EU sanctions Venezuelan opposition officials

The European Union, which aligns with the United States - and sometimes even precedes them - has published a new list of Venezuelan political figures whose accounts, if any, it has blocked. Alongside a list of Chavistas, the EU has for the first time included leaders of the democratic opposition, considered guilty for failing to re-elect Juan Guaidó as President of the National Assembly, therefore barring him from becoming interim President of the Republic as foreseen by the Constitution, (...)

Australian MP arrested for espionage

Shaoquett Moselmane, a Lebanese-Australian MP (Labor) for New South Wales, is under investigation for spying on behalf of China. He made favorable comments with regard to the People's Republic of China. In addition, his parliamentary assistant was found to have undergone training in 2013 at a school for Chinese Communist Party officers, the Chinese Academy of Governance. The ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organization) searched his private home (photo in Sydney). He was placed in (...)

Is Totalitarianism ‘The New Normal’?

We cannot go back to the pre-coronavirus world, they tell us. Everything has changed and we must accept a "new normal." What does this "new normal" look like? It looks a lot like a dystopian horror film, where privacy is destroyed, property is subject to political whim, surveillance is to be accepted, medical treatments can be forced on people. Should we accept totalitarianism as our "new normal"? Plus in today's program: the real story of Houston's "round two hospital crisis." Tune in to today's Liberty Report:

The MH17 Show Trial Destroys What Remains of Dutch Credibility

On 17 July 2014 a Malaysian airlines flight MH 17 was shot down while transiting Ukrainian airspace, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 passengers and crew on board were killed. The Netherlands had the largest number of casualties, followed by Australia, Malaysia, and a small smattering of other nationalities.

In 2020 a criminal trial began in the Netherlands. The four accused were three Russian citizens and one Ukrainian. None of the four defendants have been present at the trial, although one of the accused, a Russian national, has been legally represented. That lawyer, whose career history suggests minimal exposure to criminal law and certainly nothing of this magnitude, has sought to present her client’s case within the limits imposed by the trial procedure.

To describe this trial as a farce and a disgrace to the legal history of the Netherlands would not be an overstatement. The Australian citizen and Moscow resident John Helmer has been diligently following the trial and reporting on the proceedings on his blog site Dances With Bears. For those interested in following what can only be described as the bizarre proceedings they are urged to read Mr Helmer’s website. The purpose of this brief note is to comment on several features of the trial that appear to the objective observer to be a total farce that violates several fundamental principles of judicial procedure, especially as they are applied in the context of a criminal trial.

The first oddity is that the investigation and evidence gathering appears to have been the prerogative of the Ukrainian Secret Service. To describe this as a basic conflict of interest in the circumstances of this trial would be an understatement.

At the time of the tragedy, the Ukrainian government, which came to power in an American inspired and financed coup d’état earlier in 2014 was, to put it mildly, far from a disinterested party. At the time of the tragedy Kiev was engaged in a civil war (that continues to this day) against the predominantly Russian speaking eastern region of Donbas. The province of Crimea had seceded from Ukraine and voted overwhelmingly to re-join Russia, which it had been an integral part of since the 18th century.

It had never been part of what today is called Ukraine. Crimea was also the site of a Russian naval base that the United States coveted, and had the Kiev regime succeeded in re-taking Crimea there is little doubt that Crimea would have become another United States naval base aimed at Russia. To call that result intolerable would be an accurate description.

One of the bizarre features of the rampant political posturing at that time was the vow by the then Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to assist the Ukrainians in re-taking Crimea by force. That this could have involved Australia in a war with Russia appears not to have featured in his mindset. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed

The allegation that the plane had been brought down by a missile fired by Russian troops from Ukrainian territory was always an allegation that lacked any rational basis. That it also lacked actual physical evidence was also a fact, but one which has been consistently ignored by the Dutch prosecuting authorities.

It is in fact even worse than that. As is well known, Ukraine was once part of the USSR, a political entity that dissolved in 1991. Prior to that dissolution, Russia had provided the bulk of the weaponry within the armoury of the member states of the USSR. This included the BUK missile allegedly used to shoot down MH 17.

The Ukrainian investigators had provided some limited information to support their allegation that the plane was shot down by “Russia”. They exhibited what was claimed to be two pieces of debris from the remains of the missile said to have a shot down MH17. That this “evidence” fundamentally violated basic principles of evidence such as a record of location, preservation and identification was one of the many violations of criminal investigation procedure. This lack of basic procedure is one of the more troubling features of the trial of the four accused and why the term “farce” is not an overstatement.

Worse was to come for the Dutch prosecutors however. On 17 September 2018 (nearly 2 years ago it should be noted) the Russian authorities made a significant announcement that also is conspicuous by its absence from western reporting. The Russians announced that they had identified the missile from the numbers that were part of the two exhibited remnants. The missile to which those numbers were a part had been given to the Ukraine authorities back in USSR days of 1986. The missile had remained in Ukrainian custody ever since.

In any criminal trial worthy of the description of proper procedure in accordance with long established principles of evidence, that should have meant the collapse of the prosecution case. The fact that this evidence has essentially been disregarded by the Dutch prosecution confirms beyond reasonable doubt that the trial proceedings are an utter sham.

That is not the only fatal flaw in the prosecution case, the entire detailing are which is beyond the scope of this brief comment.

Multiple eyewitnesses have come forward to give their account of what they observed in the sky over Donbass that day. Those witnesses are unknown to each other, have no known affiliation with any separatist or anti-government forces, and no determinable reason to lie. They all say they saw the same thing: that they both saw and heard Ukrainian fighter jets in the vicinity at the relevant time.

That evidence is not conclusive of any major point of itself. There may have been an innocent explanation for their presence. That innocent option however, is fatally undermined by two points. The first is that there was no logical reason for the Ukrainian authorities to lie about the fact that they had military aircraft in the air at that time and in that place. If there was an innocent explanation, why not say so?

The second point however, is also fatal to the prosecution case. The evidence of the structural damage to the aircraft is unmistakably evidence of bullet damage that could only have come from a fighter aircraft, and given the location on the civilian aircraft of the bullet damage, came most probably from two aircraft firing from different directions.

Again, there is no innocent explanation for this evidence. MH 17 was brought down by aircraft fire directed at the pilot’s location in the aircraft cockpit. Further indirect evidence of this point is that the bodies of the crew were examined medically, but they were neither shown to family members nor were the results of the autopsies released.

The final brief point that evokes scepticism about the bona fides of accusers of alleged Russian malpractice is the satellite data. The United States Secretary of State John Kerry boasted at the time that because of their overhead satellites the Americans knew exactly what had happened. Again, the appropriate course of action is blindingly obvious: release the satellite data and resolve the contentious issue of what exactly shot down MH17. The Americans have refused to do so.

Again, given the likely definitive nature of such evidence there is no good reason to withhold the data unless it fails in fact to support the anti-Russian allegations. Neutral observers will again draw a negative inference from the Americans refusal and would be justified in doing so.

There is much else about this trial that reveals it to be a total legal farce. Apart from the aforementioned website of Mr Helmer, the actual evidence has been painstakingly gathered by the Dutch academic Kees van der Pijl (2018). To one’s total lack of surprise the results of these independent investigators have been censored from the western mainstream media.

It is this censorship of independent evidence that is perhaps the final telling blow to the credibility of the official inquiry. The trial currently underway in Amsterdam is a sham and a disgrace to the memory of nearly 300 victims of Western power politics. They deserve a better epitaph than this shoddy mockery of western justice.

Russiagate’s Last Gasp

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On Friday The New York Times featured a report based on anonymous intelligence officials that the Russians were paying bounties to have US troops killed in Afghanistan with President Donald Trump refusing to do anything about it. The flurry of Establishment media reporting that ensued provides further proof, if such were needed, that the erstwhile “paper of record” has earned a new moniker — Gray Lady of easy virtue.

Over the weekend, the Times’ dubious allegations grabbed headlines across all media that are likely to remain indelible in the minds of credulous Americans — which seems to have been the main objective. To keep the pot boiling this morning, The New York Times’ David Leonhardt’s daily web piece, “The Morning” calls prominent attention to a banal article by a Heather Cox Richardson, described as a historian at Boston College, adding specific charges to the general indictment of Trump by showing “how the Trump administration has continued to treat Russia favorably.” The following is from Richardson’s newsletter on Friday:
— On April 1 a Russian plane brought ventilators and other medical supplies to the United States … a propaganda coup for Russia;

— On April 25 Trump raised eyebrows by issuing a joint statement with Russian President Vladimir Putin commemorating the 75th anniversary of the historic meeting between American and Soviet troops on the bridge of the Elbe River in Germany that signaled the final defeat of the Nazis;

— On May 3, Trump called Putin and talked for an hour and a half, a discussion Trump called ‘very positive’;

— On May 21, the US sent a humanitarian aid package worth $5.6 million to Moscow to help fight coronavirus there. The shipment included 50 ventilators, with another 150 promised for the next week; …

— On June 15, news broke that Trump has ordered the removal of 9,500 troops from Germany, where they support NATO against Russian aggression. …
Historian Richardson added:
All of these friendly overtures to Russia were alarming enough when all we knew was that Russia attacked the 2016 US election and is doing so again in 2020. But it is far worse that those overtures took place when the administration knew that Russia had actively targeted American soldiers. … this bad news apparently prompted worried intelligence officials to give up their hope that the administration would respond to the crisis, and instead to leak the story to two major newspapers.
Hear the siren? Children, get under your desks!

The Tall Tale About Russia Paying for Dead US Troops

Times print edition readers had to wait until this morning to learn of Trump’s statement last night that he was not briefed on the cockamamie tale about bounties for killing, since it was, well, cockamamie.

Late last night the president tweeted: “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or the VP. …”
For those of us distrustful of the Times — with good reason — on such neuralgic issues, the bounty story had already fallen of its own weight. As Scott Ritter pointed out yesterday:
Perhaps the biggest clue concerning the fragility of the New York Times’ report is contained in the one sentence it provides about sourcing — 'The intelligence assessment is said to be based at least in part on interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals.' That sentence contains almost everything one needs to know about the intelligence in question, including the fact that the source of the information is most likely the Afghan government as reported through CIA channels. …
And who can forget how “successful” interrogators can be in getting desired answers.

Russia & Taliban React

The Kremlin called the Times reporting “nonsense … an unsophisticated plant,” and from Russia’s perspective the allegations make little sense; Moscow will see them for what they are — attempts to show that Trump is too “accommodating” to Russia.

A Taliban spokesman called the story “baseless,” adding with apparent pride that “we” have done “target killings” for years “on our own resources.” 

Russia is no friend of the Taliban. At the same time, it has been clear for several years that the US would have to pull its troops out of Afghanistan. Think back five decades and recall how circumspect the Soviets were in Vietnam. Giving rhetorical support to a fraternal Communist nation was de rigueur and some surface-to-air missiles gave some substance to that support.

But Moscow recognized from the start that Washington was embarked on a fool’s errand in Vietnam. There would be no percentage in getting directly involved. And so, the Soviets sat back and watched smugly as the Vietnamese Communists drove US forces out on their “own resources.” As was the case with the Viet Cong, the Taliban needs no bounty inducements from abroad.

Besides, the Russians knew painfully well — from their own bitter experience in Afghanistan, what the outcome of the most recent fool’s errand would be for the US What point would they see in doing what The New York Times and other Establishment media are breathlessly accusing them of?

CIA Disinformation; Casey at Bat

Former CIA Director William Casey said: “We’ll know when our disinformation program is complete, when everything the American public believes is false.”

Casey made that remark at the first cabinet meeting in the White House under President Ronald Reagan in early 1981, according to Barbara Honegger, who was assistant to the chief domestic policy adviser. Honegger was there, took notes, and told then Senior White House correspondent Sarah McClendon, who in turn made it public.

If Casey’s spirit is somehow observing the success of the disinformation program called Russiagate, one can imagine how proud he must be. But sustained propaganda success can be a serious challenge. The Russiagate canard has lasted three and a half years. This last gasp effort, spearheaded by the Times, to breathe more life into it is likely to last little more than a weekend — the redoubled efforts of Casey-dictum followers notwithstanding.

Russiagate itself has been unraveling, although one would hardly know it from the Establishment media. No collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Even the sacrosanct tenet that the Russians hacked the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks has been disproven, with the head of the DNC-hired cyber security firm CrowdStrike admitting that there is no evidence that the DNC emails were hacked — by Russia or anyone else.

How long will it take the Times to catch up with the CrowdStrike story, available since May 7?

The media is left with one sacred cow: the misnomered “Intelligence Community” Assessment of Jan. 6, 2017, claiming that President Putin himself ordered the hacking of the DNC. That “assessment” done by “hand-picked analysts” from only CIA, FBI and NSA (not all 17 intelligence agencies of the “intelligence community”) reportedly is being given close scrutiny by US Attorney John Durham, appointed by the attorney general to investigate Russiagate’s origins.

If Durham finds it fraudulent (not a difficult task), the heads of senior intelligence and law enforcement officials may roll. That would also mean a still deeper dent in the credibility of Establishment media that are only too eager to drink the Kool Aid and to leave plenty to drink for the rest of us.

Do not expect the media to cease and desist, simply because Trump had a good squelch for them last night — namely, the “intelligence” on the “bounties” was not deemed good enough to present to the president. 

(As a preparer and briefer of The President’s Daily Brief to Presidents Reagan and HW Bush, I can attest to the fact that — based on what has been revealed so far — the Russian bounty story falls far short of the PDB threshold.)

Rejecting Intelligence Assessments

Nevertheless, the corporate media is likely to play up the Trump administration’s rejection of what the media is calling the “intelligence assessment” about Russia offering — as Rachel Maddow indecorously put it on Friday — “bounty for the scalps of American soldiers in Afghanistan.”

I am not a regular Maddow-watcher, but to me she seemed unhinged — actually, well over the top.

The media asks, “Why does Trump continue to disrespect the assessments of the intelligence community?” There he goes again — not believing our “intelligence community; siding, rather, with Putin.”

In other words, we can expect no let up from the media and the national security miscreant leakers who have served as their life’s blood. As for the anchors and pundits, their level of sophistication was reflected yesterday in the sage surmise of Face the Nation’s Chuck Todd, who Aaron Mate reminds us, is a “grown adult and professional media person.” Todd asked guest John Bolton: “Do you think that the president is afraid to make Putin mad because maybe Putin did help him win the election, and he doesn’t want to make him mad for 2020?”

“This is as bad as it gets,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday, adding the aphorism she memorized several months ago: “All roads lead to Putin.” The unconscionably deceitful performance of Establishment media is as bad as it gets, though that, of course, was not what Pelosi meant. She apparently lifted a line right out of the Times about how Trump is too “accommodating” toward Russia.

One can read this most recent flurry of Russia, Russia, Russia as a reflection of the need to pre-empt the findings likely to issue from Durham and Attorney General William Barr in the coming months — on the theory that the best defense is a pre-emptive offense. Meanwhile, we can expect the corporate media to continue to disgrace itself.

Vile

Caitlin Johnstone, typically, pulls no punches regarding the Russian bounty travesty: 
All parties involved in spreading this malignant psyop are absolutely vile, but a special disdain should be reserved for the media class who have been entrusted by the public with the essential task of creating an informed populace and holding power to account. How much of an unprincipled whore do you have to be to call yourself a journalist and uncritically parrot the completely unsubstantiated assertions of spooks while protecting their anonymity? How much work did these empire fluffers put into killing off every last shred of their dignity? It boggles the mind.

It really is funny how the most influential news outlets in the Western world will uncritically parrot whatever they’re told to say by the most powerful and depraved intelligence agencies on the planet, and then turn around and tell you without a hint of self-awareness that Russia and China are bad because they have state media.

Sometimes all you can do is laugh.
Reprinted with author's permission from ConsortiumNews.

Why is this Ongoing American “Revolution” Bound to Fail?

Observed from outer space, the United States is in a revolutionary turmoil. Fires are burning, thousands of people are confronting police and other security forces. There are barricades, banners, posters, and there is rage.

Rage is well justified. Grievances run deep, through the veins of a confused and socially insecure population, in both cities and the countryside. Minorities feel and actually are oppressed. Indeed they have been disgracefully oppressed, since the birth of the country, over two centuries ago (see my latest report carried by this magazine).

There are some correct words uttered and written; many appropriate sentiments are expressed.

And yet, and yet… It looks like a revolution, it feels like a revolution, but it is not a revolution. It definitely is not! Why?

*****

An expert on Communist China, a man who spent many years living in, and writing books about, the most populous country on Earth, Jeff Brown, recently voiced something that immediately caught my attention. He described, accurately, on his China Rising Radio Sinoland, what has been taking place in his native country, United States:

Protests in the USA, land of Marlboro Man will come to nothing because there is no solidarity, no vision, nor guiding ideology to unite the people in the common struggle against the 1%. Just ask the Black Panthers and Mao Zedong.

This is precisely when ‘guiding ideology’ is desperately needed! But it is nowhere to be found.

For years and decades, the US (and European) elites and their mass media, as well as their educational plus ‘entertainment’ outlets, have been systematically de-politicizing the brains of their citizens. Pornography, consumerism, and sitcoms instead of deep, philosophical books and films. Massive – often booze and sex-oriented – travel, instead of roaming the world in search of knowledge, answers, while building bridges between different cultures (even between those of victims and victimizers).

Results are increasingly evident.

Citizens in the Western countries were told that the ideologies, particularly the left ones, became “something that belongs to the past,” “something heavy,” unattractive, and definitely not ‘cool.’ Western masses accepted it easily, without realizing that without the left-wing ideologies, there can be no change, no revolution, and no organized opposition to the regime, which has been plundering the world for several hundreds of years.

They were told that Democrats are representing left-wing, and Republicans, right-wing. Deep inside, many felt it is rubbish. There is only one right-wing political party in the US – Democrat-Republican one. But it was better for the great majority just to ignore its own instincts and swim with the flow.

*****

It went so far that most of the people in North America and Europe reached the point when they were not even able to commit themselves to almost anything, anymore, from the Communist movements to marriages and relationships. I recently described this occurrence in my book “Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism.”

There are many explanations for this. One of them: regime created society built on extreme individualism, selfishness, and shallow perception of the world. To organize, to commit, actually requires at least some discipline, effort, and definitely great dedicated effort to learn (about the world, a person, or a movement) and to work hard for a better world. It is not easy to become a revolutionary when one is positioned on a couch, or a gym, or while banging for hours every day into a smartphone.

The results are sad. Anarchism, consisting of countless fragmented approaches, is increasingly popular, but it will definitely not change the country.

When leaders of the ‘revolutionary commune’ in Seattle were approached by sympathetic journalists and asked about their goals, they could not answer. These were, undoubtfully, people with good intentions, outraged by racism, and by the killing of innocent people. But do they have plans, strategy, an organization to overthrow the system which is literally choking billions of lives on all continents? Definitely not!

On June 11, 2020, RT filed a report about the situation in Seattle:

A few different organizations have different demands, and no one speaks for everyone, but everyone’s trying to get together,” Simone clarified, implying that the much-discussed list of “demands” that have circulated for the past few days don’t represent the wishes of the entire community. However, there are a few lines of commonality running through the settlement.

Everyone’s upset. We all came here in unity, just over the fact that cops need accountability,” he said, declaring that his decision to join the demonstration was about “trying to send a message and get accountability held.”

Now we’re here – let’s get the dialogue going,” Simone continued, unwilling to commit to taking over other precincts, expanding the Zone, or any of the ambitious demands made by others in the group.”

*****

Russian Bolsheviks had it clear, and the same could be said about their followers. Before the 1917 Great October Socialist Revolution, they spent years and decades educating people all over their vast country. Some of the greatest thinkers and writers, including novelist Maxim Gorky and poet Vladimir Mayakovski, were participating in the “project.” Even simple peasants were easily grasping the reality of their dismal existence while getting inspired by some of the greatest minds of their nation. If not for the Cold War and West’s brutal interference, the Soviet Union would survive and thrive until this day.

The same could be said about the great revolutionary struggles of China, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba, Venezuela, where hundreds of millions of tremendous works of philosophy, fiction and poetry have been distributed, for free, to both peasants and workers, who easily understood and got inspired by them. In China, in the 1930s, the entire so-called “Shanghai School of Cinema” was born, a true socialist-realism movement that helped to educate the Chinese public about the state in which it was forced to exist.

Big and successful revolutions were constructed and then supported by the educated urban and rural poor, who were awakened and consequently outraged by their position in the society.

*****

Unfortunately, the rebellion in the United States is strategically shallow. There are no great leaders, no cultural figures leading it, no extraordinary educators.

Without any doubt, there are clear reasons for rage and resistance. Racism is one tremendous one.

And, there are other ones: US society, in general, is tired as it is depressed. As it is confused. The country is robbing, literally looting the entire Planet. It tortures people in various countries. Rainforests are burning in Indonesia, Brazil, and Congo to satisfy demands for more palm oil and other raw materials. US citizens are consuming as no other nation under the sun does. They entertain themselves, often living frivolous, empty lives. And yet, almost no one seems to be happy there; no one satisfied.

People know something went essentially wrong, but they are not sure precisely what it is. Or, who should really be blamed?

There is an acute lack of solidarity. And everything is happening impromptu.

Are the ‘members of the majority’ in the US truly kneeling because they are in unison with the oppressed minorities and the brutalized non-Western world? Or are they “trying to save their own skin,” and at the end, keep the status quo intact, as has happened in Australia and their basically insincere “We Are Sorry!” 2008 movement?

There is no strong “front,” there is no revolutionary program.

It appears that the country is not ready, not prepared, for a huge job of re-defining itself.

Insecurity is due to the lack of free medical care, education, and subsidized housing. Most of the people are in debt. Depression is, at least partially, due to overconsumption of intellectual and emotional junk. There is plenty of fundamentalist religions, but almost no discussion about how to improve life in this world.

Segregated, atomized, and otherwise, fragmented society seems to be unable to give birth to a truly compassionate, egalitarian national project.

Many US citizens see themselves as “victims.” Ethnic minorities definitely are. Are the others, too? Who is the victim, and who is the perpetrator? On which side of the scales sits a regular middle-class family, compliant and, by global comparison, heavily indulged in overconsumption? So far, there is no open discussion on this topic. In fact, it is being avoided by all means.

There seems to be at least some consensus that 1% of the richest is to blame, as well as the entire corporate and political system, and also banks. But what about the majority; those individuals who keep voting for the system, those who are making sure to ignore imperialism, racism, inequality?

Many questions should be asked, particularly now, but they are not. The very uncomfortable questions they are.

But without asking them, without searching for honest answers, there is no way forward, and no true revolution possible.

The neo-liberal system created entire nations that cannot think independently and creatively. US is definitely one of them. People were bombarded with propaganda slogans that they are free, enjoying liberties. But when the day to act arrived, there has been nothing substantial in terms of new, revolutionary ideas. Just one enormous void. Nothing that could inspire the nation and the world.

The outrage over the brutal police killing propelled millions of people to the streets. The mood has been truly rebellious, revolutionary, geared for big changes.

But then, nothing!

Revolution is being postponed. Opportunities lost. Postponed by how many years?

The truth is – there are no shortcuts. Those who sincerely want to change the United States will have to follow the revolutionary formula from other countries. The formula is mainly based on education, knowledge, and determined, selfless work for the country and the world, called “internationalism.”

Unless the US comes up with an absolutely new strategy, formula, but right now, frankly, it seems to be extremely far from coming up with it!

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook (a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences)

Stumbling Towards Catastrophe: The New Cold War With China

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With tensions between the US and China at an all-time high, experts warn the two powers are closer to a military confrontation than ever before. A war with China should be unthinkable in Washington since the conflict could be catastrophic to the entire world as the threat of it erupting into a full-blown nuclear war is very real. But with a deteriorating trade relationship, tension over the Covid-19 pandemic, increased US Navy activity in the Pacific, new sanctions aimed at Chinese officials, and hostile rhetoric coming from the Trump administration, the unthinkable is becoming more and more likely.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced new sanctions on Friday aimed at “current and former” Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials, accusing them of violating Hong Kong’s autonomy. Hong Kong has served as a stage for recent US meddling, with Washington openly supporting the protests that rocked the city since March 2019. The Trump administration accused Beijing of violating Hong Kong’s autonomy with a new national security law made for the city, a bill designed to quell protests.

Some Chinese officials justified passing the law by pointing to the foreign interference in the demonstrations – that interference included Congress hosting protest leaders and passing legislation to confront Beijing over the former British colony. China’s concern with foreign interference is clearly outlined in the national security bill, which includes “collusion with foreign and external forces” on a list of criminal offenses the bill aims to combat.

The Senate just passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which would sanction “foreign individuals and entities that materially contribute to China’s failure to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy.” The new legislation is the Senate’s response to the Hong Kong national security law. Congress is also keen on confronting China militarily, with lawmakers working out a plan to give the Pentagon funds to increase its footprint in the region, a plan dubbed the “Indo-Pacific Deterrence Initiative.” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has repeatedly identified China as the Pentagon’s number one priority.

President Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act into law on June 17th, a bill that will enable even more sanctions against Chinese officials over China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province. The Trump administration published a document last week that listed 20 Chinese companies and accused them of being arms of China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Although nothing in the document substantiated the claim, it opens the possibility of Washington taking actions against the companies listed, like sanctions, which have become a staple of the administration.

The telecommunications company Huawei was included in the list of companies allegedly run by the PLA. Huawei, a major player in 5G technologies, has been banned from the US. The Trump administration is working hard to prevent other countries from doing business with Huawei and continues to pressure its allies into not accepting the company’s 5G technology. The common accusation against Huawei is that its equipment could be used to spy on other countries, an accusation that rings hollow coming from the US, a country that can track cell phones all over the world, as revealed by the leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

These latest economic provocations came after the US and China signed the Phase One trade deal in January. According to The Wall Street Journal, when Mike Pompeo met with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Hawaii on June 18th, Yang warned Washington’s recent meddling in Beijing’s affairs could jeopardize the trade deal. Yang listed Hong Kong and Taiwan as areas where the US meddles and expressed “strong dissatisfaction” with President Trump’s signing of the Uyghur Human Rights Act.

The increase in tensions between the US and China is due in large part to the Covid-19 pandemic. Top officials in the White House, including the president, have accused Beijing of a cover-up in the early days of the outbreak. In an interview with Fox News last week, White House trade advisor Peter Navarro was asked if the phase one trade deal was over. Navarro responded, “it’s over,” his reasoning being the fact that the Chinese officials who signed the agreement in Washington on January 15th did not mention the pandemic. Navarro claims the White House first heard of the pandemic after the Chinese diplomats’ plane took off, although Covid-19 was already in the news days before.

Navarro quickly recanted his statement on the trade deal and said he was taken “wildly out of context” in the interview. “I was simply speaking to the lack of trust we now have of the Chinese Communist Party after they lied about the origins of the China virus and foisted a pandemic upon the world,” Navarro said. President Trump took to Twitter to ensure that the trade deal is still “fully intact.”

In the early days of the Trump administration, Navarro and former White House strategist Steve Bannon fought hard to push President Trump to put tariffs on Chinese goods, a battle they won. Bannon, a self-described ultra-hawk when it comes to China, has been crusading against the CCP since he left the White House. In a recent interview with Asia Times, when asked if Washington should pursue regime change in Beijing, Bannon said, “I don’t think Asia can be free, until we’ve had regime change in Beijing. And I am an absolute advocate of that.”

Bannon denied rumors that he was joining the Trump campaign for 2020 but ensured many of his friends and colleagues will be on the president’s team. “One hundred and twenty percent of my time right now is spent on taking down the Chinese Communist Party, with the Committee on the Present Danger,” Bannon said. The Committee on Present Danger: China (CPD) is an incredibly hawkish think-tank started by Bannon and neoconservative Frank Gaffney in 2019.

On June 5th, the CPD published an essay titled “To the Americans Who Are on Their Knees,” which Gaffney and CPD chair Brian Kennedy called “the single most important call in a generation aimed at enabling our countrymen and women to recognize and respond appropriately to a present danger.” The essay addresses the protests that erupted across the US in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. The author claims the American left leading the movement is the “catspaw” of foreign powers. “First, the police will be defunded; second, the Revolution will defund the US military; third, the Chinese and Russians will bomb and invade the country,” the essay reads.

This tirade could be dismissed as the ramblings of a crazed hawk, but a link to the essay remains in prominence on the CPD’s front page, and the think-tank’s message gets through to the White House. The group recently sent a letter to President Trump, praising him for releasing the list of 20 companies that are allegedly run by the PLA and gave the president advice on possible steps forward.

Some of the tamer rhetoric coming from the CPD and right-wing populists like Bannon resonates with many Americans. There are real concerns regarding US reliance on Chinese manufacturing, something that was exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic when the US faced shortages of personal protective equipment. The loss of American jobs to China is another talking point that gets through to people on the right and the left. There is a consensus among both groups that corporations sold out the American people when they exported manufacturing to China.

Despite the rhetoric, the fact that the US and China are each other’s largest trading partners has its benefits. This fact is enough to discourage officials on both sides from turning this Cold War into a hot one. But as trade relations sour, and President Trump openly considers completely “decoupling” from China, the risk of a shooting war is much higher.

The prophetic Justin Raimondo put it best in a March 2008 column titled, “Why They Hate China.” Justin wrote:

“If goods don’t cross borders, then armies soon will – a historical truism noted by many before me, and with good reason. Let it be a warning to all those anti-free trade, antiwar types of the Right as well as the Left – you’ll soon be jumping on the War Party’s bandwagon when it comes China’s turn to play the role of global bogeyman. The way things are going, that day may come soon enough.”

Justin’s words are something to reflect on while the US and China are careening towards war and people on the left and the right continue to demonize Beijing. While there are real concerns to be had with China’s human rights abuses, US intervention will undoubtedly make the situation worse. And hawks like Steve Bannon disguise their neocon hopes of regime-change in a country of 1.4 billion people as populist rhetoric to fool Americans into consenting to this new Cold War. Washington has a history of stumbling into catastrophe in East Asia. From Manila to Pyongyang, US adventurism in the region has left millions dead in its wake, a war with China will kill millions more — a potential catastrophe that must be avoided.

Reprinted with permission from Antiwar.com.

Keir Starmer’s “Antisemitism” Sacking is a Signal that Israel is Safe in his Hands

The sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey from the UK shadow cabinet – on the grounds that she retweeted an article containing a supposedly “antisemitic” conspiracy theory – managed to kill three birds with one stone for new Labour leader Keir Starmer.

First, it offered a pretext to rid himself of the last of the Labour heavyweights associated with the party’s left and its former leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Long-Bailey was runner-up to Starmer in the leadership elections earlier in the year and he had little choice but to include her on his front bench.

Starmer will doubtless sigh with relief if the outpouring of threats on social media from left-wing members to quit over Long-Bailey’s sacking actually materialises.

Second, the move served as a signal from Starmer that he is a safe pair of hands for the party’s right, which worked so hard to destroy Corbyn from within, as a recently leaked internal review revealed in excruciating detail. Despite the report showing that the Labour right sabotaged the 2017 general election campaign to prevent Corbyn from becoming prime minister, Starmer appears to have buried its contents – as have the British media.

He is keen to demonstrate that he will now steer Labour back to being a reliable party of government for the neoliberal establishment. He intends to demonstrate that he is the Labour party’s Joe Biden, not its Bernie Sanders. Starmerism is likely to look a lot like Blairism.

A peace pipe

And third, Long-Bailey’s sacking provided the perfect opportunity for Starmer to publicly light a peace pipe with the Israel lobby after its long battle to tar Corbyn, his predecessor, as an antisemite.

The offending article shared by Long-Bailey referred to Israel’s documented and controversial role in training and helping to militarise US police forces. It did not mention Jews. By straining the meaning of antisemitism well past its breaking point, Starmer showed that his promised “zero tolerance” for antisemitism actually means zero tolerance of anyone in Labour who might antagonise the Israel lobby – and by extension, of course, the Israeli government.

By contrast, back in February Rachel Reeves, an MP on the party’s right, celebrated Nancy Astor, the first woman to sit in the UK parliament and a well-known Jew hater who supported the appeasement of Hitler. None of that appeared to bother the Israel lobby, nor did it dissuade Starmer from welcoming Reeves into his shadow cabinet weeks later.

Feeble handwringing

Doubtless, the move against Long-Bailey felt particularly pressing given that this week the door will open to the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu annexing swaths of Palestinian territory in the West Bank in violation of international law, as sanctioned by Donald Trump’s “peace” plan.

Corbyn joined more than 140 other MPs last month in sending a letter to the British prime minister urging “severe consequences including sanctions” on Israel should it carry out annexation.

Starmer, by contrast, has voiced only “concerns”. Sidelining the gross violation of international law annexation constitutes, or the effects on Palestinians, he has weakly opined: “I don’t agree with annexation and I don’t think it’s good for security in the region.”

It looks like Starmer has no intention of doing anything more than feeble handwringing – especially when he knows that the Israel lobby, including advocacy groups inside his own party like the Jewish Labour Movement, would move swiftly against him, as they did against Corbyn, should he do otherwise.

Sacking Long-Bailey has offered the Israel lobby a sacrificial victim. But it has also removed a potential loose cannon from his front bench on Israel and annexation-related matters. It has sent an exceptionally clear warning to other shadow cabinet ministers to watch and closely follow his lead. He has made it evident that no one will be allowed to step out of line.

A smooth ride

All three audiences – Starmer’s own MPs and party officials, the billionaire-owned media, and the Israel lobby that claims to represent Britain’s Jewish community – can now be relied on to give him a smooth ride.

His only remaining challenge will be to keep the membership in check.

Starmer understands only too well the common policy priorities of the various audiences he is seeking to placate. In fact, the article Long-Bailey retweeted – and which led to her ousting – was highlighting the very interconnectedness of the problems these establishment groups hope to ringfence from examination.

The article published in the Independent was an interview with Maxine Peake, a left-wing actor and Palestinian solidarity activist. As Long-Bailey shared the article, she called Peake, one of her constituents, “an absolute diamond”.

Peake had used the interview to warn: “We’re being ruled by capitalist, fascist dictators.” Establishment structures to protect capitalism, “keeping poor people in their place”, were so entrenched, she wondered how we might ever “dig out” of them.

Those who rejected Corbyn in the 2019 general election because he was seen as too left-wing, she observed, had no place complaining now about an incompetent Conservative government there to serve the establishment rather than the public.

Her brief, offending comment about Israel – the one that has been widely mischaracterised as antisemitic – was immediately prefaced by Peake’s concern that racism and police brutality had become globalised industries, with states learning repressive techniques from each other.

She told the interviewer: “Systemic racism is a global issue. The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.”

The Palestinian lab

Starmer and the Israel lobby both wish to deflect attention away from the wider point Peake was making. She was referring to Israel’s well-known role in helping to train and militarise other countries’ police forces with so-called “counter-terrorism measures”. Israel has been doing so since the early 1990s.

As Israeli journalists and scholars have noted, Israel has effectively turned the occupied Palestinian territories into laboratories in which it can refine oppressive systems of control that other states desire for use against sections of their own populations.

But Starmer and the lobby chose to hoist Long-Bailey – via Peake’s interview – onto the hook of a single unprovable assertion: that Israel specifically taught Minneapolis police the knee on the neck chokehold that one of their police officers, Derek Chauvin, used for nine minutes on George Floyd last month, leading to his death.

Peake was right that Israeli security services regularly use that type of chokehold on Palestinians, and also that Israeli experts had held a training session with Minneapolis police in 2012.  All that can be proved.

The specific claim that this particular chokehold was taught on that occasion, however, may be wrong – and we are unlikely ever to know, given the lack of transparency regarding Israel’s influence on other police forces’ strategies and methods.

Such opaqueness and a lack of accountability in police practices is the norm in Israel, where the security services treat Palestinians as an enemy – both in the occupied territories and inside Israel, where there is a large minority with degraded Israeli citizenship. US police forces, on the other hand, profess, often unconvincingly, to be driven by a “protect and serve” ethos.

‘Global pacification’

In taking action against Long-Bailey, Starmer, a former lawyer known for his forensic skills, made a telling, false allegation. He told the BBC that the Peake interview had indulged in antisemitic “conspiracy theories” – in the plural. But only one Israel-related claim, about the knee on the neck chokehold, was made or cited.

Further, Peake’s claim, whether correct or not, is patently not antisemitic. Israel is neither a Jew nor the representative of the Jewish people collectively – except in the imaginations of antisemites and the hardcore Zionists who people the Israel lobby.

More significantly still, in condemning Peake, Starmer wilfully ignored the wood as he pointed out a single tree.

Israeli scholar Jeff Halper, a veteran peace activist, has documented in great detail in his book War Against the People how Israel has intentionally positioned itself at the heart of a growing “global pacification industry”. The thousands of training sessions held by Israeli police in the US and around the world are based on their “expertise” in repressive, militarised policing.

Tiny Israel has influence in this field way out of proportion to its size, in the same way that it is one of the top 10 states – all the others far larger – that profit from the arms trade and cyber warfare. Every year since 2007, the Global Militarisation Index has crowned Israel the most militarised nation on the planet.

A senior analyst at the liberal Israeli Haaretz newspaper has described Israel as “securityland” – the go-to state for others to improve their techniques for surveilling, controlling and oppressing restive populations within their territory. It is this expertise in “securocratic warfare” that, according to Halper, has allowed tiny Israel to hit way above its weight in international politics and earned it a place “at the table with NATO countries”.

Western bad faith

It is on this last point that the Labour left, including many of the party’s half a million members, and the Labour right decisively part company. A gulf in worldviews opens up.

Along with the climate emergency, Israel symbolises for the Labour left some of the most visible hypocrisies and excesses of a neoliberal global agenda that treats the planet with slash-and-burn indifference, views international law with contempt, and regards populations as little more than pawns on an updated colonial chessboard.

Israel’s recent history of dispossessing the Palestinians; its unabashed promotion of Jim Crow-style ethnic privileges for Jews, epitomised in the nation-state law; its continuing utter disregard for the rights of Palestinians; its hyper-militarised culture; its decades-long occupation; its refusal to make peace with its neighbours; its deep integration into the West’s war industries; its influence on the ideologies of the “war on terror” and a worldwide “clash of civilisations”; and its disdain for international humanitarian law are all anathema to the left.

Worse still, Israel has been doing all of this in full view of the international community for decades. Nonetheless, its crimes are richly subsidised by the United States and Europe, as well as obscured by a sympathetic western media that is financially and ideologically embedded in the neoliberal establishment.

For the Labour left – for Peake, Long-Bailey and Corbyn – Israel is such an obvious example of western bad faith, such a glaring Achilles’ heel in the deceptions spread on behalf of the neoliberal order, that it presents an opportunity. Criticism of Israel can serve to awaken others, helping them to understand how a bogus western “civilisation” is destroying the planet through economic pillage, wars and environmental destruction.

It offers an entry into the left’s structural, more abstract critiques of capitalism and western colonialism that it is otherwise difficult to convey in soundbites to a uniformly hostile media.

Antisemitism redefined

The problem is that the stakes regarding Israel are understood by the Labour right in much the same way. Their commitment to a global neoliberal order – one they characterise in terms of a superior western civilisation – stands starkly exposed in the case of Israel.

If the idea of Israel is made vulnerable to challenge, so might their other self-delusions and deceptions about western superiority.

For each side, Israel has become a battleground on which the truthfulness of their worldview is tested.

The Labour right has no desire to engage with the left’s arguments, particularly at a time when the climate emergency and the rise of populism make their political claims sound increasingly hollow. Rather than debate the merits of democratic socialism, the Labour right has preferred to simply tar the Labour left as antisemites.

With Corbyn’s unexpected rise to lead Labour in 2015, that crisis for the Labour right became existential. The backlash was swift and systematic.

The party’s right-wing scrapped the accepted definition of antisemitism and imposed a new one on Labour, formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), to ensnare the left. It focused on criticism of Israel rather than hatred or fear of Jews.

The Jewish Labour Movement, a pro-Israel group, was revived in late 2015 to undermine Corbyn from within the party. It was all but sanctified, even as it refused to campaign for Labour candidates and referred the party to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission for a highly politicised investigation.

The Labour right openly conflated not only the left’s anti-Zionism with antisemitism but even their socialist critiques of capitalism. It was argued that any references to bankers or a global financial elite were code words for “Jews”.

After this lengthy campaign helped to destroy Corbyn, the candidates to succeed him, including Long-Bailey, opted to declare themselves Zionists and to sign up to “10 Pledges” from the Board of Deputies, the UK’s main Jewish leadership organisation. Those demands put the board and the Jewish Labour Movement in charge of determining what antisemitism was, despite their highly partisan politics on Israel and their opposition to democratic socialism.

Political charlatans

The problem for the Labour right and Israel’s lobbyists, and therefore for Starmer too, is that Israel, egged on by Trump, is working overtime to blow up the carefully constructed claim – supported by the IHRA definition of antisemitism – that Israel is just another normal western-style state and that therefore it should not be “singled out” for criticism.

Israel is on a collision course with the most fundamental precepts of international law by preparing to annex large areas of the West Bank. This is not a break with Israeli policy; it is the culmination of many decades of settlement activity and resource theft from Palestinians.

This is a potential moment of crisis for those on the Labour right, who could quickly find themselves exposed as political charlatans – the charlatans they always have been – by Israel’s actions over the coming weeks and months.

Starmer has indicated he is determined to tightly delimit the room for criticism of Israel within Labour as the annexation issue unfolds. That will leave him and the party free to issue their own carefully crafted, official condemnations – similar to Johnson’s.

Like Johnson, Starmer will play his allotted role in this political game of charades – one long understood and tolerated by Israel and its UK lobbyists. He will offer some sound and fury, the pretence of condemnation, but of the kind intended to signify nothing.

This has been at the heart of UK foreign policy towards a Jewish state built on the theft of Palestinian land for more than a century. Starmer has shown that he intends to return to business as usual as quickly as possible.

• First published in Middle East Eye

European Union sanctions Chavista and Venezuelan opposition leaders

Venezuela: eleven officials added to sanctions list The Council today added 11 leading Venezuelan officials to the list of those subject to restrictive measures, because of their role in acts and decisions undermining democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela. The individuals added to the list are responsible notably for acting against the democratic functioning of the National Assembly, including by stripping the parliamentary immunity of several members of its members, not least its (...)

The Messenger

Words are inadequate to describe certain experiences that happen outside the law of cause and effect.  Although they are universal, they are often so weird that to recount them makes most people uncomfortable, unless they are New Agers, spiritualists, or mind-curers who believe in the great American tradition of the happiness machine, revelations on every bathroom wall, Jesus’s face in cloud formations, or apparitions in every shadow. I am none of those.

But strange, real experiences do happen, however, usually very infrequently in one’s life for those who are accessible but not looking for them.  The Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung called them synchronicity, meaning a meaningful coincidence in time without a causal relationship between a psychic state and a physical event, or dreams or thoughts, also without a causal connection, that occur simultaneously across physical distances.  Since a recounting of their outward manifestations is bizarre, and their meanings are personal, and since we live in the era of science as the dominant ideology, and a culture of pseudo-science, schlock weirdness, and “miracles,” it is easy to skeptically mock, with a condescending grin, their reality.

Because American culture has always been replete with charlatans and scammers who have preyed on people’s gullibility and ignorance, such experiences have gotten a bad name.  To admit to experiencing such a meaningful coincidence is to open oneself to derision, despite the testimonies of such esteemed authorities as Jung and William James, to name but two.

But I think I’ll take a chance.

I have been living in the rolling hills of western Massachusetts for forty years.  It is beautiful country, known for its peaceful rural roads, lakes, streams, and vast tracts of mountain forests rife with wildlife.  It is paradise for fishing and hunting, and the woods are filled with gorgeous hiking trails that attract urbanites in search of peace and quiet, those proverbial country escapes.

Ever since we moved here, I have made sure to get outdoors to run or walk in all kinds of weather, preferably alone and when few people were out.  To be alone by a lake or stream in sun, rain, or a snowstorm is my idea of paradise. With my family I have hiked many of the mountain trails. And over the years I have seen many animals: bobcats, deer, foxes, bald eagles, herons – the list is very long.

But my great wish has never been granted: to see a bear and to see it up close. Friends and neighbors find this hard to believe, for anyone who has lived in this area for just a few years has usually seen one.  Not me, for forty years.

When I was a boy, the only son with seven sisters, my father told me a story that has always stuck with me.  In the early years of the twentieth century, his father, my grandfather, was picnicking with his family and a few other families at Bear Mountain in upstate New York along the Hudson River.  As they were reclining on their blankets preparing to eat in a meadow below the mountain, a huge bear came ambling toward them out of the tree line.  This was 1905.  Seeing the bear approach, everyone except my grandfather got up screaming and ran downslope away from the bear.  My grandfather stood his ground, as my grandmother and great-uncle told my father; he stood very tall and straight and started to play the penny whistle his father had brought with him from Ireland.  What the tune was I never really knew.  My father said my grandmother remembered strains of Amazing Grace but his uncle, Uncle Black Jack, a NYC Police Department blacksmith, remembered a lively jig.  Who knows?  The bear came walking toward him and the blankets spread with food, stopped just short, stood huge on its hind legs, let out a fierce roar, then dropped down, turned, and loped back up toward the trees where he disappeared into the mountain forest.

My wish has never been to stand down a bear in such a manner.  Just to see one up close would be enough.  My grandfather had a fierceness that I lack, and anyway, I don’t have a pennywhistle.  When I try to whistle with my mouth, little sound emerges, and what does isn’t tuneful, and he was a master whistler as well.  But bears have always been eluding me, as if the time was not ripe, or I was not prepared for their arrival.

Then just yesterday, Father’s Day, I was sending an article of mine – “My Father’s Voice” – to my only son and daughter.  It begins like this:

Although my father, whose namesake I am, died twenty-seven years ago, I just spent a hilarious and profound afternoon with him.  For a few hours on a beautiful late spring afternoon, I sat out on the porch and listened to his inimitable voice beguile, instruct, and entertain me.  He had me laughing out loud as I read through a large folder of letters he had sent me over the years.  We were together again.  It was his voice I heard, his voice speaking to me.  It could be no other.  In the beginning and end are the words.  If we are lucky, we hear them.

I heard my wife scream from the kitchen for me to come fast.  I ran to it and there, eight feet from the open window, was a bear facing us and almost swinging from the bird feeder and the branch above, its feet akimbo, an almost mischievous look on its face.  It watched us as we watched it for 4-5 minutes.  Then, afraid that it might break the open window that had another bird feeder stuck to it, I cranked the window in, the bear walked over, stood up, looked at us and the feeder that was too high for it, went down on all fours and started walking away as we rushed out to see it walk across the driveway and the neighbor’s lawn.  I feebly whistled after it; it stopped, turned and looked back, then continued on its merry way.

My wish had been granted, shortly after the summer solstice, the first day of summer, my wife’s and my anniversary, and Father’s Day. It immediately felt as if my father had sent me a gift.  My wife quickly sent the photos of the bear she had taken to our son and daughter.

The night before, as a Father’s Day gift, my son and girlfriend had taken us out to dinner.  As we sat at an outdoor courtyard under the trees of an old inn, I was asked to speak of my father.  Unusually for me, I was a bit lost for words, except to say he was a wonderful father, the best I could have hoped for and how close we were.  At the back of my mind, I saw a photograph I love of him pushing in a stroller the son who sat to my left when he was very young.  It was taken on the street outside the inn where we were dining, right behind my back.

Shortly after the bear had come to visit us, still amazed, we went for a long walk, and when we returned, there was a video on the computer from our son to whom I had earlier sent the article about his grandfather. In January, our son had moved back to town with his girlfriend after ten years living down south.  They had bought a house about a mile away near the lake and woods where we had just walked.  The same bear had walked through the woods adjacent to our walk, pushed over the fence around their large yard, and was in their yard eyeing their bird feeder.  My son couldn’t tell if the bear was whistling because his dogs were barking too loud.

But I heard my father laughing at the message he had sent.

I recalled how his letters that I had just read and written about were like mini-short stories, akin to a father sitting beside a child’s bed and telling him a goodnight tale.  They always ended on an up-note, no matter how serious what preceded.  He was a storyteller talking to an adult son, just as in my childhood he would tell me bed-time improvisations on the Pinocchio story, tales of lies and deceptions and bad actors.  Those stories had to have an edge to them, a bit of a question mark, just as his letters are peppered with the phrase quien sabe (who knows?).

Those letters came through the mail.

The latest message came by bear. That I know.

Quien sabe?

You?