer interaction is important for brain development, self-concept construction, and ultimately mental health and wellbeing.
These increased feelings of loneliness can be attributed to the fact that people in these age groups are not only in an awkward social period but because of their biological needs for development. An article in New Europe notes
Children, teens, and young adults have a higher need for structure and in-person socialization than older adults. Kids learn vital social skills by physically interacting with one another, including sharing, cooperation, respect, loyalty, and empathy. Child psychologist Dr. Tali Shenfield believes that most kids can bounce back from short periods of isolation; however, enduring multiple lockdowns could force them to miss key developmental milestones. She also worries that this could lead to a permanent reduction in social competence…

Compounding these difficulties, adolescents rely heavily on their peers for a sense of safety. After age 10, kids become less likely to benefit from the security of being at home with parents, which leaves them more vulnerable to pandemic-related anxiety. Again, virtual socialization can’t fully compensate for this deficit: social media is already a proven contributor to anxiety, depression, loneliness, and self-esteem problems among teens and preteens. Spending more time online could potentially worsen teens’ sense of isolation rather than making it better.
In the early stages of life, human biology is programmed to not only make friends and participate in social functions but to make risky decisions that not only fulfill important developmental roles but sensation-seeking inclinations. 

The Biological Demands of Developing Brain Chemistry 

A study published by Karger notes,
Regions of the human brain develop at different rates across the first two decades of life, with some maturing before others. It has been hypothesized that a mismatch in the timing of maturation between subcortical regions (involved in affect and reward processing) and prefrontal regions (involved in cognitive control) underlies the increase in risk-taking and sensation-seeking behaviors observed during adolescence.
This is part of the reason why young people have a desire to be out on the playground during childhood and out partying during the later stages of adolescence. The ongoing development of the human brain takes years, which explains the maturation of priorities and self-control in the later stages of life. During the adolescent stages, brain chemistry tends to create a desire to make riskier decisions, pursue social activity, and seek pleasure. A study published in the Journal of Current Opinion In Behavioral Sciences notes,
Although adolescents appear to have full access to many of the cognitive foundations of decision-making, several aspects of decision-making such as intertemporal choice, prospective evaluation, and integration of positive and negative feedback are not yet tuned to typical adult levels. Still other processes that inform decision-making are uniquely amplified during adolescence: learning from direct experience, reward reactivity, tolerance of ambiguity, and context-dependent orientation toward risk in exciting or peer-laden situations.
Having access to social opportunities, whether that is in-person schooling, large events, time out with friends, and other aspects of normal society, are especially important to young people due to their gradually maturing and evolving brain chemistry that demands such experiences. 

Missing Meaningful Life Events

One year for a young person is far more significant than a year for an older individual. This is not only because of ongoing physical maturation but because of the way life events are structured in human upbringing. These important events could range from making meaningful connections in the first year of college to memorable events such as sports and school dances to creating critical foundations in entry-level jobs. All of these were wiped out by lockdowns, which further exacerbate the vulnerability of young people to lasting psychological and developmental damage. The economic downturn caused by lockdowns also hit young workers especially hard. CNBC writes,
More than one in six young people, aged 18-29, have stopped working since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the UN’s International Labour Organization said in its fourth report on the impact of Covid-19 on the global workforce

While this is only a slight increase on the nearly 14% of young people unemployed in 2019, the ILO pointed out that the youth unemployment rate was already higher than any other group…

The ILO said that more than four in 10 young people, aged 15-24, employed globally were working in hard-hit sectors when the crisis began and nearly 77% of this cohort were in informal jobs, compared to 60% of adult workers aged 25 and above.
Alongside the economic vulnerability, young people are also in a fragile social stage in life, full of important events that were taken by lockdowns. Valerie Braunstein notes for the Philadelphia Inquirer that,
There’s also a heightened sense of loss and grief for teens because of their expectations of how things were going to go — think proms, graduations, summer jobs, and travel — before the pandemic, Braunstein stressed.
We can apply this logic to college students as well who are in an incredibly powerful transition period in their lives that includes living independently from their families, fulfilling sensation-seeking needs, and finding their place in the world. Lockdowns have taken important life experiences from college students such as graduations, networking opportunities, conferences, parties, and friends. Regardless of how important or trivial these things may be, they all play an integral role in social development as well as overall mental well-being. As a result, young people are hit twice by lockdowns, once because of their biological needs, and the second from their unique position in life that is full of meaningful events.

It goes without saying that for those in disadvantaged positions, such as existing mental health issues, low-income households, and fragile families, these factors are only exacerbated. An article in the BBC notes,
Primary school-aged children saw rising problems with emotional and behavioural issues linked to stressed parents trying to juggle work and home-schooling, while 83% of young people with mental health needs said lockdown was making them feel worse. Lockdown also exposed children to other risks such as domestic violence, cramped housing and strained family relationships, with the poorest families hurt most.
Key Takeaways 

This article is the first part of what will be a two-part series. It has outlined the reasons why young people are especially vulnerable to lockdown policies which have not only failed to contain the virus but have wrecked society. Part two will recount the damage done by such policies on age groups under 30. 

Societal norms and practices exist for a reason and part of that is because of biological traits. When government policies ignore these scientific truths about human nature in favor of world views that believe that people’s lives are simply switches that can be flicked on and off, that is a recipe for disaster. The inability of policymakers to acknowledge and grasp the basic biological needs of young individuals has resulted in nothing but disaster for all segments of the population. Lockdowns have failed to adequately protect the elderly from Covid-19 and unleashed a new public health crisis upon the young that may take years to fully understand.

Reprinted with permission from American Institute for Economic Research.]]> Fri, 09 Apr 2021 15:52:46 GMT
Biden To Boost Already Bloated Pentagon Budget With Proposed $715 Billion Tyler Durden

Despite progressive lawmakers in his own party long demanding a serious reduction in the Pentagon's notoriously bloated budget, President Biden on Friday is expected to request a whopping $715 billion for the Pentagon for fiscal year 2022.

This is a slight increase from the prior year as Politico noted late Thursday in reporting the news: the Pentagon budget topline to be presented to lawmakers represents "a roughly 1.5% increase in defense spending from the current year's [$704 billion] level, making it effectively an inflation-adjusted budget boost."

However, it's a slight decrease from what Trump had reportedly planned to propose for this next fiscal year, which was $722 billion. 

According to Bloomberg Government:
A $715 billion discretionary top-line would amount to a decrease of about 0.4% in real terms, adjusting for inflation from this year’s enacted appropriations of about $704 billion. That’s in contrast to a push for 3% to 5% real annual increases in national security spending endorsed by then-Defense Secretary James Mattis in 2017.
As for the aforementioned progressive pushback, they are pointing to the astounding waste that in the reality has little to do with defending the American people, but more to do with handing out huge contracts and fattening up the military-industrial complex.

A statement from the public interest advocate Public Citizen said it best in calling out Biden's Pentagon budget as a "tribute to the power of the military-industrial complex."


"The Pentagon budget—which jumped more than $130 billion during the Trump presidency—is replete with spending on overpriced weapons that don't work, rip-off deals for private contractors, gigantic investments in pointless or outdated weapons systems, and waste and mismanagement so severe the agency cannot pass an audit," the group's president Robert Weissman said in a Thursday statement.

"It is, indeed, a tribute to the power of the military-industrial complex," he asserted.
"There are hundreds of billions of dollars to be saved by appropriate cuts to the Pentagon budget," Weissman added. "What is most important for the FY22 budget is that it be smaller than FY21, in order to signal that we are finally moving in the right direction and shifting resources from the Pentagon to investments in people."

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.]]> Fri, 09 Apr 2021 15:13:33 GMT
'New Normal'? Davos Billionaire Crowd Pushes Orwellian 'Smart Mask' Daniel McAdams
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Biden’s Inhumanity on Syria Patrick Lawrence

For a time after Joe Biden took office not quite three months ago, among the questions raised was how the new administration would address the Syria question.

I do not think we will have to wonder about this much longer. It is early days yet, but one now detects the Biden’s administration’s Syria policy in faint outline. From what one can make out, it is bleak, it is vicious, it is unconscionably cruel to the Syrian people. 

And it may prove yet worse than anything the Trump administration came up with, the Bible-banging Mike Pompeo in the lead as secretary of state.

Will Biden’s national security people drop the covert coup operation Barack Obama set it in motion nine years ago, its failure long evident? Or will they reinvigorate American support for savage jihadists in the name of “regime changing” the secular government in Damascus? What about the American troops still operating illegally on Syrian soil? What about the oilfields the Trump administration took to “protecting” from the nation that owns them? What about the brazen theft of crude from those fields?

And what, of course, about the murderous sanctions that various executive orders have escalated on numerous occasions since the Bush II administration imposed the first of them 17 long years ago?
What will Biden and his people do, in short, about the godawful mess the US has made of the Syrian Arab Republic since it bastardized legitimate demonstrations against the Assad government in early 2012 (at the latest) by perverting them with Sunni extremists and hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons?

These were the questions. Answers now begin to arrive.

February Bombing

The first suggestion of things to come came in late February, when US warplanes bombed sites inside Syria’s border with Iraq said to have been used by militias backed by Iran. This action coincided roughly with talks in Washington with senior Israeli intelligence and military officials, convened to determine whether and how the administration would re-enter the accord governing Iran’s nuclear programs. Those talks merely confirmed what was already evident: The Biden administration will make no move in Iran’s direction without Israel’s approval. Ditto in the Syrian case.  

As a long record shows, Israel wants to destabilize Syria as long as it is not governed by a pliant Western client; it continues to bomb Syrian targets, including Damascus, on a regular basis. With these realities in view, we can confidently surmise that the Biden administration does not actually have a Syria policy, just as it does not actually have an Iran policy. Apartheid Israel has a Syria policy it dictates to the professedly Zionist Biden administration.

“When I think of the suffering of the Syrian people, including Syrian children, I think of my own two children,” Antony Blinken tweeted last week. “How could we not take action to help them? Our common humanity demands it. Shame on us if we don’t.”

One already grows accustomed to our new secretary of state’s wildly disconnected remarks on social media and elsewhere. This guy has a troubled relationship with reality, we must begin to conclude. As The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal replied to this morbid hypocrisy, “If you treated your children like you treat the Syrian people you would be jailed for child abuse.”
Read the whole article here.]]> Thu, 08 Apr 2021 13:57:42 GMT
Texas Covid Crashes - Fauci Dumbfounded Daniel McAdams
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Israel's Troubling 'Green Pass' Post-Coronavirus System Cheryl K. Chumley

Israel is almost completely opened for business. But to participate in the post-coronavirus bustle, you need a Green Pass, a government-sanctioned document that says the carrier has been vaccinated.

And that’s troubling, to say the least. 

This post-coronavirus world is more and more moving to be all about the collective, zero about the individual.

According to a report in The New York Times, individuals who show a Green Pass — the government’s downloadable special OK for the vaccinated — can stay in hotels, dine inside restaurants, attend events of mass gatherings, to include religious services and sports’ games, visit places of tourism and cultural significance, gather for weddings and funerals, work out in fitness centers, swim in swimming pools, vacation in crowded places and more. 

Those without the pass?

Maybe not.

Maybe they have to stay home.

This is troubling on several counts.

One line, from The Times: “[W]hen you book a table at a restaurant, they ask, Do you have a Green Pass? Are you vaccinated?”

Waiters have become the gate guards for individuals’ personal health choices. Waitresses have become watch guards for the government’s vaccination program.

“Achinoam Nini, a prominent singer-songwriter who goes by the stage name Not, announced a performance for Green Pass holders only, at a venerable auditorium in Tel Aviv,” another line from The Times reported.

Celebrity singers have become the proving point for good health.

That’s bad policy by itself — allowing businesses to discriminate based on perceived health risks of their customers. Would the same fly for AIDS patients? How about for those with the flu? And if not — why not?

But worse is the cultural shift toward collectivism, at the expense of individualism. Worse is the societal change that governs by fear.

When confronted with her discriminatory “Green Pass-holders Only” concert plans, Nini wrote on Facebook: It’s for the common good.

That, and the logic that has become increasingly, worrisomely part and parcel of the entire coronavirus vaccination discussion: “I also oppose a forced vaccine, but I encourage a vaccine and believe in it,” she posted.

In other words, you can choose not to take the shot. But the consequences of not taking the shot is to cede all other freedoms. In the end, how is that a choice?

This is the language of dictators.

This is the viewpoint of the Biden White House.

This is how freedom crumbles.

The oligarchy of the coronavirus world is coming on strong. And for those who choose not to obey — well, get ready. Prepare. Stand firm. In this rapidly emerging Orwellian world, that’s one and the same as choosing to rebel against government. Depending on government’s move, it could get very ugly out there.

Reprinted with author's permission from Washington Times.]]> Wed, 07 Apr 2021 14:28:51 GMT
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity on Avoiding War in Ukraine Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Avoiding War in Ukraine

Dear President Biden,

We last communicated with you on December 20, 2020, when you were President-elect.

At that time, we alerted you to the dangers inherent in formulating a policy toward Russia built on a foundation of Russia-bashing. While we continue to support the analysis contained in that memorandum, this new memo serves a far more pressing purpose. We wish to draw your attention to the dangerous situation that exists in Ukraine today, where there is growing risk of war unless you take steps to forestall such a conflict.

At this juncture, we call to mind two basic realities that need particular emphasis amid growing tension between Ukraine and Russia.

First, since Ukraine is not a member of NATO, Article 5 of the NATO Treaty of course would not apply in the case of an armed conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

Second, Ukraine’s current military flexing, if allowed to transition into actual military action, could lead to hostilities with Russia.

We think it crucial that your administration immediately seek to remove from the table, so to speak, any "solution" to the current impasse that has a military component. In short, there is, and can never be, a military solution to this problem.

Your interim national security strategy guidance indicated that your administration would "make smart and disciplined choices regarding our national defense and the responsible use of our military, while elevating diplomacy as our tool of first resort." Right now is the perfect time to put these words into action for all to see.

We strongly believe:

1. It must be made clear to Ukrainian President Zelensky that there will be no military assistance from either the US or NATO if he does not restrain Ukrainian hawks itching to give Russia a bloody nose — hawks who may well expect the West to come to Ukraine’s aid in any conflict with Russia. (There must be no repeat of the fiasco of August 2008, when the Republic of Georgia initiated offensive military operations against South Ossetia in the mistaken belief that the US would come to its assistance if Russia responded militarily.)

2. We recommend that you quickly get back in touch with Zelensky and insist that Kiev halt its current military buildup in eastern Ukraine. Russian forces have been lining up at the border ready to react if Zelensky’s loose talk of war becomes more than bravado. Washington should also put on hold all military training activity involving US and NATO troops in the region. This would lessen the chance that Ukraine would misinterpret these training missions as a de facto sign of support for Ukrainian military operations to regain control of either the Donbas or Crimea.

3. It is equally imperative that the US engage in high-level diplomatic talks with Russia to reduce tensions in the region and de-escalate the current rush toward military conflict. Untangling the complex web of issues that currently burden US-Russia relations is a formidable task that will not be accomplished overnight. This would be an opportune time to work toward a joint goal of preventing armed hostilities in Ukraine and wider war.

There is opportunity as well as risk in the current friction over Ukraine. This crisis offers your administration the opportunity to elevate the moral authority of the United States in the eyes of the international community. Leading with diplomacy will greatly enhance the stature of America in the world.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)

Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer & former Division Director in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (ret.)

Bogdan Dzakovic, former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Graham E. Fuller, Vice-Chair, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Robert M. Furukawa, Captain, Civil Engineer Corps, USNR (ret.)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator

John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003

Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East & CIA political analyst (ret.)

Pedro Israel Orta, CIA Operations Officer & Analyst; Inspector with IG for the Intelligence Community (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Scott Ritter, former MAJ., USMC, former UN Weapon Inspector, Iraq

Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)

Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA

Sarah G. Wilton, CDR, USNR, (ret.); Defense Intelligence Agency (ret.)

Robert Wing, US Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (former) (associate VIPS)

Ann Wright, US Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former US Diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War]]> Wed, 07 Apr 2021 14:11:51 GMT
New York's Vaccine Passport Program is Already Failing Jordan Schachtel

Liberty advocates, rejoice! The idiocracy is going to save us from another form of COVID tyranny. Thanks to a combination of bungling authoritarians and decaying legacy corporations, these entities are simply too incompetent to pull off a functioning vaccine passport program.

New York’s rollout of its vaccine passport already has the markings of a five alarm dumpster fire. The New York State “Excelsior Pass” vaccine passport system, which was created by IBM, has so many issues that I wouldn’t be surprised if the program was scrapped altogether before the end of the calendar year. It has massive security flaws, a shrinking customer base by design, it remains incredibly impractical, and it’s incredibly easy to manipulate. Excelsior Pass sucks, thanks to the idiocracy that was responsible for its design and implementation.

A rigid system

Say you want to attend a Knicks game this evening at Madison Square Garden, a partner to the Excelsior Pass program. It’s 9 a.m. and your event is at 7:30 p.m. If you don’t have the vaccine yet, that means you will need to obtain a negative COVID-19 test to receive your pass. Want to take that test this morning? Not so fast! The antigen test needs to have been administered within the last 6 hours, so you better plan your entire day around navigating that short window between your COVID test and the event this evening.

Just received your second dose and you’re ready to hit the town? Not so fast! You must wait at least two weeks before your green check mark appears on your vaccine passport. 

Has it been more than 90 days since your last dose? Rejected! You only have a 76 day window (more than 14 days, under 90 days) to acquire a vax pass, which has to be renewed every 30 days.

Received a vaccine or COVID test from out of state? Took a private at home test kit or a test from a provider that is not registered in the New York State central database? Looks like you’re out of luck. You will not be able to receive your prized Excelsior Pass, because your information never made it into the system.

Are you an out of state resident looking to attend an event or enter an Excelsior Pass participating store? You’re out of luck! The New York system does not communicate with other databases, and other states plan on rewarding vaccine passport contracts to other companies.

Junk application

In order to download Excelsior Pass on your phone, you need the latest version of Android or iOS. For users of phones that are more than 4-5 years, this means you will not be able to access the application. If you have an iPhone 6 or earlier, you can’t download Excelsior Pass because it only runs on the latest operating system, which doesn’t work on these older phones.

Users of the app are absolutely hammering it for its dysfunction. Of the 240 reviews for the application on iOS, over 100 reviews received 1 star out of 5.

Here’s a small sample size of user complaints from the last week:


IBM sucks

New York’s Excelsior Pass was constructed on IBM’s Digital Health Pass platform. IBM claims that it keeps your data secure on its “blockchain technology” platform, which is a corporate buzzword excuse for a total lack of transparency about how it hosts your sensitive health records. In fact, a devastating February report on IBM’s Blockchain program showed it failed to produce anything meaningful, and the company has cut its staff by a reported 90 percent.

Overpromising and under delivering is nothing new for IBM. Before the blockchain hype, IBM promised it would help treat and cure cancer through its Watson artificial intelligence platform. Watson AI has been marketed for a decade, and it has produced almost nothing of substance. Both IBM Blockchain and IBM’s Watson AI has been catered specifically to health care applications, and neither has developed any substantial real world uses. Don’t be surprised if IBM’s vaccine passport program, which is part of its IBM Blockchain skeleton crew, meets the same fate.

Anyone can steal your information and take your Vax Pass

The IBM-New York vaccine passport system has incredibly lax security protocols, making it easy for a random individual to steal your identity and obtain Gov. Cuomo’s vaunted Excelsior Pass.

In order to see if someone is eligible for an Excelsior Pass (and acquire their COVID-19 health records), all you need is a first and last name, a date of birth, and a zip code (yes, not even their address, just their zip code). If you’re eligible for the pass, you then get taken to a second screen where you have to enter more relatively easily obtained information to “verify your identity.” Even if you get some questions wrong, it appears that you can go back in and answer an unlimited amount of times until you get the right combination. 



Failure imminent

Vaccine passports are inhumane, discriminatory, and will lead America on a direct path to a China-like social credit score system that restricts our unalienable rights. The good news for you New Yorkers is that the Cuomo Administration and IBM are the dream team of incompetence. Excelsior Pass will almost certainly fail, because a legacy governor and a legacy tech outfit are not sophisticated enough to produce a working totalitarian product for their COVID Safety Regime.

Reprinted with permission from The Dossier.
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'Insurrection'...Or Inquisition? With Guest Julie Kelly Daniel McAdams
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What Would Hunter Biden's Laptop Reveal About The Coming Ukraine War? Daniel McAdams
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With News of Hunter Biden's Criminal Probe, Recall the Media Outlets That Peddled the 'Russian Disinformation' Lie Glenn Greenwald

The now-validated facts about Hunter are precisely those the US media -- in tandem with Silicon Valley and the intelligence community -- suppressed based on lies.


The revelation that Hunter Biden is being criminally investigated for his business activities in China came on Monday from the investigative target himself, and he predictably and self-servingly depicted it as just a narrow probe about his “tax affairs” by the US Attorney for Delaware. As I wrote last night, that by itself would be significant enough — the documents published in the weeks before the election by The New York Post contained ample information about exactly that matter, yet were widely repressed by a union of mainstream news outlets, the intelligence community and Silicon Valley based on propaganda and lies. But new reporting suggest the investigation has been far broader.

“The federal investigation into President-elect Joe Biden’s son Hunter has been more extensive than a statement from Hunter Biden indicates,” Politico reported Monday night. Specifically, “the securities fraud unit in the Southern District of New York also scrutinized Hunter Biden’s finances”; “investigators in Delaware and Washington were also probing potential money laundering and Hunter Biden’s foreign ties”; and “federal authorities in the Western District of Pennsylvania are conducting a criminal investigation of a hospital business in which Joe Biden’s brother James was involved.” CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz added that “at least one of the matters investigators have examined is a 2017 gift of a 2.8-carat diamond that Hunter Biden received from CEFC [China Energy’]'s founder and former chairman Ye Jianming after a Miami business meeting.”

All of these topics are what the large bulk of the US media, working in concert with the intelligence community and Silicon Valley, suppressed prior to the election. One of the first New York Post articles based on materials from Hunter’s laptop, headlined “Emails reveal how Hunter Biden tried to cash in big on behalf of family with Chinese firm,” described how he “pursued lucrative deals involving China’s largest private energy company — including one that he said would be ‘interesting for me and my family,’” and specifically noted that Hunter “was identified as ‘Chair/Vice Chair depending on agreement with CEFC,’ an apparent reference to the former Shanghai-based conglomerate CEFC China Energy Co.”

That was the same email that referenced ten percent to be “held by H for the big guy” — which one of Hunter’s business partners on the email chain, Tony Bobulinski, stated categorically referred to Joe Biden. The Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel similarly reviewed numerous laptop documents and reported that “records produced by Mr. Bobulinski show that in 2017, Hunter Biden and James Biden were involved in negotiations about a joint venture with a Chinese energy and finance company called CEFC China Energy," adding that the documents also “make clear that Hunter Biden saw the family name as a valuable asset, angrily citing his 'family’s brand' as a reason he is valuable to the proposed venture."


The pre-election article I wrote and was blocked from publishing by The Intercept, which precipitated my departure from that outlet, extensively discussed these documents’ revelations regarding the attempts by Hunter and Biden’s brother Jim to exploit the former Vice President’s influence in China to generate profit for the Biden family. Among other things, the censored article described “the Biden family's pursuit of business opportunities in China,” referenced “proposals for lucrative business deals in China that traded on his influence with his father,” discussed the possibility suggested by the emails that “Hunter along with Joe Biden's brother Jim were planning on including the former Vice President in at least one deal in China,” and argued that these documents raise the critical question of “whether Biden ever knew about business proposals in Ukraine or China being pursued by his son and brother in which Biden was a proposed participant.”

All of these vital facts and questions about Hunter’s activities in China were largely suppressed from the voting population by the bulk of the US media, working in tandem with Silicon Valley (which simply prevented the story from being discussed and shared on its key platforms), and the intelligence community. How was this accomplished? Largely through outright propaganda, a blatant two-pronged lie: that these materials should be ignored because they constitute “Russian disinformation.”

There has never been any evidence that Russia played any role whatsoever in these materials (The New York Times acknowledged that “no concrete evidence has emerged that the laptop contains Russian disinformation” and the paper said even the FBI has “acknowledged that it had not found any Russian disinformation on the laptop”). This newly disclosed criminal probe obviously constitutes very strong evidence of their authenticity, as was the confirmation at the time from several participants in the emails that they were genuine. Critically, not even the Bidens denied the materials from the laptop were authentic, as The Times noted last night in its story about the criminal investigation into Hunter: “The Biden team has rejected some of the claims made in the NY Post articles, but has not disputed the authenticity of the [laptop] files upon which they were based.”

Even the letter used by these media outlets to peddle the “Russian disinformation” lie — from known liars: former CIA and other intelligence community leaders, who claimed that the Hunter laptop story “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information” — admitted that “we do not have evidence of Russian involvement.”

Read the whole article here.]]> Mon, 05 Apr 2021 14:06:38 GMT